The Timberwolves and the Kings have completed a straight-up swap involving Derrick Williams and Luc Mbah a Moute. The move is anything but a shock; Williams has been on the block ever since his disappointing rookie season.
This trade might be the best thing for the young forward's career. After being selected 2nd overall behind Kyrie Irving in the 2011 draft, Williams has disappointed. So far this season, he is averaging 4.9 points and 2.4 rebounds a game in 14.7 minutes. He struggled to fit into Adelman's system and quickly lost the trust of his coach. Over the summer, it was reported that Adelman asked to Wolves not to trade Williams; less than a month into the season, Williams is headed elsewhere.
In Sacramento, Williams will join forces with a team of talented young players headlined by DeMarcus Cousins and Ben McLemore. It's a team likely headed for the lottery, and a team on which Williams will get his opportunities to prove that he is worthy of the No. 2 pick. He and Cousins are joined in the frontcourt by Patrick Patterson and Jason Thompson, who have both earned minutes under head coach Mike Malone.
As for the Timberwolves, they get a wily veteran in Luc Mbah a Moute to solidify their perimeter defense and provide leadership to this young team.
From Flip Saunders, T-Wolves president of basketball operations:
Luc is known as one of the premier defensive players in the league with an ability to guard multiple positions. He adds a lot of energy, grit and a high basketball IQ to our team. We thank Derrick for his contributions to our organization and wish him well in Sacramento.
This was not a splashy trade by any means, but it has the potential to work out very well for both teams. The T-Wolves add a piece in return for Williams, whom they have no use for, and the Kings get a steal if Derrick Williams lives up to the potential we saw in him on draft night two years ago.
As they stand now, the Boston Celtics are in prime tanking position: they have a dismantled roster, some good young talent, and a brand new coach who, though brilliant, will need at least a year to adjust to the NBA.
Tanking the 2013-2014 season is definitely in the best interest of the Celtics. Even if they miss out on Wiggins, there are plenty more can't-miss prospects at the top of the draft, such as Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, and Andrew Harrison. If the Celtics secure a top-5, or even a top-8 pick, they are almost guaranteed to get a future star.
In order to succeed in the NBA, you have to either be really good, or really bad. The "middle-of-the-pack" teams that play for the eighth seed every single year (sorry, Milwaukee Bucks fans) have very little chance of improving themselves through the draft or free agency. Only certain teams have a good chance of luring marquee free agents, but any team can draft a superstar. It is much better to completely tank one year to get a top-5 pick than to pick 12th or 13th every year.
But how much would it really benefit the Celtics to throw away this season?
First of all, with all the teams prepared to tank for the 2014 draft class, Boston is less than guaranteed a top-5 pick. The Celtics will have to compete against teams such as the Sixers, Bobcats, Magic, Bucks, Suns, and Jazz, who all promise to be at least a little terrible next year. Sure, this draft class is stacked, and there will be great talent all the way to the teens, but Boston fans will be disappointed by anything less than Wiggins or Parker.
Second, let's not forget about the most valuable asset the Celtics still hold: Rajon Rondo. Rondo just went from playing with multiple Hall-of-Famers and a revered coach to playing with Jeff Green, Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass, and a bunch of underachieving(Courtney Lee, Kris Humphries), overpaid(Gerald Wallace), or unproven(Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk) misfits. He doesn't have a backup, or reliable shooters to kick out to, or a experienced coach that can at least temper his aggressive personality.
So why would Rondo want to be in Boston? He only has two years left on his contract, and can use that as leverage to push for a trade. No team wants to deal with a disgruntled star, especially a young team with a young coach.
And perhaps more importantly: Do the Celtics even want Rondo?
Rondo will be 28 by the end of next season, at the peak of his prime. He doesn't seem to fit into their long-term plan of building through the draft, and Rondo wants no part of losing 60 games a year. Right now, he is still considered one of the best floor generals in the league; after he returns from his injury, will his trade value drop considerably? Even if his knee heals completely, Rondo is at his best when he attacks and distributes. He needs reliable shooters and finishers around him as he is not a natural scorer by any means.
In other words, Rondo helped Pierce, Allen, and Garnett as much as the Big Three helped him. Rondo got them open shots and easy looks at the basket, lessening their workload and possibly extending their careers. The Big Three made Rondo look good by making shots and making plays, padding his assist numbers. They took on a leadership role on and off the court, allowing Rondo to focus on playing his game. They had his respect, and perhaps that stopped him from causing as much trouble as he could have.
The Celtics might hold out Rondo for much of next season either to tank or to preserve his value. He will no doubt help the Celtics, but if he plays for most of the season, the holes in his game will be further exposed, dropping his trade value. Another option is for the Celtics to trade him now. Detroit is definitely interested, and Rondo will no doubt embrace the opportunity to play with his old buddy Josh Smith. It seems unlikely that Detroit will be willing to give up Drummond or Monroe, but a package centered around Brandon Knight, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and picks should intrigue the Celtics.
This will be an ugly year for the Celtics. And until they figure out what to do with Rajon Rondo, it is just going to get uglier.
The Pacific Division concludes this year's draft review. Here are the reviews for the Northwest and Southwest Divisions.
Golden State Warriors
Key Additions: Nemanja Nedovic
The athletic point guard is likely a draft-and-stash pick for the Warriors and may not see NBA playing time for the next few years, especially if Jarrett Jack re-signs with Golden State. If he does come over, he will bring superb athleticism to the point guard position, but not much else.
Los Angeles Clippers
Key Additions: Reggie Bullock
Bullock is a quiet but solid pick for the Clippers. For a team that needs to contend now, Bullock is a low-risk, low-reward pick that is ready to contribute now, which explains why he was taken ahead of players such as Allen Crabbe, who has a much higher upside. Bullock will never be more than a role player, but barring injuries, he will stay in the league as a 3-and-D guy.
Kelly is a stretch-four that has NBA range but cannot defend or rebound against NBA bigs. Kelly will be a good fit for the Lakers if Howard returns as he could be a Ryan Andersen type next to Howard, but if Howard chooses to take his talents elsewhere, Kelly will have a hard time finding playing time in Los Angeles.
Key Additions: Alex Len, Archie Goodwin, Malcolm Lee, Alex Oriakhi
The Suns took Len with Noel and McLemore both still on the board, so they must have been really high on Len. While Len is not a first option on a good team, in a few years, he can be a Roy Hibbert-type player in the middle. The Suns can afford to be patient with Len, and their world-class training staff will definitely help with that stress fracture. The addition of Len likely means the departure of Marcin Gortat, who does not seem to fit into Phoenix's rebuilding plan. This will allow Len to get a lot of playing time early and gain experience fast.
Archie Goodwin has tremendous talent, but it is a big question mark whether he will ever come close to realizing his potential. In his one year at Kentucky, he showed flashes of brilliance, but his inconsistency and shaky decision-making further reaffirmed that he is not NBA ready. Goodwin is long, athletic, and aggressive attacking the rim, but most of the time he plays out of control, and he lacks a jump shot. He is far away from being able to contribute consistently in the league, and will likely spend his first year or two in the D-League.
Key Additions: Ben McLemore, Ray McCallum
The Kings got a steal in McLemore at No.7. Sure, he may not have the "killer instinct" superstars have, he may occasionally check out in some games, he may not have presented himself very well in the pre-draft process, but McLemore has perennial-all-star potential at the NBA's weakest position. McLemore is a nice, humble, hard-working young man with tremendous talent that reminds some of a young Ray Allen. Although raw, he has elite athleticism, a picture-perfect jump shot, and good cutting instincts. In a few years, we will all be wondering how he fell to No.7.
With that said, the Kings still seem like a team lacking a direction, and that might harm McLemore's development. While the new ownership seem to know what they're doing a lot more than the Maloofs, they still have to figure out what to do with their young nucleus. Tyreke Evans is likely headed to New Orleans, and the Kings might get back Greivis Vasquez in a sign-and-trade, who will form the backcourt with McLemore. Vasquez is an above-average distributor that can get McLemore open shots, but the other guards on the Kings roster(Isaiah Thomas, Jimmer Fredette, Marcus Thornton) are all shoot-first, trigger-happy players, not at all good fits with McLemore. DeMarcus Cousins is another big question mark: do they trade him or do they pay him big money he does not deserve? On paper, he seems like a good fit with McLemore; but Cousins can potentially be a bad influence on McLemore off the court, who is still very naive about the NBA.
Whatever the Kings choose to do, their future looks a lot brighter with the new ownership leading to way. There's no question they'll be shooting for Andrew Wiggins in next year's draft, but even if they miss out on Wiggins, they will likely pick up another valuable piece of their rebuilding puzzle.