Who Is In And Who Is Out?: The 2014 NBA Trade Deadline is in just 15 days and while the chatter about trades is going to come up several notches as teams kick the tires on what’s possible, there are a few teams that are posturing for a move and likely will make one, while there are few others that still remain on the fence about change.
There is one thing to keep in mind about this deadline, which unlike most has more draft day ties than usual. A large number of teams are looking at their tradable assets as not only bait to make moves now, but possibly the leverage they’ll need to move around on draft day in June.
Here are some of the teams posturing for a move and some of the teams still on the fence:
On The Move
Phoenix: The Suns made headlines with their play for Lakers forward Gasol, but like most trades that get to the press before the deadline this thing was really sort of dead before it started. The Suns are shopping the ending, insurance-paid contract of Emeka Okafor and one of their late first round draft picks. They are not looking for anything silly, but they do have eyes for an ending contract player that could add something to their playoff push. Gasol was a swing for the fences idea for the Suns hoping the Lakers would relent. Like all deals they are never completely dead until the clock strikes midnight, but the Suns have moved on to other ideas and have been aggressive in trying to find a taker for what amounts to an almost free ending contract. The challenge for the Suns is the kind of players teams would be willing to move for Okafor’s contract have years left on them and that does not seem to be what Phoenix is looking for today. Again, the asking price on a deal 15 days before the deadline can often be very different as the clock ticks away on the trade window. Look for Phoenix to trigger a deal. They have a very tradable asset and with a draft pick in the mix someone is going to bite, it just may not be as big of a name as Gasol.
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Philadelphia: Maybe Sixers General manager Sam Hinkie learned this while he was in Houston, but the Sixers have had a toe (or half a foot) in the trade waters all season long. The names are pretty clear – guard Evan Turner, forward Thaddeus Young and big man Spencer Hawes. The problem is much like Houston has done historically, the asking price for the 76ers’ pieces is really high. Unprotected draft picks and rookie scale players are hard to extract when the league knows you need to sell. The 76ers are one of the teams that is looking to trigger something around the deadline and they could move all three of the players they have been fielding offers on. Turner seems to be drawing considerable interest from the Charlotte Bobcats, and Young has been a target of the Rockets’ all year. As the clock becomes Philly’s enemy they may relent on their asking price so you can expect that they’re going to do something. They simply have too many reasons to make a deal, especially if they can swap out talent and contracts that are in tune with their long-term plan.
Charlotte: The Charlotte Bobcats are somewhat aggressive in kicking the tires. They like Philadelphia’s Evan Turner and they have been kicking around the Detroit Pistons on Greg Monroe. Charlotte is owed a couple of draft picks – one from the Portland Trail Blazers that they look poised to get this year and a Detroit Pistons’ pick that is top eight protected this year. Their own draft pick looks to be headed to Chicago if the ‘Cats make the playoffs and they are angling for a trade to do just that. The Bobcats are also shopping the ending contract of Ben Gordon and there has been talk that they would toss in Bismack Biyombo for the right kind of upgrade, although that might not be much of an inducement. The Bobcats also have the ending contract of Ramon Sessions, who has really struggled to shoot the ball this season. The ‘Cats are in the market. They do have trade chips they are willing to move. The Bobcats as a team are wanting to make a deal, the question is what will they get back for what they appear to be offering in trade?
Cleveland: The Cavaliers are open for business. The two names mentioned most around the league are second year guard Dion Waiters and veteran forward Alonzo Gee. Waiters and lead guard Kyrie Irving has not meshed well together and the Cavs seem to be accepting that moving Waiters has to happen. The Cavs could hold the line if the offers don’t improve and try to move Waiters around the draft or in free agency, but if they can make a move that returns a good asset they seem open to it. Gee has fallen out of the rotation since the arrival of Luol Deng and with his contract in essence being an ending deal as the final year is not guaranteed. He seems like he’ll be tossed in to clear out the log jam and to try and up the overall value of a deal to return a better veteran. There is of course is the annual Anderson Varejao watch. The Cavs have been reluctant to include him in trade talks, but sources around the situation say the massive dysfunction in Cleveland has them listening to a lot of things they normally wouldn’t. The Cavs look like they are sellers, the question is do they get a deal in at the deadline or does business get pushed off to the draft. Current management may not survive a non-playoff berth, so there is at least some perceived urgency to get something done in Cleveland.
Houston: The Houston Rockets haven’t stopped shopping for change. The problem is the chips they would move – Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin – won’t return what Houston is looking for: better talent. There continues to be talk that a number of teams like the talent of Asik, but just can’t get their ownership on board with paying his massive balloon payment next season and give up a quality asset as part of the deal. It seems the combination of cost in salary and cost in talent is more than some teams will consider. When you start pulling teams off the board and the field gets smaller, it’s much harder to make a deal that improves the roster. One league source said the Rockets could move Asik tomorrow, but they wouldn’t get much for him. There has been some talk that Francisco Garcia and Donatas Motiejunas could be had at the deadline but combined those two players represent $2.687 million in outgoing salary, that’s hardly enough salary cash to pry lose an impact point guard or an impact power forward. The Rockets seem like they want to make a deal and historically they have been traders at the deadline, so we’ll see if the league’s stance on Asik or Lin changes as the clock ticks to the deadline.
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Milwaukee: The Bucks are definitely open for business. Almost anything outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo or John Henson is going to get consideration. The Bucks have been as active as almost anyone in gauging what’s out there. They haven’t really gotten to the offering point on anything, but it does seem like they are going to do something at the deadline. Point guard has been mentioned as a need the Bucks are trying to fill for the long-term and the Bucks could be one of the teams on the move for Dion Waiters; although there continues to be talk that the Milwaukee is steering clear of “bad attitude” players, which might red-flag Waiters. There has been talk all season that Houston has eyes for forward Ersan Ilyasova. His numbers on the season have been less than stellar and he is owed a ton of money. It’s unclear if the Bucks would take on one of Houston’s ugly “cash” contracts in order to get out from under Ilyasova but that’s the one to really watch. Milwaukee seems open for business, it remains to be seen how much of the current roster they’d sell.
Sacramento: The Kings continue to be active in trade talks. The two most mentioned names are guards Marcus Thornton and Jimmer Fredette. Combined they become an interesting salary cap value that could return a major salary player. The problem is there does not seem to be a whole lot of interest in either player. The Kings have been linked to Denver in an Andre Miller-Jimmer Fredette swap and that may still go down as Denver gets closer to the deadline. The Kings already triggered a major move to get forward Rudy Gay from Toronto and it seems that they are continuing to try and add meaningful players to the roster. The Kings have no shortage of interesting trade chips, the question is what can they truly get done at the deadline.
New Orleans: The Pelicans continue to get hammered with injuries and as much as the team tries to recover they just keep taking steps backwards. The Pelicans are what’s best described as value shoppers. They are open to trades involving core players like Eric Gordon or even Tyreke Evans – if they returned upgrades. That is a tough sell given what both players are making. The Pelicans look like they are going to trade guard Austin Rivers at the deadline, sources close to the situation believe there has been agreement in place all season to move him if playing time and opportunity did not become available. Rivers has seen his minutes increase over the last 14 games, which might be showcasing him for a deal. The Pelicans usually play trades close to the vest, but their posture is one of a team willing to listen to trades and the fact that they have so many duplicated pieces they might be a dark horse to make a splashy move.
On The Fence
Toronto: The Raptors have not stopped listening to offers. In fact, some say they are fielding more calls than normal for a team sitting in the third spot in the East. There continues to be a sense that Toronto would move guard Kyle Lowry, simply because of the risk of losing him to free agency in July. However, sources close to the Raptors say they are simply doing their due diligence and that moving anyone at this point would be all about getting swept away with an offer. The Raptors have all kind of attractive trade chips, but it does seem with the team pointed in the right direction that Toronto may sit out the deadline and let this roster play itself out. Unlike most playoff teams, Toronto is not out of the trade game, they just don’t seem like they are ready to commit to a trade just yet.
Detroit: If you can figure the Detroit Pistons out, bravo. If there is a team in the East that needs to make a roster-changing trade it’s Detroit, but more and more teams are saying Detroit is holding the line. The Pistons have several ending contracts that have value – most notably Rodney Stuckey. They have a pending restricted free agent in Greg Monroe that could return real value and the Pistons seem to be sitting this one out. Several teams have called only to find Detroit reluctant to engage. That could clearly change over the next 15 days, especially as the finality of the deadline approaches, but as much as the Pistons need to make a deal they seem the most unwilling to entertain one.
Dallas: The Mavericks are historically active at the deadline, however this year there’s just not a lot linked to Dallas. There is a clear need for some frontcourt help. They could also use another impact scorer from the bench, but even with needs and ending contracts that could be swapped to fill them, the Mavs don’t seem to be players. The Mavericks have a reputation for shaking every tree in the league so maybe that happens after the All-Star break, but Dallas does not seem as interested in change as they have been in years past.
Orlando: The Magic are like the pretty girl at the dance. Everyone is calling, but not much is happening. The Magic played the J.J. Redick situation almost exactly like this a year ago, rebuffing calls on their players that clearly do not fit in the long-term. The Magic could and likely will change course as the deadline and the offers get real, but don’t be surprised if Orlando sits out the trade deadline and makes their moves around the draft to jockey for better position or to swap veterans for better fitting rookie scale players. Magic guard Arron Afflalo is the top incoming request; however, it seems unless moving Afflalo yields another lottery pick or a means to thin out the roster, the Magic may pass. Admittedly that was Orlando’s move with Redick, and they ultimately made a trade so don’t count Orlando out. They are just squarely on the fence about making a trade.
Washington: The Washington Wizards would like to make a trade. In fact sources close to the situation peg Washington as the top suitor for Detroit’s Greg Monroe. The problem is they can’t get any traction. The Wizards have trade chips. They have the ending contract of Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gortat. Rookie Otto Porter has been mentioned more than once as has second year guard Brad Beal. Not necessarily because Washington wants to move them, but because they are trying to shake loose a real trade. They just are not getting there. As the deadline approaches they might find a dance partner, but the sense is that Washington is only going to do a deal that cements them in the playoffs as a contender and they are unwilling to shake up a team sitting in the fifth spot in the East just for change’s sake, a trade has to make them better today and going forward and it seems they are open to moving ending contracts and maybe a young player to lock themselves in.
LA Lakers: Ahh, The Lakers. Are we ready to stop jumping at every Pau Gasol rumor yet? The Lakers have arrived at the point we knew they’d get to. They have to trade Gasol for something; the problem is they simply want too much in return for a player making $19 million. If the Lakers would take back contract money they’d get a lot more value out of Gasol than the rumored deal for Emeka Okafor and a late first round pick they were offered by Phoenix. The fact that Gasol is going to miss even more time to nagging injuries only impacts the return the Lakers can extract for him. Internally the message has been pretty consistent – Gasol gets moved if it returns future value and no long term contract money. That deal is going to be really hard to pull off for the Lakers. Don’t rule the Lakers out of the trade market. The writing on the wall says they are going to do something with Gasol, the question becomes what do they ultimately settle for and when you settle in trades those usually happen at the last minute. That could always change, but with Gasol hobbled, the Lakers are holding firm on flexibly this summer and wanting solid draft picks in a deal, they may not find that in the next 15 days.
There will obviously be a lot of trade chatter as we march to the trade deadline, make sure you are checking The Latest NBA News section of the site, we’ll keep you posted on everything going on, especially around rumors and roster moves.
Keeping The Noise Out: Kansas big man Joel Embiid could be the top overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. His draft stock has soared all season and with that has come an unbelievable amount of pressure for a decision on his future.
Embiid is still very new to basketball, the world of money and power brokers that surround it. Kansas head coach Bill Self has tried to shield his big man and has tried to keep him as insulated as possible. However, it’s become almost a daily question in Embiid’s life – will he be one-and-done and head to the NBA?
Embiid was asked again last night about his mindset on the NBA, and again he played the same cards he’s been playing regarding this topic.
“I’m not even thinking about it right now,” Embiid said to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. “I’ll make a decision after the season, but I’m definitely considering coming back to school.”
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The prevailing thought from Embiid is that he’s not sure he’s ready for the NBA and the pressures of being a top overall pick candidate.
Embiid is from Cameroon and has been playing organized basketball for just three years. While he’s displayed a lot of athleticism and progress at Kansas, there is still a lot of learning that Embiid needs and it seems he understands that.
Given how brutal things have gone for Anthony Bennett, this year’s top overall pick, its not hard to understand why Embiid, who may be more of a project in his rookie year than most, might be fearful of the big stage of the NBA.
Embiid has said a few times that it will be hard for him to pass on the guaranteed money being a high level draft pick will mean for him and his family, but that staying in school of another year is very possible in his mind.
We have seen this before. Chicago’s Joakim Noah opted for another year at Florida and a chance at a second national championship despite rumors he could have gone number one overall in 2006. Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart passed on a possible top three selection this past year in the 2013 NBA Draft.
The problem with buying into the “I’m going to stay” quotes that surface around all of the top college players is that for the most part they are designed to end the questions every day. Embiid can’t declare for the draft today even if he wanted to and he really is not supposed to have contact with NBA teams or agents that could really inform him of his options.
There is no doubting that Embiid is a little overwhelmed by how big his world has gotten in just a few months of stellar play. It’s easy to understand why he’d want to consider staying in a safe and secure environment like Kansas, especially for a kid that has craved coaching and hard work. When you factor in how new all of this is to him, the doubts about being ready should be natural responses.
The truth however is that going number overall is a rare. The financial windfall Embiid can provide to his family is going to be more than the contract money he earns from his future NBA teams; it’s going to be the endorsement possibility and additional money that comes from being the top pick.
Will the kid from Cameroon that wasn’t on the NBA radar as a top prospect four month ago really turn down what could be $30-$40 million in guaranteed money for another year at Kansas?
He might, but it’s extremely unlikely.
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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