Final-Touch Trades for the NBA's Contenders
The latest three-way trade between the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors helped two title contenders shore up some serious needs.
Miami was able to ship out the dead-weight salary of Joel Anthony in return for Toney Douglas, a player that could potentially be a great fit as a 3-and-D guard in Miami's banged-up backcourt.
Golden State turned Douglas into Jordan Crawford. He's a much more capable offensive player who should be able to spark a bench unit that's struggled mightily to score the ball.
With that deal, the Warriors and Heat may have put the finishing touches on their rosters for what they hope will be long playoff runs.
Will the other title contenders in the league follow suit and add another piece to their puzzles? Let's take a look at potential deals that would help tune up each contender for the playoffs.
San Antonio Spurs
The Trade: San Antonio Spurs trade Nando de Colo (1 year, $1.4 million), Aron Baynes (1 year, $788,872) and a 2014 second-round pick to the New Orleans Pelicans for Jason Smith (1 year, $2.5 million) and Anthony Morrow (2 years, $2.1 million).
When is the last time the San Antonio Spurs pulled off a trade? Way back in March 2012, when they dealt for Stephen Jackson...and waived him a month later.
Every other team in the league has made a trade since then. That doesn't bode well for the prospects of a deal this year, but maybe the Spurs are due.
After all, there are holes to fill. With Tiago Splitter and Danny Green both sidelined for extended periods, the Spurs could use another body in the frontcourt and a shooter out on the wing to play now and provide insurance later.
In Jason Smith, the Spurs would pick up a big body who can really shoot from the elbows. That seems like it could work in San Antonio given how often it puts big guys at the high post.
Anthony Morrow is purely a three-point shooter, but San Antonio has a knack for making specialists like him shine.
In de Colo and Baynes, the Pelicans would get two players they could potentially retain in restricted free agency. Baynes is the type of bruiser New Orleans might covet next to Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson, and the second-round pick could potentially amount to something down the line.
Gregg Popovich may not want to mess with the chemistry, but Smith and Morrow would plug gaps and add some firepower off the bench.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Trade: Oklahoma City Thunder trade Hasheem Thabeet (2 years, $2.4 million), Perry Jones III (3 years, $4.2 million) and 2015 second-round pick for Mike Dunleavy (2 years, $4.5 million).
Finding a trade for the Thunder is difficult, mainly because they have no real salaries to deal that aren't part of the core rotation. Their desire to stay under the luxury tax also limits what can be brought back.
With that in mind, Mike Dunleavy is a good fit as a cheap sixth man who can swing to a few different positions and really light it up from beyond the arc. Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb have definitely proven capable of scoring, so this isn't necessarily as much of a need as it has been for OKC, but it's a luxury to have a player of Dunleavy's quality around.
For the Bulls, this is all about getting Jones. He has a ton of natural ability and potential to mold, but he needs to find his role. Thabeet could be kept around as real size behind Noah, or he could be released this offseason, as his contract is non-guaranteed next year. This isn't a glamorous haul for Dunleavy, but Jones and the second-round pick are gambles probably worth taking.
Barring a bigger trade involving Kendrick Perkins, which seems very unlikely, adding a shooter like Dunleavy at this price couldn't hurt.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Trade: Los Angeles Clippers trade Reggie Bullock (4 years, $5.8 million) to the Orlando Magic for Andrew Nicholson (3 years, $5.4 million).
The Clippers have to find a competent third big man somewhere, and without any picks to trade until 2017, a prospect swap might be the best way to accomplish that without sacrificing a member of the core.
With plenty of depth in the frontcourt and his playing time dwindling, the Magic might be amenable to moving Andrew Nicholson for a young shooter on the wing. That's something they currently lack almost entirely outside of Arron Afflalo.
Bullock has barely played because of injuries and similar depth issues, but he's a sharpshooter with size that can spot up and run off screens.
Nicholson is just so much more important for the Clippers right now, as one injury or foul trouble to Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan spells doom. Nicholson offers a surprising amount of stretch (1.1 threes a game) to supplement his solid post scoring. Although defensively he might not be exactly what the Clippers are looking for, he's a solid rebounder with the size and skill to play next to both Griffin and Jordan.
It's going to be hard to find a perfect fit for the Clippers given their lack of movable assets, but Nicholson is a solid player who would provide an immediate upgrade.
The Trade: Indiana Pacers trade Chris Copeland (2 years, $6.1 million) and a 2015 second-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for C.J. Miles (1 year, $2.2 million).
The Indiana Pacers signed Copeland with the hopes that he'd be a stretch 4 who could add some shooting off the bench, but Copeland has played in just 98 minutes this season.
Considering the fact that Indiana is paying him a little over $3 million next year, trading Copeland for basically any expiring deal makes sense, as that $3 million will help the Pacers re-sign Lance Stephenson this offseason while staying under the luxury tax.
That's clearly in the plans, as Pacers team president Larry Bird told Mark Montieth of Pacers.com: "We want to keep him and he wants to be here," Bird said. "This is the best environment for him. We will make him a great offer, an offer that I think is very fair."
Copeland, meanwhile, has dealt with injures for much of the year, so perhaps he'll still have some perceived value around the league after a breakout year last season with the New York Knicks.
The Cleveland Cavaliers could really use a stretch 4 since Anthony Bennett and Earl Clark have failed to do the job, so perhaps swapping C.J. Miles (who is behind Luol Deng in the rotation now) and his expiring deal would work.
In Miles, the Pacers would get a good shooter capable of catching fire every now and then. He'd be an upgrade over the likes of Solomon Hill and Rasual Butler, if nothing else.
Even if it's not to Cleveland, don't be surprised if the Pacers dump Copeland's deal for an expiring contract before the deadline. It's the right move financially.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Trade: Portland Trail Blazers trade C.J. McCollum (4 years, $10.4 million) to the Toronto Raptors for Terrence Ross (3 years, $9 million).
This one is extremely unlikely, as both the Blazers and Raptors are each high on their own guy. That being said, a prospect swap here would better fill the needs of each team.
For Portland, adding some insurance on the wing behind Nic Batum should be a priority, and Ross is the type of athletic three-point shooter who could fit right in with what the Blazers do offensively. McCollum should be an electric scorer as time goes on, but he's a bit redundant next to Damian Lillard, and Mo Williams has done a fine job in what was supposed to be McCollum's role.
Since Toronto could possibly lose Kyle Lowry to free agency (or deal him beforehand), adding a young combo guard who can score might not be a bad idea. Toronto would likely need to stumble and the pairing of Ross and DeMar DeRozan would have to play poorly for this to even be considered, though.
Finding a trade for Portland is really difficult, especially since it's highly doubtful it'll risk losing the current chemistry it has cooking now. There just aren't a lot of productive small forwards making less than $3 million a year available via trade. Portland might want to upgrade from Dorell Wright, but it might be tough.
The Trade: Houston Rockets trade Omer Asik (2 years, $16.7 million) to the Philadelphia 76ers for Spencer Hawes (1 year, $6.5 million).
Maybe it's not exactly the offer the Rockets were holding out for, but Hawes is a pretty solid fit as a three-point shooting big man on an expiring deal. While the lack of draft picks in return stings, the salary savings next season and improvement on the court this year are big deals. It also doesn't hurt that this would get Asik out of the Western Conference.
For Philadelphia, nabbing a young defensive-minded center for an expiring deal is a nice move, especially since the 76ers will be so far under the cap that paying the extra cash might not be a huge deal.
Houston might be better off waiting for a great offer, but if things get toxic, swapping Asik for Hawes provides a new element offensively while clearing up the books for next year. That's not the worst thing.