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Trade Wrap Up

Here's my review of the trade deadline action.

So the trade deadline has come and gone and the Sonics wind up as BY FAR the most active team in the league. Including their earlier trade with the Clippers the Sonics turned over more than a third of their roster over the last 2 weeks.

Outgoing:
Vladi Radmanovic
Reggie Evans
Flip Murray
Vitaly Potapenko
Mateen Cleaves(cut)

Incoming:
Chris Wilcox
Earl Watson
Bryon Russel
Mike Wilks
2008 Denver second round pick.

In my opinion there are a couple of ways to evaluate trades. In the end you either win or you lose based on talent evaluation. If you bring in 5 players who nobody has heard of but your talent evaluation is right on then you are a winner. If you bring in guys who are big names but you evaluate wrong you lose. Unfortunately evaluating players in this fashion takes a lot of time. It is easy to speculate but until the guys hit the court it is 100% opinion.

The second way you evaluate trades is to see how the players lost and acquired effect the overall makeup of a roster and how surpluses and needs are dealt with. This is a bit easier to complete the day after.

Overall:

In terms of talent these were great trades. Seattle took two teams making playoff pushes (The LA Clippers and Denver) and got them to part with talented players in exchange for help this season. Of the 13 players involved it is arguable that Watson and Wilcox are the two most talented and both wound up on the Seattle roster. To complete those types of trades for a rebuilding team is a great talent upgrade.

The other big benefit to these deals is that the team finally has a balanced and complete roster. The organization which once featured Rashard Lewis, Desmond Mason, and Vladi Radmonovich as it’s future has moved away from a team of small forwards, combo guards, and 3 point chucking big men to a traditional roster featuring a 9 man rotation of 2 point guards (Ridnour and Watson), pure shooting guard and small forwards (Allen and Lewis), 2 pure power forwards (Collison and Wilcox), 2 traditional centers (Swift and Petro), and a classic swingman capable of backing up the 2 and 3 spot(Damien Wilkens). If these players develop the team can give up on gimmicks and run more traditional offensive and defensive sets. That is a good thing.

Furthermore the Sonics added to their defensive core in a couple of ways. By replacing Radmanovic and Evans with Wilcox and Wilkens in the rotation the team adds a shotblocker and an intense defender to the frontcourt rotation. Replacing Flip Murray with Earl Watson means that fully 1/3 of the rotation has been upgraded defensively. This is the type of defensive identity change that the team sorely needed.

The big overall negatives to this deal are the contract of Earl Watson and the timing. Watson’s contract runs an additional 4 years and averages more than $6 million per year. It is big money to hand over to a backup PG for a team which is cash strapped. This move will be open to criticism if the team becomes unable to afford one of its key players in the next 4 years. Timing wise a case can be made that these moves are pretty irrelevant. This season is over and these types of moves may only serve to hurt our overall draft position, thus costing us talent in the long run.

Piece by Piece:

Radmanovic for Wilcox:

If you’ve read my previous posts you know that I’m a huge fan of this trade. Wilcox brings athleticism and an above the rim game that the team has been missing since Shawn Kemp departed. His ability to run the floor and play physical basketball is a great contrast to the mostly finesse players the team has assembled. Best yet it is great value for Radmanovic who had settled into a deep funk this season. Vladi was not coming back and the fact that they were able to get such a top notch prospect for him was great work.

Wilcox may not work out in the end, but it is a great gamble. In his first two games I think we’ve seen that he will thrive with this squad and his presence may in fact make Luke Ridnour a better player. The alley-oop is back in Seattle!

Evans and Potapenko for Watson:

Again great value if you disregard the contracts involved. I am a big fan of Reggie Evans’ tenacity and blue collar attitude, but his strict limitations dictate that he be a role player.

REGGIE EVANS IS NOT A STARTING POWER FORWARD IN THE NBA.

There you go. It just needed to be said. Reggie was the type of stopgap player that the team has loved to overuse ever since the days of Vincent Askew. Furthermore Reggie’s attitude has soured over recent months. While he made every effort to be positive and professional it was CLEAR from speaking with him that he resented being removed from the lineup. In an effort to justify his presence on the floor he had taken to cheating off his man for rebounds and padding his stats during his time on the floor. It was a case of both players very presence being a cancer, even though both of them said and did the right thing for the most part.

This trade cleared the rotation up in the frontcourt while at the same time addressing the team’s biggest need at backup PG. Watson is not an ideal fit because of his size (the team would have preferred a taller player) but he does fit the bill in terms of defensive presence.

The fact that the Sonics were willing to absorb Watson’s contract is in itself a bit of an indictment against the performance of Luke Ridnour. Of all the failure’s this season Ridnour’s is probably the most glaring. With Watson in the fold at a big salary the hope is that you will not only see Watson improve the performance at the backup point, but also see Ridnour’s role diminished enough that he can be more effective.

Watson’s contract has been pretty heavily criticized and I read often that he is earning way more than it would take the Sonics to land a similar player on the market. I wonder who they are referring to. Watson’s contract is less than 5 months old and he got it on the open market. The team pursued him and Derrick Fisher in consecutive seasons and in both cases lost out because the market was higher than anticipated. Maybe you have to pay this much to get an Earl Watson. If you want cheaper you have to settle for Rick Brunson.

Flip Murray for Mike Wilks and Cash.

I would have loved to have gotten a pick for Flip but am glad to see him gone. He will be a pretty good player in the right situation, but that situation is not here. The team did the right thing by putting him in a position where he can have some success. Wilks is pretty much a non-factor, but maybe he can guard Earl Boykins who seems to torch us in every meeting.

Overall these moves make us a better team, but they are too late. We are out of the race and at this point are simply going to evaluate the team with this roster for next season. Hopefully we can go on a nice run, get some positives out of it, but not damage draft position too much.