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Are NBA trades as much about relationships as players?

Mar 15, 2011, 4:54 PM EDT

Carmelo Anthony James Dolan

Last month you pulled up the old trade machine and found a way for your team to finally move that bloated contract that’s an anchor on your rebuilding efforts and move him a team that could actually use him. A win-win. It’s brilliant. Why isn’t your GM talking about this deal with the other team’s GM?

Because they may not be talking.

The NBA, like many businesses, is about relationships. It’s a pretty tight community. And as Ben Golliver points out at Hoopshype from his time at the MIT’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, those relationships influence trades.

“The first misunderstanding about trades is that the NBA is an efficient market for trades,” (Mavericks owner Mark) Cuban said. “It’s not. Not all teams talk equally to each other. It’s not like the stock market… Different teams have different relationships, more of a trust factor.”

Just as relationships can help deals get done, they can prevent deals from happening….

“Because some teams are more into analytics, [some GMs] may be less willing to deal with you because they may think you’re taking advantage of them. If you go back through history, there are teams that have not only not done trades, they don’t even talk to each other.”

Shortly thereafter, the panel kidded (Rockets GM Daryl) Morey for trading with the Memphis Grizzlies “every February.” Surveying some of the moves made during the trade season, Cuban’s comments cast them in a new light. Who could forget the New York Knicks hired former Denver Nuggets executive Mark Warkentien as a consultant just weeks before trading for Carmelo Anthony? Was it simply a coincidence that the best deal available for the Portland Trail Blazers and Charlotte Bobcats were with each other, given that the president of the Blazers, Larry Miller, is the former president of Jordan Brand and keeps a picture of himself with Bobcats owner Michael Jordan in his Rose Quarter office? Who knows, but relationships can’t hurt and they certainly don’t play a role when fans or writers fire up the ESPN Trade Machine.

You would think the GM that can put the relationships aside and just do business with anyone would have an advantage. It’s never that clean or simple, but the more doors you can keep open the more options you would have.

  1. zackd2 - Mar 15, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    Ainge & McHale.

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