Keep Them Or Trade Them?
While the NBA rumor mill has quieted down as executives around the NBA get in vacations and family time, there are some things to keep an eye on as the NBA begins to ramp up for the 2017-18 NBA Season in the coming weeks. While the futures of Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and New York’s Carmelo Anthony have dominated the conversation, there are some soon to be free agents that could make some noise of their own, here are a few:
Avery Bradley – Detroit – $8.808 million
The Boston Celtics had to move off some contract money to make room for their free agent signing of Gordon Hayward. While moving Bradley to Detroit was likely the right move for the Celtics, it was not an easy move because of how much Bradley meant to the chemistry and success of the Celtics. All of those characteristics that made it a hard decision for Boston are why the Pistons opted to trade for Bradley rather than re-sign guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
The thought process from the Pistons side was if they were going to shell out $90 plus million dollars, it needed to be a better fitting two-way player. The Pistons will get a full season to see if Bradley is the player they believe him to be, but there is a risk for the Pistons, too. Bradley will be an unrestricted free agent and can choose his next team on his own and could leave the Pistons with nothing to show for the trade.
Sources close to the process believe that Detroit traded for Bradley knowing full well it would be very expensive to retain him beyond this season, however, if he is everything they hope he’ll be, they have no issues paying him.
The wrinkle in all of this is the Pistons as a team. If Detroit continues to be middling as they were last season, would it be smarter to trade off Bradley at the trade deadline and get value? The other option is to keep investing in a team that is not appearing to turn the corner.
The current thinking is that Bradley was traded to become a long-term piece, however, if the season turns south, would he opt to stay and would it be smart for the Pistons to pay him? It’s an interesting situation to watch.
Isaiah Thomas – Boston – $6.261 million
The biggest fear you hear from Celtics fans is the idea of a full max contract being given to what will be a 29-year old Isaiah Thomas. Whether or not the Celtics ultimately opt to pay him will be a recurring storyline that has already gotten a lot of attention. What makes the situation worse is that Thomas himself continues to campaign in the media for a max deal.
The good news for the Celtics is that while every player wants a max deal, most players don’t get them unless there is a real market for the player. The same reservations Celtic fans have on a long-term huge money deal for Thomas is a fairly common train of thought in NBA circles, meaning the Celtics may find themselves in the same situation Toronto did with Kyle Lowry this summer. New Orleans and Jrue Holiday were in a similar situation. Both got huge new deals, but neither got the full maximum possible because there wasn’t much appetite in the free agent market for maxing either guy.
With the NBA salary cap sort of flattening out and fewer teams expected to have a ton of cap money to spend the free agent marketplace is going to smooth out, meaning the Celtics may not have to offer a full max deal to retain Thomas if they choose to.
The two big variables for Thomas future are his health. He is recovering from a pretty significant hip injury that he did not have surgery on. So, getting and staying healthy is a big factor in his future, but also his play compared to continued improvement from guards Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier.
The Celtics do have some luxuries with so many options at guard that they can ultimately opt to keep the best ones and that’s how they are approaching this season.
Should things not improve after all the roster changes, it’s not out of the question the Celtics explore Thomas’ trade value, but given his expected price tag next July, it’s hard to imagine he returns anything close to what his value is to the Celtics.
If things go as expected, and the Celtics pick up where they left off last season, the C’s have the option of exploring the trade value of Smart, who will be hitting free agency too, as well as Rozier who showed tremendous promise in the post-season.
It is absolutely not out of the question that the Celtics will re-sign Thomas, the thinking is he is a special player that made a lot of things work. But, re-signing Thomas does not mean he’ll get a full max deal either, mainly because the Celtics may not have a lot of competition in re-signing him if they frame a deal similar to Lowry’s deal in Toronto – max value, for a shorter number of years.
Will Barton – Denver – $3.533 million
Barton is an interesting situation to watch, mainly because he could be a highly productive player this year and is on a relatively dirt-cheap contract. Barton and the Nuggets explored a contract extension last season, however, Barton passed, opting for the chance to be an unrestricted free agent.
The threat of losing him for nothing is very real for Denver. However, there is a belief that Denver can and would pay Barton market value. So, how he plays and the role he plays with a revamped Nuggets team becomes very interesting in the long-term.
The Nuggets are one of the teams linked to Cavs guard Kyrie Irving, making the possible inclusion of Barton in a Cavs deal a very real possibility.
As thing stand, the Nuggets are expecting a big season from Barton. However, it will be interesting to see if he indeed plays himself out of Denver at the trade deadline. By then, his impending market value will have become a bit more clear.
Trevor Ariza – Houston – $7.420 million
As much as Knicks fans may want to see Ariza included in a package for Carmelo Anthony, the prevailing thought out of Houston is the Rockets need the versatile Ariza to make it all work, especially on the defensive side.
There are some realities that Houston will have to face, which includes determining how much to commit to the future of Ariza, who just turned 32 years old this past summer. There is no question Ariza has tremendous value, not just as a potential free agent, but also as a trade chip should all of this not come together in Houston as expected.
The Rockets stance this summer has been that Ariza is not a trade option. However, as the season comes together, does he have a future in Houston? Today that answer is a resounding yes. However, at the deadline, if the Rockets are not the team they believe they will be, he is a chip they can cash to tweak the roster. That’s always a real thing with pending free agents, especially ones looking for the last big payday.
Derrick Favors – Utah – $12 million
With Gordon Hayward gone from Utah, the mantle of star player could shift over to Favors—at least that’s what his camp is hoping for. Favors was banged up most of the year last season and never got right. The hope in Utah is that Favors can return to form and take the next step forward in his career. Believe it or not, Favors just turned 26 this summer and still hasn’t reached what many would say is the prime of a player’s career.
When healthy, Favors has been a solid double-double player, and with his usage expected to increase dramatically, there is a chance for Favors to bounce back this season. The problem for Favors, and even the Jazz in many ways, is that the game has changed and that Favors may not get the repetitions and opportunities to be the player they hope he can be.
In a worst-case scenario, Favors could have some trade value at the trade deadline in early February, but to be moveable for any kind of value, he will have to get and stay healthy.
Given how brutal the market has been on big guys, there is a chance that re-signing Favors may not be as expensive as other options, but for the Jazz, they are playing a wait and see approach to Favors and his future.
There is a real window for Favors to be more than he’s been over the last two seasons, so time will tell if he can play himself into a big deal or if he plays his way out of Utah.
We’ll be dropping more features on pending free agents all week as we start to look ahead a little in the month of August. With the NBA season opening up a little earlier than normal, this year we will also start dropping our season previews the first week of September, so stay tuned.
The Insiders Podcast
Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Moke Hamilton is joined by Senior Analyst Tommy Beer as they discuss the prospects of Isaiah Thomas cashing in next summer, what lies ahead for the Celtics, Kyrie Irving’s value and why he makes sense in Minnesota and the latest on Carmelo Anthony and a few moves the Knicks have made this summer.
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, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton, @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @CodyTaylorNBA, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers and @Ben__Nadeau.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team
Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.
“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”
Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN