NBA Trade Ideas from Latest Buzz: How to Move Gasol, Jordan, Mirotic and Others
Feel that pang in your chest, right around your heart? Don't be afraid of it. Welcome it. Cherish it. After all, it's just your soul reminding you that the NBA trade season is about to tip off.
Most free agents who signed contracts over the summer are eligible to be dealt as of Dec. 15, officially jump-starting what's already an active rumor mill. And what better way to celebrate the imminent beginning of Trade #SZN than by cooking up and poring over some piping-hot hypotheticals?
Assume every one of these forthcoming deals will be completed on or after Dec. 15 unless otherwise noted. The league's gloriously unabating speculation factory will determine which players headline each blockbuster and mini-buster, but the end destinations adhere to no such limitations.
Trade subjects will be shipped to where they're wanted and needed, where they fit best and to whichever squads have the assets necessary to catch the attention of sellers.
Memphis Explores Rock Bottom While Portland Invests in a Big 3
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: SF/PF Maurice Harkless, C Meyers Leonard, C Jusuf Nurkic, 2018 lottery-protected first-round pick, 2019 second-round pick (via Los Angeles Lakers or Minnesota Timberwolves)
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: C Marc Gasol, SF/PF James Ennis
Firing head coach David Fizdale, getting slammed by injuries and losing 18 of the past 21 games has not changed the Memphis Grizzlies' party line: They're not prepared to sell off Mike Conley and Marc Gasol for tanking's sake.
"We think our window is still very much open with Mike and Marc," general manager Chris Wallace told ESPN.com's Zach Lowe. "I think we'll be heard from the rest of this year, and in years to come."
That's all well and good. But franchise aims shift quickly amid downward spirals. The Grizzlies will lose enough with Conley and Gasol to preserve their lottery odds. Keeping the former is the only play anyway. Conley has four years (including this one) and $126 million left on his deal. No team absorbs that, let alone surrenders value for it, when he's coping with Achilles issues.
Gasol is in slightly different territory. He has a player option for 2019-20, ahead of his age-35 season. His value only goes down from here. He's amenable to a trade, according to Lowe, and Memphis has to at least consider moving him when he'll be treated as an over-the-hill expiring contract in less than one year's time.
Extracting this combination of assets from the Portland Trail Blazers helps the Grizzlies straddle two windows. They won't be good enough to ruin this season's nosedive and are securing a pu-pu platter of assets that'll help them into 2018-19 and beyond.
Jusuf Nurkic is a legitimate successor to Gasol. He's inferior in nearly every area of the game but remains a serviceable passer, post scorer and dropback rim protector. He doesn't turn 24 until August and shouldn't come close to costing the $72.3 million Gasol is owed through 2019-20.
Maurice Harkless is a great hedge against Tyreke Evans' upcoming free agency. He cannot jumpstart pick-and-rolls in volume, and his shooting is shaky. But he has hit threes at or around the league average in the past and remains a defensive pest on the wings. The Grizzlies should have no trouble swallowing Meyers Leonard's contract if it means getting a first-rounder. He's shooting 53.8 percent from deep (7-of-13) in limited action, and they can try grooming him in the image of a souped-up Jarell Martin.
Portland shouldn't have to think long or hard about this deal. Shedding Leonard and avoiding Nurkic's next contract offsets what they'll pay Gasol, and he's an ideal big for head coach Terry Stotts' conservative defensive approach. He doesn't need to be especially mobile to protect the house while dropping back.
Committing around $90 million to Gasol, Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Evan Turner is no joke. But again: The Blazers are on the cusp of cannonballing into similar territory next season. They might as well pay Gasol what Nurkic and Leonard will combine to make through each of the next two years, then revisit their direction in 2020, when both Big Burrito and Turner are off the ledger.
76ers Keep Trying to Make Noise as Knicks Start Rebuilding Like They Mean It
New York Knicks Receive: PG/SG Jerryd Bayless, SG/SF Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, 2018 top-18 protected first-round pick
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: PG Jarrett Jack, SG/SF Courtney Lee, 2019 second-round pick (via Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets or Orlando Magic)
Don't beat that "The Philadelphia 76ers aren't compromising their financial flexibility for Courtney friggin' Lee" drum just yet. Multiple teams have phoned the New York Knicks about Lee's availability, according to Ian Begley—far-flung interest that should come as no surprise. He's been that good.
Lee is putting down a career-high 43.2 percent of his triples and showcasing supplementary handles that render him less predictable. He's shooting almost 58 percent on drives, and a noticeably larger share of his field-goal attempts are coming around the rim compared to last season.
His defense remains steady. The Knicks liberally throw him on pick-and-roll ball-handlers, and he's a nuisance when rotating into space.
The Sixers can use everything he does off their bench, which remains thin on proven wings. And the front office has already shown it'll make moves to boost the present-day ceiling. Giving the Brooklyn Nets Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas and a second-round pick for Trevor Booker proved as much.
Ending the Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot experience now, not two years into his career, isn't a pain-free decision. But he hasn't looked comfortable while taking more of his shots from the outside and remains a raw finisher around the basket. Coughing up a first-round pick with top-18 conditions hardly stings. The Sixers house enough prospects, and they'll have ended a half-decade playoff drought if it conveys.
Landing Jarrett Jack and trimming Jerryd Bayless' salary from next year's bottom line are small-time coups. The Knicks score like a top-five offense with Jack running the show, making him a nice plug-in point guard for Philly as Markelle Fultz heals up, even after acknowledging how much time he enjoys beside Kristaps Porzingis.
Lee costs around $4 million more than Bayless in 2018-19, but the Sixers retain a clear path to $20-something million in cap space with him on board, and it won't take a first-round sweetener to dump him if LeBron James wants to join the party in free agency.
Meanwhile, in New York, the Knicks load up on two first-round flyers while improving this year's lottery odds. Any rebuilding squad worth its salt calls that a win.
Chicago Supercharges the Tank to Help Washington Duck the Luxury Tax
Chicago Bulls Receive: C Ian Mahinmi, SG/SF Tomas Satoransky, PF/C Jason Smith, 2018 first-round pick, 2022 second-round pick
Washington Wizards Receive: PF Nikola Mirotic (after Jan. 14), SG/SF Quincy Pondexter
League executives told the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson the Chicago Bulls have started gauging outside interest on Robin Lopez and Nikola Mirotic—two players who don't fit the timeline and stand to hurt their proximity to Luka Doncic.
Mirotic, who cannot be traded until Jan. 15, profiles as the more valuable chip. He's younger, shooting the lights out from downtown through his first few appearances, capable of putting the ball on the floor and comes with a team option for 2018-19. That will interest teams looking for immediate frontcourt upgrades without long-term commitments.
Chicago should take this opportunity to blend Mirotic's cap-friendly deal—which includes a no-trade clause he was willing to waive in October—with their own financial flexibility.
The Wizards would be a natural trade partner. They have three players on max deals in Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and John Wall, with Kelly Oubre Jr. set to become extension-eligible. They shouldn't want any part of the $31.4 million Ian Mahinmi earns over next two years, in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
Dangling a first-round pick and Tomas Satoransky might get the Bulls to stomach him and Jason Smith (player option for 2018-19). They're in no real position to turn away first-rounders, and Satoransky, at 26, is a nice playmaking wing who's juuust young enough to go along for the rebuilding ride. His $3.1 million salary for next season makes it that much easier to roll out the red carpet.
Using another first-round pick to lop off salary, like they did with Andrew Nicholson last year, isn't great business for the Wizards. But this deal gets them under the luxury-tax line. That's definitely good business.
So, too, is pairing Mirotic with Oubre in bench mobs. He can be that primary scorer while Beal and Wall rest together, sparing head coach Scott Brooks from giving into smart people who think Markieff Morris should be filling that role now. And if things don't work out, whatever. The Wizards can decline Mirotic's team option and soldier on a little more pliable for wear.
Denver Pounces on Sacramento's Awkward Dynamic
Denver Nuggets Receive: PG George Hill
Sacramento Kings Receive: PF Darrell Arthur, PF Kenneth Faried, 2018 top-20 protected first-round pick, 2018 second-round pick (via Portland)
George Hill tweeted more angry emoji faces following a Dec. 2 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks than the amount of wins the Sacramento Kings will finish with (26). He said this was an expression of frustration with himself.
Soon after, though, the Salt Lake Tribune's Tony Jones brought word that Hill "isn't happy" in Sacramento after expecting to join a team with designs on winning now. And, well, Hill didn't exactly quash those rumors.
"No, if it's there, it's there," he said when asked whether he's searching for a role with the Kings, per the Sacramento Bee's Jason Jones. "I'm just trying to help the young fellas learn, mentor them and figure that out as we go."
Sweet and opaque at the same time. Nicely done, George.
The state of Hill's relationship with the Kings isn't particularly pertinent. This team needs to focus on its youth. Head coach Dave Joerger is leaning more on De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Frank Mason III, but playing Hill runs counter to the rebuilding approach. (Ditto for Kosta Koufos, Zach Randolph and kind-of, sort-of Garrett Temple.) Yes, Hill deserves to play—just not in Sacramento.
Dissolving this partnership makes sense for everyone. And the Kings should leap at the opportunity to snag a heavily protected first-round pick from the Denver Nuggets. They aren't getting that from anyone else—not for a 31-year-old point guard taking home $20 million this season and $19 million in 2018-19.
Adding Darrell Arthur and Kenneth Faried to the frontcourt pileup doesn't do the depth chart any favors, but the Kings can try rerouting either one of them or create roster spots elsewhere. This trade is all about the pick. They'll adjust to the baggage that comes with it. If nothing else, playing a 28-year-old Faried is far more defensible than burning substantive court time on a 36-year-old Randolph.
This might be a slight overpay on the Nuggets' part, but they're uniquely qualified to embrace the gamble. They need a playmaking alternative in the backcourt to youngsters Emmanuel Mudiay and Jamal Murray, and Hill should have no trouble working off Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap once they're healthy. Most importantly, Nuggets president Tim Connelly can sleep soundly knowing he's only locked into Hill through next season, at which time he's guaranteed just $1 million of his 2019-20 salary.
Bucks Complete DeAndre Jordan Dalliance Without Breaking the Clippers' Heart
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: SG/SF Sterling Brown, C John Henson, PF Mirza Teletovic, PF/C D.J. Wilson, 2020 second-round pick
Milwaukee Bucks Receive: PG Patrick Beverley (injured), PF/C Brice Johnson, C DeAndre Jordan
As one Western Conference executive told Bleacher Report's Ken Berger, the Bucks are "kicking the tires hard" on the DeAndre Jordan trade front since he hired an agent. Let's reward them for their due diligence, shall we?
Cobbling together a package that works for both the Bucks and the Los Angeles Clippers is bang-your-head-against-the-wall difficult. The Clippers are trading an All-Star center. They'll want a significant return. But Jordan holds a player option for next season and turns 30 in July. The Bucks won't relinquish the moon for someone who amounts to a potential rental or expensive reinvestment.
This package functions like a happy medium—or close to it.
Los Angeles bends into better lottery odds this season without consigning itself to a full-fledged rebuild. John Henson is accustomed to challenging shots at the rim and works as a pick-and-roll finisher when granted enough space. Mirza Teletovic has just one year left on his deal after this season and was shooting 46.7 percent from downtown before undergoing right-knee surgery. They'll both help a team built to win around Blake Griffin next year.
At the same time, the Clippers nab a couple interesting assets for the future. Sterling Brown is an explorable wing prospect who costs virtually nothing through 2019-20. D.J. Wilson is the Bucks' latest dare-to-be-great project who might, one day, peak as a floor-spacing shot-blocker. Henson is no grandpa at 26, going on 27, either. He can hang around if the Clippers initiate a full-tilt reboot.
Relative to what they can offer, the Bucks are giving up a lot. And this deal nudges them ever so gently into luxury-tax territory (by $200,000). But subsequent trades or buyouts (Rashad Vaughn!) can make up the difference.
Ditching Henson and Teletovic also sets up the Bucks to save a truckload of money. They can shave more than $20 million off their summer cap sheet by renouncing Jordan and waiving Patrick Beverley's non-guaranteed deal.
Although the Clippers normally wouldn't ship out a cheap starter like Beverley, they have a ton of guards, and he's recovering from microfracture surgery in his right knee—a precarious recovery for any soon-to-be 30-year-old. The Bucks can withstand rolling the dice on his rehabilitation with Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon in the mix.
They might even be treated to an early return from the 6'1" cyborg point guard, which is another reason to pull the trigger in a long line of them.