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NBA AM: Trade Deadline Talk Picking Up

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What We’re Hearing

The NBA trade deadline is less than 10 days away, and there are lots of conversations brewing and starting to heat up. Most teams that are looking to do a deal are getting serious and specific with discussions, according to several league sources that are engaged in the deadline process. The word “process” is something the source is very specific in using, not as any reference to the Philadelphia 76ers (who have sort of taken ownership of the phrase), but more because there is a game of poker that gets played in all of this in trying to reach a deal.

There are some things to know as the deadline get closer, especially as it pertains to teams looking to deal.

Denver Not Done Yet?

The Denver Nuggets consummated a deal this week sending big man Jursuf Nurkic and a 2017 Draft pick owed to Denver by Memphis to Portland in exchange for big man Mason Plumlee. Nuggets general manager Tim Conley explained the deal to the media saying that the team had zeroed in on Plumlee as a possible free agent and did not feel that he was going to be obtainable in free agency despite the ample cap space the team had without having his restricted free agent rights. Conley was very clear that keeping Plumlee long-term was part of the plan and that’s why parting ways with a first-round draft pick made sense for them.

League sources said yesterday they did not think Denver was done dealing and pegged both Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari as available. There continues to be a belief that Denver might also be open to trading guard Emmanuel Mudiay if the returning package were right.

The Nuggets have been one of the more interesting teams to watch in the West over the last month and given the three-point barrage the team put on the Golden State Warriors last night, keeping Juan Hernangómez in the starting lineup may not only solidify the need to make a trade, but might expedite one.

The Nuggets are one of the teams to watch over the next month, the word from NBA sources is they are still open for business.

You Can Always Call

League sources sort of joked at the idea of either Chicago guard Jimmy Butler or Pacers forward Paul George being obtainable in trade at the deadline, saying “You can always call, every team answers the phone during the All-Star break.”

The consensus on both Butler and George is that neither team, Chicago nor Indiana, would actually consider a serious offer at this point, mainly because moving either player would require an open roster spot to consummate and neither team really has one. Compound that with the notion that neither the Bulls nor the Pacers would concede their season now for a deal they could easily revisit in the offseason after whatever playoff run their respective teams have.

As one source said, “You can always call” but they viewed anything involving Butler or George at the deadline as very unlikely long-shots.

Three To Five Years?

Newly appointed LA Lakers advisor Earvin “Magic” Johnson told CBS This Morning that he expected the Lakers rebuild to take three to five more years before the team was back to being super competitive.

“It’s going to take three to five years to get them back rolling again,” Johnson said. “If we’re patient, if we develop our own players — because now in today’s NBA, it’s different [from] when I played.

“You have to really develop your own players because free agent movement is not like it used to be. And so you have to really make sure you hit a home run when you do draft and then try to keep the players that you have on your roster.”

While the Lakers have been exploring trade options, according to sources close to the situation, the belief is the Lakers may not be very big traders at the deadline mainly because of Johnson’s influence on the process.

Johnson has said he’s not interfering with the basketball operation side of the Lakers, but he keeps no secret of his desire to take over leadership of the team as soon as this summer.

League sources were skeptical that Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss could truly trigger deals on their own and that Johnson would play a role in whatever the team does at the deadline, but sources said they expected Lakers would hold firm unless it were a “no-brainer” deal aimed at the future.

The Lakers have traditionally shied away from deadline deals over the last few years; this deadline does not look to be much different, although the Lakers do have some veterans to ship out if the deal is right.

The 2017 NBA Trade Deadline is on February 23rd. Basketball Insiders will have you covered with our annual NBA Trade Deadline Diary which will go live on Tuesday the 21st and updated throughout the run-up to the deadline.

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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.