TrueHoop today posts excerpts from a very candid interview Dirk Nowitzki did with a German magazine, in which Dirk, among other things, laments that it has become very difficult to win a title because Boston and Los Angeles benefited from “unfair trades.”
I’ve never thought of the KG trade as unfair, not in the sense that the Pau Gasol trade as so obviously lop-sided. Henry Abbott and I emailed briefly about Dirk’s comments, and I protested the characterization of the KG trade as “unfair.”
After all, I wrote, Al Jefferson was everyone’s favorite shoulda-been All-Star this year. Henry tried to get me to see the trade from Nowitzki’s perspective: the Timberwolves gave up a top-10 NBA player in his prime in a deal that was not going to help them win in the next couple of seasons.
The Timberwolves haven’t gotten any better; the Celtics zoomed right past the Mavs in the NBA hierarchy and became champions.
I suppose I see the point: If you’re going to trade Garnett and make it more difficult for the other 29 teams to win a title, you should get something more in return than a (very good) young player who will be the foundation for a promising future.
Otherwise, the theory goes, don’t make the deal; Nowitzki is almost saying a team in the T’Wolves (or Grizzlies) position should consider the welfare rest of the league before pulling the trigger on a deal for the future.
It almost reminds me of the baseball team in a tight pennant that complains when their rival plays a late September series against a losing team trying to work in some minor-leaguers: “You’re doing something good for your future, but you’re compromising the league now.”
But what are you supposed to do if you’re the Wolves and you’re sure KG is going to leave for free agency when his contract is up (or you just want it off the books)?
Or if you’re the Raptors and Vince Carter has sent you the same message with his lazy, uninspired play? Or if you’re the Magic in June 2004 and you think Tracy McGrady is probably going to opt out of his contract after the 04-05 season and seek a max deal?
Is there ever a time to trade a true top-10 NBA player? I’m talking about megastars, guys you can build an NBA team around. I’m not talking about Allen Iverson going to Denver in 2006 or Chris Webber coming to Philadelphia in 2005, two all-world guys who were past their primes.
How many times in the last 20 years or so has a truly elite NBA player changed teams, and have the teams making those trades ever received equal value in return?
Luckily, Marc Stein ranked a half-dozen recent ones (Shaq to the Lakers Heat for Odom, Butler and change–including a first-rounder that became Jordan Farmar; McGrady to Houston for Steve Francis, Cat Mobley and Kelvin Cato; KG to Boston for Jefferson, Telfair, Green, Gomes, Ratliff and picks; and Vince Carter to New Jersey for Zo, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams and two draft picks).
A few others I can think off the top of my head are:
1992: Charles Barkley from Philly to Phoenix in exchange for Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry.
1996: Jason Kidd, Tony Dumas and Loren Wright from Dallas to Phoenix for Michael Finley, Sam Cassell and a second-round draft pick (that became Greg Buckner)
1998: Chris Webber from Washington to Sacramento for Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe
So, I guess you really can’t win if you trade a top-10/top-15 NBA player, can you? If Al Jefferson comes back from his knee injury with the same offensive game and learns to defend well, the KG trade may actually turn out to be among the “fairest” of all of these. Another conclusion: It turns out Mitch Kupchak made a pretty nice deal in the Shaq trade. Too bad the Lakers screwed it by flipping Butler to Washington for Kwame Brown.