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NBA AM: Summer Trades Are Coming

The trade deadline has come and gone, but it was a preview of deals to come this summer.

Joel Brigham

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It’s been a full four days since the NBA trade deadline came and went, and many fans are still left wondering why certain moves that should have happened did not happen. While there wasn’t a lot of marquee shakeup outside of DeMarcus Cousins and Serge Ibaka, there was plenty of smoke for big trades that suggest bigger things that could be on tap this summer. Plenty of big names shopped at the deadline almost certainly will be shopped again once the Finals wrap up in June, meaning the groundwork for even more big trades this summer may already have been laid.

Here’s a look at a handful of trades that didn’t happen at the deadline but very well could happen this offseason:

Jimmy Butler to the Boston Celtics

There are some things we’ll never know, but it’s hard to believe that the Boston Celtics couldn’t have landed Butler or Paul George this past trade deadline had they really built promising packages around the 2017 Brooklyn Nets’ pick available, as rumored, but by the time June rolls around that pick could potentially be even more valuable once its actual draft slot has been revealed.

As it stands, the Nets have the worst record in the NBA with a nine-game cushion, meaning they will have the best odds of landing the first overall selection in this summer’s draft. Of course, due to the nature of the lottery, that pick could be as low as fourth, which alters its value considerably. That’s the difference between having your pick between Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Dennis Smith and Josh Jackson, or simply taking whomever is left over.

If Chicago is going to trade Jimmy Butler and rebuild, they’re going to need a very good player to use as the centerpiece of that rebuild. Fultz or Ball would clearly qualify, and a couple of other Boston rotational players could go even further to change Chicago’s mind. Jae Crowder feels like an inevitable inclusion, and there are other players like Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley and/or Terry Rozier that could appeal to the Bulls, as well.

The finished trade would have to be something built around that pick and a handful of other serviceable young-ish players. DeMarcus Cousins clearance-rack trades don’t happen for All-Stars without the reputation for being surly. Boston didn’t pull the trigger because they didn’t like the value that was out there for them, but superstars typically aren’t bargain buys. Boston is going to have to pony up if they want to land their big fish.

Paul George to the L.A. Lakers

The Celtics also could make another run at Indiana Pacers swingman Paul George for a similar package, but one of the most interesting rumors to spill forth from this year’s trade deadline was that George is itching for an opportunity to play for the Lakers, particularly if the Pacers are unable to build a contender around him in Indy.

The Pacers only are guaranteed one more full season out of George, as he possesses a player option in the summer of 2018, so if Larry Bird is feeling as though he’ll lose his franchise cornerstone on the free agency market, he could decide to preemptively trade him to the place he wants to be.

It’s not as though L.A. doesn’t have the assets to generate an interesting offer for George. Bird’s rivalry with Magic Johnson is well-established and well-recorded, so negotiations likely would be fairly intense, but L.A has the youth to put together something intriguing. Starting with D’Angelo Russell or Brandon Ingram would be a great place to start, with sweeteners like Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle at least keeping the Indiana front office at the table. The Lakers have a history of playing fast and loose with first-round draft picks, but George could require one of those, too.

This offer may not be as desirable as the one that Boston could make, but if Danny Ainge acquires Butler or simply refuses to deal that Brooklyn pick, L.A.’s offer could conceivably be one of the better ones on the table, especially considering other teams wouldn’t necessarily be guaranteed that George wouldn’t just leave them the following summer for the Lakers, anyway.

Los Angeles can be patient, save their assets, and just try to sign him outright in 2018, but the quicker, more guaranteed path would be making a deal for him, which they almost certainly will try to do once again this summer.

Denver Nuggets Consolidation Trade

The Nuggets have a ton of talented guys under contract next season. Kenneth Faried, Emmanuel Mudiay, Wilson Chandler, Mason Plumlee, Nikola Jokic, Will Barton, Gary Harris, Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Jamal Murray and Wilson Chandler all will be under contract. Danillo Gallinari has a $16.1 million player option, and Darrell Arthur’s $7.5 million and Jameer Nelson’s $4.7 million deals are on the books for next season, as well. They’ve got the players, the cap-filling contracts and the draft picks to make some sort of consolidation trade.

Frankly, there’s little reason that Denver also shouldn’t go after Butler and George, if only because they could put together one of the more attractive packages in the league. Jokic is a burgeoning star, but he needs another stud to help him with the scoring load. Some of these pieces could get it done.

Jokic’s need for a running mate aside, there’s too much young talent in Denver and not enough minutes to go around to develop that talent. Even the kids with big potential won’t get the run they need to thrive on a roster so loaded. Something’s gotta give in Denver this summer, and it seems probable that something will. If nothing else, consolidating some of those players frees up those minutes. Adding some talent in the process only makes it better.

Minnesota Clears the Way for Dunn, Jones

There will be no Ricky Rubio trade for Derrick Rose. That particular flower has wilted with Rose headed for free agency, but that doesn’t mean Tom Thibodeau won’t explore other landing spots for his starting point guard. With two years and just under $30 million left on his deal, Rubio is good enough and expensive enough to play Minnesota’s two talented rookie point guards out of the minutes they need to take the next step. Kris Dunn and Tyus Jones both have shown how good they are, but they’re never going to live up to their full potential until Rubio has been shipped off and all his minutes have opened up for the kids.

There aren’t any obvious suitors at the moment, but they’ll arise once free agency settles and teams without point guards look to the trade market to fill those holes. Rubio’s contract is fair in the new CBA, especially considering he dishes and defends incredibly well.

Unfortunately, the Timberwolves just don’t need him anymore, but there are likely to be plenty of teams interested before the summer is over. Thibs will have a move to make if he wants to make one.

Philadelphia Lowers Asking Price for Okafor

Jahlil Okafor still could be a very good pro, but it probably isn’t going to happen for him in Philadelphia. On the one hand, the trade of Nerlens Noel opened up some minutes in Philadelphia’s frontcourt, but Okafor still plays the same position as the franchise’s only untradeable player in Joel Embiid, except he doesn’t defend or rebound anywhere near as well.

Okafor is an incredibly polished offensive post player, and some team is certain to make better use of him than his current team has. He reportedly wasn’t moved at the deadline because the asking price was too high, but it’s hard to demand a king’s ransom for a player the team doesn’t play and clearly doesn’t value. Eventually, Philly’s asking price will come down, Brett Brown will turn the frontcourt minutes over to Embiid, Dario Saric and Ben Simmons, and Okafor will move on to greener pastures.

Whoever gets him is staring at a bargain. He may never be an All-Star, but he’s still an incredible talent with better days ahead.

***

This year’s trade deadline reminded us how thrilling a big trade can be, and for those who like such things, even bigger deals could be on the way. Trading season is done for the spring, but by the time the draft rolls around, expect all of this to start bubbling once again.

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NBA Daily: Daniel Hamilton Hopes to Stick in OKC

Oklahoma City’s Daniel Hamilton speaks to Basketball Insiders about his time at summer league and sticking in the NBA.

David Yapkowitz

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There are usually two main categories of guys who participate in the NBA’s summer league.

The players who are armed with guaranteed contracts are usually looking to expand on their game and test out new skills. Then there are the players who don’t have that kind of security, the ones who are looking for an opportunity to earn an invite to training camp in hopes of securing a coveted roster spot in the NBA.

For Daniel Hamilton, he kind of falls into both of those categories.

Hamilton just completed his rookie season with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was signed last summer to a two-way contract and he split time between the Thunder and their G-League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue. He joined the Thunder’s summer league team in Las Vegas, his third consecutive summer with them.

“I’m working on getting stronger, lowering my turnovers, and continue getting reps up in the gym,” Hamilton told Basketball Insiders. “I’m getting shots up and different things like that.”

Hamilton was drafted by the Denver Nuggets with the 56th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft but was immediately traded to the Thunder. He didn’t play with the Thunder right away though. He spent the entire 2016-2017 season with the Blue.

This past year was his second in the G-League. He finished the season as the Blue’s second-leading scorer with 16.9 points per game, behind Dakari Johnson’s 23.3. While he was on a two-way contract, he only saw action in six games with the Thunder. Most of his time was spent with the Blue.

“It was good, my first year doing the two-way deal. I had a lot of good times playing up with the pros and going down to the G-League,” Hamilton told Basketball Insiders. “The G-League was real good, being able to just go out and play and work on your game, and get wins as a team. We had a great team this past year, we finished top in our division. It was just a fun experience overall.”

This season was a bit different for Hamilton, however. It was also his first year playing a different position. Up to that point, he’d been a shooting guard. He played shooting guard as a standout at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, CA. He was a shooting guard during his two years at UConn.

But the Thunder asked him to do something a bit different when he joined the team. They asked him to play point guard. He used his second season with the Blue to test out playing a new position. He averaged 7.8 assists with the Blue, but also 4.9 turnovers as he got used to being a playmaker. He used the Las Vegas Summer League to continue that adjustment.

“It’s been pretty good. My first year of playing point guard was this past year. It’s just something that I’m trying to get used to. Just trying to stay focused on whatever happens next,” Hamilton told Basketball Insiders. “I think it helped me expand my game, being able to do more than just one thing, to be versatile.”

In Las Vegas, Hamilton came close to averaging a near triple-double. Over the course of five games, he put up 7.8 points per game, 8.0 rebounds, and 6.6 assists. He’s got the skill and physical tools to be a playmaking guard at the NBA level. He’s been impressive both in the G-League and Summer League.

However, it remains to be seen what happens with him come the end of the summer. With the Thunder’s recent acquisition of both Dennis Schroder and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, it brings their roster to 15 guaranteed contracts. They’re allowed two two-way contracts, but have already used one on Deonte Burton.

They’ve got decisions to make regarding P.J Dozier, who was on a two-way last season, and rookies Hamidou Diallo and Devon Hall. Unless the Thunder can clear up a roster spot or two, it appears Hamilton will be fighting for that last two-way spot. He hopes he’s done enough to warrant strong consideration.

“The main thing is just continuing to get better and continue growing,” Hamilton told Basketball Insiders. “That’s just the number one thing to being here at summer league.”

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NBA Daily: Georges Niang’s Big Break

After dominating the G-League for a year, Georges Niang has more than earned this big opportunity with the Utah Jazz, writes Ben Nadeau.

Ben Nadeau

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For Georges Niang, reaching professional stability was always going to be a tall order.

Even after four dominant seasons at Iowa State, the tweener forward was viewed as a draft risk. At 6-foot-8, the versatile playmaker has always scored in bunches but also struggled to find his place in the modern NBA. Despite excelling as a knockdown three-point shooter, the fundamentally sound Niang has bounced around the country looking for a long-term opportunity.

In the two seasons since he was drafted, Niang has played in 50 G-League games for three separate franchises and had his non-guaranteed contract waived twice.

As a summer league standout for the second straight offseason, Niang’s determined efforts officially paid off last week after he signed a three-year deal with the Utah Jazz worth about $5 million. Now with a fully-guaranteed contract under his belt for 2018-19, Niang has been eager to prove his worth both on and off the court — a newfound skill-set he happily attributes to Utah’s excellent system.

“In the Jazz organization, from top to bottom, they do a good job of nurturing guys and forming them into good leaders and things like that,” Niang told Basketball Insiders. “So, it was really easy to transition to summer league, [I’m] really just trying to lead by example, not with just my words.

“And I think playing hard, being a good teammate and doing the right thing –I think those are three things that the Jazz really stand for.”

But his meandering path toward year-long job security wasn’t destined to end up this way — no, not at all.

Selected by the Indiana Pacers in the 2016 NBA Draft with the No. 50 overall pick, Niang was correctly projected as a hard-working, high-IQ contributor that could put up points on almost anybody. Unfortunately, following a low-impact rookie year with the Pacers — and some short stints with their G-League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, as well — Niang was waived the ensuing summer. Shortly thereafter, Niang latched on with the Golden State Warriors, where he participated in training camp and four preseason games — but, again, he was waived before the season began.

With the Santa Cruz Warriors, Niang flat-out dominated the competition for months, up until he grabbed a two-way contract from Utah in January. In total, Niang played in 41 games between Santa Cruz and the Salt Lake City Stars in 2017-18, averaging 19.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.1 steals on 45.7 percent from deep over 33.9 minutes per game.

Once attached to Utah’s affiliate franchise, Niang averaged a team-high 22 points per game and finished the campaign as the 13th-best scorer in the G-League. On top of all that, Niang was both an All-Star and honored with a spot on the All-NBA G-League First Team at season’s end.

Although he would ultimately play in just nine games for the deep Western Conference roster, Niang was simply laying important groundwork for the days ahead.

This summer, Niang averaged 16.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists in three contests during Utah Summer League. Given the golden opening to impress his future would-be-employers, Niang kept things rolling in Sin City and posted similar numbers over five games. On the back of a 20-point, eight-rebound performance early on in Las Vegas, Niang embraced the chance to fight and compete for his team — five full days before the Jazz signed him to a guaranteed deal.

“It was a real physical game, but those are the games you want to play in during summer league,” Niang said. “You want to play in those types of environments, where every possession matters and you gotta make plays down the stretch — and I think we did a really good job doing that.”

Those scrappy aspirations have been a staple of Niang’s since his collegiate days at Iowa State, too. During an ultra-impressive senior year, Niang tallied 20.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game for the Cyclones, leading their roster to 23 wins and an eventual trip to the Sweet Sixteen. That season, Niang took home the 2016 Karl Malone Award as Division-I’s top power forward and finished with 2,228 points, the second-best mark in school history.

Any way you slice it, whether at college or in the G-League, Niang can play, the moment just needs to reveal itself — and maybe it finally has.

Of course, this new contract — one that’s only fully guaranteed in 2018-19 — doesn’t ensure Niang any playing time and he’ll have some stiff competition. Just to get on the court, he’ll need to squeeze minutes from Derrick Favors, Jae Crowder and Joe Ingles — a tough task in head coach Quin Snyder’s defense-first rotation. No matter what his role or obligations end up amounting to, Niang is ready to meet that challenge head-on.

“In the NBA, everyone has a role,” Niang told Basketball Insiders. “So, obviously, things are gonna be peeled back and you’ll have a defined role. My role is just when I get the ball, and if I do, play-make for others or get guys open, defend multiple positions, play multiple positions on offense and knock down open shots.”

Although his past resume certainly speaks for itself, it’ll be up to Niang take his big break even further. But given his efficiency and execution at every other level, there’s little reason to doubt the forward now. Days before they signed Niang, he was asked if Utah was somewhere he could see himself for the foreseeable future — his response was precise and foreboding.

“I’d love to be here — what [the Jazz] stand for is what I’m all about. I’ve had a blast with all these guys and I’d love to keep it going.”

And now, he’ll get at least 82 more games to make his case.

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NBA Daily: The Carmelo Anthony Trade is a Rare Win-Win for All Involved

It is rare for a trade to be beneficial for all parties, but the Thunder-Hawks-76ers swap has the makings of a win-win-win situation.

Shane Rhodes

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The Big Three Era in Oklahoma City came and went rather quickly.

On Thursday, the Thunder reached an agreement to trade Carmelo Anthony and a protected 2022 first-round draft pick to the Atlanta Hawks for guard Dennis Schröder, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. As part of a three-team deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Thunder will also walk away with Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot while the Hawks and 76ers swap Mike Muscala and Justin Anderson.

It is rare for a trade to be beneficial for all parties, but the Thunder-Hawks-76ers swap has the makings of a win-win-win situation. Just as well, the trade is perhaps even more beneficial for the players involved.

While Anthony may have wanted to stay with Russell Westbrook and Paul George, the trade is more than beneficial for him. After the trade goes through, the Hawks plan to buyout Anthony’s contract and he will reportedly receive the entire $27.9 million he is owed next season. Even better still, Anthony is free to join any team he wants, whether it be the Houston Rockets and friend Chris Paul, the Los Angeles Lakers and friend LeBron James, or elsewhere.

With his money already in hand, Anthony could sign on the cheap as well, making negotiations with any franchise that much easier.

For the Thunder, clearing Anthony’s massive salary from their books was of paramount importance. Staring down a $150 million luxury tax bill, Sam Presti managed to move Anthony and improve the team or, at the very least, make a lateral move depending on how you look at Schröder. Even as they take back the remaining $46.5 million owed to Schröder, the Thunder will save more than $60 million next season alone. That makes the trade worth it for Oklahoma City all by itself.

Still, the move allowed them to fill a need, perhaps more important than the cash savings as they look ahead to next season. Schröder not only fortifies the Thunder bench but the point guard position behind starter Russell Westbrook as well; he is another athletic playmaker that Oklahoma City can play on the wing with confidence. And, after averaging a career-high 19.4 points per game to go along with 6.2 assists last season, Schröder provides the Thunder offense with more firepower to compete against the other top teams in the Western Conference, a necessity if they hope to make a long playoff run.

For Schröder, the move to Oklahoma City is just as beneficial for him as it is for the team. Schröder is no longer the starter (he was unlikely to be the starter in Atlanta with Trae Young in the fold), but he can still make an impact and now he can do so for a contender.

The Hawks, as they should be, are playing the long game here. They acquired Jeremy Lin, an expiring contract, from the Brooklyn Nets earlier this offseason. After drafting Young, their guard surplus afforded them the chance to move Schröder’s deal off their books, netting them a first-round pick in the process and opening up playing time for the Young right away.

While the pick is top-14 protected (the pick becomes two second rounders if it doesn’t convey in 2022, every asset counts as the Hawks will look to add talent through the draft for years to come. With the addition of the Thunder pick, the Hawks now are owed an extra three first-round picks between the 2019 and 2022 drafts, a benefit for the Hawks whether they use those picks or trade them for already established talent. Meanwhile, Anderson, 24, presents another intriguing, and more importantly, young, option alongside the core of Young, Kevin Huerter, John Collins and Taurean Prince.

Anderson will almost certainly receive more playing time in Atlanta as they figure out who and who can’t help the team. His time in Philadelphia was mired by injury and he never had the opportunity to show what he could do. So, whether they use him as an asset in a future trade or plan to keep him on the roster, Anderson, at the very least, will have the opportunity to show what he can do.

For the 76ers, Muscala is essentially insurance for the reneged deal with Nemanja Bjelica. Bjelica agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the team but the stretch-four never signed his contract and backed out of the deal. With him out of the picture along with losing Ersan Ilyasova, Muscala was one of the few remaining options for the 76ers in that specific, stretch-big role.

Muscala doesn’t have the same shooting chops that Bjelica has, but he is younger and might have more upside alongside Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and co. Last season, Muscala, in addition to career highs in points and rebounds, averaged a career-high 3.2 three-pointers per game and hit 37.1 percent of them. While he likely won’t see the playing time he saw in Atlanta, Muscala should easily slide into a role off the bench for the 76ers. Moving Anderson and Luwawu-Cabarrot clears a logjam on the wing as well and will afford more minutes to Markelle Fultz (when he is ready), T.J. McConnell and rookies Zhaire Smith and Furkan Korkmaz.

As it stands, this trade made sense for all parties involved, and that alone is reason enough to consider it a win all around. While things could certainly change and hindsight is 20/20, this deal is beneficial for all three teams right now and could positively impact all three squads both next season and beyond.

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