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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Five Player Trade Upgrades Heat's Talent, Gives Timberwolves Express Ticket to Draft Lottery

In the wake of an 0-7 preseason and facing the real possibility of not making the playoffs this season, the Miami Heat shipped Antoine Walker, Michael Doleac, Wayne Simien and a conditional first round draft pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Ricky Davis and Mark Blount. It is amusing to see this referred to as a "blockbuster" deal--none of the players has been an All-Star in recent memory and none are likely to be one any time soon. The Timberwolves have been headed straight to the Draft Lottery ever since the Kevin Garnett deal (that was a true blockbuster), so getting rid of Davis--even though he was probably the most talented player on the roster--is a good move. Davis is one of the last guys you want to have around if your team is not going anywhere and you have a lot of young players who you are attempting to mold into solid NBA players; the Cavaliers got rid of Davis before his questionable attitude and work habits could negatively affect LeBron James. Just based on that factor alone this is a good deal for Minnesota. Contract considerations always figure into NBA trades and the Timberwolves improved themselves in that regard as well because Doleac and Simien have expiring deals and Walker's contract is "cap friendlier" than what Minnesota gave up, according to ESPN's Marc Stein. Basically, Minnesota has completely hit the reset button; the Timberwolves will have some cap space to sign a free agent or two after getting rid of the three new guys at some point, they will have a lottery pick next year after not making the playoffs in 2007-08 and perhaps they can fight for the eighth spot in 2008-09 en route to becoming a contender after that--if all goes well with the development of the young players.

Meanwhile, it has been a strange offseason for the Heat. They lost three point marksman Jason Kapono and veteran swingmen James Posey and Eddie Jones while getting nothing in return. Their only free agent signing was Smush Parker, arguably the worst starting point guard in the NBA last season and a malcontent to boot. Blount has some skills as an offensive player--the career .513 shooter averaged 12.3 ppg on .509 shooting last season while starting 81 games for Minnesota--that could be very useful for Miami when Shaquille O'Neal takes his annual 15-20 game hiatus from the lineup. Davis, of course, oozes athletic talent but his work ethic and lack of interest in defense do not make him a prototypical Pat Riley player. It is no secret that Riley did not see eye to eye with Walker but now he has two bona fide head cases--Davis and Parker--on the roster. With Dwyane Wade still rehabilitating his injuries, Riley probably believes that it is essential to add Davis' scoring ability. Unfortunately for Miami, Blount and Davis are just patchwork fixes. O'Neal's career is clearly winding down and Miami is going to struggle to make the playoffs with this roster, let alone contend for the championship that O'Neal wants to win to complete his "legacy." Ironically, former teammates O'Neal and Kobe Bryant appear to be facing roughly the same situations this season. Imagine if three years ago the Lakers had managed to retain the services of both players and simply added one or two role players to fill out a roster that had been good enough to help the team get to the 2004 NBA Finals. It is certainly possible that both Bryant and O'Neal will miss this season's playoffs, though one suspects that Bryant will carry the Lakers to the eighth spot unless he is traded to another team in the middle of the season.

posted by David Friedman @ 5:51 PM

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