The Buyers and The Sellers
With the 2018 NBA Trade Deadline just two weeks away, there are a lot of things floating around the NBA, some are less likely than others, but what has become clear is there are some bona fide sellers, and there are some teams looking to buy. Here are some of them:
The Magic have been in the NBA trade market for most of the season. The prevailing thought from league sources is while the Magic seem to be open for business, they are not open to taking much back in terms of salary which may make it hard for them to offload some of the contract money they seem to be trying to move.
The two names that get the most play in NBA circles are guards Evan Fournier and Elfrid Payton. While the Magic seem to open to ideas on the entire roster, they have been pretty open that they are not doing a deal just to do a deal. The Magic’s stance is that anything they do has to meet their goals of being able to remake the team fairly quickly, so taking back long-term contracts are not in the plan.
As the deadline nears, the Magic could move half the roster or make no moves at all. That’s really where they are. If nothing materializes, the Magic seem content to let this roster ride out the season and re-tool around the draft and in free agency, especially because the Magic feel like they have some pretty attractive contracts that could be significantly better value than options available to other teams in free agency.
Magic general manager John Hammond said recently anything the team did wouldn’t be geared towards a short-term fix, rather fitting into the long-term plan, which has been a consistent message out of the Magic from the start.
The Kings seem to be closing in on a deal to move out guard George Hill, likely sending him to Cleveland in exchange for Cavs center Channing Frye and guard Iman Shumpert. There is the possibility that some second-round picks change hands, but this deal would be about getting Hill and his hefty salary next year off the books.
The Kings have also been exploring deals involving big man Skal Labissière and guard Malachi Richardson. The Kings need to open up a roster spot to complete the Cavaliers trade and have been exploring options.
Sources close to the Kings said they have been very open and receptive to helping move off the veteran players that have fallen out of the rotation in Sacramento.
The Kings are said to be fielding offers on Garrett Temple and Zach Randolph, although team sources said both are more likely to end the season in Sacramento than being moved, it was something on the table.
New York Knicks
The Knicks have been kicking the tires on their options at the trade deadline and one of the players more likely moved than not is big man Willy Hernangomez.
The Knicks kicked the tires on several trade options before agreeing to sign Trey Burke and found the market to be a little bare, with limited interest that made sense for them.
The Knicks have reportedly fielded conversations on potential free agent big Kyle O’Quinn, swingman Courtney Lee and potential free agent Enes Kanter.
The prevailing thought around the NBA is that Hernangomez is mostly the guy moved, but that the return may not be nearly that sexy.
The Knicks seem like they will do something at the deadline, but the odds of it being a huge team altering deal seems remote.
When news that Charlotte’s Kemba Walker might be available broke, Knicks fans pegged him as someone to go all-in for, however, Knicks sources say there was due diligence done there, but nothing got very far. The Hornets have been quick to downplay a willingness to move Walker, which likely is why the Knicks talk didn’t get very far.
The Jazz are said to be listening pretty aggressively to trade ideas involving some notable players. The name mentioned most is soon to be free agent big man Derrick Favors, although guards Alec Burks, Joe Johnson and even Rodney Hood are said to be available for the right return.
The narrative around the Jazz is they want to retool around big man Rudy Gobert and super rookie Donovan Mitchell and that the rest of the roster is open for discussion.
The Cavaliers have been linked to Favors as have the Chicago Bulls. Most league insiders see Bulls forward Nikola Mirotić landing in Utah, however, Bulls sources cautioned that while both sides have gotten pretty far down the road, nothing is close enough to label it likely or unlikely.
The Bulls are believed to want a first-round pick in a Mirotić deal, and that does not seem to be something the Jazz are open to.
For the Jazz, Johnson represents a huge ending contract. However, the prevailing thought in NBA circles is that Johnson stays past the deadline and it ultimate bought out.
The Jazz have the right combination of ending contracts and rookie scale players to be a big player at the deadline, especially if a notable player hits the market.
The Nuggets get frequently mentioned during every transaction window mainly because they have so much duplication. As the trade deadline approaches, the Nuggets are again in the mix with league sources saying forward Kenneth Faried and guard Emmanuel Mudiay can be had, and the asking price isn’t that significant. The Nuggets also have reasonable deals on Wilson Chandler and forward Darrell Arthur, both hold player options for next season which make them tough to move, as teams tend to shy away from placing value on uncertainty.
The player to watch in Denver might be swingman Will Barton. He is posting a solid season and the possible front-runner for the Sixth Man of the Year. Barton is headed toward unrestricted free agency and is expected to command a hefty number that might not make sense for the Nuggets without dumping some of the names mentioned.
Of the bunch, Barton likely returns the most value, which is something the Nuggets may have to entertain.
As it stands now, the Nuggets seem to be a seller, but sources close to the process don’t label them as wanting to trigger a deal as aggressively as some of the other teams. Time will tell if the Nuggets can find a deal they’ll do, especially as they linger around the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture.
Maybe it’s the chaos of the Cavs or maybe there is a realization that the roster as currently configured doesn’t work, but the Cleveland Cavaliers are trying to shake some things up. Not only are the Cavs looking at significant deals, but they are also now open to taking on contract money, something they seemed closed to doing a few months ago.
The Cavs seem close to a deal to bring in guard George Hill from Sacramento. The word is they likely will dump off Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert and either include Derrick Rose or waive him at some point after a deal.
The Cavs have also been trying to pry away another high-level big man, having made repeated runs at the Clippers regarding DeAndre Jordan. Should the Clippers opt to hang onto Jordan, which seems to be the case as of today, the Cavs also have eyes on Utah’s Derrick Favors.
While the Cavs will have to send out contract money in any deal, they seem to be open to adding to their whopping $43 million tax bill.
As things stand today, the Cavs have $134.07 million in guaranteed salary, pushing them $14.811 million over the luxury tax line, giving them a repeater tax bill north of $43 million for a total roster cost of $177.16 million.
As things stand today, for every new million the Cavs add to the payroll, their tax bill will increase by more than $4 million. It seems if the Cavs are really willing to add money that Cavs ownership really is putting their money where their mouth is. Given their most recent stretch of games, it seems like they have little choice.
The Bucks have been looking for frontcourt help for some time. The Bucks continue to be linked to Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan, and while it’s looking less and less likely the Clippers will pull the trigger, the Bucks remain optimistic they could win a deal if they put him on the market.
The Bucks seem to be offering some combination of forward John Henson, and at least two rookie scale players from forward Thon Maker and guards D.J. Wilson and Rashad Vaughn.
An alternative for the Bucks seems to be Jazz big man Derrick Favors, although Utah seems to have a number of suitors for him.
The dark horse candidate for the Bucks could be Miami’s Hassan Whiteside, but sources close to the HEAT continue to say its unlikely they are going to make him available in trade, but admitted teams have called, meaning Miami has options.
The Bucks seem open to adding to their monster payroll now. The question becomes what to do with would be free agent Jabari Parker, who is still rehabbing from an ACL injury and may not be able to play until early March.
The Dallas Mavericks are open for business and willing to rent out some of their possible $13.5 million in cap space to add young pieces, or draft picks to their rebuild plan.
The Mavericks also have a slew of ending contracts including Josh McRoberts ($6.02m), Devin Harris ($4.40m) and Seth Curry ($3.02m). Big man Nerlens Noel is also an ending contract; however, he has veto rights on a trade making his $4.18 million a little tougher to move as he’d influence where he lands.
For teams looking to shed cap dollars or route a trade through Dallas to make the cap math work, the Mavericks are well positioned to grab a few assets for themselves as a middleman.
The Mavericks have had eyes for Lakers forward Julius Randle, and with LA looking to offload cap money in advance of free agency in July, the Mavericks look like the prime player.
The upside for the Mavericks is they’ll have cap space through the NBA draft and into July, so they don’t have to do anything with their flexibility at the deadline that doesn’t make sense for them, but they are open for business.
On Tuesday we started dropping our positional “Trade Watch” guides. If you missed one, here is NBA Trade Watch: Point Guards and NBA Trade Watch: Shooting Guards. Look for Small Forward today, Power Forward tomorrow and Center on Saturday.
The 2018 NBA Trade Deadline is Thursday February 8 at 3:00pm EST.
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NBA Daily: Rich Cho Out As Charlotte Hornets GM
The Charlotte Hornets opted to not move forward with GM Rich Cho and are expected to pursue former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak.
The fateful moment for Rich Cho came days after he was hired as GM of the Charlotte Hornets in June of 2011. With the NBA Draft coming just nine days later, Cho started work on a three-team trade that would land Charlotte a second top-10 pick to pair with its own ninth pick, which was used to draft franchise cornerstone Kemba Walker.
In that draft, Klay Thompson went 11th to the Golden State Warriors and Kawhi Leonard 15th to the Pacers. Of the 17 players selected after Bismack Biyombo, who went to the Hornets with the seventh pick, 12 are regular contributors on current NBA rosters. The Orlando Magic are currently outscored by 11.6 points per 100 possessions with Biyombo on court, a rotation-worst.
Today, Hornets owner Michael Jordan announced that Cho is out as Charlotte’s GM.
“Rich worked tirelessly on behalf of our team and instituted a number of management tools that have benefited our organization,” said Jordan in a press release. “We are deeply committed to our fans and to the city of Charlotte to provide a consistent winner on the court. The search will now begin for our next head of basketball operations who will help us achieve that goal.”
While the failure to obtain Thompson, Leonard or any of the numerous impact players in the 2011 draft will always mar Cho’s record, falling to the second pick in the 2012 NBA Draft will continue to haunt Charlotte. Despite a brutal 7-59 record in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, which set the record for lowest win percentage in an NBA season (.110), the New Orleans Pelicans won the right to the first overall pick and selected Anthony Davis.
The Hornets selected Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the second pick. Although the 2012 Draft wasn’t nearly as deep as 2011’s, the Hornets still left players like Bradley Beal (third) and Andre Drummond (ninth) on the board. Either would have been an outstanding compliment to Walker, who remains with the team despite rumors of his availability leading up the the trade deadline.
“I feel like I’m going to be in Charlotte,” said Walker at his All-Star media availability. “So that’s where I’m at, that’s where I’m playing. So I never really sat and thought about any other teams.”
Walker made his second All-Star appearance after Kristaps Porzingis suffered a season-ending ACL injury.
“I wish K.P. hadn’t gotten hurt,” said Walker. “Everybody hates to see guys go down, especially great players like him. But when I was able to get the call to replace him, it was a really good feeling.”
Another fateful moment in Cho’s tenure came during the 2015 NBA Draft. According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the Boston Celtics offered the 15th and 16th picks, a future protected first rounder from the Brooklyn Nets and a future first from either the Grizzlies or Timberwolves in exchange for the ninth pick, which Cho used to draft Frank Kaminsky.
“If it was such a no-brainer for us, why would another team want to do it,” Cho asked rhetorically in defense of the Kaminsky selection, according to Lowe.
Years later, it’s evident that the Celtics dodged a bullet when both Charlotte and the Miami HEAT rebuffed its attempts to move up and draft Justise Winslow. The latter has not panned out while Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the players Boston subsequently obtained with Brooklyn’s picks, have developed into starters.
Chris Mannix of Yahoo! Sports reported in the first week of February that Charlotte may target former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak for a high-ranking role in the organization. Kupchak, like Jordan, is a former UNC star. Kupchak would join Jordan’s UNC teammate and Charlotte assistant GM Buzz Peterson.
The G-League is a Path Back to the NBA
The G-League has become an avenue for several player types toward the NBA, writes David Yapkowitz.
When the NBA first instituted their development league, its main purpose was two-fold. The first was to give experience to young players who perhaps were not seeing regular playing time on their respective NBA teams. The second was to give undrafted players a chance at getting exposure and ultimately getting to the NBA.
With the growth in size and popularity of the development league, now known as the G-League, it’s begun to serve another purpose. It’s become a place for older veterans who have already tasted the NBA life to get back to the highest level of basketball that they once knew.
One player in particular who has a wealth of NBA experience is Terrence Jones. Jones is currently playing with the Santa Cruz Warriors, the G-League affiliate of the Golden State Warriors.
Jones was originally drafted by the Houston Rockets with the 18th overall pick in the 2012 draft. He was part of a vaunted class of Kentucky Wildcats that year, which included Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb, and Darius Miller. During his four years with the Rockets, he emerged as a dependable reserve and part-time starter. He averaged 9.5 points per game on 49.5 percent shooting and 5.3 rebounds.
“It was just a lot of excitement and a lot of joy, being part of the Houston Rockets was a lot of fun,” Jones told Basketball Insiders. “We had great memories and great seasons, a lot of up and downs, I just enjoyed the journey.”
Jones’ dealt with injuries his last two season in Houston, and when he was a free agent in the summer of 2016, the Rockets didn’t re-sign him. He was scooped by the New Orleans Pelicans, however, and he made an immediate impact for them. Prior to the trade deadline, he played in 51 games for the Pelicans, including 12 starts while putting up 11.5 points on 47.2 percent shooting, and 5.9 rebounds.
When the Pelicans acquired DeMarcus Cousins, however, they cut Jones. He didn’t stay unemployed for long, though, as he was signed by the Milwaukee Bucks to add depth for a playoff run. He was unable to crack the rotation, though, and the Bucks cut him as well before the playoff started. After a brief stint in China, he’s now back stateside and using the G-League to get back to the NBA.
“That’s the goal. Right now, I feel I’ve been playing pretty well and just trying to help my team get wins,” Jones told Basketball Insiders. “I think I can play multiple positions offensively and defensively. Whether that’s creating plays for myself or for others, I think I can help contribute on the offensive end.”
He’s been the second-leading scorer for Santa Cruz with 19.9 points per game. He’s pulling down 7.1 rebounds, and even dishing out 4.5 assists. In the G-League Challenge against the Mexican National Team at All-Star Weekend, he finished with eight points on 50.0 percent shooting, six rebounds, four assists, and two steals. He’s definitely a name to watch for as NBA teams scour the market for 10-day contract possibilities.
Another player who’s had a taste of the NBA is Xavier Silas. Silas is currently with the Northern Arizona Suns, the affiliate of the Phoenix Suns. He went undrafted in 2011 and started his professional career in France. That only last a few months before he came back the United States and latched on with the Philadelphia 76ers.
He played sparingly with the 76ers and was ultimately cut before the start of the 2012-13 season. Since then, he’s played summer league with the Bucks, and been in two different training camps with the Washington Wizards.
“It was amazing, any time you get to go and play at the highest level, and I even got to play in the playoffs and play in the second round and even score, that was big,” Silas told Basketball Insiders. “It was a great time for me and that’s what I’m working towards getting back.”
While his professional career has taken him all across the globe from Israel to Argentina to Greece to Germany and even Ice Cube’s BIG3 league, he sees the G-League as being the one place that will get him back to where he wants to be.
He’s done well this season for Northern Arizona. He’s their third-leading scorer at 19.3 points per game and he’s one of their top three-point threats at 39.9 percent. At the All-Star Weekend G-League Challenge against the Mexican National Team, Silas had a team-high 13 points for Team USA including 3-5 shooting from three-point range.
It’s isn’t just what he brings on the court that Silas believes makes him an attractive candidate for an NBA team. At age 30, he’s one of the older guys in the G-League and one with a lot of basketball experience to be passed down to younger guys.
“I think it’s a little bit of leadership, definitely some shooting. I’m a vet now so I’m able to come in and help in that aspect as well. But everybody needs someone who can hit an open shot and I think I can bring that to a team,” Silas told Basketball Insiders. “I think it’s the best place for anyone who’s trying to make that next step. We’re available and we’re right here, it’s just a call away.”
NBA Daily: Lillard Playing For Something Bigger
Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has his eyes set on a bigger prize than just being an NBA All-Star.
Playing For Something Bigger
The NBA All-Star Game is a spectacle.
By design, the game is meant to be a showcase, not just for the players selected to compete, but for the league and all of its partners, on and off the floor. It is easy to get caught up in how players selected actually play, but the reality is while most see the game as important for a lot of reasons, Portland Trail Blazer star Damian Lillard understands it has to be put into perspective.
“I don’t think it’s fair to expect people to go out there and treat it like they are playing for the team they’re under contract for,” Lillard explained this weekend.
“It’s the one time in an 82-game season plus playoffs, preseason and training camp that we actually get a break. It’s necessary to take a mental break, along with a physical break from what we do every day. There’s nothing wrong with that, so I don’t think it’s fair to ask guys to go out there and play like it’s for the Trail Blazers. My loyalty is to my team; I got to stay healthy for my team. I got to do what’s best for my team. Obviously, go out there [during All-Star] and not mess around too much and that’s how people get hurt and stuff like that. You got to go out there and play and have respect for the game, but I don’t think it’s necessary to go out there and go crazy like it’s a playoff game.”
Lillard notched 21 minutes in Sunday’s big game, going 9-for-14 from the field for 21 points for Team Stephen, a roster that included three Golden State Warriors players. Lillard believes that eventually, he’ll get the chance to share the weekend, his third, with teammate C. J. McCollum.
“Each year you see teams are getting two to three, Golden State got four this year,” Lillard said. “But you look at it and say ‘why is that happening’ and it has a lot to do with team success. Me and C.J. just have to take that challenge of making our team win more games. I think when we do that, we’ll be rewarded with both of us making it. If we really want to make that happen, then we’ll do whatever it takes to win more games.
“I feel like this season we’ve moved closer in that direction. In the past, we haven’t even been in the position to get one, because I did not make it the past two years. I think if we keep on improving we’ll eventually get to the point that we’re winning games and people will say ‘how are they doing this’ and then hopefully our names come up. Hopefully, one day, it’ll happen.”
Another issue that got addressed during the All-Star Weekend was the growing tensions between the NBA players and the NBA referees. Representatives from both sides met to address the gap developing on the court, something Lillard felt was necessary.
“We’re all human,” Lillard said. “As competitors, we want to win. If you feel like you got fouled, you want them to call the foul every time. I think sometimes as players, we forget how hard their job can be. At the pace we play, it’s hard to get every call, and then you got guys tricking the referees sometimes, we’re clever too. It’s a tough job for them. I think when we get caught up in our competitive nature, and we forget that they’re not just these robots with stripes, they are people too. You have got to think, as a man if someone comes screaming at you every three plays, you are going to react in your own way. Maybe you’re not going to make the next call; maybe I am going to stand my ground. It’s just something that I think will get better over time. I think both have to do a better job of understanding.”
With 24 games left to play in Lillard’s sixth NBA season, the desire to be more than a playoff team or an All-Star is coming more into focus for Lillard, something he reportedly expressed to Blazers management several weeks ago.
“There are guys that have this record and guys that have done these things, and I want to at least get myself the chance to compete for a championship,” Lillard said. “If I get there and we don’t win it, it happens. A lot of people had to go see about Michael Jordan, a lot of people had to go see about Shaq and Kobe. You know, those great teams, but I have a strong desire to at least give myself a chance to be there. Take a shot at it.”
With All-Star out of the way, the focus in the NBA will switch to the race to the playoffs. As things stand today Lillard and his Blazers hold the seventh seed in the West and are tied with Denver, and just a half of a game back from the five seed Oklahoma City Thunder.
If the Blazers are going to make noise this post season its going to be on the shoulder of Lillard, and based on what he said, it seems he’s up to the challenge.
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