NBA Trade Ideas: Could Cavs' Brooklyn Pick Get Them Kemba Walker?
Give yourself a break from news of NBA players throwing temper tantrums and taking underground tunnels that are actually well-known corridors into rival locker rooms. You've earned it.
What should you do with this sudden influx of spare time? Fire up the trade machine.
Certain scouts and executives are gearing up for a not-so-silly silly season, according to the Washington Post's Tim Bontemps. But we're optimists, so we'll do the opposite.
Rumors and speculation are the Association's primary business this time of year. And business is good. That alone is enough for us to hold on to hope of a busy deadline (Feb. 8 at 3 p.m. ET) and fiddle with team depth charts as we see fit.
Just one thing: In the case of scenarios that link players to specific teams, we're indentured to the news itself. We're not saying the fit is necessarily a great one or that the deal presented is a no-brainer.
What Would a DeAndre-to-Houston Deal *Have To* Look Like?
Houston Rockets Receive: PF/C Brice Johnson, C DeAndre Jordan
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: C Clint Capela, PF/C Ryan Anderson
The time when a potential DeAndre Jordan-for-Clint Capela swap made perfect sense has passed, but the Los Angeles Clippers big man apparently wants to join the Houston Rockets, according to ESPN's Stephen A. Smith (via Sports Illustrated). And so, we have to go here.
Capela can do a lot of what Jordan does, only he's younger and cheaper. And he'll remain cheaper into next season, even with restricted free agency on the horizon. Jordan, a 2017 All-Star, carries more cachet and isn't declining his $24.1 million player option without the promise of another lucrative payday. Failing a gap in next year's salaries, Capela's offseason cap hold ($7 million) will at least undercut Jordan's by more than $17 million.
Breaking bread with the Clippers only piques the Rockets' interest if they're lopping off the final two years and $41.7 million of Ryan Anderson's contract. This way, should Jordan opt to explore free agency, they'll enjoy a clearer path to making their own splash. They'll have lost Capela, but it won't take a first-round sweetener to wash Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker and Nene off the books.
Or maybe the Rockets know Jordan will be more appealing to LeBron James than Capela. They have no shot at signing the four-time MVP outright if they retain him, but James might be willing to mimic Chris Paul's move from last June—agree to opt into the final year of his deal and force the Cleveland Cavaliers to jettison him for a return built around Gordon, Tucker, salary-filler and first-round obligations (starting in 2020).
Granted, the framework of any deal will be complicated. The Rockets are hard-capped and would have to remain below the luxury-tax threshold. If they cannot figure out something during that gray area after the season and before free agency, they'd have to about-face toward a sign-and-trade or let Jordan walk.
But that would be future Daryl Morey's problem. For now, shedding Anderson's contract is the impetus behind shipping out Capela. And while the Clippers won't celebrate paying him, Danilo Gallinari and Blake Griffin at the same time, Anderson becomes easier to move in 2019-20 as an expiring deal. Plus, they get a younger, potentially better talent to move forward with at center.
Tyreke Evans Relocates to Washington
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: PG Tim Frazier, PF/C Jason Smith, 2018 first-round pick
Washington Wizards Receive: SG/SF James Ennis, SG/SF Tyreke Evans
The Memphis Grizzlies want a first-round pick in any Tyreke Evans trade, according to ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski—and they must be creative to get it.
Evans' performance is worth their asking price on its face. He's averaging 22.8 points and 5.5 assists per 36 minutes, shooting better than 40 percent from three, clowning teams out of the pick-and-roll and just generally torching defenders as a one-on-one attacker.
But the Grizzlies only signed him to a one-year deal at the biannual exception, so whichever team trades for him won't own his Bird rights. It'll either need to have cap space or hope the full mid-level exception is enough to lock him down.
Either way, the Grizzlies lose leverage, since they're facing the same predicament. Suitors know moving him now, before his cost balloons, is their safest course of action.
Attaching Evans to James Ennis while taking back a longer-term contract gets them their first-round choice. He too is on an expiring contract, but teams are hot for wings, per Wojnarowski, and Ennis comes with Early Bird rights.
Although the Washington Wizards would prefer to use their pick to duck the luxury tax, they're in a position to step out on this limb. They need another shot-creator and distributor like Evans coming off the bench, and Ennis deepens an offensive arsenal that wants for three-point volume without compromising defensive sets.
Washington also saves around $1 million in this deal by getting off Jason Smith, leaving it a manageable $4.7 million over the luxury line. Another trade could offset the difference, or ownership can come to terms with tax bills being a fact of life for a team bankrolling three max contracts (Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr., John Wall).
Cleveland Bids Farewell to Brooklyn's 1st-Round Pick
Charlotte Hornets Receive: C Channing Frye, SF/PF Cedi Osman, SG/SF Iman Shumpert, SG JR Smith, 2018 first-round pick (via Brooklyn Nets), 2020 second-round pick (via Miami Heat)
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: SG/SF Nicolas Batum, PG/SG Michael Carter-Williams, PG Kemba Walker
The inspiration for this deal is twofold. First, according to ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin, multiple "prominent players" from the Cavaliers told a combination of ESPN, Cleveland.com and The Athletic that the current roster isn't title-worthy.
Verbalizing this doubt, even anonymously, is a harbinger of urgency. Cleveland's recent skid—which has included two losses to its arch NBA Finals nemesis, the Golden State Warriors—forces the front office to approach the trade deadline with an open mind. Everything and everyone not named LeBron James must be on the table—even the Brooklyn Nets' first-rounder, which should still hold top-10 status even if it ends up outside the top three.
Enter the second mode of inspiration: The Charlotte Hornets' fading playoff hopes. They sit five games back of the East's final postseason spot and must now start asking themselves some tough questions. As the New York Times' Marc Stein wrote:
"Yet we advise you to track them at least through the Feb. 8 trade deadline because Charlotte will probably be forced to consider dealing Kemba Walker. If Walker stays, Jordan risks losing his best player without compensation in the summer of 2019 — or, perhaps worse, paying big bucks to hang on to him instead of starting an overdue tear-down of a pricey but mediocre roster."
Picking up the Nets selection while escaping the final $99.1 million of Nicolas Batum's contract (includes this season) is good value for the Hornets—even if they have to swallow the injured Iman Shumpert and struggling JR Smith, in addition to Channing Frye's expiring salary. Both can be sent packing after next year (Smith has a partial guarantee for 2019-20), and overpaying them for a short while beats investing almost twice as much in Batum over two additional seasons.
Cedi Osman isn't chopped liver either. And, equally tantalizing, the Hornets drum up the value of their own draft selection. They are putrid when playing without Walker and have more than enough time to crash the Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic's rock-bottom party.
Walker is a huge get for the Cavaliers. Yes, they'll have to ask their own tough questions with Isaiah Thomas' free agency on tap. Do they keep him? Try moving him with Tristan Thompson for DeAndre Jordan? The legwork is worth it. Walker isn't as much as a defensive liability when going up against the Warriors, and he's a dangerous enough spot-up shooter to work beside James.
Batum isn't worth near-max money to Charlotte. He might be to Cleveland. The outlook on his entire offensive game changes when he goes from second in command to a third or fourth option. And his cross-wing defense holds up against Golden State. A Batum-Jae Crowder-Playoff LeBron trio could wreak some serious havoc.
Milwaukee Finds Size and Shooting in Atlanta's Place Holders
Atlanta Hawks Receive: SG/SF Sterling Brown, PF/C Mirza Teletovic (injured), PF/C D.J. Wilson, 2020 second-round pick, 2021 second-round pick
Milwaukee Bucks Receive: PF Luke Babbitt, SG/SF Marco Belinelli, C Dewayne Dedmon
Dewayne Dedmon is actively being shopped by the Hawks, according to GiveMeSport's Mark Deeks. And the Milwaukee Bucks should be ecstatic.
They're in the market for additional size but don't have the juice to make a play for Marc Gasol or DeAndre Jordan without surrendering Malcolm Brogdon, Jabari Parker and/or Thon Maker. As a potential free agent (player option) who doesn't come with Bird rights, Dedmon is someone they have the assets to poach.
Piecing together a workable deal still isn't easy. Sending the Hawks Rashad Vaughn and D.J. Wilson but cutting bait with the latter for a probable rental is pretty gutsy.
Milwaukee is better off expanding the deal to include various other sweeteners and Mirza Teletovic, who hasn't played since Nov. 7 after undergoing right knee surgery and dealing with blood-clot issues in his lungs. His $10.5 million salary allows for a greater return, and Atlanta shouldn't balk at taking him on when he's ticketed for free agency in 2019.
Dedmon remains the Bucks' primary prize. He'll instantly become their best defensive rebounder, hold his own when rotating into space and set solid screens for a lankier big. And he has responded well to his green light from beyond the arc (16-of-39). But neither Luke Babbitt nor Marco Belinelli should be overlooked. They're more than throw-ins.
Babbitt gives Milwaukee the spacing at power forward it lost with Teletovic, and Belinelli's 39.2 percent clip from three is just plain valuable. Add in Parker's eventual return from his torn ACL, and the Bucks will finally have the tools to fire up more long balls.
The Hawks are taking a bunch of fliers here. That's fine. Rebuilding teams are supposed to act this way. Babbitt isn't in the rotation right now, while Belinelli and Dedmon are probable goners at year's end.
In its worst form, this talent dump soups up a tank presently being threatened by the Grizzlies, Magic and Sacramento Kings. And besides, even if we don't realize it, a John Collins-D.J. Wilson frontcourt is everything our lives have been missing.
San Antonio Breaks Character in 3-Team Mini-Buster with Detroit and Orlando
Detroit Pistons Receive: SF/PF Kyle Anderson, SG/SF Evan Fournier, SF/PF Mario Hezonja, PF/C Marreese Speights
Orlando Magic Receive: SG/SF Reggie Bullock, SG Langston Galloway, SF/PF Rudy Gay, 2018 first-round pick (via San Antonio Spurs)
San Antonio Spurs Receive: SG Avery Bradley, SF Stanley Johnson
Midseason trades aren't a San Antonio Spurs specialty. Their last one: The great Nando de Colo-for-Austin Daye swap...of 2014.
Kawhi Leonard's most recent injury update could change things. The Spurs announced Wednesday that he will be sidelined indefinitely to continue rehabbing his right quad. The complete absence of a timeline for his return gives them a reason to break character and work the phones.
Will they? Probably not. They're the Spurs. Continuity is king. But this deal should get them thinking. According to ESPN.com's Zach Lowe, they've shown previous interest in Stanley Johnson, whom the Detroit Pistons aren't opposed to moving, per ESPN.com's Ian Begley. And an underachieving Avery Bradley will look totally different, at both ends, when wearing black and silver.
Orlando shouldn't have any qualms about participating in this mini-buster. The front office is already thinking about a fire sale, according to Stein. Footing the bill for Langston Galloway is worth wiping the final three years and $51 million of Evan Fournier's pact from the ledger. Galloway might even come in handy with Elfrid Payton nearing restricted free agency and Shelvin Mack being Shelvin Mack.
Reggie Bullock is a steal at $2.5 million this season and next. Rudy Gay will bolt this summer (player option) or in 2019. And what rebuilding tanker doesn't love late first-round picks?
The Pistons may wind up being the toughest sell. Then again, they need a shot-maker who can be what Bradley hasn't been on offense, and Wojnarowski has linked them to Fournier. Getting him with the switchy Kyle Anderson (restricted free agent) and a half-season Hezonja flier counts as a victory when they don't have to finish Galloway's current contract or finance Bradley's next one.
Cue the valid wrinkle: The Spurs don't trade first-round picks, if they make moves at all. But they can view Johnson as this year's first-rounder, since he has one year left on his rookie scale and was selected at No. 8 as opposed to No. 26.
And if that rationalization doesn't do it for them, the Spurs can try working their voodoo to pry a second-rounder out of Orlando.