Where Will The Top Free Agents Land?
Unlike most free agency periods, this summer is unique. It’s unique because for the first time in the free agency era, virtually every team in the NBA will have the ability to get to meaningful cap space. It also means virtually every team can pursue a top free agent.
In normal years, there are a small handful of cap teams and pending free agents have months to consider where they might fit and what they might get in terms of offers. None of that is true this summer. Most of the top-tier free agents know roughly what’s available to them, but many have no idea where the market will place them and how desperate some teams might get as they miss on higher profile players.
And while it’s fun to speculate on where guys may sign, this year may be the hardest of any to predict where guys will really land, simply because the market place is so wide open.
With that said, you have come to expect us to tackle the hard things in the NBA – so we won’t shy away from the challenge.
Keep in mind this list is not meant to be anything more than a prediction of where certain key free agents may land. While these predictions come from an educated-guess point of view, they are not meant to be a proclamation that Player X will sign with Team Y, simply because there isn’t enough known today to make that kind of call. We’ll start getting those on July 1.
So with the disclaimer out of the way, let’s jump into the key players of the 2016 NBA free agent class.
The initial word from the Durant side of things is that he’ll meet with a small handful of teams, which is believed to include the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami HEAT, Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder. There is a chance that Durant expands the list to include the New York Knicks, but at this point that does not seem to be on the table.
The prevailing thought going into this process was that Durant would ultimately stay in Oklahoma City on a “one-and-one” deal – one fully guaranteed year and a player option year, giving the Thunder one more year and allowing Durant to see what teammate Russell Westbrook does next summer when he hits free agency. The player option is also insurance should an injury occur for Durant. That’s the smartest play for Durant on a number of fronts.
However, sources close to Durant said recently that his looming free agency was incredibly stressful and distracting and that Durant isn’t overly eager to go through this again and that these meetings may be more than just going through the motions. He is genuinely planning to listen to options and see what’s available to him and may make a long-term commitment with whatever team he chooses.
There is still a sense that Oklahoma City could be the front runner and with the moves the team made around the draft to add even more to the team, they did not hurt their cause acquiring Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis and Ersan Ilyasova.
However, the threat to the Thunder is real. Durant is said to be very interested in what the Warriors could be with him on the roster, and the appeal of the Spurs is equally interesting. Boston and Miami are something of the dark horses, but sources close to Durant say that while they may not be the front runners, both offer interesting appeal to Durant.
One thing that was very clear is that Durant is not looking to drag this process out. He’d like to get to a quick decision and move past the circus. It’s unlikely that this gets decided in the 48 hours of free agency, however Durant is scheduled to launch his new Nike KD 9 shoe in Asia the second week of July and he’d like to have it all locked up in advance of that trip.
The prevailing belief is that the Thunder will win the day, however with how this is going, it’s far from locked.
The word around Mike Conley is that he’s going to listen to some free agent pitches, but will ultimately give the Grizzlies the last word. That’s simply how Mike is wired.
The belief around the Grizzlies is that Mike will re-sign on the maximum offer they’ll present him on July 1. However, sources close to Conley say that getting his signature will require the team to be aggressive in adding talent to the roster. It’s one of the key reasons the Grizzlies passed on their team option on Lance Stephenson.
As things stand today, the Grizzlies will have about $31 million in usable cap space to add other free agents and still have the means to exceed the cap to re-sign Conley.
The Grizzlies are far from safe on this front, word is the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs all have eyes for Conley and could get a meeting.
The dark horse in all of this is the Brooklyn Nets, who may not get the serious consideration they’d like, but still plan to swing for the fences, according to sources.
At the end of the day, the Grizzlies seem like they are in the driver’s seat, but it’s far from a lock that Conley is back especially if the Grizzlies can’t get meaningful additions in free agency.
Off all the free agents, Hassan Whiteside might be the most obtainable. While the narrative surrounding Whiteside is that he’ll re-sign if the HEAT put a full max offer on the table, there is a growing belief that Whiteside may forego the HEAT and pick a new team that’s more openly committed to him.
The HEAT have said all the right things publicly, but there continues to be reports that some inside the HEAT organization would rather see the team invest the $20 million in free agent money into another player (or players). That’s not a new story by any leap of the imagination; it’s also why teams the L.A. Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics and Charlotte Hornets all believe they have a real shot at signing him.
Whiteside has said he’d like to get his free agency resolved quickly. League sources say money may end up winning out, but if the HEAT play games, there is a real chance Whiteside walks to a new team and the front runner there seems to be the Lakers, although sources close to Whiteside say it’s far from decided until he hears what those teams have to say.
The popular narrative is that Al Horford is leaving Atlanta, and that may well happen. However, sources close to the Hawks say they will give Horford a full maximum offer, meaning if Al leaves it won’t be over money; in fact, it would be at a sizable pay cut.
That’s not going to stop the Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers and Washington Wizards from trying to pry him away.
Horford has been one of the players the Celtics have had eyes on for some time, trying repeatedly to trade for him over the last two years. The Mavericks are believed to have Horford just behind Whiteside on their front court wish list, much like the Blazers.
A dark horse in the Horford race is the Miami HEAT. Should they lose Whiteside in free agency, Horford is believed to be the next guy on their list, and the feelings may be mutual.
The smart money says Horford takes the Hawks’ money and finishes where he was drafted, but there is some intrigue to this one.
The smart money puts Joakim Noah in New York on a major free agent deal. However, sources say while the Knicks are very appealing to Noah, it’s far from decided where he will land. The Minnesota Timberwolves are said to have interest in Noah and may have some credibility with the hiring of Tom Thibodeau, but sources cautioned that Noah wasn’t running to the Wolves because of Thibs.
The Washington Wizards are another team said to be in heavy pursuit of Noah, with some reporting they’d offer a full max deal to ensure they landed him.
While it’s safe to say the money being equal that Noah signs with the Knicks, there is a sense that a small bidding war could emerge that drives the price up past where the Knicks would go for a player of Noah’s age and injury history, so it’s far from a lock that the Knicks go all-in on Noah at any price.
Some were puzzled when Dwight Howard opted out of his remaining $23 million in Houston, believing that no one would offer Howard that kind of money in free agency. That may not turn out to be true.
While Howard isn’t the darling in NBA circles that he once was, there is a belief that he’s the second name on the Knicks’ wish list and could be the primary target for teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers and Charlotte Hornets. The Dallas Mavericks continue to be a name linked to Howard, although he may be much lower on the list than he was two summers ago.
There is a running belief that Howard could return to the Orlando Magic, but sources close to the Magic and Howard have really downplayed that as a serious consideration.
The smart money says Howard gets another big deal at or near the maximum. The question remains is, where does he land? That’s far from clear today.
The Brooklyn Nets are said to be the front runners in the Rajon Rondo sweepstakes, mainly because they’ll go up to the max to sign him. As crazy as that sounds, there just are not that many starting-caliber point guards in the marketplace and the Nets do not want to be left without a point guard.
The Kings would like to have Rondo back; however, it does not seem like that’s a first-choice option for him.
If the Nets miss on Rondo, which remains a possibility, it’s unclear who the next big suitor may be.
Sources close to the situation say Rondo is not overly interested in being the only new addition, so it’s up to the Nets to make something else happen to strengthen their pitch to Rondo.
The Nets are said to have serious interest in Brandon Jennings, Jeremy Lin, Kent Bazemore and Jamal Crawford among others. If the Nets can land one of those players, they might lock up their shot at Rondo.
There is no shortage of suitors for Ryan Anderson. It’s believed that Anderson is one of the top names for the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Washington Wizards, Memphis Grizzlies and Sacramento Kings.
Anderson was someone the Rockets pursued pretty aggressively at the trade deadline and with Mike D’Antoni in as head coach, landing more three-point shooting is a key point for the Rockets.
Anderson had the Wizards on his list of preferred trade teams at the deadline, so there is real mutual interest there.
Anderson is not going to come cheap, so it will be interesting to see how high the bidding gets.
Sources close to Anderson say he’d prefer a playoff team, so that might make offers from teams like Sacramento tough, unless they set the price tag so high he can’t refuse.
The Staying Put Squad
There are a few notable free agents who are unlikely to go anywhere:
The worst kept secret in basketball is how much DeMar DeRozan wants to re-sign in Toronto. Barring some kind of meltdown, it’s expected DeRozan and the Raptors consummate a new maximum deal on July 1 – locking him in with the Raptors for a few more years. DeRozan is not expected to meet with other teams.
The same may be true of Nic Batum. He and the Hornets want to reach a new deal; the question is, at what price? The Hornets are expected to meet whatever is necessary and this one may get done quickly too.
Evan Fournier will be a restricted free agent and the Magic have been planning to match offer sheets. Evan may have to find his price elsewhere, but even a maximum offer likely gets matched. One of the key reasons the Magic were open to trading Victor Oladipo was knowing they were bringing Fournier back. Barring something nuts, the odds Fournier is not back are pretty small.
Andre Drummond’s free agency is more about process. Had he done an extension last summer, that new number kicks in with the new cap year on July 7 and would have limited the Pistons’ cap flexibility. In waiting, the Pistons pick up about $14 million in cap space to play with and can use Drummond’s Bird Rights to re-sign him after they spend. This one is about as done as it can be and is simply a cap maneuver.
Beal’s situation is very similar to Drummond’s because had the Wizards done an extension, it would have bit into their cap space this summer. Waiting was just about preserving cap space, not any sign of hesitation on doing a max deal for Beal.
Here are some things to know about the upcoming free agent period. Teams are eligible to talk about new contracts with players beginning July 1 at 12:01 a..m EST, nothing agreed to is binding until July 7, which will be the first day that new contracts not related to drafted rookies can be signed. Nothing becomes official until the NBA approves the contract.
While it’s believed the new salary cap will clock in at $94 million, the final agreed numbers will not be locked and released until July 6, after the NBA and the Players Association complete their end of year audits.
There is always a chance that the cap goes up slightly once the final math is checked.
Basketball Insiders will drop our annual NBA Free Agency Diary on Thursday and it will include all of the news, rumors, trades and speculation surrounding free agency all in one easy to read place. Keep an eye out for it.
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NBA Daily: Brandon Ingram’s Growth A Perfect Fit Next To Zion Williamson
Zion Williamson has yet to play in the NBA. But as Brandon Ingram continues turning heads, it’s easy to envision he and Williamson leading the Pelicans to perennial title contention – and their snug positional and stylistic fit is the biggest reason why. Jack Winter writes.
Zion Williamson screamed when Brandon Ingram connected on the tough pull-up jumper that gave the New Orleans Pelicans a last-second lead over the Utah Jazz.
The rookie was watching from the bench as his team’s breakout star inbounded the ball, then used an Allen Iverson-esque cut to catch the ball high up the right wing on the other side of the floor. Ingram immediately took one dribble with his right hand. As Royce O’Neale trailed on his hip, Ingram put the ball down once more with his left, using his ridiculous strides to create enough separation to get to his spot and launch.
It was Ingram’s final make of the night, one among a bevy of highlight-reel plays he made during the best performance of his career to date. His score also put the Pelicans up one with just 0.2 seconds remaining, an advantage they needed to secure a win in overtime after Rudy Gobert was fouled as time expired on the ensuing possession, tying the game by making one of two at the line.
Williamson’s roar no doubt came in the context of those circumstances more than any other. Ingram capped another eye-popping outing with a would-be game-winning shot reserved for superstars, and New Orleans continued its strong recent play by beating the league’s hottest team in front of a raucous home crowd.
Obviously, that’s more than enough justification for Williamson’s enthusiasm. But as the most hyped draft prospect since LeBron James readies to make his long-awaited NBA debut next week, Ingram’s ongoing evolution into his ideal co-star gives Williamson and the Pelicans ample reason to be excited – and the reason for rest of the league to be scared.
A sizable portion of Williamson’s theoretical value stems from his unique two-way versatility. It’s universally agreed upon that New Orleans, especially going forward, will be best served slotting him at center in lineups that maximize his athletic gifts. But Williamson surely won’t be up to the task of being his team’s last line of defense as a rookie, and even prime Draymond Green didn’t start at the five until the Golden State Warriors were threatened in the playoffs. It simply asks too much of undersized bigs to play without a traditional center for 48 minutes.
The thing about Ingram’s rapid development, though, is that it further weaponizes Williamson and the Pelicans no matter what position the latter is playing.
Ingram’s growth is layered and multi-dimensional. He’s clearly sturdier than he was a year ago, continuing to fill out his body at 22 years old. His handle is tighter, providing additional comfort with the ball he’s using to create passing lanes that otherwise wouldn’t exist. But the main source of Ingram’s sweeping improvement is even more obvious than thicker shoulders and a defter handle: shooting.
That’s no secret. Ingram is shooting 40.6 percent on 6.2 three-point attempts per game this season, easily surpassing career norms. He’s making 46.8 percent of his shots from mid-range, another career-high and borderline elite mark league-wide.
Still, skepticism about the longevity of Ingram’s newfound shooting prowess abounds. Understandably so, too. Last season, he joined DeMar DeRozan and Tony Parker as the only non-bigs in the NBA to use more than 23 percent of their team’s possessions while posting a three-point rate below .13. A half-season sample size doesn’t erase that recent history, nor Ingram’s similar struggles to make an impact from deep during his first two years in the league.
What does? His 86 percent shooting from the free throw line, nearly 20 points higher than his combined career number before the season tipped off. The influence of lauded New Orleans shooting coach Fred Vinson can’t be discounted, either.
Bottom line: All indications suggest Ingram’s rise as a shooter is real.
Even if the scope of his growth was limited to that development alone, Ingram would still project as a snug fit next to Williamson. His 42.8 percent accuracy on catch-and-shoot triples ensures the floor will be properly spaced when Alvin Gentry slots Williamson at power forward, and it will leave the paint wide open when the Pelicans go small with Ingram and Williamson up front.
Williamson, like all high-usage attackers with a shaky jumper, will always be best served surrounded by four legitimate threats from deep. Still, it goes without saying he’ll get more comfortable navigating the tight offensive confines of playing in a traditional lineup as he gains experience. What’s far less certain is whether Williamson will ever become the type of player equipped to close games with the ball in his hands.
Ingram, as he so forcefully affirmed against the Jazz, already is. The high release point on his shot allows him to get a makable look off no matter how the defense is playing him. Ingram still has room to grow as a playmaker, but this season he’s passing out of drives more often than Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo, and he has a better understanding of mapping the floor in pick-and-roll play.
Ingram may top out as a great team’s second-best player. New Orleans would obviously prefer that he ultimately becomes capable of shepherding a championship-level offense all by himself. But that’s what’s so enviable about the Pelicans’ long-term prospects. If Williamson comes close to reaching his potential, they’ll be good enough to compete for titles even if Ingram’s development stalls – and the former proves unable to play alpha dog in crunch time.
What that means for this season remains to be seen. But as New Orleans, buoyed by the addition of Williamson, claws for a playoff berth over its remainder, pay special attention to the team’s identity at the end of close games. Those high-pressure situations won’t just be a showcase for the incredible gifts of the Pelicans’ young stars, but could serve as a harbinger of how Ingram and Williamson will co-exist in crunch time once they’re leading New Orleans to annual title contention.
NBA Daily: Trade Targets – Southeast Division
Like all divisions, teams of the Southeast Division have their specific preferences pertaining to players they’d like to move from their rosters. Drew Maresca identifies six players he feels teams might move before the Feb. 6 trade deadline.
With the trade deadline only a few weeks away, teams are zeroing in on potential deals. Some teams hope to improve for a playoff push, while others are looking to capitalize on the urgency of contenders. Whichever side of that equation your favorite team finds itself on, they are surely weighing all of their options.
Basketball Insiders’ Trade Targets series has already examined the Northwest, Southwest and Central divisions. Now, we turn our attention to the Southeast Division, where we identify six players who should be moved before the Feb. 6 deadline. To be considered a trade target, a player must either add value to a contender, represent a salary dump or have been featured in rumors, now or in the past. Rumors and/or speculation factored into our trade targets, but we identified players who we feel should be moved regardless if they’ve been named in rumors or not.
The Southeast Division has its share of mediocrity. In fact, the Miami HEAT are the division’s only winning team as of Thursday. But don’t be fooled — all five Southeast teams are likely to be relatively active come the trade deadline. While the HEAT may be the division’s lone buyers, the other four have players they’d like to move for salary purposes and/or prefer to swap for assets. And many of those players can still play a real role elsewhere. So let’s jump in with the most interesting of the bunch:
Aaron Gordon – $19,863,636
This one won’t sit too well with Orlando Magic fans, but it’s practical. The Magic have a relatively young team. And they have too many big men for all to get a good amount of playing time.
Big man or not, Gordon is among the Magic’s best trade piece – he’s only 24 years old and has probably yet to reach his prime. Further, he’s on a relatively affordable deal through 2022 and can profoundly impact the game on both ends of the floor.
This isn’t the first time Gordon finds himself in trade rumors, but it might be the year they come to fruition. Gordon is in his sixth season with the team. While he’s actually regressed this season in terms of points per game (13.5 points per game), he’s still a dynamic offensive weapon and one of the team’s best defenders. His trade value won’t get too much higher; but losing Gordon doesn’t hurt as much this season considering the arrival of Jonathan Isaac as a defensive stopper — and the fact that the team signed Nikola Vucevic to a 4-year/$100 million deal last Summer.
And it’s not as if the Magic don’t have other areas to address. They still lack an elite point guard and need help offensively – they’re 25th in offensive rating and 24th in assists. They should check in with any teams looking to offload high-end guards. While Markelle Fultz has shown flashes this season and Evan Fournier has played at an All-Star level, they don’t have a difference-maker in the backcourt. Swapping Gordon for a floor general or elite scoring guard might be their best bet at securing one.
Justise Winslow – $13,000,000
The Miami HEAT need help. Provided, they’re playing better than anyone thought they would in the 2019-20 season. But they need more to do more and become real contenders this year.
I know what you’re thinking – Justise Winslow has been hurt for much of this season. And when healthy, he’s an above-average defender, playmaker and shooter. And that’s right. But the HEAT need help, and they need it now.
The HEAT badly want to add star power, and they need to improve defensively to compete with the best in the East in a seven-game series. Winslow cannot be shipped out for a one-year rental. He’s far too talented for that, but the alternative is even less likely. The HEAT will not part with Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn or Jimmy Butler. Duncan Robinson, who is also unlikely to be dealt, wouldn’t return nearly as much, anyway. And what’s more, the HEAT are limited in their ability to add talent; their 2021 and 2023 first-round picks are owed thank to past trades. So if the HEAT are serious about upgrading their roster soon, Winslow is the obvious sacrificial lamb.
Besides, the team is 21-8 without Winslow and 7-4 with him. So while he’s clearly productive, he’s also expendable.
But the HEAT can’t move too quickly. Winslow is only 23 years old, adds borderline elite two-way backcourt skills and is signed for a relative bargain through 2022 (3 years/$39 million).
While the HEAT would obviously benefit from a healthy Winslow, they may prefer to swap him for a player who’s more likely to contribute this season, as well as in the future. And if Miami really believes it can win this season, trading Winslow likely returns a major asset without shipping out players who have developed chemistry with one another and who have been contributors for the current iteration of the team.
Davis Bertans – $7,000,000
Let’s be clear – the Wizards have not made Davis Bertans available. But they should listen to offers for anyone on their roster not named Bradley Beal – and they should be open to moving him, too, for the right – albeit ridiculously high – price.
Bertans is in the middle of a breakout season, which includes scoring 15.3 points per game on 43.4% three-point shooting (after scoring 8 points per game in 2018-19), and we know that shooters become increasingly popular around the trade deadline. Bertans is even more attractive considering he is in the final year of his $14 million deal – so he’s affordable and carries no long-term salary implications.
Despite recently returning from an injury, Bertans has played well enough to attract serious interest. According to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington, as many as five teams are interested in Bertans: the Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers.
And while the Wizards have appeared against the idea of moving Bertans, they should start entertaining it. Sure, he’s in only his fourth season in the league, but he’s already 27 years old and eligible for a new contract this offseason. Meanwhile, the Wizards have a long way to go before they should consider dedicating serious cap room to veteran role players with whom they won’t seriously compete.
The Wizards should gauge the market for Bertans and pull the trigger on a deal that adds young, unproven talent and/or unprotected first-round picks. What ultimately happens pertaining to Bertans is anyone’s guess; but if the Wizards can add a younger, unestablished player with a higher upside, they have to do it.
Marvin Williams – $15,006,250
The Hornets need to establish an on-court identity. They added Terry Rozier this past offseason and boast young, high-upside players in Miles Bridges, rookie PJ Washington and breakout star Devonte’ Graham. But everyone else should be available for the right price.
The first Hornet who should be traded from Charlotte is Marvin Williams, a true three-and-D guy who is shooting a near career-best 52.6% on two-pointers and 37.7% from three-point range. Williams is someone who plugs into just about all contending rosters. And since his contract expires following this season, there would are no long-term salary implications.
The Hornets might be deceived into thinking they can make a run at the playoffs, but they shouldn’t be. They are currently in 11th place in the Eastern Conference and trail the Nets – current owners of the eighth seed – by five whole games. And while the Nets have their share of issues to solve, they just recently returned Caris LeVert and Kyrie Irving from injuries and should play better from here on out.
And even if the Hornets could sneak into the playoffs, what good would a quick exit do for a team that has only a select few building blocks on its roster? The Hornets should be proactively engaging other teams to determine what Williams could return. But a deal seems even more likely if the Hornets drop farther out of the eighth seed before Feb. 6.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – $13,000,000
Speaking of the Hornets, they should look to move out from under the contracts of more than just Marvin Williams.
Until last season, head coach James Borrego’s first in charge of the Hornets, Kidd-Gilchrist was a key player in the Hornets rotation. He was a 25 minute per game guy through his first six seasons with the Hornets. Last season, he dipped to a career-low 18.4 minutes per game. This season has seen another substantial step back to 13.3.
Clearly, Borrego prefers playing younger players in hopes of organic growth. That means that representatives for guys like Kidd-Gilchrist must begin looking elsewhere to secure their players’ playing time and opportunities.
Kidd-Gilchrist is still an above-average defender. Rookie Cody Martin stole away some of his minutes as a defensive stopper, but his utility on the defensive end should result in spot minutes off the bench for a contender looking to throw bodies at guys like James Harden, Jimmy Butler, etc. And while he’s never been an effective shooter, Kidd-Gilchrist posted a career-high 34% on three-pointers last season.
A change of scenery is probably Kidd-Gilchrist’s best bet. And with unrestricted free agency ahead in 2020, Kidd-Gilchrist should hope to land on a team that allows him to demonstrate his ability to defend and, to a degree, shoot while not overburdening him offensively.
Chandler Parsons – $25,102,512
The Atlanta Hawks have five or so players around whom they hope to build their team in the coming years. They are all 22 years old or younger. Veterans are not on that list. And with Allen Crabbe being moved on Thursday for Jeff Teague, there’s one fewer vet who entered the season on the Hawks roster still around.
And that brings us to Chandler Parsons – someone who this writer hopes to see get an opportunity elsewhere. Despite it seeming as though he’s been around for decades, Parsons is only 31 years old. After fighting his way back from a number of knee injuries, he’s now healthy and able to contribute. Only no one outside of Atlanta seems to notice.
With the Hawks playing their younger players – and rightfully so – Parsons clearly lacks a role with the team. He’s appeared in only five games in 2019-20 so far despite being healthy for the majority of it, and he hasn’t logged 17 or more minutes in any game thus far.
But that does not mean he can’t contribute– especially to a team looking to add scoring punch off of the bench. According to Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon of ESPN, Parsons impressed the Grizzlies coaching staff and team in five-on-five scrimmages last season, and he told Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype: “Obviously, I want to play. I want to help. I’m healthy and I’m in a contract year, so I want to show the team that I’m healthy and I can play and I can definitely help this team win.”
And what’s more, Parsons’ contract is an expiring one. So teams looking to add scoring, without affecting their future salary cap, should consider Parsons. Once upon a time, Parsons was a borderline All-Star who topped out at 16.6 points per game back in 2013-14. No one is under the impression that he’ll contribute anything near 16.6 points, but he’s an established scorer who’s been resting for much of the past few seasons. He’s a career 37.3% three-point shooter, and he adds good length as a true 6-foot-9 forward. Hopefully Parsons gets another chance to prove his worth.
With less than a month to go until the trade deadline, teams are almost certainly circling in on deals. And with so few trades being made so far this season, observers are waiting patiently for the first shoe to drop. But trade deadline deals hit us like a snow squall — quickly and with little warning. So everyone should hunker down and get ready for the mid-season main event.
NBA Daily: Trade Targets – Southwest Division
The Southwest Division offers many intriguing options heading toward the annual trade deadline, Ben Nadeau writes, but how the chips fall is still anybody’s best guess.
The NBA landscape is oddly unfamiliar at this point in the season.
The Milwaukee Bucks are ruthlessly destroying everything in sight, the Golden State Warriors are headed toward a top-five draft pick in June and the New York Knicks are struggling to keep their heads afloat after a mid-season coaching change. OK, fine, that last one might ground us in reality, honestly — but things are looking up, at long last!
And yet, that one constant looms large: Feb. 6 and the annual trade deadline. Buyers, sellers — or wherever your favorite franchise might be — now is the time to push all-in, press the eject button or purchase a super-rare opal from a sketchy diamond salesman that may or may not give a player improved basketballing prowesses.
But if such an uncut gem is unavailable to front offices across the league, then they could do worse than to move for these Southwest Division-based players ahead of next month’s all-important deadline.
The Soft Resetters
Courtney Lee — $12,759,670
Solomon Hill — $12,758,781
E’Twaun Moore — $8,664,928
Marco Belinelli — $5,846,154
All four veterans total nearly 40 combined NBA seasons, offering experience, shot-making abilities and locker room leadership. Further, to some, they could represent cap relief. If a team is a deadline seller — the aforementioned Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers or Detroit Pistons, for example — then these contract-ready players could help them tread water, shed longer deals or gain draft pick collateral. So for the Marcus Morris, Kevin Love and Andre Drummond-type contributors on the market, they won’t come without some deal-matching gymnastics — that’s where players like Lee, Hill and Moore can come in handy, too.
Hell, it’s also why the Houston Rockets got in trouble earlier this year for giving Nene a two-year deal worth $20 million in bonuses, thus making the long-time man the ideal trade fodder. Instead, the NBA voided the deal, ruling that any trade with the Brazilian would only be worth $2.6 in outgoing salary. The Rockets, in salary cap hell, would’ve loved to use Nene in a mid-season deal — perhaps for a name further down on this list, Andre Iguodala — but their creative deal-making was ultimately stymied.
Elsewhere, Moore, 30, has started 29 games for the New Orleans Pelicans in 2019-20 — at a steady 10.2 points per contest, nonetheless — but with Zion Williamson set to return next week and a full youth movement underway, he’s expendable. Better, he’s affordable for those looking for a perimeter punch (39.1 percent from three-point range) or a more cap space in the summertime.
Lee, on the other hand, has struggled to find time in a backcourt led by Luke Doncic. With he has a massively-expiring deal and a fantastic reputation behind-the-scenes, it’s not hard to imagine Lee moving elsewhere in the next 20 days as the Mavericks try to bolster their postseason chances.
Belinelli, 33, has been less effective in his older age, but boasts 65 career postseason games and a low-risk contract. Should the San Antonio Spurs pull the plug — head coach Gregg Popovich likely feels strongly otherwise — then Belinelli and others could be intriguing trade targets.
As for Hill, who has labored to stay healthy in recent seasons, he has another bloated expiring deal — although he’ll likely be most valuable to Memphis as freed up cap space come June.
The Calculated Risks
Andre Iguodala — $17,185,185
Jae Crowder — $7,815,533
The time has finally come: Free Andre Iguodala, you cowards!
Since the former NBA Finals MVP was dealt to the Grizzlies last summer, he’s been stuck in the mud. In an old fashioned standoff, Iguodala hasn’t appeared yet for the rebuilding franchise, while Memphis hasn’t budged from their first-round-pick-or-no-deal mindset from the offseason. Will they budge? Which teams will blink first?
The Los Angeles Lakers, always in need of more playoff-poised athletes to put next to LeBron James, might be willing. Houston, still in luxury cap hell, probably can’t finagle adding $17 million in cap space without obliterating its already-teetering-off-the-edge-of-the-abyss built roster.
Last time Iguodala was featured for the Warriors, the 35-year-old averaged just 5.7 points and 3.7 rebounds, but his defensive abilities and postseason record speaks for itself. The expectation is that Iguodala will be moved — but to whom and for how much? Well, that’s the six-month-old question on everybody’s mind, even today.
Iguodala, of note, will be an unrestricted free agent come June.
Crowder, 29, is on his fifth team since 2012 but, by and large, he’s impressed at every stop thus far. In 2019-20, the veteran standout has started all 38 games for Memphis, tallying 10.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest on a paltry (and expiring) $7.8 million dollar deal. Should the Grizzlies clear the deck, Iguodala included, Crowder has 50 games of postseason experience and won’t come with an outrageous price tag — both in regards to outgoing cost or future commitments.
The Leap Of Faiths
DeMar DeRozan — $27,739,975
Jrue Holiday — $26,131,111
This would be the all-in push. The all-or-nothing swing. The so-called leap of faith. Two stars in two different places in their careers — both equally excellent trade candidates for different reasons.
DeRozan, 30, is still chugging along as the leader of San Antonio, and he’ll likely finish with an average over 20 points per game for the seventh consecutive season. Healthy as they come, the high-flyer has played in 72-plus games during every campaign since 2014-15 — and he still knows how to enact a healthy dose of revenge, too. DeRozan won’t be a cheap option for many franchises, but might he be the final missing piece somewhere?
Such a move, naturally, would have to come with Popovich’s blessing and acceptance that the Spurs aren’t postseason-bound for the first time since 1997. At 17-22, San Antonio currently ranks 9th in a stingy Western Conference with five teams within three games of them as of Jan. 16. Betting against Popovich is a sin, but those odds, for the first time in a long time, aren’t looking fantastic for the perennial stalwarts.
Should the Spurs look to jumpstart a mini-rebuild — Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker and Keldon Johnson in tow — then there will certainly be suitors for DeRozan.
As for Holiday, he’s the division’s big-ticket item — if he’s still available, of course. Last the world had heard, the Pelicans had retreated from the offseason position of an unmovable Holiday, the new leader and cornerstone post-Anthony Davis. And yet, the Pelicans are one of those teams within breathing distance of the Spurs and a postseason trip for their budding core, so moving Holiday may not behoove them anymore.
Given Williamson’s assumed presence in the season’s second half, Brandon Ingram’s rise to stardom and Lonzo Ball’s newfound settledness, Holiday might be best served to stay put. Still, David Griffin, New Orleans’ executive vice president of basketball operations, is no stranger to the wheelin’ and dealin’ nature of February, and everybody has a price.
Holiday — 19.6 points, 6.5 assists and 1.7 steals per game, plus a back-to-back member on an All-Defensive Team — would elevate any roster in the league. If the 10-year veteran is, in fact, on the table, Griffin has likely been fielding offers for quite some time already. Should Williamson’s introduction to the rotation go seamlessly and the Pelicans firmly cement themselves as postseason contenders, however, then Holiday will be the perfect player to get them there.
With less than a month to go before the NBA’s trade deadline, the proceedings will only get wilder from here. While the entirety of the Southwest Division is still involved in a hectic playoff chase, far too much could change over the remaining weeks. Who will push all-in? Who will pull back? Are the Spurs going to concede their historic streak of postseason appearances? And how will the Pelicans look with Williamson in the fold?
These are questions without answers at this point.
In another month, we’ll have seen the future and then some — but which way it falls now is still anybody’s best guess.