Coming Down the Stretch
Yesterday in this space, we hit on some of the top-level names that have been floating around the trade market. Today, we’ll jump into some of the smaller names being kicked around in advance of the NBA Trade Deadline.
Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker is one of several Suns players being discussed in trade circles. League sources peg him as a likely trade candidate mainly because his contract is favorable and he is a good and available team guy. The Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers are said to have kicked the tires on Tucker, as have the Washington Wizards. The prevailing thought on Tucker is that he could be had for very little in return and that becomes interesting as teams that are looking for bench help from a veteran miss on bigger fish.
Tucker is owed $5.5 million this season and has $1.5 million of his 2016-17 salary guaranteed. In terms of relatively cheap and available talent, Tucker looks like someone who could get packed in with another player or moved outright by himself.
The Orlando Magic made their first transaction yesterday, sending Tobias Harris to the Detroit Pistons. Their next transaction might be offloading Channing Frye to either the L.A. Clippers or the Cleveland Cavaliers. From there, the next guy under consideration is big man Andrew Nicholson. His camp has been pushing for a trade since the deadline last year and the Magic have again indicated a willingness to try and make a deal happen.
Nicholson has played a little under Magic coach Scott Skiles, but with the arrival of Ersan Ilyasova from Detroit it seems less likely that Nicholson has a role going forward with the Magic.
They could also move off point guard Shabazz Napier. He too was told that the Magic would entertain deals to land him in a situation where he could play more.
The Magic have made it clear that, barring a blockbuster offer, they will not be moving their core young guys – but it does seem like the Magic are trying to flip some of their low-minute bench players into something more substantial for a postseason push.
The Boston Celtics have been shopping forward David Lee with the assistance of his agent. The problem in moving Lee is he has a big contract and while that’s favorable in a deal for a star-level player like Houston’s Dwight Howard, it’s not very favorable in a lesser deal.
There is a sense that Lee would be open to a buyout if he is not traded or is traded to an unfavorable situation. As things stand today, Lee’s contract value is $15.43 million of which the Celtics have already paid roughly $10.07 million of it. With a remaining balance of about $5.36 million, some teams may see a willing buyout candidate as valuable or that’s at least the hope from the Celtics’ point of view.
When Lee has played, he has played well so if the Celtics cannot move him and he is indeed bought out, he may have his choice of situations once he clear waivers.
The New York Knicks have very little to offer in the trade market, but the name that continues to pop-up is big man Kyle O’Quinn. The Knicks have been looking for a starting-caliber point guard, but it’s unlikely that O’Quinn alone returns the kind of player the Knicks are looking for.
A team to watch on the O’Quinn front could be the Toronto Raptors, who have been looking for a power forward and someone that can bang in the post and stretch the floor a little as a shooter. O’Quinn fits the bill in a lot of ways and has a long history with Raptors All-Star Kyle Lowry and Terrence Ross as they have trained in the offseason together.
The Raptors have eyes on a more established option, but as the deadline approaches O’Quinn could become an interesting fallback, especially if the Raptors would part with point guard Delon Wright and big man Lucas Nogueira.
The Knicks, like the Raptors, are searching for bigger options but if they fail to materialize, Toronto is situation worth watching.
The Sacramento Kings are looking for change and one of the names that’s drawing a lot of interest is swingman Ben McLemore. The Kings have explored the value of several parts of their roster and it seems that McLemore and his rookie deal are the most attractive parts.
The Kings are looking at deals that could move off McLemore and veteran Caron Butler.
One situation to watch is Atlanta, as the Kings have eyes for Thabo Sefolosha. The Hawks have been looking for help along the perimeter and may be willing to part with Sefolosha for the right package. McLemore could be enticing enough to get a deal done.
Otto Porter, Jr.
The Washington Wizards have been fairly active in the march up the trade deadline and the guy to watch is forward Otto Porter Jr. The Wizard like Porter a lot, but there is a sense that Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson could be obtained in trade, but that the cost could be Porter. At this point, there does not seem to be a deal; however, the Wizards are planning to make another run at several of the players they covet and and Porter could be the guy they have to move to make a deal.
The Wizards have the ending contracts of veterans Alan Anderson and Jared Dudley, but at this point neither seems to be enough to make a deal happen.
With the Brooklyn Nets agreeing to hire Sean Marks from San Antonio as their next General Manager, the question becomes will he and the Nets try to trigger a deal before the deadline?
There are a number of teams linked to Nets forward Thaddeus Young and he could return the most future value for a Nets team desperate for assets. Then there is center Brook Lopez, who could also return value.
Nets sources said it is unlikely either players is moved before the deadline, but the Nets are listening to offers and could be talked into something if the offer were right.
One Nets name that’s not getting any transaction is guard Joe Johnson, who is owed $24.894 million this season (of which the Nets have paid roughly $16.25 million). With a balance of roughly $8.6 million still owed, that’s a hefty number for most teams to consider at the deadline.
There is a belief that once the deadline passes, Johnson might agree to leave some of that cash on the table to be a free agent. However, the Nets say that’s not a conversation that has happened yet.
Make sure to check out the 2016 NBA Trade Deadline Diary for all the latest news, rumors and trade details. It’s updated throughout the run to the February 18 3 p.m. EST trade deadline.
The Deadline Podcast
In case you missed it, Alex Kennedy and I dropped the Trade Deadline Preview Podcast last night. We hit on all the major trade rumors and teams looking to make deals. Take a listen:
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Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal
The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.
It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.
Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.
There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.
Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.
Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.
That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.
At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.
One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.
NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind
Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.
When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.
“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.
Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.
That didn’t last long.
“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”
With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.
As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.
After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.
In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.
“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”
Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.
“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”
Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.
“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”
After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.
Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.
“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”
All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.
“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”
Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team
Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.
“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”
Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN