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Trading Places

Nov. 09, 1992
Nov. 09, 1992

Table of Contents
Nov. 9, 1992

Steelers-Oilers
NBA Preview 1992-93
NBA Scouting Reports '92-93

Trading Places

Want to trade a Person for a Pooh? Too late. That deal-along with many others-was consummated during one of the NBA's busiest off-seasons ever

All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.
—WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS
Easter, 1916

This is an article from the Nov. 9, 1992 issue Original Layout

Whether or not Charles Barkley proves to be a terrible beauty for the folks in Phoenix remains to be seen, but this much is certain: The Suns have changed, changed utterly. As have the Boston Celtics, the Indiana Pacers, the Los Angeles Clippers and the New York Knicks. And, to a lesser extent, so have the Detroit Pistons, the Portland Trail Blazers, the San Antonio Spurs, the Utah Jazz and even the defending two-time champion Chicago Bulls. All of these teams reached the playoffs last year, yet all decided to shake things up to one degree or another for the 1992-93 season. Four clubs that did not qualify for postseason play—the Dallas Mavericks, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Philadelphia 76ers—made wholesale changes too.

Rarely have so many teams done so much with so many. Moreover, some of the changes involved such high-profile players as future Hall of Famer Barkley; four-time All-Star Rolando Blackman; one-time All-Stars Danny Ainge, Jeff Hornacek and Xavier McDaniel; solid veterans Jay Humphries and Glenn (Doc) Rivers; off-court-trouble guys Rod Strickland and Dale Ellis; and two of the NBA's major gourmands, Stanley Roberts and John (Hot Plate) Williams.

There were several other stars—including Derrick McKey, Hakeem Olajuwon, Gary Payton and Detlef Schrempf—whose names were tossed around in off-season trade talks, and it's still very possibile that the Mavericks' Derek Harper, perhaps the best player in the league never to have been an All-Star, will be dealt. "I feel I fielded more calls about major-type things over the summer than ever before," says Sacramento King general manager Jerry Reynolds, who nevertheless did not make any big moves.

The best thing about the recent spate of trades and free-agent signings is that they came during an era of timidity. According to team executives, huge multiyear contracts and the burden of the salary cap had restricted the movement of players in the past few years. So what changed? Perhaps risk-taking is back in vogue. No one is happier to see deals going down than executives in the league offices, who have had to listen to endless complaints about salary-cap restrictions. "I've said all along, trading is cyclical," says NBA vice-president and general counsel Gary Bettman, who spends much of his day dealing with salary-cap matters. "The cap is always used as an excuse not to make a deal. But if teams want to deal, they'll deal."

So why did NBA teams suddenly decide to deal? No single reason. The raising of the salary cap from $12.5 million to $14 million last June was certainly a factor (teams whose payrolls are below the cap have more flexibility in trades), especially since the cap, which increases in proportion to league revenues, had gone up only $629,000 before the 1991-92 season. Changes in the ranks of coaches and general managers—nine teams have new coaches and four have new general managers this season—have had an effect too. New coaches want new blood, and they tend to look for their own type of players. It's possible, for example, that the Barkley deal wouldn't have happened if Doug Moe hadn't taken over in Philadelphia; one look at Barkley's uneven efforts in films of last season's games persuaded Moe that he didn't want him on his team. At the same time the elevation of Paul Westphal from assisant to head coach in Phoenix was a factor in the Suns' decision to pull the trigger.

Pacer president Donnie Walsh had dangled Chuck Person in front of the league plenty of times before, but he didn't find a taker until "Trader" Jack McCloskey left Detroit for the general manager's job in Minnesota. New York president Dave Checketts and coach Pat Riley took a year to assess the Knicks, but they obviously had change in mind when they went to the Big Apple in 1991. And Milwaukee's signing of new coach Mike Dunleavy—to an eight-year contract that gives him control over the Bucks' personnel decisions—is the main reason fans will need a scorecard to follow the action at the Bradley Center this season.

Some good teams made changes because they needed to become better to have any chance of dethroning the Bulls, who are still a lap ahead of the pack. Put Phoenix, Portland and Utah in that category. And an important event—Larry Bird's retirement on Aug. 18—forced Boston into a major move, the signing of McDaniel as a free agent in September.

The Bulls waived guard Craig Hodges, a three-point specialist, and did not try to retain two of their free agents, forward Cliff Levingston and guard Bobby Hansen. True, none of these players started, but each had been at one time or another a part of coach Phil Jackson's substitution rotation. Also, Levingston was the guy who shouted to the Bulls, "What time is it?" before they clambered up the stairs at Chicago Stadium. (Answer: "Game time!") Being the strong and silent type, new acquisition Rodney McCray won't play that role for the Bulls.

Rating trades can be risky business. If Barkley goes down in a heap with a knee injury, suddenly the Suns made a giant mistake. If Hot Plate can lose another 25 pounds—O.K., another 50 pounds—suddenly the Clippers, who got him from the Washington Bullets for rookie Don MacLean and the subsequently released William Bedford, look like geniuses. But barring an unusual turn of events, like Williams getting into shape, its not all that tough to pick the winners and losers in these trades.

The Barkley deal (page 66) is a winner for Phoenix. The Sixers sent him to the Suns in exchange for guard Hornacek, center Andrew Lang and forward Tim Perry. Barkley, who will have a much stronger supporting cast in Phoenix than he did in Philly, can now show that he's a banner-carrier as well as a headline-maker. Generally, quantity doesn't beat quality in an NBA trade. To wit: The Los Angeles Lakers clearly got the best of the 1975 blockbuster that took Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from Milwaukee to L.A. in return for Junior Bridgeman, David Meyers, Elmore Smith and Brian Winters. This is not to suggest that the Barkley deal will have that kind of long-term impact on the league's balance of power—Sir Charles is, after all, pushing 30—but Barkley will take the Suns to the 1993 Finals. Write it down.

That doesn't necessarily mean that trading Barkley was a mistake for the Sixers, though Lord knows, their owner Harold Katz has made enough of them over the years. Barkley had to get out of Philadelphia for the sake of everyone, especially the teammates he had verbally busted. Last season Katz tried to make what would have been a better deal (Barkley to the Clippers for Bo Kimble, Ken Norman, Charles Smith and a draft pick), but Los Angeles coach Larry Brown nixed it. So Katz rolled the dice with Phoenix. However, Philly's new additions have not gotten off to auspicious starts. Perry has so far played below par; Lang missed most of the preseason with a stress fracture of his left fibula; and Hornacek, the prize of the package for the Sixers, has had trouble (so has everyone else) adapting to the Moetion offense.

In a trade it's easy to overrate the potential impact of a player. The Knicks, for example, have gotten high praise for landing the Clippers' Smith, along with Rivers and Kimble, in exchange for point guard Mark Jackson and a No. 1 draft choice in a three-way deal that also involved the Orlando Magic. Spur coach Jerry Tarkanian was flabbergasted by that trade. "How do you get a potential All-Star [Smith] for a first-round draft pick?" he asked, incredulously. "I thought Charles Smith would be worth three first-round picks. That's absolutely amazing."

Typical rookie mistake, Tark—don't overrate a player's potential. Smith might become an All-Star, and then again he might not. Still, you have to give the Clippers credit for trying, although they may have gotten the second coming of Benoit Benjamin in the 300-pound Roberts, Orlando's contribution to the deal. And Jackson, who also landed in L.A., hasn't recently shown that he can be consistent over a full season.

The Magic comes up a winner in the deal. It lost next to nothing, because Roberts would not have been content to play the role of caddie to No. 1 draft pick Shaquille O'Neal over the next decade. And what Orlando gained—a 1993 or '94 first-rounder from the Clippers and a '93 first-rounder from the Knicks—will yield exactly what it needs: young talent.

The Knicks may have done even better with their other important acquisition, Blackman, whom they got in a trade with Dallas for a future first-rounder. Though Riley underplays the notion, Blackman, 33, is just the kind of player—talented, though near the end of his career—a team obtains when it thinks it is about to win a championship. However, you may have noticed that Blackman missed the entire preseason with back spasms. By unloading Blackman, the Mavericks made room for their highly touted rookie, Jim Jackson, the fourth pick in the draft. One thing's for sure: Jackson has a good shooting-guard model to follow in Dallas, a guy by the name of Blackman.

Another veteran shooting guard made Utah a winner in the trading derby. On many teams Humphries's status as a 'tweener (not quite a point guard, not quite a shooting guard) would present a dilemma, but he (its perfectly with the Jazz because he can spell cither John Stockton or Jeff Malone in the backcourt. There's nothing special about the K, power forward Larry Krystkowiak, who went to Salt Lake City from Milwaukee along with Humphries, but he is a feisty player who might take some of the enforcing pressure off technical-foul specialist (19 last year) Karl Malone.

In proven swingman Blue Edwards and second-year guard Eric Murdock, the Bucks got from the Jazz, respectively, a proven starter and a potential starter.

The Pacers went for addition by subtraction when they unloaded Person, along with respected point guard Micheal Williams, on the Timberwolves for guard Pooh Richardson and forward Sam Mitchell. Indiana wanted to see how it would get along without all the baggage that Person brings to the arena along with his jumper. As for the T-wolves, hey, why not? Pooh had been whiney (not Winnie) in Minnesota, and Person will put more points on the board for the fifth-lowest-scoring team in the NBA last season.

The Celtics need a lot of everything to replace Bird—a scorer, a rebounder, an assist-maker, a defender and a trash-talker. Landing McDaniel, a low-post scorer and a tough guy who might respond to Celtic tradition, was a good move. The Knicks, who didn't want the X-Man to exit, felt they were betrayed by McDaniel's agent, David Falk (page 88). However, New York scrambled and got Tony Campbell from Minnesota at the lire-sale price of a second-round draft pick.

Speaking of fire sales, the Cavs will pay their new free agent, ex-Knick guard Gerald Wilkins, only $500,000 this season and $650,000 in 1993-94. Wilkins could have signed a three-year deal with New York for about $4.2 million, but he overestimated his worth (New York players tend to do that) and went for free agency. Bad move. If Wilkins accepts the job he was acquired to perform—something to do with defending against a certain bald Windy-City superstar—he could still be a happy camper.

That state of mind describes—so far, anyway—Ainge, now with the Suns. He's on a winning team, he's guaranteed plenty of playing time, he can get in a lot of golf, and Barkley will make him laugh a lot. The Trail Blazers didn't meet Ainge's demand for a three-year deal, deciding instead to acquire the younger Strickland (26, to Ainge's 33) for some spark off the bench. The Spurs had had enough of the recalcitrant Strickland, although they signed, ostensibly to take Strickland's place, a young man whose past makes Strickland's history look pristine: Lloyd Daniels, who, among his other peccadilloes, got himself shot during a dispute over a crack buy in 1989.

And just to make sure that Tarkanian has an interesting rookie season, the Spurs obtained Ellis, who moved to Milwaukee in a three-way deal that also involved Portland. Milwaukee got center Alaa Abdelnaby, while the Blazers got San Antonio's rights to rookie forward Tracy Murray. Ellis has an upside his deadly outside shooting—but it has become increasingly obscured by his off-the-court difficulties, including being convicted in 1990 of drunken and reckless driving. Abdelnaby? Look for him at the very top of the Buck roster...alphabetically. This deal will have a substantial impact only if Murray proves to be a big-time jump-shooter and gives the talent-rich Blazers yet another weapon off the bench.

Firepower in reserve is exactly what Chicago got in McCray, in a three-way exchange involving Dallas and the Golden State Warriors. The Mavs received Golden State's 1993 first-round pick and two conditional second-round picks from the Bulls, while the Warriors ended up with rookie forward Byron Houston, Chicago's first-round draft pick. Here's the only question that matters in this deal: Is the 31-year-old McCray finished, or can he help Chicago? Three seasons ago, in Sacramento, McCray averaged 16.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists. If he gets half those numbers this season, the deal will be worthwhile for the Bulls, who hope McCray stays healthy enough to contribute on a regular basis.

One final note: A deal that would have sent Orlando's Greg Kite—late of the Celtics, Clippers, Charlotte Hornets and Kings—to the Houston Rockets for two second-round picks was nixed because Kite failed the Rockets' physical.

Some guys you just can't get rid of.

View this article in the original magazine

PHOTOAL MESSERSCHMIDT (SALLEY)JOHN SALLEY
Forward/Center
PHOTOALLEN EINSTEIN (ELLIS)DALE ELLIS
Guard/Forword
PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (RIVERS)DOC RIVERS
Guard
PHOTODUANE BURLESON (MILLS)TERRY MILLS
Forward
PHOTODAVID LIAM KYLE (WILKINS)GERALD WILKINS
Guard
PHOTOMANNY MILLAN (AINGE)DANNY AINGE
Guard
PHOTONATHANIEL BUTLER (PERSON)CHUCK PERSON
Forward
PHOTOANDREW D. BERNSTEIN (ROBERTS)STANLEY ROBERTS
center
PHOTONATHANIEL BUTLER (WIILLIAMS)MICHEAL WIILLIAMS
Guard
PHOTOANDREW D. BERNSTEIN (JACKSON)MARK JACKSON
Guard
PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (MCDANIEL)XAVIER MCDANIEL
Forward
PHOTONATHANIEL BUTLER (CAMPBELL)TONY CAMPBELL
Guard/Forword
PHOTOBRIAN DRAKE (STRICKLAND)ROD STRICKLAND
Guard
PHOTOBILL FRAKES (MCCRAY)RODNEY MCCRAY
Forward
PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (HORNACEK)JEFF HORNACEK
Guard
PHOTOTIM O'DELL (RICHARDSON)POOH RICHARDSON
Guard
PHOTOANDREW D. BERNSTEIN (MOE)DOUG MOE
Coach
PHOTOBILL BAPTIS (BROOKS)SCOTT BROOKS
Guard
PHOTOJOHN BIEVER (EDWARDS)BLUE EDWARDS
Guard/Forward
PHOTOANDREW D. BRENSTEIN (VANDEWEGHE)KIKI VANDEWEGHE
Forward
PHOTONATHANIEL BUTLER (BLACKMAN)ROLANDO BLACKMAN
Guard
PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (POLYNICE)OLDEN POLYNICE
Center
PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (PERRY)TIM PERRY
Forward
PHOTOMANNY MILLAN (BARKLEY)CHARLES BARKLEY
Forward
TWENTY FOUR ILLUSTRATIONSLAURIE ROSENAWLD

All My Bags Are Packed

In this season of change, these are some of the significant players and coaches who have moved to new digs.

NAME, POSITION

TO

FROM

REASON

SKINNY

Danny Ainge, G

Suns

Blazers

Free agent

Free-shooting sub

Scott Brooks, G

Rockets

Timberwolves

Trade

Protects the ball

Tony Campbell, G/F

Knicks

Timberwolves

Trade

19.3 ppg last 2 seasons

Chuck Daly, coach

Nets

Pistons

Two NBA titles

Blue Edwards, G/F

Bucks

Jazz

Trade

Ready to blossom

Dale Ellis, G/F

Spurs

Bucks

Trade

41.9% 3-pt. shooter*

Jeff Hornacek, G

76ers

Suns

Trade

20.1 ppg*

Jay Humphries, G

Jazz

Bucks

Trade

Two-way guard

Mark Jackson, G

Clippers

Knicks

Trade

8.6 assist average *

Andrew Lang, C

76ers

Suns

Trade

6.7 rpg*

Rodney McCray, F

Bulls

Mavericks

Trade

Class act on and off court

Xavier McDaniel, F

Celtics

Knicks

Free agent

19.1 ppg for career

Terry Mills, F

Pistons

Nets

Free agent

Sizable bench presence

Doug Moe, coach

76ers

Nuggets

'87-88 Coach of Year

Tim Perry, F

76ers

Suns

Trade

Worth watching

Chuck Person, F

Timberwolves

Pacers

Trade

18.5ppg*

Olden Polynice, C

Pistons

Clippers

Trade

Another nasty

Pooh Richardson, G

Pacers

Timberwolves

Trade

8.4 assist average*

Doc Rivers, G

Knicks

Clippers

Trade

Court smarts

Stanley Roberts, C

Clippers

Magic

Trade

Must watch weight

John Salley, F/C

Heat

Pistons

Trade

52.1 % career shooter

Charles Smith, F/C

Knicks

Clippers

Trade

18.4 ppg for career

Rod Strickland, G

Blazers

Spurs

Free agent

Could help or hurt

Trent Tucker, G

Bulls

Spurs

Free agent

Aging 3-pt. specialist

Kiki Vandeweghe, F

Clippers

Knicks

Free agent

Over the hill

Gerald Wilkins, G

Cavaliers

Knicks

Free agent

Jordanbuster

John Williams, F

Clippers

Bullets

Trade

Suspended, overweight*

Micheal Williams, G

Timberwolves

Pacers

Trade

8.2 assist average*

*in '91-92