NBA AM: Trade Situations To Watch – Part 6
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Trade Situation Watch Part Six: Over the last two weeks we’ve touched on the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers, Memphis Grizzlies and Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, Minnesota Wolves and Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets and Detroit Pistons and Knicks, HEAT and Pelicans
Today we’ll hit on three more:
This Is The Team: The LA Lakers open training in just 25 days, and while expectations for this Lakers team are arguably as low as they have been in the modern era, the Lakers themselves continue to talk optimistically about where the team is headed this year and next.
The Lakers have three things going for them as camp gets closer:
First, there is limited drama. Sure the unknown status of Lakers guard Kobe Bryant’s return from an Achilles tear lingers, but given the nature of his injury there is more optimism than doubt about Bryant’s return. Former Laker center Dwight Howard and his free agent circus is now out of town and the Lakers are surprisingly calm.
Second, Mike D’Antoni is secure. It is amazing how much buy in a coach gets when his job is locked in. D’Antoni’s finger prints were all over the Lakers free agency, picking up uber athletic wing Wes Johnson, signing high volume scorer Nick Young and bring back Jordan Farmar as an all-purpose player. All three players need this situation to work in LA and all three understand what their stat lines can look like in D’Antoni’s system. The new additions are completely in D’Antoni’s corner, so he’ll have more buy in than he had last year, especially because the Lakers have just two players under contract after this season.
Lastly, the Lakers are healthy. You can point to dozens of things that went wrong last season for the Lakers, but none of them was more impactful than the constant and rampant injuries that devastated the team.
Steve Nash is supposedly ready for training camp, although the word is the team will take it slow with Nash. Pau Gasol has been tweeting about his workouts and the word is he is in good shape and feeling better. Kobe Bryant has been tweeting videos and images of him working including an odd clip of him jumping off of a high dive into a swimming pool.
All three are expected to be ready for the start of the season with Bryant continuing to talk optimistically about a November-December timeline.
The Lakers do have a couple of situations to watch on the trade front.
The Lakers are currently $5.179 million over the luxury tax line. They do not have an individual player that fits that number, so there is a chance as the season gets underway that the Lakers look for a way to offload that money if only to avoid adding an unnecessary year towards the repeater luxury tax penalty.
The Lakers have some attractive ending contracts in Steve Blake ($4 million), Jordan Hill ($3.5 million) and Jodie Meeks ($1.55 million) that could hold value around the trade deadline when 70 percent of their deals have been paid by the Lakers. None of them are going to fetch much in return, but a team with playoff goals might be willing to deal for one of them especially if they can prove they are healthy early in the season.
There will of course be talk about trading the ending contract of Gasol and that might become a real temptation for a Laker team that needs a talent infusion. Based on what the Lakers have been saying, Gasol seems like he’ll end the season on the Lakers’ roster and based on how he plays could be looking at a new deal with them next summer.
Bryant on the other hand is not going anywhere. First, Bryant has a no-trade clause in his deal. Second, the Lakers have made it clear to Bryant that they want him back and they are looking to sign him to a new deal next summer, assuming he can return to form after Achilles surgery.
The Lakers have just two guaranteed contracts next season – Steve Nash ($9.7 million) and Robert Sacre ($915,000) – as things stands the Lakers could have tons of cap space next summer and while there might be temptations to make moves and toy with the roster, that cap space and the quest for a little stability are likely putting the Lakers on the sidelines of the trade game, unless things go toxically bad early in the season.
Changing The Culture: The message from Sacramento is that the team will be changing its culture and while that’s always a theme for new leadership, actually making that new culture work often requires roster change.
The Kings tried to be aggressive in free agency going hard after former Denver small forward Andre Iguodala, but lost out to the Golden State Warriors.
The Kings did add Carl Landry, Luc Mbah a Moute and Grevis Vasquez in the offseason, which gives them an intensity infusion and some leadership; however, the future of the Kings hinges on the maturity and the buying in of third-year big man DeMarcus Cousins.
The Kings have been extremely proactive in their approach to Cousins and feel like they can be successful with him as their anchor. If that does not prove to be the case early in the season, don’t be surprised to see the Kings look to move on from the super talented and always mercurial Cousins.
The Kings do have some tradable assets. There has been talk that new management is ready to move on from Jimmer Freddette, although he’ll need to play well early in the season to have any real trade value.
John Salmons has two years left on his deal, $7.583 million this year but only $1 million of his $7 million in 2014-15 salary is fully guaranteed making him and interesting trade chip at the trade deadline or around the NBA Draft in June.
The Kings have four players on rookie deals and approaching free agency. Cousins is seeking a massive payday and that in and of itself could make Sacramento think twice. Patrick Patterson will likely hit restricted free agency; he’ll be owed a $4.31 million qualifying offer in July. Grevis Vasquez is in a similar situation as Patterson, his qualifying offer next summer will be $3.203 million. Isaiah Thomas, the former 60th overall pick, is finishing up his three-deal which has a $1.148 million qualifying offer to restrict his free agency next summer.
All four players are seeking their NBA payday and all four should have significant trade value if the Kings decide they do not want to pay their asking price.
The Kings say they want to change their culture. More time that not that only happens after massive roster upheaval and the Kings clearly have the pieces to make changes if they decide that this crop isn’t buying in as expected.
Still Swinging: At first glance the Charlotte Bobcats don’t seem appreciable better as a basketball team. It might be hard to see them improved with a second glance, but if you dig a little deeper there are some things to watch in Charlotte.
First, the Bobcats did nab free agent big man Al Jefferson, who gives them a legit low-post scoring option and some leadership. Pair that with Ben Gordon, who most have likely forgotten was on the team and there is a solid inside-outside game.
The Bobcats have some players. Kemba Walker has proven he can play at a high level in the NBA. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has struggled in the NBA, but the new coaching staff in Charlotte believes they can maximize what he does well.
The draft yielded Cody Zeller, who looks to be exactly what Charlotte was looking for – he is an energy hustle guy. He is marketable, personable and he plays extremely hard.
The Bobcats don’t look like a playoff team on paper, but they do have some pieces and whether those pieces all fit remains to be seen, but as we’ve covered in this space what you have on the roster now might not matter at the trade deadline and that’s were Charlotte has some interesting pieces.
Gordon is in the final year of his deal and is slated to earn $13.2 million. At the trade deadline in February the Bobcats will have paid almost 70 percent of that amount, making Gordon an interesting trade chip especially if he is healthy and playing well.
Ramon Sessions is in a similar situation. He is in the final year of his deal and is slated to earn $5 million. The closer the Bobcats get to the trade deadline the cheaper a veteran point guard like Sessions becomes.
The Bobcats have a new coaching staff this season and there will be a feeling out process, but if things don’t improve, do not be surprised to see the Bobcats explore moving some of their roster pieces.
They have a few of them that could be attractive.
We’ll look at three more teams on Tuesday.
We Want To Know:
Turk Out, Osby In?: According to Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel, the Orlando Magic are working on a contract buyout with forward Hedo Turkoglu that could see the veteran forward released in advance of NBA training camp and clear the way for the Magic to bring in second-round pick Romero Osby.
The Magic have been talking with Turkoglu’s camp for most of the summer and were hoping to get a little bit of a discount on the $5 million guaranteed to Turkoglu in his deal. He is in the final year of his contract which is worth $12 million but only half is fully guaranteed. The Magic did explore the trade market for Turkoglu’s deal, however there wasn’t a deal worth doing for the Magic.
Osby showed a lot of promise during Summer League for the Magic, but has been caught in a numbers game with the Magic’s roster. The Magic have said repeatedly that they felt like Osby deserved a chance to make the team, but in order to do that Orlando would have to bring him to camp and then decide to keep or cut him and possibly lose what was the 51st pick.
The Magic have discussed with Osby the idea of playing internationally for a season, however like the Magic, Osby’s first choice is to try and make the team.
Osby could force the situation with the Magic and simply report, but word is both parties are working through the situation together and that assuming a buyout with Turkoglu goes through, the Magic will look to move on.
The worst case scenario for Orlando is they simply write the $5 million check to Turkoglu and be done with him.
The Magic open training camp on October 30.
In Case You Missed It: Every offseason we end up with more video interviews than you can possibly have seen so here are a couple more in case you missed them.
Blazers forward Thomas Robinson talks about his struggles earlier in his NBA career and the opportunity he has in Portland.
Raptors' guard DeMar DeRozan talks about his new leadership role, how much he has been working and maturing as a NBA player.
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