Casey's Sleepers and Keepers
By Don Casey
Former NBA head coach Don Casey analyzes many of the reported free-agent signings and offseason trades, discussing possible sleepers and keepers.
Ben Wallace to the Bulls
The Pistons for some reason believed that Ben Wallace was expendable. Possibly they assumed that he would re-sign. But you canít do that in this league. You have to assume that everyone will leave if given the chance. They just didnít want to match what Chicago could do, which sends the message to me that they were looking elsewhere when he left. Wallace being in Chicago could have the same effect that Ron Artest going to Sacramento had. He will bring a degree of toughness, an attitude, all the qualities that made him a repeat Defensive Player of the Year. His attitude fits in perfectly with a fiery guy like Scott Skiles and the Bulls were able to trade Tyson Chandler as a result, a player who they thought was a bit lackadaisical, who hadnít fulfilled their ideas of what he should become and who probably didnít want the pressure that went along with his big contract.
Nazr Mohammed to the Pistons
This is a sleeper move. I like Nazr Mohammed. Given a lot of quality playing time with good players, I think this kid will develop into a strong presence who can do more things offensively than Ben and possibly grow into the same role and model that Wallace eventually did. The key will be the playing time, which heíll now get. A few years ago, when he was on the Knicks, I saw him down in Orlando, and he was playing well. Next thing you know, they traded him and shortly thereafter, he is playing in The Finals and contributing. He is a good replacement for Detroit, and a few years younger at that.
Peja Stojakovic to the Hornets
Although I think they overpaid for him, Chris Paul will make Peja Stojakovic good. He is the major difference between New Orleans/Oklahoma City and Indiana. In Indiana, there was a lot of pressure having to replace Artest. They didnít have a real inside game that could cause kick-outs, especially when Jermaine O'Neal got hurt, and he doesnít really lose people on baseline screens to free himself up. When he was in Sacramento though, he flourished when they got the ball up quick, penetrated and kicked it out, or when they dumped it down low to Vlade Divac or Chris Webber and then they sent it back outside. I see Paul penetrating and Peja spotting up. In that respect, he will be a good weapon to have. With that push game and Paul, he has a chance to get back to his Sacramento days.
Austin Croshere to Dallas for Marquis Daniels
Both of these moves are sleeper moves for the respective teams. Dallas wasnít pleased with Keith Van Horn in crunch time and Austin Croshere has had a tough time of it in Indiana since he signed that big deal a few years ago. You have to remember though, that when teams lose key people, like the Pacers did with Reggie Miller and Artest, it makes it harder to get shots, which is what seems to have happened with Croshere. I think with the pressure off a bit, Croshere will flourish more in Dallas than he did in Indiana. And Indiana gets a young, athletic player in Marquis Daniels who can get out and run but who can also play tough defense.
Sam Cassell re-signs with the Clippers
If Sam Cassell wasnít one of their keepers, the Clippers would have lost their identity. That is how much he means to that team. They had to sign Cassell. Not only did he bring scoring in crunch time, but key veteran leadership for Shaun Livingston to look at and emulate.
Tim Thomas to the Clippers
I am not sure whether it was the style of play or what, but where has Tim Thomas been for the last seven or eight years. I donít think Phoenix was terribly upset by him leaving, despite his strong showing in the playoffs.
Vladimir Radmanovic to the Lakers
I donít know why Vladimir Radmanovic went there. Theyíre saying that he will be good because Kobe Bryant will command double-teams. That is going to help, but remember Kobe is on the perimeter too. Radmanovic probably had more double teams with Elton Brand, Chris Kaman and Corey Maggette touching the ball. Unless they think Kwame Brown is going to demand them, there are not a lot of doubles going on. Radmanovic is a catch-and-shoot type guy who doesnít break you down. I guess they are thinking that they needed another perimeter presence. If there is a drive and kick, he will be hanging out there. And also, now that Pat Riley has shown you can win a championship by playing zone or match-up 60 percent of the time, these teams will be thinking more catch-and-shoot than before. You need guys that break a zone down or guys to go over the top of it.
Mike James had a bit of a tough time with Sam Mitchell up in Toronto, but when a situation is bad, players act badly. They know they canít win and they can sense it. They become a little self-surviving and selfish, but he got over that. Everyone I spoke to has said this kid can really play.
It is evident that Al Harrington wants to get out of Atlanta. Something is amiss. I like him, but he seems to want to play a little too much on the outside for a big guy. He had his best statistical year, but it was for a bad team. Often with bad teams, guys numbers get inflated. With that said, he is strong, quick, and coachable.
Speedy Claxton to Atlanta
Speedy Claxton definitely gives them more of a push game. I am not sure how good of a distributor he is, but he is quick enough. Claxton is like his nickname, he likes to run the ball up and try to make something good happen. Atlanta is desperate for a small guard and for good things to happen.
Derek Fisher to Utah
Another good move. Sloan will get the pick-and-roll running once again.
-- Don Casey appears courtesy of the National Basketball Coaches Association.