NBA Trade Ideas from Latest Buzz: Deals for Nikola Mirotic, Nic Batum and Others
Finally, after weeks of being indentured to some version of the same chopping-block scuttlebutt, the NBA's rumor mill is allowing us to branch out into different trade scenarios.
Paul George, Marc Gasol and DeAndre Jordan retain a special place in our search history. They're each A-listers with cloudy futures and contract situations. But for the time being, they aren't dominating the anonymous-sources game.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are playing out a 15-game hot streak that has put them back into contention for a top-four playoff seed. Everyone is numb to the Memphis Grizzlies' implosion by now, so their prospective teardown isn't engendering as many chatterboxes. Milos Teodosic has given the Los Angeles Clippers plenty to think about by showing them what it means to play meaningful basketball again.
Fret not, though, gossip-guzzlers: This momentary lapse in babble is not forever. The Association's usual suspects will rejoin your bookmarked trade-machine links prior to the Feb. 8 deadline. Count on that.
In the meantime, the speculation superstore is churning out different material for us to consider. From familiar names that enjoyed a brief hiatus from notional dissection to brand-spanking-new matters of uncertainty, the hypothetical-trade business remains as incandescent as ever.
Milwaukee Bolsters Its Frontcourt
Milwaukee Bucks Receive: C Kyle O'Quinn
New York Knicks Receive: PF/C D.J. Wilson, SG/SF Rashad Vaughn
The Milwaukee Bucks have not abandoned their search for size. They've just adjusted their scope a bit.
While they were among the teams most aggressively targeting DeAndre Jordan at the beginning of December, they've since set their sights on smaller-time prospects like JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia, according to The Athletic's Marcus Thompson. Nabbing Jordan remains in play if the Clippers nosedive out of postseason contention, but rummaging through the bargain bin has its benefits.
John Henson's pact (three years, $31.7 million) gets the ball rolling in any blockbuster talks, but unloading him in the pursuit for size is a tad redundant. Plus, it may take one or more of Thon Maker, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker and Tony Snell for the Bucks to make a starry splash. Tempering ambitions will inevitably let them pull the trigger without rattling the core.
Enter Kyle O'Quinn. He's piecing together quite the season in limited playing time for the New York Knicks. He's their second-best rim protector behind Kristaps Porzingis and is a nifty passer. New York doesn't have him shooting threes, but it should; he's canning 42.9 percent of his looks between 16 feet and the arc—right in line with his 41.1 percent career clip.
O'Quinn instantly becomes the Bucks' best defensive rebounder. No one on the Knicks grabs a larger share of opponent misses, and he won't get outmuscled in scrums under the basket, as Henson often does.
Selling on D.J. Wilson so early stings, but he was a reach at No. 17 in June, and the Bucks won't have room for him and Maker long term. And they've already given up on Rashad Vaughn, whose fourth-year option they declined in October. O'Quinn comes in at a reasonable $4.1 million, with a $4.3 million player option for next year. He won't cost much to re-sign if he explores the open market.
New York shouldn't need much convincing if the front office has its priorities in order. At 27, Quinn isn't part of the Knicks' bigger picture, and Wilson gives them a prospect who could peak as a shot-blocking floor-spacer yet doesn't preclude them from dusting off the buried Willy Hernangomez.
Chicago Revives the Tank Nikola Mirotic Flat-Lined (After Jan. 14)
Chicago Bulls Receive: PF/C Jon Leuer, 2018 lottery-protected first-round pick, 2019 second-round pick
Detroit Pistons Receive: PF Nikola Mirotic
Nikola Mirotic is too good for the Chicago Bulls.
In the 10 games since his season debut, the 26-year-old is averaging 18.5 points and 7.6 rebounds while shooting 50.4 percent overall and 48.3 percent from long distance. Chicago is outscoring opponents by 9.0 points per 100 possessions when he's on the floor and has gone 8-2 with him in the lineup.
This breakout, which has coincided with nice outings from David Nwaba, Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine, is gumming up the Bulls' previously fine-tuned tank. And they know it. So, too, does Mirotic. He's open to waiving his no-trade clause for a contender, and they're ready to entertain moving him once he's eligible to be traded in mid-January, according to the Chicago Sun-Times' Joe Cowley.
The Detroit Pistons aren't a contender, but they're close enough. They're four games above .500 and are currently the Eastern Conference's No. 4 seed despite uneven performances from their most important players.
Picking up a first-round pick should get the Bulls to swallow the $19.5 million Jon Leuer is owed over the next two seasons. Mirotic is worth slightly more in a vacuum, but veto power complicates his value. He won't ditch it indiscriminately when he's at the mercy of a team option in 2018-19.
Escaping Leuer's deal is a no-brainer for the Pistons. A left ankle injury has kept him on the sidelines since Oct. 31, and he doesn't factor into the rotation so long as Anthony Tolliver drills more than 40 percent of his three-pointers.
Snagging Mirotic bolsters Detroit's depth in a big way. He can play either the 3 or 4 and injects life into a rotation faltering near the top. All five of the Pistons' most-used lineups are posting negative point differentials per 100 possessions, and they're 26th in offensive efficiency over their past 12 games.
Charlotte and Miami Get New Looks
Charlotte Hornets Receive: SG/SF Wayne Ellington, SG/SF Dion Waiters, SF/PF Justise Winslow, 2022 second-round pick
Miami Heat Receive: SG/SF Nicolas Batum
Nicolas Batum's contract has become more albatross than asset. So much so that "the prevailing thought in NBA circles" is Charlotte could look to move him in an effort to trim salary, according to Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler.
Trading him won't be easy. He's 29, is owed almost $100 million through 2020-21, and a left elbow injury that caused him to miss the first 12 games of the season hasn't fully healed.
"Since I got back three weeks ago, it's really, really bothered my game," he told the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell in the middle of December. "It's really bothered me. It's [affected] my performance. I can't be myself."
It would be one thing if Batum's regression profiled as an anomaly. It doesn't. He's notching the worst effective field-goal percentage of his career for a second straight season, and the Hornets offense has long struggled to score when he plays without Kemba Walker.
Batum's next home will be taking an expensive risk by committing to him for the next few years, but the Miami Heat are just the squad to make that gamble. Team president Pat Riley is a big-name chaser, and Batum still carries that cachet. And it just so happens the Heat need another primary creator after whiffing on Gordon Hayward in free agency.
Absorbing Waiters' salary as part of this package might compel the Hornets to balk. He's posting the second-lowest field-goal percentage of his career, is draining less than 31 percent of his threes and has a left ankle injury that could require offseason surgery, per the Palm Beach Post's Tom D'Angelo.
Still, Batum isn't playing any better on offense, and Waiters will cost about half as much in the seasons to follow. He's shooting over 50 percent in crunch time and is headlining an above-average attack when running without Dragic. The Hornets might find he's more suited than Batum to carry the offense in Walker's absence.
Justise Winslow isn't the perfect complement to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's own brick-laying, but he's a stout defender with two years left on his rookie-scale deal. Even if he never develops reliable touch outside of eight feet, he can harass 4s while Kidd-Gilchrist stays in his comfort zone, chasing around 2s and 3s. And snagging human pinball Wayne Ellington is just good business for an offense that sits in the bottom five of three-point-attempt rate and ranks 23rd in long-range accuracy.
Denver Takes a Mini-Swing While Orlando Leans into the Future
Denver Nuggets Receive: PG Elfrid Payton, SG Jonathon Simmons, PF/C Marreese Speights
Orlando Magic Receive: PF/C Darrell Arthur, SG/SF Malik Beasley, PG Emmanuel Mudiay, 2018 lottery-protected first-round pick
Emmanuel Mudiay is officially on the outside looking in at the Denver Nuggets' future.
Right ankle issues have limited his availability in recent weeks, but he found himself getting phased out before them. He's cleared 20 minutes in just one of his past 12 appearances, and head coach Mike Malone won't guarantee him a spot in the rotation moving forward, per BSN Denver's Harrison Wind.
This jibes with sources telling the New York Post's Marc Berman the Nuggets have attempted to trade their point guard "multiple times." They're more invested in grooming Jamal Murray as the chief floor general, and Mudiay's reps as the lead ball-handler don't have much room for growth with Will Barton (who will be a free agent this summer) and Gary Harris in tow.
Few teams have the void at point guard and protracted timeline to give the 21-year-old a more extensive shake. The Orlando Magic are one of them. They've plummeted down the standings following an 8-4 start and need to enter asset-collection mode.
Elfrid Payton and Jonathon Simmons are tough pieces to give up, but they have no place in Orlando. Payton will be due a raise in restricted free agency this summer and only ever seems to captain potent offenses after the All-Star break, and a 28-year-old Simmons makes more sense for a competitive team.
Darrell Arthur's contract shouldn't be a deal-breaker for the Magic. He'll be off the books in 2019, and if they can find minutes for Marreese Speights, they have the flexibility to roll him out. The offense is surviving with Payton on the floor, and he's shooting a career-best 36.4 percent from deep, but he's an inattentive defender and is liability at the foul line. Orlando won't get much for him since he's effectively on an expiring contract.
Landing Mudiay, Malik Beasley and a lottery-protected pick amounts to three first-rounders anyway—and a win-win transaction. The Nuggets get an interesting backup playmaker and much-needed perimeter defender, and the Magic amass enough first-round flyers to lean into a rebuild around Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac.
Lakers Gear Up for Splashy Summer and Avoid Nuclear Winter
Atlanta Hawks Receive: C Andrew Bogut, PG/SG Jordan Clarkson
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: SG/SF Marco Belinelli, C Dewayne Dedmon
"They believe they can trade Jordan Clarkson and get his money off. They prefer not to do it at the trade deadline. Clarkson has helped them win games this year, and because they don't have their pick, they want to win as many games as they can. But there's got to be a sequencing here. And it gets back to, are they going to chase one max-salary slot, or two?"
Clarkson cannot be part of the Lakers' future beyond this season if they're still bent on chiseling out two max-contract slots—particularly if, as Wojnarowski said, they're being asked to cough up multiple first-rounders in prospective Luol Deng salary dumps.
Renouncing all their other free agents, including Julius Randle, gets them past the $45 million threshold. Lopping off Clarkson's $12.5 million carries them past $57 million—a little more than $8 million shy of affording the LeBron James-Paul George pipe dream.
Waiting to move Clarkson until this summer is fine. But the Lakers can most definitely move him now, while he's tallying a career-high true shooting percentage and player efficiency rating and garnering Sixth Man of the Year consideration.
Dewayne Dedmon and Marco Belinelli fit the bill for what they'll need in return—cheap placeholders who advance this season's win total. Dedmon is an especially big-time get if he recovers from the left leg injury that has relegated him to bystander duty since Nov. 25. Los Angeles already showed interest in Nerlens Noel, according to Wojnarowski. Dedmon is cut from the same mold as a rim-runner, yet he boasts three-point range and more disciplined defensive rotations.
Though Dedmon is expected to decline his player option for next season, it won't be the end of the world if he sticks around. The Lakers can circumvent his $6.3 million hold as part of their max-contract party. Belinelli, meanwhile, comes on an expiring deal and brings a 38.2 percent three-point clip to the NBA's worst outside-shooting team.
Taking on the final two years and $25.9 million of Clarkson's agreement isn't asking too much of the Atlanta Hawks. They're in the perfect spot, with the league's worst record, to roll the dice on a 25-year-old guard who suits their timeline better than their current No. 2 playmaker, Kent Bazemore.