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NBA Daily: Trade Watch – Atlantic Division

Drew Maresca continues Basketball Insiders’ “NBA Trade Watch” series by covering the Atlantic Division.

Drew Maresca

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The NBA Trade Deadline is rapidly approaching and the number of teams looking to add talent grows with every day and new injury.  Chatter is beginning to heat up with rumors and speculation picking up in the last few days.

We kicked off a new series this week at Basketball Insiders, examining each division across the league and what possible moves, or lack thereof, each team might be looking to make. We’ll continue that with the Atlantic Division.

Boston Celtics

The Celtics’ front office must be at least mildly confused. We took a look at Boston’s talent overload in August and how it might disturb lineups and effectiveness.  To a degree, it’s done just that.

They’re still too talented to not produce results, regardless of distractions and egos. The Celtics clearly turned a corner from their early season struggles, but there is still lots of redundancy on their roster. There are two or three positions on the court for seven players, all of whom deserve significant playing time: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier and Kyrie Irving.

The Celtics would be best served by consolidating talent. They might want to dig into their bag of assets – after all, in this draft alone, they could realistically wind up with their own first round pick, as well as the Clippers, Grizzlies and 76ers or Kings’ first rounders. They don’t need to ship out all of their 2019 first-rounders to score a difference maker, but a combination of a few of them, Rozier and/or Brown could feasibly net Bradley Beal, right?

The Celtics already missed out on Paul George and Jimmy Butler because they were unwilling to entertain shipping out prized assets. At what point does their prudence turn into ignorance?

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets are in the unusual situation of being neither buyers nor sellers. On the one hand, their lineups are working, and they have limited expendable players barring a blockbuster deal. And even then, it seems that Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Jarret Allen are mostly off limits, unless it’s for Anthony Davis – and even then, they probably wouldn’t part with all three (although a Davis and D’Angelo Russell foundation sounds pretty good).  But on the other hand, they should look to clear as much cap space as possible prior to the Summer of 2019.

Speaking of Russell, he is in the precarious situation of becoming a free agent at the end of a season when the Nets hoped to chase bigger star free agents. He has been one of the very best Nets thus far, but he will likely command a near-max deal. And while the Nets seem happy with his production, they might prefer to spend that money differently or at least see who else might be interested in relocating to Brooklyn – which could potentially rub Russell the wrong way and send him out to explore the world of restricted free agency. At the very least, the Nets need to finalize plans to either sign Russell in the offseason or move him for assets because one (presumably short) playoff run wouldn’t justify losing such a valuable asset for nothing.

And then there’s Allen Crabbe, who the Nets signed to an offer sheet in the summer of 2016. The Trail Blazers matched the contract, but dealt him to the Nets shortly thereafter in July 2017. Fast forward to the present and Crabbe is shooting a career-low 34.3 percent from the field. Plus, he’s missed the past 20 games with a knee injury.

Crabbe is a fine, albeit somewhat disappointing, player; however, the real downside to Crabbe is that he has a player option for $18.5 million next season. If the team can move Crabbe, they will free up additional cap space this coming offseason. But moving Crabbe could mean attaching additional assets, which seems to go directly against the philosophy of the Nets’ regime. However, doing so would make them major players come this offseason with as much as $67 million in cap space.

New York Knicks

The Knicks have collected more than their share of assets. Noah Vonleh, Emmanuel Mudiay and Trey Burke could all help various contenders in a number of ways. All are on expiring deals, so that probably limits the return the Knicks can expect to receive in exchange for them. Teams have allegedly reached out about Frank Ntilikina, but the Knicks have resisted engaging in talks around him so far. Similarly, the Knicks aren’t motivated to help contenders improve without getting either salary cap relief or an asset, which leaves them at a bit of an impasse.

New York would prefer to move Courtney Lee or Tim Hardaway Jr. considering the money they’re owed beyond this season; however, Lee has fallen out of the rotation, thus hurting his trade value, and Hardaway is owed more than $18 million next season with a player option for the following year.

The Knicks will continue to explore moving Lee and Hardaway and cashing in their young, expiring assets for ones they can use in the future, but don’t hold your breath waiting for a deal to be made. They’re allegedly refusing to include future assets in any deal, which mostly prohibits moving future money off the books.

Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers are also interested in adding depth to their rotation – and, frankly, need it more than the Raptors do. They have mostly met expectations, and they were the recipient of the biggest prize of the trade market thus far this season – Jimmy Butler. The 76ers must be patient with their new star and give their team time before jumping to conclusions, be it positive or negative.

However, if a trade presents itself that results in an upgrade in talent or added depth, the 76ers possess a number of assets that would be desirable to teams in the process of rebuilding. Their most desirable asset is probably the Miami HEAT’s 2021 unprotected 1st round pick – a draft expected to feature more talent than usual because it will be the first draft following the elimination of the draft’s current age restriction, meaning it should feature not only the regular crop of college prospects, but also the best of the graduating high school seniors.

Philadelphia is owed seven second-round draft picks from various teams over the next two drafts. The team would also probably be willing to deal Wilson Chandler and Markelle Fultz, who combine to make approximately $20 million, if they return the right piece.

The 76ers should at least get a sense of what it would take to pry Bradley Beal from Washington. If the cost is too high, they should do their due diligence on other wings who could be had for less.

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors have exceeded their already high pre-season expectations so far, boasting the second-best record in the entire league through 50 games. They are are rumored to be interested in bolstering their already impressive rotation, but haven’t been connected to many players or teams other than a few rumblings about their interest in Bradley Beat (which has all but flamed out).

Of all the teams in the Atlantic Division, the Raptors can be happy with their roster and how their players are working together. They should focus on getting Kyle Lowry back to the player he was last season. Beyond that, their focus should be on continuing to build camaraderie and keeping everyone healthy for the playoffs.

Rumors always ramp up as the trade deadline grows nearer. With only 14 days until the deadline, juicy gossip about players’ availability and where they might end up is almost inevitable. While it is entirely possible that few to no meaningful trades come to fruition before February 7, we are almost guaranteed at least a few moves to hold us over for the summer of 2019.

And with such close competition, the balance of power in the Atlantic could very well be at stake.

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Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft – 4/16/19

The deadline to declare for the 2019 NBA draft is April 29th, however, most of the notable prospects have already declared and started the training and preparation process. Steve Kyler offers up his latest weekly 60-Pick Mock Draft.

Steve Kyler

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Let the chaos begin!

The 2019 NBA Draft class has taken on more of a defined shape with the bulk of the expected early entry players having already declared for the draft, with several already in pre-draft gyms training and preparing for the marathon pre-draft process that will play out over the next 65 days.

There are a few dates to keep in mind as the draft process ramps into full speed.

The NBA deadline to declare for the 2019 NBA Draft is 11:59 p.m. on April 29th. Players must submit in writing to be a part of the draft. Once the early entry players are official, teams can start working those players out.

The NBA Draft lottery which will determine the top four selections of the 2019 NBA Draft will be held in Chicago on May 14th, just as the annual Draft Combine kicks off.

The NCAA has changed its rules and will allow players to not only test “the waters” but retain an agent, assuming that player does not accept anything more than transportation, reasonable lodging and meals related to meeting with that agent or conducting workouts for NBA teams.

The NCAA requires those players that wish to remain eligible to withdraw from the draft by May 29th.

The last date to withdraw from the draft by NBA is 5 p.m. on June 10th. This is usually not college level players; this date is typically international players that opt out of the draft.

The 2019 NBA Draft is set for June 20th.

Here is this week’s 60-pick Mock Draft:

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

The Atlanta Hawks were 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 final standings, that pick will not be conveyed.

The Boston Celtics were 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 final standings, that pick will not be conveyed.

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 final standings, that pick will be conveyed.

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 final standings, that pick will be conveyed; 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 final standings, that pick will be conveyed.

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 final standings, that pick will be conveyed.

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 final standings, that pick will be conveyed.

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 final standings this pick would not convey. Given that the debt is not settled this year, the Bucks pick in 2020 would be top-7 protected.

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NBA Daily: Wear & Tear Rearing Ugly Head In Playoffs

A rigorous schedule and demanding workload have limited three of the NBA’s best in the playoffs, writes Spencer Davies.

Spencer Davies

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There is nothing worse in sports than seeing somebody get hurt.

In the NBA, we’ve seen plenty of devastating setbacks. Torn ACL’s, ruptured Achilles, broken bones—all of them season-enders and most of them career-alterers.

Jusuf Nurkic’s gruesome leg injury most recently comes to mind. Before that, Victor Oladipo and Dejounte Murray. Last year, Gordon Hayward’s season was cut short less than halfway into a single quarter, as was DeMarcus Cousins’ in the midst of a dominant campaign. And there’s more going without mention, to boot.

It’s unfortunate that these things happen. Most of them are freak accidents, bad luck or something completely unexpected in an instant. But there’s another type of injury that’s affected the league and its postseason that needs to be addressed.

The term “wear-and-tear” is used predominantly to describe the aging of inanimate objects—shoes, tires, furniture, you name it. Yet, it has another meaning when it comes to the human body. As is the case with the majority of athletes, NBA players like to push their limits, so much so that it sometimes ends up biting them in the behind from doing it on a consistent basis.

Not shortchanging the game on effort is to be expected, but giving 110 percent and going the extra mile nightly to earn victory after victory is a whole ‘nother level of commitment to your craft. While those guys should be rewarded for it, unfortunately, they are oftentimes unfairly punished.

There are three players in the current playoff picture who—when in tip-top shape—can change the course of their respective series in an instant. However, each of those respective talents is dealing with nagging pains affecting their games.

Drawing a first-round matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks wasn’t ideal for the Detroit Pistons. This writer picked an easy sweep for Giannis Antetokounmpo and friends. However, one would be remiss to say that Blake Griffin wouldn’t make things more interesting.

Based on Sunday night, it’s more than arguable that the Pistons wouldn’t have been even close to a .500 record without Griffin’s contributions. He made his first All-Star game in four seasons and played in his most total games in five years.

Of course, as the team battled for a playoff berth, he left every drop of sweat he had. It resulted in left knee discomfort, which has, in turn, caused him to reportedly miss the entire first round of the postseason.

That’s just one case in which a player isn’t seeing the floor. What about the ones who are trying to push through these moments with hefty minutes?

Dealing with a sore knee of his own, Joel Embiid decided to give it a go for the Philadelphia 76ers in their first-round opener. Though he dominated the paint in the early moments and still put up a 22-point, 15-rebound, five-block stat line, it was clear that the dynamic seven-foot center wasn’t himself.

Embiid fired off a third of his shot attempts from the perimeter and never found the mark. When he put the ball on the floor, the burst and nimble footwork he’s shown time after time wasn’t quite there. Sixers head coach Brett Brown could only keep him out there for 24 minutes, well below his season average.

Yes, an Embiid at 75 percent is better than one at zero. It’s just not the same monster we’re all used to seeing on that court, which sucks because, when healthy, “The Process“ is as entertaining and talented as it gets, regardless of size.

We can head out west to find another example. Paul George’s shoulder is clearly bothering him. He stated Monday that the pain is gone—even though there was a bag of ice wrapped around his upper right body as he said the words. That’s probably the right avenue to take so there’s no competitive advantage for the Portland Trail Blazers to exploit against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

George won’t admit this because he wants to be out there and compete at the highest level at the biggest stage. It’s admirable that he’s playing through the pain. He was out there for 42-plus minutes and gave his group all he had. Anybody would take 26 points, 10 rebounds and four steals as an impressive output, too.

It’s the rate at which George struggled—8-for-24 from the field and 4-for-15 from deep, a trend that’s been happening since the All-Star break. Decreased shooting percentages have seemed to be the byproduct of overdoing it. It’s a shame because PG had been lighting it up in the first half of the season to the tune of 40 percent as a three-point shooter.

Whether it’s the reps that have had a negative effect on his motion or the physical style he’s played on both ends, George hasn’t looked like the MVP candidate we were watching back in the December and January.

So why are we bringing this up? Let’s put it as straightforward as possible—shorten the season and start the playoffs earlier.

The topic came up at Adam Silver’s recent media availability session after meeting with the NBA’s Board of Governors, though it was mostly about the pressing concern with players over-resting rather than the subject of wear and tear.

The commissioner has already done an outstanding job at taking a once-ridiculously grueling schedule filled with back-to-backs & four days in five nights and removing the number of such instances at a rapid rate (and completely eliminating the latter).

Possible solutions to lessening the 82-game load are to get rid of preseason altogether and begin the year then. Silver surmised to reporters that in-season tournaments based on the model of soccer overseas might be a way to do it. Another idea brought to the table was taking the full game length from 48 minutes to 40 minutes.

Actively seeking to make the league better is what makes Silver so revered by the NBA, players and executives alike. He’s exceptionally aware of concerns and always has his ears open.

We deserve to see players perform at their peak, especially during this time of year. It’s impossible to control what happens on the floor, but it’s possible to determine the frequency at which things occur.

So, Mr. Silver, this writer is pleading with you: Follow through.

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NBA Daily: The Sixers Might Be in Trouble

After being humiliated on their home floor, Philadelphia needs to resolve some of its issues if it wants to avoid an upset, writes Matt John.

Matt John

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Let’s be honest folks. The more drama we get during the NBA playoffs, the more enjoyable they become.

We would 100 times out of 100 prefer to see the underdog prevail over the favorite. That is, as long as the favorite in that scenario isn’t the team that we root for.

When the NBA playoffs turn out exactly like we expected, it can get boring, especially if the top dog wins it all with ease. It just makes it predictable which takes the fun out of it. When there’s a chance that we may see a twist in the bracket, suddenly we get much more emotionally invested because there’s a chance that things could get a little more interesting.

Game 1 is officially in the books for every first-round series in the NBA playoffs, and it goes without saying that we’ve already got our fair share of drama.

A fair amount of higher-seeded teams came up short in their first game against their lower-seeded opponents. Some were surprising while others were not so much

Orlando definitely shocked the world when it upstaged Toronto on its home floor in Game 1. It was even more shocking that the Magic, who hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2012, actually had a 16-point lead at one point on the second-seeded Raptors. Playoff struggles are nothing new to Toronto, but Orlando so far has shown that they’re more than just happy to be in the postseason.

San Antonio by contrast didn’t rally shock anyone when it beat Denver on the Nuggets’ home floor. That’s not necessarily a shot at the Nuggets. It’s just the Spurs have an edge both in Coach Pop and experience. Denver’s proven so much this season, but they won’t garner the respect they crave until they prove they can win a playoff series.

Then there’s Philadelphia.

The Nets not only beat the Sixers on their home floor on Saturday. They handled their division rivals with ease. It got so bad that fans were booing their team by the end of the first half. It didn’t get better from there.

With the exception of Jimmy Butler and Boban Marjanovic, the Sixers put up an all-around stinker in their 2019 playoff debut. Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and JJ Redick all combined for 18 points on 8-for-23 shooting from the field. Butler and Embiid did what they could, but the Nets, in their first playoff action since 2015, flat out out-classed the Sixers.

First defense for them getting booed off the court by their fans on Saturday: Embiid was coming off an injury and clearly lacked the conditioning to play in a playoff game.

Second defense: The Nets were going to be a tough matchup for any of the top competitors in the Eastern Conference. The Sixers just had the worst luck of the draw.

It also doesn’t help that Philly’s worst possible flaw among others is their inability to stop quality point guards. As it stands, Brooklyn has two of them with D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie. Both of them had little difficulty exploiting the Sixers’ Achilles heel, combining for 44 points at a high clip.

Alas, Philly’s issues go deeper than just matchups. Brooklyn copied a lot of the same strategy that Boston used to stop the Sixers in last year’s postseason. Those strategies included:

  • Easing off Ben Simmons: Fans can choose to stay optimistic about Simmons developing a jumper, but currently, the guy doesn’t have one. Until he has one, teams will continue to sag off him which makes his role on offense much more limited. The Celtics exposed this last year which made the offense stagnate to which Simmons still has yet to adjust accordingly.
  • Targeting JJ Redick: Redick was a good defender once upon a time and does his best. At age 34, he just isn’t physically capable of staying in front of young and quick guards anymore. D’Angelo Russell took pleasure in beating Redick again and again to the point that he waived JJ goodbye after the Sixer had fouled out in a foiled attempt to contain D-Lo. If JJ’s not making shots to compensate on the other end – which he most certainly didn’t the other night – then he’s borderline useless.
  • Make Embiid shoot threes: Embiid certainly shoots a fair percentage of threes – 4.1 per game this season – but he’s far from a specialist, shooting 30 percent from distance. Brooklyn didn’t do much to stop Joel in the post, but they did enough to make him shoot from the perimeter, where he finished 0-for-5. Embiid’s one of the biggest juggernauts in the league in just his fifth season, but Brooklyn will gladly let him shoot threes over potentially forcing him to the free throw line.

There are some silver linings though. Brooklyn made 11 three-pointers and shot 42 percent from three as opposed to Philadelphia who made only three three-pointers and shot 12 percent from three. The odds of those percentages being slanted so blatantly in the Nets’ favor is very unlikely.

Also, there’s no way Harris should be limited to only seven shots in a game. Harris is the best dual floor spacer/scorer that the Sixers have. In a series where teams will take advantage of Simmons’ lack of shooting, Harris needs to take the reins of the offense. It’s hard to find touches in Philly’s offense, but when Jimmy Butler is going off, Harris needs to be there to keep the defense on its heels.

The one X-Factor ties back to Embiid’s health. When he had stamina, Embiid was drawing fouls left and right on the Nets. That didn’t last long since he’s been dealing with this mysterious knee injury. If his health improves from here, then there’s no way we’ll see a repeat performance from Philly.

If not, then there could be a lot of implications for this series as a whole from Game 1 alone.

Insert the “It’s only one game” retort here. It’s true that the postseason is still young and players as well as coaches do make the proper adjustments so that they’ll be more prepared for the next game. Especially after they’ve lost their first game.

There will be plenty more basketball for the next week between these two teams. It’s possible that in that time, all of talk about trouble will look foolish by then if Philly is able to erase its flaws and get past Brooklyn.

The Sixers should be due for a rebound game tonight. However, the Nets have clearly demonstrated from the start that they are not messing around. If Philly is going to win this series, they may have to win ugly.

If this series drags on, then the Sixers may have more to worry about than beating the Nets.

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