Impact Moves Teams Should Still Pursue During NBA Offseason
If you think you're free to focus on leisure and diehard interests other than your devout NBA fandom, think again.
The offseason isn't slowing down yet.
We're reminded of this daily, with each new breaking-news item. From signings and trades, to rumors and surprise heel turns, to emoji wars renewed and rule-changes galore, the Association's silly season has been, as the kids say, straight popping. (Young people say this, right?)
Don't expect a respite from the chaos anytime soon. There is still a lot to figure out before the NBA ebbs into its progressively shorter, if nonexistent, down period.
Quality players remain unsigned. Trade rumors are flowing. Certain teams face far different circumstances and outlooks than they did before the summer, which in turn demands new speculation.
So if it's trickle-down reactions to what's unfolded thus far you crave, you've come to the right place.
JaMychal Green to Atlanta
JaMychal Green should have a home by now. Any home. It doesn't matter. He's too good to be aimlessly floating amid the post-domino market.
Restricted free agents around the league have lost a lot of leverage with the salary cap leveling off, but Green should still be a coveted option—someone who blends the best aspects of bigs and wings. He switches on defense to almost anyone, fights like hell on the boards, doesn't command a ton of offensive touches and dropped in 37.9 percent of his three-pointers last season.
And yet, after tendering him an initial offer July 1, the Memphis Grizzlies don't appear interested in retaining his services.
"I'm looking at two offer sheets and sign-and-trades," Green's agent, Michael Hodges, told the Commercial Appeal's Ronald Tillery. "Seems to us Memphis is going in a different direction."
Also going in a different direction: the Atlanta Hawks.
"Investing in the future," new Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said of the team's plans, per the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Chris Vivlamore. "We are going to be young. We are going to be fun. We are going to develop our talent. We are going to maintain our flexibility."
Green, at 27, isn't young in the conventional sense. But he doesn't yet have three full NBA seasons of wear and tear on his treads, and no player on the market now, or at any point this summer, is more equipped to replace Paul Millsap.
Atlanta has less than eight figures of cap space after signing Dewayne Dedmon and Ersan Ilyasova but can get more in a Kent Bazemore dump. With Memphis pinching pennies, an aggressive two- or three-year offer might be enough to give Green a new home.
Dwyane Wade to Cleveland...Via Buyout...Please?
Dwyane Wade chose money over contention when he picked up his $23.8 million player option for next season. The Chicago Bulls hadn't dealt Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves at the time, but they weren't heading anywhere special, either.
Now, in the aftermath of Butler's departure, a 35-year-old Wade finds himself on a transitioning team that's built to bottom out in the star-starved Eastern Conference. And though putting together a buyout makes sense for all parties involved, the Bulls aren't biting unless they come out on top in negotiations.
"I know [general manager] Gar [Forman] has spoken to Leon Rose, Dwyane's agent," vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said in June, per ESPN.com's Nick Friedell. "As far as a buyout, it has not been broached. I will say this, that in this type of scenario, it would have to benefit us. It would absolutely have to benefit us."
Chicago isn't close to moving off this stance. Forman reiterated during the Las Vegas Summer League that the two sides have not discussed a buyout.
This needs to change, in large part because it's going to change anyway. Buyout talks are bound to gain traction as the season progresses, the playoff picture unfolds and both the Bulls and Wade fully understand the imperfect strangeness of staying together for another year.
Yes, a buyout is going to cost Wade money. Probably lots of money. But Carmelo Anthony expects to join Banana Boat group-text buddy Chris Paul on the Houston Rockets, according to ESPN.com's Ian Begley. This is Wade's chance to reunite with the remaining member of that crew, LeBron James, on the Cleveland Cavaliers.
James and Kyrie Irving can still use another playmaker not named Jose Calderon. More importantly, the NBA would be one Golden State Warriors implosion (and Melo trade) away from a potential Banana Boat clash in the NBA Finals.
Eric Bledsoe to Denver
Denver Nuggets Receive: PG Eric Bledsoe
Phoenix Suns Receive: PF Darrell Arthur, SG Malik Beasley, PG Emmanuel Mudiay, 2018 top-10 protected first-round pick
Can this just happen already?
The Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns rapped about a fruitless Eric Bledsoe trade leading into the draft, according ESPN.com's Chris Haynes. The original deal had Emmanuel Mudiay and the No. 13 pick headed to Phoenix; this proposal builds off that framework.
Mudiay is a must-have for the Suns, even with his dipping stock. He remains a top-seven prospect, has two years left on his rookie-scale pact and is a more interesting option at point guard than Brandon Knight.
Taking a flyer on Malik Beasley while grabbing a first-round pick that may not turn into another frontcourt contributor is a big win. Darrell Arthur stretches the floor enough to be part of the rotation, and the $14.9 million he's owed through 2018-19 doesn't break the bank.
Adding the 27-year-old Bledsoe ages the Nuggets ever so slightly, but they have that flexibility. Garry Harris, Juan Hernangomez, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray fulfill their young-stud quota, and they could use an established floor general in his prime to solidify their place within the bloodbath of a Western Conference.
Pricey expenditures await the Nuggets next summer, when Will Barton, Wilson Chandler (player option) and Harris reach free agency. Funding Bledsoe's $15 million salary for 2018-19 drives up the cost of a roster that'll be lucky to duck the luxury tax.
But that's not enough downside to deter Denver from making this move. Jokic and Millsap are ready to win now, and the two-way ceiling on a starting five with them, Bledsoe, Gary Harris and Chandler or Murray is high.
Rajon Rondo to the Lakers
Signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope won't stop the Los Angeles Lakers from trying to add Rajon Rondo.
Or maybe it will.
"The Lakers are still debating on what to do with their backup point guard spot after meeting with Rajon Rondo this week," ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne wrote. "[They're] also weighing whether to sign a younger player like Tyler Ennis, Ian Clark or Isaiah Canaan in that backup point guard role."
To heck with a younger point guard. The world needs Rondo and Lonzo Ball on the same team.
Think of all the slow-motion foot races they could have in practice. Maybe Ball teaches Rondo how to shoot ugly but efficiently. Perhaps Rondo shows Ball how to freeze out former championship-winning teammates who abscond for the enemy in free agency.
Look, this isn't just about the entertainment factor. The Lakers aren't getting Ian Clark on a one-year deal, where Rondo has turned into something of a one-year mercenary. He won't compromise next summer's spending spree.
Canaan and Ennis, of course, should be amenable to short-term agreements, but let's be real: Neither is as fun.
Kent Bazemore to the Clippers (After Aug. 27)
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: SG/SF Kent Bazemore
Dumping contracts that run counter to their new timeline is crucial to maximizing the Hawks' rebuild. They have already forged more long-term breathing room by letting Millsap walk and trading Dwight Howard to the Charlotte Hornets.
Offloading the $54.3 million on Kent Bazemore's contract should be their next play.
Flipping him won't be easy. He's coming off a down season in which he shot under 35 percent from three and posted a near-career-worst success rate at the rim. He was usurped in the rotation by $71 million man Tim Hardaway Jr.
That's discouraging for any 28-year-old supposedly entering the thick of his prime. It's flat-out alarming when that player is one summer removed from a $70 million payday. Atlanta needs a trade partner desperate enough to make a splash.
Oh, hey, Los Angeles Clippers.
They need another wing even after adding Danilo Gallinari. J.J. Redick left for the Philadelphia 76ers, they shipped out Jamal Crawford, and the Clippers hard-capped themselves in the Gallinari sign-and-trade, making it more difficult to keep Luc Mbah a Moute.
David Aldridge of NBA.com noted they were interested in Tony Allen, but Bazemore is a better floor-spacing option and easier to obtain. The Grizzlies don't have the incentive to accept anything the Clippers can realistically offer when they'd be doing Allen a favor.
Losing Lou Williams stings a little when the Clippers are so low on shot creators. But coach-president Doc Rivers probably pounces on this for the extra minutes he can give his son, Austin Rivers, alone. Besides, Williams is set for free agency next summer, and Bazemore isn't as ball-dominant.
The Hawks shouldn't have to think twice about pulling the trigger. They save a couple million this season, nearly $12 million in 2018-19 and another $19.3 million in 2019-20. They can't expect a return better than that kind of wiggle room.
Luc Mbah a Moute to Denver, Too
Luc Mbah a Moute somehow hasn't signed a new contract—which is weird only because he's working off a career year in which he drained threes and continued being his usual, lockdown defensive self.
As Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley wrote:
"The Clippers fared 10.7 points better per 100 possessions with him than without, and while the talent around him helped, so did his two-way play. He didn't take a ton of threes (1.4 per game), but he made a high enough percentage (39.1) not to spoil the spacing. And his defense was stout as always—he finished with a 2.32 defensive real plus-minus (ninth among power forwards), while opponents shot 3.4 percent worse against him than their average."
Sustaining that 39.1 percent conversion rate from downtown will be difficult when Paul isn't the one tossing passes to Mbah a Moute, but Denver boasts one of the next best options: Nikola Jokic. He sees around corners and through walls. Mix in the dribble drives from the Nuggets' other ball-handlers, and Mbah a Moute won't want for open looks.
Hence the original dilemma: Why is he still available?
Maybe teams are skeptical Mbah a Moute's marksmanship will hold anywhere. He connected on just 31.3 percent of his threes during the playoffs and is shooting 32.4 percent from long range for his career.
Denver shouldn't care. Mbah a Moute can switch as many defensive assignments as Millsap, if not more. Opponents shot under 31 percent against him in one-on-one situations, so he's a perfect option at the 4 whenever the Nuggets try blitzing defenses with Millsap at the 5—not to mention a cheaper long-term alternative to Chandler, who's ticketed for free agency in 2018.
Cost shouldn't be a hang-up in extracting Mbah a Moute from Hollywood. The Clippers are hard-capped, and the Nuggets can carve out eight figures in room if they renounce Mason Pumlee or deal Kenneth Faried into another team's cap space.
Sign Mbah a Moute while trading for Bledsoe, and the Nuggets suddenly have a top-four conference finish in their sights.
Jahlil Okafor to Chicago
Chicago Bulls Receive: C Jahlil Okafor
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: PG Cameron Payne
Correct: It's "Let's swap damaged goods!" season.
Jahlil Okafor remains woefully out of place in Philly, and the Sixers finally seem ready to sell low. They talked to the Boston Celtics about sending Okafor to Beantown as part of a sign-and-trade for Amir Johnson, according to ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski (h/t Nets Daily). Nothing came to fruition, and they ended up signing Johnson outright.
Nabbing Cameron Payne at this point is a low-key coup. Okafor's value has nosedived over the past two years, and Payne was an electric presence as a rookie before losing most of his sophomore campaign to a fractured right foot. Give him a chance to run with the Sixers' other kiddies as the second- or third-string point guard, and he might regain some of his bravado.
In no way does Okafor fit the offensive mold for Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg. He finally has the opportunity to install a faster-paced system, and Okafor's post moves and face-ups slow things down while cramping Chicago's already shaky spacing.
Still, the Bulls' rebuild is in its infancy. It doesn't hurt to take on an at-times crafty big, even if it's to test his mettle as a second-unit alpha. Cristiano Felicio and Robin Lopez are their only centers, and the latter, at 29, should eventually be divested into younger assets.
Plus, the Bulls don't have much room for Payne. Kris Dunn, Jerian Grant, Justin Holiday, Zach LaVine and Denzel Valentine all factor into the backcourt rotation, and there's no guarantee Payne ever gets the nod over any one of them.
Tony Allen to Oklahoma City
Let's get this out of the way: The Oklahoma City Thunder have no money. All they can offer Tony Allen is the veteran's minimum ($2.3 million). Even in this cash-conscious free-agent market, he will get more somewhere else.
But unless Allen plans on joining Vince Carter, Dave Joerger and Zach Randolph on the Sacramento Grizzlies, he should definitely, without question, opt for the budding defensive beast in Oklahoma City.
Imagine a five-man lineup of Allen, Steven Adams, Paul George, Patrick Patterson and Russell Westbrook. These five, together, wouldn't space the court worth a damn if Roberson or Westbrook isn't raining threes with career-best efficiency, but who cares? Good luck scoring on them at the other end.
Across-the-board defensive versatility is the best, and only, way to threaten the reigning champion Warriors. Allen doesn't push the Thunder over the hump, into San Antonio or Houston territory, but he does position them to gum up Golden State's attack as much as possible.
Far be it from me, or you, or MVP Russell himself, to request that Allen accept a pay cut. He's made less than $40 million over his underappreciated career.
At the same time, the NBA deserves a team that smacks around the superpowers, even when it loses. And with The Grindfather in tow, the Thunder can be that team.
Allen Crabbe to New Orleans
Indiana Pacers Receive: C Alexis Ajinca, SG E'Twaun Moore, 2019 second-round pick (from Minnesota or Los Angeles Lakers, via Portland)
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: SG/SF Allen Crabbe, PF/C Kevin Seraphin
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: C Al Jefferson, SG/SF Quincy Pondexter
The New Orleans Pelicans need more shooters around DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, and they'll have to bite an expensive bullet to get it.
Basketball Insiders' Michael Scotto had them sniffing around a Reggie Jackson trade, but snagging Allen Crabbe at a similar price point is the better fit. He put down 44.4 percent of his deep balls last season, and bankrolling the final three seasons and $51 million on Jackson's contract makes next to no sense after handing Holiday a five-year, $125 million pact.
Paying Crabbe $56.3 million through 2019-20 isn't much better, but the Pelicans can easily spin this when pawning off Alex Ajinca and E'Twaun Moore. Barley $5 million gets tacked on to their cap sheet for the next two seasons, after which time Crabbe turns into a valuable expiring contract.
Coughing up one of their best shooters hurts the Portland Trail Blazers, but they have the firepower to get by without him. They should care more about shaving $5.7 million off this year's payroll and even more about the combined $33.8 million in raw salary they'll cut over the next two years by waiving Al Jefferson's partially guaranteed deal ($4 million) in 2018.
Best of all for the Blazers: They escape this dump without forking over a first-rounder. Attaching that kind of pot sweetener is thought to be a requisite of any Crabbe or Evan Tuner trade, as ESPN.com's Zach Lowe pointed out. Saving the pick here frees them up to offer more goodies if they decide to unload Turner.
Nothing spectacular is happening here for the Indiana Pacers. They're assuming the two years and $10.3 million left on Ajinca's deal to bring in a poor-man's Victor Oladipo to spell Darren Collison and the actual Victor Oladipo.
And that's fine. The Pacers need scrappy workers if they're going to remain semi-relevant during a rebuild. Like Cory Joseph, Moore keeps in theme with their defensive identity, and ditching Kevin Seraphin for an end-of-bench guy like Ajinca opens additional minutes for T.J. Leaf and Domantas Sabonis.
Carmelo Anthony to Houston (in the Most Convoluted Fashion Ever)
Brooklyn Nets Receive: C John Henson, SG Rashad Vaughn, 2020 second-round pick (via Houston)
Houston Rockets Receive: SF/PF Carmelo Anthony
Milwaukee Bucks Receive: PF Ryan Anderson, 2018 second-round pick (from Charlotte, Memphis or Miami, via Houston)
New York Knicks: SG Joe Harris, PF/C Spencer Hawes, PF Shawn Long, SG Tim Quarterman, PF Mirza Teletovic, 2018 top-20 protected pick (via Milwaukee), 2020 first-round pick (via Houston)
Strap in, folks. We're about to get weird—out of necessity no less.
Sources told Wojnarowski the Houston Rockets and New York Knicks are "confident that they have a willing third-team trade partner" to facilitate a Carmelo Anthony deal but now need a fourth squad to take on a contract neither of them wish to absorb. And since the identities of both helping hands remain unknown, we land on the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks.
We begin in Milwaukee, because that's the end destination for the elephant in these talks—the three years and $61.3 million left on Ryan Anderson's contract.
In the latest episode of The Basketball Analogy podcast, ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst said the Bucks want to get rid of Matthew Dellavedova, John Henson and Mirza Teletovic. They shed two of them in this deal, and by including Spencer Hawes' expiring contract, they evade the luxury tax for this year and clear extra minutes for Thon Maker and D.J. Wilson.
Anderson is pricey, but he's a terrific spot-up shooter. He fits right in alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo, Malcolm Brogdon and Khris Middleton drives, and the Bucks save money for the next two years by paying him instead of Henson and Teletovic. And when he starts to cost them coin, in 2019-20, he'll be an expiring contract.
Is this worth dumping a low-end first and summer-league standout Rashad Vaughn? Maybe not. But it might be. The Bucks can try pulling either the first or Vaughn from the equation if it is. Who knows, the Nets may be willing to sign up for Henson's shot-blocking and rim-running potential without a sweetener.
The Knicks should count themselves as lucky to get two late firsts under the circumstances. Anthony's no-trade clause limits his market scope to Cleveland and Houston, neither of which has a ton of assets. They'll open up another $8 millionish in cap space this summer if they waive the non-guaranteed deals of Shawn Long and Tim Quarterman, while both Harris and Hawes are off the books next July.
Eating Mirza Teletovic's agreement is less than ideal, but that's the cost of getting two firsts. And it's not like he'll hamstring them in 2018 free agency. He'll be on the ledger for roughly one-third of what Anthony would take home if he opts in, and expiring contracts are inherently easier to dump.
There is nothing for the Rockets to mull in this scenario. They get a shot at unlocking pre-2016 Olympics Melo without giving up Trevor Ariza, Clint Capela or a second first-round pick. They win.