- Unsure of where the Mavs currently fall in the To Tank Or Not To Tank debate, Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News writes that there’s no major incentive to unload Wesley Matthews. The economics of the league have changed since Matthews signed his four-year, $70MM contract back in 2015. These days, the approximately $18MM cap hit for the lockdown perimeter defender doesn’t seem as outlandish as it did in the past.
Only two NBA players – LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony – technically have no-trade clauses included in their current contracts. However, there are several players around the league with the ability to block trades that would involve them.
A player who re-signs with his previous team on a one-year contract – or a two-year deal with an option year – is given no-trade protection, and so is a player who accepts his qualifying offer after his rookie deal expire. If one of those players is dealt, he’d lose his Bird or Early Bird rights, which is a key reason he must approve a move.
A player who signed an offer sheet and had that offer matched by his previous team can also veto trades, and can’t be sent to the team that attempted to sign him during that same league year. That means, for instance, that the Wizards can’t trade Otto Porter to the Nets this season.
There are 17 players around the NBA that meet one of those criteria, bringing the number of players with a no-trade clause – either official or unofficial – to 19. While most of those players probably aren’t going anywhere at the trade deadline anyway, there are a handful of trade candidates who would have to consent to a move, creating an added wrinkle as those players’ teams consider their trade options.
Here are some notable players whose consent is required in order to trade them:
- Nikola Mirotic, PF (Bulls): We’ve covered Mirotic’s unofficial no-trade clause many times over the last few weeks, but it’s worth noting that his situation is a little different than anyone else’s on this list. Mirotic’s contract is actually a two-year pact, with a team option for the second year. So while he has veto power for now, that would disappear if the Bulls were to pick up his $12.5MM option for 2018/19. If the Bulls find a trade they like for Mirotic, he could use his veto power as leverage, pushing the club to exercise that option. And he might get his wish — any team willing to give up something of value for the veteran forward might not mind locking him in for an extra year as part of the deal.
- Nerlens Noel, C (Mavericks): As we noted on Thursday when we identified Noel as a trade candidate in the Southwest, the young center’s value is complicated by the fact that he’s currently sidelined with a thumb injury. Noel may be back in early February though, in which case potential suitors would have a chance to see if he’s healthy before pursuing a deal. The union between Noel and the Mavericks has been a rocky one, and it seems unlikely to turn into a long-term relationship, so if Dallas finds a taker for the 23-year-old, I expect he’d sign off, even if it means losing his Bird rights — those Bird rights probably won’t matter much this offseason if the Mavs don’t plan to retain him.
- Alex Len, C (Suns): Like Noel, Len had trouble finding an offer sheet on the restricted free agent market last summer and ultimately signed his qualifying offer. Unlike Noel though, Len has had a regular role and a solid year, averaging 8.5 PPG with career highs in RPG (8.3) and FG% (.552). The Suns have a bit of a logjam in the middle, and Len might have more trade value than Greg Monroe or Tyson Chandler, but Monroe is on an expiring contract and Chandler is 35 years old, making them more expendable for the rebuilding Suns. In other words, even though he’ll be a free agent again in July, Len remains the center most likely to stick in Phoenix for the next several years. I don’t expect the team will ask him to approve a trade.
- Ersan Ilyasova, PF (Hawks): The Hawks are reportedly seeking a high second-round pick in exchange for Ilyasova, and that price doesn’t seem unreasonable for a productive stretch four on an affordable contract, even if that contract will expire this summer. While Ilyasova may hesitate to surrender his Bird rights by approving a trade, those Bird rights aren’t as valuable to him as they would be to a star player, since Ilyasova is unlikely to earn more than the mid-level in free agency. The veteran sharpshooter has also led a nomadic NBA existence in recent years, playing for five different teams since the start of the 2015/16 season, so he’s accustomed to bouncing around and may not mind leaving the 13-31 Hawks to join a contender.
- Shabazz Muhammad, SF (Timberwolves): Muhammad hasn’t been mentioned in any trade rumors yet, but he can’t be thrilled with the way this season has played out for him in Minnesota. After failing to find a lucrative deal on the free agent market in the offseason, the 25-year-old accepted a one-year, prove-it deal from the Timberwolves, and has fallen out of the rotation over the course of the season — he has played just 17 minutes since the start of December. Muhammad isn’t a great defender or distributor, and he has been ineffective as a scorer this season (.376/.211/.750 shooting), so he’ll have little to no trade value. Still, he’s only earning the minimum, so there may be a team willing to roll the dice. It’s also worth mentioning that Muhammad’s deal includes a player option for 2018/19, which may be a minor motivating factor for the Wolves to explore a deal rather than keeping him around for depth purposes — the team’s roster will get more expensive next season, so removing even a modest amount of potential guaranteed money for a non-essential player could help.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The NBA trade deadline is just three weeks away, and there’s no shortage of players around the league who could change teams. Over the next week, we’re taking a closer look at some of those top trade candidates, breaking them down by division.
While our focus will be primarily on teams expected to be sellers at the deadline, our lists may also include some players on contenders who could be used as trade chips when those teams look to make upgrades.
We’re examining the Southwest Division today, so let’s dive in and identify seven players who could be on the move on or before February 8…
- Tyreke Evans, G (Grizzlies): After posting a career-worst 10.3 PPG and .405 FG% in 2016/17, Evans has bounced back in a major way this season. The former fourth overall pick has looked like a borderline All-Star, particularly since Mike Conley went down. In Conley’s absence, Evans has averaged an impressive 20.2 PPG, 5.7 APG, and 5.3 RPG, with a .445/.387/.773 shooting line. Throw in a very modest $3.29MM cap hit, and Evans is one of the more intriguing trade candidates on the market — even if he’ll just be a rental. The Grizzlies reportedly want a first-round pick in return for Evans, and I don’t think that’s out of the question, especially if the pick falls in the 20s, or if Memphis is willing to accept a less desirable contract in return. Last year, for instance, the Nets landed a first-round pick for Bojan Bogdanovic because they were willing to take on Andrew Nicholson.
- Ben McLemore, SG (Grizzlies): Memphis’ signing of McLemore was similar to the team’s move to land Evans. In each case, the Grizzlies were betting that they could get more out of a former top pick than his previous team(s) had. That bet paid off in Evans’ case, but the club hasn’t had as much luck with McLemore, whose 2017/18 debut was delayed after he underwent offseason foot surgery. While the Grizzlies are said to be gauging potential interest in the fifth-year guard, it’s hard to imagine teams clamoring to land him — McLemore has averaged just 6.3 PPG and has shot .411/.317/.789 in 24 games this season. Additionally, his contract, which will pay him $5.2MM this year and $5.46MM in 2018/19, isn’t quite team-friendly enough to be worth the gamble. If the former Kansas star is moved, the return won’t be significant.
- Marc Gasol, C (Grizzlies): Barring a second-half run reminiscent of the one made by the 2016/17 Heat, the 15-28 Grizzlies won’t make the playoffs this year. Gasol only has one more guaranteed year on his contract after this season, with a player option for 2019/20, so it would make sense for the Grizzlies to at least gauge the market to see what his value is. Still, Memphis has thus far been reluctant to discuss the possibility of moving Gasol — not only does the team have an eye on contending with its standout center next season, but it hasn’t thrown in the towel on this season. For now, we’ll take their word that Gasol isn’t going anywhere at the deadline, but of all the teams insisting they won’t trade their respective stars, the lottery-bound Grizzlies seem most likely to reconsider their position within the next three weeks.
- Nerlens Noel, C (Mavericks): Initially viewed as a steal, the Mavericks‘ 2017 deadline deal to acquire Noel hasn’t panned out like the team hoped. The former Sixer was good – but not great – down the stretch for the Mavs, then settled for signing his one-year qualifying offer in the summer after turning down a more lucrative multiyear deal. Given his performance and his ongoing health problems this season, it looks like Noel made a major mistake, and he and the Mavs don’t seem likely to make their union a long-term one. Currently sidelined with a thumb injury, Noel may be back in early February, which would give potential suitors a chance to get one more look at him before the February 8 deadline. He’s affordable ($4.19MM) and still very young (23 years old), so a team in need of an athletic frontcourt player may be willing to roll the dice, as long as Noel is willing to OK a trade — he has the ability to veto a move, since he’d lose his Bird rights if he’s dealt.
- Devin Harris, G (Mavericks): Harris’ 2017/18 numbers look a lot like the ones he posted in each of the previous five seasons. He’ll give you a little scoring punch off the bench, and a semi-reliable outside shot (his .354 3PT% this season is his best since 2011/12). He’ll never again be the 20-point scorer he was nearly a decade ago in New Jersey, but Harris could be a solid bench addition for teams lacking backcourt depth or battling injuries. He’s also inexpensive ($4.4MM) and will come off the cap this summer. Although there have been no reports linking Harris to other teams, it’s hard to believe the Mavericks wouldn’t move him if offered something of value.
- Alexis Ajinca, C (Pelicans): Ajinca is expected to miss the entire 2017/18 season, so he certainly won’t be targeted by any teams looking for immediate upgrades. Instead, he’ll likely be dangled by the Pelicans for salary-matching purposes as they seek out upgrades of their own. With only one more guaranteed year on his contract after this season at a reasonable rate of $5.29MM, Ajinca isn’t the sort of albatross that Omer Asik is, so it’s plausible that the Pelicans could extract a decent player in a deal if they’re willing to attach a pick or two. For instance, if New Orleans liked Devin Harris (noted above), the team could offer Ajinca and a draft pick. Such a move would help the Pels financially both this year and next year, and would give them a useful rotation player; from the Mavericks‘ perspective, Ajinca could be waived and stretched with minimal impact on their cap, so it may be worth it if the draft pick was strong enough.
- Ryan Anderson, PF (Rockets): One of the most-discussed trade candidates of the 2017 offseason, Anderson no longer seems as likely to be dealt. Still, there are only six Rockets earning more than $4MM this season, and the other five – James Harden, Chris Paul, Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, and Trevor Ariza – likely aren’t going anywhere. So if the Rockets look to make a major splash on the trade market and want to acquire another highly-paid player, Anderson would be the logical outgoing piece. The bet here is that Houston hangs onto the veteran sharpshooter and revisits the idea of a major splash in the offseason.
Here are a few more potential Southwest trade candidates to monitor:
- James Ennis, SF (Grizzlies): Like McLemore, Ennis is reportedly being dangled as the Grizzlies explore their trade options. Of the two, Ennis is having the better season (.500/.351/.884 shooting line) and has the more favorable cap hit ($3.03MM).
- Omer Asik, C (Pelicans): The Pelicans would prefer to move Asik’s contract over Ajinca’s, but the terms are so unfavorable that New Orleans may simply have to eventually waive and stretch Asik.
- J.J. Barea, PG (Mavericks): Mark Cuban is fond of Barea, and the veteran has another very affordable ($3.71MM) year on his contract after 2017/18, so I think he may stay put, even though he’d be one of the Mavericks‘ most valuable trade chips.
- Wesley Matthews, G/F (Mavericks): Matthews has been as reliable as ever from three-point range (38.2%), but his $18.62MM player option for 2018/19 is a roadblock for a deal.
- Tarik Black, C (Rockets): The Rockets probably need to keep Black around as insurance, given Nene‘s injury history, but if Nene is healthy, Black could become expendable.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The streaky Clippers, who lost nine straight games back in November, have now won a season-high six consecutive contests, re-inserting themselves in the playoff picture in the Western Conference. Even though DeAndre Jordan has been sidelined with an ankle injury for the Clips’ last three wins, the streak seems to bode well for his chances of sticking in Los Angeles through the trade deadline.
As Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders writes, Clippers ownership and management doesn’t seem at all eager to blow up the roster. For now, the club is focused on seeing if it’s capable of competing in the West, preferring to wait until a bit closer to the deadline to evaluate all of its options.
If the Clippers do change course by February 8, the Bucks and Rockets figure to be among the teams with interest in Jordan, whose contract situation is worth monitoring. According to Kyler, there’s a belief that the veteran center won’t be able to top his $24.12MM player option as a free agent, meaning it’s possible he could decide to opt in for 2018/19. That possibility may affect how the Clippers and potential trade partners view Jordan at the deadline.
Here’s more from Kyler:
- The Kings‘ veteran players are all potential trade candidates at the deadline, though some are more likely to be moved than others. George Hill, for example, won’t have much value, given his contract situation, his injury history, and his underwhelming play this season. Sources close to the situation tell Kyler that Sacramento seems to be trying to help its veterans find better situations as those players fall out of the team’s regular rotation.
- Kyler hears that Nikola Mirotic‘s camp is pushing for the Bulls to pick up the forward’s $12.5MM team option for 2018/19. Until that team option is exercised, Mirotic has the ability to block a trade, giving him some leverage if Chicago wants to complete a deal. League sources tell Kyler that the Bulls have “gotten pretty far down the road” in talks with the Jazz and Pistons about Mirotic.
- There’s “growing talk” around the NBA that the Heat would be open to the idea of moving Hassan Whiteside for the right mix of contracts and young players, Kyler writes. The Bucks and Cavaliers, both on the lookout for a center, would be obvious suitors, but it would tough for either team to make a deal, given Whiteside’s large cap hit ($23.78MM). John Henson, Mirza Teletovic, Tristan Thompson, and Iman Shumpert are among the players whose contracts might have to be included for Milwaukee or Cleveland to make a deal work, which doesn’t sound overly appealing for Miami.
- The Mavericks are “dangling” some expiring contracts and appear to be seeking a promising prospect on a rookie scale deal, along with future picks, says Kyler. Dallas also has cap flexibility to take on a contract or two.
- With about $85.6MM in team salary on their 2017/18 books, the Mavericks are one of the few teams with the cap flexibility to take on contracts this season, and they intend to take advantage of that flexibility if they can, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. “I would say we are looking to use our cap space actively,” owner Mark Cuban said this week. “We will take back salary to get picks or guys we think can play.”
Not many NBA teams currently project to have maximum-salary cap room this offseason, but for those teams with space, DeMarcus Cousins figures to be a top target. Appearing on Nate Duncan’s Dunc’d On Podcast this week, Marc Stein of The New York Times identified the Mavericks and Lakers as two teams expected to push the Pelicans for Cousins, though he cautioned that New Orleans still looks like the frontrunner.
“I think most teams around the league believe that the Pelicans will re-sign Cousins unless he doesn’t want to stay there,” Stein said, according to RealGM. “I think the Pelicans are the clear favorites. Now, I would say there’s an expectation – and maybe it’s even speculation on the part of rival teams – but I’ve heard Dallas and the Lakers mentioned most frequently. Those are teams that are expected, whatever ‘expected’ means, to make a run at him.”
The Lakers figure to have enough room for at least one max player, if not two, but as Stein acknowledges, LeBron James and/or Paul George may rank higher than Cousins on L.A.’s list of potential targets. As for the Mavs, options for Wesley Matthews and Dirk Nowitzki would cut into their space significantly, but the team may still have enough flexibility to put a max offer on the table. Noting that there has been Cousins-related chatter for a while in Dallas, Stein suggests that a pursuit of the big man “would be a very Mark Cuban move.”
While it’s worth surveying the potential free agency landscape for Cousins, it’s probably still too early to get a real sense of which teams will pursue him most aggressively and where he could realistically land. The Pelicans’ success – or lack thereof – during the rest of the 2017/18 season figures to play a major part in the 27-year-old’s summer decision. New Orleans will also be able to offer more years and more money than any other team.
Cousins is currently in the midst of perhaps his best all-around season, averaging an impressive 25.5 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.6 BPG, and 1.5 SPG to go along with a .474/.356/.749 shooting line.
Collinsworth, 26, appeared in only four games for Dallas while on his two-way contract, averaging 1.0 points and 0.5 rebounds in 5.8 minutes per game. Nevertheless, the deal was somewhat expected, as head coach Rick Carlisle said that Collinsworth could potentially be back on a 10-day contract after he was waived earlier this week.
Dallas, who is currently below the cap floor, will incur a modest cap hit of $46,080 for Collinsworth’s deal.
The Mavericks have claimed two-way player Jalen Jones, waiving two-way player Kyle Collinsworth in a corresponding move, reports Shams Charania of Yahoo! Sports (via Twitter). The Jones transaction earns a place in NBA history as the first time that a player on a two-way contract has been claimed off waivers.
Jones, 24, had been on a two-way contract with the Pelicans before being cut on Monday. Since New Orleans doesn’t have a G League affiliate of its own, the young forward split time between the Greensboro Swarm and Texas Legends this season, giving Dallas’ brass a first-hand look at him. Jones, who also briefly appeared in four NBA games for the Pelicans, averaged 19.1 PPG in 17 G League games, but saw his three-point percentage slip to just 27.5%.
As for Collinsworth, his two-way stint with the Mavericks lasted less than a month after he signed his deal on December 19. The 26-year-old swingman had been playing for the Legends prior to earning that two-way contract, and may very well return to the Mavs’ affiliate if and when he clears waivers. He could also be back in Dallas on a 10-day contract at some point, head coach Rick Carlisle said today (Twitter link via Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com).
Because Jones was claimed off waivers, the Mavs will assume the terms of his two-way deal with the Pelicans, as they would for a standard NBA waiver claim. That means that Jones’ days of NBA service won’t reset, and his contract – a two-year pact – will continue to run through 2018/19, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets.
Pistons coach/executive Stan Van Gundy addressed trade rumors surrounding his team during a session with reporters today. Detroit is among several teams linked to Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic as the Pistons try to remain in the playoff race with a roster weakened by injuries.
“We have a roster spot available and there’s people calling,” Van Gundy said in comments tweeted by Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “We’re just seeing if there’s anything that makes sense for us. When you’re down a starting point guard, there’s not a lot of people shopping their starting point guard to you.” (Twitter link).
Reggie Jackson is out until at least the All-Star break with a sprained right ankle. Forward Jon Leuer hasn’t played since October 31 because of a sprained left ankle and may be headed for surgery. After a fast start, the Pistons have fallen into a sixth-place tie in the East at 21-18 and are barely holding on to a playoff spot.
“We’ve got [Leuer] down and [Jackson] down,” Van Gundy added. “There’s a lot of need and we’re looking around. We don’t have anything going on right now, but we’re looking around for people to fill holes.”
There’s more today out of Detroit:
- The Pistons have plenty of options to target before the February 8 deadline, writes Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype. He lists Orlando’s Evan Fournier, Brooklyn’s Joe Harris, Miami’s Wayne Ellington, Dallas’ Wesley Matthews and Atlanta’s Kent Bazemore as players to watch.
- Pistons center Eric Moreland has a bit of security for the first time in his career, notes Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. Moreland had his $1,739,333 contract guaranteed this week, providing him with some stability after four years of trying to earn a steady NBA job. Moreland went undrafted out of Oregon State in 2014 and signed with the Kings, but played just 11 games at the NBA level in two seasons. He signed a partially guaranteed three-year deal with the Pistons over the offseason, but says he hasn’t been focused on this week’s guarantee deadline. “I play the same way, money or no money,” he said. “I don’t even play basketball for money. I just want to go out there and keep learning. This is my first year playing. I can’t get involved in that. That’s just not my mentality. I’m not trying to survive like that.”