Are Spoilers Flipping the Script?

Seven Days of Wimbledon

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Painting The NBA Trade Picture

There won't be any player movement once the lockout hits … so it's time for the Picasso of the Trade Machine to go to work

These are sad days for the Picasso of the Trade Machine. We’re less than two weeks away from a seemingly unavoidable NBA lockout, which means no basketball, no basketball transactions, and most importantly, no canvas for me to paint my fake trades. It’s an artistic tragedy along the lines of the Spider-Man musical and every expensive painting that went down with the Titanic. You also have to feel for the Trade Machine, which will spend the summer hanging out on ESPN.com like a bored housewife who never gets hit on, looking sad, wearing tight clothes, and flirting with the pool boy in a desperate attempt to get noticed. And we won’t. Because there’s no reason to make up fake NBA trades when nobody in the NBA can trade.

The good news: These next nine days will generate a whirlwind of trade activity, if only because a post-lockout salary cap world is The Great Unknown. Let’s say you’re Philadelphia. What if The Great Unknown makes it much harder to move Andre Iguodala? Don’t you have to move him this month to be safe? Same for Minnesota, a team that owns the no. 2 overall pick and a variety of tradable assets that range from “Wait, HE’S available?” to “You could definitely talk me into him” to “I’ll think about it, but can you mail me his latest urine sample first?”

All in all, 12 to 15 teams need to shake things up before July, allowing me to break out my Trade Machine canvas one last time. I added one wrinkle this time around, inspired by a reader named Brian in Chino, who believed my constant pimping of the “always trade three quarters for a dollar” analogy could go further. Brian suggested an actual money scale that determined the value of every player.

My first reaction was, “What a dumb idea, that’s a total waste of time.”

My second reaction was, “What a brilliant idea, that’s a total waste of time!!!!”

For the 900th time, here’s my philosophy with NBA trades: You always want to turn coins into paper. The Knicks paid a steep price for Carmelo, but still, it wasn’t THAT steep because I’d always rather have a crisp dollar bill (Carmelo) than a bunch of coins jingling around in my pocket (everyone Denver got in that trade). Let’s take that premise further and use the rankings of my 2011 Trade Value column (written four months ago). Here’s what such a money scale could look like.

$2 bill: Reserved for “untradeable” stars, the ones who can’t be moved unless it’s for another “untradeable” guy (and even then, it’s not likely). This year’s list: Wade, LeBron, Durant, Howard, Dirk, Griffin, and Rose. That’s it. I like the symmetry of the $2 bill here: You never see $2 bills and you never see untradeable stars get traded unless their franchise totally screwed up.1

$1 bill: All-Stars sitting a notch below those $2 bills, either because they’re not quite as good, they’re hitting free agency soon, they’re a little long in the tooth, and/or because they’re making too much money. This year’s group: Kobe, Paul, D. Williams, Westbrook, Gasol, Carmelo, and (wait for it … wait for it …wait for it …) Zach Randolph.

Note that’s too important for a piddling footnote: Kobe can’t be bumped to the $2 bill group because of his lavish contract, which guarantees him $25.2 million in 2011-12, $27.9 million in 2012-13, and a crap-in-your-pants $30.5 million in 2013-14. Even if the next labor deal includes salary rollbacks of 15 to 20 percent (a real possibility), assuming the NBA dumps its flaccid salary cap and gravitates towards a hard one, I can’t see how the Lakers could keep Kobe and Gasol ($18.7m, 19m, and 19.3m these next 3 seasons) with a $50 million cap. Throw in questions about Kobe’s knees (he didn’t practice for all of last season, basically) and his fall from the top five in the playoffs (sorry, Lakers fans, it happened), and Kobe can’t be called untradeable anymore. He just can’t.

Silver dollar: All-Stars, inexpensive soon-to-be All-Stars, slightly overpaid All-Stars, or indispensable playoff guys who aren’t quite as desirable as an actual one-dollar bill. In the 2011 trade value column, this group covers everyone from no. 14 (Kevin Love) to no. 27 (Eric Gordon). Let’s also make Chris Bosh, Tyson Chandler, Andrew Bynum,2 James Harden, and Marc Gasol silver dollars; let’s drop Tim Duncan from the group with many regrets and one tiny tear trickling down our cheek; and let’s drop Monta Ellis down to the next group because Golden State is shopping him frantically enough that it makes me nervous.

50-cent piece: Borderline All-Stars, former All-Stars, and up-and-comers, which covers everyone else from no. 28 to no. 49, plus Ellis, Jason Terry (we can’t leave off the captain of the Irrational Confidence All-Stars), Shawn Marion (the LeBron Killer!), Jrue Holliday, Marcin Gortat (don’t laugh), Paul George, Arron Afflalo, Brandon Jennings, and Evan Turner (gulp).3

Quarter/Dime: Quality starters who would become 50 cent pieces if they weren’t overpaid, so we’re making them worth 35 cents instead. This group has only four players right now: Andre Iguodala, Luol Deng, Kevin Martin, and Andrea Bargnani. And no, Monta Ellis should not be included in this group. Find me eight other guys who can score 25 to 30 points a game and get their shots against anybody. You can’t. Eleven million a year is a fair price for him.

Quarter: Quality role players, possible up-and-comers, competent starters, and immediately waivable contracts (like Erick Dampier’s contract last August). This is a fun category: For instance, Kendrick Perkins was possibly a 50-cent piece with his old (cheap) contract, but post-extension, he’s definitely a quarter. Andrea Bargnani would be a 50-cent piece if he weren’t so freaking overpaid. Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and Ray Felton all seem like 50-cent pieces, but really, they’re quarters. Jeff Green? Definitely a quarter. (Much to every Boston fan’s chagrin.) Jared Dudley? The ultimate quarter, with a puncher’s chance at becoming a 50-cent piece. You get the idea.

Dime: Covers players who should be quarters or 50-cent pieces, only they’re either overpaid or their contracts make them fundamentally untradeable (I’m looking at you, Ron Artest, Elton Brand, Carlos Boozer, Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor, Antwan Jamison, Corey Maggette, and John Salmons); players who seem like quarters, only they really aren’t (what’s happening, Mike Miller?); young players who seemingly have a chance to be quarters, only it will never happen and you’re dumb for thinking it (Mosgov!!!!!!); or Hasheem Thabeet.

Nickel: Either a fringe rotation guy with no upside, a semi-washed-up veteran, or Hasheem Thabeet.

Penny: Any 12th man, any D-Leaguer, anyone who spends more time in suits than jerseys, or Hasheem Thabeet.4

We need to include four more money-related wrinkles before T.M. Picasso starts painting …

  • a. For trade purposes, a future top-10 lottery pick (like what Jersey gave Utah in the Williams deal) would be a 50-cent piece; a future first-round pick with potential (like Oklahoma City’s throwing in a future Clips pick into the Green/Perkins trade) is a quarter; all other future first-round picks are dimes; and a future second-round pick is a nickel.
  • b. For the 2011 draft, we’re making the no. 1 and no. 2 picks worth 50 cents; picks 3 thru 6 are worth 30 cents; picks 7 thru 12 are worth 25 cents; picks 13 thru 16 are worth 15 cents; every pick from 17 thru 35 is worth 10 cents; everything else is worth a nickel.5
  • c. If you free cap space in the trade, we’re making that a nickel for $2.5 million saved, then another nickel for every $1.25 million after that (with a cap of 25 cents total).
  • d. The following albatross contracts are worth negative money: Gilbert Arenas, Rashard Lewis, Brandon Roy, Baron Davis (minus-50 cents); Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress, Travis Outlaw, Richard Hamilton, Andris Biedrins, Al Harrington (minus-25 cents); Charlie Villanueva, Ron Artest, Andray Blatche, Richard Jefferson, Luke Walton, Beno Udrih, Drew Gooden, Jose Calderon, DeSagana Diop, Francisco Garcia (minus-10 cents).

Did you get all that? Let’s make a quick test run and translate the money scale to trades that already happened this year.

The Carmelo Trade: Carmelo ($1 bill), Billups (quarter), Balkman (penny), and Carter (penny) to the Knicks; Felton (quarter), Gallinari (quarter), Chandler (quarter), Mosgov (dime), a future no. 1 pick (dime), and $17 million in cap space (quarter) to the Nuggets. When you include New York’s sending Anthony Randolph (dime) and Eddy Curry (penny) to Minnesota for Corey Brewer (nickel) to facilitate the deal, here’s how it panned out: The Knicks gave up $1.21 to get $1.32 (and a paper bill); the Nuggets gave up $1.27 (and a paper bill) to get $1.10 in coins.

The Perkins/Green trade: Perkins (50 cents) and Robinson (nickel) for Green (quarter), Krstic (nickel), and a future no. 1 from the Clips (quarter). Since Perkins’ post-trade extension flipped him from a 50-cent piece to a quarter, you could argue Boston won the trade … as long as you don’t include the part that it killed their season, ruined their chemistry, and caused them to lose in the second round of the playoffs to the most despised team in 20 years. Hold on, I’m going to kick my dog in the ribs.

The Williams/Jersey trade: Williams ($1 dollar bill) for Favors (50 cents), a 2011 lottery pick (50 cents), Devin Harris (quarter), and Golden State’s partially protected 2012 first-rounder (a quarter right now, but a possible 50-cent piece). So the Nets turned $1.50 of coins into a $1 bill; they felt like they had to overpay because it was their one chance to acquire paper.6 If Williams doesn’t re-sign there next summer, it immediately becomes the single worst NBA trade since Milwaukee passed on Paul Pierce in the 1998 draft so they could flip the rights to Dirk Nowitzki with another no. 1 pick for Robert Traylor.7 Meanwhile, the Jazz made out like bandits: They have more money than when they started, and either Favors or their no. 3 pick could easily turn into paper someday. Phenomenal trade by them.

Without further ado, let’s make up 20 fake deals separated into various categories, and let’s make sure none of them include the bogus “Monta Ellis for Andre Iguodala” swap, which makes no sense for the simple reason that Monta Ellis is better at basketball than Andre Iguodala. Anyway …

DRAFT-RELATED TRADES INVOLVING MINNESOTA (WHICH MEANS THEY INVOLVE DAVID KAHN, WHICH MEANS ALL BETS ARE OFF)

Important note: As Chad Ford and I covered in yesterday’s BS Report, we’re living in a world in which David Kahn controls the 2011 NBA draft, which is a little like when you let your kids handle the remote control … in other words, you don’t know WHAT channel you’re ending up on, and there’s a 0.3 percent chance you’ll end up accidentally ordering porn. Adding to the drama, the Timberwolves are semi-screwed with their no. 2 pick for a variety of reasons: the best two prospects (Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams) don’t fit their needs;8 Williams (the most likely outcome if they kept the pick), would give them a third tweener forward (along with Anthony Randolph and Michael Beasley); they don’t have their no. 1 pick in 2012 (the Clippers have it), so going through Rebuilding Season #5 doesn’t make a ton of sense; their GM is worried about his job security and wants to win right now (Kahn!); other NBA teams hate talking trades with them because the Timberwolves have more leaks than a men’s restroom (KAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHN!!!!!); and also, KAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHNNNNNNNNNNNN! So you have Minny frantically shopping that no. 2 pick to muted silence, tempered incredulity, and general revulsion … and now it’s being rumored that they might pass on Williams altogether and take banger Enes Kanter, who isn’t rated as highly as Williams on any board except the ones in Turkey. Let’s help them out.

TRADE NO. 1: Minnesota trades its no. 2 pick (50 cents), Wesley Johnson (50 cents), Darko Milicic (dime), and Anthony Tolliver (nickel) to Los Angeles for Andrew Bynum (silver dollar). Final tally: Minnesota ($1.00); Lakers ($1.15).

Even if the Lakers are getting the no. 2 pick in 2011 and the no. 3 pick in 2010 for a guy who’s missed over 200 games the past four years, it doesn’t put them in a better place: I’m not sure how having Wes Johnson, Derrick Williams, Lamar Odom, andRon Artest helps them unless they flipped the no. 2 and Odom to Cleveland for the no. 1 and Anderson Varejao (then took Kyrie Irving), which Cleveland would turn down because we all know Lamar Odom would fall apart if he couldn’t live on the beach.9 For Minnesota, it’s a classic “there’s a 50/50 chance this works, and if it does, I’m a genius!” trade. Those are always hairy. I’m advising both teams to stay away.10

TRADE NO. 2: Washington trades Javale McGee (25 cents) and the no. 6 pick (30 cents) to Minnesota for its no. 2 pick (50 cents) and Anthony Randolph (dime). Final tally: Washington (60 cents); Minnesota (55 cents).

I guess this one depends on your feelings for McGee: Washington believes he’s a 50-cent piece and reportedly turned down a variation of this deal; I think he’s a quarter and would rather build around John Wall and Derrick Williams than John Wall, Javale McGee, and the Turkish Guy (or the Lithuanian Guy, or the Congolese Guy). Then again, I’m higher on Williams than most: he’s a “modern” power forward, a scorer with an inside/outside game who only hurts you defensively on those rare nights when you’re facing a low-post beast like Zach Randolph. We also know he doesn’t shy away from big moments, as evidenced by his memorable March Madness run (that should count for something, right?). What am I getting with McGee other than someone who lands on SportsCenter‘s Top 10 Plays twice a week? Yeah, he can block shots, but so what? My buddy House (a huge Wizards fan) says of McGee, “He’s the single most fundamentally unsound player I’ve ever had the displeasure of watching on a consistent basis. He’s lost three out of every four plays on defense. His basketball IQ is the same as my son’s basketball IQ, and my son doesn’t turn one until next month.” Sounds like the perfect fit with Michael Beasley! Too bad we’ll never know because Washington overvalues McGee.11

TRADE NO. 3: Atlanta trades Josh Smith (50 cents) and Zaza Pachulia (dime) to Minnesota for its no. 2 pick (50 cents), Anthony Randolph (dime), and Nik Pekovic (nickel). Final tally: Minnesota (60 cents), Atlanta (65 cents).

An intriguing idea that couldn’t be completed until after July 1, when Minnesota falls way under the cap … and by that point, it won’t matter because we’ll be in the middle of a lockout.12 Crap. By then, you could just make it “Smith for the no. 2,” allowing Minnesota to eventually start Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph, and Smith, and make Enigmatic & Occasionally Troubled Lefty Tweener Forward history … for about three minutes, until an emotionally scarred Ricky Rubio flees the premises and heads back to Spain.

TRADE NO. 4: Phoenix trades Steve Nash (50 cents) and Jared Dudley (quarter) to Minnesota for the no. 2 pick (50 cents), Anthony Randolph (dime), Jonny Flynn (dime), and Martell Webster (nickel). Final tally: Phoenix (75 cents), Minnesota (75 cents).

“Nash for the no. 2″ became a hot rumor late last night so I took some liberties with this one; the final product would be a splendid rebuilding move for the Suns and an interesting play by the T-Wolves, who’d immediately become one of the most likable teams in basketball (Nash, Dudley, AND Love?), as well as one of the most entertaining teams in a while (Love throwing outlets to Nash and Rubio???). And you can’t overstate the value of Nash mentoring Rubio, especially when Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson had such a profound effect on Nash’s formative years. Only one problem: If I’m Steve Nash, why the hell would I want to leave Phoenix to play for such a screwed-up franchise in a small market in cold weather? I can’t imagine him signing off on this one. Unless he was drugged. Still, I like the combination of these two teams … hold on …

TRADE NO. 5: Phoenix trades Marcin Gortat (50 cents) and Jared Dudley (quarter) to Minnesota for the no. 2 pick (50 cents), Jonny Flynn (dime), and Nik Pekovic (dime). Final tally: Phoenix (70 cents), Minnesota (75 cents).

Winner winner chicken dinner! Phoenix rebuilds around the local kid (Derrick Williams) and whatever they get for Nash when he finally breaks; Minnesota gets a real center (check out Gortat’s March-April splits if you don’t believe me) and a proven swingman who helps its chemistry and joins forces with Love to form a multimedia superpower (Dudley); and Jonny Flynn goes from the most screwed-up situation possible to Steve Nash Point Guard Camp. Everybody wins! Now I’m feeling it … one more trade!

TRADE NO. 6: Minnesota trades Michael Beasley (quarter) and Martell Webster (nickel) to Detroit for Ben Gordon (dime) and Austin Daye (dime).13 Final tally: Minnesota (20 cents), Detroit (30 cents).

Good god, we have an actual basketball team in Minnesota! I can’t stop using exclamation points!!!! Let’s see … Gortat and Darko Milicic at center; Kevin Love and Anthony Tolliver as rebounders; Wesley Johnson, Austin Daye, and Anthony Randolph as the scoring forwards; Jared Dudley as your glue swingman; Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour as your point guards; Ben Gordon as your scoring 2-guard and crunch-time guy; and we haven’t even used the no. 20 pick to stash a foreign prospect yet. Just mail the 2012 Executive of the Year Award to my house. Thanks.14

OTHER DRAFT-DAY TRADES THAT COULD CONCEIVABLY HAPPEN

TRADE NO. 7: MILWAUKEE trades Andrew Bogut (50 cents), Brandon Jennings (50 cents), and no. 10 pick (25 cents) to SACRAMENTO for Tyreke Evans (25 cents), Jason Thompson (dime), no. 7 pick (25 cents), and $7.2 million in cap space (20 cents). Final tally: Milwaukee ($1.30), Sacramento ($1.25).

Why Sacramento should do it: Bogut is the best I-can’t-believe-he’s-quietly-available trade piece right now — he’s one of the league’s three or four best centers, he’s a likable teammate, and he’s available only because he blew out his elbow two springs ago, tried to come back too soon and played like crap last season (and then, got a second surgery). With the lockout coming and the small market guillotine looming, the word on the street is that Milwaukee is worried just enough about Bogut’s elbow (and being saddled with damaged goods on a big contract) that they’d consider moving him. Seems panicky to me. If you’re the Kings, and you could go to war with Bogut and DeMarcus Cousins every night; there aren’t three other big body combos like that right now. They’d own the paint and the boards, which would be a huge win for the Maloofs because they can’t afford to own anything right now. Bah-dum-cha.

Why Milwaukee should do it: Even if Evans may never get there, he’s their one chance to land a potential superstar, someone who can beat anyone off the dribble whenever he wants (as his teammates stand there watching, but still). They’d also be saving considerable money with the hard cap coming; they’d be getting out of Bogut’s deal (and any risk that comes with it); and they’d be moving into the top seven of a draft that goes either 7, 8, or 9 deep (opinions vary). Selfishly, I’d love to see Corey Maggette, John Salmons and Evans ignoring each other and going one-on-one over and over again as Scott Skiles turns dark maroon. Let’s make this happen.15

TRADE NO. 8: Utah trades no. 3 pick (30 cents) and Mehmet Okur (nickel) to Sacramento for no. 7 pick (25 cents), Jason Thompson (dime), and $7.9 million in cap space (25 cents). Final tally: Sacramento (35 cents), Utah (60 cents).

Here’s the beauty of this one: Sacramento adds $7.9 million in 2012 payroll (the difference between Okur’s 10.9 million expiring deal and Thompson’s $3 million deal) to jump four spots and grab Brandon Knight (a better fit for them than anyone at no. 7). Meanwhile, Utah sheds $7.9 million to drop four spots and take hometown hero Jimmer Fredette — who they couldn’t have taken at 3 without being ridiculed — then trots out a Jimmer/Gordon Heyward backcourt next season that would basically melt the entire state of Utah into hot lava. I can’t live in a world where Jimmer doesn’t play for the Jazz. I just can’t.

TRADE NO. 9: Toronto trades Andrea Bargnani (35 cents) to Cleveland for the no. 4 pick (30 cents).

If you’re Cleveland, you’d consider it because Bargnani is probably better than anyone you’re getting at no. 4. If you’re Toronto, you’d jump on it because you’re getting out of Bargnani’s contract ($41.5 million over the next four years), and because it’s always fun to have consecutive top-five picks (and a chance to shape your team for the next 10 years, although that seems much more fun on paper until you remember that Bryan Colangelo would be doing the shaping). I gotta be honest: I think Cleveland can do better with the no. 4. Hold this thought for two more fake trades.

TRADE NO. 10: San Antonio trades Tony Parker (50 cents) to Sacramento for its no. 7 pick (25 cents), Omri Casspi (dime) and $12 million in cap space (25 cents). Final tally: Sacramento (50 cents); San Antonio (55 cents).

The Spurs are shopping Parker for two reasons: they can’t win with what they have (and he’s their most tradable piece), and from what I’m hearing, they have been patiently waiting to dump him after the fiasco with Brent Barry’s wife last year (which threatened their team chemistry and couldn’t have been more “unSpurslike” if that’s a word). I keep picturing Gregg Popovich inviting Tony into his office on the day of the draft, sitting down like Michael Corleone when Carlo came to see him at the end of The Godfather, then giving Parker the “It’s time to answer for Santino” speech (only he’d say, “It’s time to answer for Brent Barry”) before coldly shipping him to Sacramento or Cleveland. Which reminds me, there’s a slightly better trade than this one …

TRADE NO. 11: San Antonio trades Tony Parker (50 cents) and DaJuan Blair (quarter) to Cleveland for no. 4 (30 cents), Anderson Varejao (quarter), and $7 million in cap space (20 cents). Final tally: Cleveland (75 cents), San Antonio (75 cents).

Now we’re talking! If Cleveland took Williams first, landed Parker for the fourth pick and flipped Varejao for the younger/cheaper Blair, that’s their best possible haul for the 2011 draft (and also, the funniest outcome, because David Kahn would suddenly be stuck looking at ANOTHER point guard at no. 2 unless they traded it).16 As for the Spurs, they already have a Parker replacement in house (George Hill); they desperately need someone like Varejao; they desperately need to shave a few million off their cap; they’d be restoring their team karmically and sending Parker off to be strangled with a wire by Clemenza; and they’d be drafting in the top-five for the first time since 1997. Great deal all the way around.

TRADE NO. 12: Philly trades Andre Iguodala (35 cents) for Sacramento’s no. 7 pick (25 cents) and $5.9 million in cap space (20 cents). Final tally: Philly (45 cents), Sacramento (35 cents).

If you’re Sacramento, you’re not signing a marquee free agent when your ownership group is in flux and nobody knows where you’re playing next year. It’s not happening. So if they can flip the no. 7 pick in a weak draft into an Iguodala “signing” (three years, $44 million), that’s a killer move for them: Now they’d have one of the best defender/athlete/glue guys in the league, and by the way, if he’s your third-best player, that’s pretty good. If you’re Philly? You just shaved a buttload of money off your cap, replaced Iguodala’s minutes with Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner (not a bad thing, by the way), dropped to $40 million in payroll heading into the lockout and added another young chess piece (the seventh pick). Call this one in. I’m sold.

TRADES THAT PROBABLY WON’T HAPPEN BUT SHOULD DEFINITELY BE DISCUSSED OVER A DRINK OR THREE

TRADE NO. 13: Chicago trades Taj Gibson (quarter), Ronnie Brewer (dime), and John Lucas/Jannero Pargo (penny) to Toronto for Andrea Bargnani (quarter) and Solomon Alabi (penny). Final tally: Chicago (26 cents), Toronto (36 cents).

Toronto dumps Bargnani’s contract, rolls the dice with Gibson (a possible 50-cent piece for all we know), and gets two rotation guys who actually play defense (unlike everyone on their roster right now). Meanwhile, Bargnani weighs 250 pounds and scores 21 a game … he couldn’t be Memo Okur 2.0 on the right team? What about the zone defense that Tom Thibodeau will be putting in this this summer after watching how Dallas throttled Miami; couldn’t Bargnani at the very least hog some space and throw his arms up in traffic like Dirk did? Think about Chicago at crunch-time: Bargnani, Noah, Deng, Rose, and either Kyle Korver or Free Agent Shooter X … a little tougher to stop, right? I’m mildly intrigued.17

TRADE NO. 14: New York trades Chauncey Billups (quarter) and Landry Fields (quarter) to Phoenix for Steve Nash (50 cents) and Mickael Pietrus (nickel). Final tally: New York (55 cents); Phoenix (50 cents).

Nash on the Knicks! This could totally happen!

(Note: I’m just indulging my idiotic New York buddies who think the Knicks have a chance in hell of convincing Phoenix to cut ties with Steve Nash for the irresistible offer of a broken-down Billups and Landry “I Can’t Believe They Made Me Untouchable Instead Of Gallanari” Fields.18 Just nod for a few seconds and pretend like this deal might happen, then we’ll move on. Thanks.)

TRADE NO. 15: San Antonio trades Tiago Splitter (dime), DaJuan Blair (quarter), and Antonio McDyess (nickel) to Cleveland for Anderson Varejao (quarter). Final tally: Spurs (25 cents), Cavaliers (40 cents).

If the Cavs go young and make both top-four picks, they need to flip Varejao into a couple of younger pieces … if only because it’s the right thing to do. I hate seeing a phenomenal glue guy such as Varejao get wasted on a lottery team; it’s like sticking a great character actor in a lousy movie, like if Geoffrey Rush played the Green Lantern’s dad or something. You need Geoffrey Rush in the King’s Speech, just like you need Varejao in San Antonio, where he could morph into a 50-cent piece and become the energy/rebounding/defense guy they’ve needed for years. Do this one for me, Cleveland.19

MIAMI-RELATED TRADES THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN (BUT SHIT, THEY’RE FUN TO MAKE UP)

TRADE NO. 16: MIAMI trades Chris Bosh (silver dollar) to HOUSTON for Luis Scola (50 cents), Kyle Lowry (quarter), Chase Budinger (quarter), and New York’s 2012 no. 1 pick (10 cents). Final tally: Houston ($1.00), Miami ($1.10).

Dork Elvis finally gets his All-Star; Miami gets two proven starters (Scola and Lowry), scoring off the bench (Budinger), an extra banger (Hill), and most importantly, a better fit offensively in Scola (a better low-post scorer and someone who could drain those 15-footers that always seem to be wide-open in Miami’s offense). We’d also get a dramatic jersey negotiation with Terence Williams demanding a new Ferrari from Bosh as payment for handing over the no. 1 jersey. Only two problems …

1. Scola and Lowry are base-year guys, which means this trade couldn’t happen until July 1 … when we’ll be having a lockout. Crap.

2. Considering the Heat came within a couple of plays of winning the Finals in five games, why even shake things up? Why not keep your seven-man nucleus (Wade, LeBron, Bosh, Chalmers, Miller, Anthony, and Haslem), hope Miller gets healthy, then hope a veteran point guard (Earl Watson? Earl Boykins?), veteran big man (Chuck Hayes?), and/or veteran swingman (Grant Hill? T-Mac? Michael Redd?) take pay cuts to chase a ring with them. That’s what I would do.

(God, that’s a boring outcome.)

(You know what would be wildly exciting, actually?)

REALLY INSANE (OR ARE THEY?) TRADES THAT INVOLVE DWIGHT HOWARD

TRADE NO. 17: MIAMI trades LeBron James ($2 bill) and Joel Anthony (dime) to ORLANDO for Dwight Howard ($2 bill) and Ryan Anderson (quarter). Final tally: Miami ($2.25), Orlando ($2.10).

Dan LeBatard semi-jokingly suggested a LeBron/Howard swap on last week’s BS Report that, of course, got my wheels started churning. It would immediately be the biggest sports trade ever, explode Twitter, decimate the internet, and turn ESPN into a 24-hour Artest Melee. And you know what else? The deal actually makes sense on paper for Miami (Bosh and Howard complement each other perfectly, Wade becomes their crunch-time guy and they wouldn’t have an alpha dog problem anymore) and Orlando (that’s the best offer they will ever get for Howard, bar none). We’d also see a chastened LeBron either shift into full-fledged “I can’t believe you traded me” Eff You Mode (capped off with his Stringer/Avon split with Wade) or start moping and making Vince Carter’s last Toronto season look responsible and professional by comparison. With absolutely no in-between.

My take on something that’s never happening anyway: You’d have to tweak the deal so that LeBron landed in a better situation. Which means …

TRADE NO. 18: MIAMI gets Dwight Howard ($2 bill) and Ryan Anderson (quarter); Orlando gets Pau Gasol (silver dollar), Lamar Odom (50-cent piece), and Ron Artest (dime); Los Angeles gets LeBron James ($2 bill) and Gilbert Arenas (minus-50 cents). Final tally: Miami ($2 out, $2.25 back), Orlando ($1.75 out, $1.60 back), Lakers ($1.60 out, $1.50 back).

One thought on something that, again, will never happen: We learn every June that the title comes down to protecting the six feet in front of the rim. Do you have a better chance of doing that with LeBron, Wade, and Bosh … or Howard, Wade, and Bosh? The latter, right? And if you don’t think Pat Riley would betray LeBron, ask any Knicks fan if they ever thought Pat Riley would betray them from 1992 to 1996. (They’re nodding right now.) All right, it’s time to get serious about a Howard trade.

TRADE NO. 19: Orlando trades Dwight Howard ($2 bill) and Gilbert Arenas (minus-50 cents) to the Lakers for Pau Gasol ($1 bill) and Andrew Bynum (silver dollar). Final tally: Orlando ($2); Lakers ($1.50).

Chad Ford believes that Orlando GM Otis Smith won’t panic-trade Howard because Smith knows Howard won’t flee a contender in a tax-free state unless it’s a home run situation (like, say, the Lakers).20 But let’s look at this logically: If Orlando can flip Howard into a top-15 player (Gasol) and the best under-25 center in basketball (Bynum), and it can dump Arenas’ contractastrophe in the process, why wouldn’t they jump at that? Meanwhile, the Lakers would pull the trigger because an amnesty clause is coming with the next labor deal — in which every team is allowed to remove one contract from their salary cap (but they’d still have to pay it off)21 — which means they could pay Arenas $60 million to replace Eric Williams on Basketball Wives and vanish from their roster, extend Howard for big bucks, and amazingly, they’ll be in better cap shape because they wouldn’t be paying Bynum and Gasol $67.7 million combined in 2012 and 2013. Wait, why am I helping the Lakers? Forget I mentioned this.

T.M. PICASSO’S TWO FAVORITE PIECES

TRADE NO. 20: Minnesota gets Monta Ellis (50 cents); Memphis gets the no. 2 pick (50 cents), the no. 11 pick (25 cents), Jonny Flynn (dime), and Martell Webster (nickel); Golden State gets Rudy Gay (silver dollar). Final tally: Minnesota (65 cents out, 50 cents in); Memphis ($1.00 out, 90 cents in); Golden State (75 cents out, $1.00 in).

Minnesota flips the no. 2 pick into one of the best scorers in basketball (and a 2-guard, something they desperately need), giving them a nucleus of Love, Rubio, Ellis, and Johnson going forward. Golden State uses its no. 11 pick to solve their Curry/Ellis dilemma and brings in one of the best all-around players in basketball (someone who blossomed last year before his season-ending injury). And Memphis just spent March, April, and May realizing that (a) it didn’t need Gay to compete with the big boys, and (b) it’s better off spending eight figures a year on Marc Gasol than Gay, simply because the Gasol/Randolph duo was the heart of last year’s playoff run. This deal allows them to re-sign Gasol and Shane Battier, collect two more assets (Williams at no. 2, then maybe they draft the Lithuanian Guy at 11 and stash him abroad for the year), and take a flier on Flynn as their backup. Everybody wins. Seriously, I can’t figure out who says no to this one.22

BONUS TRADE: Phoenix trades Steve Nash (50 cents), Jared Dudley (25 cents), and Josh Childress (minus-25 cents) to San Antonio for Tony Parker (50 cents) and Richard Jefferson (dime). Final tally: San Antonio (50 cents), Phoenix (60 cents).

One of my favorite fake trades ever. Phoenix HAS to do it: It’s the best Nash trade the Suns could make, not just for what they’re getting back (an All-Star point guard who’s eight years younger), but because they’re dumping Childress’ contract ($27 million over the next four seasons) and giving Nash a legitimate chance to win (which he deserves).

As for San Antonio, the 2011 Mavericks just taught us something: You never know with a veteran contender. Why couldn’t the Spurs make one last run? What if they were meant to have Dallas’ run of destiny this spring, only Ginobili’s elbow and a bad playoff draw (Memphis in Round 1) conspired to sink them? The Spurs would acquire two warriors in this trade: Nash and Dudley, both fantastic chemistry guys who have proven themselves in pressure situations. They’d be dumping Parker’s bad karma and replacing it with the good karma of Nash and Duncan chasing a ring together. They’d be clearing cap space short-term ($2.1 million next season) and long-term (Jefferson makes $10.3 million more than Childress over the next three seasons). And they’d be giving Nash one last chance to pull a Jason Kidd and reinvent the end of his career with a ring. I love this trade. And on that note, T.M. Picasso has left the building. Er, studio.

Bill Simmons is the Editor in Chief of Grantland and the author of the recent New York Times no. 1 best-seller The Book of Basketball, now out in paperback with new material and a revised Hall of Fame Pyramid. For every Simmons column and podcast, log on to Grantland. Follow him on Twitter and check out his new home on Facebook.

Filed Under: NBA, Sports

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Bill Simmons is the editor-in-chief of Grantland and the author of the New York Times no. 1 best seller The Book of Basketball. For every Simmons column and podcast, click here.

Archive @ BillSimmons