Cohen: Patience Is Pivotal

By Josh Cohen
August 4, 2012

ORLANDO -- All commend patience and those who practice it usually come out on top.

It’s become evident that Orlando Magic General Manager Rob Hennigan sides with this philosophy.

Since being hired in June there has been a tremendous pressure to act on the Dwight Howard trade request.

There have been several instances where a deal was reportedly on the verge of completion.

From the Brooklyn Nets trying desperately to structure a trade around Brook Lopez to the L.A. Lakers, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks all attempting to bargain prospective deals for the All-Star center, offers have come fast and furious.

But rather than make a rash decision or feel threatened by Howard’s unswerving plead to be traded Hennigan remains tolerant. Such patience will likely prove favorable to the Magic.

There is a criterion that any general manager must apply when considering trading a superstar. After a proposal is made, it’s imperative to sort out the components and fill out a checklist or some kind of meticulous table to properly dissect the deal.

It’s almost impossible for a team to receive equal value when trading one of the best players in the NBA. There are a multitude of reasons for that, including lack of leverage, salary cap complications and simply because the gap between ‘A’ talent and ‘B’ talent is significant. In the NBA, you practically never see a superstar traded for another superstar.

If I were a GM I would use a comprehensive table – complete with several categories like the one below – to assess any prospective trade.

Team
Proven Star
Potential Star
Expiring Contract
Expected High Future Draft Pick(s)
Expected Low Future Draft Pick(s)
Average Talent
Undesirable Player/Contract
Filler
Team A        
Team B        



Proven Star – A player with All-Star status in his prime. Categorized as at least a top 25 player in the NBA and someone you can immediately build your team around

Potential Star – A young player just getting accustomed to the NBA with a ton of capability to transform into an All-Star talent. He can eventually be a centerpiece you can build around.

Expiring Contract – A piece in the form of a player’s favorable contract that will permit a team to gain financial and/or salary cap flexibility in the near future. Usually, it’s an underachieving player that is in the final year of his bloated deal.

Expected High Future Draft Pick(s) – When negotiating with a team that is NOT likely to advance to the playoffs the upcoming season or has acquired an unprotected pick from a separate team that is NOT expected to qualify for the postseason, any unprotected future first round draft picks involved in a potential trade become extremely valuable because they are anticipated lottery selections (1-14).

Expected Low Future Draft Pick(s) – When negotiating with a team that IS expected to advance to the playoffs the upcoming season, any future first round draft picks involved in a potential trade are NOT valuable because these picks are anticipated bottom half selections (15-30) of the First Round.

Average Talent – A player who has reached his ceiling but is serviceable. He is a borderline starting caliber talent but is certainly not the type of player that will make a major difference in the win-loss column.

Undesirable Player/Contract – An underachieving player or simply an ordinary player with a disadvantageous and salary cap-disparaging contract.

Filler – A piece in the form of a player’s contract that allows a trade to be approved under CBA guidelines. If two teams are trying to match incoming and outgoing salaries, a “filler” serves as a bridge to complete a deal. Usually, fillers are bench players with insignificant contracts.

Let’s take a look at some recent examples of trades involving league superstars.

CHRIS PAUL TO CLIPPERS



 

Team
Proven Star
Potential Star
Expiring Contract
Expected High Future Draft Pick(s)
Expected Low Future Draft Pick(s)
Average Talent
Undesirable Player/Contract
Filler
L.A. ClippersChris Paul   Two Future Second Round Picks   
New Orleans Eric GordonChris KamanMinnesota’s unprotected 2012 pick Al-Farouq-Aminu  



When you examine this deal, I think the Hornets did as good of a job as they could under their circumstances last year. Chris Paul wanted out and New Orleans found a partner that had a budding star (Eric Gordon), a large expiring contract (Chris Kaman) and a projected lottery pick (Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first round selection).

The results: After a trying 2011-12 campaign, the Hornets landed lottery luck to secure Anthony Davis. They also obtained Austin Rivers with the 10th pick (Minnesota’s draft spot). Since Gordon was a restricted free agent, New Orleans was able to match the max offer Phoenix submitted. In addition, with some excess money to spend, the Hornets opted to negotiate a sign-and-trade for Ryan Anderson.

Now, with Davis, Gordon and Rivers, the Hornets have a formidable core that could prove to be outstanding in a few years. If they get in the draft lottery one more time next year and add another top tier talent, it’s very possible the Hornets could be among the best teams in the league in three to five seasons.

 

DERON WILLIAMS TO NETS



 

Team
Proven Star
Potential Star
Expiring Contract
Expected High Future Draft Pick(s)
Expected Low Future Draft Pick(s)
Average Talent
Undesirable Player/Contract
Filler
BrooklynDeron Williams       
Utah Derrick Favors Two First Round Draft PicksDevin Harris  



I think the Jazz were far too hasty when they decided to trade Deron Williams in 2011. Nobody at that time seemed to even realize Utah was flirting with trading D-Will.

Derrick Favors fits the description of a potential star, but considering the Jazz already have Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, it’s remains hard for him to fulfill his lofty expectations without more playing time and spotlight down low. Devin Harris didn’t fill the void and was traded earlier this summer to Atlanta.

One of the draft picks Utah received in the deal turned into Enes Kanter (third overall selection in 2011 NBA Draft). The jury is still out on whether he will become a force in the paint. The Jazz will also receive the Warriors' draft pick in either 2013 (top 7 protected) or 2014 (top 6 protected) as part of the trade.

Lacking patience, however, may have cost the Jazz and now they are stuck in the precarious position of being a borderline playoff team every year with very little room to evolve.

 

CARMELO ANTHONY TO KNICKS



 

Team
Proven Star
Potential Star
Expiring Contract
Expected High Future Draft Pick(s)
Expected Low Future Draft Pick(s)
Average Talent
Undesirable Player/Contract
Filler
New YorkCarmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups     Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter, Renaldo Balkman 
Denver Danilo Gallinari  2014 First Round Draft PickRaymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov  



This is a complicated trade to analyze for a variety of reasons.

For one, we first need to understand the situation. Carmelo Anthony made it clear he wanted to play for the Knicks and New York sat there in 2011 with enough salary cap space that summer to sign him as a free agent if Denver didn’t trade him.

As a result, the Nuggets in many ways were forced to trade Anthony to the Knicks. In contrast to Howard’s desire to be dealt to the Nets, NY had the cap space to eventually secure Melo regardless. Brooklyn doesn’t.

Many have applauded Denver for the deal. But, quite frankly, the trade has put the Nuggets in a wobbly position. They attained one potential star in the deal (Danilo Gallinari) but didn’t gain any salary cap flexibility or future high draft picks. The trade did allow Ty Lawson to slide into a starting role and blossom into one of the best point guards in the league.

However, the Nuggets don’t have a cast strong enough to beat Western Conference powers like the Thunder, Lakers, Spurs or Clippers. And without any future lottery draft picks or salary cap space to sign All-Star caliber free agents, Denver is stuck being a one-and-done playoff team for the next several years.


It’s a convoluted proposition for any GM to trade the best player on a team. But rather than be injudicious, it’s essential to remain patient and wait for the most appealing offer.

And if no deal is worth entertaining, it’s very possible that not making a move at all is the best option.

It remains to be seen whether Howard will be in a Magic uniform to start the 2012-13 season. His request for a trade will not force Orlando to make a hasty decision. That we know.

Remember, Dwight is a top five player in the NBA, a stalwart defender and the most intimidating force of his generation. He’s simply too good and dominant to deal him unless the right trade offer is presented.

So far, patience has prevailed and will continue to until there is enough reason for resolution.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by Josh Cohen are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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