The NBA trade season is revving up. The deadline for trades this year falls on February 7th, just a few days after the Superbowl, and 10 days before the NBA’s All Star game.
We’ve already seen some big trades this fall. Jimmy Butler to Philly for Dario Saric and Robert Covington. Kelly Oubre to Phoenix for Trevor Ariza. Or George Hill to Milwaukee for John Henson and Matthew Dellavedova jump to mind.
In past years it was a forgone conclusion that the Cavaliers and Warriors would meet in the finals (allright, maybe not forgone, I mean the conference finals each went 7 games). This year, with just shy of half the season gone, the standings a bit more jumbled. In the West a total of 8.5 games separates the #2 seed and the #14 seed New Orleans Pelicans. Which is to say the difference between being next to last in the conference and making the playoffs could be a modest 7 game winning streak.
In the East, the reign of Lebron is over and the Targaryens, Lannisters, Baratheons, and Starks are all fighting for the right to sit upon the Iron Throne and face off against the White Walkers. Toronto, Milwaukee, Philly, and Boston all will attempt to claim a right to rule the East with Indiana puttering about in the mix playing the sackless unick.
Out West it is the Nuggets sitting atop the standings currently with Golden State holding on at 3. The Spurs and Rockets have made recent pushes to grab onto the 6th and 4th spots respectively.
There are two schools of thought with everything seemingly in flux, one is that everyone is seemingly in contention for the playoffs, so there isn’t anyone looking to sell off and tank. The other viewpoint is that everyone is in contention, so everyone is looking to grab that guy to put them over the top. Which way this plays out is anyone’s guess, but lets take a look at 5 trades worthy of consideration.
CAVS OBTAIN: JIMMY BUTLER, & MARKELLE FULTZ
76ers OBTAIN: KEVIN LOVE, & J.R. SMITH
The Cavs have gotten next to nothing this season from Love and Smith between injuries, fit on the roster, and pouting.
Philly made the big splash a few months ago to acquire Butler from Minnesota intending to re-sign him in the off season. Recently though its been reported that Butler has had confrontations with coach Brett Brown regarding his role in the offense. With Simmons set as the primary ball handler, and Embiid solidly identified as their best player and go to guy, that leaves Butler as the third wheel on the tricycle, something he is apparently uncomfortable with.
The fit with Love into the Philly line up is pretty straight forward. He is a better version of Dario Saric, who fit in with the 76ers pretty well. A line up of Simmons/Redick/Chandler/Love/Embiid is more than solid. Adding J.R. Smith as a scorer off the bench is exactly what Philly needs, and what they thought they may get out of Fultz when the season began.
Contractually Love is already locked in for the next few seasons and eliminates the need to attempt to re-sign Butler, they would have their “big 3” knowing they’re together moving forward. Additionally Love adds a veteran presence and one that has a championship pedigree.
For the Cavs the move is a boom or bust move. If Butler re-signs and Fultz harnesses the potential that made him the #1 overall pick just 18 months ago, then trading the often banged up Love and the malcontent Smith was a brilliant move. Even if Butler were to opt out, then you’re looking at the move as having created cap space, and getting rid of Love, who when turning 31 by the start of next season simply doesn’t fit with the timeline of the Cavs rebuild (disclaimer, Butler will turn 30 about a week after Love turns 31, but Love is a seemingly OLD 31.)
ROCKETS OBTAIN: NIC BATUM
HORNETS OBTAIN: BRANDIN KNIGHT, MARQUESE CHRISS, & CARMELO ANTHONY
One the one hand, you have the Hornets, the poster children for mediocrity with a roster flooded by okay, but not great players, stuck in NBA purgatory. Too good to really suck and get a top pick, but not good enough to really compete for anything.
On the other hand you have the surging Rockets who with Chris Paul out have hitched a ride in James Harden’s beard to the 4th spot in the West. The Rockets, with Chris Paul and James Harden under contract, along with Clint Capela taking up a decent chunk of cap space have no hope of clearing out cap space for an addition via free agency to help combat Golden State. Their best hope is via trade.
They don’t really have any assets worthy of acquiring a truly impact 3rd star. They made an attempt to milk something out of Carmelo Anthony, but you can’t get water from a stone. Their alternative is to take on a bad contract for a team looking to move a bad contract. That’s why this is a match made in heaven. For the Hornets this would be a straight cost savings move. Maybe Chriss shows something in the post while Cody Zeller recovers from injury? I doubt it. They could keep Knight, whose contract expires at the end of next season as insurance in case Kemba Walker bolts in free agency this summer, and Carmelo is traded simply to get him of the Rockets roster.
For the Rockets, Nic Batum would seemingly fit well. The lanky forward has the skills to fit into D’Antoni’s system and would slide right in as a stretch 4. Money wise its a risk the Rockets would need to take, like previously stated, its not like they have any legit hope of getting under the cap anytime soon. May as well trade for Batum, extend Gordon, and hope to strike gold in the draft and MLE market.
SUNS OBTAIN: DENNIS SMITH JR. & FUTURE DALLAS 2nd ROUNDER
MAVERICKS OBTAIN: JOSH JACKSON & FUTURE MILWAUKEE 1st ROUNDER
The rumors are swirling that while the Mavs aren’t actively shopping Smith, they’ve made sure to be certain the phone is on the hook in case someone calls (I really dated myself with that reference, phones, hooks, what?)
The Mavs are suddenly a competitive team with a nice mix of young (Smith & Doncic), old (Matthews, Barea, Nowitzki), and a little in between (Barnes & Jordan). The concern is seemingly the fit between two ball dominant guards with Smith & Doncic, specifically how playing with one another could stunt the other’s growth. Yes we’ve seen Harden/Paul work, but those are two well established future hall of famers. Its a bit different when its two guys still trying to make their bones in the league.
The Suns famously do not have a viable point guard. They’ve resorted to trying to use natural shooting guard Devin Booker at the point. A point guard prospect of Smith’s caliber simply isn’t available in this draft. Plus in the last 6 months the Suns have added Mikel Bridges and Kelly Oubre, a couple of young small forwards. While I understand the modern NBA is all about athletic wings, its still nice to have SOME roster balance.
Jackson and Smith are both in their sophomore years, but Smith is seemingly well ahead in his development. Even though just a year ago Jackson was drafted 4th overall and Smith was 9th, I believe to even the scale Phoenix would need to kick in a first round pick. Not their own, but the one they’re owed from Milwaukee which has some protections. A young piece and a first rounder, I don’t see Dallas doing much better than that. And Suns fans, remember the last time Dallas sent over a point guard? That worked out pretty well didn’t it?
THUNDER OBTAIN: TERRANCE ROSS, JERIAN GRANT, & JONATHAN SIMMONS
MAGIC OBTAIN: DENNIS SCHRODER & TIMOTHE LUWAWU-CABARROT
Schroder has been terrific for the Thunder off the bench, a real spark plug. But he is a luxury, a starting caliber point guard playing behind one of the best out there, Russell Westbrook. Oklahoma City has been one of the surprise teams of the year as Paul George is very obviously fully recovered from his horrific leg injury a few years ago, and has reached the next plateau of NBA superstars. What the team lacks though is shooting. They’ve got plenty of strong athletes who can run the floor, defend, and rebound. But when it comes to simply putting the biscuit in the basket, they could use some help.
Terrance Ross is a man capable to putting up some points in a hurry. Averaging just over 13 points a game while shooting 39% from 3 point land, Ross would instantly become the Thunder’s 6th man. Grant would help fill the void left by Schroder leaving, and Simmons is another wing capable of getting to the bucket and using his length on defense.
For Orlando, they’ve got some young building blocks; Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Mo Bamba. Throw in youngish vets like Tyler Fournier, and Nic Vucevic and they’ve got some pieces. What they don’t have is a viable foundation piece point guard. As well as DJ Augustin has played this year, his best role is as the veteran back up point guard capable of starting in a pinch.
PELICANS OBTAIN: GARY HARRIS, MASON PLUMLEE, MICHAEL PORTER JR., DRAFT RIGHTS TO VLATKO CANCAR & NUGGETS 2021 1st ROUND PICK
NUGGETS OBTAIN: ANTHONY DAVIS & SOLOMON HILL
Twitter by-laws prohibit me from writing an article on the NBA trade deadline and NOT include a Anthony Davis tidbit. The easy route would be to regurgitate the same old variations on a Lakers deal (some combo of Ball, Ingram, Kuzma, Hart, and Caldwell-Pope), or to note that the Pelicans are likely to wait until the summer when they can definitively confirm if Davis will accept the super-max extension, and if not, allow the Celtics with their assets and picks to jump into the bidding (Boston is currently not able to acquire Davis while they have Kyrie under his current contract). But we here don’t take the easy route. We wanted to get your minds churning, your imagination expanding.
Any scenario where the Pelicans trade Davis is obvious. They finally come to the conclusion that they can’t keep him long term. That they’re not in a position to win before he leaves, and they may as well get as much as they can for him while they have leverage in trade talks.
For the Nuggets, the angle is also obvious, Anthony Davis is a STUD. In my estimation he currently sits as the second best player on the planet. You can make arguments for a few others, but gun to my head you asked me to pick a guy, I’m going with the brow. (please don’t put a gun to my head, if you really want my opinion, just ask, I’ll probably tell you). Denver is currently the #1 seed in the west. Yup, #1, go check. Not the Warriors, not the Rockets, or Thunder. Denver, #1. The Nuggets are still a young team centered around Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, and Jamal Murray. They’ve got some nice complimentary parts like Plumlee and Barton. Veteran big Paul Millsap has been a good, but not great free agent addition.
Harris is the headliner going to New Orleans in the deal. Denver can (theoretically) weather his loss by giving Murray a bigger role in the offense, playing him more at the 2 guard spot while allowing fan favorite Monte Morris more minutes. They also have the possible(?) return of Isaiah Thomas whom they signed in the off season.
Michael Porter Jr. was thought to be a contender to be drafted #1 overall when his college career began last season at Missouri. Plagued by injuries there is a concern that he’ll never reach the potential that was once very evident. But that is also the type of boom or bust throw in that New Orleans will need to push them over the edge. Plumlee and the future first are icing on the cake.
The cost of swallowing the cake for Denver will also be to take back the bad contract of Solomon Hill, something any suitor for Davis should be prepared to do.
Davis has experience trying to work with another big with perimeter skills from when the Pelicans attempted the grand Cousins experiment, so I see no reason why he and Jokic can’t form a very dynamic tandem up front. Millsap moves to the bench as a veteran scoring big, much the way David West was for the Warriors in past years. Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Juan Hernangomez, and Malik Beasley would suddenly become attractive secondary pieces.
Not saying this trade will happen, but its certainly intriguing. The Nuggets have some pieces to move for a super size upgrade like Anthony Davis.
All this trade rumor talk swirling, the Superbowl, pitchers and catchers getting ready to report. The beginning of February isn’t just about Ground Hog Day anymore!
- Written by Jason Sullivan
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