Who Is Next?
With the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers finally completing the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade after amending the deal to include an additional second-round pick going to Cleveland, the burning question asks who is next.
While it’s not very likely that another blockbuster deal happens before the start of training camps later this month, there are a few names to keep an eye on, as they are likely going to be moved at some point this season:
Carmelo Anthony – New York Knicks
Unfortunately for Knicks fans seeking closure on the Carmelo Anthony drama, there has been very little movement. With everything taking place in the Houston area after the tragic impact of Hurricane Harvey (make sure to donate here), it’s unlikely the Rockets are going to be overly concerned about meeting the Knicks continued asking price on Carmelo.
According to sources, the Knicks stance has been that any deal involving Carmelo Anthony has to return value to the Knicks, and given that the Rockets seem only to be willing to move Ryan Anderson as the core of a deal, there is nothing there.
Let be honest: Anderson is not a player to rebuild around, and by the time the Knicks could use him, he’ll be gone in free agency. He won’t help them rebuild. He takes minutes away from other front court players; it’s not a good fit at all.
Houston has engaged several teams on three and four-team scenarios, but nothing discussed offered much of anything to the Knicks. The problem with including multiple teams is each team wants something for themselves which dilutes the value coming to anyone one team, specifically the Knicks.
Sources close to the situation said recently that the Knicks seem to be trying to call Anthony’s bluff on his “only Houston” stance. With just a few weeks left until both sides have to face the realities of coming together at training camp, there is the possibility of movement before camps open, but as of today, there doesn’t seem to be much there for the Knicks and Houston.
Some have suggested that the Knicks become punitive towards Anthony, such as refusing to play him or asking him to stay away. The problem with that line of thinking is that the Knicks are not permitted to “punish” Anthony for exercising a right defined in his contract.
Equally, if the Knicks were to take that stance, Carmelo could shut down all trade talk completely and then force the Knicks to buy him out or waive him. Beyond whatever actions come from the Players’ Association or the NBA itself.
If the Knicks hope to extract any value out of Anthony at all, they need him to be open to ideas.
Sources close to the Knicks side of things said even as bad as it seemed to get last year, Anthony was never a problem, was never difficult and got along very well with his teammates and staff.
Given that the Knicks need Anthony’s consent for a trade, it may be smarter for them to try and bring him to camp and deal with his situation later than trying to force him into something he simply will not agree to do.
Eric Bledsoe – Phoenix Suns
As much as Phoenix guard Eric Bledsoe gets mentioned in trade talks, sources close to the Suns continue to say they would be completely fine having Bledsoe play out his contract and there is no urgency to trade him.
That’s all well and good, but there is little doubt that Bledsoe doesn’t necessarily fit the future of the Suns and he is arguably the Suns best trade chip, especially as teams in the West try and amass as much firepower as possible to battle the Golden State Warriors. Does anyone believe he’s not the guy to move?
The Cavaliers have logged several calls on Bledsoe, mainly because of his ties and connections to LeBron James.
One league source said recently that the asking price on Bledsoe isn’t crazy, suggesting that an ending contract and a solid draft pick likely get a deal done.
Bledsoe is currently slated to earn $14.5 million this season and a final contract year worth $15 million next season.
Given that the Suns are still way below the salary cap (and could get further below if they renounce Alex Len), they have the luxury of being able to take back more salary than they send.
While there does not appear to be any urgency from the Suns’ side to move Bledsoe, it does seem more likely than not he’s a guy to watch. Honestly though, it seems we’ve been saying that almost since the day he signed his contract.
Luol Deng – LA Lakers
The LA Lakers have big dreams for the summer of 2018. They want to have two maximum salary slots, and they want to make a run at two marquee players.
The problem with that dream is Laker forward Luol Deng and the three-years and $54 million remaining on his current contract.
For the Lakers to reach their goal, trading away Deng (and likely Jordan Clarkson) is almost a requirement, and trying to move off that much fully guaranteed money in a single offseason is tough, even for the savviest deal makers.
The dream scenario for the Lakers is swapping Deng, and other inducements at the deadline for one of the players the Lakers covet in free agency and obtaining that player’s Bird rights.
If you buy into the idea of Thunder forward Paul George being a Laker, that would mean a deadline deal with Deng and the Thunder, which not very likely.
So, if the Lakers can’t deal directly for their would-be free agent, they have to deal Deng for a bunch of ending contracts, and they need to do that in advance of the February 8 trade deadline. Waiting until the offseason is only going to increase the cost of a dumping the money and there are no guarantees they can find a willing partner. In other words, Deng has to be moved before the deadline for the Lakers to have any shot at their dream scenario.
As much as Deng is bemoaned by Laker fans, he is still a solid and productive player that could be meaningful to a team competing for something.
Given that the Lakers simply want out of the money, Deng becomes an interesting option for a team like San Antonio who has the ending contract of Tony Parker ($15.453 million) to peddle or Milwaukee who has the ending contract of Greg Monroe ($17.884 million).
Reggie Jackson – Detroit Pistons
Let’s start with the reality that there likely isn’t an NBA team that is going to help the Pistons get out of the remaining three-years and $51.129 million owed to Piston’s guard Reggie Jackson.
That didn’t stop them from exploring their options last season, and they’ll likely do it again this season if Reggie can’t find his way in Detroit.
History has shown that even the worst of NBA contracts can eventually be traded—it’s always dependent on what the return is and how much additional value can be combined with it to make a deal more palatable.
Like Deng and the Lakers, there are teams with ending contracts that might find Jackson more appealing than the ending deals they have. Given that the Pistons are facing the luxury tax on a team that’s not expected to contend, dumping Jackson’s money alone might be smart for the Pistons if they can find a taker – San Antonio, Milwaukee anyone?
The Pistons remain optimistic that they have the right guys to be in the postseason. But, if the team gets out to slow start or starts to show the same issues as last season, don’t be surprised to see the Pistons try and force something and moving Jackson continues to be the scenario most around the Pistons talk about.
There are a few others that should make sure to have a “go bag” packed once the season gets underway and some of those include: Iman Shumpert (Cleveland), Mo Harkless (Portland), Wilson Chandler (Denver) and Danny Green (San Antonio).
Most NBA teams will open training camp on or about September 25th, with the Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves opening a few days earlier, as they will play preseason games in China.
Stay tuned for the 2017-18 Basketball Insiders NBA Season Previews, which will start to drop next week.
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