- Ryan Anderson has found comfort in his new role with the Suns, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes. “When I was first starting off like some of these guys,” Anderson said, “I was ready when my name was called, and I performed and that’s what led to me getting more minutes and I was eventually starting. Those are moments that coaches really notice. If I can bring that out of a guy, I can help work after practice, that’s more important than me playing 10 minutes in a game.”
Over the course of the 2018/19 NBA season, up until February’s trade deadline, we’re keeping an eye on potential trade candidates from around the NBA, monitoring their value and exploring the likelihood that they’ll be moved. Each of these looks at possible trade candidates focuses on a specific division, as we zero in on three players from that division.
There aren’t many Pacific players who have been the subject of reported trade rumors yet, but there are several veteran wings in the division on expiring contracts who could become available over the course of the season — particularly if their roles decline or if things go south for their respective teams.
Here’s our early-season look at a few possible trade candidates from the Pacific…
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G
Los Angeles Lakers
$12MM cap hit; unrestricted free agent in 2019
After averaging 33.2 minutes per game last season in what was ostensibly a rebuilding year for the Lakers, Caldwell-Pope has seen his playing time dip to 18.5 MPG in 2018/19. That’s a worrying trend for a veteran, particularly since the Lakers actually have playoff expectations this time around.
Caldwell-Pope, no longer in the starting lineup, has struggled to be effective in his limited minutes so far, posting just 6.9 PPG with a .326 3PT% in 14 games. With Josh Hart playing the Caldwell-Pope role better than KCP himself, the veteran could become expendable.
Moving Caldwell-Pope would be tricky, however. His $12MM expiring contract is still something of an asset for the Lakers, who project to have a chunk of cap room in 2019 and won’t want to compromise their flexibility by taking on a multiyear deal in return. Caldwell-Pope also shares an agent with LeBron James, so the franchise will want to do right by him. Plus, he has the ability to veto a trade this season, though perhaps if his role remains limited, he’d welcome a change of scenery.
While a trade sometime after December 15 is possible, and the Sixers are said to have him on their radar, it’s probably in the Lakers’ best interest to focus on figuring out how to get the most of Caldwell-Pope on the court.
Trevor Ariza, F
$15MM cap hit; unrestricted free agent in 2019
The Suns threw a one-year, $15MM contract at Ariza over the summer in the hopes that the three-and-D wing could help stabilize a young team and play a part in Phoenix push for a playoff spot. It doesn’t look like that’ll happen in a competitive Western Conference — the Suns’ 3-11 record puts them at least 2.5 games back of every other team in the West.
There have been some positive signs so far for the Suns, and they won’t throw in the towel yet, but if they remain firmly entrenched in the lottery in another month or two, Ariza should emerge as a prime candidate. There will be no shortage of playoff teams that could use a battle-tested veteran like him down the stretch.
While it’s fun to imagine a scenario in which the Rockets, in need of another three-and-D player, re-acquire Ariza, Houston’s best salary-matching piece – Brandon Knight – can’t be sent back to Phoenix this season.
Iman Shumpert, G/F
$11.01MM cap hit; unrestricted free agent in 2019
The Kings have a number of veterans on expiring contracts, but Zach Randolph, Kosta Koufos, and Ben McLemore look more like candidates for buyouts than trades. Shumpert is the exception — the 28-year-old is a fixture in Sacramento’s starting lineup and has looked like his old self, averaging 8.8 PPG with a shooting line (.411/.368/.833) that eclipses his career rates.
At the moment, the 8-6 Kings are hanging onto a playoff spot in the West, so they won’t be looking to sell off key rotation players. Still, the Rockets, Jazz, Spurs, and Pelicans are all just one game back of Sacramento, so it remains to be seen how long the upstart Kings can hold a top-eight spot in the conference.
If Sacramento falls off and Shumpert continues to play well, he should appeal to a team that wants to add some immediate help to its rotation without sacrificing its offseason cap flexibility. He probably wouldn’t net the Kings much of a return unless they’re willing to take on some unwanted money, but if they can get even a second-round pick for him, it’d be a win, given how low his stock was at the end of last season.
- NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Central (10/25)
- NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Atlantic (10/31)
- NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Southeast (11/6)
- NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Northwest (11/8)
- NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Southwest (11/15)
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Here are Tuesday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA:
- The Jazz have assigned Raul Neto to the Salt Lake City Stars, according to the team’s website. Neto is rehabbing from a hamstring injury.
- The Raptors have assigned Malachi Richardson to their G League affiliate, according to the Raptors 905’s Twitter feed.
- The Lakers have recalled Moritz Wagner and Svi Mykhailiuk from the South Bay Lakers, the team announces on Twitter.
- Elie Okobo will head to the Northern Arizona Suns, as Phoenix has assigned him to their G League affiliate (per the team’s website). The rookie has played in 11 NBA games for the Suns this season.
- The Bucks have assigned Christian Wood to the Wisconsin Herd, according to the team’s Twitter feed.
- Jeremy Woo of SI.com lays out the case for why trading John Wall might be in the Wizards’ best long-term interests, pointing to teams like the Heat and Suns as potential trade partners. Woo is the second national reporter to make this argument this month, and his points are similar to ones ESPN’s Zach Lowe made last week — Bradley Beal is too valuable to move him, and Otto Porter wouldn’t bring back much in return.
Here are Saturday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA:
- Grizzlies rookie Jevon Carter was on the move today, being recalled from the Memphis Hustle, reassigned for the G League team’s practice, then recalled again for tonight’s NBA game, according to a tweet from the Grizzlies.
- The Thunder recalled Abdel Nader from Oklahoma City Blue, the team announced in an email.
- The Magic sent rookies Isaiah Briscoe and Melvin Frazier to their Lakeland affiliate for tonight’s home opener, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic.
- The Pistons recalled Henry Ellenson and Khyri Thomas from their Grand Rapids affiliate, according to an email from the team.
- The Suns recalled rookie De’Anthony Melton from their affiliate in Northern Arizona, the team announced on its website.
- Jacob Evans has been recalled from Santa Cruz, according to a story on the Warriors‘ website.
The Raptors, Nuggets, Bucks, Grizzlies, and Kings are among the NBA teams that have made the strongest impression in the first month of the 2018/19 season, outperforming expectations early in the year. On the other end of the spectrum, the Cavaliers and Mavericks have been among the league’s worst teams, underperforming expectations that weren’t all that high to begin with.
These teams all have something in common — they’ve traded away their 2019 first-round picks, often with protections on them. We still have about 70 games to go in ’18/19, so it’s way too early to determine exactly where those picks will fall, or even whether or not they’ll changes hands in many cases. However, based on what we’ve seen from those teams so far, we have a better idea of what to expect the rest of the way than we did a month ago.
Let’s take a look at how some of those early-season trades may affect 2019’s traded first round picks…
Toronto Raptors (11-1)
First-round pick traded to Spurs (top-20 protected)
Even with top-20 protection, this pick looks like a very safe bet to change hands. If the season ended today, it would be No. 30, since Toronto has the NBA’s best record.
Denver Nuggets (9-2)
First-round pick traded to Nets (top-12 protected)
After a season in which the Nuggets narrowly missed the playoffs, it wasn’t unreasonable for Brooklyn to hope this pick would fall in the mid-teens. Instead, with Denver looking like one of the Western Conference’s best teams so far, it may land well into the 20s.
Milwaukee Bucks (9-2)
First-round pick traded to Suns (top-3 protected; 17-30 protected)
The unusual protections on this pick will likely to prevent it from changing hands for a second consecutive year, since it projects to fall in the 17-30 range. If Milwaukee’s 2019 first-rounder doesn’t convey, the Bucks would owe the Suns their 2020 first-rounder, with top-7 protection.
Memphis Grizzlies (6-4)
First-round pick traded to Celtics (top-8 protected)
After finishing last season with a 22-60 record, the Grizzlies were no lock to take a major step forward in 2018/19. In the early going though, the club looks like a legitimate playoff contender. Assuming Memphis can remain in the postseason mix, even if it’s just on the outskirts, this pick should stay out of the top eight and get sent to Boston.
Sacramento Kings (6-5)
First-round pick traded to Sixers (if it’s No. 1 overall or if it’s less favorable than Sixers’ pick) or Celtics (if it’s more favorable than Sixers’ pick and isn’t No. 1 overall)
The Kings, who were expected to be one of the NBA’s worst teams entering the season, would generate some fascinating drama between the Sixers and Celtics if their pick ends up in play for No. 1 overall. However, Sacramento’s young roster has created more problems than anticipated for opponents so far, with the team occupying a playoff spot for now.
Despite the Kings’ hot start, a finish in the lottery still seems likely, but if Sacramento keeps exceeding expectations, the team’s first-round pick will almost certainly end up in Boston instead of Philadelphia, avoiding that No. 1 spot.
Los Angeles Clippers (6-5)
First-round pick traded to Celtics (top-14 protected)
This could be one to watch all season long — the Clippers currently hold a playoff spot in the West by one game, but teams like the Jazz, Lakers, Pelicans, and Rockets are right on their tail. If the Clips eventually fall out of the top eight in the West, they’ll keep their 2019 pick and would owe Boston their top-14 protected 2020 first-rounder. If L.A. keeps winning, the Celtics have a real shot at ending up with four first-rounders next spring.
Dallas Mavericks (3-8)
First-round pick traded to Hawks (top-5 protected)
After drafting NBA-ready prospect Luka Doncic and signing DeAndre Jordan, the Mavericks hoped to contend for the postseason and expected to lose this pick. Given the way Dallas has struggled so far, that no longer looks like a sure thing. I don’t view the Mavs as a bottom-five team in the NBA, but if they don’t turn things around soon, an aggressive second-half tank is a possibility. The Hawks would love for this pick to land in the back half of the top 10.
Cleveland Cavaliers (1-10)
First-round pick traded to Hawks (top-10 protected)
While Atlanta may luck out with the Mavs’ pick, the Hawks will probably have to wait at least one more year to get anything from the Cavaliers, who have the NBA’s worst record so far and aren’t exactly in position to turn things around. If the Cavs keep their 2019 first-rounder, they’ll owe the Hawks their top-10 protected 2020 pick.
The free agent signing of Tyson Chandler paid dividends for the Lakers on Wednesday against the Timberwolves, with Chandler grabbing eight rebounds in 23 minutes — including a clutch offensive rebound to help seal the team’s 114-110 win.
“We needed the help now,” coach Luke Walton said postgame, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “And I don’t know how that all works but give [general manager] Rob [Pelinka] and [president] Magic [Johnson] credit for recognizing that and going out and getting that job done for our squad.”
Chandler reached a buyout agreement with the Suns last week, and the Los Angeles native joined the Lakers just in time for their game Wednesday. Chandler, an 18-year veteran who won a title with Dallas in 2011, provides the team with a locker room presence and ability to play center off the bench.
“I love this city the way they love me,” Chandler said when asked about the standing ovation L.A. fans gave him. “When you’re homegrown from here, go to high school and all of that, and you have these same fans that have been watching [your career] and now you represent the jersey that everyone has been cheering for their entire lives, you kind of become one.
“I’ve been on the other side and played the villain. Now it’s great to be on this side and actually rep ’em.”
There’s more from the Pacific Division:
- A panel of ESPN writers voiced their opinions about what’s wrong with the Lakers (article link), with Kevin Arnovitz, Chris Herring and Tim Bontemps among those from the company who participated. The Lakers own a modest 5-6 record despite having LeBron James and an array of promising pieces around him.
- Kings forward Troy Williams is making a strong bid to land a full-time roster spot with the team, James Ham of NBC Sports contends. Williams signed a two-way contract with the team in October, holding per-game averages of 8.3 points and three rebounds in four contests. “It’s what they ask of me – just to be versatile, just to be athletic, just to defend multiple people,” Williams said. “What I focus on is how I can help this team defensively before anything else.”
- Suns president of basketball operations James Jones did LeBron James “a solid” by reaching a buyout with Tyson Chandler and allowing him to join the Lakers this early in the season, a league source told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “He deserves all the credit,” LeBron told ESPN of Jones. “He was very instrumental. He did right by Tyson as a veteran.” Jones and James were teammates during a four-year run in Miami and three-year run in Cleveland, which produced a total of three NBA championships.
- Before the Nets defeated the Suns on Tuesday, Devin Booker told Greg Logan of Newsday that he’d “love to play” with Brooklyn guard D’Angelo Russell someday, adding that Russell “makes people around him better.” A union between the two players is unlikely to happen in Brooklyn anytime in the next few years, since Booker’s five-year extension with the Suns begins next season. But perhaps Russell, who will be a restricted free agent in 2019, will draw interest from Phoenix.