|No ordinary Joe, no ordinary trade||02.18.09 at 9:42 am ET|
In the vast universe of NBA players that may have been available, few would have fit better with the Celtics than Joe Smith. The veteran big man possesses just about every skill the C’s bench needs–shooting range, length, experience.
But Smith is gone to New Orleans of all places, along with Chris Wilcox and some future considerations for Tyson Chandler, and indications are the Hornets are going to keep him. That’s too bad for the Celtics, but that’s merely a sidebar to the developing story within this trade, which is Sam Presti is one heck of a general manager.
When Presti took over the then-Sonics he had an unbalanced roster with two high-priced scorers–Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis–and a collection of mishmashed talents. In a year and a half he now has one of the most dynamic rosters in the league.
Trading Allen and letting Lewis walk cleared the runway, while drafting Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook and collecting oodles of draft picks and cap space laid the foundation. But at some point Presti had to avoid the trap that so many small market teams fall into. Namely, utilizing all those assets to acquire a real-live NBA player instead of hoping for an imaginary free agent that may or may not materialize.
In Chandler, Presti obtained a still-young and still athletic shot-blocking, rebounding big man, which is truly one of the rarest commodities in the sport. And he got him for players with expiring contracts he didn’t need without surrendering any of those draft picks.
This is a bad move for New Orleans, no matter how the Hornets try to spin it. Smith and Wilcox might help, but they’re no Chandler. Devon Hardin might be a poor-man’s Chandler or he might be another Saer Sene. The rumors are out that the Hornets are having money problems and it’s hard not to see this deal in any other light.
If there is one benefit for the Celtics it’s that it significantly weakens a contender in the West, but that’s small consolation.