Teams to watch as the NBA Trade Deadline looms.
There may not have been another blockbuster trade since the Boogie Cousins deal Sunday night, but rest assured the phones in a number of NBA front offices are currently ringing off of the hook. With the Pelicans looking like a real contender to lock up the eighth seed in the Western Conference Finals, and the Kings now being a real threat to crack the bottom three in the standings, there are a host of teams that have to make the decision to shit or get off of the pot. Here are a handful of those teams that are frantically trying to find the right deal as we move closer to Thursday’s trade deadline.
With Los Angeles currently in the throws of a completely roster rebuild there is one asset that the organization should value more than an other — their first round draft pick. That pick is currently in peril, with Philly holding the rights to the pick if it falls out of the top three. This means the Lakers have to continue to be bad, and you could make the argument they need to be worse now that the Kings are without their All-Star, if they want to keep their pick.
The Lakers were reportedly in the Cousin’s sweepstakes, but refused to give up Brandon Ingram in the deal. They are clearly focused on the future, and with that mindset it makes no since for the organization to keep a player like Lou Williams around. The Wizards have already been reported as being interested in picking up the veteran back-up point guard. It makes sense, Williams is averaging 18.6 points in 24 per game for the Lake Show this season, and if the Wizards have a problem that needs to be addressed it is bench scoring. This seems like a perfect pairing, Lou is just good enough to win the Lakers a game here or there, which hurts the teams future prospects and Williams could be a piece on a championship contending team.
The wildcard in this situation is the Lakers housecleaning in upper management. Jeanie Buss has brought on Earvin “Magic” Johnson to head up basketball operations and are currently searching for a new GM; because why not blow up your front office a week before the trade deadline. What could possibly go wrong?
The Pacers are stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand they have a team that seems to be three years past their window, and the most logical move they could make at this point is to blow the team up and start anew. Unfortunately for Larry Bird and Indy’s front office, the team went on a midseason run and looked competitive for a couple of weeks before dropping six straight going into the All-Star break.
Now Indiana is in basketball hell. They are 29–28, currently sixth place in the Eastern Conference, with no real chance of competing with the likes of Cleveland, Boston, Washington or Toronto. They have a legitimate All-NBA player who is in his prime and wants to play on a contender. They have won too many games to go into full tank mode, but do not have the assets to swing a trade to make them a real threat in the East.
There have been teams asking about Paul George, and Bird has to be taking offers seriously. There’s no worse place that an organization can be in than, just good enough to be a low seed in the Eastern conference. Getting full value for Paul George is not out of the question. The Celtics have Brooklyn’s first round pick (more on that in a sec) and some great young guards to offer. Myles Turner is only 20 years old and is starting to figure things out. If I was a Pacers fan I would be hoping for the franchise to make a move, as much as it hurts to lose a player of George’s caliber, there comes a point in which it just makes the most sense from the player and franchises perspective to make a move.
What a time it is to be a fan of professional hoops in New York. When your team’s owner is getting into verbal confrontations with former NBA Legends, and the GM is openly talking smack about its best player, you know things have gotten weird.
Of all the teams on this list I feel like the Knicks are the least likely to make a move, because they are they don’t have anyone in place who is capable of getting a major deal done. Now they are scrambling to try to get anything they possibly can for Melo and the rest of the league knows exactly how desperate the team is. By the way, we’ve never gotten a good answer as to why they agreed to put that no trade clause into Melo’s contract in the first place.
Anthony is 32 years old and while he can still score with the best, his deficiencies as a defender make it hard for teams competing for a title to take a risk on him. Any team that is willing to take a chance on the aging All-Star is also taking on $26 million in 2018 and $27 million in 2019, unless you can get him to renegotiate, and Melo has never been the type to turn away money.
There was talk about Cleveland showing interest in Anthony a couple of weeks ago, but that has seemed to have cooled. Now the Knicks will either have to find a way to make amends with their aging franchise player, or pull some kind deal out of nowhere. If you’re a Knicks fan, first of all I’m so sorry about all of this, just remember that Kristaps Prozingis is only 21.
Remember the first week of the season when the Bulls were making every shot they took and had all the NBA analyst throwing up their hands in confusion? Those were some good times.
Now winter has come to the Windy City, and while the temperatures have remained warm, the shooting has cooled of significantly. The Bulls are dead least in three point percentage and second to last in field goal percentage. Their effective field goal percentage is full 10 points lower than Golden State. In short they are a terrible shooting team.
This is what happens when a team’s coach and management are not on the same page. When you hire a space and pace coach like Fred Hoiberg it doesn’t make much sense to go out and acquire aging players who can’t shoot three’s like Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo.
Now the Bulls are a game behind the Pacers in the standings, and are in a similar position as their state neighbors. The most talked about rumored deal of the deadline has been the Bulls sending Jimmy Butler to the Celtics for a kings ransom. Butler is averaging almost 25 points a game in his seventh season, and is still one the best two-way players in the game. Sometimes you have to know when to hit the self-destruct button on a roster, and that button has been glowing red for weeks now in Chicago.
No one gets more praise for gracefully rebuilding a team as Danny Ainge does for his masterful work in Boston. Ainge put together a championship team with a group of aging Hall of Fame players, then was able to move those same players at just the right time for a treasure trove of picks. Then he brought in the perfect coach for a young team, and now — just a couple of years off of winning a title — the Celtics are back in championship form.
Boston is currently 37–20 and are within three games of Cleveland for the first seed in the Eastern Conference. With Kevin Love shelved for the next six weeks, it’s entirely possible that the Celts can get to that top seed. They have one of the most dynamic players in the game in Isaiah Thomas, the sixth best offense in the league, and once they get Avery Bradley back from his achilles injury, they will have the most tenacious backcourt in the league on defense.
…and yet, LeBron awaits them in the playoffs. When the game starts to get bogged down, and teams start throwing two or three defenders are Thomas in the fourth quarter, who is going to step up for the Celtics. Al Horford has not been the impact player that many were hoping he would be.
Here’s the thing, Boston is currently in possession of nine future draft picks from Brooklyn, Cleveland, LA (Clips), Memphis, Detroit and Miami. They are in possession of Brooklyn’s first round pick in next years draft; a draft that is shaping up to be one of the best in decades. They have a roster filled with talented young players on desirable contracts. What they don’t have is a Superstar player who can carry the franchise to a title. Not yet.
Danny Ainge has earned the respect of just about everyone around the league for the job he has done for his franchise, but not it’s time to see if all of those brilliant moves will pay off in the form a All-NBA talent who can lead the team to an 18th title. No pressure, but the clock is ticking.