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Pre-Draft Trade Chatter: Reviewing the Deals for Asik, Chandler, Afflalo

More like the Big Uneasy. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Tonight’s NBA Draft is primed to be a trade explosion — even more than draft nights usually are. With the clock yet started for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the league saw three trades, each of which featured a productive, established veteran switching teams. Evans Clinchy (@evansclinchy), Jordan White (@JordanSWhite), and Miles Wray (@mileswray) discuss the hot trade action: 

Jordan: Guys! Guys! Trades happened! And not minor ones like a euro-stash guy who’s never coming to the NBA for a second round pick in 2051 but big ones! Major ones! Ones that greatly alter the makeup of the teams and ripple through free agency.

Let’s start with Tyson Chandler’s homecoming. Chandler goes back to Dallas, bringing Raymond Felton with him, while Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington, Shane Larkin (somewhere, in the distance, Jared Dubin is still squealing in delight) and two second round picks go to the Knicks. Whew, that was a long one.

Miles, does this make the Mavs contenders again, or at least put them back on the right track? Or is Chandler too far gone from his defensive prime?

Miles: I think both teams really improved themselves with this deal.

With Chandler, I’d be more concerned about his health than the quality of his play when he’s on the court. He only appeared in 55 and 66 games over the last two years. (Although, before his first go-round with Dallas, he appeared in only 51 and 45 games in the previous two seasons, and then played 74 regular season and 21 postseason games in his one year with the Mavs. An exemplary training staff in Dallas perhaps?)

What’s most interesting to me is Dallas’ pursuit of a short-term solution. Chandler only has one year remaining on his contract (at $14.5M) while Calderon has three (and Dallas just signed him to that last summer!) and Larkin also has three if the Knicks exercise the two possible team option years. In that way this trade seems like a move to set up a move from Dallas’ perspective. Since Chandler is ultimately a compliment to whatever players surround him, I don’t think you pay him that much just to, like, improve your defense. I anticipate that Dallas will be incredibly active in free agency.

How about this move from the Knicks’ perspective? For the first time in a while, a move that Knicks fans can be happy with, no?

Evans: Though I don’t feel as though on paper, the Knicks got the best overall player in the trade (that would be Chandler, no?), I can still understand why there’s more optimism in New York today than there was 24 hours ago.

The Knicks needed to move on. The last couple of years were characterized by Carmelo Anthony’s empty stats, Ray Felton’s off-court drama and Mike Woodson’s complete and utter whatever-ness. They needed to turn the page and start a whole new era with Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher leading the way, and I think this move helps them do so.

Felton and New York were a marriage bound for divorce, and Chandler wasn’t a good fit with the Knicks anymore. He’s still capable of being an elite defensive center when he pushes himself to, but that clearly wasn’t happening in the Big Apple anymore. The Knicks are better off cutting him loose.

The Knicks unloaded two assets they didn’t want anyway, and they got back three useful things by my count: Calderon (an upgrade over Felton for sure), Larkin (a solid upside guy as he’s a good athlete who can shoot from all over the gym) and a couple of draft picks (not sure – have the Knicks ever selected a player in a draft before?). So yeah – this deal is a win for them.

Hot take: Win-win trades are cool.

Miles: What do we think about the Orlando Magic-Denver Nuggets transaction? Arron Afflalo back to Denver in exchange for Evan Fournier and tonight’s 56th pick.

I talked last week with Scott Rafferty about how fascinated I am with Orlando’s rebuilding process, and this trade only increases my intrigue. General Manager Rob Hennigan is definitely not acting like a man obsessed with his job security, as this move decreases the Magic’s 2014-15 winning potential in exchange for longer-term potential. I never envisioned an awesomely productive future for Fournier but, given the way the Magic clearly value him with the other assets in this trade, I’ll be really intrigued to watch Fournier next year. It is certainly conceivable that Fournier’s underwhelming advanced stats — 10.3 PER, .043 Win Shares/48 — were the result of being a young guy on a dysfunctional team, not necessarily indicative of his true talent.

Although I am surprised at how relatively low the going price was for Afflalo, it seems to me like Denver is still just treading water here. Is there any merit to the idea that two analytically-minded GMs, Masai Ujiri and now Hennigan, have traded Afflalo away? Thoughts?

Evans: I’m not sure what to make of Afflalo at this point. On one hand, he’s looking more productive offensively now than he’s ever been – he got up 300 attempts from long range last season and made 42.7 percent of them, which is pretty ridiculous. He also ranked 82nd out of 90 qualified shooting guard in the league in real plus-minus, attributable in large part to his subpar defense. I think on the whole, he’s been a very solid player over the years, but there’s a very real possibility that as you said, smart guys like Ujiri and Hennigan are seeing something the rest of us aren’t.

Still though, I’ve got to agree that Denver pried Afflalo away for damn cheap. And I wonder now if there’s a next step to the Nuggets’ rebuilding plan – are they going to attempt to win with Afflalo and Lawson and Faried and those guys, or is this trade part of a larger plot to reel in a big fish like Kevin Love? I’m excited to find out.

Jordan: I don’t think acquiring Afflalo was a first-step thing. I think it’s more that Afflalo fits the mold of shooting guard that Brian Shaw desires — big, defensive minded wings who are able to stretch the floor. Afflalo’s defense took a bit of a dive last year, but that can be at least partly attributed to his increased offensive load and also because well, I mean, he was on the Magic. It’s a good get for Denver, I just wonder how much better it makes them. Lawson/Afflalo/Gallo/Faried/Mozgov is a fine starting five, but I don’t see it making much noise in the playoffs.

Does anyone think that acquiring Fournier is the first domino the Magic needed to fall to make a bigger trade?

Evans: I could easily be wrong, but my gut says no – he’s simply a younger, cheaper version of Afflalo whose presence makes it easier for the Magic to rebuild their core. Good player, but I’m not sure if he’s a difference-maker in a major deal anytime soon.

Hey, Omer Asik got moved too! Finally. The Rockets spent a year waiting for the right offer, and their patienc appears to have paid off in the form of a first-round pick from New Orleans. How’s that sound? Fitting? Surprising? Somewhere in between?

Jordan: It sounds fitting for both sides, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. New Orleans is trying to speed up its rebuilding (or maybe just building) process by forgoing the draft in favor of young veterans. Last year, that resulted in dealing their first round pick in this year’s draft, as well as Nerlens Noel, for Jrue Holiday, who barely played at all this season due to injury. Now, they do so again, surrendering next year’s pick for Asik, who is a perfect complement to Davis, albeit an expensive one. The projected starting five of Davis/Asik/Holiday/Gordon/Evans resembles something like a playoff roster, but does anyone envision it as something than can grow to be anything more? What’s more, their now-absent flexibility inhibits them from improving their bench whatsoever.

Miles: Oh man, nothing the Magic do would surprise me, but I guess I don’t see Fournier being an overly attractive asset to most teams. I feel it’s most likely that the Magic see something in Fournier that the rest of the league undervalues, and I think they’re satisfied that they got their man. (Then again, I thought Afflalo would be “veteran presence” in the team’s longer-term plans as well.)

I don’t understand the Rockets anymore. General Manager Daryl Morey has the reputation as a basketball analytics pioneer, and his first years with the Rockets was a time of fruitful, low-cost value-finding. Now the Rockets seem like a team run by an over-caffeinated 2K14 franchise-builder. If I am any of the other 29 teams I am dialing Houston immediately to see if I can take Omri Casspi, or Donatas Montiejunas, or Jeremy Lin off their hands.

The Rockets have volunteered to put themselves on the short end of some trades — Marcus Morris to Phoenix, Thomas Robinson to Portland — and have allowed a ton of valuable players to walk in free agency (Shaun Livingston, Courtney Lee, Carlos Delfino, Jon Leuer, Goran Dragic) all in pursuit of cap space and a vaunted superstar. It just doesn’t seem like a smart way to build a winner, to willingly give up so much value that the team worked so hard to accumulate over the years. If I’m Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James, I’d much rather be playing against this guy than have to constantly clean up his defensive messes.

Here’s hoping the Rockets’ top-heavy team does not work out. I think it’s a much more boring league if everything is controlled by 10 or so superstars, and if the Rockets are champions I think that will go a long way in reinforcing that concept around the league.

I think this is a brilliant, opportunistic move by New Orleans. Asik is such a good player. But I agree, Jordan, their questionable past moves (especially acquiring Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans) does put a low ceiling on what this team is going to be capable of — if they stand pat this summer.

Evans: The Rockets are so weird. I get that Morey’s whole deal is the constant pursuit of superstars – as many of them as possible! – but there’s so much more to building a winning team than that. You devote so much time to clearing up cap space and making the preliminary “move before the move” – when do you actually get around to finding supporting pieces, building team chemistry and winning together? This sure is taking a while. And while it’s obvious that unloading guys like Asik and Jeremy Lin is part of the process of acquiring a third big name like Carmelo, I’m not so sure that that’s a final destination, either. The Rockets are still searching. For precisely what, I don’t know.

As for the Pelicans… yeah. This Asik trade in a vacuum is a wonderful one – with the big sweaty Turk alongside Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson, they now have an interchangeable troika of bigs that they can swap in and out for offense, defense, size, quickness, shooting, shot-blocking, you name it. Those guys are all such skilled players.

Of course, the Pels (how come no one says Pels? I like Pels) also hamstrung themselves with all the boneheaded deals they made in previous seasons… I still can’t believe the albatrossitude of Eric Gordon’s contract. Last season he very nearly had a higher salary, in millions of dollars (14.3) than his PER (14.9). That’s really hard to do.

New Orleans is very clearly in win-now mode, and that’s a bit depressing. It’s extremely difficult to win now given 1) the inefficient use of a large chunk of their cap money and 2) the incredibly stiff competition in the Western Conference. But hey – they’re trying. You gotta give them credit for that.

Miles Wray