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Getting Ready for NBA Trade Season

Salary cap guru Eric Pincus provides the latest information on the upcoming NBA trade season.

Eric Pincus

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The 2016-17 NBA season is already over a month old but only one trade has been consummated since opening night.

Outside of the November 1 deal that sent Jerami Grant to the Oklahoma City Thunder from the Philadelphia 76ers for Ersan Ilyasova, the trade market has been quiet.

That’s not uncommon with trade restrictions suppressing the market. Last season, Miami and Memphis made the only deal before late December.

By rule of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, free agents who signed over the summer cannot be traded for three months or December 15, whichever is later.

JaVale McGee, who signed with the Golden State Warriors on September 12, has the December 15 restriction. Kyle Wiltjer inked with the Houston Rockets on September 23 and cannot be dealt until December 23.

With the NBA’s trade deadline on February 23, less than three months away, all future free-agent signings will not be trade eligible this season.

Additionally, players who re-signed with their teams over the offseason to at least a 20 percent raise (via Early or Full Bird Rights) cannot be traded until January 15.

Meanwhile, general managers are taking the time to determine if their team will be a buyer or seller in the trade market. Currently, Warriors (14-2) have the best record overall, while the Dallas Mavericks (2-13) have the worst. Dallas has been beset by injuries, but is still just 5.5 games behind the eighth-place Portland Trail Blazers (9-9).

No-Trade Clauses

Now that Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan have retired, only LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks) and Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks) have explicit no-trade clauses.

A much greater number of players have a similar right to block trades since they re-signed with their respective teams on one-year deals.

That list includes Kris Humphries (Atlanta Hawks), Deron Williams (Mavericks), James Jones (Cavaliers), Beno Udrih (Detroit Pistons, picked up off waivers from the Miami HEAT), Anderson Varejao (Warriors), James McAdoo (Warriors), Ian Clark (Warriors), Luc Mbah a Moute (Los Angeles Clippers), Metta World Peace (Los Angeles Lakers), Udonis Haslem (HEAT), Steve Novak (Milwaukee Bucks), Sasha Vujacic (New York Knicks), Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs) and Marcus Thornton (Washington Wizards).

Nowitzki, who has a team option on the second year of his deal, also has the implicit version of a no-trade. Technically, Dallas could get around that by opting him into the second year but Nowitzki would still have his actual no-trade clause.

Both Tyler Johnson (HEAT) and Allen Crabbe (Trail Blazers) can block trades as well, given their respective franchises matched offer sheets in July.

Roster Space

With the NBA currently full with 15 players on all 30 teams, 450 in total, teams will need to make room if they intend to make a trade that brings in more players than they send out.

For example, if a team needs to take on three players in a deal while sending out one, they would first need to waive two players on their current roster.

By January 10, all players on non/partially-guaranteed contracts will lock in for the rest of the season. A total of 408 players may have guaranteed money, but teams are certainly free to cut those with locked in salary.

Hard Cap

Teams with hard caps, set at $117.3 million for the current season, cannot go over for any reason — limiting how much salary they can take on in trade.

The Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks are all hard-capped.

The Clippers are the closest to that mark at $114.7 million in salary. They would be unable to make a deal that brings in an additional $4 million in salary.

Los Angeles triggered the hard cap by using the Mid-Level Exception (MLE) on Wesley Johnson and the Bi-Annual Exception (BAE) on Mbah a Moute. The Raptors used their MLE on Jared Sullinger.

The Grizzlies and Bucks were hard-capped after acquiring players via sign and trade (Troy Daniels and Matthew Dellavedova, respectively).

Trade Exceptions

Trade exceptions can be used to acquire a player without sending out matching salary. Teams can bring in a player earning up to $100,000 more than the exception.

The following franchises have trade exceptions available:

Charlotte Hornets: $1.7 million, expiring 7/12/17

Cleveland Cavaliers: $845,059, expiring 1/12/17; $9.6 million expiring 2/18/17; $947,276, expiring 2/18/17; $1.3 million, expiring 8/15/17

Los Angeles Clippers: $1.2 million, expiring 7/15/17

Milwaukee Bucks: $1.7 million, expiring 9/22/17

Oklahoma City Thunder: $7.4 million, expiring 11/1/17

Trade-Restricted Players

Neither Michael Carter-Williams (Chicago Bulls) nor Tony Snell (Bucks) can be traded in a package with others players on their respective team. The salary-aggregation restriction lifts on December 17.

Additionally, Udrih cannot be aggregated by the Pistons until December 24.

The following players cannot be traded until the dates listed below:

Dec. 15

Atlanta Hawks: Kent Bazemore, Malcolm Delaney, Dwight Howard, Kris Humphries

Boston Celtics: Gerald Green, Al Horford

Brooklyn Nets: Trevor Booker, Randy Foye, Justin Hamilton, Joe Harris, Jeremy Lin, Luis Scola

Charlotte Hornets: Treveon Graham, Roy Hibbert, Brian Roberts, Ramon Sessions, Christian Wood

Chicago Bulls: Isaiah Canaan, Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade

Cleveland Cavaliers: Chris Anderson, Richard Jefferson, James Jones, DeAndre Liggins

Dallas Mavericks: Harrison Barnes, Nicolas Brussino, Seth Curry, Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell, Deron Williams

Denver Nuggets: Darrell Arthur, Mike Miller

Detroit Pistons: Jon Leuer, Boban Marjanovic, Ish Smith, Beno Udrih

Golden State Warriors: Ian Clark, Kevin Durant, James McAdoo, JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia, Anderson Varejao, David West

Houston Rockets: Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, Nene

Indiana Pacers: Aaron Brooks, Al Jefferson, Kevin Seraphin

Los Angeles Clippers: Alan Anderson, Brandon Bass, Raymond Felton, Wesley Johnson, Luc Mbah a Moute, Marreese Speights

Los Angeles Lakers: Jordan Clarkson, Luol Deng, Marcelo Huertas, Timofey Mozgov

Memphis Grizzlies: Troy Daniels, James Ennis, Chandler Parsons, Troy Williams

Miami HEAT: Wayne Ellington, Udonis Haslem, James Johnson, Rodney McGruder, Willie Reed, Dion Waiters, Hassan Whiteside, Derrick Williams

Milwaukee Bucks: Matthew Dellavedova, Steve Novak, Mirza Teletovic, Jason Terry

Minnesota Timberwolves: Cole Aldrich, Jordan Hill, John Lucas, Brandon Rush

New Orleans Pelicans: Tim Frazier, Langston Galloway, Solomon Hill, Terrence Jones, E’Twaun Moore

New York Knicks: Ron Baker, Brandon Jennings, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Maurice Ndour, Joakim Noah, Marshall Plumlee, Sasha Vujacic

Orlando Magic: D.J. Augustin, Bismack Biyombo, Jeff Green, Arinze Onuaku, Damjan Rudez

Philadelphia 76ers: Jerryd Bayless, Gerald Henderson, Sergio Rodriguez

Phoenix Suns: Leandro Barbosa, Jared Dudley, Derrick Jones

Portland Trail Blazers: Festus Ezeli, Tim Quarterman, Evan Turner

Sacramento Kings: Arron Afflalo, Matt Barnes, Ty Lawson, Garrett Temple, Anthony Tolliver

San Antonio Spurs: Dewayne Dedmon, Bryn Forbes, Pau Gasol, David Lee

Toronto Raptors: Jared Sullinger, Fred VanVleet

Utah Jazz: Joe Johnson

Washington Wizards: Danuel House, Ian Mahinmi, Sheldon McClellan, Andrew Nicholson, Daniel Ochefu, Jason Smith, Marcus Thornton

Dec. 21

Los Angeles Lakers: Thomas Robinson

Dec. 23

Houston Rockets: Bobby Brown, Kyle Wiltjer

Los Angeles Lakers: Metta World Peace

Dec. 26

San Antonio Spurs: Nicolas Laprovittola

Jan. 9

Houston Rockets: James Harden (renegotiated and extended contract)

Jan. 15

Boston Celtics: Tyler Zeller

Charlotte Hornets: Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams

Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James, J.R. Smith

Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki

Detroit Pistons: Andre Drummond

Los Angeles Clippers: Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers

Los Angeles Lakers: Tarik Black

Memphis Grizzlies: Mike Conley

Miami HEAT: Tyler Johnson

Milwaukee Bucks: Miles Plumlee

New York Knicks: Lance Thomas

Orlando Magic: Evan Fournier

Portland Trail Blazers: Allen Crabbe, Mo Harkless, Meyers Leonard

San Antonio Spurs: Manu Ginobili

Toronto Raptors: DeMar DeRozan

Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal

Jan. 31

Atlanta Hawks: Ryan Kelly

Feb. 4

Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook (renegotiated and extended contract)

Feb. 9

Brooklyn Nets: Yogi Ferrell

Feb. 16

Denver Nuggets: Alonzo Gee

Feb. 21

New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Brown

Feb. 17

Dallas Mavericks: Jonathan Gibson

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The Case for Upperclassmen in the NBA Draft

College upperclassmen are becoming increasingly viable options in the NBA Draft, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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Each year when the NBA draft comes around, there seems to be an aversion to taking upperclassman with a top selection. More specifically, it’s college seniors who often find themselves getting drafted in the second-round if at all.

It can be understandable. NBA teams are clearly looking for a home run pick with a lottery selection. They’re looking for a player who they can build a foundation around for years to come. College seniors often project as solid role players to strengthen a team once that foundational superstar is already in place.

However, recent years have seen the entire first round dominated almost entirely by freshmen and sophomores. In 2017, a college senior wasn’t drafted until the San Antonio Spurs took Derrick White with the 29th pick. The Los Angeles Lakers followed that up with Josh Hart. Hart ended up having a better rookie season than a few of the underclassmen taken ahead of him.

A few other upperclassmen, Frank Mason III, a senior, and Dillon Brooks, a junior, both had better rookie seasons than many of the freshmen taking before them as well. Junior Semi Ojeleye is playing a major role for the Boston Celtics who are in the Eastern Conference Finals.

In 2016, Malcolm Brogdon, another college senior, was taken in the second-round with the 36th pick by the Milwaukee Bucks. He went on to win the Rookie of the Year award and was a starter for a playoff team.

Senior Tyrone Wallace was taken with the last pick in the draft at No. 60 that year. When a rash of injuries hit the Los Angeles Clippers this season, Wallace stepped in right away as a starter at times and helped keep the team afloat in the playoff picture.

There were a few college seniors that went undrafted in 2016, players such as Fred VanVleet Yogi Ferrell that have had better NBA careers to this point that a lot of the underclassmen taken ahead of them.

This isn’t to say that NBA teams should completely abandon taking young, underdeveloped players in the first-round. The Spurs took Dejounte Murray, a freshman point guard, over Brogdon, Wallace, VanVleet and Ferrell. That’s worked out well for them. It’s more a testament to having a good front office and scouting team than anything else.

But maybe NBA teams should start expanding their horizons when it comes to the draft. There appears to be a stigma of sorts when it comes to upperclassmen, particularly college seniors. If a guy can play, he can play. Of course, college production is often not the best means of judging NBA success, but it does count for something.

With the 2018 NBA draft about one month away, there are a few interesting names to look at when it comes to college seniors. Players such as Devonte’ Graham from Kansas, Theo Pinson from North Carolina, Chandler Hutchinson from Boise State, Jevon Carter from West Virginia and Bonzie Colson from Notre Dame are all guys that should be on NBA team’s radars.

Sure, none of those guys are going to turn into a superstar or even an All-Star. But you’re probably going to get a player that becomes a solid contributor for years to come.

Again, it’s understandable when teams take projects in the lottery. After a long season of losing, and in some cases years of losing, ownership and the fanbase are hungry for results. They don’t want a top pick to be used on a player that projects as only a solid contributor.

But after the lottery, the rest of the draft gets a little murky. A good front office will find an NBA caliber player whether he’s a freshman or a senior. The NBA Draft isn’t an exact science. Nothing is ever for sure and no player is guaranteed to become the player they’re projected to be.

College upperclassmen tend to be more physically developed and mentally mature for the NBA game. If what you’re looking for is someone who will step right in and produce for a winning team, then instead of wasting a pick on the unknown, it might be better to go with the sure thing.

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NBA Daily: Are the Houston Rockets in Trouble?

Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals may have been the perfect storm for Houston, writes Shane Rhodes.

Shane Rhodes

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The Houston Rockets took a gut punch from the Golden State Warriors, but they responded in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

After they dropped the first game of the series, Houston evened things up at one apiece Wednesday night with a 127-105 blowout win over Golden State. With the Warriors struggling on the offensive end and Houston rebounding from a less than stellar Game 1, the Rockets rolled through the game with relative ease.

But was their improved demonstration a fluke? While fans may not want to hear it, Game 2 may have been the perfect storm for Houston.

The Rockets’ gameplan didn’t change much from Game 1 to 2. They attacked Steph Curry relentlessly on the offensive end, James Harden and Chris Paul took plenty of shots in isolation and their role players got shots to drop that just weren’t going down in Game 1. Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza and P.J. Tucker exploded for 68 points while shooting 66.7 percent from three after scoring just 24 the previous game. The trio averaged only 35.8 points collectively during the regular season.

Meanwhile, Golden State couldn’t buy a bucket; starting Warriors not named Kevin Durant scored just 35 points. Curry shot just 1-8 from downtown while Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguadola combined for just 19 points while shooting 35 percent from the floor. All of that will undoubtedly change.

So, going back to Oakland for Game 3, where do the Rockets find themselves? Not in a great place, unfortunately.

Golden State did their job: they stole a game — and home-court advantage — from the Rockets at the Toyota Center. Now, as the series shifts back to Oracle Arena and, assuming the Warriors return to form in front of their home crowd, Houston will have their work more than cut out for them. If Curry, Thompson and Durant all have their shot falling, there isn’t much the Rockets can do to keep up

The Warriors, aside from Curry, played great team defense in Game 2, something that will likely continue into Game 3. The Rockets hit plenty of tough, contested shots — shots that won’t drop as they move away from the energy of the home crowd and shots that Golden State would gladly have Houston take again and again and again. Harden and Paul didn’t exactly bring their A-game in Game 2 either — the two combined for a solid 43 points but took an inefficient 38 shots to get there. If the two of them play like that at Oracle, the Warriors will abuse them in transition, something that can’t happen if the Rockets want to steal back the home-court advantage.

The aforementioned trio of Gordon, Ariza and Tucker are unlikely to replicate their Game 2 performance as well, and relying on them to do so would be foolish on the part of Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni. Devising a game plan that will keep the offense moving while not leaning heavily on the role players will be of the utmost importance — if the offense returns to the bogged down effort that Houston gave in Game 1, the Rockets stand no chance.

Meanwhile, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr will likely adjust his defense in an effort to limit the Rockets effectiveness in the isolation while also trying to find somewhere to hide Curry on the defensive end. It almost certainly won’t be the same sets that Houston throttled in Game 2 which will take another toll on the Rockets offense, especially if they fail to execute.

Not everything looks bad for Houston, however. Faced with a do-or-die scenario, Harden, Paul and co. were the more aggressive team from the jump. Pushing the pace flustered the Warriors and forced some pretty bad turnovers consistently throughout the night. If they come out with the same kind of energy and pace, the Rockets could have Golden State on their heels as they did in Game 2.

Budding star Clint Capela also has plenty of room to improve his game, as he has averaged just 8.5 points and eight rebounds through the first two games of the series — the Rockets need him to play his best basketball of the season if they want a chance to win.

Still, the Warriors are virtually unbeatable at home. The team has lost three games this postseason, just four times over their last two playoff trips and not once at Oracle, making the Rockets’ task even more daunting than it already was. Like Game 2, Game 3 should be played as a do-or-die situation for the Rockets because, if they don’t come out with the same aggressive, up-tempo energy, things could be over quickly.

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NBA Daily: Hope Not Lost for Mavs

The Dallas Mavericks were the lottery’s biggest losers, but VP of basketball operations Michael Finley still believes the team will land an elite talent.

Joel Brigham

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Dallas Mavericks vice president of basketball operations Michael Finley knows what it’s like to be on the other side of the draft process. In 2018, he’s an executive for the third-worst team in the league that somehow slipped to the fifth overall pick in Tuesday night’s NBA Draft Lottery, but in 1995 he was a kid from the University of Wisconsin hoping to get drafted.

Finley was a first-round pick that summer, ironically selected by the Phoenix Suns, who won the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft earlier this week, but he says he doesn’t even remember the lottery. The lottery wasn’t the event then that it has since become.

“The lottery wasn’t this big when I was in the draft,” Finley told Basketball Insiders. “I don’t even remember how the lottery process played out when I was coming out of college. It’s grown so much, but the league has grown. It’s good for fans, and it’s good for people to get excited about this process.”

Of course, the irony in getting excited about a draft pick isn’t lost on him.

“It’s kind of weird that [fans] are celebrating the losing process, isn’t it?”

Not surprisingly, Finley wasn’t especially thrilled to see his team fail to reap the rewards of a Dallas Mavericks season that was stepped in that losing process. The lottery odds will change next year, and Finley believes that’s a good thing.

“It’s a good thing to change the system a little,” he says. “It will help keep the integrity of the game intact, especially toward the end of the year. It also will be even more suspenseful than these lottery events have been in the past.”

That’s next year, though. This year, the Mavericks are tasked with finding an elite player at a pick lower than they expected. Finley’s trying to look at things optimistically.

“It could have been sixth,” he said. “It’s still in the top five, and going on what we did this season, we don’t want to be in this position next year, so hopefully the guy we pick at #5 will get us out of the lottery and back into the playoffs.”

In fact, having that selection doesn’t preclude the team from finding a star, especially in a draft this loaded. Most agree that Luka Doncic and DeAndre Ayton are the prizes of the draft, but there are other guys available with All-Star potential. Marvin Bagley, Trae Young, Michael Porter, Jr., and Mo Bamba all have incredibly high ceilings. The Mavs may yet do something meaningful with that selection.

“It’s a strong draft, and a lot of the draft is going to go with what player fits what team in a particular system. If you’re lucky enough to get that perfect combination, the players that are in this draft are really good and have the capability of helping a team right away.”

That’s what Finley and the rest of the Mavericks’ organization hopes will happen in 2018-2019.

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