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Community Shootaround: Trading Marc Gasol

A disastrous season in Memphis got even worse today with the announcement that Mike Conley will have heel surgery and miss the rest of the season. Conley appeared in just 12 games this year and hasn’t been on the court since mid-November.

It’s the latest in a long string of bad news for the Grizzlies, who are 17-31 and mired in 12th place in the Western Conference. Memphis is seven games out of a playoff spot, but only three games from the top in our latest Reverse Standings, which means a high lottery pick could be in the cards for a franchise whose roster got very old while making seven straight playoff appearances.

If the Grizzlies are ready to rebuild, one obvious place to start is with Marc Gasol. The veteran center, who will turn 33 on Monday, is having a typically productive year, averaging 18.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 47 games. He’s a three-time All-Star and probably would have received more consideration this season if Memphis were higher in the standings.

The Grizzlies’ front office continues to say it plans to hang on to Gasol, but the team’s financial situation may force a move. Memphis has three gigantic contracts on its books in Gasol, Conley and Chandler Parsons, and if all three remain, the team won’t have significant cap space until the summer of 2020.

Conley probably has three seasons left on the record-setting contract he signed in the summer of 2016. He will make more than $30.5MM next season, more than $32.5MM in 2019/20 and has a player option worth more than $34.5MM in 2020/21. Parsons, who has only played 26 games this season, still has two more years and more than $49.2MM left on his deal. Gasol is owed nearly $24.12MM next season with a player option for nearly $25.6MM in 2019/20. Conley won’t be dealt because of the surgery, and Parsons’ injury history makes his contract among the most untradable in the league. So that leaves Gasol.

In addition to giving themselves some cap flexibility, the Grizzlies should be able to get a nice package of young talent and draft picks in return. The Cavaliers and Bucks have been tied to trade rumors involving DeAndre Jordan, and both would surely be interested in Gasol. The Celtics, among others, could also get involved.

We want to hear from you. Should the Grizzlies start the rebuilding process by trading Gasol, and what should they ask for in return? Jump into the comments section below and give us your opinion.

Warriors Notes: Curry, Looney, Bell, Young, McGee

Stephen Curry is a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and his shooting ability is one of the main reasons why. He obliterated his own record for made three-pointers during his unanimous MVP season two years ago, but he is actually having a better season from a shooting perspective in 2017/18.

Micah Adams of ESPN breaks down Curry’s field-goal selection and how the 29-year-old is compensating for shooting a lower percentage from beyond the arc compared to his 2015/16 season by taking better overall shots. Instead, Curry’s field-goal percentage (49.5%) and free-throw percentage (91.8%) are among the best totals he has posted in a season.

All told, the Warriors‘ point guard has averaged 27.7 PPG, 6.5 APG, and 5.3 RPG in 31 contests this year. Curry missed 11 games earlier in the sesason due to an ankle sprain.

Check out other news from the Warriors organization below:

Northwest Notes: T. Jones, Mitchell, Jefferson, Huestis

Timberwolves point guard Tyus Jones played well when Jeff Teague was sidelined with a sprained knee ligament, but there’s no thought about making him the starter, relays Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Jones ranks in the top five in the league in assists and steals per turnover and is number one in defensive real plus-minus. Still, coach Tom Thibodeau trusts Teague, who was one of Minnesota’s prize offseason additions, and won’t consider a change.

“Jeff has been around a long time, and Jeff has done a lot of winning,” Thibodeau said. “That’s probably the most important thing.”

There’s more today from the Northwest Division:

  • Rookie guard Donovan Mitchell has become the MVP for the Jazz in a difficult season, according to Mike Sorensen of The Deseret News. The 13th overall pick is leading all rookies in scoring at 18.8 points per game and has four 30-point performances already. Utah was focused primarily on Mitchell’s defensive prowess when it acquired him in a draft-night trade with the Nuggets, so the scoring has been a pleasant surprise. In his other midseason ratings, Sorensen picks Ricky Rubio as the team’s most disappointing player and Royce O’Neale as the most pleasant surprise.
  • The Nuggets plan to use veteran forward Richard Jefferson as part of their rotation for the rest of the season, tweets Chris Dempsey of Altitude Sports. Coach Michael Malone said he wants to see “what we have” in the 37-year-old, who has been playing about eight minutes per night and is averaging 1.6 points through 13 games.
  • After spending most of his first two seasons in the G League, Josh Huestis may have found a role with the Thunder, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. Terrance Ferguson has taken over as the starting shooting guard with Andre Roberson injured, but coach Billy Donovan has turned to Huestis as a late-game defensive stopper. Huestis, who played just seven combined NBA games during his first two years in the league, is enjoying the opportunity. “It comes down to defense,” he said.

Pistons Notes: Van Gundy, Jackson, Leuer, Moreland

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.”

Hoops Rumors Originals: 12/30/17 – 1/6/18

Every week, even during the holidays, we at Hoops Rumors strive to create interesting original content to complement our news feed. Below are our original segments and features from the last 7 days:

Southwest Notes: Conley, Hill, Anderson, Kleber

Mike Conley is making progress with his injured left heel and Achilles and should return in two to three weeks, according to a story on the Grizzlies’ website. The point guard has responded well to therapy and treatment to promote healing, the team says.

No timetable was set for Conley’s return when he first suffered the injury in mid-November. Memphis has gone 0-6 without Conley to fall into 12th place in the Western Conference and fired coach David Fizdale on Monday.

There’s more news from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans forward Solomon Hill is improving after surgery in August for a torn hamstring, tweets Scott Kushner of The Advocate. Coach Alvin Gentry told reporters tonight that Hill is a “little bit ahead of schedule” in the rehab process. “We talk to him and communicate with him to try to see what’s going on,” Gentry said. “But it’s just a time injury. You can’t work harder to come back quicker.” Hill was mainly a starter for New Orleans last season, averaging 7.0 points and 3.8 rebounds in 80 games.
  • Spurs swingman Kyle Anderson will be in a strong position when he enters free agency next summer, writes Michael C. Wright of ESPN. With Kawhi Leonard sidelined since preseason, Anderson has stepped into the starting lineup and has impressed San Antonio’s front office with his performance, averaging career highs in points (9.2), rebounds (6.3) and assists (3.2) through 20 games. “Free agency happens this coming July, and he’ll be in a better position because of the way he’s played,” Spurs GM R.C. Buford said. “We’ll be in a better position because we know the role that he can fill with the team that we have. We’ll evaluate Kyle’s free agency as a part of the whole team, but he’s clearly put himself in a position to be respected in free agency.”
  • Rookie Maxi Kleber is getting some of the credit for the Mavericks‘ improved performance over their past six games, relays Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. After a terrible start, Dallas has gone 3-3 since moving Kleber into the starting lineup. “Kleber’s given us a lot more flexibility defensively,” said coach Rick Carlisle. “He’s been one of our better defenders. When you add a guy like that, that can guard people individually and can switch liberally and keep little guys in front of him, that helps.”

Southeast Notes: Isaac, Vogel, Olynyk, Monk

Magic forward Jonathan Isaac is missing his fifth straight game tonight with a sprained ankle, but the team hopes to have him back by the end of its current road trip, writes Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. The sixth player take in this year’s draft, Isaac has averaged 6.1 points and 4.4 rebounds in his first 12 NBA games. At 6’10”, he is tall and versatile enough to defend several positions.

“You hate to say you’re missing a 20-year-old rookie, but we are,” Magic coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s a dynamic player, especially on the defensive end, and he’s missed. But every single team in the league has got guys out.” Orlando is starting a four-game road trip tonight that will run through Monday.

There’s more news from the Southeast Division:

  • Vogel considered making a lineup change, but decided to keep the same starting five for tonight to allow his point guards to get more comfortable in their return from injuries, Robbins adds in the same story. Elfrid Payton and D.J. Augustin both missed time with hamstring problems, with Payton coming back November 13 and Augustin returning Saturday. “[We’re] staying the course right now,” Vogel said. “I think we’re still dealing with not having been at full strength and we’re trying to keep guys in their roles while we try to achieve that.”
  • Pat Riley’s decisions to bring back most of last season’s roster and use future cap room on a small number of players aren’t working out so far, writes Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald. Miami is off to a 7-9 start and there are concerns that the current roster doesn’t fit well together. The problems have been particularly acute in the second half of games, where the Heat rank last in the league in scoring, field goal percentage and 3-point shooting. The worst move of the offseason appears to be the four-year, $50 million deal for Kelly Olynyk, who at 18.4 minutes per game is playing less than in any of his four seasons in Boston.
  • Hornets coach Steve Clifford believes the lack of a team “identity” contributed to a recent six-game losing streak, relays Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Charlotte snapped that slide Saturday as Clifford juggled the rotation, which included benching rookie guard Malik Monk for the first time this season. “You lose six in a row and the defense has been bad,” Clifford explained. “It’s not Malik’s fault, it’s just his position; [Michael Carter-Williams is] a difference-maker defensively.”

Community Shootaround: Pistons’ Fast Start

Veteran power forward Anthony Tolliver knows that the Pistons’ 7-3 start doesn’t mean much in the long run.

“It’s part of 82 games. We’ve got to keep doing it,” he said. “Just one game at a time and don’t get ahead of ourselves. Don’t get too confident, but also using this confidence knowing that whoever we play against we have a chance and we can win and we can beat anybody.”

Suffice to say, though, that no one predicted Detroit would lead the Cavaliers by three games in the standings at any point this season. The Pistons, who are off to their best 10-game beginning since 2008, have only qualified for the playoffs once in the last eight seasons. Cleveland will eventually get its act together but there are signs that the Pistons’ start is not a fluke.

They have posted some quality wins and shown the ability to erase double-digit deficits. That included a road triumph against the Warriors, even though the Pistons were playing the second end of a back-to-back.

Center Andre Drummond, their franchise player, has returned with a renewed focus and looks like an All-Star again after a subpar season. He’s even making his free throws (75%).

Point guard Reggie Jackson, slowed by a knee injury a year ago, looks healthy and is running the offense efficiently (3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio). Tobias Harris is shooting with confidence from the perimeter, averaging nearly 20 PPG, while Stanley Johnson has provided a defensive presence at small forward.

Detroit’s major offseason acquisition, Avery Bradley, has impacted the team at both ends. The shooting guard’s tenacious defense has rubbed off on his new teammates and his steady offensive output has been a major upgrade over the inconsistent player he replaced, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Coach Stan Van Gundy has so many solid bench options that he’s struggling to decide who should be in the rotation.

Of course, things could change in a hurry, as the Pistons don’t have the talent to beat many teams unless they’re at their best. They proved that with a road loss to the Lakers and a home loss to the Sixers.

They also have no viable options if Drummond suffers a significant injury. They lost Aron Baynes in free agency and are using power forward Jon Leuer and a summer-league addition, Eric Moreland, as his backups.

This brings us to our question of the day: Will the Pistons make the playoffs this season or is their quick start a mirage?

Please weigh in on this topic in the comments section. We look forward to what you have to say.

Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Bledsoe, Kanter

Frank Ntilikina, who remains out of the lineup with a sprained ankle hears his name in the Eric Bledsoe trade rumors, but it’s not something he’s worried about, as Al Iannazzone of News Day relays. The No. 8 overall pick said it was “nice” that the Suns have interest in him, but his focus remains on getting healthy.

The Knicks spoke to the Suns about Bledsoe after Phoenix made it clear that it was shopping the point guard. GM Ryan McDonough apparently wants Ntilikina and Willy Hernangomez for the Kentucky product, but Iannazzone hears that neither player is on the table at the moment in a Bledsoe talks. While whispers of Ntilikina being off-limits are circulating, the team hasn’t told the French point guard that he won’t be dealt.

“Not really. No,” Ntilikina said. “I’m focused on basketball and on how I can make my ankle be better and my game be better so I can be back on the court.”

There’s more the New York:

  • The Knicks have “gone out of their way” to include Ntilikina and Hernagomez when discussing their cornerstone players Iannazzone notes (same piece). The scribe can’t envision the team dealing either player away for Bledsoe unless Phoenix is willing to take on long-term money, like the contracts of Joakim Noah or Courtney Lee.
  • New York will have to address its surplus of centers at some point in the future, Iannazzone adds. Hernangomez is currently out of the rotation as he watched Kyle O’Quinn and Enes Kanter gobble up the minutes at the five. Joakim Noah will only be suspended nine more games after tonight’s tilt against the Nets and Kristaps Porzingis could use additional minutes at the center position.
  • Kanter, who arrived in New York via the Carmelo Anthony deal, has played well in his first two games with the club, scoring a total of 27 points in 46 minutes. The big man has also developed on-court chemistry with Porzingiz. However, Fred Kerber of the New York Post wonders if Kanter’s presence is hurting the team long-term, as the franchise may be better served to give Hernangomez more opportunities.

Lottery Notes: Player Movement, The Wheel, Value

The recently announced lottery changes will have an impact on tanking but it may be a minor one, Zach Lowe of ESPN writes. To fully rid the league of intentional losing, far more aggressive steps would need to be taken.

Essentially, Lowe writes, increasing the freedom of movement that players have could be fair but doing so could come in several drastic forms from cutting the length of rookie contracts to trashing the max salary. Those, of course, could come with their own set of negative consequences and may not necessarily be worth it.

The current reform, said to be an incremental step, will dissuade terrible teams from shamelessly losing games late in the season but it may hurt small market teams if it impedes them drafting stars. Without access to drafting those stars, the smaller market franchises would have an even tougher time trying to lure free agents.

There’s more regarding the lottery reform:

  • The NBA’s new lottery rules don’t do enough to deter tanking, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes. The scribe suggests that teams will still lose games on purposes, regardless of the new flattened odds, because getting a pick “anywhere near the top” is sufficient. He advocates for The Wheel as an alternative.
  • The new lottery changes will do nothing to stop tanking, a Cleveland.com report suggests. Teams will still compete to be one of the three-worst clubs since they now have an equal shot at landing the top pick.
  • Using a combination of probabilities and the estimated value each pick in 2019 lottery might have in addition to their salary, Kevin Pelton of ESPN makes a case for small market teams actually benefiting from the lottery reform. Pelton says that an under-discussed component of picking high in the draft is the salary that rookies are owed under the new CBA.
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