NBA trade deadline report cards: Portland gets an “A”

12 Comments

Dwight Howard didn’t get traded and neither did any of Boston’s big three. But there were plenty of moves at the deadline. Here are our grades for each team.

Atlanta Hawks: They wanted to move one player to get themselves under the luxury tax line (they are $440,000 over it). They couldn’t do it. So they quietly sold a second-round pick to the Warriors for cash considerations to cover that tax bill. Grade: C.

Boston Celtics: They shopped the Big Three around hard, but GM Danny Ainge wasn’t going to give up Ray Allen for just a pick or a young player. He wanted both. Kind of the same thing with Paul Pierce. In the end, we get one more playoff run with the Big Three. Is that so bad? Grade: Inc.

Charlotte Bobcats: They shopped D.J. Augustin, but no move. Grade: Inc.

Chicago Bulls: You don’t mess with a contending roster. No moves. Grade: Inc.

Cleveland Cavaliers: They held out because they wanted a first-round pick for Ramon Sessions, and they got one. A pick very late in the first round (the Lakers’ pick), but that’s about as good as you’re going to do for a nice point guard who can opt out (and one the Cavs don’t really need). Grade: B.

Dallas Mavericks: They didn’t make any moves, but they get a good grade because with Dwight Howard staying in Orlando, the odds of them getting Deron Williams this summer just went way, way up. Grade B.

Denver Nuggets: They have had buyer’s remorse with Nene, who signed a five-year, $67 million deal this year and has been injured for stretch of the season and not effective in other parts. I get the concern about four more seasons with this guy. The bet they made is that George Karl can coach up JaVale McGee. That out of Washington the athletic big man will mature. I don’t like that bet. However, out of that deal (they also got Ronny Turiaf) they got a huge trade exception. They save some cash. But it will be three years before we really know if this deal works. Grade: C

Detroit Pistons: They stood pat. This is not a good team, and they had pieces that should have drawn interest, but the didn’t do anything. Pistons fans are right to be a little frustrated. Grade: Inc.

Golden State Warriors: Two moves I don’t really like. They trade away Monta Ellis and get Andrew Bogut. I get why, because when healthy, Bogut is a very good defensive center and solid on offense. But Bogut hasn’t been healthy in three years and it’s a roll of the dice on his health (and Stephen Curry’s health, because he is the backcourt leader now). Then at the deadline they swap out Stephen Jackson (who they got in the Ellis trade) for Richard Jefferson. Jefferson is a nice player, but he is making $11 million next year. That will make it hard for them to get in the free-agent game this summer. Look, both moves were about changing the culture of the team and bringing in professional, hard-working guys. But they really need pure talent, and I think they have less of it. Grade: D.

Houston Rockets: They didn’t get Howard, but they got Marcus Camby out of Portland and that is a fantastic fit for them — they have needed a defensive-minded center. All they gave up was guys such as Jonny Flynn who were not playing anyway. They take on Derek Fisher and get a first-round pick for it, but that’s not going to mean much more than a little depth. Houston is going to be a tough out in the playoffs. Grade: A-.

Indiana Pacers: They picked up a solid backup point guard in Leandro Barbosa, who might not fit their style but only cost a second-rounder. Good move. Grade: B.

Los Angeles Clippers: There are questions about what kind of player Nick Young will grow up to be in three years — and he does need to group up. But he can put the ball in the basket, shoot the three, run the floor and is very athletic — he fits in great with the Clippers. And all they gave up to get him were Brian Cook and a second-round pick. Grade: B+.

Los Angeles Lakers: They didn’t hit the home run that their fans demand, but their fans underestimate Ramon Sessions. This is a big upgrade at the point guard spot — Sessions is a slasher who looks to dish, not shoot. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum will love him. They will miss Derek Fisher in the locker room, but it’s not that big a loss on the court (except in the final 10 seconds of a game). With Sessions, the Lakers may be the biggest threat to the Thunder in the West. The grade falls a little because they shipped out both of their first-round picks this year. Grade: B.

Memphis Grizzlies: They traded Sam Young to the 76ers in a move that gets them under the luxury tax line. That’s what this was about. Grade: C.

Miami Heat: See the Bulls entry. Grade: Inc.

Milwaukee Bucks: They got Monta Ellis a couple days before the trade deadline. Personally, I like the Ellis/Brandon Jennings back court. They can up the tempo and now you have a couple dangerous slashers. My real questions are what kind of team the Bucks are building and can Scott Skiles coach it? However, short term, this might help them make the playoffs. Grade B.

Minnesota Timberwolves: David Kahn didn’t make a deadline day move? Something weird is going on here. Grade: Inc.

New Jersey Nets: They lost out on Dwight Howard, so they got Gerald Wallace. In theory their starting five is not bad — Deron Williams, MarShon Brooks, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez. But Williams and Wallace can opt out this summer and become free agents. You really think they can keep it all together? Neither do I. Grade. D.

New Orleans Hornets: They tried to find a partner willing to take on Chris Kaman, but there were reports they were asking too much. So Kaman will leave this summer as a free agent. Grade: Inc.

New York Knicks: Does Mike Woodson for Mike D’Antoni count for a trade? Grade: Inc.

Oklahoma City Thunder: See the Heat and Bulls entries. Grade: Inc.

Orlando Magic: They kept Dwight Howard in town by calling his bluff. That is as big a win as anybody — except that it is a one-year deal, he’s not opting out early but if the Magic don’t make moves to get this team competing with the Heat and Bulls by next trade deadline we will be right back here. That said, today they celebrate. Grade: A-.

Philadelphia 76ers: They get Sam Young from the Grizzlies for basically nothing, they add some depth. That’s nice. Not thrilling but nice. Grade: B.

Phoenix Suns: No moves expected, none made. Steve Nash is still with team. Check back again in July. Grade: Inc.

Portland Trail Blazers: I love what they did today. Love it. This is not a very good team but they have some nice parts such as LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum. So they got rid of the expensive parts and brought back expiring deals. With today’s moves they will be about $25 million under the salary cap this summer (assuming Jamal Crawford opts out as expected) — they can re-sign Batum and still get a max deal free agent. Plus they have the Nets’ first-round pick this draft. That, my friends, is how you rebuild on the fly. The only thing that would have made it better is finding a taker for Raymond Felton. Grade: A.

Sacramento Kings: No moves… but they got a deal for a new arena! Grade: Inc.

San Antonio Spurs: They got the lesser player in the Stephen Jackson/Richard Jefferson swap. That said, they got the less expensive player, and Gregg Popovich and Jackson have a good relationship. Plus it’s the Spurs. You just know this will work out for them. Grade: B.

Toronto Raptors: They were going to lose Leandro Barbosa anyway after the season, so they got a second-round pick out of it. And they play Jerryd Bayless more. Grade: B-.

Utah Jazz: Stood pat. Grade: Inc.

Washington Wizards: I like bringing in Nene for this reason — it’s about changing the culture. Denver fans will tell you that Nene didn’t play through pain and was not tough, but he’s not a headcase like JaVale McGee. They had to make locker room changes and guys like Nick Young are out. They are not a lot better on the court, but they are making changes that can start to take them down that path. Grade: B-.

Report: Bucks interested in Cavaliers GM David Griffin

David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Magic hired Jeff Weltman, and the Hawks are reportedly close to hiring Travis Schlenk.

In other words, Cavaliers general manager David Griffin – who’s still without a contract for next season – lost his leverage with other teams.

But to the rescue are the Bucks, who will not necessarily promote assistant general manager Justin Zanik to replace Orland-bound general manager John Hammond.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Multiple sources told cleveland.com that the Bucks, who lost general manager John Hammond to the Orlando Magic this week, have interest in Griffin, 47.

Griffin and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert have spoken about continuing their partnership in recent days, sources said, though no agreement was reached.

I still think Griffin stays in Cleveland. He helped assemble a championship contender, and he has LeBron Jamesendorsement. Plus, the Cavaliers can afford him.

But whomever gets the Milwaukee job will inherit a roster stocked with promising young talent like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker. The Bucks wouldn’t be a bad fallback option for Griffin – if he can’t use them to get a deal with the Cavs.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Celtics’ sets harder to defend than Warriors’

Jason Miller/Getty Images
2 Comments

With the Cavaliers up 3-1 on the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, most basketball observers are focused on Cavs-Warriors III in the NBA Finals.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue is more concerned with Boston, which scored surprisingly well in Games 3 and 4 after losing Isaiah Thomas to injury.

Lue, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“I don’t even think about them,” Lue said of the Warriors to a small group of traveling Cleveland beat writers following the Cavs’ Game 4 win on Tuesday. “We’re just focused on Boston. The stuff they’re running, it’s harder to defend than Golden State’s [offense] for me, as far as the actions and all the running around and all the guys who are making all the plays, so it’s a totally different thing.”

Wait, the Isaiah Thomas-less 53-win Celtics are harder to defend than the Kevin Durant-supercharged 67-win Warriors? Come again, Coach?

“Like, they hit the post, Golden State runs splits and all that stuff, but these guys are running all kinds of s—,” Lue said of Boston coach Brad Stevens’ schemes. “I’ll be like, ‘F—.’ They’re running all kinds of s—, man. And Brad’s got them moving and cutting and playing with pace, and everybody is a threat. It’s tough, you know, it’s tough.”

I think Lue means in a very specific way – getting his players into proper position. And in that regard he might be right.

I also think the Warriors will take this in the broadest, most offensive way possible. That’s just the nature of this rivalry.

Without Thomas, Stevens has been forced to diversify Boston’s offense. The Cavaliers, who prepared for a very different scheme, were caught off guard and are adjusting on the fly.

That’s a real challenge. But framing it as the central issue sells Golden State short.

Even if it’s harder for Lue to get his players into proper position against the Celtics, the Warriors’ surplus talent – including Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – more than makes up for it. And it’s not as if Golden State runs a basic scheme.

So why did Lue say this?

He didn’t think the travelling Cleveland beat writers would publish his candid remarks? He didn’t convey his thoughts clearly? He naively didn’t consider how this would motivate the Warriors? All are plausible.

Another theory: Lue is trying to plant a seed that acting Golden State coach Mike Brown, whose known (fairly or not) for his simplistic offensive schemes, is holding back the Warriors. If Steve Kerr doesn’t return, resentment of Brown is one of the few things that could tear apart a dominant Golden State team.

Richard Jefferson: LeBron James was sick during Cavaliers-Celtics Game 3

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
1 Comment

LeBron James was inexplicably bad in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 loss to the Celtics on Sunday.

Except maybe it was explicable.

Cleveland forward Richard Jefferson, via Fox Sports Ohio

I know he won’t talk about it, so I’ll give my big guy a shout. Deron Williams missed shootaround this morning, because he had like a little bug, just really lethargic, had no energy. And I think that’s what Bron had. And sometimes these little bugs can go around.

When Deron didn’t show up to shootaround, it kind of started clicking in his head. Because for him it was more of like, “I don’t know why I was so lethargic, why I had no energy, I had nothing.” And so, these little things happen. There was no panic.

Look, he was lethargic. They hit a bunch of tough shots. If Marcus Smart doesn’t go 7-for-10 from 3, then we’re not even talking about it.

I don’t know whether LeBron was truly sick or Jefferson is just trying to help a teammate’s reputation. It can be both.

LeBron was better in Game 4, but not quite right.

If he’s dealing with a minor illness, that could clear up by Game 5 tomorrow. It should especially clear up by the Finals, which begin June 1. That’d be great news for the Cavs, who have no chance against the Warriors if LeBron isn’t at full strength.

The uncertainty of why LeBron hit a slump now of all times loomed over Cleveland’s playoff future. But Jefferson provided reason for the Cavaliers to breathe easy.

Michigan’s D.J. Wilson staying in NBA draft

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Michigan bigs D.J. Wilson and Moe Wagner declared for the NBA draft in similar situations – coming off breakout seasons, particularly excelling down the stretch, and sitting on the first-round bubble for the NBA draft. Neither hired an agent, leaving their options open.

But this is where their paths diverge.

Michigan releases:

University of Michigan junior forward D.J. Wilson announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will forgo his final two seasons of eligibility and submit the necessary paperwork to remain as an early entrant into the 2017 NBA Draft.

University of Michigan sophomore forward Moritz Wagner announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will return to the Wolverine basketball program after removing his name from consideration for the 2017 NBA Draft.

Wilson and Wagner both said they’d stay in the draft only if they’d be first-round picks. I wonder whether Wilson got a first-round promise or is just confident enough he’ll get picked there. The latter wouldn’t be a bad bet. Even if the 22-year-old Wilson slips into the second round, this might be the peak of his draft value.

At times, it’s easy to forget Wilson is a 6-foot-11 big man. He shoots 3-pointers, dribbles and moves like a wing. He also too often shies from contact, which particularly hurts his rebounding.

But he’s a big. Those perimeter skills wouldn’t shine quite as brightly if he were matched up with opposing wings. Wilson has a 7-foot-3 wingspan, and he also protect the rim. However, his shot-blocking relies on a bounciness that’s not as effective when pressed into more physical matchups. He needs some space to launch – but when he has it, it also pays off in quality finishing at the rim.

Wilson has the tools to be a good NBA power forward, but he’s still a work in progress. In other words, he still looks like a borderline first-round pick.