The 2014 NBA free-agency period has begun, and with that, there are teams seeking to open up room to vie for the top players on the open market. To do so, it requires parting ways with certain assets through trades—some deemed expendable; others not as easily shipped away.
Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin hasn't quite lived up to expectations in his two seasons with the team, so it comes as little surprise that he's rumored to be on the block. Lin is not a bad player by any means, but a big cap figure for the upcoming season and the chance to upgrade the overall roster has his days all but numbered.
Then there's the case of Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters, a former top-four draft pick whose opportunities to grow and showcase his abilities have been limited. Despite showing flashes of promise, Cleveland may have to deal him away, too.
Other franchises may not be fortunate enough to hunt down the big free agents, such as the Sacramento Kings. They are rumored to be packaging offers that are geared towards reshaping their foundation up front.
Below is a closer examination of the latest chatter regarding these developments on the NBA trade rumor mill.
Jeremy Lin May Land in Philadelphia
The City of Brotherly Love would be a fitting place for Lin to be traded to—if indeed the 76ers are genuinely interested in him being a long-term contributor.
Then again, that seems rather improbable, considering Philadelphia's draft suggests yet another lackluster—don't call it "tanking"—season in order to build for future, sustainable success. According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, the Rockets are interested in using the extra cap space left by Lin in a prospective deal to offer Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh massive contracts.
Stein's sources also bring up another pertinent point regarding a potentially crowded backcourt in Philadelphia:
Sources say that the Sixers, though, are happy to take on Lin -- despite the presence of reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams as their starting point guard -- provided that the extra asset or two they get from Houston is sufficiently attractive.
Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie is close with Rockets GM Daryl Morey after working alongside Morey before Hinkie's move to Philadelphia.
Lin's contract expires after the 2014-15 campaign, where he's owed a handsome salary of just under $15 million. That backloaded deal was wise on the part of Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, affording Houston cap flexibility to chase marquee free agents this summer if it can deal away its promising but overpaid point guard.
The Rockets' advertising campaign to lure Anthony made Lin a little bit unsettled:
Morey commented on that, per ESPN.com's Ian Begley:
Reality is it's standard practice. When we went after Chris Bosh a few years ago, we had him in (Luis) Scola's number. When we went after Dwight Howard he had (Patrick) Beverley's number. I get the sensitivity and I hate that it creates some hurt feelings. I don't like that, but that's obviously Carmelo Anthony's number, that's the number he wants. He told us that. Bottom line, if Carmelo comes Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin have to be traded. It's just math. It's not personal. My job is every day figure out how to win. Sometimes it creates challenging situations.
In that context, the writing may already be on the wall that Lin is the odd man out. Especially after losing his spot in the starting five to Patrick Beverley, perhaps a new atmosphere is what he needs.
Though the Sixers don't seem like the best option, it would be a place for Lin to prove himself and maintain an exceptional level of play amid difficult circumstances.
Plus, Michael Carter-Williams would provide an interesting complement with his length and defensive ability. He and Lin are two drastically different point guards, and it would be fascinating to see how Lin would operate with the addition of dynamic forward Nerlens Noel up front.
It could be argued that Lin has not been positioned to thrive at any point in his career. The reality is that his stint in Houston hasn't been horrible, he's still just 25 years old and has plenty of room to improve and be worthy of another strong payday. Whether he'd be able to develop in a positive way in Philadelphia would likely determine what trajectory the rest of Lin's career takes.
Dion Waiters To Leave Cleveland, Create Room for LeBron James?
The Cavs have floundered ever since LeBron James left town. With possibility that James could return as a free agent, they are at least listening to offers for Waiters, per Fox Sports' Sam Amico.
"Dion Waiters seems to be the name other teams are asking about most and Cavs general manager David Griffin is in a difficult spot," writes Amico. "He really likes Waiters, but Griffin also knows he may have to move the talented shooting guard, sources said."
For those doubting Cleveland's determination to make a legitimate pitch for James, look no further than this from Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski:
And it could be well-founded, per ESPN's Chris Broussard:
Amico acknowledges that Waiters could be on the move whether James comes to town or not, which was corroborated by this previous intel from BasketballInsiders.com's Alex Kennedy:
For whatever reason, be it a lack of an offensive genius on the coaching staff or a non-winning culture, Waiters and Kyrie Irving have failed to coexist in the backcourt. Both play better when the other isn't on the floor, and more often than not, it's been Irving taking center stage as the face of the franchise.
Waiters averaged 15.9 points per game last season, but he has thrived in isolation situations more than in off-ball scenarios, where he should be faring better as a 2-guard. His game needs some polish, and although his talent is unquestionable, he may not be a fit for the Cavs' future plans.
If the Cavs have to sacrifice Waiters and even Jack to land James, they will be deemed worthwhile expenditures. Particularly in the case of Waiters, though he still has upside to explore and can command a strong asset in return if a potential suitor likes how he projects in the coming years.
Sacramento Kings Reportedly Seeking to Reshape Frontcourt
Something drastic is necessary for Sacramento to ascend from the cellar of the Western Conference, where it has languished amid eight straight losing seasons. A convoluted, sometimes nonsensical roster has been a constant part of the problem.
Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee has some insider knowledge as to what the Kings are planning this offseason:
Should this situation be resolved, there is a chance for this maligned team to take a big step forward in 2014-15. At least that's how Dime Magazine's Josh Eberley feels:
And while there's merit to that sentiment, resolving the frontcourt problems beyond standout center DeMarcus Cousins will be an arduous task.
The No. 2 overall pick from Irving's draft class, Derrick Williams, hasn't panned out in the pros and is the ultimate tweener forward. Veteran Reggie Evans is a strong rebounder but is aging, while Quincy Acy is an unproven commodity. Trading any of them is a difficult proposition because none would yield any great returns.
If it is a strong defender and rim protector the Kings want, they may have to part ways with either Carl Landry or Jason Thompson, who both bring energy to the offensive end. But defense is what will help Sacramento ultimately become a playoff contender, as it ranked 24th in points yielded per contest last season.
There is a common thread regarding the three teams involved in this buzz. All of them are in need of an uptick in performance this next season, but need some significant help to do so. Lin may not be able to provide that for the Sixers if he winds up there, yet they don't seem intent on winning soon, based on their draft strategy of choosing Joel Embiid and Dario Saric in the first round.
Cleveland is a bit of an enigma, and Waiters may be fortunate to flee a perpetually unstable organization through a trade. If the Cavs can't land James or make another huge free-agent splash, they will be hard-pressed to get into the playoff hunt even in the weak Eastern Conference.
But at least they wouldn't be in the West, where the Kings have been a doormat for many of their conference adversaries. At least Sacramento, along with the Cavs and Sixers, can go almost nowhere but up and are making moves behind the scenes to pursue massive improvement.