NBA AM: Trade Situations To Watch – Part 9
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Just Six Teams Remaining: Almost three weeks ago we started looking at teams with trade situations worth watching, and with NBA training camps opening in just 18 days for those teams with international preseason commitments, we are just about finished looking at the entire league. There are six more teams remaining, we’ll get three more of them out of the way today and the balance tomorrow. So let’s get started:
Pacers Like Who They Are: The Indiana Pacers have made the moves they wanted to make. They upgraded at backup point guard with the addition of C.J. Watson. They got some quality depth in the frontcourt with the addition of Luis Scola. They drafted versatility in Solomon Hill and they kept their core together, re-signing David West. The Pacers are not going to change much this season.
There is a prevailing thought that at some point the Pacers are going to trade forward Danny Granger and his ending $14.02 million contract. The truth of the matter is that Indiana really doesn’t see the need to move Granger, partly because he has pledged to play whatever role is asked of him, even if that means coming off the bench this season.
The other part in trading Granger is that there is almost no scenario in which the Pacers could move Granger and not have to take salary back. That’s a critical part. Granger’s deal comes off the books just as the team is going to have to make long-term commitments to emerging star Paul George and to combo guard Lance Stephenson. Granger’s contract money is spoken for.
The Pacers are sitting on $69.036 million in salary commitments, which is slightly more than the $66 million the team normally hovers around. Adding money is not going to happen so the dilemma for the Pacers is pretty simple: They won’t get value for Granger because of his knee history and what he’s owed. They’d likely have to eat into Granger’s expiring money in any deal they could make and frankly they simply don’t have a need to fill.
Which brings us back to the opening comment: the Pacers have made the moves they want to make.
The Pacers have big dreams for this season. They feel like they are legit title contenders and they have a roster that can compete with anyone in the East.
If injury strikes, things might change.
Granger is clearly the best chip to cash on the roster, but as one insider pointed out if Granger is hurt or playing bad, what does Indiana get for him? If Granger is playing well and teams are calling, then Indiana likely has the better player, so why trade him?
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that at the trade deadline the Pacers look to get something of value for Granger, because the future of the team is George, but as the Pacers tell the story they need all the horses they can get to tackle a tougher Eastern Conference and they expect Granger to be a significant part of that.
The Clippers Are Loaded: If you have followed the NBA long enough there are some things you likely believed you’d never see happen. The LA Clippers being luxury tax payers is absolutely one of them.
Historically one of the more frugal owners in the league, Clippers owner Donald Sterling not only gave point guard Chris Paul $108 million this summer, he also bought into being a luxury tax payer for the first time in franchise history. The Clippers are currently sitting on $73.275 million in salary commitments to 14 players including the non-guaranteed $788,000 deal of Maalik Wayns. That puts them $1.52 million over the tax line, so it’s safe to say that the Clippers will watch that number as the season unfolds and the depth chart shakes itself out in November and December.
The Clippers for the first time since being in LA find themselves to be the favorites in the Pacific Division, so that likely means they will hold the line on deals, unless it’s to clean up their tax position.
Waiving Wayns and trading a contract like guard Willie Green ($1.399 million), gets them under the tax line, but it’s unlikely anyone is going to line up to help the Clippers without extracting value for themselves.
The Clippers are absolutely loaded and do have a lot of duplication, especially on the perimeter, so it will be interesting to see how new head coach Doc Rivers manages the situation.
With luxury tax easily avoidable for the Clippers at the trade deadline, it seems more likely than not they make the roster move especially if things start clicking and some players start seeing fewer minutes than maybe they would like, especially in a possible contract year.
Don’t look for the Clippers to be splashy players with midseason trades, but it’s safe to say they are a team to watch in terms of a cap management kind of moves, simply because ending the season under the cap not only avoids the luxury tax, it also preserves the ability to make easier trades and to sign players with full salary cap exceptions next summer. For the capped out Clippers that might have more value that a guy playing 10 minutes a game at the end of the bench.
Watch The Thunder: The Oklahoma City Thunder like where they are sitting. They didn’t make a bunch of splashy moves during the summer, in fact the Thunder historical have not been a team that’s active in free agency. They simply spent their offseason developing their young guys and preparing for another run.
When a team has a Kevin Durant and a Russell Westbrook type All-Star, it’s hard to justify doing too much, because frankly the bulk of what the Thunder are, is embodied in both of those players.
The big questions surrounding Oklahoma City are who will be the third scorer and can the young guys they have collected step into the spotlight.
The third scorer might be forward Serge Ibaka. He has been working relentlessly all summer, especially on his low post offense. The Thunder are hoping for a bigger contribution from Serge offensively this year and that has guided some of their thinking.
The other is guard Jeremy Lamb. It’s easy to get caught up in Summer League where Lamb absolutely exploded in Orlando averaging 18.8 points per game including a monster 32 point effort which saw him go 10-for-14 from the field and 3-for-5 from the three point line. While 18.8 a game is solid for Lamb and it’s an option the Thunder are going to continue to look at.
The end of the Thunder’s bench features a ton of young rookie scale guys – Perry Jones III, Andre Roberson, Steven Adams, Reggie Jackson — so it’s not out of the question to see OKC looking at trades, especially if they struggle to find consistent offense outside of Durant and Westbrook.
The Thunder are going to take Westbrook’s return from knee injury slowly, so there will be a chance for Jackson to emerge as an option as well.
The Thunder feel like they are going to be right back in the thick of things in the West and if Westbrook and Durant can make even more progress in their young careers there is almost no doubt OKC is a top tier team. If that third scorer emerges, they could be elite and if that player doesn’t, the Thunder do have the rookie-scale chips they could cash to find one.
We have run through most of the league by now, if you missed a team, click on the name below to see the previous report:
The Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors, the Philadelphia 76ers, Memphis Grizzlies and Boston Celtics, the Houston Rockets, Minnesota Wolves and Phoenix Suns, the Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets and Detroit Pistons, the New York Knicks, Miami HEAT and New Orleans Pelicans , the LA Lakers, Sacramento Kings and Charlotte Bobcats, the Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks and Portland Trail Blazers and the Washington Wizards, Utah Jazz and Brooklyn Nets
We Want To Know:
Not Rebuilding Forever: New Suns’ GM Ryan McDonough has a vision for the Phoenix Suns, and his vision doesn’t include long periods of rebuilding. McDonough understands that accumulating talent is what’s most important, which means a little losing to get there, but he feels like he has got a great situation to work with to make the rebuild move a little faster.
“Walking in there, the main thing I wanted to do is upgrade the talent,” said McDonough to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. “And do it in a fashion that was sustainable for the long term. I didn’t want to try to take any shortcuts or try any quick fixes.
“What I believe in is kind of what we did in Boston — you build through the draft and you are hoping you draft well enough and keep all your young players together and have that be your core of the next great Suns team,” he said. “That model is what Oklahoma City has done, what San Antonio did. You draft very well and keep those guys.
The Suns have their own first round and second round picks in 2014, but also have options that could land them Minnesota’s first round pick if it falls to 14, its top-13 protected, as well as the Pacers’ pick if it falls outside the lottery, as it’s also top 14 protected. So there is a chance that Phoenix has three first round picks in 2014 as well as their own second.
McDonough said earlier this summer he felt his team was well situated to trade for an “unhappy” star player given the group of assets his team has acquired. He admitted to the Globe that path was still an option.
“What we did in Boston when I was with the Celtics was a little bit different,” McDonough said. “We drafted fairly well and we kept some of the guys, but we also traded a few of them for Ray Allen and Garnett, and we built a championship team that way. There are different ways to do it but the one consistent is you need good young players and you need draft picks.”
In addition to the multiple picks the Suns are looking at this summer, Phoenix is also in a fairly good spot cap wise with just $16.54 million in guaranteed salaries and a ton of rookie scale contracts with team options. If the Suns exercise all of their options, which are likely, the Suns would have $41.425 million in commitments against a projected $61 to $62 million salary cap.
“One of the exciting parts about the job with the draft-pick situation, with the salary-cap situation and the market, being an attractive destination, I can see a pretty clear path to get the team to the level that fans are used to in a couple of years, without having to try to rebuild forever,” McDonough said.
Did You Miss Something: 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.
Kings' big man DeMarcus Cousins talks about being part of USA Basketball and what he expects from his team this season.
From Summer League, Kyle Weaver talks about his summer, what he hopes to show NBA teams and how he hopes to get back to the NBA.
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NBA Chats: There are two NBA Chats scheduled for today starting with my weekly NBA Chat at 10:30am EST. Yannis Koutroupis will hold down the second chat later today at 3pm EST. Chats do fill up fast so get your questions in now. You can always find the next NBA Chat here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/upcoming-chats and if you are looking for Previous Chats try here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/previous-chats