Tim Duncan for Andrew Bynum, anyone? Merry Christmas.
Did you ever see the episode of "The Office" where the boss, Michael Scott, hijacks the office Secret Santa gift exchange by declaring it instead a "Yankee Swap"? Under his rules, almost every gift is denigrated, and nobody gets to keep the thing they most want. More or less everyone goes home unhappy.
(Side note: I just heard that in parts of the South this is instead called "Dirty Santa." Way better name. Many also call it a white elephant.)
As the holidays are upon us, I thought it would be fun to do a similar thing for NBA fans. In a nutshell: Trades that might be kind of fair, but that in fact I'm pretty sure most fans of all teams involved would staunchly oppose. Everyone goes home unhappy! That's the spirit! For the record, with a couple of tweaks here and there (click the links) these all pass the ESPN Trade Machine sniff test.
Tim Duncan for Andrew Bynum and Luke Walton Spurs fans hate this because their team essentially could not be playing any better, and Duncan has been a stud with a PER north of 24 and a stellar reputation as the anchor of a great team defense. Not to mention, he's the franchise, and the worst thing imaginable would be to trade him to one of the team's most bitter rivals. With Duncan, the Lakers would become solid favorites to win everything as long as he stays healthy. But the genius is that somehow Laker fans would hate this too, because Bynum is an infinite-potential big man, even if he has spent many key moments of his young career in street clothes. The Spurs are somewhat checkmated -- sure to fade from relevance without a transcendent big man to fill Duncan's shoes as he ages. Why send them a lifeline?
Yao Ming for Baron Davis, DeAndre Jordan and Brian Cook This is really putting the dirty in the Dirty Santa concept. Just suggesting that the Rockets bail on Yao now, given what he's going through, is a little messed up. And of course, he's by far the best player in this trade when healthy. He's also the only one whose career may already be over. What's the market value for a once-in-a-generation big man who suits up about once a generation? The bad contract of a talented gunner/sourpuss plus a promising and underpaid seven-foot super athlete seems about right. Clipper fans who balk at losing Jordan for possibly nothing at all will take little solace in the extra money Donald Sterling will earn with increased Chinese audience.
Joakim Noah and Luol Deng for Greg Oden, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez, Joel Przybilla and Elliot Williams This is total craziness. Bulls fans are puking a little at the thought, and cursing ESPN for hiring a Blazer fan as a national blogger. (Can you hear Michael Scott saying "Yyyyyyyyyyyyankee swap! ... That's what makes it fun.") So, basically, the Bulls give up one of the best young big men in the league, a guy they just signed, as a way to take on the highest risk/reward in the league in Oden, to go with some fine young perimeter players and a big hunk of cap space in the form of expiring contracts. Blazer fans hate this maybe a little less, but they may also balk at getting older and cap-tied with Deng, while giving up fan darlings in Batum and Fernandez and the cheap-for-his-potential Oden while investing a lot of money, for a long time, in more players who have a hard time staying healthy. This one fails in nearly every way, except as a way to piss off both parties.
LeBron James for Amare Stoudemire Disregard this entry. It's really just a way to rile up two of the NBA's biggest fanbases in the name of driving traffic. It's also a dare to those Knick fans who imply they're glad they didn't get James. Really? Sing it with me! Yyyyyyyyyyyyankee swap!
Carmelo Anthony and Chris Andersen for Al Horford and Joe Johnson Efficiency experts will tell you Horford is better than Anthony right now, as well as younger, bigger, cheaper and more likely to stick around for the long haul. So Hawks fans hate that. The Nuggets will lose a lot of sex appeal, and will have a harder time selling tickets. They'll also be taking on one of the worst contracts of the summer of 2010, in Johnson, who is both too old to be expected to produce much longer, and injured.