Time To Make The Phone Call
While NBA teams are typically talking trades and personnel year-round, things in the NBA tend to heat up in mid-December and start to take real shape into the new year.
With less than 52 days until the 2018 NBA Trade Deadline, there are some situations that may warrant exploring and some teams and players that could be ready to deal sooner than later. Here are a few:
Paul George and the Thunder
There is an inevitability to the Thunder’s rocky season so far, which is that it hasn’t been nearly dominating enough to think that Thunder forward Paul George would stay beyond this season.
George’s looming ability to hit free agency and the long-running narrative that he’d like to play in L.A. for the Lakers will weigh heavily on the Thunder as the deadline gets near. However, the same issue the Thunder face faces anyone that could or would trade for George, and that’s he’d likely leave them in July too, making him a playoff run rental on the best of days.
For the Thunder, expecting any real value out of George will be tough, especially when you consider that while the win/loss record isn’t great, the chemistry inside the team has been better than expected.
The Thunder have been hovering at or around .500 for a while and seem close to putting things together. However, if the Thunder doesn’t get a sustained push that gets them out of the middle of the Western Conference, its hard to believe a real offer on George would get dismissed, mainly because of the inevitability that George likely walks in July.
Can the Thunder afford to lose another marquee All-Star for nothing in return? That is something even the Thunder’s massively secure general manager Sam Presti has to factor into his decision-making process.
The reality is that if George is indeed made available in trade—something more insiders believe than not—it likely doesn’t happen until late January, but getting in line now might not be the craziest of ideas, especially for a team that still may be one player away.
DeAndre Jordan and the Clippers
The L.A. Clippers and center DeAndre Jordan have been talking contract extension. In fact, there was a window for several weeks when the narrative out of the Clippers was that they were going to get a deal done. Then the Clippers season fell off a cliff.
Jordan has a player option worth $24.11 million, and while most insiders don’t believe there will be a very robust free agent market for traditional centers, there is something to the idea of trading in $24.11 million for a multi-year deal.
With the Clippers beginning to accept that a rebuild is more than necessary, Jordan’s future with the Clippers is anything but clear, especially with the notion of him expecting a new deal north of $100 million.
There has already been some speculation that Jordan could be on the move to the Milwaukee Bucks in a package built around John Henson and possibly Jabari Parker, who is getting closer to returning to action after a second ACL tear.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have also been in the mix with an offer built around guard Iman Shumpert, Tristan Thompson and a first-round pick. It’s been reported that pick was possibly the Brooklyn pick obtained in the Kyrie Irving trade, although sources close to the situation say it was never discussed and that the Cavs were open to moving their own pick in any trade scenarios.
On the surface, none of those deals seem to return much value to the Clippers, but the truth of the matter is the Clippers aren’t necessarily dealing from a position of strength and may end up taking what they can get, even though there is a lot of affection for Jordan in the senior leadership of the Clippers.
This one is far from decided, but absolutely one to watch especially as teams in the East try and jockey for the top spot with eyes on how to beat or contain the Warriors.
Nikola Vučević and the Magic
The Orlando Magic got off to a hot start, but have fizzled into the bottom of the East after a nine-game losing streak and now what’s become a new five-game losing streak. Since November 1st, the Magic have lost 18 of 23 games.
There have been few bright spots in the Magic’s journey to the bottom, save maybe the reemergence of center Nikola Vučević, who is posting maybe his most efficient season in the NBA.
Vučević has maybe the most team-friendly deal in the NBA, with $12.25 million owed this season and a fully guaranteed $12.75 million next season.
With the Magic clearly going nowhere fast, Vučević is the name mentioned most in NBA circles as having value.
The Magic’s message continues to be the same in trade talks. They will listen to offers and ideas but are not actively seeking change for change sake, accepting that this season was more about the newly installed front office understanding who and what they really had.
League sources have maintained for some time that to get Orlando off the dime was going to take a significant player hitting the market—something that has not happened yet.
The Magic are absolutely a team to watch as the trade season picks up steam for two big reasons, they have some productive players they can offer, and they have cap money they’d love to shed for the future.
If the Magic end up making a move this trade season, you can expect that Vučević will be the primary name talked about, in part because he may be the best trade asset the Magic have to offer.
Kent Bazemore and the Hawks
The Atlanta Haws are exactly where they were planning to be when they opted to tear apart the roster, sitting dead last in the NBA.
The challenge for the Hawks is they still have some contract dollars and players that may or may not fit the rebuild plan. The biggest name and salary would be swingman Kent Bazemore.
The Hawks owe Bazemore $16.91 million this season and a guaranteed $18.089 million next season. Bazemore has a player option in 2019 worth $19.262 million, which could be problematic for the Hawks to find a real salary shedding transaction.
The fact that Bazemore is 28 years old puts him outside the rebuild window.
League sources say the right combination of ending contracts and a first-round pick, even one highly protected might be enough to get Bazemore in trade, especially for a team looking for a scoring punch.
Of all of the players likely to be moved this trade season, Bazemore may be one of the harder players to trade, but if a team were serious about trying to get him, the word is he could be had and for not a lot in return.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Hornets
The prevailing thought in NBA circles is the Hornets have to move off a salary, with forward Nic Batum, who can’t seem to get and stay healthy or swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist being candidates. Of the two, Kidd-Gilchrist is owed the least amount of money—$13 million a year for the next three years, which isn’t exactly a bargain.
The question for the Hornets is what else they would put into a deal to shed some cap dollars and get far enough under the tax line to add to the team next season?
The Hornets aren’t exactly brimming with promising and expendable young guys they’re willing to trade—rookie Malik Monk is a non-starter according to league sources. Its safe to say it would take a ton to get the Hornets to include fellow rookie Dwayne “Don’t call me Wade” Bacon.
The name to watch may be Frank Kaminsky, although he’s had a couple of really solid games as of late.
If the Hornets genuinely want to shed dollars and try and jump-start a floundering season, they may have little choice but to toss in some youth.
As things stand today, the Hornets are five games out of the eighth spot in the East and not exactly trending in a very good direction. This becomes a real issue when you consider that the face of the franchise, Kemba Walker, has just one more guaranteed year on his deal and has only played in 11 post-season games.
If the Hornets don’t want to find themselves in the same spot the Pacers were with Paul George, last season, they may have to do something.
The prevailing question is what will they really be open to?
Marc Gasol and the Grizzlies
The Grizzlies hoped that when they fired former head coach David Fizdale, they could right what appeared to be a sinking ship. Since that decision, the Grizzlies have won just two games out of their last 10.
Franchise big man Marc Gasol was labeled as a key reason why the Grizz parted ways with the immensely popular Fizdale, saddling him (unfairly) with the coach-killer label. With point guard, Mike Conley sidelined since mid-November, it’s been all on Gasol to carry a ho-hum Grizzlies roster.
Gasol continues to say all the right things when asked directly about his future, but more and more people in NBA circles are saying the same thing. All it will take for Gasol to be traded is him telling management he wants out—that would give the front office the green light with ownership to move on from Gasol.
With Conley’s return still unclear, there is a sense internally that the Grizzlies could rebound once he comes back and that any talk of trading Gasol before that wouldn’t be seriously considered.
There is little doubt this Grizzlies roster has run its course, especially in a tough Western Conference. The real question is when do the Grizzlies opt to blow the roster up and how much would they really move off in trade?
There is an additional situation worth watching in Memphis, and that’s the ongoing ownership situation.
When the current ownership group came together in 2012, a unique clause was put into the partnership agreement at the behest of then NBA commissioner David Stern. The gist of the idea was that current majority owner Robert Pera and the next two minority owners with most equity (Steve Kaplan and Daniel Straus), would have the option to buy each other out in what’s called a buy/sell provision.
The parties have begun this process which started with a normal negotiation window on buying out each other. If a deal cannot be reached (and it has not been), that triggers a valuation process, where any of the three parties can name a valuation for the franchise. That value would force one of the other partners to sell their stake at that defined price or buy out the others at that price – which is expected to be the outcome. The question becomes does Pera, who now has a net worth according to Forbes at over $4.2 billion, go all-in on owning a much bigger share of the Grizzlies?
If majority ownership changes hands, there is a real belief leadership with the Grizzlies changes too. That could change the entire dynamic of the team’s future, so it’s absolutely a situation to watch.
George Hill and the Kings
By most accounts, the Sacramento Kings had a coup of an off-season luring in proven and established NBA veterans like Vince Carter, Zach Randolph and George Hill.
The idea at the time was they would help get the Kings respectable and winning games, while also giving a roster loaded with youth and inexperience a few proven veterans to learn from.
All three were sold on the idea that the Kings were aiming for the playoffs and that this wasn’t going to be a babysitting gig.
The Kings are currently sitting at 9-20, which is tied for the third-worst record in the NBA and increasingly looking like another lost season.
Carter and Randolph seem to be okay with the situation, mainly because they are in the twilight of their careers. However, Hill seems to be the one who may have the most remorse over the deal.
The be fair to the Kings, they massively overpaid Hill. Hill is owed $20 million this season and a fully guaranteed $19 million next season. Considering the rumored situation with Hill’s foot during free agency, the Kings were the best deal out there.
All of that said, the Kings seem open to the idea of trading Hill, and it seems Hill would more than welcome a move. Is there a team that would take on Hill’s contract without the Kings including youth or a future draft pick?
While the season does seem to be slipping away in the win-loss column, it’s hard to argue that the youth of the Kings isn’t improving, which is ultimately why the Kings committed so much cap money to older players.
Like many of the players on this list, the right phone call could put a deal in motion, and for the Kings and Hill, it seems he could be had if an inquiring team really wanted him.
This is by no means the only names to know and watch as the NBA trade season begins to pick up steam, but these are the names that could likely spark a real conversation based on the chatter in NBA circles at this point, and it only looks to get more interesting from here.
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