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Let’s Trade Nets Guard Deron Williams

Basketball Insiders takes a look at some potential trades for Nets point guard Deron Williams.

Jesse Blancarte

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Last week, ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and Ohm Youngmisuk reported that the Brooklyn Nets are prepared to trade each of their star players, including Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Deron Williams. It’s still not clear whether each of these players will be dealt this season, but it seems likely that at least two out of the three will be traded.

The most talented and accomplished player of the bunch is point guard Deron Williams. He was selected to the All-NBA Second Team twice (2008, 2010), is a three-time All-Star (2010–2012), and has career averages of 17.4 points, 8.6 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. For several seasons, Williams was considered to be one of the two best point guards in the NBA, along with Chris Paul. However, since being traded to the then-New Jersey Nets in early 2011, Williams has struggled through injuries, inconsistent play and has fallen short of the lofty expectations that came with his arrival in New Jersey.

Since his first season with the Nets, Williams’ production has, for the most part, declined each season (though Williams is playing better this season than last). For this season, Williams is averaging 16.5 point, 6.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. He may not be the dominant player he was early in his career, but Williams is still an impact point guard with playoff experience that can be the third best player on a true contender, or a catalyst for a team failing to meet expectations.

Williams is set to make $19,754,465 this season, $21,042,800 next season, and $22,331,135 for the 2016-17 season (early termination option). This is a hefty price tag for a 30 year old point guard, especially in a league littered with talent at the position. Nevertheless, Williams is still a very good player and teams looking for help at point guard and are willing to make a bold move will call Brooklyn for his services.

Considering all of this, here are some potential trade scenarios for Deron Williams:

Indiana Pacers-

Outgoing Players: George Hill, Luis Scola, Chis Copeland.

The Indiana Pacers have struggled this season without Paul George (broken leg) and Lance Stephenson (signed with Charlotte Hornets last offseason). The Pacers are currently 8-17 (11th in the Eastern Conference) and have lost eight of their last ten games. However, the Pacers are still within reach of the eighth seed and are certainly scouring the league for help via a trade.

Williams is a clear upgrade over the Pacer’s current point guards, George Hill, C.J. Watson and Rodney Stuckey. The Pacers are currently ranked 27th in offensive efficiency (97.5 points per 100 possessions), and are in need of a playmaker and scorer. Williams is still both of those things, even if he is no longer among the NBA’s elite. This trade would prevent the Pacers from bringing back Stephenson, who has reportedly been made available in trade discussions by the Hornets. However, at age 30, Williams could be a nice piece for a Pacers team that is waiting for the return of George (unlikely to play this season), and is struggling to keep pace for a playoff berth in the East.

The Nets may entertain the deal since they are trying to remain competitive while unloading long term salary. Hill, Scola and Copeland can all contribute to varying degrees, and only Hill’s contract goes past this season (two years, $8 million). It’s not a slam dunk trade for the Nets, but with so many impact point guards on rookie contracts, and reasonable contracts (e.g., Damian Lillard and Kyle Lowry), the Nets can’t really expect to get a king’s ransom in return for Williams.

New Orleans Pelicans-

Outgoing Players: Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers, Jimmer Fredette.

The Pelicans are currently 12-12 (8th in the Western Conference), and are just a half-game ahead of the streaking Oklahoma City Thunder for the final playoff spot. Anthony Davis has emerged as one of best three players in the NBA this year (if not the outright best), and the Pelicans front office may feel pressure to win now.

Eric Gordon has been a disappointment since arriving in New Orleans from Los Angeles, and recently suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder. However, at age 25, Gordon is still young enough to rediscover the player he was earlier in his career with the Clippers (or something close to it), which was one of the best up and coming two-way shooting guards in the league (see Gordon’s 2010-11 stats).

Gordon has two years left on his deal, and will be 27 by the time he is up for a new contract. Assuming he gets past the worst of his injury issues, Gordon could be in line for a reasonable contract moving forward with the Nets as their new shooting guard. The Nets would also get a look at Austin Rivers and Jimmer Fredette, who have both fallen short of expectations since entering the league. Rivers in particular would be a low-risk investment who could either exceed expectations or simply be let go after next season if he doesn’t show significant improvement.

On the other side, the Pelicans get to pair up Williams with Jrue Holiday in the backcourt. Both players are big enough and physical enough to play together (like Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic in Phoenix), and both are good enough shooters to play off the ball and spread the court. Also, both Williams and Holiday are good playmakers that can run pick-and-rolls with Davis, and find easy scoring opportunities for other players like Omer Asik. If the Pelicans aren’t convinced that this would be a good pairing, they could simply swap Holiday in the deal for Gordon, though it’s doubtful that would be their preference.

Detroit Pistons-

Outgoing Players: Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings.

Stan Van Gundy took over the Pistons as both the team president and head coach last offseason. Van Gundy didn’t get to shake up the roster the way he might have liked to, and it is clear that this current group of players is not constructed to win at a high level.

By trading away Josh Smith, the Pistons open up the logjam in the frontcourt and can play Greg Monroe big minutes next to Andre Drummond. Williams would be in charge of finding easy scoring opportunities for Drummond and Monroe near the basket, and shooters like Jodie Meeks and Kyle Singler on the perimeter. It may not help the Pistons make the playoffs this season after starting 5-20, but it gives Van Gundy a point guard that can run the offense without playing out of control as often as Jennings does (though Jennings has improved this part of his game over the last few seasons).

The problem with this deal is that it leaves Detroit vulnerable to losing Monroe after the season with no one to replace him. Monroe will be an unrestricted free agent after accepting Detroit’s qualifying offer last offseason, rather than signing an extension. However, Monroe has stated emphatically to the media that he is not itching to leave Detroit. Assuming that is true, trading away Smith, and creating a core with Williams and the improving Drummond may prove enough to keep Monroe in Detroit.

Also, the Nets may not be too high on the prospect of having Smith on the team through the 2016-17 season. Smith is clearly talented, but his shot selection is still atrocious and his focus fluctuates on any given night. However, Smith had some of his best seasons in Atlanta playing with Joe Johnson. Assuming Johnson remains in Brooklyn, the two may find some of their old chemistry from their time with the Hawks.

The Nets would also benefit from two seasons with Jennings, who at the end of his current contract will be 27 years old. Similar to the aforementioned deal involving Eric Gordon, the Nets could determine over the next two seasons whether Jennings is worth committing to long term, or instead dangle him in a later deal.

Sacramento Kings-

Outgoing Players: Ben McLemore, Ray McCallum, Derrick Williams, Carl Landry

The gamble on Darren Collison has worked out so far this season for the Sacramento Kings (though keeping Isaiah Thomas should have been more of a priority for the Kings last offseason), but Williams would represent a major upgrade here. Boston point guard Rajon Rondo has been linked to the Kings several times in the past, and though Williams is seemingly on the decline, and is owed more money than Rondo, he helps them meet ownership’s high expectations better than Collison.

Consider that the Kings front office just fired Mike Malone since they are currently slipping out of the playoff picture in the West (with DeMarcus Cousins sidelined with viral meningitis), and we see just how desperately they want to compete at a high level immediately. This is the same front office that wanted to take a chance on Josh Smith last offseason, so it’s clear that they are open to making bold moves for veterans.

In this scenario, the Kings have to give up shooting guard prospect Ben McLemore (you could swap in Nik Stauskas here hypothetically), who has played well this season after an underwhelming rookie season. Losing McCallum may hurt as well, but with Williams, Collison and Sessions on the roster, there wouldn’t be much need for him in Sacramento. Derrick Williams, the former number two pick in the 2011 draft, has failed to meet expectations, but at age 23 still has upside. But, in return for a nice haul of talent, the Nets would have to eat the remaining three years of Landry’s four-year, $26 million deal (fully guaranteed).

The Nets get nice prospects at shooting guard, point guard and power forward, and a useful veteran in Landry. Of the deals so far mentioned, this one brings back the most young talent for a rebuilding effort.

There are other teams aside from the Pacers, Pelicans, Pistons and Kings that could be interested in William’s services. The Miami HEAT is currently relying on Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and Shabazz Napier to man the point guard position. While each player is talented, none is on the level of Williams.

The Miami HEAT went all in on this roster after LeBron James took his talents home to Cleveland, so we know the HEAT is looking to win now. Miami is currently 12-13, which is good for the seventh seed in the East. But Miami is just 4-6 in their last ten games and would certainly benefit from pairing Williams with Dwyane Wade in the backcourt. The issue for the HEAT is they don’t have the salaries to make an easy deal with the Nets, and would likely need a third team to facilitate any potential deals involving Williams.

The Houston Rockets are another team that could be interested in Williams. The Rockets, like the Kings, have been linked to Rajon Rondo in the past and it’s not hard to understand why. As good of a defensive player as Patrick Beverley is, he can’t create many scoring opportunities for his teammates and he isn’t a great shooter (though he is currently shooting what is likely an unsustainable 45.7 percent from beyond-the-arc this season). This leaves James Harden with the heavy task of being the Rockets best playmaker and scorer. A player like Williams should be able to let Harden play off the ball, and ease his burden on offense. But the Rockets, like the HEAT, lack the contracts to make a swap for Williams and would likely need a third team to help facilitate a deal.

Another team that may be interested is the Dallas Mavericks, who are currently relying on Jameer Nelson, Devin Harris and J.J. Barea to man the point guard position. Williams grew up in Texas and would be a big upgrade for the Mavericks, who currently have one of the best offenses in the league. But the Mavericks don’t have players with salary that they would be willing to include in a deal to net Williams and would likely need to get another team involved as well.

These proposed deals can all be adjusted to better meet each team’s needs, but they provide a foundation for moving Williams to a team that is in need of help at point guard. Also, these deals, were any to be actually executed, would likely include the exchange of one or more draft picks. However, these are just some examples of what the market currently looks like for Williams, and what teams may be willing to offer in exchange for Williams, who has been one of the elite point guards in the NBA over the last decade.

Let us know what deals you think teams should make for Deron Williams in the comments section below!

 

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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NBA Daily: Rich Cho Out As Charlotte Hornets GM

The Charlotte Hornets opted to not move forward with GM Rich Cho and are expected to pursue former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak.

Buddy Grizzard

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The fateful moment for Rich Cho came days after he was hired as GM of the Charlotte Hornets in June of 2011. With the NBA Draft coming just nine days later, Cho started work on a three-team trade that would land Charlotte a second top-10 pick to pair with its own ninth pick, which was used to draft franchise cornerstone Kemba Walker.

In that draft, Klay Thompson went 11th to the Golden State Warriors and Kawhi Leonard 15th to the Pacers. Of the 17 players selected after Bismack Biyombo, who went to the Hornets with the seventh pick, 12 are regular contributors on current NBA rosters. The Orlando Magic are currently outscored by 11.6 points per 100 possessions with Biyombo on court, a rotation-worst.

Today, Hornets owner Michael Jordan announced that Cho is out as Charlotte’s GM.

“Rich worked tirelessly on behalf of our team and instituted a number of management tools that have benefited our organization,” said Jordan in a press release. “We are deeply committed to our fans and to the city of Charlotte to provide a consistent winner on the court. The search will now begin for our next head of basketball operations who will help us achieve that goal.”

While the failure to obtain Thompson, Leonard or any of the numerous impact players in the 2011 draft will always mar Cho’s record, falling to the second pick in the 2012 NBA Draft will continue to haunt Charlotte. Despite a brutal 7-59 record in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, which set the record for lowest win percentage in an NBA season (.110), the New Orleans Pelicans won the right to the first overall pick and selected Anthony Davis.

The Hornets selected Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the second pick. Although the 2012 Draft wasn’t nearly as deep as 2011’s, the Hornets still left players like Bradley Beal (third) and Andre Drummond (ninth) on the board. Either would have been an outstanding compliment to Walker, who remains with the team despite rumors of his availability leading up the the trade deadline.

“I feel like I’m going to be in Charlotte,” said Walker at his All-Star media availability. “So that’s where I’m at, that’s where I’m playing. So I never really sat and thought about any other teams.”

Walker made his second All-Star appearance after Kristaps Porzingis suffered a season-ending ACL injury.

“I wish K.P. hadn’t gotten hurt,” said Walker. “Everybody hates to see guys go down, especially great players like him. But when I was able to get the call to replace him, it was a really good feeling.”

Another fateful moment in Cho’s tenure came during the 2015 NBA Draft. According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the Boston Celtics offered the 15th and 16th picks, a future protected first rounder from the Brooklyn Nets and a future first from either the Grizzlies or Timberwolves in exchange for the ninth pick, which Cho used to draft Frank Kaminsky.

“If it was such a no-brainer for us, why would another team want to do it,” Cho asked rhetorically in defense of the Kaminsky selection, according to Lowe.

Years later, it’s evident that the Celtics dodged a bullet when both Charlotte and the Miami HEAT rebuffed its attempts to move up and draft Justise Winslow. The latter has not panned out while Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the players Boston subsequently obtained with Brooklyn’s picks, have developed into starters.

Chris Mannix of Yahoo! Sports reported in the first week of February that Charlotte may target former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak for a high-ranking role in the organization. Kupchak, like Jordan, is a former UNC star. Kupchak would join Jordan’s UNC teammate and Charlotte assistant GM Buzz Peterson.

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The G-League is a Path Back to the NBA

The G-League has become an avenue for several player types toward the NBA, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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When the NBA first instituted their development league, its main purpose was two-fold. The first was to give experience to young players who perhaps were not seeing regular playing time on their respective NBA teams. The second was to give undrafted players a chance at getting exposure and ultimately getting to the NBA.

With the growth in size and popularity of the development league, now known as the G-League, it’s begun to serve another purpose. It’s become a place for older veterans who have already tasted the NBA life to get back to the highest level of basketball that they once knew.

One player in particular who has a wealth of NBA experience is Terrence Jones. Jones is currently playing with the Santa Cruz Warriors, the G-League affiliate of the Golden State Warriors.

Jones was originally drafted by the Houston Rockets with the 18th overall pick in the 2012 draft. He was part of a vaunted class of Kentucky Wildcats that year, which included Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb, and Darius Miller. During his four years with the Rockets, he emerged as a dependable reserve and part-time starter. He averaged 9.5 points per game on 49.5 percent shooting and 5.3 rebounds.

“It was just a lot of excitement and a lot of joy, being part of the Houston Rockets was a lot of fun,” Jones told Basketball Insiders. “We had great memories and great seasons, a lot of up and downs, I just enjoyed the journey.”

Jones’ dealt with injuries his last two season in Houston, and when he was a free agent in the summer of 2016, the Rockets didn’t re-sign him. He was scooped by the New Orleans Pelicans, however, and he made an immediate impact for them. Prior to the trade deadline, he played in 51 games for the Pelicans, including 12 starts while putting up 11.5 points on 47.2 percent shooting, and 5.9 rebounds.

When the Pelicans acquired DeMarcus Cousins, however, they cut Jones. He didn’t stay unemployed for long, though, as he was signed by the Milwaukee Bucks to add depth for a playoff run. He was unable to crack the rotation, though, and the Bucks cut him as well before the playoff started. After a brief stint in China, he’s now back stateside and using the G-League to get back to the NBA.

“That’s the goal. Right now, I feel I’ve been playing pretty well and just trying to help my team get wins,” Jones told Basketball Insiders. “I think I can play multiple positions offensively and defensively. Whether that’s creating plays for myself or for others, I think I can help contribute on the offensive end.”

He’s been the second-leading scorer for Santa Cruz with 19.9 points per game. He’s pulling down 7.1 rebounds, and even dishing out 4.5 assists. In the G-League Challenge against the Mexican National Team at All-Star Weekend, he finished with eight points on 50.0 percent shooting, six rebounds, four assists, and two steals. He’s definitely a name to watch for as NBA teams scour the market for 10-day contract possibilities.

Another player who’s had a taste of the NBA is Xavier Silas. Silas is currently with the Northern Arizona Suns, the affiliate of the Phoenix Suns. He went undrafted in 2011 and started his professional career in France. That only last a few months before he came back the United States and latched on with the Philadelphia 76ers.

He played sparingly with the 76ers and was ultimately cut before the start of the 2012-13 season. Since then, he’s played summer league with the Bucks, and been in two different training camps with the Washington Wizards.

“It was amazing, any time you get to go and play at the highest level, and I even got to play in the playoffs and play in the second round and even score, that was big,” Silas told Basketball Insiders. “It was a great time for me and that’s what I’m working towards getting back.”

While his professional career has taken him all across the globe from Israel to Argentina to Greece to Germany and even Ice Cube’s BIG3 league, he sees the G-League as being the one place that will get him back to where he wants to be.

He’s done well this season for Northern Arizona. He’s their third-leading scorer at 19.3 points per game and he’s one of their top three-point threats at 39.9 percent. At the All-Star Weekend G-League Challenge against the Mexican National Team, Silas had a team-high 13 points for Team USA including 3-5 shooting from three-point range.

It’s isn’t just what he brings on the court that Silas believes makes him an attractive candidate for an NBA team. At age 30, he’s one of the older guys in the G-League and one with a lot of basketball experience to be passed down to younger guys.

“I think it’s a little bit of leadership, definitely some shooting. I’m a vet now so I’m able to come in and help in that aspect as well. But everybody needs someone who can hit an open shot and I think I can bring that to a team,” Silas told Basketball Insiders. “I think it’s the best place for anyone who’s trying to make that next step. We’re available and we’re right here, it’s just a call away.”

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NBA Daily: Lillard Playing For Something Bigger

Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has his eyes set on a bigger prize than just being an NBA All-Star.

Steve Kyler

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Playing For Something Bigger

The NBA All-Star Game is a spectacle.

By design, the game is meant to be a showcase, not just for the players selected to compete, but for the league and all of its partners, on and off the floor. It is easy to get caught up in how players selected actually play, but the reality is while most see the game as important for a lot of reasons, Portland Trail Blazer star Damian Lillard understands it has to be put into perspective.

“I don’t think it’s fair to expect people to go out there and treat it like they are playing for the team they’re under contract for,” Lillard explained this weekend.

“It’s the one time in an 82-game season plus playoffs, preseason and training camp that we actually get a break. It’s necessary to take a mental break, along with a physical break from what we do every day. There’s nothing wrong with that, so I don’t think it’s fair to ask guys to go out there and play like it’s for the Trail Blazers. My loyalty is to my team; I got to stay healthy for my team. I got to do what’s best for my team. Obviously, go out there [during All-Star] and not mess around too much and that’s how people get hurt and stuff like that. You got to go out there and play and have respect for the game, but I don’t think it’s necessary to go out there and go crazy like it’s a playoff game.”

Lillard notched 21 minutes in Sunday’s big game, going 9-for-14 from the field for 21 points for Team Stephen, a roster that included three Golden State Warriors players. Lillard believes that eventually, he’ll get the chance to share the weekend, his third, with teammate C. J. McCollum.

“Each year you see teams are getting two to three, Golden State got four this year,” Lillard said. “But you look at it and say ‘why is that happening’ and it has a lot to do with team success. Me and C.J. just have to take that challenge of making our team win more games. I think when we do that, we’ll be rewarded with both of us making it. If we really want to make that happen, then we’ll do whatever it takes to win more games.

“I feel like this season we’ve moved closer in that direction. In the past, we haven’t even been in the position to get one, because I did not make it the past two years. I think if we keep on improving we’ll eventually get to the point that we’re winning games and people will say ‘how are they doing this’ and then hopefully our names come up. Hopefully, one day, it’ll happen.”

Another issue that got addressed during the All-Star Weekend was the growing tensions between the NBA players and the NBA referees. Representatives from both sides met to address the gap developing on the court, something Lillard felt was necessary.

“We’re all human,” Lillard said. “As competitors, we want to win. If you feel like you got fouled, you want them to call the foul every time. I think sometimes as players, we forget how hard their job can be. At the pace we play, it’s hard to get every call, and then you got guys tricking the referees sometimes, we’re clever too. It’s a tough job for them. I think when we get caught up in our competitive nature, and we forget that they’re not just these robots with stripes, they are people too. You have got to think, as a man if someone comes screaming at you every three plays, you are going to react in your own way. Maybe you’re not going to make the next call; maybe I am going to stand my ground. It’s just something that I think will get better over time. I think both have to do a better job of understanding.”

With 24 games left to play in Lillard’s sixth NBA season, the desire to be more than a playoff team or an All-Star is coming more into focus for Lillard, something he reportedly expressed to Blazers management several weeks ago.

“There are guys that have this record and guys that have done these things, and I want to at least get myself the chance to compete for a championship,” Lillard said. “If I get there and we don’t win it, it happens. A lot of people had to go see about Michael Jordan, a lot of people had to go see about Shaq and Kobe. You know, those great teams, but I have a strong desire to at least give myself a chance to be there. Take a shot at it.”

With All-Star out of the way, the focus in the NBA will switch to the race to the playoffs. As things stand today Lillard and his Blazers hold the seventh seed in the West and are tied with Denver, and just a half of a game back from the five seed Oklahoma City Thunder.

If the Blazers are going to make noise this post season its going to be on the shoulder of Lillard, and based on what he said, it seems he’s up to the challenge.

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