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The Trade Deadline Mailbag

Is Nikola Jokic a basketball unicorn? Should Paul George be traded immediately? What would it take to get Anthony Davis out of New Orleans? Plus, 27 more deals from the Picasso of the Trade Machine.

(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)
(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

The NBA trade deadline is Thursday. I repeat: THE NBA TRADE DEADLINE IS THURSDAY. We’re on DEFCON 1 mailbag alert. Send future questions to themailbag@theringer.com. As always, these are actual emails from actual readers.

Q: Can you please revise your December unicorn column to include Nikola Jokic? He’s younger than the Freak and Embiid, he’s easily surpassed Porzingis, and he’s 14th in the league with a PER of 26.5. The Joker just put up his second triple-double in 11 days with a line that hadn’t been done since 1968 (17–21–12), and he did it against Golden State. He’s the best passer of the young stars without question. His per-36 stats are ridiculous. He doesn’t have injury problems. And he doesn’t even look like an athlete. People thought he was too fat and lazy to make it in the league. He used to drink THREE LITERS of Coke every day. He can’t run. And yet, he’s easily the most exciting young player in the league so far in 2017. Where would you put Jokic in the Freak-Porzingis-Embiid discussion?
— Ascher, Denver

BS: You left out that Jokic is averaging a 22–11–5 since New Year’s Day, or that he’s already cracked the short list of Best Passing Centers That Weren’t Named Walton or Sabonis. That’s not a long list, by the way: You’re looking at Joakim Noah during his Chicago-Thibs glory days, C-Webb and Vlade as a Sacramento big-man tag team, Bill Russell, Older Wilt, Wes Unseld, Sam Lacey and Alvan Adams (obscure ’70s hoops alert!!!!), MAYBE Marc Gasol … and that’s about it. But Jokic hasn’t earned "unicorn" status because we don’t watch him and think, "Oh my God, I’ve never seen this before!"

The good news: Only 21 years old, the Joker is already ripping off lob passes, entry passes, backdoor passes and outlet passes at just about the highest level possible. (Not quite Sabonis/Walton, but one level below.) What will happen after Denver remodels its entire offense AND roster around that one extraordinary talent? What happens when Jokic matures as an offensive weapon and thinker? What happens when he spends an entire offseason getting in superior shape and sticking to a healthier diet? What happens when the Costacos brothers make a comeback just to dress him up like the Joker for his first NBA poster?

We don’t know if Giannis or Porzingis by themselves will guarantee their teams 50-plus wins one day. And we still don’t know if Embiid can play 30 straight games, much less stay healthy for five straight seasons. But we KNOW the Nuggets could build something special around Jokic’s passing and playmaking. We’ve seen it happen before: Jack Ramsay built the ’77 Blazers around Walton, Rick Adelman built those memorable Kings teams around C-Webb and Vlade, and the Soviets built their offense around Sabonis during the Cold War.

That makes Denver our most fascinating trade deadline team. The Nuggets already added another skilled big man (Mason Plumlee), and they have four possible rotation keepers for the Future Joker Era (Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton and Juan Hernangomez). Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari’s Expiring Contract, Kenneth Faried and Emmanuel Mudiay? All available. Can the Nuggets find an impact guard that’s five-to-25 years younger than Jameer "How the Hell Am I Still Doing This?" Nelson? Could it be Murray? Could they find that guy in free agency? Should they tank these last 26 games to pluck a top-7 pick from the Greatest Point Guard Draft of the Century? Should they veer the other way, grab the 8-seed and get the Joker some valuable playoff experience against Golden State — the team that he absolutely eviscerated on Monday night? Hold on for this next question …

Q: Hey, self-proclaimed Trade Machine Picasso — I know that you know that the trade deadline is coming next week. Can you come up with 30 trades for 30 teams? Or 30 that involve the Blazers?
— AJ, the disappointed Blazers fan

BS: Picasso accepts your challenge! I left out Toronto (they just made their trade), San Antonio (they never make deadline trades) and Cleveland (screw those guys, I’m not helping them). Let’s rip the other 27 trades off with no explanations. In alphabetical order …

Atlanta trades Tiago Splitter’s expiring and a 2025 second-round pick to Chicago for Rajon Rondo and the Rondo-Dwight alliance we’ve always wanted.

Boston trades the Amir Johnson, Tyler Zeller and Jonas Jerebko expirings plus Boston’s 2018 first-rounder, Minnesota’s 2017 second-round pick and the rights to Guerschon Yabusele (French Draymond!) to Denver for Danilo Gallinari’s expiring and Kenneth Faried.

Brooklyn trades Brook Lopez to New Orleans for the Artist Formerly Known as Omer Asik, Tyreke Evans’s expiring and the right to swap Boston’s 2017 first-rounder with New Orleans’s 2017 first-rounder (top-five protected).

Charlotte trades Nic Batum and Cody Zeller to Detroit for Andre Drummond, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s expiring and Darrun Hilliard in the classic "We Both Hate Our Teams, Let’s Shake It Up" semiblockbuster.

Chicago trades Jimmy Butler and Michael Carter-Williams’s expiring to Portland for Damian Lillard. (WHO SAYS NO???)

Dallas trades the Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut expirings to New York for Derrick Rose’s expiring (and New York immediately buys out Bogut to save some cash for the inevitable Charles Oakley civil suit).

Denver trades Emmanuel Mudiay to Philly; Philly trades Jahlil Okafor to Indy; Indy trades Lavoy Allen and its 2017 first-round pick (top-15 protected) to Denver; Bryan Colangelo comes out of hiding for 24 hours as a condition of the deal.

Detroit trades Stanley Johnson and Reggie Bullock to Phoenix for P.J. Tucker and the rights to P.J. Tucker’s next five near-brawls.

Golden State trades Patrick McCaw, Kevon Looney, and Zaza Pachulia’s expiring to New York for Kyle "I’m Dying to Come Off the Bench for a Contender" O’Quinn.

Houston trades K.J. McDaniels, Corey Brewer, and its 2017 first-round pick to Brooklyn for Bojan Bogdanovic and a $7.6 million trade exception.

(Let’s hold my Indiana trade until later in the mailbag.)

(Unfortunately, the L.A. Clippers can’t make deadline-day trades because of Doc’s poor cellphone reception on the Bel-Air Country Club’s golf course.)

The Lakers trade Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng to — MY GOD, THEY MAKE $136 MILLION FOR THIS YEAR AND THE NEXT THREE MY BRAIN IS BLEEDING.

Memphis trades Vince Carter to ESPN for Tracy McGrady, a warehouse full of Grantland Quarterlies and cash.

Miami doesn’t need to make a trade — they have Waiters Island. Long live my condo that I never sold on Waiters Island!

Milwaukee trades Greg Monroe to Boston for Amir Johnson’s expiring, Demetrius Jackson and Boston’s 2018 first-round pick, leading to my dad (a huge Monroe fan) slowly and sadly realizing that Monroe only looks like an All-Star when he plays against the Celtics.

Minnesota trades Kris Dunn to Denver for Emmanuel Mudiay.

New Orleans trades Omer Asik and Tyreke Evans’s expiring to the Lakers for Timofey Mozgov and Nick Young.

New York trades Derrick Rose to Brooklyn for Jeremy Lin and one more devious way to frustrate Carmelo into waiving his no-trade clause.

OKC trades Nick Collison’s expiring, Josh Huestis, its 2017 first-round pick and three free tips on how to control and sway local media to Denver for Wilson Chandler.

Orlando trades Tobias Harris, Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for Terrence Ross and a 2017 first-rounder in th — whoops.

Philly trades the Colangelos to Game of Thrones for the Lannisters.

Phoenix trades Brandon Knight to Brooklyn for Randy Foye’s expiring. (FYI: If I’m running Brooklyn, I am rolling the dice on as many roughly $8–12 million used-to-be-good guys as possible — they don’t have a first-round pick until 2019, why not?)

Portland trades Evan Turner’s Unseemly Contract to the Knicks for Joakim Noah’s Unseemly Contract and a sneaky change of scenery for both guys.

Sacramento trades Willie Cauley-Stein to the Magic for Mario Hezonja; Orlando also gets Kris Dunn and Nik Pekovic’s medical-write-off contract; Minnesota gets Nik Vucevic and Elfrid Payton; nobody gets Nic Cage and Niko Mirotic.

Utah trades Derrick Favors, its own 2017 first-round pick and Golden State’s 2017 first-round pick to New York, as well as Shelvin Mack’s expiring to Cleveland; New York trades Carmelo Anthony to the Cavaliers; Cleveland trades Kevin Love to Utah.

Washington trades Trey Burke’s expiring, Tomas Satoransky, and Washington’s 2017 first-round pick to the Lakers for Lou Williams. (FYI: This trade legitimately scares me as a Celtics fan — pretend I never mentioned it.)

And with that, the Trade Machine Picasso rests.

Anthony Davis (Getty Images)
Anthony Davis (Getty Images)

Q: Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson and BOTH Brooklyn picks for Anthony Davis. Who says no?
— Eric, Long Beach, Calif.

BS: I told you I was resting! And don’t you EVER email me another fake Boston trade that includes Marcus Smart! I can’t remember another Celtics player being so overrated by everyone who follows the team — and I’m not even sure we’re overrating him. He’s the most unusually effective, consistently impactful, relentlessly fearless, not-so-irrationally-confident-because-there-are-real-reasons-for-the-confidence nonsuperstar I have ever watched. You can’t even try to explain what Smart does for the Celtics without spouting out old-school announcer clichés like "He’s a gamer!" and "All he does is make winning plays!"

He’s like Cliché Karaoke. He’s mini-Draymond crossed with Sloan Conference Kryptonite. You’d want him out there in the last 10 minutes of any Game 7. You’d trust him to defend any star, ranging from 5-foot-6 to 6-foot-9, on the game’s biggest play. You’d want him having your back in any brawl or altercation. You wouldn’t care if he took the biggest shot of a game even if he was 1-for-15; if anything, you’d think it was going in. I enjoy advanced metrics as much as anyone, but with Smart, I don’t even know what they are. Who cares? Give me that dude in any playoff series. We’re never trading Marcus. You could never get the return value for what everyone watching him THINKS Marcus Smart’s value is.

Q: Who says no: Jaylen Brown, Amir Johnson and both Brooklyn picks for Anthony Davis?
— Max, Boston

BS: New Orleans. The Pelicans can’t trade Anthony Davis — he would become the best under-25 NBA player ever traded, basically. New Orleans is this decade’s runaway NBA leader for other GMs and assistant GMs muttering to third parties, "I don’t know what the hell is happening over there," "I’m never sure who I’m supposed to call," "It’s not that they don’t have a plan, it’s that they never even tried to have a plan" and "I feel so bad for [fill in the team’s best player]." They hit the cycle. The Pelicans make the Knicks look like Theo Epstein’s Cubs. And even THEY wouldn’t be dumb enough to trade Anthony Davis. Take him off the board until AD holds a press conference, stares into a camera and says, "I want out."

Q: So Bill, are you done jerking yourself off with all of these "Boston-only" mailbags yet? Let me know when you are, and I may start reading them again.
— Justin McCormack

BS: Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too!

Q: What rule change would you most like to see made in the NBA? I agree with something that Haralabob mentioned — let’s get rid of the charge completely. It’s dangerous and unnecessary. Why would we intentionally stop the freaky athletes (LeBron, Westbrook, Giannis, etc.) from getting dunks and making plays at the rim?
— Lior, Toronto

BS: Less timeouts. WAY LESS TIMEOUTS. I’d dump the TV timeouts at the 10-minute marks of the second and fourth quarters, make 20-second timeouts run for 20 seconds (instead of 90), make it illegal to call a timeout coming out of a timeout and dump one extra timeout for each team. We could shave 12–15 minutes off of every NBA game and put that extra time toward more interminably long replay reviews.

Q: Have you decided yet on any definitive titles for the 2017 NBA tanking season? Have you considered "Thru Hell for Markelle" or "Going Gonzo for Lonzo"?
— Bryce Wilks

BS: It’s definitely our best batch of Tankapalooza title possibilities since 2014 (the year of "Bleed for Embiid," "Sorry for Jabari" and "Diggin’ for Wiggins"). As much as I like "Gonzo for Lonzo," "Hell for Markelle," "Pray for Monk" and "Dump for Dennis," if Markelle Fultz locks down the top spot, don’t we have to go with "MF’ed for MF"? And is there a better initials-for-a-nickname in NBA history than Markelle Fultz being "MF"? We’ve peaked! After three decades of generic-initial NBA superstars like GP, KG, CP3, KD, we landed a BS and an MF in back-to-back years. Now we just need an FML.

Q: Listening to you talk about Oasis on your podcast, I realized that EVERY person I know likes the song "Don’t Look Back in Anger" more than "Wonderwall," yet everyone agrees that "Wonderwall" is the better song. At what point does "Don’t Look Back in Anger" just become the better song? This is what’s happening to Malik Monk in the draft process. Everyone sees Lonzo and Fultz as the better prospects, but if you had to have one guy on your team this year in college basketball, you would take Monk. At what point does Monk become the best prospect in the draft?
— Danny Taber, Phoenix

BS: Don’t jinx it! This is working out perfectly: He’s a lights-out shooter with 25-foot range, A-plus footwork and a real sense of the Moment (a la Steph at Davidson) — someone who couldn’t be more perfect for the way everyone plays professional basketball in 2017. You want your team to stretch the floor, play the math and shoot 40 3s a game so you can hang with the Rockets, Warriors and Celtics? In the words of John Bender (dated ’80s reference!), I know someone who would be OUTSTANDING in that capacity.

But wait, he’s a little too short for a 2-guard and might not be able to defend bigger guards? (Didn’t we already go through that two-inches-too-short crap with C.J. McCollum and Avery Bradley?) Oh, and Monk doesn’t rebound! (Who the eff would draft Malik Monk to help their rebounding???) Let’s dwell on that stuff instead of stuff like "The bigger the crowd, the bigger he plays," "By all accounts, he’s the first guy at practice and the last guy to leave" and "Maybe it’s a good idea to take a freaky-good shooter/scorer during an era when everyone wants shooting and scoring?" I love that he’s five spots too low on every list. Let’s drop Monk out of the top five and throw a massive chip on his shoulder that Monk can lug around for the next 12 years as he’s dropping 3s on everyone. I heard he’s actually 6-foot-1 and wears lifts.

Q: Are the Atwoods or the Balls the most impressive brothers from Chino?
— Matt, Los Angeles

BS: I know it’s coming at some point, but the Ball brothers still haven’t given us a moment like this one …

Or inspired one of the best SNL Digital Shorts …

Q: If you switched James Harden with Michael Jordan (pick any MJ year you want), are we POSITIVE the Rockets would win more games? The Rockets are currently on pace for 56 wins. That’s insane. Also, what would Sam Presti’s face look like if he got to read this email five minutes after the Harden trade was confirmed?
— Henry, Canada

BS: My God, it’s happening … we’re officially in the "It’s Been Just About 20 Years and Nobody Under 30 Remembers How Great Michael Jordan Was" Zone. [Bill Brasky voice:] If Michael Jordan got to play in today’s NBA, with no hand-check rules, nobody clogging the paint and everyone spacing the floor, he would have scored 45 points a game! HE WOULD HAVE POOPED OUT TRIPLE-DOUBLES FOR LUNCH!!!!!! (I actually kind of believe this, by the way.)

Q: Does the story from George Karl’s book about MJ telling Karl to trade for Pippen (in the summer of ’94) disqualify the theory about Jordan being secretly suspended by Stern?
— Tyler

BS: Here’s my question: Jordan loved Phil Jackson, Jerry Reinsdorf (at the time, anyway), and Chicago fans, so why would he want George Karl to beat them in a trade? And since when did MJ ever want to help ANYONE? The summer of ’94 followed Pippen asking out of a Knicks playoff game, a decision that nearly caused Chicago’s locker room to implode and haunted him for the rest of his career (unfairly, as I detailed in my book). Maybe MJ thought Pippen’s teammates couldn’t recover from it? Maybe MJ noticed where the NBA was going — Shaq and Ewing in the East; Hakeem, Malone, Barkley and Robinson in the West — and wanted a legitimate frontcourt star to battle them after he returned (especially with Horace Grant leaving)? I say Karl’s story actually helps the MJ-was-suspended-for-18-months theory.

Q: Are we just going to twiddle our thumbs and look away as George Karl asserts in his book that PED use is widespread in the NBA? How long are people going to pretend this isn’t worth discussing? How much does it matter that PED use may be prevalent in the NBA?
— Reggie, Long Island

BS: Are you saying that this should be the NBA’s new logo?

Q: Here’s a fun question for you: Are we sure the NBA’s PED problem (if there is one) is limited to steroids or HGH? I’m a huge cycling fan, where the PEDs are all about oxygen delivery for endurance. Probably not a big deal in most of the stick-and-ball sports, but wouldn’t that be a huge benefit to an NBA player, especially an older one, in the fourth quarter? Is this something the league is even thinking about?
— Chris Fontecchio, Seattle

BS: Here’s what the league is thinking about:

Q: If you want to know why the Thunder fans "went a little too far" on Saturday (as you said on your podcast), imagine the reception Bird would’ve gotten coming back to the Garden after leaving the Celtics for the Lakers or Sixers in 1988. Sprinkle in an inferiority complex from being ridiculed by the media since OKC entered the league. Mix with the loss of an epic rivalry that should have lasted for the rest of this decade. He did us wrong in an unprecedented manner and has tried to cast blame on everyone but himself. Want to know why OKC collapsed in that series? Check Durant’s lines in games 5–7. He’s the reason we lost, then he knifed us on the way out of town.
— Brian, Phoenix via OKC

BS: I enjoyed the nonstop booing, cupcake signs and cupcake chants. But the "KowarD" T-shirts, some of the angrier signs, obscenities and verbal abuse heaped on Durant’s family and friends? That crossed the line. Then again, I’m the same guy who once wrote a column called "Is Roger Clemens the Antichrist?" so maybe I’m the wrong judge. Spurned sports fan love rarely ends well.

As for the KD "did us wrong in an unprecedented manner" argument, I’d say that two Oklahoma City businessmen buying Seattle’s NBA team, pretending they wanted to keep it there, aggressively lying to an entire community, and then hijacking the franchise and moving it to Oklahoma City so it could play in a much smaller market in a just-as-bad stadium — all with the commissioner’s spirited consent, by the way — was probably a little bit more unprecedented than KD joining LeBron, Shaq, Wilt, Kareem, Walton, Moses, Barkley, Dr. J, KG, Nash, Kidd and every other future Hall of Famer who switched teams in his prime.

Q: When do you think Seattle will get an NBA team back?
— Matt Veleski

BS: Within the next four years. Expansion team. For $2.1 billion minimum (so every NBA owner pockets a $30 million check right away), with a caveat that the new franchise can’t participate in the current media deal for at least two to three years after the launch. The best part of expansion? Seattle getting the Sonics back. The second-best part? Me taking over as GM. The third-best part? An expansion team with an infinite salary cap. You thought $34 million per year for Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng was bad? Giddy up! I can’t wait to offer Marcus Smart $100 million a year to be my player-coach.

Paul George (Getty Images)
Paul George (Getty Images)

Q: Why isn’t Paul George the subject of any trade rumors? There’s no doubt that he’s a great talent, but it’s just not happening for him in Indy. Move him and (God willing) Ellis for some picks and young talent?
— Richard Brown

BS: There’s a model for this trade — in February 2011, Utah traded Deron Williams to New Jersey for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, their unprotected 2011 pick (Enes Kanter, no. 3) and Golden State’s top-seven-protected 2012 first-rounder. Remember, the one the Warriors eventually saved with the tankiest of Tankapalooza jobs that landed them Harrison Barnes at no. 7? That one! The pick rolled over to 2013 and became the no. 21 pick (Gorgui Dieng), but still, a solid haul for Utah.

At the time, "CP3 or Deron?" was still an argument (not for me, but for some), so the basketball world couldn’t believe that Utah dealt Williams nearly 17 months before his contract expired. But the Jazz could smell what Deron was cooking, and it wasn’t just his hair paint. They thought he wanted a bigger city. We had been living through a run of big-market superstar jumps: Garnett, LeBron and Bosh first, with Carmelo and Dwight looming. Would Williams seek to jump to a bigger market like New York or Los Angeles? Could they put a good enough team around him? How good were you if Williams was your best player, anyway? When the Nets ponied up the right offer, that was that.

Now check this out …

2011 Williams: 26 years old, two All-Stars, two second-team All-NBAs, one conference finals, 44 playoff games, the NBA’s second-best point guard (behind Chris Paul).

2017 George: 26 years old, four All-Stars, three third-team All-NBAs, two conference finals, 61 playoff games, the NBA’s fourth-best small forward right now (behind LeBron, Durant and Kawhi).

I would take 2017 George over 2011 Williams, but it’s close. So are the similarities between 2011 Utah (small market, middle of the pack, nowhere close to a title, no real hope of luring a marquee free agent) and 2017 Indiana (ditto, ditto, ditto and ditto).

What would Indiana’s version of a George dream trade even look like? The Celtics would be their first call: Indy would ask for both Brooklyn picks, get shot down, then ask for Jaylen Brown (last year’s no. 3 pick, and a potential stud), Brooklyn’s 2017 first-rounder, expiring contracts and another no. 1 pick (maybe Boston’s Clippers pick that starts losing protections in 2019). They’d also insist on Boston eating Monta Ellis’s contract, Gerald Wallace–style. Something like this:

It’s a Godfather offer. And you know what? I don’t see Boston trading that Brooklyn pick AND Brown for George. They’re too high on Brown. (And it’s justified.) They’d probably counter with Jae Crowder, expirings and the aforementioned picks for George and Ellis and negotiate from there. The Celtics aren’t including Brown, Smart or 2018’s Brooklyn pick as a second asset for any deal that doesn’t include the initials "AD." They’d rather stand pat and build their version of "A Dark Horse Finals Contender That’s Also Pulling Off a Stealth Version of Philly’s Process With These Brooklyn Picks." That’s what the owners want, too.

So if Indy believed PG-13 could leave after next season, they’d kick the tires on another Godfather trade: George and the George Tax (Ellis) to the Lakers for Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson, Jose Calderon’s expiring and the Lakers’ unprotected first-round pick. One problem: Philly gets that pick unless it falls in the top three. Suddenly it doesn’t make sense.

A third Godfather possibility might work until you remember that (a) the Colangelos are in a Coma Contest, (b) George might not want to stay in Philly and (c) the Hinkie Truthers love the Process too much to ever actually cash in any Process chips: George to Philly for Ben Simmons and either Philly’s first-round pick or the Lakers’ top-three-protected pick (whichever one is higher). A little too much, right? What about Dario Saric, Jahlil Okafor, and the higher 2017 first for George? Not quite enough, right?

Last one: George and the George Tax to Phoenix for Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, Brandon Knight AND Phoenix’s unprotected 2017 first. Again, not quite enough, right? Boston trumps any deal unless Indy tries to go sideways with one of those Butler-for-George or Lillard-for-George type megadeals, and at that point, why not just keep Paul George? Either you dump him for premium assets while weakening your 2017 team for a better lottery pick, or you keep him and figure it out this summer. Right? (Notice how I just created an argument out of thin air and then argued against myself? I think I’m finally eligible for an FS1 show!)

Which brings me back to that Boston deal. Now that Brooklyn has effectively locked down the most ping-pong balls in May for the Celtics (thanks, Billy King!), that pick breaks down like this …

25.0 percent chance: First pick, Markelle Fultz (a franchise 2-guard)
21.5 percent chance: Second pick, Lonzo Ball (a franchise something)
17.8 percent chance: Third pick, Josh Jackson (potentially Paul George 2.0)
35.7 percent chance: Fourth pick, anyone else

In the past 20 years, we’ve had 12 no-doubt-about-it franchise players in the NBA draft: Tim Duncan, Yao Ming, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, John Wall, Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns. After that, Elton Brand, Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Ben Simmons were close. Fultz and Lonzo seem like no-doubt-about-it franchise guys; Boston has a 46.5 percent chance to get one of the two. That’s about the same odds as succeeding on a two-point conversion. That’s why they would include that 2017 pick as the centerpiece of a George trade, even if there’s little precedent of someone flipping a pick that good in-season.

Would Indy blink and deal Paul George, the same way Utah did with Williams? Can they risk rolling the dice, hoping George stays, then being left at the altar like OKC and Durant? And would Larry Bird trade old teammate and little brother/whipping boy Danny Ainge a used phone, much less his best player? Stay tuned. It’s the only trade that could affect the Finals unless GM LeBron makes a Carmelo play.

Q: In your podcast with Steve Kerr, you mentioned that you felt LeBron still had another 10 percent he could reach. Isn’t that the curse of LeBron? We’re less than a year removed from him doing something that’s never been done before in the Finals, against a 73-win team and with three of the greatest individual performances in a Finals ever (in a row no less) and yet we’re still saying, "Yeah, but he could do more." He does the impossible and there’s still some mythical potential unfulfilled. Will it ever be possible for him to be properly rated and appreciated?
— Cameron, Los Angeles

BS: Nope. Wilt, Shaq, LeBron and Jack Sikma’s hair are the only four NBA stars we kept grading on a never-ending curve. Seriously, check out Sikma’s hair. He could do this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

Jack Simka (Getty Images)
Jack Simka (Getty Images)

But I always felt like Sikma’s hair left an extra 10 percent of true greatness sitting on the table. Alas.

Q: Long ago, you wrote a column about the "Rules for Being a True Fan." In that article, rule no. 19 stated that once you choose a team, you stick with it for the rest of your life, but you did give a few outs (including negligent ownership). Are Knicks fans now allowed to stop liking the Knicks under Article E of Rule 19? Is there anything we can do to get him out? I don’t want to watch Dolan waste Porzingis (or see Porzingis walk away), and we can all agree the NBA is better when MSG is rocking.
— Jason Till

BS: I think it’s time to flip things around and start searching for the positives with James Dolan …

1. He’s a loyal boss. Whenever he hires someone to run the Knicks and promises not to interfere, Dolan keeps his word even if that person is covering the franchise in gasoline and setting it on fire while throwing dog shit at the fiery mound. So there’s that.

2. He always dresses in black like he’s the Grim Reaper — at least he’s not hiding his true identity.

3. He spends money. Usually on the wrong front-office people, coaches, and players … but he does spend money.

4. He put Isiah Thomas in charge of a WNBA team a few years after an embarrassing sexual harassment scandal — the dude has huge balls! I don’t know another billionaire boss who would have the self-confidence to do something that tone-deaf, stupid and offensive to women with the possible exception of ONE OTHER GUY.

Q: Just finished your White Men Can’t Jump podcast. Ethnocentrism is clouding your brain. Why wouldn’t the remake be called, "Asians Can’t Play"? You entice half of the world’s population with the title alone and Jeremy Lin appears in a prime cameo. New racial assumptions to play off!
— Pay me later, Chris

BS: I don’t know what ethnocentrism means. It sounds like it might be insulting. Anyway, I floated this idea by Donnie Kwak, The Ringer’s East Coast bureau chief and the world’s no. 1 best person to answer this specific email. Here’s what he said:

"It’s not a terrible idea — make it a co-China production, get a Chinese pop star (Kris Wu — check him out, he’s about to play in his second celeb All-Star Game this weekend), and then maybe Jaden Smith as the friend. It’s not the exact same thing, but there was a movie that was somewhat like this from the ’90s. Someone called the main character ‘Korean Abdul-Jabbar’ on the court. That’s my lasting memory."

(As promised, Donnie was the no. 1 person for that answer. I mean, even I didn’t know about Fakin’ Da Funk and I’ve seen every basketball movie ever made. My only tweak for Donnie’s answer is that Jeremy Lin needs to be more involved. Maybe it’s Kris Wu and Jeremy Lin together as a pair of Asian Billy Hoyles running scams on various playgrounds? I would watch this movie right now.)

Q: I tend to think about baseball or my grandparents having sexual relations when trying to last longer in the sack. I’m not sure if there is some Urban Dictionary term for this, but it usually does the trick. There are other times where the situation calls for me to be in and out like SEAL Team 6 and I need some more favorable images in my head. I won’t go into detail with my current lineup of thoughts, but I wanted to let you know I’ve added thinking about your Kevin Durant podcast to the roster. It was THAT good. Please do it again as soon as possible.
— Jesse Majcher, San Francisco

BS: Yup, these are my readers.