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NBA Trade Watch: The Southwest

Shane Rhodes breaks down the mindset of each Southwest team headed toward the deadline.

Shane Rhodes

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New Years may have come and gone, but Trade Season is still very young. In fact, the NBA sits under a month away from the February 9th trade deadline. One of the most exciting times of the season, the trade deadline presents the opportunity for teams to improve both in the immediate and or distant future whether they are acquiring talent or accumulating future draft compensation.

In the lead up to the deadline, Basketball Insiders will tackle each division and break down where each team can improve or any trade chips they may have; Dennis Chambers has already covered the Atlantic Division here. While there doesn’t appear to be any major moves or changes on the horizon, the NBA never sleeps and that could change at a moments notice.

Here is a breakdown of the Southwest Division.

Houston Rockets (28-11)

The Rockets sure have fallen on hard times in recent weeks.

Houston has lost seven of their last 10 games, nine of which were played without superstar guard James Harden. Thanks to a dominant early season, the Rockets still sit comfortably at the two-spot in the Western Conference, but the San Antonio Spurs, Minnesota Timberwolves and others are all quickly gaining ground on them. And if they want any chance to catch the reigning champion Golden State Warriors in the standings, the Rockets are going to have to right the ship and do so quickly.

Notable Ending Contracts:

Chris Paul — $24,599,495

Trevor Ariza — $7,420,912

Clint Capela — $2,334,528

Names Worth Talking About:

The Rockets roster is already a fleshed out one; despite their recent struggles, they boast a top-shelf offense and, at the very least, an average defense. However, looking ahead, Houston’s top priority should be retaining talents Chris Paul and Clint Capela.

When healthy, Paul has been his usual dominant self and has formed one of the most dynamic backcourts in the NBA when alongside Harden. Capela, meanwhile, is in the midst of a breakout season for the Rockets and, at just 23-years-old, should continue to develop into an impact player on the floor. It would behoove the Rockets to maintain both their services.

Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:

The Rockets don’t need much outside of the return of James Harden. They have already fortified their bench with Gerald Green, who has provided Houston with a major spark off the bench in Harden’s absence. Leading up to the deadline, the Rockets should be focused on maintaining the health of the players and trying to lock down the likes of Paul and Capela for the future.

San Antonio Spurs (28-14)

Gregg Popovich has worked his magic again this season.

Despite Kawhi Leonard’s extended absence, the Spurs have managed to a 28-14 record this season, good for third in the Western Conference. LaMarcus Aldridge has rebounded from a poor showing last season, while the likes of Pau Gasol, Danny Green, Kyle Anderson and Rudy Gay have been key contributors for Popovich’s squad.

Notable Ending Contracts:

Tony Parker — $15,453,126

Names Worth Talking About:

Tony Parker is a free agent at season’s end. Outside of the veteran guard, the Spurs don’t have much in the way of trade assets outside of draft compensation. The Spurs don’t look poised to make any big splashes as the deadline draws near; unless it’s swapping bench pieces, don’t expect much from San Antonio.

Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:

Health. If the Spurs want to remain in contention they are going to need to return some players to the starting lineup. Most notably, Leonard, who has played just eight games this season, would be a welcome addition to a team that needs a reliable scoring option outside of Aldridge. The Spurs currently rank 26th in the NBA in points per game, averaging just 101.6 per contest; Leonard’s return would certainly remedy that situation.

New Orleans Pelicans (20-19)

As they seem to be every season, the New Orleans Pelicans are at a crossroads. Despite their talented frontcourt pairing of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, New Orleans sits at just 20-19, good for eighth in the Western Conference; do they forge on ahead or finally hit the button and blow it all up?

Notable Ending Contracts:

DeMarcus Cousins — $18,063,850

Rajon Rondo — $3,300,000

Names Worth Talking About:

While the Pelicans are likely reluctant to trade their second-star, Cousins, it may be in their best interest to do so. Now in his eighth season, Cousins has never been to the playoffs; does he believe the Pelicans — currently the eighth seed in the West — stand a chance to go anywhere against the top teams in the Conference? New Orleans retaining Cousins beyond this season will come down to that, and if they are unable to make any headway out West the team should, at the very least, be taking calls on the All-Star center.

E’Twaun Moore and Rajon Rondo could be interesting pieces as well. Moore is having a career year and could provide a scoring spark to a team either off the bench or in the starting lineup. Rondo, meanwhile, is an experienced veteran, and if his two postseason games against the Boston Celtics are anything to go by, Playoff Rondo can still make a major impact. Both players could be nice chips for the Pelicans should they look to retool or reallocate some assets heading into the deadline.

Solomon Hill, who has missed the entire season to this point with a torn hamstring, is on the verge of returning. He could make an impact for New Orleans as well.

Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:

Defense may be the missing ingredient in the recipe that is the Pelicans success.

The Pelicans have the makings of an elite offensive team in place despite bucking the traditional trend and rolling with two star big-men — they currently rank sixth in offensive rating, fourth in points per game and second in assists per game — but New Orleans has been unable to put forth the same effort on the defensive end. That needs to change if they want to stay out of the Western Conference cellar and move up and out of the eighth spot.

Keeping Anthony Davis should be a priority as well, through the deadline and for the remainder of the season.

Dallas Mavericks (14-28)

Another year, another down season for the Dallas Mavericks. But down might be where the Mavericks want to be right about now.

While no franchise wants to be losing games, the fact that the Mavericks are so low in the standings provides them with the prime opportunity to add a major impact talent in the stacked 2018 Draft. For a team lacking talent as much as the Mavericks do, it’s almost the perfect scenario to add to build a core for the future.

Notable Ending Contracts:

Nerlens Noel — $4,187,599

Seth Curry — $3,028,410

Yogi Ferrell — $1,312,611

Names Worth Talking About:

The Mavericks won’t be competing anytime soon, but they certainly have some intriguing pieces they can move for assets; Wesley Matthews, Nerlens Noel, Devin Harris and others, veterans who could surely be made use of by contenders. Matthews is one of the more underrated players in the NBA while Noel is a young talent who has simply fallen out of Rick Carlisle rotation and could do with a change of scenery. Devin Harris could certainly provide some experience and knowledge for a younger team while off the bench as well.

Seth Curry and Yogi Ferrell present as two intriguing pieces as well; they certainly are good enough, when healthy, to provide some offense off the bench and could definitely bring in some return should the Mavericks elect to move them.

Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:

The Mavericks need assets, and they need them badly.

The team has experienced a long fall since its title run in 2011 and numerous on-the-fly retoolings have done little to keep the franchise afloat. As much as Mark Cuban wants Dirk Nowitzki to go out on a winning squad, there isn’t much he can do at this point; the Mavericks are just too lacking in talent. They need to break it all down and build a core through the draft and, while they are certainly on their way with Smith Jr. and Barnes, they still have a long way to go.

Memphis Grizzlies (12-27)

In the absence of Mike Conley, the Memphis Grizzlies have had a horrid stretch. Conley’s absence has coincided with a 5-23 stretch after a promising 6-3 start to the season, and things don’t appear as if they will be turning around in the near future. With Conley on the shelf for an extended period of time, Memphis’ best course may be the one no franchise wants to face; it may be time to cut their losses and rebuild.

Notable Ending Contracts:

Tyreke Evans — $3,290,000

Names Worth Talking About:

Marc Gasol will likely be an oft-mentioned name in the rumor mill, but it will probably take a larger-than-life offer to pry away the face of the franchise.

Rumors have swirled around Gasol for much of the season and they will continue to do so. Memphis’ poor performance certainly hasn’t helped but, with Conley on the shelf, Gasol is the team and that puts the Grizzlies in a terrible position. Memphis truly should consider shipping out Gasol; they desperately need the return he would bring in now in order to jumpstart a rebuild. The longer they wait, the lower the return will be. But what kind of message are they sending to their fan base should they simply admit defeat and subjugate them to potentially multiple years of irrelevancy? It is almost an impossible situation.

Tyreke Evans should be a hot commodity as well, and one much easier to move on from. The Sixth Man of The Year candidate has had the best season of his career and, most importantly, has maintained his health up to this point. Evans will almost certainly net the Grizzlies a first rounder, if not more, from a contender looking to add some scoring punch to their second unit. Signed to a one-year deal in the offseason and playing for a team going nowhere fast, there is no reason for the Grizzlies not to trade Evans.

Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:

Like the Mavericks, the Grizzlies need draft assets and they need them badly.

Regardless of their decision on Gasol, Memphis is in a position where they must accumulate some talent through the draft after whiffing on multiple first-rounders in recent years. If the season keeps going as is, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get a top-level prospect with their own selection, but every extra pick is just another chance for Memphis to add to their depth and to a talent pool that is looking very thin at the moment.

In the event that they do move Gasol, taking on salary to facilitate some trades and acquire some draft picks certainly wouldn’t be out of the question.

With the trade deadline getting closer with each passing day, rumors will continue to swirl while teams make moves to critique and perfect their rosters.

And Basketball Insiders will be here to break it all down.

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NBA Daily: Bought Out Players Faring Well With New Teams

The deadline for teams to send their unwanted players to the buyout market was March 1. Jordan Hicks takes a look at some of the key acquisitions since the deadline and how they are helping postseason pushes.

Jordan Hicks

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The buyout market seems to be gaining more and more popularity with each season. While rebuilding teams tend to forego more seasoned players in order to give their younger guys some run, veteran players often find themselves bought out or waived prior to the deadline.

Teams competing for a spot in the playoffs – so it seems – have increasingly taken advantage of this situation by signing guys that can definitely help them get enough wins. While you definitely will not find All-Stars in the pool of available players, oftentimes solid role players find themselves there due to a myriad of reasons.

It could be that their previous teams wanted to give more playing time to guys more in-line with their future plans. It could also be because their previous team was simply wanting to lose games in order to increase their draft position, which is also known as tanking. By waiving better players on your roster and keeping less talented ones, teams can essentially give themselves a better chance to lose games without totally making it look like they’re doing it on purpose.

This year had one of the stronger pools of players on the buyout/waived market as of March 1st in recent memory, so let’s take a look at some of the top players and how they’ve fared since joining their new team.

Wesley Matthews

Matthews was part of the marquee trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks. He ended up with the Knicks, but after two short games, they realized they didn’t want his talent interfering with their draft position. They waived him prior to the deadline and he was picked up by the Indiana Pacers.

This has turned out to be an incredibly important acquisition for the Pacers – primarily due to the fact that they lost All-Star Victor Oladipo for the season.

Matthews brings grittiness on the defensive end and a diverse set of skills offensively. He is an above average shooter from the three-point line, averaging 38.8 percent on 6.1 attempts per game since joining Indiana. He has added much-needed scoring to the offense as well – currently at 12.5 points and 2.4 assists each night.

He’s very clearly a step below Oladipo, especially when considering what Vic brought to both ends of the floor, but the fact that the Pacers added him without having to give up any assets is pretty remarkable.

While he has yet to add any considerable value on defense, Matthews has ranked fifth on the team in offensive rating since joining them on February 7. If Oladipo was still on the roster, you could argue that they wouldn’t necessarily need Matthews. But in light of recent events, being able to add Matthews as easily as they did was certainly a win for the franchise.

Enes Kanter

Another player the Knicks decided to unload was Enes Kanter. He was sent to the player pool via buyout, and it is safe to assume that New York had to spend handsomely to send him there.

Kanter is an interesting player. He has always been able to get buckets around the rim, as well as grab rebounds, but he has always struggled defensively. This was not why the Knicks wanted to let him go, however. Tension had been growing between Kanter, the front office, and the coaching staff, as they wanted to limit his minutes in lieu of the younger players on the roster.

Enes just wanted to play, and, by being bought out and signing with the Portland Trail Blazers, he’s been able to do just that.

Since joining Portland, the team as gone 9-3. While he continues to have his struggles on defense, he is posting 10 points and 6.7 rebounds on only 18.2 minutes per night.

Since the acquisition, Meyers Leonard has seen a decreased role. Kanter has turned into the de-facto backup to starting center Jusuf Nurkic. While Kanter is a poor defender himself, Portland has enough solid defensive players in the frontcourt that they haven’t had too much of a problem hiding him on that end of the floor.

Jeremy Lin

Lin headed to the market after being bought out by the Atlanta Hawks. He was picked up by the Toronto Raptors, who have struggled to field consistent backcourt players off the bench due to injuries – which was made more difficult after dealing Delon Wright to the Grizzlies as part of the Marc Gasol trade.

In 13 games with the Raptors, Lin is averaging 8.4 points and 2.5 assists in 20.8 minutes per game. He has struggled to find any consistency with his shot, as he’s averaging just 39 percent from the field and a morbid 18.4 percent from three.

That shooting has every opportunity to increase. Lin is a 34.3 percent shooter from downtown over the course of his career.

The Raptors will need Lin to pull his shooting together as the season wraps up for a strong playoff campaign. The bench unit was a major part of their success last season and it is proving to be another key part this year. In order for Toronto to finally reach their goal of winning the Eastern Conference, they’ll need Lin to be at his best. He isn’t the only key to their success, but he’ll have a major impact on how the Raptors finish out the season.

There are still plenty of solid players on the market. Carmelo Anthony, Ben McLemore and Nick Young could provide instant offense off the bench. Greg Monroe, Marcin Gortat and Zach Randolph could help improve the frontcourt of any team in need. Whether or not teams decide they need their services, only time will tell.

While the season plays out, it will be interesting to see just what impact these players discussed – as well as those not mentioned – will have for their franchise in the postseason.

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NBA Daily: Justin Bibbs Gets First NBA Opportunity In L.A.

Justin Bibbs spoke to Basketball Insiders about joining an NBA team after going undrafted, playing in the G League, his developing skill set and more.

David Yapkowitz

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One of the best moments in the life of an aspiring pro basketball player is to receive the news that an NBA team wants to sign them.

For Justin Bibbs, that dream became a reality of his when the Los Angeles Clippers called him up to the team on a 10-day contract last week. The former Virginia Tech guard went undrafted last summer and was spending his first professional season in the G League with Maine Red Claws, the affiliate of the Boston Celtics.

This past Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets was actually his first day being around the team as they had immediately assigned him to the Agua Caliente Clippers after signing him.

“To be honest, I still don’t have words for it. It’s kind of indescribable,” Bibbs told Basketball Insiders. “I always wanted to be on this level, but now that I’m here I just trying to take in every second of it, just relax and let God do his thing.”

Bibbs had a decent showing with the Celtics in summer league, leading to him being added to their training camp roster. He was ultimately cut and joined the Maine Red Claws as an affiliate player. Each NBA team is allowed to assign up to four players to their G League affiliate, players who were in training camp and are guaranteed a G League roster spot.

Affiliate players, however, are still considered ‘free agents’ in that they can sign with any NBA team. Bibbs played in 44 games with the Red Claws and averaged 11.8 points per game, 3.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists.

At Virginia Tech, he was a knockdown outside shooter (42.4 percent) and a strong defender. He has good size for a guard at 6-foot-5 and 225-pounds. It’s those qualities that he’s hoping to bring to the Clippers should he get the chance on the court.

“I always bring energy defensively and I just play my game. On offense, I bring shooting,” Bibbs told Basketball Insiders. “But it’s whatever the coach tells me to do and basically just playing the right way.”

Although Bibbs has reached his goal of the NBA, he’s in a different situation than the rest of his Clippers teammates. They’re all secured with guaranteed contracts. Bibbs has ten days to prove himself to team brass, ten days to show he’s worth keeping around a bit longer.

“I’m happy that my play has been rewarded, that the organization believed in me enough to give me a 10-day. Its motivation for me to keep going,” Bibbs told Basketball Insiders. “I was called down from the G League team, and I’m just trying to get all the sets and plays and stuff, trying to make that adjustment. But it’s definitely a blessing.”

He’s played in three games for the Agua Caliente Clippers so far, logging 27.1 minutes per game off the bench. He’s put up 9.7 points per game on 45.8 percent shooting from the field, 5.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists during that stretch.

He’s yet to log any minutes for the Clippers, but he’s just thrilled to be a part of an NBA organization. Despite being undrafted, he always knew that he’d get to this level at some point.

“Yeah I did, for sure I did. I didn’t know when or how, but I always thought I would be here,” Bibbs told Basketball Insiders. “I had no idea what team, but being out in LA, I’ll take that as a blessing. But yeah I thought I would be here for sure.”

For players like Bibbs who are on 10-day contracts, nothing is guaranteed. But he’s soaking up the entire experience as long as he can. Whether the Clippers decide to retain him a little bit longer, or he moves on to another opportunity, he just wants to be able to play his game.

“My overall goal is just to actually play my game my way and not be restricted,” Bibbs told Basketball Insiders. “Kind of just play freely and right now that’s what I’ve shown, that’s what got me here. I’m just taking in the whole process, just taking it all in and getting the experience and knowledge.”

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Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft – 3/19/19

With the field of teams set for the 2019 NCAA March Madness tournament, things should get noisy over the next few weeks on the NBA Draft front. Steve Kyler offers up another 60-pick Mock Draft before all the zaniness begins.

Steve Kyler

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Let the Madness begin.

The basketball world will shift its attention to college basketball’s biggest stage over the next few weeks, especially this weekend’s opening round of 64.

While the tournament doesn’t necessarily make or break a player’s draft stock, this will be the first time some notable draft prospects will face elite talent and, more importantly, the pressure of the big stage. You can check out march madness predictions 2019 here.

Expect things in the draft world to start to percolate, not just because of the magnitude of the games, but also because a lot of NBA scouts will be in the same places, which is where the draft chatter originates.

Equally, a lot of NBA teams will watch games together in the conference rooms this week, so more group discussion on players will happen inside NBA teams’ front offices, and that could lead to new preference information flowing into the NBA Draft information bubble.

Here is this week’s 60-Pick Mock Draft, based on NBA games played through 3/18/19:

Here are the first-round picks that are owed and how those picks landed where they are.

The Atlanta Hawks are to receive the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyle Korver trade in 2017, which is top-10 protected. But based on the standings, it will not be conveyed.

The Boston Celtics are to receive the Memphis Grizzlies first-round pick as a result of the three-team Jeff Green trade in 2015; the pick is top-eight protected and, based on the current standings, would not convey.

The Atlanta Hawks are to receive the Dallas Mavericks first-round pick as a result of the Luka Dončić – Trae Young swap on draft night in 2018. The pick is top-five protected and, based on the standings, would convey.

The Boston Celtics are to receive the more favorable of either the Sacramento Kings or Philadelphia 76ers first-round picks as part of the Markelle Fultz pre-draft trade in 2017. Based on the current standings, the Kings pick is the more favorable and would convey to Boston.

The Boston Celtics are to receive the LA Clippers first-round pick as a result of the Deyonta Davis draft day trade with Memphis in 2016. The Grizzlies got the pick in their Jeff Green/Lance Stephenson deal at the deadline in 2016. The pick is lottery protected and, based on the current standings, would not convey.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are to receive the Houston Rockets first-round pick as a result of the three-team deadline deal that sent out Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss.

The Brooklyn Nets are to receive the Denver Nuggets first-round pick as a result of the Kenneth Faried – Darrell Arthur trade in July 2018. The pick is top-12 protected and, based on the current standings, would convey.

The San Antonio Spurs are to receive the Toronto Raptors first-round pick as a result of the Kawhi Leonard – DeMar DeRozan trade in July 2018. The pick is top-20 protected and, based on the current standings, would convey.

The Phoenix Suns are to receive the Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick as a result of the Eric Bledsoe trade in 2017. The pick has top 3 and 17-30 protections, designed to yield a lottery-level pick to Phoenix. Based on the current standings this pick would not convey. If the debt is not settled this year, the pick in 2020 would be top-7 protected.

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