With the trade deadline now less than two weeks away, Basketball Insiders is getting you ready for what could be a busy trade season. We’re setting the stage division by division and what we can expect from each team.
The trade deadline provides teams a great opportunity to improve their rosters or to begin laying the foundation for the future. Between all of the rumors generated, the trade deadline is one of the most exciting times of the season for basketball fans.
Today, we focus on the Southeast Division and how things could ultimately shake out between teams in this division. Here’s how we see it playing out over the next few weeks.
Washington Wizards (1st in Southeast, 31-21 record)
The Wizards have been one of the most surprising teams over the past couple of months, recovering from a rough start to sit third in the Eastern Conference. Of course, having John Wall turning in career-highs in points and assists on a nightly basis certainly helps the cause, but the team also has a healthy Bradley Beal back as well. With Wall and Beal playing well, there is an argument to be made that the Wizards have the best backcourt in the conference.
It seems as though the Wizards are finally on their way to being that team that can make some noise in the playoffs. While the Wizards are hitting their stride at the right part of the season, they can still improve in one key area: their bench production. They rank 29th in bench scoring, 25th in three-point percentage, 30th in rebounding and 30th in assists. Given the concerns with their second unit, that’s likely where we’ll see them look to improve.
Names to Watch:
Big man Ian Mahinmi is a player to keep an eye on. It was reported last week by Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype that the Wizards would be open to trading Mahinmi if the right offer was presented. Mahinmi signed a four-year, $64 million deal with the Wizards last summer and has appeared in just two games this season as he battles back from knee surgery. The idea of potentially unloading his rather sizable contract would likely be appealing to the Wizards, but finding a suitor to acquire him coming off of knee surgery may prove to be difficult.
Another name to keep an eye on is Otto Porter. He’s set to become a restricted free agent this summer and could command a contract the Wizards may not be willing to match. The team currently has roughly $97 million on the books for next season, not including Porter. While it still seems highly unlikely the Wizards part ways with one of their top scorers in the middle of a playoff push, it still should be worth keeping an eye on.
Atlanta Hawks (2nd in Southeast, 31-22 record)
The Hawks have been an interesting team this season. They seemed ready to hit the restart button on this roster earlier this season when they were said to be shopping Paul Millsap and when they ultimately traded Kyle Korver. Since trading Korver, though, the team has pumped the brakes on conversations involving Millsap, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try as the trade deadline nears closer.
Trying to predict what this Hawks team does at the deadline seems as a bit tricky. As things stand today, they are fifth in the Eastern Conference, just 5.5 games back of first place. With the team firmly in the playoff race, do they keep the roster together and try to make another deep playoff run or do they opt to trade some pieces off in order to help build the future?
Names to Watch:
Of course, the top name to monitor with this Hawks team is Millsap. Just because they reportedly took him off of the trading block doesn’t mean they won’t continue to listen to offers. Millsap holds a player option for next season that he’s guaranteed to waive in order to become an unrestricted free agent. From there, it’s anyone’s guess as to where he’ll land. Will the Hawks want to pay him the money it’ll take to keep him in Atlanta? Probably not.
While Millsap remains the hot commodity on the Hawks’ roster, there are several other players to keep an eye on as well. The Hawks have five players on expiring contracts this season — Tiago Splitter, Kris Humphries, Thabo Sefolosha, Mike Scott and Mike Muscala. With the exception of Splitter, who has yet to play this season with a calf injury, these players could look attractive to a team looking to clear some cap space.
Charlotte Hornets (3rd in Southeast, 24-29 record)
Charlotte entered this season with high expectations after their run to the playoffs last season. While the Hornets looked pretty good at the beginning of the season, they’ve since slipped out of the playoff picture and have fallen to ninth place. After starting off 14-9, the Hornets have gone just 10-20 since then. It’s safe to say the team will be looking at all options in order to help their playoff run this season. They already made a trade a few weeks ago when they acquired Miles Plumlee for Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes, so there could be more activity to come.
They took a hit in the rotation after guard Ramon Sessions suffered a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee that will sideline him for the next four-to-six weeks. The team signed a couple of players recently to 10-day contracts in Ray McCallum and Mike Tobey, but it remains to be seen if they’ll remain on the roster past the end of those deals. The team could opt to let them walk after their deals end in order to keep a couple of open roster spots ahead of the trade deadline. Teams often like the idea of holding at least one open roster spot so they can potentially take on an extra player in a trade.
Names to Watch:
It appears as though the Hornets are mostly happy with their roster. More than half of the players on the roster are locked into long-term deals and likely won’t be traded unless the Hornets are presented with an offer they can’t refuse. Nicolas Batum, Kemba Walker, Cody Zeller and Marvin Williams are all players that it would take a lot to acquire and won’t be traded.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might be the team’s best trade chip. He hasn’t improved all that much offensively, and this might make it an easier decision to trade him for the right return. After those players, it seems like Jeremy Lamb, Frank Kaminsky and Marco Belinelli are the next best trade chips, and they could be had if it meant adding a backup point guard with Sessions out for another month or so.
Miami HEAT (4th in Southeast, 23-30 record)
If the trade deadline was a month ago, it could have been said that virtually anyone on the HEAT roster could be had. Now, the HEAT have won 12 straight and have seemingly saved their season. They were 11-30 prior to their winning streak, but are now 23-30 sitting just two games back of eighth place.
With the HEAT winning and back in the playoff race, how does that impact their status at the trade deadline? It seems all of those trade rumors surrounding Goran Dragic have died down. It’s true what they say: winning does cure all problems. Now, that the HEAT appear to be contenders, Pat Riley will likely try to work his magic once again to acquire some more help.
Names to Watch:
It was reported yesterday by Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald that Orlando Magic forward Serge Ibaka is on Miami’s radar. With the HEAT on their current win streak, it remains to be seen which players they would potentially want to part ways with. It seems unlikely the team will trade Hassan Whiteside, Dragic, Tyler Johnson or Justise Winslow, which would leave players like Wayne Ellington, Josh McRoberts, Josh Richardson and Willie Reed as potential names the HEAT could offer. It remains unclear what the Magic would seek in return, but it would likely need to include Richardson since he’s still a young player that has shown plenty of potential. Miami’s expiring contracts could look attractive to teams, so those players should be monitored as well.
Orlando Magic (5th in Southeast, 20-35 record)
The Magic have been perhaps one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA this season. After investing over $100 million into the roster, the team is clearly not where they’d hoped to be. After last night’s embarrassing home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Magic are now 13th in the Eastern Conference. Orlando has been said to be among the most active teams in trade discussions to this point, and may look to begin selling off some pieces on the roster.
It was once thought the Magic could use the trade deadline as a means to acquire some additional scoring to help in a potential run to the playoffs, but given their recent struggles, it seems like the Magic should cut their losses on this season and begin to look ahead. In a draft that is said to be among the deepest we’ve seen in recent memory, obtaining a high draft pick should be a priority for the Magic this season.
Names to Watch:
Given how active the Magic have been in talks, there is not one player on the roster that is off limits. The front office will look to improve the best they can given the assets and players they have. However, let’s be clear: it’s going to take a lot to move an Aaron Gordon or an Elfrid Payton. It would take an offer the Magic can’t refuse to move them. They are as close to untradeable as it gets on the Magic.
Players like Serge Ibaka and Nikola Vucevic have surfaced in rumors lately and could be attractive to other teams. Ibaka will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and will command a contract the Magic probably won’t want to give him. He has the highest odds of being moved before the deadline. Jeff Green is another name to watch, as he’s on an expiring deal as well and could look good to a team needing additional scoring for a playoff run. C.J. Watson could be an option for a team like the Hornets that’s looking for a backup point guard.
With the trade deadline now just under two weeks away, trade rumors will only continue to escalate as teams begin to get very aggressive in conversations. These names mentioned above are some of the players to keep an eye on as the trade deadline approaches.
Stay tuned to Basketball Insiders for the very latest in trade rumors and conversations.
NBA Daily: Spurs Enter New Territory After Moving Parker To Reserve Role
The San Antonio Spurs are seemingly entering a new phase as Tony Parker has been moved to a reserve role.
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg made a significant change to his rotation earlier this week. On Sunday, January 21 Popovich placed guard Dejounte Murray into the starting lineup in place of Tony Parker. The Spurs went on to lose the game at home to the Indiana Pacers. The result was the same as a losing effort in Friday’s matchup against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto.
The San Antonio Spurs came into the 2017-18 hoping to bounce back from last year’s playoffs where the team suffered injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Parker and eventually lost to the Golden State Warriors. This season started off with the Spurs surviving without Leonard and Parker as the two continued to rehab from lingering injuries. As of now, Leonard is once again taking time off to rehabilitate after playing in nine games while Parker has been able to stay healthy so far. Unfortunately, being healthy enough to play doesn’t make up for the inevitable decline that comes with age and injuries.
On the season, Parker is averaging a career low in minutes (21.6), assists (4.0) and points (8.2), as well as free throws made and attempted per game. His usage rate, player efficiency rating (PER) and shooting percentages are also all at or around career lows. It’s hard to argue against the notion that Parker, at 35 years old with 17 years of pro basketball under his belt, is in the twilight of his impressive career.
Parker has acknowledged his demotion but seems to be handling it like a true professional.
“[Popovich] told me he thought it was time, and I was like, ‘no problem.’ Just like Manu [Ginobili], just like Pau [Gasol], you know that day is going to come,” Parker said recently. .
Before Sunday’s game, Parker had started 1151 of 1164 games played, all with the Spurs of course.
Popovich was asked specifically if the plan was either to start Murray at point guard moving forward or if this switch in the lineup was a part of some kind of injury management program for Parker. Never known for being overly loquacious, Popovich responded with little detail or insight.
“We’ll see,” Popovich stated.
In the starting lineup, Murray logged eight points, four assists, seven rebounds, three steals and one block in nearly 28 minutes of action. Murray had previously started before Parker returned from injury earlier this season but eventually relinquished that spot to career reserve guard Patty Mills.
Parker also spoke of the benefit of coming off the bench and potentially mentoring Murray’s growth in his new presumed role as the starter.
“If Pop [Coach Popovich] sees something that is good for the team, I will try to do my best,” Parker said. “I will support Pop’s decision and I will try to help DJ [Murray] as best as I can and try to be the best I can in the second unit with Manu [Ginobili] and Patty [Mills].”
If nothing else, this move will allow the Spurs to see if Parker can be more effective in limited minutes against opposing bench units. Additionally, Parker will hopefully benefit from playing alongside his longtime running mate, Ginobli.
Parker’s willingness to mentor Murray may come as a relief to Spurs fans watching the ongoing dismantling of San Antonio’s former Big-3, which began with the retirement of future Hall-of-Famer, Tim Duncan. At 6-foot-5, Murray benefits from greater size and athleticism than Parker, although Murray failed to keep the starting job when given an opportunity earlier this season. Coach Popovich gave another straightforward answer when asked which areas he thinks Murray can improve in.
“He’s 21-years-old,” Popovich declared. “He can improve in all areas.”
After asking for a trade in the offseason, the Spurs have benefited from focusing their offense around LaMarcus Aldridge, who is having a bounce-back campaign. However, Leonard is now out indefinitely and the Minnesota Timberwolves have now caught the Spurs in the standings. The pressure is on for this resilient Spurs team, which has again managed to beat the odds despite an injured and aging roster.
Parker became a starter for the Spurs at age 19 and never looked back. Now all eyes are on Murray to see how well he performs in his second stint with the starters at a crucial point in the season.
Sources: Milwaukee Bucks Fire Coach Jason Kidd
The Milwaukee Bucks have fired coach Jason Kidd, sources ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Bucks assistant coach Joe Prunty will be installed as interim coach, league sources tell ESPN. He will coach Bucks against Phoenix tonight.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 22, 2018
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN
Defensive Player Of The Year Watch – 1/22/17
Spencer Davies checks into the DPOY race with his latest list of candidates.
It’s a new year and Basketball Insiders is continuing its Defensive Player of the Year watch with sample sizes widening and new players emerging in the conversation.
There were a couple of names knocked out of the list, but that gives more of a spotlight to those who have really stepped up since our last edition ran on December 29. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
6. Hassan Whiteside
After missing nearly a month of action with a knee injury, Whiteside has returned with a vengeance. The Miami HEAT were already a good defensive team before he came back, but he’s really bolstered that reputation even further. Since Dec. 26, the 7-foot center has recorded eight multi-block games. In five of those, he had at least four swats, including a six-rejection performance in a win at Milwaukee. Overall in ESPN’s Defensive Real-Plus Minus, Whiteside owns by far the best rating at 4.73. “Agent Block” is back and daring all comers to try him.
5. Anthony Davis
Slowly but surely, the New Orleans Pelicans are creeping away from the bottom of the league in defensive rating. Once ranked in the bottom five a few weeks ago, they’ve shot up to 18th in the league (108.4) rather quickly. While that’s not the most impressive statistic to provide, the obvious reason for their improved standing on that end of the floor is Davis. He’s been an absolute workhorse for Alvin Gentry in the restricted area as an elite rim protector, with a heavy responsibility and a ton of minutes. Without him on the floor, the Pels are allowing 8.9 more points per 100 possessions, which puts Davis in the 96th percentile according to Cleaning The Glass.
4. Josh Richardson
Notice there are two members of the HEAT on this list. It’s because they are on fire right now, no pun intended, so it’s about time they received some love in the conversation for DPOY. Whiteside was addressed first, but if we’re talking about a greater sample size with consistent evidence, Richardson fits the bill. Opponents are attempting over 11 shots per game against him, yet are only making 38.9 percent of those tries. That’s the lowest conversion rate in the league with a minimum of 10 attempts.
Battling injuries a season ago, Richardson has played in all 46 games for Miami this year. While it’s been a team effort, he is the heart and soul of Erik Spoelstra’s defense, taking on the most difficult assignments each game. For that reason, he deserves long overdue recognition on this list.
3. Kevin Durant
This isn’t a case where Durant is slipping because of his performances. He’s only ranked third this time around because of the job others have done outside of him. The Golden State Warriors are still a juggernaut on both sides of the court. He’s still a top-notch individual defender. The numbers don’t suggest otherwise and the eye test certainly confirms it.
In isolation situations, Durant is allowing only 0.53 points per possession, which is second in the NBA to only Tony Snell. When it comes to crunch time, he’s always locking up. In fourth quarters, he is limiting the competition to shooting less than 30 percent—and his defended field goal percentage and field goal percentage discrepancy is the best in the league at -17.2. He’s got as good of a chance as anybody to take home DPOY.
2. Joel Embiid
Everybody loves to focus on the off-court antics and hilarities that come with Embiid, but the man deserves his due when it comes to his reputation in the NBA as a truly dominant big. The Philadelphia 76ers have won seven out of their last eight games and it has started on the defensive end of the floor.
Take the games against Boston, for example. Al Horford is a crucial part of the Celtics offense and has had problems getting going against the 23-year-old. In the 22 minutes per game, he’s been on the floor along with him, Horford has been held to below 30 percent from the field on an average of nine attempts. With Embiid off, he’s converted nearly 73 percent of his tries.
Another matchup you can examine is with Andre Drummond. The two have had their fair share of words with each other, but Embiid’s had the edge one-on-one. Similar to Horford, the Detroit Pistons big man has had a rough time against him. Embiid has limited Drummond to under 38 percent on five attempts per game in an average of over 23 minutes on the floor together. When he’s not playing, Drummond has had close to a 78 percent success rate.
Regarding centers, Embiid ranks second in ESPN’s DRPM and fifth in Basketball Reference’s Defensive Box Plus-Minus. Citing Cleaning The Glass, the Sixers are allowing 10 more points per 100 possessions when he’s sitting, which slots Embiid into the 97th percentile.
He’s altering shots. He’s blocking shots. He’s forcing kick outs. And that’s a big reason why the NBA gave Embiid its Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. Trust The Process.
1. Paul George
Basketball Insiders was well represented this past Saturday in Cleveland when the Oklahoma City Thunder decimated the Cavaliers in their own building. The focus was on the “OK3” exposing a terrible defense, but the real story in this game was how in-tune and sound George was on both ends of the court. He was sizzling shooting the basketball, but perhaps more defining was shutting down LeBron James on a day that was supposed to belong to him.
Any time 23 got the ball to try and get the Cavs going, George was there. He suffocated him with pressure, forcing James into bad decisions and contested shots. The talk of the day was the 30,000-point mark, but PG-13 had other ideas.
“I was hopeful that it took two games for him to get to that,” George said after the 148-124 win at Quicken Loans Arena. “I actually didn’t know that stat until right before coming into [Saturday]. They told me he needed 25 to go to 30,000. I’ve been a part of a lot of those baskets that he’s had, so that’s an achievement or milestone I didn’t want to be a part of.”
Thunder teammate Steven Adams spoke to his prowess on that end of the floor.
“He’s a really good defender man,” Adams said. “It was like a perfect matchup, honestly. He played LeBron really well in terms of our system and what we want him doing. He did an amazing job there.”
Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan is a huge fan as well.
“He really I think puts forth good effort,” Donovan said pre-game. “He’s long, smart. He’s disruptive. He’s got good feet. He’s a physical defender. He’s hard to shoot over. Certainly, with he and Andre [Roberson] on the wings, that’s certainly bolstered our defense.”
That was one performance, but it’s obvious how much George brings to the table as one of the toughest guys to score on in this league. He’s got a league-leading 188 deflections and is tied with Eric Bledsoe at the top of the NBA with 2.2 steals per game.
Recently, the Thunder have allowed 91 points at most in three of their last four games. They are also in the top three allowing just 104.7 points per 100 possessions and George has been a huge part of that.