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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: Surging HEAT Must Overcome Adversity

The Miami HEAT have been hit with a number of injuries at shooting guard. Can they stay hot?

Buddy Grizzard

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The Miami HEAT have surged to fourth in the Eastern Conference on the back of a 14-5 stretch since Dec. 9, including a seven-game win streak that ended with Monday’s 119-111 loss to the Bulls in Chicago. In the loss, shooting guard Tyler Johnson got his legs tangled with Robin Lopez and appeared to suffer a serious injury.

“I was scared,” said HEAT small forward Josh Richardson, who joined his teammates in racing down the court to check on Johnson. “You never want to see a guy, whether it’s on your team or the other team, down like that. I talked to him when he was in here [the locker room] and he said he didn’t know what was up.”

Coach Erik Spoelstra told pool reporters after the game that X-rays were negative. It was initially feared to be a knee injury, but Spoelstra said the knee is okay and the ankle is the area of concern. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel tweeted that an MRI was not deemed necessary and Johnson will be listed as doubtful for Wednesday’s game in Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, the HEAT is facing a serious shortage at shooting guard, having lost Dion Waiters to season-ending knee surgery, Rodney McGruder to a left tibia stress fracture that will likely keep him out until February, and now Johnson. Miami has applied for a $5.5 million disabled player exception after losing Waiters, according to the Sun-Sentinel. HEAT power forward James Johnson said the team will be looking for other players to step up.

“I think it’s the next guy’s gonna step up like we always do,” said Johnson. “As we have guys going down we also have guys getting back and getting back in their groove [like] Justise Winslow. Hopefully, it’s going to give another guy a chance to emerge on this team or in this league.”

Johnson added that the loss to Chicago came against a hot team and the HEAT didn’t have the right mental approach or defensive communication to slow them down.

“Our communication was lacking tonight,” said Johnson. “I think our brains rested tonight and that’s not like us. Tilt your hat to Chicago. They’re shooting the hell out the ball. They didn’t let us come back.”

Richardson echoed the theme of communication and the inability to counter a hot-shooting team.

“We weren’t communicating very well and we were not giving them enough static on the three-point line,” said Richardson. “They’ve been the number one three-point shooting team in the league for like 20 games now. They ran some good actions that we were not reacting right to.”

Spoelstra referred to a turnover-riddled close to the first half as “disgusting” basketball and agreed that the defense let his team down.

“I don’t know what our record is in HEAT franchise history when we give up 120-plus,” said Spoelstra. “I would guess that it’s probably not pretty good.”

The good news for Miami is that it can try a combination of Richardson and Winslow at the wings, while Wayne Ellington has been shooting the leather off the ball from three this season (40.5 percent on over seven attempts per game). The HEAT is the latest team to attempt to defy history by making a serious run without a superstar player. To make that a reality and remain in the upper half of the East’s playoff bracket, Miami will have to personify the “next man up” credo.

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NBA Daily: Is It Time To Cash Out On Kemba Walker?

Should the Hornets get serious about trading Kemba Walker or risk losing him in 2019 for next to nothing?

Steve Kyler

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Is It Time To Sell?

Every professional sports team at some point has to decide when its time to cash out, especially if they have a star player heading towards free agency. The Charlotte Hornets are a team teetering on this decision with star guard Kemba Walker.

Now, let’s be honest for a moment. The Hornets are getting nothing of meaningful value in a trade for Walker if they decided to put him on the trade market—that’s something that will drive part of the decision. Check out these UK sports books with free bets!

The other part of the decision is evaluating the marketplace. This is where Charlotte may have an advantage that’s easy to overlook, which is the ability to massively overpay.

Looking ahead to the cap situations for the NBA in the summer of 2019, there doesn’t appear to be a lot worth getting excited over. While it’s possible someone unexpected goes into cap clearing mode to get space, the teams that project to have space in 2019 also project to have space in 2018, meaning some of that 2019 money could get spent in July and change the landscape even more.

But for the sake of discussion, let’s assume most of the 2019 cap space teams swing and miss on anything meaningful this summer and have flexibility the following summer. Not only will Walker be a name to watch, but guys like Boston’s Kyrie Irving, Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler, Golden State’s Klay Thompson, Dallas’ Harrison Barnes, Detroit’s Tobias Harris, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Cleveland’s Kevin Love can all hit unrestricted free agency.

That’s a pretty respectable free agent class.

While most of those names will likely stay where they are, especially if their teams shower them with full max contracts as most would expect, there are a few names that might make the market interesting.

The wrinkle in all of it is the teams projected to have space. Based on what’s guaranteed today, the top of the 2019 cap space board starts with the LA Clippers.

The Clippers currently have just Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari under contract going into 2019. They will have qualifying offers on Milos Teodosic and Sam Dekker, but that’s about it. If the Clippers play their cards right, they could be looking at what could be close to $48 million in usable cap space, making them the biggest threat to poach a player because of the LA marketplace. It should be noted, though, that DeAndre Jordan’s situation will have an impact here.

The Chicago Bulls come in second on the 2019 cap space list with just $35.77 million in cap commitments. The problem for the Bulls is they are going to have to start paying their young guys, most notably Zach LaVine. That’s won’t stop the Bulls from getting to cap space, it’s simply a variable the Bulls have to address this summer that could get expensive.

The Philadelphia 76ers could come in third on the 2019 cap space list, although it seems the 76ers may go all in this summer on re-signing guard J.J. Redick and a swing at a big fish or two. If the 76ers miss, they still have an extension for Ben Simmons to consider, but that shouldn’t impact the ability to get to meaningful space.

For the Hornets, those three situations have to be a little scary, as all of themff something Charlotte can’t offer – big markets and rosters (save maybe the Clippers) with potentially higher upside.

The next group of cap space markets might get to real salary cap room, but its more likely they spend this summer like say the Houston Rockets or are equal to less desirable situations like Sacramento (similar), Dallas (has Dennis Smith Jr), Atlanta (similar) or Phoenix (likely drafts a point guard).

That brings us back to the Hornets decision making process.

If the Hornets put Walker on the market, historically, teams get pennies on the dollar for high-level players headed to free agency. If traded, its more likely than not that Walker hits free agency and goes shopping. That’s the scary part of trading for an expiring contract unless you get the player early enough for him to grow attached to the situation, most players explore options. That tends to drive down the potential return.

The Hornets can also start extension discussions with Walker and his camp this summer and it seems more likely than not the Hornets will pay Walker the full max allowed under the collective bargaining agreement, which could be a deal north of $150 million and he could ink that in July.

It’s possible that someone offers the Hornets the moon for Walker. That has happened in the past. The Celtics gave the Cavaliers a pretty solid return for Irving, a player the Cavaliers had to trade. So it’s not out of the question real offers come in, especially with the NBA trade deadline approaching, but what’s far more likely is the Hornets wait out this season and try to extend Walker this summer.

League sources at the G-League Showcase last week, doubted that any traction could be had on Walker while admitting he’s a name to watch, despite however unlikely a trade seemed today.

The challenge for the Hornets isn’t as simple as cashing out of Walker, not just because the return will be low, but also because where would the franchise go from here?

It’s easy to say re-build through the draft, but glance around the NBA today – how many of those rebuild through the draft situations are yielding competitive teams? How many of them have been rebuilding for five years or more?

Rebuilding through the draft is a painfully slow and frustrating process that usually costs you a coach or two and typically a new front office. Rebuilding through the draft is time consuming and usually very expensive.

It’s easier to rebuild around a star already in place and the fact that Walker himself laughs off the notion of him being anywhere but Charlotte is at least a good sign and the Hornets have some time before they have to really make a decision.

At some point, Charlotte has to decide when to cash out. For the Hornets, the time to make that decision on Walker might be the February 8 trade deadline. It might also be July 1, when they’ll know whether Walker would sign a max contract extension.

If he won’t commit then, the Hornets have their answer and can use the summer to try an extract a package similar to what the Cavaliers got for Irving.

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, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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Cavs Woes Reason For Concern, But Not Dismissal

Spencer Davies takes a look at the Cavs’ issues and why we shouldn’t count them out just yet.

Spencer Davies

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are the classic case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

When they’re on, they look like the defending three-time Eastern Conference Champions. When they’re off, they look like an old team that’s worn down and, at times, disinterested—and it gets ugly.

Take this past three weeks for example. After going on a tear of 18 wins in 19 games, the Cavs have dropped eight of 11 and are falling fast. Two of those three victories in that stretch were decided by four points or less against bottom-of-the-barrel teams in the East.

So what happened? For one, the schedule got significantly tougher. Beyond just the level of competition, Cleveland has been on the road for a long while. Nine of the games in this recent down period have been away games. The only time they’ve been home was for a quick second in mid-December and a short stay for New Years.

You’ve got to think about how that affects a psyche, not only from an on-court standpoint but also in regard to spending time with loved ones and family. LeBron James brought attention to his own homesickness on Christmas Day while he was in the Bay Area instead of in Northeast Ohio to celebrate the holidays. If it gets to him, you know it’s got to get to the other players as well. These guys are human beings with lives, and the rigors of travel can wear differently on people. Luckily for them, seven of their next nine games will be at Quicken Loans Arena.

With that being said, everybody in the NBA goes through it, so it’s no excuse for how flat the Cavs have been. Anybody on the team will tell you that, too. However, when you’re figuring out rotations and re-implementing players who had injuries, it’s not easy. This is exactly why nobody should envy Tyronn Lue.

He’s being asked to make room in his rotations and adjust on the fly as Cleveland gets guys back. When they went on that month-long run, the reason they had success was that the second unit really clicked. Dwyane Wade found his niche as the maestro of the bench bunch along with any mixture of Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, Cedi Osman, Channing Frye, and Jae Crowder. Lue had found the perfect group to spell LeBron James and company.

But then, Tristan Thompson came back and, with all due respect, it messed with their flow. The spacing is no longer there for Wade or Green to penetrate because the paint is clogged. It makes it easier on opposing defenses to just stick to Korver because there aren’t any other threatening shooters on the floor (besides Osman, maybe). Worst of all, the change basically kicked Frye—who has a plus-14 net rating, according to Cleaning The Glass—out of the rotation completely.

Deciding who plays and when is a tough job. Derrick Rose is set to come back soon. Iman Shumpert is coming along as well. Lue likes a 10-man rotation, but there are at least 12 players who deserve to be on that court. We already know Rose is expected to commandeer the second unit in Wade’s absence on back-to-backs. As for if Shumpert remains in Cleveland, who knows? It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on how this situation is managed moving forward.

Isaiah Thomas, on the other hand, is somebody the Cavs have been waiting on to return since the season started. Despite LeBron being LeBron and Kevin Love having as great of an offensive year as he’s ever had on the team, the starting unit lacks an extra punch. Thomas can be that shot in the arm, and he proved that in his debut at home against Portland and on the road in Orlando. There are two snags that both he and the team are going to hit before the 29-year-old returns to his All-Star form: 1) He’s got to get his legs under him to regain the consistency in his game and 2) His teammates are going to have to adjust to playing with him.

These are not easy things to do. Remember, aside from Jae Crowder, there is nobody on Cleveland’s roster that has played with Thomas before. Add in that he’s trying to re-discover his own game and that makes for a pretty bumpy road, at least out of the gate.

Start here—put Thompson in the starting lineup. As poor of a fit he’s been on the bench, he has shown promising signs of a developing chemistry with Thomas. It’s only been four games, but he loves having a partner in the pick-and-roll game. That’s clearly where you’ll get the most production out of him and how he can thrive. He’ll provide hustle, second chance opportunities, and a semi-decent big that can at least bother some of the competition’s drives to the basket. Sliding Love over to the four might change his game a little bit, but you can still get him going in the post before giving him chances as a shooter to work him outside-in.

The resulting effect helps the second unit as well. They’ll get one of either J.R. Smith or Crowder, depending on who would be relegated there. Both of those guys can use a spark to get them going. Because of Crowder’s familiarity with Thomas, let’s say Smith gets kicked out. Maybe that gets him out of the funk he’s in? It also allows for Frye, who hasn’t seen more than 20 minutes in a game since December 4, to get re-acclimated to a group he truly helped on both ends of the floor earlier in the year.

Outside of the need to make a move at the deadline, the Cavs can figure this out. It’s understood that they’re the fourth-worst defensive team in the NBA, but they’ve gone through these kinds of ruts at this time of year, specifically since LeBron came back. There might not be statistical evidence backing up the claim of any improvement, but the track record speaks for itself.

The panic button is being hit, but pump the brakes a bit. This isn’t anything new. The pieces are a little different and things look as bad as they ever have, but in the end, the result will likely be the same.

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