NBA Trade Deadline 2017: B/R Staff Pre-All Star Trade Deadline Predictions
In light of the smog-thick haze engulfing the NBA mere weeks before its Feb. 23 trade deadline, 14 Bleacher Report writers received the go-ahead to expense fully functioning*, top-of-the-line crystal balls.
Their mission: Peer into these spheric predictors for hours on end, sleep be damned, until they divined theories fated to become truths**.
There are no shortage of storylines to monitor leading into the final days of the Association's annual swap meet. The jumble of rumors and speculation can be tough to navigate alone. Allow our glimpses into the future and educated guesswork to put the "buddy" in buddy system.
*Plastic props, light bulbs, snow globes, light-bulb shards, etc., passed for fully functioning.
**Maybe, if we're lucky.
Serge Ibaka Gets Shipped to Toronto
Orlando Magic Receive: Patrick Patterson and Jakob Poeltl, Clippers' 2017 first-round pick
Toronto Raptors Receive: Serge Ibaka
If the Raptors want to dethrone the Cavaliers, they need to bolster the frontcourt. Paul Millsap is the ideal addition, but the Hawks don't seem inclined to give him up.
Ibaka is the next-best option—a mobile, rangy shot-blocker with three-point range and loads of postseason experience. He'd fit nicely next to Jonas Valanciunas, keep the defense spread and give Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan a release valve.
From Orlando's perspective, this isn't a perfect trade, but it might be the best the team can get. Ibaka will be a free agent on July 1, so no team acquiring him will want to give up much. If Orlando keeps Ibaka, it'll be faced with the unenviable choice of either giving him a near-max deal or letting him walk away for nothing—a humiliating possibility considering what it gave up to acquire Ibaka last June (Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, Domantas Sabonis).
In this deal, the Magic would at least get two decent prospects and a first-round pick (the Clippers', which Toronto controls).
The Magic have been a mess since Dwight Howard left five years ago, and their latest experiment—loading up on defensive-minded bigs—is a bust. They need major changes and should be exploring deals for Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo, as well.
Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul, Together at Last
It's no longer a question if Phil Jackson wants to move Carmelo Anthony, only when he gets Melo's cooperation finally to pull it off. The logical move is in the offseason, which would appear to be arriving for the New York Knicks the minute the regular season ends. Then again, the logical move would've been to convince Melo to waive his no-trade clause after the team fell out of playoff contention by making it painfully clear he's unwanted.
Now that the rift between Phil and Melo is irreparable and the team is foundering, the Knicks should move him before the trade deadline, and the Los Angeles Clippers are the only destination that makes sense.
Anthony and his wife would accept trading L.A. for N.Y., the Clippers at least have the guise of being a title contender and there are no two players closer than Melo and Chris Paul (yes, even closer than Dwyane Wade and LeBron James). However, this can't be a two-team deal if the Knicks are going to get what they want (and need, to save face), which is young talent plus a first-round pick in the loaded 2017 draft, because the Clippers already dealt theirs to Toronto.
I had heard rumblings of a three-way deal involving Boston that would include Jaylen Brown and a future first-round pick to the Knicks, but meeting salary-cap requirements could be problematic, and the pick would be for 2018 or beyond. Chicago, Denver, Toronto, Philadelphia, Utah and Portland all could have multiple 2017 first-round picks; Utah, Denver, Philly and Phoenix all have at least $10 million in available cap space to work with as well.
Is the lure of joining CP3 enough for Melo to cave and uproot his family in the middle of the season? Are the Knicks desperate enough to move on from the Melo era to take the best available offer now rather than wait until closer to the draft? Is Phil savvy enough to work a three-way deal? We're about to find out.
Goran Dragic Staying Put in Miami
Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, the ball boy—everyone.
That likely still rings mostly true. Abandoning avenues to long-term assets in pursuit of whatever gratification is derived from a low-level playoff berth—and subsequent early exit—makes zero sense.
But unloading The Dragon for less than a blockbuster offer is equally absurd.
While Dragic's value should be significant—he's one of only nine players this season averaging at least 20 points and six assists—it's impossible to find a logical trade partner. The win-now buyer in need of a 30-year-old starting point guard doesn't exist.
With no Godfather offer on the table, Miami should retain Dragic and work to construct a contender around him through the draft and free agency.
Lou Williams Adds Flavor to the Wizards Bench
Washington Wizards Receive: Lou Williams, Marcelo Huertas
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: 2017 first-round pick, Trey Burke, Jason Smith
Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld is well aware how punchless his bench is—and that won't change despite Ian Mahinmi's return to the lineup Wednesday. Far more relevant here, Grunfeld knows what a step back it was for the Wizards not to make the playoffs last season when he expected they might be ready for a deep run.
So with Washington having found a rhythm under new head coach Scott Brooks, Grunfeld is looking for a guard just like Lou Williams, who can create his own shots and get to the foul line in slugfest playoff games—and has the nerve to want the ball in those moments. Williams (18.3 points per game) is also a good shooter who can spot up when defenders are smothering John Wall.
One of Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak's best qualities has been swinging slick trades, and his ability to nurture the Lakers' future is being questioned at the moment.
Getting a first-round pick either from the Wizards or via a three-way deal for Williams, who is more than a rental with another reasonable $7 million salary coming in 2017-18, would be Kupchak's goal rather than settling for any Wizards youngsters.
Brook Lopez Finishes the Season in Brooklyn
Brook Lopez trade rumors aren't going anywhere.
For that matter, Lopez isn't either.
The New Orleans Pelicans have flashed recent interest in the Brooklyn Nets' 7-footer, according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, and they're not the only ones. Sources told the New York Post's Brian Lewis that Lopez isn't untouchable, a stance that's bound to have impacted the number of contacts blowing up general manager Sean Marks' phone.
Here's the thing: Brooklyn, per Lewis, is asking for two first-round picks in return, including one lottery pick in this year's draft. No one is going to meet that price tag, and yet the Nets have no reason to lower it.
Lopez has unlocked unicorn tendencies in his ninth season, establishing himself as the consummate triple threat—shot-blocker, three-point shooter and serviceable passer. Kevin Durant is the only other player with as many assists (118), blocks (79) and made triples (82).
You don't sell low on that kind of player if you're the Nets—not when he has openly bought into your full-scale reinvention. At the same time, if you're a rival general manager, it's tough to mortgage so much of the future for a 28-year-old with one-year and $22.6 million left on his contract.
Next year, when Lopez has an expiring deal, the Nets will be more inclined to lower their demands. For now, he's more valuable to them than he'd be to another team, and players who fall under that umbrella seldom get moved midseason.
Jusuf Nurkic Will Stick with the Nuggets
According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, the Denver Nuggets are looking to unload Jusuf Nurkic, presumably due to his poor fit next to burgeoning frontcourt star Nikola Jokic. It's not going to happen, however, as the team can't allocate enough minutes to showcase his talents properly.
The Nuggets attempted to play a towering lineup with both Eastern European bigs early in the season, but those efforts failed miserably. The team's net rating still sits at minus-14.8 when the "Jurkic" lineup is on the floor, per nbawowy.com. Now, with Jokic eating up the lion's share of the rotational opportunities, Nurkic is frustrated, lacking chances to build up his stock.
Though it would be in the best interest of both parties to trade the 22-year-old center, the Nuggets won't get enough in return if they shop him without first featuring him. And they can't feature him without scaling back Jokic-led lineups, which would hamper their playoff endeavors.
There are no good solutions other than waiting out this deadline and shopping Nurkic over the summer.
Wilson Chandler Joins Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City
Denver Nuggets Receive: Cameron Payne, Andre Roberson
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: Wilson Chandler
The Thunder were long linked to Kings forward Rudy Gay, but that idea ended when Gay tore his Achilles tendon on Jan. 18. According to a report from Fox Sports Ohio's Sam Amico, Oklahoma City may have now turned its attention to Denver's Wilson Chandler, whom USA Today's Sam Amick has reported "wants to be traded."
Chandler would be a welcome veteran addition to a young Thunder squad. While they would miss Roberson's stifling, versatile defense, Chandler opens up the court on offense. He's also under contract through 2018-19 at a team-friendly $24.8 million over the next two seasons.
In return for Chandler, Denver would get a defensive wing player and developing backup guard. It wouldn't help the Nuggets reach the NBA salary floor—in fact, it would set them even further back—but it helps position them for a follow-up trade with some of their other younger prospects.
Sacramento Trades For...Luol Deng
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Rudy Gay, Ben McLemore, two second-round picks
Sacramento Kings Receive: Luol Deng
Kings general manager Vlade Divac made it easy on us when he told ESPN's Marc Stein that DeMarcus Cousins wasn't going anywhere. At least for the time being, we can take a hiatus from the annual tradition of speculating on Cousins' future, as said future almost certainly features a contract from the Kings worth more than $200 million.
More broadly, though, Divac and the Kings' history of strange moves makes predictions difficult. A braintrust willing to surrender useful vets and draft assets in order to clear cash for Rajon Rondo (yes, this really happened) puts everything on the table. Remember, Divac is the guy who a league source described in Kevin Arnovitz's deep dive on the Kings for ESPN.com thusly: "Nobody in that position has ever been less qualified, less capable or a nicer person."
Perhaps Divac's amicable nature will lead to a swap for Lakers forward Luol Deng.
The Kings could certainly use a steadying, professional veteran presence on the roster, and Deng is most useful these days as an undersized power forward—an area of need Matt Barnes and Anthony Tolliver haven't consistently met.
So, the bold prediction: Sacramento sends Rudy Gay, Ben McLemore and two second-round picks to the Lakers for Deng, which allows L.A. to get out from under Deng's onerous four-year deal and clear nearly $18 million from next year's books...assuming Gay recovers well enough from his torn Achilles to opt out of the final season of his contract. McLemore is a pure flier. Maybe he shows the Lakers something, but more likely, he walks away and L.A. isn't upset about it.
Deng is already overpaid for his production, and the aging curve will only exacerbate that issue in the final three years of his current deal. But he's a name, and the Kings are devoted to winning in the short term. This is the kind of head-scratching move that fits their brand.
Stranger things have happened. Actually, with the Kings, stranger things always happen.
Warriors Acquire the Brother of a Splash Brother
Dallas Mavericks Receive: Kevon Looney, David West
Golden State Warriors Receive: Seth Curry
Golden State head coach Steve Kerr said earlier this season that his team might look to acquire a reliable wing before the trade deadline, per the Mercury News' Tim Kawakami.
Seth Curry, who's even shorter and skinnier than his big brother, Stephen Curry, certainly doesn't fit that job description. But he has become a legit three-point threat (42 percent on 200-plus attempts) and could provide a nice second-unit offensive boost. Plus, given how the Warriors value high-character guys, his locker room presence shouldn't be an issue this late into what could be a historic season.
For Dallas, West is 36 years old and slated to be a free agent, so he's off the books soon. Looney, for all the lingering stamina issues related to last season's two hip surgeries, has remained healthy since then and is cost-controlled for another two seasons.
Facing the impending loss of Andrew Bogut to free agency, Mavs management might be enticed by securing a young, cheap big for the foreseeable future. And if the Warriors think James Michael McAdoo can serve as a quasi-capable big off the bench, then they can part ways with West and Looney—especially if it means cheap threes from Curry both for this season ($2.9 million) and next ($3.0 million).
Jahlil Okafor Syncs Up with Anthony Davis in New Orleans
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: Jahlil Okafor
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Alexis Ajinca, New Orleans' 2018 lottery-protected first-round pick
Where there's smoke, there's fire, and there's no ignoring the plumes of ash floating over Okafor. The Duke product has been caught up in trade rumors seemingly since the moment he set foot on the floor for the Philadelphia 76ers last season, but now there may be some substance to all the chatter.
USA Today's Sam Amick was the first to report that Okafor might be on the move to the Crescent City, pending the Pelicans' willingness to part with a first-round pick. According to ESPN's Marc Stein and Marc J. Spears, the Pelicans could package little-used backup center Alexis Ajinca with their 2018 first-rounder in exchange for the No. 3 pick in 2015. Per Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler, the Sixers had their sights set on bringing back Jrue Holiday from New Orleans instead of a draft pick.
There's still plenty of time for these two teams to return to the negotiating table—and ample reason for them to do so. Philly has found its franchise center in Rookie of the Year favorite Joel Embiid, with Nerlens Noel slated to be his backup. New Orleans, on the other hand, could use another frontcourt scorer next to Anthony Davis.
Okafor's shortcomings as a rim protector and rebounder might not be so glaring next to The Brow, who excels in those areas. And his strength as a low-post position defender compared to Davis (0.93 points per possession allowed versus 0.88 for Okafor) could spare the Pelicans' prized superstar of the nightly pounding that's already taken its toll on his availability.
Jimmy Butler Is Not Heading to Beantown
The Boston Celtics have one of the NBA's best offenses this year, but to withstand four playoff rounds, they still need more punch—preferably from a multiple-time All-Star who also defends.
Jimmy Butler, who seems disgruntled on the struggling Chicago Bulls, feels like the perfect answer. And some rival executives believe Boston will rekindle trade talks with the Windy City's front office before the Feb. 23 deadline, according to the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson.
But the probable cost—both this year and next year's Brooklyn Nets' picks, plus two of Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart—is far too steep.
By forfeiting those assets, the Celtics marginally improve but still fall short against the Cavaliers. They'd also surrender this summer's cap space and, quite possibly, a new franchise player.
If they make this trade and Butler, Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford aren't good enough to beat Cleveland, let alone whoever emerges from the Western Conference, what options does Boston then have to improve and win it all? They'd lack the cap space to make a big splash in free agency, and they're too good to add anything valuable in the draft. What else can they trade?
If Chicago lowers its price and is willing to take something like the 2018 Nets pick, the 2019 Memphis pick, Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and Terry Rozier, then a deal can be brokered. But the Celtics aren't desperate enough to offer much else, which is why this trade won't go down.
P.J. Tucker Fills the Clippers' Melo-Sized Void
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: P.J. Tucker
Phoenix Suns Receive: Alan Anderson, Paul Pierce, two second-round picks (2019 and 2020)
Throughout the Chris Paul-Blake Griffin era, the Clippers have been rotating in small forwards like Spinal Tap drummers. Though they may have set their sights on landing Carmelo Anthony, such a complex transaction coupled with Anthony's no-trade clause necessitates a backup plan.
P.J. Tucker qualifies as an adequate fallback option. As of late January, in fact, the Clippers were offering a second-round pick in exchange for his services, according ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
Tucker is a tough, physical defender earning $5.3 million in the final year of his contract with the Suns. He'd help the Clippers on their playoff run, while the Suns are destined for another trip to the lottery.
Phoenix has no need for either Pierce or Anderson. Both would be buyout candidates, perhaps with Pierce looking to sign briefly with the Celtics before officially retiring. The Suns would get draft considerations in exchange for Tucker, however.
Ricky Rubio Relocates to Cleveland
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Ricky Rubio, Brandon Rush, Jordan Hill
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: Iman Shumpert, DeAndre Liggins, Chris Andersen (to be waived), two trade exceptions
The Minnesota Timberwolves asked about Iman Shumpert in October, according to ESPN.com's Zach Lowe, and their desire for him should only increase after shooting guard Zach LaVine suffered a season-ending ACL tear.
Though the Cleveland Cavaliers likely aren't shopping Shumpert, as he's their best perimeter defender and is owed a reasonable $31 million through 2018-19, he's not the playmaker LeBron James has pleaded for time and again.
Enter Ricky Rubio.
Still only 26, Rubio is under contract through 2018-19 and can anchor Cleveland's second unit while preserving James and Kyrie Irving for an annual Finals run. The Spaniard's shooting leaves much to be desired, but he can still create easy baskets for others and defend his position.
If Minnesota agrees to fill the Cavaliers' other needs (Brandon Rush for wing defense and Jordan Hill for backup center duty), Cleveland can justify parting with Shumpert.
Ricky Rubio Alternate Deal: The Spaniard Takes on New York
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: Derrick Rose
New York Knicks Receive: Ricky Rubio
In the event Rubio doesn't head to the Cavaliers, as Greg Swartz predicted, there's always the Knicks.
We know team president Phil Jackson wants to trade Carmelo Anthony (and that he doesn't know how to spell "days"). And we know the Timberwolves were "actively shopping" Rubio as of mid-January, since Kris Dunn is their point guard of the future, according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.
So, what does this have to do with Rose?
There's no reason for the Knicks to keep Rose if they ship out Melo and start rebuilding. They could waive the former league MVP (he's a free agent this summer), but why not see if Timberwolves coach-president Tom Thibodeau is interested in giving his former player a shot?
Rose could give Minnesota a scoring boost—one they desperately need now that Zach LaVine is out for the year—and perhaps help them sneak into the playoffs. If it doesn't work, they can just let him walk this summer and take advantage of the cap room his departure would create.
As for the Knicks, yeah, Rubio's contract runs longer than Rose's deal; he's owed about $29 million over the next two seasons. But his strong perimeter defense and pass-first mentality would boost them on both sides of the floor. He's also still only 26. This could be a win-win for both teams.