Camby Deal Signals The Beginning of the End of the Iverson Era in DenverAny Denver fans who entertained notions that Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson would ever lead the Nuggets to playoff glory received a very rude awakening when Nuggets management "traded" starting center Marcus Camby to the L.A. Clippers for the right to swap second round draft picks in 2010. Camby is 34 years old but he is still a highly productive player: he won the 2007 Defensive Player of the Year Award and he has led the NBA in blocked shots the past three seasons and four times overall during his 12 year career. Last season, Camby averaged a career-high 13.1 rpg to rank second in the league. He has been selected to the All-Defensive Team for four straight seasons, including First Team nods in 2007 and 2008.
Contending teams do not simply give away a valuable asset like Camby--and that is precisely the point: the Nuggets are not a contending team and their management is painfully aware of that fact. Much like the Memphis Grizzlies got rid of Pau Gasol to clear salary cap space and essentially hit the "reboot" button, getting rid of Camby was the first step in what will soon be a total makeover of Denver's roster. Iverson will either be traded this season or allowed to walk in 2009 when his contract ends, thus freeing up even more salary cap space. The Nuggets are deep into luxury tax territory--paying a dollar for dollar penalty for exceeding the salary cap--and that is the last place a team wants to be when it cannot even get out of the first round, let alone meaningfully contend for a title.
From an intellectual/economic standpoint it is very easy to figure out what the Nuggets are doing--but this still has to be hard for Denver fans to accept, particularly those who have spent a lot of money on season tickets. Without Camby anchoring the paint there is a good chance that the Nuggets won't even make the playoffs in 2008-09 and even though Denver will soon have money to spend there is no guarantee that when the dust settles the new look roster will be substantially better than the recent Denver teams have been.
It seems like half of the teams in the NBA are clinging to the pipe dream that if they clear enough salary cap space that they will be able to sign LeBron James or Dwyane Wade in a couple years; meanwhile, these teams are intent on spending as little as they can until that time, essentially writing off this season. There is not much that the league can do about this now but an economic system that encourages teams to not spend money--and thus field a mediocre or worse product--while hoping to hit the "jackpot" and sign a big-time player is not good or efficient. Moreover, these teams are going to have a lot of explaining to do if they subject their fans to 82 games of bad basketball and then fail to sign a franchise player with all of the money that they have sitting around.
As for the Clippers, adding Camby and free agent Baron Davis goes a long way toward making up for the loss of Elton Brand. In fact, since Brand only played eight games last year, the Clippers could significantly improve on their 23-59 record if Camby and Davis both stay healthy.
posted by David Friedman @ 6:20 AM