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

The trade deadline isn’t just about improving a roster, sometimes it is about moving off some ending contracts and roster housekeeping.

Steve Kyler



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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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NBA Sunday: Kristaps Porzingis Sure Looks Ready To Be The Franchise

The Knicks hope Kristaps Porzingis can become their franchise. Thus far, he seems up to the challenge.

Moke Hamilton



He stood in front of his mentor, isolated, just like they used to do in practice.

He’d seen the jab steps before and the head fakes—they were nothing new. And when Carmelo Anthony mustered the acceleration he still has in his 33-year-old legs to drive around Kristaps Porzingis, Anthony knew he had the 7-foot-3 Latvian big man beat.

Anthony triumphantly rose to the basket and delicately attempted his right-handed layup. Before he knew what hit him, though, Anthony’s shot had been sent to the free throw line.

The message was clear—Kristaps had taken the torch.

“It was fun,” Porzingis said about his confrontation with Anthony. “We went at it in practices a lot and one-on-one after practices.

“It was a lot of fun knowing what he was going to do and try to stop him.”

The Oklahoma City Thunder were much closer to the NBA Finals than the Knicks were last season, and removing Anthony from the Knicks and pairing him with Russell Westbrook and Paul George gives the Thunder a triumvirate that can at least conceivably challenge the Golden State Warriors. They are perhaps the only team in the entire league with enough firepower and defensive pieces.

So no, the Knicks may not be hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy anytime soon, but at the very least, the franchise seems to be in good hands—the big, soft hands of Porzingis.

As young NBA players come into their own and attempt to fulfill the lofty expectations that everyone has of them, the third year is the charm, almost invariably. And in that that year, a young player can’t control the other pieces that are around him—that’s why they shouldn’t be judged by their team’s wins and losses.

In that third year, a young player also can’t really control the frequency of his injuries. The simple truth is that many 21 or 22-year-old players simply lack the hardened bones of a fully grown adult that most men become after the age of 25.

But what the young player can prove is that he is prepared to shoulder the burden and take the fight to anyone who stands before him. Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks epitomizes this ideal better than any other young player in the league. He is absolutely fearless and it’s a pleasure to watch.

So is Porzingis.

Since the influx of European-born players began about 20 years ago, we have seen our fair share of “soft” European players. His talent aside (which is considerable), Porzingis has proven to be anything but, and that by itself can help players go a very long way.

In what must have felt like the longest summer ever, Porzingis saw the franchise that drafted him undergo an overhaul that resulted in a light beaming so brightly on him, you would have thought the third-year forward was starring in a Broadway musical.

Say what you want about Porzingis, but he has already done all that he can to notify everyone that have anything to do with the Knicks that his bony shoulders aren’t indicative of the weight he’s capable of carrying.

And in Oklahoma City, against his mentor, Porzingis did the heavy lifting.

“I saw energy,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said after his team’s opening night loss.

“He was great moving. He played 38 minutes, and maybe last year that would be a struggle. He would maybe get tired, and get some silly fouls, but even toward the end on that 37th or 38th minute, he was still up hollering, moving, blocking shots and getting rebounds, so he had a great game and we expect a lot more of that from him.”

Being a Knicks fan is something that nobody should wish on their worst enemy. The franchise has made scores of maneuvers that lacked wisdom and seemingly gone out of its way to alienate people beloved by the franchise. On top of it all, Knicks tickets are among the highest in the entire league.

Fans as passionate and dedicated as Knicks fans deserve a team they can be proud of and a front office that dedicates itself to putting winning ahead of petty feuds and politics.

The hiring of Scott Perry may signify just that.

So when the Knicks traded Carmelo Anthony and ended up getting back 10 cents on the dollar for his value, everyone should have prepared for a long season in New York City.

Coming in, Knicks fans once again found themselves in the unenviable predicament of having to talk themselves into believing that Ramon Session, Michael Beasley and Tim Hardaway were capable of giving this team feel good moments. And while they certainly are, they will surely pale in comparison to the amount of losses that the club accrues along the way.

If there’s one thing the Philadelphia 76ers have taught everyone, however, it’s that the losses don’t necessarily need to be in vain.

So heading into this season, what Knicks fans should have been looking forward to and hoping for is nothing more than the installation of a culture that’s marked by effort, communication and selfless basketball—the hallmarks of the Golden State Warriors.

Aside from that, yes, they should have also come in with the hope that Kristaps Porzingis would take an appreciable step forward and prove himself to truly be a capable franchise cornerstone.

To this point, from the way he holds his head highly, despite a win or a loss, and the way he competes to the best of his abilities, despite his limitations. For now, it’s really all that could reasonably be asked of him.

When it was all said and done—when Porzingis looked the Knicks’ past in the eyes after the Thunder had soundly defeated his New York Knicks—Carmelo Anthony probably told him that he was proud of him and that he wished him all the luck in the world.

He probably told him to continue to work on his game and hone his craft and to block out the background noise.

And above all else, Carmelo probably told Kristaps that he believes he is capable of being his successor.

With his nodding head and serious demeanor, Porzingis, in all his glory, listened intently. Even more so, he believed every word. 

It doesn’t take all day to figure out whether the sun is shining—it’s an adage that remains as true in basketball as it does on a May Day in New York.

For Porzinigis, the bright sky and the beaming sunlight—he’s basking in it all. Not only has he becomes the Knicks’ franchise by default, he believes he’s capable of shouldering the burden.

In this town, that’s more than half the battle.

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Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal

The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz



It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.

Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.

There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.

Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.

Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.

That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.

At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.

One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.

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NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind

Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.

Dennis Chambers



When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.

“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.

Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.

That didn’t last long.

“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”

With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.

As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.

After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.

In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.

“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”

Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.

“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”

Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.

“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”

After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.

Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.

“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”

All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.

“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”

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