Rob is one of the primary NBA contributors to The Five By 5.
Jimmy Butler wants out.
As reported by The Athletics Shams Charania, Jimmy Butler has officially asked to be traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Throughout this last season, there were numerous reports of growing tensions between Butler, Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Even previously beloved coach Tom Thibodeau had been caught in the crossfire with reports indicating that coach Thibs had all but lost the locker-room (and even some members of the Wolves ownership group and front-office). But these despite the season long rumblings of issues, and a trade request from Butler seeming like an inevitable outcome, the Wolves had hoped to find a remedy for the brewing problems. But with those hopes now dashed, Butlers’ trade request comes at one of the worst possible times for the Minnesota Timberwolves with training camp opening in less than a week,
In todays league, trading for a player of Jimmy Butler’s caliber (and salary) becomes almost impossible this time of year. Why? There’s no cap space left. This summer we saw the pendulum swing back from the infamous 2016 cap inflation and subsequent bloated spending by teams in free agency. Teams this year were more frugal than ever with their money and as such, we saw several veteran players getting below market deals or being forced to take one year deals that provided more financial gain but less long term stability. This is just one symptom of leagues’ current market: there are almost zero teams with cap space left. According to my math, the only teams with cap space left are Phoenix ($1,994,649.00) and Sacramento ($9,675,195.00), both of whom are not on Butlers’ short-list of desired destinations. And as a reminder: the CBA states that a team must get to 20 percent of a players salary when operating as an above the salary cap team (presumably every team trying to acquire him). Why is this a problem for the Wolves when trying to trade Butler? Unless you’re the Kings or Suns, the team trading for Butler will not only have to match money according the CBA rules for trades, but they’ll have significant difficulty in doing so.
The other piece that makes this an egregious situation is that any free agent signed this summer also can’t be traded until December 15th. So, for example, if Utah wanted to trade for Butler, they couldn’t include Derrick Favors in the deal until later in the year because he just signed a new deal with the Jazz this offseason. And without being able to include a player like Favors’ and his contract, which would essentially be required to make the money work under the rules of the CBA, it would kill the deal before it even had a chance to get started.
With that sort of CBA stuff sorted out lets get into the list.
As per ESPNs’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the 3 preferred locations Butler would like to be traded to are: the Brooklyn Nets, the Los Angeles Clippers and the New York Knicks. (with the Clippers being reported as the most preferred of the 3)
So, what could each of these teams offer? And what do I think each team will ultimately end up doing?
This is an interesting trade partner for the Wolves for a number of reasons. One: the Nets starting point is one of the lowest of the three teams as far as an asset standpoint is concerned. If Minnesota wants to continue to push for a playoff spot, a trade centered on DeMarre Carroll (decent player, but would be included more for salary reasons, and is on an expiring deal) and one or two of Spencer Dinwiddie, D’Angelo Russell, Caris Levert or Jarrett Allen would be a likely starting point. The Nets, who finally have their first round pick after many years of not owning it, would be un-wise to part with it (to say the least), especially as their roster doesn’t appear to be ready to make a playoff run just ye, even with a talent like Butler. Pushing for the 8th seed in the East would most likely be outside their capabilities. Sean Marks (the Nets GM) has made a bunch of heady smaller deals to try and replenish an asset chest that was totally ridden of anything worth value.
My prediction: Brooklyn holds its cards and goes into next summer with two max cap slots.
New York Knicks:
The mecca seems to be finally back as a legit landing spot for super star talents in the league. Though not expected to contend this year with super star Kristaps Porzingis likely out a large chunk of the season with a torn ACL, it's starting to become a team of intrigue. Porzingis is the big draw for alongside the ever-constant pull of performing under the big lights of the New York stage, but lottery picks Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox also raise intrigue. However, they do not have talent outside of those guys to pull a trade off. For as much as there have been rumors of Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving wanting to play together in New York, the only way this gets done is if the Knicks give up one of their aforementioned lottery picks or a future first round pick. I don't see this happening at all. As far as assets and filler salary, it makes no sense for where the Knicks are in their rebuild or the direction the Wolves want to go. As per Ian Begley: Steve Mills stated at a fan event this past Monday that the Knicks will not trade assets for a player they think they can sign in free agency. They should stay true to this statement and let the call go to voicemail when it inevitably rings.
My prediction: The Knicks stand pat and keep hoping for better days ahead.
Los Angeles Clippers:
If you have followed any of my work over the last eight months, you know my stance about the Clippers potentially loading up. This is what I was waiting for and now I think I finally see a vision. When the teams got announced I immediately went to the Clippers roster and it came to me fairly quickly. Now this trade sounds nuts and crazy, but trust me, If there’s one thing I'm certain of it’s thisL Steve Balmer and the Clippers stff (who are super smart and creative) are big game hunting. They’re not in the business of letting the LeBron lea Lakers own the town again for the next few years. I have the Clippers giving up their two-first round picks this year (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson) and Danilo Gallinari for Jimmy Butler and Tyus Jones. While still a good player, Gallinari is way overpaid and was never going to be apart of the next great Clippers squad. For the Timberwolves, you get two young guys who you can hope to develop while giving you dept (albeit an over paid one). And Gallo might just be a perfect stretch 4 to play with Towns. If you break this deal down, the Clippers would essentially be giving up a first round pick for Butler and the other first rounder would be to dump Gallinari. The Wolves have zero leverage, and a package like this would be excellent given their current situation. For the Clippers, it would give them a total of zero bad contracts, and a total of only $21,520,640 in guaranteed salaries going into next year’s off-season. The reason this is all very relevant is because with that much cap space, they would be able to sign two other max cap guys AND re-sign Butler using his bird rights.
(Also, see the picture below from Zach Lowes' twitter to better understand the Avery Bradley situation):
Thus giving them roughly $88 million dollars to go back into the market for someone like…. Oh, maybe a player like Kawhi Leonard (who has openly stated through his representatives that he wants to be in LA) or any of the other big ticket free agents that will be available next summer. I know it seems crazy moving on from two lottery picks this early for a guy they can probably sign outright next summer. However, moving the Gallinari contract is a key part of the deal for them that could catapult them into becoming a legit contender.
My Prediction: He ends up with the Clippers.
Dark Horse: Miami Heat
Though not stated on “The List” Miami is the kind of market Jimmy Butler might gravitate towards. They have plenty of smart and good rotation guys on good to solid salaries that make this trade possible in a variety of ways. Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Justice Winslow and Bam Adebayo are all players that could be included in a potential deal. Also of note here is that Dwayne Wade is a close friend of Butlers’. They spent a year together in Chicago, went to the same college (albeit at different times) and spend good portions of their off-seasons vacationing and working out together. And lets be honest: Miami is always big game hunting. Wade could be a strong presence and an important key in negotiations if Miami were to try and even get on the list, and even eventually getting him to sign their long term.
Jimmy Butler: Heavy.com
Tweet: Zach Lowe's twitter account
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Photo Credit: LA Clippers (5) Montrezl Harrell (PF) blocks Trail Blazers (17) Ed Davis (PF) during an NBA preseason game between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Clippers on October 08, 2017 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Getty Images)
Alex is a contributor at TheFiveBy5.com
10) Kyle O’Quinn
Kyle O’Quinn is known for his rim protection and rebounding ability. Being a bruiser in the paint is something that can’t be overlooked. O’Quinn is not a threat from outside the paint, but he brings toughness to every game. He would be best suited as a 2nd string center, on a competitive team. He has spent the majority of his career playing for teams in the NBA Draft Lottery. If the Rockets missed out on resigning Clint Capella, Kyle O’Quinn would be a nice replacement and a better fit then Nene.
9) Lance Stephenson
The Indiana Pacers declined the team option on the versatile wing Monday evening. Lance is a solid defender who is an aggressive rebounder. Offensively, Lance doesn’t have a consistent stroke from behind the arc, but he is a willing passer who will wind up on a few highlights each month. The antics are something that has held him back in previous years, but if he can maintain his emotions, he will find a spot on another team.
8) Ed Davis
Ed Davis has always been an underrated player and his teams always play better when he is on the floor. While the NBA has evolved into a shooters league, Davis has found himself having to play the center more than the power forward. Davis is a perfect backup big man because he does all of the little things. His rim protection and rebounding will always assure him a spot in this league, along with being a great locker room guy.
7) Jamal Crawford
Crawford is still one of the most entertaining 6th Man’s in the NBA. It will be interesting to see where Jamal ends up this off-season, but I believe it will be with a playoff contending team. While he is getting older, his handle and shot are still so smooth. Crawford doesn’t have much time left in the NBA, but what little time he does have left, he will make the most of it.
6) Mario Hezonja
The former 5th overall pick of the Orlando Magic hits the free agent market, hoping to strike gold with his next employer. Henzonja started to show people what his game is all about last season, but he wasn’t in the best offensive system with Frank Vogel at the helm. Hezonja is a system guy that would benefit from playing on a team like Utah or San Antonio. He has all the intangibles that these two organizations look for, and his fit would be seamless.
5) Nemanja Bjelica
The stretch four out of Minnesota has turned heads the last few seasons. While there are still several wrinkles in his game, his ability to stretch the floor and defend are extremely valuable in today’s game. Minnesota doesn’t run the most efficient system for Bjelica, but he played well within Thib’s system regardless. Similar to Hezonja, I think Bjelica makes perfect sense to join a system team. Depending on what his asking price is, a team like Houston makes sense for him. Another team that could benefit from Bjelica’s talent is the Milwaukee Bucks. With Coach Bud now at the helm for Milwaukee, Bjelica would transition nicely into their system. Especially if they are unwilling to pay for Jabari Parker.
4) Montrezl Harrell
Harrell is a solid rim protector and rebounder. Between Davis and O’Quinn, I believe that Harrell has the most upside. If D’Andre Jordan does indeed opt out of his contract with the Clippers, Harrell would fit perfectly in that role. If the Clippers decide they can’t afford Harrell, the Mavericks could give him a look. Harrell has the ability to be a Clint Capella type of center and Capella was by far the most improved center in the NBA last season.
3) Joe Harris
Joe Harris is a terrific young wing who can shoot the lights out. He is sneakily athletic and has more explosiveness to the rim than you would think. Harris will have a good amount of suitors on the open market, but their aren’t a lot of teams with money to outright sign him. The Indiana Pacers are the team that is in the best position to do this and with their lack of three-point shooting, Harris feels like a solid target for the Pacers in the off-season.
2) Thaddeus Young
Thaddeus Young is one of the hardest working forwards in the NBA. His ability to create extra possessions on the offensive glass and his willingness to defend multiple positions makes him one of the most valuable role players in today’s game. If I could describe Young’s game in one word it would be “underappreciated”. He works his tail off every single night and has the heart of a champion. He has spent the majority of his career playing for sub .500 teams, and this is his chance to be apart of something different. Young might be looking for more money on a longer deal this off-season, but the serious contenders in the NBA won’t have the cap room to fulfill those wishes. Regardless, wherever Young calls home next season, he will be a contributor to their success.
1) Derrick Favors
The most underrated player in this Free Agent class is Derrick Favors. Favors has been a solid piece for the Jazz and his stretch in the 2017 playoffs was phenomenal. Playing next to Rudy Gobert has been challenging at times in the modern NBA, but his skills were too good to keep him off the floor. Jazz fans won’t be happy to see him leave, but the price could be too high. Favors could be a starter for multiple teams, but I see him flourishing as a five instead of a four. He protects the rim, has a solid face up game, rebounds the ball well and is a decent passer. A few teams I think that Favors makes sense on are the Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Mike is a contributor to The Five By 5. Follow him on twitter @_Facci
When it comes down to the 2017-2018 NBA MVP race, the list is narrow. Names like LeBron James, Anthony Davis and James Harden stand out the most, and rightfully so.
Anthony Davis has been on an absolute tear since the All-Star break, putting up numbers in the box score that make you question your own eyesight on a nightly basis. LeBron James is having arguably his most complete season to date, but it has become something that we’ve come to expect from “The King” year after year.
Persuasive arguments could certainly be made for both Anthony Davis and LeBron James, who are each having fantastic seasons. However, there is a certain smooth-stroking shooting guard, leading the team with the best record in the NBA, whose MVP case is far too compelling to be denied. The man that is simply known as “The Beard” has been a cold-blooded assassin on the court all season, and if you don’t believe me just ask Wesley Johnson:
Entering Exclusive Company:
This season, Harden is the league leader in points per game with 31.0, Win Shares at 13.3, PER at 30.48, Value Over Replacement at 7.47, Free Throws Attempted at 10.1 per game, Free Throws Made with 515 (a whopping 90 more than the next person despite missing eight games) and is 2nd in Real-Plus Minus at 6.83 trailing only his teammate Chris Paul. His 8.7 assists per game rank third in the NBA to go along with his 2.0 assists per turnover ratio, which is the best of his career.
According to Basketball-Reference, Harden is on pace to enter a class so elite, that he will be only the second player of all time along with Michael Jordan to have averaged at least 30 points, 8.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds and had a true shooting percentage of 60% or higher in a season. For those of you who are not familiar, a true shooting percentage takes into effect your two-point field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage and your free throw shooting percentage.
Would You Like a Side of Defense With That Offense?
The reigning runner-up for MVP each of the last two seasons has scored at least 20 points in all but one game this year and 50 points or more on four separate occasions. His 60-point triple double earlier this season against the Magic was not only historic, it was the very first of its kind. Enough about the offense let’s hear about Harden’s so-called “Sketchy Defense”. “The Beard” is averaging a career-high 1.9 steals per game to complement his career high .7 blocks per game. This is even more impressive when you factor in that he is playing his fewest minutes per game since becoming a Houston Rocket in 2012 at 35.6 minutes per game.
According to NBA.com, out of the NBA’s top 25 most targeted defenders on isolation plays, Harden has been the stingiest of them all. Harden allowing only .72 points per possession leads the NBA. Still not a believer? Out of all players with at least 50 post-up possessions defended, Harden ranks second in the league allowing just 0.59 points per post-up possession. The one player ranked ahead of Harden is former defensive player of the year and 7-footer Marc Gasol. Dust off your glasses and see for yourself.
Conclusion and Record Against Top Competition:
The Rockets are 2-0 against the Warriors this season with Harden in the lineup, 2-0 against the Cavaliers, 2-0 against the Trailblazers, 3-0 against the Timberwolves, and 3-0 against the Spurs. Only a handful of those games were even decided by seven points.
Harden has simply been the best player this season on the team with the best record in the NBA. The Rockets are winners of 22 of their last 24 games since Harden returned from his seven-game absence and show no signs of slowing down. You have every right to argue that the Warriors may be the “better” team, but there has been no denying the brilliance and improved play of James Harden this season.
James Harden: Associated Press
LeBron & Harden: SI.com
We do not claim ownership of any of the photo's. All photo's have been used under the "fair use" guidelines.
PC: New York Times: The 2015 NBA Draft Lottery (Chang W. Lee)
Throughout the entirety of the NBA Draft Lottery process, we have seen multiple teams embrace the position of tanking. Tanking is frowned upon by the NBA, but more importantly, openly tanking is a no-no. Recently, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined $600,000 for publicly saying that his team was tanking. While we know that other teams are tanking, they haven’t openly admitted they are, and this is considered “acceptable”.
While the NBA has been frustrated with the amount of teams tanking, they have yet to find a solution to discourage teams from throwing away their season. There have been several ideas thrown out there, but there hasn’t been one that the league has endorsed. With roughly one-third of the NBA tanking, I started brainstorming ideas on how we could fix the NBA Draft Lottery process. Here is my solution.
Rewarding Winning Teams
The NBA Playoffs consists of the top-eight seeds in the Western Conference and the top-eight seeds in the Eastern Conference. The remaining fourteen teams are then placed into the NBA Draft Lottery. The team with the worst overall record of the fourteen teams receives the best chance to win the NBA Draft Lottery, while the team with the best overall record of the fourteen teams is given the worst chance to win the NBA Draft Lottery.
The logic behind the NBA Draft Lottery makes perfect sense. You want the team that struggled the most in the prior season to have the best shot at improving their team. Unfortunately, front offices in the NBA have abused that privilege and that is why tanking has become, out of hand.
In order to reward teams that are pushing for a Playoff spot, the only solution is having a single-elimination tournament for those who are in the NBA Draft Lottery. In round one, the top two teams in the NBA Draft Lottery Tournament will receive a BYE, while the remaining twelve will play each other. The team with the best overall record, for each game, will be rewarded home court advantage.
The NBA Draft Lottery Tournament Seeds
I am going to use last year’s lottery results to use as an example for how I would setup this tournament:
As for the Boston Celtics, the Celtics received their pick from the Brooklyn Nets without protection. The Celtics were also the number one seed in the Eastern Conference last year. This would be a challenge to figure out who would play for the Celtics because you don’t want to cause a scheduling conflict for their Playoff team. There are two options the league could look at here:
A. The League could move the NBA Playoffs back one week in order for the Celtics to have a fully strengthened roster over the course of the NBA Draft Lottery Tournament.
B. The Celtics create their 12-man roster for the Playoffs and the remaining three players on their roster plus their G-League affiliate represents them in the NBA Draft Lottery Tournament.
For this case, we are going to choose option B. I feel as if this is the most efficient way to properly go about this scenario.
The NBA Draft Lottery Tournament Schedule
This is what the First round of the NBA Draft Lottery Playoffs would look like this:
Round 1: The first round of the NBA Draft Lottery Tournament will be played on Friday and Saturday following the end of the NBA’s regular season. The NBA Playoffs will start on Sunday.
Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets receive 1st Round Byes
#3 Detroit Pistons vs. #14 Boston Celtics (Friday, 7:00 PM)
#4 Charlotte Hornets vs. #13 Los Angeles Lakers (Friday, 9:30 PM)
#5 New Orleans Pelicans vs. #12 Philadelphia 76ers (Saturday, 12:00 PM)
#6 Dallas Mavericks vs. #11 Phoenix Suns (Saturday 2:30 PM)
#7 New York Knicks vs. #10 Sacramento Kings (Saturday 5:00 PM)
#8 Minnesota Timberwolves vs. #9 Orlando Magic (Saturday 7:30 PM)
We will assume that the 1st round winners went to best overall record for this example.
Round 2: The 2nd round of the NBA Draft Lottery Tournament will be conducted Monday and Tuesday in the day time, because NBA teams will be using the primetime schedule to play.
#1 Miami Heat vs. #8 Minnesota Timberwolves (Monday, 12:00 PM)
#2 Denver Nuggets vs. #7 New York Knicks (Monday, 3:00 PM)
#3 Detroit Pistons vs. #6 Dallas Mavericks (Tuesday, 12:00 PM)
#4 Charlotte Hornets vs #5 New Orleans Pelicans (Tuesday, 3:00 PM)
We will assume that the 2nd round winners went to best overall record for this example.
Round 3: The 3rd round of the NBA Draft Lottery Tournament will be conducted Thursday in the day time, because NBA teams will be using the primetime schedule to play.
#1 Miami Heat vs. #4 Charlotte Hornets (Thursday, 12:00 PM)
#2 Denver Nuggets vs. #3 Detroit Pistons (Thursday, 3:00 PM)
We will assume that the 3rd round winners went to best overall record for this example.
Round 4 (Championship): The Championship round of the NBA Draft Lottery Tournament will be conducted Saturday at 12:30, because no NBA Playoff game was scheduled for a 12:30 tip-off on the 2nd Saturday of the 2017 NBA Playoffs.
#1 Miami Heat vs. #2 Denver Nuggets (Saturday, 12:30 PM)
Recap and Break Down of the Rewards for Placing 1st and 2nd in
Group 1: Mark Wahlen
New York Knicks
Los Angeles Lakers
Group 2: Alex Golden
Golden State Warriors
San Antonio Spurs
Oklahoma City Thunder
Group 3: Rob Soni
Group 4: Zach Milner
New Orleans Pelicans
Portland Trades: CJ McCollum + Evan Turner
Raptors Trade: DeMar DeRozan + Jonas Valanciunas
Rob (Raptors GM): “I think if you are realistic, the Raptors can’t score in the playoffs. And I really feel like CJ helps them come playoff time way more (than DeRozan). Come playoff time, I think CJ helps more. Honestly, I think both teams need a shake-up. We’ve seen both squads in this iteration for like 3 straight years. I watch a lot of East coast hoops, and I really believe that they’d be better with CJ."
Mark (Blazers GM): “To be honest, I don’t see the Raptors doing it either. They’re playing too damn well right now to shake things up in a major way. And I feel like CJ and Lowry wouldn’t be the greatest fit. I think the deal would be a home run for the Blazers though. Really interesting trade either way.”
Alex:“There’s no way in hell that I see Toronto doing that trade. Plus, JV has had moments of solid basketball.”
Zach: “What Alex said. Really tough to break up DeRozan and Lowry when they’ve been playing so well. I know they can try and get rid of JV, but I don’t see them losing DeMar to do it. They don’t need to shake things up. Talent and money wise, it’s a fair trade. I just don’t think Toronto considers it. DeRozan has improved and Toronto’s offense isn’t as dependent on ISO anymore. I always have a tough time believing the Raps after the regular season, but this year feels a bit different. They’re not finals bound, but they’re more competitive.”
LA Clippers Trade: DeAndre Jordan + Wesley Johnson
Cleveland Cavaliers Trade: Tristan Thompson + Jae Crowder + Cavs 2018 1st rounder (lottery protected) and Miami's 2020 2nd round pick (top 35 protected)
Zach (Cavs GM):“I think Cleveland would be really happy with getting DJ while keeping the Brooklyn pick and dumping Tristan Thompson."
Mark:"Ya, I think that they (the Cavs) would be ecstatic with that deal. Really good deal for the Cavs. I wonder if the Clippers could get better, but if the Bucks aren’t willing to pay up, it’s hard to find another suitor for that price.”
Rob:“I think it works well, because if DJ opts in, the Cavs are screwed next year, and that has to be factored into the trade”
Philadelphia Trades: Dario Saric + Amir Johnson
Utah Jazz Trades: Derrick Favors + rights to swap 2nd round picks in 2018 (Philly would now own the right to swap picks)
Zach (Jazz GM): “For the record, I think there’s no way Philly considers this trade, but I could be wrong.”
Rob:“I don’t they they move off Saric for Favors and a pick swap. Maybe if they (the Jazz) ate Bayless’s contract, but I don’t that trade (including Bayless) works financially. If the 76ers can get rid of Bayless, they can offer PG13 the max.”
Mark:”Jazz would take Saric in a heartbeat. Can’t see the 76ers doing it. This trade is great for Utah.”
Alex (76ers GM): “The 76ers need a younger veteran center to backup Embiid, so I say good deal.”
LA Clippers Trade: Lou Williams
New Orleans Trades: E'twaun Moore + 2019 2nd round pick
Zach (New Orleans GM): “Probably should have taken the swapping of 2 picks, but still a good trade for the Pelicans in my opinion. E'Twaun Moore isn’t bad at all, but gets $7 million off the books and brings someone in who can score off the bench.”
Alex (Clippers GM): “Yeah, me too. That’s why I asked for it (another 2nd round pick). But acquiring another 2nd rounder for next year gives them more pieces to play with in the future. Moore has been solid this year, so that’s why I asked for it. Probably the most realistic trade we’ve made in the group lol.”
Other Completed Trades
Washington Trades: Jodie Meeks + 2018 1st round
Memphis Trades: Tyreke Evans + future 2nd
Phoenix Suns & Denver Nuggets:
Phoenix Suns Trade: Troy Daniels + two 2018 2nd rounders
Denver Nuggets Trade: Emanuel Mudiay
Deals That Got Close, But Ultimately Fell Apart
Utah Jazz Trade: Ekpe Udoh
Golden State Warriors Trade: Zaza Pachulia + Nick Young + Kevon Looney + their own 2018 1st round pick
Utah Jazz Trade: Derrick Favors
Brooklyn Nets Trade: DeMarre Carroll + Joe Harris
Detroit Pistons Trade: Stanley Johnson + Jon Leur + 2018 2nd round pick
Orlando Magic Trade: Elfrid Payton
Phoenix Suns Trade: Three 2018 2nd round picks
Talks That Happened, But Never Got Serious
Hassan Whiteside to the Cavs for a package centered around IT and their own 2018 1st.
LA Clippers & Milwaukee Bucks:
DJ to the Bucks for a package centered around Malcolm Brogdan + Thon Maker.
Dallas Mavericks & Cleveland Cavaliers:
Nerlens Noel to the Cavs for a package centered around Jose Calderon + Ante Zizic.
Dallas Mavericks & Cleveland Cavaliers:
Wesley Matthews to the Cavs for Channing Frye + the Cavs 2018 1st.
Utah Jazz, LA Clippers & Cleveland Cavaliers:
3 team trade centered around the Jazz landing Kevin Love. The Clippers landing Rodney Hood + Derrick Favors + Joe Johnson + Tristan Thompson + the Cavs own 2018 1st rounder. The Cavs getting DeAndre Jordan + Austin Rivers.
LA Clippers & LA Lakers:
DeAndre Jordan to the Lakers for Jordan Clarkson + Julius Randle.
Utah Jazz & The Atlanta Hawks:
Rodney Hood to the Hawks in a deal centered around one of the Hawks late 2018 1st round picks.
Portland Trailblazers & Cleveland Cavaliers:
CJ McCollum to the Cavs in a deal centered around the Brooklyn 2018 1st round pick.
Portland Trailblazers & Utah Jazz:
CJ McCollum + Meyers Leonard to the Jazz in a deal centered around Rodney Hood + Derrick Favors + Utah's 2018 1st round pick.
Portland Trailblazers & Philadelphia 76ers:
CJ McCollum to the 76ers in a deal centered around Markelle Fultz + Robert Covington.
Charolette Hornets & The Cleveland Cavaliers:
Kemba Walker + Marvin Williams to the Cavs in a deal centered around Isiah Thomas + JR Smith + the Brooklyn 2018 1st round pick.
Miami Heat & The Milwaukee Bucks:
Hassan Whiteside to the Bucks in a deal centered around Malcolm Brogdan + Thon Maker + John Henson.
The Boston Celtics and....
Terry Rozier for… (it didn’t get beyond this, as Boston shut down any talks centered around Rozier immediately)
If you guessed the Boston Celtics, you are incorrect. While Boston has led the Eastern Conference since virtually the second week of the NBA season (thanks to a sixteen-game winning streak), they have looked far more like mere mortals over the past month (6-5 since January 1st).
Another likely candidate to dethrone the Cleveland Cavaliers are the Toronto Raptors. However, how many times have you seen the Raptors look fantastic during the regular season, just to once again underperform in the playoffs? The answer, too many times. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry’s struggles in the playoffs have been well documented as their playoff shooting percentages are about as terrifying as the idea of Kid Rock running for mayor of Detroit.
With that being said, the team that I believe will give the Cleveland Cavaliers the biggest scare in the Eastern Conference has ironically not won a playoff series since the 2000-2001 NBA season. This Playoff drought currently stands as the longest streak in the NBA. The team that I realistically believe has a chance to overtake the Eastern Conference is, the Milwaukee Bucks.
While this team may not be labeled as a “surprise”, they would be an unlikely favorite to overcome Boston, Toronto and Cleveland. The Bucks are led by none other than, the number two scorer in the NBA, MVP candidate, Giannis Antetokounmpo (aka The Greek Freak). Alongside Antetokounmp is six-year veteran, Khris Middleton. Middleton is one of the best bargains in the league with career highs across the board (20.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 4.3 apg). They also have the NBA’s reigning rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon. Brogdon has shown steady progression from year one to year two by increasing his points per game and rebounds per game. (We don’t know the length of Malcolm’s injury that he suffered Thursday evening, but are monitoring the status of this injury as it will play a significant factor in what Milwaukee does with their backcourt.)
Looking to add a starting point-guard to the backcourt, Milwaukee made a mid-season trade for Suns’ guard Eric Bledsoe, in exchange for center Greg Monroe. Bledsoe has had his ups and downs, but it takes awhile to get accumulated with a new roster.
Last season, Milwaukee finished as the 6th overall seed in the Eastern Conference. At this moment, the Milwaukee Bucks are the 7th best team in the Eastern Conference. Looking to change things up, the Bucks fired head coach Jason Kidd, on January 22, 2018. Failing to reach expectations, the Bucks front office had no other choice then to let Kidd go. So, with Kidd out, the reigns have been given to Joe Prunty.
Joe Prunty got his start at the University of San Diego High School, where he coached none other than current Los Angeles Laker head coach, Luke Walton. Prunty then went on to win three championships as an assistant coach to future hall of famer, Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs. Joe is no stranger to the sidelines, bringing 18 years of coaching experience to the Bucks and has Milwaukee at 4-1 since taking over as head coach. The Bucks have looked very pedestrian on both sides of the ball ranking 17th in scoring (with 105.2 points per game) and are 19th in the league in defensive efficiency (106.7) What really tips the scale for Milwaukee, is ranking dead-last in rebounds per game with an average of 38.7.
While the Bucks have played below average this season, they are winners of four of their last five games. Milwaukee will likely be in the trade market to add depth to their front-court, but the biggest addition they could receive is the return of starting power-forward, Jabari Parker. The former Blue Devil is coming off his second ACL tear in his right knee in the last three seasons, raising questions of just how effective he can be this season as he enters restricted free agency this summer. Parker is set to make his season debut (on a minutes’ restriction) against the New York Knicks, Friday, February 2nd.
The glaring hole on this team is at the center position. For the time being John Henson and second year, former top 10 draft pick, Thon Maker have shouldered the load. While both men are long by NBA standards, they are outmatched on most nights by opposing teams’ centers. However, their weaknesses are overshadowed by the brilliance of the “do it all” sensation, Giannis Anteokounmpo.
The “Greek Freak” became just the 5th player in NBA history to lead his team in all 5 major statistical categories and once again leads the Bucks in points, rebounds, and assists per game. Recent trade rumors have the Bucks actively looking to get their hands on a big man, and the two most common names that have been thrown around are none other than the reigning NBA rebound leader Hassan Whiteside of the Miami Heat, and the NBA’s five-time defending field goal percentage leader, Deandre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Neither man will come cheap, but if we learned anything from the recent Blake Griffin trade, unloading a lengthy contract with a high dollar amount benefits your teams’ cap space for the future. In the summer of 2016, Hassan Whiteside signed the largest per year contract in Miami Heat history. The contract was 4 years and just over 98 million dollars total (equating to an average of over $24.6 million per year). Hassan Whiteside has fallen a bit out of favor with Heat coaches as his playing time is down nearly seven minutes per game compared to last season. This is an organization that is still paying Chris Bosh $52 million through the 2019-2020 season and could use some cap relief and young talent.
One trade I like for both Milwaukee and Miami is Center Hassan Whiteside and Power Forward Okaro White, in exchange for (soon to be restricted free agent) Power Forward Jabari Parker, Power Forward/Center John Henson, and Shooting Guard, Rashad Vaughn. It is possible that a future first round pick could be included down the road, but if Miami is looking to shed a massive amount of salary and still be able to be in the thick of things in the East, this is a move they may want to execute (with or without a draft pick in exchange).
Milwaukee has a $5 million trade exception that expires this month from last year’s Roy Hibbert trade to Denver. So, I expect them to use that to bolster their roster depth in any deal. The previous trade mentioned would allow Miami to escape the remaining $52.5 million left on Whiteside’s contract and bring in the former #2 overall draft pick, Jabari Parker to Miami. Parker has improved in each of his three seasons and holds a career 49% shooting percentage. Henson is still due just over $20 million total through the 2019-2020 season, but this move allows Miami to move Henson back to his natural position of power forward and open minutes up for their first-round draft pick, Bam Adebayo.
Deandre Jordan is someone that may be a bit tougher to acquire considering Los Angeles will be looking for a combination of draft picks and cap relief as they look to continue to clear the books moving into the summer of 2018. Jordan has a player option of just over $24 million for next season and may not fit into Los Angeles’ plans in the near future. With Lou Williams also being rumored to be on the trading block, the Clippers are expected to be active before the deadline. I see a very similar trade of Jabari Parker and John Henson for Deandre Jordan. This move would allow Los Angeles to pair Parker with recently acquired Tobias Harris and with the money saved by ridding themselves of Jordan, they will have the proper funds to match any offer that Jabari may receive this summer as he becomes a restricted free agent.
Los Angeles will have quite the bidding war taking place as they field offers for Jordan, but with the threat of Jordan being able to opt out of his contract this summer, the Clippers may want to strike while the iron is hot and take the best possible offer for Deandre rather than let things play out. While Jordan’s offensive numbers such as scoring and free throw attempts per game are down a bit after the departure of Chris Paul, the seven-footer could step in immediately to fix the Bucks rebounding issue as he has finished in the top three in rebounds per game for each of the last five seasons and currently sits at second in the NBA pulling down 14.9 rebounds per game.
If Milwaukee can pull off one of these two moves at the deadline, I expect them to not only make a jump from the 7th seed, but potentially possess home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs as a top four seed. If they can land a home court advantage in the first round, not only do I see them winning a first round matchup against the likes of a Washington, Miami, or Indiana, I see this team giving Boston or Toronto some serious trouble in the second round. Unless Cleveland can make a serious move within the next seven days by the NBA trade deadline, the East is about as wide open as a 7/11 in the middle of the night. With news dropping left and right as we approach the trade deadline, stay tuned to see how an already exciting NBA season unfolds.
We do not claim ownership of any of the photo's used. All photo's have been used under the "fair use" guidelines.
Rob Soni is an NBA cap and CBA savant and contributor to The Five By 5.
Brett Brown, who is now in his 5th year coaching the team, hasn’t really been properly evaluated due to the 76ers “the process” tank years, during which previous management refused to equip Brown with legitimate NBA talent. On most nights, Brett Brown was forced to play guys that either would be low level rotation players on most teams, or in some cases, guys that shouldn’t have even been in the league. This was all due to management continuously pushing to improve their draft position as much as possible. However, now that Brown has what appears to be a legitimate playoff team, its time to evaluate him a little more closely.
So, let’s start with this question: Do the 76ers show any signs and symptoms of poor coaching? Answer: you bet they do.
Currently, the 76ers are dead last in turnovers at 18 per game (meaning they turn the ball over the most). That’s 2 more turnovers per game than the next closest team, the Lakers, who turn the ball over 2 less times per game than the 76ers do. Most people would attribute the high turnover rate to playing mostly young players and having a rookie point guard. And, in their defense, it makes sense. However, they’re still ranked by realgm.com as the 12th youngest roster in the league, so they aren't the youngest team by any measure. So what else could be the reason? Maybe it’s the system.
According to cleaningtheglass.com, the 76ers only have 3 players in their regular rotation who are above the 35th percentile at their position in turnover percentage: Trevor Booker (58th percentile), Richaun Holmes (78th percentile) and JJ Reddick (72nd percentile). That’s not good. Additionally, their two super stars, who have their hands on the ball the most, have been turning the ball over for a combined 17.4% of their possession’s. This is easily one of (if not the worst) turnover rates by any high usage duo in the league. However, at the same time, both Embiid and Simmons rank astronomically high in assist percentage and assist usage. This seems to indicate that they are making a lot of great passes that lead to assists, but also making an equal amount of risky ones that end in turnovers. This is where coaching, and the system and culture being implemented by Brett Brown could be the reason for these issues. Why? For it to be this late in the season, and for such talented players as Embiid and Simmons to have such high turnover rates, while also having high assist rates, it seems like it may be the fault of Brett Brown and his staff for allowing those guys to continue to make poor (and unchecked) decisions. If Brown and the coaching staff aren’t able to hold those guys accountable for the decisions they make with the ball, they will continue to struggle with high turnover rates, and struggle to learn how to play smarter, playoff caliber basketball. With that being said, I am not at their practices, nor can I hear Coach Brown from the sidelines, so maybe he is preaching it and it just hasn't gotten through yet, but it’s something to consider.
And sure, there are other possible explanations as to why the 76ers could be having such a big problem with turnovers. In fairness to Brown, we should also consider these variables:
The 76ers are the 3rd fastest team in the league in terms of pace of play, while the Lakers are 2nd in pace of play. So what? Well, considering that both the 76ers and Lakers are the two worst teams in the league at turning the ball over, maybe it has something to do with their pace of play.
Another attributing factor may be that the 76ers are playing mostly young players and having a rookie point guard. Makes sense, right? Young players (especially a young point guard) usually = high turnovers. However, the 76ers are ranked by realgm.com as just the 12th youngest roster in the league, so they aren't the youngest team by any measure. And yes, their two main guys, Embiid and Simmons, are younger and lack the playing time relative to the years they've been in the league, but for how talented those two guys are? I can't see that being the primary culprit for the 76ers turnover problem.
So, what other signs and symptoms are the 76ers showing that may indicate poor coaching?
The other shocking thing about this 76ers team, and something that is entirely within the control of Brett Brown and his coaching staff, are their rotations. Among current playoff teams in the NBA, there are only 3 teams that do not have two rotations that have played 100+ minutes together so far this year: the Warriors (which is explained by how often they blow teams out), the Heat and the 76ers. Now, the first two teams we know have elite coaching and have different circumstances that explain much of their lack of 100+ minute rotations (the Heat have 6 players from last years regular rotation, meaning they have played a lot together in the past and probably aren’t worried about it as much, and on top of that, they’ve had some injury issues). But for this 76ers team, it doesn't make much sense. They only have 1 returning regular starter from last seasons starting group that started over 36 games: Robert Covington. So what’s the 76ers excuse? With continuity mattering in the NBA, not having regular and consistent rotations can force a lot of unforced errors. Think to how a game of pick up basketball is with 4 other guys you’ve never played with before. How much chemistry does your team have? How many “dumb” mistakes happen because of the lack of familiarity? Sure, these guys practice together and are paid professionals, but nothing replicates live NBA games and repetitions. If Brett Brown found and committed to a more reliable and consistent rotation, it could clean up some of their warts on offense, and potentially help limit the high turnover rate.
So why does this matter so much?
To turn the ball over 12.5% more than the 2nd worst team in the league… that is a recipe that not only kills you in the regular season, but will also be exploited exponentially by opposing teams defenses come playoff time. The last team to turn it over at this rate was the 2002-2003 Denver Nuggets, who finished with a 17-65 record. That record tied the Nuggets that year with the Cleveland Cavalier’s for the worst record in the NBA. High turnover teams generally don't win come spring time (unless you’re the Warriors, who turn it over a lot, but they also have 4 of the best 20 guys in the league on their roster and a top tier offense AND defense).
So, is it time for the 76ers to fire Brett Brown?
No, I don't think its time to fire Brett Brown. Despite the historic turnover rate of his team, Brown is in the top 6 among coaches in both SLOB efficiency (side line out of bounds) and BLOB efficiency (baseline out of bounds plays) per synergy. That’s a stat that’s strong with the top coaches in the league (guys like Popovich, Stevens, and Spoelstra all rank in the top). So, Brett Brown does have some strong indicators to show that he is a playoff caliber coach, but as outlined previously, there’s also a lot of area’s where he can improve. Just because Brown can draw up nice out of bounds plays doesn’t mean he’s good at holding players accountable or can fix glaring, and nearly debilitating problems with his team.
This is something I think we all should be monitoring as the season goes on.
If the 76ers can’t remedy their bad case of turnovers, come April and the playoffs, the turnovers could very well be the reason their season ends earlier than they hope. However, on the contrary, if they clean this aspect up, they could be really lethal and a team that nobody, not even Cleveland or Boston would want to play in a 7 games series.
Brett Brown: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
We do not claim ownership of any of the photo's used. All photo's have been used under the "fair use" guidelines.
Rob is an NBA cap savant and contributor to The Five By 5.
Step 1: Create space for two max salaries.
Two max salaries (Paul George and LeBron James in this case) would require right around $70.5 million in cap space in order for the Clippers to sign them both out right in free agency. As it stands now, the Clippers are projected to have -$3,886,085 in cap space for this upcoming offseason. So, how do we get to that $70.5 million range? It's not easy, but far from impossible. First order of business is getting off of Danilo Gallinari’s contract. Being that Gallinari is owed roughly $21.5 million over the next 3 years, you will almost certainly have to throw in the Clippers/Pistons pick to unload him for expiring contracts (likely the Clippers own pick). A potential suitor could be in the form of the Philadelphia 76ers. Yes, this is a long shot, but packaging that pick and Gallo for Amir Johnsons $11 million dollar expiring contract and Trevor Bookers $9 million expiring contract gets the deal done. Why for Philly? Philly gets the wing shooter they desperately need and now have two bites at the apple come draft time in June. Additionally, the Clippers might consider making that Clipper pick more attractive by “tanking for LeBron," a strategy we haven't yet seen in the NBA. What I mean by that is that you gut as much of the roster as possible besides key guys like DeAndre Jordan, Avery Bradley and Patrick Beverly. This would keep the attractive “LeBron pieces” together, but it would also allow the Clippers to be just bad enough where that Clippers pick would become that much more enticing to a team that’s willing to take on Gallo’s contract.
Step 2: Cut ties with the coaches kid.
Austin Rivers must also be traded. Now, this gets a little trickier due to the Clippers not owning a 2019 first round draft pick that could be used to dump his contract. This means that the "Stepien rule" would come into effect for the Clippers (can't trade first round picks in back to back years). However, the Clippers could look to trade Rivers for Al Jefferson straight up. If needed, the Clippers could always throw in a future second, or a (far) future protected first round pick to grease the wheels on the trade, but at that point, it’s all about getting LeBron, so who cares about giving up another pick or two?
Step 3: Move the Boban.
To really make sure the Clippers get to the point where they can get both LeBron and PG13, they’d have to trade Boban Marjanovich, who is owed $7 million in each of the next two years. The perfect fit as an expiring contract in a trade that would dump Boban’s salary is (ironically enough) Cleveland’s Channing Frye. Not only do the salaries match, but Cleveland also needs the rim protection that Boban can provide (he has a sneaky good 22 PER this year). In this ideal scenario, LA should probably look to get a 2nd round pick back in the trade, even if it is protected somewhat, but now may not be the time for them to get greedy. This propsed trade would make the Cavs better this year, but it also helps the Clippers clean the rest of their books and clear the path to chase LeBron AND PG13 in free agency.
Step 4: Ride the waive (if needed).
At this point, the Clippers would have a total of $37.77 million dollars committed to their 2018-2019 salary books, and with the cap projected right around $108 million for next year (per Bleacher Report), the Clippers would almost exactly be at the roughly $70.5 million in cap space that would be needed to sign the two big fish. Other final measures to ensure the Clippers have the cap space could include stretching Milos Teodosic or Sam Dekker, giving the Clippers even more cap breathing room. They could also look to waive a few players if both LeBron and Paul George are hell bent on getting the absolute max contracts they’ll qualify for, but by estimations, the Boban deal makes two maxes possible regardless of other cap clearing moves.
Step 5: Make a deal with DJ.
This is where the power of Steve Ballmer comes in. The Clippers will need to make a back door deal with DeAndre Jordan that will have him opt out of the final year of his contract (player option), with the Clippers promising to re-sign him at a later time in free agency to a new (and of course, lucrative) deal. Sound crazy? The Spurs did something just like this recently with Pau Gasol. If they can convince DJ to do it, the Clippers could sign him to whatever contract he wants AFTER they get George and LeBron signed, but they could use the extra cap space to sign those two guys first before taking care of DJ.
Step 6: Pay-up for depth.
At this point, the Clippers are capped out, and can’t really make any more moves. But again, this is where Ballmer comes into play. He’s said before that he’s willing to spend for a contender, and if that’s the case, the Clippers should use their newly gained Bird rights to bring back Avery Bradley on whatever his price tag he asks. His defense and spot-up shooting would be huge additions to a core of LeBron, PG13 and DeAndre Jordan.
Step 7: Add the finishing (and cheap) touches.
To this point, the Clippers have probably got more (if not the most) out of their 2 way contract players and minimum free agent signings. Between those two avenues, and smart use of the mid level exception, the Clippers might be able to find the diamonds in the rough to flesh out the rest of the roster.
This might all sound far fetched, but it's all a legitimate option within the constraints of the CBA. And of course, it's also helpful to have Paul George’s expressed desire to play in LA and LeBron’s sizable investments in housing and businesses there as part of the equation. And while I may have missed a couple small details here and there, don't bet against something like this happening. The Clippers have some impressive and creative minds in their front office, and an owner who has stated numerous times that winning trumps money (and if his team is winning, he'll make more money from the franchise). A starting lineup of Patrick Beverly, Avery Bradley, Paul George, LeBron James, and DeAndre Jordan could really give the Warriors and the rest of the league fits. Plus Tobias Harris as your first man off the bench isn't too shabby either. Yes, this would be an extremely top heavy team, but in this salary cap era, no one will be able to replicate what the Warriors have been able to accomplish anytime soon, so teams (like the Clippers) need to be creative and take creative risks like this. At this point, nothing is too crazy in the NBA, and honestly, does Paul George and LeBron James playing together in LA sound that weird? It could happen, but we’ll have to wait and see.