The First Domino Drops
With the 2018 NBA Trade Deadline just nine days away, the first major domino of the cycle dropped yesterday.
The LA Clippers agreed to a franchise-changing deal, sending forward Blake Griffin, forward Brice Johnson and center Willie Reed to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for forward Tobias Harris, guard Avery Bradley, center Boban Marjanovic, a 2018 protected first round pick, and a 2019 second round pick.
On the surface, this deal seemed surprising. However, there had been rumbling for weeks that teams were making passes at the Clippers on Griffin’s availability sensing that the Clippers we open to this kind of idea. The Pistons are reported to have been talking for the better part of a week, with the deal taking off roughly 24-hours before it was consummated.
With a major player changing situations, things seem like they might be starting to heat up on a number of fronts. Here are some things to know:
Pistons Not Done Yet
“We are serious about winning, and this is a major move to improve our team,” Pistons owner Tom Gores said in a statement announcing the Griffin trade.
Word in NBA circles is the Pistons have ramped up efforts to move out Stanley Johnson, with an eye for Utah’s Rodney Hood. It remains unclear if the Jazz engages in a deal built around Johnson, but the Pistons are being aggressive.
As things sit post-trade, the Pistons have $111.9 million guaranteed to just nine players, so adding a potential free agent like Hood looks to be exactly what Gores was suggesting. The Pistons are going all in on this roster.
Clippers Have Bigger Plans
The immediate question last night after the Griffin trade cleared was what’s next for Clippers guard Lou Williams and center DeAndre Jordan?
League sources and solid reporting from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski paint the Clippers as exploring all their options, which includes extensions for both players.
The Clippers have been trying to lock in both players for some time and have ramped up efforts to try and secure commitments for both before really considering trades offers they have on the table.
The bigger move for the Clippers could be the cap flexibility they are now looking at after the Griffin trade.
With just $49.8 million in guaranteed money to six players, the Clippers could find themselves with the most room of just about anyone in the NBA if they can get the buy-in from their player option players or find deals to jettison them.
Word is any trade involving Jordan would need to include one of those contracts such as Wesley Johnson ($6.134 million option next season) or Austin Rivers ($12.65 million option).
The story floating around last night was the Clippers did the Griffin deal with an eye on trying to get an audience with LeBron James in July and having enough flexibility to potentially include another marquee player like Paul George, stealing a page out of the Lakers’ dream plan.
The next nine days should be interesting because the message out of LA was that ownership wouldn’t sign off on a full-on tank, but it will take some impressive cap work to clear out the kind of dollars the Clippers would need to pursue James in July and remain competitive.
Kings Still Looking
The Kings long-rumored talks with the Cavaliers about a George Hill swap are not dead according to league sources, who characterized them as maybe the least favored option for both teams, but something they could do at the deadline if nothing better surfaces.
The talk of the Kings looking at moving Skal Labissière and Malachi Richardson continues to circulate. Sources close to the situation have been saying for a week or so that the Kings would cash out some of their youth for quality first round picks. It’s unclear if that’s going to surface for the Kings, but they are looking at options.
The Dallas Mavericks continue to pop up with regards to Labissière, although Mavericks sources said they value first round picks too greatly to pull the trigger. Those same sources pegged Lakers forward Julius Randle as a preferred target and where the Mavs will likely focus efforts in the coming days. Labissière could become a bigger option if the Lakers continue to not engage on the idea.
As for the Kings veterans, as we’ve been discussing for several weeks, the Kings have been fairly open and transparent with their veteran players who are in and out of the lineup that they would try and make the situation right either through desirable trades or possible buyouts after the trade deadline.
There has been talk that Vince Carter could be a buyout candidate, which could make the next round of free agency interesting because Carter has continued to play really well.
The Bucks Get Parker Back
The Milwaukee Bucks have continued to explore their trade options, and the timing of the return of forward Jabari Parker couldn’t have lined up better for the Bucks.
Parker is expected to play in his first game later this week (Friday), and that’s going to be a good measure for the Bucks on how aggressive they really need to be with a team aiming for home court in the East.
Bucks sources have aggressively downplayed the idea that the team would trade Parker, although they admit the cap situation with his pending free agency could make this tight, but ownership at least seems to be onboard with re-signing Parker in July if management wants to go down that path.
The prevailing thought around the NBA is the Bucks would be open to and are pursuing a major player trade and have been linked to the Clippers and DeAndre Jordan. They also continue to be mentioned in NBA circles as having eyes for Miami’s Hassan Whiteside. Its hard to imagine either deal gets done without the inclusion of Parker, so the Bucks getting a chance to see him on the court for a few games before the deadline may go a long way in cementing their decision.
Equally, Miami’s impressive 10-4 run in January seems to have them backing away from significant trade talk, so if Milwaukee genuinely wants Miami to engage, it’s going to take a real offer.
The annual Basketball Insider Trade Deadline Dairy will drop next Tuesday night. We will track all of the rumors, news, and deals that get down all the way to the 3 pm EST deadline on Thursday, February 8. Stay tuned as things heat up.
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