Yardbarker NBA writers Pat Heery and Sean Keane address the hottest issues in the NBA. This week's topic: opening of trade season.
Heery: December 15 marks the first day players who were signed in the summer can be traded. Considering roughly 40 percent of players were effectively free agents in the summer, it feels like the official start to the NBA’s trade season (which extends to February 7, 2020). I know you wrote about Kevin Love earlier this week -- he’s arguably the biggest name who might be dealt this trade season. Where do you see him going? And what is the price for K-Love? Also, give me a couple of other All-Star level players you think might be dealt over the next couple of months.
Keane : Kevin Love is a bad fit for a rebuilding Cleveland team, but a great fit in plenty of other cities. Normally, I’d think his contract was a little bit of a millstone, but given the barren free-agent market next summer -- the Magic's Evan Fournier is a top-five guy somehow -- it’s worth it for a team to make a move now. Cleveland would probably give him up for a protected first-round pick, as long as the matching salary coming back is expiring. There’s a lot of chatter about Love and the Blazers, but I want to see him go to Atlanta and pick-and-pop with Trae Young and form the league’s greatest pair of white Kevins with young Mr. Huerter.
The wide-open playoff race, at least at the bottom, should lead to a lot of trade action this season, even if the juggernauts in LA and Milwaukee might dissuade teams from swinging for the fences.
When we are talking about All-Stars, the most obvious candidate to me is D’Angelo Russell, currently lighting it up for the tanking Warriors (5-21). Now, it’s certainly possible that the team considers him a long-term piece, possibly with Klay Thompson shifting to play the three, but right now he seems like a delectable piece of trade bait. He’s young, locked in for years and offers the Warriors the most direct path to reloading their roster for the Splash Brothers’ return to the playoffs. Maybe they’ll wait until summer, when they’re no longer hard-capped and know the quality of their lottery pick and options for the Andre Iguodala trade exception. But right now, D’Angelo could be an instant bucket injection for an offensively challenged team.
The Thunder (11-13) is the seventh-best team in the West, but I believe GM Sam Presti would deal Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari or Steven Adams if the price is right. He’d also trade Rumble the Bison, Andre Roberson, or the fandom of OKC superfan Wayne Coyne (for a Flaming Lip to be named later), and he would listen to offers on deals for his least-preferred child. What’s intriguing is that OKC has one of the more impressive war chests of future draft picks, so if it wanted, the Thunder could make a win-now move for this season without making a dent in its hoard. Maybe OKC could even knock off the Rockets in the first round, in a CP3 revenge series for the ages.
My other superstar-ish trade suggestion is DeMar DeRozan, who’s putting up great efficiency numbers in San Antonio. But he plays ZERO defense. The Spurs (9-15) are struggling because they’re old, don’t make enough threes (shouldn’t have given away Davis Bertans!), and their perimeter defense is awful. Moving DeRozan solves all three of those issues, as it clears up the logjam blocking many of their young guys. He’s a free agent next summer, so they might not get much, but it honestly could be addition by subtraction.
Keane: Are there any other big names you see changing teams in the near future?
Heery : A trade or two involving an All-Star level player materializes out of nowhere most seasons. With every trade-season primer identifying Love, CP3, Danilo Gallinari, etc. as the top trade targets, something tells me NBA Twitter’s collective groupthink is about to be blindsided by a trade (like when the Clippers traded Blake Griffin to the Pistons after retiring his number in a free-agency pitch to him the summer before).
Could that blindside trade involve Mr. Griffin again? Detroit (10-15) doesn't look like a playoff team and has little upside. If Denver calls offering a package of young prospects (Michael Porter Jr., Malik Beasley, etc.) draft picks and/or cap relief, I’m making a deal if I’m Detroit. Keep an eye out on an up-and-coming team like the Suns, who may want to ensure they make the playoffs AND advance in them.
Two other big names could be trade bait: Pelicans Jrue Holiday and J.J. Redick. Without Zion Williamson or any semblance of a defense, the Pelicans (6-19) suck. (But hey, at least GM David Griffin isn’t miserable like he was when LeBron was taking his team to the Finals every season!) New Orleans should seriously consider dealing both given the return it could receive in this year’s somewhat bleak trade market. Holiday would be a great fit on any team -- especially a two-way dog like the Heat, who have the salaries to match a trade for a guy like Jrue and the assets to make an intriguing offer. Top contenders Milwaukee and the L.A. Lakers would also love Holiday, but it’s not clear whether either would have the assets to make a deal work.
Redick is a little more attainable for contenders. New Orleans should literally hold on open auction for him, because pretty much every playoff-bound team would bid. He’ll definitely draw at least a first-round pick and could swing the title chase. Plus, he has never missed the playoffs, so we need to get him on a contender again.
Heery: Speaking of contenders, who is going to win the Andre Iguodala sweepstakes, and does that team have to sacrifice a first-round pick? Also, whom do you think the Lakers, Bucks and Clippers will hunt at the deadline (besides Iggy and J.J.)?
Keane: It’s interesting to watch the sage of Iguodala, who was traded from the Warriors to the Grizzlies in the off-season but doesn’t seem to have actually left. He acted on the "Silicon Valley" season finale, tagged along and taken photos on Klay Thompson’s dates, and seems equally committed to two things: getting every penny of his 2019-20 salary and never setting foot in Memphis. Iguodala is a player whom every team in the league can use, and I don’t blame Memphis for holding out for a first-rounder. I expect the game of chicken between Andre, the Grizzlies, and his suitors to last up until the trade deadline, when someone caves and sends a pick. I have a dark-horse suggestion: Get Andre to Philadelphia, where he will turn the 76ers' playoff defense into an absolute terror.
The Clippers’ additions should be purely aimed at stopping the Lakers, and the obvious hole is at center. Montrezl Harrell is a great reserve, but it’s hard for a 6-foot-7 center to match up against Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard and LeBron. They need a space-eater who can give them six fouls and some rebounding, but he doesn’t have to be able to shoot, just set screens. He’s probably a buyout guy rather than a trade, but what about reuniting the Cavaliers' Tristan Thompson with Clippers assistant coach Tyronn Lue? Just keep him away from the Kardashian family. Or get aggressive and use the expiring deals of Mo Harkless and Patrick Patterson to get Derrick Favors from New Orleans.
For the Lakers, it feels like you can throw anyone in the mix with LeBron and The Brow and they’ll fit in. Old Rajon Rondo? Erratic Dwight Howard? They’re both thriving, as is the much-maligned Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. But the lesson with LeBron is that you can never have too much shooting, and they could definitely upgrade the Quinn Cook or Avery Bradley spots. I’d see if I could get the Warriors' Alec Burks for a second-round pick or rescue old favorite Wayne Ellington from his purgatory in New York.
Meanwhile, the Bucks (22-3) are red-hot, so it’s hard to think of them having any weaknesses. But in the playoffs, it’s easy to identify the biggest potential land mine: an Eric Bledsoe meltdown. I’m not suggesting a blockbuster like bringing in OKC's Chris Paul, but the Bulls' Tomas Satoransky could be an excellent pickup, especially if Chicago (9-17) continues its slide.
Keane: Obviously the Warriors and Knicks will trade any veteran on a short deal, but are there any bad teams who should hold off on a fire sale for a while? And who’s your sleeper pick for a non-star who could make a big impact next spring?
Heery: I was listening to a Zach Lowe podcast recently, and he mentioned the Wizards as a sneaky buyer for Kevin Love -- not so much for this season, but for the next couple seasons to form a decent big three with Bradley Beal, John Wall and Love. I actually like that idea a lot for the Wizards and wonder whether they'd pull off a move like that for Blake Griffin instead.
To answer your first question more directly, I know that everyone is going to be calling the Timberwolves (10-14, 10th in the West) about Robert Covington because the team looks like a deadline seller after a hot start. However, tanking would be dangerous for the Wolves. I know he’s a “bad” salary (and that’s a bit exaggerated because NBA take artists have to sensationalize everything), but Chris Paul is still a good player and would immediately make Minnesota a playoff team. Karl-Anthony Towns (25.9 ppg., 11.7 rpg., 4.5 apg., 41 percent from three) is only going to put up with so much losing and miserable winters before he becomes the NBA’s version of the distracted boyfriend meme.
And I feel like we touched on a number of my sleepers throughout this exchange -- Favors was a good one. However, I don’t think we’ve mentioned any Knicks players yet. So give me Marcus Morris (19.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg). His stats are a bit inflated because the Knicks are horrendous and he’s a go-to guy, but he’s shooting an absurd 48.9 percent from three and would bring toughness and attitude to a contender. In fact, he typically wears out his welcome after a year, so he’d be a perfect rental for any of the Western Conference contenders (Lakers, Clippers, Rockets).
Is there a trade you think could swing the title out there, like Marc Gasol last season with the Raptors?
Keane: Denver needs to make a big move. The Nuggets (15-8) are good, but they're not at the level of the L.A. teams. Denver is packed with young, cheap players. That's where I want to see a superstar go, and I think it should be Chris Paul. Look, he's overpaid, he's fragile, and he and Nikola Jokic might drive each other crazy. But the Nuggets must do something dramatic soon or they'll be blocked by the Clippers and Lakers for the next 2-3 years.