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NBA PM: The Trade Deadline is Nearing

The trade deadline is less than 30 days away. Steve Kyler breaks down the latest rumors surrounding notable players.

Steve Kyler

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Trade Deadline Less Than 30 Days Away

As the crickets of the 2015-16 NBA trade season continue to chirp, there are some buyers in the NBA market place open to making a deal. The problem is that there doesn’t appear to be many teams looking to be sellers; even some of the most aggressive in-season traders are starting to accept that there are not many deals worth doing and this could lead to a very anti-climactic trade deadline.

Here are some of the names to think about, and what is being said about them in NBA circles:

Markieff Morris, Phoenix

There continues to be talk that the Phoenix Suns could move off forward Markieff Morris if they really wanted to, but there is a growing sense that what comes back in a Morris deal may not be very attractive to the Suns in both the short-term and the long-term.

Sources close to the Suns say that they are not going to make a bad deal just to force Morris off the roster, but as the deadline gets closer there is an increasing sense around the league that Phoenix might blink on a deal just to remove the problem from their equation.

Morris has returned to the starting lineup, which could help the Suns’ case. However, Morris has been wildly inconsistent in his production, which could hurt the process too.

At points this season, Morris has been linked to the Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans and Cleveland Cavaliers, but sources close to all three teams said recently that Morris was not a player they’re actively consideration. But as the deadline looms, being a buyer means considering what’s available to buy and Morris is a player who could be had and his price tag may go down inside the next 30 days.

Dwight Howard, Houston

While this may sound like semantics, Houston Rockets big man Dwight Howard does not have an opt-out in his contract. The wording of his deal is an opt-in. While it is functionally the same, the process is slightly different. Howard will be a free agent in July and that was always what was agreed to when he signed in Houston. This was always part of Houston’s thinking and it was part of their free agency pitch. The option year was simply injury protection, as the plan from the first day in Houston was that Howard would ink a new deal this summer.

This becomes important because there is a narrative that suggests Howard would walk away from Houston in July and therefore the Rockets have to trade him before the deadline. The problem is that’s not what either side agreed to when they did the deal.

That’s not to say that Howard wouldn’t explore his options or that Houston wouldn’t want to rethink would could be a $30 million per year re-commitment to Howard.

What it does mean is that Houston is not looking at deals involving Howard, and they are prepared to enter the offseason and address Dwight’s situation in July.

The Rockets feel like they are in a good place with Howard and that he is a key part of why they have turned the season around, so trying to move him before the deadline just is not in the thought process.

That’s not to say a blockbuster deal landing on Houston’s doorstep wouldn’t get consideration – it means there isn’t much there worth talking about, especially as it pertains to Howard.

It is still very possible that the Rockets pull the trigger on a deadline-related trade. They have guys with trade value who could help a team for a stretch run. But what’s become very clear is that Howard likely won’t be moved.

David Lee, Boston

When David Lee and his agent requested a trade from the Golden State Warriors, it was not because Lee was unhappy. Rather, it was because Lee was entering the final year of his contract and needed a situation where he could play in order to secure a sizable deal this summer. The Boston Celtics were one of several options presented, and Lee and his camp chose Boston specifically.

As the deadline approaches, Lee is averaging 15.7 minutes per game on the season and has not played in five of the Celtics’ last six games. When Lee plays, he’s been productive, but the Celtics simply do not have a role for him.

The problem for Boston is that it’s difficult to move Lee’s $15.4 million contract without any long-term cap impact. Their desire to keep their flexibility and not take on long-term money is something the Celtics have made clear to inquiring teams.

One of the teams that continues to be mentioned as a possibility for Lee at the deadline is the Toronto Raptors. However, making the cap math work would be complicated unless a third team that’s willing to take on one of Toronto’s longer deals gets involved.

The Celtics have been on a skid as of late and have been actively looking at deals where they could liquidate some of their duplication or trade up in the talent department, and Lee is one of the guys they are expected to try to move at the deadline.

Finding a deal for a $15.4 million contract is never easy, but it seems that both Lee and the Celtics want to try to find a trade before the Feb. 18 deadline.

Ryan Anderson, New Orleans

For as much press as New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson gets about his future, the point that most miss in talking about trade rumors and his free agency is that – if all things were equal – the Pelicans would like to keep Anderson long-term. The problem is the ballooning salary cap is likely going to price him out of the Pelicans’ range for the role they want him to play.

There are no shortage of potential suitors for Anderson, but just as the Pelicans have to weigh his future in their decision, so do the teams trying to pry Anderson out of New Orleans.

What is a stretch-four rental worth to a would-be contender? That’s something the Pelicans are trying to understand and they are in no rush to short change themselves.

Pelicans sources admitted that moving Anderson was likely to happen just because of the business of the situation, but cautioned that New Orleans wouldn’t do a bad deal just to make a trade and that unless an offer was meaningful to them, they may stay the course, finish out the season and see what happens in free agency.

The Pelicans do hold Anderson’ Bird Rights and could exceed the salary cap to keep him. Anderson’s July cap hold is $12.75 million.

While Anderson seems like a chip the Pelicans can and likely will cash, their stance is that it’ll take the right deal for them to move him.

Brandon Jennings, Detroit

Much like Anderson, Jennings is headed toward unrestricted free agency and likely a new team in July. The Detroit Pistons are getting monster production out of Reggie Jackson, making Jennings a backup in Detroit. Jackson is clearly the team’s point guard of the future after inking a five-year, $80 million deal last summer.

The problem for the Pistons is similar to what the Pelicans are going through: What’s a rental really worth at the deadline and could Jennings be more valuable as postseason depth and injury insurance than the piece he would return in a trade?

The answer to that question today is yes. Will that answer hold true come February 18? That’s the big question for the Pistons.

Detroit president and head coach Stan Van Gundy has said repeatedly that he does not see trading Jennings as very likely. However, if the right package gets offered, that could change since Jennings clearly isn’t part of the Pistons’ long-term plan. Jennings’ ending contract is worth $8,344,497.

Joe Johnson, Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Nets have blown up their front office and coaching staff, which has put the organization in a little bit of a chaotic state. League sources say that the Nets have not closed up shop, but that they are not overly active on the trade front either.

Most league insiders say that trading guard Joe Johnson may be nearly impossible at the deadline given the size of his $24.8 million contract. To be clear, the Nets have paid roughly $12.1 million of the cash owed on the deal, but making the cap math work would be hard to pull off without sending long-term contract money back to Brooklyn, something they are absolutely closed to considering.

Nets assistant general manager Frank Zanin is running the trade deadline in an external way; he is clearing deals through team CEO Brett Yormark and the chairman of the board Dmitry Razumov, so while there is not a GM in place, business is continuing.

Sources close to the process say that there isn’t a lot of urgency to make a deal before the deadline. Instead, the priority is to get new leadership in place and let the future of the team take shape that way.

That’s not to say the Nets wouldn’t do a deal, they’re just not overly active in looking for one.

The real question is will Johnson opt to leave some of his guaranteed cash on the table if he is not moved in order to gain his release via a buyout. Today, his side says absolutely not. However, there is a sense that once the deadline passes, that stance could change.

Greg Monroe, Milwaukee

Surprisingly, there has been some talk in the press that the Milwaukee Bucks could and should explore the trade value of big man Greg Monroe. The reasoning in the reports is that Monroe basically signed a two-plus-one contract – guaranteeing his deal for two seasons and then he has a player option on the third year – and that he has been a strange fit inside the team dynamic.

While there is no doubt that Monroe isn’t a perfect fit, he’s been one of the better players all season on a team that struggled to produce offense a year ago.

Bucks sources found the idea of moving Monroe laughable, but when you consider that Milwaukee is 18-25 on the season and about five games out of the eighth seed in the East, could Monroe return the best value?

It’s an interesting question to ponder, especially given the Bucks’ young frontcourt. However, Bucks sources could not have been more adamant that moving Monroe at the deadline was not under consideration and that landing him in free agency was a huge win for the team so they were not open to trading him.

Long-term marriages in the NBA are very rare, so you never say never, but if the Bucks opt to move players it will likely be guys from their ending contract pool like O.J. Mayo and Jerryd Bayless.

A name that continues to get connected to the Bucks is Houston Rockets guard Ty Lawson, but sources close to the Lawson situation say a deal to Milwaukee is highly unlikely at this point.

Kevin Martin, Minnesota

The Minnesota Timberwolves and guard Kevin Martin have agreed that he’ll play a lesser role while the team tries to find a trade for him.

The problem in finding a deal is that Martin has a player option for next season that’s worth $7.37 million.

League sources say there are a couple playoff teams that would have interest in Martin for a playoff run, but keeping him into next season at $7.3 million is not very attractive. And the teams that might actually view Martin as attractive next season have no guarantee that he’ll stay in his deal.

So what is Martin worth as a rental and what’s he worth if he stays in his deal? One situation appeals to one group of teams, while the second scenario appeals to a very different group of teams.

To ultimately find a trade, Martin may have to decide on his option year in advance of a deal and it does not seem like Martin nor his agent are very open to that, especially given his injury history.

It’s pretty clear that the Wolves and Martin are ready to part ways, but it does take a suitor to make a trade happen and the option year is a problem for many of the teams linked to him.

Brandon Bass, Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers have been making calls to gauge what some of their veteran players are worth. The obvious answer on many of the higher dollar guys is not much. The Lakers are said to be open to trading guard Nick Young and center Roy Hibbert, but neither seem overly attractive on the trade front, especially if the Lakers have to take on salary that runs into the 2016 salary cap year.

The player that’s more likely to be moved is forward Brandon Bass. The Lakers tried Bass on at a low dollar amount hoping he could contribute and be something of a tutor for forward Julius Randle. With the Lakers going nowhere fast, Bass is one of the guys the front office is expected to move by the deadline.

Bass has been nursing a problematic foot, so that is a concern, but the sense is the Lakers will be players at the deadline and Bass could be on his way out.

The 2015-16 NBA trade deadline is February 18 at 3 p.m. ET. While NBA teams can consummate deals at any point, there does not seem to be much desire for change at the moment. With that said, a number of insiders warn that the bulk of deadline deals end up being salary cap related and a lot of those deals start to take form during the All-Star break.

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NBA Daily: Luguentz Dort – A Different Kind of Point Guard

Shane Rhodes

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The point guard position is a clearly-defined one – perhaps the most defined – in the modern NBA.

At the one, you are either an elite shooter (both inside and on the perimeter), ala Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard, an elite passer, ala Chris Paul, Ben Simmons and Russell Westbrook, or some combination of the two.

Luguentz Dort doesn’t exactly fit that bill.

The 20-year-old combo-guard out of Arizona State University didn’t shoot the competition out of the gym – Dort managed a field goal percentage of just 40.5 and hit on a meager 30.7 percent from downtown. And he wasn’t exactly the flashiest passer, as he averaged just 2.3 assists per game in his lone season with the Sun Devils.

He’s different. But, according to Dort, he has what it takes to run the point at the next level.

“I know that I can become a really good leader on the court and create for my teammates,” Dort said at the 2019 NBA Draft Combine.

Confidence and an “I-will-outwork-you” competitive attitude are at the center of Dort and his game. Those two aspects drive the engine that has made Dort one of the more intriguing prospects in the back end of the first round. He may not be the most talented player in this class, but Dort is hyper-competitive and can out-hustle anyone on any given night.

“When I play,” Dort said, “I’m really going at people to let them know it’s not going to be easy.”

There is a hunger in Dort – a desire to win that is evidenced in his game. An aggressor on both offense and defense, Dort’s motor is always going. His primary selling point is his defensive ability; built like an NFL defensive end, Dort can bring energy and effort to any defense. He has more than enough speed to stick with smaller guards on the perimeter and more than enough strength to bump with bigger forwards in the paint.

Dort has also shown a knack for jumping passing lanes to either deflect passes or outright steal the ball; Dort was fourth in the Pac-12 as he averaged 1.5 steals per game and 1.9 per 40 minutes.

Dort has made it a point to put that defensive ability and intensity on full display for potential suitors. At the Combine, Dort said he wanted to show teams “how tough I play on defense” and “how hard I play and the type of competitor I am.”

Offensively, Dort is an impeccable cutter. At Arizona State, Dort averaged 1.289 points per possession on cuts, according to Synergy Sports. When he goes to the rim, Dort used his size and power to his advantage in order to get to the basket and either drop it in the bucket or draw a foul. He isn’t Irving with the ball in his hands, but Dort can make a move with the ball to create space as well.

Dort isn’t a superb passer, but he has a solid vision and can make, and often made while at Arizona State, the right pass as well.

But can Dort overcome the inconsistencies that plagued him at Arizona State? Dort was, at times, reckless with the ball in his hands. Whether he drove into a crowd just to throw up an ill-fated shot attempt or forced an errant pass, Dort’s decision-making must improve. His shooting is suspect and his touch around the rim – two skills critical to the modern point guard – weren’t exactly up to snuff either.

There were lapses on the defensive end as well. Sometimes Dort would fall asleep off the ball or he would be too aggressive one-on-one. If he is too handsy or unaware, NBA veterans will take advantage of every chance they get against him.

But, according to Dort, he has worked on those issues.

“My decision making got a lot better,” Dort said. “My shot, my free throws, everything. I really worked on all that this season.”

But in order to truly make an impact at the next level, he’ll have to continue to work and refine those skills further.

More work has never been an issue for Dort. However raw he may appear, he has the look of and the work-ethic required of NBA-caliber talent. Dort’s ultimate goal for the Combine, other than draw interest from NBA teams, was simple: “learn about everything, get feedback and go back to Arizona and continue to work on my game.” Whether or not teams view him as a point guard, shooting guard or something else entirely is a matter for debate, but, standing at just over 6-foot-4, 222 pounds with a 6-foot-8 wingspan and high motor, Dort has the versatility and ability to stick at, and is willing to play, a variety of different spots on the floor.

“I want to play any position a team would want me to play,” Dort said.

He may not be the prototypical point guard, but with that kind of willing, team-first attitude, Dort, at some point or another, is almost certain to make it to and have an impact at the next level.

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NBA Daily: Brandon Clarke Working From The Ground Up

Because of the unusual path he’s taken to get here, Brandon Clarke has established himself as one of the more unique prospects in the 2019 NBA Draft, writes Matt John.

Matt John

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When the draft time comes along, teams who have the higher picks usually look for guys who have the highest ceiling. Because of this, they usually decide to take players on the younger side because they believe those who have less experience have more room to improve.

This puts Brandon Clarke at a slight disadvantage. Clarke is 22 years old – and will be 23 when training camp rolls around – and only just recently came onto the scene after an excellent performance for Gonzaga in March Madness this season.

Competing for scouts’ attention against those who are younger and/or deemed better prospects than him would be quite the challenge, but because of what he’s been through, said challenge didn’t seem to faze him one bit at the combine.

“It was a different path for me,” Clarke said. “ I’m 22 and there are some guys here that are only 18 years old. With that being said, I’m still here.”

The Canadian native has clearly had to pay his dues to get to where he is. Clarke originally played for San Jose State, a school that had only been to the NCAA Tournament three times in its program’s history – the most recent entry being 1996 – whose last alum to play in the NBA was Tariq Abdul-Wahad. Props to you if you know who that is!

Playing under a program that didn’t exactly boast the best reputation wasn’t exactly ideal for Clarke. In fact, according to him, it was disheartening at times.

“There were definitely times that I felt down,” Clarke said. “When I first went there, I was kind of freaking out because I was going to a team that had only won two or three games prior to me getting there.”

No tournament bids came from Brandon’s efforts, but the Spartans saw a spike in their win total in the two seasons he played there. The team went from two wins to nine in his freshman year, then went from nine wins to fourteen his sophomore year. Clarke’s performance definitely had a fair amount to do with San Jose State’s higher success rate, but the man praised the program for the opportunity it gave him.

“We did some really big things for that college so I’m really grateful for the stuff I could do for them,” Clarke said.

After spending two years at SJS, Clarke then transferred to Gonzaga where he redshirted for a year before getting himself back on the court. When he did, he put himself on the map.

Clarke dominated in his lone year with the Bulldogs, averaging 16.9 points and 8.6 rebounds – including 3.1 offensive boards – as well as 3.1 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. The man clearly established himself as a high-energy small-ball center at 6-foot-8 ¼ inches, and it paved the way for Gonzaga to get a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament and go all the way to the Elite Eight.

Brandon loved the experience with the Bulldogs, both for the opportunity they gave him and for what he was able to do for them on the court.

“It was a great year,” Clarke said. “I got to play with some of the best players in the country… It was everything that I ever dreamed of. I’m going to miss it a lot. From a personal standpoint, I was just really blessed that I was able to block shots… I felt that I was really efficient too and I really helped us on the offensive end taking smart shots.”

Both his age and the small sample size, unfortunately, go hand in hand so that it’s hard to pinpoint where exactly Brandon Clarke will be taken in the draft. The latest Consensus Mock Draft from Basketball Insiders has all four contributors disagreeing where he will be selected, ranging from being picked as high ninth overall to as low as 21st.

Where he will get selected will all depend on who trusts what could be his greatest weakness – his shotty jumper.

In a league where spacing is so very crucial to consistent success, Clarke’s inability to space the floor hurts his stock. His free throw shooting at Gonzaga saw a drastic improvement from San Jose State, as he went from 57 percent to almost 70. That’s not as much of a liability but not much of a strength either. His three-point shooting in that time took a dive in that time, going from 33 percent to almost 27, which definitely does not help.

To be a hotter commodity at the draft, Clarke had to prove he could shoot the rock from anywhere, which is what he set to do at the combine.

“That is my biggest question mark,” Clarke said. “I’ve been working really hard on it. So I’m hoping that they can see that I can actually shoot it and that I have made lots of progress on it, and that they can trust me to get better at it.”

The journey that Clarke has been on to get to where he is had made him all the wiser as a player. With him expected to enter the NBA next season, he had a simple yet profound message to aspiring young ballers everywhere.

“Trust yourself. Trust your coaches. Trust everybody around you that you love… Make the best out of the situation that you are in.”

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NBA Daily: Nassir Little’s Climb Back up the Draft Boards

Nassir Little’s measurements and personality shined through at the Combine, leading many to believe he may be better suited for the NBA than he was for the NCAA, writes Drew Maresca.

Drew Maresca

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From highly-touted prospect to reserve player and back, Nassir Little’s path to the pros has been an unusual one.

Little was a McDonald’s All-American and five-star prospect. And yet, he didn’t start a single game in his lone season at North Carolina.

He demonstrated the ability to take over a game at times – averaging 19.5 points per game through UNC’s first two games in the NCAA tournament. He also broke the 18-point barrier in six games this past season. But he also scored in single digits in 18 of the Tar Heels’ 36 games, resulting in him being labeled inconsistent by many professional scouts.

Luckily for Little, his skillset is highly sought after by NBA personnel. He is a 6-foot-6, 220 pound forward. He averaged 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game as UNC’s sixth man, demonstrating the versatility to switch between both forward positions fairly seamlessly.

And he very well may be one of the few players better suited for the modern NBA game than he was for the NCAA.

Little told reporters at the NBA combine that much of his struggles can be attributed to the hesitancy he developed in his own game through the lack of clarity provided to him by the North Carolina coaching staff.

“The coaching staff didn’t really understand what my role was, especially on offense,” said Little. “So it created a lot of hesitancy, which didn’t allow me to play like myself.”

But Little assured reporters that he’ll look more like the five-star recruit we saw when he was a senior at Orlando Christian Prep.

“Throughout the year I didn’t feel like I played like myself. The guy that people saw in high school is really who I am as a player,” Little said. “And that’s the guy that people will see at the next level.”

Not only does Little expect to be back to his old self, he sees greatness in his future.

“I feel like I am going to come in as, like, a second version of Kawhi Leonard and be that defensive guy,” Little said. “Later on in the years, add [additional] pieces to my game.”

And while a Leonard comparison represents a tall order, Little’s physical tools have fueled discussion about his defensive potential – which has resulted in his climb back up draft boards. Little measured in with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and posted an impressive 38.5-inch vertical jump (second amongst all 2019 participants), a 3.09-second shuttle run (third) and a 3.31-second ¾ court sprint (fourth) – all of which translates perfectly to the NBA.

While his physical prowess will certainly help him gain additional visibility throughout the draft process, Little claims to possess another attribute that everyone else in the draft might not necessarily have, too.

“A lot of guys talk about skill set, everyone’s in the gym working on their skillset. But me being able to bring energy day in and day out is something a lot of guys don’t do.”

To Little’s point, he projects extremely well as an energetic, defensive pest. He is an aggressive and physical defender who has drawn comparisons to guys like Marcus Smart and Gerald Wallace – both of whom are/were known for their high-energy play and dedication on the floor. While his athleticism and potential can open doors, his personality will ensure that teams fall in love with the 19-year old forward. Little came across as extremely likable and candid, which should factor into the overall process, especially when considering that other prospects with less personality project to be more challenging to work with. Moreover, the fact that he was named to the Academic All-ACC team speaks volumes to his discipline and dedication.

Little alluded to the fact that he already sat through interviews with 10 teams as of a week ago, including one with the San Antonio Spurs, which makes the Leonard comparison all the more intriguing.

“Each team has different needs,” Little said. “But they like my [ability] to score the basketball in a variety of ways and my defensive potential to guard multiple positions, they really like that. And my athleticism to be on the court and finish plays.”

If Little is lucky, he’ll be selected by the Spurs with the nineteenth pick. And if that happens, he would be wise to pay close attention to the advice given to him by Coach Gregg Popovich – and not only because he sees similarities between himself and former Popovich-favorite, Leonard. Coach Popovich has a long history of developing lesser known draft picks into borderline stars – Derrick White being the most recent example.

Considering Little’s physical tools, academic achievements and easy-going personality, he has everything one would need to have a long NBA career. Just how successful he ends up being is mostly up to him.

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