After an early-winter flurry of trades and near-trades, it's probably time for trade winds to start dying down until early February.
Names like Andre Miller will probably wind up somewhere in the next week or so as the Nuggets look to move on from the veteran guard, per Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post, but that's about it. Barring anything unforeseen, Luol Deng will be the biggest name traded between now and the summer months, and everything else is pretty much going to feel like a disappointment by contrast.
...err, I mean, 10-day contract season! Get excited!
That's not necessarily to say the trade market will be inert. However, after deals involving All-Stars, teams typically take a deep breath and begin to regather. Andrew Bynum's non-guaranteed contract was the golden goose that a whole flock of general mangers wanted to acquire, and now it's time to start being a bit more realistic.
Of course, the rumor mill is almost never realistic. It's filled with a bunch of static noise floated by teams, agents and other connected folks to get the conversation moving and gauge reactions—both around the league and from fans. Reporters in that way have become instant-information testers, which even if it gets to be too much at times, is better than the old days when you didn't find out about a deal until it happened.
With that in mind, let's check out the latest noise on a couple players who could be on the move.
The Knicks Aren't Actually Trying to Trade J.R. Smith; They're Trying to Motivate Him
There aren't many printable words that could accurately describe J.R. Smith's actions this season. Buffoonery. Absurd. Immature. Laughable. Childish.
Well, OK. I guess there are enough words in the English language to describe anything. Smith has been nothing but a distraction all season, beginning with his five-game drug suspension, continuing with his white-knighting for his untalented brother and culminating over the past week with his strange penchant for playing with others' feet.
The NBA fined Smith $50,000 on Wednesday for repeated instances of unsportsmanlike conduct, a move that stems from the 28-year-old guard untying the shoes of Dallas Mavericks forward Shawn Marion and Detroit Pistons forward Greg Monroe.
Of course, this is stupid. The league is way overstepping its bounds here against something that's mostly harmless and goofy, lashing out against Smith simply because he's J.R. Smith. If anyone else was pulling these stunts, we'd have a good chuckle and move on about our day.
Nope. Not here.
"I'm not happy about this because he was warned, he comes back, and he makes the same mistake, and it's not right," coach Mike Woodson said, per ESPN's Ian Begley. "It's just got to stop. I keep saying this every time something pops up, but it's got to stop."
Woodson apparently isn't the only one fed up with this nonsense. Working in a nifty little concert with Woodson's blasting of his player, ESPN's Marc Stein reported the Knicks are actively trying to move Smith.
Stein characterizes the attempt as challenging, but there's a better word: farcical. Gerald Wallace's gag-inducing contract got moved, so I guess anything is possible. Still, it's almost impossible to see any coach or general manager signing off on two more guaranteed years at about $6 million per season for Smith—especially with Smith being an utter mess this season.
The 2013 NBA Sixth Man of the Year has seen his points per game dip from 18.1 last season to 11.3 in 2013-14, and he's shooting a career-low 34.8 percent. Somehow New York has managed to tread water with Smith on the floor offensively, only losing a half-point per 100 possessions when he's on the floor according to stats.NBA.com.
Don't worry, though. The Knicks' 107.1 points allowed per 100 possessions with Smith would rank among the worst in the league. There are no positives here. He's an oil spill in a basketball uniform—untouchable to other executives despite his talent.
The Knicks know this, though. They have no actual intention of trading Smith because, despite their total frustration with his actions, they need him. By re-signing Smith, New York put itself at his mercy, and its 12-22 record is at least in part because he's been a shell of his 2012-13 self.
There is no answer here. Even if the Knicks found an interested general manager, they would probably have to take back a bad, long-term contract and wouldn't receive anything of tangible long-term value. With James Dolan informing the band to keep on playing as the Titanic sinks, these false trade talks will hopefully be a wake-up call.
Thaddeus Young Might Be the Best Player on Trade Market
Thaddeus Young denied a report last month that he requested a trade. While the fever pitch of that story has died down and Young has continued playing brilliantly, make no mistake: Young would welcome a trade out of Philadelphia. He's in his seventh season, and while the Sixers have made the playoffs three times in his career, he's never finished above .500.
With general manager Sam Hinkie spearheading a wide-reaching rebuild project, getting to that elusive 42nd win seems years down the road. You can understand why someone like Young, finally getting some national recognition after being underappreciated for years, could be open to spending some time elsewhere.
The Sixers, of course, aren't going to be shy on the trade market. Hoopsworld's Alex Kennedy recently noted that Hinkie is making Young, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes available in trade talks, which isn't a surprise considering they've been widely available all season.
Taking his lessons from his mentor, Daryl Morey, Hinkie has made it clear he won't just give his young assets away for anything. The Cavaliers attempted to acquire Young in their pursuit of an Andrew Bynum swap, but they backed away from the negotiating table when Hinkie demanded Cleveland's 2014 first-round pick, per ESPN's Chad Ford.
Requesting a 2014 first-round pick was admittedly asinine—teams are hoarding those like precious metals, and Cleveland is currently a lottery team—but Philly isn't wrong to expect a haul for Young, still just 25 years old and coming into his own as a player.
In fact, with Luol Deng in Cleveland and Pau Gasol probably sticking in Los Angeles, Young may wind up being the best player on the market over the next month or so.
Although all Sixers counting stats are skewed because of their talent dearth and high-octane offense, Young has developed into a prototypical stretch 4. He's knocking down nearly 41 percent of his three-pointers after eliminating that from his arsenal almost entirely under Doug Collins, whose efforts in Philadelphia may have kept the mid-range jumper breathing by themselves.
Bigger power forwards tend to give Young trouble defensively, but he's a willing defender that has the lateral quickness to guard 3s. Opponents are only shooting 25 percent against him in isolation, and he ranks in the 65th percentile in points per possession as a pick-and-roll defender, per Synergy Sports (subscription required).
It's unclear how much of an affinity Hinkie has for Omer Asik—remember, Nerlens Noel is alive despite his season-long disappearance—but Young would be an ideal fit next to Dwight Howard in Houston. The Rockets would probably help eradicate Young's biggest weakness, a mid-range jumper he makes only 34.5 percent of the time. The analytics-heavy team has shot almost 300 fewer mid-range shots than any other team.
Houston or not, no matter. Young is an excellent young talent whose size and skill set—which once labeled him a dreaded tweener—is perfect for most teams. A 2014 lottery pick might be out of the question, but Hinkie should hang up on anyone not offering a future first.
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