Do We Really Need to Talk About LeBron James?
James’s looming free agency is just one of a number of issues facing the Cavs. Even with James playing MVP-level ball, the team’s recent performance is, at best, that of a second-round out. But Cleveland can’t avoid the subject either, especially as it considers adding to the roster before next Thursday’s trade deadline. Should the Cavs front office keep the Brooklyn pick and other assets in case James leaves? The other option is for the franchise to hope that the kid from Akron will stay in Ohio and to pad LeBron’s surrounding cast, using every asset in the war chest to do so.
Warriors forward Kevin Durant—Captain LBJ’s first All-Star pick—scoffed at the idea of him joining Golden State.
“Bullshit,” Durant said, adding that everyone should focus on the actual games.
(C’mon, KD, you love talking free-agency moves as much as the rest of us.)
Let’s ignore the Warriors and Cavaliers for now. Last offseason, Miami pulled a Summer 2016 Blazers, using its wealth of cap space to re-sign a gang of above-average guys. The Heat could enter the 2018-19 season, depending on their own free agents, with the league’s highest payroll, at $144.2 million. (Movable, sure, but last time Bron chose Miami, Pat Riley had been clearing cap space for more than two seasons in preparation.)
The Rockets have reasonable appeal: play with good friend Chris Paul, and MVP rival James Harden. Earlier this season, The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks convincingly laid out how that dynamic could work.
And Los Angeles—always, always, Los Angeles—is in the heart of the entertainment sector that James has already made inroads to be a part of. He owns a house in L.A.—admittedly, many NBA players do—and the Lakers front office has been sedentary thus far in this winter’s trading frenzy—much like a team banking on being a top free-agent option this summer.
How does LeBron feel about all this chatter?
LeBron explains how any team can be attached to his free agency and it will become a story yet all he cares about is winning with the Cavs this season. pic.twitter.com/pvx1ft6pmA— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) February 2, 2018
A Tale of Two Clippers
Portland has “kept tabs” on DeAndre Jordan, and so has Milwaukee, the latter of which needs an enforcer. Adding DAJ would elevate both teams from first-round eliminations to upset threats. We talked about the issue with trading for Jordan, whose contract expires this summer, on Thursday’s NBA Group Chat. Is the 29-year-old searching for another maximum contract, or ready to sacrifice? Neither the Bucks nor the Blazers has space for the former, and neither will win it all this season. If Jordan isn’t interested in joining on an affordable deal for a few years, he would be a costly rental.
The Clippers are reportedly still insisting on a first-rounder for Lou Williams, and though many playoff teams are interested, none are biting on that Jolly Rancher of an asking price.
Per The Athletic’s Michael Scotto, multiple teams are fiending for DeMarre Carroll. It’s an opportunity for Brooklyn to trade high—the front office received a 2018 lottery-protected first-round pick and a second-round pick to take the $30.2 million remaining on Carroll’s contract off the Raptors’ books. That salary has become less and less of a burden as the season’s gone on, with the 31-year-old Carroll averaging career highs in points (13.1) and boards (6.6).
One of the teams reportedly interested in Carroll is the Heat. After a poor start, Miami has rediscovered its second-half-of-2016-17 form. The Heat operate the way only a winning team with no superstar can: with contributions from across the roster. Seven of the Heat’s active players are putting up double-digits nightly; that does not include Winslow, who returned from injury 10 games ago.
Winslow has long been in the category of “could grow and do well in another situation” guys, and The Athletic’s reports indicate that other franchises are interested in him. (Obligatory Danny Ainge content: The Celtics president tried to trade a majority of his assets to draft Winslow in 2015.)
LONG LIVE THE WHITEBOARD! Trading for Gordon toes the line between a rental and a keeper, as he hits restricted free agency this summer. But this season the Magic forward has made the kind of jump that slaps other front offices awake, averaging a career-high 18.4 points, nearly six more than in 2016-17, and has also miraculously developed an outside shot.