ITEM 1: Should the Lakers be worried enough to do a deal? How real are/were those Carmelo rumors?
Dobbins: "The Lakers can win the championship this year with the roster they have. Only the Celtics boast the length and depth of the Lakers. That said the Lakers have a very glaring weakness, speed. The weakness starts with Derek Fisher and creates a ripple effect across the team. Fisher can no longer stay with the top point guards, thus forcing his teammates to collapse and therefore leave their defensive assignments.
If the season ended today and we assume that all higher seeds win, the Lakers playoff run would look as follows. Round one, Fisher would guard Chauncey Billups, who is not faster, but bigger and stronger. Billups' backup is Ty Lawson, considered the fastest player in the NBA. In two games against the Lakers, Billups has scored 31 points and Lawson 32. The second round would feature Russell Westbrook. Westbrook, an all-star this year, abused Fisher in the first round of the playoffs last year. In their lone meeting this year, Westbrook put up 32 points and 12 assists. The Western Conference finals opponent would be Tony Parker. In the Lakers' two games and two losses to the Spurs, Parker has led all scorers in both games. The Finals matchup would place the Lakers and Celtics against each other for the third time in four years. The Celtics feature Rajon Rondo who in two games has averaged 11 points and 13 assists, both above his season average.
Fish: I'd normally say we're getting ahead of ourselves here. But the LA pedigree makes those projections fair. And, Lakers Haters hope, accurate. And I don't see quick fixes for what few problems LA has. They'd like to swap out Artest, but he comes with two more expensive years.
Dobbins: The lone major trading chip the Lakers have is Andrew Bynum. If you're the Lakers, you make that move for Anthony. And even if it cost you the Finals this year, the longer term run with Anthony would be very bright.
Fish: It's a SportsCenter fantasy, I'm afraid. SportsCenter understands the value of inserting "Lakers'' into any story, not unlike it does with "Dallas Cowboys.'' It's not at all indicative of substance.
Dobbins: I would expand it to be a lot of fans fantasies and not just a SportsCenter thing. Melo in LA is good for the NBA. The major stumbling block is Jerry Buss's son who made the decision to draft Bynum out of high school and invest so much money in him. As Dr. Buss slowly cedes power of the organization to his children, it would not look good if one of children's first moves was traded because he never developed as hoped.
A more likely move is to trade Shannon Brown to the Houston Rockets for Aaron Brooks. Brooks has fallen into Rick Adelman's doghouse and would help the Lakers speed issues. Brown would get more minutes in Houston and help himself play for a larger contract after the season. Brown does have Bird Rights that he would lose if he accepted the trade to Houston. However, with possible work stoppage after the season, who knows if Bird Rights will continue to exist in a new collective bargaining agreement?
ITEM 2: Can the Mavs stand pat?
Dobbins: No. However, there is not much they can do. Teams fall in multiple categories across the NBA in terms of success. Some are shooting for the championship, some to make the playoffs, and some to develop a young nucleus. The Mavericks fall in the first category, shooting for a championship, however they fall a notch below several of the top teams. The Mavs have a top-10 player in Dirk Nowitzki, however he is surrounded by past their prime players and overpaid centers. The lone chip the Mavericks have is Caron Butler's expiring contract. One rumored move has the Mavs sending Butler and pieces to the Charlotte Bobcats for Stephen Jackson. Jackson is an upgrade, but not a difference maker. He also has three years left on his contract, which would give the Mavs another player on the backside of his career with a long term contract.
Fish: Keith, Welcome to Shootdown City. All of this stuff is in my wheelhouse and here goes: "Past their prime'' isn't analogous to "no good anymore.'' I guess you're talking Kidd there … He's still a valuable, and in some ways incomparable, weapon. "Overpaid centers''? Certainly not true of Tyson Chandler, and otherwise meaningless. This isn't a game of Cap Management we're talking about. This conversation is about the game of basketball. So Haywood's money is, for the moment, immaterial. And DallasBasketball.com has officially shot down the logic of any Capt. Jack trade the media has conjured up. Now, get involved in a way to give somebody tax savings for Caron, and you've got yourself a deal based in reality.
Dobbins: Are we serious? "Past their prime" means simply "past their prime." Kidd runs a great offense, does not make mistakes and has nicely developed a set three point shot. However, he can no longer get to the hole, is shooting the worst field goal percentage of his career, the worst three point percentage in three seasons, and is going to the line less than one time per game, the worst of his 17 year career. I was actually including Shawn Marion in the past his prime category as well. Marion who is averaging five less point and three less rebounds than his career average.
As for Chandler, he makes $12,500,000 to score ten points, grabs less than ten boards and blocks about one shot per game. Marc Gasol scores 15, grabs seven boards and blocks almost two shots a game for $3,500,000. Chandler, a defensive specialist, blocks less shots per game than Darko Milicic, Roy Hibbert, DeAndre Jordan, and Joel Anthony, who combined make $2,500,000 less than Chandler. I think overpaid is fair.
How about reacquiring Antawn Jamison for Butler and Rodrigue Beaubois? Cleveland would get cap room and an exciting young player, while the Mavs would get a scorer and rebounder who could help spell Nowitzki at the power forward. Jamison's contract would expire a year before Jackson's.
The real question Cuban faces is whether to continue the quest with Nowitzki or consider blowing it up. In 2012, the likes of Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams will be on the market. Dumping salary now to make a run at one or more of these stars in 2012 will pay greater dividends than taking on another large contract, like Jackson's, would do now.
I know, pretty harsh for a team with the fourth best record in basketball.
Fish: The Deron Williams idea always lingers out there. But you really don't need to "blow it up'' to accomplish that. And you don't blow up quality team led by a quality player like Dirk. (Ask KG's old team in Minnesota.) Antawn? Our sources say the Mavs have no interest in the contract and have no belief that he fills a special need here.
ITEM 3: Who are the biggest sellers?
Dobbins: Former 49ers coach Bill Walsh believed that players were either getting better or getting worse. There was no middle ground. Therefore it is better to cut ties a year too early than a year late.
If that holds true in the NBA, the sellers need to be any team that relies on an aging star and has no chance of hitting their goal of either making the playoffs or winning the championship. Look at the Suns and Steve Nash as a team in the perfect place to trade an icon to start the rebuilding process. The Nuggets are right there as well as a championship was the goal yet the team is trying to just make the playoffs. Throw in lottery bound Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Clippers who are weighed down by big contracts, talented players and bad records.
Look for the Clippers to possibly move Chris Kaman, with the current rumor having him go to Detroit for Tayshaun Prince. The Sixers have built a very awkward team, where they are incredibly slow in the front court and incredibly fast in the backcourt. Since no team seems to wantElton Brand, it is Andre Iguodala who is rumored to be on the move.
Fish: The Pistons are foolish to be anything but sellers. They may be stuck with Rip Hamilton. But they don't need to be stuck with Tayshaun Prince. The Cavs should strip themselves of assets (including their $14 mil TE) in order to fortify for the future. And Charlotte wants to sell … but so far they can't find partners. A weird franchise in the sense that they've locked into guys like Jackson, Wallace and Diaw … and now want out from under all of them.
ITEM 4: Who are the biggest buyers?
Dobkowski: New York and Chicago. The Knicks need to listen to Nike and just do it. Trade everyone you got for Anthony and be done with it. And Chicago could still jump into the fray by getting Denver the assets they desire in picks,Joakim Noah and Luol Deng.
Fish: I don't know if you call it "buying'' or "selling,'' but the team doing the most "talking'' is Houston. And I mean talking to other teams … and talking to the media, too. Morey is making Mark Cuban look like a mute wallflower.
ITEM 5: Speaking of Houston …
Dobkowski: Yao Ming not only offers an expiring contract, he qualifies for the injury insurance covering 80% of his salary. So Ming's $17.7mm contract is not only coming off the books, it will only cost a team only $3.5mm to have him. Ming is essentially free money for a team going nowhere. Say that Utah thinks that Williams really did cost Jerry Sloan his job. And that Williams attitude will only grow worse until he leaves in 2012. Would it be worth it to start over by collecting a few of Houston's young pieces and Ming's contract in order to get a bad contract off the books and lose Williams a year early? A package of Williams and Okur for Ming,Kyle Lowry and Courtney Lee would work.
Fish: The team is going nowhere, five games under .500 … it's stripped itself (or been stripped) of talent … it's an entire team of glue guys (Scola and Battier) is need of just one star.
So they TALK about Bosh and then they TALK about ‘Melo … but there's no there there.
ITEM 6: What to do with Steve Nash?
Dobbins: Trade him. Nash is the face of a franchise that is on its decline. The goal in Phoenix is no longer to win the championship, but to make the playoffs. With Nash only getting older, slower and a bigger defensive liability, the Suns need to get as much as they can for him.
Fish: Keith, you are thinking like a fan. Owner Robert Sarver is thinking like somebody watching his wallet. There is more money to be made by keeping Nash and selling tickets and maybe making the playoffs than there is by selling him off. It all makes this "they should do Nash a favor'' talk sound ridiculous.
Dobbins: Mike, I think I am the only one in the conversation not thinking like an average fan as I don't fall for the ticket argument. Fans make the ticket argument because it's the easy argument. The truth is that tickets are just an average piece of the overall pie. Most franchises take in less than $1,000,000 per night at the gate. That means the average team makes about $40,000,000 on tickets. The Suns are way ahead of that curve having made $50,000,000 on tickets last year. Realize that they made another $100,000,000 on TV, radio, licensing and the like. If Sarver is concerned about selling a few extra tickets, he is obviously not paying attention.
I actually think it is the Suns who would be doing themselves a favor by getting rid of Nash sooner rather than later. Nash will have more value this year than next and the Suns are rebuilding. They need as many pieces as they can get. Remember that this is a team that is on the outside looking in at the playoffs. The Suns currently have the tenth best record in the West.
ITEM 7: Can some Pistons be had?
Dobbins: The fans of Detroit are soon to have a new ownership group. However, the new owners are still stuck with past their prime players in Prince and Richard Hamilton and role players in Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva being paid star money. Rumors have Hamilton being bought out and Prince possibly moving to the Clippers. Sadly, Detroit fans may be stuck in the mess for a while.
Fish: There's no fiscal sense in buying out Rip, and no fiscal sense in him giving up millions, either. Oh, and no sense in Boston spending that sort of money for a solid-but-in-decline player. They're stuck.
I don't see the Clippers as movers-and-shakers here. Are they ever?
I think Dallas will spend the morning of Feb. 24 on the phone with Joe Dumars trying to give him a little sweetener to swap Caron for Tayshaun.
Dobbins: Obviously the Pistons should try and get whatever they can for Rip. However, if he makes it past the deadline, the new ownership group may force the old ownership group to eat the contract. In that case, Rip holds the upper hand in the negotiation. Maybe, and this is the fan in me, Rip will join Billups and Anthony in New York playing for the veteran's minimum.
ITEM 8: Is there a non-contender trade brewing?
Dobbins: Most of the non-contender trades will revolve around salary cap dumps or mismatched rosters. Look for Houston to take advantage of Yao Ming's expiring contract to obtain a number of talented young players. The Sixers will try to trade Elton Brand for speed, but will most likely trade Iguodala for shooting guard. Rumors have Iguodala going to the Golden State Warriors for Monta Ellis. The Warriors have the top scoring backcourt in the NBA, but are unable to guard a 2, as Ellis and running mate Stephen Curry are both under 6'3" and 200 pounds.
Fish: Cleveland, Sacto, Toronto and Minnesota. They all have the wherewithal and the desire to at least be facilitators as third-team partners in major deals.
ITEM 9: Are the Knicks an attractive team to play for?
Dobbins: The Knicks are going to get the Melo thing done. And the main reason is location. Madison Square Garden has a special place in the hearts and minds of many players. Michael Jordan,Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have all had special nights in the Garden. Anthony has watched many of these and it is pretty clear that he will be in New York either this season or next.
A Knicks team featuring Anthony, Stoudemire and Billups would be very competitive in the East. They would not be better than the Heat or Celtics, but could challenge the Bulls and Magic as the third best team in the East. With Anthony's ability to take over a game, there is a shot that this threesome could take the Knicks deep into the playoffs.
Fish: Keith, I acknowledge that people THINK that about NY. But then reality sets in. A doofus for an owner who is considering bringing Thomas back to GM? Ownership is the No. 1 REALITY about a franchise's well-being. Glamour of the city or iconic stature of a building really mean little.
Dobbins: Mike, I've got to disagree. The Maloofs in Sacramento have been great owners yet free agents don't go to Sacramento. Chris Webber spent most of his career trying to get out of Sacramento, away from a team that was winning. Same can be said for San Antonio. Great ownership, great management, great coach and no free agent signings. Only Antonio McDyess and Matt Bonner signed as free agents and are part of the regular rotation.
Certain cities have a draw to NBA free agents, no matter how bad ownership may be. The idea that James Dolan is even considering bringing back Thomas sounds like the punch line to a joke. Yet, Stoudemire signed for less money than he would have gotten in Phoenix. Williams, Paul and Melo have all said they would like to play there. And LeBron even met with the Knicks last summer.
ITEM 10: Are the Nets an attractive team to play for?
Dobbins: It does not matter what the Nets offer as the entire trade will hinge on Anthony signing an extension. Anthony has refused to do so and that does not look to change anytime soon.
If the Nets do somehow get Anthony, they do not have the roster to compete in the East, let alone the championship. To win a championship at least two top 20 players are needed. The Lakers have two in Bryant and Gasol. The Heat have three in Wade, James and Bosh. The Celtics have four in Rondo, Garnett, Pierce and Allen. And the Spurs have three in Ginobli, Parker and Duncan. Anthony knows this. And he knows that teaming with Amare Stoudemire would give him that second top-20 player. Billups is not a top-20 player, but is a top ten point guard who knows how to win. Billups hits big shots and plays smart.
Fish: Prokhorov apparently thinks this is easy. Throw some money at it. Jet over to the States once in awhile. Let Avery Johnson make a few decisions. It doesn't work that way. End result? As Amare said this week, road games at New Jersey traditionally feel like home games for the visitors.
ITEM 11: Any recommendations on a ‘quiet blockbuster'?
Dobbins: For the Suns, who already having a trading history with the Orlando Magic, moving Nash for a package ofJameer Nelson, Ryan Anderson and Daniel Orton would provide both teams with a boost. Phoenix would replace Nash with a very talented point guard in Nelson, who is 8 years younger than Nash. Both Orton and Anderson have talent and are both in their early twenties. Nash would give Orlando a player who can run the offense as well as create his own shot, which he makes over 50% of the time.
Fish: I think both those teams already think they made their moves. And as you point out, they made it with each other! Over the course of two deals, we're essentially talking about Orlando taking much or Phoenix' true talent and adding it to Dwight Howard.
No, I think they're done.
The quiet blockbusters will start cooking when Melo is finished. Then Devin needs to land someplace. And so does Nene. If Melo goes to NY, Nene might not be on the outs. If Melo goes to NJ, Nene – even with his pregnant wife who is a Colorado native – will be ready to pack. For somewhere. Maybe Dallas or Houston.
Dobbins: With Melo being the top prize, it is really hard to call any other move a blockbuster. Nash, a two-time MVP, would be. Not sure who else fits the bill. It may also be hard to get the assets lined up for another huge move as most teams will be waiting to learn of Melo's fate and whether a third or fourth team is needed to do the deal.
ITEM 12: Why do teams wait until the last minute?
Dobkowski: Fish, I think teams wait for several reasons. The thought that a better trade may be out there. The hope that a season is salvageable. The belief that a player is not past his prime. And cold hard cash.
With Anthony it makes sense to wait. The Knicks have shown their cards and therefore the Nuggets can wait for a better offer.
For the Suns, the upside is a first round playoff exit and entering next season with Nash being 38. The season is not salvageable and Nash will have more value today than next February.
For the Dallas Mavericks, trading Butler for another past his prime player, like Stephen Jackson, will not help. Youth is need in Dallas. Not long term contracts for aging players.
And Houston has salary relief in Yao Ming. Teams that have made poor decisions, Philadelphia, may look to dump some talented players just to get the salary relief.
Fish: I've had this conversation with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban a couple of times. He is fond of insinuating that owners and GMs wait until the last second because they lack the balls to do it any other way. I argue that the reason NBA teams wait until the deadline is because that's what a deadline is for.
Dobbins : Been a pleasure Mike!