I don’t know how you can look at today’s trade and not call it a winner for the Warriors. When you consider that Stephen Jackson had 1) demanded a trade months ago, 2) never backed off that trade demand, 3) demonstrated enough erratic behavior to force the Warriors hand in dealing him sooner than later, and 4) has one of the worst player contracts in the NBA, the Warriors came away with more value than I expected they would receive once they traded Jackson.
When considering the merits of any trade, you should judge three categories: finances, talent and chemistry. If you improve your franchise’s situation in all three categories, your trade is the steal of the century. If you improve in two of the three categories, you’ve just closed on a very good trade. Improvement in one category? Not great, but it can still pay dividends. You obviously want to avoid any trade in which you worsen your franchise’s financial stability, level of talent, and existing team chemistry.
We’ll apply each of these three categories to the trade the Warriors made today, and determine the value of this deal:
First, the data:
TO THE CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
SF Stephen Jackson
Stats: 16.6 points, 4.7 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 42% FG, 27.5% 3P, 70% FT
Contract: $7.65 million in 2009-10, $8.45 million in 2010-11, $9.26 million in 2011-12, $10.06 million in 2012-13
PG Acie Law
Stats: 6.2 points, 1.2 steals, 1.4 assists
Contract: $2.22 million in 2009-10
TO THE GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
SG Raja Bell
Stats: 12 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.8 steals, 43% FG, 38% 3P
Contract: $5.25 million in 2009-10
SF Vladimir Radmanovich
Stats: 4.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 16.6 minutes, 33% FG, 32% 3P
Contract: $6.47 million in 2009-10, $6.88 million in 2010-11
Now, to our first category:
Financially, this is a great trade for the Warriors. The Warriors gave up a small expiring contract (Law) and a really long, expensive contract (Jackson) for a midrange expiring contract (Bell) and a deal that pays a little more than $13 million over the next two seasons (Radmanovich). Because contracts must run through the end of a season, you don’t really look at the financial ramifications of a trade until the season following its completion. So throw out Law’s and Bell’s contract (because they expire at the end of this season). With Radmanovich’s contract, this trade commits the Warriors to $6.88 million beyond this season. If the Warriors hadn’t completed this trade, they would have been committed to $27.8 million beyond this season. That’s a savings of $20.9 million. The Warriors obviously come out winners in this category.
Raja Bell is a good veteran player who should start at shooting guard for the Warriors. He will play good defense (he’s past his prime when he was a great defender) and hit the open 3-pointer. Beyond that, he doesn’t offer anything that jumps off the page. Vladimir Radmanovich is a player who could thrive in the Warriors’ open, free-flowing offense. He is a good shooter, especially from distance (don’t let this season’s stats fool you) and can spread a defense. He is fairly athletic, but doesn’t move as well as he used to. I don’t think he’ll amount to much with Golden State, but stranger things have happened. Acie Law is a decent point guard with potential who would never have been given a legitimate chance to prove himself with the Warriors. He could be a long-term answer at backup point guard for Charlotte, though. Stephen Jackson is the most talented player in this trade. He is a good one-on-one defender, a good shooter and a good passer. His stats were inflated because of the Warriors’ offense, but he is a good player. He can be a great player, but only when he’s motivated. Whether Charlotte will be good enough to motivate Jackson remains to be seen. The Bobcats get more talent in this deal than the Warriors, but it’s closer than some people think.
This is where we find out if this was a so-so trade or a good one for the Warriors. And for the Warriors, this trade is a definite winner in the chemistry department. Stephen Jackson was a hindrance to the success of this team. He was unhappy and he didn’t care who knew it. As the most demonstrative presence in the Warriors’ locker room, his negativity made it impossible for this team to develop the kind of chemistry they need to maximize their talent this season. Raja Bell is a veteran leader and a guy who won’t make waves in the locker room. He’ll make it easier for the Warriors coaches and young talent to step up and lead this team. With Jackson gone, we can now start to make decisions about the rest of this team. Is Don Nelson fit to coach this collection of young talent? It seemed like he was overmatched with Jackson and his negative presence here, but now that Jackson has left, we can see if Nelson will step up and prove that he can develop this young talent and teach them how to win. Is Monta Ellis a solution or a hindrance to the Warriors’ problems? I don’t know Monta well enough to judge him, but he seems like the kind of person who latches onto the strongest personality in a room. He did it with Baron Davis and when Davis left, he did it with Jackson. That set Monta back a step. With Jackson gone, will we see Monta’s attitude improve? Will we see his performance on the court improve? Will we see him start to abandon the selfish tendencies of his game and become a true team player and leader? Those are the two questions most directly linked to Jackson, but there are other story lines to watch. With Jackson out of the picture, does Stephen Curry improve and start to speak up as a leader on and off the court? Does Anthony Randolph come out of his shell a little more and play with high confidence every night? Will Kelenna Azubuike take ownership of the small forward position when he returns and make Warriors fans forget about Jackson? That’s a lot to pin on one guy leaving, but when you rid yourself of as toxic a personality as Jackson had become, it can do wonders for a team. Just look at what happened to the Trail Blazers when they finally rid themselves of Rasheed Wallace, Bonzi Wells, Zach Randolph and others. Will the Warriors enjoy as drastic a turnaround as the Blazers? Who knows? But it will be interesting to watch and find out.
So, the Warriors improved themselves in two of the three categories, which makes this a very good trade. Warriors management deserves some kudos for making the best of a difficult situation.
Postnote: In Jackson’s first game tonight with the Bobcats, he led Charlotte to a 97-91 loss against the Magic. Jackson played 45 minutes, shot 4-for-14 from the field and had 13 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 4 turnovers. Acie Law didn’t play. Here’s the box score.