Rumormonger is back! The Ringer’s 2020 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 on February 6—and after. Check back for the latest from around the league.
Andre Drummond Headed to the Cavaliers for … Not Much
February 6, 11:30 a.m. PT
Matt Dollinger: First a Woj bomb, now a KOC bomb! Andre Drummond is headed to the Cavaliers, and Kevin O’Connor has the details on the trade:
Pistons will receive Brandon Knight, John Henson and a second-round pick form the Cavaliers for Andre Drummond, per sources.— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) February 6, 2020
That’s not much of a return for Drummond, but the Pistons were apparently desperate to move on from the big man. Cleveland may not be done dealing before the buzzer. Stay tuned.
The Wolves Finally Get Their Man in Russell-Wiggins Blockbuster
February 6, 11:22 a.m. PT
Dollinger: We have our first Woj bomb of the trade deadline! Earlier this week, our own Kevin O’Connor reported that if the Timberwolves were going to pry D’Angelo Russell away from the Warriors, it would cost them Andrew Wiggins. It turned out, he was right.
The Wolves are sending Wiggins, a 2021 protected first-round pick, and a 2022 second-round pick to the Warriors for Russell, Jacob Evans, and Omari Spellman. With the trade, Minnesota finally gets Russell, who they’ve been targeting for more than a year. Not only is he a massive upgrade in the team’s backcourt, but he’s also a close friend of Karl-Anthony Towns, who has grown increasingly frustrated with the franchise in recent weeks. As Woj also reported, the 2021 first-round pick is top-three protected, but will become unprotected in 2022, giving the Dubs a valuable asset to continue their post-KD existence.
Wolves general manager Gersson Rosas began the team’s overhaul on Tuesday when he shipped Robert Covington to the Rockets in a four-team, 12-player trade, but this move truly signifies a seismic shift. After trying to build around the Towns-Wiggins core for years (and unsuccessfully adding Jimmy Butler to the mix), the Wolves will now reboot around an All-Star duo that gives them a sturdy foundation.
Golden State, meanwhile, gets its successor to Kevin Durant and locks in a forward with All-Star potential to play alongside Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green next season.
The readjusted Warriors core with multiple years of team control remaining after this season— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 6, 2020
PG: Steph Curry - 2 yrs, $88.8 mil
SG: Klay Thompson - 4 yrs, $157 mil
SF: Andrew Wiggins - 3 yrs, $94.7 mil
PF: Draymond Green - 4 yrs, $99.7 mil
C: Kevon Looney - 2 yrs, $9.9 mil
Check back with The Ringer for additional coverage of the Russell-Wiggins trade and more.
The Knicks Could Be Moving on From Marcus Morris
February 6, 11:44 a.m. PT
Haley O’Shaughnessy: The only certain thing in basketball was the Knicks’ overvaluation of Marcus Morris and their refusal to deal him for anything less than 34 first-round picks. That could be changing: New York is in “significant talks” with the Clippers to trade Morris, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania. According to the report, the Knicks would receive Moe Harkless, Mfiondu Kabengele, Terance Mann, and the Clippers’ 2020 first-round pick. The Lakers, meanwhile, have taken Kyle Kuzma off the board, per Charania. If the Knicks are suddenly determined to move Morris, that deal with the Clippers should be appealing. Harkless is 26 and on an expiring contract, and New York would finally get the first-rounder it’s been lusting after.
The Knicks Are Reportedly Hiring a New President … Hours Before the Trade Deadline
February 6, 9:08 a.m. PT
Paolo Uggetti: Well, the Masai Ujiri pipe dream was fun while it lasted. After firing Steve Mills as president of basketball operations on Tuesday, the rumor mill immediately churned out a report that—surprise, surprise—the Knicks wanted the current Raptors president of basketball operations to run the team. Maybe Ujiri immediately squashed any interest, maybe the Knicks realized they had no shot. Whatever the case, the Knicks have a new head of state now, and it’s not him.
On Thursday, the Knicks reportedly agreed to a deal with CAA agent Leon Rose to have him become the franchise’s top basketball executive. There have been reports that Rose will be joined in the front office by William Wesley, also known as Worldwide Wes—who I would describe generously as a shadow basketball power broker.
(I just want to take a moment to acknowledge that one of the most popular and visible franchises in sports not only fired their top decision-maker two days before the deadline, but also hired someone I’m sure they’ll immediately frame as their savior. Never underestimate the Knicks being the Knicks.)
OK, back to Rose. Hiring an agent to run your front office isn’t novel in the NBA anymore, even if it’s still somewhat rare. Both the Warriors and the Lakers have hired former agents—Bob Myers and Rob Pelinka, respectively—to helm their teams and have reaped the benefits of such machinations. On the surface this tracks as a deal to keep up with the times: a player agent for a player-driven league.
Rose has been a staple of the league’s power structure for some time, and his clients include Chris Paul, Joel Embiid, Carmelo Anthony, Devin Booker, Kyle Kuzma, Karl-Anthony Towns, and more. In the past, Rose also represented LeBron James. With the Knicks, it always seems to come back to LeBron.
Speaking of the Lakers star, his current agent, Rich Paul, took the opportunity on Thursday to sign two Knicks—Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier—to Klutch Sports. Another byproduct of the league’s agent-to-GM pipeline is the underbelly of agency relationships with teams. In 2014, an anonymous player could come out and speculate that the Knicks were playing favorites with players represented by CAA. Now, a CAA agent can actually run the Knicks. It’s now fair to wonder how Rose will deal with someone like Rich Paul, a former competitor, and also whether Rose will try to trade specifically for former clients. As Kevin O’Connor pointed out on Twitter, former Rose clients Booker, Towns, and Russell have all previously expressed interest in playing together.
One could say that it is smart for the Knicks to head in this direction after years of failures and seven seasons without a playoff appearance. And yet it is impossible to trust an organization that has been nothing more than a raging dumpster fire the last few years under James Dolan’s ownership. It’s like the opposite of the Midas touch—the Dolan touch turns everything to ash. So even though Rose’s chops as a front office executive are nonexistent, and even though this is a surprisingly forward-thinking move by a notoriously stagnant franchise, the hire itself is currently indiscernible as either good or bad. The real question is whether Dolan will step into the future in lockstep with his new hires or devolve into dysfunctional chaos once again.
The Marcus Morris Sweepstakes Is Heating Up
February 6, 5:45 a.m. PT
Dollinger: Steve Mills didn’t get fired for nothing. Actually, we’re talking about the Knicks, so I can’t say that with complete certainty. But part of the reported rationale behind axing the longtime Knicks president was that James Dolan didn’t like his team’s inactivity at the deadline. And at risk of agreeing with the most hated man in New York … he’s… not wrong.
Morris is having a career year after signing a one-year, $15 million deal with the Knicks this summer. He’s averaging 19.6 points per game and shooting a crisp 43.9 percent from 3-point range on 6.1 attempts per night. The sturdy combo forward has relished playing the role of a leading scorer on a bad team after years of complementary contributions, but his strong two-way presence would be much more meaningful on a contending team, which appears to be where he’s headed.
The Athletic’s Sam Amick reports that both Los Angeles teams are pursuing Morris before the deadline and the Knicks forward is “widely expected” to be moved after reports just a few days ago (still during the Mills Era) that the Knicks were “hell-bent” on keeping Morris. It’s a significant about-face, but it’s a sensible one for the Knicks, who are light-years away from being a playoff team and have young players in the wings being stunted by Morris’s presence.
The asking price on a veteran forward appears to be pretty high, with the Knicks wanting the Clippers’ Landry Shamet in return on a deal. According to the Los Angeles Times, New York is interested in Kyle Kuzma from the Lakers, but would likely need Danny Green’s contract to make the deal work—a sticking point that will almost certainly impede any Lakers-Knicks deal. While Lakers fans can wrap their heads around a Kuzma-for-Morris swap, sending Green, a 3-and-D stalwart who has started a team-high 48 games this season, makes little sense. This could be the Knicks trying to drive up the price for Morris, who is their best deadline asset since gifting Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas for cap room and a chophouse gift certificate.
If another contender is unable to swoop in with a better offer, the Clippers could package Shamet and Maurice Harkless’s expiring contract in exchange for Morris, giving the Knicks a valuable young shooter in return without sacrificing anything on the cap sheet. The two teams could even expand the deal to include the Clippers’ Jerome Robinson and the Knicks’ Reggie Bullock, further adding to L.A.’s bench and New York’s stable of prospects.
It was always hard to believe that the Knicks would hold onto a coveted veteran on an expiring deal at the deadline, so this sudden change of heart does make sense. Morris would fortify either the Lakers’ or the Clippers’ playoff rotations (along with pretty much every other contender) if they can find a way to get a deal done. No pressure, Scott Perry.
The Sixers Acquire a Pair of Golden State Guards Who Actually Take (and Make) 3s
February 5, 10:45 p.m. PT
Justin Verrier: The Sixers need adults to fill out their bench, which is chock-full of recent draft picks and Hinkie Specials (i.e., players whom the general public think are good because of all the hype they receive from Philly’s cultish fan base but are in fact not good). The Warriors need draft picks to make up for the many dealt away over the years in win-now moves. The two seemed like a match from the outset of trade season. Wednesday night, they made the partnership Twitter official: Per ESPN, Golden State will send Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III to Philadelphia for three second-round picks (Dallas’s in 2020, Denver’s in 2021, and Toronto’s in 2022).
Ben Simmons may be onto something, because when the Sixers have decided to shoot 3s this season, the results have been quite bad. Philly is in the bottom third in taking and making 3s in a league wherein doing both is critical. The Sixers’ results have swung wildly, in large part because of it: One game, they’re blowing out the mighty Bucks on national TV; the next, they’re not even cracking 100 points against the lowly Magic. The Warriors cavalry should help. Much like Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova two seasons ago, Burks and Robinson provide a major upgrade in the shooting department: The former is drilling 38 percent of his 3s this season, while the latter is shooting 40 percent. Burks is more of a spark-plug scorer prone to both wild fluctuations in his performance and missing games due to injury, but is probably having his best season to date. Robinson could get more looks in critical situations, as his 3-and-D skill set slots in nicely alongside the goliaths in Philly.
The Hawks Want All of the Centers
February 5, 9:24 p.m. PT
Verrier: You can’t have just one center who puts the future of your second-best player at risk. So about a day after acquiring Clint Capela in a sprawling 12-player trade, the Hawks went out and got another. Per ESPN, Atlanta will send Jabari Parker and Alex Len to the Kings in exchange for former Hawk Dewayne Dedmon and two second-round picks.
Atlanta got reasonably good value on Capela, giving up only Evan Turner, the Nets’ 2020 first-round pick, and Golden State’s 2024 second-rounder for a quality vertical spacer who can take Trae Young’s pick-and-roll game to the next level (and maybe even clean up some of his many, many mistakes on defense). But it does raise some questions about the Hawks’ plan for John Collins, a double-double machine who can only shoot some, can only defend some, and is eligible for a contract extension this summer. Getting Dedmon would seem to only compound the issue.
But this latest trade also feels like a good piece of business—even more so than the first deal. The Hawks somehow got two second-round picks and the best player in the deal. How? One word: Kangz! Sacramento signed Dedmon last summer to a three-year, $40 million contract with the hopes that his 3-and-D game would unclog a frontcourt full of nonshooters. But the 30-year-old quickly fell out of Luke Walton’s rotation, and by December, he was publicly asking for a trade. There’s some opportunity cost to taking on Dedmon’s salary, and he has shot just 20 percent from 3 this season—which, if it continues, would make the Capela-Collins-Dedmon rotation even tougher to figure out. But there aren’t a lot of worthwhile players to spend on this summer, and Sacramento is where all good in a player goes to die. Have fun, Jabari and Alex!
Iguodala Traded to Heat as Pat Riley Pushes His Chips In
February 5, 6:33 p.m. PT
Uggetti: Andre Iguodala, take a bow. While all of us were debating whether or not the former Warrior should actually show up and play for the Grizzlies (after agreeing before the season that he wouldn’t), Iguodala was relaxing in California just waiting for the perfect deal to come along. Pat Riley eventually obliged. The Heat acquired Iguodala in a trade, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, in exchange for a package that includes Justise Winslow. The kicker? Iguodala gets a two-year, $30 million extension for his troubles. And even though the second year is a team option (preserving Miami’s cap space to chase a big name), after months of tee times on the West Coast, Iggy now gets to move to South Beach for a playoff run.
For the Heat, this is clearly a win-now move that ships off one of their more tradable pieces in Winslow (who is still only 23!) for a guy they expect to help them win the East. It’s clear Riley has that goal in mind, with a report by Woj adding that Riley is also trying to trade for Danilo Gallinari. The East shouldn’t feel this wide open given that the Bucks are on pace to win 71 games. But their playoff chops are still shaky in the eyes of some, and “some” in this case includes Riley and the Heat. This is a good time to remember that though Iguodala is still kicking and likely extremely fresh, he is 36.
Memphis, meanwhile, remained adamant throughout this season that it would find a deal for Iggy and the team’s front office more than delivered: The Grizzlies added a versatile player to their extremely young, fun, and talented core. Next to the electric duo of Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., Winslow adds a more experienced ball handler with size that can open up another world of flexible, positionless possibilities. In the blink of an eye, new GM Zach Kleiman has transitioned the Grizz from the Grit and Grind era to League Pass darlings.
This post will be updated as additional trade details are reported.
What Exactly Are the Suns Doing?
February 5, 2:55 p.m. PT
Uggetti: It is February 5 and the Suns have 20 wins. Last season they only won 19 games total; this year, by the time the regular season wraps up, Phoenix will undoubtedly have more wins than they did each of the last four seasons. You would think things were looking up in the desert, and yet, as the deadline approaches, it still remains unclear what the Suns’ strategy is going forward.
Earlier this week, they were linked to the Pistons’ Luke Kennard, who has missed 22 games this season with a knee injury. Kennard has shown promise as a 3-point shooter (39 percent from 3 this season), and the fact that he’s 23 makes him an addition that tracks with the Suns’ (read: Devin Booker’s) timeline and need for more shooting. On Wednesday, The New York Times’ Marc Stein reported that the Suns are shopping Kelly Oubre Jr., which is a slightly more confusing glimpse into what the Suns seem to want to do. Oubre is a small forward who is only 24 and notching career highs in nearly every statistical category. For a team that is supposed to be built around 23-year-old Booker, Oubre seems to fit perfectly as a sidekick with upside. And just this summer, he signed a two-year $30 million extension to stay with Phoenix. Now they want him out?
There might be an underlying reason for why this is happening: Maybe Oubre wants out, maybe the Suns simply want to swap him for another 20-something, or maybe they’ve decided to sell high on a player they don’t think can get better. Whatever the case, the report now identifies them as a seller (they’re currently five games out of the 8-seed), which makes me think that Aron Baynes could also be on the market as a big whom a lot of teams could use.
The Knicks Are Testing the Waters
February 5, 12:52 p.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: Just as Jimmy Butler’s personality perfectly suits the Heat’s culture, I can see Kyle Kuzma fitting in well in New York. The Knicks are reportedly having “exploratory conversations” with the Lakers for Kuz, who has as questionable a shot selection as New York does front office decision-making. (Kuzma is also sporadic, though, which implies some good things some of the time, and the jury’s still out if that’s the case with the Knicks.) (The jury’s been in the deliberation room for seven years and running.)
The Knicks are also eyeing D’Angelo Russell, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania. It feels like the Wolves are no longer in the running after making a bizarre four-team trade Tuesday. (I’m still not convinced that it will help any one team involved, but I’m not a GM. Just a girl, standing in front of multiple executives, asking them what the hell’s up.) Minnesota would not agree to Golden State’s high asking price; so far, New York hasn’t, either. There’s no reason for the Warriors to rush—their season was shot from the beginning, and they hold the upper hand with Russell, who they could also trade in the summer.
Can the Wolves Pry D’Angelo Russell From the Warriors?
February 5, 8:00 a.m. PT
Dollinger: Minnesota has already completed one major trade before the deadline. Could another blockbuster be on the horizon?
After sending Robert Covington to the Rockets in a four-team, 12-player trade Tuesday, the Wolves now have more young prospects and picks at their disposal to make an attractive offer to the Warriors for D’Angelo Russell, the point guard they have reportedly long coveted. But Minnesota’s newcomers—Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangómez, and Jarred Vanderbilt—won’t be enough to move the needle for Golden State. According to our own Kevin O’Connor, there’s a different Wolves player the Warriors are fixated on if they’re dealing Russell:
”Multiple league sources say Wiggins is involved in every iteration of a deal being discussed between the two teams. Wiggins has the best contract on the Wolves to match salaries with Russell, and his career could be re-energized in Golden State. It might be the greatest heat check of the year if the Warriors trade for such a notoriously inconsistent player who’s owed $94.7 million through 2022-23.”
O’Connor goes on to explain that Wiggins alone won’t get the deal done. While the Wolves have offered both their 2020 first-round pick and Brooklyn’s 2020 first-round pick (via the Covington trade), Golden State wants different compensation. KOC says the Warriors “want future firsts instead of picks in 2020—most importantly, they want an unprotected first-round pick in 2021, which will have a much stronger draft class than the one coming this June. As of now, the Timberwolves aren’t budging on Golden State’s demands.”
For more on how Wiggins would fit in Golden State, check out the rest of O’Connor’s piece.
The Trade Floodgates Are Open: Hawks, Nuggets, Rockets, Wolves Execute Sprawling 12-Player Deal
February 4, 10:50 p.m. PT
Uggetti: We wanted a trade so badly. Well, the NBA gave us one late Tuesday night that might require a PowerPoint and a PhD to understand. The details of the four-team deal are [takes extremely deep breath]: The Hawks acquired Clint Capela and Nene from Houston and sent Brooklyn’s 2020 first-round pick to Minnesota, which acquired Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangómez, and Jarred Vanderbilt from Denver as well as Evan Turner from Atlanta. Minnesota also sent Robert Covington and Jordan Bell to Houston, which sent a late-2020 first-round pick to Denver, which acquired Gerald Green from Houston and Noah Vonleh, Shabazz Napier, and Keita Bates-Diop from Minnesota.
That’s a four-team, 12-player trade. Here, one more time for reference, is how it all breaks down:
- Hawks get: Clint Capela, Nene
- Nuggets get: Gerald Green, Noah Vonleh, Shabazz Napier, Keita Bates-Diop, Houston’s 2020 first-round pick
- Rockets get: Robert Covington, Jordan Bell
- Timberwolves get: Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangómez, Jarred Vanderbilt, Evan Turner, the Nets’ 2020 first-round pick
That’s a lot of players for a deal that ultimately feels … fine. The Rockets’ move, as Dan Devine wrote about, sets them up to double-down on small-ball, but they paid a steep price in Capela (though I’m sure Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta will be happy about saving some money by getting under the luxury tax) for a wing who may make them better but not quite title contenders. The Hawks get the center they wanted, one who will be an enticing lob threat for Trae Young, but it’s unclear how much Capela is a fit or just a frantic move to appease Young and the fast track he’s on. The trade also raises questions about the future of John Collins, who is eligible for an extension this summer. (ESPN’s Zach Lowe previously reported that some teams think the Hawks might be worried about what that next deal for Collins might look like.)
The Wolves couldn’t quench their thirst for D’Angelo Russell (or rather, they reportedly couldn’t meet the Warriors’ asking price), so they pivoted toward something less flashy that leaves their plans less clear. Unless they have more moves lined up, Karl-Anthony Towns’s current winless streak may last another month or two. Denver is perhaps the more interesting team of the bunch, given that it has legitimate title aspirations and just gave up two bench pieces for a slew of assets and a roster that now has four point guards. Another move must be coming; the question is who are they targeting? Whatever you may think of this deal, who won it or didn’t, it’s the first domino of the deadline to fall. The floodgates have truly opened now.
Tristan Thompson Is Now the Hot New Name on the Center Market
February 4, 2:55 p.m. PT
Uggetti: While Kevin Love has taken an aggressive and demonstrative approach to trying to get out of Cleveland, Tristan Thompson is taking a slower, more considered route. Thompson has presented himself as a valuable veteran presence inside a tumultuous Cavs locker room, and he’s averaging a double-double and a career high in assists while shooting 50 percent from the field. Now, not only is he becoming the more viable trade piece for Cleveland, he’s also making it clear that he wants out.
According to a report from The Athletic’s Joe Vardon, Thompson and his camp have told the Cavs that dealing him before Thursday’s trade deadline is “a priority.” Heading that request may be in the Cavs’ best interest because, as Vardon points out, Thompson is represented by Klutch Sports, the agency that also represents rookie point guard Darius Garland. Cleveland views Garland as an important part of its future, so playing hard ball over Thompson—who will be a free agent this summer anyway—wouldn’t be wise.
Thompson’s name has been bandied about already, with teams like the Clippers and Celtics reportedly showing interest in him or being linked to him through their desire for a center. In what feels like a throwback, centers are in high demand this deadline. And Thompson is not only one of the few available, but also one of the better defenders at the position. His contract is also easier to stomach than Andre Drummond’s, especially considering Drummond will likely opt out and command a pricier long-term deal this summer.
Thompson could be an enticing piece for the Clippers as they look to shore up their big-man rotation ahead of the playoffs (a forward-thinking move given that they’ll likely face considerable size against the Lakers and potentially the Bucks should they get to the Finals). Trading for Thompson would likely only require the Clippers to part with Mo Harkless’s expiring contract, a young player like Jerome Robinson, and maybe a second-round pick. In the same way that Robert Covington has been branded as an asset who could affect the title race as a wing, Thompson’s availability and the position he plays could now make him just as impactful depending on where he lands.
Will Iguodala Be Moved Before the Deadline? His Teammates Hope So.
February 4, 10:08 a.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: The latest news on Andre Iguodala is that the Heat want him, according to Shams Charania, and that the rest of the Grizzlies want him gone, according to, well, the rest of the Grizzlies.
“I can’t wait till we find a way to trade him,” said Grizzlies swingman Dillon Brooks, “so we can play him and show him really what Memphis is about.” I strongly suspect that the young Grizzlies (including the 24-year-old above) have talked about their shared frustration with Iguodala before, because later that night, rookie Ja Morant responded to Brooks’s words on Twitter with the yelling emoji. (Not the angry one with smoke puffing out, but the blue man turned sideways. Blue man turned sideways is typically used to show support to an idea, not to challenge it. Support yelling >>> challenge yelling.) Morant then tweeted, #GrzNxtGen. De’Anthony Melton, 21, also tweeted the shrugging emoji.
Before the season began, Iguodala told reporters he and the Grizzlies were “on the same page.” The agreement was for Iguodala to be away from the team until he was traded to a contender. This isn’t unusual for a veteran dealt to a rebuilding team, especially since there’s such a large market for Iguodala. But because Memphis is winning, now the situation feels different. The Grizzlies are eighth in the West with a 25-25 record; the playoffs are, incredibly and reasonably, in sight. Sitting out to preserve your trade value is appropriate only when your current team is abysmal. Iguodala wants to play for a competitive team, and he’s currently being paid by one.
“Andre Iguodala is prepared to sit out the rest of this season if Memphis isn’t able to orchestrate a trade with one of the agreed-upon teams he designated by Thursday’s trade deadline,” David Aldridge reported on Monday.
So hopefully Iguodala gets traded. I hope you’re reading this, Pat Riley. Iguodala won’t play this season unless someone saves him. Memphis already received a pick for absorbing his deal, but won’t receive anything further in return for a wasted year on the books. And, worst of all, the GrzNxtGen won’t get to face Iguodala until next season.
We’ve Reached the Point Where NBA Teams Are Playing Chicken
February 3, 12:48 p.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: From the Knicks to the Wolves, here are the teams dead set on not blinking first:
The Knicks: New York does not want to let Marcus Morris go. On one hand, it’s nice to see this team enchanted with a player who isn’t a former lottery pick turned flop. Then again, Morris is one of the most coveted potential trade pieces right now. It sounds like the Knicks will listen only if the offer is enormous, though some of the teams calling—the Clippers, specifically—have the assets and the means to meet them halfway.
The Pelicans: I’m thankful that deadlines exist, for Jrue Holiday’s sake. First he was on the trading block. Then GM David Griffin insisted that he wasn’t. Now he’s reportedly back again, per ESPN’s Zach Lowe. The cycle is painful; the cycle goes on. Lowe listed the Nuggets and Heat as bidders for Holiday. Both are ideal situations for the shooting guard. He enjoys playing off-ball and either team would mean he’d be entering a situation with other ball handlers. But there are a few hold-ups with any Holiday trade. His hefty player option in 2021-22, for $27.2 million, is a daunting amount for the Nuggets or the Heat to commit to, as would be the package a team would need to send to get the Pelicans to bite. Griffin loves Holiday, thinks the world of him, and believes you should too.
The Thunder: “Most teams” expect OKC to keep its current team together, per Lowe, though the Thunder are still entertaining calls and engaging in conversations. Maybe they want to feel wanted. It’s relatable. Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams are important parts to the Thunder’s surprisingly joyful season. Teams could really use them … including the team they’re currently on.
The Timberwolves: If Robert Covington doesn’t get traded and the rumors were all a tease, Minnesota should be fined. Weeks have turned into months waiting for news. Philly and Houston are currently “at the front of the RoCo line,” according to Marc Stein, though Minnesota reportedly wants two first-round picks in exchange. It’s a ridiculous asking price, and no team should do it. (Including Dallas and Milwaukee, who are also, in addition to seemingly every team in every American league, interested in Covington.) In the Wolves’ defense, Covington is their most appealing player outside of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, the two mainstays of a rebuild that will never end (and when you consider Wiggins’s contract, maybe only Towns is appealing). Best to get all they can for someone on a pit stop.
The Wolves Have Competition in the D’Angelo Russell Trade Department
February 3, 11:15 a.m. PT
Uggetti: The flirtation between Russell and the Timberwolves has been well documented, but you know what’s more fun than a will-they-or-won’t-they? A love triangle. Enter the New York Knicks.
According to The Athletic, the Knicks have expressed interest in Russell and have already “discussed certain packages” ahead of this week’s trade deadline. [Cut to the Wolves front office scrambling.] New York’s involvement is pretty laughable at this point. Russell would be a nice addition for a team that’s been lost in a labyrinth of bad point guards forever. But the Knicks could have, you know, targeted him last summer instead of chasing the Kyrie-KD pipe dream.
While the Knicks have thrown their hat in the ring, a possible Russell-Wolves deal seems in peril unless either team is willing to cave on some things. After it was reported less than a month ago that Minnesota was “ramping up” its efforts to get Russell—who the team wants to pair with Karl-Anthony Towns—the Wolves have apparently made it clear to Golden State that they won’t give up their 2020 first-round pick. And since that is (obviously) what the Warriors are looking for, there’s no deal yet. Negotiating, everybody!
The Wolves are in a tough spot. They’re a rebuilding team that’s lost 11 games in a row, and they don’t really have the foundation to give up future picks for a player who may not exactly turn them into contenders. A Towns-Russell pairing is intriguing; it is also a defensive black hole waiting to happen. Of course, the kicker is that the Warriors might just not deal Russell at the deadline and instead wait until the offseason to see what they can get for him. Remember when they tried to tell us that they had plans to keep him? That was fun.
Will the Pistons Budge on Their Asking Price for Derrick Rose?
January 31, 1:39 p.m. PT
Dan Devine: Despite brief boosts from the arrival of rookie Sekou Doumbouya and the return of point guard Reggie Jackson, Detroit has lost eight of its last 12 games. The Pistons sit in 10th place in the East, 4.5 games back of the no. 8 spot with playoff odds resting in the low single digits. They looked like they’d be a seller at the deadline three weeks ago, and they still do, especially considering they’ve got one very logical piece to move. From the sound of it, though, they’re asking an awful lot in return.
Shams Charania of The Athletic reports that Detroit is willing to discuss deals for Derrick Rose. The former NBA MVP, whose career was once derailed by myriad knee injuries, has reinvented himself as a second-unit scorer and playmaker, which has resulted in his most productive season since his Chicago heyday. Rose is averaging 18.9 points, 6.0 assists, and 2.6 rebounds in 26.7 minutes per game, operating as one of the highest-volume drivers and pick-and-roll attackers in the sport, and is on pace to set career highs in points and assists per 36 minutes, as well as true shooting, effective field goal percentage, and assist percentage. He’s also on a pretty sweet deal, one that pays him just over $7.3 million this season and comes with the cost certainty of a $7.7 million commitment for the 2020-21 campaign.
A source of instant offense with plenty of playoff experience on a reasonable contract sounds like a player that multiple teams might be interested in pursuing for the stretch run. You wonder whether that’ll be the case, though, if Detroit sticks to its initial asking price: “a lottery-level first-round pick,” according to Charania.
It makes sense for the Pistons to try to extract as much value as possible; when you’re closer to the start of a rebuilding project than the end of one, every team-building tool you can import helps. And it makes sense that a team that believes it is a contender, or is within striking distance of becoming one, might consider such a later-for-now swap. Those teams aren’t poised to pick in the lottery, though, which makes you wonder what the Pistons think the market for Rose’s services might look like.
It’s tough to envision too many teams that currently have “a lottery-level first-round pick” being eager to get into the Derrick Rose business. Why would a team near the bottom of the standings, many of whom already have high-usage guards they’re leaning on or developing, give up what could be a top-three pick for a 31-year-old? Why would a scuffling team with high-profile veteran guards already in the mix or working their way back from injury give up draft capital for a player who’ll be on the books for next season and might not meaningfully move the needle for them right now?
You could make an argument for, say, Phoenix seeing Rose as an upgrade over Elie Okobo and Ty Jerome, who might bolster their chances of rising up from 11th to eighth, or San Antonio parting with a pick to add another playmaker in hopes of keeping their postseason streak alive. Whether those are the sorts of situations Rose would be interested in going to, though, is unclear; it’s perhaps worth remembering that Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus reported earlier this month that the Pistons—whose vice chairman, Arn Tellem, used to be Rose’s agent—“won’t ship [Rose] out unless it’s something he asks for.” If he asks out to join a non-lottery contender—the Lakers and 76ers, both of whom could use him off the bench, have been the teams most frequently tied to Rose—might Detroit expand its definition of “lottery-level first-round pick”? Hey, Zhaire Smith was almost a lottery pick in 2018, right? And in a 2017 redraft, Kyle Kuzma would totally go in the top 14!
Most likely, though, this is a case of the Pistons aiming for the moon so that, if they fall short, they’ll still land among the stars. I’d bet on them taking a late first for Rose, or even a couple of high seconds, should such an offer cross their desk. If they hold fast, though, one of the more intriguing veteran options out there might wind up staying put.
The Hawks Really, Really Want a Center
January 31, 1:39 p.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: Atlanta needs a center. (Really, Atlanta needs much more than just a center. Being at the bottom of the East with a 13-36 record exposes these things.) After being linked to Andre Drummond a few weeks ago, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Friday that the Hawks are looking at Clint Capela, Dewayne Dedmon, and Steven Adams before the trade deadline. Multiple teams are thirsting for Capela, according to Charania, but the team won’t move him unless a spectacular offer comes its way.
Capela has survived many roster reorgs in Houston during his six-year career. Dwight Howard came and went, an entire bench unit was traded for Chris Paul, and then Paul was traded for Russell Westbrook. Along the way, Capela grew into a necessary piece worth a five-year, $90 million contract. He wasn’t much help last playoffs, but Capela is only 25. Lots of time to grow. The Rockets probably want to see their investment through, although with so few other assets you know GM Daryl Morey is open to getting creative. There isn’t much else coming through the homegrown pipeline, except maybe Danuel House, leaving Houston’s cupboard fairly empty.
Assuming Capela is off the table, Adams would be the best get for the Hawks. He’s somehow still only 26 (???), which aligns with the rebuild, and would be the enforcing presence John Collins isn’t. Dedmon, 30, is the easier get, though. He wants out of Sacramento and has said so. Atlanta shouldn’t be hasty here (though they technically have to at least be hasty-ish; the deadline is in six days), because there’s no guarantee that any of the three would pair well next to Collins, who should be their first priority in the frontcourt. Capela’s deal is relatively cheap compared to his upside, and Adams’s expires in 2021—the burden wouldn’t be getting stuck with a large contract, it’d be pouring resources into someone who doesn’t mesh.
The Latest Rumblings From KOC
January 30, 11:08 a.m. PT
Dollinger: With the trade deadline just a week away, our own Kevin O’Connor dishes some fresh intel from around the league in today’s column. Among the latest rumors he’s hearing:
- Latest Kings buzz: “Sacramento doesn’t need to trade [Bogdan] Bogdanovic, and it has declined some offers already. The Kings offered Nemanja Bjelica and a pick to the Lakers for Kyle Kuzma, and Los Angeles countered by asking for Bogdanovic, according to multiple league sources.”
- Aaron Gordon deal? “One team that makes sense for Gordon is Minnesota, which called Orlando about Gordon this season, according to league sources. It’s unclear what precisely was offered, but Minnesota is shopping Robert Covington.”
- Indy’s dilemma: “League sources don’t expect any major action from the Pacers ahead of next Thursday’s deadline. But things could be different this summer if the team fails to make it out of the first round. The possibility of breaking up the [Myles] Turner–Domantas Sabonis frontcourt looms.”
Read more from KOC here to find out the players he’s hoping to see moved before the deadline.
Andy Reid’s football education included working under West Coast offense legend Mike Holmgren as an assistant before he left for Philadelphia.
TRADE: Dallas Gets Its Dwight Powell Replacement
January 24, 4:18 p.m. PT
Verrier: The Mavericks have been one of the teams most often linked to Andre Drummond this trade season, and the argument for going out and getting the giant Piston grew stronger this week when lob machine Dwight Powell ruptured his Achilles. But instead of hitch their future—both in terms of their success and their salary cap sheet—to the kind of hulking center being phased out around the league, Dallas prioritized versatility and financial prudence by trading for Golden State big man Willie Cauley-Stein, per multiple reports. In exchange, the Warriors will receive Utah’s 2020 second-round pick, according to our own Kevin O’Connor, a pick that has had quite the journey the past few years.
Getting the athletic Cauley-Stein makes sense in large part because the Mavs already have a plodder on staff in Kristaps Porzingis. Though the original unicorn has been hurt and more of an outlet on offense rather than a true no. 2 option for Luka Doncic, his impact around the basket on defense has been profound: He ranks second in the NBA in rim protection (among players with at least six attempts defended and 20 games played). That’s why the Powell-KP frontcourt worked—Powell could rim-run on offense as Porzingis spaced the floor, while Porzingis held down the paint on defense as Powell chased down more mobile 4s. Cauley-Stein fits that Powell mold, to varying degrees of success. Cauley-Stein has never lived up to his potential as a five-position havoc wreaker on defense and rim runner on offense, settling this summer for a prove-it contract with the Warriors to rehab his career. But while the Mavs were once known for their poor taste in centers (Erick Dampier, DeSagana Diop, etc.), they’ve had success since unearthing untapped potential in journeyman bigs, as the Los Angeles Times’ Dan Woike notes. In addition to Powell and stretch big Maxi Kleber, Dallas has worked wonders with Tyson Chandler (twice), JaVale McGee, and Brandan Wright. We’ll see if Cauley-Stein ends up more Chandler than Nerlens Noel.
The Warriors, meanwhile, don’t receive a player (the Mavs accomplished the deal via a trade exception), but they do scoot under the hard cap they triggered with the Kevin Durant–D’Angelo Russell double sign-and-trade this summer and save on some luxury tax. Which is cool.
Do the Lakers Already Have “Enough” to Win a Title?
January 24, 12:17 p.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: Last week, a frustrated Kyrie Irving said that “it’s pretty glaring” that the Nets “need one more piece or two more pieces.” Certainly playing off that verbiage, a reporter asked LeBron James whether the Lakers were “one piece away” from becoming a team that will win the title. LeBron didn’t bite, responding that “We have enough right now.” That may be true, but it doesn’t mean the Lakers are entirely absent from the market: Los Angeles could use another guard or ball handler, and is reportedly interested in Derrick Rose, a player who would likely cost the Lakers Kyle Kuzma in exchange. (The Lakers don’t have much to offer—assume any trade might involve Kuzma.) Though Kuzma has had a difficult time getting acclimated to this season’s offense, Frank Vogel told Sports Illustrated that “his rhythm is growing.” L.A. is atop the Western Conference despite its top-heavy roster, and the team is painting a cohesive picture with “we have all we need right here” written in neon font. It’s one of the few cases in recent years that a LeBron team hasn’t had its troubles spoon-fed to the media—maybe because this squad doesn’t have many!
The Mavericks and Clippers Are Thinking Big
January 23, 11:54 a.m. PT
Paolo Uggetti: It’s roster-proofing season, and for a contender like the Clippers, that means looking to plug the minor holes they have at important positions. According to Marc Stein of The New York Times, the Clippers are concerned about their lack of size in the frontcourt—they rely heavily on Ivica Zubac at center and Montrezl Harrell as their small-ball 5—and they could try to land a big in the trade market. This is a forward-thinking approach, aimed at ensuring that come playoff time neither Anthony Davis nor Giannis Antetokounmpo (should the Clippers make it to the Finals) can have it easy in the paint. But the Clippers are also at their best when they go small, so if a stellar center isn’t available, pursuing more wings (a stretch 4 would be ideal) may be the way to go.
While the Mavericks aren’t in the same tier as the Clippers, they are trying to stay competitive. And now that Dwight Powell is out for the season with a torn Achilles, Stein reports that Dallas is also looking for some size on the trade market. Dallas’s timeline is murky, given that the team is led by a pair of 20-somethings, but at least one of those 20-somethings—Luka Doncic—already looks ready for a playoff run. How to balance competing and building will be a question for the Mavs for the foreseeable future, and losing Powell puts a wrench into how far they may go this season. Still, Mark Cuban is not going to waste a fringe-MVP season from the Mavs’ wunderkid.
So what are both teams’ options when it comes to bigs? As Stein pointed out, Andre Drummond has been rumored to be available for a while now. Drummond is a statistical monster who will demand a huge contract this offseason, but he hasn’t yet been a factor on a winning team. A change of scenery, and playing with better guards, could unlock that. Steven Adams (who is somehow still only 26!) is another viable candidate, but it’s fair to wonder whether OKC will deal him given that they currently look like a playoff team. Aron Baynes may be another option, even if Phoenix—2.5 games out of the 8-seed—isn’t shopping him. His stretch-5 ability (shooting 49 percent from the field and 33 percent from 3) has done wonders for a Suns team that needed stability, and he could be a boon for a contender—especially the Clippers.
The Knicks Are Kinda, Sorta Interested in Malik Monk
January 23, 11:25 a.m. PT
Uggetti: Just when we thought things would stay quiet for the Knicks after they fired David Fizdale earlier this season, the league’s messiest franchise entered the news cycle once again this week. SNY.com’s Ian Begley reported Wednesday that some within the Knicks organization view Malik Monk as a trade candidate “worth pursuing.” Folks, that’s about as soft of a statement as you can get. “Worth pursuing” is the front office equivalent of the shrug emoji. Like, hey, I guess this is something we could do, because we have no idea what we should be doing anyway!
This is no slight against Monk, but the fact the Knicks, of all teams, are interested in him is *chef’s kiss*. It’s like the Knicks are trying to collect all of the seemingly-good-but-not-actually-that-good guards from the 2017 draft. Frank Ntilikina? Check. Dennis Smith Jr.? It cost you Kristaps Porzingis, but check. And now Monk. In case you forgot, Ntilikina, Smith, and Monk went eighth, ninth, and 11th in that draft, respectively. The Knicks’ interest in Monk is basically parody, like something out of The Onion. But for Monk, getting out of Charlotte—where he’s buried in the depth chart—may not be the worst outcome.
Since being drafted by the Hornets, Monk has only sporadically lived up to his reputation as an athletic freak (his nickname, per Basketball-Reference, is literally “God of Dunk”), and he’s failed to become particularly good at any other aspect of basketball either. His 3-point shooting percentage has declined every season, he doesn’t score more than 10 points a game, and he’s not a great rebounder or passer. For all of us who held Monk stock after his fiery freshman season at Kentucky, things are looking bleak. So while I wouldn’t wish being a Knicks reclamation project on anyone right now, that could somehow be a good change of pace for Monk.
The Sixers Want Bogdan Bogdanovic—but the Kings Don’t Want to Trade Him
January 22, 3:13 p.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: You always want what you can’t have, and for Philadelphia, that’s Bogdan Bogdanovic. Sixers reporter Jon Johnson reported on Wednesday that Philly is interested in Bogdanovic; Kings beat writer James Ham reported a couple of hours later that the Kings don’t want to part with him. “Barring a major change in the team’s thinking, the Kings are likely to hold onto Bogdanovic,” wrote Ham, adding that the team has hopes of re-signing him in restricted free agency this summer. But Sacramento may not be in a position to match other offers for the 27-year-old, having already signed Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes ($171 million combined) and with De’Aaron Fox up for an extension this summer.
It’s worth trying to retain Bogdanovic (and for the Sixers, it’s worth trying to get Sac to listen). His ability to stretch the floor would feed what Philadelphia needs most: a shooter to add some space around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Bogi is hitting 37.6 percent on 6.9 attempts from 3 and is contributing 3.6 assists per game—all while coming off the bench. It would take a “crazy offer” for the Kings to consider shipping him, per The Athletic’s Jason Jones. What the Sixers have in potential trade targets, including Matisse Thybulle, Jonah Bolden, or Furkan Korkmaz, won’t be crazy enough without picks included. But that is a long shot, since the next first-round pick Philadelphia can trade is a 2022 selection.
Is Robert Covington Too Valuable to Move?
January 22, 12:20 p.m. PT
Devine: Every team could use more players who defend multiple positions at an elite level, especially around the perimeter. Every team could use more players who drill 3-pointers, especially at a better-than-league-average clip. And every team could really use a player who does both, especially on an inexpensive deal that’s not going to break your balance sheet. Which is why—odd as it might sound—there’s a real chance that the most valuable player who could be moved before the trade deadline is Timberwolves forward Robert Covington.
Multiple recent reports have suggested that a slew of playoff-bound teams are keeping tabs on Cov. The most recent comes from Ben Cohen of The Wall Street Journal, who was told by “people familiar with the matter” that the Lakers, Clippers, Mavericks, Rockets, and 76ers have all expressed at least some interest in the 29-year-old swingman.
Whether the Rockets (with whom Covington started his pro career) remain interested is unclear; Kelly Iko of The Athletic reported last week that “Houston isn’t currently a bidder for his services, according to an executive with knowledge of the Rockets’ thinking.” But that was last week, before two more Rockets losses to Western Conference playoff teams dropped Houston to sixth in the West. Low-usage wings who stroke 3s fit well next to slash-and-kick playmakers like James Harden and Russell Westbrook. An elite multipositional defender would also help a mediocre defense that ranks 15th in points allowed per possession, per Cleaning the Glass. Covington seems like a hand-in-glove fit for the Rockets’ needs … if only they could make it worth the Wolves’ while.
Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that “a league source said [the Wolves] would want a draft pick to be included in a package for Covington,” and that’s likely just the price of admission. According to Zach Harper of The Athletic, also citing league sources, “young assets and picks (first-round and second-rounders) are the starting point to get in on a Covington conversation.” For the Wolves—five games out of a playoff spot, still searching for consistency out of Andrew Wiggins, still without bankable pieces to pair with Karl-Anthony Towns—trading Covington might represent the organization’s best shot at finding more long-term cornerstones.
He does represent precisely the kind of player you want to keep around Towns, though—a versatile ace defender who raises your team’s floor whenever he’s on the court. (Minnesota has played its opposition just about even in Covington’s minutes this season, and has been annihilated with him off the floor; as Cohen noted, Covington’s teams have been better with him in the lineup in every season of his career.) He’s also locked into a below-market deal that will pay him $25.1 million over the next two seasons, meaning he should retain a ton of value for would-be suitors into the summer, and next season’s trade deadline, and even beyond.
If that’s the case, and the best offer the Wolves get would be to make themselves worse (and perhaps less attractive on balance to Towns) in exchange for a couple of future late first-round picks, then Covington might not just be the most valuable player on the market right now. He might be too valuable for Minnesota to move.
With Dwight Powell Hurt, Is It Time for the Mavericks to Go All In?
January 22, 12:13 p.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: Dallas has been itching for real success since it won the title in 2011. Since then, the Mavs have been booted after the first round four times and missed the postseason four times. The rebuild was done begrudgingly, but it worked after the team drafted Luka Doncic. Dallas is no. 5 in the West.
On Tuesday, starting center Dwight Powell tore his right Achilles. His backup is basically just Kristaps Porzingis playing up a position, and Porzingis had just returned after missing the past 10 games with right knee soreness. Now the Mavericks have to decide between Maxi Kleber and going small with Porzingis, and whether to lean into their chances this season or continue the rebuild.
Consider Dallas a young team, because its franchise cornerstone is a second-year player and Porzingis is 24. But it has some of the limitations of a win-now team: KP has missed significant time in his four-year career because of injuries, and brings a precarious sense of availability for the future; he’s the Mavs’ highest earner, under contract until 2023. Porzingis is followed by Tim Hardaway Jr., the other piece sent from the Knicks at the last trade deadline, and who has another season on his $71 million deal.
Before Powell’s injury, the Mavs weren’t that far away from being a team you didn’t want to see in the playoffs. They needed a stronger presence at center, even with Powell, and an upgrade on the wing. Bringing in someone like Robert Covington would solve the latter, but the frontcourt gap is now more pressing. That could end in a blockbuster acquisition for Andre Drummond or Kevin Love. Or there’s the alternative: building with patience.
Bradley Beal Can’t Be Traded, but His Shadow Lingers Over the Deadline
January 22, 12:13 p.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: Congrats this week to Bradley Beal, who’s happily engaged, happy to have passed Wes Unseld on the Wizards’ all-time-scoring list, and happy about nothing else: After a loss to the Bulls last Wednesday, Beal said that he was frustrated, and that those frustrations would only grow “until we [start] winning and changing our culture.”
Last fall, it wasn’t clear that Beal wanted to stay in Washington. (Just as it isn’t clear he wants to stay there now.) The franchise offered him a three-year, $111 million extension in July, the most money it could. Then months went by, a cricket infestation took over, and the only insight available was John Wall (who hasn’t played since December 2018) saying, “I think he will sign it. … He loves playing with me.” Beal had until October 21 to decide on the Wizards’ proposed deal; on October 17, he signed a very different one—a two-year, $71.8 million extension. It had neither the long-term security of a max contract nor the flexibility of a one-and-one, and because he signed it so late, Beal isn’t eligible to be dealt at February’s trade deadline.
Though the Wizards are spunkier than expected, they are still terrible, still far below the playoff bubble, still made up of unrecognizable names. Back in September, Beal was unsure whether he wanted to stick around for the rebuild. That uncertainty could be returning now. If there’s even a whiff of a chance that he’d demand an out (and let’s not forget that he said to former GM Ernie Grunfeld last season in practice, “I’ve been dealing with this for seven years”; he’s tired!), front offices will keep the door open for him.
Beal’s happiness (or lack thereof) in Washington could be the difference between a franchise pulling the trigger on a major player this trade deadline and not. Some teams involved in recent trade rumors—Minnesota and Denver, for example—would be better off waiting for even the idea of Beal. That hope is built on speculation and the faith that the Wizards will stay bad. Though mediocrity, if nothing else, they’ve figured out.
The Pelicans Are Going for It
January 21, 2:22 p.m. PT
Uggetti: On the eve of Zion Williamson’s long-awaited NBA debut, the Pelicans’ tea leaves have revealed the direction New Orleans is headed during the second half of the season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Tuesday that the Pelicans have “pulled back” from trade talks and are looking to instead make a playoff push with the core group they have.
This fast and furious U-turn is more in line with the Pelicans’ preseason expectations, but just a month ago, New Orleans was in the middle of a 13-game losing streak. That streak prompted rumors that veteran players like Jrue Holiday and JJ Redick may be available via trade and questions about whether executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin would maximize those players’ trade value and pivot to a full rebuild. At that point, selling high made sense. New Orleans was riddled with injuries and didn’t seem to have any chance at competing for the last spot in the West, let alone being a frisky playoff team. Since then, though, the Pelicans have gotten healthier (this is where I remind you that Derrick Favors, who rejoined the team in mid-December, remains underrated), won 11 of their last 16, are only three and a half games out of the wide-open 8-seed, and have a potential franchise savior waiting in the wings.
Now the Pelicans seem content to wait and see how much Zion’s gravitational force will impact the team as a whole. Picture a Holiday-Zion pick-and-roll, a perfect lob from Lonzo to Zion, and the attention Williamson will draw away from Redick, who’ll have way more room for activities—err, 3-pointers. Yeah, if I was Griffin I would also want to see how Zion fits in next to players before punting.
Chris Paul Is Not Giving Up the Bag
January 21, 10:00 a.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: When Chris Paul was asked if he’d opt out of his contract in 2021-22, which would mean leaving $44.2 million on the table, he said exactly what you’d expect: “No chance. That’s not happening. Nope.” My reaction would be the same. So would yours. And by that point, at age 36, he’ll have the same chance at another big basketball contract as you or me. He won’t be offered anything that reaches the value of that $44.2 million player option for one season, which is $3 million more than LeBron James is set to make in 2021-22. (Though LeBron also has a player option in 2021, he’s shown no signs of aging outside of balding and dad jokes on Instagram, so I’m guessing he will be opting out.)
If Paul committed to declining his option now, it would just make it easier for the Thunder to trade him. Only a team desperate to win RIGHT THIS VERY MOMENT LIKE NOW or one unrealistically enchanted with Paul would agree to take on his salary. No amount of vitamins will make CP3 the same player he is now in two years. Plus, why move? He’s having fun. The Thunder are comfortably in the seventh spot in the West, and the 34-year-old looks reenergized and full of purpose.
Paul’s commitment to his contract changes the trade landscape. (Or maybe it confirms what was already suspected. Did anyone really think he’d pass up on that money for the chance at one championship?) The Thunder’s most realistic trade pieces now are Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams, and Dennis Schroder. All would benefit a contender enough that OKC could rake in something worthwhile for its rebuild. Gallo is 31, yet Adams and Schroder are only 26—not entirely aged out of rebuild eligibility. But with the Thunder’s current success, there’s less of a reason to shake it all up anyway.
Sixers and Lakers Eyeing Derrick Rose
January 20, 4:04 p.m. PT
Chris Ryan: On Monday afternoon, Philly was putting the finishing touches on a matinee win over the Brooklyn Nets. Now, typically, the most interesting thing that happens after the Sixers beat the Nets is that Kyrie Irving enters the Rogan Zone and opines about Jarrett Allen’s defensive positioning, breaking up big tech, Cortés burning his ships, and how his last name sounds like Dr. J’s last name. Alas, the spotlight was grabbed by a Chris Haynes/Yahoo report that published as the game was ending, identifying Philly as one of multiple teams kicking the tires on a trade for Pistons point guard Derrick Rose.
The Sixers, in the midst of what I have seen described as a four-game non-losing streak, are in need of perimeter playmaking, ballhandling, and reliable outside shooting because their point guard is a center, which is too bad because the rest of the roster is mostly made up of centers. Yes, Rose is having a renaissance this season in Detroit, especially since the new year, but he doesn’t get to the line that much, isn’t particularly good from beyond the arc, takes only three more 3-pointers per game than Ben Simmons (which is to say he averages three per game), and makes his money on the part of the court where the Sixers tend to park a lot of big bodies (the lane). He would be an upgrade over Trey Burke and Raul Neto (who currently make up Philly’s backup point guard corps), and could capably run the pick-and-roll with Simmons, but the question the Sixers have to ask is: What’s the cost? If the Pistons want Matisse Thybulle, throw the phone in the river. If it’s for other prospects and bench guys (Zhaire Smith and Kyle O’Quinn?), is Rose really worth reconfiguring the roster … again? I would personally prefer Luke Kennard if the Sixers are shopping at the Pistons Boutique. The thing is, it might not even come to that.
Both Los Angeles teams are mentioned as additional suitors in the Haynes report, and, based on nothing other than a feel, I think the Lakers are the logical and likely destination if Rose gets moved. He certainly fits in with the median age of the team (2011 Me marvels at the prospect of LeBron James, Rose, and Dwight Howard playing together), has experience playing with James (though he once described it as “awkward”), and fills a needed role for the team. Is it worth Kyle Kuzma (a.k.a. the only tradable asset on the Lakers)? Time to open your Bible, Rob Pelinka.
TRADE: The Blazers Made a Deal … Just Not One That Will Help Their Slumping Record Much
January 18, 2:22 p.m. PT
Verrier: After putting a fork in the Russell Westbrook Thunder and surging into the Western Conference finals last postseason, the Trail Blazers entered the 2019-20 season incomplete. Jusuf Nurkic is sidelined indefinitely, and so the front office took a flier on Hassan Whiteside as a very grouchy Band-Aid at center. After years of watching Moe Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu miss open 3s in the playoffs, they patched together a small forward rotation with 2-guard-sized wings (Kent Bazemore, Rodney Hood, etc.). After Zach Collins went down with an injury, Hood followed him on the injury list, and Carmelo Anthony had to be signed just to get by, a deal felt like a matter of when.
The Blazers finally made a trade on Saturday, though it appears like it will only help ownership’s pockets rather than the on-court product. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Portland traded Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver, and two second-round picks to Sacramento for Trevor Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel, and Caleb Swanigan. Ariza is an actual 3, and though he’s looked cooked for his abbreviated stint with the Kings, maybe he still has some 3-and-D juice in him. (And if he doesn’t, the Blazers will be on the hook for only $1.8 million for him next season.) But the big benefit for the deal, per Wojnarowski, is that the Blazers cut their luxury tax bill in half—$12.6 million in savings, to be exact, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks. It’s hard to know what the Kings are doing at any point, but picking up two draft picks and no salary beyond this season is a solid return.
Maybe Portland’s move is a precursor to another, in the same way the Jeff Teague trade signaled the Timberwolves’ intentions to chase a point guard like D’Angelo Russell. Or with the team seven games under .500 and 2.5 games back of eighth place, and still waiting on Nurkic and Collins, maybe the Blazers are saving their best chips this season and are instead playing the long game. We’ll see.
The Heat Have the Pieces to Make a Deal—but Do They Have a Target?
January 17, 11:25 a.m. PT
Dan Devine: The Heat currently sit in second place in the East, behind only the world-conquering Bucks. Staying ahead of the crew gunning for that no. 2 spot won’t be easy, though—the Celtics, Raptors, Pacers, and 76ers are all clustered within three games of Miami—which has Pat Riley and Co. on the lookout for another injection of talent, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN:
They are one player away from being really dangerous. They know. They are looking, sources say. A lot of speculation about the Heat—and other teams—has centered around Jrue Holiday. He’s good. The Pelicans may opt to keep him and push for the no. 8 seed. (This is what suitors expect as of now—which could of course change.)
When Ringer colleague D.J. Foster explored Holiday-to-the-Heat last month, my first thought was, “Why break up a good thing?” At that point, Miami was 18-6 and outscoring opponents by 5.1 points per 100 non-garbage-time possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass. The Heat have wobbled over the past five weeks, though, going 10-6 with dispiriting losses to the Wizards, Magic, Nets, and Knicks. Their vaunted defense has slumped to the bottom third of the league in points allowed per possession.
An ace backcourt defender like Holiday would make a ton of sense. But with New Orleans riding high—winners of nine of 12, just 3.5 games out of no. 8 out West, with Zion comin’—Holiday might not be available at any price the Heat are willing to pay. Ditto for Kyle Lowry, another stopper who can initiate and shoot, but whose Raptors are finally getting healthy, and are within striking distance of the East’s no. 2 seed themselves.
With those high-end options potentially off the board, and so few teams seeming eager to sell off significant assets, it’s tough to see where Miami might land its perfect fit. (Especially without taking on longer-term money that would limit its ability to carve out max cap space to go superstar hunting in the summer of 2021.) Should something pique their interest, though, the Heat do have the ingredients to put together a few different types of deals.
They’re light on future draft assets—only one second-round pick in the next seven years, with first-rounders owed in 2021 and 2023—but they can offer short-term financial relief, with Goran Dragic (making $19.2 million this season) and Meyers Leonard ($11.3 million) both on expiring deals. If a team wants to build a deal around something more than a rental, Justise Winslow, a versatile player who’s been pushed to the side a bit by Jimmy Butler’s arrival and his own injury woes, could be a tasty starting point thanks to his team-friendly contract—$13 million a year through 2022, with a team option for the final season. (That Winslow remains sidelined with a back injury, though, might give suitors pause.) Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, and Duncan Robinson are all good young players on inexpensive deals.
Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg have the tools to get creative. Going all in, though, would represent a lack of faith that the crew they currently have on hand can correct the slumping defense and ho-hum efforts of the past month. We know Riley’s got the courage to hunt upgrades that might bring championship-level upside. The question now is whether it’d be worth Miami’s while to forsake what worked so well in October and November to find something that might work even better in April and May.
The Timberwolves Are Reportedly Trying to Acquire D’Angelo Russell
January 16, 1:50 p.m. PT
O’Shaughnessy: A few things have been true for quite some time:
1a. The Timberwolves yearn for Russell. Months after the team’s failed chase for the guard this summer, the front office is reportedly “intensifying their pursuit” for him.
1b. Sometimes trade rumors sound like hunting expeditions.
1c. I would like for trade rumors to not sound like hunting expeditions.
2. Minnesota had no use for Jeff Teague. Earlier on Thursday, the Wolves dealt Teague, who was signed in 2017 under a wave of fresh Tom Thibodeau optimism. But even before the trade, and before this season, it was evident that he wasn’t proficient enough to pair with Karl-Anthony Towns (Russell’s best friend!!) and Andrew Wiggins (could be Russell’s best friend after a little bonding!!). He was moved to the bench in November.
3. Minnesota doesn’t get what it wants. There are exceptions (the Wolves drafted Towns and traded for Wiggins), but they do a lot more losing players than they do acquiring players, so much so that the initial Jimmy Butler trade will be remembered as a neutral by Wolves fans. (They lost him in the end, but they got him to begin with, and so much fun was had along the way!) Pulling off a deal for Russell won’t be easy. “Discussions have yielded no traction to this point,” The Athletic reported. “So far, Golden State has been inclined to keep Russell unless it is blown away by an offer.”
The Wolves are 12th in the West, 3.5 games behind the eighth spot. Especially with KAT’s long absence due to a knee injury, the team’s long-term roster reconstruction (including, hopefully, Russell) is more of a priority than making the playoffs. “To me, you’re going to get a lot of nos before you get the yes,” president Gersson Rosas told The Athletic in July.
TRADE: Jeff Teague Is Heading Back to Atlanta
January 16, 10:11 a.m. PT
Uggetti: We have a trade! The Timberwolves have finally off-loaded point guard Jeff Teague (and Treveon Graham) to Atlanta in exchange for Allen Crabbe. OK, so this is more of a Woj blip than a bomb, but there are still some bigger implications at play. The Wolves clearly had to get rid of Teague, who simply didn’t fit into their long-term plan with Andrew Wiggins and rookie Jarrett Culver getting more minutes at the guard positions. Crabbe doesn’t present much of a return on investment on his own, but it appears the Wolves are just getting started. This move is likely a set-up to find another ball handler who better fits their timeline:
Minnesota isn't done making moves after dealing Jeff Teague to Atlanta for Allen Crabbe. The Wolves have been in talks with teams in search for another ball handler, per league sources. They recently went after Pacers PG Aaron Holiday, but those talks went nowhere at the time.— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) January 16, 2020
The Hawks, meanwhile, just improved their roster without giving up much. Teague can still play and the best-case scenario for the Hawks is that he accepts being Trae Young’s backup and helps the team on offense when Young is off the floor. (Atlanta drops from a 108 offensive rating to a 90 offensive rating when Young comes off.) If Teague buys in, he could bring the kind of savvy veteran presence the Hawks have been looking for in a tumultuous season filled with injuries, suspensions, and rumors about Young asking for more help. Plus, Teague gets to return to Atlanta, where he spent his first seven seasons in the NBA.
The Kyrie Quote Train Is Back Up and Running
January 16, 10:02 a.m. PT
Uggetti: Folks, Kyrie Irving’s chatty general manager alter ego has officially logged on. Irving has been back for only three games after missing 26 with a shoulder injury, and he’s already reverted to his favorite pastime: giving long, cryptic quotes that end up doing more harm than good. On Wednesday, after the Nets lost to the Sixers—the team’s eighth loss in the past 10 games and second loss since Kyrie returned—he didn’t hold back his thoughts:
Kyrie Irving was asked after tonight’s loss to Philly about this game against a top East opponent showing how much work the Nets still have to do in order to compete at the highest level while waiting for Kevin Durant to return. Here’s Irving’s answer: pic.twitter.com/NAqA4OvQk2— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) January 16, 2020
Just in case you missed the message in the middle of that ramble: Kyrie, after shooting 6-of-21 from the field, decided it was a perfect time to say that the Nets have a “glaring” need for more help. Maybe this was a way to signal to actual general manager Sean Marks that the Nets should add another piece ahead of the trade deadline. Maybe this was just a classic Kyrie answer that makes little sense in the moment and even less sense as time goes on. Maybe Kyrie forgot, for a second, that his teammate Kevin Durant will be back soon. With Kyrie, you never really know.
What is clear is that Kyrie seems to have left his leadership ways in the dust. I doubt his teammates appreciate him more or less placing them on the trade block. What’s even more troublesome is that the Nets actually have a better record this season when Kyrie doesn’t play. It’s too early for Brooklyn to regret its big free-agent play this summer, but the Nets can sure start to worry about what they have gotten themselves into.
State of the Scuttlebutt Address
January 15, 5:01 p.m. PT
Verrier: We’ve reached high season for rumormongering, but the usual haunts for NBA intel and hearsay have a decided “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” feel to them. The whisper du jour is about Andre Drummond, an uneasy fit in today’s game, who’s being linked to a team already rendered irrelevant this season. One of the “hot” stories on HoopsHype as I write this is the free agency of Kyle Alexander, a player I’ve never heard of until this very moment—and I’m the kind of guy who likes to unwind with a Suns-Kings nightcap. This is the other side of the most frenetic summer in NBA history: a trade deadline so bone-dry from the lack of spilled tea that we’re left hoping and praying that some enterprising franchise will look past Kevin Love’s contract, and his age, and his game, and his recent temper tantrums and plunk down a draft pick to make a go of it.
If there’s any optimism ahead of the February 6 deadline it’s that we were saying the exact same thing last year, almost to the date, and the rumor gods heard our pleas—Anthony Davis asked out of New Orleans, Kristaps Porzingis and Tobias Harris both got traded, the Sixers gave up on Markelle Fultz, and so on. But last year didn’t have this year’s problems. Namely: a barren free-agent class this summer, and thus few teams looking to get something in return for their soon-to-flee superstar; certain teams preserving future cap space for a more bountiful free agency in 2021; few expendable middle-tier contracts among contenders to make the salary-cap math work on deals for pricey veterans; and an entire conference still in the thick of a playoff race, ostensibly creating more demand than supply.
History suggests something will happen … it just might be more Reggie Jackson–to–Detroit than DeMarcus Cousins–to–New Orleans. Here’s three things we’re keeping an eye on in the meantime:
The Hawks’ impatience: Trae Young has been a bona fide star for, like, two days, but he has already become quite comfortable with all the extra leg room in first class. The Athletic’s Sham Charania reported last month that frustrations were mounting in Atlanta, and that Young was involved in an “emotional locker room scene.” Charania also reported that one “high-ranking team official” told Young that the team “would be getting him some help on the roster soon.” Playing defense might also help, but reports of Atlanta’s interest in Drummond suggest that support could be on the way before the deadline. It makes a certain sense: The Hawks have plenty of money to burn this summer, yet no one worthwhile to spend it on. And though they could just wait five months and sign someone like Drummond without sacrificing additional assets, the front office showed on draft night—when it traded up to land its target, De’Andre Hunter—that it’s willing to spend a little extra to ensure it gets what it wants.
The Magic finally realizing how many really tall people they employ: There’s so much that we don’t know about NBA decision-making. Maybe ownership scuttled a done deal. Maybe a relationship clash muddled negotiations. Maybe a team had a blockbuster on its hands but its trade partner pulled out at the last second (well, actually, we’d know about that if it happened to the Celtics). So it’s comforting when a situation plays out exactly how it seemed it would. To that end, I present to you the Orlando Magic—a team that acquired too many damn nonshooting big men and now finds itself with too many damn nonshooting big men. (Mo Bamba, Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Nikola Vucevic, Khem Birch, Al-Farouq Aminu. That’s six! It’s a borderline fetish.)
But a mulligan of sorts could be on the horizon: The Athletic’s Sam Amick reported last week that “rumblings persist that Orlando might move on” from Gordon, the lone survivor from the last time the Magic overindulged on bigs and tried to cram Bismack Biyombo, Serge Ibaka, and Gordon into the same starting lineup. And in case you were wondering whether this is another attempt by The Ringer to bait CJ McCollum, Amick floated that the Gordon chatter is “coming from Orlando.” OK then! We’re onto something!
Gordon won’t swing the title race, especially the way he’s playing this season: 13.2 points per game on 41 percent shooting from the field, 27 percent from 3. But put him on Portland, and all of a sudden the Trail Blazers look more like the playoff disruptor they’ve been in recent years rather than the team currently living on a Melo midrange jumper and a prayer. Sorry, CJ.
L.A. vs. L.A.: Talk of a Kyle Kuzma–for–Bogdan Bogdanovic trade was shot down pretty quickly by Sacramento, but the idea of a 33-win team adding exactly the kind of player it needs to get even better entering the ether is terrifying enough. After forking over virtually all of their young core and control of their draft board to the Pelicans in the Anthony Davis trade, the Lakers are now operating with multiple appendages tied behind their back entering this deadline. But exceptionalism and LeBron James are working out pretty OK so far; is it really that far of a stretch to think that Kuzma plus some salary couldn’t fetch them, say, Robert Covington? What’s stopping them from completing the set in New Orleans and taking back E’Twaun Moore and a rotation player like Kenrich Williams?
The answer to that last question might be the Clippers. The two Los Angeles franchises have been on a collision course all season, and while the Clips have come out of top of their two games to date, the real battle might come in the trade trenches. Despite a recent swoon, the Clippers, when fully healthy, are deep—so deep that you could argue that their best move this year would be no move at all. But in addition to seeking out the best options to fill their few roster holes, the Clips, armed with their own 2020 first-round pick and Moe Harkless’s expiring $11 million contract, have to play defense on the Lakers. So maybe a first is too steep a price to pay to break Andre Iguodala out of carbonite, but if the alternative is Iggy ending up on the Lakers or another contender like the Mavericks, you probably pay up. The ability to guard Davis could dictate this year’s championship, and the ability to deny the Lakers could determine how this year’s trade deadline plays out.