In addition to our weekly chat, which Chuck Myron facilitates every Wednesday, we have added a second opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap, or the NBA draft? Drop me a line at [email protected] or @EddieScarito on Twitter. Now for this week’s inquiries:
“The Hawks are at the top the league right now. Is there a move for them to make now that will help them come playoff time?” — Jason C.
The Hawks are indeed on a roll, despite entering the All-Star break with a loss, and that means acting GM and coach Mike Budenholzer needs to be extremely careful when tweaking his team. Locker room chemistry is such a delicate formula, and it isn’t wise to fiddle with the roster when a team is playing this well. But having said that, I can see two areas that the Hawks may do well to take a shot at strengthening.
Atlanta could use more offensive firepower on the wing, and I would suggest that it targets the Nuggets’ Arron Afflalo, whom Denver is reportedly requesting a first round draft pick for. The Hawks have an open roster spot thanks to dealing Adreian Payne to the Wolves, and with a very real shot to make it to the NBA Finals the team should maximize this opportunity. Bringing Afflalo to Atlanta would be a solid move, though making the trade work under the cap without impacting its overall roster strength would be a bit tricky.
The other area the Hawks could benefit from addressing is at the center position. If Al Horford were to suffer an injury the team would have only Pero Antic and Mike Muscala to man the pivot. While I like Muscala’s potential quite a bit, neither player strikes me as a starting center on a contending team this season. I think the Hawks should take a run at prying Enes Kanter away from the Jazz. Sure, he’s not a great defender, but his offensive skillset would blend in nicely with Atlanta’s system.
“Who is the biggest name that will be dealt before the deadline?” — Kenny R.
If I have to take a stab at predicting this, I’ll go with Reggie Jackson of the Thunder. I haven’t been sold on his long-term future in Oklahoma City since the arrival of Dion Waiters from Cleveland. With Jackson set to become a restricted free agent this summer, and him more than likely in line to garner player friendly offer sheets from a number of teams, OKC may decide to part ways with him and reap something of value in return at the deadline.
Since Waiters’ arrival Jackson’s minutes have taken a hit, which more than likely hasn’t sat well with a player who is in a contract year. This means that there could be some cracks in the relationship between Jackson and the team, and if that is indeed the case, it’s not a great start to negotiating a new deal if the team wished to retain the guard for the long-term.
I wouldn’t be shocked to see Jackson head to Brooklyn, New York, or Miami via a trade. The Knicks have already tried to acquire Jackson, though they likely lack the assets needed to entice Thunder GM Sam Presti into pulling the trigger on a deal. The Nets are a much likelier landing spot, and a trade centering around Brook Lopez and Jackson wouldn’t be a shocker. The Heat could also factor in since their point guard situation is far from settled, and Miami could offer a number of interesting pieces in return, though no one quite as appealing as Lopez.
My second choice for the biggest name to be dealt would be the Suns’ Goran Dragic. But I think that would happen only if Phoenix could nab a star player in return, or if Dragic has informed GM Ryan McDonough that he has no intentions of returning to Phoenix next season. With McDonough dropping hints that he needs to part ways with one of his guards, Dragic could very well be wearing a new uniform come Friday.
“What do the Sixers end up doing with Andrei Kirilenko? What kind of trade value does he have?” — Ron
I would speculate that Kirilenko has very little value as a trade chip at this point of the season. I can’t see a team giving up a worthwhile player or a second round pick for him, which is GM Sam Hinkie‘s likely asking price, since there are still a few of those between now and 2020 that he doesn’t own yet. If Philadelphia and Kirilenko arrange a buyout, which is the likely outcome of this relationship, interested teams could simply sign him for the veteran’s minimum instead of picking up the remainder of the Russian’s $3,326,235 salary for 2014/15.
“What are your thoughts on the hiring of George Karl? Do the Kings make the playoffs next season? — Bobby S.
I like the concept of hiring Karl, but loathe the execution. The Kings have made a mess of themselves this season, and a new coach, no matter who he is, isn’t going to right the ship in 2014/15. I’d also like to get on record that Tyrone Corbin, a true gentleman and professional by all accounts, deserves much better than the treatment he has received by Sacramento throughout this very public process. I’ll also add that the team would have been much better served to stick with Michael Malone for the entire season, and if a change was needed, have it take place during the summer, not when the Kings were off to such a solid start, and the team’s difficult star, DeMarcus Cousins, appeared to be firmly in his former coach’s corner.
Speaking to what Karl will bring to the organization, I think it will be good for a boost in the short-term. But unless Karl has mellowed a bit, or Cousins is ready to grow up and buy in fully to what Karl is selling him, this is a tabloid-worthy relationship waiting to happen. Karl had difficulties with some of his players in Denver, notably his star at the time, Carmelo Anthony, and ‘Melo is a church mouse compared to Cousins when he gets his ire up. So this pairing is a potentially volatile situation that could make for good theater, but rough seas on the hardwood if the two men don’t click.
As for whether or not this will mean a playoff spot for the Kings, I’d say the draft (if the Kings don’t convey their first-rounder to Chicago), and the team’s offseason moves will have much more of an impact on next season’s outcome. The NBA is a player’s league, and coaches can instill a culture conducive to winning, but unless Sacramento improves its roster, we’ll likely see similar results no matter who is calling the timeouts on the sidelines.
“Who are the biggest potential sleepers in the 2015 draft?” — Malik
This is going to be an intriguing draft since after the top four players (Jahlil Okafor, Emmanuel Mudiay, Karl-Anthony Towns, and D’Angelo Russell), the second tier becomes a true tossup. There are a number of players who seem interchangeable between picks 5-20 in the upcoming draft, and I’m glad that I’m not the one who has to put his job on the line in making the final call on whom to select with those picks. This year’s pre-draft workouts are going to be vital and extremely stressful for a large number of players, as well as teams’ evaluation staffs. If I had to pick a few players who could outperform their likely draft slots, I’d go with R.J. Hunter (Georgia State), Dakari Johnson (Kentucky), and Delon Wright (Utah). All three players are likely to be mid-to-late first-rounders, but all of whom I believe will become pleasant surprises at the next level.
That’s all the space I have for this week. Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you. Gentlemen, hopefully you didn’t forget to take care of your significant others today, or else you may have to monitor all the trade deadline activity from the dog house. Keep sending in your questions, and I’ll see you back here next Saturday.