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 expectations are that Monta Ellis opts out and becomes a free agent this summer. He seems an odd fit with Rajon Rondo in Dallas, as neither player is particularly valuable off the ball. Assuming the Mavs re-sign Rondo and Tyson Chandler, what FA options would pair better with Rondo?” — Jonathan D.
I wouldn’t necessarily close the door on Ellis and Rondo playing well together just yet. They’ve only been paired alongside each other for a short time, and the Mavs are still figuring out how to best utilize a pass-first point guard like Rondo. Plus, Ellis is a 20 point per game scorer who is shooting over 46% from the field, something not easily replaced. Having said that, I’ll now get to your actual question. Looking at this summer’s free agent market, there aren’t many players that would be a clear upgrade over Ellis. There are only three potential free agents who immediately come to mind as interesting replacement ideas should Ellis depart Dallas — Goran Dragic, Reggie Jackson, and Jimmy Butler.
Both Jackson and Butler are set to become restricted free agents, which means that their respective teams will have the ability to match any offer sheets that the players sign. Chicago is likely to do whatever it has to do in order to retain Butler, so he’s a real long shot to end up in Dallas. Butler would be a tremendous upgrade over Ellis defensively, but the swingman would be seen as an upgrade on most teams, so that’s hardly a bold statement. I just wouldn’t invest in a Mavs jersey with his name on the back of it anytime soon.
As for Jackson, he wouldn’t perform much differently than Ellis does alongside Rondo. Jackson’s game is also one that demands the ball be in his hands, and he’s too undersized to play the two spot full time. If I’m Dallas, then I’d take Ellis over Jackson, despite Jackson’s youth and upside, because Ellis is the proven commodity. Plus, Jackson isn’t likely to come cheap, and he still hasn’t proven himself as a star-caliber player who will be worthy of such a likely long-term investment. Dirk Nowitzki doesn’t have many seasons left in him, and neither does Chandler. If Rondo re-signs with Dallas, then he’ll have only a short window before he begins his inevitable decline as well. Banking on Jackson’s potential along with with an aging core is a risk that would outweigh the potential reward in the short-term for Dallas.
Dragic has a player option for the 2015/16 season that he isn’t likely to exercise, which means that he’ll be testing out free agency this summer. He’s a strong enough outside shooter to be paired effectively alongside Rondo, and Dragic would be comfortable playing shooting guard full-time. There aren’t many top-flight two-guards set to be on the market this summer, and Ellis has proven his worth in Dallas. If the team decides to allow him to move on this summer, then Dragic is the best free agent replacement option, should he decide to leave Phoenix. But unless the team can somehow snag Butler, or an upgrade via a trade, then keeping Ellis is the wiser move if he’ll agree to a short-term deal.
“What are the chances that Philly trades MCW [Michael Carter-Williams] prior to the trade deadline? Is [GM Sam] Hinkie wise to try and get something for him while he still can, or should he keep MCW?” — Kris L.
The Sixers certainly appear to be willing to deal Carter-Williams if the right opportunity presents itself. But unless the point guard market drastically changes, I don’t see that scenario happening for Philly. MCW’s trade value would have been much higher prior to the season than it is right now. In fact, the Lakers had reportedly offered the No. 7 overall pick and Steve Nash‘s expiring deal for the point guard prior to the 2014 NBA draft. Unfortunately for the Sixers, Hinkie isn’t likely to garner anything close to such a generous offer right now for Carter-Williams. So unless Philadelphia is willing to collect pennies on the dollar for its young player, then the team would be best served to hold onto him for now and try and trade him after the season.
“With Kobe Bryant now out for the year, will the Lakers look to dump everyone by the deadline? Who is the player most likely to be traded?” — Matt E.
I’m not sure who the “everyone” that you refer to are. I’m assuming you meant the team’s appealing veteran players, which Los Angeles doesn’t have an abundance of. I think the Lakers would like nothing more than to clean house and pick up a few useful assets for the future, but they possess precious few players who would be of interest around the league.
Jordan Hill would be the most appealing player that the Lakers have to offer other teams right now. Hill is having himself a solid year, averaging 12.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, and plays a position of need for so many teams. His $9MM salary for next season is a team option, which means that any franchise that acquires him wouldn’t have to lock up its cap space and miss out on this summer’s upcoming free agent frenzy. I definitely see the Lakers fielding some calls about Hill, especially after he went for 26 points and 12 rebounds versus Chicago on Thursday.
I also think Steve Nash‘s expiring $9.7MM contract is likely to be involved in a number of trade discussions prior to the deadline. Expiring deals aren’t worth as much as they used to be, but I can see the Lakers getting involved as a third team in a trade and flipping Nash’s contract for a draft pick or minor asset. Beyond Nash and Hill I just don’t see many opportunities for the Lakers to deal for anything of value.
“What do you see happening with Reggie Jackson? Do the Thunder trade him, and if so, where doe he go?” — Rob V.
I’m not sure that even Thunder GM Sam Presti knows what the team wants to do with Jackson just yet. I’m sure the ghost of the James Harden trade is hanging over Presti’s head when he contemplates whether or not Jackson stays or goes. But I do think that the Thunder should swallow hard and trade him before the deadline. I also believe that OKC will indeed decide to try and find a palatable offer for the young guard. With the way that the team has cut down Jackson’s minutes since acquiring Dion Waiters, I think Oklahoma City is testing out what life would be like without the point guard in its rotation.
As for where Jackson could potentially end up, I see the Knicks, Nets, Heat, Kings, and Lakers as the most likely landing spots. A number of teams will be scared off from making Oklahoma City an offer because of Jackson’s impending restricted free agency, which is understandable. Jackson’s almost certain to be a player who commands more in salary than his track record warrants on his next contract, which isn’t a great selling point for prospective bidders. But he also has the potential to quickly develop into a star, which is why rebuilding teams like New York, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, and Sacramento may be willing to take on the risk.
If I had to pick one team that would end up with Jackson, the Nets would seem the likeliest bet at this point. The two franchises have already been involved in talks for Brook Lopez, and adding Jackson into that potential mix could prove too tempting an offer for Brooklyn to resist. OKC would get some scoring punch from the pivot, and the Nets would get a young player to pair with Mason Plumlee as the franchise looks to rebuild. If Brooklyn is determined to deal Lopez, a return centering around Jackson wouldn’t be a bad haul.
That’s all the space that I have for this week. Thanks to all those who sent in their questions. I’ll be back next Saturday to answer a whole new batch. So fire away and keep filling up my inbox with your inquiries.