With the deadline to player swap winding down within the next three hours, I am going to go out on the limb and say that the major trading is done for the season. Everybody is all up in arms about the marquee names migrating from the Eastern part of the country to the Western part, and it's not just the fans. Coaches are taking swipes and general managers are taking heed too, most notably Steve Kerr's panic-riddled hand pressing the proverbial red button and acquiring Shaquille O'Neal for Shawn Marion.
So without further ado, let's synthesize the "new-look" Western Conference:
Los Angeles Lakers
We all have heard the reasons as to why the Lakers got away like a fat rabbit. Giving away no production for a lot of production is what they did. Kobe Bryant wanted Jerry West to come to the Lakers. He wanted him back. Well, he got him. Jerry West still works for the Lakers. If there was any case that warranted a collusion question, this is one. So come May, the Lakers will be looking at a starting line-up of Derek Fisher, Kobe, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum. Now riddle me this, who is going to score in the paint against those fellows? Factor in the perimeter defense of Fish and Kobe, and Kobe's mindset of a cobra and you have a Western Conference finalist. At least.
New Orleans Hornets
Why the Hornets, you say? Because they didn't panic. They realized what they had was working and did not give away any talent in a fit of keeping up with the Joneses mentality. Also, it was on the wire today that they are acquiring Mike James and Bonzi Wells for Bobby Jackson and change. And forget what you heard, if the season ended today, the two MVP candidates are Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant. It's not even close after that. CP3 gets my vote.
San Antonio Spurs
SAS solidified an already solid frontcourt by getting rid of Francisco "I let KG punch me in the nuts" Elson and Brent Barry for a bona fide blue collar Greg Popovich style player in Kurt Thomas. There's nothing more to say about this other than the cliche' "the rich gets richer."
Most overrated "winner" move:
OK, quick, tell me how in any significant way is Jason Kidd an upgrade over Devin Harris? I'll answer that for you: leadership and court vision and rebounding. But when I delve further, I ask myself, is Jason Kidd really a leader? Is he the Alpha dog that the Mavericks need and think that they now have? When you factor in the point that Kidd a) can't shoot to save his life b) was quite turnover prone in the East, which figures to get worse now that he's dealing with lightning hands guards in the West c) will find it hard to contend with the quick point guards of the West, more so in a way that Devin Harris, most evidently noted by Paul's nine steal game last night. These are too many questions for me to be totally convinced that Kidd is that much of an upgrade, other than name recognition alone.
Most overrated "loser" move:
This may come as a slight surprise to those that know me, because I was as befuddled with this trade as anybody with a brain. Why Shaq, for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks? It wasn't for contractual/financial reasons, for Shaq is due another two years. Marion was the Suns best defensive player, best rebounder, and the main recipient of Steve Nash's lobs. Then once I thought about it - though this may be a sign that I am losing some brain cells at the ripe old age of 22 - it made more sense.
Phoenix has been to the WCF two of the last three years. So you could look at it two ways: that they either are missing something to get over that proverbial hump, or that they are close and just need to stick with what they got. I mean after all, Detroit in the 1980's did bang their heads against the wall for years against the Celtics and Lakers before they could win it all. But with the Lakers making their play for Gasol, Kerr felt the need to beef up on the inside. And boy, did he. Shaq is Shaq, banged up or not. He is not 2000-2003 Shaq, or even 2006 Shaq. But he is better than what Phoenix had in the middle. Marion was a stat-stuffer, a do-everything player. But he was unhappy, and that can play on team chemistry.
Chemistry and change. Those are the two factors that Phoenix are banking on. At worse, they end up at the same predicament at they have in the past three seasons: an early dismissal from the playoffs. At best, they could have obtained the one piece that can contend with Duncan or Gasol & Bynum, and provide some balance in Phoenix's lineup and send them to their first championship ever.
So in reality they lose nothing, and have everything to gain.
A foolish gamble maybe, but one that I, at gunpoint would make.