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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

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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: Surging HEAT Must Overcome Adversity

The Miami HEAT have been hit with a number of injuries at shooting guard. Can they stay hot?

Buddy Grizzard

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The Miami HEAT have surged to fourth in the Eastern Conference on the back of a 14-5 stretch since Dec. 9, including a seven-game win streak that ended with Monday’s 119-111 loss to the Bulls in Chicago. In the loss, shooting guard Tyler Johnson got his legs tangled with Robin Lopez and appeared to suffer a serious injury.

“I was scared,” said HEAT small forward Josh Richardson, who joined his teammates in racing down the court to check on Johnson. “You never want to see a guy, whether it’s on your team or the other team, down like that. I talked to him when he was in here [the locker room] and he said he didn’t know what was up.”

Coach Erik Spoelstra told pool reporters after the game that X-rays were negative. It was initially feared to be a knee injury, but Spoelstra said the knee is okay and the ankle is the area of concern. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel tweeted that an MRI was not deemed necessary and Johnson will be listed as doubtful for Wednesday’s game in Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, the HEAT is facing a serious shortage at shooting guard, having lost Dion Waiters to season-ending knee surgery, Rodney McGruder to a left tibia stress fracture that will likely keep him out until February, and now Johnson. Miami has applied for a $5.5 million disabled player exception after losing Waiters, according to the Sun-Sentinel. HEAT power forward James Johnson said the team will be looking for other players to step up.

“I think it’s the next guy’s gonna step up like we always do,” said Johnson. “As we have guys going down we also have guys getting back and getting back in their groove [like] Justise Winslow. Hopefully, it’s going to give another guy a chance to emerge on this team or in this league.”

Johnson added that the loss to Chicago came against a hot team and the HEAT didn’t have the right mental approach or defensive communication to slow them down.

“Our communication was lacking tonight,” said Johnson. “I think our brains rested tonight and that’s not like us. Tilt your hat to Chicago. They’re shooting the hell out the ball. They didn’t let us come back.”

Richardson echoed the theme of communication and the inability to counter a hot-shooting team.

“We weren’t communicating very well and we were not giving them enough static on the three-point line,” said Richardson. “They’ve been the number one three-point shooting team in the league for like 20 games now. They ran some good actions that we were not reacting right to.”

Spoelstra referred to a turnover-riddled close to the first half as “disgusting” basketball and agreed that the defense let his team down.

“I don’t know what our record is in HEAT franchise history when we give up 120-plus,” said Spoelstra. “I would guess that it’s probably not pretty good.”

The good news for Miami is that it can try a combination of Richardson and Winslow at the wings, while Wayne Ellington has been shooting the leather off the ball from three this season (40.5 percent on over seven attempts per game). The HEAT is the latest team to attempt to defy history by making a serious run without a superstar player. To make that a reality and remain in the upper half of the East’s playoff bracket, Miami will have to personify the “next man up” credo.

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NBA Daily: Is It Time To Cash Out On Kemba Walker?

Should the Hornets get serious about trading Kemba Walker or risk losing him in 2019 for next to nothing?

Steve Kyler

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Is It Time To Sell?

Every professional sports team at some point has to decide when its time to cash out, especially if they have a star player heading towards free agency. The Charlotte Hornets are a team teetering on this decision with star guard Kemba Walker.

Now, let’s be honest for a moment. The Hornets are getting nothing of meaningful value in a trade for Walker if they decided to put him on the trade market—that’s something that will drive part of the decision. Check out these UK sports books with free bets!

The other part of the decision is evaluating the marketplace. This is where Charlotte may have an advantage that’s easy to overlook, which is the ability to massively overpay.

Looking ahead to the cap situations for the NBA in the summer of 2019, there doesn’t appear to be a lot worth getting excited over. While it’s possible someone unexpected goes into cap clearing mode to get space, the teams that project to have space in 2019 also project to have space in 2018, meaning some of that 2019 money could get spent in July and change the landscape even more.

But for the sake of discussion, let’s assume most of the 2019 cap space teams swing and miss on anything meaningful this summer and have flexibility the following summer. Not only will Walker be a name to watch, but guys like Boston’s Kyrie Irving, Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler, Golden State’s Klay Thompson, Dallas’ Harrison Barnes, Detroit’s Tobias Harris, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Cleveland’s Kevin Love can all hit unrestricted free agency.

That’s a pretty respectable free agent class.

While most of those names will likely stay where they are, especially if their teams shower them with full max contracts as most would expect, there are a few names that might make the market interesting.

The wrinkle in all of it is the teams projected to have space. Based on what’s guaranteed today, the top of the 2019 cap space board starts with the LA Clippers.

The Clippers currently have just Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari under contract going into 2019. They will have qualifying offers on Milos Teodosic and Sam Dekker, but that’s about it. If the Clippers play their cards right, they could be looking at what could be close to $48 million in usable cap space, making them the biggest threat to poach a player because of the LA marketplace. It should be noted, though, that DeAndre Jordan’s situation will have an impact here.

The Chicago Bulls come in second on the 2019 cap space list with just $35.77 million in cap commitments. The problem for the Bulls is they are going to have to start paying their young guys, most notably Zach LaVine. That’s won’t stop the Bulls from getting to cap space, it’s simply a variable the Bulls have to address this summer that could get expensive.

The Philadelphia 76ers could come in third on the 2019 cap space list, although it seems the 76ers may go all in this summer on re-signing guard J.J. Redick and a swing at a big fish or two. If the 76ers miss, they still have an extension for Ben Simmons to consider, but that shouldn’t impact the ability to get to meaningful space.

For the Hornets, those three situations have to be a little scary, as all of themff something Charlotte can’t offer – big markets and rosters (save maybe the Clippers) with potentially higher upside.

The next group of cap space markets might get to real salary cap room, but its more likely they spend this summer like say the Houston Rockets or are equal to less desirable situations like Sacramento (similar), Dallas (has Dennis Smith Jr), Atlanta (similar) or Phoenix (likely drafts a point guard).

That brings us back to the Hornets decision making process.

If the Hornets put Walker on the market, historically, teams get pennies on the dollar for high-level players headed to free agency. If traded, its more likely than not that Walker hits free agency and goes shopping. That’s the scary part of trading for an expiring contract unless you get the player early enough for him to grow attached to the situation, most players explore options. That tends to drive down the potential return.

The Hornets can also start extension discussions with Walker and his camp this summer and it seems more likely than not the Hornets will pay Walker the full max allowed under the collective bargaining agreement, which could be a deal north of $150 million and he could ink that in July.

It’s possible that someone offers the Hornets the moon for Walker. That has happened in the past. The Celtics gave the Cavaliers a pretty solid return for Irving, a player the Cavaliers had to trade. So it’s not out of the question real offers come in, especially with the NBA trade deadline approaching, but what’s far more likely is the Hornets wait out this season and try to extend Walker this summer.

League sources at the G-League Showcase last week, doubted that any traction could be had on Walker while admitting he’s a name to watch, despite however unlikely a trade seemed today.

The challenge for the Hornets isn’t as simple as cashing out of Walker, not just because the return will be low, but also because where would the franchise go from here?

It’s easy to say re-build through the draft, but glance around the NBA today – how many of those rebuild through the draft situations are yielding competitive teams? How many of them have been rebuilding for five years or more?

Rebuilding through the draft is a painfully slow and frustrating process that usually costs you a coach or two and typically a new front office. Rebuilding through the draft is time consuming and usually very expensive.

It’s easier to rebuild around a star already in place and the fact that Walker himself laughs off the notion of him being anywhere but Charlotte is at least a good sign and the Hornets have some time before they have to really make a decision.

At some point, Charlotte has to decide when to cash out. For the Hornets, the time to make that decision on Walker might be the February 8 trade deadline. It might also be July 1, when they’ll know whether Walker would sign a max contract extension.

If he won’t commit then, the Hornets have their answer and can use the summer to try an extract a package similar to what the Cavaliers got for Irving.

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Cavs Woes Reason For Concern, But Not Dismissal

Spencer Davies takes a look at the Cavs’ issues and why we shouldn’t count them out just yet.

Spencer Davies

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are the classic case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

When they’re on, they look like the defending three-time Eastern Conference Champions. When they’re off, they look like an old team that’s worn down and, at times, disinterested—and it gets ugly.

Take this past three weeks for example. After going on a tear of 18 wins in 19 games, the Cavs have dropped eight of 11 and are falling fast. Two of those three victories in that stretch were decided by four points or less against bottom-of-the-barrel teams in the East.

So what happened? For one, the schedule got significantly tougher. Beyond just the level of competition, Cleveland has been on the road for a long while. Nine of the games in this recent down period have been away games. The only time they’ve been home was for a quick second in mid-December and a short stay for New Years.

You’ve got to think about how that affects a psyche, not only from an on-court standpoint but also in regard to spending time with loved ones and family. LeBron James brought attention to his own homesickness on Christmas Day while he was in the Bay Area instead of in Northeast Ohio to celebrate the holidays. If it gets to him, you know it’s got to get to the other players as well. These guys are human beings with lives, and the rigors of travel can wear differently on people. Luckily for them, seven of their next nine games will be at Quicken Loans Arena.

With that being said, everybody in the NBA goes through it, so it’s no excuse for how flat the Cavs have been. Anybody on the team will tell you that, too. However, when you’re figuring out rotations and re-implementing players who had injuries, it’s not easy. This is exactly why nobody should envy Tyronn Lue.

He’s being asked to make room in his rotations and adjust on the fly as Cleveland gets guys back. When they went on that month-long run, the reason they had success was that the second unit really clicked. Dwyane Wade found his niche as the maestro of the bench bunch along with any mixture of Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, Cedi Osman, Channing Frye, and Jae Crowder. Lue had found the perfect group to spell LeBron James and company.

But then, Tristan Thompson came back and, with all due respect, it messed with their flow. The spacing is no longer there for Wade or Green to penetrate because the paint is clogged. It makes it easier on opposing defenses to just stick to Korver because there aren’t any other threatening shooters on the floor (besides Osman, maybe). Worst of all, the change basically kicked Frye—who has a plus-14 net rating, according to Cleaning The Glass—out of the rotation completely.

Deciding who plays and when is a tough job. Derrick Rose is set to come back soon. Iman Shumpert is coming along as well. Lue likes a 10-man rotation, but there are at least 12 players who deserve to be on that court. We already know Rose is expected to commandeer the second unit in Wade’s absence on back-to-backs. As for if Shumpert remains in Cleveland, who knows? It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on how this situation is managed moving forward.

Isaiah Thomas, on the other hand, is somebody the Cavs have been waiting on to return since the season started. Despite LeBron being LeBron and Kevin Love having as great of an offensive year as he’s ever had on the team, the starting unit lacks an extra punch. Thomas can be that shot in the arm, and he proved that in his debut at home against Portland and on the road in Orlando. There are two snags that both he and the team are going to hit before the 29-year-old returns to his All-Star form: 1) He’s got to get his legs under him to regain the consistency in his game and 2) His teammates are going to have to adjust to playing with him.

These are not easy things to do. Remember, aside from Jae Crowder, there is nobody on Cleveland’s roster that has played with Thomas before. Add in that he’s trying to re-discover his own game and that makes for a pretty bumpy road, at least out of the gate.

Start here—put Thompson in the starting lineup. As poor of a fit he’s been on the bench, he has shown promising signs of a developing chemistry with Thomas. It’s only been four games, but he loves having a partner in the pick-and-roll game. That’s clearly where you’ll get the most production out of him and how he can thrive. He’ll provide hustle, second chance opportunities, and a semi-decent big that can at least bother some of the competition’s drives to the basket. Sliding Love over to the four might change his game a little bit, but you can still get him going in the post before giving him chances as a shooter to work him outside-in.

The resulting effect helps the second unit as well. They’ll get one of either J.R. Smith or Crowder, depending on who would be relegated there. Both of those guys can use a spark to get them going. Because of Crowder’s familiarity with Thomas, let’s say Smith gets kicked out. Maybe that gets him out of the funk he’s in? It also allows for Frye, who hasn’t seen more than 20 minutes in a game since December 4, to get re-acclimated to a group he truly helped on both ends of the floor earlier in the year.

Outside of the need to make a move at the deadline, the Cavs can figure this out. It’s understood that they’re the fourth-worst defensive team in the NBA, but they’ve gone through these kinds of ruts at this time of year, specifically since LeBron came back. There might not be statistical evidence backing up the claim of any improvement, but the track record speaks for itself.

The panic button is being hit, but pump the brakes a bit. This isn’t anything new. The pieces are a little different and things look as bad as they ever have, but in the end, the result will likely be the same.

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