With the trade deadline a mere nine days away, the gap between buyers and sellers has never been more pronounced. Many struggling teams are willing to entertain offers for even their brightest stars while established, title-hungry teams are itching to pilfer those very assets. One segment of the NBA is in ‘sell everything' mode, while the other is in ‘buy anything' mode, though the wisdom behind either approach is questionable at best.
For the sellers the motivation is clear: empty the ledger and start anew. Tabula Rasa, and all that. Sometimes it works (think Memphis) and sometimes it dooms you to a cycle of perpetual rebuilding (think Golden State), but if something is clearly not working it is hard to advocate maintaining the status quo.
For the title contenders, though, big changes can be harder to justify.
The big mid-season acquisition game typically brings to mind two success stories of the last decade: Rasheed Wallace and Pau Gasol. When Wallace went to Detroit and Gasol went to L.A., each team was put onto a path that eventually led to Championship glory. It is those successes that several clubs are looking to emulate in deals this winter.
However, lost in that mindset is the memory of the failures; Shaq to Phoenix, Marion to Miami, Payton to Milwaukee, even Kidd to Dallas when one remembers that Dallas was gunning for a title as motivation to make that trade. What people fail to recollect at times like this is that just getting a big name doesn't ensure anything for your club, and if the fit isn't absolutely perfect then there is a good chance the team's play can be derailed while they integrate a major new piece. This summer's activity exemplifies this fact beautifully.
What were the biggest moves this summer? Vince Carter to Orlando, Hedo Turkoglu to Toronto, Andre Miller to Portland, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva to Detroit, Rasheed Wallace to Boston, Emeka Okafor to New Orleans, Richard Jefferson to San Antonio - notice a theme here? Every single one of these players has had trouble finding their niche with their new club and each was brought in to elevate the play of their team.
While some have begun rounding into form (Miller comes quickest to mind), most are still trying to find their sea legs more than halfway into the season. This isn't because these are bad players or because the teams that nabbed them were foolish to do so, it's because major pieces take time to integrate to established units.