- Trading for DeMar DeRozan doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Magic, Josh Robbins of The Athletic opines. The Magic are reportedly interested in DeRozan but he can become an unrestricted free agent by declining his $27.7MM player option this summer, Robbins notes. Giving up a good young player like Aaron Gordon for DeRozan would be too risky unless DeRozan made a commitment to stay with Orlando. A trade with the Warriors for guard D’Angelo Russell would be more feasible, though the Magic’s interest level in doing that is unknown, Robbins adds.
Criticism can be hard to give and harder to accept but it’s something that teams in the NBA need to be comfortable with in order to improve. Wizards players are still figuring out one another and being constructive with criticism is something that the team has discussed within the locker room, as David Aldridge of The Athletic relay.
“You do it strategically,” said Ish Smith, who was part of the rebuild in Philadelphia. “Everybody ain’t rah-rah. You’ve got to be able to talk to them. And you’ve got to read people’s body language. How people walk, how do people talk, how they’re feeling, if they’re down if they’re up. Those are the things you’ve got to be able to do. You’ve got to communicate, not just by yelling and screaming. You’ve got to be able to pull guys to the side. And that all grows with relationships and just building throughout the season.”
Here’s more from the Southeast Division:
- The Magic have listed Michael Carter-Williams as doubtful for Tuesday’s contest vs. the Wizards, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel tweets. The designation is technically an upgrade on out, which is what MCW has been for the last six contests, so the point guard may be nearing a return.
- Jimmy Butler is proving to be the ultimate teammate, Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel writes. Butler is simply trying to win games and he’s not making it about personal glory or any statistics during his first year with the Heat.
- In the same piece, Winderman explains why Justise Winslow has been playing in crunch time for the Heat over Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn. Winslow remaining on the floor has to do with his defense and coach Erik Spoelstra valued that late in games recently.
Magic forward Al-Farouq Aminu has a torn meniscus in his right knee, the team announced on Twitter. An MRI revealed the damage. He will be evaluated further to determine how the injury will be treated and how long he will be out of action.
Aminu, 29, signed a three-year, $29MM deal with Orlando in July. He is playing 21.1 minutes per night through 18 games, mostly in a reserve role, and is averaging 4.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.
The news is the latest injury blow to a Magic team already missing starting center Nikola Vucevic, along with Michael Carter-Williams. It should mean more minutes for Aaron Gordon, who returned from an ankle injury this week, and Jonathan Isaac, as well as a potential opportunity for third-year forward Wesley Iwundu.
Orlando is carrying an open roster spot that could be filled if depth becomes an issue, points out Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link).
Over the course of the 2019/20 NBA season, up until February’s trade deadline, we’re keeping an eye on potential trade candidates from around the NBA, monitoring their value and exploring the likelihood that they’ll be moved. Each of these looks at possible trade candidates focuses on a specific division, as we zero in on three players from that division.
We’re still more than two weeks away from December 15, the date when most of this past offseason’s free agent signees become trade-eligible, so the NBA’s 2019/20 trade season hasn’t really begun yet. But with the regular season nearing the one-quarter mark, we’re getting a better sense of which teams might be buyers and which non-contenders will end up being sellers.
Having gone through all six divisions once as we examine potential trade candidates, we’re starting our second go-round today. Here are three more possible trade candidates from out of the Southeast:
Davis Bertans, PF
$7MM cap hit; UFA in 2020
Bertans, who would likely still be a Spur if Marcus Morris had never agreed to sign with San Antonio over the summer, has played a crucial role in helping the Wizards post some of the NBA’s best offensive numbers. One of the most dangerous frontcourt shooters in the league, Bertans is making a career-high 44.3% of his three-pointers on 7.6 attempts per game and has increased his scoring average off the bench to 13.3 PPG.
The Wizards might try to lock up Bertans long-term, but the 27-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, giving the club little leverage in contract talks. If Washington falls out of the playoff hunt in the East, Bertans will be one of the team’s best trade chips, based on his affordable cap hit ($7MM), his expiring contract, and his ability to provide instant offense.
One scout who spoke to ESPN’s Bobby Marks earlier this month suggested that it wouldn’t be a surprise if there’s a team willing to surrender a late first-round pick for Bertans at the trade deadline.
Jabari Parker, PF
$6.5MM cap hit; $6.5MM player option for 2020/21
Like the Wizards, the Hawks probably won’t shift into selling mode until their playoff hopes are all but extinguished. And it may take a while for that to happen in an Eastern Conference where the 8-12 Hornets currently hold onto the No. 8 seed.
Still, at 4-15, the Hawks are already 3.5 games out of the postseason picture, so unless they start winning some games soon, they’ll have to consider shopping some veteran players. Although Parker is only 24, the sixth-year forward qualifies as one such veteran.
With 17.8 PPG on 51.8% shooting through 18 games (28.1 MPG), Parker has been the Hawks’ best scorer not named Trae Young this season. And it’s not as if he’s been putting up numbers against second-stringers — he has been a starter since John Collins was hit with a 25-game suspension early in the season.
With a $6.5MM player option for the 2020/21 season, Parker could be a one-and-done in Atlanta, so if a team in need of frontcourt scoring wants to make a play for him before the deadline, the Hawks would be wise to listen.
Aaron Gordon, F
$19.9MM cap hit; descending guaranteed salaries through 2021/22
By all accounts, Gordon isn’t a trade candidate right now. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported two weeks ago that teams were monitoring the former No. 4 overall pick in case he becomes available, but said that Orlando has shown no interest in such a move.
Still, the Magic (7-11) have been disappointing so far and their offense has been disastrous. Jonathan Isaac, not exactly a dynamic scorer himself, nonetheless looks like a franchise cornerstone due to his versatility, defensive ability, and upside, and Sean Deveney of Forbes recently suggested there may be some concern within the organization about the long-term fit of an Isaac/Gordon frontcourt.
Gordon is just 24 years old and still has intriguing potential, despite his lack of improvement so far this season. He also has a contract that declines in value each year, eventually dipping to $16.4MM in 2021/22. That makes him a valuable trade chip.
I think the Magic front office will be patient in giving the current group every opportunity to make things work, and a trade for scoring help wouldn’t necessarily have to include Gordon. But moving the young forward is a possibility the team should at least consider if its struggles continue.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The decision significantly improves Orlando’s bottom line for this season and beyond. The Magic drop from $2.3MM to $7.8MM below the luxury tax line and have a $10.7MM buffer below the hard cap, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets.
Mozgov, who entered the 2019/20 league year on an expiring $16.72MM contract, was waived by Orlando during the offseason. However, because the last year of his deal was fully guaranteed, it remains on the Magic’s books, having been stretched across three seasons at an annual rate of approximately $5.57MM.
Those charges are now erased for all three seasons, as Josh Robbins of The Athletic points out (Twitter link).
Mozgov, 33, was initially acquired by the Magic during the 2018 offseason in a salary-dump deal, but didn’t appear in a game for the team last season due to knee issues. He underwent an arthroscopic procedure in January.
If a player is diagnosed with an ailment believed to be career-ending, his team is eligible to apply for cap relief one year after he last appeared in a game. An independent physician or a Fitness to Play panel needed to rule it would be a medically unacceptable risk for Mozgov to return to action. The veteran center will still receive his remaining salary.
Justise Winslow has been sidelined most of the month with a concussion but he’s closer to returning, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets. The Heat’s point forward is expected to practice on Tuesday. Winslow hasn’t played since November 5. He suffered the brain injury in a collision with Nuggets forward Paul Millsap. Coach Erik Spoelstra said Winslow formally remains in the protocol, Winderman adds.
We have more injury updates:
- Raptors guard Matt Thomas has a fractured left middle finger and missed Monday’s game, Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press tweets. The rookie suffered the injury at Atlanta on Saturday. Thomas, a shooting guard out of Iowa State, is averaging 4.8 PPG in 11.3 MPG while making 53.8 percent of his 3-point attempts over 12 games.
- Bucks forward Khris Middleton has gone through contact work in practice and played 5-on-5 as recently as Monday, coach Mike Budenholzer told Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link). Middleton suffered a left thigh contusion on November 10th and was expected to miss 3-4 weeks. Budenholzer said Middleton might be ahead of the original timetable for his return.
- Magic center Nikola Vucevic said his right ankle sprain is not as severe as he originally feared when he suffered the injury last Wednesday, Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets. However, he also has a bone bruise that will take some time to heal. He hasn’t been able to do any kind of running, Robbins adds. Vucevic is expected to miss a minimum of four weeks.
Markelle Fultz has been aggressive and productive for the Magic in recent games, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes. Fultz, who is eligible for a rookie scale extension next offseason, has scored in double figures the last four games while recording at least 14 drives in three of his past four games, Parry notes. The increased offensive production from the top pick in the 2017 draft comes at a time when top frontcourt players Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon are nursing ankle sprains. “With a couple of our main guys out, I wanted to get guys going and I knew I had to be aggressive to help us make up those points that we were missing,” Fultz said. “It’s just about me getting into the paint and letting my guys know if they are cutting I’ll find them and also scoring when I have to.”
- Josh Robbins of The Athletic provides injury updates on Magic players Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic and Michael Carter-Williams. Gordon has a combination of a right ankle contusion and right ankle sprain, Robbins notes, though his injury is improving and he’s receiving around-the-clock treatment. Vucevic is also rehabbing from an ankle injury, though the 29-year-old is no longer in a walking boot. Carter-Williams did some stationary bike work on Saturday to continue rehab on a left hip injury.
With their second-year point guard Aaron Holiday on a tear recently, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star notes that the Pacers will be sure to field a litany of trade offers. Nine months ago, team advisor Larry Bird apparently cautioned Indiana against including Holiday in a potential trade deal for Mike Conley with the Grizzlies. Bird was confident in the potential of Holiday, picked 23rd in the 2018 NBA Draft. The Magic and Suns apparently also expressed interest in making a move for Holiday around the 2018/19 trade deadline.
Following a performative hiccup at the start of the season, Holiday has picked up his play of late. Though he will return to the bench after starting in the injured Malcolm Brogdon‘s absence, Michael speculates that Holiday has displayed enough flashes to tantalize teams as a potential trade chip once again.
There’s more from Indianapolis:
- Speaking of Brogdon, The Athletic’s Scott Agness tweets that the point guard will return to the floor for the Pacers tomorrow against the Grizzlies for the first time since injuring his back on November 15th against the Rockets. “I think I stepped wrong and my back reacted strongly to it,” Brogdon said, per Agness. “They said I strained a muscle and possibly a joint. But now the inflammation has gone away, my movement is all the way back, I have no pain and I feel great on the court.”
- Two-way player Naz Mitrou-Long spoke with Mark Montieth of Pacers.com about his unlikely path to Indiana. A five-year college player for Iowa State, Mitrou-Long toiled in the 2017 Summer League and saw 15 games of NBA action as a two-way player for the Jazz in 2017/18 and 2018/19. He joined the Pacers on November 17th for emergency spot rotation minutes in a game against the Bucks before making the most out of the team’s next outing, a win against the Nets in which he scored 12 points in 25 minutes. “I know guys who have been in the league for three, four, five years who are looking to put a stretch together to reassure themselves,” Mitrou-Long said. “Playing a game like Brooklyn and getting my feet wet against Milwaukee, feeling the comfortability, it reassures me that I am an NBA player.”
- According to Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando, Pacers center/power forward Domantas Sabonis confirmed that he will appear for Lithuania in the FIBA Qualifying Tournament for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “It’s what we have to go through to qualify for the next Olympics,” Sabonis observed. “We’re going to battle for the tournament and get a ticket for Japan.”
Vucevic turned his ankle during an awkward fall in the second quarter of Wednesday’s loss to the Raptors and was wearing a walking boot after the game. Although initial X-rays were negative, the Magic had their All-Star big man undergo an MRI today to determine the extent of the injury.
It’s a tough blow for an Orlando team that is off to a slow start on offense this season and will now be missing one of its top two scorers for at least the next month or so. In Vucevic’s absence, Khem Birch and Mo Bamba should see increased roles in the middle.
We’re still waiting to hear whether Aaron Gordon, who also suffered a right ankle injury in Toronto on Wednesday, will miss time too. Gordon’s injury didn’t appear to be as serious as Vucevic’s, but the forward was expected to be re-evaluated today.