Rockets coach Kevin McHale sufficiently described the player most in demand during an NBA trade deadline stretch that had more fizzle than sizzle.
His name? Cap Room.
McHale joked that Room doesn't stand seven feet or is blessed with a wicked crossover. Room can't rebound or score. Room can't even set picks, but Room is what almost every GM wanted for their team Thursday. And for a handful of teams looking to clear space for the summer, Room is what they got.
The trade deadline was a total waste of time for tradeniks who settled in for an eventful afternoon. The big "name" was J.J. Redick, who scored a lot for a team nobody cares about or watches, and is now going to a team nobody cares about or watches.
There was plenty of talk leading up to the deadline, but when it came time to put up, most NBA teams closed up shop and stayed with the players who brought them this far. This means the next trade deadline will be draft day in June, when teams will desperately try to outbid each other for the most popular player in today's NBA, the gifted Cap Room.
Heading into summer we'll see anywhere from six to eight teams with enviable cap flexibility. How they use it is anyone's guess. This isn't the summer of 2011 with A-list free agents galore, so that extra cap space will be used to absorb players with high salaries or simply rolled over into next season and beyond. Just because you have money to spend doesn't necessarily mean you spend money. And with teams reluctant to deal with the luxury tax, most would rather sit on their wallets if necessary.
The Jazz, Mavericks, Hawks, Rockets, Bucks, Pistons and Cavaliers will have roughly $20 million or more to do with as they please. They'll be a convenient dumping ground for teams looking to unload unwanted players, and teams could sweeten the pot with a first-round pick; that's why it's beneficial to have cap room whenever possible.
Here's what the trade deadline meant to the following:
Josh Smith. As expected, moving Smith was tricky because of his free agency. He brings all-around skills and is still in his prime, but even that wasn't good enough. Teams don't want to get burned by trading for a player only to see him walk -- or to be forced to overpay Smith to justify the deal. That gets GMs fired. Therefore, the offers for Smith were low-ball quality, and the Hawks figured they'd be better off keeping him and seeing what happens in July.
Milwaukee Bucks. They grabbed Redick with plans to sign him long-term this summer. To do that, the Bucks hope Monta Ellis, whom they tried to dump at the deadline, opts out of the final year of a deal that'll pay $11 million. It'll be a tough decision for Ellis. He won't make near that amount next season if he signs long term with someone else, but security is what he wants at this stage of his career.
The Bucks will also try to keep Brandon Jennings, who's a restricted free agent, so if Ellis leaves it'll make it easier for the Bucks to match any offer for Jennings, no matter how the contract is structured. Strangely, by getting Redick now, the Bucks could keep their spot in the playoff rotation, when they probably would be better off with a lottery pick.
Utah Jazz. The biggest shock of the deadline was Utah keeping both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. It just didn't make sense, unless teams threw garbage in Utah's direction. Both big men are approaching free agency and taking valuable minutes from Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. They don't fit in Utah's long-range plans, at least not both of them. Jefferson and Millsap could walk this summer and leave Utah with nothing to show for it. And yet the Jazz couldn't get someone to at least rent Jefferson and Millsap for three months. Weird. But that's what the Hawks faced with Smith. It's tricky trying to deal pending free agents, and tricky obtaining them.
Boston Celtics. They decided to contend now and rebuild later, and to that end, refused all offers for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce (none of the offers were tilted in Boston's favor, anyhow). With Rajon Rondo and Leandro Barbosa done for the year, the Celtics added backcourt help in Jordan Crawford, known to shoot a little bit. Boston wants Crawford to do what Jason Terry hasn't done: Hit the open shot and be a presence on the floor. Crawford can do that. He might take shots away from his teammates and miss a number of those open looks, but the Celtics don't have to worry about him being bashful.
L.A. Lakers. Like the Celtics, the Lakers resisted the urge for a drastic tear-down and will forge on with their talented yet shaky team. They're banking on Dwight Howard getting stronger as he gets healthier, on Steve Nash not breaking down, on Kobe Bryant finding the open man and on Pau Gasol being a plus when he returns from injury.
The feeling all along with the Lakers is if they make the playoffs, anything's possible. Perhaps. In the big picture, by refusing to trade Howard, they're readying to hand him the money and the keys to the franchise this summer. That's either scary or bold.
Houston Rockets. The best trade of the season came months ago, when the Rockets got James Harden. As a bonus, they added Thomas Robinson, the No. 5 pick (chosen before Damian Lillard and Andre Drummond), who wasn't terribly impressive in limited moments for Sacramento -- but that shouldn't be an indication that he's a bust. Robinson will be surrounded by the professionalism and stability he never saw in Sacramento, and that alone should motivate him to get his career started. This is another gem of a move by GM Daryl Morey, who's busy stockpiling assets to make a run at Howard or Smith in July.
Sacramento Kings. Patrick Patterson is averaging 11 points on 52 percent shooting and will instantly help the Kings but that's besides the point. The Kings gave up quickly on Robinson, their No. 1 pick, which means they're either admitting a mistake or trying to save money, and both are red flags for a franchise in chaos.
There could be a method to their madness, though. Maybe they're trying hard to turn off as many fans as possible and therefore ensuring their proposed exit to Seattle is met with little resistance.