Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Proposition of Trades

I love trades.

I love them. I love the rumors before they happen, and I love the discussions and debates after they occur. In fantasy sports, I have a rule that says you aren't playing if you haven't made at least one trade. And I've made some pretty damn good trades over the years. But, of course, I've made some pretty damn horrible ones too. That's the gamble that makes trading so much fun. Because sometimes guys like Brian Westbrook emerge as "go-to" fantasy backs, and sometimes guys like Javon Walker go right to the IR the moment you acquire them. (In case there is any confusion, the latter of the two is the example of the horrible trade.)

It's actually amazing to me how excited we sports fans get whenever the trade deadlines in Major League Baseball and the NBA draw near. Just like Christmas, we all get reverted back to children as we dream about the presents that St. Melvin and St. Harris are sure to deliver us. Too often, however, we discover that we must not have been very good boys and girls this year--because instead of getting Scott Kazmir we get Scott Linebrink and instead of getting some help for Michael Redd we get a second round draft pick for Mike James. Nonetheless, like a cornerback who's trained to forget the last play, our minds are perfectly clear the next time a trade deadline rolls around, and we set ourselves up for disappointment all over again.

But trades are such an intregal part of a team's building, that we can't help but rely on them and treat them like Linus treats his security blanket. Even in the NFL, where trades are much more rare, Packer fans couldn't fathom life in Wisconsin without the trades for Favre, Ahman Green and more recently, Ryan Grant...

(...Ok, there it is. I thought I was over the whole Packer loss, but apparently I'm not. Just by typing Ryan Grant's name, I seem to have awaken an evil voice within me, which screams:

"13 carries!!! Thirteen f---in' carries is all you're giving the kid! That's f---in pathetic. The guy carried you last week against the Seahwaks and you give up on him after thirteen freakin carries!"

If this voice doesn't go away by April's draft, I'll certainly seek counseling. All the more reason for me to blog about college basketball and not football--eventhough I've heard talk that there is some kind of big game today...not really sure what the fuss is all about...)

Unfortunately, there are no trades in college basketball. About a week ago, I got an email from my friend Jon, stating that despite how well both teams are playing, it just feels like something is missing from both the Badgers and Warriors (not a typo) this year. I wanted to argue with him. After all, both are top 20 teams and both have had impressive wins (Marquette's being at the Kohl Center,Wisconsin's at Texas) this year which prove they can match-up against quality teams in tough environments. But there is indeed something missing from each roster that makes me worry about their tourney chances. And I do wish they could work out a trade, because I believe each team has what the other needs.

Or perhaps it's not a trade we need as much as we need to go back in time. Three years ago, there were two high schoolers that were head and shoulders above the rest of the seniors in Wisconsin. One was Marcus Landry, the kid out of Milwaukee St. Vincent. His girlfriend at the time (now his wife, I believe), went on to play basketball at Marquette. Marcus decided to go to Madison to play for Wisconsin. The other was Wesley Matthews, a kid from Madison with a family history with the Badgers--his father starred at Wisconsin before moving on to an impressive NBA career. So Wesley, of course, chose to play at Marquette.

Let me start by stating that I really enjoy watching both of these kids play ball at their respective schools. But I think both are currently being held back a bit in the systems that they play in, or because of the personnel around them. And there's just a part of me that can't help but wonder what would have happened if they had "swapped" their choices as seniors in high school.

I believe Marquette would have definitely gotten the better end of this "trade." The Warriors (again, not a typo) desperately need a more consistent presence in the post (with all due respect to Barro, who played a whale of a game yesterday in Cincy). Although Landry's only 6'7", he plays much bigger, and he would be the offensive post threat that could loosen things up on the perimter for James, McNeal, Cubillan, and Acker. Barro could still start at the 5, and Fitzgerald could back-up both Hayward and Landry at the 3 and 4. Landry sometimes gets a little lost behind Butch in Madison, and he'd undoubtedly be the first option at Marquette. With all due respect to Matthews, I think the addition of Landry would escalate Marquette to the Georgetown-like class of the Big East.

Now, the Badgers would certainly miss Landry's presence. But the one thing I worry about with Wisconsin this postseason is the tendency to fall under long stretches where the offense flat out stalls. At 6-5, Matthews seems perfect for the swing offense because he could post up smaller two guards and has enough of a shot to provide another threat from the perimeter. I'm a huge Michael Flowers fan, but--despite his clutch shot in the Texas game--he doesn't quite have Matthews offensive game. Matthews would also give the Badgers a slasher who can create his own shot--a talent that Wesley doesn't get to currently unveil as frequently at Marquette because they essentially have four point guards and they're the ones doing the majority of slashing and kicking. Granted, the Badgers have Travon, but Matthews athleticism would be a welcome addition in Madison. Landry's absence would also mean more opportunities for Stiemsma and Leuer, who impressed me a ton during the non-conference schedule. And it would allow even more time for Krabbenhoft, who can play three or four positions.

(By the way, as much as I love the way this Krabbenhoft kid plays, I can't help wonder if fans throughout the Big Ten are starting to hate him as much as I hated hearing about the tremendous effort of Brian Cardinal during his ten years at Purdue. What? Cardinal didn't play ten years at Purdue? Sure seemed like it.)

I realize all of the above is simply pointless speculation. But it's what makes trade talk so fun. Perhaps Dominic James will make the mistake of leaving early next year, and then Wesley is bound to get more touches in the offense. Certianly, Landry is bound to be a focal point of the Badger offense next year when Butch is gone. And since a time machine is yet to have been built, I guess I'll just cheer for both teams to make their runs this March, regardless of the flaws that might get exposed.

And besides that, the NBA trade deadline is only a few weeks away., and I've heard a rumor that the Bucks might get Tracy McGrady...

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