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: 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.
Pelicans Role Players are Key to Success
The supporting cast in New Orleans is a big part of their playoff surge, writes David Yapkowitz.
The New Orleans Pelicans have taken a commanding 3-0 lead in their first-round playoff series again the Portland Trail Blazers. While surprising to some, the Pelicans only finished one game behind the Blazers in the standings. The Pelicans have the best player in the series in Anthony Davis and the defensive duo of Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday have stifled Portland’s backcourt.
The truth is, the Pelicans have been a good team all season long. A lot of attention and recognition has been given to Davis, Rondo and Holiday this season and playoffs, and rightfully so. But New Orleans wouldn’t be where they are without the important contributions of some of their role players.
Take E’Twaun Moore, for example. Moore bounced around the NBA early in his career, with stops in Boston, Orlando and Chicago before finding long-term stability contract wise with the Pelicans. He’s primarily been a bench player with them before this season, his second in New Orleans, his first as a full-time starter.
He’s given the Pelicans a huge boost, especially from the three-point line. He’s put up 12.5 points per game on 50.8 percent shooting from the field, both career-highs. He’s shooting 42.5 percent from three-point range.
“I think it’s just our style of play,” Moore told Basketball Insiders. “We play fast and open. Coach [Gentry] gives us a lot of freedom, a lot of confidence. That’s why my game is up, my shooting is up.”
It’s not just offensively though. Moore has always been one of the more underrated defensive guards in the league. Paired up alongside Rondo and Holiday, the trio form a solid wing defensive unit. They’re a big reason for Portland’s offensive struggles.
Moore is the type of role player that every playoff contender needs to succeed. He knows that his role may change from game to game. Some nights he may be asked to score a little more. Other nights his defense is going to be called upon. Whatever it may be, he’s always ready to do what’s asked of him.
“I bring the energy. I bring a spark,” Moore told Basketball Insiders. “It’s knocking down shots, playing defense, getting out in transition. Just trying to be a spark.”
The Pelicans bench has also been a huge factor all season long. Their depth took a major hit early in the season with the injury to Solomon Hill. Hill has since returned to the lineup, but his absence paved the way for other players such as Darius Miller to step up.
This is Miller’s second stint with the Pelicans after spending two years overseas. Drafted 46th overall in 2012, he didn’t play much his first three years in the NBA. In 2014, he was cut by the Pelicans only about a month into the season. This year was different, he was thrown into the rotation from the get-go.
“This is a huge opportunity,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “I just come in and try to work every day, try to get better every day. My teammates have done a great job of putting me in situations where I can be successful.”
Miller has given the Pelicans a capable stretch four in the second unit who can slide over to small forward if need be. He’s averaging a career-best 7.8 points per game, the most out of any of New Orleans’ reserves. He’s their best three-point shooter off the bench, connecting on 41.1 percent of his long-range attempts.
While he acknowledges that he’s enjoying his best season yet as an NBA player, he’s quick to praise his teammates for allowing him to flourish.
“I just try to bring a spark off the bench. I come in and try to knock some shots down,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “My teammates do a great job of finding me when I’m open, I just try and knock down shots and compete.”
Sometimes time away from the NBA helps players grow and mature. The NBA game is fast paced and it can take awhile to get used to it. While some players have begun to use the G-League as a means of preparing for the league, Miller took an alternate route of heading to Germany.
For him, it’s a big reason why he’s been able to make an easier transition back to the NBA. His contract for next season is non-guaranteed, but he’s probably done enough to warrant the Pelicans keeping him around. He’s a much different and much-improved player. If not, he’s sure to draw interest from other teams.
“It was a lot to learn for me personally,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “I had to learn a lot of different things like how to take care of my body, how to manage my time, a whole bunch of stuff like that. The time overseas really helped me to mature and grow up and learn a few things.”
These Pelicans have most certainly turned quite a few heads since the playoffs began. We shouldn’t deal too much with hypotheticals, but it’s interesting to wonder what this team’s ceiling would’ve been had DeMarcus Cousins not been lost for the season due to injury.
This is a confident bunch, however. They’ve beaten both the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets during the regular season. They’ve already shattered a lot of expert predictions with their performance in the first-round. The Pelicans feel like they can hang with anyone out West.
“As far as we want to go,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “I feel like we’ve competed with all the best teams in the league this whole season. We just got to come out, stay focused and do what we do.”
Is LeBron Enough For Cavs To Get Through The East?
Cleveland’s offense has struggled through the first two games of the playoffs. Can the four-time MVP consistently bail them out? Spencer Davies writes.
After a less-than-encouraging series opener versus the Indiana Pacers, LeBron James responded emphatically and led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a bounce back 100-97 victory to even things up at one game apiece.
Scoring the first 13 points of the game itself, The King was a one-man wrecking crew out of the gate and carried that momentum throughout all four quarters of Game 2. His 46 points were James’ second-highest scoring mark between the regular season and the playoffs. In addition, he shot above 70 percent from the field for the sixth time this year.
The four-time MVP pulled down 12 rebounds total, and but all but one of those boards were defensive—the most he’s had since Saint Patrick’s Day in Chicago a month ago.
What James did was another classic instance where LeBron reminds us that through all the injuries, drama, and on-court issues, whatever team he’s on always has a chance to go all the way. But having said all of that—can the Cavaliers realistically depend on that kind of spectacular effort for the rest of the postseason? It’s a fair question.
Kevin Love is a solid secondary go-to guy, but he’s struggled to find his rhythm in the first two games. He’s done a solid job defensively between both, but he’s getting banged up and is dealing with knocked knees and a reported torn thumb ligament in the same hand he broke earlier in the season.
Love has admitted that he’d like more post touches instead of strictly hanging out on the perimeter, but it’s on him to demand the ball more and he knows it. But finding that flow can be challenging when James has it going and is in all-out attack mode.
Kyle Korver came to the rescue for Cleveland as the only shooter that consistently converted on open looks. Outside of those three, and maybe J.R. Smith, really, there hasn’t been a tangible threat that’s a part of the offense during this series.
We all pondered whether or not the “new guys” would be able to step up when their respective numbers were called. So far, that hasn’t been the case for the most part.
Jordan Clarkson looks rushed with tunnel vision. Rodney Hood has had good body language out there, but seems reluctant to shoot off dribble hand-offs and is second-guessing what he wants to do. The hustle and effort from Larry Nance Jr. is obvious, but he’s also a good bet to get into foul trouble. Plus, he’s had some struggles on an island against Pacer guards.
As for George Hill, the good news is the impact on the floor just based on his mere presence on both ends (game-high +16 on Wednesday), but he hasn’t really done any scoring and fouled out of Game 2.
Maybe these things change on the road, who knows. But those four, the rest of the rotation, absolutely have to step up in order for the Cavaliers to win this series and fend off this hungry Indiana group, which brings us to another point.
Let’s not forget, the offensive issues aren’t simply because of themselves. After all, the Cavs were a team that had little trouble scoring the basketball in the regular season, so give a ton of credit to the Pacers’ scheme and McMillan’s teachings to play hard-nosed.
Unlike many teams in the league, the strategy for them is to pressure the ball and avoid switches as much as possible on screens. The more they go over the pick and stick on their assignments, the better chance they have of forcing a bad shot or a turnover. That’s what happened in Game 1 and in the majority of the second half of Game 2.
Cleveland has also somewhat surprisingly brought the fight on defense as well. In the first two contests of the series, they’ve allowed under 100 points. Lue’s said multiple times that they’re willing to give up the interior buckets in order to secure the outside, and it’s worked. It doesn’t seem smart when there’s a yellow-colored layup line going on at times, but it certainly paid off by only allowing 34 percent of Indiana’s threes to go down.
Still, looking ahead to what the Cavaliers can do in the playoffs as a whole, it doesn’t bode well. They’re not only locked in a tug-of-war with Indiana, but if they get past them, they could have a Toronto Raptors group chomping at the bit for revenge.
If they’re having this much trouble in the first round, what should make us believe they can barrel through the Eastern Conference as they’ve done in the past?
It’s not quite as obvious or as bad as Cleveland’s 2007 version of James and the rest, but it feels eerily similar for as much as he’s put the team on his back so far. The organization better hope improvement comes fast from his supporting cast, or else it could be a longer summer than they’d hoped for.