Buying or Selling Latest NBA Rumors Entering Trade-Deadline Month
After a wild start to 2015, the NBA trade market appears to have cooled off significantly heading into February.
Does that portend a quiet trade deadline? Hardly.
Though talks died in mid-January among the Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Hornets and Oklahoma City Thunder regarding Brook Lopez, Lance Stephenson and co., all it takes is one phone call for chatter to recommence. They aren't the only teams likely to engage in trade discussions over the coming weeks, either.
As the playoff picture begins to crystallize, teams will have a better sense of whether they're buyers or sellers. Western Conference contenders need to keep up with the ongoing arms race, while squads rife with cap space should make themselves available to others for salary relief.
Let's walk through the latest NBA trade rumors heading into February and see which ones have real legs.
Buy: Suns Selling Miles Plumlee
The Phoenix Suns' recent acquisition of Brandan Wright from the Boston Celtics didn't bode well for Miles Plumlee's future with the team.
ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported on Jan. 18 that Phoenix was "actively shopping" the third-year big man in advance of the trade deadline. "The Suns are believed to be seeking at least one future first-round pick" for Plumlee, according to Stein, which appears to be a healthy dose of wishful thinking.
According to Grantland's Zach Lowe, "there is major skepticism [among executives] about whether any team would meet that price." Considering Plumlee has yet to post an above-average player-efficiency rating in any of his three seasons, demanding a future first-rounder for him will likely get Phoenix nowhere fast.
If the Suns lower their asking price for the Duke product, however, they should have little trouble finding a taker. ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton recently discussed the allure of the eldest Plumlee:
Plumlee already has a season-plus of starting experience, so while his age (26) limits his upside, he's a useful rotation center at a reasonable price ($2.1 million in 2015-16, the final season of his rookie contract). And if his rebound rate returns to where it was in 2013-14, he might be something more.
Phoenix shouldn't just give him away for 20 cents on the dollar, but moving him might be necessary if the Oklahoma City Thunder or New Orleans Pelicans close the gap on them in the playoff race. Expect the Suns to find a taker for Plumlee by the trade deadline, even if it doesn't net them a first-round pick in return.
Sell: Michael Carter-Williams on the Move?
Though Michael Carter-Williams is only a year-and-a-half into his NBA career, his name has been a fixture in trade rumors over the past eight months. According to Grantland's Zach Lowe, the Philadelphia 76ers shopped him during the draft, but they "couldn't draw the drove they envisioned" and thus opted against dealing him.
Over recent weeks, however, MCW's name has resurfaced in trade rumors. ESPN.com's Chad Ford claims to have "heard a lot of rumblings from GMs that Carter-Williams is available," noting, "There are some in ownership and in the front office, though not all, that don't see him as a long-term piece of the puzzle."
The Philadelphia Inquirer's Bob Ford echoed that sentiment in an interview with CineSport's Noah Coslov, saying, "I think they're trying to deal him right now. I wouldn't be surprised if Michael Carter-Williams were traded before the deadline. … I think they've looked at him for a couple of years and decided his shot is not fixable."
In his ESPN.com chat, Ford addressed one major hiccup to a potential MCW deal: "I think the challenge right now is that the Sixers will want a lot in return and MCW's play, to date this season, hasn't warranted multiple first-round picks for him."
To wit, he's shooting just 38.1 percent overall, 25.0 percent from three-point range and 64.2 percent on free throws, all marked declines from his rookie-season averages.
Additionally, with Tony Wroten presumably out for the season due to a partially torn ACL, the Sixers lack any reliable point guard options behind Carter-Williams. Larry Drew II, who signed a 10-day contract with the team in mid-January, would be the next man up if Philly trades MCW and doesn't receive a point guard in return.
Unless a team is willing to cough up multiple first-rounders for Carter-Williams, expect him to stay put through the trade deadline. A draft-night trade is far more feasible, especially if Emmanuel Mudiay is on the board when the Sixers are up.
Buy: Knicks Flip Pablo Prigioni for 2nd-Rounder
SNY.tv's Adam Zagoria reported Thursday that the Knicks would like to move the 37-year-old for a second-round pick. Since the calendar flipped to January, Prigioni has played a grand total of 127 minutes over nine contests, scoring 30 points on 9-of-24 shooting to go with 15 assists, 13 rebounds, eight steals and 12 turnovers in that span.
NBC Sports' Dan Feldman explained why a Prigioni-to-Cleveland deal could appeal to both sides:
[The Cavaliers] still have a second rounder left to deal — the lower of Chicago's and Portland’s this year, though they likely won't have another until 2020 — but matching salaries could be tricky. Perhaps, New York could do better, but the league is deep with point guards, and Jordan Farmer and Nate Robinson are free agents.
The Knicks’ focus should be on developing young players and maximizing 2015 cap room. Trading Prigioni for whatever draft pick they can get would help accomplish both.
Cleveland isn't the only team in need of a backup point guard. With Brandon Jennings now done for the year due to a torn Achilles tendon suffered Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks, ESPN's Marc Stein suggested the Detroit Pistons as a potential suitor for Prigioni, too.
The emergence of Langston Galloway could be the final nail in Prigioni's New York coffin, as head coach Derek Fisher now has even less incentive to play the veteran point guard. Given the Knicks' reportedly low asking price, a deal here makes too much sense not to happen, whether with Cleveland, Detroit or another point guard-needy team.
Sell: Houston Landing a Stud Point Guard
At first glance, the Houston Rockets don't appear to be in need of a major shakeup. They have the league's fifth-best record, tout a top-five defense and a top-10 net rating, and have already added forward Josh Smith and swingman Corey Brewer since mid-December.
Despite an MVP-caliber first half of the season from James Harden, however, the Rockets offense leaves much to be desired. They're ranked 14th on that end of the court, and when Harden sits, they only score 91.6 points per 100 possessions, higher than only the Philadelphia 76ers' dismal mark (91.1 points per 100).
As Bleacher Report's Kelly Scaletta recently noted, the lack of a reliable shot-creator outside of Harden limits Houston's offensive ceiling, which figures to haunt the squad at some point in the Western Conference playoff gauntlet. Accordingly, general manager Daryl Morey appears to be on the hunt for a starting-caliber point guard, which would push Patrick Beverley into a smaller role.
"The Houston Rockets are still looking for a point guard, and whether it's Michael Carter-Williams or [Jose] Calderon, I would expect that the Rockets still have one more move to make," Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher recently opined. "Maybe not a gigantic name on a Rajon Rondo level, but a significant name nonetheless."
The Rockets have numerous enticing trade chips, including third-year forward Terrence Jones and a protected 2015 first-round draft pick from the New Orleans Pelicans, so it's not as though they don't have the assets to complete a deal. It takes two to tango, however, and few difference-making floor generals figure to make their way onto the trade market over the next few weeks.
Bucher mentioned Deron Williams of the Brooklyn Nets and Phoenix Suns point guard Goran Dragic as two potential targets for Morey between now and the trade deadline. However, with Phoenix clinging to the No. 8 seed out West and Williams currently battling a rib injury, expect the Rockets to come up short in their pursuit of a stud point guard.
Buy: Cavs Acquire 'Veteran' Floor General
The Cleveland Cavaliers have been one of the league's most active teams on the trade market to date, acquiring center Timofey Mozgov along with swingmen J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert in two separate deals.
From the sound of things, they're still not content to stand pat with their roster.
Both Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears and Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal have reported that Cleveland is attempting to upgrade its backup point guard spot, as it realizes, per Spears, that it is "a Kyrie Irving injury away from more trouble." Lloyd doesn't expect a deal to happen until closer to the trade deadline, if at all, but says Brendan Haywood will likely help facilitate any move:
There have been whispers throughout the season the Cavs may trade Brendan Haywood's unique contract before this summer, when it reaches its maximum value. Those whispers are growing louder. In fact, if the Cavs are to upgrade their backup point guard position through trade, they will inevitably have to include Haywood just to make the money match. And from all indications, they'll have no problem moving Haywood's contract if the right point guard becomes available.
Lloyd mentioned Will Bynum and Bobby Brown—both of whom are playing in China at the moment—as possibilities if the Cavs can't secure a backup point guard on the trade market. NBC Sports' Sean Highkin floated the recently waived Jordan Farmar and Nate Robinson as other free-agent options.
Though Haywood is Cleveland's last big trade chip to cash in, the franchise can stop at no expense with LeBron James and Kevin Love both able to become unrestricted free agents this summer if they so choose. Expect them to aggressively dangle Haywood's contract over the coming weeks in pursuit of a backup floor general.
Sell: Brook Lopez to Denver?
With the Brooklyn Nets in the midst of a tailspin and owner Mikhail Prokhorov reportedly looking to sell the team, per Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick, it seems to be only a matter of time before the franchise begins shipping out its top assets.
In mid-January, Brooklyn engaged the Charlotte Hornets and Oklahoma City Thunder in discussions regarding Nets center Brook Lopez, per ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard, but nothing came to fruition from those talks. A Nets source told Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski that the team was "standing pat at this time," as "there was nothing we liked."
According to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post, however, the Denver Nuggets could soon jump into the fray for Lopez. The Nuggets "already made one run at it, but were rebuffed along with everyone else by the Nets in favor of negotiations with Oklahoma City," he reported.
Don't go penciling the Stanford product into Denver's lineup just yet, however. In discussing how Lopez could appeal to the Nuggets, Dempsey detailed a major potential roadblock to the trade:
For the Nuggets, it could be an opportunity to unload center JaVale McGee’s contract, which is an expiring one next season. That’s also part of the problem. It’s not expiring this season. And for any team to take that on right now for a player the caliber of Lopez, there’s probably going to have to be a first-round pick involved and/or young player with sizable upside included as well.
Additionally, the inspiring play of rookie center Jusuf Nurkic and Denver's standing in the Western Conference—the Nuggets are currently seven games behind the eighth-seeded Phoenix Suns—makes Lopez a questionable fit with the squad. Though Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher believes the Nets will deal the big man by the deadline, don't expect him to wind up in the Mile High City.
Buy: Lance Stephenson-for-Joe Johnson Swap
Brook Lopez isn't the only high-priced player the Brooklyn Nets are shopping, as ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ohm Youngmisuk reported in mid-December. Point guard Deron Williams and swingman Joe Johnson are each available to the highest bidder as well.
Though Brooklyn has "been unable lately to find any traction in talks to move Williams," per Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the same is not true for Johnson. On Sunday night, Woj revealed the Charlotte Hornets and Nets are discussing a Johnson-centric package "that would likely include guards Lance Stephenson and Gerald Henderson and forward Marvin Williams."
Back in mid-December, Devin Kharpertian of The Brooklyn Game discussed the appeal of a hypothetical Johnson-for-Stephenson swap:
This deal would give the Hornets a chance to hit an early reset button with Stephenson, who has been a poor fit, and allow Johnson to provide a steady hand alongside the explosive Kemba Walker.
For Brooklyn, there’s a chance to finally have a Brooklyn-born player in the mercurial but talented Stephenson, and the bonus players allow them to improve their wing depth. One roadblock: the Nets have shied away from guys with character issues in the past, and Stephenson all but defines the term.
According to Wojnarowski, Brooklyn officials "re-canvassed the league for intel on Stephenson" when the three-team Brook Lopez trade talks picked up, "only to come away with the same conclusions as earlier trade talks this season: For them, he was too big of a risk."
It's unclear what, if anything, has changed over the past week-and-a-half, but Brooklyn's motivation could be little more than financial.
Breaking up Johnson's massive contract into three smaller pieces could help the Nets facilitate future trades, while the seven-time All-Star could help Charlotte lock up its first back-to-back playoff berth in over a decade. If Hornets owner Michael Jordan is willing to swallow the $24.9 million owed to Johnson next season, this deal makes too much sense for both sides not to happen.
Sell: Tayshaun Prince Getting Traded
To acquire forward Jeff Green from the Boston Celtics in mid-January, the Memphis Grizzlies had to attach a protected future first-round pick to Tayshaun Prince's expiring contract. Just days after the trade, Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix reported Boston was negotiating a buyout with the veteran forward.
As it turns out, Prince might not be on the move after all.
"According to league sources, the Celtics would still like to move Prince for a draft pick" before the trade deadline, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald reported Saturday. However, if Boston can't find a taker, "It's fair to assume [head coach Brad Stevens] may lobby to keep [Prince] on the squad the rest of the season," Bulpett wrote.
The Los Angeles Clippers reportedly "have registered interest" in acquiring Prince since his move to Boston, per CBS Sports' Ken Berger, but they lack the assets and cap space to feasibly trade for him. Accordingly, the Clippers would prefer to acquire the former Kentucky Wildcat via a buyout, Berger reported, rather than a trade.
In early December, ESPN's Brian Windhorst mentioned the Cleveland Cavaliers also had "interest" in Prince. However, the acquisition of Iman Shumpert appears to satiate Cleveland's need for a three-and-D wing, and like the Clippers, the Cavaliers lack the assets to acquire the veteran.
Unless the Celtics are willing to accept a second-round pick and a bad contract in return for Prince, they'll struggle to find a trade partner over the next few weeks. Contenders for his services will likely stand pat and hope to call Boston's bluff regarding its reluctance to buy him out.