A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

The Hornets-Clippers Lance Stephenson trade confuses me

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The Clippers and Hornets made a trade to send Lance Stephenson to L.A. for Spencer Hawes and Matt Barnes.

On the surface the reasoning is straight forward. The Clippers needed athletic talent on the wing and the Hornets needed to get rid of Lance Stephenson who had been a cancer for them.

But the details get more confusing the more I look at it. First on the Hornets end the reports are they are unlikely to keep Matt Barnes as his contract is only 1 million guaranteed if waived before July 1st, otherwise will be on the books for 3.5 million. If true the net result of this deal is effectively the Hornets just taking Spencer Hawes contract. With a team option after next season Lance Stephenson effectively was an expiring and if the Hornets wanted them off their team so bad they didn’t need to find someone to take his contract, they could have just waived him. The difference between waiving him and this deal will end up being the Hornets getting Spencer Hawes if the Hornets also cut Matt Barnes.

Ok, cool, I guess. Hawes has a 3 year, 17.3 million contract which looked like a horrible mistake by the Clippers after one year. But sometimes taking on talented players on bad contracts can work out for a team. Hawes does fill a need for outside shooting on the Hornets. On a weirdness scale “We want Spencer Hawes” rates low compared to some of the other details of this trade. For the Hornets, the more inexplicable decision is deciding they don’t want Matt Barnes for 3.5 million a year instead of 1 million if waived, a player who started on a far better team than the Hornets last year and would fill a need as a shooter. Especially considering that by taking Spencer Hawes contract they showed they don’t have the highest standards for “veteran help”.

What I understand less though is why Matt Barnes even in this trade from the Clippers end. Matt Barnes was the only playable small forward on the lineup, their most passable wing defender and fit well offensively with the ability to hit open 3s. Losing him hurts the Clippers who now have nilch at small forward. Barnes wasn’t in the trade because the Hornets want him, if it is true they plan to release him or trade him somewhere else. Barnes wasn’t in the trade because it was the only way to make salaries match either. A combination of Hawes and one of Lester Hudson, Jordan Farmar or C.J. Wilcox depending on what the Hornets were looking for in return, would have allowed the Clippers to take Stephenson’s salary. Farmer has the biggest salary at 2 million which shouldn’t look that scary to a team like the Hornets that just decided they want Spencer Hawes for over 5 million. Wilcox could have given the Hornets a recent 1st rounder drafted for shooting ability, presumably more valuable to them than a Matt Barnes they don’t want. Hudson was a 1 mil contract, just like Barnes guarantee next year.

Why would the Clippers just treat Matt Barnes like pointless salary filler? This is a player who started and mattered for them next year at a position of weakness. And how is Barnes still valued as dirt enough to be given away by a team and not wanted over just a few million by a lottery team? He is not world beater but in the modern NBA a competent defender who can hit 3s and who has contributed to winning teams should be drawing more interest than this as a solid league average contributor. Matt Barnes has made less than 20 million in his entire 12 year career in a league that has seen Travis Outlaw make 35 million on a single 5 year contract, among similar deals to players like Drew Gooden or John Salmons. Perhaps he’s done it to himself with antics behind the scenes but the chronic undervaluing of a wing player that has been at least an average player if not better for a lot his career is bizarre.

Somehow, after Matt Barnes started on a contending team and Spencer Hawes made more money to be unproductive enough to not play, we had a trade where simultaneously one team said “We want Spencer Hawes” and both teams said “We don’t want Matt Barnes”.

Written by jr.

June 17, 2015 at 10:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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