NBA draft season is coming. The lottery is on May 16. This is the time of year that screams it’s trade season. We’ve already dipped our toes into the water with Phil Jackson ravaging Carmelo Anthony in a press conference and Paul George telling teammates he wants to wear purple and gold (more on both later), but that’s just the start to the oncoming wave of rumors.
This list takes a look at eight players (one of whom is still a future draft pick — and no, that’s not cheating), who will be painted with those rumors over the next two months. The Woj bombs won’t start dropping until the lottery, but consider this your cheat sheet to trade season.
From Anthony to Wilson Chandler, everyone on this list has either had trade rumors come their way or can be expected to over the next two months. For those who are less likely to be traded over that time frame, expect rumors to come in the summer, once free agency starts.
One of the NBA’s greatest virtues is the soap-opera quality to its trades, draft, free agency and culture. These players will take up space in the early months of Season 71. Without further ado, here they are.
The Brooklyn Nets’ 2017 first-round pick
This is the single-most important asset in the National Basketball Association right now as it relates to potential trades. The Boston Celtics hold this pick as a result of a 2013 trade with the Nets that sent Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and D.J. White to Brooklyn in exchange for some marginal players, the Nets’ 2014, 2016 and 2018 first rounders — unprotected — and swap rights for this year’s first rounder.
That means the Celtics have a 25-percent chance of holding the first overall pick this season after Brooklyn finished with the worst record.
There have been trade rumors surrounding this pick for a couple years, but it’s crunch-time now. There’s pressure on Celtics GM Danny Ainge to turn it into a superstar, but he could just as easily draft point guards Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball, two players sure to be stars soon.
Boston can be involved in trade talks for any big name thanks to this pick — including the rest those on this list. Ainge won’t part with it easily. The Celtics reportedly made a godfather offer at the trade deadline to the Indiana Pacers for Paul George, which then-Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird turned down. Other than that, he’s refused to deal it.
As the draft grows nearer, that could change. If the pick falls below the top-two, Ainge could scramble to deal it if he thinks Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum — the likely third and fourth picks — aren’t sure things. He may get a call from the Knicks about Kristaps Porzingis or from the Pacers hoping to revive a George deal.
Rumors will swirl around this pick, and its ultimate destination will decide not just Boston’s future, but potentially the future of the league as a whole.
After New York Knicks president of basketball operations Phil Jackson said that Anthony would be “better off somewhere else,” a trade is only a matter of time. Anthony’s fit in New York was never great, and in the past few years under Jackson, it’s been downright disastrous.
Carmelo doesn’t like the triangle, and why should he? It’s not as if the Knicks have won with it. Jackson has bungled every opportunity to reconcile, compromise or do anything helpful — ultimately leading to his takedown of Anthony. That likely hurt Anthony’s trade value (massively so), but the Knicks can still find suitors. There’s only a year left on his contract before an early termination option, so any team with cap space could get involved without long-term consequences.
The only obstacle is Anthony’s no-trade clause. However, after a public tongue-lashing from Jackson and a public break-up with his wife, LaLa, one assumes that Anthony wants to leave Madison Square Garden as fast as possible. Perhaps Anthony wouldn’t be okay if Jackson tried to ship him off to Phoenix, but presumably, he’d approve a smaller market if that team could contend.
In terms of teams that could look at a potential trade, the Boston Celtics are at the top of the list, as are the Cleveland Cavaliers if owner Dan Gilbert is willing to go bananas paying the luxury tax. From there, who knows? The Nuggets tried to make a splash and sign Dwyane Wade last summer. Perhaps they could look at bringing Anthony back to Denver. Thanks to Jackson’s declaration, it won’t take much.
Another disaster in Knicks-land: Porzingis, who the franchise hopes will be its face for the next decade, skipped an exit interview with Phil Jackson, frustrated over his comments in the same press conference in which he said it was time for Carmelo Anthony to go.
The Knicks don’t want to trade Porzingis and will do everything they can to find a resolution here. It’s also worth noting that Porzingis hasn’t formally demanded a trade. However, if the Celtics come calling with the Brooklyn pick — which could be the first overall pick after the lottery in two weeks — and other assets, New York may take the plunge.
Boston would be the hypothetical frontrunner to land Porzingis, should he become formally available. They’d have to give up the Brooklyn pick along with a couple rotation players — say Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley. However, that front office has been under major pressure to bring in a superstar, and Porzingis fits the bill. Paired with Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford (not to mention Brooklyn’s 2018 pick), Boston would suddenly become downright terrifying in the East — especially with LeBron James getting older.
As for other teams, it’s doubtful whether anyone has the assets.
The Sixers may, but there’s no reason for them to add another big man unless they have no confidence in Joel Embiid’s health. Nobody else has enough young players or draft picks to get a 21-year old sure-fire superstar without mortgaging their future, Brooklyn-style.
The Knicks would also have to be willing to wait for a couple years to see returns from such a deal which, knowing James Dolan, could be a non-starter. Trading Porzingis in the first place is something nobody in the organization should want, but if things go further down this path, it could happen.
Rumors are already flying around George — he reportedly told teammates he wants to play for the Los Angeles Lakers (more on that here) and the Celtics put everything on the table to get him in February. If George fails to make an All-NBA team, meaning the Pacers can’t offer him a super-max extension, the rumors will get even louder.
If the Pacers are smart, they’ll do one of two things this summer: rework their team to contend now — shedding draft assets for short-term gain and spending as much money as need be in free agency — or trade George before the draft. Either do what George wants: contend, or trade him now before his value drops. Otherwise, the Lakers will sit pretty and wait for free agency next summer, when they can corral George without giving up any of their young studs.
We already know what the Pacers would demand from Boston. They turned down a godfather offer in February and one can discern what that entailed: the Brooklyn pick, Crowder, Bradley, perhaps Brooklyn’s 2018 pick or Marcus Smart.
A Laker offer, however, would be a different animal. Los Angeles is playing for the future, and trading for George would be a move for the now — one that’s tough to justify given the makeup of their roster. However, Brandon Ingram, either D’Angelo Russell or Julius Randle, and their 2017 pick (if they hit on the 48 percent chance of keeping it) would be a logical starting point.
That would signal a massive reversal in the direction of the Lakers’ franchise, but George is a star who would draw attention in L.A. and one Magic Johnson has already signaled interest in. If the Pacers can put enough pressure on Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka by talking with other teams — especially L.A.’s arch-rival — the rookie duo could cave.
— Martin Wenzl NBA (@WenzlNBA) April 25, 2017
Matthews has just a year left on his contract before a player option which, given the cap spike, he’ll likely take. He was the Mavericks’ marquee signing two summers ago, but their plan then was to reboot around Matthews, Dirk Nowitzki and DeAndre Jordan. One pseudo-kidnapping later, it went up in flames.
The Mavs have yet to tear down in the Dirk-era, but Nowitzki will get $25 million next season if Dallas exercises a club option (they likely will) and from there, likely retire. Dallas won just 33 games this seasonm and though there were some triumphs — finding Yogi Ferrell on a 10-day contract and getting Seth Curry on a bargain deal — the Mavs don’t have enough assets to know what their future looks like post-Dirk.
Dealing Matthews — now or before next year’s trade deadline — would be the first step to that. Given his player option and the inflated cap, salary wouldn’t be a massive issue, and every team needs a 3 and D wing. Matthews shot 37.6 percent on catch and shoot threes last season and would do even better with a more threatening point guard drawing help. And while he isn’t a lockdown defender, Matthews can contribute there as well.
He won’t obtain a superstar haul, but Matthews is a good place for Dallas to start its inevitable rebuild. It could easily net a first rounder, maybe more from the right team. Matthews has an injury history, but he’s played 151 games over the past two seasons and would be a one-year rental. A contender can afford to take that risk and take on Matthews’ salary for a year. Maybe it won’t be as soon as the draft, but someone will bite.
The Clippers have to blow it up. After failing to make it past the second round with this core, with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin free agents in waiting (both have early termination options this summer), that blowup may not be voluntary, but it will happen. No matter what Paul and Griffin (and Doc Rivers) do, the Clippers should be looking to reboot. Trading Jordan is a step in that process.
In Jordan, the Clippers would be selling one of the best pick and roll finishers in basketball, along with a top-three defensive center. Even for a year — Jordan has a player option after next season — that makes Jordan one of the premier options on the trade market if the Clippers decide to make him available.
The problem, of course, is that the Clipper might not blow it up. Rivers has indicated he wants Paul, Griffin and Jordan back next year. And who knows what Paul and Griffin are thinking about doing this summer. Bringing everyone back would be a grave error. The goal here is to win a title and this team has not come close to that. Running it back — accepting 50-win seasons and second-round exits until someone gets fed up and leaves — isn’t just a disservice to Clipper fans tired of having their hearts broken, it’s a disservice to the future of the franchise.
Trading Jordan now will shift things in a positive direction regardless of what happens with Paul and Griffin. If they leave, it will give the Clippers a head-start on their rebuild. If they stay, the players they get in return for Jordan could vault Clippers past the second round. Either way, the Clippers are better off with a trade. They can’t be content to keep doing the same thing every year.
The salary cap next season is projected at $101 million. The Utah Jazz have to resign Gordon Hayward and George Hill — both will be getting pay raises and Hayward’s could be massive if he makes an All-NBA team (he’s not expected to, however). Per Spotrac, the Jazz have $92 million committed, a number that includes Hayward’s $16.7 million player option. Having been in the league for seven years, Hayward can make 30 percent of the cap if he isn’t eligible for the super-max, per Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ (a wonderful resource I might add). That means Utah will have to offer him roughly $30.3 million to stay (remember, that $101 million number is only a projection) — nearly doubling his salary.
Already, the Jazz would be over the cap. No worries — they can still sign Hill, though they’ll have to sign him before Hayward so that Hayward’s excess salary is allowable under Bird rights. However, factor in what will likely be a steady increase in Hill’s salary and the Jazz may be near or in the luxury tax — projected at $121 million. Oh, and we haven’t even started to discuss Joe Ingles, whose salary could triple even in restricted free agency.
Owner Gail Miller hasn’t indicated whether or not she’s willing to spend big. But if not, the Jazz may have to shed salary. Favors, set to become a free agent after next season and get a salary bump of his own (he’ll make $12 million in 2017-18), fits the bill.
The Jazz would be losing a lot in Favors — he’s a strong defender capable of averaging a double-double per 36 minutes. ut in the grand scheme of things, he’s expendable, especially if ownership doesn’t want to shell out cash for a team that will inevitably fall to the Warriors. Favors comes off the bench and is a perpetual injury risk. Moreover, the Jazz can hand his role to Trey Lyles, who they drafted 12th overall in 2015, if they’re confident in his ability.
Based on what Favors brings to Utah and what Lyles has done thus far, that isn’t the best idea if the Jazz want to compete for a title. However, it’s enough for the front office to justify shopping Favors around the draft and into next season if nothing comes through, especially if they can get assets in return, which they undoubtedly can.
Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried
The Nuggets have been trying in vain to lure a superstar for the past year, attempting to deal for Paul George at the deadline and going after Dwyane Wade in the summer. If any potential trade comes to fruition — be it for George, Carmelo Anthony, or someone else entirely, you can almost guarantee Chandler and/or Faried will be involved.
Why? Both make roughly $12 million a year under contracts signed with the old cap — meaning most teams can take it on under the new cap.
Chandler is 29 and has a player option after next season — Denver may take a pass on giving him a raise if it wants to get younger. He could, however, contribute on a contender. When healthy, Chandler is a decent scorer and better rebounder than most small forwards. He can defend credibly and shoot threes well enough to come off the bench on a playoff team, including as a stretch 4, where he played 20 percent of his minutes this season.
As for Faried, he’s another ideal bench option on a playoff team who doesn’t quite fit Denver’s future. The Nuggets have a dearth of big men, and in trading for Mason Plumlee, more or less committed to giving him starters’ money — $10 million or so — in restricted free agency this summer.
Nikola Jokic has locked down the center spot for the foreseeable future, and 21-year old Juan Hernangomez will see more minutes at power forward in the future.
Giving Faried $12 million to come off the bench, score and play no defense is unappealing in that situation. But, like Chandler, he could help a playoff team. His defense is a liability, but it’s not bad enough that Faried would be pick-and-rolled off the floor in the postseason. He can still score and rebound well — Faried had a 20.3 PER this season — and most playoff teams (*cough* the Celtics *cough*) could use someone like that off the bench.
Chandler and Faried don’t necessarily mesh with Denver’s future, but there’s a place for them in the league. If the Nuggets try to make a splash with a trade, they’re likely the first to go. If the Nuggets need to clear cap space for a free agent signing, it makes sense to move their contracts for the same reasons.