NBA Trade Deadline 2018: Last-Minute Predictions for Biggest Trade Targets
The pieces are so close to coming together, setting the stage for the remaining portion of the NBA's 2017-18 campaign.
Will DeAndre Jordan still be wearing a Los Angeles Clippers uniform when Thursday's trade deadline passes? Tyreke Evans seems certain to move on from the Memphis Grizzlies, but will he be going to the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers or some dark-horse location? Are the Cleveland Cavaliers willing to part with their biggest asset, or do they need to keep that Brooklyn Nets first-round pick as a contingency plan in case LeBron James departs this offseason?
We'll answer all these questions and more at the 11th hour, piecing together rumors and situations to figure out what'll happen at the deadline before the movement actually takes place.
Hang tight. We're almost through trade season, and the excitement is only beginning.
Tyreke Evans, SG/SF, Memphis Grizzlies
Contract Status: $3.3M in 2017-18
2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 19.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.3 blocks
Tyreke Evans hasn't played in a game for the Memphis Grizzlies since dropping 27 points in a Jan. 29 victory over the Phoenix Suns. It's not that he's too hurt to play (though he's technically listed with a left arm injury); Grind City is just defying its moniker and holding him out of action so he doesn't suffer a fluke injury before the deadline passes.
If that's not a clear indication the breakout swingman will suit up in a different uniform before the end of 2017-18, I don't know what would be. And verifying that, RealGM's Keith Smith reported, "Sounds like the first team to offer a real first round pick (IE: without crazy protections), will land Tyreke Evans. Grizzlies will hold out until the deadline and then take the best deal if they don't get a first."
Unsurprisingly, quite a few teams are interested. As revealed by ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers are the front-runners for the 28-year-old's services, and the Miami Heat are also in the picture.
But given their wealth of draft picks, need for an injection of offense and ability to part with intriguing youngsters such as Semi Ojeleye and Guerschon Yabusele, the Boston Celtics should be the favorites. They have access to their own first-round pick in 2018, the Los Angeles Lakers' top selection (if it falls between Nos. 2 and 5) and more incoming first-rounders in 2019. Given their roster construction, they can't possibly use all of them, and moving one for a legitimate offensive game-changer should be viewed as a desirable outcome.
Lest we're blinded by their sparkling record, Boston is scoring only 104.6 points per 100 possessions, which gives it the league's 20th-ranked offensive rating. Surely a wing capable of knocking down triples and creating for himself (something no Beantown resident outside of Kyrie Irving does on a consistent basis) would be worth acquiring.
Prediction: Evans starts wearing Celtic green after the deadline.
George Hill, PG, Sacramento Kings
Contract Status: $20M in 2017-18, $19M in 2018-19, $18M in 2019-20 (guaranteed for $1M)
2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 10.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.3 blocks
George Hill's season hasn't gone as planned.
After the Sacramento Kings unexpectedly inked him to a long-term deal this summer, they've failed to move out of the Western Conference basement while he struggles to find his role with an organization blending together youth and veteran leadership. The point guard is shooting a league-best 45.3 percent from downtown, but that's been one of the few bright spots on his resume, which includes far too much passivity and diminished production in all areas.
But Hill is still only 31 years old, and he's just one season removed from a breakout campaign with the Utah Jazz. That pedigree and his enduring sharpshooting habits will endear him to some playoff-contending squad in need of help at the 1.
Sacramento came close to dealing Hill to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye, but the swap fell through. As Jason Jones reported for the Sacramento Bee, tacitly referring to the possibility of Shumpert picking up an $11 million option next year, "The Kings are not opposed to making a deal, but it has to make sense as part of the grand plan to maintain financial flexibility for the future, while also being in the position to collect draft picks and young talent.
Cleveland is still a possible landing spot that could bring in a third team to facilitate the transaction, as noted by Yahoo Sports' Chris Mannix. But that's becoming a less likely option as the Kings display patience. Plus, Jones revealed the front office is actually fine with keeping him around:
"Hill hasn't caused problems in the locker room, even though he's coming off the bench," Jones writes. "He's formed great relationships with young players like Bogdan Bogdanovic and De'Aaron Fox. And the Kings front office really likes having Hill around."
Though the Denver Nuggets could make this interesting at the last minute, the odds of this floor general staying put are increasing.
Prediction: The Kings hold on to Hill past the deadline, then shop him this offseason.
Rodney Hood, SG, Utah Jazz
Contract Status: $2.4M in 2017-18
2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 16.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.2 blocks
Rodney Hood is by no means a perfect player.
Whoever winds up acquiring him from the Utah Jazz will need to figure out how they can best cover up for his defensive porosity—the main reason he rates so poorly in the latter two advanced metrics—and must dedicate some ball-dominant possessions to him. After all, Hood is much better creating off the bounce than he is in spot-up situations, though he's by no means poor in either area.
On pull-up jumpers, Hood is knocking down 41 percent of his deep tries, which leaves him in unquestionably stellar territory. Among players who have logged at least 20 games in 2017-18, only he, Austin Rivers, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving and Tyreke Evans are taking at least two pull-up treys per contest and connecting at no worse than a 40 percent clip.
His spot-up proficiency lags well behind, though his 1.02 points per possession still leave him in the green, sitting in the 57th percentile. And that dual-threat ability should make him a coveted commodity before the deadline, especially because teams know he's not really an ideal fit in a Utah system dedicating so many touches to Donovan Mitchell.
"The Oklahoma City Thunder, Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons are all showing interest in acquiring Utah Jazz shooting guard Rodney Hood," Tony Jones reported for the Salt Lake Tribune. "League sources say the Denver Nuggets and Orlando Magic have also shown at least a passing interest in Hood, who is set to be a restricted free agent this summer."
He'd make sense in so many different locations, but the Oklahoma City Thunder have the biggest need for a wing after losing Andre Roberson for the year. They just don't have the first-round picks to swing in Salt Lake City's direction, which makes the Detroit Pistons and Stan Van Gundy's aggressive regime the clubhouse favorites.
Prediction: Hood won't stick in Utah past the deadline, and the Pistons are the most likely landing spot.
DeAndre Jordan, C, Los Angeles Clippers
Contract Status: $22.6M in 2017-18, $24.1M in 2018-19 (player option)
2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 11.5 points, 14.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.4 steals, 1.0 blocks
Maybe the Milwaukee Bucks will build a package centered around Thon Maker and draft picks. The Washington Wizards could build a trade with Kelly Oubre Jr., Marcin Gortat and salary filler. The Portland Trail Blazers could try to upgrade from Jusuf Nurkic. The Cleveland Cavaliers could get greedy and put their first-round pick from the Brooklyn Nets on the table.
But we can't overlook the ever-increasing possibility that the Los Angeles Clippers just keep DeAndre Jordan on their own roster.
Trading Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons wasn't an indication that LAC is ready to throw in the proverbial towel and start competing for a better slot in the 2018 NBA draft. They wouldn't have brought in Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley if that were the case, since the two veteran starters give the Clippers a chance to continue pushing for a berth in this season's playoff picture.
And even more telling is the decision to sign Lou Williams to a three-year extension, as reported by Yahoo Sports' Shams Charania. Los Angeles is still trying to build around this core, and that seems like a justifiable decision after digging out of an early-season hole and crawling back into postseason positioning.
Of course, that doesn't change the fact that Jordan can opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. That alone makes it tempting for the Clippers to accept a substantial return if someone is desperate enough to offer a coveted asset.
Given the downward-spiraling direction of the Cavaliers and the need to convince LeBron James to stick around by winning now, that could very well happen.
Prediction: Jordan turns into the Brooklyn Nets' top pick, which will be conveyed across the country by Cleveland.
Kemba Walker, PG, Charlotte Hornets
Contract Status: $12M in 2017-18, $12M in 2018-19
2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 22.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.3 blocks
A Godfather offer could still change the Charlotte Hornets' mind, but that doesn't seem likely at this stage of trade season.
"[Michael] Jordan looked to mitigate the damage when he called me a few days later to say the Hornets weren't 'shopping' Walker, and it would take an irresistible offer to justify moving him," Rick Bonnell reported for the Charlotte Observer. And as Yahoo Sports' Jordan Schultz made clear, Jordan is still looking for an All-Star in return and trying to package together Nicolas Batum's unpalatable contract.
That ain't happening.
If Charlotte was intent on moving Walker, it would have reasonable offers. The Cleveland Cavaliers could send their most appealing asset and matching salaries to the Queen City. The Denver Nuggets could offer draft picks and upside-filled players such as Juancho Hernangomez and Malik Beasley. The New York Knicks could empty their draft-day coffers.
The list goes on.
But none of those suitors can meet the necessary asking price, especially now that Batum's deal is involved. The Hornets will continue to flirt with the luxury tax and try to build a compelling roster around their should-be All-Star floor general, just as they've unsuccessfuly attempted to do in previous seasons.
Prediction: Walker remains with the only NBA franchise he's ever known.
Brooklyn Nets' No. 1 Pick, Contract, Cleveland Cavaliers
Age: Probably between 18 and 20 at the moment
Contract Status: Will soon ink an affordable rookie-scale deal
2017-18 Per-Game Stats: Mentioned 2.6 times per Cleveland Cavaliers broadcast
Advanced Metrics: Slightly less valuable than a 19-36 record would indicate since Pythagorean Wins give the Brooklyn Nets an additional two victories
How will the Cleveland Cavaliers pull off their balancing act?
On one hand, they should be thinking about the future. LeBron James is by no means a lock to remain in Northeast Ohio any longer than he has to, and the first-round pick conveyed by the Brooklyn Nets is the easiest way to ensure top talents remain with the Cavaliers organization should he depart. But on the flip side, they have to continue making James overtures and can't just give up on the idea of retaining him.
Of course, the easiest way to do so is making a play at the deadline. And without any highly coveted commodities other than draft picks, the Nets selection would then be on the table.
"I keep hearing the Cavs absolutely won't trade the Brooklyn draft pick," Terry Pluto reported for the Plain Dealer. "That's not true. I've heard from top league sources the Cavs will do it—but not for a short-term answer such as DeAndre Jordan. That's because Jordan can become a free agent at the end of the season."
But maybe that's already changed.
Since that information came out on Feb. 3, Cleveland has been run out of the gym by the Houston Rockets and turned a big lead against the Orlando Magic into a blowout loss. Dating back to the beginning of 2018, the Cavs' net rating (minus-7.6) beats only the mark earned by the Phoenix Suns (minus-11.0). And that's saying nothing of the reports of dysfunction put together by Bleacher Report's Ken Berger and The Athletic's Jason Lloyd.
A sense of desperation is only growing, and that could compel the Cavs to move their top asset for DeAndre Jordan—future considerations be damned.
Prediction: The Cavs are too invested to sit out this deadline, and this pick could very well end up in the Los Angeles Clippers' hands.