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Let trading season begin

The Seattle Supersonics made news last night by trading Vladimir Radmanovic to the Los Angeles Clippers for PF Chris Wilcox in a move that didn’t stay in the headlines long. First the move was overshadowed by a piss-poor effort against the Milwaukee Bucks. Secondly that trade became secondary news to rumors that the Orlando Magic were on the verge of acquiring former number two overall pick Darko Milicic and possibly trading away guard Steve Francis.

With all these rumors running rampant and the trade deadline just over a week away it is clear that trade season is fully upon us.

With yesterday’s move the Sonics front office proved many people wrong.

First there is the concept that this front office doesn’t make trades. Over the last several years the team has turned over virtually their entire roster. Only SF Rashard Lewis remains from the team Rick Sund inherited. Each season fans have called for a trade of Radmanovic only to hear that the front office was asking for too much in return. What they were asking for, reportedly was Wilcox.

This team is not afraid to pull the trigger, they are however exceedingly deliberate in their dealings both contract wise and in terms of trades. Sund frequently outlines how the seeds of a trade are often planted a year, or years in advance through dialogue with opposing General Managers. This is likely one of those scenarios as the Sonics were rumored to have had interest in Wilcox nearly since the day of his draft.

The second point proven today is probably more important to the team. By trading Radmanovic the team took a step to dispel the notion that players on one year qualifying deals have no value. Radmanovic, along with teammates Reggie Evans, and Flip Murray all accepted one year qualifying offers to make themselves unrestricted free agents at the end of this season. According to the league’s collective bargaining agreement all three can be traded, but only with their permission, and by granting permission the players will waive “Bird Rights” for the team that acquires them. These particular trade restrictions are new to the CBA this year and there some serious doubts whether any team would trade an asset of substance for a player under those circumstances. By getting any value at all for Radmanovic the team surprised me, and likely many other teams in the league. The hope is that this will set a precedent for Evans and Murray to be moved when GM’s assemble at next weeks all-star gathering.

So what exactly does this move mean for the team? Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy pretty much summed up why this deal made sense for both teams in this morning’s LA Times.

"It's an opportunity to add a player to our system who brings a totally different dimension," Dunleavy said when describing Radmanovic. "We have a bunch of guys who are pretty good low-post players, but we were looking for a guy who could do it more from distance.”

Take that comment, turn it around to say “"We have a bunch of guys who could do it from a distance, but we were looking for a guy who is good in the low post.” And you have your answer as to why this is a good deal for both teams.

Wilcox plays above the rim and excels at running the floor. He is not the greatest team defender but does protect the basket with athleticism and shot blocking ability that have been lacking from this team at the power forward spot. For the last several years the team has focused on savy players such as Nick Collison who focus on team ball. The hope is that a blend of the two types of players will produce a product which is better than the pieces combined.

Somewhere between Keon Clark and Jermaine O’Neil the acquisition of Wilcox, if it pans out, changes the fundamental nature of this team by providing balance to a roster that has for several years been unbalanced. No longer will the team have to rely on a gimmicky philosophy of “spreading the floor with their big men”. Between Wilcox, Swift, Petro, and Collison they can at least make a basic attempt to play a more traditional game. No longer will they attempt to coach around their physical limitations in the frontcourt. They have enough physical ability to go around.

This is a great first move but the guard rotation remains critically undermanned as Flip Murray continues his Radmanovic-esque slide to complete uselessness. By moving Radmanovic the team cleared the path for Damien Wilkens to see additional minutes at the backup SF position. He should now play exclusively at the SG and and SF position. This leaves the team with a crippling shortage of ballhandlers and the need to make one more move for a backup PG. Marko Jaric of the Timberwolves and Earl Watson of the Nuggets are guards most closely linked to the Sonics in the rumor mill, but fans should keep in mind that this notoriously tight lipped front office likes to swing deals out of the blue. The Radmanovic for Wilcox trade had not appeared in a publication for nearly a year before it happened. I would expect the Sonics to grab a guard nobody is expecting without a peep being leaked to the press.