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Judging the Good, the Sad, and the Absurd of the NBA Trade Deadline Rumors

From losing Isaiah to the Atlanta Hawks’ crappy yard sale, a rundown of the best and worst ideas as NBA teams get ready to deal

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After this Thursday afternoon, the NBA is either going to look Very Different, Medium Different, or Not Very Different. And I know that’s a thing you can say on any day about any subject (“After this Monday morning, the National Future Farmers of America Organization is going to look Very Different, Medium Different, or Not Very Different ...”), but I’m saying it right now because this Thursday afternoon is the NBA’s trade deadline, which is always a great deal of fun, both to experience and to think about.

The idea of players being on different teams in the afternoon than they were on that morning is just so interesting, is all; any sort of disruption is, really, be it big or small. Things are one way (“The Pistons are not fun and stink to watch right now”) and everyone knows how to handle it (“I’ll just not watch them”), and then all of a sudden a disruption happens (“THE PISTONS TRADED FOR BLAKE GRIFFIN??????”) and nobody knows what to do with their hands or mouths or bodies (“SHOULD I GET A ‘DETROIT PISTONS NBA CHAMPIONS 1989 1990 2004 2018’ TATTOO ON MY CHEST OR ON MY NECK?”). Even just the possibility of a disruption is enough to turn everything upside down, and I don’t know if we’ll ever get a better example of that happening than the DeAndre Jordan Might Sign With The Mavericks This Offseason epoch that happened during the summer of 2015. NBA players were tweeting travel emoji out into the universe to say they were on their way to find Jordan to convince him to sign with the Clippers/Mavs. Billionaires were accused of driving around begging for help. It was bedlam, and all for a guy who, to that point in his career, was averaging exactly eight points per game.

There are already many good potential trade rumors that are circulating around the internet: Do you think the Hornets still want to ship out Kemba Walker? Will the Celtics move Marcus Smart? Are the Lakers really going into hoarder mode until next year to make a run at Kawhi? Who’s going to win the Tyreke Evans sweepstakes? Is the Polish Hammer really on his way to L.A.? And if so, how long before he gets cast in a Bruce Willis movie on Netflix where he plays the villain’s main muscle who never talks? Let’s do the Idea Gauge, which is a thing I just made up right now where we grab some of the potential big trade ideas that are out there and go over exactly what kind of idea it is and why.

Miami Heat v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

A Good Idea That Is Sad: The Cavaliers trading Isaiah Thomas.

There are, I would guess, about a billion reasons the Cavs have not been good this year. For example, these 10:

  1. The Cavs have Derrick Rose on their roster, and having Derrick Rose on your roster is like trying to dog paddle in lava.
  2. The Cavs have suffered through significant injuries, missing big chunks of the season from Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert, Isaiah Thomas, and now Kevin Love. (A conspiracy theory: Love was so frustrated with being made the scapegoat again this season that he decided to break his hand to avoid playing, same as how that soldier in Sand Castle broke his hand in a car door so he wouldn’t have to go to war.)
  3. The Cavs have Derrick Rose on their roster, and having Derrick Rose on your roster is like participating in a pie-eating contest except it turns out all the pies are filled with bees.
  4. The Cavs have been shooting the 3 poorly. Last season, they were second in the league in 3-point percentage. This season, they’re tied for 12th.
  5. The Cavs have Derrick Rose on their roster, and having Derrick Rose on your roster is like if you got to the airport just in time to catch your flight but then realized your wallet or purse was at home on the counter.
  6. Historically, the Cavs have not been all that great at communicating on defense, and this year seems worse than all the rest. At the moment, they have the second-worst defense in the entire NBA, ranking ahead of only the Suns and just behind the Kings, two teams I honestly did not even know were still in the league. (The Kings and the Suns have already played each other three times this season, and I’m thinking a bunch right now of how when you were in school and everyone would be playing basketball on all the different courts and there was always one court where all the worst players went because they knew they were never going to get on the other courts. The NBA should have a Worst Court and any team that has lost more than 65 percent of its games by the All-Star break should have to play the rest of their season there.)
  7. The Cavs have Derrick Rose on their roster, and having Derrick Rose on your roster is like if someone poked you in the eye with a stick once every five or six minutes for seven months.
  8. The Cavs got old. They have the oldest team in the NBA right now, which is really wild to think about because you’d figure that Dirk Nowitzki being 72 years old would’ve brought the Mavericks’ average age up past the Cavs’ average age, but I guess not.
  9. The Cavs have Derrick Rose on their roster, and having Derrick Rose on your roster is like if all of your teeth had cavities in them.
  10. The Cavs (look to) have given up on Tyronn Lue, a fate he certainly does not deserve. (Poor guy. The worst part of every Cavs game right now is when the camera pans to Lue after the Cavs have given up another layup or open 3 in transition and he looks like he wants to climb into a casket.)

Those are all real things. And I don’t know if you can talk about any of them without, at least in passing, talking about Isaiah Thomas.

Mind you, he’s certainly not responsible for all of those things, and I would argue that he’s not been given enough time to work through his hip injury. But getting attached to every big Cavs problem is just a thing that’s going to happen when you’re the person brought in to replace Kyrie Irving.

And that’s really the reason he’d be traded, if he gets traded; it’d look like it was a move to help fix the defense or the playmaking or the team chemistry or whatever, but really it’d be so the Cavs could just get further away from the Kyrie disaster. That’s why it’s a good idea. And a sad idea.

(The worst-case Cavs scenario in all of this is them giving up their Brooklyn pick to the Clippers to get DeAndre Jordan, which is a such a bad idea that it almost feels like the Cavs definitely have to do it.)

Cleveland Cavaliers v Orlando Magic Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

A Good Idea That Is Good: The Thunder trading for Jonathon Simmons.

He is an exactly perfect fit to slide into my beloved Andre Roberson’s spot, now that Roberson is done for the season. Simmons is very good defensively (the Thunder have lost four of six games since losing Roberson, their best defender), he doesn’t need to be a giant part of the offense (the Thunder already have three players that need to be that), and he is unafraid (he was one of only three Spurs players last year during the Warriors-Spurs series that did not appear to be 100 percent terrified of staring down Steph, KD, Klay, and Draymond, and sometimes I still lie awake at night and think about the way he played during Games 5 and 6 of the Spurs-Rockets series before that).

You could maybe make an OK argument for the Thunder trying to grab, say, Rodney Hood to plug in there (he’s scoring at a much better clip from 3 than Simmons is), or maybe even Lou Williams (he has been outstanding this year, and I have to believe his ability to score would prove to be incredibly important during the playoffs when the Thunder have one of those games where Russell and Carmelo get into foul trouble and all of the second-string players do their very best to pass up every shot offered to them). But neither of those guys feels as right as Simmons. And certainly neither of those guys is as good at casually chewing their gum as Simmons is, which is a conversation more NBA fans need to be having.

New York Knicks v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

A Bad Idea That I’m Not Sure Is Good or Bad but I Wish We Could All Watch When It Happens: The Cavs asking LeBron to waive his no-trade clause so they can trade him.

Do you watch First Things First? It’s a daily First Take–style show on Fox Sports 1. The hosts—Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter, Nick Wright, and Jenna Wolfe—are likable people who, more often than not, have interesting thoughts on sports-related things and sports-adjacent things. (As a matter of transparency, I should mention that I met and had dinner with Nick one evening in Houston several months ago, so I am predisposed to liking him.) (Also as a matter of transparency, I should mention that I often used the Vikings when I played NFL Blitz early in the 2000s because that Daunte Culpepper–Randy Moss–Cris Carter trio was absolutely devastating, and so I am predisposed to liking Carter too.)

At any rate, on their Tuesday show, Carter mentioned an idea that was fun and funny: He said that owner Dan Gilbert, who is now essentially running the Cavs and who LeBron has not been all that friendly with, should ask LeBron to waive his no-trade clause if he doesn’t want to commit to Cleveland. I suspect that there is zero chance that LeBron would ever, Ever, EVER do that, and so I’m not interested in talking about that. I’m interested in asking: If there was a video feed inside Dan Gilbert’s office that you could pay to rent access to for the meeting in which he was going to ask LeBron to waive his no-trade clause, how much would you pay to watch it? Because I’ve been on the phone all morning trying to take out a second mortgage on my home so I have enough accessible capital should it become available.

Portland Trail Blazers v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

A Blah Idea That Is Really Very Blah: Something, something, something, Atlanta Hawks, something, something, something.

Right around the spring of 2017, my twin 10-year-old sons asked if there was something they could do to make some money because they wanted to buy a video game for their Nintendo Wii U. I told them that, yes, I had many chores for them to do to earn money, and then I listed off a bunch of stuff that I was supposed to have done but didn’t want to do (like moving some tree branches from the side area of the house to the front of the house for pickup; cleaning out the garage; moving some old lumber from when we built a treehouse in the backyard three years ago; and so on and so on). They both decided against the physical labor because genetics are real, and so that was that. But then one of them had an idea: “Daddy,” the saucier one of the two said, “can we sell some of our stuff we don’t want anymore? Like, in the front yard. A front yard sale? To get money.” I said I didn’t care, that they could do what they wanted, but that there were two rules: (1) I was not going to help them, and (2) they couldn’t sell anything electronic.

They agreed, then went off about their hustle. They cobbled together a bunch of old clothes that they no longer wore, found some old and broken toys that they’d trashed, and then scribbled together a few pictures that they were planning to sell as “art.” They gathered it all onto the kitchen table and then began pricing everything at unreasonable rates, and as I watched I smiled a lot and laughed to myself. The stuff that they’d put together was just a bunch of things that nobody was ever going to want. It was really bad. (My favorite thing was they just started putting shit in Ziploc bags and saying it was for sale. One bag had some old Play-Doh in it. It was $10. A different bag had JUST ANOTHER BAG IN IT, and they were charging $15 for that one, if you can even believe that.) It was a big-time mess. The whole thing.

Now, my wife, who is very kind, eventually stepped in and helped them and the sale turned out just fine. But that first pile of stuff—all of the things that nobody wanted and that were priced too high—was the first thing I thought about when all of those news reports started coming out about how the Atlanta Hawks were in “full-scale sell mode.” (In this analogy, I think it means that Kent Bazemore is the bag inside of the bag.) I hope someone steps in and helps them.

Portland Trail Blazers v Boston Celtics Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

An Absurd Idea That’s Maybe Actually Not Absurd At All: The Blazers should trade C.J. McCollum.

I mean, would he hate that? Would the Blazers? Would the team who got him? Seems like the answer for all of those questions might be no.

Washington Wizards v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

An Absurd Idea That’s Too Absurd to Even Really Think About: The Wizards, who have won gone 5-1 since they lost John Wall to injury, should trade John Wall.

You have to get the fuck out of here. You have to get all the way the fuck out of here. You have to get so far the fuck out of here that you eventually end up in some new plane of existence, like Doctor Strange. You have to get so far the fuck out of here that you make your way across the expanse of the entire universe, eventually circling around back into existence so, for a brief moment, you are back in here, before getting even further the fuck out of here. You have to get so far the fuck out of here that in 10,000 years, when your descendants are wordlessly backpacking through whatever desert ruins are left of this planet, someone will see them walking, point to them, and then say to a small child, “Do not look those people in the eye, for they are the Fuck Out Of Here clan, and anyone they see is destined to get the fuck out of here for all eternity with them.” That’s how far you need to get the fuck out of here.