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Daily Babble: Good Looks All Around In the Bibby Trade

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Hey!  An NBA trade went down yesterday, and it makes sense for both sides.

Though most in the basketball world are likely already aware of the latest on the trade front, we all miss some news from time to time, so here's a brief refresher, courtesy of ESPN

The Atlanta Hawks are trying to balance out their backcourt and make a playoff push by bringing in Mike Bibby.

The Hawks sent starting point guard Anthony Johnson, 2007 first-round pick Shelden Williams, backup point guard Tyronn Lue, veteran forward Lorenzen Wright and a 2008 second-round pick to the Kings.

Shocking, indeed, that two NBA teams could combine to consummate a deal that seems to work for all parties involved, especially in light of other recent developments.  Let's break it down.

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On the Sacramento end, the deal comes down to two words: cap relief.  Bibby's $28 million between this year and next goes to Atlanta, and in return come three expiring contracts and Shelden Williams, who will be a restricted free agent at the end of next season.  Yes, there will always be questions regarding whether or not the Kings could have gotten a better offer, and some will maintain that they should have made a more concerted effort to dump the contract of Kenny Thomas along with Bibby. But the fact of the matter remains that the Kings had been shopping Bibby for quite some time, and it certainly appears that those so-called better deals simply didn't present themselves.  Among other teams, the Cleveland LeBrons in particular had been rumored to be on the Bibby trail for a while, and they had ample time to make a better push for the point guard.  They didn't, and now the Kings have made a deal that does help them. 

Perhaps it doesn't help them as much as some people would like, but it had become no secret over the past few months that Bibby was not going to be a part of the Kings' long-term plans and that they were going to look to dump his salary once a decent opportunity came around.  Sactown Royalty's Tom Ziller points out that the Kings will open up $11 million in cap space for 2008-09 (likely putting them just under the cap).  With Bibby and his high field goal attempt numbers now gone, Geoff Petrie and the Kings can turn their attention to dealing Ron Artest and moving on with their rebuilding.

Meanwhile, the move makes even more sense for Atlanta.  Undoubtedly, the 29-year-old Bibby's play is on a downswing.  He isn't the player he was a few years ago, as his shooting percentages are way down, and his turnovers have risen.  That said, his penetration, scoring and dishing abilities make him a quantum upgrade for the Hawks, who have been in desperate need of point guard help for years now.  Sadly, the 21-28 Hawks are having their most competitive season in recent memory, and though they are at the edge of the playoff picture in the putrid East right now, the Bibby acquisition almost unquestionably makes them a bona fide playoff team, barring injury.  For a team not bad enough to obtain pole position in the lottery, and for a city that hasn't sniffed the playoffs in eight seasons, the idea of making a run into the spring -- albeit a likely short-lived one -- can't help but be appealing to the Atlanta management.

No, the Bibby acquisition does not make the Hawks a big-time contender in the East, as some have already asserted.  There were four relatively strong contenders for the Eastern Conference title on Saturday morning, and there are four relatively strong contenders for the Eastern Conference title on this Sunday morning: Orlando, Cleveland, Detroit and, of course, ever-beloved Boston.  The Hawks aren't better than any of those teams.  They may well not even be as good as Toronto, and how they will compare to a healthy Washington team (whenever that actually happens) remains to be seen.  Chances are, the Hawks are looking at a first-round exit, or, if all goes particularly well, possibly a trip to the second round.  But nothing more.

All that said, Bibby's contract situation makes the fact that he doesn't make the Hawks a championship team far less of a concern.  Yes, he will make $28 million between this season and next, but he comes off the books after next season.  If the Hawks are tired of him by the midst of next season, they will probably be able to sell off his expiring contract.  If they just want the cap room, they will only have to wait until the end of 2008-09 to watch his contract expire.  Or, if the man proves all the doubters wrong by coming to Atlanta and completely resurrecting his career over the next season and a half, they will have that time to start trying to work out an extension with him.

It's worth remembering that this Hawks team wasn't bound for contention or anything of the sort in the first place this year -- and probably next as well -- and that they weren't in a position to get a great lottery pick this year either.  That said, it might not hurt to do some service to the morale of the team and the fan base by getting a taste of what the postseason feels like.  It will be a good experience for the Hawks' youngsters to get their feet wet with some initial experiences in playoff basketball, and perhaps they will even surprise a few of us dubious pundits (self most certainly included, as demonstrated above).  Though that cycle of first-round-and-out mediocrity is the worst trap a team can fall into, the short-term nature of Bibby's contract helps prevent the Hawks from unwittingly falling victim to that end.

A very likely playoff berth for the boys in Hotlanta.  Cap space and rebuilding room for the fellows in Sacto.  Everybody gives, and everybody gets.  It's that simple.