December 17, 2009

Franchise Fix #6: Clear The Decks

Franchise Fix #5: Know Your Star

As our reality gets more noxious than ever, our hypothetical Worriers front office keeps chuggin' along. But where the previous Fixes have generally been no-brainers and easy tweaks, we now face the first genuinely tough choices of our administration.

Let there be no mistake: I like Corey Maggette. I like the calm, dogged way in which he makes basketball unwatchable... I get a kick out of the constant "this can't be happening" look of shock he gives the refs. I respect the fact that he has accepted a new and ill-fitting position, a bench role and a dramatic cut in his minutes without ever complaining, and I resent that he doesn't get credit for that. I also like C.J. Watson. I like his stoic, dorky gaze and ill-advised faux-hawk; I like his willingness to take big shots in big moments; I like the mix of can-do truisms and trash-talk that is his Twitter feed. These are two of my favorite Warriors.

I also recognize just how much they contribute to this misbegotten team. Maggette and CJ are two of the three most underrated Warriors, the other being Brandan Wright. All three of those guys help us far more on offense than people seem to realize, and hurt us far less on defense than people seem to realize; when healthy, all three are unequivocal assets. When I see that Maggette and CJ rank first and third on the team in Win Shares and second and third on the team in Win %, it doesn't surprise me. Maggette has quite possibly been our best player this year, and Steph Curry can't currently hold CJ's jockstrap. These guys are good players. Good guys. Good Warriors.

So when I say that Franchise Fix #6 is trading away Corey Maggette and C.J. Watson, it's not because I dislike them or that I think we'd be better without them. I would hate to see them leave, and in the short term, their departures will make us much, much worse. But to make our '11-'12 omelette, these are the first two eggs we'll have to break.

Let's talk CJ first. As good, young and cheap as he is, he's an unrestricted free agent come June... we have no leverage over his career. And while Curry hasn't come close to CJ's production thus far, Curry is a promising young guy over whom we have control for years to come. Add in that CJ's made clear signals about wanting to move on, and our choice is clear. CJ's future lies elsewhere; we need to trade him for value while we're able.

As we've discussed before, a guy with CJ's shooting ability and poise would make a fantastic seventh or eighth man on a playoff contender. He'd be an appealing little rental to a number of teams -- OKC, Detroit, Miami, Utah -- and it shouldn't be hard to get some value back for him. What type of value should we look for? It'd be lovely to nab an '11 first-round pick to balance out the pick we owe the Nets for the lamentable Marcus Williams trade... there'd be an amusing karma in turning those two guys into a net push. And it couldn't hurt to add a prospect big who'd be under our control for awhile -- Kosta Koufos seems to have fallen out of favor in Jazzland, for instance.

But the best use of CJ as a trade chip might be as a lever to get someone to take Corey Maggette. Because, let's be honest: Maggette is a banged-up 30-year-old, on a contract that'll pay him until he's a banged-up 33-year-old. He is, while not as overpaid as many think, a bit overpaid. A good bet to be hurt and/or ineffective in the last years of his contract, he is not likely to be a big asset when we're next likely to be competitive, and he plays a position that we could capably staff with younger and cheaper players. It's worth hurting ourselves now to clear his contract off our books in 2011.

Problem is, Maggette's contract looks like a burden to other teams, too. His trade value is not just zero, it's negative... he's a hard fella to trade. The good news is, in CJ and the expiring deals of Speedy and Raja, we do have some appealing pieces for packaging. We may have enough sugar to make the Maggettecine go down. Even so, we'll need to swallow some crap in return... trading him won't net us a good player at a decent price, nor 2010 expiring money. But if we can trade him for contracts that expire in 2011, it's a win. And here are five ways to do it:

1) Maggette and Speedy to the Hornets for Peja. This gives the Hornets three things: a sorely needed upgrade on the wing, a way to show Chris Paul that they're serious about competing, and somewhere between $6-10 million in financial relief next year, depending on the luxury tax threshold. We get a huge downgrade on the wing, but we're not looking to compete now anyway. And Peja becomes a $15.4M (!!) expiring contract next year, meaning he'll be one of the season's most valuable trade chips. Even if we just keep him and let him expire, we've cleared ourselves of Maggette's deal, leaving only good pieces and mountains of cap space for '11-'12. It'd also be worth trying to finagle an '11 first-rounder out of New Orleans, even if it means tossing in CJ; we could use the pick, and with their cash woes, they might secretly be happy to avoid having to pay another rookie.

2) Maggette and Speedy to the Knicks for Eddy Curry and Jared Jeffries. It gives the Knicks $8 million in cap space this summer; you've gotta figure they'd be willing to take on Maggette's long-term deal for the privilege. Both Curry and Jeffries expire in '11, like Peja; their suckage costs us an extra roster spot, but positionally they'd be mildly more useful.

3) Maggette, Speedy and Raja to the Bucks for Redd and Gadzuric. Can't yet do it, on the Trade Machine or IRL, as rules prevent us from packaging Raja with other guys for a couple more weeks, but the numbers work. As with the New Orleans offer, it provides our trade partner with a big upgrade on the wing and sorely needed '10-'11 cap relief.

4) Maggette and Speedy to the Sixers for Samuel Dalembert. The Sixers are over that guy, and might want to start Brand for diplomatic reasons; while they're superficially set at the swings with Iggy and Young, they have nobody worthwhile behind those two. CJ would help them in Lou Williams's absence. Dalembert's regressing, but he's a type of player that could actually help us here and there.

5) Maggette and Speedy to the Suns for J-Rich. The most amusing offer, if nothing else. The Suns probably wouldn't bother rocking their boat, but Sarver does like to save him some money, and it'd improve them in the short term. No matter what the "We Believe" nostalgists choose to believe, Corey Maggette is a better basketball player than Jason Richardson.

6) Maggette and CJ to the Grizzlies for Marko Jaric and Hamed Haddadi. Okay, this one's not bloody likely, given the Grizz's aversion to paying basketball players. But it'd turn empty rosters into guys they can use (particularly CJ), and adding Maggette would cover them once Gay walks. Worth making the call, at any rate.

7) Maggette and Speedy to the Jazz for Andrei Kirilenko. It's almost impossible that the Jazz are this dumb, but it's worth checking on. They could use CJ, and in fact you could tack on the CJ/Koufos swap mentioned above as a way to save them some dough.

In HypotheticalWorrierLand, we make these seven phone calls right now. If hung up on, we keep calling. We also check in with every other team to take their temperatures. And if none of it works -- if CJ and other expirings alone can't clear our '11-'12 books -- we think about putting Wright or Turiaf on the table, as health, contractual issues and our frontcourt priorities have made them expendable.

None of this is fun. We're talking about taking some of the few functional pieces of our current team and alchemizing them into crap, and possibly even paying a young big man for the privilege. It's grim, ugly stuff. But we're not trying to avoid ugliness. We're trying to build a genuinely good basketball team someday. And if that means punting on two of our three best current players -- nice, charming guys, who've served us well under adverse circumstances -- so be it.

Back to the miseries of reality later tonight.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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