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 AM: Most Likely All-Star Snubs
Damian Lillard seems to top the All-Star snub list every season. It couldn’t happen again, could it?
This year the NBA has famously decided to mix up the way the All-Star rosters work, while rather infamously deciding against televising the draft that will organize those players into teams, but even as some things change, some things remain the same.
Just like every year, there will be snubs when the All-Star reserves are announced on Tuesday night. Oh, there will be snubs.
The starters already have been selected, chosen by a combination of fan votes, media votes and player votes, the latter of which were taken so seriously that Summer League legend Jack Cooley even earned a single nomination from one especially ornery player voter.
For those that missed the starters, they include LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kyrie Irving, and Joel Embiid from the Eastern Conference and Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and James Harden from the Western Conference.
That leaves seven more reserves from each conference and way more deserving players than that from which to choose. These will be selected by the coaches, per tradition, but it’s anybody’s guess who ends up making the team. There absolutely are going to be some massive snubs this year, so let’s take a quick look at the most likely candidates to earn roster spots this winter, as well as who that might leave out of this year’s event in Los Angeles.
The Eastern Conference
Let’s start with the “sure things,” which almost certainly will include with Indian Pacers guard Victor Oladipo. Not only is he putting up a career-best 24/5/4 line, but he’s also averaging two steals per night for an Indiana team that currently lives in the playoff picture despite dismal expectations. That’s almost entirely because of Oladipo.
In the frontcourt, there was plenty of healthy debate when Embiid was voted the starter over Al Horford and Kristaps Porzingis, so there’s a very good chance that those two guys find their way to the roster, as well.
Kevin Love, who also is having a monster statistical season, seems like the most obvious third frontcourt guy, but his defense stinks and the Cavs haven’t exactly proven themselves worthy of two All-Stars. Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Tobias Harris both are having borderline All-Star seasons for a borderline playoff team, but they are the closest contenders to stealing away that third frontcourt reserve slot from Love.
Beyond that, Bradley Beal or John Wall likely will be the “other” guard reserve, but choosing which one is dicey. Wall’s the four-time All-Star, but Beal arguably is having the better year and has been snubbed for this event entirely too many times already. It doesn’t seem likely that both guys will make the team.
The wild cards could be that “other” Wizards guard among Beal and Wall, one of those two Pistons players, Miami’s Goran Dragic (they are fourth in the conference, rather surprisingly), Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, or Rookie of the Year candidate Ben Simmons.
What seems most probable is that Oladipo and Beal earn the Eastern Conference reserve slots, with Horford, Porzingis and Love earning the backup frontcourt positions. Lowry and Wall feel most likely as reserves.
That means the most likely Eastern Conference snubs will be: Goran Dragic, Ben Simmons, Andre Drummod, Tobias Harris and Khris Middleton.
The level of controversy with this group feels fairly low, though if Dragic or Drummond were to make the team over Wall or Love, the conversation would be a lot feistier.
The Western Conference
Choosing the reserve guards in the Western Conference is a no-brainer. It will be MVP candidates Jimmy Butler and Russell Westbrook, which immediately means that if Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul and Paul George are not named as Wild Card players, they will be left off of the team. That’s about as “yikes” as “yikes” gets.
The battle for the frontcourt spots are going to be no less brutal, even with Kawhi Leonard effectively out of consideration having missed so much time at the beginning of the season. The Spurs will have an All-Star anyway, though, which makes LaMarcus Aldridge all but a lock.
Towns, who is averaging a 20/12 with over two assists and 1.5 blocks per game on one of the West’s top teams, also feels likely to get in. That means Draymond Green and Nikola Jokic are the two guys expected to battle over that last frontcourt spot, and both deserve real consideration. Green’s importance is less obvious to this Warriors team with Durant on the roster, but he’s no less essential even if his offensive numbers are down. Jokic, meanwhile, has kept Denver in the playoff hunt even without Paul Millsap, and is the best passing big man in the game.
The most likely scenario in terms of Western Conference reserves has Butler and Westbrook getting voted in at guard, Aldridge, Towns and Green voted in as frontcourt players, and Thompson and Lillard voted in as the wild cards.
That means the most likely Western Conference snubs will be: Chris Paul, Paul George, and Nikola Jokic.
Paul has missed 17 games this season, which is just too many when there are so many other great guards from which to choose, and George’s usage has dropped massively in Oklahoma City. As for Jokic, somebody has to get snubbed, and the other reasonable possibility is that he be named a wild card player at the expense of Lillard, and no NBA fan should have to see that happen yet again.
The 2018 NBA All-Star Reserves will be announced at 7:00 p.m. EST on January 23 on TNT.
Tune in Tuesday night to see which players will make the team, and which will inevitably be snubbed.
NBA Daily: Rockets Might Be Formidable Challenge For Warriors
If nothing else, the Rockets gave everyone, including the Warriors, something to think about by beating the champs.
For those that had any lingering doubt as to the authenticity of the Houston Rockets, Saturday afternoon’s win over the Golden State Warriors should serve as a bit of a wakeup call.
Sure, championships aren’t won in mid-January, but by virtue of the win, the Rockets won their season series against the Warriors, 2-1.
Since the beginning of the 2014-15 season—the year the Warriors won the first of three consecutive Western Conference Finals—they’ve lost a season series to just one other team: the San Antonio Spurs.
A review of the tape suggests that those that believe that Gregg Popovich and Kawhi Leonard are truly the team that has the best shot of beating the Warriors is founded in some fact. In the last three seasons, the Warriors have lost a total of 39 games.
In total, during that span, seven teams have failed to beat the Warriors even once, while 12 teams have beaten them one time. Four teams have beaten the Warriors twice and only the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies have beaten them thrice.
The Spurs, though, have managed to beat the Warriors five times, with Popovich leading his team to a 2-1 regular season series win over the Warriors during the 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons.
It’s safe to say that they have been the only team worthy of calling themselves anything near a worthy adversary to Stephen Curry and company.
At least, that was the case until Saturday night.
* * * * * *
With all due respect to Michael Jordan, if the Warriors win the NBA Finals this season, they can legitimately claim to be the best team in NBA history.
Two titles in three years is nothing to sneeze at, but the claim holds no weight whatsoever without ever having won two in a row, especially when scores of other teams have been able to accomplish the feat.
Aside from the two championships, the Warriors can claim the best regular season record in the league’s history and the distinction of being the only team to ever win 67 or more games for three consecutive seasons.
It is true that the Warriors have been almost invincible since the 2014-15 season, but things have changed now that Chris Paul has joined forces with James Harden.
This season, the Mike D’Antoni coached team ranks 12th in points allowed per 100 possessions, a marked improvement over last season’s rank of 18th.
With Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker, Clint Capela, Luc Mbah a Moute, they have four defensive stalwarts, one of whom (Ariza) who wasn’t able to suit up due to being suspended.
At the end of the day, beating a team in the regular season doesn’t really count for much, especially when you consider the greatest irony: in each of the seasons the Spurs beat the Warriors in their season series, the Warriors won the NBA Finals. The obvious asterisk there is that the Warriors didn’t play the Spurs in the 2015 NBA Playoffs and only managed to sweep them once the Spurs lost Kawhi Leonard in 2017.
Still, beating the defending champs in any game, much less a season series, has got to feel good. Whether they want to admit it or not, Saturday’s game against the Warriors was one that the Rockets wanted to get, that’s probably why Mike D’Antoni opted to reinsert James Harden into the game after he surpassed his 30-minute playing restriction.
In the end, Harden logged 35 minutes and ended up making what was the game’s clinching three-pointer.
* * * * * *
With the season a little more than halfway over, the Warriors still appear to be head and shoulders above those competing for their throne. Of the other contenders, the Rockets and Boston Celtics, at least for now, appear most formidable.
At the end of the day, what the Warriors have to fear more than anything is their own arrogance. As a unit, the team believes that it’s the best at playing small ball and that no other team can beat them as their own game. While that may be true, there have been a few instances over the past few years where that belief has ended up costing them.
What the Warriors seem to struggle with is understanding that not every possession can be played the same way, and as some possessions become more and more valuable, it would be wise for the team to play more conservatively and traditionally.
For example, when the Cavaliers beat the Warriors in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, Kyrie Irving made one of the most incredible shots we’ve ever seen, but it was Stephen Curry who helped leave the door open for the Cavs with a pitiful final five minutes of the game.
Among the worst atrocities he committed was an ill-advised turnover that came as a result of an off target behind the back pass to Klay Thompson. In such a situation, any second grader could have and would have known that a simple bounce pass to the flashing Thompson would have sufficed.
Steve Kerr’s message to his team, though, is to play like themselves and not overthink their execution.
While that’s fair, it does at least leave room to wonder if the Warriors will have the humility to play conservatively when the game is on the line.
Curry himself admitted to playing too aggressively and making poor reads and decisions down the stretch versus the Rockets. The team passed up wide-open two-point shots for three-pointers that didn’t fall, and those botched opportunities played a direct role in causing the loss.
Fortunately, for the Warriors, not much was at stake, but their performance and decision-making in those tight minutes leave us to wonder what will happen if and when they find themselves in another tight moment or two…
And by virtue of the Rockets becoming just the second team to take a season series from the Warriors since the beginning of the 2014-15 season, we can also fairly wonder whether they truly have what it takes to take down the Golden Goliath.
G-League Watch: 10-Day Contracts
David Yapkowitz looks at five potential G-League callups for 10-day contracts.
Since Jan. 10, NBA teams have been able to sign players from the G-League to ten-day contracts. A few have already been signed, such as DeAndre Liggins with the Milwaukee Bucks and Kyle Collinsworth with the Dallas Mavericks.
Once a ten-day contract expires, teams have the option of signing that player to another ten-day contract. After the second ten-day, teams must either sign the player for the remainder of the season or release that player.
Some players have used ten-day contracts to essentially jump-start their careers. Bruce Bowen was once a ten-day contract player before becoming a key piece of multiple championship teams in San Antonio. Famed New York Knicks enforcer Anthony Mason also got his first chance in the league off a ten-day contract.
With a few guys already being called up via ten-day as well as the NBA’s new two-way contracts, here’s a look at some of the remaining names who might be next in line.
1. Christian Wood
Christian Wood was once a highly touted prospect coming out of high school. He played two college seasons at UNLV before declaring for the NBA draft in 2015. Despite being projected to be drafted late in the first round or early second round, he did not hear his name called on draft night. He’s spent some time in the NBA since then, with the Philadelphia 76ers and Charlotte Hornets, but he currently plays for the Delaware 87ers, the Sixers G-League affiliate.
His 22.0 points per game are tied with James Young for top scorer on the team. He’s shooting 53.9 percent from the field, and he’s also displayed a nice outside touch for a big man at 35.2 percent from three-point range. He leads the team in rebounds at 9.6, as well as in blocked shots with 2.0. He’s very mobile and could certainly help a team as a stretch big man who can play defense and crash the glass.
2. Jameel Warney
Jameel Warney has been a candidate for an NBA call-up for quite some time. The former Stony Brook standout had a big summer with Team USA basketball. He was the tournament MVP of the 2017 FIBA Americup and was named USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year for 2017. He got as far as training camp/preseason with the Dallas Mavericks in 2016, and he’s currently playing for their G-League affiliate, the Texas Legends.
With the Legends, he’s fourth on the team in scoring with 19.4 points per game. He’s second on the team in rebounding with 10.4, and he’s tied with Johnathan Motley leading the team in blocked shots with 1.5. He’s shooting 52.5 percent from the field. What could be hindering his NBA chances is his lack of an outside shot, especially with the way the game is being played today. Nonetheless, he’s still one of the G-League’s top players and he deserves a shot in the big leagues.
3. Melo Trimble
After a solid three years at the University of Maryland, Melo Trimble was one of the best players not selected in this past summer’s draft. He played well for the 76ers’ summer league team in Las Vegas, which in turn earned him an invite to training camp with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He ended up being one of their final cuts at the end of preseason, and he went on to join their G-League affiliate, the Iowa Wolves.
He’s third on the Wolves in scoring with 18.5 points per game. He’s shooting 44 percent from the field, and a decent 34 percent from beyond the arc. He’s also leading the team in assists per game with 5.7. He’s got the potential to be a decent backup point guard, and if he can get his shooting numbers, especially from three-point range, up a little bit, there’s no question he’s NBA caliber.
4. Joel Bolomboy
Joel Bolomboy is a name that should be familiar to Utah Jazz fans. He was drafted by the Jazz in 2016, and although relegated to mostly end of the bench duty, he showed a bit of potential and flash here and there. The Jazz cut him after a year, and he ended up in Milwaukee before they too cut him to make room for Sean Kilpatrick. He’s currently playing for the Wisconsin Herd, the Bucks G-League affiliate.
At the recent G-League Showcase that took place from Jan. 10-13, Bolomboy had one of the best performances of the event. In the two games played, he averaged 25.5 points per game on 73 percent shooting from the field and 13.0 rebounds. He was named to the All-Showcase First Team. He’s had eight double-doubles so far in the G-League this season. He’s already gotten his feet wet in the NBA, and if he continues putting up similar production, it won’t be long before he finds himself back on an NBA roster.
5. Jeremy Evans
Jeremy Evans is a name that should be somewhat familiar to NBA fans. He’s spent six years in the league with the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks. He also participated in two dunk contests in 2012 and 2013. Unfortunately for him, dunking was probably the one thing he was known for. It might be why he found himself out of the league after only six years.
With the Erie Bay Hawks, the Atlanta Hawks G-League affiliate, his 15.9 points per game are good enough for fourth on the team. His 62.3 percent shooting from the field is a team-high, as is his 10.3 rebounds per game, and 1.4 blocks. Not known as a shooter during his time in the NBA, he’s only shooting 25.6 percent from three-point range in the G-League. If he can get his outside shooting percentages up, he has a shot at getting an NBA call-up and keeping that spot permanently.
Although there’s no guarantee that any of these guys get NBA call-ups on ten-day contracts, they have some of the best shots out of anyone in the G-League. Don’t be surprised if, by the end of the season, all of these guys finish it out on an NBA roster.