Three PM eastern Time on March 15th marked the end of the National Basketball Association’s trade period for this season, and despite a handful of last minute trades there were no moves of the earth shattering variety. Obviously, after the agonizing wait all season for Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard to make up his mind, every team and every fan was forced to wait and see. What resulted were several lukewarm trades, with the biggest of them involving centers not named Howard, among teams that will not impact the playoffs. All in all, much ado about nothing!
The Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks made a trade that sent guard Monta Ellis to Milwaukee for Andrew Bogut. Neither team has a chance at the championship this year, so assume that Golden State made the move for next year, while Milwaukee looks set to blow up the ‘Fear the Deer’ team that got a lot of hype a few years ago.
The Washington Wizards scored the other big center by trading for Denver’s Nene. They parted with long term headache Javale McGee and guard Nick Young in order to make it happen. This was a puzzling move from Denver’s perspective, as it appears to weaken their chances for this year. Washington will continue to be bad, no matter what.
Overall, the top contenders stayed out of team altering trades. Yes, the Spurs traded the toxic contract of Richard Jefferson for Stephen Jackson, but Captain Jax has been a Spur before and he may be able to help them a bit. But is it enough to push the Spurs over the hump this year? Unlikely.
The Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder all stood pat – the odds are that the champion in this shortened season will come from among this short list of three teams. The Spurs, Lakers and Celtics might shake that list up, but all three teams have clearly taken a step back and are not quite the powerhouses they used to be.
The X Factor appears to be Orlando, a team who is having a good year despite all the distractions of the Howard saga. Now that he is staying and the team knows they will have him next season as well, can they all kick it up a notch? If Howard and the Magic can KO the Heat in the playoffs, Howard will likely become the most popular athlete in basketball almost instantly.
Right now, my odds on favorite for the title is the Chicago Bulls. Rugged on defense, with the defending MVP as their top player, the team looks focused and ready. The champions will be from the East.