Living the Fantasy: Point Guard Shuffle
By NBA TV's Rick Kamla
The league just concluded one of its best ever All-Star Weekends, with Dwight Howard supplanting Shaq as the NBA’s answer to Superman, LeBron James adding to his Hall of Fame resume with a second All-Star MVP in three years, and the 57th rendition of the exhibition ranking as one of the most competitive ever.
Then you have the playoff chase in the Western Conference, which may go down as the best ever, what with the top nine teams separated by 4.5 games at the break. If you extend it to Portland, four games out of the last playoff spot, you have 10 teams engaging in playoff-type regular season games the rest of the way. If the final eight have anything left, the postseason promises to drop jaws.
Oh yeah, and then you have the flurry of blockbuster trades going down as the timer ticks toward Thursday’s trade deadline. Two of those deals were consummated over All-Star weekend, when four teams played a sweet game of point guard shuffle.
Jason Kidd goes back to where it all began for him in 1994, when the Mavericks made him the second pick in the draft. When you boil it down to the upgrade from Devin Harris to a Hall of Famer still in his prime, this trade is a no-brainer for Dallas—and it definitely returns them to the status of legitimate title contender. The future is now for the Mavericks, as Dirk Nowitzki turns 30 on June 18, Jason Terry is already 30, Erick Dampier is 32, and Jerry Stackhouse is 33.
It’s also a slam-dunk deal for the Nets on myriad levels, not the least of which being the fact they got 10 years younger—with mega upside—at the most important position in the game. Harris turns 25 on Feb. 27 while Kidd turns 35 on Mar. 23. The Nets also got Dallas’ first round picks in 2008 and 2010, and as they proved in recent years with their picks of Sean Williams (17), Josh Boone (23), and Marcus Williams (22), the Nets are more than capable of turning late picks into rotation players.
Yes, freaks, it is possible that both teams will get exactly what they want out of this trade, which was infamously drawn out because of fine print and one very loud mouth.
If Kidd pushes the Mavericks over the hump and into the winner’s circle in late June, Mark Cuban has his championship. If Harris develops into an All-Star point guard—and he seems well on his way to doing so—then Rod Thorn turned a dying situation into new life for his team.
Kidd averaged 11.3 points, 10.4 assists, and 8.1 rebounds in 51 games with the Nets this season. Because he is such a tone-setter for whatever team he is on, Kidd will get his numbers as long as he gets his minutes. That won’t be a problem in Dallas.
The Mavs were a low-assist team before the arrival of Kidd, whose assist numbers could go up with finishers like Dirk, Terry, Stack, and of course, Josh Howard. Plus, as Kidd ingratiates himself with his new teammates, you know he’ll be more unselfish than ever, probably racking up some high-teen assist games between now and tax day. And a change of scenery likely will inspire Kidd to improve upon his woeful .366 field goal percentage while in Jersey.
As for Harris, who averaged 14.4 points, 5.3 assists, and 1.4 steals (all career highs) in 39 games with Dallas, his numbers can only go up in New Jersey, where he feels he’ll have more freedom to expand his game. Harris, Richard Jefferson, and Vince Carter all have the ability to scoot past their defenders, so I expect the Nets to generate numerous easy baskets in the second half.
The fantasy owners of Harris have every right to be excited right now. Harris will be shot out of a cannon as soon as he hits the floor for the Nets. His speed, enthusiasm and explosiveness will inspire his new teammates, his new fans, and his new franchise. Don’t be surprised if he hikes his averages up to 16 points and seven assists over the next 30-something games with New Jersey.
To me, the East stacks up like this. Boston and Detroit are in it to win it. Cleveland feels like No. 3, despite an MVP masterpiece being authored by LeBron. The Celtics and Pistons are too strong this year to be taken out by a one-man band. Orlando is the fourth-best team in the conference until they prove they can win a playoff series, at which point perceptions change. (Sorry, Dwight.) Toronto is fifth, with a chance of moving past Cleveland and Orlando. If healthy, Washington could challenge Cleveland for third, but can they get healthy? As is, the Wizards are sixth. Then you have seven teams for the final two spots, with New Jersey, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Indiana, Milwaukee, and Charlotte all separated by four games.
However, the Bibby trade lifts Atlanta outta that muck, giving the East seven playoff locks, with the Wizards and Hawks being sixth and seventh, respectively. My guess is that the Nets keep Vince through the deadline and extend their playoff streak with the new Big Three, but we shall see.
We didn’t exactly get "vintage" Mike Bibby in 15 games with the Kings this season, as he averaged 13.5 points on .406 field goal shooting and 5.0 assists. That said, his three-point stroke is dialed in, currently at .393 for the season. Bibby is at least a 15 and 5 guy with the Hawks, and you can expect roughly three 3s per game as well. Also, Joe Johnson’s efficiency will rise now that another clutch shooter is in the fold.
Bibby will be replaced by Beno Udrih, who has put up real solid numbers as a starter this season. In 31 starts (35.5 minutes per game), the Slovenian revelation averaged 14.1 points, 4.8 assists, and 1.2 steals, and he maintained shooting percentages of .457 from the field, .429 from three, and .875 from the line. Wow.
Freaks, I do not expect Tyronn Lue and Anthony Johnson, who were shipped to Sacto in the deal, to have a significantly negative impact on Udrih’s minutes or numbers. So rest easy.
With the Bibby trade talks and rumors finally coming to fruition, is his former Kings teammate Ron Artest next? Stay tuned…