In a debut installment of a new feature, Marc Stein of the New York Times made a number of predictions for the upcoming year in basketball. The scribe ventures a guess that this is the year the Trail Blazers blow up their backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
Stein writes that dealing one of the star guards would be the easiest way for the Blazers to balance their roster, something that could come in handy if the organization seeks to go in a new direction. Bear in mind, however, that Stein’s prediction applies to this year and not necessarily to this season.
Stein also makes a series of arguments that a pair of big names stay with their current teams, despite ongoing speculation to the contrary. The Times journalist says that LeBron James to the Lakers is no guarantee and that Cleveland stands a legitimate chance of retaining the King.
On a similar note, Stein reasons that DeMarcus Cousins isn’t likely to find the market teeming with attractive salary offers this season and that he’ll end up staying put with the Pelicans.
There’s more from around the league:
- One possible solution to curb the growing tension between NBA players and referees is to ramp up the discipline assigned to players who act hostile to officials. “The hammer has to drop from above,” one Western Conference team official told Ken Berger of Bleacher Report. “When you had David Stern and Rod Thorn there, none of this stuff was going on because they weren’t going to put up with it. I think we’ve gotten away from that. There’s something every night.“
- Four active front offices have made a dozen or more trade deadline deals over the course of their tenures, Bobby Marks of ESPN weighed in on them and the rest of the league’s executives in his latest for ESPN Insiders.
- There has been plenty of movement among the DraftExpress team’s list of the top 100 NBA prospects. Jonathan Givony of ESPN recently broke down a number of NCAA players who’ve recently seen their values rise dramatically.
6:30pm: Stein added in a later tweet that the Cavs have similarly inquired about Lou Williams. David Aldridge of TNT confirmed Cleveland’s interest in the former Sixth Man of the Year but notes that talks with the Clips have stalled due to L.A.’s request for the Nets’ 2018 pick.
6:13pm: The Cavaliers are pursuing separate deals for both DeAndre Jordan and George Hill, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. While the latter was reported earlier today, the fact that the Cavs are now more aggressively seeking a Jordan deal comes as news.
About a month ago, the Cavs were said to be “sniffing around” the 29-year-old Jordan. Now, third in the Eastern Conference and losers of nine of their last 13 contests, the team could be more desperate to make a bold move ahead of the deadline.
Given that Jordan is owed $22.6MM this season and holds a player option for $24.1MM next season, the luxury-tax-bound Cavs would have to get creative with outgoing packages if they planned on somehow netting both Jordan and Hill.
One of the major assets that the Cavs could offer in exchange for the 2017 NBA All-Star is the famous 2018 Nets pick they acquired from the Celtics in the Kyrie Irving trade. The team, however, has been said to be reluctant to deal the first-rounder.
The suddenly red-hot Clippers won’t be looking to give Jordan away for peanuts at the deadline, but there’s reason to believe that the club could be motivated to make a move. In 41 games for L.A. this season, Jordan has posted 11.8 points and 14.9 rebounds per game.
The Cavaliers have emerged as a suitor for George Hill, expressing interest in the Kings guard Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports writes. The Cavs are said to be envisioning Hill in a dual role out of their backcourt.
Hill has had an underwhelming first season with the rebuilding Kings, admitting months after signing a three-year, $57MM contract that he didn’t expect suiting up as a mentor on a forlorn young roster to be so difficult.
In 37 games with Sacramento this season, Hill has averaged 10.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. Those marks are considerably lower than what he posted in a stellar season for the Jazz in 2016/17.
Of course, in addition to depth chart issues, there are logistic issues to consider as well. If the Cavs were to land Hill and his $20MM contract, they’d likely have to send back a package of Channing Frye and either J.R. Smith or Iman Shumpert. None are particularly compelling assets for a team in Sacramento’s position, though Frye is at least on an expiring deal.
For the first time in 31 games, Derrick Rose will suit up for the Cavaliers, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com writes. The 29-year-old guard, however, will be on a minute restriction when the team faces off against the Magic.
Head coach Tyronn Lue has said that Rose will come off the bench in his return. In seven early-season starts for the Cavs prior to the bone spur and ankle injury that sidelined him for two months, Rose put up 14.3 points and 1.7 assists per game.
Rose’s ankle injury was the latest in a famously long line of health woes. That, of course, contributed to the period of uncertainty in late November when Rose was said to be contemplating his future in basketball.
The streaky Clippers, who lost nine straight games back in November, have now won a season-high six consecutive contests, re-inserting themselves in the playoff picture in the Western Conference. Even though DeAndre Jordan has been sidelined with an ankle injury for the Clips’ last three wins, the streak seems to bode well for his chances of sticking in Los Angeles through the trade deadline.
As Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders writes, Clippers ownership and management doesn’t seem at all eager to blow up the roster. For now, the club is focused on seeing if it’s capable of competing in the West, preferring to wait until a bit closer to the deadline to evaluate all of its options.
If the Clippers do change course by February 8, the Bucks and Rockets figure to be among the teams with interest in Jordan, whose contract situation is worth monitoring. According to Kyler, there’s a belief that the veteran center won’t be able to top his $24.12MM player option as a free agent, meaning it’s possible he could decide to opt in for 2018/19. That possibility may affect how the Clippers and potential trade partners view Jordan at the deadline.
Here’s more from Kyler:
- The Kings‘ veteran players are all potential trade candidates at the deadline, though some are more likely to be moved than others. George Hill, for example, won’t have much value, given his contract situation, his injury history, and his underwhelming play this season. Sources close to the situation tell Kyler that Sacramento seems to be trying to help its veterans find better situations as those players fall out of the team’s regular rotation.
- Kyler hears that Nikola Mirotic‘s camp is pushing for the Bulls to pick up the forward’s $12.5MM team option for 2018/19. Until that team option is exercised, Mirotic has the ability to block a trade, giving him some leverage if Chicago wants to complete a deal. League sources tell Kyler that the Bulls have “gotten pretty far down the road” in talks with the Jazz and Pistons about Mirotic.
- There’s “growing talk” around the NBA that the Heat would be open to the idea of moving Hassan Whiteside for the right mix of contracts and young players, Kyler writes. The Bucks and Cavaliers, both on the lookout for a center, would be obvious suitors, but it would tough for either team to make a deal, given Whiteside’s large cap hit ($23.78MM). John Henson, Mirza Teletovic, Tristan Thompson, and Iman Shumpert are among the players whose contracts might have to be included for Milwaukee or Cleveland to make a deal work, which doesn’t sound overly appealing for Miami.
- The Mavericks are “dangling” some expiring contracts and appear to be seeking a promising prospect on a rookie scale deal, along with future picks, says Kyler. Dallas also has cap flexibility to take on a contract or two.
The Bucks remain interested in acquiring DeAndre Jordan and it was reported last week that Milwaukee was the team most likely to land the center. However, Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times (Twitter link) hears that the Bucks are no longer the frontrunners for Jordan’s services. The scribe did not specify which team is the most likely to acquire the 29-year-old.
Jordan can become an unrestricted free agent if he turns down his player option, which is worth slightly over $24.1MM, and he has been the subject of trade rumors with the Clippers having an up-and-down season. He’s currently nursing a left ankle injury and has missed the team’s last three contests.
Any team looking to make a deal for the center will likely want to see him come back at full strength before pulling the trigger on a trade and with this season’s early trade deadline (February 8), time is ticking.
Here are some other notes from the Central Division:
- Pacers president Kevin Pritchard is thrilled with the trade that netted the team Victor Oladipo, as Clifton Brown of the Indianapolis Star passes along.“From our perspective, we targeted Victor and [Domantas Sabonis]. It wasn’t by chance. They are two young players we wanted. Victor has been like a breath of fresh air. What’s that saying, High tide lifts all boats? That’s what he’s been for us,” the executive said. Indiana owns a record of 24-20 this season and is in the thick of the Eastern Conference’s playoff race.
- The Cavaliers need to trade for a rim protector, Bill Livingston of The Cleveland Plain Dealer contends. Livingston names Jordan as a player who would help Cleveland with their defensive woes.
- LeBron James, who is expected to turn down his player option worth over $35.6MM and become a free agent at the end of the season, may be having his most impressive season to date, Nate Wolf of NBAMath contends. Wolf crunches the numbers and also finds that LBJ is having the best season ever for anyone at the age of 33.
A former MVP and a former MVP runner-up are on track to return to their respective teams’ lineups on Thursday, according to reports.
The Rockets are planning to have James Harden, who has yet to appear in a game since the calendar turned to 2018, back on the court on Thursday, league sources tell Tim MacMahon of ESPN. While Harden is still listed as questionable for that contest against Minnesota, he’s expected to play as long as he doesn’t have any hamstring-related setbacks in practice before then, MacMahon says.
Of course, in order to play for the Rockets on Thursday night, Harden will also have to avoid a suspension stemming from a postgame incident in Los Angeles on Monday night. The NBA will likely announce disciplinary measures today or tomorrow for multiple players involved in that situation. The league’s investigation is said to be focusing on Trevor Ariza as an instigator, but Harden and other Rockets could also be penalized.
Meanwhile, point guard Derrick Rose is expected to return for the Cavaliers on Thursday night against the Magic, writes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. Rose participated in practice and a scrimmage today, and said he believes he’ll be “a go” vs. the Magic.
A left ankle injury has sidelined Rose for most of his first season in Cleveland, keeping him out of action for longer than initially anticipated — he hasn’t played since November 7. The latest injury in a long line of health problems for Rose had the former MVP evaluating his NBA future away from the Cavs in the fall. However, he ultimately decided to report back to the team and continue his career.
With Isaiah Thomas back for Cleveland, it’s not clear yet how Rose will fit into the team’s rotation.
- Wojnarowski provided another trade-related tidbit on Tuesday during an appearance on ESPN’s The Jump. According to Spencer Checketts of 1280 Sports in Utah (Twitter link), Wojnarowski confirmed that the Cavaliers are looking to add size, noting that Jazz big man Derrick Favors might be a fit. Teams are calling Utah to ask about Favors, according to Woj.
The Cavaliers continue to hang onto a top-three seed in the East, but the team has dropped four consecutive games and eight of its last 10 — in terms of wins and losses, the 26-17 Cavs are now the same distance from the eighth-seeded Pistons (22-20) as they are from the second-seeded Raptors (29-13).
Cleveland’s slump has multiple players speaking to reporters – including Dave McMenamin of ESPN and Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com – to express a “growing discontent” with the state of the team. There’s increasing concern in the Cavs’ locker room that the squad’s problems aren’t fixable from within, according to McMenamin and Vardon.
“Rotations are awful. [Isaiah Thomas] is so much worse than Kyrie [Irving] defensively it’s insane,” one league source told Vardon. “There is not a great feeling anywhere. They need to limp into the All-Star break and get away from each other.”
The fact that Cavs players are expressing concerns to the media about the state of the franchise suggests that perhaps they’re trying to push the front office to make a trade to address some of those issues. According to Vardon, communication between the team’s front office and its players and coaches isn’t as frequent as it was under former GM David Griffin, so perhaps this is the simplest way for the players to send a message to management.
Here’s more from out of Cleveland:
- League sources continue to say that the Cavaliers prefer to hold onto the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick in case the team enters rebuilding mode next season, McMenamin writes in the piece linked above.
- A trusted source tells Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link) that he believes the Cavaliers will “definitely” make at least one deal before the February 8 trade deadline. However, Stein is skeptical that there’s a single move out there that would allow the Cavs to close the gap between them and the Warriors.
- The Cavs can forget about winning the NBA Finals this year if they don’t make a trade in the next few weeks, opines Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net.
- In the wake of Gregg Popovich‘s comments about LaMarcus Aldridge‘s offseason trade request, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst compares and contrasts the way the Spurs handled that situation with the way that the Cavaliers handled Kyrie Irving‘s trade request.