Draft-day trades are coming, which ones are most likely?

14 Comments

More than any year in recent memory, it feels like we are going to see a lot of trades, a lot of moves in the days, hours and minutes leading up to the draft.

While the consensus may be this a deep draft, some teams are willing to move to out while other teams are looking to move up. Plus, there are players (many bringing cash savings) on the market to get those picks.

Predicting future trades is about like predicting what Charlie Sheen will do next, but we can give you a few things to look for (with trades… not Sheen).

• Charlotte Bobcats and the No. 2 overall pick. From the seconds after the lottery put the Hornets on top of the draft pile, there have been rumors and reports of the Bobcats shopping the No. 2 pick. Even the Bobcats coach said making a trade makes sense for them. This rumor is picking up steam but don’t expect them to drop far — Charlotte reportedly doesn’t want to drop out of the lottery and wants a good young player in return or more picks. The Bobcats are getting calls but the most likely option appears to be the Cavaliers giving the Bobcats the No. 4 and No. 24 pick for the No. 2 (because the Cavaliers really want Bradley Beal of Florida and Washington will take him at No. 3 for sure). Maybe another deal jumps in front of this one, but it’s out there.

• Sacramento Kings and the No. 5 pick. This feels likely to happen, and maybe with the Rockets, but it will be a draft-night move. The Kings are willing to trade that pick and if someone is high on, say, Andre Drummond and he drops to No. 5 there could well be a deal. As ESPN noted, the Kings brought in a lot of guys for workouts who should be drafted in the teens. It’s a sign they are looking at what they could get if they have to make a trade.

Toronto Raptors and the No. 8 pick. They might as well have a KMart blue light special light going off over their pick. (Does KMart still do blue light specials?)

• Houston Rockets have made one trade and more are coming. The Houston Rockets have already made one trade, moving forward Chase Budinger for the No. 18 pick. That gives the Rockets the No. 14, No. 16 and No. 18 picks as well as some guys they could trade (Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Samuel Dalembert) as they head into draft night. Their goal is to get a couple picks in the top 10 then turn around and try to parlay those picks and a player or two to Orlando for Dwight Howard. If the Magic aren’t dealing (and they appear not to be, yet) then watch for a deal for Josh Smith from Atlanta.

• Portland moves picks No. 6 and No. 11 to move up in draft. All sorts of discussion of this and if they love a player a little higher — or get a good veteran to just move a pick — they would do it. New GM Neil Olshey is not afraid to gamble.

• Lakers or some other team without pick moves into late first round. If you want a pick and don’t have one, there are a whole lot of picks available in the 20s, according to reports. The Lakers reportedly have interest, the question becomes what is the price? Outside their bigs, the Lakers are not loaded with assets people want.

• Dwight Howard trade… nah. Not in a draft-day deal. Not yet. Despite how hard the Rockets push reports are new GM Rob Hennigan has not even met with Howard yet. But I bet you see Howard’s moved this summer.

• Luol Deng or Joakim Noah from Bulls. There is a lot of buzz about the Bulls moving Deng to get into the lottery, but I don’t see it as floated out there just to get picks and cap space. The Bulls are contenders and while they would love to lower their payroll (what team owner wouldn’t?) they are not going to hurt the roster just to make a move. There would have to be a veteran that could help the Bulls coming back to them with the pick.

• Andre Iguodala trade. As with some other rumors here it would be a surprise, but they have been shopping him off and on for years and eventually someone will bite.

• Lamar Odom trade. This would be a purely financial move for a team looking to save a few bucks — Odom is set to make more than $8 million but can be bought out for $2.4 million. If nobody trades for Odom, the Mavs will buy him out to get the cap space.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: I could never see myself playing for Los Angeles

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
1 Comment

All-Star Weekend was (at least) an implicit recruiting tool for the Lakers and Clippers. The host teams could show off Los Angeles – the beautiful weather in middle of winter, the nightlife, the glitz and glamour.

LeBron James‘ praise drew the most attention:

I think L.A. is a perfect place to host All-Star Weekend. It’s one of the few cities that we have in our league that can accommodate all of this. And when I mean all of this, you have over 200-plus countries that’s covering the game. You’ve got so many people from all over the world coming to watch our game and just be a part of All-Star Weekend. And we know the traffic. We understand that. But traffic is traffic and — but L.A. can accommodate that. It’s built for stars. It’s built for entertainment. It’s built for cameras and bright lights, and it’s a great place for it.

Of course, we already knew LeBron was partial to Los Angeles. He has a house there.

But not every All-Star raved about the city.

Bucks forward Antetokounmpo, via Matt Velazquez Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“I could never see myself being out there,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s great for two, three days but it’s a little bit — things are going a little bit crazy.

“Of course, because of the All-Star Game, there was a lot of people there. … In Milwaukee — I love Milwaukee — it’s low-key. I can walk down the road, down the streets without anybody bugging me — nobody interrupts my conversation or anything. I love how quiet and calm Milwaukee is.”

The Bucks ought to appreciate this outlook. Antetokounmpo once said he wanted to stay with them forever, and – as rumors swirled about his future in Milwaukee, he tweeted, “I got loyalty inside my DNA.” But he has since explained how important it is for a team to do right by its star player, supporting him with a winning supporting cast.

Maybe Antetokounmpo will eventually leave the Bucks, but it seems unlikely that’d be just to reach a bigger market. Milwaukee can’t change its location. The Bucks can somewhat control whether they put a winner around Antetokounmpo.

Still, other teams will try to poach Antetokounmpo – like Joel Embiid‘s 76ers. Antetokounmpo, via Velazquez:

“He told me I should trust the process and come play for Philly,” Antetokounmpo said with a chuckle, drawing a laugh. “That was my reaction — I just laughed.”

PBT Podcast: What to watch during stretch run of season

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Are the Cleveland Cavaliers for real? And by “real” do you mean best in the East or threat to Warriors?

Who is going to make the playoffs in the West? Is Utah going in? Portland? The Los Angeles Clippers?

Is James Harden going win MVP? Is it Ben Simmons or Donovan Mitchell for Rookie of the Year?

Those are just some of the storylines as the NBA races down the stretch run of the season (most teams have around 25 games left). Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports break down all the things to watch from the end of the season, including if Detroit can climb up into the postseason, and how the top of the East is going to shake out.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Suns, Hawks say they won’t change strategy to tank

AP Photo/Rick Scuteri
3 Comments

Phoenix shut down healthy players in a transparent bid to tank last season. But Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said not to expect a repeat.

Scott Bordow of azcentral:

Wednesday, McDonough told azcentral sports that the Suns won’t approach the final 23 games of this season the same way. In other words, Phoenix isn’t tanking in order to improve its chances of landing the No. 1 pick in the May 15 draft lottery.

“We’re planning on doing what we have been doing, that’s playing our young players. For us, that’s not a change,” McDonough said. “… We want to continue to have them improve and get minutes and try to win as many games as we can.”

The Mike Budenholzer-coached Hawks also won’t sit their top players.

Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Some other teams near the bottom of the standings have publicly proclaimed they will favor youth over experience for the final four-plus weeks of the season, but Budenholzer said he will stay the course.

“I think we’ve been a mix of young and veteran guys all year,” he said Wednesday. “I think the way we progressed through the season — of course when you start the season you think it could be a little different — (but) right now but I think the way we’ve played, and the way we continue to play, won’t be that much different.”

To some degree, McDonough and Budenholzer are just trying to avoid a Mark Cuban-esque fine. The NBA discourages most talk of tanking.

But Phoenix and Atlanta don’t need to change their rotations to tank. They’re already good at losing! Both teams are a league-worst 18-41.

Some teams will get more serious about tanking down the stretch. The Suns and Hawks are already there. That doesn’t make them more virtuous than the Mavericks.

Still, this is a tight race for the top of the lottery. Four other teams have just 18 wins. Another has only 19, and one more has only 20. If the Suns and Hawks need to get worse to improve draft position, I wouldn’t put it past either team.

By the way, that headline can be read a couple different ways. That’s intentional.

Report: Kyrie Irving requested trade after ‘sloppy’ discussion by Cavaliers’ front office

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
1 Comment

The Cavaliers reportedly explored trading Kyrie Irving in June. He requested a trade in July.

Since dealt to the Celtics, Irving has said he’ll never pinpoint his precise reason for leaving Cleveland. But he also said the Cavs “didn’t want me there.”

Did the Cavaliers push him out?

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

On the day of the NBA draft back in June, just days after Cleveland parted ways with former GM David Griffin, a robust Cavs contingent made up of front-office personnel, coaches and team support staff members held an impromptu, “what if?” discussion about Kyrie Irving’s future, multiple team sources confirmed to ESPN.

The discussion, characterized as “small talk” by one source familiar with its content, was less a formal straw poll of what the Cavs should do with their All-Star point guard should trade opportunities present themselves, and more a thought exercise anticipating what the market could bear for a player of Irving’s caliber.

The talk got back to Irving, multiple team sources told ESPN, and that served as the tipping point that led to Irving formally requesting a trade a little more than two weeks later.

“It was sloppy,” one league source familiar with the draft-day discussion told ESPN, adding that any talk about trading a player of Irving’s ilk — however informal it might be — should be handled strictly between the GM and owner, because of the sensitive nature of its content.

While Altman was involved in the meeting, he and Mike Gansey — at that point officially the head of the Cavs’ G League team — were only keeping the ship afloat on an interim basis and had yet to be formally elevated to their current roles as GM and assistant GM, respectively.

This is one spin on the story. Yet another: Irving initially requested a trade before the draft and considered requesting one in 2016.

Both sides are trying to blame the other for the disintegration of their relationship.

It can be difficult to read how serious the draft-day discussion was. Maybe Irving interpreted ut correctly. Maybe he didn’t. Maybe he just used it to justify a trade request he wanted to make anyway.

What’s more clear: Communication hasn’t been as strong between the front office and players under general manager Koby Altman as it was under Griffin. McMenamin:

While the Cavs were struggling in late December through early January, LeBron James questioned Altman’s absentee status on a long Cleveland road trip, team sources told ESPN.

Altman helped repair that relationship leading up to the trade deadline, looping LeBron in on discussions that culminated with three trades. LeBron appears more invested in the Cavaliers, just in time to keep him next summer.

But some mistakes can’t be fixed before it’s too late. Maybe those Irving trade talks in June were one of them.