As we’ve entered the second quarter of the season, the first big date circled on many franchises calendars is December 15th. On the 15th, essentially all players acquired via free agency became eligible to be traded
The last few seasons, we’ve seen frequent activity of the sensational variety as well as the subtle, but the volume surely kept GM’s and Woj up at unhealthy hours of the night.
We’ll dive into trade talk as well as a few other occurrences that have caught my attention the past wk. Let’s begin
1.) Trade Season has Commenced
Relative to prior seasons, this season may prove to be rather quiet both in big names that could move as well the volume of trades. Some of the better teams also do not have all that much cap space, and the coming free agency class is underwhelming compared to prior summers which may make the buyout market even more competitive than it typically is or would be.
For the first time in a handful of seasons there is league wide parity, which is a breath of fresh air. That, however, could make for many rumors that do not lead to much action. This remains to be seen, but while we get ready to fire up the trade machine and buy into the rumors of unverified Twitter accounts (please, double check the source of your received trade information before sharing it… please!!!), let’s take a look at the state of a few franchises I expect to be active.
2.) The Buyers
Aside from the major contenders looking to upgrade, even if marginally, here are a couple teams I think will be proactive in shaking up their rosters with efforts intended to better their chances.
The Heat have a great yet peculiar situation on their hands. They have a surplus of great, young talent. However, they also acquired a win now player via free agency in Jimmy Butler. The aforementioned young guns could very well serve as viable complementary role players on a team vying for a conference title, however there are still questions of sustainability as well as experience when it comes to the Heat specifically when matched up with the likes of Milwaukee, Boston, or Philadelphia for playoff series. Yes, the only way to find out is to let time tell. At the same time, with players like Kendrick Nunn captivating attention across the league and seeming hitting an unsustainable level of play at this juncture of his playing career, would it be wise to sell high on them and cash in now? The Brain trust of the Miami front office will have some decisions to make regarding such decisions as the fate of their now and moving forward could be contingent upon how they handle their roster now. The way players have performed early on will allow for them to shop for help to solidify their team with confidence they can put together packages that can close a deal.
The Nuggets, like the Heat, also have a plethora of young talent sprinkled up and down their roster. The difference in Denver, though, is that their young talent has experience and they have viable talent on expiring contracts (Beasley, Craig, Plumlee) and proven players on “trade chip” deals like Garg Harris at $17.8M/year. The Nuggets will not be able to bring back all three of Beasley, Craig, and Plumlee this summer. Even more, it doesn’t make sense for them to keep them all when they are struggling to find minutes for them all on a nightly basis. All signs point to them making a trade or two to shake up their roster and add contracts with a few more years on their deals as they continue to build around Nikola Jokic.
3.) The Sellers
These are the teams I feel will, via the talent they have under contract for this season, be trying to stash future assets or trying to relieve/better their cap situation moving forward. While also bettering their position for the 2020 NBA Draft, of course
Oklahoma City Thunder
The OKC Assets… I mean the OKC Thunder (Thanks to John Hollinger for that one lol). Sam Presti may have the biggest spotlight of any GM in the league as it is no secret that the Thunder have their sights set on the future and building around electrifying second year guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The Thunder have proven talents the likes of Chris Paul, Dennis Schroeder, Danilo Gallinari, and Steven Adams that could all help any contender. These players are needle pushers. Having already stockpiled more future picks than he can keep track of, one would have to imagine draft compensation isn’t the highest priority for the Thunder. Though they won’t be completely disregarded, young talent to fill out the roster with (along with a bad contract or two) should be openly accepted in exchange for one, two, or all of the players listed above. If handled correctly, the Thunder could come away with one of the most promising young talented rosters in the league along with the plethora of picks compiled for the foreseeable future.
San Antonio Spurs
This season for the Spurs has not gone even close how they expected. With the playoffs completely out of reach, they seem poised to be sellers this season. Demar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge are at the top of the list of guys San Antonio should be gauging the market on. Patty Mills is another player that contenders could use off their bench, as well as the ever viable shooting of Marco Belinelli and the solid stretch-four play of Rudy Gay. That’s five potential players that San Antonio could net respectable to solid returns for. Hard to believe that these names won’t come up in rumors at the very least this season.
4.) Prime Targets
These are the needle pushers I expect playoff teams to inquire about) and destinations I see realistic for them both contractually and fit-wise.
Kevin Love: Phoenix – Portland
Danilo Gallinari: Portland – Miami
Chris Paul: Miami: – Minnesota – Milwaukee – Denver
Robert Covington: Lakers – Warriors – Denver
Andre Iguodala: Lakers – Clippers – Denver – Utah
DeRozan: – Orlando
D’Angelo Russell: Minnesota – Miami – Phoenix
Davis Bertans: Denver
Dennis Schroeder: Denver, Minnesota
Marcus Morris: – Milwaukee – Houston
Jrue Holiday: – Denver – Miami
5.) Chris Paul and the Thunder
Since we’ve entered the second quarter of the season, the Thunder have played 7 games and have gone 5-2. In this stretch, CP3 is posting an ultra efficient stat line, which should come as no surprise to anyone that truly follows the game.
On the season, CP3 is averaging 16.3 ppg with a shooting split of 47.1/38.3/89.9 along with an effective field goal percentage of 54.2%. He continues to be the mark for effectiveness and efficiency even at an older age and with lesser talent than he’s accustomed to. Tuesday, in their 26 point comeback win versus the Bulls, CP3 led the charge. He scored 30 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and dishes out 8 assists. More than the numbers, as it typically is with Paul, the impact of his stats were profound and beyond the boxscore. He came up with timely basket after timely basket, which had Bulls coach Jim Boylen throwing his hands in the air in disgust as his lead vanished. Paul also displayed his otherworldly IQ numerous times coming up with a crafty steal in the 4th quarter to add another possession for the Thunder in crunch time as well as exploiting the pick and roll with a surgeon’s precision. Threading the needle with passes, using his patented snake dribble to lure opposing big men onto his island and executing on his plan, and sustaining momentum in the Thunders favor. That game had his finger print stamped all over it, and the comeback was completed. While in this game, the Point God also cemented his name in exclusive company yet again.
In leadership and assisting, his efforts translate off the court as well, where he extended a personal gift in a tailor fitting his entire team ahead of their game Wednesday vs Memphis. It was a sight to see, reminiscent of the time where players were mandated to arrive to the arena in business casual attire. That game ended up being yet another comeback of memorable fashion vs the Grizzlies. In all, what is going on with OKC is the opposite of what many believe would occur. The team is winning and in playoff position, Chris Paul is happy and relishing his opportunity to mentor a group of hungry players, and he is playing at an all-star level. What’s going on in Oklahoma City cannot be ignored. While Paul is not doing it alone, his impact is standing alone in profoundness and efficiency. This has to leave both Paul and the Thunder wondering when teams will up their efforts in trying to trade for the 34 year old difference maker. Whether it’s sometime this season, or over the summer, one thing that’s remained a constant is CP3 being, well, CP3. His game continues to age like fine wine, hopefully it does so with a true contender in the near future. It’ll be interesting to see how the Thunder handle their more talented pieces not name Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Until then, the high energy play from their three-headed guard rotation will continue to lead the charge. It is hard for teams to match the pace at which these three play at when sharing the court. There’s a dynamic and synergy all three bring to the table that makes for a perfect storm when together, and coach Billy Donovan has noticed just that. Deploying these three at once when in need of energy, some sustained success, to stop a run, and to close. Should the team stay in tact for the totality of the season (which would likely be into the playoffs), this trio will be the crutch of faith for the Thunder.
A plus one
There was yet another mishandling of circumstances by the referees earlier this week in a game between the Nets and Pelicans. There was an obvious shot clock violation which would have awarded the Pelicans an opportunity at an attempt to win the game but because the call was not made in real time, it could not be revisited by the referees or challenged by Pelicans Coach Alvin Gentry who was seen demonstratively trying to exercise his tool of contesting. Add this to the list of blunders from officials to which I spoke about a few weeks ago. This compilation is growing longer and being highlighted more as they occur in the high stakes moments. This occurrence, in combination with a referee (Tony Brothers I believe, which if you know the context of this clashing, you know. It’s a lot to dive into there) being heard on microphones telling a player “Thank Chris Paul” after being assessed a delay of game for having an untucked jersey while entering the game. It makes no sense to me for officials being the way they are in interaction with players and coaches alike. It all comes down to the officials simply doing their job. Not allowing the human elements of pride and ego interfere with their job. It is when this occurs that relations snowball into a negative relationship as a whole between players/coaches and officials. A player knowing the rules (clearly better than the officials assigned to that game) should not result in petty remarks and policing by officials moving forward. Them simply doing their job and consistently would suffice perfectly. I dislike where this is trending, and remains to be something to follow moving forward.
Miscellaneous Thoughts (continued trade talk)
A lot of people speak on the Pelicans being active as sellers given their record and position, but when you factor in Zions return and how contingent their franchise is on his level of play in his rookie campaign, there is plenty enough cause to pause and not be aggressively pursuing trades.
Portland has been a very confusing team through the first quarter. On one hand, it’s obvious that shoving aside chemistry in letting Harkless and Aminu walk this summer has hamstrung them in this stagnant start. On the other, it’s even more obvious that they miss the production of Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic in their front court. They’ve been a conundrum of sorts. Adding Carmelo helped them in energy and spirits, but their record with Melo in the rotation is 5-7 through 12 games. Their cap situation and money committed in salary suggest they should be contending for a conference title at the very least. Their current trajectory has them as a fringe playoff team. I can see them essentially punting on this season given the Herculean effort it would take for them to ascend to where they expected to finish. They know that should they make it as a 7th or 8th seed, quick work would be made of them. I also do not see them trading away much if any of their roster because of the ambiguity that exists when fully healthy.
Detroit is a team that I feel should be one of those “fire sale” teams, however their efforts in fan attraction as well as bringing in a winning coach last summer (Dwane Casey) suggest that they will continue vying for playoff seeding at the bottom of the East. They also just opened a new stadium and traded for Blake Griffin just two seasons ago. I do not believe they will be actively seeking trades, however they could receive calls on Andre Drummond and potentially even Derrick Rose who are respectively enjoying career seasons so far. No one wants Reggie Jackson or Blake Griffin at the moment, their stock is as low as can be at the moment due to them not playing much recently.
Toronto, sitting in the thick of the playoff race in the East, was expected to a team selling by now. That is not the case and I’m not sure they’re interested in making any trades at the moment either. They’re the defending champs and (sans Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green) their rotation consists of capable players to make a formidable match up as a 4 or 5 seed. They likely won’t be too busy come the deadline.