Those of us that generally lament the unsatisfied feeling often attributed to the NBA’s annual trading deadline definitely got all that we could have anticipated (and then some) from the flurry of deals and transactions that took place leading up to yesterday’s 12 p.m. ET deadline. In total, more than 35 players and contracts were relocated in what was likely the most active deadline day in recent years.
With so many teams either looking to cement their title hopes, solidify rosters for a playoff push or creatively positioning themselves for the lottery-race at the bottom of the standings, we suppose all of the activity should not have come as a surprise. Here’s a look at some of the more noteworthy deals of the day:
Denver Nuggets send Arron Afflalo in a package to the Portland Trail Blazers
The Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers finally decided to kick the doors open on deadline Thursday when the teams agreed upon a deal that would send swingmen Arron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee to the Blazers for a package of Will Barton, former lottery-pick Thomas Robinson, Victor Claver and future draft picks (lottery protected first-rounder and second-rounder).
While Afflalo may not be quite the defensive-stopper along the perimeter he once was prior to continuing to develop on the offensive side of the ball, he should join Chris Kaman and Steve Blake in rounding out an above-average reserve crew for a team that has relied heavily upon the starting unit for the better part of the past two seasons.
Seen as a rare win-win scenario for each team, the move provided the Blazers with some much-needed depth in terms of perimeter defense and scoring off the bench while setting the Nuggets up for what could be a series of roster-altering moves between now and the start of next season.
Despite the known level of competition in the Western Conference, the Nuggets (20-33) entered the year expecting to be more competitive as players became more comfortable in second-year head coach Brian Shaw’s system. While there has been no public statement about the future direction of the franchise, additional change is likely on the horizon for the Nuggets.
Robinson, selected fifth overall, now joins his fourth team in three seasons. Still just 23, Robinson continues to search for the right fit at this level. Barton is an athletic wing player that has shown promise over several periods in the past, but also has yet to put everything together in order to provide consistent productivity.
Goran Dragic traded to the Miami HEAT as a part of a large deal
Dragic was reportedly “uncomfortable” with the Suns’ front office heading into the All-Star break, and was moved as a part of a large deal between Phoenix, New Orleans and Miami. Phoenix acquires Danny Granger, John Salmons and two future first-round picks, New Orleans lands Norris Cole, Justin Hamilton and Shawne Williams while Miami gets Goran Dragic and Zoran Dragic.
Goran is clearly the prize of the deal, as the soon-to-be free agent is rumored to already have made Miami assurances that he intends to re-sign with the franchise this summer. Although there’s no such thing as “replacing” LeBron James, Dragic’s addition removes much of the playmaking responsibility for Dwyane Wade and even Chris Bosh and provides the HEAT with another guy that can be called upon for scoring if necessary.
Miami probably wasn’t going anywhere in the postseason and would still likely have difficulty matching up with the Hawks, Raptors and Bulls come postseason, but this is a move that should also benefit them for the foreseeable future as it sets them up with a nice blend of veterans (Bosh, Wade, Luol Deng), youth (Hassan Whiteside, Shabazz Napier) and now a player that is still within his prime years in Dragic.
Reggie Jackson to the Detroit Pistons in a multi-team deal
In Jackson, the Pistons receive one of the league’s more versatile, young guards. The 24-year-old averaged 12.8 PPG, 4.3 APG and 4.0 RPG in 28 MPG, but is expected to seek a starting role as well as a massive payday this offseason. With Brandon Jennings out with a torn Achilles and with the team shipping D.J. Augustin to OKC in return, Jackson will likely step into playing the starter’s minutes he covets in a system that playmakers and perimeter scorers have done well in.
Augustin joins a Thunder team that also welcomed in Enes Kanter, and is right in the mix of what could be a playoff race for the ages as OKC, Phoenix and New Orleans each jockey for the final spot. Augustin had impressed in the absence of Jennings in extended minutes with Detroit, and will absolutely be expected to provide a spark off the bench for Scott Brooks’ squad. Replacing Jackson’s productivity is an attainable goal for Augustin, but Brooks has to be hoping his veteran presence will be a welcomed influence for guys like Dion Waiters and Jeremy Lamb.
Kanter’s addition finally brings in a young big with some offensive game. Kanter (13.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG in 27.1 MPG) was so good for Utah this season that they ultimately needed to move him in order to simply capitalize on the rookie contract of another promising, young big man in Rudy Gobert. Kanter isn’t quite the defender Steven Adams and perhaps even Nick Collison can be at times (depending upon the matchup), but he can be an above-average offensive rebounder and can score in various ways around the rim and in the paint.
If the parts fit and the team is able to stay relatively healthy down the stretch, OKC may have placed just enough distance between themselves and the other teams vying for one of the last playoff spots.
Phoenix Suns trade Isaiah Thomas to the Boston Celtics
The Celtics sent Marcus Thornton and the rights to Cleveland’s 2016 first-round pick to the Suns for Isaiah Thomas on Thursday. Thomas brings his scoring and playmaking to yet another backcourt where he’ll have plenty of competition from Avery Bradley and rookie Marcus Smart. Thomas is also under a very cap-friendly deal for the next three additional seasons that could keep him in town throughout this young backcourt’s continued development.
Thomas has shown an ability to adapt and accept a reserve role and can even be paired with either of those guards in either a playmaking capacity or in a scoring mode. His ability to create should alleviate some of the pressure on the young guards and provide a bit of offensive versatility to a team still growing within Brad Stevens’ offensive system.
The Celtics had been considered “sellers” by some as the deadline neared, but it is clear they were looking to improve the roster in an effort to make up the one-game deficit they currently have in the loss column behind both the Hornets and HEAT.
Phoenix Suns acquired Brandon Knight from the Milwaukee Bucks
As part of a three-team deal, the Milwaukee Bucks received the league’s reigning Rookie of the Year in Michael Carter-Williams, rookie Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee. The Suns continued dismantling and rebuilding their backcourt with the addition of Brandon Knight and injured guard Kendall Marshall. Everyone noted the roster redundancy and room for potential movement, but no one could have quite anticipated quite as many seemingly all coming together at once for GM Ryan McDonough.
Knight now joins Eric Bledsoe (the last man standing) as the two guards will likely share playmaking responsibilities similar to how Bledsoe and Dragic did for Jeff Hornacek during his rookie campaign at the helm in Phoenix.
It should be noted that Knight is set to become a restricted free agent this summer, but Phoenix should have plenty of cap space to re-sign him if he ends up fitting the system. The Suns could have anywhere from $20-30 million in cap space to work with.
In Carter-Williams, the Bucks are getting a cost-controlled reigning Rookie of the Year with several years to determine whether he can be a positive match alongside a returning Jabari Parker. Carter-Williams isn’t the shooter Knight has been for Milwaukee this season, but he is a very willing playmaker and possesses a well-rounded skill set that Jason Kidd should enjoy developing over the next couple seasons.
Wizards acquire Ramon Sessions from Kings
The move sends Andre Miller to the Kings and reunites him with George Karl, whom the 16-year veteran enjoyed three of his better seasons with earlier in his career (2005-07). Miller’s experience and knowledge of Karl’s system should make for a smoother transition as Sacramento continues to adjust.
Sessions has actually been traded at the deadline in three of the past four seasons and finds himself with a Wizards team right in the thick of a playoff push in a competitive top-half of the Eastern Conference. Washington is just 4-6 over the past 10 games as a red-hot Cleveland is suddenly lurking just one game back in the loss column.
Sessions played sparingly in Sacramento, but can provide the exact playmaking and scoring punch the Wizards had reportedly been seeking. Sessions averaged 15.8 points and nearly five assists per game as recently as two seasons ago while playing for the Bucks and produced well in a reserve role for the Hornets last year.
Kevin Garnett returns to Timberwolves in deal for Thaddeus Young
In what was a bit of a surprise, the Minnesota Timberwolves sent Thaddeus Young to the Brooklyn Nets in order to reacquire the services of Kevin Garnett. Garnett spent the first 12 seasons of his career as the greatest player in the franchise’s history prior to being dealt to Boston before the 2007-08 season. It appears to be a bit of a nostalgic or symbolic move for the Timberwolves as the 38-year-old Garnett is a lot closer to retirement than anything else at this stage in his career.
Clearly, it’s fantastic to have a guy like Garnett return to the franchise as he fades into the next stage of his career -rumored to be interested in ownership- but it seems peculiar to trade a guy in Young whom you just gave up a first-round pick for just last summer.
In Young, the Nets finally get a chance to insert some youth and versatility into their rotation, as the 26-year-old could look to flourish on a bigger stage in Brooklyn. Young has an early-termination option in his contract that could permit him to become an unrestricted free agent as he heads into his prime years this summer.
In total, there were 11 trades and (at last count) 39 players on the move throughout yesterday’s frenzy. Perhaps it was a sign of the times under the current CBA, but there seemed to be far more teams either embracing a “go-for-broke” mentality or accepting the necessity to strategically position themselves for the league’s bottom spots. We detailed plenty of the the other transactions from around the league here and also ranked the deadline’s ‘Winners’ and ‘Losers’ here.
Results-Based Mental Performance: Plan B
Jake Rauchbach breaks down how players can improve their on-court games with off-court tools during this hiatus
For players looking to remain sharp, getting in on-court work right now can prove to be a challenge. Considering the social distancing and lockdown currently in effect, players and teams alike may be forced to look outside the box to employ other sorts of ways to maintain an edge.
Integrated player development tools that touch upon the deeper level of the mind could provide the answer.
With limited skill development time, mental tools that aim to maintain and refine player’s instincts, habits and routines could hold the key to producing improvement during this on-court hiatus.
In this column, we are going to highlight four different ways to train the mind (And Game) to remain sharp.
Science has shown that there is a direct connection between thoughts, emotions and the body. This means when players are relegated to primarily off-court activities, there could be no better way to train, than visualization.
Players that I have worked with in the past who have employed visualization, have often produced mirror-like on-court results.
For instance, during my time at Temple University, there was a player who pictured himself stealing the ball in the full court and then going down to dunk the ball. Before visualizing this, he had not completed this play during the game. After doing so, he began to repeatedly complete this play during the games. This is just one example, of how powerful visualization can be, and there are many more. This type of phenomenon has become the new normal for the community of MindRight Pro community players. What we are finding, is there is a direct connection between internal picturing and external outcomes.
This is one of the reasons why, visualization is such a beneficial tool to use, especially when players are not able to get-in adequate court-time. At this point, making this apart of the player’s daily routine should be a no brainer.
Affirmations have long been used as a way to affirm mindset. For players, whose seasons have abruptly come to an end, and where on-court time has been limited, training mindset to stay sharp is VITAL.
Consistent use of affirmations helps players hone their very own personal mission statement. If players can stay on a mission now, they can perceivably do so through any future experience.
Regular check-ins help to keep players on a mission, and headed in the right direction.
Leveraging breath as a way to increase awareness and performance is a pillar of virtually every type of self-help and high-performance modality.
Being aware of one’s breath is very powerful. Breathwork has also long been used as a vehicle to bring people into the present moment. The present moment is where high-performance lives. For players, there may be nothing more important for their game than this.
This is a big-time opportunity for athletes to train on-court performance via present moment awareness. We are talking about training breath as a proxy for improvement.
Ultimately, on-court performance all boils down to present moment awareness. Without a strong handle on this aspect of consciousness, players will hold themselves back from the best version of themselves. For players, training this aspect now could reap big-time rewards when basketball resumes.
Of course, we can provide this list without talking about meditation. Meditation is like the anchor for all other mind-based methods. With the increasing number of options for meditation, players should have no problem finding resources in this regard.
This being said, there are a ton of different types of meditation. It does not matter which one a player chooses, the most important thing is that he/she is consistent.
Consistency moves the dial, and that is super important right now. Players who consistently train the mind during their time off the court; Give themselves an edge once they’re cleared to be back on the court in the full.
Check out Jake Rauchbach’s High-Performance Mindfulness podcast here.
NBA Daily: The Hot Seat – Western Conference
Matt John takes a look at head coaches and general managers in the Western Conference whose jobs might be on the line.
Back on Monday, Basketball Insiders took a look at which personnel from the Eastern Conference could be in danger of losing their jobs. In case you missed it, check it out here.
Previously, we discussed the notion that there’s always one guy you’d never suspect to lose his job to get hit by the Hot Seat – Kenny Atkinson’s mutual parting a few weeks back was just that.
Before we dive into the jobs on the line in the Western Conference, there’s something else that must be pointed out about the Hot Seat. It’s true that when it comes to job performance in the NBA, most of what determines your fate stems from the question: “What have you done for me lately?”
Joe Dumars’ time as the general manager of the Detroit Pistons is a good example of this. Outside of infamously drafting Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony in 2003, Dumars had a near-perfect track record after taking over from 2000 to 2006. Following the departure of franchise icon Grant Hill, Dumars did the following:
– Acquire Ben Wallace in a sign-and-trade with Orlando for Hill. Wallace then went on to become one of the best rim protectors of his era and all-time
– Brought in Chauncey Billups on a cheap deal just before Billups became Mr. Big Shot
– Traded Jerry Stackhouse for Richard Hamilton, who became a perfect complement next to Billups in the frontcourt
– Drafted Mehmet Okur, Tayshaun Prince, Amir Johnson and Jason Maxiell, all productive players that were taken after the lottery
– Replaced Rick Carlisle with Larry Brown
– Basically stole Rasheed Wallace mid-season
Naturally, this created a great era of basketball for Detroit. They won a championship, went to two consecutive finals, and went to six consecutive conference finals from 2003-08. Not many can say they were able to win a championship after losing a superstar and failing to draft one when they had the chance, but Dumars can.
But then came the fall of 2008: That bred the awful Billups-for-Iverson deal. Paying top dollar for the ill-fated Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva contracts. Putting together a frontcourt of Josh Smith, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. If Dumars didn’t have an incredible run earlier as general manager, how long would he have lasted after putting the team in mediocrity?
Given the massive amount of franchise success to his name, he kept his job long after things nosedived for Detroit. It’s that same sort of success that guarantees leaders like Gregg Popovich and Rick Carlisle will keep their job for as long as they want, even if they are sitting at home when the playoffs start.
The following people are on the hot seat not because they haven’t necessarily experienced success with their team — but because they haven’t had enough to keep their job should they fail in the situation they find themselves in now.
“Figure It Out… And Quickly Now”
Mike D’Antoni — Houston Rockets
D’Antoni has a lot of success both with the Rockets and as an NBA head coach in general. So much so that if he retired right here and now, he’d make a case for the best coach to never win a championship. Even so, the pressure on him to get Houston over the hump is stronger than it’s ever been.
Obviously, going to the small-ball lineup is something D’Antoni has no issue deploying. In fact, he embraces that gameplan. But even this may be too tall of a task for him. In the past, he used perimeter guys to soak up minutes at the power forward and center spots, but he usually had at least one pure big in his rotation. Now he doesn’t.
With Robert Covington and Clint Capela out, the Rockets don’t have any rotation players taller than 6-foot-8. In fact, the only one who’s actually measured at that height is Jeff Green, who was not only cut from Utah mid-season but spent most of the year riding the pine before Houston inquired about his services. Can you really call it small-ball if you have no bigs to begin with?
D’Antoni wouldn’t be here if this experiment was definitively working — they’re in the mix, but certainly not full-on contenders at this moment. For a while there, it looked like it was. Houston won seven of its first eight games, coming with notable wins coming against the Lakers, Boston (twice) and Utah. They then followed it up with a four-game losing streak with losses at the hands of New York, Charlotte and Orlando.
A record of 8-5 honestly isn’t too bad with such a drastic mid-season change, in retrospect. Russell Westbrook was playing some of the best basketball of his career, while James Harden was a little more off than usual. Still, the mixed results were scary given what the Rockets have ahead of them if the playoffs eventually come.
If Houston doesn’t get to the championship round or, at the very least, go further than they did last season, D’Antoni might get the lion’s share of the blame. Either way, D’Antoni’s contract extension talks with owner Tilman Fertitta didn’t go… smoothly either. As bad as that all may sound, with his reputation, he wouldn’t have much trouble finding another job.
“We Cannot Lose Another Franchise Player… We Just Can’t”
Ryan Saunders/Scott Layden – Minnesota Timberwolves
First, some props are due for both Saunders and Layden. In Layden’s case, he should get the credit for stealing Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez away from the Denver Nuggets. Then as a follow-up, he acquired D’Angelo Russell to appease Karl-Anthony Towns and give him the best scoring guard he’s ever had.
For Saunders, he’s integrated them pretty well mid-season. Beasley and Hernangomez are both playing excellent basketball right now for the Timberwolves. Russell is doing his usual thing. Appearances, finally, are on the rise for the talented squad.
Has that changed Minnesota’s fortunes one bit? Nope! Since the Timberwolves made their mid-season roster shakeup, they’ve gone 3-10, which puts them at 19-45, good for second-worst and only ahead of the injury-decimated Golden State Warriors.
It’s numbers like those that make the Wolves’ promising start back in October feel like an eternity ago. It wouldn’t matter if the season resumed or not, the Timberwolves weren’t making the playoffs. Worse, Towns was not happy with the team’s lack of success for most of the season. What Minnesota has to ask themselves is how long will he be willing to put up with such a lack of progress.
Bringing Russell aboard was the smart, obvious, and let’s face it, inevitable move. Pairing your franchise player with his friend has brought his spirits up, but the continued losing might not indefinitely postpone these feelings forever.
The real pressure on Layden and Saunders doesn’t come from only how the Timberwolves do, but how they fare against their competition next year. Excluding the conference’s top seven, their younger competitors — New Orleans, Memphis, Sacramento, Phoenix — are further along in developing their team than Minnesota. Worse, Golden State and Portland are also going to be much healthier next season. Making the playoffs in the Western Conference is going to be quite the mountain to climb, especially for Minnesota.
If they can’t get over that hump, Minnesota will have to do something to keep Towns happy. That might start with getting rid of Layden and Saunders.
This list may be short, but that’s because it’s hard to see other coaches and general managers being put on the hot seat right now. Ether because their seasons have gone well, their seasons have gone badly for reasons that were out of control, or there’s too much loyalty there for anyone to get fired.
The one coach who might eventually be on the hot seat is Quin Snyder. He’s done an excellent job for Utah over these past several years, so his one hiccup shouldn’t be enough to put his job in jeopardy. That’s more of a wait-and-see situation. Even if it doesn’t get better, it took several years for Toronto to dismiss Dwane Casey because he did so much for that organization.
Oklahoma City’s season has gone so surprisingly and enjoyably well that Billy Donovan’s job should be just fine. Some will blame Neil Olshey for what happened to Portland this season, but with all that happened with Jusuf Nurkic and their other injuries, what were his options?
Alvin Gentry would have made this list, but it wasn’t his fault that Zion Williamson missed most of the season. Now that the generational prospect is back, New Orleans has most definitely turned a corner and went 11-8 since his debut. It might be too late both due to the injury bug and COVID-19, but their improvement over the last few months should make Gentry’s job safe for now.
Luke Walton or Vlade Divac would also be prime candidates for this list, but who knows what’s going on in Sacramento’s collective head?
Right now, it looks like a lot more jobs in the Western Conference are safe than not at the moment. That can all change in a short amount of time, but we don’t know anything, really. Here’s to hoping that no one will lose their job in this league – especially at a time like this.
NBA Daily: Under The Radar – Western Conference
David Yapkowitz takes a look at players from the Western Conference that deserve their due for stepping up this season despite receiving less attention.
NBA basketball is on an indefinite hiatus for the foreseeable future, but here at Basketball Insiders, we’ve still got some content to keep you entertained.
We kicked off last week with a look at some of the top upcoming free agents around the league, started this week with coaches and executives who could be on the hot seat, and we’re transitioning into looking at players who may have been flying under the radar this season.
There are various reasons why a player could be flying under the radar. Playing in a small market, not being on a playoff team, etc. Whatever the reason may be, here’s a look at some of the players in the Western Conference who have been under the radar this season.
Chris Paul – Oklahoma City Thunder
With all the attention Chris Paul has gotten throughout his career, it’s funny to think of him being on an under the radar list. But he really hasn’t gotten his proper due for this season he’s putting together. At the start of the season, the Thunder looked like a fringe playoff team at the absolute best. Thanks to Paul’s leadership, they were in contention for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs and surely would have given anyone a tough opening series.
In his 15th season, Paul’s numbers are right around his career averages. He was putting up 17.7 points per game, 4.9 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.6 steals. His 48.9 percent shooting from the field is the third-highest mark in his career. As of publishing, the Thunder were actually ahead of the Houston Rockets in the standings; the team that traded Paul last summer.
Torrey Craig – Denver Nuggets
Craig is in third NBA season, all with the Nuggets. He went to a small NCAA Division 1 school (University of South Carolina Upstate) and spent the early portion of his career overseas in Australia and New Zealand. He originally began his NBA career on a two-way contract, earning a standard contract after his first year and now becoming a mainstay in the Nuggets rotation.
His numbers have gone up every year he’s been in the NBA. This season he was shooting career-bests 46.2 percent from the field and 33 percent from the three-point line. What has really stood out about him, however, is his defensive ability. He’s quietly become one of the better perimeter defenders in the league. On a team full of offensive firepower like the Nuggets, his skill-set is a much-needed asset.
Ben McLemore – Houston Rockets
There was a time when McLemore was a lottery pick and supposed to be one of the future building blocks for the Sacramento Kings. That didn’t end up panning out and when he joined the Rockets on a non-guaranteed contract this past offseason, it was widely seen as his last shot to prove himself as an NBA rotation player.
He has certainly answered the call this season. He emerged as an invaluable member of the Rockets rotation. He established himself as a legitimate 3&D player. Early in the season when his shot wasn’t falling, he was still contributing on the defensive end. As of now, he’s shooting 44.5 percent from the field and 39.5 percent from three-point range. He’s been a starter for Houston and he’s come off the bench. He’s certainly done enough to earn himself another contract in the offseason.
De’Anthony Melton – Memphis Grizzlies
Melton played in a total of 50 games last season as a rookie for the Phoenix Suns. This season, he was on pace to surpass that. In his second year in the league, he’s become a key piece for a Grizzlies team that was hanging on to the eighth spot in the West. He has a versatile skill set and he can play multiple positions.
Melton was putting up 8.1 points per game, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.0 assists. He’s a legit combo guard. He’s comfortable with the ball in his hands and running the offense. He is also a strong defensive player. There is a lot of young talent on the Grizzlies and Melton is perhaps the most underrated one.
Landry Shamet – Los Angeles Clippers
Shamet had an immediate impact as a rookie last season, especially in the Clippers entertaining first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors. Last season, he started 23 of the 25 games with the Clippers after the trade with the Philadelphia 76ers. He began this season as a starter, but has since transitioned into a bench role.
His numbers and minutes have dropped off since the arrival of Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson, but he still is a valuable part of the team. He’s averaging 9.7 points per game and shooting 39.2 percent from the three-point line. He can play both on and off-ball. He is especially adept at moving without the ball to get open.
Georges Niang – Utah Jazz
Niang started his time with the Utah Jazz on a two-way contract and has gradually worked his way into the Jazz rotation. When Utah waived Jeff Green back in December, Niang was the beneficiary of increased playing time. He has fit in well as a small-ball four-man who can space the floor.
He’s shooting a career-best 41.6 percent from the three-point line and earlier this year was among the top three-point shooters percentage-wise in the league. He comes into the game, plays his role and doesn’t try to do too much. A key utility guy who does what is asked of him and can contribute to winning.