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NBA Trade Watch: Northwest Division

A look at the players most likely to get traded in the Northwest Division, including Reggie Jackson.

Jesse Blancarte

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The NBA season officially started yesterday, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to talk about which players could, or are likely to be traded at some point this season. After taking a look at the players most likely to be traded in the Southeast Division and Central Division, we take a look at the Northwest Division.

Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder: NBA teams have until Friday to agree to extensions with first-round picks from the 2011 NBA Draft. This includes point guard Reggie Jackson, who was selected 24th overall in 2011 by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Jackson proved last season that he is worth making a significant investment in as he averaged 13.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 80 games and filled in effectively for Russell Westbrook, who missed significant time last season because of a recurring knee injury. But the fact that the Thunder has yet to extend Jackson raises concerns that stem back to 2012, when the Thunder refused to give superstar James Harden a max deal, and instead traded him to the Houston Rockets.

Part of the issue for the Thunder is that Jackson is a point guard and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to overpay him when Westbrook is already under a multi-year contract. This is the same problem that forced the Los Angeles Clippers to trade Eric Bledsoe last year for J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley. Jackson is unlikely to require the same sort of contract that Bledsoe eventually got as a restricted free agent this offseason, but the Thunder, as a small-market team, are especially concerned about maintaining financial flexibility. But after sending Harden to Houston in 2012, and subsequently failing to win a championship, the Thunder are at risk of sending away another impact player, and raising questions of whether they care more about their bottom line than winning a championship. Jackson may still be extended before Friday, but if he isn’t, the Thunder may look to acquire assets in exchange for him at some point this season.

Jackson has a qualifying offer for $3.2 million next season.

Randy Foye, Denver Nuggets: This offseason, the Denver Nuggets traded guard Evan Fournier and a second round draft pick to the Orlando Magic in exchange for Arron Afflalo. Afflalo is one of the best two-way shooting guards in the league, and is still relatively young at just 29 years old.

The addition of Afflalo makes Randy Foye expendable and a trade candidate this season. At age 31, Foye is still a solid scorer, good three-point shooter and underrated playmaker. A team looking for a guard that can knock down three-pointers, and occasionally initiate an offense could look to Foye for help. Earlier this month, Zach Lowe of Grantland tweeted that the Washington Wizards could look to acquire Foye to fill in for Bradley Beal, who is out for several weeks with a broken wrist.

Foye was acquired by the Nuggets in July of last year in a three-team deal that sent Andre Iguodala to the Golden State Warriors. Last season, in 81 games, Foye averaged 13.2 points, 3.5 assists. 2.9 rebounds, and shot 38 percent from beyond the arc. He is under contract for $3 millionthis season, and $3.13 million next season (non-guaranteed).

Chase Budinger, Minnesota Timberwolves: Earlier this month, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported that the Minnesota Timberwolves are shopping Chase Budinger, but at this point, no trade is considered imminent .

Like Foye, Budinger is a veteran wing player who can help teams that are looking for additional shooting. However, Budinger has struggled with injuries the last few seasons, which is cause for concern. But, at just age 26, Budinger still has the potential to add new elements to his game, and be an impact player moving forward.

Budinger is set to make $5 million this season, and has a player option for next season at $5 million as well. Wojnarowski reported that the Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets have shown interest in Budinger, but that Houston is reluctant to move forward with any deal for Budinger because of his player option for next season.

Last season, in 41 games, Budinger averaged 6.7 points and 2.5 rebounds, and shot 35 percent from three-point range.

Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves: Just last August the Timberwolves re-signed center Nikola Pekovic to a five-year, $60 million deal. Timberwolves president, and now also head coach, Flip Saunders announced the signing by stating “We envision Pek and Kevin Love being the ‘Bruise Brothers’ and forming one of the best frontcourts in the NBA for a long time to come.” Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, they missed the playoffs last season, and Love leveraged the team into trading him or risk losing him for nothing in free agency. Love is now in Cleveland and the Timberwolves are now building around a core of young talent, including most notably this year’s first overall draft pick, Andrew Wiggins.

With players like Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Anthony Bennett, Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad, Glenn Robinson and even Ricky Rubio all 24 or younger, and the likelihood that the Timberwolves will play more up-tempo with so many athletes, Pekovic is no longer a good long-term fit in Minnesota. This is especially true considering that Gorgui Dieng showed flashes of serious potential last season (on March 20, Dieng logged 22 points, 21 rebounds, 4 assists and made 10-of-11 from the free throw line and four days later, he registered 15 points, 15 rebounds, two assists and one block). Dieng is a better rim protector than Pekovic, is less expensive, and is a better long-term fit for the Timberwolves, making Pekovic expendable.

One thing that could prevent teams from pursuing Pekovic is the fact that he is under contract until the 2017-18 NBA season and has struggled with foot injuries in the past. However, despite injuries last season, Pekovic is still one of the best offensive centers in the league, and at 28 years old (and just four seasons in the NBA), he still has a lot of basketball ahead of him.

Last season, in 54 games, Pekovic averaged 17.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 0.4 blocks per game.

Enes Kanter, Utah Jazz: The Utah Jazz drafted Enes Kanter third overall in the 2011 Draft. Back then, the Jazz believed that Kanter and Derrick Favors would be the long-term frontcourt pairing in Utah. However, the pairing proved to be ineffective last season (1-14 record start to the season), which forced Kanter to come off the bench.

Kanter, like Reggie Jackson, is eligible for an extension until Friday. However, as Basketball Insiders’ Nate Duncan details in this article, there are concerns about Kanter’s overall value considering his defensive limitations, which calls into question how much the Jazz should offer in extension negotiations. On Tuesday news broke that the Jazz and Kanter have ended contract talks.

Also complicating Kanter’s future in Utah is 22 year old center Rudy Gobert. Gobert made a great showing in this summer’s FIBA World Cup Tournament, helping France upset Spain, and recently had some solid preseason performances. He is extremely long and athletic, and if he proves capable of starting next to Favors, could be part of a strong defensive frontcourt for Utah. Utah may eventually look to move Kanter in exchange for assets if they are not convinced he is worth the money he is asking for.

Last season, in 80 games, Kanter averaged 12.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game.

These are just a few players that could be mentioned in trade discussions at some point this year. Expect trade rumors to really pick up as we get closer to December 15, when players acquired this offseason become trade eligible.

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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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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