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Trade Targets In The West

James Blancarte takes a look at some Western Conference players who could be trade targets this offseason.

James Blancarte

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Trade Targets in the West

In roughly 24 hours, the NBA Finals will finally begin after a six-day break from the end of Conference Final play. Many individuals have been able to pass the time debating how LeBron James’s career matches up to Michael Jordan’s, the pressure on Kevin Durant to finally win a NBA title and who wins hypothetical player match ups in the Finals.

However, there are still 28 other teams in the Association, including many who will be looking to improve their respective rosters through trades. With the NBA Draft coming up, there is an additional catalyst for transactions to occur as draft picks are potentially in play in various potential trades. Here we take a look at a few players who are potential trade targets in the Western Conference.

J.J. Redick – Los Angeles Clippers

J.J. Redick has been a member of the Los Angeles Clippers for four years. During that time he has continued to perfect the art of using off-ball screens as the foundation for a very capable and precise three-point attack. This season he shot 42.9 percent from three-point range. Redick’s off-ball movement has been a catalyst for the Clippers’ offense for years and his defense has been surprisingly effective as well.

Redick is now an unrestricted free agent and is in control of his own destiny. Put another way, if Redick chooses to sign with a team that has the requisite cap space to afford his services, the Clippers will not have the option to match his contract and retain his services. Redick earned $7.34 million for his services this season and is set for a handsome pay raise this upcoming offseason.

For a trade to be possible, Redick would have to be amenable to a sign and trade. So, why would this happen?

Redick may wish to play for a team that does not immediately have the cap space to directly sign him. In addition, there have been rumors involving New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, who has been a subject of trade speculation for some time. Notably, Anthony is in a position to decline any potential trade as he has a no-trade clause (NTC) in his contract. For him to be traded, he would have to authorize the transaction or he would invoke his NTC. With a NTC, Anthony is in a position to dictate which teams he is open to being dealt to. With Phil Jackson and the Knicks seemingly eager to move Anthony, and with Anthony being tied to the Clippers in previous reports, a trade scenario involving these two teams is feasible. A lot of things would have to come together, but this is a situation worth keeping an eye on.

D’Angelo Russell – Los Angeles Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell is just 21 years old, is on a team-friendly rookie contract and has played well in his two years in the league. Russell has demonstrated the potential for further improvement and has already had a few signature moments in his brief career. With major skill and upside, why would the Lakers look to trade Russell?

With the second pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, it is widely anticipated that the Lakers will select UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball. Ball recently agreed to conduct a solo work out for Lakers officials. Ball is seen as a gifted, pass first point guard who does a great job of making the players around him better. He is also a gifted scorer and can defend opposing guards effectively with his length. With excitement around Ball and the prospect of building the franchise around him, Russell suddenly looks to be somewhat expendable.

Russell is going into his third year of his rookie contract and is a great value for any potential suitor who might trade for him. Russell himself has shown the ability to be creative with the ball in his hands both as a scorer and facilitator. The Lakers even briefly experimented at the end of the season with Russell playing as the off-ball guard, allowing him to score more freely without the pressure of facilitating.

Standing in the way of this trade is a failure to get decent value for Russell. The Lakers are in a new era of management with Jeannie Buss’s hiring of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. Lakers management would be loathed to give away one of their best young pieces for poor value. Furthermore, the Lakers are not seen as being a single transaction away from being truly competitive yet and are not under intense pressure to trade away core players.

Ricky Rubio – Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio has been the subject of trade rumors on an annual basis for quite some time. To hear rumblings of Rubio possibly being traded is par for the course for Timberwolves fans. Rubio is a talented player with prodigious passing abilities, which peaked at a career high 9.1 assists per game this season. He can make almost any pass and genuinely enjoys setting his teammates up in creative ways. So, what’s the problem?

To put it bluntly, Rubio is a poor shooter. On pick and rolls, defenders go under the screen frequently, daring Rubio to shoot from the outside. This allows opposing defenses to clog up the lane and stymies Rubio’s own ability to facilitate Minnesota’s effectively. Rubio did show signs of improvement this past season with a couple of high-scoring games as well as hitting a career high 44.3 percent of his shots from two-point range.

Unfortunately, these incremental improvements did not coincide with a winning season for a franchise still searching for a return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2004 playoffs. At $14.2 million, Rubio is one of the Timberwolves’ more expensive players and yet with recent cap increases is still relatively well priced for potential suitors. With talented but untested backup point guard Kris Dunn (the fifth pick in the 2016 NBA Draft) on the roster, the Timberwolves may look to capitalize on Rubio’s most recent campaign and finally trade him.

Enes Kanter – Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter has had a bad summer. While hosting a basketball camp in Indonesia he received a tip that Indonesian police were looking for him based on a call from the Turkish government and that he should leave. Kanter took a flight a few hours later in the middle of the night, found his passport had been revoked by the Turkish government, but eventually made it back to the United States where he wrote above the whole ordeal. Let’s hope Kanter can focus on basketball now to create distance from this ordeal.

As the backup center and occasional front court partner of starting center Stephen Adams, Kanter had solidified a role as an off the bench scorer for the Thunder. Criticism of his defense has never really subsided but in this role, his defensive shortcomings have been easier to hide. Unfortunately, the 2017 NBA Playoffs included a harsh realization for Kanter. When it mattered most, the Thunder couldn’t hide Kanter’s poor defense, which relegated him to the bench and forced him to watch as the Thunder eventually fell to the Houston Rockets.

Kanter is still a talented basketball player who can score. If the Thunder look to move on from Kanter, there are teams that could use a player with his abilities. The biggest question then is, will another team be willing to absorb his contract? Kanter has two years remaining on his contract, the second being a player option. He is set to be paid $17.88 million next year and $18.86 million the year after if he opts in. As mentioned, Kanter’s defense stuck out like a sore thumb and got him benched. Now his contract might prevent the Thunder from generating more interest. Any team looking to trade for and invest in Kanter’s services will also have to have a creative game plan that takes into account his less than stellar defense.

Brandon Knight – Phoenix Suns

Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight has been around the league. Having played for the Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks and now the Suns, another move presumably wouldn’t be a total shock for Knight. In fact, a trade would likely be a benefit to Knight. In his first five seasons, Knight has been a starter for all but 13 games. In his first four seasons, he played roughly 32 minutes a game, which jumped in 2015-16 to 36 minutes per game when he averaged 19.6 points per game.

Now in his sixth season, he has since been relegated to a bench role behind oft-injured point guard Eric Bledsoe and young scoring phenom Devin Booker. In this role, his scoring (11 points) and minutes (21.1) per game dropped to career-lows. Knight is not far removed from being a primary option and would benefit from joining a team that is more stable and looking to maximize his scoring abilities.

What could get in the way? Knight may simply not generate a lot of interest. He is set to be paid $13.62 million this upcoming season, which is not a bad value if you are getting something close to pre-2016-17 version of Knight. In addition, he is a poor defender, with his defensive RPM dropping from -1.5 in the 2015-2016 season to -3.0 this past season.

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2018 NBA Draft Diary

NBA Daily: The Losers of the NBA Draft

Shane Rhodes breaks down the losers of the 2018 NBA Draft.

Shane Rhodes

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The 2018 NBA Draft season has come to a close. And, while the actual draft wasn’t the fireworks show that it could have been, there was still plenty of surprises, both good and bad.

While Basketball Insiders’ Simon Hannig discussed the winners of the draft, not everyone was so fortunate. And, while the draft can come down to chance, some teams were worse off than others.

Let’s take a look at some of the bigger losers from draft night

Mikal Bridges

Talk about heartbreak.

Mikal Bridges was going home. The Philadelphia 76ers selected the Villanova standout with the No. 10 pick. Bridges did an entire press conference, talking about what it was like to be staying in Philadelphia. His mother, Tyneeha Rivers, is even the Global VP of Human Resources for Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the team. It was perfect.

And then it wasn’t.

It’s hard to not feel bad for Bridges, who was dropped into a dream scenario and then had it all ripped away. Going to the Phoenix Suns, an organization heading in a new direction, to play alongside plenty of young, high upside talent, including No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton as well as former lottery picks Josh Jackson and Devin Booker, isn’t the worst thing in the world for the rookie forward. Bridges could even flourish in Phoenix.

But it certainly won’t compare to playing under the bright lights in Philadelphia alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid come next April and for years to come.

Michael Porter Jr.

One year ago, Michael Porter Jr. was a top three draft prospect projected to go as high as No. 1 overall. However, with rumors of questionable medicals swirling throughout the draft process, he dropped all the way to the Denver Nuggets at No. 14 overall.

While Porter will certainly welcome the chip on his shoulder, the lost earnings will definitely hurt him and his pocket. Porter is missing out on millions on his first NBA contract. Plus, the sheer amount of teams that balked at his medicals doesn’t bode well for his long-term future in the NBA.

It isn’t all bad for Porter; Denver has a young, talented roster and was one win away from a postseason birth last year. They can afford to be patient with Porter’s back, should he need to miss some time, as well. Standing 6-foot-11, 211 pounds and with a smooth jumper, Porter still has a great chance to be a star in this league.

Still, it was an inauspicious beginning to what, hopefully, is a long NBA career.

Sacramento Kings

This could apply to the Sacramento Kings roster as well as their fanbase.

The Kings got “their guy” in No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley III. And, while Bagley is still an amazing talent, the pick just seems like more of the same for the Kings, who have a glut of bigs — Willie-Cauley Stein, Harry Giles III, Skal Labissiere, Kostas Koufos — on the roster and a distinct lack of high-quality guard or wing depth.

In steps Luka Dončić, the 19-year-old Slovenian phenom. With the Suns taking Ayton with the top pick, the Kings had their chance to shore up their backcourt for the foreseeable future alongside De’Aaron Fox and move another step closer to relevancy.

And they whiffed.

Dončić could very well end up as the best player in the class. While he isn’t the most athletic, Dončić is exactly where the NBA is going; he is a multipositional defender and playmaker that can shoot the three. Meanwhile, Bagley, who is a questionable fit in the modern game, will be hardpressed to find playing time early on in his Kings tenure. Even worse, with their hearts set on Bagley, the Kings likely could have traded down a la the Atlanta Hawks and picked up another asset for their troubles.

While it’s much too early to call it either way, this is a pick that could come back to haunt Sacramento down the line.

Cleveland Cavaliers

It was not a great night for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers missed out on one point-guard prospect, Trae Young, and another, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, flat out said he didn’t want to play for the franchise. And, even though they got a guard they liked in Alabama’s Collin Sexton, the Cavaliers are still in the unenviable position of dealing with LeBron James’ third iteration of The Decision.

Sexton’s selection doesn’t exactly help them retain James’ services either.

Since acquiring the pick from the Boston Celtics in the Kyrie Irving trade last summer, it had been speculated as to whether Cleveland would use the pick or trade it to get James help. With the team opting for the former, it’s difficult to imagine the Cavaliers getting any significant help for James, in free agency or otherwise, which could push him closer to leaving than he already may be. Meanwhile, Sexton, who dominated the ball during his time at Alabama, isn’t exactly the best fit alongside James in the event that he stays.

Either way, there appears to be a bumpy road ahead for the Cavaliers.

Washington Wizards

Troy Brown Jr. is a great pickup for the Washington Wizards. That still doesn’t mean he wasn’t a reach.

Brown is a twitchy wing that can defend multiple positions. But there were multiple wings that Washington could have taken ahead of Brown (e.g., Lonnie Walker II) that would have made this a better pick. Brown struggled as a shooter during his lone season at Oregon — he shot just 29.1 percent from three and has some iffy mechanics — and is a strange fit on the Wizards roster that already has a surplus of wing depth in John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre.

With the team looking to move Marcin Gortat, a big would have been a better fit for Washington at 15. Or, if management was deadset on Brown, dropping back a few spots would have made more sense.

Brown certainly has the talent to make an impact, but it’s hard to like a pick that may not crack the rotation in year one, according to the Wizards own General Manager.

Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors took a big step earlier this offseason, moving on from Dwane Casey and placing Nick Nurse at the helm in early June.

But, with zero picks in a loaded draft, the Raptors have to be considered losers.

There were plenty of difference makers available up-and-down the draft board, but the Raptors didn’t end up with any of them. While management could improve the team via trade or free agency come July, they still feature the same roster that got manhandled in the Eastern Conference Semifinals by James and the Cavaliers and that isn’t good.

Not everyone can come out a winner in a crapshoot like the NBA Draft. Still, some teams found themselves worse off than others when all was said and done. Luckily, those teams still have a chance to improve themselves with free agency right around the corner.

 

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2018 NBA Draft Diary

NBA Daily: The Winners Of The NBA Draft

Simon Hannig breaks down the winners from Thursday’s 2018 NBA Draft.

Simon Hannig

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The 2018 NBA Draft has come and gone, and although many teams have improved coming out of this loaded draft, five teams seemed to have walked away as the biggest winners.

The Phoenix Suns Got Their Guy

The Suns made a couple of splashes in the draft, selecting DeAndre Ayton with the first overall pick.

The Suns then drafted Zhaire Smith, but later traded his rights to the Philadelphia 76ers for Mikal Bridges.

In the second round of the draft, Phoenix selected Frenchman Elie Okobo and George King from Colorado, each of whom should be able to contribute right away. Ayton should be the starting center come opening night and Bridges could also start for the team immediately. If not, Bridges will be a valuable weapon coming off the bench for a team who is trying to win games and get back into the playoffs.

Does Mo Bamba Have The (Orlando) Magic?

The Orlando Magic got a stud in Mo Bamba, whom they surprisingly selected with the sixth overall pick in the draft. They later drafted Melvin Frazier in the second round. It was a bit surprising that the Tulane product lasted that long, but the Magic benefitted.

Orlando got a player who can contribute right away and could compete for a starting job. Frazier is a great rebounder and defender and could change the team’s defense all by himself. The club now has two young core pieces they can build around in Jonathan Isaac and Bamba and a young contributor in Frazier.

Although the team’s offense will likely be work in progress, they can be very scary on the defensive end.

Now, we’ll all wait to see if Bamba, the New York product, can carry the Magic back to respectability.

Atlanta Hawks Will Let It Fly

After drafting Luka Doncic with the third overall pick, the Hawks ended up sending him to Dallas in exchange for Trae Young and a future protected first round pick. The pick is top-five protected the next two years, top-three protected in 2021 and 2022 and unprotected in 2023, according to Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson.

With their second first round pick, the Hawks took sharpshooter Kevin Huerter from Maryland and, with the 30th overall pick, selected Omari Spellman from Villanova.

Atlanta appears to building themselves in the way of the Warriors, getting sharpshooters in Young and Huerter. It is no surprise they are doing this as their current general manager, Travis Schlenk, worked with Golden State before taking the job with the Hawks.

The Rich Got Richer In Boston

The Celtics once again got a steal in the draft, as they were the beneficiaries as it relates to Robert Williams from Texas A&M. He is an athletic big man who plays great defense and rebounds the ball very well. Williams has lottery talent but ended up falling to the Celtics, who selected him with the 27th pick of the draft.

Williams averaged 2.5 blocks per game at Texas and should also be able to provide second chance opportunities for the team. Williams, as he averaged three offensive rebounds per game in college.

Luka Doncic Found A Good Home

The Dallas Mavericks walked away from the 2018 NBA Draft with two foundational pieces in tow, Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic. Their other moves were also tremendous, as they drafted Jalen Brunson from Villanova, acquired Ray Spalding from Louisville in a trade with the Sixers and drafted Kostas Antetokounmpo (Giannis’ younger brother) with the last piece in the draft.

For Mark Cuban, it may take time to develop the pieces, but if things could go well, the Mavs might have some productive years ahead.

Doncic was thought to be one of, if not the best player available in the draft, so getting him at the expense of a protected future first round pick seems like a fair trade. Depending on how ready he is to contribute at the NBA level, the sky could be the limit.

Of course, every year, there are surprises. Some good, and some bad. However, walking away from the 2018 NBA Draft, these five teams all appear to have improved themselves immensely.

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2018 NBA Draft Diary

NBA Draft Night Trades

David Yapkowitz breaks down the trades that took place during the 2018 NBA Draft.

David Yapkowitz

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Another NBA Draft has come and gone. With rumors swirling all week about possible pick/player movement, the night remained relatively uneventful. There were a few trades that occurred, however. Here’s a quick breakdown of the movement that happened on draft night.

1. Atlanta Hawks/Dallas Mavericks

The Hawks and Mavericks completed the first trade of the night early on in the draft. Leading up to the draft, there were questions about how high Luka Doncic was going to be drafted. It was widely assumed that he wouldn’t slip past Dallas at No. 5. The Mavericks weren’t going to take that chance as the Hawks drafted Doncic with the intention of trading him to Dallas for Trae Young.

Both teams ultimately get what they need. It’s been reported that the Hawks might move on from Dennis Schroder this summer and they’ll need a point guard to replace him. Young is an explosive scorer who will fit in nicely with Atlanta’s rebuild. He can score from anywhere on the court and he’s a great playmaker as well.

For the Mavericks, they get a guy to add to their own young core with Dennis Smith Jr. and Harrison Barnes. Doncic has the size to play next to Smith in the backcourt. He’s quite possibly the best playmaker in the draft with a solid offensive game as well.

2. Charlotte Hornets/Los Angeles Clippers

The Hornets and Clippers consummated the second move the night by swapping their own draft picks. The Hornets took Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with the 11th pick and then immediately traded him to the Clippers for Miles Bridges, whom Los Angeles selected at No. 12.

For the Hornets, they get a guy who can play both forward positions. Bridges is more of a small forward but in small ball lineups, he can slide over to the four. Offensively he is at his best when he puts the ball on the floor and attacks the rim. He’s a decent shooter too.

The Clippers get a point guard who was rumored to climbing up many draft boards as the night approached. Gilgeous-Alexander is a solid pick for them provided both Patrick Beverly and Milos Teodosic’ injury history. He can also play off the ball if need be. He’s got the physical tools to be a very good defender at the NBA level. It’s not at all far-fetched to imagine him as the future long-term starting point guard for the Clippers.

The Hornets also got two future second-round picks from the Clippers.

3. Philadelphia 76ers/Phoenix Suns

The Sixers and the Suns had the next move of draft night, also swapping their picks. The Sixers selected hometown hero Mikal Bridges with the No. 10 pick and later traded him to the Suns for the No. 16 pick, Zhaire Smith.

Bridges made a lot of sense for the Sixers. Not only is he a local guy, but his mother works for the team as well. He was a talented player who fit their team. He gave a post-draft press conference raving about being a Sixer all the while he had been traded already. But such is life in the NBA. Instead, Phoenix gets a guy that’s ready to contribute in the NBA right away. He’s the prototypical 3&D type guy.

For the Sixers, Zhaire Smith is another guy who was steadily climbing the boards in the days leading up to the draft. He’s a very athletic prospect with good defensive instincts. He probably won’t play much right away, but he does have the potential to end up being one of the better rotation players in this draft.

The Sixers also get a 2021 first-round pick from the Suns via the Miami Heat. It’s highly likely this ends up being a lottery pick and thus giving the Sixers the chance to add a high-end talent to an already potent group.

4. Second-Round moves

There are a few second-round moves that were made as well.

For one, the Hawks selected Devonte Graham with the 34th pick and traded him to the Hornets for two future second-round picks. Graham is another NBA ready guy who can come in and immediately contend for backup point guard minutes behind Kemba Walker.

The Sixers were involved in another deal sending the No. 38 pick Khyri Thomas to the Detroit Pistons for two future second-round picks. Thomas is a player that many projected to go in the first round. For a team that didn’t have a first-round pick coming into the night, the Pistons essentially picked one up. It’s possible he turns out better than Detroit’s most recent first-rounders Henry Ellenson and Luke Kennard.

The Sacramento Kings drafted Gary Trent Jr. with the 37th pick only to trade him to the Portland Trail Blazers for two future second-round picks. Trent was one of the better shooters in the draft and that’s what he projects to the be in the NBA. He’s probably a few years away from earning a spot in the rotation but he was also a possible first-round pick. He’s more NBA ready than Anfernee Simons who the Blazers took in the first-round.

The Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets swapped second-round picks with the Magic sending the No. 41 pick Jarred Vanderbilt to the Nuggets for the No. 43 pick Justin Jackson and a future second-round pick. Vanderbilt is a project in every sense of the word. He’s extremely raw and probably needed more time in college. But he’s got long-term potential and could pay off in the future. Jackson, on the other hand, was possibly a first-round talent had he entered the draft last year. He’s going to have to make the roster but could be a 3&D guy.

In the final move of the night, the Hornets traded the No. 45 pick Hamidou Diallo to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Diallo is a guy that had he come out last year, probably would’ve been a first-round guy. In any case, he is also very raw and will need seasoning in the G-League. He’s got all the physical tools and skill to be a good rotation NBA player.

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