Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bringing Balance to the Force

I caught the Nuggets-Celtics game on television last night. Boston was getting bullied by defensive hustle plays: Nenê Hilario repeatedly ripped the ball out of Celtics’ hands; Renaldo Balkman, as advertised, always chased down loose balls, and quixotically got a lot of court time. Chauncey Billups was steady down the stretch and maintained the team’s cool every time Boston made a comeback.

Many critics have shredded Denver’s decision to jettison Marcus Camby for a draft pick last summer. But in light of this second trade, I think it makes more sense. The roster and salary structure were badly unbalanced in 2007-08. Denver was paying about $30 MM to the troika of Martin, Hilario, and Camby, three oft-injured big men. You don’t need to be paying star money to three of those guys. Two, maybe. Meanwhile, Denver had three volume scorers in Smith, Anthony and Iverson who couldn’t really co-exist together. Smith needed to be resigned in the summer of ’08, adding further pressure to the salary load. Iverson’s contract ends after 2008-09 and Denver was unlikely to re-sign him; they weren’t getting anywhere in the playoffs with him. So in 2009-10, Denver could (i) be paying $7.65 MM to Camby, or alternatively (ii) they could acquire a suitable point guard like Billups (who gets paid $12.1 MM that year) who could expertly run the show. Camby is older than Martin and Hilario (and his contract seems the most sensible of the three) so it was easier and more logical to trade him.

I think the outlook for Denver now is certainly better than it was six months ago. If only Carmelo could learn to play defense…

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