Chasing Down The Latest NBA News
Ever since the 2008 NBA Finals, Sasha Vujacic has been a waste of a roster spot and cap space for the Los Angeles Lakers. In 2008-2009, he shot 36% from three-point land which dropped to 31% last season. Without a shot, Sasha was billed as a defensive irritant that didn’t defend well. Essentially, he brought no tangible value to the team and was stealing $5 million a year from Jerry Buss.
For two years now I have been trying to find any possible scenario to get Vujacic out of L.A. and though the deal that the Lakers end up making isn’t nearly as impactful as I thought Sasha’s expiring contract could have called for, I think Mitch Kupchak is happy to have Sasha of his active roster.
The Lakers will send Vujacic, as well as a 2011 first round pick, to the New Jersey Nets, who will send back veteran power forward Joe Smith in exchange. The Houston Rockets are also involved in this deal as they are sending a 2012 first round pick to New Jersey for potential laden small forward Terrence Williams.
With veteran center Theo Ratliff out, Smith will be asked to play spot minutes at the back-up power forward and center spots. Smith will be relied on a bit less than Ratliff was earlier in the year because Andrew Bynum is already back and playing. Even though his minutes are limited at the moment, within a week or so he should be back to getting about 30 minutes of burn a night.
Smith, a former first overall pick back in 1995, has lost a lot of athleticism and he is more of a hustle player at this point but he is a veteran and a very highly praised character guy. Smith has never won an NBA championship and to go from a Nets squad to the Lakers isn’t such a bad deal, especially when you don’t have to play much. On the flip side, this is one of the worst possible scenarios for Sasha, going from the best team in the NBA to one of the worst (at least record wise). At least he’ll have former Laker teammate Jordan Farmar to hang around with.
Despite my focus on Vujacic’s departure from LA, clearly the key component in this team is Terrence Williams. Williams was briefly sent down to the D-League after several incidents that made Nets’ head coach Avery Johnson displeased. After hearing Williams say he has learned is lesson and considering how much talent he has, its surprising to see him get dealt, but perhaps a change of scenery will be best for him. Houston is a wing-heavy team (Kevin Martin, Courtney Lee, Shane Battier, Chase Budinger) but Williams is too good not to get playing time.
You may be wondering why the Nets would be willing to give such a promising player like Williams for Sasha Vujacic and a couple of picks but the reason is simple: they still think they can land Carmelo Anthony. Despite Anthony’s claim that its the Knicks or bust for him when it comes to signing an extension (and what team would trade for Carmelo for half a season, especially if you aren’t going to the playoffs), the Nets have now stockpiled on first round picks and can now send a package of five first round picks to Denver (if you include the third overall pick from this year’s draft, Derrick Favors) to go along with some other pieces.