Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Atlantic Division:
Furkan Korkmaz, Sixers, 22, SG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $3.34MM deal in 2019
This was the player the Sixers envisioned when they made Korkmaz a draft-and-stash pick in 2016. Korkmaz has become a steady presence in Philadelphia’s rotation and is averaging 8.9 PPG while shooting 39.5% from deep. He’s made a significant impact in the last five games, averaging 16.6 PPG while lifting the Sixers to four victories. With Josh Richardson out a few weeks with a hamstring injury, Korkmaz figures to get even more playing time in the near future. Korkmaz’s $1.76MM contract for next season isn’t guaranteed but it’s a foregone conclusion Philadelphia will retain him.
Joe Harris, Nets, 28, SF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $16MM deal in 2018
Overall, Harris’ numbers are virtually identical to last season’s output, other than a dropoff from an outstanding 47.4% success rate on 3-point tries to a still very solid 40.8%. However, like his team, Harris has been in a slump. He’s scored 13 or fewer points in his last seven games and made seven more turnovers than 3-pointers during that stretch. Harris is too established to stay in this funk for very long. He will still receive offers well above his current salary of $7.67MM but stretches like this might temper some of the enthusiasm for his services when he heads into unrestricted free agency this summer.
Wayne Ellington, Knicks, 32, SG (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $16MM deal in 2019
Ellington had a couple of good years in Miami and gave Detroit a lift during the second half of last season but he’s been a non-factor with the Knicks. Ellington has only appeared in 23 games, averaging 4.0 PPG in 14.3 MPG while making just 30.9% of his 3-point attempts. If the veteran guard isn’t knocking down his threes, there’s no reason to play him — he hasn’t seen any court time since January 14. Only $1MM of Ellington’s $8MM contract for next season is guaranteed. It’s safe to say he will not have to other $7MM forwarded to his bank account. In fact, he may struggle to find anything more than the veteran’s minimum on the market this summer.
Fred VanVleet, Raptors, 25, SG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $18MM deal in 2018
The arrow continues to point upward for the fourth-year guard, whose production has steadily climbed as his playing time has expanded. VanVleet has missed some games this season due to injuries, most recently a hamstring strain. In the 34 games he’s started, he’s averaging 18.5 PPG, 6.8 APG and 2.0 SPG while shooting 40.2% on 3-point attempts. In the first three games since returning to action, VanVleet averaged 23.7 PPG and made 14 of 19 3-point attempts. He could be looking at offers in the $20-25MM per year range as an unrestricted free agent.
Enes Kanter, Celtics, 27, C (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $9.77MM deal in 2019
Kanter was the third overall pick in the draft back in 2011, so it’s easy to overlook the fact he’s still just 27 years old. Kanter has always been a double-double machine when given extended minutes. He’s averaging 18.5 MPG, his lowest amount of court time since the 2012/13 season with Utah. Yet he’s posted six doubles-doubles since New Year’s Eve, including a game-changing 18-point, 11-rebound outing against the Lakers this week. Kanter holds a $5MM player option on his contract for next season. He might test the market again and see if he can get a better deal.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Here are Friday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the league:
- The Sixers recalled Zhaire Smith from the Delaware Blue Coats, Derek Bodner of The Athletic tweets. Smith has appeared in six NBA games this season, averaging 6.7 PPG in 18.5 MPG. He provides depth at the shooting guard spot with Josh Richardson sidelined by a hamstring strain.
- The Rockets assigned guard Chris Clemons to their Rio Grande Valley affiliate, Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston tweets. The undrafted rookie has appeared in 25 games with Houston but only three this month.
- The Jazz assigned forward Juwan Morgan to the Salt Lake City Stars, according the G League transactions log. The rookie forward has appeared in 10 games with the NBA club this season.
- The Nets assigned guard Theo Pinson to their Long Island affiliate, according to the G League transactions log. He has appeared in 26 games with Brooklyn this season, averaging 4.5 PPG in 12.5 MPG.
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.
The Atlantic is perhaps the most confounding NBA division when it comes to the trade deadline. The Raptors, Celtics, and Sixers are all potential contenders to come out of the East and may theoretically be looking to make upgrades, but their contract situations make it tricky to identify specific moves that would help.
The Nets are essentially in a holding pattern until they get their full roster healthy next season. The Knicks as sellers appeared to be the only safe bet on the board in the Atlantic, but they’ve resisted that label to some extent.
As we wait to see how the Atlantic teams approach the deadline, here are three (or four) more potential trade candidates from around the division…
Dennis Smith Jr., PG
New York Knicks
$4.5MM cap hit; $5.7MM guaranteed salary in 2020/21; RFA in 2021
A report last month indicated that teams, including the Timberwolves, had expressed some interest in Smith. There are plenty of factors complicating a potential deal though. For one, he was sidelined for a month with an oblique strain before returning last night, and will probably have to show he’s fully healthy before the deadline to increase the odds of a trade. That means the Knicks will have to give him more playing time than the four minutes he received on Wednesday.
Even then, Knicks management may be reluctant to move Smith without a decent return, since doing so would represent a further admission that last year’s blockbuster with the Mavs isn’t working out. The team already failed to land a star with the 2019 cap room created in that deal, and the two future first-round picks owed to New York almost certainly won’t be as valuable as initially hoped, given Dallas’ improvement.
Considering how poorly Smith has played in limited minutes this season, it’s hard to see the Knicks netting more than a low second-round pick and salary filler in exchange for Smith. The club may decide it would rather take its chances on DSJ turning things around and recapturing some of the potential that made him a top-10 pick in 2017.
A trade before the deadline is a possibility, but I think it’d be more likely if the same executives who acquired Smith a year ago weren’t the same ones tasked to decide whether or not to move him.
Neither Neto nor Burke has really been involved in any rumors yet, but they’re trade candidates in a roundabout way. The Sixers have been linked to point guards who could be on the trade block, and if the team actually acquires a point guard, either Neto or Burke would become expendable.
The 76ers have gone back and forth this year between Neto and Burke as the primary backup to Ben Simmons, so it’s not entirely clear who would be the odd man out if the team makes a move to fortify its backcourt.
Both players are on minimum-salary contracts that expire at season’s end, meaning there’s no financial incentive to move one over the other. Neto is the better defender and perhaps the steadier floor general, but he doesn’t possess Burke’s play-making or scoring ability. The on/off-court numbers favor Burke — the Sixers have a +7.2 net rating when he plays, compared to +1.2 for Neto.
If the 76ers end up standing pat or focus on improving another area, both Neto and Burke could certainly finish the season in Philadelphia. But if they go out and acquire another guard, I’d expect the Sixers to try to find a trade partner interested in acquiring Neto or Burke as a third point guard.
Rodions Kurucs, F
$1.7MM cap hit; $1.8MM guaranteed salary in 2020/21; $1.9MM team option for 2021/22
After a promising rookie season, Kurucs has taken a step backward in 2019/20. Despite a series of injury creating a path to a regular role for the Latvian forward, he doesn’t seem to have fully earned Kenny Atkinson‘s trust. His minutes per game have dipped from 20.5 to 13.3 and he’s received several DNP-CDs.
There are some promising numbers in this year’s small sample, including a .439 3PT%, and teams monitoring the Nets may view Kurucs as a buy-low candidate. However, off-court concerns may scare those teams away, since the 21-year-old was arrested during the offseason on a domestic violence charge.
We heard in December that there are teams doing their homework on Kurucs to see if he makes sense as a trade target. Presumably, that research centers on the domestic violence allegation — if it’s credible, clubs will be less enthusiastic about the idea of making a deal for the former second-round pick.
Kurucs is due back in court on February 11, meaning there will be no resolution in his legal case by the February 6 trade deadline. As a result, it’s hard to see him being moved.
Revisit the rest of our 2019/20 Trade Candidate series right here.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Sixers have lost another one of their starters due to an injury, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that Josh Richardson has been diagnosed with a left hamstring strain. Richardson is expected to be re-evaluated in two or three weeks, per Charania.
Philadelphia had already been playing without center Joel Embiid, who has been sidelined since January 6 due to a finger injury. Embiid has made progress in his recovery and seems likely to return before Richardson does, but for now it looks like the team will be down two starters.
Richardson, who ranks third on the team with 31.5 minutes per game, has contributed 15.0 PPG, 3.4 APG, and 3.3 RPG with solid perimeter defense in his first year as a Sixer. He suffered his hamstring injury during the first quarter of Wednesday’s loss to Toronto.
Even if Richardson is re-evaluated two weeks from today and is deemed ready to return at that point, he won’t be back on the court prior to the trade deadline, so any moves Philadelphia makes by February 6 will be have to be completed without the team seeing its fully healthy roster in action again.
- Sixers two-way player Norvel Pelle reached his 45-day NBA limit when he was active on Wednesday night vs. Toronto, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Pelle is unsure what’s next for him, suggesting he’ll leave that up to his agent and the team. If he’s not converted to a standard contract – perhaps after the trade deadline – he won’t be eligible to suit up for the 76ers until after the G League regular season ends in late March.
Multiple playoff teams have expressed interest in Danilo Gallinari, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, who hears from league sources that the Mavericks and Sixers are two clubs who have made inquiries on the Thunder forward.
Gallinari entered the season looking like one of the NBA’s most obvious trade candidates, but the Thunder’s strong play has complicated the equation. It’s unclear how eager Oklahoma City will be to move one of its key contributors now that the team appears headed for a spot in the postseason.
As O’Connor points out, a lack of projected league-wide cap room this summer means the team with Gallinari on its roster to finish the season will likely have a significant leg up to sign him, thanks to his Bird rights. It remains to be seen if a team like Dallas or Philadelphia has the assets necessary to pry Gallinari out of OKC, but if a club makes a deal for him, the plan would presumably be to re-sign him in the offseason.
O’Connor’s article is ostensibly focused on the Mavericks’ need to add a third impact player to complement Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, but it includes a handful of noteworthy tidbits, not all of which are Mavs-related. Let’s round up a few other highlights…
- As a report last week confirmed, the Hawks and Pistons had been discussing a trade that would have sent Andre Drummond to Atlanta for a package headlined by Chandler Parsons‘ expiring contract and the Nets’ lottery-protected 2020 first-round pick. Multiple league sources tell O’Connor that the Hawks ended up being unwilling to include that first-rounder due to concerns about how high Drummond’s contract demands are.
- The Mavericks have made offers to the Timberwolves for Robert Covington, but have been turned down, according to O’Connor. While O’Connor doesn’t have the specific details on Dallas’ offers, I imagine they’d start with Courtney Lee‘s expiring contract and the Warriors’ 2020 second-round pick. The Mavs’ first-rounders are tied up for trade purposes until at at least 2025.
- Despite denials that they plan to pursue him, league sources continue to view the Mavericks as a potential landing spot for Grizzlies forward Andre Iguodala, writes O’Connor. Dallas is one of the few contending teams that is well-positioned to make a trade offer for Iguodala rather than waiting for a possible buyout.
Bogdan Bogdanovic has been considered a potential trade target for contenders this winter, but the Kings are unlikely to move the third-year swingman, a league source tells James Ham of NBC Sports California.
Bogdanovic, 27, has battled injuries this season but is still averaging a career-best 14.3 PPG to go along with 3.6 APG and a .376 3PT%. There has been speculation that the Kings may look to move him before the February 6 trade deadline, since he’ll be a restricted free agent in July and the team has already committed big-money, long-term contracts to Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield. Pricey new extensions for De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley could be on tap during the next two years as well.
The Lakers and Kings reportedly discussed a deal involving Bogdanovic and Kyle Kuzma, but those talks didn’t go anywhere. Earlier today, Jon Johnson of WIP tweeted that Bogdanovic was one of two trade targets the Sixers are focusing on, along with Robert Covington.
However, all season long, reports have suggested that the Kings aren’t looking to trade Bogdanovic, and today’s update confirms as much. As Ham explains, Sacramento recognizes what kind of player Bogdanovic is when he’s healthy and knows how important he is to the franchise.
Barring a change of heart within the next couple weeks, the Kings would like to try to retain Bogdanovic and work out a long-term solution in the offseason, even though they know his value in restricted free agency could end up being in the range of $15-18MM per year, Ham writes.
The Kings reportedly offered Bogdanovic a four-year, $51MM+ extension in the fall, which is the most they can offer prior to free agency. The team will be able to increase its offer in July. A sign-and-trade would also be a viable possibility during the summer — six RFAs were signed-and-trade during the 2019 offseason.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Lakers and Sixers are each looking to upgrade their point guard rotation, Haynes continues. The Clippers have also inquired about Rose but appear to have nominal interest in making a deal for the former Most Valuable Player.
Rose has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal season for the Pistons, who appear to be ready to embrace a rebuild. Rose has scored 20-plus points in each of the last nine games, including a 21-point outing against Washington on Monday.
Rose was signed to a two-year, $15MM contract as a free agent last summer. Coach Dwane Casey moved Rose into the starting lineup last week and has expanded his playing time after being cautious earlier this season with the oft-injured point guard.
Rose isn’t looking to be traded, according to Haynes, but it would make sense for the Pistons to sell high and acquire future assets for him.
Barring a major second-half swoon, the Bucks won’t give up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference this season. At 38-6, Milwaukee is on pace to win over 70 games and currently has an eight-game cushion over the next-best team in the conference.
While the race for the top seed in the East may already be over, a fascinating race is developing for the No. 2 spot. With six potential contenders in the conference, the importance of nabbing that second seed shouldn’t be understated. Not only would it set up a first-round matchup against a less dangerous opponents like the Magic or Nets, it would also mean avoiding the Bucks until the Eastern Conference Finals and holding home court advantage for two rounds.
As we enter the second half of the season, the Heat currently hold the second seed, but the margin is extremely tight. Here’s what the standings look like for the five teams vying for the No. 2 seed, entering today’s action:
- Miami Heat (29-13)
- Toronto Raptors (28-14)
- Boston Celtics (27-14)
- Indiana Pacers (28-15)
- Philadelphia 76ers (28-16)
All five teams are separated by just two games, so one hot or cold streak could have a significant impact on seeding. Just ask the Celtics, who could fall out of the top four tonight for the first time since October if their current losing streak extends to four games.
With a real incentive tied to claiming the No. 2 seed, the second-half race among these five teams should be fascinating. The Raptors finally have a healthy roster, and the Pacers will be getting star guard Victor Oladipo back next week. The Sixers have been shakier than expected all year long, but showed their upside on Christmas Day when they dismantled the Bucks. The Celtics and the Heat are in position to potentially upgrade their rosters at the trade deadline if they so choose.
Of course, we should also consider each team’s second-half schedule. According to Tankathon.com, the Heat, Sixers, and Raptors have three of the NBA’s easiest remaining slates, while the Pacers’ schedule ranks in the middle of the pack and the Celtics’ is the eighth-hardest.
What do you think? Which of these five teams do you like best to finish the season strong and claim the No. 2 seed in the East?
Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!
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