Monday, January 5, 2015

DION WAITERS AND J.R. SMITH INVOLVED IN 3 TEAM TRADE

By: Connor Glowacki

Former Knicks guard Iman Shumpert
Photo Courtesy of Bleacherreport.
     News broke late today of a three team trade that has the potential to alter the NBA landscape. As part of the deal, the Cleveland Cavaliers will trade shooting guard Dion Waiters to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
     In exchange, the Cavaliers will acquire shooting guards J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert from the New York Knicks. The Knicks will acquire forwards Louis Amundson, Alex Kirk and Lance Thomas from both Oklahoma City and Cleveland. The Thunder will also be sending a future first round pick to the Cavaliers, while Cleveland will send their 2019 second round pick to New York.

Let's take a look at how this trade affects all teams involved.




Case For Oklahoma City:

Former Cavs guard Dion Waiters.
Photo Courtesy of USA Today.
     The Thunder have struggled in the early part of the season and are currently at 17-17 overall. However, these early season struggles were largely due to the injuries of their two superstar players, forward Kevin Durant and guard Russell Westbrook. With limited action this season, Durant and Westbrook have once again been the primary offensive playmakers for Oklahoma City, with averages of 25.5 and 27.3 points per game respectively.
     Some of the Thunder's role players, like guards Anthony Morrow and Reggie Jackson and forward Serge Ibaka, have averaged over double figures in points this season, but those numbers have been inflated due to Durant and Westbrook initially being out of the lineup.
     What the team was lacking in was a consistent third scoring option that could create a shot for themselves and take some of the offensive burden off of their two superstars. With the acquisition of Dion Waiters, the Thunder might have found that missing piece for a serious championship run. Waiters was drafted in the top five by the Cavaliers in 2012 and has garnered rave comparisons to Miami Heat guard Dwanye Wade for his ability to slash his way into the lane and creating his own shot.
     But, Waiters has been fairly inconsistent throughout his young NBA career and is only averaging 10.5 points per game this season. There are games where he shoots lights out from the field and can physically take over a game, and then there are other games where he cannot convert shots from the field, commits turnovers, and rarely passes the ball to his teammates. And that will be the big question for his new Oklahoma City team.
     The Thunder have several players now, (Westbrook, Durant, Jackson, Waiters, Ibaka) who need the ball in their hands and prefer to create scoring opportunities for themselves. Waiters could be the next James Harden for Oklahoma City, but he will have to improve on defense and in his shot selection to make an immediate impact for this burgeoning team.

Case For Cleveland:

Former Knicks guard J.R. Smith.
Photo Courtesy of nypost.com.
     It hasn't been a secret that Waiters and point guard Kyrie Irving have significantly struggled to share the backcourt and to exhibit any kind of on-court chemistry. They are both players that, as mentioned with Oklahoma City, need the ball in their hands to make a positive impact.
     And with the loss of center Anderson Varaejao for the season with a torn achilles, it was no surprise that the Cavaliers made the move to trade Waiters. But it was the players they acquired that could leave some Cavaliers fans scratching their heads.
     J.R. Smith has built his entire career around being a player that has been criticized for taking too many ill-advised shots during games and not being a player that can elevate the play of his teammates. Smith has only averaged 10.9 points per game this season for the lowly Knicks and doesn't have the same athleticism as Waiters. On the other hand, Iman Shumpert could be a great addition for the Cavaliers due to his tenacious defensive ability and prowess as a rim protector.
Cavs center Anderson Varejao
is out for the rest of the season
with a torn achilles.
Photo Courtesy of blog.cleveland.com.
     Cleveland has been littered with injuries throughout their roster this season. Not only Varaejao, but forwards LeBron James, Kevin Love, Shawn Marion, and Irving have all had to miss games at some point this season due to injuries. Irving isn't a great passer, but if James can get healthy and return to the lineup, his impeccable passing ability will create open shots for Smith and Shumpert and allow them to knock down open jumpers. And Shumpert's wide wing span will only improve the Cavaliers' defensive play.
     Cleveland is still VERY thin at center, but the market of available centers right now in the NBA is also very thin. Acquiring Smith and Shumpert for Waiters doesn't make the Cavaliers worse, but it doesn't make them that much better either.




Case For New York:
Knicks President of Basketball Operations
Phil Jackson
Photo Courtesy of nypost.com.

     The Knicks traded two of their more well known players and got VERY little in return. Amundson, Thomas, and Kirk all have expiring contracts and might not even last the remainder of the season with the Knicks.
     However, none of those three players have been a solid contributor for an NBA team in the last few years. So if you count out those three players, the Knicks received just a second round draft pick in 2019. Over four years away!
Projected number one pick in 2015 draft.
Duke center Jahlil Okafor.
     That being said, New York is 5-30 this season. They are flat out terrible and might actually be the worst team in the entire league. Outside of superstar forward Carmelo Anthony, the roster is filled with journeymen veterans (Jose Calderon, Jason Smith, Pablo Prigioni) and inexperienced youth (Tim Hardaway Jr., Qunicy Acy, Shane Larkin).
     This is all part of the Knicks plan to tank the rest of this season, in hopes of getting the number one overall pick in the 2015 draft and build for the future.
     New York isn't going anywhere this season so if they can get the number one overall pick, which would probably be Duke center Jahlil Okafor, and shed the large expiring contracts of Smith and Shumpert to create salary cap space for the 2015 free agency period, this trade could be the best thing that the New York Knicks do in setting themselves up for long term success.

Who do you think won and/or lost this trade? Leave a comment below or tweet me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

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