Friday night, a story full of absurdity, mistaken identity and franchises prone to making bad decisions all collided, starting the wheels on one of the most bizarre almost-trades in NBA history.
Here’s the CliffsNotes version: Washington, Phoenix and Memphis agreed on a three-team trade that would send Trevor Ariza to the Wizards, Kelly Oubre to the Grizzlies and Austin Rivers, Dillon Brooks and Wayne Selden to the Suns.
A trade! There are few things NBA junkies love more.
But there was one problem: Memphis thought it was trading MarShon Brooks. Phoenix thought it was getting Dillon Brooks, but the Grizzlies did not want to part with him.
The trade fell apart. How could this happen?
A top executive at a rival organization laughed at the miscommunication — apparently Memphis spoke to Washington and not Phoenix, and the Suns and Wizards botched the translation.
All three organizations ended up looking bad, but “Phoenix will win the incompetence award,” the executive said.
The teams tried to save face Saturday, with the Wizards agreeing to trade Rivers and Oubre to Phoenix for Ariza, who played for Washington from 2012-14.
The basketball portion of this trade is a little head-scratching. The Wizards acquiring Ariza makes the most sense — they try to stabilize their volatile locker room with a respected veteran. If it doesn’t work, they can move Ariza to another team. Still, it’s another sign of a scouting miss — the team traded a first-round pick and two second-rounders for Oubre on draft night in 2015.
The Suns continue to make decisions that don’t make much sense. The team dealt its top trade chip in Ariza and didn’t get in return a point guard to fill the gaping hole in its lineup.
The Suns’ decision-making under interim general manager James Jones already had rival executives talking when he bought out center Tyson Chandler, essentially gifting him to the Lakers. LeBron James and Jones are former teammates and friends, causing even more speculation.
Memphis’ biggest flaw in all of this was having one too many Brooks.
When things like this happen, coaches, players and insiders utter the same words: “This league!”
His name is Luka; he lives on the Mavericks’ floor
Speaking of the Suns, it seems less and less defensible that Phoenix passed on Luka Doncic, a 19-year-old who has some people comparing him to James Harden.
Doncic has incredible footwork and body control, able to create space for step-back jumpers almost as well as the reigning NBA MVP. He leads all rookies in points (17.8) and minutes (32.3). He is second among rookies in assists (4.5) and third in rebounds (6.8).
Doncic’s emergence has the Mavericks in playoff contention, grouped with the “not the Warriors” portion of the West that could end up anywhere between the No. 2 seed and second to last in the conference.
With Doncic clearly the Mavericks’ star of the future, the team is evaluating the players around him. Some scouts and general managers believe Dallas is quietly gauging interest in last year’s first-round pick, guard Dennis Smith Jr.
Smith’s scoring and usage has dipped this season with an uptick in turnovers. But the worst statistic might be the two-man lineup data that shows Dallas is minus-6.1 points per 100 possessions when Smith and Doncic are on the court together.
The Mavericks, on the whole, are plus-1.5 points per 100 possessions.
No decisions need to be made immediately since Smith and Doncic could start to play more cohesively, but Dallas’ fortunes are most tied to Doncic.