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NBA AM: The Latest Trade Deadline Scuttle

The NBA trade deadline is today at 3 p.m. EST. Here are the latest rumblings from around the NBA.

Steve Kyler

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The Latest Scuttle

The 2016 NBA trade deadline is at 3 p.m. EST today, so teams have to get their deals into the league office in advance of that deadline.

To sort of refresh the process, once the teams involved in a trade reach an agreement, a trade call is scheduled with the league office and the NBA’s legal department. The details of the trade are discussed with all parties and all of the legalities are checked against the NBA’s trade rules. Assuming everything checks out, the NBA makes the trade official. While all trades must be submitted by 3 p.m., it is fairly common that the trade call process can roll well past the deadline.

Last year, 38 players and player rights changed hands at the deadline, with the largest chunk of that number happening within 45 minutes of the deadline. So hang on to your hat, it looks like we are headed toward another crazy day.

Here is what we know this morning:

Moving Pau Gasol?

The Chicago Bulls have been kicking the tires on several scenarios, but the one picking up the most steam seems to be big man Pau Gasol heading to the Sacramento Kings for a package of players including Kostas Koufos and Ben McLemore. The Kings are also said to be willing to reduce some of the draft protections on the 2016 pick they owe to the Bulls in an effort to ensure the Bulls get the picks.

The hurdle there is the Kings also traded the right to swap picks with the Philadelphia 76ers. While it’s unlikely the Sixers would be willing to swap their pick, which should be more favorable, it’s still something to be negotiated in order to make the deal with the Bulls.

The belief is the Kings would have to part with a future draft asset or pick swap to get the 76ers to sign off on the change.

For Gasol, he holds a player option worth roughly $7.7 million and has made it clear he would be opting for free agency, but would like to remain in Chicago on a new deal.

The Bulls have been gauging the trade value of not only Gasol but also guard Tony Snell and forward Taj Gibson.

Holding Pattern With Frye

The Orlando Magic had completed the framework of a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers that would have sent forward Channing Frye to L.A. in exchange for guard Lance Stephenson, guard C.J. Wilcox and a second-round draft pick. The Clippers asked the Magic for more time on that deal as they looked at other options, which league sources believed was them trying to pry forward Ryan Anderson out of New Orleans.

The Magic had been talking with the Cleveland Cavaliers about an alternative Frye deal that would have sent Frye to Cleveland. The problem there is the Cavaliers wanted to send back big man Anderson Varejao, who is owed about $19 million in guaranteed money. This is a deal the Magic would not do.

The Cavaliers have two fairly large Traded Players Exception – one worth a little more than $2.8 million and another worth $10.52 million. The Cavs could absorb Frye into their $10.52 million exception, but that would add more than $35 million to the team’s luxury tax bill.

The Cavs have been trying to find a place to dump off Varejao, but league sources say the teams with cap space do not seem overly interested in that.

The Clippers deal is still on the table and the Magic are still exploring options outside of the Cavs and Clippers. This one looks like it could go down to the wire.

Frye practiced with the Magic yesterday and even addressed the media. As things stand today, the Magic are waiting on a trade partner to say yes.

Two other names to watch from Orlando today are forward Andrew Nicholson and guard Shabazz Napier. Both are believed to be available – with Nicholson’s camp pushing for a deal somewhere the big man can get more playing time. Over the last seven games, Nicholson has logged a combined 28 minutes and is headed toward free agency this summer.

As for Napier, he is under contract next season at a very reasonable $1.35 million and the Magic do like him quite a bit. It seems moving him would be more of a favor to Napier and his agent, so that one might come down to what are the Magic offered.

An interesting wrinkle to how the Magic pulled off their Tobias Harris trade has surfaced. Our own cap guru Eric Pincus revealed that prior to the Brandon Jennings/Ersan Ilyasova trade with the Detroit Pistons, the Magic renounced rights to free agents Willie Green and Jeremy Richardson, which dropped them below the salary cap and negated the Traded Player Exception the team received this summer for trading Moe Harkless.

By dropping below the cap prior to the trade, the Magic have the option to immediately re-trade either of the players they acquired in a package deal.

While Magic general manager Rob Hennigan spoke highly of both players after the trade and praised how well both would fit into the situation in Orlando, they do have the option to pack either of those guys into a deal to make a splashier move if it surfaces.

It is highly unusual for a team to renounce player rights prior to a trade unless there is the possibility of something bigger where those restrictions could be a factor.

This is likely a case of keeping your options open, but it’s an interesting wrinkle for the Magic.

No Home For Howard

The Houston Rockets and the representation for Dwight Howard have been looking for a new home for the Rockets big man. However, as the deadline approaches, there does not seem to be a lot there.

To be clear, the Rockets are more than willing to move Howard so this is not a case of reluctance on Houston’s part. The problem is that Howard has a unique set of issues that may make a deal before the deadline improbable.

The biggest is Howard’s $22.35 million salary. Unless a team with cap space (Portland, Philadelphia or Utah) is willing to use a big chunk of it on Howard, the Rockets have to take back at least $16.75 million in salary. The Rockets are unwilling to take back contracts that affect their cap space next summer so that’s a barrier that’s proving hard to cross.

The second part is that Howard will be an unrestricted free agent and likely walks to the best situation for him; that’s risky for any team, especially if you have to part with players or assets that matter.

The final part is Howard himself. This would be the third team in which Howard exits amid controversy. Combine that with a decline in his overall production, the fact that his now 30 years old and has battled injury not only to his surgically repaired back but also a troublesome knee, and you can see why some teams aren’t interested.

Any one of these issue could be workable, but when you combine them together Howard is an unfavorable trade target.

League sources say it’s still possible that Houston can give Howard away, but returning anything of real value for him seems to be dwindling away as the deadline gets closer.

Lawson To The Jazz

The Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets have been talking about a deal that would send point guard Ty Lawson to the Jazz for the balance of the season in a deal centered around point guard Trey Burke and what’s believed to be center Tibor Pleiss. The Jazz are about $7.6 million below the salary cap so they can absorb the difference into cap space.

The Jazz have been pondering this deal since before the All-Star break and have been trying to come to terms with Lawson’s off-court history. Lawson has a well-documented history with alcoholism and that’s been a huge barrier for the Jazz.

Sources close to the situation say there have been a number of Rockets’ approved conversations with Lawson’s agents in efforts to smooth over a potential deal.

Lawson once did a Reddit chat where he proclaimed that he’d never play in Utah, which is something his camp has tried to walk back from – pointing out that the situation for Lawson has changed and he’d welcome the chance to prove himself in Utah.

Lawson waived the guarantee on the final year of his contract to get traded out of Denver last summer, making him a low-risk move for the Jazz who have 30 games left on the season and are currently the eighth seed in the West.

This deal is not done yet and there are still more discussions expected today. However, the Jazz have told Burke that they would honor his request for a trade desire to be in a situation where he can start,  so it will be interesting to see how this shakes out.

If this deal were to fall through for whatever reason, it is believed the Rockets will waive Lawson, which would likely make him an unrestricted free agent.

Where Are The Thunder?

The Oklahoma City Thunder made an aggressive trade last year at the deadline and it’s expected they will again trigger something today.

As things stand today, the Thunder are $12.417 million over the luxury tax line and facing a tax bill of more than $22.29 million.

It’s believed that the Thunder have made both Steve Novak ($3.75 million) and guard D.J. Augustin ($3 million) available in trade and are looking for very little in return for either player. Shedding both players would reduce the Thunder’s tax bill by $13.62 million. It’s also believed the Thunder may be willing to include big man Mitch McGary or Josh Huestis in the deal in place of draft picks, which would further reduce their tax burden.

The Thunder have been fairly clever in creating multi-team deals, so it’s not out of the question they are involved in something at the deadline if only to reduce their tax bill.

For the very latest NBA Trade Deadline information, make sure to check out the 2016 NBA Trade Deadline Diary. All the deals, all the rumors and all the reactions are in one place.

The Deadline Podcast

In case you missed it, Alex Kennedy and I dropped the Trade Deadline Preview Podcast recently. We hit on all the major trade rumors and teams looking to make deals. Take a listen:

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 .

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NBA DAILY

NBA Daily: Pelicans Might Be Better Off Without DeMarcus Cousins

Without DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis has excelled. It might not be a coincidence.

Moke Hamilton

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Forget Kawhi Leonard, the most interesting storyline of this NBA summer is going to be DeMarcus Cousins.

By now, if you’ve wondered whether the New Orleans Pelicans would be better off without the talented big man, you’re certainly not alone.

Just ask the Portland Trail Blazers.

On Saturday, the Pelicans pulled off an improbable sweep of the third-seeded Blazers in the first round of their best-of-seven playoff series. And while the immediate question that comes to mind is what to make of the Blazers, a similar question can be (and should be) asked of the Pelicans.

Without question, Cousins is one of the most gifted big men the NBA has sen in quite some time, but it shouldn’t be lost on any of us that Anthony Davis began to put forth superhuman efforts when Cousins was absent.

Ever heard the saying that too many cooks spoil the brew?

That may be pricisely the case here.

Sure, having good players at your disposal is a problem that most head coach in the league would sign up for, but it takes a special type of player to willingly cede touches and shots in the name of the best interests of the team.

We once had a similar conversation about Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, mind you. Those that recognized that Westbrook’s ball dominance and inefficiency took opportunities away from Durant to be the best version of himself once believed that the Oklahoma City Thunder would have been wise to pitch Westbrook to New Orleans back when Chris Paul was still manning their perimeter.

For what it’s worth, with Cousins in the lineup, he averaged 18 shots per game. In the 48 games he played this season, the Pelicans were 27-21. With him in the lineup, Davis shot the ball 17.6 times per game and scored 26.5 points per contest.

In the 34 games the Pelicans played without Cousins, Davis’ shot attempts increased fairly significantly. He got 21.9 attempts per contest and similarly increased his scoring output to 30.2 points per game.

Aside from that, Cousins’ presence in the middle made it a tad more difficult for Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday to have the pace and space they need to be most effective. With both Davis and Cousins, the Pelicans struggled to consistently string together wins. Without Cousins, they improbably became the first team in the Western Conference to advance to the second round.

That Cousins tore his achilles tendon and is just a few months from becoming an unrestricted free agent combine to make him the most interesting man in the NBA.

* * * * * *

With Chris Paul having decided that the grass was probably greener with James Harden and Mike D’Antoni than it was with Doc Rivers and Blake Griffin, the Clippers fulfilled his request to be trade to the Houston Rockets and re-signed Griffin to a five-year max. deal. In doing so, they both gave Griffin a stark reminder of what life in the NBA is like and provided a blueprint for teams to follow when they have a superstar player with whom they believe to have run their course.

The glass half full perspective might be that Davis has simply become a better, healthier, more effective player and that with Cousins, he would have another weapon that could help catapult the Pelicans ever further toward the top of the Western Conference. But the half-empty glass might yield another conclusion.

At the end of the day, although he still hasn’t appeared in a single playoff game, Cousins is regarded as a game-changing talent and is one of the few players available on the free agency market this summer that could justify an annual average salary of $30 million. In all likelihood, the Pelicans will re-sign him for a sum that approaches that, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best move.

In the end, the Clippers traded Griffin for Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, a first round pick and a second round pick. All things considered, it was a great haul for the Clippers when you consider that, just a few months prior, they could have lost Griffin as a free agent and gotten nothing in return.

Remarkably, after seeing Griffin dealt to Detroit, in the Western Conference, the Pelicans are on a collision course with the Golden State Warriors. Their health a constant concern, the team will have to deal with the pesky perimeter defense of Holiday and Rondo and versatility and two-way effectiveness of Davis.

Nobody gave New Orleans a chance against Portland, and for sure, not many people are going to believe in their ability to score an upset over the defending champions. But believe it or not, New Orleans has become a different team. And they’ve done so without Cousins.

Indeed, believe it or not, the Clippers gave us a blueprint for what a team should do when it has a superstar who might not be the best long-term fit for their program.

And if the Pelicans were wise, they’d be smart to follow it.

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NBA Daily: Rookie Contributors Lifting Playoff Teams

This year’s impressive rookie class has translated their regular season performances to the playoff stage.

Dennis Chambers

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This past NBA season had the luxury of an incredibly entertaining and high-powered rookie class. Every other day it seemed like the feats of either Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, Lauri Markkanen, Dennis Smith Jr., Kyle Kuzma, or Ben Simmons were dominating the discussion about how advanced the league’s crop of newbies appeared to be.

As a result, the 2017-18 Rookie of the Year race was a much more heated discussion than the year before.

With the impressive campaign these NBA freshmen put together, it should come as no surprise that on the on bright stage of playoff basketball, three of the aforementioned crop are helping lead their team’s in tight first-round battles.

Donovan Mitchell has been the leading scorer for the Utah Jazz through two games in their series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Jayson Tatum is stepping up for the Boston Celtics to help fill in the void of Kyrie Irving as they take on the Milwaukee Bucks. Ben Simmons is nearly averaging a triple-double through three games for the Philadelphia 76ers in their matchup with the Miami HEAT.

Lottery pick talents are expected in today’s NBA to come in and have some level of impact for their clubs. Usually, they play the role as a foundational building block that shows flashes of promise with an expected up-and-down first season. While these three playoff contributors haven’t been perfect all year long, under the pressure of the postseason, they’ve stepped up their play and appear to be avoiding the learning curve.

With that, let’s highlight further what Mitchell, Tatum, and Simmons have been able to do thus far in the postseason.

Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz

All season long Mitchell threw the entire scoring load of Salt Lake City on his back for the Jazz and helped carry them to a 5-seed in the Western Conference when early season projections suggested they should head towards in the wake of Rudy Gobert’s injury.

However, the 13th pick out of Louisville had no intentions of missing out on the postseason. And from the looks of his production so far, who can blame him?

Through the first two games of the Jazz-Thunder series, Mitchell yet again placed his name in the same breath as Michael Jordan. Mitchell’s 55 points in his first two playoff games broke Jordan’s record of 53 for most points scored by a rookie guard in that scenario.

Mitchell’s 27 points in Game 1 and 28 points in Game 2 led the Jazz to even the series and steal home court advantage from the Thunder. While he hasn’t been responsible for setting up the team’s offense, tallying just five assists through those two games, Mitchell is fulfilling the role of Gordon Hayward as the team’s primary scorer.

In a series against a team that features the likes of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony, Utah needs Mitchell to go out there and get as many buckets as he possibly can.

So far, he appears to be welcoming the challenge.

Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

When it was announced that Kyrie Irving would be lost for the entire postseason due to injury, the Boston Celtics’ hold on the 2-seed seemed a lot less intimidating than it once was in the Eastern Conference.

However, three games into the first round series against the Bucks, the Celtics hold a 2-1 lead. A lot part of that has to do with the role Tatum has been able to step in and play right away with the Celtics down their main scorer and playmaker.

Throughout the first three games of the series, Tatum 12.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 2.3 steals. The third overall pick in the 2017 draft started the series off with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and three steals to help Boston start off the matchup with a 1-0 lead.

At just 20 years old, Tatum is matching his age number with his usage percentage thus far against Milwaukee. For some perspective, Jaylen Brown managed just 12 minutes a night for the Celtics last season as a rookie when the playoffs rolled around.

Granted, injuries and missing players are helping in Tatum being on the court as much as he has, but the rookie is earning his time out there on the court.

Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

The perceived frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, Ben Simmons has taken control in his first ever playoff series.

For starters, Simmons is averaging nearly a triple double over his first three games against the HEAT; 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 9.7 assists.

On top of his triple double ways, Simmons has upped arguably his biggest weakness so far in the playoffs, shooting 75 percent from the charity stripe. During the regular season, Simmons struggled from the line, hitting only 56 percent of his attempts.

With the offensive prowess of Simmons obvious, it’s the job he’s doing on the defensive end of the court against an aggressive and tough Miami squad that’s elevating his play to the next level.

Simmons’ ability to switch all over the defensive end of the court has placed his responsibilities from Goran Dragic to Justise Winslow to James Johnson, and seemingly everywhere in between.

Now with Joel Embiid back in the fold for the Sixers and Simmons, the rookie point guard has his defensive partner on the floor to help ease the workload on that end. A two-way performance each night will be imperative for Simmons in helping lead the young Sixers past the experienced HEAT team.

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Pelicans Role Players are Key to Success

The supporting cast in New Orleans is a big part of their playoff surge, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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The New Orleans Pelicans have taken a commanding 3-0 lead in their first-round playoff series again the Portland Trail Blazers. While surprising to some, the Pelicans only finished one game behind the Blazers in the standings. The Pelicans have the best player in the series in Anthony Davis and the defensive duo of Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday have stifled Portland’s backcourt.

The truth is, the Pelicans have been a good team all season long. A lot of attention and recognition has been given to Davis, Rondo and Holiday this season and playoffs, and rightfully so. But New Orleans wouldn’t be where they are without the important contributions of some of their role players.

Take E’Twaun Moore, for example. Moore bounced around the NBA early in his career, with stops in Boston, Orlando and Chicago before finding long-term stability contract wise with the Pelicans. He’s primarily been a bench player with them before this season, his second in New Orleans, his first as a full-time starter.

He’s given the Pelicans a huge boost, especially from the three-point line. He’s put up 12.5 points per game on 50.8 percent shooting from the field, both career-highs. He’s shooting 42.5 percent from three-point range.

“I think it’s just our style of play,” Moore told Basketball Insiders. “We play fast and open. Coach [Gentry] gives us a lot of freedom, a lot of confidence. That’s why my game is up, my shooting is up.”

It’s not just offensively though. Moore has always been one of the more underrated defensive guards in the league. Paired up alongside Rondo and Holiday, the trio form a solid wing defensive unit. They’re a big reason for Portland’s offensive struggles.

Moore is the type of role player that every playoff contender needs to succeed. He knows that his role may change from game to game. Some nights he may be asked to score a little more. Other nights his defense is going to be called upon. Whatever it may be, he’s always ready to do what’s asked of him.

“I bring the energy. I bring a spark,” Moore told Basketball Insiders. “It’s knocking down shots, playing defense, getting out in transition. Just trying to be a spark.”

The Pelicans bench has also been a huge factor all season long. Their depth took a major hit early in the season with the injury to Solomon Hill. Hill has since returned to the lineup, but his absence paved the way for other players such as Darius Miller to step up.

This is Miller’s second stint with the Pelicans after spending two years overseas. Drafted 46th overall in 2012, he didn’t play much his first three years in the NBA. In 2014, he was cut by the Pelicans only about a month into the season. This year was different, he was thrown into the rotation from the get-go.

“This is a huge opportunity,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “I just come in and try to work every day, try to get better every day. My teammates have done a great job of putting me in situations where I can be successful.”

Miller has given the Pelicans a capable stretch four in the second unit who can slide over to small forward if need be. He’s averaging a career-best 7.8 points per game, the most out of any of New Orleans’ reserves. He’s their best three-point shooter off the bench, connecting on 41.1 percent of his long-range attempts.

While he acknowledges that he’s enjoying his best season yet as an NBA player, he’s quick to praise his teammates for allowing him to flourish.

“I just try to bring a spark off the bench. I come in and try to knock some shots down,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “My teammates do a great job of finding me when I’m open, I just try and knock down shots and compete.”

Sometimes time away from the NBA helps players grow and mature. The NBA game is fast paced and it can take awhile to get used to it. While some players have begun to use the G-League as a means of preparing for the league, Miller took an alternate route of heading to Germany.

For him, it’s a big reason why he’s been able to make an easier transition back to the NBA. His contract for next season is non-guaranteed, but he’s probably done enough to warrant the Pelicans keeping him around. He’s a much different and much-improved player. If not, he’s sure to draw interest from other teams.

“It was a lot to learn for me personally,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “I had to learn a lot of different things like how to take care of my body, how to manage my time, a whole bunch of stuff like that. The time overseas really helped me to mature and grow up and learn a few things.”

These Pelicans have most certainly turned quite a few heads since the playoffs began. We shouldn’t deal too much with hypotheticals, but it’s interesting to wonder what this team’s ceiling would’ve been had DeMarcus Cousins not been lost for the season due to injury.

This is a confident bunch, however. They’ve beaten both the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets during the regular season. They’ve already shattered a lot of expert predictions with their performance in the first-round. The Pelicans feel like they can hang with anyone out West.

“As far as we want to go,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “I feel like we’ve competed with all the best teams in the league this whole season. We just got to come out, stay focused and do what we do.”

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