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NBA AM: A Look At The Likely Trade Field – Part 1

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A Look At The Likely Trade Field – Part 1

For the most part, as teams approach the annual trade deadline (which is just 43 days away) the motivations are sometimes two-fold. While every team wants to try to improve, there is also salary cap housekeeping that needs to be addressed as well.

Historically most of the deals made at the deadline are not roster motivated as much as trying to extract value out of pending free agents or moving off non-guaranteed contracts to get value out of them before the end of the season.

The new agreed upon Collective Bargaining Agreement is going to change how non-guaranteed money will be treated. Teams used to be able to swap the face value of the non-guaranteed deals, however beginning in July teams will only be able to use the guaranteed value. That means a lot of the non-guaranteed deals sitting on team’s books will become less valuable in July, making the February 23 trade deadline the last chance to leverage those deals.

Here is a look at the first 15 NBA teams’ situations as it pertains to would-be free agents (AKA: Ending Contracts) and possible trades. We’ll tackle the next 15 tomorrow:

Atlanta

Paul Millsap, Tiago Splitter, Kyle Korver, Kris Humphries, Thabo Sefolosha, Mike Scott

The Hawks are one of the teams to watch, mainly because they are not nearly the team they had hoped to be. They have a roster loaded with 30-year-old pending free agents. If this team was competing as they had hoped, the idea of keeping the team together would make sense, but being trapped in the middle of the East and facing the idea of $175 million or more in new salary commitments may be too much. The Hawks are one of the teams with not only players to move, but a few like Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver that could be very attractive to a team that’s one player or one piece away.

Boston

Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, James Young

If the Celtics make a trade it’s not likely going to be built around one of their would-be free agents, it would be around roster players and future draft picks. The Celtics have kept no secret of their desire to make a splashy trade and given that they do have some ending contract money to toss into a deal, they are primed to make a deal.

Brooklyn

Luis Scola, Randy Foye

Like Boston, if Brooklyn is making a significant trade it’s likely built around Brook Lopez, not their ending contracts. That said, they do have some ending money to pack into a deal to help bring in more value. Nets GM Sean Marks has his eyes on trading for rookie scale players or draft picks, so it’s not out of the question they’d swap parts, not for pieces for the future.

Charlotte

Roy Hibbert

Charlotte has one notable ending deal and that’s Roy Hibbert. He is on a manageable $5 million contract so it’s not like he’s breaking the bank. The fact that Roy is no longer a difference maker in the NBA likely means using him as trade bait would mean very little and given where the Hornets are at in the standings, it’s unlikely they do anything with their core players, unless it yielded a significant return.

Chicago

Taj Gibson, Rajon Rondo ($3 million guaranteed)

The Bulls are in a tough spot. They are again underachieving and are again facing questions about whether Fred Hoiberg is the right coach. Historically the Bulls have not been big in-season traders, but given where they are and what they have to play with a trade around the deadline to jump start the team might make sense. Taj Gibson is the most attractive ending deal, and he could return value. The Bulls also have young guys like Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine that could also return value. The Rajon Rondo situation has turned sour, and it’s unlikely anyone is helping the Bulls out of that situation. Do the Bulls ultimately just cut their losses with Rondo and waive him outright and open up a roster spot? The answer might be yes.

Cleveland

Mo Williams, Mike Dunleavy ($1.62 million guaranteed)

The Cavs are in a tough spot. Their roster is maxed out. They have two guys in Mo Williams and Chris Andersen that likely do not play for them again, and they have very little by way of trade assets to spend without breaking up a championship core. There is a belief that the Cavs would send cash in a deal to shed Mo Williams’ contract and at the deadline the Cavs will have paid 70 percent of what’s owed to both Williams and Andersen. The Cavaliers do have a $9.63 million Traded Player Exception that will expire before the deadline on February 18, so they are on the clock to use it or lose it. So, the Cavs might have little choice but to be active at the deadline, if only to clear out their dead roster spots to open up space for fresh bodies as nagging injuries are leaving them a little shorthanded these days.

Dallas

Andrew Bogut, Deron Williams

Almost no one believes Andrew Bogut finishes the season in Dallas. Even he said as much in a recent radio interview. Bogut’s $11.02 million deal won’t be easy to move, especially with the Mavericks seeking youth and possible draft picks in a deal. It is hard to move big money in the NBA without taking some back, so moving Bogut without impacting future flexibility may be harder than you think. As for Deron Williams, it’s possible he is moved, but he is so far removed from being “D-Will” the starting guard, it would be surprising to see him moved for very much in return. The Mavericks are looking towards the future, so it is more likely than not they are traders at the deadline.

Denver

Mike Miller

Surprisingly the only notable pending free agent in Denver is veteran Mike Miller and he’s not returning any value. Like Boston and Brooklyn, if the Nuggets are making a deal (and they likely need to) it’s going to involve their core roster parts. There has been a lot of talk lately about Jusuf Nurkic and the fact that the Nuggets can’t seem to get the production out of him that they had hoped, making him a name to watch. Nuggets big man Kenneth Faried has been talked about from almost the moment he signed his new contract. Faried is owed two more seasons after this one, which makes him as safe a trade chip as they come. There have also been reports that Will Barton has drawn trade interest. His modest $3.5 million salary makes him a steal in the current NBA economy and it also greatly limits how much the Nuggets can take back in a deal involving him. The Nuggets are a team to watch as the deadline approaches. They have a glutton of talent and log jams almost everywhere.

Golden State

Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Zaza Pachulia, Ian Clark, David West, JaVale McGee, Anderson Varejao

The Golden State Warriors have a bunch of pending free agents, and with almost any other team that would make them prime trade candidates, however, that’s not the case with this group. The Warriors are built to win a championship, and they are structured to have the flexibility to re-tool the bench this summer if it’s needed. If there is one team that’s not likely messing with their roster it’s the Warriors.

Houston

Nene, Tyler Ennis, K.J. McDaniels (TO), Kyle Wiltjer

The Rockets are purring right along like a race car. They have a few movable assets that don’t mean much to their core, but most of them wouldn’t return much in a trade. The Rockets historically have been a mid-season trader, but this might be the first February they hold the line.

Indiana

Jeff Teague, Aaron Brooks

The Pacers do have Jeff Teague as an expiring deal, and there is a risk that he’d walk away as an unrestricted free agent. The Pacers feel like they have the advantage in keeping Teague, but unrestricted free agency is a fickle thing in the NBA. There has been a lot of speculation about the future of Paul George given his very verbal frustrations with the direction of the team and his perception of the team being slighted because of the market. Sources close to the situation say Indiana remains optimistic that the new Designated Player Exception will allow them to retain George long-term, assuming he makes one of the All-NBA teams this season. As for transactions around the deadline, there continues to be talk that the Pacers would be open to moving guard Monta Ellis, however, his production this season matched with his hefty contract make that unlikely.

LA Clippers

Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, J.J. Redick, Paul Pierce ($1.09m guaranteed)

The Clippers face a tough off-season. There is a scenario in which all of this could implode, especially if Blake Griffin decides he wants a change or if Chris Paul decided he can’t win as a Clipper. For the Clippers part, they are staying the course. They believe they have the financial and marketplace advantage to keep both Paul and Griffin on new deals. Paul and his family are very settled in LA and Griffin has a number of entertainment oriented business deals in LA that he is very attached to. You never say never, but the Clippers believe they’ll keep both guys which makes the Clippers pulling off a deal fairly unlikely.

LA Lakers

Jose Calderon, Tarik Black, Marcelo Huertas, Nick Young (5.6m Player Option)

The Lakers do have a few trade chips they could shop around, and they normally take calls in February if only to see what they can get, but if history is the roadmap Mitch Kupchak and company usually sit out the February trade market. There are a couple of variables. The Lakers owe draft picks, so if moving pieces that are not part of the future like the ending contract of Jose Calderon or a resurgent Nick Young (who holds a player option for next year) and it returns promising picks they likely explore it. They also have some bloated contracts from the off-season in Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov that might not make as much sense today as they did in July. Moving off money without taking any back is a very tough deal to pull off, so it’s more likely that the Lakers hold where they are and preserve the culture they are trying to build rather than up-end the apple cart at the deadline.

Memphis

Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, Vince Carter

The Grizzlies are another interesting situation. Zach Randolph and Tony Allen are the heart and soul of the team, however, both likely walk in free agency or get prohibitively expensive in the twilight of their careers. It’s not out of the question both opt to stay in Memphis, but there have already been reports that teams have called about Allen and with the way Randolph has played from the bench he likely will have some suitor too in a playoff-rental scenario. The Grizzlies are sitting at 22-16 on the season which is currently good enough for the seventh seed in the West. If there is a team that might need to cash out to move up, it might be the Grizzlies.

Miami

Derrick Williams, James Johnson, Udonis Haslem, Luke Babbitt, Wayne Ellington (non-guaranteed)

The Miami HEAT is 11-26 on the season which is basically the third-worst record in the NBA. They have kept no secret of their rebuild, and with so many things on the roster that might not make sense, the HEAT could end up being one of the bigger trade deadline dealers in the league. The HEAT is likely going to medically waive Chris Bosh at some point after February 9. They have to be smart about the timing of that decision because if Bosh can play 25 games for another team, the HEAT won’t get the cap relief they are hoping to obtain. The next part is all of the veterans they have on the roster, most notably point guard Goran Dragic. HEAT sources have said rebuilding around a 30-year point guard wouldn’t be the worst thing to do, but there is a growing sense that Miami explores liquidating not only Dragic but many of the veteran guys they have on expiring deals to collect rookie scale players or draft picks. The HEAT is going to lose Justise Winslow to torn labrum surgery, so they are going to continue to play depleted basketball on their way to the bottom of the NBA standings. Moving off the veterans is simply the next step in the process.

So, with the first 15 teams out of the way, we’ll jump into the next 15 tomorrow, so stay tuned for more.

In the time being, feel free to drop your comments in the comment section below.

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About Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.