Tristan Thompson

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Central Division

Over the course of the 2019/20 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.

Entering the season, the Central Division appeared to feature two contending teams (the Bucks and Pacers) and two more teams with playoff aspirations (the Pistons and Bulls), leaving just one Central club (the Cavaliers) that looked like a lock to be a seller at the trade deadline.

While it’s still possible that will be the case, Cleveland has exceeded expectations in the early going, playing hard for new head coach John Beilein and currently holding the No. 7 seed in the East at 4-5.

As we wait to see whether the Cavs’ early success is sustainable enough to alter their trade-deadline plans, let’s round up a few potential trade candidates from around the division…

Tristan Thompson, C
Cleveland Cavaliers
$18.53MM cap hit; UFA in 2020

One of five Cavaliers veterans on an expiring contract this season, Thompson entered the year looking like a logical trade candidate. After all, he’s a reliable veteran with a championship under his belt, making him a better fit for a contender than a lottery-bound squad.

However, the Cavaliers value Thompson’s locker-room presence and he’s posting some of the best on-court numbers of his career so far in 2019/20. His 16.4 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 2.6 APG, and 1.6 BPG would all be career highs over the course of a full season. A solid rebounder and defender, Thompson spoke last month about wanting to make an All-Defensive team, but he has been better than expected on offense, with Beilein having shown a willingness to run plays through him.

A cynic might say that the Cavaliers are putting Thompson in position to increase his trade value ahead of February’s deadline. Still, it wouldn’t surprise me if the team seriously looks into what it would take to keep him around beyond this season before putting him on the trade block.

Langston Galloway, G
Detroit Pistons
$7.33MM cap hit; UFA in 2020

When the Pistons were trying to find a way to keep both Christian Wood and Joe Johnson on their roster at the start of the regular season, Galloway was said to be among the players the team explored trading. In fact, one report suggested Detroit was “very open” to the idea of moving the veteran guard. However, no deal materialized, presumably because teams didn’t view Galloway as a positive asset.

Like Thompson, however, Galloway is off to a great start to the season, averaging 11.6 PPG on .437/.457/.912 shooting through 11 games (24.2 MPG). While the Pistons may not have expected him to have this significant a role, injuries to Reggie Jackson, Derrick Rose, and Tim Frazier have forced the team’s hand — as has Galloway’s strong play.

Whether or not Galloway re-emerges as a trade candidate may hinge on the Pistons’ ability to remain in the playoff mix in the East. If the club is in position to make a win-now move at the deadline, Galloway’s expiring contract would make a logical salary-matching chip. If not, it may be in the club’s best interest to just let his contract expire at season’s end — unless he plays well enough to gain positive trade value.

Kris Dunn, PG
Chicago Bulls
$5.35MM cap hit; RFA in 2020

Dunn, who has also been the subject of trade rumors before this season, has seen his stock dip drastically since he was acquired by the Bulls in 2017. His offensive numbers this season are especially modest, and his usage rate is down to 15.1 through 10 games, well below the 22.5 mark he posted in his first two years in Chicago.

However, head coach Jim Boylen likes how the former top-five pick has played so far this season, as Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic writes. While he has taken on a more passive role on offense, Dunn has been strong on defense, averaging 2.2 steals in just 20.4 minutes per game. That’s important for a Bulls team that has been up and down on the defensive end so far this season.

Despite a decent start, Dunn could end up back on the trade block within the next few months due to his contract situation and the Bulls’ roster situation. Tomas Satoransky and Ryan Arcidiacono signed three-year contracts with the team in July and Coby White was the seventh overall pick, so Chicago has more invested in its other point guards than in Dunn, who will be a free agent in 2020.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cavaliers Notes: Windler, Veterans, Porter, Beilein

Cavaliers rookie Dylan Windler could be ready for his NBA debut next week, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. The 26th pick in this year’s draft continues to make progress after being sidelined with a stress reaction in his leg. He has been ruled out for the team’s upcoming three-game road trip, which starts Friday, but may be ready for the next home game on November 14.

The Cavs are counting on Windler to add another shooting threat to their lineup, with Jordan Clarkson and Kevin Porter Jr. most likely to lose minutes, Fedor states, noting that Porter still gets lost on defense and slows down the flow of the offense. Cleveland needs a reliable backup for Cedi Osman, and the front office is encouraged by Windler’s performance this summer.

There’s more from Cleveland:

  • Brandon Knight, Tristan ThompsonJohn Henson and Matthew Dellavedova and Clarkson are all veterans on expiring contracts. While the Cavaliers will shop all of them between now and the trade deadline, they will consider long-term deals with whomever who still remains, Fedor adds in the same piece. Management considers all five players to be good for the team culture and accepting of their roles.
  • Porter has expressed regret over the one-game suspension he received for running into an official, Fedor relays in a separate story. It happened during Sunday’s game when Porter bumped into Bill Spooner after not getting a foul call. “He was very contrite, very disappointed in himself,” coach John Beilein said. “I didn’t see the bump (at the time). I just saw him running that way and I turned to talk to the assistants. I didn’t even know about it until (general manager) Koby (Altman) told me.”
  • Celtics coach Brad Stevens marvels at the Cavs’ progress since the teams met twice in the preseason, Fedor writes in another piece. Boston picked up a victory in Cleveland last night, but Stevens believes Beilein has the team headed in the right direction. “I have a lot of respect for him,” Stevens said. “I watched how they’ve even tweaked and changed since we played him in the preseason. He’s just really advanced, he’s very good. Structurally, they’ve changed so much on offense and defense. I feel like they’ve really adjusted too as they’ve gotten back healthy, playing to the strengths of (Kevin) Love, playing to the strengths of Thompson.”

Eastern Notes: Giannis, Raptors, Heat, Thompson

If Giannis Antetokounmpo becomes a free agent during the summer of 2021, the Raptors are likely to be one of his “chief pursuers,” sources tell John Hollinger of The Athletic.

It’s entirely possible that Antetokounmpo won’t even reach the open market, since the Bucks intend to put a super-max extension offer on the table for him next summer as soon as they’re eligible to do so. And even if the star forward does opt for free agency, it’s not as if the Raptors won’t face competition from just about every other team in the NBA.

Still, it makes sense that the Raptors would zero in on Antetokounmpo specifically as they consider future targets. President of basketball operations Masai Ujiri reportedly helped Giannis and his family emigrate from Nigeria to Greece, and tried to trade into the 2013 draft to select him. The Raps haven’t had much luck luring top American-born free agents to Toronto in the past, but might believe they’d have a better shot with an international star like Antetokounmpo, especially now that they have a championship under their belt.

It’s far too early to draw any conclusions about Giannis’ future, but until he re-ups with the Bucks or ends up elsewhere, it’s safe to assume the Raptors will be retaining their 2021 cap flexibility in the hopes he considers them.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Dion Waiters and James Johnson both practiced with the Heat today, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. However, only Johnson will travel to Atlanta with the team, as he has reached his conditioning targets while Waiters hasn’t, per Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (Twitter link). Neither player has suited up for the club yet this season due to conditioning issues.
  • Tristan Thompson, who is in a contract year with the Cavaliers, has never made an All-Defense team, but wants that to change this season, as Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com relays. “I want to guard the best wings and big on every team,” Thompson said. “I want to make their night tough, to gain that respect defensively around the league. [A] goal of mine is to make first team All-Defense. The way you do that is guarding the best players.”
  • Appearing on Big Apple Buckets, the New York Post’s podcast, Charles Oakley suggested that he’s open to trying to bury the hatchet with Knicks ownership after a contentious saga that saw him banned from MSG, writes Greg Joyce of The Post. Oakley also weighed in on how the Knicks should respond to Kevin Durant‘s comments about the team not being “cool.”

Eastern Notes: Carter, Clarkson, Fall, Tyndall

Bulls second-year center Wendell Carter will be the foundation of the team’s defense, Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago writes. Carter will do most of the dirty work, along with being used as an offensive facilitator. The Bulls will rely on him for shot-blocking as well as to mask some of his teammates’ defensive shortcomings, Strotman adds.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Jordan Clarkson and Tristan Thompson are the Cavaliers veterans with the most trade value beyond Kevin Love, according to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Matthew Dellavedova, John Henson and Brandon Knight rank next in terms of trade value, as all have expiring contracts, Fedor notes, but none are core pieces.
  • Celtics rookie center Tacko Fall suffered a mild knee sprain in a collision going up for a block during a workout, Jared Weiss of The Athletic tweets. He’s expected to be sidelined for only a week, Weiss adds. Fall, an undrafted 7’6” center, was signed to an Exhibit 10 contract in July.
  • Donnie Tyndall has officially been named head coach of the Pistons’ G League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Drive, the NBAGL team tweets. The Pistons’ plan to hire Tyndall was first reported in July. Tyndall has spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach with the Raptors 905, helping win a league championship under Jerry Stackhouse in 2017.

Central Notes: Bender, Thompson, Clarkson, Beasley

The Cavaliers decided not to make a stronger play for Dragan Bender because he would have required too much guaranteed money, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Bender signed a two-year, $3.5MM deal with the Bucks last month that includes a partial guarantee of about $600K. Cleveland was hesitant to give that much to a player who wouldn’t have been a sure thing to make the roster.

After being selected with the fourth pick in the 2016 draft, Bender put up three uninspiring years in Phoenix, including averages of 5.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in 46 games last season. He was an unrestricted free agent because the Suns declined his fourth-year option in October.

Instead of giving money to Bender, the Cavs opted for former Clippers guard Sindarius Thornwell, who will come to camp on a non-guaranteed minimum contract. With Cleveland less than $3MM away from the luxury tax line, guaranteeing money for a player like Bender would have been risky.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Tristan Thompson and Jordan Clarkson would have been available for trades earlier this summer, Fedor adds in the same story. Both will be free agents next July, and moving their salaries ($18.5MM for Thompson and $13.4MM for Clarkson) could offer the chance for cap relief. With training camp about six weeks away, Fedor doesn’t expect the Cavaliers to move either player soon, but their names should resurface closer to the February deadline.
  • Michael Beasley‘s agreement with the Pistons is expected to be non-guaranteed, according to Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. Beasley will battle Christian Wood, who was claimed off waivers last month, for the final roster spot. With the signing of Derrick Rose, Detroit has added the top two picks in the 2008 draft this summer.
  • Better ball movement will be an emphasis for the Bulls this year, writes Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago. The team ranked near the bottom of the league last season in assist ratio, effective field goal percentage and several other key offensive categories. Chicago is counting on several offseason additions, such as the signing of Thaddeus Young, to help improve in those areas.

Team Canada Dealing With Depleted Roster

Much has been made of the withdrawals from Team USA by prominent players as it prepares for the FIBA World Cup in China this summer. Team Canada has experienced similar issues.

Canada Basketball unveiled its training camp roster in a press release and many notable names are missing. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Dillon Brooks, Brandon Clarke, Luguentz Dort, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Mfiondu Kabengele, Naz Mitrou-Long, Trey Lyles, Dwight Powell, Marial Shayok, Nik Stauskas, and Tristan Thompson were among the invitees who opted not to participate.

Knicks lottery pick RJ Barrett and Nuggets guard Jamal Murray are on the roster but will only participate in training camp. Barrett is dealing with a mild calf strain, while Murray is nursing an ankle injury, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets.

Among the NBA players who are on the roster and intend to participate in the tournament are Kings guard Cory Joseph, Heat forward Kelly Olynyk, Magic center Khem Birch and Raptors big man Chris Boucher. Toronto’s Nick Nurse is the head coach of the team, which will play seven exhibition games before its FIBA opener against Australia on September 1.

Gordon, McCollum Withdraw From U.S. World Cup Team

Two more potential Team USA players have decided not to participate in the 2019 World Cup. Rockets guard Eric Gordon is withdrawing from the team, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic, and Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum is joining him, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

With James Harden and Anthony Davis pulling out of the competition earlier this week, Team USA is now left with 16 players in training camp who will compete for 12 spots. The withdrawing players all said they want to focus on the upcoming season rather than the tournament, which will be held in China from August 31 to September 15. NBA training camps open in late September.

One of those remaining players, Kyle Lowry, had a surgical procedure on his thumb this week, and may not be physically ready to participate. His potential absence, plus the withdrawal of the four stars, should create more opportunity for members of the select team, who will be scrimmaging with the 16 players left in camp.

The players will gather for camp from August 5-8, and exhibition games will follow later in the month.

Canada’s World Cup team also lost an NBA player this week when Tristan Thompson elected not to participate, Charania tweets. In addition, Ben Simmons confirmed that he won’t be taking the court for Australia.

And-Ones: Paul, Sylla, Tampering, Canada

In an interesting piece regarding Chris Paul‘s role as the head of the NBA Players Union, Tom Ziller of SB Nation opines that Paul’s reported insistence and hand in incorporating the Over-38 Rule into the 2017 CBA has now ironically landed him with one the most untradeable contracts in the NBA.

Paul, who is admittedly now under contract to make more money because of the rule change, is also stuck on the Thunder, a non-contending team, with no real way out until later this year when the latest crop of free agents become trade eligible.

Ultimately, Ziller opines that the tradeoff (non-contending team vs. an extra $45MM) was worth it for Paul, but wonders whether CP3, as union president, sacrificed the good of many (mid-level earners) for the benefit of few.

We have more odds and ends to report from around the basketball world:

  • Amar Sylla, the No. 23 prospect for the 2020 NBA Draft, has signed a three-year contract containing NBA out clauses with Belgian league champions BC Oostende, reports Jonathan Givony of ESPN.
  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer writes that many executives believe the penalty for tampering needs to be harsher, including the removal of first-round picks or even as severe as being barred from trading any picks for some amount of years in addition to the loss of picks. “Basketball operations needs to get hit the hardest, not an owner’s wallets,” said another executive.
  • Canada Basketball has announced the 29 players invited to attend the Senior Men’s National Team training camp ahead of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019. The list includes R.J. Barrett, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Cory Joseph, Jamal Murray, and Tristan Thompson.

Windhorst’s Latest: Beal, Teague, Dragic, Covington, More

After a star-studded group of free agents hit the open market this summer, 2020’s free agent class isn’t expected to nearly as impressive, so front offices expect trades to “take center stage” over the next year, writes ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

According to Windhorst, Bradley Beal‘s name is the one that keeps coming up when executives around the NBA discuss potential trade candidates, since the Wizards are facing a possible rebuilding – or at least retooling – process. However, sources tell Windhorst that Washington’s front office continues to resist inquiries on its All-Star shooting guard.

Here’s more from Windhorst’s article about possible trade targets from around the league:

  • Jeff Teague (Timberwolves) and Goran Dragic (Heat), two veteran point guards on expiring $19MM contracts, were recently discussed in possible deals, Windhorst confirms. Since Minnesota missed out on D’Angelo Russell and Miami found another way to complete its Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade, Teague and Dragic may end up staying put. Neither the Wolves nor the Heat are especially deep at the point guard spot, so if either club deals its veteran guard, it would need to line up another option at the position, Windhorst notes.
  • The Timberwolves were dangling Robert Covington in an effort to move up in the draft, but eventually dealt Dario Saric instead. Still, league executives wouldn’t be surprised if Covington is back on the trade market at some point in 2019/20, says Windhorst.
  • Windhorst is skeptical that the Grizzlies will be able to get a real asset in return for Andre Iguodala, suggesting that Memphis’ efforts to trade him may still eventually lead to a buyout.
  • The Cavaliers will likely try to move Tristan Thompson or John Henson by the trade deadline, according to Windhorst. Both big men are on expiring deals, with Thompson owed $18.5MM while Henson will make $10.5MM.

Cavs Notes: Smith, Coaching Search, Expiring Deals, Draft

Cavaliers GM Koby Altman told reporters Friday that he has already been contacted by a team interested in trading for J.R. Smith, relays Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The interest isn’t so much in Smith as a player – he parted ways with the team in November and only appeared in 11 games this season – but in his contract, which is valued at $14.72MM but carries only a $3.87MM guarantee.

[RELATED: Why J.R. Smith May (Or May Not) Be A Valuable Offseason Trade Chip]

A team looking to unload salary could deal for Smith and be on the hook for just $1.29MM annually if he is waived and stretched over three seasons. The Cavaliers showed a willingness this year to take on unwanted contracts in exchange for draft picks, trading for Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss, Matthew Dellavedova and Nik Stauskas.

“We are actually the only team in the NBA that can provide guaranteed cap relief from teams or salary relief until July 1,” Altman said. “We can guarantee that right now and we actually had a phone call yesterday on that (Smith) trade chip, so, we’re going to keep on being aggressive adding those assets because we do eventually want to consolidate and be really good at some point.”

There’s more from Cleveland, all courtesy of Vardon:

  • Altman promised an “open-minded” approach to the team’s coaching search and brought up the possibility of making history by hiring a woman for the job. Though he couldn’t mention her by name because she’s under contract, Spurs assistant Becky Hammon is an obvious candidate if Altman wants a female coach. Hammon interviewed for the Bucks’ head-coaching job last year, ran the Spurs’ summer league team and has a player development background, which Vardon states is important to the Cavaliers.
  • Other coaching possibilities that Cavs players mentioned to Vardon include the Nets’ Bret Brielmaier, the Mavericks’ Jamahl Mosley and the Trail Blazers’ Nate Tibbetts. All three have previous experience in Cleveland. Altman said interviews will begin soon with candidates whose teams aren’t in the playoffs.
  • The Cavaliers believe their expiring contracts for next season might generate some interest on the trade market this summer. Knight and Dellavedova will both be free agents in 2020, along with John Henson, Jordan Clarkson and Tristan Thompson.
  • Cleveland won a tiebreaker with the Suns for second place in the draft order heading into next month’s lottery. If they Cavs do wind up with the No. 2 pick, Vardon notes, their view of what type of player Collin Sexton will develop into may determine whether they opt for a point guard in Ja Morant or a wing player in R.J. Barrett.