The Ringer’s 2019 NBA trade deadline live blog will keep tabs on the latest news, trades, rumors, premonitions, and everything else in between leading up to the deadline at noon PT on February 7. Check back for the latest from around the league.
The Knicks Can’t Trade Enes Kanter—but They Can Release Him
February 7, 12:56 p.m. PT
Haley O’Shaughnessy: Though New York wasn’t able to trade Kanter and his $18.6 million expiring contract, the team is granting his wish to play elsewhere by buying him out, according to The Athletic. Coach David Fizdale sat Kanter for nine of the Knicks’ past 12 games, and with New York’s reported plans to keep the newly acquired DeAndre Jordan, Kanter’s time seemed to be up—the latest edition of “Can’t play Kanter.” His defense is often the punch line, but the big man was averaging 14 points and 10.5 rebounds this season, and he can bring immediate offense to any frontcourt in need of it.
Wesley Matthews’s Knicks Tenure Is Already Over
February 7, 12:39 p.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: A Wesley Matthews Knicks jersey is about to become as niche as they come. The 32-year-old has played in two games for New York (and has even started one) since he was traded in the exchange that sent Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas, but has now agreed to a buyout, The Athletic reported Thursday. He plans to sign with Indiana. Nearly every team outside the Bay Area could use a little shooting, including the Pacers, who lost their top scorer, Victor Oladipo, in late January. Matthews was hitting 37 percent of his 3-pointers this season with Dallas. He’ll join Bojan Bogdanovic and Tyreke Evans on the wing in Indiana, which is currently fourth in the East.
The Two Sitting Ducks of the Deadline
February 7, 12:36 p.m. PT
Paolo Uggetti: Anthony Davis and Mike Conley are not going anywhere. The trade deadline has passed and both the Pelicans and the Grizzlies have opted to keep Davis and Conley and see what the offseason will bring. Despite Rich Paul and the Lakers’ numerous attempts at forcing New Orleans’s hand to trade Davis to Los Angeles now, the Pelicans held their ground while the Lakers repeatedly showed their hand through leaked offers that clearly affected the young players on the roster. This development is the best possible scenario for teams like the Celtics, who get a chance at the Davis sweepstakes in the offseason, when Boston won’t be restricted by the Rose Rule. It will be interesting to see whether Jayson Tatum will be on the table given that Davis has made it clear that he does not want to end up in Boston now or in the future. New Orleans’s choice to stand pat is also a boon for a team like the Knicks, who are reportedly level with the Lakers as far as places where Davis wants to end up. By then, New York might have a top pick, maybe a no. 1 pick, in their arsenal. By waiting things out, the Pelicans have expanded their options.
Conley, meanwhile, was reportedly not as ready to leave Memphis as Marc Gasol was; the Grizzlies value Conley as a mentor to rookie Jaren Jackson Jr., according to ESPN’s Tim McMahon. The market for Conley this summer should still be robust given how many teams have the resources to add a far more limited pool of stars.
TRADE: Markelle Fultz Goes Quietly Into the Night
February 7, 12:29 p.m. PT
Justin Verrier: The Markelle Fultz saga will end, predictably, with a whimper. After a year and a half of mystery and tension and confusing medical diagnoses, the Sixers dealt the former no. 1 overall pick to Orlando, and they didn’t even get the Magic’s best wing in return. Instead, Philly will pick up noted Scrap God Jonathon Simmons, a first-round pick (via the Thunder), and a second-round pick, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Terrence Ross probably would’ve been a better fit, considering Philly’s need for shooting, but I guess it wouldn’t be a trade deadline if the Sixers didn’t pick up a future second. The biggest winner of the deal, though, is Fultz. It seems near-impossible that the once-elite-prospect will ever get back on a path to becoming a future All-Star, but he can still carve out some semblance of a career while playing in relative obscurity.
TRADE: The Los Angeles Swap Meets
February 7, 11:57 a.m. PT
Uggetti: Hey, the Lakers made a trade! Ivica Zubac and Michael Beasley are being shuffled across the Staples Center hallway to the Clippers in a trade that brings Mike Muscala to the Lakers, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Clippers are reportedly waiving Beasley. The trade gives the Clippers another young promising piece in Zubac (a restricted free agent this offseason), who had been giving the Lakers valuable minutes at the center spot and will now likely start for the Clippers, and allows the Lakers to add some perimeter shooting via Muscala. More importantly, it opens up a roster spot in the Lakers locker room, and you know what that means. It’s Melo Time.
It didn’t take long for reports to begin trickling out that the Lakers are “seriously considering” signing Melo. I don’t know about you, but if the Lakers aren’t getting Anthony Davis anytime soon, I don’t want to be cheated out of seeing Melo in purple and gold next to LeBron.
TRADE: The Kings Are Still Out Here Making Blockbuster Deals
February 7, 11:49 a.m. PT
Riley McAtee: So long, Skal Labissiere. Two years ago I thought you were going to be awesome. Today, you were traded for a guy who has scored fewer than 100 points in two years. This isn’t a Woj bomb so much as it is a Woj bang snap:
The Kings have traded Skal Labissiere to the Blazers for Caleb Swanigan, league source tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 7, 2019
Who wins this trade? Maybe everyone—both Labissiere and Caleb Swanigan could benefit from a change of scenery. Who loses it? Me—I wrote more than 50 words about it.
TRADE: The Raptors Land Marc Gasol, Don’t Get Left In the Dust
February 7, 11:48 a.m. PT
Danny Chau: For a minute, though it probably felt like longer, Raptors fans were starting to panic. After the Bucks, the best team in the East, made a surprise deal with the Pelicans and Pistons for sharpshooting big man Nikola Mirotic, it seemed as though Toronto’s Finals mandate was destined to go unanswered. One text read: Is it too late to flip Kawhi? It doesn’t take much for the fan base to fall into its well-furnished pit of despair.
But then, hope. With just over an hour remaining before the trade deadline, Raptors GM Masai Ujiri made sure his team wasn’t an Eastern elite left behind. Toronto is landing Marc Gasol in a trade that will send longtime center Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles, and a 2024 second-round pick to Memphis. (This continues the Grizzlies’ fire sale; I will now shout into the void that the team has also dealt Shelvin Mack to Atlanta for Tyler Dorsey. I do not expect the void to respond back.)
In Gasol, the Raptors now have the kind of center that had always been out of reach for the team: a complete, inside-outside, floor-spacing, playmaking, defensive anchor. He has nearly a decade of bona fides as the leader of a Grizzlies team that, at times, seemed fueled purely from a deep emotional well dug out by Gasol himself. If only he weren’t 34. Still, Toronto was wise to wrest whatever is left of Gasol’s fading prime. The Spaniard has molded himself into an above-average 3-point shooter over the past three years, and his ability to stretch out at an uncommon position will be a boon in so many ways for a Raptors team that ranks in the bottom third of the league in 3-point percentage. Gasol also offers another offensive hub in a pinch; he has long been one of the NBA’s best passing big men, and his ability to facilitate from the block and the high post should give beleaguered star guard Kyle Lowry some time to operate off the ball, where he is a dangerous shooter off dribble handoffs. The playoffs often boil down to how many playmakers each team has at its disposal, and the Raptors have now added a very interesting new wrinkle to what they can do on offense.
Gasol’s athletic decline may have eroded some of what made him the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, but size and smarts get you plenty far in this league, and Gasol is still elite at what he does: communicating on the back line and dropping back as a sentinel down in the paint. Despite the eight-year difference in age, he remains an improvement over Valanciunas—and certainly better than the miserable minutes the team had to hand over to Greg Monroe over the past 25 games when Valanciunas was sidelined with a dislocated left finger.
Speaking of Valanciunas, though, the realities of the business do seem to arise at the most inopportune times. Jonas was reactivated only hours before the trade. Over the past few weeks, he had been spending extra time in practices working on his corner 3s, gearing up for his return. The Raptors have one of the best net ratings in the league, but over the 25 games in which Valanciunas sat out, they’ve played with the efficiency of a middling squad, suffering from their lack of frontcourt depth. Valanciunas has long been maligned for what he wasn’t; his prolonged absence in this consequential season has highlighted what he does offer the team: a dependable, innings-eating center who doesn’t actively hurt the team, an invaluable resource for a team that just needs to survive the regular season without any collateral damage. Wright is a talented (but older than you’d expect) playmaker who will enter restricted free agency in the offseason and has been in and out of coach Nick Nurse’s favor for much of the season; Miles is mostly a salary equalizer given his horrendous season. The biggest loss for Raptors fans is undoubtedly Jonas; Toronto will never get to see what the team would look like upon his return. Luckily, they’re in for one hell of a replacement.
TRADE: The Clippers Clear Cap and Playing Time
February 7, 11:29 a.m. PT
Uggetti: The Grizzlies are one of the few teams that have been clear sellers during this deadline period, but this deal may end up being just a footnote. Memphis has agreed to trade Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green to the Clippers for Avery Bradley, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Bradley had been starting for the Clippers this season despite his offensive struggles. Moving him and his $2 million guaranteed for next season opens up a little more cap space for the Clippers’ big free-agent push this summer and also clears a path for more playing time for rookies Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson, as well as the newly acquired Landry Shamet. The Grizzlies are getting rid of two expiring deals in Temple and Green, but they don’t appear to be getting any assets back in this deal aside from Bradley’s contract. Temple had been linked to various contenders, so it’s safe to wonder whether the Clippers, who are reportedly waiving Marcin Gortat to open up a roster spot and facilitate this trade, could turn around and flip him before noon PT.
TRADE: More Bang for the Bucks
February 7, 11:07 a.m. PT
Uggetti: The arms race in the East is picking up. The Pelicans have agreed to trade Nikola Mirotic to the Milwaukee Bucks as part of a three-team deal with the Detroit Pistons, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. New Orleans is getting four second-round picks as well as Stanley Johnson and Jason Smith. Two of those picks will come from the Wizards in 2020 and 2021, and they have become far more intriguing now that John Wall will miss the next year with an Achilles rupture and Washington has traded away both Otto Porter Jr. and Markieff Morris.
Picks aside, this deal is all about what the Bucks are gaining now. Mirotic would be a helpful addition to most teams, and that the East-leading Bucks swooped in and got him for a couple of second-rounders and Thon Maker (who they are sending to the Pistons as part of the three-team deal) is a huge victory. This bolsters Milwaukee’s already impressive roster ahead of the playoffs by adding another stretch big who can shoot from deep (Mirotic is hitting 36.8 percent from 3 this season). Think Brook Lopez, but better. Mirotic fueled the Pelicans’ playoff run last season by spacing the floor for Anthony Davis at center. Now imagine what he will be able to do alongside the Bucks’ already-stellar group spacing around Giannis.
It will be interesting to see how the Bucks now use D.J. Wilson, another power forward who has given them great defensive minutes, especially because Mirotic’s defense isn’t exactly stout. Mirotic also hasn’t been very durable of late; he’s missed a total of 23 games this season due to a right ankle injury and a right calf injury. But these are good problems to have for a team that already has the best net rating in the league. The Sixers may be upping the ante by adding another All-Star-level player to their starting lineup in Tobias Harris, but Milwaukee has responded by adding a near-perfect piece to Mike Budenholzer’s system.
TRADE: What Are the Rockets Up To?!
February 7, 10:23 a.m. PT
Verrier: The Rockets have been a little too quiet. While some of the other big-market franchises thrash around in the trade market in pursuit of some of the league’s most high-profile players, the Rockets have barely made waves. But some of the moves Houston has made on the fringes are starting to add up. On Wednesday, it got off Brandon Knight’s big salary for next season and added Iman Shumpert for the price of a protected first-rounder. And on Thursday, it reportedly forked over a second-round pick to the Pacers to take on he recently acquired Nik Stauskas and Wade Baldwin IV, and sent James Ennis III to the Sixers for swap rights on a 2021 second-round draft pick (which, lol, sure). Ennis is a useful player, in theory. Though the Pelicans and Grizzlies and Pistons and now Rockets have never quite been able to turn him into the next great 3-and-Der, Ennis has always displayed some 3 and some D. He’s a nice get for a Sixers team in desperate need of wing types after decimating their depth with the Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler trades. (For what it’s worth, The Athletic’s Derek Bodner reports that Philly will release the recently acquired Malachi Richardson to make space.) But what about Houston? Maybe this is purely another move to help out new owner Tilman Fertitta’s luxury-tax bill. … Or maybe this is just a precursor to something bigger
The AD Chase May Turn Out to Be a Dud
February 7, 9:42 a.m. PT
Uggetti: The Pelicans and Lakers are not getting closer to making a blockbuster Anthony Davis trade, and may not be making one at all. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski called the trade talks “dormant” three hours before the deadline and reported that the Pelicans seem happy to “run out the clock.”
From the beginning, these trade discussions have felt one-sided, with the Lakers trying (and failing) to get the Pelicans to engage. (Which maybe was New Orleans’s plan all along?) Wojnarowski reported Wednesday night that Pelicans general manager Dell Demps had not had any communication with Lakers president Magic Johnson about the Lakers’ most recent offer and that the Lakers were running “low on hope.” New Orleans is reportedly asking for the Lakers to blow it away with an offer that includes four first-round picks and most, if not all, of their young players, but the Lakers have said they won’t bid against themselves.
If the deadline were to pass with Davis still in New Orleans, the Lakers’ plans to pair LeBron James with a second star could be in jeopardy. The offseason will bring a far more expansive bidding war for Davis, with the Celtics and the Knicks finally able to offer up their best stuff. The latter would be fully armed with a top draft pick, while the former would no longer be restricted by the weird Rose Rule stipulations and could offer Jayson Tatum (the Celtics have reportedly spoken with the Pelicans about their summer offer being “worth the wait”). Davis reportedly would sign long-term in New York but wouldn’t in Boston; but Davis’s wishes may not matter much in New Orleans’s quest to get the best return for its star player. Waiting this out deflates some of the drama surrounding the deadline’s biggest player, but it might make too much sense for New Orleans. Then again, there’s still plenty of time left on the clock.
TRADE: The Pelicans Reap the Benefits of the Wizards’ Misery
February 6, 8:55 p.m. PT
Verrier: The Pelicans made a trade! … For a second-round pick four years from now. With the Washington Wizards reversing course on owner Ted Leonsis’s bold claim that they’d keep their core intact and jettisoning veterans to get under the luxury tax, New Orleans took a break from crank-calling the Lakers and sent Wesley Johnson to D.C. in exchange for veteran forward Markieff Morris and a 2023 second (which, considering how things have gone this season, could very well be at the top of the order in Round 2). Neither player in this deal has been playing much of late, so it’s really just a salary dump with a sweetener attached. But it does bear the schadenfreude of the Pelicans obtaining a Rich Paul client as the organization plays chicken with the super agent over Anthony Davis.
TRADE: Harrison Barnes Returns to NorCal a King
February 6, 8:35 p.m. PT
Dan Devine: We highlighted the Sacramento Kings as a team that could make some noise ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline. They did exactly that on Wednesday, using their combination of available salary cap space and a big expiring contract to take a big swing on a player with a big contract who could help them make the playoffs for the first time in 13 years: Dallas Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday night that the Kings and Mavericks reached an agreement to send Barnes to Sacramento in exchange for second-year wing Justin Jackson and veteran power forward Zach Randolph.
Barnes isn’t a star, despite the huge deal Mark Cuban gave him in 2016. He shoots more than he should, and a lot of those shots are contested midrange jumpers he’d be better off keeping in his pocket. He passes less than he should, which is to say, hardly ever. And he doesn’t defend as well as you’d hope a 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward with a 6-foot-11 wingspan would.
But Barnes is still the kind of B-level young talent that Sacramento has typically struggled to land in free agency. The hope now is that a strong playoff push or even the Kings’ first playoff appearance following a 12-year drought can convince him to stick around and turn him into a building block. Barnes has a $25.1 million player option for next season; Woj reports that the Kings plan to make a “long-term play” to keep him, which could entail either getting him to opt in or using some of their $45.2 million in 2019-20 cap space to re-sign him to a longer deal should he opt out.
There’s a quality player in there, a low-turnover scorer who can get his shot off against physical defenders, and who has the size and athleticism to man either the 3 or 4 spots. He’s taking 3-pointers at a career-high rate this season, and hitting them at a 39 percent clip. He can work off the dribble or out of the post, fill the lane in transition, and run a passable pick-and-roll as a secondary option after De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, or one of Sacramento’s other bright young things has already tilted the defense. He also gives the Kings something they didn’t have before Wednesday: a wing big enough to stand a chance against some of the elite forwards they could encounter on their way to the postseason. Like, for example, the guy who took Barnes’s spot in Golden State. (Man, does a Warriors-Kings first-round series sound tasty.)
Barnes can be a ball-stopper, which would be a real no-no in Sacramento’s free-flowing approach. But after three years of sort of meandering through largely consequence-free, shot-jacking basketball in Dallas, you wonder whether his talents might play up in a more circumscribed role on a fun young team that plays an infectious brand of ball at warp speed. I mean, they did before, right?
For Dallas, moving Barnes effectively closes the book on the Mavs’ initial life-after–Dirk Nowitzki strategy and officially turns the franchise’s fate over to Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. It also leaves Dallas, which will still have to contend with Porzingis’s restricted free agency, with a projected $30 million in salary cap space—within striking distance of enough to make a max offer to a third star to pair with their newly minted dynamic European duo. That’s right: This summer, we’ll have the Mavs, Knicks, and Clippers all trying to sell stars on heaps of cap space. What could possibly go wrong?
TRADE: A Three-Way Deal to Nowhere
February 6, 5:36 p.m. PT
Verrier: Behold, the most league-average trade in history (details per ESPN):
Cavs get: Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss, Houston’s lottery-protected 2019 first-round pick
Kings get: Alec Burks
Rockets get: Iman Shumpert, Wade Baldwin IV, Nik Stauskas
This is all … fine. Burks is an unremarkable swingman with the size and shooting (depending on the season) to round out a Kings rotation that could use a bit of both if Sacramento wants to be a serious playoff contender. The Cavs managed to pry a first-rounder from the Rockets for adding the $15.6 million owed to Knight next season to their contract trash heap. (Save Kevin Love.) And the Rockets chipped away at their luxury tax and got a useful player (or potential trade asset?) in Shumpert. It’s all fine.
TRADE: Otto Porter Jr. Got Traded (Yay!) to a Bad Team (Boo!)
February 6, 5:24 p.m. PT
Chau: The late-night trade between the Sixers and Clippers officially greased the deadline wheels, and the momentum from such an unexpected and consequential deal has all of the rumormongering public barreling into a craven den of … accountant porn. Only a couple hours after the Miami Heat were successfully able to shave their extraneous expenses in the Tyler Johnson deal, the hopeless Wizards followed suit, trading their $106.5 million third man Otto Porter to Chicago for Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis.
By offloading Porter and the $55.7 million he’s potentially owed over the next two seasons (assuming he opts into his fourth season, which he almost assuredly will), the Wizards will significantly cut into their luxury tax bill, leaving them only one minor trade away from ducking under the luxury tax threshold completely. For a team staring down the barrel of both John Wall’s brutal Achilles complications (which will reportedly sideline him for 12 months) and his upcoming four-year, $169 million extension, finding some sort of financial reprieve is all they can ask for in a busted season. This is entirely a cost-cutting measure: Parker’s second year of his one-and-one contract is a $20 million club option, which the Wizards will decline; Portis will be entering restricted free agency in the offseason.
The biggest loser of the trade might be the legion of NBA nerds who have long wondered what Porter, a prototypical 3-and-D athlete, might be capable of on a playoff team that can sustain success and stability. Porter has been linked to just about every postseason-bound team in need of a steady wing, but will, instead, join one of the five worst teams in the league and slot in as the Bulls’ best two-way player. It may seem strange that a team so clearly tanking would want to take on a competent player with an onerous contract, but with the lottery odds flattened, it’s not necessarily imperative for the dregs of the league to out-bad one another. They just have to be bad enough; Porter’s presence alone won’t stop Chicago from pursuing its ultimate mission this season.
What Porter does represent, however, is a functional puzzle piece that the Bulls can count on as they begin the process of establishing their core. He is already everything the Bulls had gotten out of Parker this season—but without the delusions of grandeur. Given Parker’s short but exorbitant contract, the Bulls essentially paid an extra $6 million this season to find a long-term upgrade over Parker, whose lousy defense and anti-spacing created more roadblocks for a young Chicago team in desperate need of structure. Porter may not be living up to his contract, but he’s exactly the type of player every team needs. He’ll be the glue guy in waiting should the Bulls finally find a star to build around.
Markelle Fultz Watch Is Back On
February 6, 4:40 p.m. PT
Uggetti: With their trade for Tobias Harris, the Sixers have signaled that they’re going for it now. To do so, they’re going to need more than four All-Star–level players. And with their asset reserves almost depleted following deals for both Harris and Jimmy Butler over the past three months, the only way to attain some much-needed depth may be to finally cut bait with former no. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Wednesday that there’s a “real possibility” that Fultz has played his last game for Philly, and that the Magic and Hawks have both contacted the Sixers about a Fultz deal. On Thursday, Sixers head coach Brett Brown said he would be “pleasantly surprised with how [Fultz] arrives back with us more than assume he’s going to be there.” Since Fultz stopped playing in mid-November, it has felt like the end of his short tenure in Philly was coming sooner rather than later. The Sixers’ window for contention is probably the next two years, so Fultz’s development should no longer be a priority. Getting off Fultz’s contract (about $10 million next season) in order to keep their new “Big Four”—Harris and Butler could both be free agents and could both command max deals—and replenishing depth for the playoffs are the goals now.
The Hawks, coached by former Sixers assistant Lloyd Pierce, can offer one, if not two of Dewayne Dedmon, Taurean Prince, and maybe Kent Bazemore. The Magic, meanwhile, could offer Terrence Ross. Those players won’t swing the fate of the league, but with one of the best starting fives in the league, the Sixers’ postseason ceiling may now depend on the next three or four players they add to their rotation.
TRADE: The Heat and Suns Trade for One Another’s Mess
February 6, 1:57 p.m. PT
Uggetti: Tyler Johnson, the poster boy for 2016’s summer of bad deals, and Wayne Ellington have been traded from the Miami Heat to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Ryan Anderson, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Johnson’s deal (four years, $50 million) was an overpay from the jump, and now Miami has found a way to unload its mistake, along with Ellington’s expiring contract, for a slightly cheaper mistake.
The deal allows the Heat to get rid of Johnson’s contract, which pays him $19.2 million this season and includes a $19.2 million player option for next season, and obtain a bit more financial flexibility going forward, since only $15.6 million of Anderson’s $21.3 million contract for next season is guaranteed. That’s a savings of $8 million in luxury tax this season while putting the Heat just $1.2 million over the projected tax line for next season, per cap expert Albert Nahmad! Get excited, everybody!
Johnson, who is barely averaging over 10 points a game this season, is almost certainly going to pick up that option, but the Suns at least get a 26-year-old who could be an option to start in the backcourt next to Devin Booker. Ellington, meanwhile, had fallen out of Erik Spoelstra’s rotation in Miami, and with just two months left on the one-year deal he signed this past summer, he likely doesn’t make much sense on an 11-win Suns team. Plenty of teams could use Ellington’s career 38 percent 3-point shooting, so Phoenix could look to move him elsewhere before Thursday’s deadline. Or maybe he’ll get waived and end up in Los Angeles or Philadelphia.
Trade Deadline Groundhog Day, Starring Nikola Mirotic
February 6, 1:30 p.m. PT
Kevin O’Connor: The Jazz, Blazers, Nets, and Spurs are among the teams that have expressed interest in Pelicans forward Nikola Mirotic, according to multiple league sources. New Orleans is seeking a first-round pick, league sources said. One source called the franchise’s demands “excessive,” considering Mirotic has been hampered this season by calf and ankle injuries and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Around this time last year, New Orleans acquired Mirotic from the Bulls for a 2018 first-round pick (which became wing Chandler Hutchison) and the right to swap 2021 second-round picks, but Mirotic’s valuation was different then: There was more than one season left on his contract.
While Tobias Harris was just dealt in a trade including two first-round picks, Mirotic is not close the same level of player. Still, Mirotic’s spark-plug scoring and size could be a valuable addition for a playoff team. The Jazz were close to trading Derrick Favors to the Bulls for Mirotic last season before the Pelicans swooped in. Utah is also continuing its press on Mike Conley Jr., as has been widely reported, and Mirotic is viewed as a fallback option. Unless New Orleans’s demands drop, or a team caves, the deadline may come and go with Mirotic finishing the season with the Pelicans.
TRADE: The Thon Maker–Stanley Johnson Swap Has No Losers
February 6, 9:51 a.m. PT
Uggetti: Thon Maker got what he wanted before Anthony Davis. Just more than a week after Maker requested a trade from the Bucks in an attempt to get more playing time elsewhere, Milwaukee agreed to send him to Detroit in exchange for Stanley Johnson, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. This is a quintessential change-of-scenery trade, and both former lottery picks badly need it.
The Bucks weren’t getting much out of Maker, and Johnson—a 22-year-old who is a very good perimeter defender—should sharpen their defensive matchups in the playoffs. Johnson can’t shoot (in his four seasons, he has never cracked 10 points per game or shot better than 40 percent from the field) and that has long made him a relative nonfactor for the Pistons. In Milwaukee, he can be a specialist in short bursts. It’s a dream scenario for a player who was languishing in Detroit. And the Bucks will be able to let him go this summer for nothing if they want, while they would have had to pay Maker $3.5 million next season.
Maker goes from the best team in the East to a team on the outside of the playoff picture that appears to be both selling spare parts at the deadline and trying to make the postseason. The Pistons are confusing, and so is Maker. He is long and athletic, but hasn’t shown enough ability to parlay his physical advantages into actual basketball production. He’s playing five fewer minutes this season than he did last, and his numbers are minuscule. It will be interesting to see how Dwane Casey uses him. There’s still room for improvement; Maker is only 21.
TRADE: The Sixers Really, Really, Really, Really Want to Make This Work
February 5, in the dead of night PT
Verrier: The Philadelphia 76ers, despite the rousing success of last season, have been relegated to the kids’ table in the pursuit of the league’s best players. Though they managed to score a (face-saving) meeting with Rich Paul last summer, LeBron James, it seems, was locked in on Los Angeles long before that; the Sixers settled for adding more future picks to their asset war chest and rolling over most of their cap space. They were a logical destination for Kawhi Leonard, but the Raptors swooped in last summer and the Clippers are widely presumed to be Kawhi’s ultimate landing spot this offseason. The Sixers regrouped by plugging their rotation hole with Wilson Chandler, a Denver salary dump. They haven’t gotten much of a look for Anthony Davis, most likely because their best asset is a 22-year-old who could rule the league one day if he learns to shoot a goddamn jumper, and/or because said player also shares an agent with Davis. And they didn’t even get a chance to bid on Kristaps Porzingis (well, this time, at least). The Sixers have remained very good in the meantime, but very good is a far cry from the world of possibility promised amid the torture of Tony Wroten isos and Hollis Thompson status updates. The end goal of the Process was to be the next Warriors, not the next Pacers. But dammit if Philly isn’t trying to keep that dream alive, even if it means burning every bridge Sam Hinkie built to get to this point.
Nearly three months after trading for a player willing to decimate his previous franchise, the Sixers made an even more desperate move: In exchange for the Clippers’ Tobias Harris, Philly gave up two first-rounders—including the Heat’s unprotected 2021 pick, the prize of their Hinkie-ish trade-down during the 2018 draft—and two second-rounders, ESPN reported. The Sixers will also receive Boban Marjanovic (Bobi & Tobi lives!) and Mike Scott, while the Clippers will get rookie Landry Shamet, Mike Muscala, and Chandler. The other first headed to L.A. is the Sixers’ 2020 pick, while the seconds will be in 2021 and 2023.
To be fair, Harris is a fine player. He was the Clippers’ best player by default and a fringe All-Star, even in the talent-rich Western Conference. He shoots like a wing (career-high 43.4 percent from 3 this season) and has the size and heft to stand his ground in the trenches. Much like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, Harris’s skill set defies his physical appearance; as a result, the Sixers will feature a starting lineup—Simmons, Butler, Harris, Embiid, and JJ Redick—as big as any big lineup in the league and as skilled as the most skilled non-Warriors lineups in the league. You have to flash back only one week, to the Sixers’s nine-point win in Golden State, to get a glimpse of how dangerous that combination can be; now add Harris, a 20.9 points-per-game scorer, to mix.
The sticking point is the sticker price. The Sixers gave up a haul similar to the one Dallas forked over for Porzingis, for a player three years older with a much lower ceiling. Worse, Philly isn’t done paying yet: Harris is an unrestricted free agent this summer. The 26-year-old will probably want to stick with the best of the five teams he’s been on in his eight-year career, but with so much money available this summer and so few players to choose from, he likely won’t stay for a discount. (Redick, now a beloved post-Process figure, surely didn’t take a discount this past summer.) With Butler also expected to hit the market, the Sixers’ best-case scenario will be shelling out two max contracts to their third- and fourth-best players, plus whatever Redick will command, and incurring the luxury-tax constraints that come along with them.
Maybe all that matters is that the Sixers got their guy. (Though one could argue that their rotation still needs another guy or two or three.) And maybe getting ahead of the free-agent arms race, like the Knicks once did for Carmelo Anthony, is just what a team not based in Los Angeles or New York needs to do these days. (With Simmons’s extension looming, this summer would’ve been their window to put that extra money to work.) Or maybe the Sixers rushed their most crucial decision, ended up with a cantankerous third star who’s an uneasy fit next to their two shooting-deprived cornerstones and a flight risk this summer, and were forced to max out their credit cards until it all made sense. Whatever the reason, the Sixers have made their last major decision. The only thing left to hope for is that they got it right.
The Lakers Make a Trade
February 5, 9:36 p.m. PT
Uggetti: The Lakers have finally made a trade. Just not one for Anthony Davis. According to The Athletic’s Frank Isola, the Lakers are sending rookie Svi Mykhailiuk to Detroit in exchange for Reggie Bullock. The Undefeated’s Marc Spears reported that the Lakers would also send the Pistons a 2021 second-round draft pick as part of the deal.
While the transaction seems minor, it is an upgrade for the Lakers, who badly need wing shooting. Bullock is a career 39.6 percent 3-point shooter and is shooting 38 percent from deep on a career-high 6.7 attempts a game this season. That’s better than every shooter on the Lakers with at least three 3-point attempts per game. Mykhailiuk, the no. 47 overall pick last year, was a promising shooter himself, one the Lakers would have likely kept and tried to develop if this were still a team that revolved around a young core. LeBron James has changed that calculus, and Bullock, in his sixth season, fits this timeline better. While I will remember Mykhailiuk as the player sheepishly sitting next to an injured LeBron on the bench, this is just another clear sign that the Lakers can’t afford to be a team that develops anymore. The question is now is, what move comes next.
Despite reports that the Lakers have stepped away from trade talks for Davis over the Pelicans’ high demands, they are likely not giving up on that dream yet; adding Bullock could be a low-cost way to fill out the rotation once they send what feels like half their roster to New Orleans. The Pistons, however, are still trying to get back into the playoffs, and while this deal saves them roughly $1 million and gives them a player under team control (Bullock is an expiring contract), they still need someone like Mike Conley if they expect to make a climb.
The Buzz on Marc Gasol
February 5, 3:31 p.m. PT
And I hope Kemba Walker’s first All-Star teammate, be a masculine teammate.
No Bamba, Mo Problems
February 5, 3:04 p.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: Orlando’s future is on hold once again. Rookie Mo Bamba will reportedly miss “significant time” with a stress fracture in his lower left leg. And though the no. 6 overall pick is not on the trading block, his being on the sideline could mean that other Magic players are off the window display. Nikola Vucevic, for example, is Orlando’s most appealing player to other teams leading up to the trade deadline, because of his expiring contract and his All-Star-worthy production this season. But with Bamba out, the frontcourt becomes too thin to lose Vucevic. The Magic are 11th in the Eastern Conference, and only three games back from a playoff berth. Dealing Vucevic now, ahead of his free agency, could set up Orlando better for the future, but handing over the center minutes to Jonathan Isaac and Khem Birch would almost certainly take it out of the postseason race—which some high-level Magic officials seem loath to do.
A Lakers Leverage Play, in Three Acts
February 5, 12:04 p.m. PT
Verrier: Act I
Lakers pull out of Anthony Davis trade talks amid 'outrageous' requests by Pelicans https://t.co/VpB2P0pGa6— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) February 5, 2019
If Pelicans want to counter the Lakers most recent offer on Davis, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are obviously anxious to find a pathway for a trade. This is a negotiation tactic on behalf of Lakers, who have wanted New Orleans to show more initiative in the process. https://t.co/A18urbnu6h— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 5, 2019
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) February 5, 2019
The Knicks’ Key to Landing Kevin Durant Is … DeAndre Jordan?
February 5, 12:04 p.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: The most astute and well-respected front offices think two steps ahead. New York isn’t generally held in such high regard, especially after trading Kristaps Porzingis last week, but the Knicks do, possibly, have a plan. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said last week that DeAndre Jordan, who was part of Dallas’s package for Porzingis, could be important for New York’s efforts in recruiting Kevin Durant.
“One thing I’ll say about the Knicks,” Windhorst said, “they’re making it look like they intend to keep DeAndre Jordan. You can extrapolate this out: [He] has a relationship with Kevin Durant. Although I don’t know how. I mean, they can’t keep [Jordan] at any real number.”
Yet keeping Jordan would eat into the cap space New York has laboriously cleared for this summer. Jordan’s one-year, $22.9 million contract that he signed with the Mavericks will expire at the end of this season. Although he’s regressed everywhere except the free throw line this year, Jordan won’t be a cheap re-sign. The Knicks currently have space for two maximum contracts, but they don’t have enough room for two max contracts and Jordan.
Re-signing Jordan to a big deal to try to lure his talented friend would have the look and feel of the Suns signing Tyson Chandler in 2015 to recruit then-free-agent LaMarcus Aldridge (only for Aldridge to join the Spurs instead). But would the Knicks’ plan work out differently? Durant isn’t dropping any hints. KD hasn’t addressed the media since Kristaps was traded, and instituted a personal ban on free agency talk at the beginning of the season.
John Wall Suffers Another Major Setback, and the Wizards May Have to Finally Consider Starting Over
February 5, 11:37 a.m. PT
Verrier: In case the descent of John Wall’s once-promising career wasn’t bleak enough already, here’s another gallon jug of gloom: Less than a month after surgery to correct chronic pain in his left Achilles tendon, the Wizards announced Tuesday that Wall is expected to be out a full year after rupturing the same Achilles from “slipping and falling.” There’s more: The release also brings word of an infection in the incision from the initial surgery, on January 8. So, to recap, that’s a debridement, a repair, an infection, and now another repair (at a date TBD), all since 2019 began.
This is a depressing turn of events. Wall has become a punching bag of late, the scapegoat for everything that’s gone wrong for the Wizards over the past few seasons. His contract is indeed toxic—and even worse now that the first year of his four-year $169 million supermax extension may be for naught. (The Wizards can’t apply for a disabled-player exception, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, but maybe they can collect insurance?) But Wall was once one of the most dynamic players we’ve ever seen in the open court, a Russell Westbrook–like athlete who got to the rim with speed and fluidity and grace instead of thrash-metal recklessness. For his body to rob him of his greatest strength seems especially cruel. DeMarcus Cousins, Wall’s former Kentucky teammate, has looked more nimble than expected in his first seven games after an Achilles rupture cost him almost a year. But despite his Hulkish physique, Cousins’s game is built around touch; Wall is closer to the Flash.
If there’s a silver lining for the Wizards, it’s that they should be used to life without Wall by now; their point guard missed half of last season and was shut down for the rest of this season 18 games ago. Bradley Beal has stepped into the void and flourished on an individual level (27.3 points, 5.8 assists, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.9 steals without Wall this season), but as a team, Washington hasn’t exactly been mowing down opponents (9-9 since Wall was shut down, 11-21 in games with him before then). If the Wiz stay the course, it’s likely, based on the latest playoff odds, that they’d end up in the same place regardless: outside of the playoff field. So the immediate question is whether this news will embolden the front office to go for it and trade for help at the deadline—perhaps a player who could help them next season as much as in the stretch run this season (return of the Mack?)—or to go conservative and dump salary, such as the near-max they’re paying Otto Porter Jr. to come off the bench. With an outlook this dark, it may actually make sense to mortgage the future. As Beal said recently, owner Ted Leonsis isn’t paying the luxury to tank.
LaVar Ball is Taking This All in Stride
February 5, 11:37 a.m. PT
LaVar Ball, who wants his son(s) on the Suns, via @AZSports: "The Lakers gave my boy that losing attitude ... Luke Walton was the worst coach ever for Lonzo. He's been losing for three years!"#LakeShow #TimeToRise (via @DougAndWolf987)— Bryan Kalbrosky (@BryanKalbrosky) February 5, 2019
The Shoving Match Over AD Is Getting Ugly
February 5, 10:04 a.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: Requesting a trade can quickly become a “be careful what you wish for” lesson. Anthony Davis said last Friday that though he’d asked out of New Orleans, his “intentions are to play” when he’s recovered from a left index finger sprain. Well, Davis is healthy, according to Yahoo Sports, but he isn’t playing. According to Chris Haynes, Davis was willing and able to suit up for Monday’s game against Indiana, but the organization decided to hold Davis out. For what it’s worth, Alvin Gentry said earlier on Monday that Davis had been cleared to practice, but the New Orleans coach dodged questions about whether AD would suit up for the franchise again this season. The Pelicans lost to the Pacers 109-107.
Ultimately, the Yahoo report is yet another sign of the building tensions between Davis’s camp and his team for the past six and a half seasons. On Monday, ESPN and others reported that Davis had given the Pelicans a list of teams that he would re-sign with. That list included two teams that don’t have the assets to trade for Davis (the Clippers and Bucks), a team whose previous offer was reportedly rejected (the Knicks), and the Lakers. Notably absent from the list? The Celtics, the team widely viewed as the Lakers’ biggest competition for Davis should he last in New Orleans through Thursday’s trade deadline. As Adrian Wojnarowski wrote on Monday night, Davis’s agent, Rich Paul, is doing anything he can to force Davis to the Lakers. One day later, we have a report that paints the Pelicans as the bad guys.
The Davis trade talks are slowly devolving into a shoving match through the media. Davis wants out, so the Pelicans have removed him from their pregame intro video and kept him out of the lineup. Davis’s camp wants him to go to the Lakers, so they’re applying public pressure to get a deal done sooner than later. The Pelicans haven’t taken kindly to the Lakers’ previous overtures for their star player, so they reportedly didn’t call them back right away and are now asking for a “historic haul” of draft picks, according to Wojnarowski. And around and around we go.
It’s not over, either. The Pelicans have one game remaining between now and the trade deadline, on Wednesday against the Bulls. It makes sense, both for Klutch Sports and the Pelicans, to keep Davis healthy as the trade talks go on, but as we’ve seen several times this week, the act of holding him out could take on a life of its own.
Celtics Appear to Be Out of the Anthony Davis Sweepstakes
February 4, 12:02 p.m. PT
Uggetti: There are a lot of unknowns in the Anthony Davis sweepstakes. But amid the frenzy of conflicting reports, power plays, and leaks, there has emerged one certainty: Davis does not want to go to Boston. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Davis’s camp has let the Pelicans know that there is now a list of teams with whom Davis is willing to sign a long-term deal. The Lakers and Knicks are definitely on it, and the Bucks and Clippers are reportedly there as well. The Celtics definitely are not.
There is room for a couple of theories as to why Davis’s camp seems to be leaking this list of teams. For one, it opens up the market for Davis as the trade deadline approaches and doesn’t handcuff the Pelicans into making a deal with only the Lakers or Knicks—at least it appears that way. There is a sense that the list includes teams that don’t have as many assets to trade as the Lakers, thus still forcing the Pelicans to acquiesce to a deal with Los Angeles. Coincidentally, less than an hour after the report of the list of teams, Woj also reported that the Lakers had made a new offer to the Pelicans, one that included multiple young players, picks, and cap relief, and was more along the lines of what New Orleans is looking for.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that Danny Ainge will be deterred from trying to bring Davis in, but it does make it harder for him to put an asset like Jayson Tatum on the table without an assurance of a long-term commitment by Davis, not to mention the fact Kyrie Irving’s future in Boston continues to get even more muddled. Boston had gathered the assets, got the wunderkind coach, traded for one superstar, and put itself in perfect position to land Davis. It was more than enough, until it wasn’t.
The Pistons Are Stuck in NBA Purgatory
February 4, 11:15 a.m. PT
Uggetti: Detroit, sitting two games out of the 8-seed in the Eastern Conference, desperately needs a shake-up and a sense of direction. With just three days until the NBA trade deadline, the Pistons must commit to a path: an all-out rebuild, or a run to the playoffs that, even if successful, will leave them with just a bit of extra revenue and a footnote in the history books.
But blowing it up would be painful. The Pistons traded for Blake Griffin last season in hopes of giving a foundering team a playoff push, and they’d need to unload him to begin a rebuild. Last season’s gamble didn’t result in a postseason berth, and here the Pistons are once again, reportedly willing to dig their hole even deeper and trade more assets for Mike Conley Jr., the Detroit Free Press reports. It’s a bleak situation.
Conley, even at 31 with an extensive injury history and two years left on his albatross $153 million contract, would be an immediate upgrade over Reggie Jackson. He would be a seamless fit in Detroit, giving Griffin and Andre Drummond an unselfish veteran point guard who could run the offense without taking excessive control of it. Would Conley be good enough to vault Detroit into the playoff picture? If the answer to that question isn’t a surefire yes, then he isn’t worth giving up a first-round pick for. That appears to be the foundation of the Grizzlies’ asking price, plus a player, which in the Jazz’s case was reportedly Ricky Rubio.
The Pistons gave up last year’s first-rounder in their trade for Griffin, and yet the biggest indictment on them is that the picks they have had in the past have not panned out. Stanley Johnson, Henry Ellenson, and, most recently, Luke Kennard all either look like misses or haven’t shown enough to prove otherwise. Detroit’s best picks of the past six drafts (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Spencer Dinwiddie) are on other teams. And so, the Pistons are stuck. They’re not good enough to win, not bad enough to tank, and not smart enough to pick well in the draft, but still in need of cheap, young players to improve their team. Should they give up another pick and lock themselves into a Conley-Griffin-Drummond core and hope for the best? Or should they bail on the faulty experiment, gather assets, and hope that they’ll get lucky (or good at development) in the next five years? The fact they are going after Conley suggests they may have already made their choice. The treadmill of mediocrity will continue to run, but at some point—maybe as soon as the end of this season—it will likely come to an abrupt halt.
TRADE: The Trail Blazers Are the Latest Team to Play Rodney Hood Roulette
February 3, 1:24 p.m. PT
Verrier: From savior to a pair of seconds. The Cavs acquired Rodney Hood as part of their settle-all-family-business reboot around LeBron James last trade deadline. Hood had tantalized throughout his three-plus seasons in Utah with games in which he showcased the ability to score with the best of them—enough, even, to drive Dave Joerger mad—and with his restricted free agency looming, he seemed like the perfect hedge between getting LeBron help and prepping for life without James. But Hood was a disaster; he shot a career low from 3-point range the last half-season, couldn’t stick in the rotation in the playoffs, and dropped off the face of the court almost entirely in the Eastern Conference finals and the NBA Finals. He hasn’t been much better this season, despite having every opportunity to emerge as the focal point of Cleveland’s sad-sack offense: 12.2 points per game on a career-low 48.8 effective field goal percentage. His forgettable year with the Cavs officially ended, thankfully, on Sunday, as Cleveland shipped the 26-year-old to Portland for two second-round picks—one in 2021 and one in 2023—and contract filler (Nik Stauskas and Wade Baldwin), according to ESPN.
Despite his struggles in the Midwest, the good Hood is still in there, somewhere. Through injuries and inconsistencies, he emerged in Utah as one of the better wing prospects in the league—he was long, he was athletic, he could, on the right night, shoot; and while his assist rate doesn’t show it, he can put the ball on the deck and operate the pick-and-roll. In his final two and a half seasons with the Jazz, he had 17 games with 25 points or more, including three of 30 or more in 2017-18. Two seconds is a steep price to pay for a player who couldn’t emerge on the worst roster in basketball—it’s the same price the Jazz paid for Kyle Korver, who may be 37 but has always produced from the outside—but Good Hood could save the Trail Blazers from relying on the daily will-he-play-won’t-he-play of the oft-injured Moe Harkless and Jake Layman on the wing. … Then again, didn’t we say that last year, too? (Hood, who is playing on a one-year qualifying offer, had to waive his Bird rights to execute the trade, so if he does play well, Portland will have to dip into its salary-cap exceptions to bring him back this summer.)
The Cavs, meanwhile, continue to stack draft picks, Sam Hinkie-style. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks noted, Cleveland has turned Hood, Korver, George Hill, and Sam Dekker—all of whom are fine, at best—into one first and six seconds. It pays to be a seller in this market.
Anthony Davis’s Father Is Not a Boston Fan
February 1, 5:13 p.m. PT
Verrier: Davis’s dad, Anthony Davis Sr., has been a, let’s say, loud voice throughout his son’s career for some time. As Davis’s trade request went public earlier this week, a lot of rumors began to circulate about the elder AD’s influence and his role in driving Davis to Klutch Sports and toward Los Angeles. If that chatter is to be believed, then this (via ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne) certainly doesn’t bode well for the Celtics’ chances:
If Davis does get dealt to Boston, it’s hard to believe that the winning-starved big man wouldn’t embrace the opportunity to play alongside some of the best teammates of his career and in Brad Stevens’s system; two and a half years ago, Davis and Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry said that their team needed to play more gritty like the then-starless Celtics. But between reports that Boston isn’t Davis’s “preferred destination long-term,” Kyrie Irving’s terse, revealing session with the media on Friday, and now this, it does feel like the momentum (if you believe in such things) is headed westward.
Kristaps May Sit Out the Rest of the Season
What Will Luka and the Zombie Mavs Do Until This Summer?
February 1, 5:13 p.m. PT
Uggetti: We will likely have to wait until next season to watch Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis play together. Porzingis, the newly minted Maverick, will “probably” continue to watch this season from the sideline despite his change of scenery, Dallas owner Mark Cuban told ESPN’s Tim McMahon on Friday. The 23-year-old is still recovering from the torn left ACL he suffered last season and will be a restricted free agent this summer. Despite reports that Porzingis may only be willing to sign a one-year qualifying offer, the Mavericks are hopeful they can sign him to a long-term deal, and this decision certainly tracks with a long-view approach. With Porzingis out of the picture and a slew of Dallas’s depth (DeAndre Jordan, Dennis Smith Jr., and Wes Matthews) now in New York, what should or could the Mavericks do with the rest of their season?
The Mavs are five games out of a playoff spot, and while Doncic has been every bit of the 19-year-old phenom he was projected to be, he is not quite a savior yet. He won’t be able to drag this team toward a playoff berth on his own, and as useful as the other players they got in the trade—Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee—could be, the Mavericks’ next best move may be to lose. A lot. They owe a first-round pick to Atlanta for the Doncic trade that is top-five protected this season; currently, the Mavs are 11th from the bottom of the NBA standings and seven games ahead of (behind?) the fifth-worst record, which, ironically enough, belongs to the Hawks. Doncic might be too good, and the tanking teams too bad, for the Mavs to be able to slide all the way down to the league’s basement, but it wouldn’t hurt to try, especially when the alternative is to get swept by the Warriors in the first round.
TRADE: Chicago’s Getting a Little Extra TLC During the Polar Vortex; Carmelo’s Getting Out
February 1, 11:08 a.m. PT
Chau: According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, one of the “worst-kept secrets” in the NBA is Anthony Davis’s utter lack of interest in playing for his hometown. So, instead of trying to pony up a veritable war chest of … Kris Dunn, Wendell Carter Jr., and stuff (?), Chicago has moved on to the next available option. The Bulls are finalizing a deal with the Thunder that will net them Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot and cash considerations, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. To facilitate the trade, the Bulls will waive Carmelo Anthony, who has been floating in limbo for essentially the entire season, since being shut down by the Rockets in early November. The Lakers are, as ever, a potential landing spot. It’s been an eventful Friday, folks. Kristaps can’t get traded every day, you know?
Yes, Mike Conley Is Still Available. Thanks for Asking.
February 1, 9:35 a.m. PT
Uggetti: Remember Mike Conley? The Mike Conley who was put on the trading block nine days ago? The Mike Conley who was thought to be one of the headliners of the deadline before Anthony Davis requested a trade and Kristaps Porzingis suddenly became a Maverick? Yeah, that Mike Conley is—guess what—still available. And the Jazz are reportedly very interested. Utah has had exploratory discussions with Memphis about a Conley trade that would be centered on Ricky Rubio’s expiring $15 million deal and other pieces, according to The New York Times’ Marc Stein.
When Victor Oladipo was healthy, Conley to the Pacers felt like a best-case scenario. But Conley would fit right in with the Jazz, too. He would be the perfect savvy veteran guard to pair alongside the talented but often-erratic Donovan Mitchell. Conley would be an upgrade over Rubio, especially as an outside threat. It would be fascinating to see what Jazz coach Quin Snyder could draw up with Conley in the lineup in order to help take some of the load off of Mitchell and Rudy Gobert inside.
This deal makes basketball sense for Utah, but financially, taking on Conley’s remaining $67 million is no small sidenote. And according to Stein, the Grizzlies want “prime draft compensation” for Conley and Marc Gasol, who is also available. Memphis’s ask may be steep for the Jazz (would they ask for Dante Exum too?) but it does feel like the time for Utah to make a move. The Jazz aren’t exactly juggernauts in free agency; this is their opportunity to raise their ceiling.
TRADE: The Knicks Are the League’s New Paragon of Efficiency
January 31, 1:16 p.m. PT
Uggetti: Thursday morning, Kristaps Porzingis was a Knick. After a handful of weekday hours and a slew of quickly escalating reports, New York has reportedly traded Porzingis, Tim Hardaway, Courtney Lee, and Trey Burke in exchange for Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, Wes Matthews, and a pick. Porzingis is now a Maverick, and, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, has informed Dallas that he will sign the qualifying offer this summer during his restricted free agency. What the hell just happened?
This all stemmed from a Thursday-morning meeting with Knicks management where Porzingis reportedly expressed his “concern with the losing, franchise direction and an uncertainty that a culture is developing that will enable sustainable organizational success.” Let’s put the word salad aside and get to the meat: Porzingis more or less requested a trade. And the Knicks complied in record time. Less than an hour after Woj reported that the Raptors, Nets, Heat, Clippers, and Spurs would be pursuing a deal for Porzingis, the Mavericks swooped in and pulled off the NBA trade equivalent of Gone in 60 Seconds.
Dallas didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger, and by capitalizing on this moment, the franchise has set itself up for a future of Luka Doncic and Porzingis. Give the Mavs the Hipster Team Championship Belt now. New York’s clearing the decks and going all in on this summer’s free agency, when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will likely be available. Cutting bait on Porzingis for a depressed asset like Smith and a couple of expiring contracts is a move you make only if you know you’re getting one of those free agents. Then again, when has having cap space in free agency ever gone wrong for the Knicks?
The Pelicans Finally Picked Up Magic’s Call
January 31, 12:46 p.m. PT
Verrier: The Lakers did it. They had a phone conversation.
With reports circulating that Lakers GM Rob Pelinka’s attempts to reach Dell Demps, his counterpart in New Orleans, had gone unanswered, we saw our first breakthrough in the Read-Receipt Cold War around lunchtime PT: Demps and Magic Johnson, the Lakers’ president of basketball ops, like, talked, according to ESPN and the Los Angeles Times. Not only did they talk, but it was about Anthony Davis! Bigger still: They plan to talk again!
The content of the discussion, however, appears limited. Per the Times’ Brad Turner, Johnson laid out five different trade “scenarios” for Demps. Which, cool—you’d rather have five options on a menu than one. Though, in a follow-up tweet, Turner reported that one of those scenarios involves the Lakers trading Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Ivica Zubac, and a first-round draft pick. That’s basically the Lakers’ entire war chest of assets, minus scrappy shooting guard Josh Hart. Which is … a bit puzzling; if one option is almost everything good the Lakers have to offer, what could the other four possibly entail? And if any of them have more (or less, for that matter) than that one offer that we know about, why make them in the first place?
Nevertheless, it’s nice to see the Lakers, reportedly, aren’t fussing around with low-ball options. But now that Demps has heard them out, the question is how motivated he’ll be to take them seriously. As time goes on since Davis’s agent delivered his trade request, the Pelicans organization has soured. They (rather unartfully) removed Davis from their pregame intro video and their Twitter banner. They (rather unartfully) ribbed their franchise player in a tweet going into Wednesday’s game. Davis still hasn’t talked to reporters, and head coach Alvin Gentry is doing way too much. The prudent approach for the Pels would be to hold off until this summer to make a Davis trade—when they’ll know which teams are drafting where, and the Celtics can finally get involved in the bidding. But as an ESPN report published Thursday morning alluded to, the Pelicans’ top executives all hail from the Saints’ side of Gayle Benson’s organization, and NFL execs are hardasses about everything—especially giving in to player demands. I wonder how much Benson and Co. will dig their heels in to keep AD from his preferred destination of Los Angeles at all costs, or whether they’ll eventually get fed up with being strong-armed and rid themselves of the drama, even if it means AD getting what he wants.
Lonzo Ball Wants to Be a Bull or a Knick
January 30, 12:50 p.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: New Orleans doesn’t need to rush an Anthony Davis trade, and according to ESPN, general manager Dell Demps is not “picking up his phone” to discuss the matter at this time. But if the front office does decide to pursue a deal before February 7, it’s been established that they’re interested in Lonzo Ball. It’s also been established that Ball doesn’t share that interest. On Tuesday, the L.A. Times reported two specific landing spots on Ball’s wish list: the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks.
Both destinations align with Ball’s desire to remain a primary point guard. Neither has a convincing starter—Chicago’s been developing Kris Dunn for two years now, and New York plays a rotation of meh, maybe guards at the 1, including Emmanuel Mudiay, Frank Ntilikina, and Trey Burke. (For what it’s worth, the Pelicans would also gladly accommodate Ball’s desire to run an offense, as Jrue Holiday has shown he’s capable of playing off the ball, and even prefers it.)
Neither the Knicks nor the Bulls has a clear future, though, which makes Lonzo’s request a bit questionable. New York’s been linked to Kyrie Irving for some time now, and Chicago hasn’t had a sense of direction since the Jimmy Butler trade.
If Anthony Davis Ends Up in L.A., Klay Thompson Could Follow Him
January 29, 8:33 a.m. PT
Devine: Sure, the prospect of draping Anthony Davis in purple and gold might be enough for some fans, but what’s the sense in dreaming if you can’t dream enormous? On Monday night, in the wake of AD’s league-shaking trade request came another spicy nugget: The Lakers could be looking at a future in which they trot out a lineup featuring Davis, LeBron James … and Klay Thompson.
During an appearance on SportsCenter With Scott Van Pelt, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said that if the Lakers are able to land Davis before the start of free agency in July, their subsequent best-case scenario would include the Warriors not offering Thompson a maximum-salaried contract when he hits the unrestricted market this summer.
“If that happens, I’m told, Klay’s attention will be on the Lakers, if they have Anthony Davis,” Wojnarowski said.
Why would Golden State stop short of giving Thompson a full-boat max? Because Stephen Curry already got one, and Kevin Durant’s also in the market for a new deal in July, and Draymond Green can hit free agency in 2020.
Durant, Thompson, and Green have all taken below-max deals to help build the Warriors’ juggernaut in the past. They might not be so inclined this time around, as they near or pass age 30, with all those hard-driven, small-ball-heavy postseason miles mounting on their bodies. Paying out four max salaries and filling out a roster around them—which would have Golden State looking at a record-setting total salary-plus-luxury-tax outlay of around $300 million—seems impossible to fathom, even for ownership intent on entrenching a dynasty. Maybe the Warriors can pay everybody, especially as they prepare to move into a new arena that will reportedly double as a mint. But maybe they’ll blink and force Thompson to consider his options.
Doing so would represent a break from the course of action Thompson has often said he plans to take when his contract is up. He said in October 2017 he’d be open to taking a hometown discount to stick around (though he didn’t wind up inking a reportedly discussed team-friendly contract extension last summer). Asked about free agency at All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles last February, he said, “Anything I can do to stay with the Warriors is first and foremost.”
His father, former NBA player, radio commentator, and elite Twitter account haver Mychal Thompson, said in August 2018 that his son is “going to retire in the Warriors’ uniform” and will “be a Warrior for the next seven or eight years.” The same day that quote hit the wire, Klay himself echoed the sentiment: “I’ve said it many times before: I would like to be a Warrior for life.”
That said: You can go from “for life” to “for sale” awfully quickly in the NBA. (Just ask Blake Griffin.) And while Marcus Thompson III of The Athletic wrote in May that “the choice between $150 million in a place he doesn’t know or $110 million in a place he knows he loves [...] isn’t that hard for Thompson, those close to him say,” L.A. isn’t a place he doesn’t know; it’s his hometown.
Maybe this possibility—pegged, crucially, to the Lakers getting Davis before the start of free agency—dribbled out now as another enticement for the L.A. front office not to dawdle in putting its best offer in front of the Pelicans before the February 7 trade deadline. Maybe it’s got a bank-shot benefit for Thompson, too, reminding Warriors brass not to take him for granted
But Monday’s trade request kicked open a lot of doors around the NBA. The possibility of there being both a viable alternate option for Thompson and a new path to a natural Big Three in L.A.—“if Golden State doesn’t offer him the max,” Wojnarowski cautioned. “We’re not there yet, but we’ll see how it plays out”—might be the most intriguing one yet.
Lonzo Ball Wants Out of New Orleans, Too (If He Ever Gets There)
January 28, 7 p.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: Trade demands are fair game in 2019 for superstars like Anthony Davis. For someone with a little less clout—like, say, second-year guard Lonzo Ball—ultimatums aren’t all that useful. But that’s never stopped Ball’s camp before. According to The Athletic, if the Pelicans pursue trade talks with Los Angeles, Ball’s camp “prefers Ball to be moved to a third team that doesn’t have an established point guard”—a.k.a. not the Pelicans.
Were Ball dealt to New Orleans, he’d be playing next to Jrue Holiday. (Surely he’s not talking about Elfrid Payton; apologies, Elfrid Payton.) One look at a scouting report shows that Holiday has shared the floor with traditional point guards in the past two seasons. In 2017-18, that was Rajon Rondo … Ball’s teammate for much of this season.
If anything, the report indicates how little Ball wants to go New Orleans. L.A.’s front office might not care—Ball should remember how things ended up for the Lakers’ last young point guard, D’Angelo Russell—but the Pelicans’ should. Ball has another year on his rookie contract (plus a team option), so he’s under team control no matter what he desires. But if he’s unhappy before he even arrives, like Eric Gordon before him, he could wind up being another wasted investment.
Maybe Kyrie Irving Staying in Boston Isn’t Such a Sure Thing After All
January 28, 2:13 p.m. PT
Uggetti: It has been just over three months since Kyrie Irving stood up at a Celtics season-ticket-holder event in Boston and said that he planned on “re-signing here next year.” Since then, the Celtics have had an up-and-down, 30-19 season wherein Kyrie has been fantastic on the court and made a strange attempt to be a vocal leader off it. It has not exactly been smooth sailing. And now, on the day that Anthony Davis made his trade request official, there’s this: The Celtics are not considered a “top target” for Davis because there’s growing uncertainty that Irving will re-sign in Boston this offseason, according to a report from Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes. Let the chaos begin.
This is the first report that has cast doubt on Irving staying in Boston past this season, and the timing of it feels pretty important. Davis and Irving are close friends, and the thinking was that Davis would only be interested in Boston if it meant playing alongside Irving. If Irving may not stick around and playing in Boston indeed isn’t a long-term preference for Davis, that would poke holes in the presumption that the Pelicans should wait until the summer to trade Davis so the Celtics can get involved in the bidding. (Boston can’t trade for Davis until it gives Irving a new deal, because of the contracts the both Davis and Irving signed.) If the reported details of Irving’s status are true, it would certainly benefit the Lakers and the Knicks, both of whom are free to make a deal for Davis now. The Knicks, of course, do not have as many assets to work with as the Lakers do because they won’t know which top pick they hold until the draft lottery in May. But if the Knicks trade for Davis, maybe Irving joins him this summer. Timing is everything!
Anthony Davis Officially Wants Out
January 28, 6:44 a.m. PT
Uggetti: The Anthony Davis sweepstakes just went from the highway to the racetrack. In the latest exertion of player power before free agency, Davis and his agent, Rich Paul, have informed the New Orleans Pelicans that Davis does not intend to sign an extension with the franchise and wants to be traded, according to a report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. All season, the Pelicans have fended off rumors and reports and dinners with LeBron James with an adamant message: We are not trading Davis. The staring contest begins now.
Davis will be eligible for a five-year, $240 million contract extension this summer, and it was long thought that his acceptance or refusal to sign the extension would be the indicator of his future plans. That reality has arrived months ahead of time, just over a week before the league’s trade deadline, with the Pelicans six games under .500 and six games out of a playoff spot, while Davis is sidelined with a finger injury. The ship is sinking, so Davis is deploying his lifeboat.
“Anthony wants to be traded to a team that allows him the chance to win consistently and compete for a championship,” Paul, LeBron’s longtime friend and agent, told ESPN. Notably, Davis signed with Klutch Sports in September. “Anthony wanted to be honest and clear with his intentions and that’s the reason for informing them of this decision now. That’s in the best interests of both Anthony’s and the organization’s future.”
Is it? The Pelicans can’t currently get every team’s best offer for Davis. Boston, for example—full of future draft picks and other assets (hello, Jayson Tatum)—can’t trade for Davis because of the rule that prevents a team from trading for two players who’ve signed designated player rookie extensions. (Boston already used up its supply by trading for Kyrie Irving.)
Some things to keep in mind: One of the most valuable assets—the no. 1 pick in this year’s draft—does not yet have an owner who can package it in a deal for Davis. And New Orleans has no incentive to change its long-standing refusal to entertain trading Davis. Even if this move clearly spells out a preferred destination—the Lakers—the ball is in the Pelicans’ court now.
This is just the beginning of the Davis sweepstakes, but his availability gives trade season a big-name star player to talk about. Whether any move comes to fruition, or whether this all ends up merely being bloviated basketball Twitter fodder, remains to be seen.
The Lost Samurai, Starring Ricky Rubio
January 25, 3:07 p.m. PT
Chau: Ricky Rubio has spent the past eight years far from home, and at least five of them wondering where he could end up next. The back half of his moderately disappointing Minnesota days were littered with incessant trade rumors from all angles; now, after a season and a half in Utah—with the Jazz once again trying to make a strong second-half push after a rough start—Rubio finds himself back in a familiar spot: the trading block. And now he’s back to paying the same kind of semiautomatic lip service to the media that he did as a member of the Timberwolves.
“I was in Minnesota traded like 20 times,” Rubio told reporters on Friday. “Until it doesn’t happen, you have to really don’t pay attention to that. A lot of them are just rumors and just 5 percent are true, so if it happens it happens, but I’m committed 100 percent to this team, to the community, and nothing’s going to change.”
This is all a far cry from what felt like the reinvented Rubio who debuted last season. Clad in a full beard and topknot, Rubio assumed new alter egos and new ways of helping his team win. He served as an early-season runway that allowed rookie Donovan Mitchell to launch into the stratosphere. He was a folk hero for the way he defended Russell Westbrook in their profile-building first-round victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. His hamstring injury in Game 6 of that series was, as most Jazz fans would attest, a turning point in their second-round series against the Rockets before Game 1 even started.
But with expectations higher than they’ve been for more than a decade, Rubio’s modest improvement from a historically bad shooter to merely one of the worst shooters in recent memory hasn’t been enough to raise either their floor or their ceiling this season. The Jazz need more if they want to reach the heights that their 2017-18 potential once dictated. That involves bigger names. Mike Conley Jr. and Otto Porter Jr. are a few that have been floating around. Both transactions would be made far more easily with Rubio’s nearly $15 million expiring contract included. What a difference a year makes.
Kevin Love Probably Won’t Be Needing Movers Anytime Soon
January 24, 12:45 p.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: Rule Kevin Love out of being any team’s final piece. The 30-year-old who signed a four-year, $120 million extension this summer became trade-eligible on Thursday, but Cleveland.com reports that the Cavaliers have no intention of trading their centerpiece. Besides, Love has been out since October 24 following foot surgery and it’s unclear whether he’ll even be back on the court before the trade deadline.
Re-signing Love was a heavy commitment for a rebuilding team. He’s in the later years of his prime while the rest of the Cavs are a mix of former quality role players (like Tristan Thompson) and a tangled mess of young … talent? But Love’s injury has made the vision more clear, if only by accident: Without him, Cleveland might end up winning the lottery once again. Drafting an NBA-ready star to team with Love would be a better plan than anything else the organization has going on.
The Hornets and Wizards Are Standing Firm With Their Stars
January 23, 12:11 p.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: Washington’s front office doesn’t typically stray from its game plan. Through thick and thin and screaming matches at practice, it stuck to its core of John Wall and Bradley Beal, and it doesn’t seem like they’ll consider doing anything differently now. The Wizards have “made [it] adamantly clear” that Beal is not going anywhere, league sources told The Athletic. (Wall won’t, either, but for different reasons.) Wall’s season-ending injury made room for Beal to embrace the team as his own, and he’s thrived; he’s averaged 28.5 points, six assists, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.3 steals since Wall was sidelined December 28. It’s a different story for Otto Porter Jr., currently the Wizards’ top earner. Despite Beal’s surge, Washington is still just 20-26 and two games back of eighth place in the Eastern Conference. If things get worse in the next two weeks, the Wizards may get more aggressive in shopping Porter, The Athletic reported.
Charlotte is another team sticking with its best player, Kemba Walker. Owner Michael Jordan told The Charlotte Observer in January 2018 that “It’s not like we are shopping him. We would not just give him up. I love Kemba Walker. I would not trade him for anything but an All-Star player.” Jordan’s interview seemed like it was directed at Walker, as a way to assure him that he was safe; but it led to only more questions about Walker’s future with the team. Wednesday’s report from The Athletic states that Jordan told teams Walker was “off the table.” Either way, Walker isn’t going anywhere. The Athletic reported that the Hornets were approached in recent weeks by the Mavericks, who at the time were dealing with a seemingly very unhappy Dennis Smith Jr. But Charlotte informed Dallas that it was hanging onto Walker, an unrestricted free agent this summer. Even if Jordan and the Hornets were to consider a trade, the timing is off right now. Charlotte is currently in the eighth spot in the East, and the city is hosting All-Star Weekend next month.
The Grizzlies Are Open for Business
January 22, 4:46 p.m. PT
Uggetti: The latest evolution of Grit and Grind looks to be coming to an end in Memphis. Just two weeks out from the deadline, the Grizzlies have decided to listen to trade offers involving Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The report comes on the heels of a rough stretch for Memphis in which it went from early-season surprise to having lost 12 of its past 13 games, including six straight. It also appears to be the next step following a meeting between Gasol, Conley, and Grizzlies owner Robert Pera where they reportedly discussed the direction of the franchise. It seems like the conclusion they reached was to sell and rebuild.
Gasol and Conley are 33 and 31, respectively. They both have injuries in their pasts—most recently, Conley’s season-ending heel surgery last season—and they both are clearly on the downside of their careers. The return Memphis could get for each won’t be as good as it could have been had it decided to make them available two years ago, but there is still value in a fringe All-Star point guard like Conley and a defense-first big with the passing skills of Gasol. Playoff teams will be interested, though likely not interested in giving up much to take on Conley’s $67 million over the next two years (the second of which is an early termination option) or Gasol, who has a $26 million player option this summer.
If Gasol and Conley get moved to new homes, the tank would once again be on for the Grizzlies. If their first-round pick lands in the top eight, they get to keep it for this year’s draft. If it falls outside that protection, it goes to the Celtics. Regardless, this development is a huge win for Boston, which gets the pick next year if it falls outside of the top six, and then gets it unprotected in 2021. By then, the Grizzlies might be smack-dab in the middle of a rebuild, making that pick an extremely valuable asset.
For Memphis, this was the only way it could go at this juncture. At least the Grizzlies can hang their hat on the fact that they may already have a franchise player in Jaren Jackson Jr. They could be his team soon.
Now, the Knicks Can’t Play Kanter, Either
January 22, 1:23 p.m. PT
Uggetti: They may not come right out and admit it, but the Knicks are executing a perfect tank. They are 10-35 and just two and a half games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for the worst record in the league. This makes them one of the few surefire sellers at the trade deadline. On Monday, Enes Kanter once again expressed his discontent with his reduced role in the Knicks rotation, and according to ESPN’s Ian Begley, multiple teams have talked to New York about trading for Kanter, including the Kings, who were reported two weeks ago as having interest in him. Kanter could be a good offensive frontcourt option for a contending team down the stretch run. For all his defensive liabilities, he’s still averaging 14.4 points and 10.8 rebounds in 26 minutes this season.
The Knicks have garnered interest in Tim Hardaway Jr., according to The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov but are reluctant to attach any assets to move him or Courtney Lee. Hardaway has been typecast as an inefficient volume shooter with a bad contract, but he’s averaging a career-high 19.6 points per game. In a different situation with fewer minutes and a more specific role, he could flourish.
The Knicks have a lot of options as the deadline nears. They have taken reclamation projects like Noah Vonleh and Emmanuel Mudiay and made them into, at the very least, players who have a place in the league. New York could sell high on either. The franchise could also sell relatively low on Frank Ntilikina, who has been in and out of the rotation. With an eye on this offseason and Kevin Durant in particular, every move matters in making New York a desirable free-agent destination.
Bulls-ish: Chicago May Hold Onto Carmelo Anthony As Trade Bait After Deal With Houston
January 21, 3:42 p.m. PT
Uggetti: After parting ways with the Houston Rockets in mid-November, Carmelo Anthony has remained on the roster despite not being with the team. On Monday, his Rockets tenure officially came to an end. Houston traded Anthony to the Chicago Bulls in order to clear a roster spot and get off what’s left of his veteran’s minimum salary (and the ensuing luxury tax), according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. In return, the Bulls will get cash—likely enough to cover Melo’s salary and some extra for their troubles.
Unfortunately, we’re not getting Anthony in a Bulls uniform (remember this?), and we’ll never know what his response would be to the first time Jim Boylen told him to run wind sprints. The Bulls intend to waive Anthony, per Woj, but they will likely hold onto him through the trade deadline to see whether they can get something in return for him. Let the bidding begin, I guess?
It’s unclear how strong the market is for an aging volume midrange shooter who plays poor defense and expects to play significant minutes. The league has passed Melo by, but he also hasn’t helped himself, refusing to take on a lesser role more befitting of his current talents. It’s not a good sign when a team prefers to add Kenneth Faried and save about $2.6 million in luxury tax (shoutout Tilman Fertitta) instead of finding ways to use you.
Still, this doesn’t mean no one will take a chance on Anthony. He’s still a former All-Star, and the allure of his scoring history has not vanished just yet. The Athletic reported on Friday that there are multiple teams that could be interested in Melo’s services, but is he interested in theirs? At this point, his only choices may be to accept a lesser role on the Lakers, who reportedly have interest if a roster spot opens up, or a team that needs bodies like the Sixers. Melo has stayed Melo throughout his struggles the past two seasons. As a result, it’s no longer a question of which team can he help, but rather, which team can afford to try and help him stay in the league.
We Suffered Through a Week of DSJ Drama and All We Got Was This Blog Post
January 21, 1:32 p.m. PT
Devine: The latest development in the ongoing squabble between the Dallas Mavericks and Dennis Smith Jr. is kind of a good news/bad news situation. On the sunny side: Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle and the second-year point guard jointly announced Sunday that Smith Jr. would rejoin the team for Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers. The encroaching cloud cover: The end of Smith’s walkabout doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the drama that prompted it.
Officially, Smith was away from the Mavericks because of back soreness and illness. Unofficially, the 21-year-old had sore feelings after reportedly being made “available by trade for months now,” and had grown sick of his ongoing role reduction. The Mavs have clearly cast their lot with 2018 lottery pick Luka Doncic as their primary ball handler and playmaker of the future, putting Smith, a 2017 lottery pick, on a path toward being a complementary piece rather than a featured star. That reportedly hasn’t sat well with the NC State product; hence the six-game siesta. (For what it’s worth, Smith reportedly hasn’t formally requested a trade.)
You need power to make a power move, though. After 97 career games of unremarkable play interspersed with wonderfully vulgar displays of athleticism, Smith doesn’t have the same power as, say, Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler did. A Mavericks team light on young talent needs to maximize Smith’s value, whether on the court or as a trade asset; they won’t just give Smith away, because he’s their best chance of adding more pieces around Doncic. The problem: Nobody’s going to give up the farm for a guy who has yet to set the league on fire, whose all-around game bears question marks, and who has just disappeared for a while because of “business stuff.”
Carlisle reportedly apologized to Smith, but this feels like both sides recognizing that they probably can’t trade him while he’s sitting out. The only way for Smith to pump up his value is to come back and play well. Smith and the Mavericks haven’t solved all their issues; more likely, they’ve just tabled them until the offseason, when more options might be available. (J.J. Barea’s recent season-ending Achilles tendon tear should open up more second-unit point guard minutes for Smith to finish the season strong.)
Whenever this oddly messy situation winds up getting resolved, this much is certain: I definitely didn’t think there’d be this much conversation and heartburn over the second- or third-best point guard on a bad team. (Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have more Frank Ntilikina rumors to obsess over.)
Does Kenneth Faried’s Entrance in Houston Signal Melo’s Exit?
January 21, 10:37 a.m. PT
Uggetti: Things aren’t going too bad for the Houston Rockets, considering. Despite losing two of their best players to injury, they have the no. 2 offense in the NBA and are led by an MVP front-runner having a historic scoring stretch. But with their center rotation down to the 6-foot-6 P.J. Tucker and 36-year-old Nene, they need some help. On Saturday, the Nets waived Kenneth Faried after agreeing to a buyout, and Houston immediately pounced. The Rockets, who lost Clint Capela last week for four to six weeks weeks to a torn ligament in his right thumb, are expected to sign the veteran big man once he clears waivers on Monday and immediately put him in the starting lineup, per ESPN.
The 29-year-old Faried is a one-dimensional big without great size (6-foot-8), but the Rockets, at this point, can’t have their cake and eat it too. They just need someone to eat minutes and grab rebounds while James Harden tries to go for 50 every night. Faried, who was averaging less than 10 minutes a game in Brooklyn, can at least do that.
The more interesting wrinkle is who the Rockets will have to lose to add Faried. Houston recently signed James Nunnally to a 10-day contract so they can waive him and slide Faried right in without a problem. But Nunnally, as he showed against the Nets Wednesday, can at least hit a 3-pointer and adds much-needed wing depth. What about Carmelo Anthony? While Melo has pivoted to posting iconic captions on Instagram, he’s still technically on the roster. Houston has not bought him out and is either unable to find a trade for him or doesn’t want to. The Athletic reported last week that Melo has “multiple options” available and is expected to pick one ahead of the deadline.
It’s unclear what the plan for Melo is, but Faried’s job is clear enough. He is not a stretch-4 and he’s not exactly a premier rim protector, but he can still rebound (13.4 rebounds per 36 minutes), which could mean more shots for Harden. Melo or not, that may be all that matters.
Melo There: Anthony Apparently Has Options to Keep Playing
January 18, 2:20 p.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: You didn’t really think we’d go through the rest of the season without hearing from Carmelo Anthony, did you? He’s due for another comeback, or at least he thinks he is, according to The Athletic. Sam Amick reported that Melo has “multiple options available” to him, and is planning on making his decision before the trade deadline on February 7.
Anthony played only 10 games with Houston before the organization declared it a failed experiment. (This after a failed experiment of a season with the Thunder.) The Lakers are rumored to be a likely landing spot, which adds up: Melo is good friends with LeBron James. Anthony’s playing style (and self-perception) didn’t mesh well in OKC or Houston; he didn’t care for the idea of coming off the bench with the former, and didn’t add the perimeter shooting either needed from him. So while Los Angeles could present another opportunity for Anthony to extend his career, it’s possible that experiment won’t end well, either—no matter how much help the Lakers could use.
Anthony Davis Isn’t Going Anywhere—at the Trade Deadline, at Least
January 18, 2:20 p.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: Pelicans general manager Dell Demps would really, really like for everyone to shut up about Anthony Davis (until after the trade deadline, at least). ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski confirmed Thursday on ESPN’s NBA Countdown that the franchise had no intentions of dealing its franchise player. Woj said Demps told him, “Listen, we’ve won two of three games since we’ve gotten healthier.” There’s still a decent chance that the Pelicans—3.5 games back from eighth place in the Western Conference—will make the playoffs. Davis is locked in for at least one more season after this one. The Pelicans have been all in on making their roster around Davis work, and according to Demps, there aren’t any plans to change that.
We Wouldn’t Say the Dennis Smith Jr. Situation Is Going Well for Anyone
January 17, 12:43 p.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: Trade rumors have escalated to trade outrage in Dallas. Dennis Smith Jr. has reportedly decided he wants off the Mavericks after a week of whispers and four games on the sidelines because of “back soreness” and “illness.” According to ESPN’s Tim McMahon, keeping Smith out was not the organization’s attempt to keep him healthy as it shopped him. Instead, it’s Smith who has decided he’s done with the organization.
Dallas, meanwhile, is “optimistic” that it can mend the relationship with Smith. McMahon reports that the Mavs would not deal him “unless they get good value in return”—which an angry player asking for a trade would not bring. There’s no harm in holding onto DSJ, who is only in Year 2 of his rookie contract, in the hopes that a better offer will come around in the offseason, once everything calms down.
What’s Behind the Dennis Smith Jr. Rumors?
January 16, 11:28 a.m. PT
Chris Ryan: This trade deadline, so far, has been an affront to rumormongers everywhere. We should be scrutinizing Anthony Davis’s South Bay real estate purchases [Ed. note: The house is actually in Westlake Village. Stay woke.], but instead we’re forced to have an opinion on the benefits of James Nunnally over Danuel House Jr. The closest thing we have to hot gossip is the possible exit of Smith from Dallas, and Wednesday, we’re getting a bit of clarity, albeit speculative, on the state of things in North Texas. According to this 247 Sports report, DSJ is just the latest in a long line of Mavericks guards—most notably Rajon Rondo and Jason Kidd—who are not quite coach Rick Carlisle’s tempo.
As you are no doubt aware, Smith Jr. was part of a Woj bomb on Monday evening, suggesting that the second-year guard could be on his way out of Dallas, with Phoenix and Orlando named as possible trade partners. Following this report, Smith missed practice Tuesday, with his agent informing Carlisle that his client had a stomach bug. Carlisle’s responded by describing an NBA team as a pot of boiling water. Good times.
The 247 report states that Carlisle and Smith Jr. are not particularly enamored with one another, claiming that the longtime Dallas coach has been particularly hard on the North Carolina State product, especially in comparison with the way he works with the rookie pair of Jalen Brunson and Luka Doncic.
The latter player’s agent makes an interesting appearance in the same 247 report: “[S]urely Luka’s agent Bill Duffy will get involved, hoping to help guide a client like Aaron Gordon from Orlando to Dallas. Orlando center Nikola Vucevic is also a Duffy client.”
It will be interesting to revisit this report if and when DSJ moves, who he moves for, and who that player/those players are repped by. Stay woke.
Jeremy Lin Might Be Returning to Northern California
January 15, 12:16 p.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: No one set up a booth in the trade-deadline flea market faster than Atlanta. Among the Hawks available are Jeremy Lin, Dewayne Dedmon, and Kent Bazemore, and among the teams interested in acquiring Lin is Sacramento, Marc Stein reported Tuesday. It’s no surprise to hear the Kings thrown in trade rumors; the franchise could make the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, and is the only team in the league with cap space remaining ($11 million).
Now is a good time to do business with the Hawks. They’re more likely than most to take on the expiring contracts the Kings should be interested in dumping (Zach Randolph, for example). It’s Sacramento’s interest in Lin, specifically, that is a bit confusing. Four of the five Kings averaging the most minutes are guards—De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Iman Shumpert (who, if Jusuf Nurkic can be trusted as a reliable source, will be retiring soon). Outside of Fox, that’s a group of shooting guards on the smaller end of the size spectrum. While Lin is a quality veteran playmaker who’d add a steady presence and playmaking to Sacramento’s bench, there are more pressing issues to be addressed—rebounding, rim protection, backup on the wing—than adding another guard to the mix.
Is This the End of the Marc Gasol Era in Memphis?
January 15, 10:55 a.m. PT
Uggetti: It’s getting bleak fast for the Memphis Grizzlies. There are “whispers,” according to Marc Stein of The New York Times, that Gasol intends to opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent this summer, and that the Grizzlies might be more inclined to trade him and get something in return at the deadline instead of losing him for nothing. It may finally be time to blow it up in Memphis.
The regression to the mean has hit the Grizzlies hard. Grit ’N’ Grind looked like it was back after a surprising 12-5 start to the season. Since then, Memphis has gone 7-19 and dropped from the top half of the West to just above the Phoenix Suns at the bottom of the conference. And its offense? Second-worst in the league over that stretch. The Grizzlies are now four games back of eighth place in the West and fading fast.
Things are not getting easier. The team faces a gantlet—nine of their next 10 games are against franchises in the playoff picture, including each conference’s top seed. It’s a stretch almost perfectly designed to turn the Grizzlies from buyers to sellers, if they aren’t there already. But if that’s the case, they might not stop at Gasol. If they are going to rebuild around Jaren Jackson Jr. (and they should), it would make sense to see what Mike Conley, who is guaranteed about $54 million over the next two seasons, can get on the market.
Gasol is 33; Conley is 31. Both have looked like All-Stars at times this season, but those peaks did not last. It seems like the Grizzlies missed their window to get top value for either. They may have to settle for less for the sake of setting the franchise on a new course. The downside is it would signal a return to dark days of the pre–Grit ’N’ Grind era, when the team was stuck at the bottom of the standings; but on the bright side, it would keep their top-eight-protected pick out of the hands of the Celtics for another season.
Dennis Smith Jr. Might Not Be Long for Dallas
January 14, 7:52 p.m. PT
Chau: A big(ish) name has emerged on the seller’s market! The Mavericks are actively pushing to trade their 2017 first-round selection, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday night. Naturally, Dallas has been in advanced talks with both Phoenix and Orlando, the two most point guard-starved teams in the league. Given the timing, and the reports from ESPN’s Tim McMahon about the franchise’s internal dilemma regarding Smith’s long-term fit, Dallas will likely be trading the young point guard for pennies on the dollar. For what it’s worth, trusted Phoenix radio host John Gambadoro has disputed the report, at least in terms of the Suns’ interest.
The eventual trade will likely be as much a play for the future as it is for the now. Ideally, the Mavericks are looking for more 3-and-D players not tied down to weighty contracts (as well as a home for Wesley Matthews, according to Woj and McMahon). It’s all about maximizing what they have in their new star.
Rookie phenom Luka Doncic has exceeded just about every possible expectation as a lead playmaker, and there were warning signs that the Mavericks’ past two lottery investments would be a tenuous on-court partnership at best. In the 15 games Smith has missed this season due to injury, Doncic has taken over as the point guard in a starting lineup that spaces the floor with three perimeter threats and one massive rim-runner—no one in the five-man unit is shorter than 6-foot-5 or weighs less than 220 pounds. Doncic has shone the brightest in those games; these days, taking the ball out of his hands verges on malpractice. Something had to give sooner or later. The Mavericks seem to be nipping this issue in the bud.
The Bulls Are Holding Robin Lopez Hostage
January 14, 11:47 a.m. PT
Verrier: Lopez wants out of Chicago, and who can blame him? The Bulls are ass, Jim Boylen is cribbing coaching strategies from The Junction Boys, and the veteran center has been relegated to 16 minutes a game in a crowded frontcourt. The Golden State Warriors are interested in Lopez, according to The New York Times, just not at his current salary ($14.4 million). But the Bulls aren’t willing to let him out of his contract for nothing in return, either. Lopez’s agent has been in discussions with the Bulls about an exit since December, according to Yahoo Sports, but the team is “adamant” about not acquiescing to a buyout.
We can’t fault the Bulls for playing hardball, either—no team wants to help a historically good team get even better, and the Bulls are already flush with cash (and maybe shame) from the last time they gifted the Warriors a center. More importantly, it’s just not smart business to jettison an expiring contract weeks before the deadline without getting something for it. The franchise probably wants to do right by their oldest player, and most likely will, eventually (Lopez has until March 1 to remain playoff-eligible with a new team). But he may have to wait a few weeks. Maybe he can use his remaining time in office on the Bulls’ leadership committee to execute his agenda.
The Short List of Teams That Have to Do Something, Anything
January 14, 3:30 a.m. PT
Verrier: Are you happy with your parity? Great. I’m glad. Because as fun as this prolonged leapfrog down the Western Conference schedule has been, it may have cost us what we actually tune into the NBA for: the rumor-mongering. We’re less than four weeks out from the trade deadline and it’s nothing but scuttlebutt tumbleweeds. HoopsHype is bone-dry. Twitter is nothing but SLOB GIFs. And your favorite news-breaker is still trying to figure out whether the Warriors lost their 15th-best player through legal means.
The longer the West playoff chase remains 14 teams deep, the fewer clear-cut sellers we’ll have before the February 7 buzzer and the harder the tried-and-true equation for an agreement (your future assets for my veteran player) becomes. But some teams don’t have the luxury of sitting out, no matter how difficult the environment for making a deal may be. Here are six that must do something over the next few weeks to save their season (or their GM’s job).
Boston Celtics: If Kyrie Irving is going to IRL subtweet his teammates like LeBron, he has to do a better job of covering his tracks. After freaking out on his coach and his teammates for not giving him the last shot in Saturday’s loss to the Orlando Magic, Irving blamed “experience.” The players on the court with Irving for the final possession? Al Horford (12th year), Gordon Hayward (ninth), Marcus Morris (eighth) … and Jayson Tatum (second). Quite the mystery. There’s something off about this Celtics team, and I’m not sure that Irving has the proper essential oil diffuser to fix it. We’re not at the point where we need to start talking about breaking up the core—although, a quick reminder: Horford is 32 years old and able to opt out this summer, Hayward is still playing below replacement level, and one of their more reliable players just shoved a teammate in the huddle—but is there anything stopping Danny Ainge from sacrificing Terry Rozier and/or one of those many first-round picks for the greater good?
Philadelphia 76ers: Everything is fine.
New Orleans Pelicans: The cold-blooded move would be to accept the inevitable fate of the Anthony Davis saga and use the extra half-season for which Davis is under contract to the franchise’s advantage, like the Utah Jazz once did with Deron Williams. That almost certainly won’t happen—the Celtics can’t get in the mix until Irving’s deal is reworked; the Pelicans, despite a brutal schedule on the horizon, are just getting healthy; and there’s just a slight difference between Deron and Davis. It’s also not the organization’s style: The Pelicans have dealt all but one of their own first-round picks for immediate help since drafting Davis, and they traded that player (Buddy Hield, selected sixth overall in 2016) at the next deadline along with their next first. GM Dell Demps has nearly all of the club’s future picks burning a hole in his pocket; the questions are which weakness he’ll choose to address, and how many picks he’s willing to sacrifice six months (or less) out from when they’ll be forced to finally confront Davis’s long-term plans.
Sacramento Kings: Vlade Divac may be holding one of the best hands at the deadline, whether he intended for it to end up that way or not. Because the Kings can’t get anyone to take their money, they still have $11 million in cap space to burn. (Every other team, even the Phoenix Suns, is operating above the cap.) That means Sacramento can either take back a helpful player with a burdensome salary (Enes Kanter? Otto Porter Jr.?) to aid its first playoff push in 13 years, or eat salary (Tim Hardaway Jr.?) to replenish its draft coffers. Has Vlade become Bizarro Hinkie?! I don’t know how we got here, and I’m afraid for us all.
Detroit Pistons: Imagine going into debt to put a new engine into the Honda Civic you’ve had since high school. That’s basically what the Pistons did last year, when they improbably mortgaged the future for Blake Griffin. It didn’t work. Detroit is just a half-game outside of the playoff cut, with a point differential (minus-2.8, ninth-best in the East) that only reaffirms their predicament. It has $96.5 million committed next season to Griffin, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Jon Leuer, and Langston Galloway. On the bright side, it also has all of its future firsts. Trade for literally anyone.
Washington Wizards: I don’t know whether the Wizards are good or bad anymore, and I’m pretty sure their future is fraught regardless, but the special kind of cap hell that they find themselves in is a result of one of the laziest blueprints in recent memory—maxing out top draft picks until you can’t afford to—provides a certain kind of clarity. For the length of John Wall’s supermax extension, the franchise becomes one long episode of The Leftovers: What does Ernie Grunfeld do if there’s nothing left to hope for? Whatever he decides, it will likely involve forking over a first-round pick.