Trade Candidate

Kyler’s Latest: Lakers, Mavs, Grizzlies, Magic

The Lakers and Mavericks both currently sit comfortably in the lottery, with little chance of making a run at a playoff spot this season. Still, there’s a sense in NBA circles that the two teams could be logical trade partners, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders.

Kyler cautions that there have been zero talks between the Lakers and Mavericks about a potential Luol Deng trade, but he suggests that if any team is willing to roll the dice on Deng and his exorbitant contract, Dallas might be that team. The Mavericks have some expiring contracts that would appeal to L.A., and if the Lakers attached Julius Randle and a future draft pick to Deng, that could pique the Mavs’ interest, Kyler writes.

Of course, within the last month, we’ve heard that the Lakers aren’t interested in parting with future first-round picks in order to move Deng, and a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski suggested that the club had essentially given up hope of another team taking on the veteran forward’s unwieldy contract. So even if the Mavericks represent the best potential fit, the odds of a deal remain slim.

Kyler’s latest piece for Basketball Insiders includes several other items of interest on a handful of lottery teams, so let’s round up a few highlights…

  • The Grizzlies are unlikely to make any franchise-altering moves before next month’s trade deadline, which means Marc Gasol probably isn’t going anywhere. Still, they’re a team worth watching, according to Kyler, who points to Tyreke Evans as a potential Memphis trade candidate.
  • The “dream scenario” for the Magic would be to move Bismack Biyombo before the deadline, but they’re highly unlikely to find a taker for that contract. Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier may also emerge as trade chips, but Aaron Gordon almost certainly isn’t going anywhere — the “prevailing thought” is that he’ll be retained by Orlando as a restricted free agent this summer, says Kyler.
  • The Hawks appear open to listening to inquiries on Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore, but their current asking prices are probably too high to work anything out, reports Kyler.

Clippers Express Interest In Paul George

The Clippers have expressed interest in Paul George, reports Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. For Los Angeles to be a serious contender in the George sweepstakes, the Pacers would likely have to be willing to wait until July to finalize a trade.

As Deveney writes, the Clippers’ best chance to make a trade involving a highly-paid player like George would involve signing-and-trading one of their top free agents. While Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will be among those free agents, the Clips’ dream scenario would likely be using another UFA, J.J. Redick, in a sign-and-trade, then forming a Big Four with Paul, Griffin, George, and DeAndre Jordan.

That scenario is probably a long shot, since the Clippers don’t have first-round picks in 2017 or 2019, and acquiring Redick on an expensive new deal may not appeal to Indiana. But if any team besides the Lakers should feel confident in its ability to lock up George beyond 2018, the Clippers might might be that team, given their ability to get PG13 to his preferred city.

Here are several more George rumors or notes, in the wake of Sunday’s report that he plans on leaving the Pacers:

  • The Cavaliers and Pacers have been immersed in trade talks regarding George, league sources tell Sam Amico of According to Amico, Cleveland’s interest in George has been described as “legit,” but pulling off a deal could be “very complicated.”
  • Two NBA sources who spoke to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (Twitter link) expect the Lakers to get involved in George trade talks if it appears the Cavaliers are moving close to a deal. However, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter links) is skeptical that the Lakers would move young players like D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle for George, suggesting that Jordan Clarkson is a more likely trade candidate. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reports that the Lakers currently appear unwilling to part with any of their young assets in a trade with the Pacers.
  • The Rockets are worth keeping an eye on in the George sweepstakes, according to Sean Deveney, who observes that Daryl Morey is generally willing to roll the dice on impact players without getting a long-term commitment.
  • The Heat like George, but – given their lack of tradeable first-round picks – probably don’t have the assets to acquire him, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

Trade Candidate: Carmelo Anthony

As the February 23 trade deadline nears, Hoops Rumors will be taking a closer look at several players we consider trade candidates, discussing their value, speculating on potential destinations, and explaining why they are – or should be – available. These players won’t necessarily be dealt in advance of the deadline, but it won’t be surprising if they are.NBA: San Antonio Spurs at New York Knicks

Carmelo Anthony, F
New York Knicks
2016/17 salary: $24,559,380
Under contract through the 2018/19 season, though his deal contains an ETO for the final year
Trade restrictions: No-Trade Clause

The Knicks surprisingly beat the Spurs last weekend in what could be Carmelo Anthony’s final home game as a member of the team. New York doesn’t have another game before the February 23 trade deadline and while the odds are against an Anthony trade, if he were to be moved, it wouldn’t be the most shocking trade to happen this week.

How Did We Get Here?

It appears that team president Phil Jackson wants Anthony to play for another team, as evidenced by his disparagement of the 10-time All-Star. The Zen Master subtweeted the star and he allegedly had a hand in the article written by his close associate, Charley Rosen, which condemned Anthony. Rosen opined that Anthony’s legs had similar principles to a homerun leaving Yankee Stadium and he concluded his subjective piece with this sentiment: The only sure thing is that Carmelo Anthony has outlived his usefulness in New York.

Anthony still has plenty left in the tank. At age 32, he’s no longer the nimblest of athletes. When he drives at defenders, he powers into them at a controlled speed while always remaining a threat to stop and utilize his deadly jumpshot. He’s not going to rival LeBron James‘ all-around game on a nightly basis, but he’s still a top-30 player in the league and he’s one of the best on the offensive end.

There’s a recipe for constructing a winning Melo team, yet for the longest time, Jackson seemed disinterested in reading anyone else’s cookbook. Anthony needs to be surrounded by shooters along with a defensive anchor in the post while playing in a free-flowing offense. For over half of his tenure with the Knicks, Jackson insisted on the triangle, an offense which has principles installed in sets around the league but it hasn’t been successful as a standalone offense for quite some time. Kristaps Porzingis can develop into the team’s defensive anchor, but Jackson’s signing of Joakim Noah delays his development at the five. Additions Courtney Lee and Lance Thomas are good fits for the quintessential system, but Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings are equally poor fits for it.

The mismatch of talent will likely lead New York to the lottery again this season. If this team was winning, the Jackson-Anthony estrangement might be blanketed, but that’s not the case, as our Reverse Standings indicate.

Why Trading Anthony Is Problematic

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Trade Candidate: Jahlil Okafor

As the February 23 trade deadline nears, Hoops Rumors will be taking a closer look at several players we consider trade candidates, discussing their value, speculating on potential destinations, and explaining why they are – or should be – available. These players won’t necessarily be dealt in advance of the deadline, but it won’t be surprising if they are.


Jahlil Okafor, C
Philadelphia 76ers
2016/17 salary: $4,788,840
Team holds an option for the 2018/19 season; eligible for restricted free agency in 2020
Trade restrictions: None

Jahlil Okafor knows he’s in a unique situation. He’s heard his name in trade rumors since he was drafted by the Sixers with the No. 3 overall pick. He’s seen his role on the team fluctuate and he’s handled it all like a professional should.

“I know I’m not the type of player that’s DNP,” Okafor said earlier in the month about a game in which he was a healthy but didn’t see the court. “But that’s what it is right now. Coach Brown has been phenomenal with communicating with me. I know in the long run, I’ll be fine.”

In the long-run, Okafor will likely be playing for another team. GM Bryan Colangelo has reportedly been in contact with eight other franchises regarding an Okafor trade and the strong play of both Joel Embiid and Dario Saric have increased the likelihood that the team deals either Okafor or Nerlens Noel, according to Marc Stein of

It appears that Okafor is more likely to be dealt than Nerlens Noel, as John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote last month. Two months ago, the opposite was true. Noel wasn’t seeing regular minutes and Philadelphia was investing time in the Okafor-Embiid pairing. The team didn’t like what it saw and it stopped using the combo together. Okafor has seen his role diminished since the team split up the centers, while Embiid has thrived, which led one anonymous league executive to claim that the Cameroon native could eventually become a top-3 player in the league.

Okafor will likely never reach that pinnacle, though that doesn’t mean he can’t have a great career. Over his first season and a half, he’s shown promise on the offensive end, aggressively taking the ball to the basket either by backing defenders down or driving at them from the elbow. It’s been inconsistent, but that’s expected; he’s a 21-year-old kid who has only appeared in 88 career games. Teams looking for a young big man certainly see what’s there. He isn’t a blank canvas on the offensive end.

Okafor’s defense remains a work-in-progress. He’s the league’s second-worst center on defense, per ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus/Minus. Karl-Anthony Towns is the league’s worst, according to that metric, so we should remember that it takes time and experience in this league to become a good defender in the post. Rim protectors need to learn how to properly position themselves during the offensive attack. Once a player learns that, simply being a massive near 7-footer is enough to be an adequate defender; just ask Nikola Vucevic. Magic coach Frank Vogel vowed to install his defensive principles and coach up Vucevic so that he can improve on his defense. This year, the Swiss behemoth has been defending opposing bigs at a top level. He’s the 15th most impactful defender this season, according to NBAMath, and there’s hope that Okafor can take similar strides with the right amount of experience and coaching.

That’s not to say coach Brett Brown isn’t doing a great job with Okafor and with this team. The issue is that there are only so many coaching hours available and Brown has so many young guys on the roster. Gregg Popovich was always able to get the best out of non-star players because his top players were experienced and didn’t need as much attention. Popovich could devote the time to the role players and coach them up to help them improve. Brett Brown has no such luxury. Examine the Sixers’ roster; How many players are self-sufficient and don’t need a considerable amount of coaching?

Okafor will get to an acceptable level on defense, but he’s not going to substantially improve without seeing more court time. He’s barely cracked 800 minutes so far this season (232 players have seen more minutes than Okafor this year, including Anthony Tolliver and Corey Brewer among others). He’s firmly behind Embiid on the depth chart and both Noel and Richaun Holmes have seen action ahead of him at times when everyone is healthy.

Philadelphia is being cautious with Embiid’s knee injury, which opened up an opportunity for Okafor to start (and audition for other teams) tonight against the Pistons. The game could end up being one of Okafor’s final contests with the Sixers, as the team was reportedly heavily engaged in talks with the Pelicans to send the Duke product to New Orleans. Philadelphia was set to receive a 2018 first-rounder in addition to center Alexis Ajinca and there was a 5:00 pm EST deadline today to complete a deal, presumably because Philadelphia played tonight and needed to know whether or not to have Okafor suit up. The teams didn’t consummate a deal before that cutoff, but the two sides remain engaged in talks, as Keith Smith of RealGM reports (Twitter link).

Anthony Davis would be an excellent frontcourt partner for any player in the league, but his skillset particularly suits Okafor. At this point in his career, Okafor doesn’t have much range. He can’t play outside the paint and that, coupled with his defensive issues, makes pairing him in the frontcourt a tough task. He needs to be aligned with someone who has an outside shot and is able to help cover up his defensive imperfections. The potential Davis-Okafor pairing is arguably the best-case scenario for any franchise looking to build around the 2015 ACC Player of the Year.

The Pelicans are shopping their 2018 first-round pick around the league with an eye on acquiring a center, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (Twitter link), so they could ostensibly make another deal and miss out on acquiring Okafor.

“Obviously at this time of the year all the GMs are talking,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said earlier tonight. “In that situation right there it’s best that you guys ask [GM Dell Demps]. I don’t want to get misquoted or anything. Like I said, all the GMs are talking back and forth.

I speculate that a deal will get done with New Orleans and the franchise is just looking to gain leverage during trade talks. However, if Demps decides to trade the team’s pick elsewhere, the Bulls could get back in the mix for Okafor, as they reached out to the Sixers late last week regarding the big man.

Philadelphia is reportedly looking for at least one future first-round pick in exchange for Okafor. He’s under team control for at least two more seasons after this one, so Philadelphia doesn’t necessarily have to deal him before the deadline. Still, regardless of whether it happens this season, this offseason or a year from now, an Okafor trade remains likely. Sam Hinkie’s final first-round selection has the potential to be a solid NBA player and he could even develop into an All-Star-caliber player down the road; it’s just not going to happen while he’s a member of the Sixers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Trade Candidate: Brandon Knight

As the February 23 trade deadline nears, Hoops Rumors will be taking a closer look at several players we consider trade candidates, discussing their value, speculating on potential destinations, and explaining why they are – or should be – available. These players won’t necessarily be dealt in advance of the deadline, but it won’t be surprising if they are.
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Brandon Knight
, G

Phoenix Suns
2016/17 salary: $12,606,250
Eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2020
Trade restrictions: None

Brandon Knight finds himself in an awkward position with the Suns. As a 25-year-old former lottery pick, Knight should be enjoying the prime of his career.

Instead, he’s on the fringes of the rotation for a rebuilding team. Thanks to the last contract he signed, Knight has financial security. What he needs now is a chance to revive his career but that contract could prevent that from happening.

The Suns are actively shopping the combo guard, which they already were doing prior to the season, but they’re having difficulty finding a taker. Knight is making $12.6MM this season and has three years remaining on the deal, which will pay him approximately $13.6MM, $14.6MM and $15.6MM the next three seasons.

On draft status alone, Knight projected to be one of the league’s best point guards by this time. He was selected eighth overall in 2011 by the Pistons, who were in desperate need of a floor leader and viewed Knight as the long-term solution.

Knight got a trial-by-fire introduction into the NBA, jumping right into a starting role on one of the league’s worst teams. After just two seasons, the Pistons soured on Knight’s ability to run their offense. His assist-to-turnover ratios — 3.8-2.6 and 4.0-2.7 — spoke of Knight’s struggles as a floor leader.

During the 2013 off-season, he was shipped along with Khris Middleton to the Bucks for Brandon Jennings. Knight immediately became the Bucks’ lead point guard and lasted 1 1/2 seasons there before they, too, decided they needed an upgrade at that spot. Milwaukee acquired Michael Carter-Williams from the Sixers in a three-way, trade deadline deal and sent Knight to Phoenix.

With Eric Bledsoe already in place as the starting point guard, Knight was shifted to shooting guard. He averaged a career-high 19.6 points while starting in 50 of 52 games during an injury-riddled 2015/16 campaign.

The biggest problem for Knight is that the Suns made a wise draft choice prior to last season. They uncovered a gem with a 13th overall pick, selecting offensively-gifted two guard Devin Booker.

Knight has been relegated to a bench role this season and the adjustment hasn’t gone well. Advanced statistics rate Knight’s offensive performance as the worst of his career and his always suspect defense has also suffered.

He has lost playing time to rookie Tyler Ulis and veteran Leandro Barbosa because coach Earl Watson was unhappy with Knight’s defensive effort. He hasn’t played the last two games, apparently because of wrist tendinitis, though he has played sparingly over the past month anyway.

Undoubtedly, Knight needs another fresh start. He may not have lived up to his draft status but he can be a productive rotation player in the mold of a Jamal Crawford, providing instant offense off the bench.

Knight may be turnover prone but he’s a solid shooter — 41.4% overall, 35.9% percent from long range and 81.0% from the free throw line during his career. He posted positive Offensive Box Plus.Minus ratings over the last three seasons, ranging from 1.2 to 2.0, according to Basketball Reference.

Any potential suitor will have to value his offense over his defensive shortcomings. His career Defensive Box Plus/Minus rating is minus 1.9 and he’s never finished on the positive side in any season.

The length of his contract, if not the salary commitment, is the biggest impediment to trading Knight. The dollar figures aren’t as scary as they might have been a couple years ago, thanks to the ever-rising salary cap. But a contract with three years left and no team options has to give pause to any GM or team president that might see a role for Knight on his club.

An unnamed front office exec told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s John Gambadoro that there is virtually no trade market for Knight.
In order to rid himself on Knight’s contract, Suns GM Ryan McDonough will probably need to package a desirable young player or draft pick with him. Phoenix drafted two power forwards — Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender — and taking on Knight’s contract could be a stipulation for any team that desires one of those young bigs.

The Suns could alternatively try to boost Knight’s trade prospects by packaging a first-round pick. They’ll obviously have a juicy lottery pick this summer and don’t owe anyone a future first-rounder at the time being. They could also dangle the protected 2018 first-rounder that the Heat owe them.

With aging Tyson Chandler still in the starting lineup, the Suns could be in the market for a center. They might also seek an upgrade over their small forward duo of T.J. Warren and P.J. Tucker.

Right now, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious landing spot for Knight. The Cavaliers are the only contender known to be shopping for point guard help but their salary-cap issues make that an unlikely scenario.

The Grizzlies might want some backcourt help behind Mike Conley and Tony Allen, taking into account Conley’s recent injury history. Knight could also give a bench boost to the Wizards behind the John WallBradley Beal duo.

Non-contenders like the Knicks, Kings and Heat could also emerge if a young big or high draft pick is part of the proposal. Sacramento reportedly has shown interest for months but the loss of Rudy Gay to an Achilles tendon tear could change their priorities.

If the Suns are unable to move Knight before the trade deadline, he’ll simply have to live with a backup role for at least the remainder of the season.

What do you think? Should the Suns trade or keep Knight? Weigh in below in the comments section with your thoughts and possible trade ideas.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trade Candidate: Rajon Rondo

As we approach February’s trade deadline, Hoops Rumors will be taking a closer look at several players we consider trade candidates, discussing their value, speculating on potential destinations and explaining why they are – or should be – available. These players won’t necessarily be dealt in advance of the deadline, but it won’t be surprising if they are.

Rajon Rondo, PGRajon Rondo vertical
Chicago Bulls
2016/17 salary: $14,000,000
Salary for 2017/18 is guaranteed for just $3,000,000 through June 30th
Trade restrictions: None

Rajon Rondo couldn’t have been happier when he signed with the Bulls in July. After a disastrous stay in Dallas and a lost season in Sacramento, the veteran point guard felt like he had finally found a home.

“I’m excited,” Rondo said after agreeing to a two-year, $28MM deal. “Great organization with pieces around me that I’m excited about.”

Fast forward six months and nobody is excited. Not Rondo, who was pulled from the rotation two weeks ago. And not the Bulls, who are currently outside the playoff race at 20-21 through the first half of the season. Chicago was counting on Rondo and fellow free agent addition Dwyane Wade to turn the team back into contenders, but the fears many observers had about difficulty in meshing their similar styles have come true.

Marksmanship has always been an issue for Rondo, but the problem has become worse than ever since his arrival in Chicago. He’s shooting a career-low .368 from the field and just .298 from 3-point range. His scoring average has dipped to 7.3 points per game, which is the lowest since his rookie season.

Rondo responded to coach Fred Hoiberg‘s decision to take him out of the rotation by asking for a New Year’s Eve meeting with GM Gar Forman and executive vice president John Paxson. Little was resolved from that session and Rondo indicated that he would ask for a trade if he couldn’t get playing time in Chicago. An unidentified member of the coaching staff told Rondo he had been playing poorly and was benched to “save him from himself.”

After riding the pine for 5 1/2 games, Rondo got some help this week from an unlikely source — the flu bug. With Wade, Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic all sidelined, Hoiberg needed healthy bodies and turned to Rondo as the lead guard for the second unit. Rondo played well enough as a reserve that it might become an ongoing role.

“I talked to him about the lift and the spark that he gave us [Tuesday] with the energy and the pace, the push that he had with that second unit,’’ Hoiberg told Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times.

Of course, the situation isn’t ideal for either party. Rondo doesn’t want to be a backup after 10 years as a starter, and the Bulls don’t want to be paying $14MM to their second-string point guard.

But does that mean he will be traded out of Chicago before the February 23rd deadline?

Despite his shooting woes, there are still many reasons why teams would be interested in picking up Rondo. He’s the reigning league leader in assists, averaging 11.7 last season for a Kings team that finished well out of the playoffs. Also, Rondo is only 30 and is healthy enough to have several productive seasons left. And his contract for 2017/18 is only guaranteed for $3MM through June 30th, which means a team could easily part ways with him if the deal doesn’t work out.

The defending champs might be a possible trading partner, as a report last week said the Cavaliers are keeping a close eye on the Rondo situation. Cleveland has been in the market for a backup to Kyrie Irving since the season began, following the sign-and-trade of Matthew Dellavedova to the Bucks and the retirement and subsequent trade of Mo Williams to the Hawks.

Rondo’s contract would make him a pricey addition for a team that already has the NBA’s highest salary, and it’s not clear whom the Cavs would give up in a deal. Cleveland seems more likely to swoop in if Rondo gets bought out, although his poor 3-point shooting makes him a bad fit in the Cavaliers’ offense.

Another rumor that has gotten some traction involves Miami. The Heat still owe Goran Dragic more than $54MM over the next three seasons and may want to unload that contract to speed up the rebuilding process. Dragic is making $15.89MM this season, so their salaries would easily match up. Chicago could reunite the Dragic-Wade backcourt and gain some outside shooting, while Miami could either waive Rondo or renegotiate with him after this season and maybe pick up a draft pick or two to help replace the package they sent to Phoenix to acquire Dragic.

The Sixers are another interesting possibility for Rondo, if only as a short-term option until Jerryd Bayless returns from injury next season and rookie Ben Simmons is ready to take over the offense. A recent hot streak has sparked hope of playoff contention in Philadelphia, and a veteran point guard might be just what the Sixers need to maximize the team’s wealth of young frontcourt talent.

Wherever Rondo goes next, it will almost certainly be a better fit than the Bulls. It appeared to be an odd signing even before Wade committed to Chicago, and the Butler-Wade-Rondo trio always seemed destined to fail because of overlapping skills.

Still, Rondo is too talented to sit on the bench with the Bulls or to be relegated to the second unit. If Chicago is set on using Michael Carter-Williams as its starter, the organization is better off finding a new home for Rondo rather than running the risk of him being a disruptive force for the rest of the season. Rondo could be a giant X factor wherever he goes. He could turn out to be a valuable piece for a title contender just as he was in Boston, or he could quickly sink a team’s postseason just like he did in Dallas.

What do you think? Should the Bulls trade Rondo? Weigh in below in the comments section with your thoughts and possible trade ideas.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2016/17 NBA Trade Candidate Series

The February 23 trade deadline is fast approaching, and teams have already started making deals, with the Cavaliers landing Kyle Korver last weekend. In the weeks leading up to the deadline, Hoops Rumors will be taking an in-depth look at some players who may change teams on or before February 23. These aren’t players who necessarily will be traded by the deadline, but there’s a distinct possibility that their teams will at least listen to offers, if not actively shop them, in the coming weeks.

Our Trade Candidate pieces explore why a trade might happen, the likelihood of a deal going down, and potential suitors, along with other relevant details. Last season, we profiled 15 players, including many who were dealt before the deadline, such as Markieff Morris, Chris Andersen, Brandon Jennings. We also looked at guys like Jeff Teague, who were eventually traded in the summer.

A list of the players we’ve examined so far during the 2016/17 season is below, in alphabetical order. This list can be found in our right sidebar under “Hoops Rumors Features” and will continue to be updated until the deadline.

Trade Candidate: Andrew Bogut

As we approach February’s trade deadline, Hoops Rumors will be taking a closer look at several players we consider trade candidates, discussing their value, speculating on potential destinations, and explaining why they are – or should be – available. These players won’t necessarily be dealt in advance of the deadline, but it won’t be surprising if they are.

Andrew Bogut, CAndrew Bogut vertical
Dallas Mavericks
2016/17 salary: $11,027,027
Eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2017
Trade restrictions: Can’t be re-acquired by the Warriors during the 2016/17 league year.

The Mavericks took advantage of Kevin Durant‘s if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them approach to free agency, acquiring two former Warriors in the aftermath of Durant’s decision to wear the Golden State uniform. Signing forward Harrison Barnes to a max contract grabbed most of the headlines but Dallas also secured another starter from the two-time defending Western Conference champions. It traded for veteran center Andrew Bogut, dealing only a conditional second-round pick while also receiving a second rounder.

That virtual giveaway allowed the Warriors to clear cap space, even if it meant handing over one of the league’s premier interior defenders. The Mavericks anticipated that a frontcourt of Bogut, Dirk Nowitzki and Barnes would make them a solid playoff team, if not a serious contender.

Fast forward six months and the outlook for the Mavs and Bogut looks quite different. Dallas has one of the league’s worst records, while Bogut has battled through a number of nagging injuries, including a right hamstring strain suffered this week. He also missed 11 games last month with a right knee issue.

It’s no secret that the Mavericks are shopping Bogut, who is making a little over $11MM in the final year of his contract. Bogut seems resigned to the notion that he’ll be wearing a different uniform in the near future.

“Look, if there’s an opportunity to go somewhere and they want to do it, I’m not going to beg them to not trade me. But I have not gone to the [front] office and asked for a trade,” Bogut said during a press conference last week. “That’s probably the best answer that I can give you. It’s been a tough season for everybody involved, but it’s far from the truth that I’ve gone to management and asked for a trade.”

Bogut realizes the club has every incentive to try to get something for him before the trade deadline. If the Mavs had lived up to their own expectations, they might have a compelling reason to re-sign him. Under the current circumstances, Bogut is taking minutes away from younger players that need to develop.

Coach Rick Carlisle recently indicated that re-signing Bogut was a “real possibility” but even Bogut is skeptical.

“If there was an opportunity for me to come back, there would have been at least extension talks, which I’m not bitter about,” he said. “I’m not mad about it. It’s just the reality of it. It’s the writing on the wall. … The Mavs eventually have to start rebuilding, too. There’s no point in bringing back a 33-year-old center if you’re in rebuild mode. … I just don’t see it.”

The first question that potential suitors need to ask themselves is whether Bogut can impact them in the short term. The answer, provided Bogut can return to full strength, is yes.

He’s always been a subpar offensive player but his defensive prowess is unquestioned. He led the league two consecutive seasons – 2013/14 and 2014/15 – in Basketball Reference’s Defensive Box ratings at 5.6 and 5.5, respectively.

He was close to that mark last season with a 5.1 rating and sports a 5.2 rating this season despite being in and out of the lineup. In the last three postseasons, his Defensive Box numbers were even higher — 5.6, 6.1 and 7.3. Bogut’s sprained knee in Game 5 of last year’s Finals could have been the difference in the series, though he played limited minutes against the Cavs.

Assuming Bogut will be dealt, where will he go? The Rockets seem to be the most likely destination. The Warriors had deals in place with both the Mavs and Rockets this summer and gave Bogut the option of choosing the team. He, of course, picked Dallas but Houston now looks like a great fit.

Starting center Clint Capela is recovering from a fractured fibula, forcing the Rockets to go with the duo of Montrezl Harrell and Nene Hilario in the middle. A defensive stalwart like Bogut could be the piece needed to get them into the Western Conference Finals for the second time in three seasons.

The Rockets, however, are capped out and there’s no obvious package they could put together that would entice the Mavs and still get salaries to match. Thus, it’s likely they’d need to get a third team involved.

The Sixers had some unusual interest in Bogut during the offseason but they’ve got too many bigs as it is. It wouldn’t seem reasonable for them to give up a much younger one for him and they’ve got gobs of cap space for next season, so his expiring contract won’t do much good, either.

There are a few contenders that could use Bogut for a playoff push. A Celtics frontcourt pairing of Bogut with Al Horford would be intriguing, possibly vaulting them past the Raptors in the Eastern Conference pecking order.

The Raptors themselves need to shore up a defense that ranks 19th in defensive field-goal percentage. Bogut could provide some assistance in that area.

Memphis could also be a landing spot. Bogut wouldn’t have a starting role with the Grizzlies but they could use a veteran backup to Marc Gasol.

It’s unlikely that Bogut could wind up with the Big Two. The Warriors would welcome his lane presence again, but league rules prevent them from re-acquiring him until the 2017/18 league year. The Cavaliers have all sorts of cap constraints of their own and seem more intent on finding a backup point guard than a post player.

It seems a pretty solid bet that Bogut will be moved within the coming weeks. It would help all parties involved if Bogut could stay on the court long enough to convince potential suitors that they wouldn’t be acquiring damaged goods. Once he proves he can stay out of the training room, a healthy Bogut could certainly improve any contender’s outlook this postseason.

What do you think? Should the Mavericks trade Bogut? Weigh in below in the comments section with your thoughts and possible trade ideas.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trade Candidate: Rudy Gay

In the months leading up to February’s trade deadline, Hoops Rumors will be taking a closer look at several players we consider trade candidates, discussing their value, speculating on potential destinations, and explaining why they are – or should be – available. These players won’t necessarily be dealt in advance of the deadline, but it won’t be surprising if they are.

"<strongRudy Gay, F
Sacramento Kings
2016/17 salary: $13,333,333
$14,263,566 player option for 2017/18
Trade restrictions: None

Even if an NBA player has no intention to re-sign with his current team when he becomes a free agent, he’ll often say all the right things to reporters. When your contract is winding down, it’s easy to say that you’d love to be back with your current team, since that’s what just about everyone says.

With that precedent in mind, Rudy Gay‘s comments in an interview with Sactown Royalty this past July came as a bit of a shock. Rather than repeating the usual sentiments about his coming free agency, Gay bemoaned the lack of stability and consistency in Sacramento, suggesting that he hadn’t had “the kind of communication” that he wanted with the team. At the time, nearly one month into free agency, Gay also didn’t seem too interested in who his teammates for the coming season would be.

I don’t know,” Gay replied when he was asked about new head coach Dave Joerger and the Kings’ roster. “Honestly, I haven’t paid attention. I don’t even know who our new players are to be honest with you. I’ve just been focused on trying to be healthy and trying to get in shape and get ready for the season, wherever that might be.”

Gay’s ominous “wherever that might be” line was a fairly strong signal that his long-term plan didn’t necessarily include a lengthy stay in Sacramento. But just in case Gay’s motivations weren’t 100% clear, a report surfaced before training camp began in September indicating that the veteran forward had informed the Kings he would opt out of his contract in 2017. Although the Kings still hadn’t shown an inclination to move him at that time, it seemed nearly certain that Gay was planning to sign elsewhere in the summer of ’17.

Gay’s public comments about his future could have created problems in Sacramento, but the team has handled the situation pretty admirably so far. Although trade rumors and speculation persist, Joerger has made the 30-year-old a focal point of the offense, and Gay has responded by being his usual productive self. In 24 games this season, the former eighth overall pick has averaged 18.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 1.5 SPG.

With Gay playing well, and the Kings climbing up the Western Conference standings into a playoff spot, the situation in Sacramento is about to become even more interesting. On one hand, not a whole lot has changed since the summer. Gay still figures to opt out in July, having recently changed agents in anticipation of his free agency. Unless playing for Joerger really appeals to him, the veteran forward will likely explore the market and sign elsewhere. If the Kings want to avoid being left empty-handed if and when he departs, it still makes sense to move him by February’s deadline.

On the other hand though, it has been more than a decade since the Kings were in the postseason, and team ownership badly wants to end that playoff drought. At 14-17, Sacramento hasn’t exactly been a powerhouse, and the team’s grip on the No. 8 seed in the West is precarious. Still, if there’s a chance to participate in a playoff series, the Kings are unlikely to trade one of their top contributors, and Gay has been just that — the team has a +1.9 net rating when he’s on the court, and a -9.2 rating when he’s not.

If Sacramento explores a trade of Gay, there are a few teams that could be fits. According to various reports, the Magic, Thunder, Pacers, and Rockets are among the clubs that have expressed interest and/or spoken to the Kings about Gay.

What exactly would those teams be willing to give up for Gay? Well, the Magic and Rockets are over the cap, so they’d have to send out plenty of salary to take on Gay’s $13MM+ deal. That could mean starting with Jeff Green ($15MM) or Nikola Vucevic ($11.75MM) for Orlando, though I’m not sure the Kings would be eager to add more frontcourt depth. For Houston, Corey Brewer‘s $7.6MM contract could make sense, but the team would have to sweeten the pot with a young player and/or draft picks. Ditto for the Pacers and Monta Ellis ($10.76MM).

The Thunder have room to take on salary, and have reportedly discussed a deal with the Kings that would have included point guard Cameron Payne. Oklahoma City, which could use an offensive player on the wing to help take some of the scoring load off Russell Westbrook, might be the best fit, but a deal centered around Payne wouldn’t make Sacramento a better team this season.

The Kings are in a tricky spot. The worst-case scenario for the team would be to hang onto Gay, miss the playoffs, then lose him in free agency. But even if keeping the veteran forward results in a postseason berth, it’s hard to view that as a big win for the franchise. As the probable No. 8 seed, the Kings would likely be playing for the right to get swept in the first round by the Warriors.

Acquiring a young player like Payne, who is under contract through 2019, would be a much better long-term outcome than losing Gay for nothing. But we don’t know for sure what the entire hypothetical deal with OKC would look like, or if the Thunder are willing to make such a deal. The Kings are unlikely to get a huge haul for Gay, since potential trade partners will have the same concerns about his looming free agency and will be wary of giving up much for him. But Sacramento still should be reluctant to move the UConn product for 50 cents on the dollar.

For now, there’s no rush for Sacramento to make a move. The trade deadline is nearly two months away, and the standings could look much different by that point. If the Kings are six or seven games out of a playoff spot by then, their decision looks simpler — they should try to get what they can for Gay. If they’re still right in the thick of things, the Kings will be more inclined to keep their second-leading scorer and avoid downgrading their current roster.

What do you think? Should the Kings trade or keep Gay? Weigh in below in the comments section with your thoughts and possible trade ideas.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trade Candidate: Ricky Rubio

In the months leading up to February’s trade deadline, Hoops Rumors will be taking a closer look at several players we consider trade candidates, discussing their value, speculating on potential destinations, and explaining why they are – or should be – available. These players won’t necessarily be dealt in advance of the deadline, but it won’t be surprising if they are.
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Ricky Rubio, PG
Minnesota Timberwolves
2016/17 salary: $13,550,000
Eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2019
Trade restrictions: None

There seems to be an uneasy truce these days between the Timberwolves and their starting point guard. The way that the Timberwolves’ offseason unfolded, it’s somewhat surprising that Ricky Rubio remains their floor leader. It probably won’t be that way much longer, though Rubio has done little to enhance his trade value through the first six weeks of the season.

Once Tom Thibodeau was hired as the head coach and president of basketball operations, Rubio’s exit seemed like a foregone conclusion. Rubio was shopped prior to the draft, as Thibodeau pursued a deal for the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler. One of the reasons that that potential deal fell through was the Chicago wanted Zach LaVine, instead of Rubio, as part of the package.

The Timberwolves wound up with their fallback plan, which was to select the top point guard in the draft to presumably take Rubio’s job. Kris Dunn dropped to the No. 5 spot, which Thibodeau didn’t mind since he was reportedly atop his draft board.

Supposedly, Thibodeau got some offers for Rubio during the summer, but nothing that compelled him to pull the trigger. Eventually, the Timberwolves opted to take a wait-and-see approach, giving Dunn time to acclimate himself to the NBA game while Rubio held the fort as the starter during the early portion of the season.

What’s happened since the season began may not be a worse-case scenario, but it’s pretty close. First, Rubio missed five games with an elbow injury. Upon returning, his play has been substandard while the Timberwolves, who were expected to be one of the most improved teams in the Western Conference, have floundered.

His shooting, never his strong suit anyway, has been woeful. He’s made 34.5% of his field-goal attempts and 22.9% of his 3-point tries. His assists are down to an average of 6.7 per game over 30.6 minutes, though his turnover numbers (1.9) remain respectable. His current 12.1 PER is well below the league average of 15.0.

By comparison, Rubio has averaged at least 8.6 assists per game the past three seasons while playing a comparable amount of minutes.

Perhaps the only reason why Rubio has kept his starting position is that Dunn struggled in the early going himself, though that appears to be changing. According to Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Dunn’s shot looked as good as it has all season on Tuesday, when he made all but one of his field-goal attempts and scored 15 points against the Spurs. Moreover, as Souhan noted, Rubio is the picture of frustration these days whose veteran leadership is being outweighed by his lack of production.

The pairing of Dunn and talented combo guard LaVine as the starting backcourt will probably happen soon. Minnesota also has another recent first-round pick, Tyus Jones, in line to take an expanded reserve role. The only reason to delay the inevitable at this point would be hope Rubio gets into a better groove, which would make it easier to move him.

Rubio’s contract, given the rise in salaries to coincidence with jump in the salary cap, is reasonable. He’s making $13.55MM this season and has two guaranteed years remaining at $14.25MM and $14.95MM, respectively. If another team views Rubio as an upgrade to their current point guard situation, those figures are certainly not prohibitive.

So which teams out there might want a flashy if offensively-challenged point man who at 26 years old should be in his prime? The Kings were reportedly one of his pursuers this summer and their point situation hasn’t improved. Darren Collison is averaging 4.7 assists, compared to 2.2 turnovers, and journeyman Ty Lawson is also getting steady playing time. Sacramento is overloaded with young bigs on its roster and has also been trying to move small forward Rudy Gay, who can become an unrestricted free agent after the season if he opts out.

Which other teams might be a match for Rubio? The Nets, who lead the league in having offer sheets to restricted free agents matched, have been looking to upgrade their roster. Current starter Jeremy Lin has been injured and seems like a short-term fix, anyway, with rookie Isaiah Whitehead behind him.

The suddenly woebegone Mavericks could seek a younger replacement to Deron Williams and the Pelicans might consider such a move, considering Jrue Holiday is oft-injured and heading into the free agent market this summer.

The Sixers, with Sergio Rodriguez currently running the show, could use a heady point guard to feed the ball to their stable of bigs. Another intriguing option might be the Spurs, taking into account Tony Parker‘s mileage and recent injury history. The Hawks chose to hand the controls of their attack to Dennis Schroder but with an offense currently ranked No. 27 in efficiency, they might rethink that plan.

Minnesota could also wait on a contender that suffers a point guard injury — the Grizzlies and Mike Conley already fit that category, though they’re paying Conley way too much to take on a salary like Rubio’s as a fill-in at the same position.

Rubio is undoubtedly a better player than he’s shown this season. In his last two full seasons — he was injured most of the 2014/15 campaign — he had a VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) of 2.3 each time. That translates to approximately six wins per season over a replacement player. Rubio is not only one of the league’s most prolific distributors, he’s typically near the top of the steals categories, generating a couple of easy baskets per game for his club.

What’s apparent is that Rubio is not the long-term starter for Minnesota. By drafting Dunn in the lottery, the Timberwolves basically told Rubio that he was just a placeholder for their preferred option at the point. If Rubio is still wearing their uniform by the end of the season, it will speak more toward his declining trade value than their reluctance to give him a fresh start.

What do you think? Should the Timberwolves trade or keep Rubio? Which team would be the best fit for Rubio? Weigh in below in the comments section with your thoughts and possible trade ideas.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.