It's rare that a rumor is denied before I even catch wind of it, but it happened today. The rumor apparently sprung from a report in the South Florida Sun Sentinel, but for the life of me I can't find the original source. Anyway, Ed Stefanski quickly shot it down, and later today Bethlehem Shoals had his own take on the matter for the Sporting News. We'll examine the rumor after the jump and I'll give my take.
The rumored deal was apparently Elton Brand for Jermaine O'Neal and Daquon Cook. First of all, I believe Stefanski's denial. This deal doesn't even come close working financially. O'Neal and Cook are owed a combined $24.4M this upcoming season, Elton Brand is owed $14.9M. The deal would have to be larger than just these three players. If you add Dalembert into the deal, it works financially, but as far as I know, Dalembert's name was never mentioned. The deal could also work if it was Brand, Lou Williams and Willie Green.
Shoals' basically said instead of dismissing the rumor out of hand, Stefanski should've explored it. I don't agree with some of his logic, namely that O'Neal is a better player than Brand, but I can't say that I disagree with the idea of the trade completely. Let's take a look at the merits of the trade and the financial situation it would leave Philadelphia in.
On the court, this trade would pretty much be a disaster. Of that, I'm convinced. While Elton Brand may be slowed by the injuries he's endured over the past two years, there is still a chance, and I'd even say a decent chance that he'll come back to play at a decently high level, if not at the All Star level he played at three seasons ago. O'Neal, on the other hand, is cooked. He's done. The guy has no legs left under him, he was one of the worst rebounding bigs in the league last season and where as Brand's injuries were freakish and unrelated, O'Neal has chronic leg problems. Honestly, O'Neal is a buyout candidate this year, that's how far he's slipped into the abyss.
Financially, however, if the Sixers could pull off a deal sending Brand and Dalembert to Miami for O'Neal and Cook, Philly would suddenly become a player in the much ballyhooed 2010 free agent class. They'd only have $38M committed to players, leaving roughly $20M to spend on the free agent(s) of their choice. Notable names: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Carlos Boozer, Amare Stoudemire (ETO), Joe Johnson.
Personally, I find it highly doubtful that Miami would offer this trade to Philly, so this discussion is really a non-starter. But if, by chance, it was true and Pat Riley desperately wanted a low-post threat for Wade and a shot blocker in the middle to play their half-court game, should Stefanski pull the trigger?
That's really a difficult question to answer. Making a trade like this would be tantamount to admitting the Brand signing was a mistake. It would take a big man to do something like that. On the other hand, it would be a do-over and no matter who you send out with Brand, you'd be clearing a ton of cap space much earlier than expected. This season would probably be all about developing the young core. I think there's still enough talent there to make the playoffs, especially if you got something from O'Neal at the 5, but the won/loss success of the team would be largely dependent on the maturation of Speights and Smith.
So here's the question Stefanski would have to ask himself: does this roster plus $20M+ in cap space next Summer get you to a championship level faster than the status quo with the roster you have?
SG: Iguodala, Cook
SF: Thad, Kapono
PF: Speights, Smith
Obviously, you'd add either Sam or Lou and Willie to that roster as well (subtract about $4M from the cap space if you make the deal with Lou and Willie). Could you add a piece, or pieces in next Summer's free agent market that would fit this young core better as they mature? I have no illusions that Wade, LeBron or Kobe could be convinced to come to Philly, but Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson - any of the second tier guys - would probably just be looking for the cash and you have to think you could lure one or two of them. Hell, you could even make a case that LeBron should come to Philly because the other teams with cap space won't have a core of players like this for him to join.
It's a difficult question and one I'm fairly certain Ed Stefanski won't have to answer, at least not specifically this question, but there may come a time when a team calls to inquire about Brand's availability and they have a large expiring contract to offer. O'Neal is a slim possibility, but Tracy McGrady is floating out there as well. I honestly don't know what Ed would do in that situation, but I know I'd be tempted, especially if it meant getting rid of at least one of those bad contracts and clearing cap space for next Summer.
That was probably way too many words to devote to a non-rumor which was quickly denied, but it's a slow news cycle and I wanted to see what you guys thought about it. Would you be willing to press the do-over button on the Brand signing and take another shot in free agency a year from now?