January 20, 2011
In the first trade of the 2010-11 season, the Raptors traded Jarrett Jack(notes), Marcus Banks(notes) and David Andersen(notes) to the New Orleans Hornets for Peja and Jerryd Bayless(notes), with the hope that Peja's expiring contract could be turned around to send another team's way in order to take on assets and improve the team. A few months later, and with over a month to go before the trade deadline, the Raptors aren't even going to pretend that they can get something they'd want for Stojakovic's contract, and GM Bryan Colangelo is giving up early.
Which I never understand. I know that the market is flooded with expiring deals, and that the value to a massive expiring contract is as low as it has ever been, but you can't just hang onto Peja for another month? He's not playing for you, he's not making a fuss behind the scenes, why not just wait until that infamous Thursday afternoon in February to see if something can be worked out? What if another team gets desperate? What if a big deal rolls around? What if a small deal rolls around? If even for $3 million U.S. or a second-round pick, seriously, why would you drop the guy if there's even a sliver of a chance he could bring you an asset down the line?
To do right by Peja? That's admirable, I suppose. Stojakovic's a nice guy, he's been a pro about all of this, and it's not as if he's been underachieving over the last few years. His back is shot, and he can't find the rim as much as a result. But you're under no obligation to shepherd him to his next gig (he's reportedly already committed to sign with the Mavericks) just to be nice to the man. He still could have been bought out five weeks from now, in time to sign on with a new team and be eligible for the playoffs. Toronto should have at least exhausted its options between now and then, instead of assuming its options were exhausted.
As far as Peja goes, don't expect much. He's actually played and shot well in limited time this year (a 20 PER in 111 total minutes, who knew?), but he's also 33 and his back hasn't been right for years. His 3-point stroke is good, he's shot in the high 30s over the last few seasons, but it's not good enough to make up for bad defense, poor rebounding and the fact that half his shots come from outside the arc (above-average 3-point shooting plus below-average 2-point shooting plus few free throws equal an inefficient offensive player) hampers his ability to contribute.
All of which is hampered by his back, sadly. Perhaps just playing 111 NBA minutes between last April and now has been a good thing for Peja, and he can bounce back. But it's unlikely. This isn't to dissuade the Mavs from signing the former All-Star to add to their depth. Go after him. But I am pointing these things out because the Mavs' fan base shouldn't be over the top with glee after he signs. And coaches have to be wary about his all-around contributions.
And with that, let the buy-out season commence. Free money, players. Cheap players, owners. Go at it!