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NBA Trade Watch: Eastern Conference

Here are some of the East teams and players to keep an eye on as the trade deadline approaches.

Cody Taylor

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As the Feb. 19th NBA trade deadline approaches, talks around the league will heat up, particularly on Dec. 15 when players that were signed over the summer become eligible to be traded. The trade outlook in the Eastern Conference is certainly becoming a very interesting one as the season progresses and we begin to see how certain teams perform. Once players can be traded on Dec. 15, teams will have a better idea if they are going to be buying or selling at the deadline. Teams may be active in trade negotiations because they feel like one or two more pieces might put them in contention or they might be active because they are out of the race and want to begin selling off assets as they move their franchise in a different direction.

Here are some East teams to keep an eye on in trade talks in the months to come:

Boston Celtics —

Players who could be on the move: Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass

One of the biggest storylines around the league is whether the Celtics will trade Rajon Rondo. Since the start of the summer, Rondo has made his way onto virtually every trade watch list since his status with the Celtics is in question. Rondo will be an unrestricted free agent next summer so the Celtics face a difficult decision: do they trade him away to get some compensation for him or keep him and risk losing him for nothing in free agency? If it’s clear that Rondo wants out, Boston should move him as the Minnesota Timberwolves did with Kevin Love and the Orlando Magic did with Dwight Howard.  However, Rondo hasn’t made that clear; in fact, he has said he may stay with Boston long-term. This will be a tough call for the Celtics, and it’s certainly something to keep an eye on as Feb. approaches.

The Celtics also face a difficult decision with Jeff Green, who has surfaced in recent trade rumors. Green was said to be unhappy losing in Boston, but he has since come out and clarified that he wasn’t saying he wants to leave the Celtics. While he may be denying that he wants out, the Celtics might want to look at cashing in on Green now as he is currently averaging a career-high 18.4 points per game and can opt out of his contract with the Celtics after this season. Just like the situation with Rondo, Boston could lose Green for nothing if they hold onto him past the Feb. 19 trade deadline. Green’s player option is worth $9.2 million next season and if he continues to put up big numbers then he may want to opt out of that deal to make more money next season and sign a new long-term contract. Given that Green can opt out, trading him may hurt the Celtics’ chances of getting huge value in return because a team likely won’t give up too much for what could turn out to be a rental player.

Charlotte Hornets —

Players who could be on the move: Cody Zeller, Noah Vonleh, P.J. Hairston

The Hornets have been one of the more surprising teams in the league so far this season and not because they’re lighting it up. The team has gotten off to 4-11 start and are losers of six straight. The signings of veteran free agents Lance Stephenson and Marvin Williams, along with last year’s Al Jefferson signing, show that the team wants to win now and, for one reason or another, that hasn’t happened yet. With a talented core that consists of Jefferson, Stephenson and Kemba Walker among others, the Hornets have underperformed this season and could look to make a move should the struggles continue. The team could decide to part ways with some of the younger talent on the roster in Zeller, Vonleh and Hairston if it allows them to return proven players who can help contribute now toward a playoff run. While the Hornets might call around and see what those younger players could return, the team would only trade them away should the right deal present itself.

Cleveland Cavaliers –

Players who could be on the move: Dion Waiters, Brendan Haywood

The Cavaliers should be a team to keep an eye on this season in terms of making a trade. General manager David Griffin has come out publicly and said the team is open to trades and that “no one is untouchable,” although it’s obviously hard to imagine the team moving LeBron James, Kevin Love or Kyrie Irving. The team is said to be in the market for some defensive talent and a player like Corey Brewer has been mentioned specifically. Working in the Cavs’ favor in a potential trade scenario is a trade exception that they own. The $5.3 million trade exception was created when they traded Keith Bogans to the Philadelphia 76ers prior to the start of the season. Additionally, Haywood’s contract could be attractive for a team because his $10,522,500 salary is non-guaranteed for next season, which could allow a team to clear significant cap space this offseason.

Indiana Pacers –

Players who could be on the move: Roy Hibbert, David West, Luis Scola

There may come a time during this season that the Pacers decide that their current crop of players won’t be enough to make a serious run and enter a sort of fire-sale type of scenario. They proved last season with their roster at full strength that it still wasn’t enough to compete with the Miami HEAT. With Lance Stephenson gone and Paul George out for the year with his gruesome leg injury, the playoffs are a huge “if” at this point right now. They have certainly benefited from players like Donald Sloan, Chris Copeland and Solomon Hill stepping up and making the most out of their opportunities, but the chances of this team making any kind of noise in the playoffs aren’t great. The team may start making calls at some point and stockpile as many assets and young players as they can and begin a new rebuilding period in Indianapolis. With the team signing head coach Frank Vogel to a multi-year extension prior to the start of this season, the Pacers may not be ready to throw in the towel just yet, but if they can’t turn their season around wholesale changes could come.

Detroit Pistons –

Players who could be on the move: Josh Smith, Greg Monroe

The situation in Detroit seems like it’s one that will be fluid for much of the season. Upon his arrival in Detroit, new head coach Stan Van Gundy said he viewed Josh Smith as an important part of his team and trade rumors involving Smith then died down. The trade rumors are picking back up now after Van Gundy opted to bench Smith last week after an exchange the two had on the sideline during the game against the Phoenix Suns. The team has gotten off to a rather unexpected slow start and is 3-10 thus far. Smith hasn’t performed to the standards of his contract and, because of that, the Pistons have to be listening to any offer that might come their way. The biggest problem with trying to move Smith is the fact that he’s owed $13.5 million in each of the next three seasons.

The Pistons could find themselves in a similar scenario as the Pacers and may look to start selling off players in order to start fresh. Monroe signed a one-year qualifying offer with Detroit over the summer, so this could be his last year with the team. With that qualifying offer came a no-trade clause, which gives Monroe the right to veto any trade. Given the Pistons’ slow start, they may try to approach Monroe at some point and try to work out a trade that would send Monroe to a situation where he feels comfortable instead of risk losing Monroe for nothing next summer.

New York Knicks –

Players who could be on the move: J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Amar’e Stoudemire

Perhaps no players have been mentioned more in trade rumors than Smith and Shumpert. The Knicks are currently heavy in shooting guards so Smith and Shumpert are surely on the trading block. Smith is no stranger to off-of-the-court trouble so clearing his $6 million off of the books would be welcomed by the Knicks and Phil Jackson. Shumpert is now finally starting to show some signs of improvement so the Knicks may want to keep him, or perhaps move him while his value is high. The Knicks could help a contending team that is in need of a productive scorer off of the bench to take Smith or Shumpert off of their hands. Both of these players leaving would pave the way for Tim Hardaway Jr. to take over the position as it was reported over the summer that Hardaway is “untouchable” in trade discussions.

Jackson was brought in to New York to help turn the franchise in the right direction and part of that job is to clear all of the unwanted contracts off of the books. Given the Knicks’ slow start to the season, Jackson and the Knicks could trade away Stoudemire’s mammoth contract to a team looking to clear some cap space. Stoudemire could also end up going to a team like the Philadelphia 76ers in a deal that would help the 76ers reach the minimum team salary, as outlined by our own Steve Kyler.

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David Nwaba and the Road Less Traveled

David Nwaba speaks to Basketball Insiders about his unconventional path to the NBA.

David Yapkowitz

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A player’s path to the NBA usually follows the same formula: A star in high school, a strong college career, and then eventually being selected in the NBA Draft. However, there are times when a player’s path is more unconventional. In the case of David Nwaba, he definitely took the path less traveled.

He attended University High School in West Los Angeles, where he was named All-Western League MVP twice as well as being an all-league selection. He finished his senior year in 2011 putting up 22.0 points per game and 11.5 rebounds per game.

He went to an NCAA Division 2 school, however, Hawaii Pacific University, but never suited up for them as he redshirted his freshman year. He played a year at Santa Monica Community College, where he was the Western State Conference South Division Player of the Year before transferring to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. According to Nwaba, the decision to leave Hawaii Pacific was made with the NBA in mind.

“It was always a dream of mine, it’s also why I left a Division 2 school that I started at,” Nwaba told Basketball Insiders. “I had bigger dreams of playing D1 and potentially the NBA. So that was a dream of mine. I never thought the journey would go like this but it is how it is.”

Behind Nwaba, Cal Poly made their first-ever NCAA appearance in 2014. They won the Big West Tournament as the seventh seed out of eight teams, and then knocked off Dayton for the right to come in as a No. 16 seed against No. 1 seed Wichita State. Cal Poly would go on to lose to Wichita State, but sparking that run to March Madness put Nwaba on the basketball map.

He didn’t get to the NBA right away, though. His first professional experience came with the then Los Angeles D-Fenders, now South Bay Lakers, the Los Angeles Lakers G-League affiliate. He initially began with the Reno Bighorns, the Sacramento Kings affiliate, but his rights were traded to Los Angeles. His strong play in the G-League was what caught the Lakers’ attention, enough to give him a pair of 10-day contracts, and then one for the rest of the season.

“It was a perfect spot to start up my professional career The G-League is a place to develop your game, and I think I developed a lot,” Nwaba told Basketball Insiders. “I learned a lot about the game, and I think it was a good place for me to start just out of college.”

Although he made a strong impression on the Lakers, Nwaba found out that nothing is ever guaranteed in the NBA. Due to a roster crunch when the team signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope over the summer, the Lakers ended up cutting him. He didn’t stay unemployed for long though. Before he had a chance to hit the open market, the Chicago Bulls claimed him off waivers.

He’s since carved out a role as one of the Bulls most dependable players in the second unit. And just like his path to the league, his role is a bit of an unconventional one as a shooting guard. He’s shooting 51.7 percent from the field, but most of his shots come from in the paint. He only shoots 26.3 percent from three-point range. It’s been effective for him though.

“It’s just bringing energy off the bench and just being that defender,” Nwaba told Basketball Insiders. “For the most part, I just try to be aggressive going to the basket, finishing at the rim, making the right plays, just defending and playing hard.”

The Chicago Bulls got off to a slow start this season. They lost 17 of their first 20 games. In December, they started to pick up their play, winning 11 of their 20 games including a seven-game win streak. However, they’ve now dropped eight of their last 11 games. Despite that, Nwaba does see some encouraging signs. And in the Eastern Conference, he’s not quite ready to count out another run.

“We’re developing every game, just building chemistry amongst each other,” Nwaba told Basketball Insiders. “Who knows, all it takes is just a streak of eight to ten games or something and we’re already back in the playoff race. You never know, anything can turn around. It’s still a long season, a lot of games to be played, and a lot of time to develop our game. We’ve still got a lot of time with each other.”

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NBA Daily: The Los Angeles Lakers Could Be Up Next

The Los Angeles Lakers may not make the playoffs this season, but they’re trending in the right direction.

Dennis Chambers

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The Los Angeles Lakers are coming.

They may not be playoff-bound this season as some of their purple and gold faithful hoped for, but the prestigious franchise occupying the Staples Center is showing improvement from their young players. Perhaps even enough to lure the likes of established stars come summer time.

In Luke Walton’s second season as the Lakers’ head coach, he hits the All-Star break with his team holding a 23-34 record. Granted, that’s not the level of success he was used to during his time with the Golden State Warriors, but it is only three fewer wins than his team had all of last season.

Prior to limping into the break on the back of a three-game losing streak, the Lakers had won eight of 10. During that stretch, they’d beaten the likes of Oklahoma City (twice), Indiana, and Boston. Along with making the most of their performances over that span, the Lakers were also doing so without 2017’s second overall pick, Lonzo Ball, who’s sidelined with an injury.

But Ball isn’t the only Los Angeles darling who has shined this season. In fact, it’s arguable that he’s not even the most impressive youngster on the team.

Drafted second overall last season, Brandon Ingram is showing the improvement this season that warranted such a high selection. His play thus far suggests he’s one of the building blocks of the Lakers’ next era in contending for a championship.

In his 53 games this season, Ingram is averaging 16.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. His shooting from the floor and from beyond the arc have both seen dramatic increases as well this season. Over the same stretch that saw the Lakers go 8-2 with wins over cemented playoff teams, Ingram upped his assists per night to 5.2, taking the place of facilitator with Ball sidelined.

Though Ingram and the Lakers haven’t been setting the win column on fire all season, the steady growth and improvement show to him that the team is moving in the right direction, under the right coach.

“I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job,” Ingram said to reporters during All-Star weekend. “I think guys have gotten better every single day. I think we come in with the mindset that we have a really good coach that pushes us every single day. I like the progress of what we’re doing in our organization.”

Walton, this season more than last, has shown the ability to get the most out of the players he has. Ingram’s improvement, plus the capability as a point guard Ball has shown, are the givens. They were highly selected players, expected to contribute immediately. But it’s the production of the players who were afterthoughts that are a major testament to Walton’s teachings.

Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart were selected with the 27th and 30th picks in last June’s draft. Both were collegiate upperclassmen with noted handicaps in their respective games that led to teams selecting younger, or more athletic, or sweeter shooting players in their place.

A few years from now when everyone looks back, that could prove to be a silly mistake.

All Kuzma has done this season is keep his name consistently in the Rookie of the Year award race by averaging 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and shooting nearly 36 percent from beyond the arc. He’s been a lightning rod of scoring for the Lakers on nights where they desperately need it, racking up 13 games where he’s reached at least 20 points, and three games breaking the 30-point plateau.

Hart, on the other hand, hasn’t been as steady a performer as his fellow late first-round selected teammate. But when called upon, especially since Ball has been out, Hart’s shown the all-around game that made him one of the most decorated players in college basketball while at Villanova.

Over the last month, Hart has averaged 8.8 points and five rebounds per game, while shooting 52.8 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from beyond the arc. During that same stretch, Hart’s scored in double-figures six times and registered three straight double-doubles at the beginning of February.

Moving forward, as the Lakers look to add high-priced free agent in the coming summers, having guys like Kuzma and Hart on cost-effective rookie contracts is a luxury teams around the league hope to have.

Diamonds in the rough like Kuzma and more than capable contributors like Hart are nice, of course, but the real reason for optimism in L.A. is Ingram. He’s the player with a star power ceiling. He’s the guy that the likes of LeBron James and Paul George look at when they weigh their free agent options, as a guy who can handle the workload on the nights they may not have it.

Ingram’s game isn’t finished, though; far from it, in fact. But he knows that, and he’s aware of the steps he needs to take to get to that next level.

“To improve my game I think from a shooting standpoint,” Ingram said. “If I get that down, I think it would be a lot more easier for me to drive to the basket, break down a lot of guys, make plays for my other teammates. I think it would take me to a whole other level.”

Playing for the Los Angeles Lakers doesn’t come void of expectations. There, in Hollywood, everyone is always watching. Fans, other teams, the media, everyone is waiting for the next time a Laker championship comes around. With the weight of the world on their shoulders, Ingram thinks the current legend captaining the ship is the young team’s best asset to achieving that ultimate success everyone in Los Angeles is accustomed too.

“Magic Johnson,” Ingram said. “He’s in our front office. He’s at most of every practice, every single day. For any advice why not go to him, with the caliber of player he was and how many championships he won, the way he carries himself. He always there for just information on anything we need.”

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NBA All-Star Friday Recap

Simon Hannig recaps NBA All-Star Friday 2018.

Simon Hannig

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NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

The NBA All-Star Celebrity Game was highlighted by many stars this year, including Tracy McGrady, Paul Pierce, Nate Robinson, Candace Parker, Bubba Watson, Rachel DeMita and many more. Team Lakers was led by head coach, Rachel Nichols. Team Clippers was led by Katie Nolan.

Quavo, of hip hop group Migos, had the first the two points for Team Clippers, and Justin Bieber had the first three points for Team Lakers.

Team Clippers defeated Team Lakers 75-66.

Quavo led the way for Team Clippers with 19 points on 7/10 shooting, with 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Olympic sprinter Andre De Grasse had 17 points on 8/14 shooting and 6 rebounds. Actor and social media star Brandon Armstrong finished with 16 points on 6/17 shooting, 11 rebounds and 3 assists for Team Clippers. Both wereamong the top three leading scorers for Team Clippers.

NBA2KTV host, actress and model, Rachel DeMita led the way for Team Lakers with 17 points on 6/12 shooting and 2 rebounds. NBA legend Nate Robinson was the second leading scorer for Team Lakers with 14 points on 4/11 shooting, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.

Other notable NBA and WNBA legends stats from tonight’s game — Stefanie Dolson (Chicago Sky) had zero points. Paul Pierce had 4 points on 2/3 shooting and 1 rebound. Jason Williams had 2 points on 1/3 shooting and 1 rebound. Tracy McGrady had 3 points on 1/3 shooting, 3 assists and 2 rebounds. Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks) had zero points.

Quavo was named MVP.

BBVA Compass Rising Stars Game

There is a ton of young talent in this league, and the league will be in good hands for years to come. The talent was put on display tonight in Los Angeles.

Utah Jazz rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell gave us an early preview of the dunk contest tomorrow by throwing an ally-oop pass to himself off the backboard in the first half.

However, it was all Team World in the first half as they led 78-59 at the break. Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Sacramento Kings each had 14 points to lead Team World. Jaylen Brown led the way for Team USA with 16 points at the half.

It felt like a three point contest throughout the entire game, as there were 96 combined three point attempts. Bogdanovic led the way with seven three pointers made for both teams.

All in all, Team World defeated Team USA 155-124. Hield led the way for Team World with 29 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics led the way for Team USA with 35 points and 10 rebounds.

The MVP of the game was Bogdan Bogdanovic, who dazzled the crowd with his three point shooting. He had 26 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds with seven made three’s.

Next up for the NBA in this fun-filled weekend is NBA All-Star Saturday Night with the dunk contest, three point contest and much more.

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