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NBA Thursday: Time For Some NBA Re-Gifting?

With Christmas upon us, is it time for some NBA teams to consider moving pieces that don’t fit?

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With the holiday upon us, I wanted to take a moment to wish you and your family a safe and Merry Christmas. While what we do is often taken way more seriously than it really is, I do at times like to take stock in where we are and what we do. It’s because of you that we have a place to talk basketball and share thoughts and ideas. We would not be here without you, and sometimes your place in our equation may not get the appreciation it deserves. So thank you for caring about what we do. Enjoy the holiday and know that all of us from the Basketball Insiders family wish you and yours the very best this holiday season.

Let’s get on with the show.

One Man’s Ugly Sweater:  In the spirit of gift giving, everyone at some point has been given a gift they are ready to re-gift to someone else. With the NBA trade season in full swing, there are a few players who fit right into that category. Here is what we know.

Is Chicago Ready To Deal?

The Bulls were supposed to get better after their team meeting and public airing of issues. So far that has not been the case and it seems the Bulls are open for business and have a lot of things on the table.

Sources close to the process say that both forward Taj Gibson and center Joakim Noah could be had in trade, especially if an impact player on the perimeter is returned.

Noah is dealing with a tear in his shoulder and could miss two to four weeks and is a pending free agent in July, so that could significantly impact his value in a trade. Gibson is posting reasonable numbers given the dysfunction within the Bulls’ structure and he is under contract for one more season after this one.

There is a sense that packaged together, the combination of Noah and Gibson could return a real player and one to watch might be Brooklyn’s Joe Johnson.

There is also a sense that Chicago would entertain moving Pau Gasol as well, namely because there is an increasing sense he’s going to explore his options in free agency in July and could leave the Bulls with nothing; there is value in trade for him, even as a rental.

The Bulls’ stance is that these talks are exploratory, according to a few teams that have spoken to the Bulls, and they do not appear to have a clear plan yet. But what is clear is that Chicago is listening to offers and shopping situations – they could be significant seller as the February 18 trade deadline nears.

Handing Him A Towel?

With 9:47 to play and a -13 plus/minus, Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Horneck opted to take Markieff Morris out of the game against the Denver Nuggts. In exchange, Morris handed his coach a towel. Okay, maybe he didn’t hand it to him; maybe it was more of an aggressive toss. Some might say it was a full on throw.

After the game Morris was asked about the towel tossing exchange and refused to talk about it, saying the situation was between him and Hornacek. The Suns coach was more direct saying it was about “not playing.”

The truth of the situation is both the Suns and Morris are eager for a change. While there are teams that are interested, there isn’t currently an offer out there the Suns would pull the trigger on, which means trying to make the best of the situation until a deal surfaces.

Throwing a towel at the coach is not going to help the situation at all.

As we have covered in this space, there are three core problems with Morris:

The Player is averaging career-lows everywhere and posting bad numbers. He has a history that suggests he could be serviceable in a new situation, but based on play right now, he is absolutely underperforming.

The Person has a pending felony assault case, vented his personal frustrations to the press and on social media and just threw a towel at his head coach.

The Contract on the surface is not bad, at $8 million this season, but he is owed three more seasons beyond this one. If in a new situation he produces at the same level he is now, or becomes a cancer to his new team, that new team would be stuck with him for the foreseeable future.

Morris has the trifecta of issues. Any one of those issues is enough to kill a player’s trade value, but when you start compounding all of them, he’s almost a bad deal unless it’s for the end of a team’s bench or worse yet a contract dump kind of transaction.

While the Suns’ clearly need to do something, making a bad deal to salvage a bad situation is far from ideal. But if things have devolved to towel throwing, maybe it’s time to cut your losses?

Why Terrence Jones?

To characterize the Houston Rockets as wanting to trade forward Terrence Jones is a little misplaced. Also, assigning a tremendous amount of value to Jones is also a bit misplaced. The Rockets have been sniffing around for a trade and Jones’ name is often attached and for good reason: Jones will likely be a restricted free agent in July and given the prices expected for talent, the Rockets have to decide if they want to give $30-35 million to Jones or if that money is ultimately better used on a different player.

Jones is a very versatile and solid producer for Houston. He has solid tools and size, and he gives the Rockets a ton from the bench or when he has started. He is a good player. The problem is that it’s time to pay Jones and Houston has eyes for bigger fish, which means they ultimately have to trade Jones or risk losing him to a lucrative offer sheet from a competing team.

As a restricted player, the Rockets do have the right to match an offer if they issue the required $3.53 million qualifier, so they have some control, but there is a sense that Jones has suitors outside of Houston and he’s going to get expensive.

The Rockets, like a number of teams, have eyes on a major free agent signing this summer and are reluctant to tie up too much of their future until that plays out.

To characterize the Rockets as wanting to trade Jones is a little misplaced. There is an understanding that Jones could return value and help make a deal happen, and there is a sense that Jones could also get priced out of Houston’s range for him in July.

Sometimes in the NBA you don’t always want to make a deal, but as in the case of Jones, you might have to make a deal before you lose an asset for nothing.

How ‘Bout Them Lakers?

With five wins so far on the season, the Los Angeles Lakers are approaching the crossroads moment in their season. Sources close to the situation say the front office has been looking at the current roster trying to understand what parts are worth keeping long-term and may be ready to start listening to deals in the new year.

It’s easy to say the Lakers need to keep the young guys because those players are still on rookie-scale deals; however, sources have said when the Lakers open the trade flood gates, they are not necessarily going to turn away trade scenarios that could involve their rookie-scale guys.

Now let’s be clear: the Lakers are not even really shopping at this point, but when they do, they are expected to look at everything that comes their way and they understand that a rookie-scale guy might be required to make a splashy franchise-positioning deal.

There are a couple of Lakers who are expected to be available, most notably forward Brandon Bass. His $2 million salary won’t return very much, but there is a sense that while the Lakers liked Bass a lot in the free agent process, he’s not viewed as a viable long-term piece now.

The same is being said of center Roy Hibbert, who waived a chunk of his trade bonus to get out of Indiana and to the Lakers. Sources close to the process say that moving Hibbert won’t be easy (due to his upcoming free agency), but given his $15.59 million ending contract he could return a combination of ending contracts and a player of value to the Lakers’ rebuild.

Laker fans often talk about moving Nick Young, but league sources label Young as almost untradeable, which is where the concept of moving a rookie-scale guy comes into play. There is a sense that the Lakers would have to package a desirable asset along with Young to get teams to consider it and given how little value Young seems to have around the league, the Lakers may be better off staying the course with the swingman.

Sources close to the process say the Lakers really are not overly engaged in trade talks now, just doing the normal due diligence teams do in December, and that if they are doing anything on the trade front it would a lot closer to the trade deadline.

The Lakers are not necessarily a seller yet, but it seems after the holidays they may start to listen a bit more.

The 2015-16 NBA trade deadline is February 18 at 3 p.m. EST.

Most of the active players in the NBA are trade eligible now. There are roughly 28 players that signed new deals this past summer worth more than 20 percent of their previous deals, which makes them trade restricted until January 14.

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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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