Dwight Howard reportedly traded to Lakers

Is the soap opera finally over? It looks like the Los Angeles Lakers are finally getting Dwight Howard as part of a 4-team deal:

The Lakers will send All-Star center Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers, who also will receive shooting guard Jason Richardson from the Orlando Magic. The Sixers will send guard Andre Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets. The Magic will receive Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, rookie swingman Moe Harkless and three first-round draft picks.

Earlier reports that Pau Gasol would be part of the deal didn’t materialize.

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Why did the Rockets trade for Kevin Martin?

Richard Justice (of the Houston Chronicle) wrote an interesting piece about the Kevin Martin trade and the immediate aftermath. He discusses Martin’s tough start, how the Rockets almost traded for Amare Stoudemire and how Martin settled in in his 33-point performance against the Spurs.

According to Morey’s evaluations, Martin has been one of the NBA’s most efficient scorers in the last 30 years. He’s the only player who has shot 40 percent from the beyond 3-point line and averaged eight made free-throws a game in the course of an entire season. And he has done it in two of his six NBA seasons.

Basketball-Reference.com confirms that Martin is the only player in league history to average better than 40% from 3PT and make at least eight free throws per game. And he did it twice.

Dirk Nowitzki shot 39.9% from long range and averaged 7.9 made free throws in 2004-05. Tracy McGrady (02-03), Corey Maggette (07-08) and Kevin Durant (current) all shot 38%+ from long range with at least 7.7 made free throws per game. That’s the closest anyone has come to matching Martin’s feat.

When you think about it, it’s pretty impressive. Not only is Martin an elite three-point shooter, he is also able to get to the line with regularity. No wonder Morey considers him one of the best scorers in the game.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Warriors trade Belinelli

In a small but somewhat strange move, the Golden State Warriors have traded Marco Belinelli for Devean George.

Belinelli, 23, played sparingly as a rookie and at the start of last season, but other injuries forced the Warriors to play him consistently and he had a 13-game stretch where he averaged 16 points and shot better than 50 percent in eight of those games. He also made 46 of his last 113 3-point attempts (40.7 percent.).

Other than maybe being in Don Nelson’s doghouse, I can’t think of a reason why the Warriors would make this trade. Devean George is 31 and has a career average of 5.6 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. His PER hasn’t been above 10 in the last three years and it has never been above 12 in his entire career. Why give up a prospect like Belinelli, who showed some promise in his rookie season? In 15 games in December, he averaged 14.1 points, 3.2 assists and 2.6 rebounds, and shot 38% from long range. His overall shooting percentage (44%) wasn’t bad for a rookie off guard.

George’s contract is expiring this year, but the Warriors had a team option on Belinelli next summer that they didn’t have to exercise. Golden State is projected to be over the cap, so Belinelli’s 2010 salary ($2.4 million) would have cost the team almost $4.8 million with the luxury tax. I guess they just decided to cut bait.

This is a head-scratcher.

In a surprise, the Hornets swap Chandler for Okafor

They tried to dump him last season, but by willing to take on some salary, the Hornets are going to turn Tyson Chandler into Emeka Okafor.

That represents a striking departure from the Hornets’ recent cost-conscious efforts to move Chander.

The Hornets initially dealt Chandler to Oklahoma City days before the league’s annual trading deadline in February for the then-expiring contracts of Chris Wilcox and Joe Smith, only for the Thunder to rescind the trade 24 hours later because of concerns about Chandler’s long-standing toe problems.

The widespread belief around the league at the time and then during New Orleans’ subsequent discussions with Phoenix about swapping Chandler for the expiring contract of Ben Wallace — which Phoenix has since bought out — held that New Orleans was only interested in shedding Chandler’s contract in exchange for an expiring deal to create payroll relief.

Swapping Chandler (due to earn $11.7 next season) for Okafor ($10.6 million) will save the Hornets just over $1 million next season and cost them an extra $40-plus million over the final three years of Okafor’s deal if the 26-year-old exercises his $14.5 million option for the 2013-14 season. Chandler has just one year left on his contract after this season at $12.6 million.

This deal hasn’t been formally announced, but if it goes through, the Hornets look to be getting the better end of the trade. Okafor is no Pau Gasol, but he provides a little more offensive punch than Chandler. He has averaged a double-double for five straight seasons, and has improved his field goal accuracy from 45% in his rookie season to 56% last year.

Chandler’s play was lacking last season, mostly because a foot injury limited his explosiveness. After he failing the Thunder’s physical, one wonders if he’ll ever be the same again. The Bobcats are probably doing this to get out from underneath Okafor’s contract, which runs another five years at the tune of $62 million. While that’s a somewhat reasonable price for a good center, Okafor doesn’t have the offensive skills to justify that contract. He’ll bring some defense and toughness, however, which should help the Hornets stay competitive.

With a declining Chandler and Peja Stojakovic’s out-of-control contract, New Orleans looked to be in a tough spot, but this just goes to show that if you’re willing to spend in this economy, you can acquire some talent. If Okafor works out and the Hornets gel, they’ll be back in the thick of things in the West.

Take my overpaid star…please!

Memphis GM Gerald Wallace took a lot of heat for trading Pau Gasol to the Lakers. But if we’ve learned anything in the past few days, it’s that Wallace was simply a man ahead of his time.

On Tuesday, we learned that the Bucks agreed to trade Richard Jefferson to the Spurs for Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas and Amir Johnson. (Fabricio Oberto was part of the original deal, but San Antonio sent him to Detroit for Johnson, who was then sent to Milwaukee.)

Regular readers know I’m a Bucks fan, and I spent the last couple of days grumbling on the Sports Bubbler message boards about how we didn’t get anything in return for Jefferson, who is still a pretty good player. When Wallace traded away Gasol, at least he got Javaris Crittenton (who was considered a prospect with upside at the time) and Pau’s brother, Marc, who turned out to be a productive center for the Grizzlies.

Then I wake up today to see that the Cavs and Suns have agreed to go through with that long-rumored trade that will send Shaq to Cleveland for salary cap relief. Who do the Suns get in return? A retiree (Ben Wallace), a bench player with a partially guaranteed contract (Sasha Pavlovic), some cash and a second round pick.

This is the going rate for a Third Team All-NBA center these days.

We knew that this summer had the potential to be a rough one for free agents, but it’s a little surprising to see that good players like O’Neal and Jefferson could be had for virtually nothing. Bucks owner Herb Kohl and Suns owner Robert Sarver realize that their clubs aren’t legitimate contenders, so they don’t see the point in paying the luxury tax just for the privilege of being knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. What kind of an effect these moves have on season ticket purchases remains to be seen.

The bottom line is that if a team is willing to spend, there has never been a better time to acquire talent. You’re not going to get someone like Caron Butler, who plays for a (pretend) contender and has a reasonable contract, but you can get Jefferson, who is overpaid and is on a mediocre team that is up against the luxury tax. And the older the player, the more likely he’s available. Teams aren’t going to give up good players that are in their early- or mid-twenties because the plan is to rebuild before they’re over the hill.

So who might be on the move for a bag of peanuts and some salary cap flexibility? How about Tracy McGrady, Baron Davis, Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby, Vince Carter, Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire, Jermaine O’Neal, Michael Redd, Ray Allen or Rip Hamilton?

Truth be told, a team like the Suns isn’t going to give the youngish Stoudemire away for cap flexibility alone. But as the price of a star goes down, the price of superstar goes down as well.

It promises to be an interesting summer.

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