It’s early February, and in the NBA world, that means it’s deadline time. With just a few short weeks to go until the NBA’s trade deadline, any talks which are going to take place before the offseason will begin to intensify over these next several days.
The Northwest Division is a fascinating place to start when assessing where various teams might look as the deadline looms. The division is chock full of young teams, and with the possible exception of Minnesota, each group still has at least a puncher’s chance at the postseason (even the Wolves aren’t entirely out of it). Let’s break down each team in the division, in order of record, and see what their stock looks like headed into the deadline.
Utah Jazz (1st in Northwest, 33-19 record)
The Jazz have mostly equaled or surpassed decently high preseason expectations and sit atop the division. They also currently have a home playoff seed for the first time in over a half decade. They’re doing so with perhaps the deepest roster in the entire league – so deep, in fact, that it’s begun posing real questions about certain future elements, even as the Jazz have once again been hit hard by the injury bug.
Whether any of these major questions materializes into an active approach around the deadline remains to be seen, but given this team’s management and history, it feels unlikely.
Guys like Derrick Favors and Alec Burks have been whispered as potential trade pieces, but that’s mostly by media types; little has been substantiated publicly, and the Jazz are among the most conservative teams out there. Don’t rule them out for certain, though, as the big moves they have made in recent years have mostly come out of nowhere and won’t hit the rumor mill too far before they actually happen. But safe money on Utah is that they either make no moves, or simply look to offload one of their extra point guards for a small return.
Names to Watch:
Shelvin Mack: Mack was rumored as a potential fit in Cleveland as a backup, with the same report stating that he was “definitely available” from Utah. Mack’s contract expires at the end of the season, and inconsistent production this year has led to him barely seeing the court in recent weeks. If he’s moved, the return should be minimal.
Raul Neto: Same story, only Neto hasn’t been specifically rumored in any deals, and likely has even less value than Mack. Frankly, there might be a greater chance Neto is cut than traded, if the Jazz really need that spot.
Gordon Hayward: Hayward’s name only appears on this list because he’s a likely expiring contract, with a player option for next season he’ll certainly decline. But that’s the extent of it – Hayward will not be traded under any circumstances. The Jazz are confident he will re-sign in the offseason. Ditto for George Hill.
Jeff Withey: Withey is another expiring who might fetch the Jazz a very limited pick or some other consideration, but even though he’s mostly in DNP territory when both Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert are healthy, he’s been a valuable security blanket if one of those guys goes down – which has been often over the last 12 months. It seems likely his value to Utah is greater than what they could get in return before he hits the open market.
Oklahoma City Thunder (2nd in Northwest, 30-23 record)
The Thunder is one of the toughest teams to read come deadline time. They’d certainly like to improve on the wing, but whether they have the assets to get there is questionable, and one of their top rumored targets in Rudy Gay is now out for the year. Russell Wesbrook’s future in town hangs over any moves they might make.
They also have a few future first round picks tied up in some complicated pick swaps, which could make any deals that don’t sacrifice current rotation players hard to find. Their only young assets who seem able to fetch a real return are point guard Cameron Payne and big man Domantas Sabonis, but the former is the Westbrook successor should Russ ever leave, and the latter was a big part of the investment the Thunder made by trading away Serge Ibaka over the offseason. It’s tough to see the Thunder swinging big unless a team has major interest in a guy like Enes Kanter, which feels unlikely at his salary range and given his recent hand injury.
Names to Watch:
Anthony Morrow: Morrow is only on the fringes of the rotation, but he’s a cheap expiring contract who can shoot. Some contender always seems to find themselves in need of a guy like this, and with Alex Abrines and his own shooting prowess locked up long term, maybe the Thunder would entertain moving Morrow for a pittance, or as part of a larger package.
Joffrey Lauvergne: Lauvergne is a young, promising big whose restricted free agency is still ahead, but it’s difficult to know whether he has any real trade value.
Kyle Singler: Not a particularly attractive piece, but could be useful for salary matching, if it was needed.
Enes Kanter: Highly unlikely, but only on here because he would appear to be the only high-dollar contract the Thunder might be okay with separating from if the right return was on the table. Guys like Westbrook, Oladipo and Adams all are completely off the table.
Denver Nuggets (3rd in Northwest, 23-28 record)
If they’re so inclined, the Nuggets could likely be the most active team in the league around the deadline. They have the pieces to move in whichever direction they want: They could send some young assets and picks for an established player, go in the opposite direction and send one of several vets for a younger package, or pick some hybrid route.
Complicating matters somewhat is the West’s ridiculously weak race for the eight seed. In a normal year, this sort of record would make Denver’s decision easy: They could sell of one of their higher-priced veterans, get the young guys even more time on the court together and be happy with a good lottery pick.
But entering play on February 7, the Nuggets sit in the final West playoff seed. How will that impact their thinking? Will general manager Tim Connelly view this as a chance to accelerate his rebuild, or will he take the patient approach and prioritize development over the right to be massacred by the Warriors in round one? He could always stand pat and do very little – the Nuggets are in a great future position almost regardless of what they do, barring a disastrous move.
Names to Watch:
Wilson Chandler: Chandler has long been considered one of the most likely trade candidates, and he recently expressed at least some level of displeasure with his fluctuating role in Denver. He has another year left on his deal after this, plus a player option for 2018-19, meaning he’s more than just a rental. As a versatile swingman who can hit the three and play two-way ball, he’s one of the most likely individual names in the league to move before the deadline.
Kenneth Faried: Faried is another of the trifecta of Denver veterans who has been rumored as a trade piece for multiple years now. He still has two full years left on his deal after this one, and though he’s a moderate overpay at this point, there’s still room for his role in the league. To some degree, though, it feels like this move would already have been made if it was going to happen.
Danilo Gallinari: The third member of the Vet. Trade Rumors crew. Gallo only has this year left on his deal before a player option he seems likely to decline, so he’s a pure rental if anyone will pony up for him.
Jusuf Nurkic: As star youngster Nikola Jokic continues to light the world on fire, there’s less room for Nurkic in a crowded frontcourt. He’s young enough that he could still fetch a real return, or be part of a larger deal.
Will Barton: Same goes for Barton to some degree, who is less useful with guys like Gary Harris and Jamal Murray filling similar roles. He has another year on his deal after this one, so he could be more than a rental.
Portland Trail Blazers (4th in Northwest, 22-30 record)
The Blazers are another team with a ton of potential options. After spending a whole boatload of money over the offseason for a collection of parts that hasn’t really fit as well as one would have hoped, the Blazers are left with several guys who are theoretically close to fair value on their contracts. They could get involved in some fireworks.
Of their summer spending projects, it seems like only Evan Turner is truly un-moveable. Allen Crabbe is close, but with tons of years left for a relatively young guy, some team with space to fill (think 76ers) might take a shot at him for the right considerations. The Blazers have about six other guys who could fit into a hypothetical deal, and you have to figure they’re willing to listen to fair offers. These pieces haven’t quite fit, but the right shuffling of this deck might change fortunes.
And then, of course, there’s the potential for something that’s only been whispered to this point, and never with any connection to a real move: A true tear-down, a.k.a. a trade of either Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum.
The pair is devastating offensively, but their defensive liabilities together have begun to make some wonder if this pairing can ever be a true contender given their huge combined salaries. Both would fetch a huge return in a trade, though these sorts of things rarely happen at the deadline – even if the Blazers were looking this route (highly unlikely, it’s just too early), it seems like we wouldn’t hear about it until the offseason. McCollum’s goofy salary under extension rules also makes a trade involving him tough to consummate without a third team involved.
Names to Watch:
The mid-tier glut: We won’t even separate them, because from a value standpoint, so many of these guys are relatively close together. Each of Crabbe, Meyers Leonard, Al-Farouq Aminu, Festus Ezeli (unlikely given injury status), Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh and Mason Plumlee could conceivably fetch some value from the right team. Each have years left on deals that range from fair to moderate overpays, and while the Blazers are over the cap currently, their flexibility makes tons of potential deals realistic. Don’t be surprised to see any of these guys move.
Minnesota Timberwolves (5th in Northwest, 19-33 record)
The Wolves were making their own charge at that sad West eight seed, but the wheels may have fallen off that train with the devastating news of Zach LaVine’s season-ending injury. The Wolves don’t really have anyone capable of duplicating his 19 points a night, nor the spacing he provides to a team that desperately needs it when Ricky Rubio is in the game.
Speaking of Rubio, he’s by far the most likely piece to move out of Minnesota. The Wolves don’t really appear poised for too many other big moves, unless a rebuild-accelerator like a Jimmy Butler became truly available, and even then, one of their best chips for such a deal, LaVine, now has a slightly more uncertain future. The Wolves could make a few other moves on the margins, but with LaVine done for the year and a high lottery slot seemingly well within reach, it seems most likely Minnesota lets the chips fall this year before re-assessing over the summer.
Names to Watch:
Ricky Rubio: The source of trade rumors for multiple seasons, Rubio now also has a true successor behind him in the form of Kris Dunn. The Wolves seem ready to hand the keys to Dunn for the future, and they’ll be willing to take a reasonable return for Rubio if one becomes available. It hasn’t yet, though, and he’s reportedly been on the market a long time.
Shabazz Muhammad: Muhammad was recently linked to Phoenix’s P.J. Tucker by Basketball Insiders’ Michael Scotto, and he still has enough team control and skill to perhaps interest a suitor. He’ll be a restricted free agent after this season.
Nikola Pekovic: Pek is out for the year and off most radars, but he does have another year on his deal left, and some team might try to buy super low on him. Unlikely, though.
With the race for the Western Conference’s eighth seed quite competitive, the Northwest Division might see a shakeup.
Stay tuned, as the 2017 NBA Trade Deadline is only 16 days away.
Life After Philadelphia is Just Fine For Turner
Evan Turner goes 1-on-1 with Basketball Insiders to explain how life in Philadelphia shaped the rest of his career.
Once upon a time, Evan Turner was the second overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, and the next man in line to save the Philadelphia 76ers.
After finishing his junior year at Ohio State University, Turner declared for the draft and eventually was taken directly after John Wall by the Sixers. Turner joined a team that won just 27 games the year before, but had more than a few promising young pieces.
Andre Iguodala, a former Sixers top-10 pick in his own right, was the oldest of the core bunch, at just 27. After him, the likes of Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, and Spencer Hawes were all under the age of 24. All in all, adding a No. 2 pick to that mix looked to set up the Sixers for years to come.
For the most part, the beginning of Turner’s career was successful. After making the playoffs his rookie season and losing in the first round to the Miami HEAT four games to one, the Sixers pushed the Boston Celtics to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals during the 2011-12 season.
Turner started 12 of those 13 playoff games during his second season, averaging 11.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.5 points per game.
Just as Turner seemed to be coming into his own, though, the tides in Philadelphia began to turn, and turn quickly.
His third year in the league, and first year as a full-time starter, came and went for Turner. He posted decent numbers. His 13.6 points per game were second only to Holiday. He was third on the team in assists and sixth in rebounds. In the midst of his fourth season, while averaging a career-high 17.4 points, Turner was traded to the Indiana Pacers.
Newly hired president of basketball operations, Sam Hinkie, had a plan in place that didn’t include Turner. It didn’t include Holiday either, as he was shipped off during the 2013 draft for Nerlens Noel and future first-round pick.
Just as the Sixers were becoming “his” team, Turner was sent packing to a new zip code. In his mind, he never got a fair shake at trying to the be the guy he was drafted to be in Philadelphia.
“I don’t think I really ever had a chance to shoulder it, to tell you the truth,” Turner told Basketball Insiders. “I didn’t start my first two years, but numbers wise I thought I did well. Nobody averaged more than 13 or 14. We were a great unit. My third year, my first year starting, I thought I did pretty well for a first-year starter. We missed the playoffs, which is always tough. Within the next year, it got blown up.”
Turner reiterated that in his mind, he wasn’t allowed the leash to become a franchise guy. But it wasn’t all for naught in Philadelphia.
“Honest opinion, I don’t think I ever fully got the chance,” Turner said. “But I got the chance to do a lot of great things. Learn how to win, learn how to defend, learn how to prepare.”
Since leaving Philly, Turner’s role in the NBA has shifted from a potential franchise player to a serviceable role man on a playoff caliber team.
Last summer, Turner inked a four-year, $70 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers after his stint with Indiana, and then two years with the Boston Celtics. Beyond the years in Philly, Turner’s life in the Association has been kind to him.
“It’s been fine,” Turner said. “On the up and up, I was fortunate to make the playoffs every year since leaving Philly. I made the playoffs two out of three, or three out of the four years that I was here. It’s cool, it’s a blessing. Healthy, stable, and living the dream.”
On Wednesday night, Turner returned to Philadelphia and the Wells Fargo Center to square off against his old team. Nowadays, this version of the Sixers is much different than the one he left behind. A process that nearly began with jettisoning Turner to the Pacers feels near completion, and the energy Turner once felt on the court in a Sixers uniform is returning in full force.
When walking around the building, this time as a visitor, Turner takes appreciation in seeing some old faces. The guys “behind the scenes” as he put it, always are welcoming. Brett Brown, Turner’s former coach, never fails to show him love, and the arena in South Philly, Turner says, is always a great reminder of where he came from.
Turner thinks the process that was kicked off with getting rid of him and his core teammates is promising, though.
“It’s turning around,” Turner said. “Just off the first eye glance, I know Coach Brown can coach his butt off. Even the fact that they’re getting up a real practice facility says a lot. Obviously on the court, the energy. You see on tv before, it’s more sold out. When you see the Sixers sometimes it would be a joke, in regards to how many games they lost, or whatever. But now it’s kind of like you’re going to see some great highlights, you’re watching a lot of energy from the crowd and things. I’m happy for them. It seems like it’s trending in the right direction.”
It wasn’t always rainbows and sunshine for Turner in Philadelphia; he would be reminded of that as he was greeted with boo’s from the crowd when he checked into the game for the first time Wednesday night. The city of brotherly love has a reputation that doesn’t necessarily precede its name.
“Much is given, much is expected,” he said. “One thing is, when you get kind of labeled as whatever, you kind of get tagged for the most critical stuff. I saw how sometimes Iguodala would get blamed for everything, and then I kind of moved into that. I went from the cute little kid, to moving into that responsibility. Then MCW (Michael Carter-Williams) went from that position. It’s just kind of, you know, part of the game.”
The harshness of the city, and Turner’s situation particularly, helped guide him through his career after Philadelphia. In Turner’s words, “The only way to go from here, in a certain sense, is up.”
Portland’s sixth man has lived a long, lucrative life in the NBA, even if it didn’t go exactly how it was initially planned to. Turner was quick to point out that any time he heard someone complain during his travels around the league, at least they weren’t facing the wrath of Philadelphia.
“Going into new situations, people are like, ‘Hey they do this or they do that,’ and I’m like are y’all serious,” Turner said with a smile. “Go to Philly and see what they’ll do to y’all.”
Maybe his time spent in Philadelphia didn’t turn out the way fans had hoped, but Turner found out quickly there was a spot for him in the league as a former second overall pick, and that his career has gone just the way it was supposed to.
“I’m a firm believer in everything is supposed to happen how it’s supposed to happen,” Turner said. “Regardless of which, it’s a blessing.”
NBA AM: The First 2018 NBA Mock Draft
With College Basketball getting underway and things starting to get interesting in the standings of the NBA, what better time to drop a 2018 Mock Draft than on Thanksgiving.
The Thanksgiving 2018 NBA Mock Draft
With College Basketball getting underway and things starting to get interesting in the standings of the NBA, what better time to drop a 2018 Mock Draft than on Thanksgiving.
So with that in mind here is my first Mock Draft of the 2018 Season, look for more of these are we march on (and hopefully you like the new Mock Draft table design.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this summer.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would convey.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Ricky Rubio trade this summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves first round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors first round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets first round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.
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NBA PM: Lopez Leading On And Off The Court
Brook Lopez has been a valuable addition to the Los Angeles Lakers, both on and off the court.
In spite of the ongoing media circus, an inherently tougher conference and a roster that features just five players with more than three years of NBA experience, the Los Angeles Lakers are 8-10. Naturally, that won’t be good enough to reach the postseason in the West, but it’s better than most expected the young Lakers to fare. Their early season successes can be chalked up to their glut of budding talent — Julius Randle, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, among others — but there’s one other major driving force at hand here and his name is Brook Lopez.
Following years of will-they, won’t-they rumors, Lopez was acquired in a shocking blockbuster trade with the Brooklyn Nets just prior to this year’s draft. The Lakers were eager to get out from under Timofey Mozgov’s lengthy, albatross-sized contract, so they packaged him with the once-troubled D’Angelo Russell, shipping the pair off for Lopez and the No. 27 overall pick. The deal was largely made with financial implications in mind, but the initial returns on Lopez have been a massive win for the Lakers as well.
Although Lopez is currently logging a career-low in minutes (24.3), he still often leads the way for Los Angeles — like the night he effortlessly dropped 34 points and 10 rebounds on 6-for-9 from three-point range against his former franchise. Through 18 games, Lopez is averaging just 14.8 points and 5.1 rebounds — a scoring mark that ranks only above his rookie season with the New Jersey Nets in 2008-09 — but his statistical impact is key on this inconsistent roster nonetheless.
But beyond that, it seems as if some of Lopez’s biggest contributions this season have come off the court — just ask Kyle Kuzma and Ivica Zubac.
“[Lopez] has taught me how to be a professional,” Kuzma told Basketball Insiders prior to their game against the Boston Celtics earlier this month. “He’s one of the first guys in the gym, one of the last ones to leave.”
Lopez, who has carried his fair share of incredibly poor teams in the past — and often with a smile — is in the final year of the contract he signed back in 2015. His expiring deal worth $22.6 million made Lopez the perfect acquisition for a Lakers team hoping to shed cap space before the upcoming free agency period — where, allegedly, LeBron James and Paul George are both targets.
For a 7-foot center that just added a three-point shot to his game and knocked down 134 of them last season alone, Lopez may be one of the greatest trade afterthoughts in recent memory. The Lakers will likely finish in the lottery rather than the postseason, but Lopez — along with veterans Andrew Bogut, Corey Brewer and Luol Deng — have been a helpful presence for the slew of young Lakers as they adjust to professional basketball.
“They’re all great — they’ve been there, done that,” Kuzma said. “They have a lot of experience in this league, so it’s good to learn from those guys because they’ve played 10, 13 years and that’s what I want to do.”
Kuzma, of course, was selected with that No. 27 overall pick that the Nets sent to Los Angeles in the trade, and he’s been red-hot ever since. Following an impressive combine, summer league and preseason, Kuzma jumped into the starting lineup after Larry Nance Jr. fractured his hand just eight games into the campaign. Although the Rookie of the Year battle has been dominated by the Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons so far, Kuzma — averaging 16.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game — has emerged as a strong runner-up candidate.
For Zubac, however, it’s been a slower start to his NBA career but with Lopez, he says, things have gotten easier.
“The whole summer, I worked on my three-point shot,” Zubac told Basketball Insiders. “But also [I worked on my] post offense too, that’s what [Lopez] is good at. I’m really focusing my game around the post, so that’s where I’m trying to learn.”
Last year, Zubac was a popular late-season member of head coach Luke Walton’s rotation and he finished his rookie year averaging 7.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in just 16 minutes per game. Unfortunately, the new arrivals and recent emergences have limited Zubac to just 10 total minutes over four appearances in 2017-18. Still, Lopez gives Zubac a mentor worth modeling his game after, even if it’s at the expense of real experience this season.
To get Zubac on the floor, the center has spent time with the South Bay Lakers, Los Angeles’ G-League affiliate, as of late. In two games, Zubac has averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds on 73 percent shooting from the field. Despite the lack of playing time, Zubac was more than happy to praise not only Lopez but the efforts of the other aforementioned veterans too.
“I can learn a lot from them and they help me play my game,” Zubac said. “Whoever’s on the court, whoever I’m playing with, I just try to learn as much as I can from them.”
Ultimately, though, it all comes back to Lopez.
Again, Lopez has averaged a career-low in minutes, but his contributions have been crucial in the Lakers’ overall standing thus far. In the games that Lopez has played less than 21 minutes, the Lakers are 0-5; but when he plays more than 30, the team is 3-1. On top of that, the Lakers are 5-1 when Lopez hits two or more three-pointers in a game as well. That sample size is still certainly small, but it’s nice indicator of Lopez’s inherent on-court impact, even when he’s not carrying the team on his shoulders.
“[He makes life] a lot easier for me,” Kuzma said. “He’s one of the most established scorers in the league and his career average is, like, 20 [points] a game. You can always count on him to be there every single night.”
While the Lakers can plan for a dream offseason haul involving James, George and others, they’ll have a tough decision facing them in July. Whether he’s efficiently stretching the floor, finishing off assists from Ball or setting the tone in an inexperienced locker room, Lopez has been quite the addition for Los Angeles.
This summer, Lopez enters unrestricted free agency and will likely garner offers outside of the Lakers’ pay range considering their big plans. If the Lakers decide to focus elsewhere, another team will reap the rewards. Until then, the youthful core in Los Angeles will benefit from having Lopez train and educate them each day.
“[Lopez] takes care of his body, he stays low-key and is never in trouble,” Kuzma said. “He’s the type of professional I want to be.”
Whether this is just a one-year detour in his extensively underrated career or the start of a great, new partnership, Lopez’s arrival in Los Angeles has been a huge success already. But as far as role models go for both Kuzma and Zubac, there are few choices better than Brook Lopez — both on and off the court.