With teams filling out their rosters with veteran minimum contracts the free agent market has all but evaporated. Also with Denver finally getting Ty Lawson off their chests, potential trade candidates have dwindled to Brendan Haywood’s contract and maybe a wing or two following Lawson’s lead on flights out of Denver. With nearly all the dust of player movement settled for this offseason, let’s analyze the bundle of offseason trades.
Rockets Get: Ty Lawson
Nuggets Get: Nick Johnson, Joey Dorsey, Kostas Papanikolaou, Pablo Prigioni, 2016 1st-round pick (lottery protected)
Daryl Morey’s smile probably has an extra sparkle to it after acquiring Lawson in exchange for bench scrap and a first-round pick likely to fall in the mid-20s. Landing Lawson without giving up either Terrence Jones or Dotie Montiejunas seemed an impossible proposition just a few days ago, but after his third DUI, Lawson’s stock had never been lower. Lawson will have to sort out his personal problems first, but he immediately offers a second shot creator to James Harden. In addition, he fits Houston’s frenetic-paced style and can act as a spot up option when Harden is basking in his daily cooking routine. A backcourt duo of Harden and Lawson doesn’t recognize the theory of defense, which heightens the possibility of Lawson coming off the bench and dominating the ball with the second unit to maximize his impact.
The Nuggets were handcuffed by Lawson’s irresponsible alcohol consumption after playing hardball and betting on his value during last season’s trade deadline. With a youthful and potentially impressionable locker room, including Lawson’s successor, Emanuel Mudiay, Denver felt the need to move Lawson ASAP. Hence the leverage in negotiations bestowed the Nuggets a lowly first-round pick, the humor of Joey Dorsey free throws, the decision of whether to waive Papanikolaou’s contract and the unrealized potential of Nick Johnson. What a consolation prize!
Lakers Get: Roy Hibbert
Pacers Get: 2019 2nd-round pick
Hibbert had apparently soured upon Larry Bird and the Pacers front-office to the point where he was viewed as an antiquated product whose best usage would be as a tax deductible donation to charity. Player salaries aren’t actually tax deductible, of course, but Indiana essentially gave away Hibbert for nothing, who despite his offensive ineptitude and overall laboring around the court remains amongst the most effective rim protectors in the league. While $15.6 million is a lot to pay a dude that doesn’t fit into the Pacers new up-tempo playing style, the cap space created by trading him was used to resign Monta Ellis-clone, Rodney Stuckey, and acquire the eye-burning contract of Chase Budinger via trade.
Hibbert will earn every penny (okay, maybe not) of his $15.6 million he is owed this season, playing with a Lakers group in which defense ranks behind Gatorade flavor and shoe string color on the team’s priority list. This is a terrific buy low from the Lakers as Hibbert’s defensive prowess refuels illusions of the team chasing the eight seed, and with Hibbert’s deal expiring there wasn’t a more cost-effective way to fill cap space without jeopardizing future space in the next two cap-boom years. The move all but ensures the Lakers’ first-rounder will go to Philly in next year’s draft, but that was already likely, and even a disastrous season doesn’t guarantee a top-3 pick…just ask the Knicks.
Clippers Get: Lance Stephenson
Hornets Get: Spencer Hawes, Matt Barnes
Dumping Hawes and his contract for a player of use was a surreal fantasy of GM Doc. Behold the Power of Lance, whose act had become so toilsome in Charlotte, Michael Jordan would’ve traded him for present-day Michael Jordan. For the Clips, Lance is well worth the gamble, playing on what is basically a one-year deal with the second being a team option. Coach Doc has repeatedly showcased his telepathic abilities to persuade troubled players to buy in, allowing the Clippers to rest even easier about bringing in Stephenson. Whether or not the experiment matches the Clippers’ desires, it at least saved the organization money in the long term.
For the Hornets, Barnes was the top asset of the trade, still tied to a cheapo contract, but Charlotte flipped him for a stop on the Luke Ridnour NBA bus tour. Hawes gives the Hornets frontcourt shooting, an aspect of the game the organization previously ignored, but with the selection of Frank Kaminsky, they essentially doubled up on the tall, white, stretch 5 role, with Kaminsky already being the better all-around player.
Hornets Get: Nicolas Batum
Trail Blazers Get: Noah Vonleh, Gerald Henderson
Batum is a versatile player and immediately gives Charlotte a more offensive-minded wing to pair with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. With Batum the issue has always been his consistency and assertiveness in terms of his 3-point shooting and shot creation. At times, he flashes All-Star potential, burying treys and displaying great court vision as a secondary ball handler, while his length defensively, makes Jay Bilas blush with pure glee, but he’s also prone to disappearing acts. Batum’s in the last year of his deal, giving reason for Charlotte to expect his best this season, but if the team endures another lottery-bound season, they may opt to seek a rebuild, especially with Al Jefferson’s contract expiring. If so, giving up a lottery pick in Vonleh is a bit steep for a one-year rental of Batum regardless of how much Vonleh was struggling to understand the concepts in the team’s playbook.
For Portland, a lottery talent is solid compensation for Batum considering their rebuild, but don’t forget, this trade was processed when the Blazers were still trying to court LaMarcus Aldridge to return. While he was likely leaving anyway, if the trade negatively swayed the chances of retaining Aldridge in any respect, it merits a reevaluation from Portland’s perspective.
Bucks Get: Greivis Vasquez
Raptors Get: 2017 1st-round pick (lottery protected), Norman Powell (46th overall)
Uhm.…Vasquez is a feisty combo guard who can spot up and efficiently run an offense for stretches, but giving up a first and second-round pick for him and his $6.6 million expiring contract suggests the Bucks may have overvalued what he brings, which does not include defense. However, the deal looks better now for Milwaukee than it did previously, with the Bucks producing excess space under the tax line and DeAndre Jordan returning to the Clippers, devaluing the 2017 first-rounder as one that will likely fall in the mid-to-late 20s.
In Toronto’s case, Norman Powell’s performance in Summer League certainly heightens their enthusiasm of the deal. A pick in the mid-to-late 20s is far from a guarantee of acquiring even a future rotational piece, but based on the organization’s activity in free agency, it seemed adamant to improve upon the defensive acumen of its backcourt, and getting a first-rounder of any kind for Vasquez is an exchange they can feel comfortable with.
Hawks Get: Tim Hardaway Jr.
Knicks Get: Jerian Grant (19th overall)
On the surface, the marriage of Hardaway Jr. and the Hawks, looks like one that will be headed toward a divorce, and maybe without the happiness of a honeymoon period. Hardaway Jr.’s ball-stopping, poor shot selection description is a polar opposite to Mike Budenholzer’s ball-whipping offense that follows the Spurs’ motto of passing up good shots for great shots. Hardaway Jr. worked under that mantra in reverse during his tenure with the Knicks as he passed up good shots for terrible ones. Oh, and defense just isn’t something that interests him. The Hawks seem confident they can mold players to adopt their new playing style, but Hardaway Jr. will test that theory to the brink.
Phil Jackson will have to deal with Melo’s resentment after trading away his self-proclaimed protégé, but once those feelings subside, flipping Hardaway Jr. for Grant is a solid long-term investment. Considering Hardaway Jr. is in the last year of his rookie deal, the Knicks were going to have to decide on his future with the organization anyway, and the trade suggests they were content to late him find millions elsewhere. Squeezing a first-round pick from the situation is a quiet steal for a Knicks rebuild.
Wizards Get: Jared Dudley
Bucks Get: 2020 2nd-round pick (top 55 protected)
This was actually one of the most perplexing deals in the entire free agency period. It’s difficult to nail down an angle for the Bucks here. First off, a top-55 protected second-rounder is like getting a pair of socks for Christmas. Second, Dudley opted into a team-friendly $4.38 million player option, and the Bucks have gobs of space under the tax to bring him back without penalty. Finally, this is the sort of trade that often reflects a salary dump or the removal of a locker-room cancer, and both situations are beyond foreign to Dudley. He’s always been a fun-loving guy and his veteran leadership was invaluable as part of such a young team, while his positional flexibility and 3-point shooting were staples of Jason Kidd’s hectic small-ball lineups.
Dudley will transport his skillset and leadership to the nation’s capital, and although a herniated disc will keep him out the first couple months of the season, in due time, he should be able to validate this trade as the coup it appears to be.
 Papanikolaou’s $4.8 million salary becomes fully guaranteed in October. Prigoni’s and his nonguaranteed deal was waived immediately.
 Well of course, MJ would’ve done this. Other GMs would have considered it, and then realized MJ is over 50, out of shape, has sucked down thousands of cigars and would be a total liability in the NBA today. Okay so no one would’ve done this except MJ, but he wouldn’t hesitate.