2017 NBA Trade Rumors: Buying or Selling the Latest Potential Deals
Feel that? It's a rush of wind generated by the NBA's fast-approaching Feb. 23 trade deadline.
Before we let it sweep us off our feet, there are potential deals to discuss. These are not your half-baked theories or typical "Team X is shopping Player Y" rumors. They are more definitive scenarios—specific players linked to particular landing spots.
In buying and selling each situation, we are not commenting on the validity of reports. Rather, we're deciding whether the presented gossip makes enough sense for all parties involved to pull the trigger.
Trades that have been completely quashed largely won't be up for debate; we can re-open recently closed cases, but only if we have reason enough to do so.
Everything is in play when rendering a verdict: player salaries, potential fit with new teams, current and resulting depth charts, market value and anything in between.
Celtics Interested in Nikola Vucevic
Rebounding and rim protection top the Celtics' list of trade-deadline priorities. Vucevic is grabbing 30.2 percent of opponent misses when on the floor—a full 11 percent more than Boston's leading glass-crasher (Kelly Olynyk). He thus helps address a league-worst defensive rebounding rate.
But Vucevic doesn't boost Boston's paint protection. Opponents shoot 52.6 percent against him at the rim—a so-so mark at best—and enjoy above-average clips when he challenges them inside six feet of the hoop.
Boston does have the option of rolling the dice and figuring out the rest later. Al Horford-Vucevic lineups wouldn't function that much worse than Amir Johnson-Horford combinations, and the $25 million Vucevic is owed over the next two seasons won't break the bank.
Cost becomes an issue, though, when looking at the Magic's asking price. They want a wing, per Stein, and the Celtics can't justify including Avery Bradley, Jaylen Brown or Jae Crowder without getting Serge Ibaka in return.
Unless Orlando comes around to an offer concocted around Johnson's expiring deal, James Young and picks, this scenario feels like typical pre-deadline noise.
Timberwolves Might Be Hot for Reggie Jackson
ESPN.com's Chris Haynes and Marc Stein reported on Jan. 20 that the Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves talked turkey on a Reggie Jackson-for-Ricky Rubio swap. The news was met with disdain by Pistons head coach and president Stan Van Gundy.
"Look, these discussions happen all the time, and this idea when teams say somebody's off limits...see, I won't lie to my guys," he said, per MLive's Aaron McMann. "There's no one in this league that's off limits."
While he stopped short of invalidating the rumor altogether, Van Gundy did, per McMann, text Jackson to let him know nothing concrete was on the horizon. And ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst would later say on a TrueHoop Podcast that Minnesota initiated these negotiations.
According to Haynes and Stein, the Timberwolves are ready to move on from Rubio. The Pistons could use a pass-first point guard to complement their herd of ball-dominant scorers, but Rubio's nonexistent jumper only exacerbates the issue: He needs the ball in his hands more than Jackson.
Shabazz Muhammad isn't a good enough pot-sweetener for Detroit to pivot. He is shooting 43.7 percent on spot-up three-pointers but gets tunnel vision when handling the ball and will be due for a lucrative raise in restricted free agency.
Getting Jackson doesn't solve much for the Timberwolves, either. He is an upgrade over Rubio, but he's more expensive and under contract for an extra year—an odd fit for a Minnesota squad that's supposed to be clearing the point guard deck for rookie Kris Dunn.
Serge Ibaka and Toronto, (Linked) Together Again
After trading for Serge Ibaka and signing Bismack Biyombo when they already had Nikola Vucevic on the books, the Magic are doing the NBA walk of shame, according to the Sporting News' Sean Deveney:
It has not taken long for buyers' remorse to kick in. League sources told Sporting News that the Magic have picked up their attempts to move Ibaka ahead of next month’s trade deadline, eager to ensure that they come away with some return for a player who does not figure to be in Orlando long. Ibaka will be a free agent this summer. There is no chance of a Biyombo trade, not after the Magic paid him $70 million for four years this offseason.
Deveney goes on to say there is "virtually no chance" Ibaka sticks with the Magic beyond this year and cites the Toronto Raptors as a potential suitor—which makes sense.
The Raptors have long been in the market for an upgrade at power forward. They were linked to Paul Millsap when he briefly hit the chopping block, and general manager Masai Ujiri tried poaching Ibaka from the Oklahoma City Thunder before last June's draft, per TSN's Josh Lewenberg.
Orlando needs wings, and Toronto has a bunch of serviceable three-and-D guys in DeMarre Carroll, Norman Powell and Terrence Ross. But Ross is off the table, per Deveney, and Powell is a steep price to pay for a soon-to-be 27-year-old free agent who has peaked in pretty much every area.
Still, adding Ibaka's shot-blocking and 38.3 percent three-point clip is a tantalizing option for the Raptors. He works defensively alongside Lucas Nogueira and should feast off kick-outs from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
It's unlikely the Magic will lower their demands after giving up Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for Ibaka, but the Raptors can test their appetite for first-round picks. They have all their own selections, plus the Los Angeles Clippers' 2017 selection—not to mention prime salary-matching real estate in Cory Joseph, Patrick Patterson and Jared Sullinger.
Cavaliers Targeting Shelvin Mack, Jameer Nelson
"We need a f--king playmaker," LeBron James said following the Cavaliers' Jan. 23 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
Well, general manager LeBron, general manager David Griffin is trying.
Shelvin Mack and Jameer Nelson have popped up on the Cavaliers' radar, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein. Cleveland has trade exceptions to absorb either player's salary that can be paired with a future second-round pick.
That's about the extent of what the Cavs can offer. They dangled Jordan McRae in a since-rejected package for the Philadelphia 76ers' T.J. McConnell, according to Philly.com's Keith Pompey. But Mack ($2.4 million) and Nelson ($4.5 million) make too much for a straight-up swap to work.
Attaching the sidelined Chris Andersen's deal to McRae's also doesn't equal enough outgoing salary to accommodate Mack. Sending DeAndre Liggins to the Utah Jazz with one of Andersen or McRae gets the job done, but Liggins is currently too important to Cleveland's defensive cause.
Mack is nevertheless the Cavaliers' best option. The Jazz don't need him if they plan to re-sign George Hill and/or intend to make anything of Dante Exum's career. They can live with a second-rounder and cap flexibility as compensation.
This is great news for the Cavaliers. Their second-string backcourt options are posting a bottom-eight net rating, and the point guard situation behind Kyrie Irving is particularly problematic. They, as James said, need an effing playmaker.
Carmelo Anthony to the Clippers
League sources told ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein that the Clippers and Knicks are "searching" for a third team to facilitate a deal landing Anthony in Hollywood. Talks are complicated by the fact Los Angeles won't be forfeiting a member of its Big 3 and remains "reluctant" to part with a combination of Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick and Austin Rivers.
In sum: We've reached the point where Knicks president Phil Jackson is flagrantly hocking Anthony in exchange for basically nothing. What a world.
Anthony is past his prime and not an active participant on the defensive end. But he's a top-25 offensive player who shouldn't be flipped for a return headlined by Rivers—whose rise, by the way, receives a boon from playing beside one to three superstars and, until recently, facing second units. Any deal for Anthony must net the Knicks a mixture of picks, prospects and expiring contracts.
At 24 and in the first season of a three-year, $35 million pact, Rivers doesn't check a single one of those boxes.
If the right return for Anthony isn't out there (and it probably isn't), the Knicks are better off keeping him. His no-trade clause limits New York's scope, and even the most aggressive squads will flinch at the remaining two years and $54.2 million on his contract (early termination option after 2017-18).
That doesn't give Jackson license to auction off Anthony for dreck. He isn't impeding Kristaps Porzingis' development any more than Joakim Noah eating up time at center or Derrick Rose being a suboptimal passer.
And let's not pretend this is an ideal move for the Clippers. Turning two or three of Wesley Johnson, Crawford, Redick and Rivers into Anthony is a coup on paper. But Los Angeles is in no position to winnow down its razor-thin bench for a less-than-good chance of rivaling the Golden State Warriors.
Clippers Have Eyes for P.J. Tucker
Before Carmelo Anthony scenarios engulfed La La Land, the Clippers had eyes for P.J. Tucker.
As of Jan. 20, according ESPN.com's Marc Stein, Los Angeles offered a second-round selection for Tucker, who "is said to have a not-so-secret admirer in Doc Rivers."
But the Phoenix Suns rebuffed the overture in hopes of extracting a first-rounder for the 6'6" 31-year-old.
Acquiring Tucker will be exponentially easier than bringing back Anthony. He is earning just $5.3 million this season, and his impending free agency inherently drives down Phoenix's price tag.
No team, for that matter, should be forking over first-round goodies to grab him—least of all the Clippers. They can't deal a first-round choice until 2021, and there's no sense mortgaging any part of the future, however small, when you don't know how Blake Griffin's and Chris Paul's free agencies will unfold.
If the Suns are willing to accept a 2019 second-round pick as primary payment, the Clippers are sort of in business.
Combining Paul Pierce's and Alan Anderson's deals is enough to match Tucker's cap hit, but would Rivers actually ship Pierce out to a non-contender, even if said rebuilding squad is willing to buy him out? Is Wesley Johnson so low on the totem pole that his contract could be dealt for Tucker straight up?
The Clippers, like usual, are limited in what they can do to improve their title chances midseason. But their second-unit defense is a mess up front, and Tucker is one of the very few impact players they might have the assets to obtain.
Pelicans Are Feeling Dwight Howard
If only the Atlanta Hawks didn't balk at a possible fire sale following the Kyle Korver trade. Then maybe Anthony Davis would count Dwight Howard as his partner in crime.
New Orleans "had exploratory talks about possible Howard trades before the Hawks pulled everyone off the market" back in early January, according to ESPN.com's Zach Lowe.
But the Eastern Conference is weird, and the Hawks are smart enough to know they aren't upending the Cavaliers anytime soon, right? They are 1.5 games off the No. 2 seed, but also a 3-7 or 2-8 stretch away from plunging down the postseason ladder.
With Paul Millsap about to turn 32 and barreling toward free agency, the Hawks won't enter the trade deadline as buyers—there aren't enough long-term incentives for them to double down on this core. They will either stand pat or reconsider their seller's stance from a half-second ago.
Howard significantly drums up the credentials of New Orleans' top-10 defense. He prevents Davis from taking a beating at center, and the two can run dual-big pick-and-rolls, with the one-eyebrowed pterodactyl serving as the initiator.
But the Pelicans need sweet-shooting wings before they bring on another skyscraper. And unless the Hawks are taking back Omer Asik's deal, they have no business tethering future first-round picks—or younger players like Buddy Hield—to cap fodder in exchange for aging contributors.
Landing Howard won't position New Orleans to snag more than the Western Conference's No. 8 seed, and it's just three games out of the picture without him. Tack on his $23.5 million salary to the 2017-18 docket, and the Pelicans will have between $65 million and $70 million committed to a three-player core of him, Davis and Jrue Holiday if they re-sign the latter—a pricey nucleus that doesn't vault them into championship territory.
Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @danfavale.