Trade Deadline Less Than 30 Days Away
As the crickets of the 2015-16 NBA trade season continue to chirp, there are some buyers in the NBA market place open to making a deal. The problem is that there doesn’t appear to be many teams looking to be sellers; even some of the most aggressive in-season traders are starting to accept that there are not many deals worth doing and this could lead to a very anti-climactic trade deadline.
Here are some of the names to think about, and what is being said about them in NBA circles:
Markieff Morris, Phoenix
There continues to be talk that the Phoenix Suns could move off forward Markieff Morris if they really wanted to, but there is a growing sense that what comes back in a Morris deal may not be very attractive to the Suns in both the short-term and the long-term.
Sources close to the Suns say that they are not going to make a bad deal just to force Morris off the roster, but as the deadline gets closer there is an increasing sense around the league that Phoenix might blink on a deal just to remove the problem from their equation.
Morris has returned to the starting lineup, which could help the Suns’ case. However, Morris has been wildly inconsistent in his production, which could hurt the process too.
At points this season, Morris has been linked to the Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans and Cleveland Cavaliers, but sources close to all three teams said recently that Morris was not a player they’re actively consideration. But as the deadline looms, being a buyer means considering what’s available to buy and Morris is a player who could be had and his price tag may go down inside the next 30 days.
Dwight Howard, Houston
While this may sound like semantics, Houston Rockets big man Dwight Howard does not have an opt-out in his contract. The wording of his deal is an opt-in. While it is functionally the same, the process is slightly different. Howard will be a free agent in July and that was always what was agreed to when he signed in Houston. This was always part of Houston’s thinking and it was part of their free agency pitch. The option year was simply injury protection, as the plan from the first day in Houston was that Howard would ink a new deal this summer.
This becomes important because there is a narrative that suggests Howard would walk away from Houston in July and therefore the Rockets have to trade him before the deadline. The problem is that’s not what either side agreed to when they did the deal.
That’s not to say that Howard wouldn’t explore his options or that Houston wouldn’t want to rethink would could be a $30 million per year re-commitment to Howard.
What it does mean is that Houston is not looking at deals involving Howard, and they are prepared to enter the offseason and address Dwight’s situation in July.
The Rockets feel like they are in a good place with Howard and that he is a key part of why they have turned the season around, so trying to move him before the deadline just is not in the thought process.
That’s not to say a blockbuster deal landing on Houston’s doorstep wouldn’t get consideration – it means there isn’t much there worth talking about, especially as it pertains to Howard.
It is still very possible that the Rockets pull the trigger on a deadline-related trade. They have guys with trade value who could help a team for a stretch run. But what’s become very clear is that Howard likely won’t be moved.
David Lee, Boston
When David Lee and his agent requested a trade from the Golden State Warriors, it was not because Lee was unhappy. Rather, it was because Lee was entering the final year of his contract and needed a situation where he could play in order to secure a sizable deal this summer. The Boston Celtics were one of several options presented, and Lee and his camp chose Boston specifically.
As the deadline approaches, Lee is averaging 15.7 minutes per game on the season and has not played in five of the Celtics’ last six games. When Lee plays, he’s been productive, but the Celtics simply do not have a role for him.
The problem for Boston is that it’s difficult to move Lee’s $15.4 million contract without any long-term cap impact. Their desire to keep their flexibility and not take on long-term money is something the Celtics have made clear to inquiring teams.
One of the teams that continues to be mentioned as a possibility for Lee at the deadline is the Toronto Raptors. However, making the cap math work would be complicated unless a third team that’s willing to take on one of Toronto’s longer deals gets involved.
The Celtics have been on a skid as of late and have been actively looking at deals where they could liquidate some of their duplication or trade up in the talent department, and Lee is one of the guys they are expected to try to move at the deadline.
Finding a deal for a $15.4 million contract is never easy, but it seems that both Lee and the Celtics want to try to find a trade before the Feb. 18 deadline.
Ryan Anderson, New Orleans
For as much press as New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson gets about his future, the point that most miss in talking about trade rumors and his free agency is that – if all things were equal – the Pelicans would like to keep Anderson long-term. The problem is the ballooning salary cap is likely going to price him out of the Pelicans’ range for the role they want him to play.
There are no shortage of potential suitors for Anderson, but just as the Pelicans have to weigh his future in their decision, so do the teams trying to pry Anderson out of New Orleans.
What is a stretch-four rental worth to a would-be contender? That’s something the Pelicans are trying to understand and they are in no rush to short change themselves.
Pelicans sources admitted that moving Anderson was likely to happen just because of the business of the situation, but cautioned that New Orleans wouldn’t do a bad deal just to make a trade and that unless an offer was meaningful to them, they may stay the course, finish out the season and see what happens in free agency.
The Pelicans do hold Anderson’ Bird Rights and could exceed the salary cap to keep him. Anderson’s July cap hold is $12.75 million.
While Anderson seems like a chip the Pelicans can and likely will cash, their stance is that it’ll take the right deal for them to move him.
Brandon Jennings, Detroit
Much like Anderson, Jennings is headed toward unrestricted free agency and likely a new team in July. The Detroit Pistons are getting monster production out of Reggie Jackson, making Jennings a backup in Detroit. Jackson is clearly the team’s point guard of the future after inking a five-year, $80 million deal last summer.
The problem for the Pistons is similar to what the Pelicans are going through: What’s a rental really worth at the deadline and could Jennings be more valuable as postseason depth and injury insurance than the piece he would return in a trade?
The answer to that question today is yes. Will that answer hold true come February 18? That’s the big question for the Pistons.
Detroit president and head coach Stan Van Gundy has said repeatedly that he does not see trading Jennings as very likely. However, if the right package gets offered, that could change since Jennings clearly isn’t part of the Pistons’ long-term plan. Jennings’ ending contract is worth $8,344,497.
Joe Johnson, Brooklyn
The Brooklyn Nets have blown up their front office and coaching staff, which has put the organization in a little bit of a chaotic state. League sources say that the Nets have not closed up shop, but that they are not overly active on the trade front either.
Most league insiders say that trading guard Joe Johnson may be nearly impossible at the deadline given the size of his $24.8 million contract. To be clear, the Nets have paid roughly $12.1 million of the cash owed on the deal, but making the cap math work would be hard to pull off without sending long-term contract money back to Brooklyn, something they are absolutely closed to considering.
Nets assistant general manager Frank Zanin is running the trade deadline in an external way; he is clearing deals through team CEO Brett Yormark and the chairman of the board Dmitry Razumov, so while there is not a GM in place, business is continuing.
Sources close to the process say that there isn’t a lot of urgency to make a deal before the deadline. Instead, the priority is to get new leadership in place and let the future of the team take shape that way.
That’s not to say the Nets wouldn’t do a deal, they’re just not overly active in looking for one.
The real question is will Johnson opt to leave some of his guaranteed cash on the table if he is not moved in order to gain his release via a buyout. Today, his side says absolutely not. However, there is a sense that once the deadline passes, that stance could change.
Greg Monroe, Milwaukee
Surprisingly, there has been some talk in the press that the Milwaukee Bucks could and should explore the trade value of big man Greg Monroe. The reasoning in the reports is that Monroe basically signed a two-plus-one contract – guaranteeing his deal for two seasons and then he has a player option on the third year – and that he has been a strange fit inside the team dynamic.
While there is no doubt that Monroe isn’t a perfect fit, he’s been one of the better players all season on a team that struggled to produce offense a year ago.
Bucks sources found the idea of moving Monroe laughable, but when you consider that Milwaukee is 18-25 on the season and about five games out of the eighth seed in the East, could Monroe return the best value?
It’s an interesting question to ponder, especially given the Bucks’ young frontcourt. However, Bucks sources could not have been more adamant that moving Monroe at the deadline was not under consideration and that landing him in free agency was a huge win for the team so they were not open to trading him.
Long-term marriages in the NBA are very rare, so you never say never, but if the Bucks opt to move players it will likely be guys from their ending contract pool like O.J. Mayo and Jerryd Bayless.
A name that continues to get connected to the Bucks is Houston Rockets guard Ty Lawson, but sources close to the Lawson situation say a deal to Milwaukee is highly unlikely at this point.
Kevin Martin, Minnesota
The Minnesota Timberwolves and guard Kevin Martin have agreed that he’ll play a lesser role while the team tries to find a trade for him.
The problem in finding a deal is that Martin has a player option for next season that’s worth $7.37 million.
League sources say there are a couple playoff teams that would have interest in Martin for a playoff run, but keeping him into next season at $7.3 million is not very attractive. And the teams that might actually view Martin as attractive next season have no guarantee that he’ll stay in his deal.
So what is Martin worth as a rental and what’s he worth if he stays in his deal? One situation appeals to one group of teams, while the second scenario appeals to a very different group of teams.
To ultimately find a trade, Martin may have to decide on his option year in advance of a deal and it does not seem like Martin nor his agent are very open to that, especially given his injury history.
It’s pretty clear that the Wolves and Martin are ready to part ways, but it does take a suitor to make a trade happen and the option year is a problem for many of the teams linked to him.
Brandon Bass, Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers have been making calls to gauge what some of their veteran players are worth. The obvious answer on many of the higher dollar guys is not much. The Lakers are said to be open to trading guard Nick Young and center Roy Hibbert, but neither seem overly attractive on the trade front, especially if the Lakers have to take on salary that runs into the 2016 salary cap year.
The player that’s more likely to be moved is forward Brandon Bass. The Lakers tried Bass on at a low dollar amount hoping he could contribute and be something of a tutor for forward Julius Randle. With the Lakers going nowhere fast, Bass is one of the guys the front office is expected to move by the deadline.
Bass has been nursing a problematic foot, so that is a concern, but the sense is the Lakers will be players at the deadline and Bass could be on his way out.
The 2015-16 NBA trade deadline is February 18 at 3 p.m. ET. While NBA teams can consummate deals at any point, there does not seem to be much desire for change at the moment. With that said, a number of insiders warn that the bulk of deadline deals end up being salary cap related and a lot of those deals start to take form during the All-Star break.
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