We’re only three weeks away from the NBA trade deadline and while several members of the media are prepping for a quiet afternoon on February 8th, keeping an eye on team circumstances and quiet rumblings around the league leads our team here at ClutchPoints to believe there’s still plenty opportunity among the NBA landscape for a shift. With sources ranging from national beat writers (Shams Charania and Adrian Wojnarowski the two primary ones), local papers and endless NBA insider twitter accounts, keeping track of the rumors and the whispers oftentimes lands somewhere between a task and a hassle. To alleviate this burden, each Saturday until the deadline, we will put together a weekly rumor roundup, covering major situations and their potential impacts around the league. Without further ado, the first edition of Saturday Rumor Roundup starts below:
10. Atlanta Hawks
For the most part, the rumor roundup is just that, a collection of rumors and speculation. Atlanta’s different, this is objective fact. The Hawks front office set the price for an Ersan Ilyasova, Marco Belinelli rental. If you’re a front office and you need an average second unit shooting guard or second unit stretch-four, Atlanta’s willing to part with either of those players for a low first/high second round pick.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers
In breaking news that surprised absolutely no one, The Cleveland Cavaliers are struggling and are almost guaranteed to make a move at the deadline this year. What move they make is the subject of debate, but even the most stalwart Cavalier-stans can admit the current core isn’t working. Reportedly the players sent an anonymous letter to the front office requesting some sort of trade. The real question Cleveland now needs to ask themselves revolves around what assets Cleveland is willing to part with.
Cleveland made their stance on the Brooklyn pick clear, they don’t plan on trading it until they have a guarantee from LeBron James that he’s staying. James, reportedly, is far from making any sort of decision. For the time being, it seems that Cleveland won’t sell their best asset, however, as the early 2010 pop song “Price tag” goes “Everybody has a price”. With front offices hesitant to sell any first round pick (say it with me: seven years of team control is better than half a season of rental), even the possibility of Cleveland selling the pick might entice a team desperate to make a move to overpay for a top-10 selection.
I’ll cover Nikola Mirotic in a later section, so rather Chicago’s section will focus on something Matt Moore of The Action Network observed. Chicago has six young players listed as a point guard or hybrid guard. Point guard is arguably the most needed position amongst teams, and with LaVine, Dunn, and Nwaba looking like a three guard rotation, listen for any chatter regarding interest in Jerian Grant, Justin Holiday, or Cameron Payne as potentially valid. Holiday looks like the player with the most upside amongst those three.
Returning to Matt Moore of The Action Network, Dallas is a hot ticket to keep an eye on. Less of a report and more of an observation, Dallas has $14 Million in cap space to take on salary without having to send salary back. As a rebuilding team, Dallas can take negative contracts into their fold in exchange for additional assets, similar to the Timofey Mozgov to Brooklyn, or the DeMarre Carroll to Brooklyn, or the Andrew Nicholson to Brooklyn, or the Nik Stauskas to Brooklyn, or the… you get the point. Any rumors involving Dallas and a team like Charlotte, Memphis, Washington or The Clippers (teams close to the luxury tax that don’t want to pay it) should require a second look and taken slightly more seriously than just baseless rumors.
Don’t look now Cavaliers fans who think adding a top line traditional center in the last year of his contract is worth a top ten pick (repeat after me again: Seven years of team control is better than half a season of rental) and will make their team better than the team which pioneered running lineups without traditional centers, The Los Angeles Clippers are over .500. As of the current movement it looks unlikely the team moves DeAndre Jordan barring a major slip. Team owner and my personal favorite person to watch react to his team doing well Steve Ballmer reportedly isn’t willing to accept the idea of a rebuild. With the team relocating to a new arena in Inglewood soon, it makes financial sense to continue hovering in a low playoff spot.
5. Miami Heat
Dion Waiters, Miami’s “marquee” free agent signing this summer, is expected to miss the rest of the season following the decision to undergo surgery on his left ankle. Currently a real challenger for first round home court playoff advantage, this injury deals a significant blow to the Heat’s playoff contention, but opens them up to becoming major sellers on the market this offseason. Miami clearly intended to sell following this offseason. Signing quality role players to reasonable contracts, the hope was that one or two of those players (Waiters, Richardson, Olynyk, Dragic, Johnson.) overachieved and could be sold as a value player. With their chances of making a run towards the Conference finals dwindling, Miami likely reopens the market for switchable, athletic wings.
Matt More of The Action Network suggests a primary candidate for such a move would be Miami’s star center, Hassan Whiteside. Statistically Whiteside’s preformed impeccably. Holding an on the floor defensive rating of 99.9 (21st in the NBA and the only one on the Miami Heat below 100), Whiteside brings high energy to the defensive end of the floor, is locked onto a long term contract, and likely is valued incredibly high on this market. While there is a chance Miami looks to just ride out their current core until 2020, when almost all of their contracts expire at once, Whiteside’s availability would undoubtedly start a bidding war.
The other noteworthy occurrence due to Waiters’ injury comes in the form of a 5.5 Million dollar injured player exception. The exception comes with several conditions: (1) it must be used by March 12th. (2) It must be used on a player in the final year of their contract, be that via the free agent buyout market, trade, or waiver wire. (3) The exception does not create a new roster spot. (4) The exception is standalone, so it cannot be combined with another exception to absorb a larger salary. Finally (5) the exception is conditional to an independent medical team finding that Waiters will be sidelined until June 15th. The result is another potential asset Miami could use. If they continue to chase a playoff spot, they could acquire an underpaid swing man to help plug the hole, or take on the last year of an unwanted contract in exchange for a minor asset. Regardless, keep an eye on Miami’s moves post deadline to see if anything emerges from the buyout market.
4. Players’ teams want a first round pick for
Let’s kill two birds with one stone on this one. Both Tyreke Evans and Nikola Mirotic are an interesting puzzle for both the teams that want to trade them and the teams trading for them. The interest in both players is clearly there. They both fill a niche and slot into any team quite nicely. They both cost a first round pick. The both (albeit for different reasons) are not worth a first round pick.
This season, Tyreke Evans played phenomenally. He continues to play well. His ability to make his own shot, as well as leadership skills on the court make him a phenomenal pickup for a team looking for some scoring on the second unit. His contract, at 3.3 million dollars a year makes him even more appealing. Teams like Detroit, Houston, and ironically enough New Orleans all would have a need for Evans. The reason he’s not worth a first, however, is he doesn’t come with anything besides himself. Let me clarify: Most players contracts end with something called Bird Rights. The idea of Bird Rights are that if a player remained on the same team for three or more seasons on their current contract, their new contract can exceed the team’s salary cap, allowing teams to retain their own players regardless of if they have space or not. Signed on Memphis’ Bi-Annual exception, Evans already outplayed any contract a capped out team can offer him, and likely outplayed the $8 million mid-level exception as well.
For Mirotic, his value as a player like does reside somewhere around a late first round selection. The contract is team friendly, his statistics are good and there are buyers. Why actually getting one of those selections becomes precarious is finding a salary that matches. At 13 million a year, players making that money generally are one of two things, so bad that taking them on itself is a liability for Chicago, or good enough that Mirotic alone shouldn’t warrant that first round selection. Similarly, the three teams in the hunt for Mirotic (Detroit, Utah and Portland) all aren’t good enough to warrant making a win-now move. Mirotic might end up being sold low by the 8th just as a result of a tepid market.
3. Portland Trailblazers
Three weeks ago, it was reported by John Canzano of “The Oregonian” that Paul Allen’s ownership group, Vulcan Inc., began analyzing data regarding the Trailblazers record and performance. According to an insider within the organization, “Paul is getting antsy, he thinks they [The Trailblazers] should be winning more.” Vulcan has reportedly narrowed down the field to either a bad coach, broken roster or front office issues (so… basically everything). As of writing, the Trailblazers are projected to land in the West’s 9th seed, knocked out of the playoffs by The Los Angeles Clippers. Head Coach Terry Stotts contract runs until the 2020 season and General Manager Neil Olshey’s contract similarly runs until 2021. That said, Allen made it clear if an opportunity to improve showed itself he wouldn’t hesitate taking a loss.
For the Blazer’s roster, this may raise some concerns. If willing is key, CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard are likely safe, but outside those two every player should see themselves as expendable. Jusuf Nurkic is a team asset, but with a major pay raise on the horizon he might look the most appealing to a team looking for instant offence at the Center position. Evan Turner’s albatross of a contract looks unmovable, but paired with enough draft selections and Nurkic, that package might look intriguing enough to a team that they might part with a genuine piece. Turner, Nurkic and a few firsts for Marc Gasol wouldn’t be completely out of the question.
Question 1: What was the last year that San Antonio made a trade at the NBA trade deadline? Answer, 2014.
Question 2: What was that trade? Answer, San Antonio sent Nando De Colo to Toronto for Austin Daye
Question 3: Could this year be the next trade? Answer …Uhh…
Jokes aside, the table is set for a trade in San Antonio. With Kawhi out indefinitely, Rudy Gay’s health flippant and the threat of Golden State in the second round if they drop to the fourth/fifth seed, San Antonio might finally feel the pressure to make a move. I doubt there’d be a real splash, but adding a plug and play scoring wing could alleviate the pain until Robo-Kawhi returns to battle. Tyreke Evans and Stanley Johnson are two names that stand out to me, but it’s the Spurs. The organization is notorious about for its closed lipped policy within the organization. With so few leaks, no one really know what San Antonio’s planning.
A lot’s gone down in Sacramento this past week, all of which factors into the potential decisions the team might make this deadline. Without going into too much detail regarding the team ranked 30th in offense and 30th in defense, here’s a quick rundown.
According to Head Coach Dave Joerger, the Kings are going to go young from here on out. This means sitting two veterans a piece per-game. According to Alec Brzezinski of The Sporting News and Danny Leroux of many places (The Sporting News, The Athletic, 100 Things Warriors Fans Should Do Before They Die, The Dunc’d On NBA Basketball Podcast), there will be a set schedule for veterans such as Randolph, Hill, Carter, Koufos and others. This likely lands any and all of these veterans on the trade block. However, with their bloated contracts and aging skill sets, it’s unlikely any of these individuals will see real interest. Koufos and Hill might garner attention from teams looking for a rotation caliber center/point guard, but beyond that don’t expect the Kings to be guaranteed sellers.
From a roster standpoint, however, Sacramento may have forced themselves into selling. With more than 15 players on the roster at the time of the draft, any young player should consider themselves liable to see themselves getting cut. Similarly several young players could be packaged together to another team, either as sweeteners to unload the Hill et al contracts or just for a more proven young player that fits the King’s timeline. The contract that looks easiest to move is Vince Carter’s expiring $8 Million.
The only two players that should mark themselves safe from this potential consolidation or cuts are Centers Willie Cauley-Stein and Harry Giles. The Kings announced yesterday that Harry Giles, while cleared for full contact practice, will be red-shirted his first year of the NBA. Seeing no real playtime for over two years now, The Kings have opted to hold him back for the rest of the season. This means while Cauley-Stein is clearly the best trade asset the Kings have, and is clogging development time from top ten pick Giles, he’s unlikely to be shipped off until after Giles returns and proves he’s worth the investment.