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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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NBA

Looking Toward The Draft: Power Forwards

Basketball Insiders continues their NBA Draft watch, this time with the power forwards.

David Yapkowitz

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We got some updated NBA draft news this week when the league announced that several key dates have been pushed back including the draft, the start of free agency and the beginning of the 2020-21 season.

The 2020 draft was originally scheduled for Oct. 16, but it will now likely occur sometime in November. Obviously, with the COVID-19 pandemic still wildly out of control in the United States, all of these potential deadlines are fluid and subject to change.

With that said, we’re continuing our position by position breakdown here at Basketball Insiders of some of the top 2020 draft prospects. We looked at the point guards and shooting guards last week, and this week we’re covering the small forwards and power forwards.

The power forward crop, like the draft overall, doesn’t appear to be as strong as recent years, that doesn’t mean there aren’t potential contributors and high-level NBA players available, as well as one who might just turn out to be a star-caliber player.

Onyeka Okongwu, USC – 19 years old

Okongwu is the player who just might develop into a star on some level. He was actually underrated in high school and was snubbed for a McDonald’s All-American selection his senior year. He established himself early on at USC as the team’s best player as a freshman and now appears to have turned some heads.

He’s been mentioned as a lottery pick and in some mock drafts, he’s top 4-5. He possesses a great all-around skill-set; he can score in the post, he can put the ball on the floor and attack and he can shoot. But perhaps his biggest attribute is his versatility on the defensive end. He’s got quick feet and mobility and can guard multiple positions.

Okongwu might actually play center in the NBA, especially in small-ball lineups, but he’s mostly played power forward and so he’ll probably see time there in the league. His skill-set fits perfectly with today’s game.

Obi Toppin, Dayton – 22 years old

Toppin is one of the older players in the draft, and in recent history, players that age tend to slip on draft boards. In Toppin’s case, it looks like the reverse might actually be true. He’s been projected as a lottery pick, and even going in the top 3.

He’s an incredibly athletic player who thrives in the open court. He looks like he’ll do well in an up-tempo offensive system that has capable playmakers who can find him in transition. He’s extremely active around the rim and he can finish strong. A decent shooter too, something he’ll need at the next level.

Toppin has the physical tools to be an effective defensive player, but that’s where the questions marks on him have been. In the NBA, he’s likely going to have to play and guard multiple positions. Whether or not he can adapt to that likely will answer the question as to what his ceiling can be.

Precious Achiuwa, Memphis – 20 years old

Achiuwa is another intriguing prospect. this writer actually got to watch him play in person while he was in high school and he was very impressive. He looked like a man among boys. He’s projected to be a late lottery pick.

He has an NBA-ready body and he’s got some toughness around the rim and in the paint. He was a double-double threat during his one season at Memphis and his knack for rebounding is something that should translate to the NBA. He’s a very good defender too, in particular, as a rim protector. He’s very quick and has the ability to guard multiple positions.

One of the main knocks on Achiuwa is his shooting ability. He didn’t shoot that well in college and power forwards being able to space the floor is almost a requirement in today’s NBA game. It’s something he can certainly work on and improve on though.

Honorable Mentions:
Paul Reed, DePaul – 21 years old
Xavier Tillman, Michigan State – 21 years old
Killian Tillie, Gonzaga – 22 years old

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NBA

Looking Toward the Draft: Small Forwards

Basketball Insiders’ examination of the 2020 draft class continues with a look at the small forwards.

Drew Maresca

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It was announced on Wednesday that the NBA Draft would be delayed from Oct. 16 to Nov. 18. The rationale is that the extra month gives the league and its players association more time to negotiate changes to the CBA. It also grants teams additional time to procure information on prospects and allows the NBA to establish regional virtual combines. But nothing is set in stone.

Still, draft prep must continue. This year’s draft class has more question marks than usual – which was complicated by the cancellation of the NCAA tournament (along with the NIT and a number of conference tournaments). There are incredibly skilled offensive players with limited offensive upside and jaw-droppingly talented defenders with incomplete offensive packages. But if (recent) history serves as a guide, there will be a few guys who make an immediate impact – and some of them very well could be small forwards.

The small forward position is key for the modern NBA. Want proof? Survey the league and you’ll find that most – if not all – contenders have an elite small forward – Milwaukee, Los Angeles (both), Boston, Miami, Toronto.

But the list of can’t miss small forward prospects feels smaller than usual. Scanning the numerous legitimate mock drafts (including our own by Steve Kyler), it becomes apparent that we lack a consensus on which small forwards will be selected (and in what order) after the top 3 or 4. Can any of them grow into a star? Maybe. Maybe not. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s identify what the top few bring to the table.

Deni Avdija, Israel – 19 years old

Avdija is a relatively well-rounded prospect who’s played professionally since he was 16. He boasts good height (6-foot-9) and uses it effectively to shoot over and pass around opposing defenses. Further, Avdija is an exceptional playmaker and he’s incredibly confident, enabling him to take chances many players would be apprehensive trying. Avdija is a high-IQ player. And what’s more, he’s a surprisingly strong defender. His height and above-average athleticism allow him to block shots, and he’s more physical than you’d expect him to be.

But there are drawbacks to Avdija, too. His main issue is around shooting. Avdija shot only 28% in the EuroLeague last season, and he shot only 60% from the free-throw line. Further, while he’s a decent athlete, he’ll struggle to secure a role in the NBA. He’s going to need to add speed to stay with modern wings, and he’ll also have to bulk up to bang with power forwards.

Still, Avdija’s upside is alluring. He’s only 19, and his smarts, confidence and grittiness should provide him cover for much of his rookie season. Avdija should be the first small forward off of the board.

Isaac Okoro, Auburn – 19 years old

Avdija might be the flashier name currently, but Okoro will give him a run for his money in terms of which small forward is first off the board. Okoro is built like a traditional NBA wing; he’s 6-foot-6 with good strength packed in his muscular frame (215 lbs). Okoro finishes well around the rim and he converts well through contact. He’s an exceptional athlete who excels catching the ball on the move. Like Avdija, Okoro has the poise and composure of a more experienced player. Also, like Avdija, Okoro looked the part of a high IQ player in his lone season at Auburn.

And while all that is great, the main allure of Okoro is his defense. He’s a fairly advanced defender given his age, and his athleticism and timing make him an effective weak side help defender.

While Okoro’s raw abilities are exquisite, his refined offensive skills leave something to be desired. Okoro shot 28 percent on three-point field goals and he struggled from the free-throw line (67.2 percent). His mid-range jump shot also needs work, and he struggles in isolation situations.

If Okoro can hone his offensive game, he could grow into an All-Star. He has the ability to guard multiple positions, and his strength and athleticism give him a leg up on most prospects. But even if he doesn’t become an All-Star, he possesses a fairly high floor given his defensive abilities — and the guy definitely fills the state sheet (12.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, .9 steals and .9 blocks). He has lockdown defender potential and he’ll put his stamp on the game beginning on night one.

Devin Vassell, Florida State – 20 years old

Vassell played two seasons at Florida State, but he came into his own in his Sophomore season. He averaged 12.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. He shot a more than respectable 41.5% on three-point attempts, and he demonstrated a strong stroke from the free-throw line (73.8 percent) and on two-point field goal attempts (53.2).

Vassell is an extremely athletic leaper, who can rise up for a highlight dunk and sprint down the floor with ease. He has good body control and demonstrated a strong mid-range game, especially his step-back jump shot. But Vassell must generate more free throws through decisive moves to the hoop, which would be bolstered by a more muscular frame. Additionally, he must improve his ball-handling to get more from isolations.

Vassell will have an adjustment period in terms of scoring the ball at the next level. Fortunately, his defense and shooting should get him by. If he can bulk up and improve his handling, Vassell could grow into a serious player.

Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt – 20 years old

Nesmith probably has a lower floor than any of the other top small forward prospects given that he’ll be 21 by the draft. Still, he looked quite good in his Junior year, averaging 23 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game on a scorching 52.2 percent shooting from deep. Nesmith is an incredibly gifted shooter who has impressive range. His ability to catch-and-shoot and create space with fakes makes him a promising prospect – for the right team.

Nesmith is a high IQ player who uses his smarts on the defensive end. He’s also quite strong, can get buckets in the open floor and demonstrates above average ball-handling skills, as long as he’s not taking the ball to the hoop.

But there are inherent limitations in Nesmith’s game. He’s doesn’t create for his teammates too effectively and he turns the ball over more frequently than one would like with. Further, Nesmith is plagued by robotic movements that limit his athleticism. His ball-handling breaks down when taking the ball to the rack – something he’ll certainly have to work on in the NBA if he wants to be a versatile scoring threat against the bigger and stronger competition.

Still, Nesmith’s positives give him an excellent chance at being selected in the first round. His range alone will intrigue teams in need of a shooter.

Honorable Mentions:

Saddiq Bey, Villanova – 21 years old

Jaden McDaniels, Washington – 19 years old

Robert Woodard II, Mississippi State – 20 years old

With the uncertainty around small forward prospects, expect to see a revolving door of names enter the discussion after the first four wing prospects are off the board prior to Nov. 16 – assuming the draft is held then. But regardless of how you have them ranked, all of the aforementioned prospects have question marks. But all have had far more time to improve than they would have in years’ past. Let’s hope that shows come next season.

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NBA

NBA Daily: Opposite Plotlines for Today’s Matchups

With the two matchups going on today, Matt John examines the two teams who could be in the most trouble because of one of their individual stars for opposite reasons.

Matt John

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The second round of the NBA playoffs was hyped up to be one of the most entertaining we’ve had in years. So far, they haven’t fallen short of expectations. We knew that Houston and Los Angeles’ battle of opposite philosophies would make for some twists and turns. We knew that Boston and Toronto would duke it out in an Atlantic Division showdown. We knew that Miami would push Milwaukee to new heights. We didn’t really know if the Nuggets would give the Clippers a good series, but the fact that they have so far has made an intense postseason all the more gripping.

Anyway, today we’re getting two games from two series in completely opposite places. The Lakers and the Rockets will face off for the series lead, while the HEAT will try to finish off the Bucks once and for all. Below, we’re going to focus on two teams who have an individual star that either may be more flawed than we thought or one that may not be as flawed as we thought.

Bucks vs. HEAT: Giannis is great and all, but…

We all pretty much knew this was going to be a good series. We did not expect this.

The buzz surrounding Bucks v. HEAT was that Miami was going to make Milwaukee earn every win they got in this series. If that was the plan, then Miami has failed miserably, because until Khris Middleton went supernova on them on Sunday, Milwaukee had come up terribly short.

Let’s first give Miami the credit that they are due and more. With Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler alone, Miami was going to be a tough matchup for Milwaukee – but to see the Bucks all but roll over in this series is an unpleasant sight. Acquiring Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala has paid huge dividends and it’s showing. There are other factors involved, but Miami’s defensive efforts have limited Giannis to 21.8 points a game and that’s played a role in the HEAT being in the driver’s seat of this series.

Speaking of Giannis Antetokounmpo, this series has not been a good look for the Defensive Player of the Year. Especially since it looks like his second consecutive MVP (presumably) is right around the corner. So, to see both him and Milwaukee, once an unstoppable force without an immovable object in sight, get stopped by a sturdy but not immovable squad is saddening.

Nearly a year ago, Basketball Insiders compared these current Bucks to the Dwight Howard-led Orlando Magic from the late-2000’s/early 2010’s. To oversimplify things, both were contenders led by a superstar with a rare physique that made them tough to stop. To put the superstar in the best position, they surrounded them with playmakers and three-point shooters.

While the teams’ roster constructions weren’t exactly the same, their strengths as a team certainly were. Now we’re seeing the Bucks’ flaws just as we did the Magic 10 years ago. If you have the personnel to make the lone superstar uncomfortable, the team doesn’t function as well.

Giannis is near impossible to stop, but the one major flaw is that if you take away his ability to drive and force him into a jumper, he loses his rhythm. Even if his shot is on – never a guarantee – his opponents will let him beat them that way until he makes them pay. Hardly any team can pick on this, but the HEAT are one of them, and now they’re one win away from their first Eastern Conference Finals since LeBron James took his talents out of South Beach.

This ultimately is what puts Antetokounmpo below the likes of LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard for now. Those guys are rare physical specimens like him, but their elite games don’t revolve entirely around their natural gifts as he does or Dwight did. At 25 years old, there’s plenty of time for him to change that and, for all we know, he will, but to see him struggle at a time when the conference was supposed to run through him has ignited tons of questions.

Milwaukee’s technically not out yet, but they’ve shown their mortality against Miami. If this really is it for them, then they’ve got to find a quick fix for this problem because if they don’t, then the unspeakable may happen.

Lakers vs. Rockets: Westbrook has been bad and all but…

Shaking off the rust and recovering from a balky knee would be tough for anyone. For Russell Westbrook, it’s killing his productivity and, in turn, the Rockets’ playoff chances. He’s averaging 15.6 points on 39/16/47 splits with a most recent 10-point, 4-of-15 effort from the field which included seven turnovers and air balling wide-open threes sticking out like a sore thumb.

It also doesn’t help that he’s playing the Lakers of all teams. When Westbrook has been in, the Lakers have taken advantage of his shortcomings offensively and it shows both on the court and the stat line.

Most of Westbrook’s damage is hurting Houston on the offensive end. With the All-Star guard in the game, Houston is minus-13.7 with him on the court, the worst offensive rating on the team. The 12 turnovers he’s coughed up in this series probably have something to do with that.

With Westbrook’s struggles and his predecessor Chris Paul coming off of his best individual season since 2016, this, of course, has led to many second-guessing the swap last summer. Or let’s rephrase that: People have been second-guessing that trade since the moment it was announced and, in light of recent events, they’re piling on now more than ever.

Maybe they’re right. Even after playing in the NBA for over a decade now, Westbrook still hasn’t proven that he can control himself enough to reach his potential as a team player. We’ve seen glimpses. On the other hand, Paul showed that he can still pick apart defenses while holding his own on that end.

But replacing Paul with Westbrook was Harden’s idea. He didn’t want to play with Paul anymore and chose to play with one of his closest friends. You may think that the better fit is what’s best for the team, but we’ve seen the damage that can happen when your team’s best players have friction with one another. It hurt Utah this season. It hurt Boston last season. It destroyed the Lakers back in 2013. There’s no telling what it could have done to Houston this season.

Besides, we know that as bad as Westbrook has been, he’s capable of being better. Not a knockdown shooter, not even an efficient scorer, but he has done better in the past when the focus was on him. The more days he takes to shake off the rust from his knee, the more optimistic the Rockets ought to be.

The Rockets have to take the glass-half-full on this one because they don’t really have a choice otherwise.

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