Why would an NBA general manager propose a trade which seems ludicrous, and why would his counterpart accept it? During my pre-deadline series of potential Toronto Raptors’ trades, several commenters suggested that this or that proposed deal wasn’t fair to the other team. From Raps’ GM Bryan Colangelo’s perch, that’s the least of his concerns. A GM is under no obligation to ensure a trade is fair to his opposite number. In fact, he should do everything he can to pick the other guy’s pocket. Deals may get done anyway, for reasons far removed from a GM’s well-meaning attempts to improve his basketball team.
“The only thing that should surprise us is that we can still be surprised.” La Rochefoucauld
Consider the pressure Utah’s GM Dennis Lindsey was under prior to the trade deadline. The Jazz have two quality big men in Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, both of whom are on expiring contracts. His team is in danger of missing the playoffs in the NBA’s tough Western Conference. If Lindsey does nothing about trading either or both of Millsap and Jefferson, he increases his chances of a playoff berth, which keeps his owner and fans happy. He also has a big chunk of salary cap space at season’s end. However, if both of these players leave the Jazz, there’s a gaping hole in his roster. Fans and the press are cranky because Lindsey didn’t turn one or both of them into assets via trade while he could. It’s an NBA GM’s version of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. Presumably his ownership didn’t order him to make a deal, otherwise he would have. But what if he did receive such an order, like Sacramento Kings’ President Geoff Petrie must have done?
I make that assumption because nothing else save temporary insanity or naked greed can explain the Kings’ donation of Thomas Robinson to the Houston Rockets (I know there were other players involved; Robinson, the #5 pick in last year’s draft, was the big prize and surely the only player of interest to Houston). The press has quite properly flamed Kings’ management and its ownership for this travesty of a trade, which does nothing to improve the Kings, now or in the future. [20 second timeout: David Stern killed the Chris-Paul-to-the-Lakers trade in 2011, so why didn't he squash this one?] The Maloofs, who are just about finished in Sacramento as team owners, apparently grab another million bucks with this trade, while poking Kings’ fans in the eye. Kings’ GM Petrie may well have wanted to resign on the spot when he was ordered to undertake this mockery of a deal. Houston GM Daryl Morey probably couldn’t believe his luck. (“Hi, Geoff, it’s Daryl. What would it take to get Thomas Robinson from you?” “Hmmm….how about 3 guys on your roster who can be proven to have pulses?”)
Rod Thorn was the Nets’ GM who fleeced Raps’ GM Rob Babcock out of Vince Carter in 2004. It was public knowledge that Carter wanted out, and Babcock wasn’t receiving offers anywhere close to equal value. Thorn has since admitted he low-balled Babcock and was astonished that his offer was accepted.
My point is this: every day GMs call each other to offer their rowboat for the other guy’s nuclear submarine – and once in a great while, his counterpart says Yes. There is no such thing as an impossible trade.
Brian Boake is a co-editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.