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NBA AM: Almost Trade Season In the NBA

With December 15 just around the corner some NBA teams are increasing their trade talk, with a couple of teams looking like they want to deal.

Steve Kyler

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Almost Trade Season: With the first month of the NBA season behind us, the first milestone of the trade season is quickly approaching and some teams are starting to make their intentions known that when things open up on December 15, there is some interest in making a deal.

NBA teams are prohibited from trading players they signed during the summer until December 15 which makes almost half the NBA untradable until mid-December. Some of the players that signed towards the end of the summer are restricted until January 15. Most of the players under restriction become trade eligible in about two weeks and some teams are revving up interest in deals now, before things slip away from them.

Here are a few of the teams to watch:

New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans recently opened up two roster spots waiving swingman Darius Miller and big man Patric Young. The Pelicans have been sniffing around the trade market and have logged some interest with a few unsigned free agents including forward Dante Cunningham. Sources close to the Pelicans call the sniffing normal due diligence at this time of year, however teams on the other side see New Orleans as a motivated buyer and peg them as a team looking to make a trade.

The Pelicans are sitting at 7-8 on the season and have dropped three straight games. Ownership in New Orleans is eager to see this team turn the corner, and it seems that Pelicans GM Dell Demps is looking for a move or two to right the ship.

LA Lakers

The Lakers have a loaded roster, which means making a trade might be a little difficult, especially considering how much of the Lakers roster has trade restrictions. One of the Lakers best trade chips might be big man Jordan Hill; however, because of the contract he signed this summer he has the ability to block a trade. The Lakers are sitting on two disabled player exceptions, one from Julius Randle ($1.49 million) and one from Steve Nash ($4.85 million). While these exceptions cannot be combined with other elements, they do represent the ability to take on a player for little or nothing in return. The Lakers are under no obligation to use the exceptions and have until March 10 to use them. The Lakers have worked out about a dozen or so free agents and are said to be close to signing former Laker Earl Clark from the D-League. The Lakers are not being overly active in the trade market, but their exceptions make them interesting trade partners as they can take on an unwanted salary using one of their exceptions.

It’s unlikely that the Lakers are players early in the trade season, but they do have two assets that make them worth paying attention to as teams try and construct deals parking a player to or through LA is a possibility.

Charlotte Hornets

Like the Pelicans, the Hornets are trying to right the ship and have been labeled as one of the teams being aggressive in the early goings of the trade season. The name mentioned the most is swingman Gerald Henderson, but with basically two years and $12 million reaming on his contract ($6 million this year and a player options worth $6 million next year), he’s not the most attractive of trade chips. The Hornets are said to be open to trading just about anyone not named Al Jefferson or Kemba Walker and seem interested in shaking up their 4-14 roster.

Orlando Magic

The Magic are not actively looking in the trade market but they do have two players that get mentioned a lot by other teams. The Magic are 7-12 on the season and still finding their way, but it seems clear that forward Maurice Harkless and big man Andrew Nicholson are not going to play a big role for the team, which has some teams sniffing around about their availability.

Harkless clearly is the bigger trade asset, however sources close to the Magic say Harkless is one of GM Rob Hennigan’s favorite guys. He is not getting consistent playing time, though, and seems to be in head coach Jacque Vaughn’s doghouse. Harkless has said he’s trying to make the best of the situation, but it is clear that if the Magic are not going to play him that moving him becomes almost inevitable.

Like Harkless, Nicholson has been marginalized with the emergence of other players and he too sits more than he plays, prompting teams to inquire about his availability in trade.

The Magic at some point are going to need to decide what to do with their excess pieces, and as teams start making offers, the Magic might find a deal worth doing.

The Magic are not actively pursuing deals, which puts them in the driver’s seat, however at 7-12 with increased expectations the Magic may have to pull the trigger sooner than later.

Detroit Pistons

Like many of the teams on this list, the Pistons expected to be better than their 3-14 record. The fact that the team has lost eight straight games has the Pistons squarely in the sellers category. The Pistons are preaching patience, but it’s clear that a number of the pieces in Detroit simply don’t fit how head coach Stan Van Gundy wants to play.

The Pistons’ biggest trade chip might be big man Greg Monroe, however given that he accepted the Pistons’ qualifying offer and is headed towards unrestricted free agency, he can block any trade. That makes moving him tough. The Pistons continue to talk about retaining him, so it’s possible given how he’s been playing that the Pistons make other moves to solidify Monroe’s future in Detroit.

Surprisingly, the Pistons most productive player has been Brandon Jennings, a player most thought would struggle in Van Gundy’s demanding system.

Second year guard Kentavious Caldewell-Pope seems to be having the toughest time adjusting to Van Gundy and he might be one of the players on the move, especially if he can be packaged in with someone like Jonas Jerebko ($4.5 million) or Josh Smith ($13.5 million) and return something more valuable than his $2.7 million salary can return under NBA trade rules.

The Pistons are preaching about patience, however it’s clear that no one in Detroit is happy with how this season is playing out and that a change is more than likely.

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets are very much like the Pistons, they hoped that a coaching change would solve most of their woes, however at 6-9 and having lost seven of their last ten games, things are not going as swimmingly as some expected.

There have already been a number of small blow ups in the media from shooting guard Joe Johnson questioning his team to Brook Lopez being benched in the fourth quarter and even second year big man Mason Plumlee playing a vastly reduced role.

The team has already shopped forward Andrei Kirilenko and found little interest or value in him, leaving them with no choice but to backpedal in the press, downplaying their desire to move him.

The Nets continue to be a team that seems like its open for business and with Lopez eligible for free agency in July, there is a chance the Nets look to move him before they potentially lose him for nothing in return. Lopez is owed $15.7 million this season and holds a player option worth $16.7 million next season and could be the trade chip that returns the most value.

The Nets are said to have made Kirilenko and guard Sergey Karasev available in trade talks with other teams, neither likely returns much, but the Nets seem open to making a deal sooner than later.

Phoenix Suns

The Suns are very much like the Magic. They are overloaded with talent. It’s talent that they like quite a bit, but its talent they simply don’t have a lot of minutes for. The Suns are not actively shopping for deals, but a few teams believe the Suns will be sellers before it is said and done and that guard Goran Dragic is the name to watch.

Dragic has the option to hit unrestricted free agency in July. With the offseason deals guards Isaiah Thomas and Eric Bledsoe signed this summer and the drafting of Tyler Ennis, there is a sense that Dragic could be moved before he walks to a different situation.

Dragic has in essence has two years left on his deal, a $7.5 million year this year and a player option worth $7.5 million next year. Its possible Dragic stays in his deal, and the Suns would likely want that to be agreed to before the trade deadline, or they’d have no choice but to move him before losing him for nothing in return.

After an All-Star caliber season last year Dragic has settled back down to earth, likely due to the log jam the team has at the guard position.

Its seems likely if the right offer fall Phoenix’s way they’ll pull the trigger, especially with the team sitting at 10-8 and just inside the Playoff picture in the West.

Given that the team is having some success they are clearly not motivated to make a change, but if the teams starts to slip or that missing playoff piece surfaces, there is no doubt the Suns have the assets to make some changes, especially if it locks them into the postseason.

The number of in-season trades that get done on a year-to-year basis is generally fairly small, while there are a number of teams open to making trades, don’t expect a lot to drop in December. You can expect the trade chatter to pick up especially as December 15 gets closer, as that’s when teams that are looking to make changes tend to get more serious in their conversations.

»In Related: Who Still Has Cap Salary Space? How About Cap Exceptions?

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NBA PM: Hornets Rookies May Become Key Contributors

Some key injuries may force Charlotte’s rookies into becoming effective role players earlier than expected, writes James Blancarte.

James Blancarte

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As the NBA finally gets underway tomorrow evening, the 2017 rookie draft class will get their first taste of regular season action. Teams reliant on young rookie talent might produce an exciting brand of basketball but that rarely translates into a winning formula. Having rookies play a key role for a team hoping to make the playoffs can be a risky endeavor.

Out West, the Los Angeles Lakers are relying on both Lonzo Ball as well as Kyle Kuzma, who may have worked his way into the rotation with his surprising preseason play. However, the Lakers are, at this point, not realistic contenders in the competitive Western Conference. In the East, the Philadelphia 76ers have more realistic playoff hopes. The team is relying on this year’s top overall draft pick, Markelle Fultz, and 2016’s top pick, Ben Simmons, for meaningful production. Although Simmons has been in the league for over a year, he is still classified as a rookie for this season since he didn’t play last season.

The Charlotte Hornets are looking to return to the playoffs after narrowly missing the cut this past season. The team will likely feature not one, but two true rookies as a part of their regular rotation. Like the Lakers, the Hornets feature a highly touted rookie with the talent and poise to contribute right away in Malik Monk. The team also features Dwayne Bacon, a rookie that has flashed scoring potential as well as maturity — key attributes that will allow him to quickly contribute to the team.

Both players will be given the opportunity to contribute as a result of the unfortunate and untimely injury to forward Nicolas Batum. Batum tore a ligament in his left elbow in an October 4 preseason game against the Detroit Pistons. Initial speculation was that the injury would require surgery. However, it was announced on October 10 that surgery would not be necessary, and that he is projected to return in six to eight weeks. Assuming that there are no setbacks in Batum’s recovery, the Hornets will be looking to replace his perimeter scoring, playmaking abilities and perimeter defense. Enter Monk and Bacon.

Monk and Bacon have both shown the ability to score the ball, which is not exactly a common trait in Hornets rookies. Bacon, the 40th pick in the 2017 NBA draft, has made it a point to look for his shot from the outside, averaging 7.8 three-point shots per game while knocking down 33.3 percent of his attempts. As Bacon gains more experience, he presumably will learn how to get cleaner looks at the basket within the flow of the team’s offense. Doing so should help him increase his shooting percentage from beyond the arc, which would turn him into an even more effective contributor for Charlotte.

Bacon spoke to reporters after a recent preseason game against the Boston Celtics. Bacon was placed in the starting lineup and went 4-4 from three-point range in 34 minutes of action.

When asked what are some of the things he wanted to work on, Bacon focused on one end of the court in particular.

“Definitely defense. I’m trying to perfect the defensive side, I want to be one of the best two-way players to ever play the game,” Bacon stated. “I feel like I got the offensive side so just keep getting better on defense, I’ll be fine.”

Lack of consistency and defense are key factors that prevent many rookies from playing and being successful on winning teams right away. Based on Bacon’s size (6-foot-6, 221 pounds with a long wingspan) and physicality, he has the physical tools necessary to play passable defense. Combine that with his ability to score (he led the team in scoring in three of its five preseason games) and the unfortunate injury to Batum, it’s apparent that Bacon will get an opportunity to make the rotation and contribute.

Reliable two-way players on the wing are crucially important, but are not always readily available and are even less common on cheap contracts. The Los Angeles Clippers went through the entire Chris Paul/Blake Griffin era swapping small forwards on a nearly annual basis, struggling to find this kind of contribution from the wing. With little cap flexibility, the Clippers were unable to acquire a forward that could effectively and consistently play both end of the court, which caused issues over the years. As a second round pick, Bacon is set to make $815,615 in his first year. If Bacon is able to contribute at even a league average level, that will be a major boost for the shorthanded Hornets. Bacon is smart to focus on improving as a defender as Steve Clifford is a defensive-minded coach who will leave talented players on the bench if they aren’t making a positive impact on the defensive end of the court.

In fact, Clifford offered some strong simultaneous praise and criticism of Monk when it came to his scoring and defense.

“He can score, he can score, he can score [speaking of Monk],” Clifford stated. “I think his defense will come because he’s willing, he’s a good guy. I think that being a good player is very important to him.”

It’s apparent in Clifford’s comment that he values scoring, but that defense is also extremely important and essential to any player that wants to be a “good player.”

“He knows and understands that the way he has played in the past [in college], he can’t play in this league if he wants to be a good player,” Clifford said about Monk. “The big thing is, I told him, when people say, ‘he’s a talented offensive player’ that is a lot different than somebody saying, ‘he’s a talented NBA player.’”

Point guard Michael Carter-Williams also suffered an injury (bone bruise in his left knee), which received less attention than Batum’s injury. While Carter-Williams is not the same caliber of player as Batum, the Hornets are alarmingly thing at backup point guard. Without Carter-Williams, the team was going to lean on Batum to act as a playmaker more than he has in the past, which would have, at least in part, addressed the lack of an established backup point guard. But with Batum sidelined, Coach Clifford has given Monk time at the point guard position. If Monk proves capable of playing both guard positions and playing alongside Walker, that could go a long way towards mitigating the loss of Batum and Carter-Williams. It’s not reasonable to expect Monk (or Bacon) to produce as consistently as a seasoned veteran, but having them contribute at a league average level would constitute a big win for a Charlotte team with serious playoff aspirations.

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Teams Refuse To Back Down To Stacked Warriors

Golden State got better over the summer, but that didn’t stop others from trying to stop them from repeating as champions

Spencer Davies

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Opening week is finally upon us.

Appropriately enough, the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics will kick off the 2017-18 NBA season tomorrow night, as will the defending champion Golden State Warriors when they host the improved Houston Rockets.

The clear-cut favorites to win the league title are the ones who have done so two out of the past three years, and rightfully so. Warriors general manager Bob Myers has done a masterful job of assembling a juggernaut. They’ve kept their insanely talented core intact and—aside from Ian Clark and Matt Barnes—haven’t lost any of their key bench pieces to free agency.

In fact, Golden State has added to that dangerous second unit. Jordan Bell was bought from the Chicago Bulls and will bring another Draymond Green-esque impact almost immediately. Nick Young and Omri Casspi were brought in to fill the void of backup wings, which is an improvement at the position anyway. With the same roster as last year and better reserves to give the starters a breather, there’s no reason Steve Kerr and company can’t repeat if they stay healthy.

Knowing what the Warriors are capable of and how well they are set up to truly be a dynasty, there are some league executives out there who are hesitant to make significant moves that could potentially flop against such a powerhouse.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported back in middle June that select teams don’t want to risk a big play because of it. What that basically translates into is: We’re throwing in the white towel until that ball club disbands.

But luckily for fans and for parity’s sake, there was a handful of general managers that refused to take that path. Just looking down the list in the Western Conference, there were organizations that swung for the fences this summer.

The aforementioned Rockets are one of them.Daryl Morey pieced together multiple trades to allow him to land Chris Paul to play next to James Harden and form a dynamic backcourt tandem. Houston also signed a pair of veteran two-way players in Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker to provide depth and defense.

What about the Oklahoma City Thunder? Just when we thought Russell Westbrook’s MVP season was enough to maybe build off, the unthinkable happened. Sam Presti unloaded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana after just one season with the team to add All-Star forward Paul George, who is in a contract year.

That blockbuster move was followed up with another two months later, as Presti decided to deal fan favorite Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott to the Knicks in exchange for Carmelo Anthony. The creation of a Westbrook-George-Anthony big three forms an elite trio that is determined to prove championship worthiness.

Top tier Eastern Conference counterparts did their due diligence as well. The Cavaliers and Celtics are essentially rivals and became trade partners in an attempt to re-tool their respective rosters, in addition to gaining important pieces outside of that.

Boston inked Gordon Hayward to a maximum contract to create a bolstered starting unit alongside Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Al Horford until madness happened.

Firstly, Bradley got moved in a swap with the Detroit Pistons for Marcus Morris to address the hole at power forward. After that—with reports of Kyrie Irving’s unhappiness in Cleveland swirling around the basketball universe—Celtics general manager Danny Ainge acted immediately and swung a deal for the All-Star point guard in exchange for his All-Star point guard, a vital member of his team in Jae Crowder and the coveted Brooklyn Nets first-round pick.

It’s almost a brand new squad, but Brad Stevens has a versatile group to work with to try and finally dethrone the conference champions of the last three years.

As for the East’s cream of the crop, the Cavaliers moves are well known because wherever LeBron James goes the spotlight follows. Thomas and Crowder were huge gets for first-time general manager Koby Altman, especially after the outside growing doubt in the franchise’s front office. The rookie executive was also instrumental in signing Derrick Rose, Jeff Green, and Dwyane Wade to veteran minimum contracts.

Rose and Green have plenty of motivation because their critics think they’re washed up, meaning Tyronn Lue won’t have to give them a reason to play their hearts out. Wade simply made the decision to come to Cleveland because he can play with his best friend and potentially add to his collection of championship rings.

Ante Zizic, Cedi Osman, and Jose Calderon are also now a part of the roster that all-of-a-sudden is now deep at almost every position. It’s a new flavor for a team that may have only one year left to compete for a title with James’ pending free agency next summer.

Those four teams feel great about their chances to get in the way of the Warriors. It doesn’t stop there though. The West in general loaded up.

The Minnesota Timberwolves executed the first big move of the year when they traded for Jimmy Butler. The Denver Nuggets signed Paul Millsap to provide leadership and a veteran voice in a young locker room full of talent. The San Antonio Spurs lost Jonathan Simmons but brought in a very capable Rudy Gay under-the-radar as Kawhi Leonard’s backup.

Nobody expected the league to completely fold and hand Golden State another championship, but it was surprising (and relieving) to see so many teams have the fortitude to pull off the moves that they did. There was definitely risk involved for some of them, however, one thing is for certain.

The Warriors will not have a cakewalk to the NBA Finals. They will have to go through a rigorous set of teams in the West throughout the regular season and the playoffs.

If any team is up to the task, it’s Golden State. But we’ll see how it plays out starting about 24 hours from now.

See you at tip-off.

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NBA League Pass Debuts for 2017-18 Season

NBA League Pass has launched for the 2017-18 season. Basketball Insiders has the details.

Ben Dowsett

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The NBA and Turner Sports have launched NBA League Pass for the 2017-18 season, with several new features and pricing options available. NBA League Pass, a subscription-based service, will be available to users across 19 different platforms, from television and broadband to tablets, mobile and a plethora of connected devices.

In addition, an important note: As of Monday, NBA League Pass subscribers who have already purchased their access through a TV provider (Comcast, DirecTV, Dish, etc.) are now able to link their account to the NBA’s streaming service at no additional charge. The link to do this can be found here.

Basketball Insiders has you covered with a breakdown of all the new details immediately available. We will also be bringing you a detailed breakdown of certain important technological areas later in the week.

Features

New or improved features of NBA League Pass include:

  • Improved video quality for streaming League Pass content developed by iStreamPlanet, a high-level video streaming entity working in partnership with NBA Digital. Included among these improvements are faster delivery time for live feeds, reducing notable lag time present in previous versions. More detail on these video quality improvements will be featured in our breakdown later this week.
  • A new premium package that includes continuous in-arena coverage, even during commercials. This allows fans to view team huddles, live entertainment and other venue features that make them feel closer to the experience.
  • A season-long virtual reality subscription package via NBA Digital and NextVR, available to all premium and traditional NBA League Pass subscribers (also available to international subscribers and single-game purchasers beginning in week two of the NBA season). Access will be available across Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream and Windows Mixed Reality.
  • Coverage of pre-game warmups and other in-arena events.
  • Spanish-language video coverage for select games, as well as Spanish-language audio continuing for select games.
  • NBA Mobile view will contain a zoomed-in, tighter shot of game action that’s optimized for mobile devices.

Pricing

Pricing for NBA League Pass has not changed for traditional access, and will remain at $199.99 for the full season. New monthly-based subscriptions are now also available, both for the full package and for individual teams. Full pricing will be as follows:

  • Traditional NBA League Pass (full league): $199.99
  • Premium NBA League Pass: $249.99
  • NBA Team Pass: $119.99
  • Single Game Pass: $6.99
  • Virtual Reality package: $49.99
  • Premium monthly subscription: $39.99
  • Traditional League Pass monthly subscription: $28.99
  • NBA Team Pass monthly subscription: $17.99

Notes

As previously reported by Basketball Insiders, upgrades are also expected on the TV side of NBA League Pass, particularly through Comcast, which has had the largest share of customer issues for this product in recent years. While only a single nightly HD channel was available via Comcast XFINITY League Pass previously, sources tell Basketball Insiders that all games will be available in HD through Comcast’s Beta channel package by the end of November (or earlier).

This Beta package does have limitations, however, including users’ inability to record, pause or rewind games. The package that was available in previous season will continue to be available until (and after) the Beta package is active, and subscribers will get access to both for no additional charge.

Check back with Basketball Insiders later in the week for a full rundown of the technological improvements being made to NBA League Pass.

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