The biggest trade executed by the Portland Trail Blazers at their hectic trade deadline sent forward Gerald Wallace to the New Jersey Nets for center Mehmet Okur and small forward Shawne Williams, plus a 2012 first-round pick protected from spots 1-3.
Wallace averaged 13.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game on 47.2% shooting for the Blazers this season. These were his lowest aggregate numbers since his first season with the Charlotte Bobcats in 2004-05. Wallace was a willing defender but not a game-changer for the Blazers this year. He suffered from the same lack of direction that afflicted the team, his individual effort going to waste and eventually waning as his teammates crumbled around him. Defense is a fool's pursuit when nobody else is playing it. Nor could Wallace's offense save his season, as his skill set failed him as Portland's attack became plodding and motionless. Wallace feeds on momentum and emotion. The Blazers lacked both. Hi play in recent weeks resembled the end of his Charlotte tenure last year more than the beginning of his run with Portland when he re-energized his team. The Blazers will miss his defense and his rebounding potential. In the big picture it's a loss. In the microcosm of the last month, featuring more pathetic basketball than Portland fans have seen since 2005, the loss seems insignificant.
Mehmet Okur's stay with the New Jersey Nets--his first team since a seven-season run in Utah--has been disappointing. His strength lies in offense, shooting in particular. His 37.4% clip from the field in 17 games this season is well below his 45.8% career average. His three-point shooting, a key asset, dropped to 31.9% off of a 37.5% career average. His rebounding has been poor, his scoring poorer, his defense non-existent. The main factor here is injury. He spent most of his last season in Utah laid up and the two months of the current season in street clothes because of a back injury. Nobody knows when or if he'll play again.
Shawne Williams will play for his 5th team in 4 years when he joins the Blazers. At 6'9" and 230 pounds he has good size for a small forward. He's occasionally been able to hit a three-pointer, though his shooting has been up and down. This year has trended towards "down", as his percentage from the arc is a miserable 24.1% and from the field in general a comparatively more miserable 28.6%. With numbers like that you'd guess he was a rebounder or defender but he does neither well. Like Okur he's been injured for the last month. Foot surgery will keep him out for the season. Likely he'll be bought out to make room on a roster now over-crowded by trades.
Obviously talent wasn't a factor for the Blazers in making this trade. The only question on Portland's mind was how much they'd have to pay in cap space to get New Jersey's 2012 first rounder in return for Wallace.
Wallace had an option of $9.5 million coming next season. There was some debate over whether he'd exercise it, with Wallace himself intimating that he wouldn't, but until further notice the Blazers were on the hook for that amount.
Okur's contract of $10.9 million expires after this season. Williams makes $3 million this year and has an option year for $3.1 million next. (Again, the Blazers will likely buy him out.) That means the Blazers are paying the pro-rated amount on $13.9 million this season instead of Wallace's $9.5 million but they're only potentially on the hook for $3.1 million next year instead of Wallace's $9.5 million. They paid more right now but pocket a potential savings, or at worst a minimal cost, in 2012-2013.
That brings us to the jewel of this trade from Portland's perspective, the first-round pick. Reports have it as top-three protected, meaning if the Nets landed in the first three positions in this year's draft they'd retain the pick instead of Portland getting it, with the Blazers getting New Jersey's pick in the ensuing year. The Nets currently hold a 15-29 record, 6th worst in the league. They're tied in losses with the two teams below them, Toronto and Sacramento, meaning they could flip between 6th and 4th worst at any time. Unless things change radically for them it's hard to imagine them rising above 8th worst, nor falling into the bottom 3. Chances are they'll finish between 4th and 8th.
The key thing to remember about this pick at lottery time is that it cannot rise in order and still remain Portland's though it could still fall if teams leap ahead of New Jersey. In other words whatever position New Jersey finishes in will be the best Portland can achieve this year. Example: New Jersey finishes 5th worst in the league. The Blazers would either get the 5th-8th pick (depending on how many teams in line behind the Nets got drawn for the top three) or the Blazers would have to wait until next year (if the Nets themselves were selected for the top three). If the Nets do finish among the lowest three teams in the league the Blazers have to hope that enough teams skip ahead of them to drop them into 4th.
Verdict: Getting any kind of lottery pick for any of Portland's available players was a coup. Portland's goal at this trade deadline was rebuilding through first-round picks in a deep draft without taking on onerous salary. They achieved that goal in spades here. The cost was a severe talent imbalance among actual players, neither Okur nor Williams likely to suit up for Portland. Since the Blazers were not making headway towards anything but their own lottery pick, that doesn't concern them. This roster was getting blown apart at the end of the season anyway. The deconstruction came a little early to gain the advantage of a pick. The Blazers were never, ever, ever going to pay Gerald Wallace and restricted-free-agent Nicolas Batum at the same time. The price tag would have approached $20 million. They lost nothing in this deal that they intended to keep.
Side note: the national radio personality to whom I was listening when this trade broke did a verbal double-take, not believing that acquiring such a pick for Wallace was possible.
Wesley Matthews, Jamal Crawford, and Luke Babbitt will be immediate beneficiaries of this move, as a whole bunch of small forward minutes just opened for the Blazers. Nicolas Batum will likely fill the small forward position in the starting lineup, vacating shooting guard for Matthews or Crawford.
Stay tuned throughout the evening as we recap and analyze all the day's events.
Next up: The day's other trade.
Stay tuned for all the news from the Portland Trail Blazers press conference coming up tonight at 7:30 p.m.
Official Press Release on this trade and on the Greg Oden/Chris Johnson releases after the jump.
TRAIL BLAZERS ACQUIRE MEHMET OKUR, SHAWNE WILLIAMS AND 2012 FIRST ROUND PICK FROM NEW JERSEYPortland sends Gerald Wallace to Nets, requests waivers on centers Greg Oden and Chris Johnson
PORTLAND, Ore. - The Portland Trail Blazers have acquired center Mehmet Okur, forwardShawne Williams and a 2012 first round pick from the New Jersey Nets in exchange for forwardGerald Wallace, it was announced today by the team.
Portland also requested waivers on centers Greg Oden and Chris Johnson today.
"This trade was very compelling to us because not only does it give us more flexibility in free agency, but we also acquire a very attractive first-round draft pick," said Acting General Manager Chad Buchanan. "I'd like to thank Gerald, Greg and Chris for all they've done for the franchise and hope for nothing but the best for them and their futures."
The draft pick is top-three protected, meaning the Trail Blazers will own the pick in 2012 as long as it is not in the top three of the NBA Draft.
Okur, 32, has averages of 13.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 29.1 minutes in 10 NBA seasons with Detroit, Utah and New Jersey. An NBA All-Star in 2007 and a native of Turkey, Okur has appeared in 17 games for the Nets this season, averaging 7.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists.
Williams, 26, has posted career averages of 5.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.7 assists in parts of five seasons with Indiana, Dallas, New York and New Jersey. He has played in 25 games for New Jersey this season, averaging 4.5 points and 2.7 rebounds.
Acquired in a trade deadline deal last season from Charlotte, Wallace has notched averages of 14.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.66 steals in 65 games (57 starts) with the Trail Blazers.
Oden, an unrestricted free agent next season, averaged 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 0.6 assists and 1.43 blocks in 82 games over four NBA seasons with the Trail Blazers.
Johnson averaged 1.6 points, 0.9 rebounds and 4.7 minutes in 20 games for the Trail Blazers this season. He appeared in 10 games for Portland in 2010-11.