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NBA AM: Big-Name Players in Trade Rumors

There are a number of big-name NBA players surfacing in trade rumors recently. Who is likely to be moved?

Steve Kyler

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Big-Name Players Surfacing in Trade Rumors

With the 2016 NBA trade deadline looming, there have been a number of big-name players who have surfaced in the rumor mill. While big names are always fun to ponder, the odds that any of them get moved at the deadline still seem pretty slim. However, here is what we know today:

Dwight Howard

The Houston Rockets are not actively trying to move Dwight Howard, but if the right deal materializes they would surely look at it. The problem that the Rockets face with Howard is what does he really return in a trade? The Rockets have kicked the tires on a Howard trade and found that his pending free agency, injury history and overall decline in production combine to make him not very attractive in the trade market. The Rockets could move Howard to simply get him off the roster, but returning anything that helps the team now or going forward may not be in the cards.

Looking at Houston’s top producing lineups, Howard is not among any of the top lineup combinations the Rockets have used this season so there are a lot of reasons they could decide to cut bait on Howard. The question really comes down to, what do the Rockets take back? Moving a $22.3 million contract is difficult all by itself, and in Houston’s case they are not only hard-capped in what they can take back, they are unwilling to take back contracts that impact their future salary cap flexibility.

It is not out of the question that Howard gets moved. But as things stand today, it simply seems unlikely due to all of the factors mentioned above.

Blake Griffin

There is a lot of misinformation out there about the Los Angeles Clippers and their injured star Blake Griffin. Clippers sources have been adamant that they are not placing outgoing calls on Griffin and have steadfastly denied that they have entertained serious offers on Griffin. With that said, more than half a dozen teams have tried to get the Clippers to engage on a Griffin conversation, which some teams say have taken place in a very high level kind of way. The Clippers’ stance on Griffin is that the current team is playing very well and once Griffin returns to the lineup they should be in a position to really contend in the West. However misplaced that logic may seem, that’s how the Clippers see the world. The only way that changes is if someone were to blow them away with a great package, and that simply does not seem likely before the deadline.

League sources believe if the Clippers do hang onto Griffin at the deadline, they could revisit the situation in June if the team fails to reach at least the Western Conference Finals.

The prevailing thought is the Clippers want to give this core one more shot at the West; if they don’t succeed this year, shaking the roster up could become a very real option this summer.

Carmelo Anthony

There were some reports over the All-Star break suggesting that New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony could be involved in a major trade if he agreed to waive his no-trade clause. Anthony sort of addressed the notion during media availability in Toronto, saying that it was not something he was ready to consider. However, he did hint that maybe in the future it was worth having a conversation about that.

Over the weekend, league sources said that what’s playing out in Anthony’s world is that some of his advisers would like to see him traded to a situation where he can win a championship. However, Anthony does not seem willing to entertain it. Anthony is emotionally committed to being in New York and may be willing to wait out the re-building process because of how he feels about New York and being a Knick.

Anthony is in the same situation that many stars have found themselves recently, where his advisers see the situation for what it is while Anthony still has a romantic attachment.

It does not seem like Anthony will sign off on a deadline deal, but there is a growing belief that he might at least consider it in the offseason based on how free agency plays out this summer.

Kevin Love

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been fairly active in the trade market and have been thoroughly exploring what’s possible. The odds are pretty high that the Cavs are going to do a deal, likely involving big man Timofey Mozgov. However, the Cavs have at least kicked the tires on bigger ideas including overtures from the Boston Celtics on big man Kevin Love.

The reality on moving Love is that not many teams are interested in his contract, especially based on his production this season. The Cavs are not actively trying to move Love, according to sources, but there have been at least some conversations that sources say did not get very far.

The Cavs have had several players labeled as movable beyond Love, such as guard Iman Shumpert. Cavs sources said yesterday that they are not actively talking about deals involving Shumpert, but that in some of their explorations his name came up specifically related to his contract being large enough to help make the math work on a bigger salary.

The Cavs do not seem willing to use either of their Traded Player Exceptions at this point, although sources admitted that the team wants to bolster their bench and for the right player they would add more salary and ultimately more tax, but the preference now is to move salary for salary hence why some names are being tossed around more openly as the Cavs try and find the right deal.

Tobias Harris

Much like Shumpert, Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris’ name has come up mainly because he is the biggest movable salary for the Magic, who have explored a couple of splashy deals.

Magic sources sort of downplayed the scale of what they will likely complete, but conceded that there are a number of conversations that have taken place and more that are evolving.

Orlando’s stance has been that moving off any of their core players would have to return an upgrade in talent, presumably an All-Star or potential All-Star.

The Magic have a couple of guys to watch in terms of roster organization, namely big man Andrew Nicholson and point guard Shabazz Napier.

The Magic have been very active in trade talks so the odds are fairly high that they will trigger something at the deadline. However, at this point, odds are that a major deal won’t go down. That’s not because the Magic have not tried, they just may not have a big deal worth doing yet.

Al Horford

The Atlanta Hawks are at a crossroads of sorts. They love their team, but they may have peaked with this group. The Hawks have been exploring their options and it looks more likely than not that guard Jeff Teague is going to be moved at the deadline. The question is, which team do they send Teague too and for what in return? That is far from decided.

Big man Al Horford has also surfaced in trade rumors. Horford told Basketball Insiders that he does not want to be traded and said he’d like to remain in Atlanta. However, the Hawks have to decide if meeting a hefty new contract price for Horford is really in their best interest in the long-term. If the Hawks will pay Horford market value, he’d like to stay where he is so there isn’t as much risk of losing him for nothing in return as some other pending free agents.

The Hawks have explored a number of scenarios involving Horford and there does not seem to be a shortage of options if they decide to deal. From the Hawks’ side, the idea of blowing up the team seems unappealing, so if there is a deal involving Horford or even Teague, it’s likely to bring in talent for this year and better position the team going forward.

What Atlanta ultimately does is still fairly unclear, but it does seem the Hawks’ posture is of a team ready to make a move. And it seems more likely than not that Teague will be the guy they move.

The 2016 NBA trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m. EST, so stay tuned. The annual Basketball Insiders Deadline Diary will drop tomorrow and will chronicle all the latest news, rumors and trade talk all the way up to the deadline.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @eric_saar and @CodyTaylorNBA .

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

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NBA

Rookie of The Year Watch – 12/13/17

Shane Rhodes checks back in on what’s become a relatively consistent Rookie of the Year race.

Shane Rhodes

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It has been a pretty ho-hum Rookie of The Year race so far in the 2017-18 season, with the top rookies staking their claims to this list at the beginning of the season and, for the most part, staying there. While there has been some movement up and down over the season and since our last installment, for the large part those who were on the list remain on the list.

Those players have earned their spots on this list with their play, however. This rookie class is one of the better, more exciting classes in recent memory. These players have just managed to remain at the top of the hill.

Let’s take a look at this week’s rankings.

stockup456. Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls (Last Week: Unranked)

By virtue of John Collins missing time due to injury, Markkanen jumps back onto this list. However, that’s not to say Markkanen has played poorly this season. On the contrary, the former Arizona Wildcat and current Chicago Bull has played very well; it’s just hard to get recognized when you are on the worst team in the league.

Markkanen is averaging 14.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, third and second among rookies, respectively, while adding 1.3 assists per game as well. Athletic enough to get his own shot and big enough to be a mismatch when he’s on the floor, Markkanen is probably the best (healthy) offensively player the Bulls have. While his defensive game isn’t great, his defensive rating of 106.4 still ranks ninth amongst rookies.

Perhaps most importantly, Markkanen inspires hope for a brighter future in Bulls fans that have watched the team plummet from the 50-win team it was just three seasons ago.

stockup455. Dennis Smith, Jr., Dallas Mavericks (Last Week: 6)

His shooting percentages continue to underwhelm and the Dallas Mavericks still have one of the worst records in the NBA, but Dennis Smith Jr. has been one of the Mavs’ bright spots this season while averaging 14.4 points, four rebounds and four assists per game.

While he hasn’t been a great shooter overall, Smith Jr. has managed to be a big contributor on offense for the Mavs, with an offensive rating of 101.4, ninth among rookies, and an assist percentage of 25.2 percent, fourth among rookies. He is second on the team in scoring behind Harrison Barnes’ 18.4 points per game as well. He is still a work in progress, but Dallas has found a keeper in Smith Jr.

stockdown454. Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers (Last Week: 3)

While the Lakers have stumbled over the past few weeks, Kuzma continues to play well when he is on the floor. He still paces the Los Angeles Lakers in scoring with an average of 16.1 points per game, third among rookies, while also dishing in 6.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.

Kuzma is now second among rookies in double-doubles with eight on the season and three in his last five games. With a diverse offensive game, the power forward should continue to impress as the season goes along.

stockup453. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz (Last Week: 4)

Donovan Mitchell has been electrifying in recent weeks. Second in scoring among rookies, Mitchell is averaging 17.3 points per game to go along with three rebounds and 3.2 assists. As his confidence has grown, so to have his field goal percentage and three-point percentages. Mitchell has led the Utah Jazz in scoring in 11 of their 27 games, and is second on the Jazz in scoring too, behind Rodney Hood’s 17.7 points per game.

Mitchell became the second rookie ever, first since Blake Griffin in 2011, to score more than 40 points in a single game after going for 41 against the New Orleans Pelicans. Coupling that with his high-flying athleticism, Mitchell has been one of the best rookies to watch this season.

stocknochanges452. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics (Last Week: 2)

Jayson Tatum is on pace to be only the second rookie ever to lead the league in three-point percentage. In over 38 years, the only other player to do it was Anthony Morrow, who shot 46.7 percent on 2.7 attempts per game during the 2008-09 regular season. Tatum is currently shooting 50 percent on over three attempts per game.

The 19-year-old forward has also made a near seamless transition from the isolation-dominated basketball that he played at Duke, and has flourished as the third, fourth and sometimes even fifth option on offense, having scored in double digits in 25 of 29 games and averaging 13.8 points per game on the season. His defense continues to be better than advertised as well.

Tatum has been Mr. Clutch among rookies as well. In the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, Tatum has 14 field goals on 21 attempts, seventh in the entire NBA and tops among rookies. In fact, Tatum is the only other rookie in the top 15 in clutch field goals.

While Mitchell has been on fire recently, Tatum has performed well enough to this point where he is still in control of the number two spot among rookies. But the race for this second spot is close and will continue to be close throughout the season. The race for the number one spot on the other hand? Not so much.

stocknochanges451. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers (Last Week: 1)

It would make for a very boring race if Ben Simmons remained at the top of this list for the entire season. And it looks increasingly likely that that is going to be the case.

Try as they might, the other rookies just can’t hang with Simmons; none of them have the right combination of production and physicality to keep pace with the point-forward. Tatum has been better than advertised while Mitchell and Kuzma have exceeded all predraft expectations, but none of them can produce what Simmons has. With averages of 17.5 points, 8.9 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game, Simmons would be just the second rookie in NBA history, the first since Oscar Robertson during the 1960-61 season, to finish the season with that stat line.

So, unless they combine their powers to become a being with superhuman basketball skills, the other rookies don’t stand a chance against Simmons in the race for Rookie of the Year.

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Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: Another 2018 NBA Mock Draft – 12/13/17

Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler drops his latest 2018 first-round NBA Mock Draft.

Steve Kyler

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A little less than a month ago we dropped the first 2018 NBA Mock Draft, which was met with a lot of disdain. Which is often a good thing because it sparks the discussion in NBA circles.

Since that Mock dropped, we’ve seen a bit more play out of some of the top prospects and many of the assumptions made almost a month ago are starting to settle into place a little more clearly.

The prevailing thought from NBA scouts and executives is that the possible 2018 NBA Draft class has a lot more questions than answers. The common view is that outside of the top 3 or 4 players there could be a very wide range on who the next 10-12 players will be; so expect for the second tier to evolve a lot over the course of the college basketball season.

A couple of things have started to surface among NBA scouts and executives, there seem to be three camps emerging around the top overall player – Duke’s Marvin Bagley III and international phenom Luka Dončić, seem to be the leading names mentioned most, with Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton making a strong push into the discussion. We can safely call this a three-horse race at this point.

The prevailing belief is that none of the three is far and away better than the other as a professional prospect, making it more likely than not that the top player selected will have a lot more to do with which team ultimately lands the pick, more so than the player themselves.

This class also seems to be brimming with promising athletic point guards, which unlike last year’s draft, could provide a lot of options for teams still trying to find that impact point guard.

There also looks to be 27 players in the projected top 100 that are 6’10 or bigger, eight of which project in the top 30. To put that into perspective, there were 11 players 6’10 or bigger drafted in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, and 17 total in the 60 2017 NBA Draft selections.

As we get into the 2018 calendar year, we’ll start to do deeper dives into the tiers of players and their possible NBA strengths and weakness.

So, with all of that in mind, here is the second 2018 first-round NBA Mock Draft.

Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:

The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Ricky Rubio trade this summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would not convey.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves first round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would not convey.

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors first round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets first round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.

Check out the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects http://www.basketballinsiders.com/top-100-nba-draft-prospects/

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Insiders Podcast

PODCAST: How to Keep LeBron in Cleveland

Basketball Insiders

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The media seems to think LeBron is as good as gone this offseason, but Joel Brigham and Spencer Davies discuss why that may not be the case. That, and conversation about whether NCAA or Euroleague success is more valuable in evaluating draft talent.

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