Buy or Sell Latest NBA Rumors: Vogel's Hot Seat, Jerami Grant's Trade MarketJanuary 18, 2022
Buy or Sell Latest NBA Rumors: Vogel's Hot Seat, Jerami Grant's Trade Market
The NBA rumor mill has officially reached Defcon 1.
In other words: The Los Angeles Lakers have entered the chat.
Hovering at .500 and incapable of escaping the Western Conference's play-in bubble, the Lakers seem ready to make a move. But it isn't a trade. Because that requires trade assets. Which they don't have. Because they gave what few they had remaining to the Chicago Bulls (low-balling Alex Caruso) and Washington Wizards (basically everything else) over the summer. Because, hell, why not?
No, the Lakers are instead putting head coach Frank Vogel's head on the chopping block. Sources told The Athletic's Bill Oram and Sam Amick that he entered the team's Monday night win over the Utah Jazz "coaching for his job after he narrowly avoided being fired in the wake of the 37-point loss in Denver 48 hours earlier." The Lakers pulled off a victory, so there's that. But Vogel, per this report, "is being evaluated on a game-to-game basis and remains at risk of being fired soon if the progress doesn't continue."
Elsewhere, we have another update to the previous update from the previous update of the Ben Simmons situation. Jerami Grant's trade market is also getting frothy while Myles Turner's may have just imploded.
In the name of properly tackling all this chatter and more, let's head back to the buy-or-sell drawing board.
Frank Vogel Is on the Hottest of Seats in L.A.
Someone is going to pay for the Los Angeles Lakers' dumpster fire of a 2021-22 regular season, and right now, like Amick and Oram reported, it appears to be head coach Frank Vogel.
This is all absolutely, positively, unequivocally accurate. And utter crap.
The Lakers did this to themselves over the offseason. They traded their two leaders in total three-point makes, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma, plus Montrezl Harrell and a first-round pick for Russell Westbrook, who was a questionable-at-best, most-likely-disastrous fit from the get-go. They then proceeded to let Alex Caruso walk in free agency because there are no federal government loan programs to supplement the salary and luxury-tax bill for a fringe All-Defensive candidate who played incredibly well next to LeBron.
Who, aside from literally everyone, could have seen the Lakers struggling to get above .500 after pivoting into a roster construction that shoehorns too many old-by-NBA-standards and one-dimensional players into outsized roles? It is also definitely Vogel's fault that LeBron has missed 12 games, Anthony Davis hasn't played since Dec. 17 and Westbrook leads the entire league in trending-on-Twitter airballs.
Vogel isn't perfect. Or the problem. He is most guilty of not winning an unwinnable situation. And the Lakers' response is not one of a team addressing the actual issue but out of options.
With virtually no appealing assets to dangle ahead of the trade deadline, general manager Rob Pelinka is either going to fire himself or send Vogel packing. We know how this 3-percent-score-on-Rotten-Tomatoes movie ends.
Verdict: Sell Vogel being part of the problem in Los Angeles. Buy him getting fired anyway.
Ben Simmons 'Unlikely' to Be Moved at the Deadline
That Ben Simmons trade we've been waiting on, for approximately six eternities, may not be coming this season. Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer reiterated in his latest dispatch that the 25-year-old is "still unlikely to be moved."
This has always, on some level, felt like the most likely outcome. People can opine about the perils of punting on a year of Joel Embiid's prime. There is merit to that concern. But the hard-line stance taken throughout this entire process by Philadelphia 76ers team president Daryl Morey and Co. isn't one you assume in the first place unless there's synergy throughout the organization.
United fronts can always fracture, particularly in the eleventh hour. But the Sixers remain at a consensus—and that includes Embiid, per NBA reporter Marc Stein.
Everyone throughout the franchise seems to understand this is Philly's best crack at building up a championship-level supporting cast around the 7-footer. Simmons' value may be at rock bottom, but settling for a lackluster return will only consign the Sixers to their current stay in sub-title territory while making it much harder for them to acquire another star when one to their liking inevitably becomes available.
None of which is to say Philly is blameless throughout this entire saga. It's not. And for what it's worth, Simmons and his camp are doing their damnedest to force the Sixers' hand. ESPN's Ramona Shelburne said on a recent episode of NBA Today the three-time All-Star is prepared to sit out the entire season.
Does the threat of Simmons never rejoining the team make it more likely Philly flips him now? Perhaps. It also probably doesn't matter. The Sixers have seemed ready from the beginning to weather this storm in its entirety—for both better and worse.
Verdict: Buy the Sixers holding onto Simmons past the trade deadline.
Best Fits for Simmons: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Sacramento
Myles Turner's Injury May Impact His Trade Market
Myles Turner has gone from "Perhaps the best player definitely getting moved" to "Uh, I guess he's staying put...or something?" in a matter of seconds.
The Indiana Pacers announced on Tuesday the big man will be re-evaluated in two weeks after suffering a stress fracture in his left foot. This injury is expected to sideline him past the Feb. 10 deadline, and while ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski noted this "doesn't make a trade impossible," it "certainly could be an obstacle in the Pacers getting max value for him."
Buyers can, will and should still surrender real value for Turner—so long as his medicals don't suggest a lengthier recovery or more sinister prognosis. He is among the NBA's top rim protectors, someone who warps opponent shot selection by simply being on the floor. And for all his struggles to branch out on offense, his bandwidth for stretching rival defenses outside the paint equates to appreciable offensive impact.
Still, this injury is nothing if not a minor blow to the Pacers' leverage in negotiations. As Fischer previously noted, they want the equivalent of multiple first-round picks. It gets harder to demand that much if they're holding talks without a more concrete timeline on his return.
It helps Indiana that Turner has another year left on his contract. Teams can acquire him without rendering an immediate verdict on his future. But that year left on his deal also serves as the Pacers' license to hold firm on their asking price. They don't have to move him now. And at this moment, the chances are much higher that they won't.
Verdict: Buy Turner's injury increasing the likelihood he finishes the season in Indiana.
Best Fits for Turner: Charlotte, New York, Portland
Jerami Grant Has 'Around a Dozen' Suitors
Vultures who have spent this season circling Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard and even Jaylen Brown aren't going to like this one: With a market of "around a dozen suitors," Jerami Grant is viewed by many around the league as the best player most likely to get traded by the deadline, per Fischer.
This sounds about right. Updates to the Ben Simmons situation that actually provide new information are running on life support, and Myles Turner's stress reaction in his left foot figures to winnow down his list of admirers.
Grant, meanwhile, is extremely plug-and-play. He can toggle between the 3 and 4 spots, check some of the league's toughest assignments and has flashed additional ball skills as a more prominent option for the Detroit Pistons. He is clearly overtaxed in his current role but becomes a complementary championship life force if shuttled to a contender that can deploy him as its second or third offensive wheel.
Though Grant hasn't taken the floor since Dec. 10 after he suffered a sprained right thumb, his absence has done nothing to deter far-flung interest. The Pacers, Lakers, Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers, New York Knicks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings are among the teams that have asked about him, and Detroit is seeking "two first-round picks or one first-round pick plus a high-upside young player" in prospective packages, according to Fischer.
Bank on someone meeting the Pistons' demands. And better yet, don't sleep on them getting more. A first-round pick, quality prospect and salary filler is right in line with what the Denver Nuggets gave up for Aaron Gordon last year, but Grant's offense is a dab more scalable, and this season's market feels like it has an even starker ratio of buyers-to-sellers. Detroit's leverage is real.
Verdict: Buy Grant getting moved before the deadline, and buy it hard.
Best Fits for Grant: Atlanta, Chicago, Memphis
Chicago Seems Hesitant to Deal Patrick Williams
One team not being mentioned nearly enough in the official Jerami Grant sweepstakes: The Chicago Bulls.
There is not a more obvious trade partner for the Pistons. Chicago has Patrick Williams, who's out for the season with a wrist injury but still fits the bill of a high-ceiling prospect, and an additional first-round pick (via Portland) to send Detroit's way.
Those urging the Bulls to "hurry up and do this already" should slow their roll. They are presently "uncomfortable" with the idea of mortgaging what's left of their future asset base for Grant, per Fischer.
In some ways, this restraint is enviable. There is real risk in playing their final top-shelf hand for a non-star they'll have to extend at a premium. Why not wait and see if Williams reaches 90 percent of his peak and provides a higher-end, longer-term boon for the franchise?
Well, mostly because the Bulls have all the incentive in the world to view Grant as their missing piece. They not only need more depth at the 3 and 4 slots, but they've tightly tethered themselves to a win-now window following the acquisitions of Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan, as well as Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso, over the past year.
Maybe the relative youth of Lonzo (24), Caruso (27), Zach LaVine (26) and Coby White (21) has emboldened the Bulls to straddle two timelines or hold out for juicier trade options down the line. Rookie Ayo Dosunmu's frenetic defense might allow them to be less impulsive, as well. But a 32-year-old DeRozan isn't getting any younger, and a 31-year-old Vucevic, as it turns out, might already be on the decline.
Chicago is obligated to act with some degree of urgency.
Verdict: Buy the Bulls not giving up Patrick Williams for a non-star.
Are the Celtics Buyers or Sellers?
Breaking up the Jaylen Brown-Jayson Tatum duo is not on the Boston Celtics' trade-deadline menu, because they have common sense. But they are apparently willing to move Dennis Schroder and Marcus Smart and have a goal to "build around" the J's, as Woj said on ESPN Today.
Jettisoning Schroder makes all the sense in the world. The Celtics can't offer him more than $7.1 million using non-Bird rights unless they chisel out actual cap space (not happening) or get far enough under the tax to access the bigger $10.1 million MLE.
Smart's availability is less of a given, and it raises the question: Is Boston buying or selling?
Many will see the latter as preposterous. It's not. The Celtics don't have the offensive consistency necessary to contend for a title. They need a truer floor general, more rim pressure and better outside shooting. This is to say, they seem more than one player away from chasing a title.
Peddling Smart alone isn't getting them the name or, more likely, combination of names they need to reboot their championship stock. He can be part of a larger offer that includes prospects and picks, but Woj also said Boston doesn't want to trade Robert Williams III, its most talented player under age 25 after Tatum.
This could speak to the difficulty of moving someone whose rookie extension hasn't kicked in. It could also be yet another sign that the Celtics aren't gearing up to make a meaningful swing and that they're most likely going to use the trade deadline as a means to skirt the luxury tax.
Verdict: Buy the Celtics as trade-deadline sellers.
Brooklyn Exploring Nicolas Claxton's Market
Day'Ron Sharpe's recent emergence has left the Brooklyn Nets kind of, sort of exploring Nicolas Claxton's trade market. As ESPN's Brian Windhorst said on The Hoop Collective podcast while also predicting we'd use this pull quote (h/t RealGM):
"You mentioned Day'Ron Sharpe, so there's been some chatter through a couple of teams I've talked to that the Nets have dipped their toe into the trade market for Nic Claxton. In other words, maybe thinking about trading him...When I say this, I know I'll get aggregated for saying it but I know this would surprise some people because they'd say 'This guy is really valuable defensively. He's very active...He's been out recently with a hamstring injury, but he's a free agent [this offseason]."
Shipping out Claxton because they're afraid of paying him in restricted free agency aligns with how the Nets have acted when it comes to bookkeeping and non-stars over the past couple of years. It would also be a mistake.
Health and stamina issues have plagued Claxton since he arrived in Brooklyn in 2019, but he is legitimately one of the league's most effectively switchable bigs. You'd think a team that can't really defend without switching might value a 22-year-old who does it better than just about anyone on the roster.
As Windhorst emphasized, this could be standard due diligence. But the Nets shouldn't base Claxton's future off the play of Sharpe. They're different. Claxton is a ubiquitous speedster. Sharpe has a murderous upper body and is more physically overwhelming. He also has another three years under team control on his rookie-scale deal. Brooklyn doesn't need to make this decision now.
If, for some reason, the Nets want to move Claxton, they're better off exploring sign-and-trade possibilities over the offseason. So few teams have cap space it's unlikely he lands a monster offer sheet, and he doesn't make nearly enough money to bring back someone who can help them now.
Verdict: Sell the Nets moving Claxton. Buy their exploring sign-and-trade scenarios over the summer.
Best Fits for Claxton: Charlotte, Dallas, Portland
Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference, Stathead or Cleaning the Glass and accurate entering Tuesday's games. Salary information via Spotrac.
Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale), and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by NBA Math's Adam Fromal.