Less Than 31 Days To Go
The 2018 NBA Trade Deadline is February 9, so that puts the league under 31 days before the window to complete trades will come to a close.
With the clock getting a little louder with each passing day, there are a few things worth talking about.
The Knicks Have Choices
Yesterday, word leaked that the New York Knicks are likely going to bring up minor league guard Trey Burke from their G-League affiliate. Burke has been playing incredible basketball and has been eligible to sign with any team in the NBA as a full G-League roster player. Word is his camp was getting serious interest from other teams and basically told the Knicks if they were not going to sign him, they’d sign elsewhere.
The prevailing thought is the Knicks would waive guard Ramon Sessions to open the roster spot to sign Burke. However, the Knicks seem to have been kicking the tires on trades. Word is the Knicks have heard interest on forward Kyle O’Quinn, who holds a player option for free agency and second-year big man Willy Hernangómez, who has fallen out of the rotation in New York.
Sources close to the situation have been saying for weeks that Hernangómez is growing increasingly frustrated that he doesn’t have much of a role in New York. While Hernangómez loves the team and the city, he wants to play, and his camp has been urging the Knicks to make something happen either way—play him or trade him.
There have been reports that the Knicks have heard from playoff teams that are open to the idea of a rental type trade for O’Quinn, which could yield a low-level draft pick.
The challenge in moving O’Quinn is his $4.08 million salary. Most teams can’t absorb that kind of contract money without sending back something, meaning the Knicks would have to take back a player which wouldn’t solve the immediate issue of opening a roster spot.
The Knicks are on the clock in some regards, but they don’t have a hard deadline on Burke. If push comes to shove, they can simply waive a player to open the roster spot, but it seems the Knicks have at least looked at bigger options before pulling the trigger.
The Jazz Want To Add
There has been talk in NBA circles that the Utah Jazz are angling to make some moves before the deadline.
The Jazz are sitting on two sizable ending contracts in Derrick Favors ($12 million) and Joe Johnson ($10.5 million), with NBA insiders saying both could be had before February 9, especially if they return solid younger options.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, dropped that the Jazz have eyes for Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic who will become trade-eligible on January 15.
The Bulls seem more than open to the idea, despite how well Mirotic has played. The prevailing thought is if the Jazz were to package some draft picks, along with ending contracts the Bulls might be willing to deal.
The Jazz have also been linked to talks regarding often-injured guard Alec Burks, who has one more year on his deal after this season and has become somewhat expendable with the emergence and dominance of rookie Donovan Mitchell.
With the Jazz four and a half games out of the playoff picture, they seem like a team open for business, especially if it yields talent today.
Orlando Isn’t Sitting It Out
However you’d like to characterize it, the Orlando Magic are open for business.
Sources close to the situation said recently that the team had heard interest on virtually every player on the roster, including their injured guys.
The Magic’s new front office isn’t eager to dump anything, so anything the Magic do will have to be meaningful.
There has been a lot of talk that the Magic would like to move guard Evan Fournier, but they have yet to be offered anything that’s worth doing, according to sources.
The Magic also don’t find draft pick based offers overly appealing, mainly because of the youth on the roster already and the likelihood their own pick will land in the top five. Too much youth, especially mid-to-late first round youth, would likely stall forward progress.
Injuries have defined the Magic’s season, so there is at least some consideration internally that. if healthy, the Magic would be better than their current 12-28 record. But that’s not stopping the Magic for engaging on ideas.
The prevailing thought in Orlando as the deadline approaches is that no one is offering the proven All-Star it would take to pry Aaron Gordon away. Equally, no one is going to bail them out of Bismack Biyombo’s remaining two years and $24 million.
The Magic have arguably some of the more team-friendly deals in the NBA in Fournier, center Nikola Vucevic and injured swingman Terrence Ross. The Magic do not seem eager to cash those favorable chips in unless it returned something significant in terms of a roster upgrade.
The team is absolutely open for business; the problem is the market doesn’t seem to have anything they’d consider doing.
Bucks Looking For Size
The Milwaukee Bucks have been sniffing around for frontcourt help most of the season. They have been linked to Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan, they have been linked to Phoenix’s Tyson Chandler, and it seems they have been kicking the tires on recently waived Laker center Andrew Bogut, according to Gery Woelfel.
The Bucks have been actively looking for frontcourt help in trade, but have found little to no interest in deals built around John Henson.
There is at least a sense that the Bucks would entertain the idea of packing in Jabari Parker (who is expected back soon), but a deal involving the former number two pick would have to solve the frontcourt issues, and that seems unlikely.
With Mirza Teletovic on the shelf indefinitely due to a second occurrence of blood clots in his lungs, the Bucks don’t have a lot of offer in trade for a big salary that wouldn’t include what is deemed a core piece.
The Bucks do have some promising youth in last year’s rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon (who they like a lot) and the blossoming Thon Maker.
League sources have pegged one or both as needing to be included in anything involving a big-name player, which may be why the Bucks are still on the outside looking in. It also likely explains why they are exploring Bogut—signing him wouldn’t cost them a critical roster piece.
Lakers Are Active
This should not be surprising, but the LA Lakers are active in the trade market.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, has been reporting that the Lakers are not only shopping the $11.56 million contract of guard Jordan Clarkson, but they also have pending free agent Julius Randle and forward Larry Nance Jr on the market, as well.
Sources close to the situation caution that the Lakers would rather not trade Nance, Jr., but in order to move off the contract money they are trying to shed, it will take inducement, and Nance seems to be that.
The Lakers have thoroughly explored ways to trade forward Luol Deng and have found almost no interest in a deal that wouldn’t include mortgaging their future first round picks, which is something the Lakers do not seem open to doing.
There has been considerable talk about combining assets with Deng, but league sources said that is not nearly as favorable as some think and that anything like that wouldn’t clear the space the Lakers are looking to clear.
Because the salary cap is only expected to increase marginally next July, there is a prevailing thought that ending contracts are again in demand and coming with a hefty premium for teams hoping to clear cap space.
The Lakers do not appear to be close to a deal with anyone, but they do appear to be one of the teams with notable players that are available. The question is who has the right combination of ending contracts to get something done in LA?
It’s a Soft Market
While there is no shortage of trade chatter in NBA circles–and it will likely only increase next week when the NBA converges on Mississauga, Ontario for the 2018 G-League Showcase–the prevailing thought is there are a lot more teams interested in making a deal than there are players worth dealing for. Most are classifying this as a seller’s market, meaning the teams with assets to trade seem to be asking the moon for them, making it more likely that fewer impact deals get done.
Historically, there are 8-12 deals that happen at the deadline, the majority of those deals are cap “housecleaning” type deals or, as Houston’s Daryl Morey labeled them, “outside the rotation” deals.
At the last deadline in 2017, there were 11 deals that could be characterized as deadline deals, with seven happening on deadline day. Sacramento’s trade of DeMarcus Cousins dropped three days before the deadline and was arguably the biggest deal of the cycle.
At the deadline in 2016, there were nine deals that could be characterized as deadline deals, with seven of them happening on deadline day. Orlando’s deal to send to Tobias Harris to Detroit was arguably the only major transaction of that cycle.
Historically, the majority of deals that matter happen well before the eleventh hour and, based on what’s out there now, this might be another snoozer of a deadline in terms of real roster change.
Basketball Insiders will be dropping a series this week looking at the trade situations for all the teams in the NBA. Trade Watch: The Atlantic will drop today, with Trade Watch: The Southwest slated for tomorrow, so make sure to swing back and check them out all week.
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NBA Daily: Credit Ujiri And Raptors For Taking The Risk
Perhaps emboldened by OKC’s ability to retain Paul George, the Raptors are taking a gamble of their own.
In any given NBA season, at the most, there are only five legitimate title contenders in play. The rest of the league could be considered as either on the rise, middle of the pack or in the hunt for a lottery pick.
There are far too many teams around the league that are content with solely making the playoffs while not seriously contending for a title. This is why the Toronto Raptors organization along with team president Masai Ujiri should be given credit for taking the ultimate gamble in acquiring a top-five player, even one who could amount to a one-year rental.
The Raptors shipped four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan, center Jakob Poeltl and a protected first-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for former NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and veteran wing Danny Green.
The move is the ultimate gamble for an organization that has turned itself into a perennial playoff presence with five consecutive postseason appearances and three straight 50-win campaigns. DeRozan, 28, was locked under contract the next three seasons and the organization could have theoretically decided to ride the DeRozan and fellow All-Star guard Kyle Lowry duo until the proverbial wheels fell off.
But instead, Ujiri unexpectedly shipped their star player, who wanted to be in Toronto long-term, to acquire Leonard who reportedly has his eyes dead set on joining one of the Los Angeles franchises once he hits free agency in 2019.
Think about this for a moment.
While Toronto has served as LeBron James’ playoff punching bag as of late, make no mistake, Raptors basketball is undoubtedly experiencing the peak of its golden era.
Sure, the team’s former stars such as Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh will likely go down in history considered better than DeRozan (and Lowry). But none of the aforementioned players led the franchise to a 50-win season while with the organization. None of those guys led the Raptors to a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. DeRozan was a vital cog in breaking new ground while with the team, defiantly re-signing with the Raptors despite overtures from his hometown Los Angeles Lakers in 2016.
Perhaps emboldened by the success the Oklahoma City Thunder recently had in taking a similar risk last summer, the Raptors took the gamble. The Thunder traded for All-Star forward Paul George, who also reportedly also had Los Angeles dreams, last summer, and were able to convince the wing to re-sign earlier this month to a long-term deal.
Toronto has never been a free agency hot spot and the aforementioned stars all forced their way out of town early in their careers. What if Leonard doesn’t buy the soup Ujiri is cooking? There are already some reports stating the forward has no desire to play with the Raptors at all.
Even if this is the case, Ujiri and company still have options. Leonard can still be dealt before next February’s trade deadline. Ujiri could theoretically create a bidding war between the Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers for Leonard’s services with an attractive.
At the bare minimum, the Raptors are all-in this season for a championship run in an Eastern Conference no longer facing the talents of LeBron James. If things don’t work out, DeRozan’s $54 million owed after this season is off the books. Lowry will be owed $33 million in 2020 but could potentially be an attractive expiring contract. All of this to say, the Raptors are simultaneously preparing for a title run and bracing for a rebuild of their current roster.
Far too many teams become content with just making the playoffs and not rocking the boat. Ujiri took his shot to boost the Raptors up the league’s hierarchy. The ultimate risk. Much respect for taking it.
NBA Daily: Quality Free Agents Still Available
Many quality free agents are still available nearly three weeks into free agency, writes James Blancarte.
With the NBA Summer League over and training camps a few months away, the NBA would normally be quiet this time of year. Apparently the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors didn’t get the memo as they agreed to a trade centered around Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan. Additionally, Carmelo Anthony has finally been traded to relieve the Oklahoma City Thunder from a tremendous tax burden.
As the dust settles from these trades, many free agents continue to wait in the wings. The list includes many talented players who will eventually make their way back onto an NBA team’s roster. Some will return to the team they played for last year, which is especially likely for restricted free agents (e.g., Marcus Smart). Some may, for a variety of reasons, not return to an NBA roster. Last year Rodney Stuckey sat the year out and used the time to improve his health in order to make a comeback this year. Former All-Star center Roy Hibbert just announced his retirement at age 31 after not being active last season.
The list of available restricted free agents has seriously dwindled now nearly three weeks into the free agency period. RFAs such as Marcus Smart (back to the Boston Celtics) and Jabari Parker (to the Chicago Bulls) have recently signed new contracts. These signings, among others, leaves Houston Rockets RFA center Clint Capela and Los Angeles Clippers RFA center Montrezl Harrell as two of the bigger names left on the board.
Available Restricted Free Agents:
Clint Capela is coming off of his best and most efficient season averaging 13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks in 27.5 minutes a game (all career highs) and he is only 24 years old. Capela also spearheaded a defense that, when combined with James Harden’s offensive mastery, pushed the Golden State Warriors to the brink in the Western Conference Finals. Reports are that Capela has turned down an initial offer to re-sign for well below his max. While the clock ticks on the Rockets and Capela, Capela finds himself in what remains a punitive free agent market. The Sacramento Kings is the only other team capable of immediately signing Capela to a competitive contract to lure him away from the Rockets. To make matters worse, the Kings have been committed to stocking their roster with as many big men as possible making them a less-than-ideal suitor for Capela’s services.
Montrezl Harrell won’t generate as many headlines as the other RFAs that have been in the news lately but don’t sleep on him. In a season that never went according to plan for the Clippers, Harrell was one of the bright spots for the team. Harrell, acquired by the Clippers in the Chris Paul trade, showed tenacity on offense as he served as a strong offensive rebounder, floor runner and helped the Clippers weather a five-game stretch where center DeAndre Jordan was unavailable. Harrell played especially well in place of Jordan. However, working against Harrell is the Clipper’s roster crunch. The team has 18 players on the roster, not counting Harrell. If the Clippers do ultimately decide to bring back Harrell, the Clippers will have to make several moves to clear roster spots.
Cleveland Cavaliers RFA wing Rodney Hood also remains available. Utah Jazz fans can relate to the ups and downs of cheering for Hood who has flashes of brilliant play but remains inconsistent. Hood was acquired during last season to help bolster the Cavaliers’ championship run. However, Hood’s scoring, three-point shooting, overall statistics and minutes went down significantly due to his uneven play. While Hood is still a capable player, his time with the Cavaliers did not end well, which has impacted his stock around the league. It didn’t help Hood’s cause when he was benched in the postseason and he subsequently refused to enter the game when instructed to. The Kings, in need of help on the wing, could be a suitor for Hood’s services. However, Cleveland could match any such offer as the franchise continues to build a new team after the loss of LeBron James.
Available Unrestricted Free Agents:
The group of remaining unrestricted free agents is a mixed bag. As mentioned above, there is at least a chance that one of these players may not even make a roster when the dust settles this offseason. Dwyane Wade has bounced around the league the last few years with stints with the Bulls, Cavaliers and a most recent return to the Miami HEAT under his belt. Wade remains capable of spurts of offense and is a fan favorite in Miami. The most obvious result here is a return to Miami. However, Wade himself commented regarding a potential return or possibly retirement.
“When I get back from China, I’ll focus on that [decision],” Wade said while in China. “The basketball will take care of itself. I’ll sit down and figure that out once I get back from this tour at some point.”
Michael Beasley remains unsigned despite a strong outing last season for the New York Knicks. Beasley started 30 of 74 games played. His numbers don’t jump off the boxscore: 13.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists in 22.3 minutes. However, these are some of the best numbers he’s put up in years and the most consistent he has played since 2012-13. The Knicks may likely move on from Beasley but he remains a viable scorer who could come off the bench and start in a pinch for many teams if the price is right.
Jamal Crawford and Nick Young
Jamal Crawford and Nick Young remain unsigned veterans who offer potential teams a scoring punch off the bench. Young has the benefit of showing that he contributed in spurts to the Warrior’s championship season while not becoming a distraction. Both are known for knocking down difficult outside shots but can be inefficient scorers and potential liabilities on defense.
A few notable big men remain available as well. Phoenix Center Alex Len never became the elite big man the Suns had hoped for when they used the fifth pick in the 2013 draft to acquire him. However he remains a serviceable player. For his career, Len averages 7.2 points and 6.2 rebounds in 19.9 minutes. He is somewhat mobile and could be a strong option for a team looking for a backup center. Centers Al Jefferson and Jahill Okafor can both score the basketball but have to directly combat the notion that they have become antiquated. The modern game calls for mobile centers that shoot reliably from the outside to stretch the floor, are efficient on offense, can guard the rim as well as being at least somewhat capale of covering ball handlers on switches. Okafar and Jefferson don’t fit that profile and will have to convince potential suitors that despite their meager contributions over the last few seasons that they can sufficiently adapt to the modern game and make a positive impact.
NBA: Kawhi Leonard for DeMar DeRozan Makes Sense
In an unexpected move, DeMar DeRozan and Kawhi Leonard swapped teams, and it makes complete sense.
The Kawhi Leonard saga in San Antonio is finally over.
In the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday, news broke via Twitter that Leonard was about to be shipped across the Canadian border to the Toronto Raptors for — get this — DeMar DeRozan.
Leonard, and his deteriorated relationship with the San Antonio Spurs, dominated the offseason headlines, and while reports constantly whizzed around about where the All-Star small forward would wind up — maybe Los Angeles, maybe Philadelphia, maybe Boston — his final destination is one that came completely out of left field (despite the current odds).
While many people viewed the situation with Leonard as a chance for San Antonio to start fresh and plan for the future, the Spurs appeared to have no interest in that avenue. The entirety of the deal, Leonard and Danny Green for DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a top-20 protected 2019 first-round pick displays a win-now outcome for each party.
After winning 59 games and obtaining the top overall seed in the Eastern Conference, the Raptors eventually were bounced by the Cleveland Cavaliers in a sweeping fashion. Dwane Casey, the 2017-18 Coach of the Year, was fired after not being able to extend the franchises’ best season to an NBA Finals appearance. It appeared, with LeBron moving West, that the Raptors were going to run it back one more time to see if they could finally break through to the game’s biggest stage.
On the other side, the Spurs were coming off of a season in which they won 47 games and were two games out of the Western Conference’s third seed — all of which they achieved without Leonard. In the waning years of Gregg Popovich’s career, it appeared his team was still talented enough, and system still effective enough, to make relevant noise in the playoffs without a superstar player.
At its core, this deal comes down to each team swapping their best player for the other’s. Leonard gets out of San Antonio, to a team whose core won 59 games in the East. DeRozan gets the benefit of fitting into a system with the best head coach in the league, on a very competitive roster.
Now, it remains to be seen how happy each player will be in their situations. Reports surfaced early Wednesday morning that both players were dissatisfied with the trade outcome. But, as we all know, winning cures everything.
On the Spurs’ front, it’s interesting how little they considered trade packages for future picks and quality role players. ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported San Antonio rebuffed offers from the Sixers and Celtics that were centered around future assets, in turn focusing their trade efforts on the likes of Ben Simmons, and the Celtics’ young core. Instead of landing a handful of assets or players that may not materialize until Popovich is gone, the Spurs reeled in a player who is a year removed from averaging 27 points per game. Oh, by the way, he’s also under contract for the next three seasons.
DeRozan keeps the Spurs relevant. Maybe he doesn’t help them beat the Golden State Warriors (in fact, he most certainly doesn’t), but he allows his new team the chance to win meaningful games in the postseason over the next three years.
From everything that’s been reported, there was no way Popovich was going to commit the final few years of his NBA life to a rebuild. With a man like that at the helm, and a star player like DeRozan under contract, who knows what other tricks San Antonio might have up its sleeve.
Up in Toronto, if the Raptors can convince Leonard to play this season, their core plus an upgrade on the wing might finally be enough to break through to the Finals. New head coach Nick Nurse suddenly has a player widely regarded as a top-five talent in the league on his roster to accompany a deep and talented core. Although, just like in San Antonio, Leonard might not add enough to the Raptors to dethrone the Warriors. However, he suddenly has a better supporting cast to try and give Golden State a run for its money.
Plus, given Toronto’s inability to get out of the East, a Finals appearance in its own right would be considered a success next season.
All around, maybe this wasn’t the deal we expected to get Leonard out of San Antonio, but digesting the move from all angles, it appears to be the most sensible.