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NBA Trade Watch: The Pacific Division

David Yapkowitz breaks down possible trade deadline moves in the Pacific Division.

David Yapkowitz



As we reach the end of the week, we also reach the end of our latest series here at Basketball Insiders. With the NBA’s trade deadline on the horizon, chatter has been heating up around the league. With our final installment of this series, we take a look at the Pacific Division.

Golden State Warriors (34-9)

What more needs to be said about the Warriors? They have the best record in the NBA and clearly appear to be head and shoulders above the rest of the league. They’ve got the best starting lineup in the NBA and one of the best benches; there really isn’t anything that this team needs.

Notable Ending Contracts:

Kevin Durant – $25,000,000(player option)
Nick Young – $5,192,000
Zaza Pachulia – $3,477,600
Kevon Looney – $1,471,382
Pat McCaw – $1,312,611(qualifying offer)

Names Worth Talking About:

Despite the Warriors’ overall dominance, there are a couple of players that could see their names come up in trade rumors. One is backup big man JaVale McGee. McGee played a key role off the bench on last season’s championship team. He came into this season looking to reprise that role. He’s seen his playing time dwindle, however, and veteran David West appears to be the backup center for now.

McGee’s name has already appeared in early trade reports. If he is moved, he’s not going to net the Warriors anything of real value in return. It will most likely be a salary dump to accommodate McGee by having him go to a team with regular minutes available for him.

The other player who might come up in trade chatter is Kevon Looney. Looney’s battled injuries since coming into the NBA, and he’s never been able to really crack the rotation. He has received rotation minutes here and there this season and he’s produced when called upon. It’s unlikely that he has a major role on this team going forward and being young enough, he could draw interest from other teams. Like McGee, a Looney trade likely doesn’t yield anything major for the Warriors.

Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:

Honestly, there isn’t anything the Warriors really need at the deadline. Provided the front office can keep this group together, they are set up to contend for championships for the next several years. If the right deal comes along that would make the Warriors even stronger, they should definitely consider it. Otherwise, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Los Angeles Clippers (20-21)

A couple months ago, the Clippers were at a bit of a crossroads. They suffered some major injuries to key starters such as Blake Griffin, Patrick Beverly, Danilo Gallinari, and Milos Teodosic. They were mired in a seven-game losing streak. There was talk abound on whether they should mail it in, trade away their veterans, and hit the reset button. They’ve started to get healthy now, however, and have played their way right back into the playoff picture.

Notable Ending Contracts:

DeAndre Jordan – $24,119,025(player option)
Austin Rivers – $12,650,000(player option)
Lou Williams – $7,000,000
Milos Teodosic – $6,300,000
Patrick Beverly – $5,027,028(non-guaranteed)

Names Worth Talking About:

When the Clippers looked as if the wheels were coming off, DeAndre Jordan’s name was being mentioned as a possible trade candidate. Our own Michael Scotto just reported that the Clippers approached the Minnesota Timberwolves about a trade centered around Griffin and Karl-Anthony Towns. Lou Williams is another name that has surfaced recently. Williams is having a career-year and could certainly help a few contenders.

This was a team that, when healthy, started out strong with Griffin playing like an MVP candidate. A lot of the big name trade chatter started gaining momentum when the team was floundering amidst all their injuries and looking like they might fall too far out of the playoff race.

Their front office has an interesting choice to make here. If they keep up their current play, do they stay the course and see how this team fares in the playoffs before making any changes? Or do they get some value for their guys now and start all over? As it stands, they’re only 1.5 games out of fifth place in the Western Conference.

Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:

Again, the Clippers could go one of two ways here. If they’re able to overtake a few of the teams ahead of them in the standings, they’ll probably stand pat. If that’s the case, a veteran point guard is probably their most pressing need. Patrick Beverly is out for the year, and Milos Teodosic has been in and out of the lineup due to injury. Rookie Jawun Evans has filled in admirably as a starter, but they’ll need a more seasoned player if they want to compete in the playoffs.

Then there’s the other possible direction. Maybe the Clippers don’t make a move in the standings. Maybe they drop more games and a playoff appearance starts to look bleak. If that happens, trade chatter involving Griffin, Jordan, and Williams will likely reappear. If they’re unable to make something happen record-wise in the next month or so, their biggest area of need likely becomes young players and draft picks.

Phoenix Suns (16-27)

The Suns are where many probably expected them to be. Some of their young talent is finally starting to shine through, but they aren’t really close to becoming a playoff team. They completed their big move of the year when they dealt Eric Bledsoe to the Milwaukee Bucks to accommodate his trade request and to open up playing time for the young guys.

Notable Ending Contracts:

Greg Monroe – $17,844,176
Alex Len – $4,187,599
Tyler Ulis – $1,312,611(non-guaranteed)

Names Worth Talking About:

There are some players on the Suns whose names will likely surface as the trade deadline gets closer. The one guy whose name is probably going to pop up quite a bit is Greg Monroe. Monroe played a big role off the Bucks bench last season, especially in the playoffs. He’s not in the rotation in Phoenix, but he can certainly still help a contending team.

The other name who might come up is Tyson Chandler. Chandler has been the starting center for the Suns for most of the year, and he’s played well for them. He may not be the player he once was, but he still provides an interior defensive and rebounding presence. He’d definitely help a contending team. He can come in and still start if need be.

Both Monroe and Chandler have fairly large contracts which might make them a bit difficult to move. It’s likely that the Suns wouldn’t be expecting much in return for either of them. If they’re able to get back any young prospects or picks, that would obviously be ideal. But since those contracts are big, they’re going to need to take back some salary as well.

Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:

Firmly out of the playoff race and headed to another lottery finish, the Suns just need to maintain course. Find a way to get their young guys as much playing time as possible. Monroe isn’t in the rotation, so if they can’t move him it doesn’t matter much. He’s an expiring contract anyway. If they can find a taker for Chandler that makes sense, they should do it.

More playing time for the younger big men such as Alex Len and Dragan Bender will likely benefit them. They’ve both shown improvement this season and would stand to benefit most if Chandler is moved. Chandler’s been a positive presence for the Suns but going forward, it’s unlikely he’s in their long-term plans. Len and Bender might not be either, but the Suns won’t know unless they try it out.

Los Angeles Lakers (14-27)

The Lakers are another team that’s right where they should be. They were never going to be a good team this year. They were always going to lose a lot of games. But they’re often times exciting while doing so. They’ve got some intriguing young talent on the team, talent that might be worth developing and worth standing by rather than chasing dreams of LeBron James or Paul George in the purple and gold.

Notable Ending Contracts:

Brook Lopez – $22,642,350
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – $17,745,894
Julius Randle – $4,149,242(qualifying offer)
Corey Brewer – $7,579,366

Names Worth Talking About:

There are a couple guys on the Lakers roster whose names have already been talked about in trade rumors. The most prominent one is probably Luol Deng. As the new front office tries to undo the mistakes of the previous regime, Deng has been on the inactive list since the first game of the season. The Lakers would love to get out from under his contract, but finding a taker is going to be incredibly difficult.

Other than that, they do have a few guys that have been mentioned in trade chatter who probably have some value around the league. Both Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson have seen their names in trade rumors since the offseason. Moving either or both has been seen as a precursor to pursuing James and George in the summer. They’ve both been solid for the Lakers, however, especially Randle, who is having a stellar year despite a decrease in playing time.

Randle, in particular, is someone the Lakers will need to make a decision on soon. He is set to become a restricted free agent this summer and is likely in line for a nice payday. The Lakers have to decide if they want to be the ones to pay him or not.

Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:

The Lakers’ biggest need is quite obvious: to ship out Deng. That’s unlikely to happen given his contract situation, so their next biggest area of need is to decide what to do with Randle. If they don’t think he’s part of the team’s future, then it’s best to trade him before the deadline and get something in return, rather than lose him for nothing in the summer when another team will inevitably pay him.

They also have to decide if it’s worth it to go all in for a couple of max contract guys this offseason. If so, they’ll need to look at potential deadline deals that will clear out some salary.

Sacramento Kings (13-28)

The bottom of the Western Conference is probably where you would have expected the Kings to be, and that’s exactly where they are. They did have a solid draft, but it’s going to take some time for that talent to yield on-court results. This is a team that’s been in the lottery forever, it seems, and so far they have nothing to show for it. This upcoming draft is looking very top-heavy so maybe the Kings will get lucky and finally hit the lottery jackpot.

Notable Ending Contracts:

Kosta Koufos – $8,393,000
Vince Carter – $8,000,000
Garrett Temple – $8,000,000

Names Worth Talking About:

The biggest name on the Kings’ roster who will certainly factor into trade rumors is George Hill. It wasn’t too long ago that Hill spoke about his disappointment with how the Kings’ season was going. He was one of the Kings’ prized offseason acquisitions, but he hasn’t panned out as initially hoped.

He’s got quite a hefty contract, so if he’s moved the Kings are going to have to take some salary back in return. He’s still a valuable player who just isn’t fitting that well with the Kings. There are plenty of teams out there, playoff contenders at that, who could use him.

Another name that’s come up is Kosta Koufos. Koufos has a bargain of a contract and is one of the Kings most productive players. He’d definitely help fortify a contending team’s second unit. Should the Kings decide to move him, it would probably be a bit easier than moving Hill. In any potential deal, the Kings should be looking at getting some prospects and/or picks that can help with the rebuild.

Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:

Other than finding a taker for Hill, if that’s what they want to do, the Kings should sit this deadline out. They need to use the remainder of the season to evaluate the guys they currently have. It’s been over a decade since the Kings were relevant, but there’s no need to rush.

If they can add any intriguing young players or picks, then, by all means, do it. But that’s all they should be looking to add.

With the trade deadline less than a month away now, look for more and more chatter to pick up. For the teams in the Pacific Division, the teams to look out for are the Clippers and Lakers. The Clippers will need to decide what path they want to take, and the Lakers will need to determine what their offseason goals will be. Those two teams are where most of the talk might come from. Look for the other teams, especially the Warriors, to stay put.


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Monte Morris: Waiting for his Chance

Nuggets two-way guard Monte Morris talks to Basketball Insiders about his time with Denver.

David Yapkowitz



Monte Morris has only seen action in three NBA games with the Denver Nuggets this year. While most players who receive little playing time spend most of their time at the end of the bench cheering their teammates on, Morris’ situation is a bit different. He’s spent the majority of his rookie year in the G-League.

The NBA’s minor league has grown tremendously since it’s inception in 2001. All but four NBA teams have a G-League affiliate now. There are plans for the New Orleans Pelicans to have their own team by next season, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has spoken about having a team in Mexico.

As part of the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, they expanded the partnership between NBA teams and their G-League affiliates even more by adding two-way contracts. Essentially creating a 16th and 17th roster spot, two-way players are allowed to split time between an NBA team and the G-League.

For Morris, two-way contracts are an added opportunity for players to make an NBA roster.

“It’s a good chance for guys to make a roster, especially second-round picks to get a chance,” Morris told Basketball Insiders. “With two-way contracts, I feel like they’re going to get a lot better as far as rules and things like that go. This is the first year so they’re testing it out, but it’s a good opportunity. It’s a blessing at the end of the day.”

Morris was drafted by the Nuggets with the 51st overall pick in last summer’s draft. Second round picks are not afforded the guaranteed contract stability that comes with being a first-round pick. He was tabbed for a two-way contract almost immediately after he was drafted.

He had a stellar four years of college at Iowa State, where he was one of the top point guards in the nation as a senior. He also had a strong showing in Las Vegas with the Nuggets’ summer league team.

The Nuggets were a little crowded in the backcourt to begin the season with Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay ahead of Morris in the rotation. When Mudiay was injured and out of the rotation, Mike Malone opted to go with Will Barton as the backup point guard. The Nuggets’ trade deadline acquisition of Devin Harris pushed Morris farther back on the depth chart.

“The toughest thing is just staying mentally tough, staying true to yourself, and developing your own craft,” Morris told Basketball Insiders. “Just not losing that self-confidence cause you might not play when you go up. When you come down here [G-League], take advantage of it, have fun, and keep getting better.”

Morris has definitely done his part to stand out in the G-League. The Nuggets are without a sole affiliate, so they’ve used the Houston Rockets G-League team, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, to get Morris additional experience. In 36 games with the Valley Vipers, he’s put up 18.2 points per game on 47.8 percent shooting from the field, 35.6 percent from the three-point line, 4.6 rebounds, 6.6 assists, and 1.8 steals.

He believes that if called upon, he can be a major contributor for the Nuggets. There are certain aspects he can bring to the team and he thinks it’s possible for him to play with Murray in the backcourt together.

“I think I can bring energy off the bench. I feel like me and Jamal Murray, the way the game is going you can play small ball. I feel like I can bring pace to the game and play defensively,” Morris told Basketball Insiders. “I like getting after it when I’m up there with those guys on defense and getting guys open shots. I know we got a lot of scorers, my goal would be getting everybody their shots.”

Morris has been able to show he can produce at the NBA level, even if it’s a small sample size. On Feb. 9, only the second game he’s played in with Denver, he scored ten points on 4-5 shooting from the field, dished out six assists, and nabbed three steals against the Rockets.

Players on two-way contracts are allowed a maximum of 45 days with the NBA team. Those days are not solely game days; they include practices and travel days as well. Once those 45 days are up, NBA teams have the option of converting a two-way contract to a standard NBA deal provided they have roster space.

If a player uses up the 45 days and does not have their contract converted, they go back to the G-League. They can rejoin their NBA team once the G-League season ends but are not able to play in the playoffs.

For now, Morris is just biding his time, waiting for his opportunity. He’s staying ready for when the Nuggets might need him. In the meantime, he’ll continue to take advantage of what the G-League has to offer.

“It’s definitely a good starting point. It’s just all about how guys attack it on and off the court,” Morris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s just being a pro and not losing confidence in your ability when you go up and don’t play. You just got to be ready, you’re really one injury away, one call away to step on and have to play.”

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Middleton, Bucks Aiming To ‘Lock In’ As Season Comes To Close

Spencer Davies catches up with Milwaukee Bucks swingman Khris Middleton in a Basketball Insiders exclusive.

Spencer Davies



Basketball Insiders had the chance to chat with Khris Middleton about the direction of the Milwaukee Bucks as the season comes to a close.

You guys won three out of four before you came into Cleveland. What was working during that stretch?

Just being us. Doing it with our defense, playing fast-paced offense. Just trying to keep teams off the three-point line. We haven’t done that. We didn’t do that [Monday] or two games ago, but it’s something we’ve just gotta get back to.

With the offense—it seems like it’s inconsistent. What do you think that’s got to do with mostly?

Just trying to do it by ourselves sometimes. Standing, keeping the ball on one side of the floor. We’re a better team when we play in a fast pace. And then also in the half court, when we move the ball from side-to-side it just opens the paint for everybody and there’s a lot more space.

For you, on both ends you’ve been ultra-aggressive here in the last couple weeks or so, does that have to do with you feeling better or is it just a mindset?

I’ve been healthy all year. Right now, it’s the end of the season. Gotta make a push. Everybody’s gotta lock in. Have to be confident, have to be aggressive. Have to do my job and that’s to shoot the ball well and to defend.

Have you changed anything with your jumper? Looking at the past couple months back-to-back, your perimeter shooting was below 32 percent. In March it’s above 45 percent.

I feel like I got a lot of great looks earlier this year. They just weren’t falling. Right now, they’re falling for me, so I have the same mindset that I had when I was missing and that’s to keep on shooting. At some point, they’re gonna go down for me.

Is knowing that every game at this point means more an extra motivator for you guys?

Definitely. We’re basically in the playoffs right now. We’re in a playoff series right now where we have to win games, we have to close out games, in order to get the seeding and to stay in the playoffs. Each game and each possession means something to us right now.

Is it disappointing to be in the position the team is in right now, or are you looking at it as, ‘If we get there, we’re going to be alright’?

I mean, we wish we were in a better position. But where we’re at right now, we’re fine with it. We want to make that last push to get higher in the seeding.

Lots of changes have gone on here. Eric Bledsoe came in two weeks into the season. You had the coaching change and lineup changes. Jabari Parker’s been getting situated before the postseason. How difficult does that make it for you guys to build consistency?

Yeah, it was tough at first. But I think early on we had to adjust on the fly. We didn’t have too many practices. There was a stretch where we were able to get in the film room, get on the court, and practice with each other more.

Now it’s just at a point where we’re adding a lot of new guys off the bench where we have to do the same things—learn on the fly, watch film. We’re not on the court as much now, but we just have to do a great job of buying in to our system, try to get to know each other.

Does this team feel like it has unfinished business based on what happened last year?

Definitely. Last year, we felt like we let one go. Toronto’s a great team. They’re having a hell of a season this year, but I feel like we let one go. This year’s a new year—a little add of extra motivation. We’ve been in the playoff position before, so hopefully, we learn from it when we go into it this year.

Would you welcome that rematch?

I mean, we welcome anybody man. We showed that we compete with any team out here. We can’t worry about other teams as much. We just have to be focused on us.

What has to happen for you guys to achieve your full potential?

Lock in. Just play as hard as we can, play unselfish, and do our job out there night-in, night-out.

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NBA Daily: Raptors Look To Fine-Tune The Defense

The Toronto Raptors’ defense had a letdown against the Cavaliers, but has been outstanding overall.

Buddy Grizzard



The Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors engaged in an offensive shootout on Wednesday that could be a playoff preview. The Cavs protected home court with a single-possession, 132-129 victory. Afterward, the Raptors spoke about the types of defensive adjustments the team needs to make as the postseason rapidly approaches.

“That’s how a playoff game would be,” said DeMar DeRozan, who missed a three at the buzzer that could have forced overtime. “This is a team we’ve been playing against the last two years in the postseason. Understanding how we can tighten up things defensively, how to make things tougher for them [is key].

“[It’s] little small things that go a long way, and not just with them … with every team.”

Raptors coach Dwane Casey concurred with DeRozan that fine-tuning of the defense is needed. He also pointed out that, with young contributors such as center Jakob Poeltl and power forward Pascal Siakam on the roster, defensive experience against the league’s best player, LeBron James, is something they will have to gain on the fly.

“I don’t think Jakob Poeltl played against him that much, and Siakam,” said Casey. “This is their first time seeing it. I thought Jak and Pascal did an excellent job, but there are certain situations where they’ve got to read and understand what the other team is trying to do to them.”

Poeltl was outstanding, leading the bench with 17 points and tying for the team lead in rebounds with eight. Casey praised the diversity of his contributions.

“I thought he did an excellent job of rolling, finishing, finding people,” said Casey. “I thought defensively, he did a good job of protecting the paint, going vertical. So I liked what he was giving us, especially his defense against Kevin Love.”

Basketball Insiders previously noted how the Raptors have performed vastly better as a team this season when starting point guard Kyle Lowry is out of the game. Much of that is due to Fred VanVleet’s emergence as one of the NBA’s best reserve point guards. VanVleet scored 16 points with five assists and no turnovers against Cleveland. It’s also a reflection of how good Toronto’s perimeter defense has been up and down the roster.

According to ESPN’s defensive Real Plus-Minus statistic, three of the NBA’s top 15 defensive point guards play for the Raptors. VanVleet ranks seventh while Lowry is 12th and Delon Wright is 14th. Starting small forward OG Anunoby ranks 16th at his position.

The Raptors also rank in the top five in offensive efficiency (third) and defensive efficiency (fifth). Having established an identity as a defensive team, especially on the perimeter, it’s perhaps understandable that Lowry was the one player in the visiting locker room who took the sub-standard defensive showing personally.

“It was a disgraceful display of defense by us and we’ve got to be better than that,” said Lowry. “We’ve got to be more physical. They picked us apart and made a lot of threes. We’ve got to find a way to be a better defensive team.”

Lowry continued the theme of fine-tuning as the regular season winds down.

“I think we’ve just got to make adjustments on the fly as a team,” said Lowry. “We can score with the best of them, but they outscored us tonight. We got what we wanted offensively. We’re one of the top teams in scoring in the league, but we’re also a good defensive team.”

Lowry was clearly bothered by Toronto’s defensive showing, but Casey downplayed the importance of a single regular-season game.

“We’ve got to take these games and learn from them, and again learn from the situations where we have to be disciplined,” said Casey. “It’s not a huge thing. It’s situations where we are that we’ve got to learn from and be disciplined and not maybe take this step and over-help here. Because a team like that and a passer like James will make you pay.”

While the Raptors continue to gain experience and dial in the fine defensive details, Casey was insistent that his players should not hang their heads over falling short against Cleveland.

“Hopefully our guys understand that we’re right there,” said Casey.

The Raptors host the Brooklyn Nets tonight to open a three-game home stand that includes visits from the Clippers Sunday and the Nuggets Tuesday. After that, Toronto visits the Celtics March 31 followed by a return to Cleveland April 3 and a home game against Boston the next night. With three games in a row against the other two top-three teams in the East, the schedule presents plenty of opportunities for the Raptors to add defensive polish before the playoffs begin.

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