Tag Archives: NBA trade rumors

Taking Advantage of a Bullish Trade Market

One of the hardest things to do in life is self-assessment. We all see ourselves in a positive light. We all have fond, vivid memories of our successes and brush off our shortcomings as blips on the radar that don’t truly represent who we are. Many people live their whole lives in a bubble of false self-perception.

This trait is not just true of individuals. Often times, large groups of people are even more likely to buy into a false sense of success. This truth extends beyond your group of friends and coworkers. It also has some validity in professional sports.

The NBA landscape right now is very interesting on many levels. The traditionally strong Western Conference is in a down year and boasts only seven teams with a winning record. The uncommon weakness in the back half of the playoff race has emboldened several slow-starting teams to continue their playoff push. The Eastern Conference field is stronger than it’s been in memory. 12 of the 15 teams have had successful beginnings to their seasons. Many of them have not enjoyed a playoff run in many, many moons.

Optimism in the NBA is at an all-time high.

Despite all the teams dead set on making a playoff push, any serious NBA fan would tell you that only three have a real chance at winning the championship. The Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, and Cleveland Cavaliers are in a tier of their own, able to reach heights far beyond the reach of the rest of the potential playoff field, save perhaps Oklahoma City.

The ultimate goal in the NBA is to win a championship. Just making the playoffs is nice, but in a league where more than half of the teams qualify for postseason play, it ultimately is not a memorable achievement.  If any team knows that, it should be the Bulls. Chicago is a city that has been spoiled by ultimate basketball glory and does not look fondly upon second round exits.

tom-thibodeau-frown-face
Thibs was done in by playoff failures.

While only three teams can be considered serious contenders, there are an inordinate number that are enjoying some of their first success in a long time and/or experiencing ownership pressure to win. What all this means is that the rapidly approaching trade deadline will be much quieter than most years. There will be very few teams next month willing to throw in the towel on the season and sell off any valuable trade pieces to acquire future assets. The rising salary cap and diminished value of expiring contracts will also play a part in what I predict will be a quiet trade season.

And the teams that really stink, the obvious sellers, each have unique quirks that make them unlikely trade partners. Philadelphia, Portland, the Lakers and Timberwolves are each built around young cores without much veteran talent of value on the roster. Brooklyn is convinced they can field a quality team as soon as next season. Milwaukee probably still thinks they’re closer to last year’s surprise success story than the mess they’ve been this season

Sacramento and New Orleans are under pressure to win now and are unlikely to transition to selling mode. The Pelicans should try and move the expiring contracts of Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, but with GM Dell Demps unsure of his employment beyond this season, it’s unlikely he makes any trades with an eye towards the future.

Phoenix has some potential trade chips, but their hands are tied until they sort out the messy Markieff Morris situation. Denver’s decision to extend Danillo Gallinari seems brilliant, and is probably the most valuable trade chip should they decide to make moves. But beyond the Suns and Nuggets, no team jumps out as an obvious deadline seller.

Which is exactly why the Bulls need to make a trade.

Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher is reporting that the notoriously quiet Bulls front office is quietly shopping their big men around the league ahead of the deadline. This news greatly excites me given the circumstances of the entire league.

Look, I’ve definitely enjoyed what I’ve seen from Hoiball in year one. The offense looks alive, and the defense has maintained the characteristics that had been instilled by Tom Thibodeau. The six game win streak was a blast, and Jimmy Butler has solidified himself as a legitimate NBA star and a top three player at his position. But there is no way in hell that this team has the juice to squeeze by the Cavaliers in a seven game series.

I’m not saying the Bulls should “blow it up.” While the current roster is not quite championship caliber, there are certainly players who could be members of the next great Bulls team. Jimmy Butler, Bobby Portis, and Nikola Mirotic (I’m still a believer) are all potential cornerstones of a title contender if the team is able to retool effectively.

Jimmy and Niko are long-term keepers.
Jimmy and Niko are long-term keepers.

Sadly, the same cannot be said about Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. The trio of bigs are all past their prime and are just crowding a front court rotation that should be spending more time focusing on developing younger guys.

This is not to say that Gasol, Gibson and Noah are all worthless, washed up basketball players. Quite the opposite is true. Gasol, defensive shortcomings be damned, is still a dangerous offensive threat and above-average shot blocker. Noah’s athleticism has slipped, but his passing ability and overall creativity on offense will allow him to thrive carrying second unit offenses for years to come. Gibson is 30, but somehow managed to escape Thibodeau’s murder by minutes, and should have some good years left in his legs.

Given the state of the NBA marketplace, the Bulls would be very well served to trade at least one of these three players. With so many teams with a buyers mentality and nowhere to spend their money, the Bulls could bring back far greater returns on their veteran big men than logic would dictate. Moving one of these guys would sting in the short term, but the assets they could bring back could be crucial pieces in Chicago’s seventh championship.

Of the three, Taj Gibson likely has the most value on the trade market. Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol can both hit free agency next season while Taj is under contract for $8 million, far below market value for an average starter in the new salary cap era.

What could the Bulls pry from Toronto in exchange for Taj? The Raptors are a prime example of a team feeling great about themselves right now that also is desperate to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs. Taj Gibson’s skill set is something sorely missing from the Raptors. Toronto is rich with picks and prospects. Would Toronto be willing to part with Lucas Nogueira, Luis Scola, Anthony Bennett and a pick?  What about the Clippers 2017 first round pick? What about their own 2016 pick? What about the Knicks 2016 pick?

That seems like a steep price for a big man with no shooting range clearly past his athletic peak. But in this Bull market, anything can happen. While losing Taj will certainly sting for Bulls fans, the pain will be dampened with the hope that he’s been replaced by building blocks for the future.

Trade Deadline: The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

trade machine

Mid-February is universally beloved as it houses the holiday of love. Valentine’s Day, a day of flowers, chocolate and smooches is great for those who have someone to celebrate with and a great excuse to hide in your room with the shades drawn shut if you don’t. But whether or not you have a V-Day partner, Valentine’s Day marks the one week deadline of what is thought of by many people in and around basketball to be the most exciting time of the year: the trade deadline.

The beauty of the trade deadline is it forces all 30 NBA teams to take a hard look in the mirror and decide if they are buyers or sellers, if they think they are a move away from a championship push or a playoff birth, or if they should begin to focus on the future.

The tricky part of the deadline is that, as detailed beautifully in Zach Lowe’s column this week, teams are less willing to make huge deals under the current collective bargaining agreement. First round picks, long used as sweeteners to move deals along, are now the most coveted resources teams have. Expiring contracts, long seen as the key piece to moving big money talent around, are no longer the trade chips they once were with contract lengths being cut down to four years maximum (for the most part) in the current CBA.

That being said, there are certainly going to be moves made in the next couple of days. Here, I will attempt to guess at what those moves may be.

deng cavs

Luol Deng to the Houston Rockets, Omer Asik and Ronnie Brewer to the Cleveland Cavaliers

If at first glance you are scratching your head wondering why the Cavs would ship out a player they just acquired via trade from Chicago, I’ve got some things to tell you. Since being shipped out to Cleveland, Deng’s numbers are down across the board. Most notably, Lu’s shooting percentage is at a cover-your-eyes 41% from the field. With Deng on the court, the Cavaliers are -7 points per possession, a startling number considering he was +2.3 with the struggling Bulls. Deng’s issues in Cleveland have a lot to do with Mike Brown’s “coaching” and not with some sudden skill depletion from the Sudanese veteran.

The trade to acquire Deng was supposed to propel Cleveland into the playoffs (where they would have been slaughtered in the first round anyway). The Cavs, riding a four game win streak, are still sitting at 11th place in the decrepit Eastern Conference. There is no chance that Deng, who will be a free agent this summer, is trying to stick around this disastrous Cavs squad, which is exactly why Cleveland should be looking to move the two time All-Star.

The Rockets are one of those teams that are without a doubt buyers this February. Currently sitting with the third best record in the West heading into the break. the Rockets know that this is a team capable of making a deep run in the postseason. Houston, who has been one of the most potent offensive teams in the league, has been so-so on the defensive end, despite having former DPOY Dwight Howard patrolling the paint. Houston’s defensive rating of 102 points/100 possessions is just not going to cut it against the top competition in the league.

With a proven rim protector in Howard, the Rockets are badly missing a player who can match up with the other teams’ top wing attacker. The Heat have Lebron, the Pacers have Paul George, the Warriors have Iggy, the Spurs have Kawhi, and the Thunder have Thabo. Throwing Deng on the Rockets gives Houston the type of wing defender they are badly in need of.

evan turner

Evan Turner to the Charlotte Bobcats, Ben Gordon to the 76ers

This isn’t exactly the sexy deal that gets casual fans excited, but it’s one that many plugged in NBA guys believe will happen. The Bobcats, playing spectacular defense under first year coach Steve Clifford, are trying to hang on to a playoff spot in the East. While squeaking into the 8th seed for the right to be destroyed by the Pacers or Heat doesn’t seem like a great achievement, to the pathetic Bobcats a playoff birth would mark the start of something.

While Turner’s 17.5 points a game may seem appealing on the surface, it’s important to take his stats with a grain of salt. The Sixers are playing at the fastest pace in the NBA and Turner is being encouraged to shoot whenever he pleases. His inflated scoring numbers don’t reflect an improvement in his game (although he has been a bit more reliable in shooting from the corners this season), but rather just how awful and goofy this Philly team is.

But the Bobcats will take anything to improve their roster. Charlotte has almost nothing on the team in terms of outside shooting (sorry McBob but you don’t count) and would gladly take a flier on the former number two pick in the draft.

Meanwhile, Philly would LOVE to snag Ben Gordon’s expiring contract. This deal would move the 76ers closer to the salary floor (which they are currently below) AND would let them become even WORSE which, uh, is better (man I hope the wheel is a real thing).

dunleavy1_131107

Mike Dunleavy to the Thunder, Hasheem Thabeet and Derick Fisher and Dallas Mavericks future first round pick

The Thunder, according to Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski, are looking around for some extra shooting to bolster their squad. Enter Mike Dunleavy, who is pretty good at shooting basketballs.

I love this trade on so many different levels, first and foremost being that the trade rewards Dunleavy for trying to win. When Mike Dunleavy joined the Bulls this summer as a free agent, he signed a 2 year/$6 million dollar deal that, according to some reports, was less than what other teams were offering the veteran shooter. Dunleavy has been around the NBA for over a decade and came to Chicago with the dream of playing for a championship contender. When Rose went down for the season, so did the Bulls’ title hopes. Dunleavy, who did what many guys in the league would never consider doing, seemingly was being punished for his good will.

The Thunder can afford to part with the ancient Derek Fisher and the rarely used Hasheem Thabeet. While Fisher has seen some extended run in Russell Westbrook’s absence this season, the hope in OKC is that health will be restored to the dynamic point guard and Fishers minutes will become Reggie Jackson’s minutes. Picking up Dunleavy gives the Thunder a much needed outside threat that can play in the OKC second unit.

The big prize for the Bulls is the future first round pick. While the pick is top twenty protected for the next couple of seasons, it becomes unprotected in 2018. And who knows what the Mavs, likely entering the post-Dirk era will look like. That pick could potentially become a valuable player for the future of the Bulls franchise.

Taj-Gibson-on-DWade

Taj Gibson to the Suns, Emeka Okafor to the Bulls

(I must admit that this is the only deal that does not work in the ESPN Trade Machine, but I think that with Okafor’s contract being paid by insurance and the Bulls having a trade exception from the Deng and Teague deals, that this should work out.)

This deal happens on one condition and one condition only: Chicago having insider knowledge that Carmelo is coming to the Bulls if they can offer him a max contract. The Bulls, as they stand today, are just a hair under the luxury tax line. But everyone and their grandma knows that the Bulls are going to Amnesty Boozer at the end of the season, a move that would give the Bulls enough space to make a run at a guy like Lance Stephenson.

But if the Bulls can move Taj for an expiring deal, then the doors are open for a maximum offer for Carmelo. Yesterday, Geo took a peak at a trade rumor involving Anthony and the Bulls. I personally don’t think Knicks owner James Dolan would ever sign off on such a deal, as he seems to firmly believe that the Knicks need a “superstar” and in the hypothetical package addressed in Geo’s article, no such big ticket player is returned to New York.

But as everyone knows, Melo plans to opt out of the final year of his contract this summer to test the waters of free agency. The Knicks know that, and they also know that they can offer an extra year and about $30 million more than any other team can offer. They may not have much of a roster, or a first round pick until my unborn child’s bar mitzvah, but they’ve got that extra thirty mill that they can dangle over Melo’s head.

Tough decisions lye ahead for the former NCAA champion, as he must choose between the Big Apple (the city where his wife reportedly prefers to live in) and competitive basketball. A foundation of Rose, Melo, Noah and Butler isn’t exactly going to have Miami and Indy quaking in their boots, but its a far better core than what the Knicks have surrounded Anthony with.

Such backroom talk is well outside of the rules of the league, but there’s no doubt that free agent tampering is something that many teams practice in the NBA today. Obviously, if the Bulls don’t think Carmelo is serious about joining the Bulls then they would never give away their prized power forward for nothing.

But if Melo can be had, moves must be made.