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The Eastern Conference At The Deadline

Thursday at the NBA trade deadline, we saw a total of 26 players, seven second round draft picks, and zero blockbuster trades. On Friday, we covered how the 10 players that ended up on West teams will shape the playoff race, and now we are looking at the 16 that were sent to the D-League…whoops, I meant the Eastern Conference.

While the Western teams made a few smart, calculated trades to improve depth (Steve Blake to the Warriors) and cut costs (possible buyout for Jason Terry from the Kings), the East had the biggest deals of the deadline. The East deals included the only two All-Stars dealt (Antawn Jamison and Danny Granger), the two best players (Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes), and the smartest player (Professor Andre Miller, PhD).

The Brooklyn Nets traded their disappointing – but playoff tested – guard, Jason Terry, for the Sacramento Kings' disappointing – and never played in a playoff game – guard, Marcus Thorton. Thorton, who once averaged 21.3 points per game, is a solid sixth man and capable of scoring in bunches when needed though he has struggled badly this season. He will likely provide relief for Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson down the stretch of the season. However, adding his extra $730,000 in salary means paying a ridiculous $3.3 million in tax, bringing their total to over $88 million on taxes alone…for a team that won’t get out of the first round.

The Cleveland Cavaliers traded for 76ers' center, Spencer Hawes. He will likely anchor their team right to where they were destined to be before they traded for him…the lottery. Hawes is a talented 7-footer who leads all centers in three-pointers made and percentage, is an elite passer for his position, a good scorer and rebounder, and a capable body on defense when he cares. Forced to play on a hapless Philadelphia team, Hawes had no reason to try over the past few months, but as he heads into free agency this offseason, expect his production to go back up for the Cavs. Despite the addition of Hawes and recently acquired Luol Deng, this team is unfortunately still coached by Mike Brown, suggesting they are likely doomed to miss the playoffs and then ultimately lose Hawes and Deng to free agency for nothing.

Professor Andre Miller, PhD left his classroom for winter break on December 30th and has been M.I.A. ever since. However, after being traded to the Washington Wizards, you can rest assured Professor Miller will be making a teaching once again. Miller, who was restless under indecisive rookie head coach Brian Shaw will be a capable backup behind John Wall, likely helping lead this Wizards team to homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The Charlotte Bobcats made a good deal at the trade deadline. Say it with me: “The Bobcats did something right.” They traded valuable but redundant point guard, Ramon Sessions to the Milwaukee Bucks along with Jeff Adrian for Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal. Ridnour is a terrific backup point guard who can play behind or with Kemba Walker, while Neal is an outstanding shooter who won an NBA Finals game last season by scoring 24 points in 25 minutes!

In the only move that might affect the NBA Finals this season, the Pacers trading former All-Star forward, Danny Granger to the 76ers for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen. Turner is a do-it-all forward who has fallen out of favor league-wide because he has failed to live up to the hype of a second overall pick. Turner should play with the first unit as well as anchor the second for the Pacers. His ball handling will allow George Hill, Paul George and CJ Watson to get free and take uncontested shots while giving them insurance –albeit expensive at an $8.7 million qualifying offer or whatever long-term offer he receives – in case Lance Stephenson leaves in free agency. Additionally, Allen started in the playoffs only two seasons ago and is a capable big man off the bench. Most importantly, Larry “The Legend” Bird signed off on this trade, thus, it must be great.

The last set of trades involved the Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers and the Atlanta Hawks. Each team gave up players that weren’t part of their future and received cash, second round draft picks, and laundry service for a year in exchange for helping another team out. The Heat traded Roger Mason Jr. and cash for a pick they will likely never see in order to open a roster spot for Caron Butler (Tuff Juice wants to go home!). The 76ers, who were involved in a league-high four deals during the trade deadline ended up with five second round draft picks and five players that won’t be buying property in Philadelphia. Finally, the Hawks acquired Antawn Jamison from the Clippers and enough cash to take him out to a nice dinner before buying out his contract.

Compared to the four West teams that made a deadline deal, eight of the top ten Eastern franchises made a deal with only Chicago and Detroit remaining inactive. Whether this reflects the fragility of the Eastern Conference standings (5th place through 11th is separated by just 5.5 games), or the strength of the mighty teams in the West (3rd place in the East would be 10th in the West) is anyone’s guess. With that said, all these moves outside of Indiana and Miami are moot because none of them are making the Eastern Conference Finals.

Indiana Pacers Vs. Miami Heat, Round III starts May 20th – Get ready, America!

The Seriousness Of John Wall's Pursuit Of Playoff Bid For Wizards

When John Wall entered the NBA, he was known more for his ability to dance the “Dougie” than his ability to play basketball. He started doing what is now considered the “John Wall Dance” at midnight madness during his time at the University of Kentucky. The John Wall Dance carried into his NBA rookie year with his introduction into the Washington Wizards line-up in 2010.

The NBA has been waiting for Wall to grow-up, stop dancing, and lead the Washington Wizards to the playoffs. Finally on December 30, as the Wizards reached .500 with a comeback win over the Detroit Pistons, Wall scored nine points in the fourth quarter and poised himself to lead the Wizards back to the playoffs.

Wall is not the first NBA athlete that has learned that more emphasis has to be placed on playing the sport than dancing on the court in order to win at a championship level.

LeBron James, while playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, danced so much that many wondered if he would ever win a NBA Championship. His pre-game routine with his teammates were more entertaining than most of their games. James received his revelation when he began playing with the Miami Heat and it became visibly evident that he was dancing less and winning more. It is not necessarily less dancing that led to more winning, but James’ acknowledgement that he needed to bring a seriousness toward the game. In shifting his non-verbal communication cues from playful and carefree to intense and meticulous, James conveyed to his team that winning a championship was his priority.

Wall appears to have reached an intersection in his career where he can choose to continue dancing on the court, or veer toward a path of more meaningful and productive communication. Averaging 20 points and 9 assists per game puts Wall in a position to be viewed as an effective player, but in order to be considered a team leader Wall’s will need to do more than just score.  

An NBA league source contends that Wall has an opportunity to lead the Wizards to the playoffs by “showing maturity as a player and understanding playing both ends of the floor as hard as he can will show great leadership to his team. Also understanding the maturity it takes to hold himself and teammates accountable.” But great leadership comes from great and effective leaders.

Effective leaders are individuals with a vision, and they are able to effectively communicate that vision to others, both inside and outside of an organization. Using their vision as the focal point, they unite a team into a cohesive group working toward a specific goal. In this particular case, the goal is to win enough games to enter the playoffs. Wall needs to realize that performing well on the court and displaying effective and productive non-verbal communication cues are critical elements of being a great leader. The million dollar question is whether John Wall understands what it takes to lead his team to the playoffs. Wall must have a firm commitment to his team and a clear understanding that non-verbal communication cues, such as pre-game dancing, impact performance on the court; not only his performance, but that of his team.

The Bright Spotlight: Washington Wizards

This is the first installment of a new series highlighting the rays of hope for fans of non-contending or fringe playoff teams. 

With the acquisition of Marcin Gortat (first cast as Dwight Howard’s backup with the Orlando Magic, then as a starter for a Phoenix Suns' franchise with seemingly no direction), the Washington Wizards are looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. After five straight seasons of less than 30 wins each, Ernie Grunfeld might finally have the pieces to do so. Spoiler Alert: Gandalf isn’t one of them. 

In July, No. 1 pick of the 2010 NBA Draft and human cheetah John Wall signed a max contract extension worth $80 million. The frontcourt is solidified with Nene (signed through the 2015-16 season) and the aforementioned Gortat (likely to be re-signed since Washington also sent over a top-12 protected 2014 first round draft pick in the Emeka Okafor trade to get him, a good indicator that he factors into their long-term plans). The remaining pieces will need to develop into legitimate players for this team to make a postseason run, but the future is encouraging. 

Bradley Beal

The second-year shooting guard is looking to take the next step after a very successful rookie campaign, which included a selection to the 2013 NBA All Rookie First-Team and a Wizards franchise record for most three-pointers made by a rookie (91, in only 56 games!). After averaging over 20 points per game this preseason, Beal is only feeding the hype machine. Wall and Beal seem to fit together effortlessly, given Wall’s ability to penetrate and Beal’s sweet stroke. The pair is unquestionably one of the best young backcourts in the league.   

Otto Porter

Some may suggest that the Wizards’ front office made a bit of a homer pick when they selected Georgetown’s Otto Porter with the No. 3 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. However, a look at Porter’s college credentials should quickly put that theory to bed. The 6’9’’ small forward averaged 16.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in his sophomore season, and was named the 2013 Big East Player of the Year. He was also a finalist for the Naismith and Wooden Men’s College Basketball Awards. While Porter’s preseason performance may have tempered people’s expectations a bit, the skill and talent are undeniable. 

Cap Space

The recent transactions by the Wizards (the Gortat trade, declining the fourth year options of Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton) will give them $15 million in cap space in the summer of 2014, making them major players in free agency. That exact amount also depends on what they choose to do with Gortat. While all the sorcery in the world won’t bring LeBron, Carmelo or Bosh to the nation’s capital, a playoff run this year will make this squad more of a draw for lower tier free agents. After a half decade of basement-dwelling drudgery, the Wiz faithful finally have reason for optimism. 

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