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Trade Watch: Pacific Division

Drew Maresca identifies and breaks down the potential trade candidates in the Pacific Division.

Drew Maresca

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The Pacific Division has been surprisingly strong so far this season. The division boasts the third and fourth place teams in the Western Conference as of Nov. 21 (Warriors and Clippers, respectively), and the Kings are shockingly one game over .500 and only a half game out of the playoffs (albeit, through only 17 games). Happy Thanksgiving, west coasters!

Currently, the teams in the Pacific Division have less tweaks to make and less problems to solve. But it’s the NBA in 2018 – there are always trades to explore. With that, let’s get into the sixth and final installment of Basketball Insiders’ Trade Watch series, with an eye on the Pacific.

Brandon Ingram

Before getting too far into this, let’s make one thing clear: Brandon Ingram is a stud, and one you could presumably build a team around. But despite his upside, Ingram is a poor fit next to LeBron James. He needs the ball in his hands to be most effective (as does James, obviously), and his numbers when sharing the court with James are pretty bad, relatively speaking. In fact, the Lakers have mostly negative net ratings when the two are on the floor together, despite posting a positive net rating in aggregate for the season.

Further, Ingram’s numbers are down on the whole this season – mostly because James is logging nearly 35 minutes per game, leaving few for him to play without James. Ingram’s PER thus far is down from 11.7 to 11.1, and he is scoring less points compared to last season (15.2 vs. 16.1) on worse two and three-point shooting, and tallying 1.6 fewer assists per game.

Long story short, it’s LeBron’s team and the onus is on everyone else to fit around him. The Lakers have a lot of young stars who must figure out how to fit in, but Ingram’s fit is probably the most awkward –  and yet he probably has the most trade value.

So before his trade value changes, the Lakers should consider moving the young star for a more appropriate piece. They probably want to avoid taking on any big salary commitment. But considering his fit and his $7.265 million salary in 2019-20, it’s worth exploring an exchange of Ingram – as either part of a bigger package that gets them the second starter they desire or in exchange for an equally compelling or better-aligned young star.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

The Lakers have another player they might be interested in moving. They signed quite a few players to slightly overpriced, one-year deals last offseason as a means to convince free agents to come to Los Angeles while maintaining cap space in the future.

Caldwell-Pope is one of them, having re-singed in Los Angeles for $12 million. He is a nice player who can score the basketball and defend opposing wings. He can’t be traded until December 15, and he secured a no trade clause (and a trade kicker to his contract) via the his one-year deal. However, he could very possibly agree to a move.

Caldwell-Pope has seen his role diminish with his minutes contracting by more than 40%. Fortunately for Caldwell-Pope, the 76ers were rumored to be interested in trading for him as recently as a week ago. And the Lakers could return a player who is better suited for their style of play – so long as it doesn’t add to their long-term salary commitments.

Trevor Ariza

Ariza never really fit with Phoenix. The Suns are in the middle of a youth movement with Devin Booker (22 years old), DeAndre Ayton (20), Mikal Bridges (22) and Josh Jackson (21). Sure, Ariza provides nice leadership, but he has much more left to give than guidance. And guidance can be had for far less than $15 million.

But there is a silver lining. He signed for only one season. So that makes him highly expendable. He could even become a trade asset if teams like the Rockets or Lakers get desperate. But one way or another, Ariza should be moved to a contender ASAP – and if the NBA Gods are just, he will return to his rightful home in Houston.

Zach Randolph

Last we saw, Randolph could still score the basketball – he led the Kings in scoring in 2017-18. But Randolph is 37 years old, and the Kings are in the middle of a serious youth movement. They play 13 players 10 or more minutes per game, only three of whom are older than 26. They’re obviously headed in different directions.

But Randolph also represents an $11 million expiring deal, and the Kings have the lowest payroll of any NBA team this season – and it gets even better next year when their only two players making more than $10 million this season both expire (Randolph and Iman Shumpert, who represent two of their three oldest players, as well).

The Kings should explore moving at least Randolph – and maybe Shumpert, as well – for a player they might have eyes for with a team looking to dump salary. Considering Randolph represents $11 million in salary this season, and that the Kings are $11 million under the cap, they can take back $22 million in a deal.  And $22 million (or more if they chose to include additional players) can net a difference maker from a team looking to dump some long-term salary, which might be desirable to Sacramento considering they haven’t been a free agent destination in some time.

Marcin Gortat

Gortat was a borderline All-Star while in his prime, and he was still productive as recently as two seasons ago. But father time is undefeated. Gortat will be 35 this February.

While he’s not playing horribly for a 12-year veteran, he’s also not a major factor on the Clippers. He’s scoring fewer points (5.6) in less minutes (17.2) than he’s registered since 2009-10.

So why would anyone be interested in taking him off the Clippers’ hands’? Cap relief. Gortat represents an expiring deal worth just north of $13.565 million. And while the Clippers don’t want to add too much salary beyond this season themselves, they could potentially pry an asset away from another team in exchange for swapping Gortat for longer-term salary. This could be a draft pick, or it could be a nice young player on a rookie deal.

Either way, the Clippers will have ample cap space entering free agency. They are committed to approximately $60 million assuming they pick up Avery Bradley’s team option; if they choose to forego on Bradley, they’re only committed to approximately $47 million. Tobias Harris will be a free agent and they must make a decision on him. But long story short, taking back a mix of (limited) longer-term and expiring deals for Gortat could be a good move for the team assuming they get an asset, as well.

The Pacific Division is off to a good start, but there are plenty of games left to go. It stands to reason that the Western Conference hierarchy looks distinctly different come Christmas than it does on Thanksgiving. But whether for salary dumps or improvements, we know we’ll see some interesting moves before the trade deadline in February from the Pacific Division, as well as the league as a whole.

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NBA Daily: Three-Point Champion is Just a Regular Joe

Joe Harris had his league-wide coming out at All-Star weekend when he shocked fans across the globe in upsetting three-point shootout favorite-Steph Curry.

Drew Maresca

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Joe Harris’ fortunes and those of the Brooklyn Nets appear to be traveling on the same trajectory. Harris’ personality and approach embody the softer side of the Brooklyn Nets’ team persona: he is loyal, hardworking and humble. And while Jared Dudley and DeMarre Carroll provide veteran leadership and Spencer Dinwiddie and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson offer personality, Harris provides a grounded approachability.

No one would blame him, though, if he develops a small ego. After all, Harris just received his formal introduction to the world, having won the NBA’s three-point championship last weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s hard to deny that his star is rising.

And yet, Harris seems unaware that his status is rising.

“To be honest, I am solid in my role. That’s what I’m about,” Harris told Basketball Insiders before the Nets’ January 25 game against the Knicks. “I’m pretty realistic with where I view myself as a player. And I have the self-awareness to realize that I’m not a star player in this league by any means. I mean, I’m good in my role and I’m trying to take that to another level and be as complete as I can in my niche role that I have.”

While Harris’ comments could be misinterpreted as a humble brag, they shouldn’t be. He is simply a hard-working player who perhaps doesn’t quite realize everything he adds to his team. But let’s be clear, Harris’ presence absolutely improves the Nets’ play.

Harris boasts the second-best three-point percentage in the NBA (.471) through the first four months of the season; he trails only Victor Olapido and J.J. Reddick for top three-point percentage of all 48 players who have at least 10 “clutch” attempts from long-range and he’s ranked tenth in points per clutch possession (1.379).

He helps space the floor for teammates D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie, who take advantage of his long-range acumen by attacking an often less congested pathway to the hoop — and drives account for 53.4 percent of the Nets’ points (third in the entire league).

It is no surprise then that the Nets are currently in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

“At the end of the day we’re just trying to go play good basketball.” Harris said. “The wins are a byproduct of that. It’s about staying locked into this process and how it’s gotten us here regardless of who is on the court.”

Harris’ dedication to the team and its process is becoming more unique each year as players hop from franchise to franchise more frequently than ever before. While Harris only joined the Nets in 2016, he was immediately seen as a key player by the Nets’ leadership, albeit one on a minimum deal – according to Kyle Wagner of the Daily News, Coach Kenny Atkinson saw a lot of Kyler Korver in his game and GM Sean Marks wanted him to study Danny Green.

And while Harris’ 2018-19 stats reflect similar production to the career highs of both of Korver and Green (13.2 points per game with an effective field goal percentage of .622 for Harris versus 14.4 points with an eFG% of .518 for Korver and 11.7 points with an eFG% of .566 for Green), at only 27 years old, he should only continue to improve.

A lot has changed in the two and a half seasons since Harris signed a free agent deal with the Nets, but one thing that hasn’t changed is his character.

“We had various deals that were shorter for more (money),” Harris said. “And some were longer and roughly the same, but this is where I wanted to be and I’m happy it ended up working out.”

Harris ultimately signed a two-year deal for approximately $16 million, which can be viewed as both cashing in, given where he was only two years ago (out of the league), and betting on himself, considering the short-term nature of the contract and his relative youth.

And what’s more, Harris will probably go down as a value signing for the Nets considering his versatility. After all, he is not merely a one-dimensional shooter. In fact, he is actually shooting slightly better than 60 percent on 3.2 attempts per game from the restricted area – which is better than All-Star teammate D’Angelo Russell (53 percent on 2.8 attempts). Further, Harris shoots a fair amount of his three-point attempts above the break, which is to say that he does not rely heavily on the shorter corner threes – which tend to be a more efficient means of scoring (1.16 vs. 1.05 points per possession league-wide from 1998-2018) as they are typically a spot where specialist players lurk awaiting an opening look.

The question is, how much more can we expect to see from Harris in the future? If you ask him, he’d probably undersell you on his ceiling and allude to steady progress that ultimately looks similar to what he’s done recently. But the only thing similar about Harris’ career production is that it has steadily improved – and that’s partially due to his process-oriented approach.

“We talked about it in the midst of the losing streak,” Harris said. “What are you going to change, what are you going to do (when you’re in a slump)? Not that we were going to do the exact same thing, but we felt like we were very process oriented. We felt like we were right there. Our whole thing was about being deliberate and doing it as consistently as possible.”

Harris sees the validity in repeating what works. And he’s figured that out, partially with the help of his teammates. Harris clearly values veteran input and team chemistry.

“You look at our team right now and we have really good veteran presences with Jared and DeMarre and Ed (Davis),” Harris said. “That’s the voice from the leadership standpoint. I’m learning from them just like DLo is. And all the other guys in the locker room are. They’re the guiding presence of what it is to be a professional and they keep everything even keel. They don’t go too low when things are tough, and they don’t let us get too high when things are going well.”

Harris is clearly a little uncomfortable taking credit for his team’s success, and he shies away from the spotlight a bit. He seems to prefer anonymity. But Harris should probably get used to the attention he’s received this season because it will only increase as his profile continues to rise as we enter the 2019 NBA Playoffs.

“He’s not just a shooter,” Atkinson told NBA.com last April. “He’s worked on his drive game, he’s worked on his finishing game. I think he’s worked on his defense. So just a complete player who fits how we want to play. He’s one of our most competitive players. Not a surprise watching, from the first day we had him, how locked in he was, how hungry he was. On top of it, he’s a top, top-ranked human being.”

So expect to see more of Joe Harris this April and beyond, but don’t be surprised by his humility. It’s one aspect about him that won’t change.

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NBA Daily: Danuel House Optimistic About Future

David Yapkowitz speaks to Danuel House about life as a two-way player for the Houston Rockets & what he hopes comes out of his time in the G League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

David Yapkowitz

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Opportunity is everything in the NBA. Last season’s implementation of two-way contracts gave a lot more players potential opportunities in the league that may not have been previously available.

One player who has used two-way contracts to showcase himself and really prove that he belongs in the NBA is Danuel House Jr.

House actually began his career two years ago as an undrafted rookie with the Washington Wizards. However, he suffered a wrist injury only about a month into the 2016-17 season.

He was subsequently cut by the Wizards and used the summer to heal up before joining the Houston Rockets for training camp prior to the start of last season. He ended up being one of the final cuts in camp, and he joined the Rockets’ G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

His strong play earned him a two-way contract with the Phoenix Suns after only two months of G League play. This year, he rejoined the Vipers, only to earn another two-way contract with the Rockets. Having had some experience now with a two-way, it’s something that House sees as being beneficial.

“It’s got its good perks and its bad perks. But then the NBA is just trying to open more doors for more guys to be seen and have an opportunity,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I think it’s a good idea, it’s gonna work the kinks out so it can be more beneficial to the players. It’s still new and it’s still trending and working itself through the NBA.”

This season has been a bit of a whirlwind for House. He initially joined the Golden State Warriors for training camp, only to have them cut him before the start of the season. After spending about a month with the Vipers, the Rockets called him up, only to cut him and then eventually re-sign him to a two-way deal.

Due to injuries in the Rockets lineup, House saw meaningful minutes right away, even being placed in Houston’s starting lineup. He had some solid performances down the stretch of last season with the Suns, but this season he really looked the part of a legitimate NBA rotation player.

When a player signs a two-way deal, they are allotted a maximum of 45 days of NBA service, meaning that the rest of the time they must remain in the G League. If a player exceeds the 45-day limit, they must be sent back down to the G League unless they’re able to reach an agreement on a standard contract with the NBA team.

Because of the Rockets’ necessity of House in the rotation, he used up his NBA days last month. He and the Rockets were unable to agree on a contract, so he returned to the G League with the Vipers. While there haven’t been many updates as of late, he’s still hopeful that something can work out with the Rockets.

“Hopefully I can go back to Houston and compete for a title. There’s nothing like learning from James [Harden] and Chris Paul, Gerald Green, Eric Gordon and those guys,” House told Basketball Insiders. “And now with the additions of [Iman] Shumpert and Kenneth Faried, I’m just excited to hopefully get something done so I can be out there and competing with those guys.”

Initially, House wasn’t playing with the Vipers upon returning to the team. But he made his return to the court a few weeks ago on Feb 8. In that game, House shook off some initial rust and ended up having a solid performance including hitting the game-winning free-throws.

In the past, the G League was often times seen as a punishment for NBA players. The league didn’t have that great of a reputation, but over the past few years that image has started to change. The competition has gotten a lot stronger, and according to House, there are plenty of guys who are that close to making it to the NBA.

“The competition here is real. There’s a lot of dudes out here that got a lot of talent that they can showcase. They just want their one opportunity, their one chance that I was so fortunate and blessed with,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I know not to come out here and take it for granted, that’s why I’m playing hard and of course still trying to be a student of the game and learn.”

Recently, during a media availability session, Rockets star and perennial MVP candidate James Harden expressed hope that the Rockets and House could work something out. Harden told reporters that they all know how good House is and what he brings to the team.

In 25 games for the Rockets this season – including 12 starts – House put up nine points per game while shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 39 percent from the three-point line. He’s in the mold of a three-and-D type player, but he also moves well without the ball on cuts to the rim and can attack the basket as well.

“My role was to play defense and make the right read,” House told Basketball Insiders. “Shoot when I’m open, drive, attack the rack, and run the floor. Of course, defend and rebound and make good reads. It was easy.”

As it stands, the Rockets have 12 players on their roster, and a pair of two-way deals for House and Vincent Edwards. House is not eligible to rejoin the Rockets until the G League season concludes. Even then, he won’t be eligible to play in the playoffs as per two-way deal restrictions.

The Rockets will need to add at least two players to get up to the league-mandated 14 players on the roster. House would appear to be a good candidate for one of those spots, but that remains to be seen. But regardless of whether or not it works out in Houston, House is confident that he’s done enough to prove he belongs in the NBA.

“It gave me the utmost confidence, but my hard work, my passion, and my faith in the man upstairs gave me the ability. I asked him to guide me through the journey and he’s been taking care of me,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I’m so grateful that the opportunities and I used my ability to perform and do something I love to take care of my family.”

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Insiders Podcast

PODCAST: Checking In On Clippers & Lakers, East Arms Race, Warriors’ Challengers

Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte evaluate the L.A. teams after the trade deadline, break down the Eastern Conference contenders, and look for the Warriors’ biggest challengers.

Basketball Insiders

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Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte evaluate the L.A. teams after the trade deadline, break down the Eastern Conference contenders, and look for the Warriors’ biggest challengers.

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