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Making the Case for Carmelo to Portland

This summer, trading Carmelo Anthony to the Portland Trail Blazers would make sense for all parties, writes Moke Hamilton.

Moke Hamilton

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As the New York Knicks play out the string in a season that was thought to have so much promise, Carmelo Anthony is likely playing out the string on his career in a Knick uniform.

At this point, the smart money is on Anthony, the Knicks and the Los Angeles Clippers coming to terms on a trade that would send Anthony to the Clippers this summer. But if Anthony and the Knicks were smart, they’d each realize that the best bet for one another would be coming to terms with the Portland Trail Blazers.

For many reasons, sending Anthony to the Pacific Northwest would be a wise move.

* * * * * *

In life, people have different priorities. Some value compensation above all else, while others value a favorable work-life balance. Some attribute a high value to their relationship with their management and co-workers while others cherish personal fulfillment.

While Anthony himself has let it be known that his family’s comfort and happiness is quite important to him, what nobody seems to know for certain is how highly Anthony actually values winning and what kinds of concessions he would make to put himself in a situation where he has an opportunity to compete for a championship. Certainly, pushing for a trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs or even the Boston Celtics would give Anthony greater odds of winning a championship than remaining with the Knicks, but with the Cavs and Spurs each having won championships within the past three years, Anthony wouldn’t be considered a lynchpin — he’d be looked at as a hanger-on. He would be the basketball version of a freeloader.

More importantly, though, is the word on the street. People who know Anthony well and have been trusted with matters related to his psyche would tell you that he is satisfied with being well compensated and playing on a big stage, and his refusal to approve a trade to the Clippers this past February (something he admitted was on the table), lends credence to that theory. In other words, the prevailing sentiment as it relates to Anthony and his relationship with the Knicks is that he would be satisfied with remaining with the team since he is being paid well and is known to be happy with his life in New York.

Based on what we have been led to believe are his priorities, it’s easy to understand why the Clippers would seem to be a natural fit. They are an experienced team that seems to be at least one piece away from being able to compete with the Golden State Warriors and the rest of the cream of the West. They are located in the league’s second-biggest media market and, on the court, happen to be run by Anthony’s good friend, Chris Paul. Doc Rivers is said to value Anthony quite highly and believes that adding him to the Clippers would give the team improved odds of winning a championship.

So yes, for Anthony and the Clippers, heading to Southern California makes all the sense in the world.

For the Knicks, however, trading him there doesn’t.

* * * * * *

There is no clear definition as to what constitutes a the “most valuable” player in the league, and similarly, there’s no clear definition as to what makes a player a “superstar.” At the very least, that designation involves an intersect of a player having tremendous ability, notoriety and accomplishments. Although he may be on the downside of his career, it’s probably safe to say that Anthony still qualifies as a superstar, or, at the very least, he still carries the perceived value of a superstar.

In general, in the NBA, teams hate trading superstars. They are both hard to find and even harder to replace. With one, you can hold steadfast to the belief that you might be one or two pieces away from becoming an elite team. Without one, you’re stuck in the lottery and waddling in the mud of mediocrity, aimlessly, until you can find one.

So for the Knicks, trading Anthony to the Clippers would literally be something the franchise would do out of a belief that it would be common addition by subtraction. Receiving equal value back for a superstar in a trade is difficult enough, much less a superstar with a no-trade clause.

The assumption is that the Clippers will re-sign J.J. Redick this summer, meaning that he would not be trade eligible until December. That would likely remove him from the equation as it relates to trading him for Anthony. The Clippers will also send their 2017 first round draft pick to the Toronto Raptors and their 2019 first round draft pick to the Boston Celtics, further diminishing the value that they could send the Knicks for Anthony.

From here, it would appear that the most likely trade involving the two teams, unless a third or fourth team got involved, would center around Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers and perhaps the Clippers’ 2021 first round pick.

For the Knicks, maximizing their return on a Carmelo Anthony trade would be their priority, especially with Phil Jackson notably trading Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Jerian Grant for what will ultimately end up being low returns.

That’s why the Blazers make sense for the Knicks. But do they make sense for Anthony?

Perhaps.

* * * * * *

As Anthony creeps toward his 33rd birthday, his mileage is showing. At this point in his career, the best case scenario for him would be to find himself on a team in which he was surrounded by younger pieces whose ceilings were still unknown. As great as Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are, Griffin has already shown a propensity to get hurt, while Paul is just a few years from his 32nd birthday. On the other hand, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum 26 years old and 25 years old, respectively. Since adding Jusuf Nurkic (who is just 22 years old), the Blazers have not resembled the team they were over the course of the first 50 games of the season. After going 13-3 over their last 16 games, they have reentered the Western Conference playoff picture and look formidable. Nurkic may have been lost for the season, but he looks like a stud that could be in a Blazer uniform for many years to come. Think long term. The roster doesn’t currently feature a single player over 30 years old, with Evan Turner, at 28 years old, serving as the elder statesmen.

For Anthony, latching on with a team full of young talent, one on the rise and one that seems to be just one solid veteran piece away from going to the next level — that’s preferable to joining a team that has already peaked.

The aforementioned Nurkic came to the Blazers in February and also yielded the Blazers the rights to the Memphis Grizzlies’ first round pick this coming June. Add in the Cavaliers’ first round pick, and the Blazers are the only team in the league that has three first round picks in the loaded 2017 draft. With a roster chock full of young talent, the Blazers might actually be interested in divesting.

What’s more important for the Knicks is that the Blazers are a relative underachiever this season. Considering the fact that they are coming off of a second round appearance in last season’s playoffs and boast the league’s second-highest payroll, it stands to reason that they would be open to shaking things up, especially if it meant adding a player of Anthony’s caliber.

There is zero doubt that with Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, Maurice Harkless, Noah Vonleh, Shabazz Napier and the aforementioned picks, the Knicks could find a trade that would interest them.

And finally, the most important thing for Anthony would be finding himself with a front office he could trust. The Blazers might not boast the biggest market, but the team has a proud franchise and basketball tradition. As for Neil Olshey and his staff, they have already proven to have an eye for talent, an ability to develop players and the intelligence to put well-fitting pieces together on the basketball court. Doc Rivers, as much as he is revered, cannot boast that. He inherited each of his three best players and has continually swapped out his auxiliary pieces to no avail.

Truth be told, Rivers hasn’t done anything to instill confidence in his ability to build a winner.

That’s something Anthony — if he values winning — would be wise to consider.

* * * * * *

As it stands, it would appear that the Warriors, Spurs and Cavaliers are not only the NBA’s best teams right now — they’ll be the best teams tomorrow, as well. The Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz and Washington Wizards appear to be on the cusp of greatness, too. Meanwhile, nobody seems sure where the Clippers fit in.

With Anthony, sure, the Clippers could become elite and give the Warriors and Spurs fits for the next few years. But for Anthony, the better bet might be to latch on with the younger studs and the franchise that has proven it knows a thing or two about building. Truth be told, with Anthony playing third fiddle to Lillard and McCollum, the Blazers would probably have a championship window of five years. The same probably can’t be said for the Clippers.

In all of this, it’s important to remember a major fact: the Knicks actually need to agree on any trade that would land Anthony elsewhere. Based on the return that the Clippers appear able to send to New York, it might be a tough sell.

Indeed, in life, people have different priorities. Anthony, we know, values his compensation, but so does everyone else.

Of everything, some professional athletes attribute the highest value on something money can’t buy — immortality.

As it stands, Anthony is likely playing out the string on his New York Knicks career. At this point, we don’t know what his priorities are. But when next season begins, if he is donning the jersey of a different franchise, one way or another, we will have learned something about what it is that Carmelo Anthony values most.

Moke Hamilton is a Deputy Editor and Columnist for Basketball Insiders.

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G-League Watch: 10-Day Contracts

David Yapkowitz looks at five potential G-League callups for 10-day contracts.

David Yapkowitz

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Since Jan. 10, NBA teams have been able to sign players from the G-League to ten-day contracts. A few have already been signed, such as DeAndre Liggins with the Milwaukee Bucks and Kyle Collinsworth with the Dallas Mavericks.

Once a ten-day contract expires, teams have the option of signing that player to another ten-day contract. After the second ten-day, teams must either sign the player for the remainder of the season or release that player.

Some players have used ten-day contracts to essentially jump-start their careers. Bruce Bowen was once a ten-day contract player before becoming a key piece of multiple championship teams in San Antonio. Famed New York Knicks enforcer Anthony Mason also got his first chance in the league off a ten-day contract.

With a few guys already being called up via ten-day as well as the NBA’s new two-way contracts, here’s a look at some of the remaining names who might be next in line.

1. Christian Wood

Christian Wood was once a highly touted prospect coming out of high school. He played two college seasons at UNLV before declaring for the NBA draft in 2015. Despite being projected to be drafted late in the first round or early second round, he did not hear his name called on draft night. He’s spent some time in the NBA since then, with the Philadelphia 76ers and Charlotte Hornets, but he currently plays for the Delaware 87ers, the Sixers G-League affiliate.

His 22.0 points per game are tied with James Young for top scorer on the team. He’s shooting 53.9 percent from the field, and he’s also displayed a nice outside touch for a big man at 35.2 percent from three-point range. He leads the team in rebounds at 9.6, as well as in blocked shots with 2.0. He’s very mobile and could certainly help a team as a stretch big man who can play defense and crash the glass.

2. Jameel Warney

Jameel Warney has been a candidate for an NBA call-up for quite some time. The former Stony Brook standout had a big summer with Team USA basketball. He was the tournament MVP of the 2017 FIBA Americup and was named USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year for 2017. He got as far as training camp/preseason with the Dallas Mavericks in 2016, and he’s currently playing for their G-League affiliate, the Texas Legends.

With the Legends, he’s fourth on the team in scoring with 19.4 points per game. He’s second on the team in rebounding with 10.4, and he’s tied with Johnathan Motley leading the team in blocked shots with 1.5. He’s shooting 52.5 percent from the field. What could be hindering his NBA chances is his lack of an outside shot, especially with the way the game is being played today. Nonetheless, he’s still one of the G-League’s top players and he deserves a shot in the big leagues.

3. Melo Trimble

After a solid three years at the University of Maryland, Melo Trimble was one of the best players not selected in this past summer’s draft. He played well for the 76ers’ summer league team in Las Vegas, which in turn earned him an invite to training camp with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He ended up being one of their final cuts at the end of preseason, and he went on to join their G-League affiliate, the Iowa Wolves.

He’s third on the Wolves in scoring with 18.5 points per game. He’s shooting 44 percent from the field, and a decent 34 percent from beyond the arc. He’s also leading the team in assists per game with 5.7. He’s got the potential to be a decent backup point guard, and if he can get his shooting numbers, especially from three-point range, up a little bit, there’s no question he’s NBA caliber.

4. Joel Bolomboy

Joel Bolomboy is a name that should be familiar to Utah Jazz fans. He was drafted by the Jazz in 2016, and although relegated to mostly end of the bench duty, he showed a bit of potential and flash here and there. The Jazz cut him after a year, and he ended up in Milwaukee before they too cut him to make room for Sean Kilpatrick. He’s currently playing for the Wisconsin Herd, the Bucks G-League affiliate.

At the recent G-League Showcase that took place from Jan. 10-13, Bolomboy had one of the best performances of the event. In the two games played, he averaged 25.5 points per game on 73 percent shooting from the field and 13.0 rebounds. He was named to the All-Showcase First Team. He’s had eight double-doubles so far in the G-League this season. He’s already gotten his feet wet in the NBA, and if he continues putting up similar production, it won’t be long before he finds himself back on an NBA roster.

5. Jeremy Evans

Jeremy Evans is a name that should be somewhat familiar to NBA fans. He’s spent six years in the league with the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks. He also participated in two dunk contests in 2012 and 2013. Unfortunately for him, dunking was probably the one thing he was known for. It might be why he found himself out of the league after only six years.

With the Erie Bay Hawks, the Atlanta Hawks G-League affiliate, his 15.9 points per game are good enough for fourth on the team. His 62.3 percent shooting from the field is a team-high, as is his 10.3 rebounds per game, and 1.4 blocks. Not known as a shooter during his time in the NBA, he’s only shooting 25.6 percent from three-point range in the G-League. If he can get his outside shooting percentages up, he has a shot at getting an NBA call-up and keeping that spot permanently.

Although there’s no guarantee that any of these guys get NBA call-ups on ten-day contracts, they have some of the best shots out of anyone in the G-League. Don’t be surprised if, by the end of the season, all of these guys finish it out on an NBA roster.

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NBA Daily: Potential Trade Targets to Get the Sixers to the Playoffs

On the cusp of a playoff appearance for the first time in six years, the Philadelphia 76ers could cement their postseason status with a move at the trade deadline.

Dennis Chambers

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At times this season, the Philadelphia 76ers look like they’re capable of going toe-to-toe with some of the league’s best teams. With Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons at their disposal, along with capable three-point shooters, the Sixers have shown flashes of being a force to be reckoned with.

And at other times, well, they look like a discombobulated young team, with serious flaws in the construction of its roster.

Despite the lapses they display, the Sixers are still right in the thick of the playoff race. Currently, at 21-20, they hold a half-game advantage over the Detroit Pistons for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference.

While they await the return of top overall pick Markelle Fultz, who has still yet to hit the court after being shut down earlier this season with a shoulder injury, the Sixers will continue to miss depth on the wing and a particular skill set that holds them back from winning games they seem to have locked up with double-digit leads. For all the greatness that is Embiid, and all of the promise that is Simmons, when the former isn’t on the court, the latter struggles to shoulder the scoring load due to his inability to shoot jump shots.

Initially, that’s what Fultz was drafted for. A player that head coach Brett Brown has said many times before, has the talent to tie everything together with the Sixers’ roster. What he means by that is Fultz represents a scorer from multiple levels of the court who forces the defense to lock in on, potentially leaving the teams’ shooters open on the wing.

Without Fultz, and when Embiid is on the bench, the team lacks a player who can put the ball on the floor, create and knock down jumpers. Although long-term success is still very much the attention for Philadelphia, that doesn’t discount the fact that a team that finished with 10 wins just two seasons ago is on the verge of making a playoff appearance for the first time since 2011-12 with a core of young, promising players.

Because of that possibility, and because of the clear holes in team’s makeup that could prevent this from happening, the Sixers could become an interesting player at the trade deadline — especially considering the names that appear available, according to reports.

It’s no secret that Sixers’ president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo wants to keep financial flexibility heading into this summer, that’s the main reason players like J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson were signed to one-year deals last offseason. Before the team has to start signing their own players to big extensions, the Sixers are in a unique position where they not only have elite homegrown talent, but the money to complement those players the best they can. Because of that, any deal that would return a player with money on the books past this season seems unlikely.

That being said, it just so happens that two players potentially on the trading block right now fulfill the Sixers’ most crucial need, and also aren’t on the hook for money past this year. Marc Stein of The New York Times reported that Rodney Hood could be moved before the Feb. 8 trade deadline, and that multiple teams are expressing interest in his services.

Along with Hood, Stein also reported that Lou Williams, who’s been the center of many trade talks around the league given his career-year and impending free agent status, was involved in specific discussions that would send him to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

What should intrigue the Sixers about these two players is not only their ability on the court but also their flexibility off of it.

Let’s start with Hood. Before the rise of Donovan Mitchell this season, Hood looked to be in a position to assume the role as the dominant scorer on the Utah Jazz following Gordon Hayward’s departure. At just 25 years old and in the final year of his rookie contract, Hood may not be worth the price tag for Utah this summer considering their find with Mitchell.

Should the Jazz actually move on from Hood, it’s unclear what they would ask for in return at this point. Yes, Hood his an impending free agent, which could diminish his value. But the team trading for him would assume his Bird Rights, therefore giving them a better shot at retaining him this summer should they choose to do so.

The best part about his potential fit in Philadelphia is that he fits the timeline of the rebuild while also addressing a need in the present. Being just 25, Hood fits alongside the core of Embiid, Simmons, Fultz, Dario Saric and Robert Covington as a young player. If the Sixers were to miss out on whoever they were planning to target with their financial flexibility this summer, Hood would still be there to plug in for years with a contract extension.

Shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc this season, and displaying the track record of being able to fill up the score sheet, Hood could become the go-to-scorer for Philadelphia when Embiid isn’t on the court, or late in games when they need to stop an opposing team’s run.

While he appears to at least be on the table as of now, Hood is certainly worth checking in on from the Sixers’ standpoint.

Now, onto Williams. Drafted by Philadelphia all the back in 2005 with the 45th overall pick, Williams is enjoying the best season of his career for the Los Angeles Clippers. At 31, he doesn’t represent the long-term upside that Hood does, but for this season alone, bringing Williams on to this current Sixers’ roster could be that extra jolt to get them cleanly into the postseason.

Averaging 23 points per game and shooting 41 percent from downtown, Williams fits the role as an iso-scorer better than any player on the Sixers’ current roster. Alongside Simmons and Embiid, Williams could assume the role Fultz was supposed to this season.

Another interesting ripple to the potential Williams fit is that he was on the last Sixers’ roster to make the playoffs. Adding him to this roster would bring his career full circle. This summer, Williams is most likely going to test the market and given his age and potential price tag he may not fit so well into the Sixers’ plans moving forward. But with his history with the club and city, getting him on board for another playoff run with an exciting young team could arguably help in the negotiation process this offseason.

Neither of these potential trades are slam dunks, and it remains to be seen if either player will even be moved. But for where the Sixers stand currently, coupled with their growing postseason expectations, checking in around the league on trade targets that can fulfill obvious needs should be at the forefront of Colangelo’s agenda for the next few weeks.

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Payton Blocking Out Trade Talk, Believes Magic Will Turn It Around

Spencer Davies sits down with Elfrid Payton to discuss his fourth year, trade rumors and a trying season for Orlando in a Basketball Insiders exclusive.

Spencer Davies

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It’s hard for a team to look for positives when it’s living in the basement.

The Orlando Magic have had a rough go of it this year. They’re 13-32 at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, they’ve have had a ton of setbacks, and they currently rank 29th in the NBA in defensive rating.

There is a bright spot hidden in there, though, and head coach Frank Vogel sees it growing as the season progresses.

“We’re frustrated with our record, but we’re encouraged with the development we’ve had with our young players,” Vogel said before Thursday’s game in Cleveland. “Aaron Gordon, Mario [Hezonja], and [Elfrid Payton] have all had strong individual seasons and continue to get better. All those guys are improving individually and at some point, it’s gonna lead to more Ws.”

While Gordon stands out more to some than the others because of his star appeal, Payton is right up there with him as far as making the next step goes.

“Elfrid’s shooting the ball better from the perimeter and at the rim,” Vogel said. “He’s worked on his left hand. He’s worked on his floaters. Shooting 52 percent from the field and that’s pretty darn good for a point guard, and the 39 percent from the three as well.”

Those are your more traditional statistics that don’t address the leap he’s taken in efficiency. Sure, Payton’s scoring the same amount of points per game, but it’s the way he’s been getting that’s been most noticeable.

According to Basketball-Reference and NBA.com, he’s making nearly 70 percent of his tries between 0-3 feet and ranks third among point guards in restricted field goal percentage (min. four attempts).

But Payton doesn’t like to evaluate himself using numbers, so he doesn’t know how to feel about how he’s played for Orlando this year.

“It’s tough to say because I like to measure my success by winning and we haven’t been doing that,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “So tough to say.”

He’s not kidding. Since starting out the season 8-4, the Magic have taken a hard fall, only winning five games since November 10. In this stretch, there have been three hefty losing streaks—two 9-game slides and most recently a 7-game skid.

“Not to make excuses—we had a lot of injuries,” Payton told Basketball Insiders of what happened. “Haven’t really been playing with the group of guys that we started the season with, so kinda derailed us a little bit.”

As the losses pile up, so does the chatter. Indicated by multiple recent reports, Orlando has made it clear that many players on the roster are available on the trade block. Evan Fournier, Mario Hezonja, and Payton were recently brought up as names who could possibly on the move if the right deal presents itself.

When asked about the rumblings, Vogel claimed he doesn’t have a message for his guys.

“They understand it’s part of the business,” he said. “Just focus on playing the game.”

Like his coach, Payton doesn’t have a reaction to the noise.

“I don’t get caught up into the things like that,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “Today I’m an Orlando Magic. I play for the Orlando Magic and I’m gonna give them 100 percent of me. I’m somebody that likes to finish what I started, so I definitely would like to see this through and try to turn this organization around.”

So who does he see on this team that can help jump-start the process in flipping the script?

“Everybody,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “I like Vuc. I like AG. Evan [Fournier] is somebody who can fill it up. T Ross is somebody who can fill it up when healthy. I think we have a lot of talent on this team. Even the rookies—Wes [Iwundu] plays well for us in stretches. Jon [Isaac] when he was playing he’d do well.

“You could see the potential there. So I think we have a lot of weapons on this team. I’m very confident in the group we have here. I think we have a lot of talent, we just have to do it.”

Saying you’re going to right the ship is one thing. Actually doing it is a whole other challenge. With where the Magic sit in the standings currently, their work is cut out for them. That being said, Payton isn’t giving up.

In fact, he’s still got his eyes on making it to the postseason, and it starts with him.

“Definitely trying to get a run going,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “Make a playoff push. It’s definitely not out of sight right now, especially with the way the East is. We win a few games and we right back in the thick of things.

“Do whatever I can to help us to get more wins, man. I think that’s what it all boils down to. I figure if I’m playing well, that means we’re winning for the most part.”

Defense matters the most, and it’s something Payton and his group know they need to get better at if they have a chance to play past mid-April.

“Just be tied in together a little bit more,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “I think sometimes we have too many breakdowns on the backside. So just being more in-tune with each other.”

One thing is for sure—Orlando is going through this difficult time as a team, but refuses to fold. Payton says Vogel has constantly stayed in their ears with uplifting advice.

“Keep fighting,” Payton told Basketball Insiders of his words. “Don’t feel sorry for yourself. No one’s gonna feel sorry for you, so just keep fighting.”

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