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NBA Daily: Another Low Key Deadline?

With the 2018 NBA Trade Deadline this Thursday, there is a sense some of the big moves in trade rumors may not happen.

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May Not Be The Deadline You Want

Things are starting to get real around the NBA as teams are starting to lock in the deals that can reasonably pull off. While we’ve seen some deals drop already, there is still a sense in NBA circles that as many as dozen more deals could drop before the eleventh hour. What is also coming out of those talks is that some of the major names being kicked around may not get end up getting moved, but there are the typical fringe guys that are far more likely.

Here is some of what we’re hearing:

Are The Lakers Bowing Out?

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne dropped some news most Laker fans were likely dreading: the notion that the Lakers may not be very active this week in dumping contract money and the idea of landing some of the gems of the 2018 Free Agency class may be out of reach.

The Lakers had been operating under the idea of getting into a cap position to land one or more of Cavaliers forward LeBron James, Thunder swingman Paul George or Pelicans big man DeMarcus Cousins.

However, with the cost of unloading contract money being significantly greater than anyone in the NBA expected, the Lakers are seeing the cost to be almost not worth the risk. With Cousins recovering from an Achilles tear, George sending signals he may be interested in staying in Oklahoma City and the lack of transparency into James’ process, the Lakers seem to be looking more towards 2019’s class rather than paying a tremendous premium to move contracts that might not really open enough space.

For several weeks the Lakers had been downplaying the idea they were going to make a major trade. While there is always a chance someone makes an eleventh-hour pitch, the notion of the Lakers going all in on a cap dump seems less likely with each passing day.

There are two situations to watch with the Lakers, the biggest being a new willingness to “rent” some of their cap flexibility next season in exchange for draft picks. This makes the ending contracts of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Brook Lopez worth watching, as is the future of Julius Randle as a Laker. There has been a fairly consistent feeling the Mavericks would love to get Randle at the deadline. However, the Mavericks won’t pay a hefty premium for a player they feel they can land in July. There is value for the Mavericks in getting before needing to commit to a hefty contract, but they won’t pay a premium for it.

The Lakers no longer look to heading towards a big bold, splashy deadline. However, they are not completely out of the race either.

Magic May Not Have The Deal They Want

The Orlando Magic have been on of the more thorough teams in exploring deals. However, it doesn’t look like they have a deal they will do at this point.

The two names that continue to get mentioned most frequently are guards Evan Fournier and Elfird Payton. The problem for the Magic is they are not looking to take significant salary back in a deal, and there doesn’t seem to be much appetite around the NBA in taking on contract money in a year when the salary cap isn’t expected to increase too significantly.

Sources near the Magic’s thinking continue to say there is no urgency to make a bad deal, pointing to the favorable contract structure of their roster arts and the notion that trades will be easier to consummate around the NBA Draft and into July, especially if there isn’t a tremendous amount of major player movement.

As much as fans of the Magic seem to want change for change’s sake, the front office seems to be acting far more disciplined in extracting the kind of deals they want.

The Magic have been active enough to say anything is truly possible at the eleventh hour. One Magic player joked that “everyone could be gone,” illustrating how many scenarios the Magic have explored. The question comes down to what a deal the Magic will do, and there is a sense they haven’t seen that deal yet.

Milwaukee May Not Be Done

The Milwaukee Bucks triggered a deal yesterday with the Brooklyn Nets to acquire Tyler Zeller and a second-round draft pick in exchange for Bucks guard Rashad Vaughn. The Bucks had been shopping Vaughn for most of the season and addressed their lack of size in the deal for Zeller.

The big question, is does landing Zeller take the Bucks out of the running for a marquee big man? League sources continue to say the Bucks still have hopes of prying DeAndre Jordan away from the Clippers. Ultimately the Clippers will make the call, and more insiders than not see the Clippers dealing both Jordan and guard Lou Williams at the deadline.

The Bucks have been linked to a number of high profiles big men, but the question most insiders have is will the Bucks part ways with forward Jabari Parker? The answer today seems to be “no,” which may explain the Zeller deal, but as one insider pointed out any deal involving a big salary for the Bucks would have to include John Henson and leave the Bucks really thin at center, a problem Zeller solves.

The Thunder Ready To Go All-In

The Oklahoma City Thunder are normally fairly clandestine in their trade talks. However, this time around it seems they are being more aggressive than normal, especially in pursuit of quality wing depth.

The three names that have surfaced most frequently are Utah’s Rodney Hood, who is expected to be moved somewhere this week, along with fellow Jazz guard Alec Burks. The Thunder have also been linked to Clippers guard Lou Williams and seem to be open to the idea of surrendering future picks to lands an impact player to the roster.

There is also a growing sense that would-be free agent Paul George may be open to doing a one-and-one deal with the Thunder this summer rather than jumping ship to the Lakers. George has been sending signals both publically and privately that he’s more interested in seeing where this situation goes. It’s possible this is simply George trying to head off a deal at the deadline, but with news of the Lakers stepping away from cap dump scenarios, it makes some sense and might explain the Thunder’s willingness to leverage some of their future picks to go in on this roster.

The Bulls Have More In The Works

The Chicago Bulls ended up with a $12.5 million traded player exception in last weekend Nikola Mirotic/Omer Asik trade, and while the Bulls have a full year to use it, they do seem to be active in looking at trades that could add salary now in exchange for future picks or rookie scale players.

There is a sense that Bulls big man Robin Lopez could be moved before Thursday’s deadline, and that the Bulls are open to ideas on some of their “non-core” roster parts.

The Bulls have amassed an impressive young core and want to foster that, but they also have some fringe roster pieces that are not part of that core that they seem more than willing to part with is it can yield more draft assets.

The Bulls’ TPE is interesting to watch, especially with teams trying to find a way to shed money. There isn’t a ton of urgency for the Bulls, but they don’t seem like they are going to sit out the deadline.

The annual Basketball Insiders Trade Deadline Diary will drop later today and track all of the news, rumors and final deals that get done. You’ll want to bookmark this age for an “at glance” look at every thing that’s happening all they way up and through the 2018 NBA Trade Deadline on Thursday at 3pm EST.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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