BIG TRADE! Wally Szczerbiak and Ricky Davis head up multi-player deal with Celtics
In a blockbuster trade announced just minutes ago, the Wolves dealt Wally Szczerbiak, Michael Olowokandi, Dwayne Jones, and a first-round draft pick to the Boston Celtics for Ricky Davis, Mark Blount, Marcus Banks, Justin Reed and two second-round picks. Moments before, the Wolves also swapped Nikoloz Tkiitishvilli to Phoenix for a second round pick. I'll analyze the deal a little later.
Okay, first impressions.
Who plays small forward? Ricky Davis is 6-7 but only 195 pounds. Justin Reed is 6-8 but still very very raw. Two years ago the Wolves went smaller with Spree and Hassell as swingmen, and I suppose it's possible (probable) that Hassell and Davis are both in the starting lineup, which means teams with large small forwards will present matchup problems for Minnesota. On the other hand, the Wolves could go large, with a front line of center Mark Blount, power forward Eddie Griffin and small forward Kevin Garnett, with a pair a 6-7 guards, Davis and Jaric, in the backcourt. That's a lineup with an *average* height of 6-10 (KG is actually 7-1, not the 6-11 he likes to be announced as).
Eating Blount. In 2009-10, Glen Taylor will owe Mark Blount just a titch under $8 million. As has been widely reported during the ongoing Blount rumors, the guy can put the ball in the hole (perhaps better than any center in Wolves history, a distinction now probably held by Rasho Nesterovic, so we're not talking stiff competition) but currently leads the entire NBA in turnovers per 48 minutes and doesn't rebound worth a lick. At first blush, eating Blount's contract is the Wolves biggest concession in this trade. On the other hand, on a team crying for offense, he does provide more than any other pivotman on the squad.
The principals are about a wash. There is plenty to like and dislike about both Ricky Davis and Wally Szczerbiak. After ripping on Wally for years, I really thought he came into his own this season and established himself as a fairly complete player. There are precious few more accurate shooters in the league and the other aspects of his game--ball movement, turnovers, rebounds, defense--were all on the upswing. Plus, he played hard every night. I honestly wish him luck.
But even with Wally having the month of his life in December, the Wolves went 7-7. And he wasn't having a January like his December, getting snuffed by Tayshaun Prince and Shane Battier in successive nights. Granted, those are two mighty fine defenders, but the bottom line is that Wally can't create his own shot as well as Ricky Davis can. The knock on Davis is that he can be selfish (remember the absurd attempt to get himself a triple-double a couple years back?), doesn't always play hard, and is a below-average defender. Sounds a lot like some of the old knocks on Szczerbiak (aside from the playh harfBut, like Wally, Davis seems to have come into his own a little bit this season--based on his stats, anyway; I'm not claiming any expertise. I do know that he ranks among the top five in the entire NBA in minutes played, so Celts coach Doc Rivers obviously thinks the world of him. He's also dished for nine assists three times already this season, meaning he knows how to move the rock. And his 19.9 scoring average is just a hair below Wally's 20.1 ppg. Finally, Davis likes to go to the hole and the Wolves desperately need penetrators. Aside from the fact that Davis is a 2 (where the Wolves are if anything overstocked) and Wally is a 3 (the only true small forward on the roster besides Ronnie Dupree), these two players are very very close in composite skills. And I know that Kevin McHale has always liked Davis, whom he signed to an offer sheet a few years ago. [As coincidence would have it, McHale popped on the 10 p.m. news as I typed that last sentence, saying Davis is one of the very few players averaging 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. If he is indeed averaging five boards, maybe he can play some small forward.]
The kids are a worthy, inexpensive gamble. I now have the benefit of what McHale said on the news. He said that Casey wanted to be more athletic and be able to defend well, and that that Marcus Banks is a great defender (somewhat true) and Justin Reed is athletic and can defend (don't know--never seen him play myself). In any case, this doesn't bother me at all. Banks and Reed both have deals that expire at the end of this season, and if the Wolves like either one, they can sign them for relative peanuts. It's a four month tryout, with both guys having the potential to give the Wolves something on a limited basis, Banks probably a little more than Reed if he can stay with quick point guards. Then the Wolves can pair Banks with Jaric, Hudson, Davis or Hassell as the situation warrants. But here's the rub: His assist-to-turnover ratio is well below 2-1, and he is a career 40 percent shooter without much range. In any case, this was Boston's concession. We eat Blount's salary, they take Kandi off the books. But they get undersized Dwayne Jones as their prospect and the Wolves get a pair of defensive-oriented athletes who are a little further along.
Is it the perfect deal? No, it isn't highway robbery. It might not even turn out to be a good deal. But for those clamoring for the Wolves to do something, to shake things up, it does do that. And, hopefully, they cleared this with KG and it has his blessing.
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