The Trade Deadline Exchange, Part 1
Zach Lowe and Bill Simmons [ARCHIVE]
February 21, 2013
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With the NBA's trade deadline happening at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, Grantland's Zach Lowe and Bill Simmons decided to swap e-mails all day to capture the speculation, the rumors, and maybe even a few breaking trades as they happened. Here's the first installment, tentatively titled, "Sorry, Sacramento."
Simmons (6:30 a.m.): All right, I'm up, I'm drinking coffee, I'm ready to go. What did you think of Houston fleecing Sacramento for Thomas Robinson? Why do teams continue to trade with Dork Elvis? Everyone, STOP TRADING WITH DORK ELVIS!!!!!
Lowe: That was a shocker. The highest-value player here is obviously Robinson (the fifth overall pick just eight months ago), whom lots of scouts love despite his rudimentary offensive skills; he's shooting 42 percent and has zero post game, though he is shooting a nearly acceptable 38 percent on midrange jumpers, per NBA.com. Keith Smart was very optimistic about Robinson's midrange jumper when I spoke to him in Dallas just before the All-Star break.
Simmons: You left out, "Oh, and he's a 21-year-old rookie getting spotty minutes for the most depressing franchise in the league … maybe that affected his jumper, too."
Lowe: In any case: Robinson's a "wow" athlete, and he's already a better rebounder than Patterson ever will be; Patterson rebounds more like a small forward than a power forward, and he's the only player of any long-term relevance going to Sacramento here. The Kings do save about $3.6 million in salary for this season, so hooray for that! Cost-cutting may well have been a motive during an awkward period for the franchise, and if it was, well, have fun digesting that one, Sacto fans. Of course, Patterson is a year away from the expiration of his rookie deal, after which point he'll become more expensive. Robinson has three years left on his rookie deal. Math is fun.
Simmons: There were so many appalling things about that trade, but you just hit on the big one — the Kings gave up on a top-five lottery pick to save a little less than $4 million. It's the kind of trade that happens when your owners are broke. It's the kind of trade that would have happened in 1978, back when the league was struggling and they were showing Finals games on tape delay. You know I'm prone to hyperbole from time to time, but I truly believe this — that's the worst trade anyone's made in years. A lottery team giving up Robinson … I mean … it's unconscionable. No, he wasn't playing that well for the Kings, but can you think of a worse situation for him?
As I've written before, the Kings were put together like The Pickup Team From Hell. Before this trade, they had a playing rotation that included four point guards and four power forwards. That's not a misprint. Robinson was getting scattered minutes off the bench behind Boogie Cousins and Jason Thompson. And they're owned by a bunch of broke brothers who are trying to sell out to Seattle and inadvertently (or maybe even advertently) turned their season into a total soap opera. Other than that, it was a fantastic situation for Thomas Robinson. I'm amazed he didn't thrive there.
Lowe: Agree that Robinson had the highest value in the trade because of his athleticism/upside, and because he represents another immediately movable high-value trade chip for Daryl Morey — a lottery pick, basically. The Rockets can deal Robinson right away if they want to make a deadline play for Josh Smith or another big-money guy, since this deal leaves Houston under the salary cap and thus safe from rules against trading a player right after getting him. Houston may choose to wait until the summer for any such chase, since they'll have max-level cap room. These two deals combined shave about $1.6 million from Houston's 2013-14 cap figure, meaning they should be able to carve out about $20 million in space in July with a bit of creativity — enough to fit Dwight Howard's max contract, and certainly Smith's. They could also use Robinson as a sign-and-trade chip.
Simmons: It was an amazing trade for them. My buddy House and I always called these types of trades "pu pu platter" trades. You know when you order Chinese food in college and it seems like a great idea to order a giant pu pu platter for the table because you get so many things with it? Then the big pu pu platter arrives and it always sucks? You have lukewarm spareribs and overcooked chicken wings and soggy egg rolls? And you wish you had just spent that money on their best entrée? That's what this trade was. Houston dealt lukewarm spareribs, overcooked chicken wings and soggy egg rolls for a piping-hot dish of kung pao chicken.
I gotta be honest, Zach … I didn't think trades like this could still happen in 2013. Basketball coverage is so merciless now. We have hundreds of bloggers, dozens of beat writers and too many influential NBA columnists basically lounging around waiting for fresh prey. When you screw up, this entire community descends on you like a pack of coyotes. As weird as this sounds, I think it's made the 30 NBA teams as a whole a little more competent — instead of plowing ahead with a dumb deal, now they float out possible trades to gauge reactions, just to make sure they're not going to get slammed if they actually go through with it. But in this case? The Kings just plowed ahead. And thank god. I missed ripping apart a truly atrocious trade! Thank you, Geoff Petrie!
Lowe: I heard from people from at least a half-dozen teams within an hour of this trade breaking, and the universal reaction was: WHAT!!??? I mean, everyone understands the Kings did this to save money, though they may eventually try to conjure up some vague basketball-related justification — that Patterson fits better next to DeMarcus Cousins because he can space the floor, or perhaps because they are friends from Kentucky. Neither comes close to justifying the raw asset exchange they made here.
In any case, my best educated guess for how this went down: Houston has been peddling a bunch of its young guys in hopes of exchanging one for a first-round pick. They were calling around the league. They eventually got to Sacramento, at which point Petrie — still at least using the telephone, I'm told, assuming the Kings have paid the phone bill — probably mentioned Robinson's availability in a package with Francisco Garcia. Morey probably dropped the phone.
Simmons: I agree. I think he definitely dropped the phone. And there's no question that he called his guys into an electrical closet and said, "Look, give me all your cell phones. It's not that I don't trust you. I do. I 99.9 percent trust you. But I can't even leave open the 0.1 percent chance that one of you will screw me over by leaking this deal to Stein or Woj. If we get the fifth pick in last year's draft for a bunch of crap, this will be the greatest moment of my career, and possibly my life. So please, give me...
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