The Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans absolutely shocked the NBA world Sunday night. Just as the game’s top players were wrapping up a highly entertaining exhibition game in New Orleans, Sacramento sent All-Star DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans for what has to be considered pennies on the dollar.
This came after a couple somewhat minor trades took place earlier in the month. Now, with just a few days before NBA’s trade deadline, things are really starting to heat up. Will Carmelo Anthony be moved? Is Jimmy Butler really on the trade block? Will teams in the Western Conference now consider making a move to counter what the Pelicans just did?
We might not know the answer to these questions until the deadline Thursday afternoon, but here are our bold predictions for the NBA trade deadline itself.
Cavaliers will fulfill LeBron James’ wishes
No, we’re not going to sit back here and predict that somehow Cleveland will land Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks. That ship has more than sailed, especially with potential trade partner Kevin Love on the shelf with a knee injury. Though, it would not be a surprise to see Cleveland add another player of substance to either the lineup or the bench.
Both Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye have acted as solid contributors for Cleveland this season. That’s fine and dandy. However, both also have contracts that make it possible for them to be dealt for a more valuable player. Combined, Shumpert and Frye are earning $17.5 million annually.
If Cleveland were to add a sweetener to the mix in the form of a 2018 first-round pick, it could enable the team to add a more capable body to its rotation. Though, that would shorten an already questionable bench.
The likelier scenario is that Cleveland adds another bench player of the Kyle Korver ilk. That could potentially come in the form of a top player off the bench — something LeBron James himself has been asking for (more on that here).
Expect the Timberwolves to be active
At 22-35 on the season, it’s readily apparent that the status quo is not working for Minnesota. Add in the injury to Zach LaVine, and that’s magnified further. The latest rumor has Minnesota interested in New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose.
“The Minnesota Timberwolves have reached out to the Knicks recently to discuss potential trades for New York point guard Derrick Rose, sources told ESPN. Rose, a free agent this summer, played for seven seasons under current Timberwolves and ex-Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.”
More than anything, that would be a sign of Minnesota going for a playoff spot as the season progresses. Rose is set to become a free agent this upcoming summer and doesn’t necessarily strike us as someone who would re-sign with Minnesota. It would also end what has increasingly become a failed Ricky Rubio experiment.
Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins represent a nice one-two punch here. Kris Dunn could very well be a nice player down the line. But after that, the Wolves don’t have a whole bunch to bank on. With first-round picks of their own over the next two seasons and a decent trade chip in Rubio, the Wolves could potentially add another solid option to go with KAT and Wiggins moving forward. Whether that is Derrick Rose on a rental or someone more long term remains to be seen.
Pacers will be buyers
There’s a ton of talk about the Indiana Pacers somehow thinking it’s a good idea to move Paul George and blow this whole thing up. George has not necessarily quieted this by indicating that he wants to play for a contender (more on that here).
As they are currently constructed, the Pacers are far from a contender right now. They are sitting at 29-29 and are in the thick of a race with a bunch of other mediocre teams for a bottom-three playoff spot. That could change on a dime if Indiana actually decided it might want to be buyers.
There’s capital here in first-round picks in each of the next three seasons as well as the short-term contracts of Rodney Stuckey, C.J. Miles and Lavoy Allen. Why not go out there and find someone to team up with George? That’s only magnified by the progression we have seen from big man Myles Turner this season.
The good news here is that Indiana might very well be looking to do just that.
Hall of Famer @PeterVecsey1 says Indiana is among the teams showing interest in Nets C Brook Lopez in advance of Thursday's trade deadline
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 21, 2017
Lopez and his 20-plus points per game would work well with Turner on the inside. Add in George and Jeff Teague out on the perimeter, and that surely would have the look of a top-five seed back east. Even if it’s not Lopez that Indy adds, look for it to make a nice move before Thursday’s deadline.
Sixers trade for Emmanuel Mudiay
This is the only specific bold prediction we’re making here. Philadelphia has assets in the front court in the form of Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel. Both have been on the trade block as of late with the latter actually being held out of games recently because a trade was seemingly imminent.
Look for the up-and-coming Sixers to use one of these front-court assets as a way to improve what is the most talent-stricken back court in the NBA. Jrue Holiday has come up as a possibility in a potential deal with New Orleans. But now that the Pelicans have added Cousins to the mix, that seems to be out of the equation.
Philly isn’t going to be looking for a short-term answer at point guard. With the upward trajectory of the rest of the roster, it should go young. The Denver Nuggets have put Mudiay on the trade block. And with the youngster only in his second season, it makes perfect sense that he would be a target of the Sixers. Noel or Okafor for Mudiay could work.
Though, with Denver just recently adding Mason Plumlee to the mix, these two sides might have to get a third team involved. That makes things a tad more difficult.
Lakers make a surprising trade
Magic Johnson is the new sheriff in town. No really, that’s actually a thing right now (more on that here).
If this is the case, it wouldn’t be an absolute shock to see the Lakers pull off a pretty significant trade between now and the deadline. That could include sending Lou Williams packing in a deal for future assets. It could be even larger than that.
Rookie top-three pick Brandon Ingram was mentioned as a possibility in a trade for Cousins before the Pelicans swooped in. It’s possible that the Lakers’ brass was thrown off by Cousins’ off-court issues and simply didn’t want to risk giving up a tremendous asset for him. Could that change if another earth-shattering possibility came afloat?
What about Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons? He’s apparently on the trade block and would offer the Lakers that franchise big man to build around. Add in Reggie Jackson in a potential packaged deal, and this could change the entire dynamic in Los Angeles.
Any way we put it, the Lakers have been what we’d call a wild card over the past couple seasons. That could lead to a surprising move between now and Thursday’s deadline.
Warriors counter Pelicans move
The Golden State Warriors are sitting in a fine position four games ahead of San Antonio for the top spot out west. They have also made it clear that the team is unlikely to be active before the trade deadline. At the very least, Golden State isn’t going to make any calls (more on that here).
All that was before the Pelicans, who might end up as the eighth seed, added DeMarcus Cousins to the mix. This sets up a scenario where a Warriors squad that lacks low-post defense might have to go up against the likes of Cousins and Anthony Davis in the opening round. Talk about upset possibilities there. At the very least, it would be a mismatch in New Orleans’ favor.
Sure JaVale McGee has played well this season. And despite a recent injury, Zaza Pachulia has shown toughness inside. Still, it’s a lot to ask of them to go up against the Pelicans’ new two-headed monster.
Since the Warriors started their run of success, they have not been the type to make a reactionary move. That could change between now and Thursday. Sure there are issues with the salary cap. And Golden State doesn’t boast a pick in the upcoming draft.
However, it does have a few high-upside youngsters in Kevon Looney, Damian Jones and Patrick McCaw who could be used as assets. It won’t be a big trade, but look for the Warriors to be more active than originally anticipated after New Orleans shook up the NBA Sunday evening.
Carmelo Anthony will be moved
It sure does seem like the relationship between New York Knicks president Phil Jackson and Anthony cannot be salvaged. They’ll tell us what we want to know publicly, much like the Sacramento Kings before they moved DeMarcus Cousins. In no way does this mean that is the truth.
Anthony admitted recently that it’s been difficult for him to have fun playing basketball. Based on what we have seen from the Knicks, both on and off the court, this shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s an unsustainable situation, and will likely lead to Anthony’s departure before Thursday’s deadline.
The question here is where Anthony might end up. A cryptic tweet sent out by Isaiah Thomas on Monday night seemed to suggest that a trade might be in the cards involving the Boston Celtics and a high-profile player. Could it be Anthony?
He would surely act as a tremendous secondary scoring option behind Thomas out on the perimeter, and Boston has the assets to make this work. Even if the first-round pick Boston boasts from Brooklyn is out of the equation here, general manager Danny Ainge and Co. still have the Nets’ first-round pick in 2018 as well as their own. They also boast the likes of Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley and rookie Jaylen Brown, all of whom could potentially be moved.
If not Boston, there’s a hypothetical scenario in play that suggests a team in the Western Conference Playoff race might want to counter New Orleans’ move for DeMarcus Cousins by adding another All-Star player. The Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers all come to mind here.
Either way, it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see Anthony moved between now and the trade deadline come Thursday afternoon. It just makes too much sense for all parties involved.
Bulls blow it up
We’ve read the backstory here. There seems to be a major rift between Chicago’s players and its front office. This has been a continuing theme through the years, but it’s only taken on a larger meaning with outspoken players such as Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo in the mix.
At 28-29 heading into the unofficial second half of the season, Chicago is pretty much teetering between bottom-end playoff status and irrelevance in the Eastern Conference. It is doing so with drama overtaking the team and no real upside on the roster. This leads us to believe the Bulls will blow it up.
Whether that includes moving Butler to the Boston Celtics remains to be seen. But that’s been bandied about a whole heck of a lot. With the assets Boston has to offer here, it could make some sense.
We’ve also read reports that the Bulls have placed both Rajon Rondo and Nikola Mirotic on the trade block. Depending on the package they are offered for the two, that could also be a possible avenue for the Bulls to mix this thing up.
Let’s not even look at Dwyane Wade, who deserves to play for a contender as his career comes to a conclusion. Would the Bulls be open to moving their home-town guy? That’s also a possibility here.