November 20, 2010
Hardly a blockbuster, and certainly not a deal that will have fan bases on either end spinning with glee, but Saturday's deal between the Toronto Raptors and New Orleans Hornets does make sense on a few levels.
Just a few. Because the deals (two separate deals, to ensure cap legality) that sent Peja Stojakovic(notes) and Jerryd Bayless(notes) to the Toronto Raptors and Jarrett Jack(notes), David Andersen(notes), and Marcus Banks(notes) to the New Orleans Hornets could be a seen as a missed opportunity of sorts for the Hornets, and a miscalculation by the Raptors. To me, the swing behind this move lies in what the Raptors can do with Peja's massive expiring contract in a further deal. Because there will be another deal, right?
Until then, the Hornets save a little cash initially (Toronto saves more, in the long run) and take in a sound upgrade in the reserve combo guard position in Jack. I'm not entirely keen on any team paying five million a year for a guard that won't start and will have to find minutes relieving both the league's best point guard (that you want to keep on the court as much as humanely possible), and an already-crowded shooting guard rotation (with the reborn Marco Belinelli(notes) and the still-potent Marcus Thornton(notes)), but Chris Paul(notes) and Jack have been friends for years, and Hornets GM Dell Demps is being proactive in trying to make life as tenable as possible for CP3, who semi-floated a trade demand last summer.
These sorts of deals rarely work out, trading for mates and kowtowing to stars isn't always the smartest move, but despite Jerryd's obvious physical gifts, the fact remains that Jack (though I'm not his biggest fan) is clearly the superior player to Bayless right now.
And if the rumors are true, massive expiring deals don't have the same league-wide cachet that they used to in years past. Partially because of the sheer amount of expiring deals due to be on the market this February before the trade deadline, and partially because most teams are anticipating a new set of rules and some form of payroll and/or cap relief when a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is (hopefully, for all) hammered out late next summer. Teams, we're reading, aren't as anxious to lop salary off and deal for contracts that end in July.
So while it's fair to at least give Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo the benefit of the doubt (stop laughing) and assume he can turn Peja into something else as February nears, it is possible that this is the best New Orleans could have done with Stojakovic's contract -- a little payroll relief, and a buddy to make Chris Paul happy. I'm not going to pretend to know that it is the best they could have done, only the time between now and February will tell, but this is still an upgrade, even if a healthy season from Paul makes Jack a bit redundant.
Stojakovic, as a player, has little left. He can still be a threat from long range when wide, wide open; but crippling back injuries have left him as a long shot to create his own looks. Take away one great game this year - a 6-8 shooting, 17-point effort in a loss to Dallas last week - and he's averaging 5.6 points per game on 32 percent shooting on the season. He's not exactly Eddy Curry's(notes) expiring contract, but he's not exactly Vince Carter's(notes) either.
New Orleans has made their move, however slight. Now it's up to Toronto to try and top it.