NBA AM: An Early Look At The Trading Block
December 15th: Some of you are waiting for some trade activity or at least a few good juicy rumors. The truth of the situation is even as some teams flounder a bit toward the bottom of the standings, trades, especially solid ones, really won’t start picking up steam until December 15. That’s when the players who signed contracts this summer are eligible to be traded.
There has been one transaction – the Charlotte Bobcats traded Matt Carroll to the New Orleans Hornets last week in exchange for Hakim Warrick. The Hornets are said to be talking about a contract buyout with Carroll’s camp so he may not be in New Orleans long.
There are a few players to keep an eye on, especially over the next month:
Eric Gordon – New Orleans Hornets
Gordon is rehabbing his knee in Los Angeles and the word is that he’ll return to New Orleans and has every intention of playing for the team this year. That’s the word.
The reality is that Gordon has never been in love with the idea of playing in New Orleans and some have suggested that this latest “setback” in his recovery from knee surgery was more about not wanting to be in New Orleans. Both sides emphatically denied this for several days and then Gordon was allowed to rehab in L.A.
There has been talk that Gordon might require microfracture surgery and that this intense rehab in L.A. was a final step toward getting him right before ending his season.
Gordon headlines the group of players that become eligible to be traded next month and there are many that believe Gordon will play a few games in mid-December to prove he’s healthy as the team tries to trade him.
There are so many contradictions in this situation, but it’s absolutely one of the ones to watch.
Gordon is owed $13,668,750 this season so moving him will be tough, especially because he can veto any trade for the first year of his deal New Orleans matched from Phoenix. However, there are a few teams with Traded Player Exceptions that could facilitate a move if they can find a deal.
Josh Smith – Atlanta Hawks
Smith is in the final year of his deal, which is worth $13.2 million. He also gets an additional 15 percent bonus if he is traded. The problem with all of that is that very much like Chris Paul in Los Angeles with the Clippers, Smith is on board with the long-term plan in Atlanta and is expected to ink a new deal in July when he can sign a maximum five-year deal worth almost $100 million.
Now here is the rub: Smith is under no obligation to stay in Atlanta beyond his current deal and the fear of losing Smith for nothing may become too great.
Hawks GM Danny Ferry and Smith talk on a regular basis and both continue to say that Smith’s free agency is not a threat or a problem, but it very well could become one as the trade deadline gets closer.
There is little doubt that teams like the Houston Rockets or even the Los Angeles Lakers would trip over themselves to acquire a borderline All-Star like Smith, but sources in Atlanta continue to say that Smith is going nowhere and that the team is not engaging anyone on trade talks involving Smith.
Al Jefferson – Utah Jazz
Like teammate Paul Millsap, Jefferson is in the final year of his contract, which will pay him $15 million this season. The Jazz say that trading either of their veteran big men is not in the plans, and that both will be needed to make a strong postseason run.
The problem is that just like Josh Smith, there are no guarantees that either player will stay in Utah beyond their contracts and while both could be the difference between making the postseason and not, they could both walk away via free agency and leave the Jazz with nothing to show for not one, but two borderline All-Star players.
The Jazz discussed a contract extension with Millsap, who turned down the offer, mainly because he can get more years and more guaranteed dollars as a free agent.
There is an inevitability that both players will be shopped toward the trade deadline, but whether Utah actually pulls off a deal remains unclear, mainly because of how adamant they are that both players are keys to their playoff run.
The Jazz will have tons of cap flexibility and the ability to offer a fifth year in any new contract. The Jazz do have capable replacements waiting in the wings in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, so how the Jazz play this situation is worth watching, but it may not play out completely until the trade deadline on February 21.
Jose Calderon – Toronto Raptors
The Raptors have been trying to trade Jose Calderon for about two years now. With Calderon in the final year of his deal worth $10.5 million, the Raptors might actually be able to move him. There is no urgency in Toronto on this front, but it seems inevitable that with the start the team is on that Calderon is one of the chips the team will look to cash in to improve.
Calderon does have a 10 percent trade bonus if dealt, so he’ll be slightly more expensive than his listed salary, but at the trade deadline the Raptors will have paid almost 70 percent of it.
Don’t expect the Raptors to get a gem of a player in return for Calderon, but they may be able to flip him for a small forward or some depth with years left on their contracts.
Two players to keep an eye on are Wilson Chandler in Denver and Omri Casspi in Cleveland. Both have been linked to the Raptors at one point or another over the last 16 months.
Daequan Cook – Houston Rockets
The Rockets want to add one more piece. They may have to wait until next July to do so, but they do have some attractive chips like Daequan Cook, who is on an ending contract worth $3 million.
They have several players still on rookie deals like Toney Douglas, Marcus Morris and Royce White that either don’t fit the big picture or are having issues adapting to what Houston needs from them.
The Rockets are willing and eager trade partners. However, they may not find a deal they can do until they get cap space, and that’s something they may have as much as $20 million of next summer depending on how they handle their options and free agents.
DeJuan Blair – San Antonio Spurs
Blair is not owed much, just over $1 million, but the Spurs want a first-round pick for him and that’s been a problem. The Spurs thought they had a deal with the Miami HEAT around the draft, but the HEAT opted to sell their pick rather than trade it for Blair.
It’s been well documented that Blair has no ACL’s in his knees, yet is able to play at an extremely high level.
There is almost no doubting that San Antonio is going to move Blair at some point, the question becomes will it happen sooner rather than later and which team ponies up a first-round pick for a player they could lose to free agency? Blair is not going to be a major dollar free agent because of the knees, but he is going to command a multi-year deal so it’s not as simple as trading for him and keeping him. He’s going to get offers.
The Spurs have made it clear they are not going to pay Blair, so dealing him is all but expected.
Anderson Varejao – Cleveland Cavaliers
Varejao is playing incredibly well for the Cavaliers, so thinking that you can poach him for garbage is a mistake. The Cavs are open for business, but the truth is they are not overly eager to break up their team unless it allows them to add young guys on rookie deals, gain draft picks and keep their cap flexible.
League sources said bluntly, that anything involving Varejao is also going to have to move out Luke Walton and his $6 million ending contract and return youth and draft picks.
That might be too much to ask, so it’s more likely that Varejao stays where he is, but you never know how another team may view him, especially as the trade deadline gets closer.
Tayshaun Prince – Detroit Pistons
The Pistons would love to shed contract dollars. They are going nowhere fast and getting deep into free agency is starting to be the mantra. The problem with moving Tayshaun Prince, or even Charlie Villanueva for that matter, is what they are owed. Prince has three years and $21 million left on his deal, while Villanueva has two years and $16 million left on his deal.
The Pistons do have some rookie deal guys they’d move to make a deal happen, but there are not many teams tripping over themselves to get at Austin Daye or Kim English.
Detroit is poised to have some cap room to maneuver this summer, and moving Prince or Villanueva would only help that cause.
Tyrus Thomas – Charlotte Bobcats
The Bobcats would love to move Tyrus Thomas and, believe it or not, there were some teams around the draft that at least considered it as part of a bigger deal, mainly because the Cats were dangling the draft pick that became Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Thomas has three years and some $26 million left on his deal, so moving him is going to be tough.
As one insider pointed out, if the Bobcats could get a “buyer’s remorse” kind of deal, they’d move on it if Thomas was sent out as part of it. So when you say, ‘Who’ll take Thomas?’ – if Eric Gordon’s knee is a problem, Charlotte might bite; if Denver wanted out of Wilson Chandler or out of JaVale McGee, Charlotte might bite. Would the Bobcats take Hedo Tukoglu off of Orlando’s hands?
Charlotte is not likely to find a taker on Thomas, but that doesn’t mean Bobcats GM Rich Cho and company won’t try some creative ways to move him, especially if those dollars can yield a more complimentary asset.
The Bobcats want to be free agent players next summer, so temper your expectations on dumping too much garbage on the Cats.
Hedo Turkoglu – Orlando Magic
With Turkoglu sidelined with a broken hand, nothing happens with him or his remaining two years and $23.8 million contract. The saving grace for moving Turkoglu is that not all of his deal is guaranteed next year, so he’ll cost $6 million to clear $12 million and the Magic can send $3 million in cash as part of a deal.
Trading Turkoglu is going to be a monumental task, one that might cost the Magic a draft pick and possibly an ending contract like J.J. Redick.
The Magic have a ton of draft picks and a monster Traded Player Exception, so they have the tools to be the middleman on almost anything that happens around the trade deadline, and offloading Turkoglu or even Glen Davis seem to be the next two objectives in Orlando’s makeover.
At the trade deadline in February, the Magic will have paid the bulk of Turkoglu’s deal this season, so the real economics come down to what will Orlando take back for Turkoglu and who is willing to eat the balance of his deal to clear some capspace?
The Magic are unlikely to deal early in the trade season, but there is inevitability to Orlando triggering a couple of deals as players like Turkoglu, Davis and Al Harrington don’t fit the big picture going forward.
Wilson Chandler – Denver Nuggets
Chandler isn’t owed a ton of money, but he’s owed enough to make him expendable, especially with how the Nuggets roster is assembled. The Nuggets are looking at a hefty tax bill and a cash crunch of sorts so dumping Chandler for almost nothing in return seems to be in the cards.
Chandler is owed some $5.9 million this year and has three years and $19 million left on his deal.
The Nuggets won’t just give him away, but if someone surfaced with a draft-pick-laden package that featured some ending contract money, they might get a serious audience, mainly because Chandler is not in the long-term plan.
The Toronto Raptors have had eyes for Chandler for some time, so they could be a logical trade partner closer to the trade deadline when the bulk of the salaries owed this year are paid.
Derrick Williams – Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves have had a ton of injuries and word is they may lose Brandon Roy to arthroscopic knee surgery too.
To say Derrick Williams has not lived up to his hype as the second overall pick is something of an understatement, and sources say if he could return a serious veteran player then the Wolves would move him.
With so many injuries, it’s unlikely the Wolves try to force something in the next 30 days. But once Kevin Love returns to the lineup, Williams could be the next chip cashed in Minnesota.
Williams is still on his rookie deal and is owed some $4.8 million this season, so he’s not going to return a ton of value by himself, but it does seem that the Wolves want to get a little more veteran, and that may mean the end of the road for Williams in Minnesota.
Wes Johnson – Phoenix Suns
Wes Johnson is a much better fit in Phoenix than he was in Minnesota. However, he’s still playing behind Michael Beasley and in some cases Jared Dudley and the team passed on his contract option. That does not bode well for a long-term future.
The Suns do not have a long-term plan for Johnson and everyone involved knows it. He is more likely to be traded, and you can expect that Phoenix isn’t going to look for much for a guy they don’t necessarily want.
Johnson is not owed a ton and he’s an ending contract worth $4.285 million.
It is far more likely than not that Phoenix deals Johnson, the question is who is the taker and will they view him as anything more than a cap clearing deal?
Francisco Garcia – Sacramento Kings
So you want Tyreke Evans? You are going to have to take either Francisco Garcia’s contract or John Salmons’ deal as well.
Garcia’s deal is the most palatable, because the final year is a team option, but it’s become clear that if the Kings are going to move Evans, and sources say they are not there yet, it’s going to have to help them clean up the roster as well as return favorable assets.
Salmons has three years and some $22.6 million left on his deal, although the final year only has $1 million in guaranteed money. This is likely the deal the Kings want to move, but Garcia might be the easier pill to swallow and return the most value.
Given where the Kings find themselves in the new season, a transaction or two is almost inevitable. The question is will the Kings pull the trigger early and how much luggage are they going to force on the team that wants Evans?
Sticking By Him: In most cases if a player has a major offseason surgery and is on a non-guaranteed deal, a team generally cuts that player lose, especially an undrafted player like Julyan Stone of the Denver Nuggets.
Stone underwent hip surgery this offseason and missed most of the Nuggets’ offseason program. That’s generally the kiss of death for a young guy trying to keep his job. However, the Nuggets not only hung on to Stone through preseason, he made the final roster cuts.
Julyan talked with HOOPSWORLD about his rehab and what he hopes he can bring to the table once he’s back to 100 percent.
Roy To Have Surgery: Jason Quick of The Oregonian is reporting that Minnesota Timberwolves guard Brandon Roy will undergo right knee surgery this week.
Roy has played in five games for the Timberwolves after signing a a two-year, $10.4 million contract this past summer.
The surgery that’s expected this week will be Roy’s seventh arthroscopic knee procedure. A timetable for his return still remains unclear.
Roy banged knees with a teammate last week and has had pain and swelling in the knee ever since.
D’Antoni Puts Off Debut: New Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni opted not to coach his first game last night, opting to watch the game in the locker room with his two injured point guards Steve Nash and Steve Blake.
D’Antoni, who had a knee replacement procedure last month, is still struggling with the rigors of coaching, and while he’s been able to run practices for the Lakers since his hiring, he’s struggling with fatigue related both to his surgery and to the pain meds he’s been taking to manage it.
“I’m a little disappointed, I wanted to be on the bench,” D’Antoni told Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com. “After talking with [Lakers trainer] Gary Vitti … he convinced me a little bit not to do it.”
“The biggest problem I have is just energy kind of waning toward the end [of the game],” D’Antoni said.
“I do get practices OK and all that’s good, the next step will be a game,” D’Antoni said. “That can be Tuesday, that can be Wednesday, I don’t know yet but with Gary, we’ll figure it out.”
D’Antoni did add his brother Dan D’Antoni to the coaching staff and also announced that Bernie Bickerstaff, who has been acting as the interim coach since Mike Brown’s firing, will be retained for the balance of the season.
The Lakers face the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday, which could be D’Antoni’s first game. The team has a three-game, four-day road trip starting on Wednesday.
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