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NBA AM: 6 Trades That Should Happen

Joel Brigham looks at six deals that should happen before the NBA’s trade deadline this week.

Joel Brigham



The trade deadline is just days away, which means fans get to spend the next 75 hours or so wondering whether their favorite team will make a move serious enough to legitimately upgrade their roster. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like many marquee names are on the market this year and even those being discussed are anything but a sure thing to be moved.

Still, that doesn’t mean some of the rumored deals won’t happen, and in fact it’s a reality that at least some of those deals really should happen. The following six trades, for example, would make a lot of sense should one or more of them actually occur over the course of the next few days:

New York Knicks trade Carmelo Anthony to Cleveland Cavaliers, who trade Kevin Love to Boston Celtics.

We’ve already been told by just about everybody involved in this rumor that it isn’t going down, but this is exactly the sort of major trade that would shake things up for everybody involved in really interesting ways. While it’s unclear exactly how the salaries would all line up, Cleveland would get Anthony, Boston would get Love and New York would get Timofey Mozgov, some other players to make salaries match and a number of draft picks to help them rebuild for the future.

It’s most contentious for the Knicks because that doesn’t seem like anywhere near enough of a haul for a player of Anthony’s caliber (even though Mozgov was part of the deal with Denver that brought Anthony to New York in the first place), but with the Knicks now looking more toward the future than the present, a complete rebuild wouldn’t be the worst option for them. It seems like just as many Knicks fans love the idea as hate it, but no one could say it wasn’t a bold move for the future.

Cleveland, meanwhile, would get to try something else with their offense and Boston would get the upgrade at the four spot that they’ve wanted for quite a while. Love has been in their crosshairs for a few years now, so to get a hold of him in exchange for assets would do a lot for them. In fact, it might even put them on par with the Cavs and Raptors in that top tier of Eastern Conference teams.

Atlanta Hawks trade Al Horford to the Boston Celtics for draft assets and filler.

Assuming the Kevin Love thing doesn’t happen for Boston (and it really doesn’t sound like it will), their next most obvious All-Star target would be Al Horford. According to reports, the big man could be dealt this year as the middling Hawks look for something more sustainable long-term.

In a lot of ways, Horford would be an even better fit for Boston than Love, not only because he’s more of a defensive presence in the post but also because he’s a consummate team guy both on the floor and in the locker room. It’s hard to see him shaking things up negatively for a team that’s seen so much success this year playing team basketball. Danny Ainge really couldn’t do much better with all those 2016 draft picks than acquiring Horford, even if his contract does expire at the end of the year. Boston has enough cap space and enough potential for winning to keep him beyond that, so it’s a deal that makes a ton of sense for the Celtics.

As for the Hawks, if it’s the future they’re looking toward, then this is the kind of deal they have to make. That Brooklyn pick is going to be very good, so it’s possible that Atlanta could even walk away from this with Ben Simmons at best or someone like Brandon Ingram or Kris Dunn at worst. The team’s not getting better this year in a trade like this, but that’s not the point. The point is long-term, and this deal would help the Hawks’ future immensely.

Atlanta Hawks trade Jeff Teague to the Orlando Magic for Victor Oladipo.

The salaries don’t match exactly, so there would have to be some other small pieces involved to make this one happen, but Orlando is reportedly interested in adding an established veteran and Teague absolutely would be that just a year removed from an All-Star appearance. While there are some that believe he and Elfrid Payton would be a bit redundant, Teague has the experience to transform the way the rest of the league sees the Orlando Magic and, if they were to make a deal like this, that would be the reason they did it.

Atlanta’s interest comes from the fact that Dennis Schroder has come into his own while Teague has regressed, and a future frontcourt featuring the German and Oladipo offers plenty of promise. Teague may be the veteran, but Oladipo still has the higher ceiling. It’s just a matter of what each team needs right now.

Phoenix Suns trade Markieff Morris and/or P.J. Tucker to the Toronto Raptors for a first-round pick and some combination of role players.

The Suns have been showcasing Morris for weeks now in an attempt to prove that he’s a valuable trade asset and to a certain extent it’s worked, with two or three teams reportedly showing interest in the disgruntled power forward ahead of the deadline. Toronto, an elite Eastern Conference team looking to advance past the first round for the first time in years, desperately needs an upgrade at the four and Morris would fill that role.

Tucker also has been a target for Toronto for some time now, as they did draft him once upon a time and have shown interest in bringing him back more than once since he ended up in Phoenix. He’s not a big filler of the stat sheet, but he plays good defense and is an ideal bench piece for a long playoff run. He or Morris would add a lot to the team and probably wouldn’t cost all that much to bring in outside of the pick.

Toronto does have two picks in this upcoming draft and could offer up their own, likely to be in the mid-to-late 20s, since they’ll get New York’s anyway, which will be considerably higher. Phoenix probably isn’t going to do much better than a first-rounder of any type for Morris or Tucker, but if they’re building for the future, that’s not all that bad of a haul. Getting the salaries to match would be the toughest part of making this one happen, as Toronto has only inexpensive assets they’re willing to move for the pricier Tucker and/or Morris.

Houston Rockets trade Dwight Howard to the Miami HEAT for Hassan Whiteside and filler.

The issue with trading Howard right now is that teams see him only as a rental for the remainder of the season, so they’re not willing to give up much for him. Miami sending out Whiteside as the centerpiece of a Howard makes deal makes about as much sense as any Dwight deal because he, too, may only be with his current team for the rest of this season. Whiteside only makes about $1 million this season and is due for a huge raise, but Houston could live with letting him go if they had to, just the same as they could live with Howard bolting. The big difference for Houston would be viewing Whiteside as a more valuable long-term asset perhaps more worthy of re-signing in the offseason.

Howard, meanwhile, would give the HEAT a more viable, experienced center this season whose defensive capabilities are more substantial than Whiteside’s, despite his inflated stats. Obviously a lot would have to happen for this to work in terms of money, but it’s time for a Howard trade and a Whiteside trade. With so few suitors for either, this one kills two birds with the same stone.

Milwaukee Bucks trade Greg Monroe to the New Orleans Pelicans for Ryan Anderson.

While the most recent rumblings out of Milwaukee suggest that the team probably won’t be trading Greg Monroe, it certainly has looked like an odd match with his new team just seven or eight months into his tenure with the Bucks. He’s been a big part of the team’s defensive regression this season and just hasn’t been the offensive force they hoped he would be. That doesn’t mean he’s been bad, because he really hasn’t. The fit just hasn’t been quite as seamless as the front office would had hoped, and if they’re interested in giving themselves a redo, Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson wouldn’t be the worst gamble.

Anderson is a free agent after the season, so more than anything else the Bucks would get the opportunity to see if he fits any better than Monroe before deciding whether to pay out “Monroe money” again this offseason. If he’s not, they get their cap space back. If he is, then one would assume the team’s offensive chemistry would improve. Either way, it’s a rosier roster in Milwaukee.

As for New Orleans, they’d happily take the more talented player in Monroe and fit him in comfortably alongside Anthony Davis for the next two-and-a-half seasons. He may ultimately be even less expensive than retaining Anderson this summer considering the rising salary cap.


Any of these trades could conceivably happen before the deadline, but we’ll have to wait to see what actually transpires. Here at Basketball Insiders we’ll have all the latest news and rumors along these lines, so you’ll be given plenty of updates about how much of this, if anything, actually will happen.


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NBA Daily: Pelicans Might Be Better Off Without DeMarcus Cousins

Without DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis has excelled. It might not be a coincidence.

Moke Hamilton



Forget Kawhi Leonard, the most interesting storyline of this NBA summer is going to be DeMarcus Cousins.

By now, if you’ve wondered whether the New Orleans Pelicans would be better off without the talented big man, you’re certainly not alone.

Just ask the Portland Trail Blazers.

On Saturday, the Pelicans pulled off an improbable sweep of the third-seeded Blazers in the first round of their best-of-seven playoff series. And while the immediate question that comes to mind is what to make of the Blazers, a similar question can be (and should be) asked of the Pelicans.

Without question, Cousins is one of the most gifted big men the NBA has sen in quite some time, but it shouldn’t be lost on any of us that Anthony Davis began to put forth superhuman efforts when Cousins was absent.

Ever heard the saying that too many cooks spoil the brew?

That may be pricisely the case here.

Sure, having good players at your disposal is a problem that most head coach in the league would sign up for, but it takes a special type of player to willingly cede touches and shots in the name of the best interests of the team.

We once had a similar conversation about Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, mind you. Those that recognized that Westbrook’s ball dominance and inefficiency took opportunities away from Durant to be the best version of himself once believed that the Oklahoma City Thunder would have been wise to pitch Westbrook to New Orleans back when Chris Paul was still manning their perimeter.

For what it’s worth, with Cousins in the lineup, he averaged 18 shots per game. In the 48 games he played this season, the Pelicans were 27-21. With him in the lineup, Davis shot the ball 17.6 times per game and scored 26.5 points per contest.

In the 34 games the Pelicans played without Cousins, Davis’ shot attempts increased fairly significantly. He got 21.9 attempts per contest and similarly increased his scoring output to 30.2 points per game.

Aside from that, Cousins’ presence in the middle made it a tad more difficult for Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday to have the pace and space they need to be most effective. With both Davis and Cousins, the Pelicans struggled to consistently string together wins. Without Cousins, they improbably became the first team in the Western Conference to advance to the second round.

That Cousins tore his achilles tendon and is just a few months from becoming an unrestricted free agent combine to make him the most interesting man in the NBA.

* * * * * *

With Chris Paul having decided that the grass was probably greener with James Harden and Mike D’Antoni than it was with Doc Rivers and Blake Griffin, the Clippers fulfilled his request to be trade to the Houston Rockets and re-signed Griffin to a five-year max. deal. In doing so, they both gave Griffin a stark reminder of what life in the NBA is like and provided a blueprint for teams to follow when they have a superstar player with whom they believe to have run their course.

The glass half full perspective might be that Davis has simply become a better, healthier, more effective player and that with Cousins, he would have another weapon that could help catapult the Pelicans ever further toward the top of the Western Conference. But the half-empty glass might yield another conclusion.

At the end of the day, although he still hasn’t appeared in a single playoff game, Cousins is regarded as a game-changing talent and is one of the few players available on the free agency market this summer that could justify an annual average salary of $30 million. In all likelihood, the Pelicans will re-sign him for a sum that approaches that, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best move.

In the end, the Clippers traded Griffin for Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, a first round pick and a second round pick. All things considered, it was a great haul for the Clippers when you consider that, just a few months prior, they could have lost Griffin as a free agent and gotten nothing in return.

Remarkably, after seeing Griffin dealt to Detroit, in the Western Conference, the Pelicans are on a collision course with the Golden State Warriors. Their health a constant concern, the team will have to deal with the pesky perimeter defense of Holiday and Rondo and versatility and two-way effectiveness of Davis.

Nobody gave New Orleans a chance against Portland, and for sure, not many people are going to believe in their ability to score an upset over the defending champions. But believe it or not, New Orleans has become a different team. And they’ve done so without Cousins.

Indeed, believe it or not, the Clippers gave us a blueprint for what a team should do when it has a superstar who might not be the best long-term fit for their program.

And if the Pelicans were wise, they’d be smart to follow it.

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NBA Daily: Rookie Contributors Lifting Playoff Teams

This year’s impressive rookie class has translated their regular season performances to the playoff stage.

Dennis Chambers



This past NBA season had the luxury of an incredibly entertaining and high-powered rookie class. Every other day it seemed like the feats of either Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, Lauri Markkanen, Dennis Smith Jr., Kyle Kuzma, or Ben Simmons were dominating the discussion about how advanced the league’s crop of newbies appeared to be.

As a result, the 2017-18 Rookie of the Year race was a much more heated discussion than the year before.

With the impressive campaign these NBA freshmen put together, it should come as no surprise that on the on bright stage of playoff basketball, three of the aforementioned crop are helping lead their team’s in tight first-round battles.

Donovan Mitchell has been the leading scorer for the Utah Jazz through two games in their series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Jayson Tatum is stepping up for the Boston Celtics to help fill in the void of Kyrie Irving as they take on the Milwaukee Bucks. Ben Simmons is nearly averaging a triple-double through three games for the Philadelphia 76ers in their matchup with the Miami HEAT.

Lottery pick talents are expected in today’s NBA to come in and have some level of impact for their clubs. Usually, they play the role as a foundational building block that shows flashes of promise with an expected up-and-down first season. While these three playoff contributors haven’t been perfect all year long, under the pressure of the postseason, they’ve stepped up their play and appear to be avoiding the learning curve.

With that, let’s highlight further what Mitchell, Tatum, and Simmons have been able to do thus far in the postseason.

Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz

All season long Mitchell threw the entire scoring load of Salt Lake City on his back for the Jazz and helped carry them to a 5-seed in the Western Conference when early season projections suggested they should head towards in the wake of Rudy Gobert’s injury.

However, the 13th pick out of Louisville had no intentions of missing out on the postseason. And from the looks of his production so far, who can blame him?

Through the first two games of the Jazz-Thunder series, Mitchell yet again placed his name in the same breath as Michael Jordan. Mitchell’s 55 points in his first two playoff games broke Jordan’s record of 53 for most points scored by a rookie guard in that scenario.

Mitchell’s 27 points in Game 1 and 28 points in Game 2 led the Jazz to even the series and steal home court advantage from the Thunder. While he hasn’t been responsible for setting up the team’s offense, tallying just five assists through those two games, Mitchell is fulfilling the role of Gordon Hayward as the team’s primary scorer.

In a series against a team that features the likes of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony, Utah needs Mitchell to go out there and get as many buckets as he possibly can.

So far, he appears to be welcoming the challenge.

Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

When it was announced that Kyrie Irving would be lost for the entire postseason due to injury, the Boston Celtics’ hold on the 2-seed seemed a lot less intimidating than it once was in the Eastern Conference.

However, three games into the first round series against the Bucks, the Celtics hold a 2-1 lead. A lot part of that has to do with the role Tatum has been able to step in and play right away with the Celtics down their main scorer and playmaker.

Throughout the first three games of the series, Tatum 12.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 2.3 steals. The third overall pick in the 2017 draft started the series off with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and three steals to help Boston start off the matchup with a 1-0 lead.

At just 20 years old, Tatum is matching his age number with his usage percentage thus far against Milwaukee. For some perspective, Jaylen Brown managed just 12 minutes a night for the Celtics last season as a rookie when the playoffs rolled around.

Granted, injuries and missing players are helping in Tatum being on the court as much as he has, but the rookie is earning his time out there on the court.

Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

The perceived frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, Ben Simmons has taken control in his first ever playoff series.

For starters, Simmons is averaging nearly a triple double over his first three games against the HEAT; 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 9.7 assists.

On top of his triple double ways, Simmons has upped arguably his biggest weakness so far in the playoffs, shooting 75 percent from the charity stripe. During the regular season, Simmons struggled from the line, hitting only 56 percent of his attempts.

With the offensive prowess of Simmons obvious, it’s the job he’s doing on the defensive end of the court against an aggressive and tough Miami squad that’s elevating his play to the next level.

Simmons’ ability to switch all over the defensive end of the court has placed his responsibilities from Goran Dragic to Justise Winslow to James Johnson, and seemingly everywhere in between.

Now with Joel Embiid back in the fold for the Sixers and Simmons, the rookie point guard has his defensive partner on the floor to help ease the workload on that end. A two-way performance each night will be imperative for Simmons in helping lead the young Sixers past the experienced HEAT team.

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Pelicans Role Players are Key to Success

The supporting cast in New Orleans is a big part of their playoff surge, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz



The New Orleans Pelicans have taken a commanding 3-0 lead in their first-round playoff series again the Portland Trail Blazers. While surprising to some, the Pelicans only finished one game behind the Blazers in the standings. The Pelicans have the best player in the series in Anthony Davis and the defensive duo of Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday have stifled Portland’s backcourt.

The truth is, the Pelicans have been a good team all season long. A lot of attention and recognition has been given to Davis, Rondo and Holiday this season and playoffs, and rightfully so. But New Orleans wouldn’t be where they are without the important contributions of some of their role players.

Take E’Twaun Moore, for example. Moore bounced around the NBA early in his career, with stops in Boston, Orlando and Chicago before finding long-term stability contract wise with the Pelicans. He’s primarily been a bench player with them before this season, his second in New Orleans, his first as a full-time starter.

He’s given the Pelicans a huge boost, especially from the three-point line. He’s put up 12.5 points per game on 50.8 percent shooting from the field, both career-highs. He’s shooting 42.5 percent from three-point range.

“I think it’s just our style of play,” Moore told Basketball Insiders. “We play fast and open. Coach [Gentry] gives us a lot of freedom, a lot of confidence. That’s why my game is up, my shooting is up.”

It’s not just offensively though. Moore has always been one of the more underrated defensive guards in the league. Paired up alongside Rondo and Holiday, the trio form a solid wing defensive unit. They’re a big reason for Portland’s offensive struggles.

Moore is the type of role player that every playoff contender needs to succeed. He knows that his role may change from game to game. Some nights he may be asked to score a little more. Other nights his defense is going to be called upon. Whatever it may be, he’s always ready to do what’s asked of him.

“I bring the energy. I bring a spark,” Moore told Basketball Insiders. “It’s knocking down shots, playing defense, getting out in transition. Just trying to be a spark.”

The Pelicans bench has also been a huge factor all season long. Their depth took a major hit early in the season with the injury to Solomon Hill. Hill has since returned to the lineup, but his absence paved the way for other players such as Darius Miller to step up.

This is Miller’s second stint with the Pelicans after spending two years overseas. Drafted 46th overall in 2012, he didn’t play much his first three years in the NBA. In 2014, he was cut by the Pelicans only about a month into the season. This year was different, he was thrown into the rotation from the get-go.

“This is a huge opportunity,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “I just come in and try to work every day, try to get better every day. My teammates have done a great job of putting me in situations where I can be successful.”

Miller has given the Pelicans a capable stretch four in the second unit who can slide over to small forward if need be. He’s averaging a career-best 7.8 points per game, the most out of any of New Orleans’ reserves. He’s their best three-point shooter off the bench, connecting on 41.1 percent of his long-range attempts.

While he acknowledges that he’s enjoying his best season yet as an NBA player, he’s quick to praise his teammates for allowing him to flourish.

“I just try to bring a spark off the bench. I come in and try to knock some shots down,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “My teammates do a great job of finding me when I’m open, I just try and knock down shots and compete.”

Sometimes time away from the NBA helps players grow and mature. The NBA game is fast paced and it can take awhile to get used to it. While some players have begun to use the G-League as a means of preparing for the league, Miller took an alternate route of heading to Germany.

For him, it’s a big reason why he’s been able to make an easier transition back to the NBA. His contract for next season is non-guaranteed, but he’s probably done enough to warrant the Pelicans keeping him around. He’s a much different and much-improved player. If not, he’s sure to draw interest from other teams.

“It was a lot to learn for me personally,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “I had to learn a lot of different things like how to take care of my body, how to manage my time, a whole bunch of stuff like that. The time overseas really helped me to mature and grow up and learn a few things.”

These Pelicans have most certainly turned quite a few heads since the playoffs began. We shouldn’t deal too much with hypotheticals, but it’s interesting to wonder what this team’s ceiling would’ve been had DeMarcus Cousins not been lost for the season due to injury.

This is a confident bunch, however. They’ve beaten both the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets during the regular season. They’ve already shattered a lot of expert predictions with their performance in the first-round. The Pelicans feel like they can hang with anyone out West.

“As far as we want to go,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “I feel like we’ve competed with all the best teams in the league this whole season. We just got to come out, stay focused and do what we do.”

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