I'm not sure if you all have picked up on this yet, but the first few days of July aren't exactly the most inactive days of the NBA offseason.
The league's opening of the free agency period has set off a rampant influx of movement, with fat contracts—both deserved and undeserved—getting handed out on the regular and teams chattering about trades like roosters at the crack of dawn. Player movement—or the potential for said movement—has made the first few days of July feel like an entire month.
Well, I guess technically nothing happens during this time. That is because, from a business perspective, the lede of this article is a bold-faced lie. The league's collective bargaining agreement calls for a moratorium on official business being conducted from July 1-9, meaning that anything that's agreed upon in the next week or so cannot become official until July 10.
By definition, a moratorium is a delay or suspension in activity. But let's just say the NBA has "delayed" its player movement in the same way we promise our spouses to "just have a few" when going out on a Friday night. This entire period has actually created some of the most fervent movement and rumors in recent memory, which falls into the trend that began at this year's draft.
That said, as an increasing bulk of players begin signing their contracts, the conversation will shift right over to the trade market—not that it already hasn't.
With that in mind, here is a complete breakdown of the latest trade chatter from across the Association.
"Quality Package" Needed to Land Rudy Gay?
Among people "in the know," the Toronto Raptors' trade for Rudy Gay this past season came with mass polarization.
There were some who were in the camp that Gay is a superstar, and that a team like Toronto—one that rarely signs major free agents—had to act on the opportunity to acquire him. They cited Gay's ability to defend three positions (depending on the matchup), his ability to stretch the floor and his relative youth (he's 26) as reasons why the Raptors were smart for pulling the trigger.
The other camp—mostly made up of people within the analytics community—panned the trade as yet another Bryan Colangelo panic move. They cited two seasons' worth of dipping numbers, his abhorrent jump-shooting stats and his massive contract as reasons why Colangelo was rightfully pushed out of the organization for moves like this.
With Masai Ujiri, a noted analytics guru, taking over basketball operations, Gay's status within the organization is something to watch. Gay is under contract through the 2014-15 season at a max-level deal, assuming that he opts into the $19.32 million he's owed during that campaign. So, in other words, Rudy Gay is maxed out for the next two seasons.
Seeing Ujiri's bloodless jettisoning of an equally untenable contract in Andrea Bargnani, teams have already been making inquiries about adding Gay this summer. According to a report from ESPN's Brian Windhorst, the Detroit Pistons inquired about trading Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva for Gay.
Now, before you burst into tears laughing...OK, never mind. Go ahead and get it out of your system; it's understandable. While that trade is in every way ridiculous if that's all the Pistons offered—Stuckey and Villanueva's value comes from their contracts expiring next season and that's it—Toronto declining that deal at least proves that Ujiri is not desperate to rid himself of Gay.
And that falls exactly in line with this report from Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun:
Ujiri's stance makes complete sense here. Gay's contract is a pretty heavy overpay, but Raptors management isn't afraid to pay the tax. And, in actuality, the deal isn't all that restrictive. It only lasts through the next two seasons and becomes an expiring contract in 2014-15 that could be flipped for something else.
I wasn't the biggest fan of the Gay trade, nor am I of him as a player. But money is relative in the NBA—even in this restrictive collective bargaining agreement. There's something to be said for tanking and hoping to win the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes, but how many times does a ping-pong ball have to go the wrong way for a team to learn?
If a team wants to offer a blue-chip young player along with expiring contracts, then Toronto should listen. In this case, though, Joe Dumars was the drunk uncle who tries offering you Mark Sanchez straight up for Arian Foster in your fantasy league after Foster had one bad week.
Greivis Vasquez, Robin Lopez on the Trading Block?
In one of the more shocking outcomes of this early summer spending spree, the New Orleans Pelicans have come out as one of the league's most aggressive teams. They made a jaw-dropping deal with the Philadelphia 76ers for Jrue Holiday on draft night, sending the rights to Nerlens Noel and a protected 2014 first-rounder in exchange.
And since free agency opened, the team has made no bones about the fact that it wants Tyreke Evans. Pelicans brass met with the 23-year-old guard right when the clock struck 12:01 a.m. on the East Coast on Monday, which is usually a sign of serious intentions. New Orleans and Evans made their affinity for one another known two nights later, as they verbally agreed to a four-year, $44 million offer sheet, per NBA.com's David Aldridge:
As noted by Aldridge, the Sacramento Kings will have three days to match. That period begins once Evans officially signs the offer sheet, which cannot happen until the leaguewide moratorium on transactions ends on July 10. Considering there's just less than a week until that date, the Pelicans should get a pretty good idea before then.
With that in mind, though, the team is going to have to make moves to fit Holiday and Evans comfortably under the cap. There's a possibility—probably a pretty good one—that Sacramento could help New Orleans along in that process, or circumvent it altogether, via a sign-and-trade, but the Pelicans cannot be sure of that.
As a result, they've started making calls about their most expendable pieces—most notably Robin Lopez and Greivis Vasquez. Sam Amick of USA Today reported that Vasquez is a very strong candidate to be included in a sign-and-trade should the Kings want to go that route:
Vasquez is coming off the finest season of his three-year career. The 26-year-old guard scored 13.9 points and dished out nine assists per game, leading the NBA in total dimes. While he is a non-traditional point guard at 6'6", Vasquez's court vision is elite, and he's found a niche as a solid slash-and-kick option, despite not being the quickest guard in the league.
Lopez's situation is much more fluid. New Orleans can get out of the next two years of his contract with a $500,000 buyout, a figure that is less than 1/20 of his $10-plus million figure. But Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports is reporting that teams like the Indiana Pacers and Portland Trail Blazers are strong possibilities for the underrated big man.
It's an admirable problem for the Pelicans to have. In a time where plenty of teams are desperately looking to unload talent for anything they can get in return, New Orleans has two young players with reasonable contracts that it has little use for. Still, with the Evans-Holiday combo looming, it's a problem that the Pelicans need to fix soon.
Andre Miller on the Outs in Denver?
There aren't many more respected players in the league or in the NBA geekdom than Andre Miller. The 37-year-old plays like he has a Doctorate in basketball, staying two or three steps ahead of the competition at all times on an offensive possession. If Miller would have been gifted LeBron James' frame, the NBA would have shut down in 1999 when he entered the league due to competitive imbalance.
And I say that as a card-carrying member of the "LeBron James is a Savant Fan Club." Miller is on another level. NBA League Pass junkies can attest that Miller makes one or two passes a night that makes you reach for the DVR rewind feature—and hardly any of them are alley-oops.
However, the harsh reality of the situation is that Miller is 37 years old. He's on the downslope of his career, has become a bit of a liability on defense and could have a far different role with the Denver Nuggets next season depending on their roster composition.
So it's no surprise that Chris Tomasson of FOX Sports is reporting that the Nuggets could look to move Miller this summer:
The point Tomasson makes is valid. George Karl has been a Miller proponent throughout his time in Denver, but he was let go earlier this offseason—a move that saw the Nuggets allow the Executive of the Year (Ujiri) and the Coach of the Year (Karl) vanish at the same time. They replaced Ujiri and Karl with Tim Connelly and Brian Shaw, respectively. Both of whom are guys who carry a ton of clout around the league and made Denver's overhaul (slightly) less baffling.
But neither still has any internal loyalty to this roster—especially to an aging guard who carries a $5 million price tag for next season and holds a $2 million buyout for the next. That contract would take Miller to his 39th birthday if the Nuggets choose to honor it, so their willingness to talk to teams about him is understandable.
Andre Miller most certainly has a place in the NBA and on a good team's rotation. It's just unclear whether that place is with the Nuggets or another team in need of an excellent and mistifyingly smart backup.
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