The other complicating factor inhibiting personnel movement in the NBA is sheer incompetence. Most NFL front offices are run by men who have worked in NFL scouting departments and executive suites for years. They oversee staffs to collect data and evaluate risk on prospective roster additions. A team run by a former star who “knows the game” is widely considered a joke, like the Detroit Lions. However, in the NBA, former players rule the front office, yet few of them have the acumen to make projections about how a player’s game will be affected as he ages, or how to hedge a bet on a high risk player. As a result, NBA rosters are stuffed with good players making superstar money, benchwarmers making starter money, and teams have very little options when reshaping their rosters but to take big risks or no risks at all.
So will the big trades work in Phoenix and Dallas? In the Suns case, it comes down to whether they can keep Shaq on the court. He missed 23 games with injury in 2005-06, and 42 last season. Phoenix won’t be the fast little team that can anymore, but they will still be formidable. The Dallas deal is harder to figure. Devin Harris, the centerpiece in the package of players traded to New Jersey for Kidd, is by most standards a better, younger, and cheaper player right now. Dallas is one of the few teams with an NFL-like staff doing player evaluation and projections (it’s a Texas thing, San Antonio and Houston are the other two “geek” franchises), so perhaps they have something up their sleeve here. I can’t see it.
If I were in the Dallas or Phoenix front office I wouldn’t have made either of these trades, but as a fan, I’m glad the deals got done. The plot is going to be very thick for the remaining two months of the season in the Western Conference.
Martin Johnson is a regular contributor to The Root.