The NBA's official trade deadline is Feb. 20, but nearly every deal consummated between now and then will have seen its initial consummation this weekend in New Orleans.
All-Star weekend is many things. It's the NBA's midseason showcase of its greatest talents, with the single greatest individual-skills competition in all of sports (the dunk contest). It's a much-welcomed break from the 82-game slog of the regular season, where players can finally catch up with their families and take a couple days to rest.
It's a downright debaucherous time, convening professional athletes, celebrities, media and some, umm...let's just say there are other people there as well.
If you don't love NBA All-Star weekend, either (a) You've never been and are a #hater, or (b) made a mistake and are legally barred from attending another.
From an actual basketball standpoint, though, New Orleans will be one great big reunion, where NBA executives can convene in closed circles and talk about their teams. Most trade talks are consummated over the phone, and will remain that way going forward.
But there is something about meeting face-to-face and actually starting a conversation in the same room that helps expedite the process.
That and the looming specter of the NBA's arbitrary cutoff, of course. With almost the entire Western Conference feeling they are one move away from title contention and numerous teams tanking hard for ping-pong balls (Hi, Philly!), moves are bound to get done. Whether they're the huge ones fans want remains to be seen.
With that in mind, let's highlight a few of the biggest rumblings going on and assess their veracity.
GSW Wants to Use Trade Exceptions for Bench Help?
The Warriors are not so quietly playing themselves out of contention. Losses by Dallas and Phoenix on Tuesday moved them back into the No. 6 seed out West, but Golden State has been flirting with the dreaded eight hole for much of February and could land there if it isn't careful.
Recognized by mainstream fans as one of the best offenses in the league, the Warriors have hung outside the top 10 in offensive efficiency for much of the season. Their half-court offense often succumbs to Oklahoma City disease, breaking after an initial set for inefficient isolations.
That's especially the case when Stephen Curry hits the bench. The Warriors score 108.7 points per 100 possessions with Curry on the floor, which would rank just ahead of the Clippers for the league's third best offense. When Curry sits, however, that number dips all the way down to 90.4 points—a number that would break the land and speed record for putridity.
Golden State attempted to prop up the bench with the Jordan Crawford trade, but that hasn't worked as planned thus far. Crawford is shooting 37.8 percent with Golden State and was even coming back to earth a bit in Boston before the deal. It's clear he alone isn't going to prop up the bench, and if the Warriors fancy themselves a championship contender, at least one more deal is necessary.
Sam Amick of USA Today is reporting they plan on doing just that, hoping they can parlay one of their two trade exceptions into an impact bench piece. They have exceptions of $9 million and $4 million from previous deals, so a blockbuster isn't entirely out of the question. It is unlikely, though, as Golden State would like to stick under the luxury tax and has only $2.5 million worth of wiggle room.
It all sounds superficially swell until you look down the line and realize how little the Warriors have to offer. The Jazz own their first-round pick this season and in 2016 after the Andre Iguodala sign-and-trade, and general manager Bob Myers has shipped out most of his second-round selections as well. Marreese Speights' name has no value around the league, nor does MarShon Brooks' at this point.
Golden State's best hope is a team looking to skirt under the luxury tax themselves will get desperate enough to send away a solid asset for a future second-round pick. (Teams must give and receive an asset in all trades, even when a trade exception is involved.)
The monkey wrench here could be if the Warriors shock everyone and trade Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes, but that seems unlikely at this point. Thompson is the higher valued of the two but is also the less expendable. Regardless, Golden State would probably be better served waiting until summer to move one or both of the young assets as part of a win-now splash.
In other words: Expect the Warriors to be silent unless they find a desperate partner.
Knicks Rekindling Old Interests as Deadline Rolls Near?
Discussing the Knicks' latest fiasco has become old hat. They are a poorly coached, horribly run organization with a toxic locker room and a deeply flawed superstar who would be far better in a second-banana role.
The Knicks refuse to admit this, of course, precisely because they are so poorly coached and horribly run.
It's a perpetually rotating circle.
The Knicks have often compounded their issues by overpaying for mediocre talent with actual assets (Hello, Mr. Bagnani) and sometimes irreparably altered the reputation of their own assets. So, when frustrated stars try pushing themselves out of bad situations, the Knicks are only mentioned in passing—as in the Knicks could be a landing spot if only they were competent.
Speaking of competence, it's beginning to look like the one time New York didn't cough up a future asset is when it should have. Owner James Dolan reportedly put the kibosh on a trade for Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry in December because, aware of his national reputation, he did not want to deal a future first-round pick.
Lowry promptly had a coming-out party. The enigmatic guard averaged more than 18 points and eight assists in December and January and has arguably been the best point guard in the Eastern Conference this season.
Toronto has moved into the No. 3 seed, thanks in large part to Lowry's excellence. Neither Anthony Davis nor DeMarcus Cousins was the biggest All-Star snub when initial reserves were announced—Lowry was.
Meanwhile, Raymond Felton is probably the worst guard in the league who's getting 30 or more minutes a night. Hence you get reports like these from Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:
The Raptors value Lowry, but he's an expiring contract who might have priced himself out of Toronto. David Aldridge of NBA.com noted earlier this week that Toronto had no interest in paying Lowry elite point guard money this summer.
But general manager Masai Ujiri could certainly get a sweeter offer than whatever the Knicks are throwing out. New York is almost entirely without assets and, for once, the short-term move might have been the correct one here.
Still, this isn't the only previously rumored deal getting a second life. In November, the Knicks and Denver Nuggets engaged in trade talks centered on Iman Shumpert and Kenneth Faried. The deal fizzled and was thought to be dead, until ESPN's Marc Stein reported the Knicks' attempts to resurrect talks on Tuesday.
Stein notes Denver is balking at the Knicks' current overtures, which makes sense given the two players' values around the league.
I covered this potential deal at far greater length and won't rehash too much here, but suffice it to say New York might be better off. Faried is a tough, energetic player who could help any number of teams. His lack of versatility on offense and secret terribleness on defense, though, make him a bad fit for a team already going through its own fair share of those issues.
No Rondo Move Coming, but the C's Willing to Deal Jeff Green, Brandon Bass?
If there is one thing clear about Danny Ainge's ideals to team building, it's this: Anything is possible. The decision to send Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn last summer proved that by itself. The logo and the colors matter; the players are ultimately fungible, to a certain extent.
This is both a smart way to rebuild and ultimately terrifying. No player is 100 percent safe. If you can trade Pierce and Garnett, you can damn sure guarantee Ainge would send Vitor Faverani packing if given a chance.
The prickliest of these questions come with Rajon Rondo, the only prominent leftover from the Celtics' NBA Finals runs.
Rondo only recently returned after sitting out much of the first half while recovering from an ACL tear and is still working his way back. He's shown enough flashes, though, that if a team took a risk and offered a nice trade package for him, it'd be hard to express much disdain.
Boston's overarching plan with Rondo is still a mystery. Rondo, turning 28 later this month, isn't exactly a young dude. He will likely hit 30 by the time the Celtics are competing for a playoff spot again and is due a contract with a hefty raise after next season.
According to Sean Deveney of Sporting News, Ainge will listen to offers for Rondo but will have to be overwhelmed to pull the trigger at this point.
No need for overwhelming offers for other players, though. Specifically, Jeff Green and Brandon Bass continue to come up in trade talks.
Green, also turning 28 later this year, just hasn't stepped into a leadership role the way Boston would have liked. He's averaging 16.6 points per game and hitting a solid 36.2 percent rate from beyond the arc, but his enigmatic tendencies are frustrating and aren't going away anytime soon.
Green having $19 million remaining on his deal isn't exactly attractive. Only a couple teams, like the Rockets for instance, make any sense from an objective standpoint.
Bass is probably a goner. He's a little overpaid at $6.9 million for next season but not egregiously so—especially for teams looking to compete for a title. The Suns and Warriors were mentioned by Deveney as possible landing spots. Phoenix has a war chest of assets and is the Western Conference contender most likely to pull off a big splash. Golden State, we've established, needs help.
The Bobcats are also mentioned, which is kind of fascinating. Bass would fit something of a need, but he's not moving the needle. Charlotte is at best a team that's going to get obliterated by Indiana or Miami in the first round. After so many years of putridity, that's probably attractive to management.
But, like, come on.
All advanced stats are via NBA.com.
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