Draft Day Trade Targets
With the 2017 NBA Draft less than a month away, not only are NBA teams zeroing in on draftable players, they are also starting to sniff around on who might be available in trade. While teams cannot trade pending free agents or players with options that have not been exercised, there are several “under contract” names that continue to surface, some of which may be on the move on draft night.
Ricky Rubio, Minnesota
The worst-kept secret in the NBA is that the Timberwolves are ready to move on from guard Ricky Rubio, and it seems that Rubio may feel the same way. The Wolves entertained a few things last summer involving Rubio and revisited his trade value at the trade deadline back in February. The problem with moving Rubio around the draft is that he counts $13.5 million against the cap in trade at the draft. That number increases to $14.25 million in July, but some teams would have cap space to offset that number. Rubio has one more season after next on his deal, making the remaining debt to Rubio two years and roughly $29 million.
Comparatively, that’s going to be less than market value for a starting caliber point guard, but with Rubio’s injury history (he’s missed 123 games in his six-year career) there is a risk. There has been talk that the New York Knicks might move on a Rubio trade if they miss out on one of the elite point guard prospects in the draft.
Sources near the Knicks situation said it’s also possible the team looks to Rubio as the immediate answer at point guard and swings for the fences in the draft targeting a huge upside player like Jonathan Isaac, especially as the Knicks try to move on from Carmelo Anthony this summer.
Rubio recently changed agents, and there has been more talk in NBA circles of moving Ricky to a higher profile situation where he can establish a value for his next deal.
It’s more likely than not that Rubio is moved this offseason. The question is can the Wolves get something done around the draft?
Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia
As much as fans in Philadelphia want the former third overall pick Jahlil Okafor moved, there is talk that the 76ers are not as eager to dump him. But there is a sense the 76ers would move Okafor in trade. The question is what does he return?
The 76ers, under current leadership, have been mindful of the return they get in trades. They are not trading just to trade, and that’s not just for the public perception, but being mindful of retaining value for assets, even underwhelming assets.
That said, the 76ers have made abundantly clear they would be open to moving all of their second round picks this year, making them a team that will have a lot of conversations, especially as the draft gets closer and something of a pecking order develops.
There is a sense that Okafor could be had in the draft, as picks and assets often change hands on draft night. Okafor could be on the move, although it seems less certain than some of the other names in play. That’s simply because the 76ers won’t give Okafor away and extracting value for him may be tough given how up and down his NBA career has been.
Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix
It would not be draft season if Suns guard Eric Bledsoe’s name was not being kicked around in trade circles.
The prevailing thought around the NBA is that the Suns are going to draft another high profile young guy and Bledsoe likely gets marginalized out of the forward-looking plan.
Suns sources continue to deny that there is a lot of interest in moving Bledsoe, but eventually, the team has to embrace their youth, which is why so many opposing teams believe Bledsoe can be had.
Bledsoe has two more years and roughly $29.5 million left on his deal, and like Rubio, would be tough to trade at the draft without taking back a sizable bundle of salaries.
It’s not out of the question that Bledsoe gets moved, especially if can be part of a deal to move fellow guard Brandon Knight. Such a deal becomes more practical in July than around the draft, however, as the draft gets closer, Bledsoe seems to be a name worth watching.
Elfrid Payton, Orlando
With new leadership in place in Orlando, roster evaluating is expected to begin in full force.
The Magic face a couple of tough decisions, not only with whom to select with the sixth overall pick, but what parts of the current roster make sense for the future.
For guard Elfrid Payton, this will be a stressful summer, not just because the Magic can offer to extend his contract, but because his NBA career has been so up and down. It’s more likely than not the Magic explore trading him rather than paying him this summer.
Payton has had some impressive games, but the fact the current Magic head coach Frank Vogel wavered on how to use Payton last season, it is more likely that the Magic select a point guard with the sixth pick and move on from him at some point in the future.
The question is, will that be around the draft and if so, what’s the return?
As things stand today, the Magic hold four of the top 35 picks in the 2017 draft, giving them plenty of options to either package a player and pick to move up or to simply draft a roster full of youthful talent.
There isn’t much of a sense what the Magic’s new leadership will do, but what’s become clear from those on the outside looking in is that no one in Orlando is untouchable (nor should they be). New leadership plans to put an immediate imprint on the team and that could mean fairly abrupt changes.
Will Barton, Denver
The Denver Nuggets have an embarrassment of riches at virtually every position. The problem is some of those players are heading into free agency, and while the Nuggets can pay many of them, there is not yet a sense of who the Nuggets want to pay to keep and who they will ultimately let walk (or trade).
Nuggets forward Will Barton shut down the idea of a contract extension, opting to play out his final $3.5 million contract year. Barton isn’t so much asking to exit the Nuggets as betting on himself and the chance to be an unrestricted free agent and cash in on his blossoming NBA career. The Nuggets, however, have to decide if they want to risk losing Barton next July for nothing or whether to try and cash him out in trade.
The Nuggets have the 13th overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft and could be staring at several compelling players in that range, including Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell, North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, and Terrance Ferguson, who played professionally in Australia last season.
The Nuggets have all kinds of options, but there is a sense in NBA circles that the right offer for Barton would get real consideration, especially considering the Nuggets have so much depth to manage as things stand, swapping out Barton, drafting a new young guy and getting value in the moves might be smarter in the long run.
The Nuggets like Barton a lot, so this won’t be a case of selling low. If the Nuggets entertain trading Barton at the draft, they’ll want real value in return.
Keep in mind it is possible for teams to agree to a framework of a trade on draft night, but wait until the new NBA season opens on July 1 to finalize the deal under the new salary cap. It’s tough at the draft to move contract money, however, once the NBA calendar flips to 2017-18, teams will gain cap space and the ability to take on another team’s contract money.
While the names above are by no means a complete list of players being talked about in NBA circles, these are the ones that have come up most frequently, as opposing teams try to understand if any of these players will be made available around the 2017 NBA Draft.
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Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal
The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.
It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.
Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.
There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.
Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.
Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.
That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.
At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.
One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.
NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind
Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.
When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.
“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.
Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.
That didn’t last long.
“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”
With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.
As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.
After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.
In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.
“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”
Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.
“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”
Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.
“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”
After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.
Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.
“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”
All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.
“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”
Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team
Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.
“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”
Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN