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: Ilyasova Impacting Bucks With ‘Different Things’
Spencer Davies sits down with Milwaukee Bucks veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova to discuss his new role, playing for Mike Budenholzer again and the growth of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Milwaukee Bucks’ shootaround Friday morning concluded with a three-point competition.
A trio of players—Sterling Brown, George Hill and Ersan Ilyasova—participated in a best out of five at every spot around the perimeter. As each of them fired away, there was, of course, some playful jabbing, though nobody distracted one another.
Coming into Cleveland, Brown and Hill were each knocking down over 36 percent of their three-point attempts. But it was Ilyasova—the longest-tenured player of the group—who earned bragging rights with an (unofficial) contest win. Brown laughed and yelled after seeing the Turkish veteran drill the shots.
“Make ‘em in the game, Ers!”
Before taking the floor at Quicken Loans Arena three nights ago, Ilyasova had been uncharacteristically off the mark shooting from deep. In the preceding seven games, he took 20 threes and converted on just four of them. The slump took Ilyasova’s three-point percentage down to 32.8 percent, well below his career average of 36.5.
Brown’s comment had no ill-will intended towards Ilyasova, a teammate that the Bucks absolutely love in their locker room. It could be used for some encouragement, though—and it was.
For just the third time this season, Ilyasova hit three shots from beyond the arc in a dominant win against the Cleveland Cavaliers, taking his three-point percentage up by three points to a figure that suits him more naturally.
Asked pre-game about his recent struggles, Basketball Insiders found that Ilyasova won’t dwell on one part of a game, especially when he can help in other areas.
“Sometimes you have to accept your roles. Things have changed,” Ilyasova told Basketball Insiders. “When you see my game, it’s just trying to help to get the team the win any way I can.
“Sometimes, you knock down those shots. Sometimes, you’re not. But it’s not all about can I make those shots. I think it’s all about just being productive, do something the other players cannot do.”
Being more aggressive defensively, finding the right spots, providing extra possessions, taking charges—these are the “different things” Ilyasova is trying to focus on when he’s playing the game.
There’s statistical evidence to support that last area. Ilyasova ranks second in the NBA with 12 charges drawn. Perhaps what’s most impressive about this figure is that he’s done so in 477 total minutes. Compared to Kyle Lowry and Tim Hardaway Jr., the league leaders with 13, that’s literally half of their playing time.
That gets us to our next point—Ilyasova isn’t seeing much of the floor at all. For the first time since his rookie season 12 years ago in Milwaukee, he is playing less than 20 minutes per game. He’s hovering right around that mark, yet it’s still significantly less action than his previous stops in Philadelphia and Atlanta.
Ilyasova acknowledged the decreased minutes as a potential reason for his inconsistent offensive production, but he is willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the Bucks.
“It’s all about [fitting in],” Ilyasova told Basketball Insiders. “Obviously, we have Giannis [Antetokoumpo] – sometimes he plays more than 30 minutes a game, which is okay with me anytime, so it’s not a really big deal. I’m here just to help the team and the wins.
“And the coach just uses [me] whatever he uses the way he sees fit. I’m really cool with that. If we’re winning the games, it’s all good.”
This season has been a reunion for Ilyasova and Giannis. The two were teammates when the Greek Freak came into the NBA as a teenage prospect with raw talent.
Having been around Ilyasova at the beginning of his career, Giannis is ecstatic to have the 31-year-old around again in Milwaukee.
“I think he’s doing a great job being aggressive on the defensive end, crashing the boards, knocking down open shots,” Giannis said after the win in Cleveland.
“He’s so funny in the locker room. He’s just a great guy. Great energy. Plays it our way, plays hard. And he’s unselfish. He plays for the team. He does whatever it takes to help his team win and he’s just fun to be around. He’s basically one of my closest guys on the team.”
Reciprocating his teammate’s compliments, Ilyasova has greatly noticed the strides that the All-Star forward has made since his first couple of seasons.
“He’s proved a lot, you know? On the floor and off the court, as well,” Ilyasova told Basketball Insiders of Giannis. “When I [had] seen him first, he obviously gained a lot of weight. He was skinnier then what he [is] right now, way skinny.
“But now he’s improved a lot – the vision, all aspects of basketball. Because I think back in the day, it was more like a try to kinda penetrate and score, now he’s just kinda trying to pass. He plays real decent defense. Like I said, he’s just improved overall.”
As Giannis has gotten better, so have the Bucks. Albeit the coaching situation has been everything but concrete in the last few years, the organization might have finally found real stability with its hiring of Mike Budenholzer.
For starters, Milwaukee is playing a modern-era style of basketball. The goal is to make threes and get stops with a lengthy, versatile roster comprised of players who can defend and shoot. Efficiency and toughness seem to be the two staples to Budenholzer’s methods, and they’re working.
While Giannis is at the center of the Bucks’ success as a scorer and as a willing passer, which Budenholzer has encouraged him to be, it isn’t just about the Greek Freak.
“It’s allowed me to take my next step, but I feel like right now we’re playing so good and the offense fits this team and as a team we’re taking the next step,” Giannis said. “I feel everybody can come in and contribute and the offense that Coach Bud has us running makes my teammates great, so I’m really happy about that.
“I know that everybody can come in and touch the ball, get some energy of the ball, get some open shots, get some open threes, play some defense. It’s just fun playing in this system.”
According to Cleaning The Glass, the Bucks rank second in offensive rating (114.3) and seventh in defensive rating (106.1). They lead the league in three-point makes per game (14.1) and have held their competition to a league-low 43.7 field goal percentage from the field.
This is Ilyasova’s second straight season playing for Budenholzer in some capacity. He played 72 games under the veteran head coach during his time with the Hawks, so seeing this success in Milwaukee isn’t surprising one bit.
“He gives you a lot of freedom to play, just kinda be their own [player] and create some stuff. We really play open basketball,” Ilyasova told Basketball Insiders.
“Just kinda ball movement, try to [find] the open man and then shoot a lot of three-point shots. The way that basketball is going right now, it’s just a lot of teams just kinda trying to do the same thing – play small and just play faster.”
Recently, the Bucks decided to bolster their roster with a couple of veteran additions, George Hill and Jason Smith. Both guys have played against Ilyasova in meaningful games. With Smith, particularly, it was in the postseason.
Ilyasova feels their experiences will bring a necessary element to a team striving for big things come mid-April and, hopefully, beyond. With five years of playoff experience under his belt, he believes that home court advantage can be critical.
It’s clear that the Bucks’ aspirations are high, as are many teams’ hopes in the Eastern Conference. Looking at the top five, the gap between the top of the mountain and middle of the pack is a mere three-and-a-half games.
It’s early, but Milwaukee’s loss in Indiana was a bit of a stinger as far as the standings go. The team got back on track with a convincing win over the Cavaliers and will aim to close this brief Central Division road trip out on a high note against the Detroit Pistons.
“It’s a lot of games to play,” Ilyasova told Basketball Insiders. “It’s not easy to just come up and kinda assume you know you’re gonna win those games. You have to come up and give your 110 percent to win the games.
“It doesn’t even matter – even same game when you play against Cleveland, all those teams below the .500 [mark] right now – you have to come up and put [everything] on the line to win the games.”
Pose a question about the general favorites to come out of the East and you’ll probably hear the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and the Philadelphia 76ers at the top of the list.
Not too many seem to hold the Bucks in the same regard as those three. Ilyasova admits that it can provide a little extra motivation to prove that they do belong in that conversation.
“I think we have really good talent on the team,” Ilyasova told Basketball Insiders. “Our expectations [are] high. For us, just being in the playoffs, that’s not a goal no more, just go farther.”
“Our goal is always being a championship-caliber team, but before we reach that it’s just first to reach the playoffs. We have to set the goals, not just kinda looking forward to it. Obviously, winning the most games we can and go with it.”
NBA Daily: Will Jabari Parker Figure It Out?
After disappointing his second consecutive team, Jabari Parker has found himself on the block. Matt John explores what has gone wrong in Chicago and how he can turn it around.
Once upon a time, Jabari Parker was supposed to be the NBA’s next big thing.
Now, he’s potentially the NBA’s next salary dump.
The man who was once deemed a “can’t miss prospect” merely four years ago is now the latest installment in what’s been a rare pattern this season of teams cutting ties very early with their most recent offseason additions.
First, it was Houston when they decided to oust Carmelo Anthony after ten games. Then, Phoenix did the same with Trevor Ariza after 26 games. And now, it appears that Jabari is now done-zo in the Windy City after 29 games.
The difference between Carmelo/Ariza and Jabari is that the former two’s stints in their new homes coming to a quick end wasn’t all that unexpected. Carmelo’s move to Houston drew a lot of skepticism given what had happened in his previous year at OKC, while Ariza joined a team who had very little expectation to begin with.
Jabari is another story. It’s true that he didn’t come into Chicago with any major expectations. Signing a two-year, $40 million contract with a team option for next year meant virtually no downside for the Bulls. If Parker panned out, then they’d keep him, and if not, they could get him off the books easily.
While things haven’t worked out, the Bulls surprisingly have elected to pull the plug now rather than just wait it out until the end of the season. Coupling this along with the Bulls’ most recent turmoil makes you wonder how much Parker has to do with it. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, or maybe he’s the direct source.
Either way, Jabari’s going to have a new home sometime in the near future. The question asked here isn’t going to be where that is. Instead, the question is, when he is traded to his next team, will he ever be the player we all thought he would be?
Remember that this is the same guy who back in 2012 was deemed “the best high school basketball player since LeBron James.” The same guy that prompted several teams to throw away their season just for the chance to get their hands on him in the 2014 draft. The same guy who many thought was the perfect partner-in-crime to pair up with Giannis Antetokounmpo.
We’ve seen stretches of that player since Parker came into the NBA. They’ve just come so rarely and, even when they have, they haven’t always led to a positive impact. Unfortunately, the warning signs that came with Jabari coming out of college have definitely manifested themselves.
First, remember that whole, “they don’t pay players to play defense” schtick that Jabari said non-sarcastically at his introductory press conference? Well, the man deserves credit for keeping it real.
Jabari Parker really wasn’t kidding when he said he wasn’t paid to play defense pic.twitter.com/0IyRk9JzQ3
— NOTSportsCenter (@NOTSportsCenter) November 8, 2018
That little snippet is one of many examples of Parker’s ineptitude on the defensive end. Again, he wasn’t expected to be Kawhi Leonard out there, but no player who wants to make it in this league should have instances where they look completely helpless on that end of the floor.
Statistics don’t exactly help his case either. Outside of his tragically cut-short rookie season, Parker’s never had a defensive rating lower than 110 according to Basketball Reference, and the Bulls are minus-4.2 in defensive rating with Parker on the floor this season, per NBA.com.
Secondly, it’s Parker’s inability to help the offense despite his reputation as an offensively-savvy player.
It sounds odd because basic statistics will tell you that Jabari’s doing just fine. He’s putting 15.2 points on 45 percent shooting as well as corralling 6.9 rebounds a night. In fact, the Bulls are plus-3 in offensive rating when he’s on the floor. A closer look, though, will say otherwise.
Even if the Bulls are technically better offensively with Jabari on the floor, he only raises their offensive rating from 95 to 98 when he’s on the floor. The Bulls currently have the lowest rated offense at 100.7 according to Basketball Reference, so it’s not as if his contributions make things that much better.
Other metrics prove that Parker’s a negative offensively to the Bulls. His offensive win shares are currently at -0.9, and his offensive box plus/minus is -3.3. Perhaps the worst indicator of his negative impact on offense is his mid-range shooting.
— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) December 3, 2018
Parker currently shoots 18.3 percent of his shots from 16 feet to less than the 3-point arc. That wouldn’t be so bad if he could regularly hit those shots, but he only hits 35.2 percent of them. Compare to that to say, Kevin Durant, who shoots a higher percentage of his shots from 16 feet to less than the 3-point arc at 19.2 percent, and hits 49.1 percent of them.
Here’s the worst one of them all – of the 451 players listed on ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus, Parker currently ranks 439 with a Real Plus-Minus of -4.17.
It really doesn’t look good for him, and his disappointing start so far both this year and his career so far is eerily similar to another player who went down as one of the bigger busts in recent memory: Michael Beasley.
Beasley came into the NBA with major expectations. His scoring prowess seemed so advanced that he drew comparisons to Kevin Durant. Of course, Beasley didn’t pan out and even found himself out of the league for a bit because of two reasons.
1. His porous defense.
2. His insistence on taking long two’s instead of threes
3. His poor mental state
Since coming back into the league, he has since found his niche, which is good to see for him. That still doesn’t rid him of the bust label. Parker does not have the same mental struggles that Beasley had, but their two other struggles are very much alike.
Cut Jabari some slack though. A fair amount of his problems are not his fault. Tearing the same ACL twice in a 2.5-year span is a huge hurdle to get over. That had to play a role in his lack of progression, which is a given. There might, however, be two other specific reasons as to what’s stopped him from putting it together.
First is that Jabari has never exactly played under a well-regarded coach. So far, Parker has played for four head coaches: Jason Kidd, Joe Prunty, Fred Hoiberg and Jim Boylen. None of these four coaches have made any serious noise in the NBA, with the closest one to doing so being Kidd. Kidd’s best run as coach didn’t happen in Milwaukee, and he was rumored to be at odds with Parker.
Parker was part of arguably the most underachieving team in the league under Kidd/Prunty, and then went to play for a team whose coaching situation isn’t very stable at the moment in Chicago. One could argue that because he’s never played under a good coach in the NBA, Jabari’s never been given a real chance to prove himself.
Playing under the right coach could help with the second reason he hasn’t figured it out, which is him playing in the right role. Parker came into the league with an undefined position. Teams weren’t sure which position he would thrive in since he had the height to play both small and power forward. According to Basketball Reference, Parker has played the majority of his minutes – 81 percent – at power forward, which made him an awkward fit on the Bucks and the Bulls.
Both Milwaukee and Chicago have excellent young talent at power forwards with the Greek Freak and Lauri Markkanen, which probably limited Parker’s effectiveness. If he’s on a team that doesn’t have a power forward that could get in his way, that could lead to a breakthrough for the guy. That is also banking on the idea that he would be playing under the right coach.
This is all speculative though. Even if he hasn’t played under the most competent head coaches, or for the most stable organizations, a guy with as much talent as Jabari Parker shouldn’t have his production be delayed for as long as it has.
If Parker doesn’t turn it around on his next team, then his excuses may run out, as well as his time in the NBA.
NBA Daily: Suns Change Course With Trade
The Phoenix Suns have changed course with their trade for Kelly Oubre, Jr. and Austin Rivers, writes James Blancarte
The beginning to this season has been a whirlwind and the Western Conference is as competitive as ever. At 13-16, even the 14th place Minnesota Timberwolves are still not that far outside of the playoff picture. Every Western Conference team is competitive, except for the Phoenix Suns. Now, the Suns have won their last two games, including a win over the Timberwolves. Regardless, they are still well outside the playoff picture and should be primarily focused on the big picture beyond this season.
Adrian Wojnarowksi of ESPN took league and its fans on a rollercoaster this past Friday when he broke the news that the Washington Wizards, Memphis Grizzlies and Suns were on the cusp of completing a three-way trade. For the Suns, this three-way trade centered around moving forward Trevor Ariza. As quickly as the news had erupted, it appeared to go sideways with revelations of miscommunications between the teams and which players were going to be involved. Soon after the miscommunication came to light, news leaked that the deal was off.
The Suns and Wizards didn’t take long to re-engage in trade talks. On Saturday, the Suns and Wizards were able to complete a trade. The Suns received guard Austin Rivers and forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. In exchange, the Suns sent Ariza (again) to the Wizards. The Wizards are hoping that Ariza’s return helps to solve the chemistry issues that have thrown a wrench into this season so far.
“One of the best veteran teammates I’ve had,” John Wall said regarding Ariza.
In addition, the trade helps the Wizards avoid having to re-sign Oubre, Jr. at a time when their salary cap remains bloated for the foreseeable future.
For the Suns, they get a young, talented player in Oubre, Jr., who may be a huge part of the team’s plan going forward if he can take a significant step forward in his development. However, getting another wing isn’t the exact elixir that this team needs. Quality point guard play has been elusive for the Suns. A few weeks ago the team gave Elie Okobo a chance to step into the role. Okobo spoke to Basketball Insiders around this time about his effort and what he could work on going forward.
“I’m just trying to be aggressive and help my team to win games. I work hard and try to help them and get the confidence, trust from them and the coaching staff,” Okobo told Basketball Insiders. “I would say the playmaking, avoid the little turnovers, the little mistakes and make my open shots and just try to play really aggressive and defend.”
Amidst an extended losing streak, Okobo’s playing time decreased after starting three games in that period. Recently, the Suns allowed De’Anthony Melton to play and show that he could step up. Melton has started the last five games and has shown himself to be capable as well. The Suns have even won the last two games to break their losing streak.
A few good games don’t necessarily mean the point guard situation is settled long-term. In addition to Oubre, Jr, the Suns also received Rivers. With the Los Angeles Clippers, Rivers showed himself capable of stepping in as an off-guard who could handle the point in spot minutes, when needed. Over the years, Rivers has also proven himself to be a capable off-the-bench scorer who could exert above average effort, especially on defense.
With Washington, Rivers was expected to be a reliable bench scorer and someone who could fill in for one of the team’s lead guards, if necessary. However, the Wizards season didn’t start off as they had intended. Rivers never found a comfortable fit on offense and often sat on the bench for key stretches. To his credit, Rivers did prove himself to be a capable and focused defender.
Whether Rivers will get a chance to prove himself worthy of major minutes is up in the air. What the Suns need is a lead reliable point guard capable of relieving Devin Booker from his responsibilities as the team’s lead playmaker. Suns Head Coach Igor Kokoškov expressed his interest in doing so to Basketball Insiders earlier this season.
“I think Devin Booker’s main thing, his job description is to score for us. He is a scoring guard and he is doing a lot of handling, a lot of playmaking, we never put him on a point guard to guard. So, whoever you guard, that is your position. He is not a point guard. He’s a playmaker, he’s going to handle a lot. James Harden is a playmaker, a scoring guard. Same type, same type of player,” Kokoškov said.
Now with Rivers in Phoenix, he might have a chance to play as an off-guard who can help bring the ball up the court, handle in spots, defer to Booker and play defense.
“If we have a traditional point guard or not, Booker’s going to have the ball in his hands,” Kokoškov said.
Kelly Oubre, Jr. is the major addition for the Suns in this trade, showing Phoenix is now mostly concerned with the future. However, a player like Rivers could prove valuable this season and could have an impact on roster decisions the team makes moving forward.