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Posted: Sun Jan 21, 2007 9:20 pm
Warriors could win this deal
by: Marc Stein
posted: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 | Feedback | Print Entry
filed under: NBA, Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, Ike Diogu, Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Keith McLeod, Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington, Sarunas Jasikevicius, Josh Powell
When Jermaine O'Neal unloaded his frustration with Indy's .500 (or so) season two weeks ago in Dallas, he openly wondered about the Pacers' roster mix.
"Are we a good fit for each other?" O'Neal asked aloud.
"Maybe, maybe not."
Or maybe this is the reality: O'Neal and his bosses already knew the answer.
I'm betting on the last of those maybes. It seems safe to presume that O'Neal wouldn't have publicly questioned Indiana's collective capabilities on Jan. 4 if he didn't have an inkling that Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird were actively looking to change the collective. Sooner rather than later.
It seems even safer to presume that the close relationship between Walsh and good friend Chris Mullin -- with a big-time nudge from agent Dan Fegan, who represents major players (Stephen Jackson and Troy Murphy) on both sides of Wednesday's eight-player swap -- sped up the process for two teams that were looking for serious shakeups and have decided to take on each other's problems.
A landscape-changing deal? No one's claiming that. You wouldn't try to make that argument for the team in either conference.
But this swap does allow Indiana and Golden State's Mullin to at least say that they've shuffled vigorously, with just over half the season remaining in both cases to see if they can make the new parts work better.
• Each team gets a player in the exchange that it has coveted for months.
For Indiana that's Ike Diogu, who was repeatedly deemed off-limits by the Warriors during last winter's Ron Artest talks.
For Golden State that's Al Harrington, its top free-agent target last summer before and after Don Nelson was hired as coach.
The Pacers believe Diogu will develop into a worthy sidekick for O'Neal ... or perhaps even O'Neal's replacement if they wind up needing one at season's end.
The Warriors, meanwhile, see Harrington as the athletic combo forward they've been lacking and a natural fit for Nelson's system, even though Harrington's return to Indiana to play alongside his good buddy JO hasn't come close to living up to the widespread forecasts of grandeur.
• Each team is likewise shedding a player (or two) who has worn out his welcome.
Indy has unexpectedly found a taker for Jackson, who obviously needs a change of scenery after incidents on the floor (in Detroit) and off (outside a strip club) that the locals will never forget, making him the No. 1 scapegoat in Indy since Artest left town.
Golden State, in turn, has shed the contracts of two vets (Murphy and Mike Dunleavy) who were supposed to flourish under Nelson but who were more likely to absorb public broadsides in the paper from the new coach than play significant minutes for him. As with Jackson, public patience in Oakland with Murphy and especially Dunleavy was long gone.
• Each team, furthermore, believes it couldn't say no in spite of the obvious pitfalls.
The Warriors counter concerns about Jackson by pointing out that he's been a successful shooter for a championship team in San Antonio and that each of the Pacers they acquired -- including Josh Powell and my beloved Sarunas Jasikevicius -- is a multi-position player more suited to Nellie's faster tempos and unconventional lineups.
The Pacers likewise aren't apologizing after deciding that Harrington, whom they worked so hard to get over the summer as their Peja Stojakovic/Artest replacement, didn't even last 41 games in his second Indy stint. They're not fretting about O'Neal's inevitable disappointment to see his man Harrington leave so soon, just when the Pacers were getting past their rough early schedule. Nor were they put off, apparently, by the fact that they're potentially taking back a whopping $33 million more than the Warriors in long-term salary obligations, believing they've improved their team chemistry significantly with players who are more coachable than those leaving and more suited to Rick Carlisle's possession style.
I suppose that I still have to pick a team that "won" this one, so I have to go with Golden State at first glance, mainly because the Warriors were able to move two albatross contracts (Dunleavy's ranking worse than Murphy's) without being forced to part with Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins, Mickael Pietrus or even Matt Barnes ... and selfishly because Nellie has a history of getting beaucoup production from guys named Sarunas (see: Marciulionis).
To be swayed back in Indiana's direction would require knowing that Diogu will definitely turn out to be a player . . . or knowing how O'Neal's future will play out, with JO and management still on course for an end-of-season date to re-assess their futures together . . . or knowing for certain that the Pacers could now move Dunleavy to the Clippers for Corey Maggette. Informed sources in L.A. insist that the Clips won't do that deal even if Clips coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. keeps lobbying for it.
Trade analysis: Pacers may hit home run in long run
By John Hollinger
Whoa … Where'd that come from?
Even the most brazen rumormongers were taken by surprise Wednesday when the Warriors and Pacers agreed on an eight-player trade that sends Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy, Ike Diogu and Keith McLeod to Indiana for Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Josh Powell.
On the surface, this looks like a classic "grass-is-greener" trade.
Contrary to the expectations of many, Dunleavy and Murphy haven't meshed with new coach Don Nelson and his wide-open system, though Dunleavy has raised his level of play.
Meanwhile, the mutterings about chemistry problems in Indiana long have centered on Jackson -- especially since his arrest on felony charges in October -- and Harrington has endured an unexpectedly bumpy ride in his first campaign since rejoining the Pacers.
Rocky Widner/Getty Images
Ike Diogu may be able to showcase his talents in Indiana.
Look a little deeper, though, and you'll see this more as a Trojan horse deal.
Why? Because, while Jackson, Dunleavy, Murphy and Harrington are the four names in all the headlines, the guy who could make the trade a home run for the Pacers is Diogu.
The 6-8 second-year forward has had trouble getting minutes in Nelson's perimeter-oriented, smallball-friendly system. But while he's averaged just 13.1 minutes a game in 17 appearances, Diogu has played brilliantly when given the chance.
Per 40 minutes, his numbers jump off the page -- 22.2 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. He's shooting 53 percent from the floor and 79.6 percent from the line, with the last number particularly important because he draws so many fouls in the low post. Overall, his PER of 18.8 is easily the highest of any player in the trade.
Based on his rookie season stats from a year ago, this season's numbers don't seem like a fluke. Diogu's rookie year PER of 15.8 also beats the 2006-07 rating of anyone else in the deal, as his percentages were nearly identical and his 40-minute numbers (18.8 points, 8.9 boards) weren't too far off.
So why didn't Diogu play more? Nelson's system obviously had a lot to do with it, but so did Diogu's defense. He can block shots, but he's a bit short for a power forward and, like most other young players, he struggles at that end of the floor. Paired with another developing big man in Andris Biedrins, Diogu had nobody to cover for his mistakes, so it was easier in many cases to leave him on the pine.
As a Pacer, however, he'll be paired with one of the best frontcourt defenders in the league in Jermaine O'Neal, and when O'Neal checks out another elite defender, Jeff Foster, will check in. As a result, Indiana should be much better positioned to mask Diogu's defensive shortcomings than Golden State was.
Also, the Pacers' post-oriented attack is much more in keeping with Diogu's skill set than the freewheeling system Nellie ran in Golden State. So if anything, his already prodigious output may increase now that he's joining the Pacers, at least on a per-possession basis.
There might be other dividends for Indy as well. With this deal, the Pacers have an even bigger logjam in the frontcourt, with O'Neal, Foster, Murphy, Diogu, Maceo Baston and David Harrison. A trade of one of them for a wing player would be the obvious follow-up to this move.
And if Murphy's jumper can find the net consistently, he may provide spacing for O'Neal to go to work down low.
Brian Babineau/Getty Images
Al Harrington will be a welcome sight for Warriors fans who had tired of Mike Dunleavy, Jr.
Golden State fans will point out they didn't come out of this empty-handed, either. For starters, Jackson and Harrington are better defenders than Murphy and Dunleavy -- the difference isn't huge, but it may prove important given how horrid the Warriors' defense has been of late.
The Warriors also got themselves into better shape contract-wise. The deals that GM Chris Mullin handed out to Murphy and Dunleavy had become notorious albatrosses in Oakland, while the contracts of Harrington and Jackson expire a year earlier and are slightly less onerous.
And Golden State upgraded the point guard position behind Baron Davis by getting Jasikevicius (to replace McLeod), an important consideration given how injury-prone Davis is.
Nonetheless, it's shocking to see the Warriors include such a talented prospect as Diogu as a throw-in, especially considering a year earlier they wouldn't budge on putting him into a deal for Ron Artest.
It's not like including him was necessary to balance the scales. Going by 2006-07 PER, the three highest-rated players in this deal all went to Indiana. In fact, Murphy has outrated Harrington in four of the past five seasons (including this one). And while Jackson is preferable to Dunleavy on talent, he is a huge question mark in the chemistry department -- not to mention a guy who has to stand trial in Indianapolis in February.
So if you take Diogu and Powell out of the trade, this deal starts looking a lot more reasonable -- Golden State upgrades the backcourt a bit, gets a slight improvement in the cap situation, takes on a bad apple in the locker room and makes a slight downgrade from Murphy to Harrington. That seems fair.
But to throw in Diogu on top of it? That's absurd. Or it's genius, if you're looking at it from Indiana's perspective.
The other names are nice and all, but 10 years from now I have a feeling that we'll be looking back on this deal as the Ike Diogu trade. And if you're a Warriors fan, you probably won't be looking back fondly.
An instant analysis of the big Warriors-Pacers trade:
With Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy out of Nellie's favor, Golden State has been looking to move its two forwards. If the trade is examined in this light alone, the Warriors scored -- they replaced two highly-paid players the coach didn't want with guys who figure to contribute to the cause. They also upgraded their athleticism and defense.
The cost was Ike Diogu, whom I was surprised to see in this deal.
Diogu may not develop into an All-Star, but I believe he will put up good offensive numbers as his opportunities grow, and build significant value as time moves on -- he might be a poor-man's Zach Randolph.
Like Murphy and Dunleavy, Diogu was clearly not a part of Nellie's plans, and it's hard to build value if you don't play. This was probably a tough call for the Warriors, but at the same time, by including Diogu, they moved a lot of money off the books and got some pieces they wanted.
The Warriors are now quite deep at the three perimeter positions and figure to play small with Harrington at the four. When Richardson returns, the question will be how to find minutes for all these guys, but Nellie is a master at upping the tempo and keeping his players happy. If things are too crowded, they now have a host of potential trade assets in their guards and wings.
Golden State did not address their primary weakness, which is their interior defense, but you can't build Rome in a day, even with an eight-player trade. They did, however, take a step in the right direction defensively, adding quickness, length and versatility for a coach who makes better use of versatile, interchangeable players than anyone else around.
Indiana got a player it clearly wanted in Diogu, so that's a plus. (More on him below.)
With the addition of Murphy and Dunleavy, Indiana improves its ability to space the floor around the team's focal point, Jermaine O'Neal, but the Pacers will struggle to guard opponents -- the players they picked up in this deal are non-athletic types who are challenged to contain quick players.
Luckily, Indiana has one of the best defensive coaches in the league in Rick Carlisle. I can't think of many people more capable of getting this group to play smart, hard-nosed D as a unit. They'll have to.
I don't see this deal making either a team to fear, but both are idling around the .500 mark and at least get a shot in the arm.
Diogu is the lone impact player -- or possible impact player -- in the deal who's yet to reach his potential. He could prove to be the most valuable player in the trade, especially given that he has two seasons remaining on his rookie deal after this one.
If Diogu can become a significant low-post scorer for Indiana, he could (alongside the likes of Danny Granger, David Harrison and Shawne Williams) become an important piece of the foundation for the next generation of Pacers basketball.
Scouts Inc. NBA analyst Jeff Weltman was assistant general manager of the Denver Nuggets from 2001 to 2006. From 1988 to 2001, he served the Los Angeles Clippers in various personnel, scouting and administrative roles.