(Author’s preface: You might say the following post is a Sports post, which usually comes out on Friday. But while it is about sports, this post is more of an opinion on the on-going trade talks in the NBA, so this post still fits the genre for the day. Also, it’s just fitting that we can insert this topic as a filler for the missed count o our ‘Napag-uusapan Lang Naman’ series. So, I decided to squeeze in a ‘sports opinion’ post at number 14)
The smoke of All-Star Break has finally cleared out. The teams are back to their usual grind, including Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams.
But not in the same uniforms.
As of this writing, ‘Melo has just earned his first win as a New York Knick, while Deron Williams has yet to play with a “new jersey” with the Nets. These two blockbuster trades saw the exit of two All-Star players from the Western conference to the East (both were also gold medalists from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing), and are expected to up the rankings of the teams they will now be a part of.
The Knicks are right now standing at spot number 6–not a very comfortable spot, especially if you’re dead last among .500 teams in the East. Philadelphia, Indiana and Charlotte can pull off a late-season run and upset the bottom half of the standings. With ‘Melo off to a good start in New York, things can turn out good for the Knicks and their faithfuls. After all, the last ten games of New York were not impressive with only five wins, and indeed they could use some help from an offensive powerhouse like Anthony (and Billups). But beginner’s luck will soon have to give way to team chemistry, and that’s where the true mettle of a team with two All-Star forwards in Amar’e Stoudemire and Anthony will be tested.
Denver was able to keep their spirits up with a win over Memphis yesterday minus Carmelo and Chauncey in the roster. The Nuggets, like New York, are also at number six in the standings in the West. But that’s just it–being number six in the West spells more danger than being number six in the East. As of this writing, the Portland Trailblazers, the team trailing Denver, are just a game behind them. One loss could loosen Denver’s hold on their spot. A few more could drop them off the playoffs. And that’s a problem not far-fetched, now that they’ve got no ‘Melo to bail them out come crunchtime.
On the other hand, trading Deron Williams was an inevitable option for the Jazz, whose concern is more on the franchise’s long-term goals, than on the immediate target at hand, which is to get into the playoffs. The Jazz are right now at number 9, just two games behind Denver. Greg Miller gave a sensible rationale for the trade–D-Will’s contract ends by 2012, making him a free agent. For the past couple of weeks, no one from D-Will’s camp had assured the Jazz’s head office that he will be staying for an extension, or from going out. This non-committal from Williams prompted Miller to trade him for New Jersey’s Devin Harris and Derrick Favors, rather than end up with nothing should Deron opt to leave. The trade was the only option Utah can still get something (though Harris and Favors combined, compared to Deron, are of lesser value) out of losing their marquee player. Acquiring Deron by trading Harris and Favors gives New Jersey a better control of how their long term targets can be met, and with just enough cap space to throw in some chips for the next trade session next year.
I agree with Miller’s decision, only that losing D-Will right in the middle of the season will not do Utah any good in the standings. Some are saying Deron’s exit from Utah is the signal of Utah’s exit from the playoffs this season. This, we have yet to see.
For now, D-Will’s role is to help improve the Nets’ record for the season. By 2012, Williams will be taking a more central role in New Jersey.
From my own point of view, the choice of letting Deron go was better than letting Carmelo go. Here are the reasons why:
1. Deron will be going to a team with no other all-star player. That makes him the go-to guy, and a point guard at that. The team will be definitely building around him, giving the Nets a better direction to follow. On the other hand, Carmelo will be sharing the spotlight with Amar’e. Both are forwards, all-stars, and the “give-me-the-ball-and-get-out-of-the-way” type of players. Good thing Chauncey came along, to help dispel the imbalance that could occur when you’ve got two power forwards wanting each a fair share of their time on the floor.
2. Carmelo is moving from one playoff contender team to another. That in itself is a pressure–pressure from your new home crowd to deliver and make sure that you will carry them to the promised land. As for Deron, he moves to a team whose only goal right now is to have a good finish for the season. He can think of upping his game next season.
3. Since the prospect of entering the playoffs isn’t as big a deal as losing a marquee with no one to fill in the spot, Utah’s choice of trading Deron fits their franchise’s philosophy. On the other hand, Denver will be putting pressure immediately on Felton, Gallinari and Chandler the moment they wear their Denver jerseys because they will be taking on the default role of season savior for the Nuggets.
4. Lastly, Denver doesn’t have much options when the season closes by June. New Jersey, on the other hand, does. Being one of the last six, they can do a lot of maneuvering when Draft day comes, giving them a free hand on building on Williams.
What has unfolded over the weekend at the NBA Playoffs has pushed me to look back at our fearless forecasts and see which of them still holds.
Lakers vs. Thunder [prediction: Lakers in 5]
This one’s not anymore true, as the Thunder has pushed it so far to a six-game duel. If LA takes the next two games, then the other half of our forecast holds.
Jazz vs. Nuggets [prediction: Nuggets in 6]
Not anymore, it ain’t six games. The undermanned Jazz is in command at 3-1. Denver will have to push for the ultimate jugular by winning the last three games. And if they don’t, our prediction’s busted for this match altogether.
Suns vs. Blazers [prediction: Portland in 7]
With the series tied at 2 games apiece, the only way this prediction fails is if Phoenix aces their next two assignments–assignments that Brandon Roy could foil. His return mixes up all factors into the playoffs, and our forecast might just come through.
Spurs vs. Mavs [prediction: Mavs in 6]
This is the only prediction that I am utterly glad and delighted to be wrong. I’m a big Spurs fan, but at first I really thought the Mavs would be tougher this time around, especially if you look at how last year’s playoff match between them ended. But things have turned out entirely different than our forecasts. Definitely, it won’t be just six games anymore, as the Spurs are ahead 3-1. Dallas will have to win the next three straight games, or their off-season summer officially starts.
Cavaliers vs. Bulls [prediction: Cavaliers in 5]
One more win by the Cavs and our prediction will fully come true. Derrick Rose better pull out his best tricks up from his sleeves, or else their journey ends on the road at Cleveland.
Celtics vs. Heat [prediction: Celtics in 6]
Since they have gone 3-0 already, even before D-Wade took over earlier in their game four atrocity and winning one for the Heat, the Boston Celtics are coming back home for a chance to go for the kill. Unless Miami robs one on the road, the series will end at five games in Boston, for Boston.
Hawks vs. Bucks [prediction: Hawks in 4]
Well, there’ll be no sweep victory for the Hawks in this first round obstacle, as the Bucks bounce back to stay alive in the series. The Hawks are still favored to win this round, but not without facing the fear of the deer.
Magic vs. Bobcats [prediction: Magic in 5]
Definitely, after going up 3-0, Magic will win this series, as no team has bounced back from a 0-3 deficit to win the series. But they will have to fight some more to prove that they did not just fluked their way to the playoffs. One game will at least give them a playoff win, and prove our prediction true.
Since our predictions are two-part (who wins, and in how many games), we’re quite sure that Orlando and Boston are going into the next round. One more set of duels and we’ll get to see how our forecasts went for the first round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs.