Trade Danny Granger!!!
Ok. Before we start all the rhetoric about how we can't trade our "best player" for scraps. Hear me out.
Danny has been a trooper for the most part. I don't care about his "bulletin board" quotes. Those showed heart and leadership. The guy can straight shoot the lights out...when he's hot. For all the hate about him being a one trick pony offensively; even though he can only go right, he gets to the line enough to almost make up for it and has a knack for getting buckets that surprise us fans every now and then.
None the less, he's going to be getting paid nearly "star money", for well under "star production" the next two seasons. This makes him a little harder to trade. But, this should also make it easier to take back little more than a marginal role player and late lotto pick if it also means cap space.
I've been incredibly impressed with this team and I hate to see them take a step back. However, I think we have a window opening up. The Heat aren't going to get any better and we really had them where we wanted them (if only we could've scored some tough points late). There's no way that Lebron keeps knocking down defended 20 foot step back jumpers and Wade keeps hitting crazy slop shots. Look at the Boston series. They had their best games against the Pacers. No other team in the East looks poised to surpass them. Should we maintain status quo as the undisputed 3rd or 4th best team? Or take a quick step back to take two steps forward?
We need a star (or at least a facsimile of a star) that can create his own shot and make others better while defending his position. So, what's the solution? Meet me after the jump.
I present to you: JAMES HARDEN
I really don't see how they can keep him. He's not a free agent until next off-season. But that gives us something that many teams lack. Time to plan.
OKC already has Durrant and Westbrook taking 39 shots per game. Harden is not the "perfect" fit for our team. But, he's 99% perfect. We need someone who can create their own shot and create for others. Someone who's energetic, but composed and reliable. Even though he's not the "athlete" that some players are, he's got the smarts to efficiently score 20ppg and dish 5+ assists per game from the 2 guard spot. He would allow us the luxury of having a less than complete Point like Hill running the starting minutes at the 1 guard, while still keeping the offense in motion.
How could OKC let him go next off-season? Here's how. Between Durrant and Westbrook's max salary alone, they have just under $34mil. committed for 2013-14. Perkins is under contract for over $8mil. (over $9mil. in 2014-15) Sefolosha and Nick Collison combined $5.5mil. in 2013-14 is worth retaining for what they provide. With that group, they have virtually no interior defensive presence. So, I'd have to assume that Ibaka gets his $10mil. next off-season (we'll say $9.5mil. though I could see him getting more than that from other teams). That's $46mil. they have committed to those 6 players. That's not a complete team. They could still throw Harden his Max deal with Bird rights. That would put them at $69-$70mil. Already well above luxury tax. But, then they have at least 6 more roster spots to fill. Even if they just use league min. players for that, we are talking a base salary of around $76mil. and a luxury tax total of well over $90mil. (probably much, MUCH more with the new "super-tax"...but I don't feel like doing the math).
That's a ton of money to pay for this team.
That's still probably a a favorite for the title. But, the salaries will keep getting bigger for their 4 studs. With luxury tax money that's probably $100mil. in salary by 2014-15 season...and then you start losing depth after that with Perkins, Collison, and Sefolosha up for new deals. I'd say to make that economically viable (just to break even) OKC would probably have to start charging $1,200 for courtside, $350 for all lower level, $200ish for club level, and $50 for nose bleeds. In a market slightly smaller than Indy's.
Not going to happen.
So, could we hang our hats on getting Harden? Not entirely. But, if we play our cards right, sure. If Hibbert maintains. West maintains. Paul George improves. George Hill maintains, but also gets a little better at running the point. And we get some solid pieces with our two picks in this year's draft (you have to assume that we'd get a top 20 pick for Granger). Where else would Harden be better off going?
So let's say OKC makes moves to keep Harden. Let's say they let Ibaka walk (they're still going to be paying a little luxury tax). Well, then they'd be stupid, but I think Ibaka would be worth $10-$11mil. to fill out the best front court in the league with Hibbert and perhaps West if we are inclined to retain him. OR...they could figure out a way to retain Harden AND Ibaka (Durrant goes no where). That means they are trading Westbrook. Well....we'd have the cap space to absorb him (nothing they'd need more than cap space in that scenario) and we'd have some draft picks and maybe a solid player as well. I'd be ok with this clown running our point and doing just about everything else we need.
And if none of that worked out. We'd probably be a couple playoff losses lighter in the long tun. But we'd also have a top 15ish drafted player from this year's draft and cap space to spend elsewhere. Who knows...maybe we'd hang on to it next summer and wait it out until Danny is a free agent again....hahaha.
Just a thought. I'm not even going to post specific trade proposals for Danny....but take a look at any team picking between 8 and 20 that has the cap space to absorb or one year contracts to send back and you have all the options you need to play with. If they pick later than 10 I'd demand a future protected 1st back as well.
I'll wait until I get some hate mail replies to this...but will probably post some more specific scenarios. Who knows. I might be way off base. It is late after all.