With the 2018 NBA Trade Deadline having passed, nobody could fault fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers for checking their frequent flier miles and hotel points.
After a flurry of deadline day deals, Team LeBron did everything it could to bolster its chances of winning the Eastern Conference for a fourth consecutive year.
As the dust settles on another NBA trade deadline having come and gone, just as much time will be spent discussing the players that didn’t get moved as those who did, though.
At the end of the day, the Los Angeles Clippers were believed to be one of the teams that would be busiest on February 8, but after shockingly trading Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons more than a week prior to the deadline, the Clippers opted to hold onto DeAndre Jordan and signed Lou Williams to an extension—relatively surprising outcomes.
Tyreke Evans and Marco Belinelli were two other players who have been mentioned in trade rumors, but neither was moved.
With that said, we’ll focus on the biggest trades that did happen and what they mean for the teams involved.
The Cavaliers traded Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and a 2018 first round draft pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance, Jr.
With the first of their three moves of the day, the Cavs got younger and faster. After weeks of speculation, they also opted to trade their first round pick in this year’s draft—something that the team was able to consider after receiving the Nets’ 2018 first round pick in exchange for Kyrie Irving.
Clarkson and Nance will each give James viable targets. More importantly, they’ll help the team play faster and give them the young, fresh legs that they’ll likely need to be able to keep up with the Boston Celtics. The only downside to the trade for the Cavs was that it seemingly created a gap at point guard, but the team quickly filled it.
For the Lakers, the deal was an absolute home run. They received a first round pick while also getting rid of some of the long money on their books. As a result of the trade, they are poised to have an opportunity to sign two maximum-salaried players this coming summer.
The Cavaliers, Sacramento Kings and Utah Jazz completed a three-team trade that resulted in Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder being sent to the Jazz, Iman Shumpert and Joe Johnson being sent to the Kings and George Hill and Rodney Hood being sent to the Cavs. The Kings will also receive Miami’s 2020 second round draft pick plus over $3 million in cash.
In the second deal of the day featuring the Cavs, the team addressed the point guard situation that was created by Thomas’ departure and replaced him with George Hill. They also acquired the impressive but inconsistent Rodney Hood. The 25-year-old wing was enjoying a career year in Utah, but with the emergence of rookie Donovan Mitchell, he became somewhat expendable. With Crowder, the Jazz receive an impact player who had trouble fitting in with the Cavs.
For the Kings, the trade seemed to be more about ridding itself of the $19 million salary obligation due to Hill next season. They also received a future second round pick in the deal, currency that’ll always be valuable to a rebuilding team.
Cleveland Cavaliers traded Dwyane Wade to the Miami HEAT in exchange for a future second round draft pick.
With the Cavs dedicating themselves to getting younger and faster, it didn’t seem that Dwyane Wade would fit in. When approached with the possibility of being sent back to Miami, Wade, who had gone on record as saying he wanted to end his career where it began, okayed the move. For the Cavs, this deal was more about youth, chemistry and fit than it was about talent.
The New York Knicks, Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks completed a three-team trade that resulted in Doug McDermott being sent to the Mavericks, Devin Harris being sent to the Nuggets and Emmanuel Mudiay being sent to the Knicks. As a part of the deal, the Nuggets will also receive a second round draft pick from the Knicks.
The Knicks added Mudiay to an already cluttered backcourt and seemingly cast some doubt as to whether they truly believe Frank Ntilikina is a franchise-caliber point guard. Mudiay, whom the Knicks passed on in 2015 when they drafted Kristaps Porzingis, will join a backcourt that already includes Ntilikina, Trey Burke, Ron Baker, Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Courtney Lee. Still, it’s difficult to argue with the upside. The team added a 21-year-old point guard whose potential helped him become a lottery pick in exchange for Doug McDermott—a seldom-used journeyman who didn’t maintain his high level of play enough to be thought of as a cornerstone for the franchise.
For the Nuggets, the addition of Devin Harris provides a solid veteran for the young backcourt that features Gary Harris and Jamal Murray and should only bolster their chances of securing a playoff seed this season.
McDermott will give the Mavericks another shooter, which most teams wouldn’t turn down the opportunity at attaining.
The Orlando Magic traded Elfrid Payton to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for a future second round draft pick.
Things haven’t exactly gone as planned for the front office in Orlando, and as they take stock of what they have, they will begin divesting themselves of pieces that don’t seem to fit in long-term. After failing to peddle Payton to the Knicks in return for Frank Ntilikina, the Magic ended up shipping Payton to Phoenix in exchange for a future second round pick.
As the Suns continue to attempt to climb back to respectability, they’ll attain Payton, whom they will hope can form a dynamic backcourt with Devin Booker.
The Portland Trail Blazers traded Noah Vonleh to the Chicago Bulls for the draft rights to Milovan Rakovic. As a part of the deal, the Blazers also received cash considerations from the Bulls.
The Blazers made this deal for financial considerations. Now in his fourth year, Vonleh hasn’t been an impact player at the NBA level, and his $3.5 million salary was the difference between being a tax payer and tax collector for the Blazers. Trading him was wise for Portland, as it was for the Bulls, as well.
The Bulls acquired a low-risk, high-reward piece in Vonleh for some cash—something the franchise hasn’t traditionally been short on.
The Chicago Bulls traded Jameer Nelson to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Willie Reed. As a part of the deal, the Bulls also receive the right to swap second round picks with the Pistons in the 2022 NBA Draft.
In the other deal they completed on deadline day, the Bulls got younger by sending Jameer Nelson to the Pistons. Everyone that has ever interacted with Reed speaks positively of his talent and work ethic, so it’s strange that he hasn’t been able to stick with a team. He will have an opportunity to fight for minutes in Chicago, though hopefully, not literally.
After being acquired by the Bulls in the trade that sent Nikola Mirotic to New Orleans, Nelson was routed to a playoff contender and will be reunited with Stan Van Gundy, whom Nelson played for as a member of the Orlando Magic. At this point, Nelson is a solid hand at the point guard spot and should only help the Pistons in their mission to secure a playoff spot.
The New Orleans Pelicans traded Dante Cunningham to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Rashad Vaughn.
For the Nets, the acquisition of Dante Cunningham provides the team with another versatile wing defender—something that has become a premium in today’s league. Vaughn, after being selected with the 15th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, hasn’t gotten much of an opportunity to make an impact. Vaughn played just one game as a member of the Nets, who received the player last week in exchange for Tyler Zeller.
With the trade deadline having come and gone, the Lakers have done the most to improve their future prospects while the HEAT appear to have done the best in terms of the talent they’ve acquired relative to what they gave up.
At the end of the day, Cleveland simply needed to do something to keep up with the Celtics, who also made a big splash on deadline day by announcing that they had signed Greg Monroe. After being traded by the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Eric Bledsoe in November, Monroe recently agreed to a contract buyout with the Suns.
Before you blink, we’ll be at the All-Star break, then, it’ll be all about sprinting to the postseason.
With other buyout candidates likely to emerge, acquisitions aren’t done just yet. But, we’ve seen most of the fireworks. Now, it’s time to see who’ll be laughing last.
NBA AM: Who’s the Next Donovan Mitchell?
Donovan Mitchell provided elite value at the back end of the lottery. Who might that player be this summer?
The entire reason that so many non-playoff teams worked so diligently to blow their seasons was to get the best odds possible for the first overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft. Watching LeBron James (a former first overall draft pick) do what he’s done to the league for the last 15 years, the desire to land a top pick is understandable. Ben Simmons, the heir apparent and likely Rookie of the Year, also was a first overall draft pick a couple of seasons ago.
In fact, of the 38 former first overall picks dating back to 1980, 28 of them would evolve into All-Stars, and it seems like only a matter of time before Simmons is added to that list, too. A higher percentage of top picks have been named All-Stars than any other slot in the draft. Numbers don’t lie. There is no pick more valuable than the very first one.
Donovan Mitchell is good, too. Like, really good. He’s so good that there’s just as strong an argument for him as this season’s Rookie of the Year as there is for Simmons. Mitchell, though, was not a first overall pick. He was picked 13th, at the back end of the lottery.
He isn’t alone in landing elite value for teams picking outside of the lottery’s top half. Devin Booker was picked 13th in 2015. Giannis Antetokounmpo was the 15th selection in 2013. In 2011, Klay Thompson was picked 11th, while Kawhi Leonard was chosen with the 15th pick that same year. Paul George went 10th overall in 2010.
In other words, there are plenty of really good prospects every summer to give late-lottery teams hope. They might not generate the same hype as the guys vying for that top overall selection, but they’re also clearly a lot better than the tiers of players that start coming off the board in the 20s and 30s. All-Stars lurk in the 10-to-15 range of the draft, especially in a loaded class like the one we’re looking at this summer.
That begs the question: who is this year’s Donovan Mitchell?
Here are three possibilities:
Back in November, a series of unfortunate circumstances in a game against Minnesota led to a mass ejection of Alabama players that resulted in just three players being allowed to play the final ten minutes. Sexton was one of those three players and led a Crimson Tide rally despite the lopsided Minnesota power play. ‘Bama outscored the Gophers 30-22 in those final 10 minutes despite being down two players, and Sexton finished the game with 40 points. That’s how good he is.
Of course, he could slip in this draft if only because there are so many flashier names ahead of him. It appears as though seven players (DeAndre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Jaren Jackson, Marin Bagley, Michael Porter, Mo Bamba and Trae Young) likely will be drafted before him, which puts him in a category with guys like Mikal Bridges, Wendell Carter, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Miles Bridges, and Kevin Knox. Sexton probably will fall somewhere in that range, which means he would fall somewhere between the eighth and 13th pick.
He is competitive, charismatic and incredibly driven, so there’s a really good chance he does well in interviews and workouts and shows how elite he is. On the other hand, if he falls to the Sixers or Hornets or Clippers, some non-tanking team could end up with one of the biggest stars of the draft.
Coming into his sophomore season, Bridges was considered one of the top NBA prospects in college basketball, and while that is still true to a certain extent, his stock dropped a bit this past season while several players—including his teammate Jaren Jackson, Jr.—saw their own stocks rise.
Despite a minor loss in momentum, Bridges is one of the most NBA-ready players projected to be selected in the lottery. He’s still young enough to have a high ceiling, but he’s older and more physically mature than a lot of the other players vying to be drafted in his neck of the pecking order. He does nearly everything well, from ball handling to rebounding to shooting, and he can play both ends of the floor. His athleticism is his calling card, and that added to everything else he does well makes him a lock for some measure of NBA success.
He has his flaws, but he’s probably an All-Rookie First Teamer that will be selected after ten players that aren’t. That makes him a potential steal on the back-end of the lottery.
This time last year, Porter was a 17-year-old kid deciding whether or not to reclassify and play at the University of Missouri with his older brother Michael Porter, Jr. and under his father Michael Porter, Sr., who is a member of the coaching staff there. Obviously big bro is a high lottery pick, but the younger sibling was the 11th rated prospect in his high school class (the one with Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett) before reclassifying.
He has declared for this summer’s draft but hasn’t yet hired an agent. If he stays in, he’ll be the youngest player in the draft, and mid-first round is where teams start gambling on the uber-young players with mountains of potential rather than older, more proven college players.
In Porter’s case, that could mean a mid-to-late first-round team ends up with a tremendous bargain, even if it takes him a few years to grow into himself. He’s 6-foot-11 but is incredibly smart and well-rounded on offense. He shoots threes (he hit 110 of them as a freshman at Mizzou), but he’s know for his vision and passing more than anything. That’s a modern-day stretch-four or stretch-five if ever there was one, and getting him a year before his time could be a way for a team to steal a deal in the middle of the first round.
With the playoffs in full swing, most observers are focused in on the battles for conference supremacy. For many of the NBA’s other teams, though, the draft preparation process has begun.
In short order, we’ll see which teams end up snagging the next Donovan Mitchell.
NBA Daily: Pelicans Might Be Better Off Without DeMarcus Cousins
Without DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis has excelled. It might not be a coincidence.
Forget Kawhi Leonard, the most interesting storyline of this NBA summer is going to be DeMarcus Cousins.
By now, if you’ve wondered whether the New Orleans Pelicans would be better off without the talented big man, you’re certainly not alone.
Just ask the Portland Trail Blazers.
On Saturday, the Pelicans pulled off an improbable sweep of the third-seeded Blazers in the first round of their best-of-seven playoff series. And while the immediate question that comes to mind is what to make of the Blazers, a similar question can be (and should be) asked of the Pelicans.
Without question, Cousins is one of the most gifted big men the NBA has sen in quite some time, but it shouldn’t be lost on any of us that Anthony Davis began to put forth superhuman efforts when Cousins was absent.
Ever heard the saying that too many cooks spoil the brew?
That may be pricisely the case here.
Sure, having good players at your disposal is a problem that most head coach in the league would sign up for, but it takes a special type of player to willingly cede touches and shots in the name of the best interests of the team.
We once had a similar conversation about Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, mind you. Those that recognized that Westbrook’s ball dominance and inefficiency took opportunities away from Durant to be the best version of himself once believed that the Oklahoma City Thunder would have been wise to pitch Westbrook to New Orleans back when Chris Paul was still manning their perimeter.
For what it’s worth, with Cousins in the lineup, he averaged 18 shots per game. In the 48 games he played this season, the Pelicans were 27-21. With him in the lineup, Davis shot the ball 17.6 times per game and scored 26.5 points per contest.
In the 34 games the Pelicans played without Cousins, Davis’ shot attempts increased fairly significantly. He got 21.9 attempts per contest and similarly increased his scoring output to 30.2 points per game.
Aside from that, Cousins’ presence in the middle made it a tad more difficult for Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday to have the pace and space they need to be most effective. With both Davis and Cousins, the Pelicans struggled to consistently string together wins. Without Cousins, they improbably became the first team in the Western Conference to advance to the second round.
That Cousins tore his achilles tendon and is just a few months from becoming an unrestricted free agent combine to make him the most interesting man in the NBA.
* * * * * *
With Chris Paul having decided that the grass was probably greener with James Harden and Mike D’Antoni than it was with Doc Rivers and Blake Griffin, the Clippers fulfilled his request to be trade to the Houston Rockets and re-signed Griffin to a five-year max. deal. In doing so, they both gave Griffin a stark reminder of what life in the NBA is like and provided a blueprint for teams to follow when they have a superstar player with whom they believe to have run their course.
The glass half full perspective might be that Davis has simply become a better, healthier, more effective player and that with Cousins, he would have another weapon that could help catapult the Pelicans ever further toward the top of the Western Conference. But the half-empty glass might yield another conclusion.
At the end of the day, although he still hasn’t appeared in a single playoff game, Cousins is regarded as a game-changing talent and is one of the few players available on the free agency market this summer that could justify an annual average salary of $30 million. In all likelihood, the Pelicans will re-sign him for a sum that approaches that, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best move.
In the end, the Clippers traded Griffin for Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, a first round pick and a second round pick. All things considered, it was a great haul for the Clippers when you consider that, just a few months prior, they could have lost Griffin as a free agent and gotten nothing in return.
Remarkably, after seeing Griffin dealt to Detroit, in the Western Conference, the Pelicans are on a collision course with the Golden State Warriors. Their health a constant concern, the team will have to deal with the pesky perimeter defense of Holiday and Rondo and versatility and two-way effectiveness of Davis.
Nobody gave New Orleans a chance against Portland, and for sure, not many people are going to believe in their ability to score an upset over the defending champions. But believe it or not, New Orleans has become a different team. And they’ve done so without Cousins.
Indeed, believe it or not, the Clippers gave us a blueprint for what a team should do when it has a superstar who might not be the best long-term fit for their program.
And if the Pelicans were wise, they’d be smart to follow it.
NBA Daily: Rookie Contributors Lifting Playoff Teams
This year’s impressive rookie class has translated their regular season performances to the playoff stage.
This past NBA season had the luxury of an incredibly entertaining and high-powered rookie class. Every other day it seemed like the feats of either Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, Lauri Markkanen, Dennis Smith Jr., Kyle Kuzma, or Ben Simmons were dominating the discussion about how advanced the league’s crop of newbies appeared to be.
As a result, the 2017-18 Rookie of the Year race was a much more heated discussion than the year before.
With the impressive campaign these NBA freshmen put together, it should come as no surprise that on the on bright stage of playoff basketball, three of the aforementioned crop are helping lead their team’s in tight first-round battles.
Donovan Mitchell has been the leading scorer for the Utah Jazz through two games in their series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Jayson Tatum is stepping up for the Boston Celtics to help fill in the void of Kyrie Irving as they take on the Milwaukee Bucks. Ben Simmons is nearly averaging a triple-double through three games for the Philadelphia 76ers in their matchup with the Miami HEAT.
Lottery pick talents are expected in today’s NBA to come in and have some level of impact for their clubs. Usually, they play the role as a foundational building block that shows flashes of promise with an expected up-and-down first season. While these three playoff contributors haven’t been perfect all year long, under the pressure of the postseason, they’ve stepped up their play and appear to be avoiding the learning curve.
With that, let’s highlight further what Mitchell, Tatum, and Simmons have been able to do thus far in the postseason.
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
All season long Mitchell threw the entire scoring load of Salt Lake City on his back for the Jazz and helped carry them to a 5-seed in the Western Conference when early season projections suggested they should head towards in the wake of Rudy Gobert’s injury.
However, the 13th pick out of Louisville had no intentions of missing out on the postseason. And from the looks of his production so far, who can blame him?
Through the first two games of the Jazz-Thunder series, Mitchell yet again placed his name in the same breath as Michael Jordan. Mitchell’s 55 points in his first two playoff games broke Jordan’s record of 53 for most points scored by a rookie guard in that scenario.
Mitchell’s 27 points in Game 1 and 28 points in Game 2 led the Jazz to even the series and steal home court advantage from the Thunder. While he hasn’t been responsible for setting up the team’s offense, tallying just five assists through those two games, Mitchell is fulfilling the role of Gordon Hayward as the team’s primary scorer.
In a series against a team that features the likes of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony, Utah needs Mitchell to go out there and get as many buckets as he possibly can.
So far, he appears to be welcoming the challenge.
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
When it was announced that Kyrie Irving would be lost for the entire postseason due to injury, the Boston Celtics’ hold on the 2-seed seemed a lot less intimidating than it once was in the Eastern Conference.
However, three games into the first round series against the Bucks, the Celtics hold a 2-1 lead. A lot part of that has to do with the role Tatum has been able to step in and play right away with the Celtics down their main scorer and playmaker.
Throughout the first three games of the series, Tatum 12.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 2.3 steals. The third overall pick in the 2017 draft started the series off with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and three steals to help Boston start off the matchup with a 1-0 lead.
At just 20 years old, Tatum is matching his age number with his usage percentage thus far against Milwaukee. For some perspective, Jaylen Brown managed just 12 minutes a night for the Celtics last season as a rookie when the playoffs rolled around.
Granted, injuries and missing players are helping in Tatum being on the court as much as he has, but the rookie is earning his time out there on the court.
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
The perceived frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, Ben Simmons has taken control in his first ever playoff series.
For starters, Simmons is averaging nearly a triple double over his first three games against the HEAT; 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 9.7 assists.
On top of his triple double ways, Simmons has upped arguably his biggest weakness so far in the playoffs, shooting 75 percent from the charity stripe. During the regular season, Simmons struggled from the line, hitting only 56 percent of his attempts.
With the offensive prowess of Simmons obvious, it’s the job he’s doing on the defensive end of the court against an aggressive and tough Miami squad that’s elevating his play to the next level.
Simmons’ ability to switch all over the defensive end of the court has placed his responsibilities from Goran Dragic to Justise Winslow to James Johnson, and seemingly everywhere in between.
Now with Joel Embiid back in the fold for the Sixers and Simmons, the rookie point guard has his defensive partner on the floor to help ease the workload on that end. A two-way performance each night will be imperative for Simmons in helping lead the young Sixers past the experienced HEAT team.