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NBA AM: The Calm Before The Storm?

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The Calm Before The Storm?

The NBA trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m. EST and while there have been a few deals in advance of the cutoff, the bulk of the deals that will get done are starting to take shape now and will drop on Thursday.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind as this process plays out: Noise is not always an indicator of intent as yesterday’s Lou Williams trade to the Houston Rockets illustrated. Prior to that deal there was very little chatter about Williams even being on the Rockets radar let alone being a deal the Rockets could consummate.

Also, keep in mind, teams do try and hold the line until they get the best offer possible, some deals got lost in this process as Sacramento King’s General Manager Vlade Divac suggested when talking to the media about dealing DeMarcus Cousins, stating he had a better offer that vanished as he pondered his options.

Lastly, NBA teams don’t like uncertainty. Pending free agents and players with option years are tough to plan around. Teams tend to shy away from the unknown, especially if they have to part with real assets in a deal, unless the team is right there in terms of competing.

Here is some of the latest on a few teams as the deadline ticks closer:

HEAT Likely Buyers Not Sellers

The Miami HEAT liked this team a great deal, even when they were not winning. Now that the team turned the corner a little and is within striking distance of a playoff chair, the Miami is much more likely to be buyers at the deadline than sellers.

As one HEAT source pointed out recently, they are unwilling to tempt fate on the hope of a draft pick because, frankly, there are no guarantees with a draft pick — both in terms of the pick you can get with a bad record and more importantly the player you can select.

The HEAT as an organization value their culture, and their culture has been about winning and competing and they are simply unwilling to accept or endorse losing — mainly because it’s a hard culture to get out of your locker room once you allow it to creep in.

The other part for Miami is they like that this group is learning how to win on their own even if it means they miss the dance. The experience and confidence their young guys are gaining is more significant in their long-term plan than whatever they could sell off a player for. That’s not to say the HEAT wouldn’t look at a big offer if it really moved them forward, but that’s not something the HEAT expect to fall their way.

If the HEAT makes a deal (and it seems possible) it’s more likely to add a piece to the roster for a playoff push more so than any planning for the future — they are prepared to deal with that in June and July.

Cross Butler and George Off The List

The beauty of the NBA trade deadline is the speculation and chatter that leads up to it. It’s sort of like that moment before the roulette ball bounces into its resting place on a red, black or green number; there is a brief moment when anything seems possible.

The problem with the deadline is, like roulette, it very rarely delivers the big payoff.

Historically, star level players are not traded at the deadline. They are usually traded before the deadline much like we saw with DeMarcus Cousins. There have been a few big deals over the deadline’s history, but they are few and far between, which makes the talk of Chicago’s Jimmy Butler and Indiana’s Paul George more like a roulette spin than a likely payoff.

In Chicago’s case, the narrative coming from the Bulls is that while they know that moving Butler likely makes sense for the future, no one wants to embrace that process — at least not at the deadline. There have been a few NBA teams linked to Butler recently, with the Boston Celtics being the loudest of the bunch. However, the talk from league sources is the Bulls and Celtics have not talked seriously about a Butler trade since the NBA Draft last June. That’s not to say a phone call today couldn’t start that process — it simply means that process has not started with so little time left on the proverbial clock.

The Bulls are believed to be open to trading almost anyone on the roster not named Butler, so that may be the likely outcome. The Bulls have two pending free agents in Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotić that seem to be headlining their talks and are viewed as far more likely to be moved than Butler.

In the case of Indiana forward Paul George, Pacers sources found the idea of trading George almost laughable and said it was not anything the team would consider. The Pacers have been looking for help in the trade market but a couple of teams said that beyond some of their roster players and draft picks, the Pacers were not engaging on players like George or even pending free agent Jeff Teague.

George is one of the players that will likely be eligible for the new Designated Veteran Extension this summer and the view from both sides of that equation is they’ll try to reach an extension deal this summer and that will be the turning point of the relationship. If the Pacers can’t get George extended, they likely look to move him in July.

There were some reports out of the All-Star break that have been taken somewhat out of context, suggesting that George declined an extension with the Pacers. However, those headlines neglected the quotes where George said his goal is to win a championship in Indiana.

Until that changes, George is not a name that’s available at the deadline.

Knicks Are Trying To Shake It Up

New York is trying to shake things up, with reports suggesting the Knicks would move guard Derrick Rose for almost anything at this point. The team getting the most play is the Minnesota Timberwolves, who still have some capspace to absorb salary in such a deal.

The Knicks have already paid $15.05 million of Rose’s $21.323 million salary, leaving $6.27 million left to pay. For a team like the Wolves, bringing Rose in for a look, while potentially clearing out long-term money is appealing on a number of fronts — including Tom Thibodeau’s affections for Rose. The problem with the deal is the Knicks are not open to taking on long-term money. With the deadline around the corner, it seems possible that Rose is moved, especially if Minnesota can reduce the long-term impact.

League sources also pegged Knick big man Kyle O’Quinn as being available, along with Courtney Lee, who was signed this past summer to a hefty free agent deal.

New York seems to be trying to off-load cap money and is not believed to be seeking a ton in return as the Knicks point themselves toward their young guys and a higher possible draft pick.

This list by no means includes the only trade conversations taking place, but rather is an update on some of the teams working the process. So, stay tuned for more as we march towards the deadline on Thursday.

The Basketball Insiders Trade Deadline Diary is up and will have all of the trade scuttle we can find in one place, including the deals that get done, the rumors surrounding them and any original insight we come across.

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About Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler

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