Trade Deadline Winners/Losers: It’s a good day to be a Pacers fan

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It was the day of the role player.

There was a fair amount of action at the NBA’s trade deadline but none of it involved the big names that floated around a little — no Rajon Rondo or Pau Gasol, and Kevin Love was never in play. Still, some teams made smart moves, and some players did not have a good day.

Yes, it’s really too early to know who will be the winners and losers from the trade deadline, but we’re going to do it anyway.

WINNER: Evan Turner and the Indiana Pacers. Indiana rolled the dice here but you have to love a contending team willing to take smart risks to get better. Larry Bird showed some stones with this move. Evan Turner could be a big winner too — and could make himself a lot of money. Indiana shipped out Danny Granger, who since his return from knee surgery was a shadow of his former All-Star self — 8.3 points a game with a true shooting percentage of 49.1. Evan Turner is better scorer right now than Granger — he’s not better from three (although Evans showed a much better touch shooting 36 percent from deep last season) but he is a slashing volume scorer putting up 17 points a game and doing it with a true shooting percentage of 50.4 (below the league average but better than Granger). Turner brings to the Pacers’ second unit the kind of attacking Lance Stephenson brings to the Pacers’ first unit — just not nearly as efficiently. That is the key. Turner has benefited (and inflated his scoring totals) with the fast pace the Sixers play at, but the Pacers are betting he come in and put up numbers off the bench for Indiana. The question is how will he fit the system? Can he be effective when not pounding the rock for seven seconds than driving? Can he work off the ball? Can he defend? Can he play well with C.J. Watson and Luis Scola and blend in as a scorer? If the answer to those questions is yes not only did the already imposing Pacers get better, they got deeper (Lavoy Allen also can add some shooting to the bench). And if he shows he can fit in with a team like this, Turner will make himself more money as a free agent this summer.

LOSER: Thaddeus Young. Evan Turner is competing for a title with the Pacers now. Spencer Hawes is going to Cleveland to get passes from Kyrie Irving and see if he can help lift a team that won six in a row into the playoffs. Thaddeus Young is stuck in Philadelphia without those guys. Young is a proud, professional veteran and this kind of losing and struggling with a young team can’t be fun. Now he gets to do it alone… well except for Danny Granger.

WINNER: Golden State Warriors. Klay Thompson is second in the NBA in total minutes played. Stephen Curry is 15th on that list. That’s a lot of minutes for a guy in Curry with an injury history. Mark Jackson has had to ride his starting backcourt because of a lack of quality guard depth — Steve Blake fixes that. He is rock solid, can play the one and the two, shoots the three ball, plays well in space or in the half court, he is just a top-to-bottom professional guard. Exactly the kind of guy that the Warriors needed. Golden State stumbled before the All-Star break, this is the kind of move they needed.

LOSER: Danny Granger. You can’t feel too bad for a guy in the last year of a $13 million contract, but this had to be emotional and hard for him. Pacers fans on twitter seemed torn — their heads knew this was a smart trade by Larry Bird, but they are still emotionally invested in Danny Granger, and in his comeback. Now he gets ripped out of the place he has ever played as a pro and thrown onto a rebuilding team in Philly. That’s rough.

WINNER: Charlotte Bobcats. Charlotte may not have come into this season looking to make the playoffs, but after their fast start and now as the eight seed in the East, they don’t want to give it up. This move helps that. The Bobcats need floor-spacing shooting — Al Jefferson scores on the block and Kemba Walker is a slasher, but they need shooters and they got one in Gary Neal (36 percent from three this season, 39 percent for his career). Neal will not be asked to play the point and create in Charlotte (which is a good thing for all basketball fans), he just needs to shoot. In addition he has plenty of playoff experience from his time in San Antonio. While Ramon Sessions is a solid guard off the bench, he’s a scoring slasher, he is not a passer. Now the Bobcats bring in a solid, professional backup pure point guard in Luke Ridnour who will orchestrate the second unit. With talent around him he makes good decisions. Charlotte got better with this trade — they are just 1.5 games out of the five seed in the East and they have to look at climbing the ladder now, not worrying about who is behind them (they just swept a home-and-home from the Pistons anyway).

LOSER: Jimmer Fredette. There are just not a lot of Fredette fans in front offices around the NBA. According to reports, the Kings were asking for a second round pick for Fredette and nobody wanted to take that deal. Fredette is making $2.4 million this season and no other team thought that cost and a second pick was worth Fredette, which seems a little bit of a surprise but that is how far his stock has fallen.

WINNER: Andre Miller. Freedom, sweet freedom. He had been banished to Brian Shaw’s dog house in Denver, now he gets a chance in Washington to be the veteran voice in the locker room (along with Nene) and get some quality minutes behind John Wall. Now, Miller is an outspoken veteran and let’s just say not every one of his former players is a big Randy Wittman fan — fireworks are a real possibility — but for now Miller gets to play and be a part of a team again, and that is a win.

LOSER: We the fans. We love trades, we love to play GM and find a way we can get LeBron James and Paul George to our team and all we have to give up is an aging veteran and a case of ankle tape. And in years past we’ve seen some monster trade deadline moves in the NBA. Not the last two years. For one, the new CBA shortened contracts and teams got to amnesty their worst ones, so the day of “take my expiring contract, please” are gone. In addition, teams are hesitant to give up picks both because they like the draft (this year’s in particular but the next couple are also good) and because under the new CBA rookie contracts are important. Also, more and more deals just get done in the summer or earlier in the season (Rudy Gay and Luol Deng this season, for example). I can explain the “why?” That doesn’t make it any more fun — we love big splashy deadline day trades and we haven’t seen those for a couple of years now. And we may not for a while.

Report: Cavaliers GM David Griffin ‘the top candidate’ in Magic’s front-office search

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A week ago, David Griffin was just someone the Magic were researching to run their front office.

It seems the Cavaliers general manager has since moved up in the search.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

For now, Cleveland Cavaliers GM David Griffin remains the top candidate in the Magic’s search, but Orlando hasn’t yet asked for permission to speak with Griffin, largely because of the Cavaliers’ playoff status, sources said.

This could end a couple ways.

Here’s betting Griffin – who has LeBron James‘ endorsement – leverages the Orlando interest into a bigger offer from Cleveland. Griffin was just too integral to the Cavs’ first championship to discard him.

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has shown much more willingness to spend than The Devos Family, which owns the Magic. If this is a bidding war, I’ll take Cleveland. If it isn’t a bidding war, the Cavs have a far more attractive roster than Orlando.

Thunder’s Andre Roberson entering free agency after impactful playoff series

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The Rockets were starting to pull away from the Thunder in Game 5 of their first-round series, and the Houston crowd was looking for a reason to erupt. The Rockets provided one by intentionally fouling Roberson despite holding Oklahoma City without a basket for the previous five minutes. The Thunder wing stepped to the line in the loudening arena and, of course, missed both free throws.

But Roberson didn’t go down quietly.

On the ensuing defensive possession, he picked up James Harden in the backcourt and hounded the Rockets star on the perimeter. Harden passed to Nene, and Roberson doubled the center in the post and stole the ball. Roberson passed to Russell Westbrook then laid out Patrick Beverley with an open-court screen, freeing Westbrook to score.

Of course, that wasn’t enough. Oklahoma City fell in five games, Westbrook’s supporting cast unable to keep up enough with its MVP candidate.

“That’ll definitely be one thing that haunt me, Roberson said of his free-throw shooting against Houston, “and something I’ll work on extremely hard this summer.”

Roberson’s postseason confirmed everything we thought we knew about him: He’s a defensive dynamo, and he can’t shoot.

But understanding Roberson’s skill set is only a small step in evaluating him. Teams are better than ever at exposing perimeter players who can’t shoot, and that makes Roberson’s price point difficult to read as he enters restricted free agency. The Thunder delayed the decision – extending Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo last year while allowing Roberson to complete his rookie-scale contract without an extension – but time is practically up.

For better or worse, it was all there in the playoffs.

Roberson made just 3-of-21 free throws (14%), the worst percentage by anyone with so many attempts in a postseason series (since 1964, as far as Basketball-Reference go back). Here are the worst free-throw percentages in a series since 1964 (minimum: 100 attempts):

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This was hardly out of the norm for Roberson, who made just 42% of his free throws during the regular season.

His postseason 3-point percentage (41%) was way better than his regular-season baseline (25%), but he attempted just 17 3-pointers in 185 playoff minutes. Not only is that a small sample, it speaks to another problem. The Rockets typically left him open, and he was reluctant to shoot. That allowed Houston to defend 5-on-4 elsewhere with only minimal repercussions. Despite playing more than 90% of his minutes with Westbrook, the Thunder still scored worse with Roberson on the court.

So why did Roberson receive such a prominent role in the series?

He’s a defensive stud. Roberson ranks fourth among players who regularly defend opposing guards in defensive real plus-minus:

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Roberson shadowed Harden for too much of the series to gauge on-off splits, but adding regular-season Thunder-Rockets games reveals a clearer (though still limited) picture:

James Harden Roberson on Roberson off
Minutes 320 16
Points per 36 minutes 25.3 51.8
Turnovers per 36 minutes 6.0 0.0
Free-throw attempts per 36 minutes 10.9 22.5
2-point percentage 50.5% 60.0%
3-point percentage 21.1% 60.0%
Effective field-goal percentage 41.9% 75.0%

Harden, arguably the NBA’s best offensive player, was held in relative check with Roberson on the floor. When Roberson sat, Harden went wild.

There has to be a place for a defender like Roberson in this league.

Is it in Oklahoma City?

Roberson was effective in last year’s playoffs as a small-ball big. He cut and crashed the offensive glass. That got harder with two of Adams, Taj Gibson and Enes Kanter occupying the paint. The Thunder maximizing Roberson’s production might mean losing a big man or two. Gibson will be a free agent and said he wants to return. Adams and Kanter are locked into lucrative long-term deals.

When it comes to Roberson, it’s always complicated.

Report: Magic’s search firm inquiring about Larry Bird

AP Photo/Michael Conroy
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Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president.

Not just today, but also in 2012. A year later, he was again running a front office (Indiana’s).

Could he make an even quicker leap back into NBA team presidency – with the Magic?

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This strikes me as more as Orlando’s search firm trying to prove its usefulness than a viable option.

Whether they’re trying to generate excitement, getting used for leverage or actually serious, the Magic keep getting linked to big-name replacements for the fired Rob HenniganDoc Rivers, David Griffin and now Bird. If the Magic are willing to pay major money for name recognition, they could get plenty of people to at least listen. But I’m unconvinced about that spending.

It’d be a little weird for Bird to inherit Frank Vogel, whom Bird fired as the Pacers’ coach. But Bird did everything he could to show that was more about seeking change than losing faith in Vogel.

Report: Larry Bird stepping down as Pacers president

AP Photo/Darron Cummings
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Larry Bird put his stamp on the Pacers in the last year –  firing Frank Vogel and trading for Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young to join hand-picked Monta Ellis and Myles Turner as Paul George‘s supporting cast on an up-tempo, offensively dynamic team.

The plan fell flat.

Indiana played at a below-average pace and produced a middling offense. The Pacers got swept by the Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.

Now, Indiana’s uncertain future – with Paul George a year from free agency and the Lakers courting – gets even more chaotic.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Bird had already resigned once as Pacers president, in 2012. He returned the following year.

Bird’s patience and pain tolerance for the job due to lingering back issues from his playing days has long seemed to waver. I wouldn’t write him off for good.

Indiana promoted Kevin Pritchard in 2012, when Bird previously stepped down. Pritchard previously worked as the Trail Blazers’ general manager, and he’s a qualified replacement.

The work begins immediately with a decision on George. If he doesn’t make an All-NBA team, the Pacers won’t gain as much financial advantage in his contract offer. That could open the door to a trade and rebuilding around Turner — or making a last-ditch push to convince George he can win in Indiana.