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Steve Aschburner

James Posey, Jason Williams, Miami Heat
Miami's trade for James Posey (left) and Jason Williams in 2005 was one of the best offseason deals.
Victor Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

Stakes for trades raise as number of teams involved rise

Posted Aug 19 2010 10:32PM

Superstar trades are great, grabbing our attention through sheer star power. Blockbuster deals in which mass quantities of players switch from one team to another are exciting, almost as if the two franchises have swapped identities. Moves made right at the February trading deadline, executed with surgical precision to set up either a very special spring or a summer ripe with options, can alter a team's trajectory on a dime.

But the trades that are really fun, in a crazy-contraption, 100-moving-pieces way, are the ones involving multiple teams and multiple players. When three or four general managers get to conference-calling, and seven, eight or more players (or picks or other assets) are put in play, the possibilities are tantalizing. High risks, high rewards, with several teams trying to outwit each other and name guys criss-crossing the country.

With two-franchise trades, people eventually form opinions about which club got the better of the deal. But when a third (and maybe a fourth) team gets involved, the question changes: Which team did the best? It's like the difference between a spirited game of "Monopoly!" with a friend or a wild, raucous affair with six or seven.

That's why the four-team swap-o-rama orchestrated last week by Houston, New Orleans, Indiana and New Jersey was so interesting. Each of the teams gave up something of value, each of the teams acquired a player, players or salary-cap relief that it hopes will make it better in the long run. No one at this point is right, no one at this point is wrong. It's all about potential and what-ifs, and all of it was in play at once, not even padded out by future draft picks.

Quickie impressions suggest that Indiana, in adding point guard Darren Collison, did the best while New Orleans -- taking on Trevor Ariza and his heavy contract, while giving up Chris Paul's talented back-up as well as James Posey -- rolled the biggest dice. Houston (Courtney Lee) and New Jersey (Troy Murphy) hope they've achieved specific goals.

But who won? Who lost? Hard to say at the moment and, frankly, there's no reason to. Training camps and the season will provide those answers.

Such is not the case with six of the NBA's most memorable multi-team trades. Not only are the deals in the books but the results are too (OK, for five of them, anyway). Through the rarely failing wonder of hindsight, here are assessments of some triangle transactions and four-cornered personnel strategies:

The big kahuna

Players involved: Antoine Walker, Jason Williams, Andre Emmett, James Posey, Roberto Duenas, Rasual Butler, Kirk Snyder, Eddie Jones, Qyntel Woods, Curtis Borchardt, Raul Lopez, Albert Miralies and Greg Ostertag.

The details: The largest trade in NBA history took place in August 2005 when 13 players were shuttled among the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics, the Memphis Grizzlies, the New Orleans Hornets and the Utah Jazz. In shorthand, it was the "Antoine Walker" trade because Walker was the highest-profile player in the deal at that point. Aside from acquiring Walker from Boston, the Heat also got Jason Williams, Andre Emmett and Posey from Memphis and Roberto Duenas from New Orleans. The Hornets got back Rasual Butler and, from the Jazz, Kirk Snyder. Miami's Eddie Jones went to Memphis. Boston wound up with Qyntel Woods, Curtis Borchardt, Raul Lopez and Albert Miralies. And Utah got old Jazz pal Greg Ostertag from the Grizzlies.

Verdict: Easy one here. Miami wins. Walker, Williams and Posey all played key supporting roles in the Heat's 2006 NBA championship 10 months after this ginormous move.

More thunder than lightning

Players involved: Patrick Ewing, Glen Rice, Horace Grant, Vladimir Stepania, Lazaro Borrell, Vernon Maxwell, Luc Longley, Chuck Person, Chris Dudley, Greg Foster, Emanual Davis and a 2001 first-round pick (Jamaal Tinsley).

The details: In September 2000, the New York Knicks were at the hub of a 12-player transaction and wound up with six new players and four future draft picks. All they had to give up was Chris Dudley, one first-round pick ... and franchise center Patrick Ewing. Ewing, by that point, was 38 and had played nearly 1,200 games and almost 40,000 minutes, regular and postseason, but Seattle needed help in the middle. The Knicks got Glen Rice and Travis Knight from the Lakers, Vladimir Stepania, Lazaro Borrell and Vernon Maxwell from Seattle and Luc Longley from Phoenix. The Lakers walked away with Horace Grant, Chuck Person, Greg Foster and Emanual Davis. Phoenix got Dudley and the pick from N.Y.

Verdict: The Lakers. Rice, like Ewing, was in decline and those two spent just one season each in New York and Seattle, respectively. Longley, Person, Maxwell and Dudley were about done, too. Grant, though, averaged 8.5 points and 7.1 rebounds to help the Lakers win the middle ring in their 2000-02 three-peat before bouncing to Orlando (two seasons) and back to L.A. at the end.

No, Canada!

Players involved: Steve Francis, Don McLean, Tony Massenburg, Michael Smith, Rodrick Rhodes, Lee Mayberry, Makhtar Ndiaya, Michael Dickerson, Othella Harrington, Brent Price, Antoine Carr and a 2003 first-round pick (Marcus Banks).

The details: Putting an expansion franchise and a fledgling NBA market through a bitter lockout just three years into its existence was bad. Hog-tying the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Toronto Raptors in terms of top draft positions was a mistake. But nothing doomed the franchise in British Columbia quite like Steve Francis' refusal to play there after he was taken No. 2 in the 1999 draft. Francis got his way, never playing for the Grizzlies, thanks to an 11-player, three-team deal that sent him, Tony Massenburg and Orlando's Don MacLean to Houston. Orlando acquired Michael Smith, Rodrick Rhodes, Lee Mayberry and Makhtar Ndiaya. The Grizzlies, in the deal not of their choosing, settled for Michael Dickerson, Othella Harrington, Brent Price, Antoine Carr and a future first-round pick that in 2003 became Marcus Banks.

Verdict: The Rockets won by virtue of Francis' resolve. He won for a while too, sharing Rookie of the Year honors with Elton Brand and playing in three All-Star games. But Francis wore out his welcome in Houston after five years, appeared in only 124 games over his final four seasons and, now 33, has been out of the league since 2008. But Vancouver has been out of the league since 2001.

Who's the point?

Players involved: Stephon Marbury, Terrell Brandon, Sam Cassell, Chris Carr, Bill Curley, Paul Grant, Chris Gatling, Brian Evans and Elliot Perry.

The details: Point guards were the centerpieces of a three-team deal in March 1999 between Minnesota, New Jersey and Milwaukee. Stephon Marbury wanted out of Minnesota and, in an precursor to Francis' balk, threatened to leave the Timberwolves that summer if he weren't dealt by the trading deadline of the 50-game post-lockout season. The Wolves blinked, sending Marbury to New Jersey with Chris Carr and Bill Curley, while shipping Paul Grant to Milwaukee. The Nets countered by sending playmaker Sam Cassell and Chris Gatling to the Bucks and Brian Evans to Minnesota. Milwaukee took Cassell as a replacement for Terrell Brandon, moved to Minnesota, while sending Elliot Perry to New Jersey.

Verdict: Milwaukee. Brandon was the consummate point guard for Wolves coach Flip Saunders' offense and that team made five consecutive playoff appearances after the deal. But Brandon was fragile, his career ending prematurely due to injuries. Marbury's highest highs and lowest lows came after this deal, but it was the start of his spiral out of the serious basketball discussions. The Bucks had done well with Brandon but got better once Cassell teamed up with Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson, pushing to 52 victories in 2000-01 and four postseasons in his five years there.

Subtraction by subtraction

Players involved: Donyell Marshall, Howard Eisley, Danny Fortson, Dana Barros, Robert Pack, John (Hot Rod) Williams, Bill Curley, Bruno Sundov and Adam Keefe.

The details: Nine players also changed addresses in an August 2000 deal involving Boston, Golden State, Dallas and Utah. The Celtics gave up Danny Fortson (to Golden State) and Dana Barros (to Dallas), while getting Robert Pack, John (Hot Rod) Williams, a pick from the Jazz and cash. The Mavericks got Barros, Bill Curley (from Golden State) and Howard Eisley (from Utah). Utah wound up with Donyell Marshall (Golden State) and Bruno Sundov (Dallas). Golden State got Fortson and Adam Keefe (Utah).

Verdict: Boston or Utah. The Cetlics got some payroll relief and at least achieved their goal at the time to not have Fortson land in New York. But Fortson played just six games the next season for Golden State. Eisley was a disappointment in Dallas and was gone after one season. Utah had Marshall for two solid seasons. The former UConn standout would play for five more teams after that, but got the first two of his five trips to the playoffs after this trade.

T-Mac's N.Y. cameo

Players involved: Tracy McGrady, Kevin Martin, Carl Landry, Jordan Hill, Jared Jeffries, Hilton Armstrong, Larry Hughes, Sergio Rodriguez and Joey Dorsey.

The details: In Feburary, the Rockets sealed their Tracy McGrady era by sending the high-scoring but oft-injured star to the Knicks in a three-team, nine-player move. They took back Jordan Hill and Jared Jeffries from New York, while also adding Sacramento scorer Kevin Martin and the Kings' Hilton Armstrong. Sacramento got Larry Hughes (New York), Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey (both from Houston). Finally, Sergio Rodrigues went from the Kings to the Knicks.

Verdict: Hung jury. None of these teams made the playoffs this spring. New York wasn't able to parlay McGrady's exiring contract into the LeBron bonanza it hoped for this summer but did land Amar'e Stoudemire in free agency. Martin, a shooter, kept doing that for Houston, averaging 21.4 points. Sacramento got 18.0 points and 6.5 rebounds from Landy, the best numbers of his young career. But this deal needs another season before final judgments can be made.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA for 25 years. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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