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Head to Head: Winners of the Trade Deadline

Alex Kennedy, Ben Dowsett and Moke Hamilton debate which teams are the winners of the trade deadline.

Basketball Insiders



The NBA trade deadline came and went without any major fireworks. However, there were several significant moves made that have short- and long-term implications. On today’s Head to Head, Alex Kennedy, Ben Dowsett and Moke Hamilton debate which teams should be considered the winners of the trade deadline.

Alex Kennedy: Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns didn’t make a splashy addition, but general manager Ryan McDonough deserves a ton of credit for getting such an excellent return for mercurial power forward Markieff Morris. The 26-year-old was traded to the Washington Wizards in exchange for a 2016 first-round pick (which is top-nine protected), as well as Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair (who each have non-guaranteed salaries for next season).

It’s very possible that the Wizards will have to part ways with that first-round pick in June, which would be a big steal for the Suns. It’s worth noting that Phoenix could have as many as three first-round picks in this upcoming draft (their own pick, the Wizards’ pick and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ pick). They could either use those picks to add prospects and further their rebuild, or they could try to package them with some of their young players to put together an attractive trade offer.

Morris did just about everything he could to sink his trade value over the last year, which is why getting a first-round pick in exchange for him is so impressive.

To recap: Morris got charged for felony aggravated assault, demanded a trade once the Suns moved his brother, became a distraction entering training camp due to his public criticism of the team, received a two-game suspension for throwing a towel at former head coach Jeff Hornacek, choked and argued with teammate Archie Goodwin during a game, posted his worst statistics since becoming a starter and more.

Phoenix started playing Morris way more in recent weeks to showcase him to other teams, and it seems that his trade value was helped by his strong play in February. This month, Morris averaged 20.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.4 blocks and one steal while shooting 44.8 percent from the field.

While Morris’ play helped the Suns, it’s still surprising that McDonough was able to persuade the Wizards to give up expiring contracts and what could end up being a lottery pick. Morris’ contract has three years and $24 million remaining on it after this season. Many people around the NBA thought Phoenix would dump Morris rather than get valuable assets back for him. But not only did McDonough manage to get a first-rounder, he didn’t take back any salary or give up additional pieces in the deal.

This may say more about the state of the Wizards than anything. Washington was desperate to shake up their roster in some way after failing to live up to lofty expectations so far this season.

The Wizards were expected to be a contender this season, but they currently sit outside of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference’s 10th place. They’re hoping that getting 100 percent healthy and adding Morris can revitalize their squad.

Even if the move does work out for Washington, Phoenix has to be considered one of the winners of the trade deadline since the haul they received for Morris was way better than anyone expected.

Ben Dowsett: Detroit Pistons

In what turned out to be mostly a cautious collective approach to the trade deadline from the majority of the league, the Detroit Pistons stood out both for their unique approach and their total value added. The Pistons moved early and pre-empted final-hour craziness for one of the biggest splash moves of the deadline, one which could objectively be argued as the biggest fleece of the trade period. And in the process, they simplified their 2016 offseason in one fell swoop.

By value alone, Detroit’s swap of Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings for Tobias Harris from Orlando was one of the week’s most successful transactions. Jennings expires after this season and Ilyasova has just one non-guaranteed year left, and neither can really hold a candle to Harris from a raw value standpoint given the latter’s age and varied skill set. Even if Detroit takes a minor step back, which in itself seems like it could go either way, the long-term value the Pistons have secured is almost certainly a plus.

In addition, the Harris move combined with Detroit’s acquisition of Donatas Motiejunas from Houston acted as an early-bird part of their summer activity. Rather than wade among what could be one of the craziest couple months in league transaction history with the cap exploding, the Pistons have declared many of their overall intentions in advance – Harris is locked in for several season and Motiejunas will be a restricted free agent that Detroit will hold matching rights on.

Things could get a tad pricey here, but the Pistons are wagering that the open market would have been this way regardless, and have locked down their targets in a way that ensures they’ll retain team control no matter what.

Whether this set of moves will lead to sustained success is another question, but given the position Detroit entered this season it’s easy to say that Stan Van Gundy and his management team have upped their stock significantly. They made decisive, value-heavy moves for young guys with team control, set their plan for the summer and sacrificed very little they deem of true value in the process.

Moke Hamilton: Golden State Warriors

After thinking about it for some time, I was considering declaring the Los Angeles Clippers to be the winners of the NBA trade deadline. Jeff Green does leave certain things to be desired. At the very least, someone with his talent should be a perennial contender for an All-Star nomination, but something seems to be missing. Regardless, he is a talented player who impacts both ends of the court and solves the Clippers’ mystery at the small forward position. Even better, he can play a bit of stretch-four for them, as well. He will make Doc Rivers’ team stronger and, to me, solidifies the Clippers as a contender in the Western Conference.

Still, if I had to choose one winner from the trade deadline, I would probably have to say that it’s the Golden State Warriors.

If you go back and take an inventory of all of the superstar caliber players whose names were mentioned as potentially being dealt—a list that includes Dwight Howard, Kevin Love and Pau Gasol—you would realize that the right impact player on the right team could have threatened the Warriors. That, though, is not the case.

I don’t think Channing Frye is getting the Cavaliers over the top just like I don’t think that Green necessarily makes the Clippers better than the Warriors. Their beating at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers aside, the trade deadline really didn’t produce any result that any of the top teams in either conference need to be afraid of. For the most part, what we saw were some of the lower-seeded Eastern Conference teams solidify themselves as playoff contenders while the Oklahoma City Thunder’s addition of Randy Foye is the only other noteworthy move in the conference aside from the Green acquisition.

Coming out of the trade deadline, the Warriors are still head and shoulders above every other team in the league and they still have a shot at becoming just the second team to eclipse the 70-win mark.

Yep, it’s pretty easy to see that, in the grand scheme of things, they are the big winners.


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NBA Daily: Jaylen Brown Set To Return For Celtics

The Celtics finally got some good news on Thursday. Jaylen Brown’s return is imminent.

Moke Hamilton



Finally, some good news for the Boston Celtics.

Jaylen Brown is set to return to action.

Brown has been M.I.A. since sustaining a concussion during the team’s 117-109 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves back on March 8, but has traveled with the team to Portland and is expecting to return to the lineup on Sunday when the Celtics do battle with the Sacramento Kings.

As the Celts gear up for a playoff run, which they hope will result in them ending LeBron James’ reign atop the Eastern Conference, they’ve picked the wrong time to run into injury issues. Along with Brown, both Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart have each been conspicuous by their absences, and the team could certainly use all of their pieces as they attempt to enter the postseason on a high note.

Fortunately for Boston, with the Toronto Raptors leading them by 4.5 games in the standings and the Celts ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers by a comfortable six games, Brad Stevens’ team is enjoying the rare situation of having a playoff seed that appears to be somewhat locked in.

Still, with the team only able to go as far as its young rotation will carry it, Brown addressed the media on Thursday.

“I’m feeling a lot better. I’m just trying to hurry up and get back,” Brown said, as quoted by

“I’m tired of not playing.”

Stevens is probably tired of him not playing, too.

As we head into the month of April, playoff-bound teams and conference contenders begin to think about playing into June, while the cellar-dwellers and pretenders begin to look toward the draft lottery and free agency.

What’s funny is that in the midst of the Raptors and their rise out East, the Celtics and their dominance has become a bit of a forgotten storyline. When Gordon Hayward went down on opening night, the neophytes from the Northeast were thought to be a decent team in the making whose ceiling probably wasn’t anywhere near that of the Cavs, the Raptors and perhaps even the Washington Wizards.

Yet through it all, with the impressive growth of Jaylen Brown, impressive rookie Jayson Tatum and the rise of Irving as a franchise’s lynchpin, the Celtics stormed out the games to the tune of a a 17-3 record. What made the strong start even more impressive was the fact that the team won 16 straight games after beginning the season 0-2.

Although they weren’t able to keep up that pace, they began the month of February having gone 37-15 and turned a great many into believers. With their spry legs, team-first playing style and capable leader in Irving, the Celtics, it was thought, were a true contender in the Eastern Conference — if not the favorite.

Since then, and after experiencing injuries to some of its key cogs, the team has gone just 11-8.

In the interim, it seems that many have forgotten about the team that tantalized the Eastern Conference in the early goings of the season.

Brown’s return, in one important respect, will signify a return to Boston’s prior self.

With Marcus Smart having recently undergone surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right thumb, he is expected to be out another five weeks or so, meaning that he’ll likely miss the beginning of the postseason.

As for Irving, although reports say that his ailing knee has no structural damage, everything the Celtics hope to accomplish begins and ends with him. FOX Sports 1’s Chris Broussard believes that it’s no slam dunk that Irving returns to action this season, but he’s in the minority. This team has simply come too far to not give themselves every opportunity to compete at the highest level, so long as doing so doesn’t jeopardize the long term health of any of the franchise’s cornerstones.

Make no mistake about it, the Celtics are far from a finished product. With their nucleus intact and flexibility preserved, they will have another offseason with which to tinker with their rotation pieces and plug away at building a champion.

But here and now, with what they’ve got, the Celtics are much closer than any of us thought they would be at this point.

And on Sunday, when Jaylen Brown rejoins his team in the lineup, to the delight of the Boston faithful, the Celtics will be that much closer.

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Winslow and the Miami HEAT Are “Believing in Each Other”

Justise Winslow discusses the all-around team effort of the Miami HEAT with Basketball Insiders.

Dennis Chambers



The days of LeBron James in Miami are over. Chris Bosh isn’t there anymore, either. No more Ray Allen or Shane Battier. Dwyane Wade is back, but he’s not “Flash” nowadays.

Actually, check the entire Miami HEAT roster; there’s no superstar. They have an All-Star in Goran Dragic, even if he was the third alternate. But during this most recent playoff push, the HEAT don’t have a worldwide household name to plaster all over billboards as a reason for their success.

With 10 games remaining until the playoffs, Miami doesn’t have a player averaging more than 33 minutes per game. Instead, they have 11 players who average at least 20 minutes a contest. Their approach is that of a deep rotation, and its led them to a 39-33 record and the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. All while the rest of the league is star-driven.

One of those key cogs to the Miami machine is third-year wing, Justise Winslow. A former top-10 pick out of Duke, Winslow is enjoying most efficient season so far for the HEAT. To him, the fact that his squad isn’t littered with names like LeBron and Steph doesn’t make a difference.

“I think our team is extremely confident in each other,” Winslow said. “I think that’s a big thing is that we all believe in each other. We play to each other’s strengths, and most importantly we’re a defensive-minded team. We hang our hats on the defensive end, and that’s really what gets us going as a team.”

Winslow isn’t exaggerating. The HEAT is seventh in the NBA in defensive rating. Head coach Erik Spoelstra harps on the team’s defensive scheme and preparation. Without a go-to scorer capable of getting the team 30 any given night, Miami needs to do their job as a collective unit on the defensive end of the floor night in and night out.

“Each night the coaching staff preaching to us that we have enough, no matter who is in the lineup,” Winslow said. “So it’s just about going out there and executing and putting together a good game of 48-minute basketball. I think our belief in each other that we have enough to get the job done is key.”

In the current NBA landscape, a lot of the playoff contenders are centered around players with big resumes and bigger names. As a result, the HEAT get lost in the shuffle of the national conversation from time to time. Their culture of togetherness and slight from the media outside of their city could make for the perfect “chip on the shoulder” recipe. Or so you would think. Winslow doesn’t believe the chatter, or lack thereof, matters any to Miami.

“We don’t pay too much attention to that,” Winslow said. ‘We’re so focused, and locked in on our team, and each other, and trying to win each game. For us, it’s about having the respect of your peers, of the other team. I think every night no matter who we have or who’s healthy, I think teams know we’re going to be a tough, physical team. Guys in this league don’t want that, you don’t want to have to play against a Miami HEAT team that’s going to be physical, that’s going to get into your body, that’s going to make you play a hard, 48-minute basketball game.”

Because of the HEAT’s brand of basketball, an 82-game season can be grueling. For Winslow, keeping his body right throughout the grind is important to him. After dealing with a few injuries last season, and ultimately being shut down for the year last January to undergo right shoulder surgery for a torn labrum, Winslow was determined to make sure he kept his body in check throughout his comeback so he would be available for a long playoff run.

While his numbers aren’t flashy, Winslow is showing improvement. His 49.3 true shooting percentage is the highest of his career, along with shooting nearly 43 percent from beyond the arc, Winslow made strides in arguably the biggest knock against his game since coming out of college.

Because NBA players have the freedom to form partnerships with whichever companies they’d like, Winslow made the choice to strike up a partnership that he felt would not only help him off the court but more importantly, on it as well.

“My partnership with MET-Rx has been great,” Winslow said. “They’ve really helped take my game to the next level with all their nutritional supplements, and the Big 100 bar. So, for me, I’m always looking for ways to stay off my feet, but also get in the best shape possible and this was just a great way to help.”

The grind of the NBA season is also eased for playoff teams by a veteran presence. So, when the HEAT brought back franchise legend Wade at the trade deadline, their locker room suddenly had a face and feel of someone who’s been there before. A player who reached the pinnacle, with the very team that traded for him nonetheless.

Getting Wade back to Miami was crucial for the team’s playoff run down the stretch, and more importantly for Winslow, who benefited greatly from his time with the future Hall of Famer when he was fresh out of college.

“First and foremost, it was great to get him back,” Winslow said. “Just the role that he played in my career as a rookie, and everything I learned from him. But then also, just the energy and positivity that he brought to the locker room, and also the community of Miami, the city of Miami as a whole. It was a much-needed energy boost, and good vibes that he brought back for that post All-Star break push for playoffs. So, it’s just been great having him back, and it’s kind of rejuvenated the team and the locker room, and just the city in general.”

Wade is the MVP-caliber player he once was this time around, though. But that’s okay. This version of the Miami HEAT is charging toward the postseason with a team-first mentality.

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NBA Daily: The Road Ahead for Michael Porter Jr.

Michael Porter Jr. is an elite prospect, but questions surrounding his back will determine his landing spot in the NBA.

Steve Kyler



The Road Ahead for Michael Porter Jr.

While some of the highly thought of college players have made their intentions on declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft known, Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr still hasn’t made his proclamation. Most people in NBA circles believe he’ll be in the 2018 NBA Draft class—you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think he’s in.

Back in November, the Missouri staff was somewhat vague and guarded about Porter’s condition until it was announced that he’d have back surgery on a couple of problematic discs in the lumbar area of his spine. The procedure is called a microdiscectomy and by all accounts was a success.

Porter missed virtually all of his college season but opted to play in the post-season for Missouri, who got eliminated fairly quickly.

There were certainly a lot of ugly things about Porter’s game. He looked out of shape, and certainly wasn’t the overwhelming dominating force he’d been in high school. Some executives applauded his decision to play, even though he wasn’t at a 100 percent. Some pointed to that fact that too many college players play it safe and that’s not always viewed positively. Almost no one Basketball Insiders spoke with was holding the less than stellar outing against him. In fact, most had far more positive things to say than negative. There was one resounding theme from the NBA executives who spoke about this situation—none of it matters until they see his medical.

Assuming Porter does as expected and hires an agent and enters the draft, the next challenge he’ll face is how open he wants to be to teams looking at drafting him.

In recent years, NBA teams have not shied away from using high draft picks on injured or recently injured players. Once a team can get a sense of how the player is recovering, they can make a value judgment.

Agents often use this information and access to the player to help steer their client to the situation they deem most favorable. While fans and outsiders often get caught up in the pick number a player ultimately lands at, more and more agents are concerned with fit, especially for a player that may need time to get back to 100 percent.

Most agents would want to steer their client to a team with favorable medical staff, a team with a proven track record of patience or more importantly, a team with the best chance at a long and fruitful career.

This won’t be good news for some team that could end up in the top 10, as it’s more likely that Porter isn’t made available to everyone. NBA executives will tell you, they can certainly draft him if they wanted to, but most teams won’t draft a player if their medical staff doesn’t sign off, and without information and access how can they do that?

There is a significant financial difference in going third in the draft ($5.47 million) and 10th ($2.964 million) – but several agents commented that the short-term money shouldn’t drive the long-term decision, especially if the player isn’t 100 percent. The fit and situation typically trump everything in these situations.

Another concept to consider is while Porter did play, there are questions about whether he’ll host a pro-day, take part in private team workouts or simply let his body of work drive his draft value.

Almost no one who spoke about this situation believed Porter would take part in the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, as he’d have to subject himself to the medical testing that’s part of that event.

The common perception on Porter is he’s a top-five talent, although it seems more likely that his camp is going to try and work the process to ensure he lands in a favorable situation. That could mean he falls out of top-five selections, simply because he and his agents choose to.

There is still a lot that needs to play out for Porter, including his announcement that he will enter the draft. But given where things stand with him, it’s more likely than not he’s coming into the draft, and it’s more likely than not he’ll have a lot of questions NBA teams will want to understand before his real draft position is clear.

The NBA Draft Lottery will be held in Chicago this year and is scheduled for May 15th. The annual Draft Combine, also in Chicago, gets underway on May 16th.

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