Willie Cauley-Stein

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Pacific 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.

Even as the Warriors have fallen off a cliff this season due to injuries and offseason roster changes, the Pacific has remained one of the more competitive divisions in basketball.

The Lakers and Clippers are among the NBA’s best teams and look like legit championship contenders. The Suns and Kings aren’t in that tier, but they’re currently neck-and-neck for the No. 8 seed in the West. It’s possible there could be as many as four buyers in the division at the trade deadline.

After having initially looked last month at three potential trade candidates in the Pacific, we’re singling out three more today. Let’s dive in…

Trevor Ariza, F
Sacramento Kings
$12.2MM cap hit; $1.8MM of $12.8MM salary guaranteed for 2020/21

Ariza has bounced around the league since leaving Houston during the 2018 offseason, playing for the Suns, Wizards, and Kings since then. None of those teams has been a perfect fit for the veteran forward, who has only logged 32 total minutes for Sacramento since November 8 due to a combination of personal reasons, a groin injury, and general ineffectiveness.

The Kings will have a crowded frontcourt rotation when Marvin Bagley III returns, so it’s unclear whether or not Ariza will have an opportunity to play regular, consistent minutes all season. That could make him expendable.

Since Sacramento is a young team pushing for a playoff team, the front office may decide it’s worth keeping Ariza around for his veteran leadership and for depth purposes — especially if he continues his up-and-down play and doesn’t have much value on the trade market. But it’s not a lock that he’s still on the Kings’ roster by February 7.

Willie Cauley-Stein, C
Golden State Warriors
$2.2MM cap hit; $2.3MM player option for 2020/21

Cauley-Stein could have received a more lucrative deal with another team, but opted to join the Warriors for a chance to play with a contender. Unfortunately, that plan has backfired, as Golden State’s 4-18 record puts the club in the running for the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft, not a title.

In addition to being a down year for the Warriors, it’s been a bit of a slow start for Cauley-Stein, whose scoring average is down to just 7.5 PPG. Still, he has started 18 games at center for the Warriors and is blocking a career-best 1.2 shots per contest. No contender would target him as a potential starter, but he could have some value as a backup option.

If the Warriors believe Cauley-Stein will likely opt out at season’s end and return to the open market, it makes sense to see if they can get anything for him this season. His minimum-salary contract can be dealt without taking any salary back and he could be replaced with a smaller minimum-salary cap hit, freeing up some much-needed flexibility for the Dubs under their hard cap.

Maurice Harkless, F
Los Angeles Clippers
$11MM cap hit; UFA in 2020

Harkless, acquired by the Clippers in one of my favorite moves of the summer, has been starting games and playing consistent minutes for a title contender despite being viewed as a salary dump five months ago. It’s still hard to believe that the Clips were able to acquire a first-round pick in the deal that netted them Harkless, who is shooting a career-best 51.0% with a 37.9% three-point rate so far.

As a reliable three-and-D option for the Clippers, Harkless probably isn’t on the trade block. However, he’s also the only mid-level type player on the roster who would realistically be expendable if L.A. wanted to acquire another piece.

Lou Williams ($8MM) and Montrezl Harrell ($6MM) aren’t going anywhere, and it seems relatively safe to assume Patrick Beverley ($12.3MM) and Ivica Zubac ($6.5MM) aren’t either. That leaves Harkless as the only other player on the books with a cap hit between $5MM and 32MM. Throw in the fact that he’s on an expiring contract and he’s the most logical salary-matching piece the Clippers have.

Of course, there’s a decent chance the Clippers simply stand pat at the deadline and hope that possible reinforcements emerge in the following weeks on the buyout market. In that scenario, Harkless is a good bet to finish the season with the club.

Revisit the rest of our 2019/20 Trade Candidate series right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hollinger’s Latest: Blazers, Warriors, Load Management

There hasn’t been an NBA trade since mid-July but the Trail Blazers appear to be a prime candidate to make a deal, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. Zach Collins‘ shoulder injury, which is expected to cost him most of the season, creates an even bigger need at an already thin position. Journeyman Anthony Tolliver is the only true power forward remaining on the roster, Hollinger notes. The Blazers could also use another small forward in their rotation.

Portland has some desirable assets, including expiring contracts, young players and draft picks, in order to upgrade its forward spots. One offshoot of the Collins injury that the Blazers are playing with smaller, faster lineups and that could prove beneficial.

There’s more from Hollinger:

  • The Warriors may trade one of their free agent additions on expiring contracts in order to add one of their two-way players to the 15-man roster. Golden State is pushed up against the hard cap and could free some money by dealing center Willie Cauley-Stein or guard Alec Burks. Any potential deal involving a free agent signed this summer can’t happen until mid-December.
  • Waiving Marquese Chriss‘ non-guaranteed deal is also a strong possibility for Golden State, considering Chriss has already had his role reduced after a strong preseason. The Warriors have already used up eight of the 45 days on the service clock of two-way players Damion Lee and Ky Bowman and can’t convert either to a standard contract unless they make another move.
  • People who criticize load management fail to realize that the modern game is much more taxing on players’ bodies than in past decades, Hollinger writes. The goal is to maximize the number of high-quality games the player can play and that makes it a sound strategy.

Warriors Notes: Future, Russell, Green, Looney

No matter how poorly this season turns out for the Warriors, the franchise is in good position for the future, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Golden State has seen a nightmarish run of injuries dating back to last year’s NBA Finals, and while none of the currently active players were on the roster last season, the situation gives the front office time to assess what they have before trying to jump back into title contention in 2020/21.

Windhorst notes that Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are all in the prime of their careers and are under long-term contracts. In addition, the first-round pick the Warriors owe Brooklyn in 2020 is top-20 protected and seems in no danger of conveying. It could wind up high in the lottery and provide another building block for the future. Also, Golden State holds a $17MM trade exception from the Andre Iguodala deal that doesn’t expire until July 7, and the franchise has the top source of revenue in the league thanks to a new arena.

The team also has a prime trade asset in D’Angelo Russell, who becomes eligible to be dealt on December 15. Windhorst believes the Warriors can get another first-round pick and at least a role player for Russell, who is in position to be showcased once he returns from an ankle injury. He adds that if no deal can be reached by the trade deadline, Russell should keep his trade value for the summer.

Willie Cauley-Stein and Alec Burks, who signed with Golden State expecting to be part of a playoff team, suddenly look like valuable trade assets as well, Windhorst adds.

There’s more Warriors news to pass along:

  • Golden State started three rookies for the third consecutive game tonight, and coach Steve Kerr told Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle that the immediate focus will be on player development. “While we have guys out, we have to try to bring along our young players, help them develop and give them every opportunity to develop into rotation players, maybe even starters,” Kerr said. “If we can do that, that makes this a successful season or half season, however long it is. And we have a leg up when guys get healthy again.”
  • Green, who has a torn ligament in his left index finger, didn’t accompany the team on its current road trip, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. He won’t return to action until Monday at the earliest.
  • The Warriors are encouraged by the latest tests on Kevon Looney, who is undergoing treatment for a neuropathic condition, Slater adds (Twitter link). The team believes he will be able to play again this season, but he has been ruled out for the next two weeks.

Southeast Notes: Cauley-Stein, Hornets, Hawks, Magic

In an interesting, in-depth profile of Willie Cauley-Stein for The San Francisco Chronicle, Connor Letourneau notes that the Hornets presented the free agent big man with a $9MM offer during the summer before he opted to sign a minimum-salary contract with the Warriors.

Letourneau mentions the Hornets’ offer in passing and doesn’t provide any additional details on the timing or structure. Charlotte had its full mid-level exception available this offseason and theoretically could have offered Cauley-Stein $9MM for one year, or per year, though it would be surprising if he turned down such a proposal. A two-year deal in that range seems more realistic, but that’s just my speculation.

Either way, Cauley-Stein passed on the offer, which has helped open the door for Cody Zeller to take on a more prominent role in the Hornets’ frontcourt. As Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes, Zeller has suddenly become a cornerstone for the franchise, averaging career highs in PPG (12.8) and RPG (10.5) so far this season. After missing 82 games over the last two years, Zeller says he feels great, while James Borrego suggests the big man is crucial to Charlotte’s offensive attack.

“We want to play through him,” the Hornets’ head coach said. “Cody allows us to play a number of ways, especially with pace. He’s a great runner. He starts our offense in transition. And he has to play-make for us — on and off the ball. He’s been primarily a screener over the years. Right now, I want the ball in his hands at the top of the (key) in DHO (dribble-handoffs).”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • In the wake of John Collins‘ 25-game suspension, Hawks president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk issued a statement saying the team believes that the big man “is truly remorseful for his actions.” Meanwhile, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic explores what the suspension means for the Hawks, who will start Jabari Parker in Collins’ place.
  • A strong second-half run buoyed the Magic into a playoff spot last season, but they haven’t been able to carry that momentum over to the start of the 2019/20 campaign so far. John Hollinger of The Athletic digs into what’s next for Orlando as the team tries to increase its ceiling.
  • Wizards guard Jordan McRae, who broke his finger on opening night last month, is anxious to return, as Candace Buckner of The Washington Post relays (Twitter links). I’d like to play tonight. I think I’m ready,” McRae said. “… I can’t wait six weeks. It’s a finger, I mean, granted, it is broken, but… I feel like I owe it to my team to play through a little pain.”

Cauley-Stein, Burks To Make Warriors Debuts

The Warriors will add some much-needed depth to their rotation on Wednesday night, with center Willie Cauley-Stein and swingman Alec Burks on track to make their season debuts vs. Phoenix, according to Nick Friedell of ESPN.com.

Cauley-Stein and Burks both signed with Golden State as free agents this summer, but haven’t been able to suit up for the team so far. Cauley-Stein missed all of training camp and the first three regular season games due to a left foot injury, while Burks was recovering from a right ankle sprain.

With Kevon Looney and Klay Thompson sidelined and a hard cap preventing them from adding a 15th player, the Warriors have had to play rookies like Eric Paschall and Jordan Poole big minutes in their first three games. Cauley-Stein and Burks figure to cut into those minutes, assuming they show they’re up to speed.

After getting blown out in their first two games, the Warriors got in the win column on Monday vs. the Pelicans. Cauley-Stein is hopeful that the team can continue to right the ship as more players get healthy and the new additions get acclimated.

“[Draymond Green] already said it, it’s going to take a few games for us to jell,” Cauley-Stein said, per Friedell. “Especially now that me and Alec, this is our first game to get minutes and stuff. For us to really jell, it’s going to take a few games for us to get that pace of how we’re playing. They’re playing extremely fast right now watching, so it’s like a lot of fast-paced learning.”

Kevon Looney Dealing With Neuropathic Condition

The Warriors have announced that center Kevon Looney won’t play during their upcoming road trip, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Looney will see a specialist to diagnose a neuropathic condition, which involves pain that results from an injury to the nervous system.

Coach Steve Kerr said it’s a problem Looney has been experiencing for a couple of years, and it was responsible for hamstring issues that sidelined him for much of the preseason and forced him out of Thursday’s season opener (Twitter link). Looney started the game, but was only able to play 10 minutes before exiting.

Looney is coming off his best NBA season, appearing in 80 games a year ago and averaging 6.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per night. He was being counted on to team with Willie Cauley-Stein to fill the gap at center after free agency losses, but both players have been slowed by injuries.

Cauley-Stein, who missed the entire preseason with a strained left foot, is getting closer to returning, Slater adds (Twitter link). He also won’t play on the road trip, but was able to work out today at the team’s G League facility in Santa Cruz.

Warriors Notes: Curry, Looney, Chriss, Hard Cap

Stephen Curry hasn’t given up on the championship dream with the Warriors this season despite the loss of Kevin Durant and long-term injury to Klay Thompson, as he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

“A championship is still the goal,” Curry said. “It’s always been. We’ve experienced it all and we’re going to keep pushing to get back there. That’s the goal. It’s the North Star. The narrative might have changed internally, but we’re still chasing the same goal.”

We have more on the Warriors:

  • Frontcourt injuries have made for a difficult preseason, Anthony Slater of The Athletic notes. The Warriors have gone most of the preseason without Willie Cauley-Stein and Kevon Looney and their absences have shown in preseason losses to the Lakers. “We need to get healthy,” coach Steve Kerr said. “You have to have rim protection in this league.” Kerr is hopeful that Looney, who has been sidelined by a hamstring injury, can return for the season opener, Slater tweets.
  • The team is now technically $375K under the hard cap after deciding to waive Alfonzo McKinnie and retaining Marquese Chriss, salary cap expert Albert Nahmad tweets. However, since Chriss’ contract doesn’t become fully guaranteed until January 10th, the Warriors are essentially $2MM below the hard cap with Chriss’ deal counting $9,485 daily until that deadline, Nahmad adds.
  • Draymond Green ripped the Suns’ organization for mishandling Chriss during his time there, Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. Chriss was the eighth overall pick in 2016 but lasted just two seasons in Phoenix. “No one ever blames these (lousy) franchises. They always want to blame the kid. It’s not always the kid’s fault,” Green said.

Myers: Warriors Will Provide Klay Thompson Update At All-Star Break

After tearing his ACL during the NBA Finals in the spring, Klay Thompson has expressed doubt that he’ll be back on the court for the Warriors before the All-Star break. Speaking today to reporters, Golden State’s president of basketball operations Bob Myers confirmed as much.

He’s doing fine,” Myers said of Thompson. “We’ll have an update on him at the All-Star break.”

Assuming Thompson’s rehab process doesn’t unexpectedly speed up in the coming months, the earliest he might return would be February 20, the Warriors’ first game after the All-Star break. That would be the team’s 56th game of the season.

Of course, based on Myers’ comment that the Warriors won’t even provide an update on their All-Star sharpshooter until mid-February, it’s also possible that his return date will come even later than that.

As we wait to see how Thompson’s recovery progresses, here are a few more Warriors notes from Media Day:

  • Willie Cauley-Stein suffered a strained left foot during a recent workout and will miss training camp, Myers said today (Twitter link via Anthony Slater of The Athletic). Head coach Steve Kerr acknowledged that Kevon Looney now looks like the probable starter at center to open the season.I had big plans for Looney anyway,” Kerr said (Twitter link via Slater).
  • Myers said that there are no plans to put Stephen Curry on a minutes limit or to have him sit out games this season for load management reasons (Twitter link via Friedell). Still, the Warriors will keep an eye on the former MVP’s minutes as the seasons unfolds.
  • Kerr said he intends to stagger Curry’s and D’Angelo Russell‘s minutes to some extent this season to help balance the Warriors’ offense (Twitter link via Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated).
  • Myers admitted that it will be hard to make any changes to Golden State’s roster this season due to the team’s hard cap (Twitter link via Mark Medina of USA Today).

Western Notes: McKinnie, Cauley-Stein, Silva, Grant

Willie Cauley-Stein will likely start at center for the Warriors but Kevon Looney will probably play more crunch-time minutes, Anthony Slater of The Athletic opines. Alfonzo McKinnie may get the nod at small forward with Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III in reserve, since McKinnie is a high energy player who should mesh well with the backcourt of Stephen Curry and D’Angelo Russell, Slater continues. However, rookie Eric Paschall is a darkhorse candidate to play down the stretch due to his versatility, Slater adds.

We have from the Western Conference:

  • The Warriors preferred Cauley-Stein to DeMarcus Cousins even before Cousins committed to the Lakers, Slater writes in the same mailbag story. Cauley-Stein provided a younger option who better fit their new priorities, according to Slater. However, they never really had a decision to make because they were hard-capped after the sign-and-trade for Russell with the Nets was agreed upon. The hard cap meant the Warriors couldn’t give Cousins a max raise up to $6.4MM, Slater notes. Cauley-Stein agreed to join the Warriors on a two-year contract on July 2 and officially signed on July 8.
  • Pelicans draft-and-stash prospect Marcos Louzada Silva – aka Didi Louzada — has developed a solid perimeter jumper that should translate well to the NBA game, according to a Heavy.com story. The 6’5” guard can also attack the rim and has shown good strides in his development in recent months. Louzada, the 35th overall pick in June who was acquired in a draft-day deal, will play in Australia with the Sydney Kings during the upcoming season.
  • Jerami Grant should be an ideal frontcourt complement to Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, Nick Kosmider of The Athletic opines. Grant, projected as the top big off the bench, is a nimble perimeter defender who can guard ball-handlers. Grant, acquired from the Thunder for a protected first-round pick, is also a solid help defender who can block shots.
  • Jared Cunningham will work out for the Warriors on Tuesday, Marc Spears of ESPN tweets. Cunningham, a shooting guard who recently worked out for the Rockets, hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since the 2015/16 season.

Warriors Notes: Curry, Livingston, Cauley-Stein, Cook

Warriors All-Star guard Stephen Curry is confident he’ll mesh his skills with D’Angelo Russell, who was acquired from the Nets in a sign-and-trade, according to an ESPN report.

“The chemistry will develop quickly. We’ll be really purposeful about that and trying to set the tone for how we’re going to play this year,” Curry said.

He’s also looking forward to being in an underdog role for a change with Kevin Durant signing with Brooklyn and Klay Thompson expected to miss a large chunk of the season.

“I’m excited, to be honest with you,” he said. “Five straight years in the Finals and we’ve accomplished a lot, and three championships. There’s a lot to be proud of. But everybody wants a new challenge in terms of how do you get back to that level.”

We have more on the Warriors:

  • The Warriors are likely to offer Shaun Livingston a role in the organization if he opts to retire, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. The veteran guard was waived this week before his $7.7MM salary for next season became fully guaranteed.
  • Willie Cauley-Stein was courted by Curry, Draymond Green and coach Steve Kerr and that made his free agency decision easier, as Anthony Slater of The Athletic relays. Cauley-Stein accepted a salary slightly above the veteran’s minimum in order to join a perennial winner after the Kings rescinded his qualifying offer. “It honestly just came down to situation. I know I had said something about getting paid at the beginning of the year,” he said. “But by the end of it, it was no longer about getting paid. It was about staying secure and building off that security.”
  • Guard Quinn Cook harbors no ill will toward the organization, though he was surprised it pulled his qualifying offer in order to clear cap space, as he told Mark Medina of the San Jose Mercury News. Cook wound up signing a two-year, $6MM deal with the Lakers. “It was tough for me with how everything went down, but no hard feelings,” Cook said. “We’re family forever and champions forever.”