Trade Center: NBA

Steve O Speak

The Washington Wizards acquire Zydrunas Ilgauskas, the rights to Emir Preldzic, and a 1st round draft pick from Cleveland. And acquire Al Thornton from the Clippers.

The Cleveland Cavailers acquire Antawn Jamison from the Wizards and Sebastian Telfair from the Clippers.

The Los Angeles Clippers acquire Drew Gooden from the Wizards.

Why this works for Washington:  Money, and lots of it. The Wizards not only save over two million dollars against the cap this season, putting them right around the luxury tax line, but will save over $10 million dollars against next years cap. This will allow the Wizards the flexibility to either be very active in free agency, or to take on a bad contract to get either a draft pick or a young player. While Ilgauskas is a quality center, he will never suit up for the Wizards. Washington will either trade him by today’s deadline or work out a buyout to get under the luxury tax line. The Wizards do get three “assets” in this deal, in Thornton, the rights to Preldzic and the first round pick. Thornton should step in as small forward, but probably isn’t the Wizards long term solution for the position. His game has gotten exposed this past season and a half, and that was on a team with some decent offensive weapons. Preldzic offers little long term upside, but could be an interesting role player when he comes over from Europe.

The first round pick was the key here for Washington, as the Wizards could find a solid, young, and inexpensive player. The problem is the pick will likely be between 28-30, severely limiting the talent pool. The real upside to this deal is with Jamison and Gooden off the roster, the Wizards can give playing time to Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee, to finally see if they can be starters at this level.

Why this works for Cleveland:  The Cavs were in a bit of a tough spot but made the best of the situation. Last season they stood pat at the deadline and ended up not even making it to the finals. This year, in LeBron’s contract year, they couldn’t risk not making the effort. Jamison gives them a ‘stretch 4’ who fits in well with their other power forwards who work much better in the paint. Jamison should also fit in well with Cleveland, as he’s never been a selfish player, and should adapt well to being the Cavs 2nd or 3rd option. Despite his age, he’s still an excellent scorer and a quality rebounder. Jamison is weak defensively, but is versatile enough to play some SF if James is playing either the 1 or 2. Jamison makes the league’s best team, that much better and that much deeper and that should cause the rest of the NBA some problems.

The best part about this deal for the Cavs was their ability to complete it without giving up PF J.J. Hickson, whom the Wizards desperately wanted. Hickson is developing into a solid young low-post player, and should be a key piece down the stretch for Cleveland. While the Cavs did give up Ilgauskas in the deal, he could very well be returning to Cleveland in the near future. Unless the Wizards trade him this afternoon, he will work a buyout. And while he will have a number of suitors, I’d expect the Cavs to be at the top of the list. If they do end up with Ilgauskas back (which I’d say is pretty likely) then this is a HUGE win for Cleveland and gives them a stacked lineup heading into the postseason. The only downside for the Cavs is the financial commitment this season, and in the future with Jamison and Telfair. Not only does this deal up their luxury tax bill, but it is a big chunk of change for Jamison over the next two seasons that Cleveland is on the hook for.

Why this deal works for Los Angeles:  The Clippers have worked this trade deadline beautifully. First they send PF Marcus Camby to the Trail Blazers and get back a point guard (Steve Blake) and small forward (Travis Outlaw), both of whom like Camby are expiring contracts, plus cash. Then they send out Telfair (PG) and Thornton (SF) for Gooden (PF) who has an expiring contract. With these moves, the Clippers have cleared enough room on next year’s cap to pursue this summer’s top free agents. And what’s even better, was they did so with no net loss of current talent. They didn’t need to add a good young role player or draft pick to clear cap room, and in fact picked up some additional cash. Also Outlaw could be brought back if the Clippers can’t get a major player.

Winner:  All the teams benefited in this deal, with Cleveland being the primary winner (especially if they get Ilgauskas back). The Clippers are next, and the Wizards get penalized a bit for not getting a true ‘young’ talent back for their marquee player. This deal will be valued in Cleveland based on two things; one, winning this year’s NBA Championship, and two, keeping LeBron in Cleveland this summer. For the Clippers there is no real downside to this deal, since Thornton and Telfair weren’t important pieces, but they will be judged on if they can use their free agent money wisely (for once). The Clippers have a good core of players, that if they can sign a great player they could be the next Los Angeles team raising a championship banner. For Washington, the value in this deal will be based on what they can do with the money they’ve saved and the draft pick.

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