NBA Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz on Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza and More

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistDecember 10, 2018

PORTLAND, OR - DECEMBER 6: Trevor Ariza #3 of the Phoenix Suns looks on during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on December 6, 2018 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
Sam Forencich/Getty Images

It's not even Christmas and we've already seen a few decent-sized trades this NBA season. The market is active, and deals getting done hasn't quieted the buzz.

Kyle Korver is back on the Utah Jazz. Alec Burks is a Cleveland Cavalier. George Hill is on the Milwaukee Bucks as the result of a three-team trade that sent Matthew Dellavedova back to the Cavs.

This is deadline-ish activity, and it feels like it may just be the first few dominoes. While the dust is still settling on those deals, new rumors have emerged.

Could Trevor Ariza head back to the Los Angeles Lakers? Or will they land Carmelo Anthony? And which Cavalier will be the next to go in the team's ongoing firesale?


Trevor Ariza to the Lakers?

On Sunday, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski gave us a bit of a Woj Bomb. Or, at the least, he lit the fuse.

"The Los Angeles Lakers are engaged in talks to try to acquire Phoenix Suns forward Trevor Ariza, league sources told ESPN," he said.

He went on to add that the Suns are in the market for a playmaker (Lonzo Ball?) and that both sides are working to find a third team to take on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and his expiring contract.

Assuming something does go through after December 15 (when Ariza, who was signed this summer, will be eligible for a trade), the Lakers would have to be banking on a resurgence from the 33-year-old forward.

After going an impressive 12 straight seasons with an above-average Box Plus-Minus, Ariza is at minus-0.9 in 2018-19, per Basketball Reference.

And Phoenix has been significantly better with him on the bench. According to Cleaning the Glass, the Suns are minus-16.1 points per 100 possessions (third percentile) with Ariza on the floor, and minus-5.4 (25th percentile) when he's off.

L.A. getting that version of Ariza probably makes any trade for him a loss for the Lakers. But, if being back on a winner and playing with LeBron James coaxes the Houston version of Ariza out of hiding, he makes a lot of sense.

Over his four seasons with the Rockets, Ariza was a slightly-above-average three-point shooter who could guard multiple positions on the other end. That was an excellent complement to James Harden, who needed an outlet in case his drives were stymied on offense and a lot of general help on defense.

That's a description that also fits LeBron pretty well, at this point.


Melo and LeBron?

Ariza isn't the only forward/wing the Lakers are reportedly interested in.

According to Joe Vardon, "LeBron James would like to get Carmelo Anthony to Los Angeles with him on the Lakers, league sources have told The Athletic."

Anthony still has his fans among the eye-test enthusiasts, but this would be a deal that should be much harder to sell to Lakers fans.

Last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder were plus-6.5 points per 100 possessions (85th percentile) when Anthony, Russell Westbrook and Paul George were on the floor, according to Cleaning the Glass. They were plus-9.7 points per 100 possessions (95th percentile) when Westbrook and George were on the floor without Anthony.

And this season, Houston's Net Rating (team's net points per 100 possessions when a given player is on the floor) was minus-11.4 with Melo on the floor and plus-1.4 with him off.

The only players with at least 2,000 minutes and a worse Box Plus-Minus over the last two seasons, per Basketball Reference? Jamal Crawford and Josh Jackson. That's it.

Reverence for Anthony's past is fine. Appeasing LeBron probably is, too, at least to some degree. But those two things shouldn't cloud a team's judgment to the point it signs a mid-30s player who's made his teams objectively worse for two years.


J.R. Smith Next?

The rebuilding Cavs already found takers for two of their veterans, Korver and Hill. And now, The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor thinks Smith could be the next one on the move.

"Expect the Cavaliers to try to move on next from JR Smith," O'Connor tweeted. "I heard this week they received some interest for Smith from the Rockets and Pelicans—both teams need depth at the wing position. Smith's 2019-20 salary is guaranteed for only $3.9M, so it has some value as a trade chip."

Like Ariza and Anthony, Smith is likely nearing the end of his run in the NBA. He's in his age-33 season. And for a shooting specialist, his shooting splits over the last three seasons don't inspire a lot of confidence.

Since 2016-17, Smith is averaging 8.2 points on 7.8 field goal attempts, with a 37.9 field goal percentage, a 36.2 three-point percentage and a well-below-average .510 True Shooting Percentage, per Basketball Reference.

So, while the Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans do indeed some help on the wings, Smith may not exactly be the kind of help they should want.

If it's a move that creates some more cap flexibility, thanks to Smith's partial guarantee in 2019-20, that would be a different story.


Andy Bailey covers the NBA for SLC Dunk and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@AndrewDBailey) and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by B/R’s Dan Favale.  


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.