NBA AM: Trades Are In The Air


The Smell Of Trades Is In The Air:  Much of the hype around NBA trade season tends to land in February around the trade deadline, which falls on February 19 at 3pm EST this season. The truth of the matter, though, is that the bulk of the trades meant to improve a team happens well before the trade deadline, with the rest of the moves happening at the last minute being cap related deals.

For the last few days we’ve been talking about who might get dealt –make sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 – there are still a lot of moving parts and time left on the calendar.

While NBA teams have roughly 42 days to consummate a trade, there have been a number of deals that have dropped already and it seems that now that the market is open, a few other teams are trying to get their needs solved too.

Here are a few of them:

The Grizz Are In

The Memphis Grizzlies are not looking at anything that would be destructive to their chemistry, but if they could pry loose a wing player for one of their spare roster parts they seem open to it, even if it means taking on a long-term salary.

Word is the Grizzlies have been at the Miami HEAT regarding Luol Deng and have logged some interest in Boston’s Jeff Green.

The Grizzlies are sitting on the $7.7 million expiring contract of Tayshaun Prince and young guys like first rounder Jordan Adams and second rounder Jarnell Stokes.

The Grizz are not really looking to part with much, rather hoping that one of the teams with a solid wing with cap money owed would be open to dumping the salary.

Green is owed $9.2 million this year and has a player options for $9.2 million next year, while Deng is owed $9.71 million this year and has a player option for $10.15 million next year. Either player in exchange for Prince works straight up under the cap and would represent an immediate costs savings if nothing else.

The HEAT were very high on Stokes in the draft process and it was believed that Miami would have scooped him up had they not been able to acquire Shabazz Napier, which they ultimately did in a draft night trade with Charlotte.

Without including something of real value it seems unlikely that someone gives the Grizzlies the missing piece, but they are in the marketplace sniffing around, they just may not have enough on the table to really get a deal done.

The Nuggets Have Assets Others Covet

Nuggets General Manager Tim Connelly addressed his team’s decision to ship big man Timofey Mozgov to the Cavaliers yesterday, saying the return was simply too good to pass up.

Connelly was pressed on whether this was the first of other transactions to come for the Nuggets, as it’s been commonly believed they would at some point look to blow up their roster in some regards. Connelly indicated he didn’t see that coming, but that hasn’t stopped teams from sniffing around the Nuggets hoping to do as the Cavaliers did and pry loose a good asset.

The two names that surface the most around the Nuggets is swingman Arron Afflalo and point guard Ty Lawson.

Afflalo has the option to hit free agency and it seems likely that he is going to use it. That makes him a prime rental candidate for a playoff team looking to bolster their perimeter game and Afflalo has shown over the last two seasons that he can be deadly, although he’s had a ho-hum season in Denver.

Lawson becomes a very interesting option as he is one of the league’s top assist men and has been extremely good in spurts. He is likely the Nuggets’ best trade asset in the sense that he could return the most value.

Lawson is owed $11.59 million this season and is under contract for two more years at $12.4 million and $13.21 million respectively.

Given that Lawson is locked up at a pretty reasonable price, he holds the most value for a team looking to make a move.

League sources say it’s been pretty hard to get the Nuggets to engage on anything involving Lawson, but there is a sense that if the Nuggets want to blow up the roster, including Lawson could help them move off unfavorable contracts or players.

The Nuggets do have some second-tier options that could have value as the deadline approaches including big man Darrell Arthur, who is in the final year of his deal and is scheduled to earn $3.45 million this season.

Big man J.J. Hickson could also garner some interest; he has $5.38 million owed to him this season and one more year worth $5.61 million next season.

The Nuggets are expecting big man JaVale McGee back in the coming weeks, and that, combined with the emergence of rookie Jusuf Nurkic as a bona fide player could allow the Nuggets to deal another big, especially if the price is right.

There isn’t a fire sale going on in Denver, although there is a sense one could be on the horizon if the Nuggets can’t start stringing together some wins.

The Knicks Are Still Active

The New York Knicks cleared out some of their roster over the weekend, and waived all of the players they got back in their three-team deal with the Cavaliers and Thunder yesterday.

The Knicks now have 12 guaranteed contracts on the books with the 13th player (Langston Galloway) being on a 10-day deal.

The Knicks dropped their 13th straight game last night and are on a freight train to the draft lottery.

While the Knicks are positioned nicely for free agency in July, they are still being active in the trade market, looking for a home for point guard Jose Calderon and his remaining two years and $15.11 million.

There doesn’t appear to be nearly as much interest in Calderon as the Knicks would like, so it’s possible that they have to hold on to him until the NBA Draft when more teams may view him as a solution, much as the Knicks did during last year’s draft.

Sources close to the situation say the Knicks wouldn’t be crushed if Calderon was on the roster next season as Knicks president Phil Jackson and head coach Derek Fisher like him quite a bit.

There is also the sense that Calderon could be part of a pitch to lure in Memphis big man Marc Gasol to New York as Calderon and Gasol have a long history together with the Spanish National Team.

While there may be some small amount of value to Calderon in their efforts to swing for Gasol, sources say moving the cap money is still the first priority.

The Knicks at this point have four guaranteed contracts for next season, including Calderon’s. The salary cap rules make it impossible to get to zero cap dollars as each open roster spot is charged an “incomplete roster charge” of $490,000 per unfilled spot.

With Calderon on the books the Knicks could get roughly $25.1 million in cap space, given those roster charges and the cap hold on what could be the top overall pick. If the Knicks can find a taker for Calderon before July, they could increase their available cap space to roughly $32.1 million. If the Knicks miss out on the top overall pick their cap hold on that pick decreases roughly $490,000 per draft spot.

Calderon is owed $7.4 million this season, which is not an insignificant number in a trade. The Knicks may have to include an additional asset to move him. There does appear to be some level of interest in Tim Hardaway Jr, however word is the Knicks want to hang on to him.

It may be hard for the Knicks to achieve both goals.

The Pacers Have Decisions To Make

The Indiana Pacers have two tough decisions to make; both involve the possible free agency of two of their cornerstone guys.

Pacer big man Roy Hibbert has a player option for next season, which could allow him to hit free agency in July and potentially leave the Pacers with nothing to show for him. Hibbert is owed $14.89 million this season, which is a big number to trade, especially for a player that could opt for free agency.

The Pacers face the same situation with power forward David West, who is owed $12 million this season and has a player option worth $12.6 million next season.

There is a sense that West may opt to stay in Indiana and if he gives the Pacers assurances that he would, it’s unlikely they look at deals involving him.

Hibbert is a little different. The Pacers do value him tremendously and there is a sense that Indiana might be willing to give him another monster contract. However, there is a sense that Hibbert is going to opt-out and that creates a pretty big risk for the Pacers without assurances that he’d look to re-sign.

Both players can exercise their options at any point and it’s likely that the Pacers ask both to do that before the deadline. If it seems like both are headed to free agency the Pacers have to explore their value.

The Pacers do have a couple of other players they’d entertain offers on including point guard George Hill and reserve swingman Chris Copeland.

The Pacers are not in panic mode about this season, understanding that they are missing their best player in Paul George. Keeping this core together and waiting for George next season would be the ideal situation, however if West and Hibbert are looking forward to free agency things may have to change.

Raptors Being Opportunistic

Raptors president Masai Ujiri admitted recently that his team’s success was hardly part of the big picture plan when he took over the team in 2013.

Now he finds himself with a team that’s not only competing at the highest level in the East, but they could be a bona fide title contender this year.

This poses an interesting problem for the Raptors: Do you go all-in and make a few moves to gear up for a title run or do you wait until the offseason and add one more piece via free agency?

The Raptors are looking. They are clearly in the market for a defensive minded big man, preferably at the power forward spot, but sources close to the situation say the Raptors are not locked in on any one situation.

The Raptors also don’t have a lot to offer as their core guys are deemed pretty untouchable, which means the chips on the table likely include players like Landry Fields (6.25 million), Chuck Hayes ($5.95 million), Tyler Hansbrough ($3.32 million) and long-time Raptor Amir Johnson ($7.00 million).

There is a ton of salary in those contracts, but not exactly the kind of players that other teams get excited about. The fact that all of them are ending contracts could help in a deal, but they don’t seem overly desirable as roster players.

The Raptors have long been linked to Denver’s Kenneth Faried, mainly because Ujiri drafted him when he was in Denver.

The problem with moving Faried is his new contract extension. His cap value to the Nuggets is his current $2.249 million contract. A team acquiring him has to account for his extension which balloons his incoming cap value to $10.44 million.

The gap in values is hard to make up without escalating the total value of the trade, or involving a third team with cap space to clean up the difference.

It’s not an impossible task, but it would be a complicated one that would likely cost more assets.

Ujiri is being opportunistic in the marketplace, there is a sense that he won’t do anything that could disrupt the chemistry that’s working in Toronto, but if he could flip a roster piece for that defensive minded player they are looking for, its seems they’d do it.

Clippers Looking To Add

The Clippers have been active; they tried to get involved in the Josh Smith free agency sweepstakes. They were at the Knicks about guard Iman Shumpert, so they are not sitting on their hands by any leap of the imagination, they just simply don’t have anything on the table other teams want.

The latest name linked to the Clippers is 76ers swingman Tony Wroten, and while the 76ers are always open for business Wroten is their top scorer and one of the brighter spots on their rebuilding roster.

The Clippers have made it pretty clear that they are unwilling to move core pieces, even sixth man Jamal Crawford seems to be unavailable.

The Clippers do have rookie scale guys like Reggie Bullock and C.J. Wilcox to shop, but neither or even both hold the value that Wroten does to a 76ers locker room that’s become a pretty tight unit.

The Clippers look to be a buyer as the deadline approaches, but they also don’t seem to be offering much and they are hard capped.

Boston Has Pieces

Celtics forward Jeff Green is the name talked about the most in connection with trades and the Boston Celtics, mainly because he might return the best value. League sources peg veterans Brandon Bass and Jameer Nelson as the next Celtics to be traded, though.

There is no doubt that Green has value, mainly because he can play at a high level right away and he has a player option on his contract that might not make him a long-term investment for a contender looking for a serious player.

The problem is the Celtics do value Green significantly and wouldn’t have a problem with him remaining with the team beyond his current contract.

The same cannot be said for Bass and Nelson.

Bass is likely moved at the deadline, the question is what can Boston really get back for him?

Nelson was acquired as part of the Rajon Rondo trade, and cannot be packaged or aggregated with anything until almost the trade deadline. His $2.73 million contract can be traded individually at any time, but the Celtics cannot package him to get a bigger return.

The Celtics would love to move off the $10.1 million remaining on Gerald Wallace’s contract next year, but without including a valuable asset, moving Wallace may be hard to pull off.

The Celtics have been in the mix on a number of things since moving Rondo, so they are far from finished and given that the Rondo trade generated a $12.9 million Traded Player Exception, they could be the middle man on some bigger deals as the deadline approaches.

Is Miami Open For Business?

The HEAT have been somewhat out of the trade market for the last few years, and rightly so as a title contender. So, hearing that they are actively looking at deals now is something of a surprise, simply because they have been noticeably absent for several seasons.

You can put Miami in the “what will you give me?” class of shoppers. They are not necessarily looking to dump someone, but if they could flip a player like forward Luol Deng or even big man Chris Andersen and return something meaningful, they seem like they would do it.

It’s equally likely that Miami does nothing at the deadline, than doing something big, but the HEAT are in the marketplace and have engaged on a few things.

As mentioned above the Memphis Grizzlies have eyes for Deng, and that’s a possibility if Miami’s season continues to slide in the wrong direction.

Deng has a player option next season, so in essence he could walk away, which is likely why Miami is listening. Like most players with a player option, Miami could ask Deng to pick up his option, if he seems reluctant to do that, then that might make Miami’s decision easier.

The Wolves Future May Require Changes

The Timberwolves are going nowhere fast and while they have a roster loaded with blossoming young talent, they also have a number of veterans that may not factor into the long-term plan in Minnesota.

The biggest problem for the Wolves isn’t whether there is a market for their veterans guys, it’s that head coach and team president Flip Saunders likes having proven veterans around the younger players to help them learn the NBA and the process.

Eventually the Wolves are going to have to look at their roster from a business point of view and that means guys like Chase Budinger ($5 million), Mo Williams ($3.75 million) and Kevin Martin ($6.78 million) are all possible trade chips.

There is not a sense from the Wolves that they feel any urgency to do anything, but as the deadline ticks closer they have assets that they could convert into rookie scale players or more importantly draft picks.

Saunders has long held the belief that he has the right kinds of players on his roster to compete, but that injuries have derailed his team, so it is completely plausible that he holds his ground and tries again with this group next season after his young guys get a little more experience.

The Wolves are not motivated sellers, but they do have the kind of chips that get moved at the trade deadline. So, they are a team to watch.

Where Do The Magic Fall In All This?

The Orlando Magic continues to scrap, but they are far from the playoff contender they hoped to be when the season started. With last night’s loss to Denver, the Magic find themselves at 13-25 on the season and on pace for 28 wins.

Admittedly this is the first year Orlando isn’t leaning on veteran players to anchor their team; they are legitimately letting the young guy run things and the results reflect that.

As the deadline approaches the Magic do have some questions to answer: namely what to do with forward Tobias Harris.

Harris and the Magic did not reach an extension this past October, making him a free agent in July. The Magic have the option to restrict Harris’ free agency and match whatever he is offered by another team. The question is that really what the Magic plan to do?

The Magic have said from the beginning of the process that they intend to match offer sheets for Harris, but given his play and the sheer volume of teams looking at ample cap space in July, do the Magic want to risk a price tag north of $12 million a year for Harris or could he return something significant for a team that’s not terribly better than they were last season.

The Magic also have some roster parts that are not being used namely swing man Moe Harkless and big man Andrew Nicholson. Its unclear if either hold any real trade value, but even if its swapping their rookie scale deals for other rookie scale deals, neither player fits into the program in Orlando, so they are the obvious target chips.

The Magic also have a couple of veterans that might return value. Shooting guard Ben Gordon ($4.5 million) has played well for the Magic and holds a $4.5 million team option for next season. Long-time veteran Willie Green who has played a much larger role in Orlando than expected and could be moved at the deadline to a contender.

The Magic are also one of the few teams in the NBA with usable cap space, roughly $7.29 million, meaning they can take on a contract or play middle man with their space to help another team complete a deal.

The Magic typically lay fairly low around trade chatter until the 11th hour. For the past two seasons the Magic have denied trade interest only to try and assemble deals during the final week of talks, that’s likely going to continue this year as well.

The Magic do have a number of very cashable chips, and a bigger decision to make regarding Harris. Given where the Magic are in the standings it seems unlikely that they sit out the trade market, especially with so many teams shopping for parts and the Magic having some to sell.

It usually takes one domino to fall before teams start to get a sense they may get left out of the trade season. With so many deals dropping now, don’t be surprised if a few more teams get aggressive, especially as the gap between the contenders and the pretenders widens.

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