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NBA Personnel Shifts

   by Bryan Leonard - 03/02/2006

Like a stock broker, a good handicapper has to keep up with the changes that take place on and off the court. This is particularly true this time of year. One reason is that the NBA trade deadline just took place and over the last few weeks, several players have changed addresses. Also, as we are into the second half of the season, teams that are gearing up to make a postseason run are tinkering with their lineups. And those that are out of the playoff hunt are beginning to make moves that are focused on next season.

A couple of high profile teams, the Rockets and Kings, have gone through major adjustments over the last month. The Rockets didn't make a major trade, but simply got healthy, with Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady together again. The Kings did make a major move, trading away offensive threat Peja Stojakovic for a rugged physical frontcourt presence in forward Ron Artest.

The Kings are very happy with Artest, on a 7-4 SU, 8-2-1 ATS run. A closer look shows that center Brad Miller is back from a sprained thumb and the depth is deeper with rookie Francisco Garcia and Shareef Abdur-Rahim getting more time. Simply put, the stats on the Kings from the first half of the season aren't as relevant anymore. A handicapper needs to focus more on the Kings' play the last two weeks than the whole season.

Other teams have made interesting moves, though they have been far less discussed. The Clippers have gone through a tough stretch the last month, but it's interesting they made a trade for Vladimir Radmanovic (Seattle). He is a 6-foot-10 three-point shooting threat, which adds depth and a new dimension to the offense. When they smacked the Lakers over the weekend, Radmanovic shined with 19 points, nailing 5-of-8 treys.

I'm certain young Marcus Banks isn't going to turn the Minnesota sinking ship around, but it was interesting that he is starting at point now for the T-Wolves. Likely he will show some signs of brilliance, peppered with young mistakes, as he's only in his second year.

Another team that, perhaps, one needs to take a whole new approach on is the Orlando Magic. This is a weak team that's not going to make the playoffs, but last week they signaled that they are looking at next season. 7-foot Darko Milicic is aboard from the Pistons, along with guard Carlos Arroyo. So look at the Orlando line-up now: Dwight Howard (age 20), Carlos Arroyo (age 26), and Darko Milicic (age 20). The youth movement is not a bad way to go, and it will be interesting to see if these kids display some fire the rest of the season as they go throw growing pains.

Boston just returned from 4-game West Coast swing, but what was stunning is that they went 3-1 SU, 4-0 ATS on the trip! The Celtics have been a horrible road team, both straight up and against the number, the last two years. But they won at Utah, Portland and the Lakers, and covered in a loss at Phoenix. So what happened? Look closely and you'll see changes. Ryan Gomes has had three straight double-doubles with 19 points and 12 rebounds against LA.

Boston is going with the kids, some who appear hungry. Throw in Delonte West, Center Kendrick Perkins and forward Al Jefferson along with Gomes, and, like Orlando, this is an interesting Boston frontcourt all of a sudden. Perkins and Jefferson haven't played much the last week because of injuries, so perhaps they will be better than the first half of the season with this young, hard working talent. The point is, a good handicapper needs to keep up on ALL moves and carefully assess the results on the court and against the spread.

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