NBA Trade Ideas from Latest Buzz: Deals for Mike Conley, Tim Hardaway Jr., More
We interrupt this current coverage of the National Brow Association to talk about someone other than Anthony Davis.
Anyone who craves their Anthony Davis fix is free to check out these trade ideas. Not enough has changed since then to propose more. The Pelicans are still better off waiting to resolve his future until the summer, when the Boston Celtics can join the fray.
For now, all we can do is wait and see whether any suitors have the assets and gall to coax New Orleans into action before Feb. 7's 3 p.m. ET deadline. And whilst we twiddle our thumbs, why not take a stab at shaking up the league from a few different angles?
After all, despite what recent developments may imply, there is more to this year's trade market than Davis' thinly veiled attempt to join the Los Angeles Lakers.
New York Clears the Deck for Free Agency
New York Knicks Receive: Zach Randolph, Kosta Koufos
Sacramento Kings Receive: Tim Hardaway Jr., Noah Vonleh, 2020 second-round pick (from Charlotte, via New York)
Let's be clear from the jump about what this isn't: an attempt to bamboozle the Kings. With the Memphis Grizzlies bowing out of the win-now ranks, the Kings are merely the last remaining team that might be inclined to treat Tim Hardaway Jr. as something better than a net-negative asset.
That matters. The Knicks are looking to move Hardaway and Courtney Lee as they prioritize max room for this summer, according to the New York Times' Marc Stein. Both will require sweeteners. Lee isn't even in the rotation, and Hardaway is owed $37.1 million over the next two seasons (2020-21 player option).
Sacramento needs a small forward. Hardaway isn't that. He doesn't have the size to defend 3s, and the offensive advantage of playing him up a spot isn't splashy enough to offset the concessions made at the other side.
But the Kings are way better than the Knicks. They play with the speed necessary to capitalize on lineups featuring him beside Buddy Hield or Bogdan Bogdanovic, and he gives them another player who can create off the dribble or bang in standstill jumpers. Hardaway is putting down more than 38 percent of his pull-up threes, and his spot-up efficiency will improve while he's catching passes from De'Aaron Fox.
New York's sweeteners help make this a worthwhile deal. Noah Vonleh doesn't come with Bird rights, but he can play beside any of Sacramento's bigs. Head coach Dave Joerger could build some interesting frontcourt combinations with him and Marvin Bagley III or Nemanja Bjelica. Willie Cauley-Stein works, too.
And that Charlotte Hornets pick isn't nothing. They're barely a playoff team now. It could be a selection in the early 30s. Plus, the Kings are creating another $1.6 million in cap space. That'd give them $13.6 million in total wiggle room—flexibility they can use to broker another impact trade. Otto Porter, anyone?
The Knicks can further incentivize Sacramento by taking back another small contract and waiving or rerouting Trey Burke. Tack on Yogi Ferrell (non-guaranteed 2019-20 salary), and the Kings create a total of $16.6 million in space. They could concoct some artfully lopsided trades with that much runway. Harrison Barnes would be another name to watch.
Any version of this should be a no-brainer for the Knicks themselves. Shaving Hardaway's salary from the ledger puts them on track for almost $50 million in spending power over the summer. Find a home for Courtney Lee, and they'd sniff $65 million—nearly enough for two 30 percent maxes (Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, etc.) or for Kevin Durant and an impact name or two.
Milwaukee Grants Thon Maker's Wish
Milwaukee Bucks Receive: Dewayne Dedmon
Atlanta Hawks Receive: Thon Maker, Jason Smith (trade restriction lifts Feb. 6)
Thon Maker's agent, Mike George, is working with the Bucks to find the 21-year-old a team that would "provide a larger role" for Maker, according to ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski. Playing in Atlanta, next to John Collins, would be an interesting fit.
Constructing a sensible deal is difficult. The Hawks aren't buyers, and Maker's open-market value doesn't match the view of him in Milwaukee. General manger Jon Horst was a member of the front office that drafted Maker 10th overall in 2016, and "there remains strong organizational belief" in his future, per Woj.
Good luck spinning that yarn to Atlanta or any other team. Maker is no longer a regular, or even a semi-regular, in head coach Mike Budenholzer's rotation. Over the past 12 games, he's logged six DNPs and played over 10 minutes just once. Milwaukee is more inclined to lean on Brook Lopez, Ersan Ilyasova, D.J. Wilson and Giannis Antetokounmpo-at-center arrangements.
Getting Dewayne Dedmon is enough. He's essentially who Maker is supposed to be, minus the ability to attack off the dribble. Dedmon has a presence on the glass and can leverage his length in space, finish at the rim on the run and stretch frontcourt defenses out to the three-point line.
Here's every big man averaging more than 10 rebounds, two assists, one steal and one made triple per 36 minutes: Nikola Jokic, Nikola Vucevic and...Dewayne Dedmon.
Atlanta can toss in one of its low-end seconds or Justin Anderson if Milwaukee pushes the bill. But, well, the Bucks shouldn't push the bill. They should instead count themselves lucky to get Dedmon and his Early Bird rights—particularly with Brook Lopez, whose Bird rights they don't own, potentially pricing himself out of town.
Whether the Hawks are high on Maker and his fit beside Collins doesn't especially matter. They're not getting more for Dedmon unless they swallow a bad salary or pair him with Jeremy Lin or Taurean Prince. They have the gradual window to give Maker spin. At worst, subbing him in for Dedmon has the added bonus of reinvigorating what is now an ebbing tank job. Atlanta is playing that well.
Indiana, Miami and Philadelphia Complete a Mini-Buster
Indiana Pacers Receive: Wayne Ellington (must consent to trade), Rodney McGruder
Miami Heat Receive: Justin Patton, Indiana's 2019 first-round pick (top-20 protection in 2019; lottery protection in 2020; turns into two seconds if not conveyed), 2019 second-round pick (more favorable from Milwaukee and Sacramento, via Philadelphia)
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Kyle O'Quinn
Victor Oladipo's season-ending right knee injury limits how aggressive the Pacers should be at the deadline. They might still host a first-round playoff matchup, but their chances of having the best player in a postseason series were slim to begin with and are nonexistent now.
At the same time, the Pacers shouldn't sell. They can't. They're too far outside the lottery to meaningfully improve their draft pick, and keeping their rights for free agents Bojan Bogdanovic (Early Bird), Darren Collison (Early Bird), Cory Joseph and Thaddeus Young is far more valuable than anything or anyone they'd get in return.
Targeting Wayne Ellington and Rodney McGruder while only surrendering Kyle O'Quinn and a heavily protected first is a nice middle ground. They help the Pacers' spacing, and McGruder has shown some off-the-dribble initiation. Grabbing his Bird rights before restricted free agency is also useful.
Both players have fallen out of Miami's rotation in recent weeks. Ellington is back following an injury to Derrick Jones Jr., but his playing time will be in jeopardy as Goran Dragic (knee) and Tyler Johnson (ankle) return to the lineup. McGruder is on the fringes of the nightly docket after losing his spot in the starting five.
Ellington is considered more gettable, according to The Athletic's Bill Oram, but one league official told the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson not to discount McGruder's availability. The Heat should pounce at the opportunity to turn both into a first- and second-rounder. Their asset cupboard is almost empty, and they can try using Indy's selection to trim off one of their crappier contracts over the summer.
Although this deal doesn't bring the Heat under the luxury tax, it comes pretty damn close. Assuming they don't want to pay for another team to absorb Jones, here's a subsequent deal that does the trick—and actually helps the on-court product:
- Miami Heat receive: David Nwaba
- Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Justin Patton, 2019 second-round pick (the Milwaukee or Sacramento pick Miami would get from Philly)
The Sixers shouldn't have any trouble getting on board with this three-teamer. They need a backup big and can get minutes from O'Quinn at both the 4 and 5—though center is preferable. Holes up front are always pluggable on the buyout market, but Philly has no guarantee a comparably serviceable player will become available for nothing.
A Drastic Measure for New Orleans
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: Mike Conley, Omri Casspi
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: Solomon Hill, Wesley Johnson, Nikola Mirotic, 2019 first-round pick (top-seven protection), 2019 second-round pick, 2020 second-round pick
Chasing a 31-year-old Mike Conley owed lots of money over the next two seasons would be atypical behavior from an organization that just found out one of the NBA's five best players wants a trade. The Pelicans are free not to care.
To be sure: Davis' eventual exit absolutely matters. If the Pelicans want to sell off their other assets, stink for a couple of years and reload through the draft, then by all means, they should do it.
But rebuilding is an inexact science. New Orleans isn't a market that can necessarily endure two-plus years of hardcore losing. Free agents aren't coming to save the day. The Pelicans have failed to keep their last two franchise cornerstones—first Chris Paul, and now Davis.
That isn't a sub-punch at the city of New Orleans, or the franchise itself. The Pelicans made mistakes with Davis. Truckloads of them. That's a larger conversation. But dwelling on the past won't get them anywhere. They have to learn from it, not wallow in it.
Bringing in Conley would be a calculated gamble. He and Jrue Holiday are a nice starting point for an immediate turnaround if and when the Pelicans trade Davis. In the meantime, they would play all three. Having Davis suit up again if they don't move him is weird, but these guys are professionals. New Orleans would have enough talent to justify spending this season's pick.
Worst-case scenario, nothing changes. It makes more sense for the Pelicans to delay the Davis sweepstakes until the offseason as it stands. If they cannot make an improbable playoff push or convince him to reconsider his position, the Lakers, Celtics and 27 other teams will be waiting with their offers.
And from there, the Pelicans would have Conley, Holiday, E'Twaun Moore, maybe Julius Randle (player option), whatever they get for Davis and all their own first-rounders in 2020 and beyond. Teams have found themselves in far more hopeless situations.
Memphis throws a wrench in this drastic measure if Conley isn't available. Team owner Robert Pera informed both the point guard and Marc Gasol they were on the chopping block, but a clear-cut asking price has yet to be publicly established.
The Grizzlies will push for more—especially if they believe Davis wears a Pelicans uniform again this season and harms the value of their draft pick. New Orleans has avenues it can explore. Elfrid Payton can be thrown into the deal, the two teams can swap Moore and Garrett Temple, Darius Miller can be added to the package, Randle can be switched for Nikola Mirotic, etc.
Still, Memphis is not armed with too much leverage. Conley has a history of Achilles issues and is owed $67 million over the next two seasons ($22.4 million guarantee in 2020-21). He doesn't offer great value at his price point. If the Pelicans are helping clean up their long-term books, giving them Mirotic's Bird rights and including three picks, the Grizzlies have to listen.
New Orleans Goes Seller Route Instead
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: Jared Dudley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, 2019 second-round pick (from New York, via Brooklyn)
Brooklyn Nets Receive: Ian Clark (must consent to trade), Nikola Mirotic
Should the Pelicans opt for the more conventional "our superstar doesn't want to be here anymore" approach, they'll need to gauge the market for their other assets, starting with Nikola Mirotic and Julius Randle, both of whom will require new contracts after this season.
"Over the weekend, I had heard from two separate teams that Mirotic, Randle and [E'Twaun] Moore had all been made available for picks. New Orleans is known for perhaps playing some misdirection, so teams didn't know what to think of this. One team made of it, their guess and/or impression was, New Orleans was trying to get picks that it then flips for a big, big piece in a save-the-season trade."
The Nets are a natural suitor for either Mirotic or Randle. They profile as buyers at the deadline with their playoff odds improving by the game and could use some combo-forward oomph.
But Mirotic is worth more to the Nets. His shooting percentages have started to drop, but he's connecting on 38.1 percent of his spot-up threes and has flashed off-the-bounce playmaking since arriving in New Orleans.
Randle is slightly more valuable to Brooklyn in the immediate term. Spencer Dinwiddie is on the shelf following right thumb surgery, and Randle deepens the playmaking well. But Mirotic, unlike his teammate, comes with Bird rights. And while the Nets have gobs of cap space this summer, Randle's non-Bird status doesn't afford them as much flexibility.
The Pelicans should be happy with this haul. They get a couple of months to test out Rondae Hollis-Jefferson's fit before his restricted free agency, and New York's second-round pick will convey in the low 30s. They can't expect more for a player they might not re-sign anyway.