Friday, March 6, 2009

Pushing Over The Top

March 1 was the deadline for postseason roster eligibility, so as expected a number of veteran players were bought out of their contracts and given an opportunity to join playoff teams. Some of these moves could have a significant impact on the playoff landscape, so I thought I'd run down the moves and rate which ones will pay off the biggest dividends. Will any of these movies push their team over the top and make them title contenders? Some times these waiver pick-ups can have a more significant impact on the teams than trades. It's about players sacrificing money for a shot at a ring. Without further adieu...

1. Stephon Marbury to the Boston Celtics

For all of the baggage that Marbury carries, you cannot deny his talent. This is a great pickup for the Celtics. Marbury provides Boston with some necessary depth at the PG position. And unlike Sam Cassell, Marbury still has some game left in the tank. He can score in bunches, and is a more reliable setup man than House or Pruitt. He gives the Celtics another weapon off of the bench, and should allow them to rest their Big 3 (and Rondo) more as the season progresses. It'll be interesting to see how he acclimates himself with the Boston culture. He'll need to play defense on a consistent basis, and buy into the team system. Will he be happy playing only 10-20 minutes off of the bench each night? Can his ego handle not having the ball in his hands all of the time and scoring 20+ points per game? He has a great chance here to win a title, prove the doubters wrong, fix his tarnished reputation and make a case for a nice payday in the upcoming summer. It should be interesting to see KG & Marbury back together again. It will be key that KG and the rest of the veterans on this team rein Starbury in.

2. Drew Gooden to the San Antonio Spurs

This is an excellent high risk, low reward acquisition by the Spurs. He's a solid scorer and rebounder and should compliment Duncan's game well. Based on talent, he's probably the best big man that Duncan will have played next to since the Admiral during his early years. He provides the Spurs another body to play at the PF and C positions, which is huge plus. While Bonner has been playing well lately, I'm not sure I trust him to play heavy minutes in the playoffs. His work ethnic is suspect, but you cannot deny his talent. The Spurs have a knack for bringing out the best in their players, however. Combined with the emergence of Bonner, the free agent pick-up of Roger Mason and the drafting of George Hill; the Spurs team suddenly has a lot of depth and look like legit title contenders. I predict another Western Conference final matchup with the Lakers. I've been impressed by how they've been able to handle injuries to Parker, Manu and Duncan this year. Pop is definitely one of the game's best coaches. Gooden will have to prove that he is healthy and committed to winning in order to get minutes here.

3. Joe Smith to the Cleveland Cavaliers

With the loss of Ben Wallace to injuries, the Cavs desperately needed to pick up another big man. Joe Smith is a great blue-collar athlete, who will play good defense and his the open jump shot (unlike Wallace or Varejao). He'll set good picks, make the smart pass, and play hard. He's on the tail end of this career, but should provide some much needed depth to this team. I could see him start over Wallace based on match-ups also. Playing big Z and Smith together will provide Lebron with more offensive weapons to play with. I like that trio playing alongside Williams and West. While Gooden has more upside than Smith and is younger, Smith is the smarter and more reliable player. He hasn't quite lived up to the hype of being a #1 pick by the Warriors and than the whole controversy in Minnesota, but he's a great team player. He should have no problems getting acquainted with the Cleveland system, where he played at as recent as last year. I was not a believer of the Cavs in the early season, but they have won me over. They should contend with the Celtics for the Eastern crown.

4. Luther Head to the Miami Heat

I suppose Head will play the Terry/Gordon role for this team. He's an undersized SG who can score in bunches. With Chalmers inconsistent play, I would not be surprised to see Head and Wade play together frequently. Head is a great shooter, but will struggle on the defensive end and does not have the playmaking skills to be a point guard. I think this trade will mainly cut into the playing time of Cook and Jones. They are the designated 3pt shooters on this team. Playing next to Wade should give him an ample amount of open shots, but I'm not sure that he'll get consistent minutes on this team. Nor will he have a significant impact on this team's success. They seem destined for a first or second round playoff exit. I would have preferred him joining a young team like the Nets (who he also considered). Where he would have a chance to define his role for the long term, and grow along with the team. The Heat's greater need was for another big man, which this did not satisfy. Jermaine O'Neal needs to play well for this team to prosper in the playoffs; which is an uneasy proposition for Heat fans.

5. Stromile Swift to the Phoenix Suns

Its tough to predict what the Suns will get out of Swift, but he's a big-time athlete and has the potential to be a solid role player for them. I think its about time that we give up on Swift with regards to him becoming a star, but its hard to see him fail in this Phoenix system. He'll be able to run and catch lob passes from Nash all day long. He'll be able to block the occasional shot and grab some rebounds off of the glass. He's not a good team defender, but than the Suns don't really play defense. He's like Amare-lite-lite. Swift provides them some much needed depth at the PF/C positions in the short-term. I like him over Amundson or Lopez. And Nash makes a living out of making scrub players look like studs. It's always been a question about effort with Swift, but I think he's in a good position to excel. This is success or bust for Swift. He's not going to get too many opportunities to ball in this league. And he's starting to get up there in years.

6. Mikki Moore to the Boston Celtics

I think Boston should have waited longer before signing Moore. Both Gooden and Smith are the better talents. Moore is just kind of meh. He doesn't rebound or defend particularly well, and is just a decent scorer. I don't see him getting many minutes on this Boston squad also. I think both Powe and Davis are higher than him on the depth chart. But maybe he can pick up the garbage minutes that were going to Scalabrine. I think they need to be concerned about injuries to Ray Allen or Pierce. They don't have any quality backups to fill in for either of those guys (like a Posey-type player). This is supposed to be the PJ Brown type move of this year, but Moore is nowhere near the talent that Brown is. He can't defend as well, nor hit the shot as well. The Celtics still will be a dangerous team in the post season; but I think the acquisition of Gooden or Smith could have helped this squad out more.

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