HoopIdea: Make the Trade Deadline Date a Surprise


Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap

The NBA trade deadline has come and went with GM’s left frustrated, fans left disappointed, and players, for the most part, staying where they are. In total, 12 deadline deals happened, but none of them involved the big-name players like we had seen in the past. In the last two seasons we have seen Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams, Kendrick Perkins, Jeff Green, Nene, Gerald Wallace, Monta Ellis, and Andrew Bogut get traded. The biggest two names we saw traded this year were Thomas Robinson, a rookie averaging under 5 points per game, and J.J. Redick, a role player who had been arguably playing for the worst team in the NBA. Even though big names like Josh Smith, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, Tyreke Evans, Dwight Howard, and more were rumored to be heading to a new city, none of these players ended up being moved at all.

So why was this trade deadline so quiet? Well, the main reason was that so many trades of big name players have already been made earlier on in the season or in the offseason. Since July, all-stars like Joe Johnson, Andre Iguodala, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Andrew Bynum, James Harden, and Rudy Gay have all found new homes. Because of this, there weren’t quite as many big names to move even though there were still plenty of players out there.

However, for fans who like seeing the same faces in new places, there is some good news. Many of the players who were not traded will be free agents this offseason and will likely leave their current teams, which could make free agency more interesting.

The trade deadline is one of the premiere events on the NBA calendar for fans looking for a boost in excitement and there’s no question that it flopped this season and may also fall short in the future.

Trades are supposed to boost teams in one of two ways: improve the team at the present to make a deep playoff run or to improve the team in the future by acquiring draft picks and young players. This trade deadline, the same principles held true, but on a much smaller scale. Instead of Deron Williams getting traded, Ronnie Brewer was traded, and instead of multiple first round picks being traded, 1 second round pick was traded.

The NBA is about making money and the trade deadline allows them to do that. Teams who have not had a chance at making the playoffs before could now win a playoff series, which brings more fans to arenas and sells more jerseys. None of that will be happening this season.

Why were there no major trades this season? One reason, I believe, is that the first domino never fell. In the past two years, we saw Carmelo Anthony get traded to the Knicks. If that trade had never been made, would Deron Williams have went to the Nets? Probably not. Last season, the first major move was a non-move. Dwight Howard signed with the Magic for one more year, which allowed the Nets to go ahead and make the Gerald Wallace trade.

This season, the first domino was Josh Smith. Although like Dwight Howard, he wasn’t traded, we did not know that he would not be traded until the very last second. The first domino never fell, and therefore smaller dominos like Paul Millsap, Tyreke Evans, and Brandon Jennings were not traded either. Had Josh Smith been moved at some point yesterday, there is no question that more trades would have happened today. Instead of trying to acquire Josh Smith, teams would have focused their efforts on the smaller dominos.

So how can the NBA prevent this from happening in the future? My solution is to make the trade deadline a surprise to the teams. How this would work is commissioner David Stern would pick a date much like how he picks the winner of the draft lottery, except that he would keep the date a secret to all NBA teams. The day he chooses would be a day between February 14-28 and it could be a different day every year. The day that the commissioner chooses would be the day of the trade deadline. At 3 pm on the day chosen, Stern would send out a notice saying that the trade deadline has past and teams can no longer make trades.

The goal of changing the trade deadline would be to try and prevent the domino effect. Because teams don’t know when the trade deadline will be, they will make the best moves for their team without worrying about other teams’ trades. If they wait too long or wait to see where one specific player will be traded, they could miss out.

There are also some cons to a new deadline system. First of all, GM’s would all probably hate it because it makes things much more complicated and much more strategy will be involved. Also, if teams were working on getting a trade into place and all of a sudden the trade deadline hits, there is nothing the GM’s can do.

Another negative would be that if the NBA changed these rules, one effect may be essentially pushing the trade deadline back to February 14th because that is the last day that GM’s know they are safe to trade. It is possible that the 14th could turn into the deadline, with the days following just being extra days for any trades that could have slipped through the cracks.

It is doubtful that the NBA will ever change the rules to make the deadline a surprise, but that is not really my point here. My point is that NBA GM’s need to stop waiting for the first domino. Make the move that is right for your team. For example, a team like Utah was probably waiting for Josh Smith to be traded before they moved Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson in order to gauge the value of those players. Because Smith was never moved, Utah couldn’t move either of their players and the Jazz are worse off because of it. If Utah had not been concerned with Josh Smith and instead were only interested in improving their team for the future, they would be better off.