NBA Trade Ideas: How to Move Kemba Walker, Tyreke Evans and Rodney Hood
For the sake of ensuring the Association's mid-Winter fireworks never end, we're back to tinker and trifle with basketball's competitive balance, wholly undeterred by the shadow cast over us by Detroit's bloated salary-cap outlook.
The rumor mill, as per usual, will be our guide. So, too, will a pair of season-ending injuries.
DeMarcus Cousins is done for the year after suffering a ruptured left Achilles tendon. Ditto for Andre Roberson following his ruptured left patellar tendon. And since the New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder, respectively, have designs on making noise in the playoffs, part of this exercise will be dedicated to their searches for reinforcements.
After that, anything goes.
New Orleans Restocks Short-Term Depth Without DeMarcus Cousins
Atlanta Hawks Receive: C Alexis Ajinca, SG/SF Ian Clark, SF/PF Solomon Hill, 2018 first-round pick (top-10 protected), 2019 second-round pick
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: PF Luke Babbitt, SG/SF Marco Belinelli, C Dewayne Dedmon
Cousins' Achilles injury has the Pelicans taking aim at a mid-year splash. And they're not waiting around to make it.
In fact, by the time you finish reading this tangent about how Darius Miller is averaging more points per spot-up possession than Kevin Durant, they might have ruined said hypothetical by dealing for Nikola Mirotic.
Talks between them and the Chicago Bulls—which center on human-cap dreck Omer Asik and a first-round pick—have fallen apart, according to ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowksi. But the mere immediacy with which they danced around the one-yard line suggests the Pelicans aren't messing around.
Enter the Atlanta Hawks. Pretty much every one of their players not under his rookie-scale deal is available for draft compensation, as Wojnarowski alluded to in mid-January. And they have the gradual timeline to swallow what's left after this season on deals for Alexis Ajinca (one year, $5.3 million) and Solomon Hill (two years, $26.1 million).
Getting a couple of picks for their troubles is well worth it. Ditto for the partial-season look at Ian Clark, given their relative dearth of backup playmakers. The Hawks will eventually even find use for Hill, who is on his way back from a torn hamstring. They need another guy who can defend bigger wings at the 4 so Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince aren't guarding above their means.
Offloading a first-round pick hurts the soul of any team with a ballooning cap sheet, but getting out from under Ajinca and Hill leaves the Pelicans leaner for the summer, in advance of Cousins' free agency. They can try subbing out Hill for Asik in this package, since the final year of his contract in 2019-20 is guaranteed for only $3 million, but the Hawks will balk if they consider Hill playable.
Marco Belinelli and Luke Babbitt fill spacing voids the Pelicans have languished through all year. They'll get some run out of Babbitt at the 4 when Anthony Davis plays center, and Belinelli dissuades head coach Alvin Gentry from giving Rajon Rondo any more minutes.
Dewayne Dedmon is a great hedge against playing Davis too much at the 5 or having to lean on Asik and the inexperienced Cheick Diallo at all. What he lacks in brute force and size, he makes up for with length. He snags rebounds before they begin their descent, his arms go on forever when contesting shots at the rim and he's comfortable rotating into space. He chucks threes now, too.
Bake in the short-term commitments attached to all three inbound assets—Babbitt and Belinelli are expiring; Dedmon owns a player option—and voila! The Pelicans have the perfect way to tread water without Boogie.
Oklahoma City Tries (Temporarily) Replacing Andre Roberson
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: SG/SF Jonathon Simmons
Orlando Magic Receive: SG/SF Terrance Ferguson, SF/PF Kyle Singler
The Oklahoma City Thunder are in a tough spot after losing Andre Roberson for the season with a ruptured left patellar tendon.
Cannonballing into a monster deal is just about off the table. They're more than $13.3 million into the luxury tax, and the 2020 pick they owe to the Orlando Magic makes it impossible to trade a first-rounder elsewhere until 2022. And this assumes it conveys by then. That pick has top-20 protection through 2022, before it divests into a pair of seconds.
At the same time, the Thunder don't have an adequate fill-in for Roberson. Their four starters go from allowing 95.9 points per 100 possessions with him to farting away 114.8 when playing beside someone else—an 18.9-point swing that more than covers the ground between a league-best and NBA-worst defense.
Plus, on top of that, Paul George is saying nice things about Oklahoma City and Russell Westbrook now. The Thunder should be looking capitalize on that burgeoning goodwill. Standing pat risks squandering it, even if only a little.
Pursuing Jonathon Simmons feels like a happy medium. The Magic remain fire-sale candidates, per the New York Times' Marc Stein, which gives them ample cause to absorb Kyle Singler if it means landing a cost-controlled asset like Terrance Ferguson, last June's No. 21 pick.
Simmons' contract will cost the Thunder more than Singler's deal, but only by a hair. The former is owed $6 million next season, with a $1 million guarantee for 2019-20; Singler will earn $5 million in 2018-19 and is fully non-guaranteed the following year.
That extra cost—tax penalties and all—is well worth acquiring someone who will, you know, actually play. Simmons is no stranger to defending point guards; he chased around Westbrook, among many others, every now and then during his time with the San Antonio Spurs. He's no more of a spacing liability than his predecessor either.
Roberson, at 6'7", offers more sturdiness against bigger wings. But he's best suited matching up with quicker ball-handlers and smaller swingmen. The 6'6" Simmons is the same way. He'll at least inoculate Carmelo Anthony against defending anyone of consequence on most nights—and he, unlike Roberson or Singler or Ferguson, has the playmaking chops to initiate some pick-and-rolls.
Indiana Counters Detroit's All-Star Acquisition with One of Its Own
Charlotte Hornets Receive: SF/PF Bojan Bogdanovic, PG Darren Collison, PF TJ Leaf, 2018 first-round pick (top-10 protected), 2019 second-round pick
Indiana Pacers Receive: PG/SG Michael Carter-Williams, SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, PG Kemba Walker
In response to a report from Wojnarowski that stated the contrary, Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan told the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell the team isn't looking to move Kemba Walker. His sentiments have done little, if anything, to quell speculation.
Take the Hornets' Monday night loss to the Indiana Pacers. Walker was asked about the possibility of calling Bankers Life Fieldhouse home during a morning shootaround.
"Nah, that's not something I'm thinking about," he responded, with a smile, per the Indianapolis Star's Clifton Brown. "I just control what I can control. Try to play for my teammates and coaching staff, and win, that's the most important thing. Trade rumors and stuff like that, that's something I couldn't control. I just try to look past it and play."
Fortunately, we aren't in Walker's position. We're free to indulge visions of him joining Victor Oladipo in Indiana's backcourt. The Pacers might even be doing the same at this point. Only three games separate them from lottery territory in the loss column, and the ninth-place Pistons just spun the wheel on a five-time All-Star.
Acquiring Walker would be the ideal counter, a way of calling airtight dibs on a playoff spot without doing too much damage to the future. The Pacers have a unique blend of contracts with non-guarantees caked into 2018-19. They can ship them to Charlotte as quasi-expirings while taking back Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's pact, which will pay him $26 million over the next two seasons (player option in 2019-20).
Selling on T.J. Leaf now is a bit premature, but the Domantas Sabonis-Myles Turner dyad cushions the blow in a big way. The Pacers can coax some effective power forward minutes out of Kidd-Gilchrist in the right lineups, and if all goes according to plan, they won't be sending out a lottery pick.
Charlotte brings itself closer to a clean slate with next season's non-guarantees for Darren Collison ($2 million) and Bojan Bogdanovic ($1.5 million). They could also elect to hold onto them as buffers for future salary dumps that net them additional picks and prospects. Collison specifically is an asset even if they try to accelerate an about-face into next season. He ranks 11th in ESPN's Real Plus Minus among all point guards and can vacillate between on- and off-ball functions.
Either way, the only real downside for the Hornets is the retention of Nicolas Batum, who they're not shedding unless they warm up to Joakim Noah's albatross or catch the Cleveland Cavaliers in a dizzying moment of desperation.
Boston Plays Both the Immediate and Long Game with Utah
Boston Celtics Receive: SG/SF Rodney Hood
Utah Jazz Receive: PF/C Guerschon Yabusele, 2018 first-round pick
Kudos to Danny Leroux from the Dunc'd On podcast for serving as the inspiration behind this deal. And shoutout to the Utah Jazz for ramping up their efforts to trade Rodney Hood, as reported by the Salt Lake Tribune's Tony Jones.
The Boston Celtics need another self-sufficient scorer. They're 29th in offensive efficiency since Christmas, and too many of their half-court sets rest on Kyrie Irving putting his degree from Hogwarts to constant use.
Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart are the only other players on the roster with fewer than 90 percent of their threes coming off assists, according to Cleaning The Glass. And those marks exist by default, because they're ball-dominant point guards.
Neither one of them is someone the Celtics actually want taking shots off the dribble, but they're low on other experienced options. Take a gander at the pull-up effective field-goal percentages—measurement of two-point and three-point accuracy—for each of the team's most-used wings and guards.
- Kyrie Irving: 52.1
- Marcus Morris: 45.6
- Terry Rozier: 43.7
- Jaylen Brown: 43.3
- Jayson Tatum: 42.7
- Marcus Smart: 37.9
- Shane Larkin: 24.0
Hood can be erratic himself, but his 46.9 effective field-goal rate on pull-up jumpers would rank second on that list. At the bare minimum, he diversifies their offense in crunch time and whenever head coach Brad Stevens doesn't stagger Irving and Al Horford.
Team president Danny Ainge even gets a treat out of this deal: Bird rights on Hood in restricted free agency. Cap space is expected to be in short supply around the league this summer. The Celtics should be able to get him at a reasonable long-term rate, which would, in turn, make him one of their best salary-matching tools for the Anthony Davis trade we know they'll be chasing this time next year.
And as for the Jazz, they grab a first-round pick for a player they don't appear to have any interest in paying. They can try opening the deal to get their hands on Semi Ojeleye or Daniel Theis, but their low cap holds make for messy parameters. Throwing in a 2020 second-round pick should whet Utah's whistle enough if general manager Dennis Lindsey plays hardball.
Memphis Leans into the Non-Tank Tank, While Philly Deepens Its Wing Supply
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: SG/SF Justin Anderson, SG/SF Jerryd Bayless, 2018 first-round pick (lottery protected)
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: SG/SF James Ennis, SG/SF Tyreke Evans
With Mike Conley done for the season, the Memphis Grizzlies can officially begin their unofficial pursuit of top-three lottery odds.
This process will include a bunch of different steps—mainly random absences from key contributors and late-year shutdowns. It must also consist of trading Tyreke Evans. Memphis won't own his Bird rights in free agency and has no business tethering what few financial resources it'll wield to one player who turns 29 in September.
"Tyreke Evans definitely gets traded, even if it's for a second-round pick," ESPN's Brian Windhorst told Alex Kennedy on a recent episode of The HoopsHype Podcast. "Memphis probably holds out until the very end, to make sure that somebody isn't ready to offer [something more]."
The Philadelphia 76ers are one of the few teams that can reasonably meet the Grizzlies' initial asking price of a first-round pick. They have the flexibility to re-sign Evans using cap space if they like him, or they can let him walk should LeBron James hit them with the come-hither stare—which, by the way, he's more likely to do when the final year of Jerryd Bayless' contract is already off the books.
Philly even has the option of J.J. Redick-ing Evans with a one- or two-year overpay if free-agency overtures prove fruitless.
Using Justin Anderson and a pick to jettison Bayless won't sit right in that scenario, but Evans assures the Sixers of ending their five-year playoff drought. He and James Ennis provide a dose of everything the bench is missing: established playmaking and shooting. And don't sleep on the acquisition of Ennis' early Bird rights. Those will be valuable when he explores the open market.
Getting the Grizzlies on board boils down to this: They nab a first-round pick and a cost-controlled flier on Anderson through 2018-19 for one year of Bayless and two players who most likely won't be around next season.