For most NBA teams, the trade deadline presents one of the best opportunities to alter the trajectory of a franchise. For fringe contenders, the deadline could see the acquisition of one of the final few pieces to a championship puzzle. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers added Channing Frye, who has since become an important part of their team. Way back in 2004, it was the Detroit Pistons who succeeded in adding Rasheed Wallace to their core.
Some teams find themselves looking to divest of assets, while others see the deadline as an opportunity to acquire some players that can help improve the future fortunes of the team. That’s why, along with the NBA Draft, the deadline is one of the most important dates during the NBA season. Traditionally the Thursday following the conclusion of All-Star Weekend, general managers across the league will have until February 23 to put up or shut up.
Down in the NBA’s Southwest Division, we are likely to see most teams standing pat, but there is bound to be a surprise or two.
San Antonio Spurs (1st in Southwest, 39-12)
Aside from winning basketball games, the other constant with the San Antonio Spurs is their ability to fly under the radar and avoid unwanted attention. Some things never change.
All things considered, the Spurs are doing quite well for themselves this season, despite having been without Pau Gasol since mid-January. What the injury to the Spaniard reminds the franchise of, though, is that you are only as good as your health allows you to be. The Spurs are obviously in the market for another big body, and as we saw previously with George Hill and Cory Joseph, the franchise is gifted when it comes to finding players that other teams covet.
From David Lee to Kyle Anderson to Jonathan Simmons, the Spurs have a number of valuable players on reasonable contracts, and could unquestionably find a trade partner if the franchise deemed it necessary. However, lovers of continuity and those that possess “corporate knowledge,” the Spurs aren’t likely to rock the boat this deadline season. That rings even truer when one considers that they sit atop the Southwest Division and appear to have an inside track to the second overall seed in the tough Western Conference.
Houston Rockets (2nd in Southwest, 38-17)
All season long, the question most commonly posed as it relates to the Houston Rockets is whether or not the team is “for real.” In the past, we have seen Mike D’Antoni teams excel in the regular season, only to falter and fall short when the games really count.
General manager Daryl Morey, despite his team’s early success, isn’t one to traditionally take things for granted. Even he admits, though, that making substantial changes to a team that has played so well is a risky proposition. For that reason, Morey went on record with the Houston Chronicle, assuring the public that his streak of making deadline deals was over.
In all likelihood Morey won’t be able to help himself, but anything that the Rockets do won’t rock their foundation. D’Antoni has earned a reputation for being a very loyal coach, both to his system and to his players. The team that the Rockets have assembled plays to his strengths, and there isn’t much reason to entertain the notion of a shakeup. According to Calvin Watkins of ESPN, the Rockets do have some interest in Serge Ibaka, however. With free agency on the horizon, the Congolese big man could find himself with a new address by the deadline. In many ways, Ibaka could make some sense for the Rockets, but the Magic is a team that is on the fence as it relates to fire selling some of its current assets of making a push for a run at the playoffs.
In the spirit of never saying never, Trevor Ariza and Corey Brewer are each regarded as hard-working players who impact both sides of the floor. Each will stand to earn a total of $15 million combined for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, meaning that they are valuable trade commodities. The Rockets also have youngsters in K.J. McDaniels, Tyler Ennis, Sam Dekker, Clint Cappella and Montrezl Harrell, all of whom have low salary commitments and high perceived value.
For the Rockets, they could potentially package a few pieces to make a run at a bigger named player, so Serge Ibaka is worth watching. That is, of course, assuming Morey can’t help but to make a splash.
Memphis Grizzlies (3rd in Southwest, 32-22)
For as long as we can all remember, the Grizzlies have been a team that has seemingly been stuck in the middle. Good enough to make the playoffs and throw a scare into a good team, but ultimately not good enough to win the conference. It seems that, despite an infusion of some younger and more talented pieces, that’s where the Grizzlies are once again.
Many fans lose sight of the fact that consummating a trade at the NBA level requires two teams making a deal, and both teams want to win. It has to be symbiotic. For the Grizzlies, then, there are two questions. First is whether they have pieces that other teams would actually want, and second is whether what they fetch in return would actually help improve the team’s odds of improving their standing as the third-best team in the Southwest Division.
Unfortunately, in either instance, the answer is probably no. Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are as close to unmovable as can be. The former two are the team’s best players, while the latter, along with Tony Allen, give the Grizzlies the tough mindset the team had used as its blueprint. Reminiscent of the way the Indiana Pacers fell apart without Roy Hibbert, David West and Frank Vogel, similar things would happen to the Grizzlies without any of the four aforementioned players.
Toward the end of the bench, rookie Wade Baldwin has had his fair share of high moments this season, while Andrew Harrison, JaMychal Green and Deyonta Davis continue to have value, as well. But none of those players are thought to have superstar potential, and unless the Grizzlies can find a way to nab a true difference maker who finds himself on the trade market—think Serge Ibaka, Carmelo Anthony or DeMarcus Cousins—any trade they find themselves making this deadline season will likely be one that is inconsequential in the grand scheme.
Dallas Mavericks (4th in Southwest, 20-32)
Without question, the Mavericks are thinking about life after Dirk Nowitzki. Truly a franchise pillar, the sun is setting on one of the greatest careers we have ever witnessed. Now, what the future holds for Mark Cuban’s team is tied directly to the strides that Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews can make in their personal games.
Having recently signed upstart Yogi Ferrell, the Mavericks are continuing their youth movement, which does make Andrew Bogut somewhat of an odd fit. Bogut, despite his injury concerns, is a valued commodity. He can still serve a valuable role for a team that needs a defensive-minded center off the bench who can control the paint and grab some rebounds during some key moments down the stretch of a tight playoff game. What makes Bogut even more appealing is that he is playing in the final year of his contract; he doesn’t require a hefty investment.
Knowing that the days of playoff contention are behind them, the Mavericks would likely require some minuscule form of compensation for Bogut; heavily protected picks would probably get it done. Both Deron Williams and Devin Harris would have similar appeal, as well. According to Sam Amick of USA Today, the Cavaliers did have some interest in Deron Williams in the not so distant past, though many believe the team will address their point guard and depth issues via buyout candidates. They typically show up after the deadline.
Never the type to not answer their phones during trade season, the Mavericks will likely entertain bids for some of their aging players. This time around, however, the trade deadline will be more about divesting assets than trading for pieces and players that can assist with a playoff run. Those days appear over for the Mavs, at least for now.
As it currently stands, the Mavs have just one pick credit—a 2019 second rounder from the Golden State Warriors. They would be best served by trying to improve the depth of their coffers.
New Orleans Pelicans (5th in Southwest, 20-32)
Teams that are struggling tend to be open to the idea of mixing things up. And “struggling” is a word that can be used to describe the Pelicans quite well. Since being ousted by the Golden State Warriors in the 2015 playoffs, the Pelicans have regressed badly as Anthony Davis has struggled to remain healthy over the course of an entire season. Last season, Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon had trouble staying on the court and this season, things got off to a rocky start because of Jrue Holiday’s extended absence. The end result is a team that many feel is underachieving, and those are the teams that typically shake things up.
It’s probably safe to assume that Anthony Davis remains the team’s franchise player. Despite his health concerns, his appreciable upside makes him among the most valuable players in the league. Rookie Buddy Hield has shown flashes over the course of the young season, and indications coming out of New Orleans are that he continues to have the support of the organization.
The Pelicans were recently linked to the Philadelphia 76ers, who have an obvious logjam in their frontcourt. The rumored trade would see Jahlil Okafor sent to New Orleans for Alexis Ajinca and a first round pick. With the Sixers most interested in the pick, the Pelicans may substitute another player. It’s fluid, but what is obvious is that general manager Dell Demps needs to upgrade the talent on the roster – and doing it with Okafor would make a lot of sense, so long as the Pelicans don’t have to sacrifice one of their core players.
Tyreke Evans is worth keeping an eye on in the final year of a contract paying him a reasonable $10.2 million, while rookie guard Tim Frazier has played up his value tremendously while filling in for the injury-riddled team.
Of all teams in the Southwest, the Pelicans appear most likely to make a groundbreaking trade, which really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering the franchise’s recent struggles.
For many years, the Southwest Division was thought to be the best in basketball. Times have changed a bit, but with the Spurs, Rockets and Grizzlies all vying for supremacy, the Pelicans and Mavericks are stuck in the cellar. Whether it be one of the teams up top trying to improve their stock or the Pelicans and Mavs trying to change their fortunes, the odds of the division experiencing some sort of shake up, in some way, seem fairly high.
NBA Daily: Georges Niang’s Big Break
After dominating the G-League for a year, Georges Niang has more than earned this big opportunity with the Utah Jazz, writes Ben Nadeau.
For Georges Niang, reaching professional stability was always going to be a tall order.
Even after four dominant seasons at Iowa State, the tweener forward was viewed as a draft risk. At 6-foot-8, the versatile playmaker has always scored in bunches but also struggled to find his place in the modern NBA. Despite excelling as a knockdown three-point shooter, the fundamentally sound Niang has bounced around the country looking for a long-term opportunity.
In the two seasons since he was drafted, Niang has played in 50 G-League games for three separate franchises and had his non-guaranteed contract waived twice.
As a summer league standout for the second straight offseason, Niang’s determined efforts officially paid off last week after he signed a three-year deal with the Utah Jazz worth about $5 million. Now with a fully-guaranteed contract under his belt for 2018-19, Niang has been eager to prove his worth both on and off the court — a newfound skill-set he happily attributes to Utah’s excellent system.
“In the Jazz organization, from top to bottom, they do a good job of nurturing guys and forming them into good leaders and things like that,” Niang told Basketball Insiders. “So, it was really easy to transition to summer league, [I’m] really just trying to lead by example, not with just my words.
“And I think playing hard, being a good teammate and doing the right thing –I think those are three things that the Jazz really stand for.”
But his meandering path toward year-long job security wasn’t destined to end up this way — no, not at all.
Selected by the Indiana Pacers in the 2016 NBA Draft with the No. 50 overall pick, Niang was correctly projected as a hard-working, high-IQ contributor that could put up points on almost anybody. Unfortunately, following a low-impact rookie year with the Pacers — and some short stints with their G-League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, as well — Niang was waived the ensuing summer. Shortly thereafter, Niang latched on with the Golden State Warriors, where he participated in training camp and four preseason games — but, again, he was waived before the season began.
With the Santa Cruz Warriors, Niang flat-out dominated the competition for months, up until he grabbed a two-way contract from Utah in January. In total, Niang played in 41 games between Santa Cruz and the Salt Lake City Stars in 2017-18, averaging 19.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.1 steals on 45.7 percent from deep over 33.9 minutes per game.
Once attached to Utah’s affiliate franchise, Niang averaged a team-high 22 points per game and finished the campaign as the 13th-best scorer in the G-League. On top of all that, Niang was both an All-Star and honored with a spot on the All-NBA G-League First Team at season’s end.
Although he would ultimately play in just nine games for the deep Western Conference roster, Niang was simply laying important groundwork for the days ahead.
This summer, Niang averaged 16.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists in three contests during Utah Summer League. Given the golden opening to impress his future would-be-employers, Niang kept things rolling in Sin City and posted similar numbers over five games. On the back of a 20-point, eight-rebound performance early on in Las Vegas, Niang embraced the chance to fight and compete for his team — five full days before the Jazz signed him to a guaranteed deal.
“It was a real physical game, but those are the games you want to play in during summer league,” Niang said. “You want to play in those types of environments, where every possession matters and you gotta make plays down the stretch — and I think we did a really good job doing that.”
Those scrappy aspirations have been a staple of Niang’s since his collegiate days at Iowa State, too. During an ultra-impressive senior year, Niang tallied 20.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game for the Cyclones, leading their roster to 23 wins and an eventual trip to the Sweet Sixteen. That season, Niang took home the 2016 Karl Malone Award as Division-I’s top power forward and finished with 2,228 points, the second-best mark in school history.
Any way you slice it, whether at college or in the G-League, Niang can play, the moment just needs to reveal itself — and maybe it finally has.
Of course, this new contract — one that’s only fully guaranteed in 2018-19 — doesn’t ensure Niang any playing time and he’ll have some stiff competition. Just to get on the court, he’ll need to squeeze minutes from Derrick Favors, Jae Crowder and Joe Ingles — a tough task in head coach Quin Snyder’s defense-first rotation. No matter what his role or obligations end up amounting to, Niang is ready to meet that challenge head-on.
“In the NBA, everyone has a role,” Niang told Basketball Insiders. “So, obviously, things are gonna be peeled back and you’ll have a defined role. My role is just when I get the ball, and if I do, play-make for others or get guys open, defend multiple positions, play multiple positions on offense and knock down open shots.”
Although his past resume certainly speaks for itself, it’ll be up to Niang take his big break even further. But given his efficiency and execution at every other level, there’s little reason to doubt the forward now. Days before they signed Niang, he was asked if Utah was somewhere he could see himself for the foreseeable future — his response was precise and foreboding.
“I’d love to be here — what [the Jazz] stand for is what I’m all about. I’ve had a blast with all these guys and I’d love to keep it going.”
And now, he’ll get at least 82 more games to make his case.
NBA Daily: The Carmelo Anthony Trade is a Rare Win-Win for All Involved
It is rare for a trade to be beneficial for all parties, but the Thunder-Hawks-76ers swap has the makings of a win-win-win situation.
The Big Three Era in Oklahoma City came and went rather quickly.
On Thursday, the Thunder reached an agreement to trade Carmelo Anthony and a protected 2022 first-round draft pick to the Atlanta Hawks for guard Dennis Schröder, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. As part of a three-team deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Thunder will also walk away with Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot while the Hawks and 76ers swap Mike Muscala and Justin Anderson.
Oklahoma City has agreed to trade Carmelo Anthony and a protected 2022 first-round pick to Atlanta for point guard Dennis Schroder and Mike Muscala, league sources tell ESPN. Anthony will be waived, and he will join team of his choice. Rockets are frontrunner.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 19, 2018
It is rare for a trade to be beneficial for all parties, but the Thunder-Hawks-76ers swap has the makings of a win-win-win situation. Just as well, the trade is perhaps even more beneficial for the players involved.
While Anthony may have wanted to stay with Russell Westbrook and Paul George, the trade is more than beneficial for him. After the trade goes through, the Hawks plan to buyout Anthony’s contract and he will reportedly receive the entire $27.9 million he is owed next season. Even better still, Anthony is free to join any team he wants, whether it be the Houston Rockets and friend Chris Paul, the Los Angeles Lakers and friend LeBron James, or elsewhere.
With his money already in hand, Anthony could sign on the cheap as well, making negotiations with any franchise that much easier.
For the Thunder, clearing Anthony’s massive salary from their books was of paramount importance. Staring down a $150 million luxury tax bill, Sam Presti managed to move Anthony and improve the team or, at the very least, make a lateral move depending on how you look at Schröder. Even as they take back the remaining $46.5 million owed to Schröder, the Thunder will save more than $60 million next season alone. That makes the trade worth it for Oklahoma City all by itself.
Still, the move allowed them to fill a need, perhaps more important than the cash savings as they look ahead to next season. Schröder not only fortifies the Thunder bench but the point guard position behind starter Russell Westbrook as well; he is another athletic playmaker that Oklahoma City can play on the wing with confidence. And, after averaging a career-high 19.4 points per game to go along with 6.2 assists last season, Schröder provides the Thunder offense with more firepower to compete against the other top teams in the Western Conference, a necessity if they hope to make a long playoff run.
For Schröder, the move to Oklahoma City is just as beneficial for him as it is for the team. Schröder is no longer the starter (he was unlikely to be the starter in Atlanta with Trae Young in the fold), but he can still make an impact and now he can do so for a contender.
The Hawks, as they should be, are playing the long game here. They acquired Jeremy Lin, an expiring contract, from the Brooklyn Nets earlier this offseason. After drafting Young, their guard surplus afforded them the chance to move Schröder’s deal off their books, netting them a first-round pick in the process and opening up playing time for the Young right away.
While the pick is top-14 protected (the pick becomes two second rounders if it doesn’t convey in 2022, every asset counts as the Hawks will look to add talent through the draft for years to come. With the addition of the Thunder pick, the Hawks now are owed an extra three first-round picks between the 2019 and 2022 drafts, a benefit for the Hawks whether they use those picks or trade them for already established talent. Meanwhile, Anderson, 24, presents another intriguing, and more importantly, young, option alongside the core of Young, Kevin Huerter, John Collins and Taurean Prince.
Anderson will almost certainly receive more playing time in Atlanta as they figure out who and who can’t help the team. His time in Philadelphia was mired by injury and he never had the opportunity to show what he could do. So, whether they use him as an asset in a future trade or plan to keep him on the roster, Anderson, at the very least, will have the opportunity to show what he can do.
For the 76ers, Muscala is essentially insurance for the reneged deal with Nemanja Bjelica. Bjelica agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the team but the stretch-four never signed his contract and backed out of the deal. With him out of the picture along with losing Ersan Ilyasova, Muscala was one of the few remaining options for the 76ers in that specific, stretch-big role.
Muscala doesn’t have the same shooting chops that Bjelica has, but he is younger and might have more upside alongside Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and co. Last season, Muscala, in addition to career highs in points and rebounds, averaged a career-high 3.2 three-pointers per game and hit 37.1 percent of them. While he likely won’t see the playing time he saw in Atlanta, Muscala should easily slide into a role off the bench for the 76ers. Moving Anderson and Luwawu-Cabarrot clears a logjam on the wing as well and will afford more minutes to Markelle Fultz (when he is ready), T.J. McConnell and rookies Zhaire Smith and Furkan Korkmaz.
As it stands, this trade made sense for all parties involved, and that alone is reason enough to consider it a win all around. While things could certainly change and hindsight is 20/20, this deal is beneficial for all three teams right now and could positively impact all three squads both next season and beyond.
NBA Daily: Grayson Allen Ready for NBA Challenge
Making it in the NBA alone is quite an impressive feat, which is why Grayson Allen is doing the best he can to prepare for the big stage.
Grayson Allen may not be the most hyped-up prospect to come out of this year’s draft, but he is one of the more experienced rookies coming into the league this season.
Allen spent four years learning under the tutelage of Coach K at Duke University while also playing with the likes of Brandon Ingram, Jayson Tatum, and Marvin Bagley III. He’s been through it all at the collegiate level, but he knows that if he’s going to make it in the pros, he’s going to have to adapt as quickly as possible.
“I have to set the tone for myself where I have to know playing in the NBA as a rookie, guys are going to be physical with you,” Allen said. “They’re going to come at you, they’re going to test you and see what you got. You’re gonna get beat. You’re gonna fail, but you gotta come right back at ‘em the next time.”
Since debuting in the summer league, Allen’s been the perfect storm for the Jazz. His shooting numbers have not been encouraging, but his numbers across the board have shown how impactful a player he can be. These have been his stat lines in both the Salt Lake and Las Vegas summer leagues.
July 2 vs. San Antonio: 11 points on 4/16 shooting including 2/6 from three, eight rebounds, seven assists
July 5 vs. Atlanta: 9 points on 2/13 shooting including 0/2 from three, six rebounds, eight assists
July 7 vs. Portland: 16 points on 6/17 shooting including 2/9 from three, six rebounds, six assists
July 19 vs. Miami: 17 points on 7/17 shooting including ⅕ from three, seven rebounds, three assists
Maybe it’s been the dry climate, or maybe it’s been the high Utah elevation that has caused Allen’s struggles shooting-wise, but the fact that his all-around game has shined despite his shooting woes should excite the Jazz. After his summer league play, Allen says the biggest adjustment he’s had to make offensively is acclimating himself with the pace of the game.
“Offensively, it’s a lot easier when you slow down,” Allen said. “I’m starting to see the space of the floor a lot better and finding the open guys. There’s still a few plays out there where I think I got a little antsy but it’s human nature and I’m trying to fight it right now. As a rookie playing in his first couple of games, I’m trying to fight that and play under control.”
On the other side of the ball, Allen says the biggest adjustment is the increased level of physicality in the pros.
“Defensively, it’s physical,” Allen said. “You gotta fight guys. You gotta get through screens. I mean, the bigs, they really set great screens, so you gotta be able to fight through that… If you’re tired on defense, they’ll find you.”
Allen knows that he needs to commit if he’s going to make it in the NBA, which requires eliminating all bad habits. In order to eliminate any habit that Allen has, which in his case is fatigue at the moment, Allen believes that he needs to be more mindful of himself when he’s physically drained.
“I try to be really self-aware of my habits when I get tired out there,” Allen said. “On defense, I have a habit when I’m tired, I stand up and my feet are flat. On offense, I’m not ready for the shot… I try to be really self-aware of that stuff so that in practice or in August, September, October, leading up to the regular season, I can have good habits when I’m tired because we got a short leash as a rookie. You don’t have many mistakes to make.”
In Utah, Allen will be playing for a team that exceeded all expectation last year and has a much higher bar to reach this season. He believes the summer the league should serve him well as he fights for minutes in the Jazz’ rotation.
“I’m joining a playoff team, so I gotta carve out a role with the guys they already have,” Allen said. “When I’m playing in summer league, I’m trying to play the right way. Don’t take too many tough shots, find the right guy, make the right pass.- Because when you come and play for Quin Snyder, that’s what he’s gonna want. He’s just gonna want you to play the right way.”
When Adam Silver announced that Utah was taking Allen with the 21st overall pick, the general masses laughed due to Utah, a state with a white-bread reputation, took a white player. Given that Allen just played four years of basketball at one of the best college basketball programs in the nation and will be starting his career playing for one of the most well-run organizations in the league, he may be the one laughing when it’s all over.
In other words, Grayson Allen playing in Utah could be quite the trip.