Grades for all of the NBA’s trade deadline deals; Thunder, Pistons, Suns emerge as biggest winners

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The NBA trade deadline was busier than expected, with 11 trades going down in total, and some of them getting completed just under the wire.

Here’s a recap of everything that happened, along with some grades and analysis for all of the teams involved.

Nets trade Kevin Garnett to Timberwolves in exchange for Thaddeus Young

Grades: Nets – A, Timberwolves – C+

Garnett returning home is a nice, feel-good story, and the rebuilding Timberwolves could use one of those. But KG is long past his prime, and has little on-court value for a Timberwolves team that won’t sniff the playoffs this season. They may want to re-sign Garnett to a long-term deal, but he’s likely finished, and could only serve as a mentor to younger players for the final eight weeks or so of the current regular season.

For the Nets, however, this is a nice move. Young is a legitimate two-way player, and has averaged 14.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in 33.4 minutes per game for Minnesota this season. His contract is not unreasonable for next season at just under $10 million, but he does hold an early termination option. More importantly, Brooklyn needs guys who can contribute NOW, and Young is exactly that.

Suns trade Goran Dragic to Miami Heat

Grades: Suns – A, Heat – A

This deal was the rare win-win, especially when taking into consideration the other moves that Phoenix made as a result. The Suns also dealt Isaiah Thomas to rid themselves of the three point guard issue that caused Dragic to want out in the first place, and acquired a legitimate replacement for Dragic in the form of Brandon Knight, who was a borderline All-Star for the Bucks this season, and will cost Phoenix much less to re-sign in restricted free agency this summer.

On the Miami side, adding Dragic could make a healthy Heat team dangerous, as quickly as this postseason. Plus, the fact that the future first round picks they sent away aren’t until 2017 and 2021 means that the Heat are still good in the immediate future, and as one of the destinations Dragic specified as markets where he’ll re-sign, Miami should have the inside track on retaining his services on a long-term contract for the next few seasons.

Sixers trade Michael Carter-Williams to Bucks, receive Lakers’ protected 2015 first round pick from Suns 

Grades: Sixers C-, Bucks B-

Michael Carter-Williams is the reigning Rookie of the Year, and while his scoring average has dipped in his second season, his assists per game have increased. The problem is his field goal percentage, which has dropped since last year — he’s at just 38 percent for the season, which includes a mark of only 25.6 percent from three-point distance.

Carter-Williams needs to develop, but has shown plenty of signs of being a legitimate point guard in this league. At some point, the Sixers are going to have to stick with the talent they have, and work on the development side to increase those players’ skill sets, and, by proxy, their respective values to the franchise. For whatever reason, the Philly front office wasn’t feeling it with MCW, so they hit the reset button by dealing him for (another) first round pick. But that strategy will only sit well with the fan base for so long.

As for the Bucks, it’s a low-risk, high-reward maneuver that’s difficult to criticize.

Bucks trade Brandon Knight to Suns, net Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis

Grades: Bucks – B, Suns – A

This was part of the aforementioned three-team deal with the Sixers, so if you’re including Carter-Williams in Milwaukee’s haul, then it’s not bad at all. Knight will be a restricted free agent this summer, which means that Carter-Williams is a lower-cost replacement for him in Milwaukee, and Knight will end up being a lower-cost replacement for Dragic in Phoenix.

Knight was a borderline All-Star this season, and a backcourt featuring him and Eric Bledsoe should be one that wreaks nothing but devastation on Suns opponents. Plumlee has value in the right role, and so does Ennis — but both are young players who will require development, and were expendable in Phoenix when you look at the other assets in place on that Suns roster.

Suns trade Isaiah Thomas to Celtics, receive Marcus Thornton and a 2016 first round pick

Grades: Suns – B, Celtics – A

The Suns had too many point guards; it was the reason that Goran Dragic essentially forced a trade out of town. Trading two of them this deadline day was the way to go, and netting a scoring two-guard in Thornton and a 2016 pick for Thomas seems to be a wise decision.

The Celtics, meanwhile, were flush with picks, and they get an above average point guard in Thomas who’s on a very reasonable contract (under $20 million total over the next three years) that will save enough cap space to add talent in other areas of need.

Thunder trade Reggie Jackson to Pistons in three-team deal with Jazz

Grades: Thunder – A, Pistons – A, Jazz – C

OKC helped themselves with this deal, in more ways than one. Jackson was disgruntled, and had already turned down a four-year, $48 million contract extension. As a restricted free agent this summer, he was going to seek an offer sheet much larger than that, and wanted to be a starter somewhere else. By sending him out of town, and securing front line offensive help in Enes Kanter as well as a serviceable replacement in the form of D.J. Augustin, the Thunder successfully addressed more than one of their weaknesses. And, ridding themselves of Kendrick Perkins in the deal is simply icing on the cake.

The Pistons, meanwhile, added some much-needed young talent, and should be able to give Jackson the role he is seeking, especially for the remainder of this season with Brandon Jennings sidelined due to injury.

Kanter, too, will be a restricted free agent this summer, and was unhappy in his role in Utah. But it feels like the Jazz could have done a little bit better in terms of getting assets in exchange for what he brings.

Rockets trade for K.J. McDaniels from Sixers, Pablo Prigioni from Knicks

Grades: Rockets B+, Sixers C, Knicks B+

Once again, we have the Sixers hitting the reset button when they already have appeared to land a significant level of talent. McDaniels is a ridiculous defender as well as an athlete, yet Philadelphia gave him away to try their luck again at the NBA roulette table. That’s a nice pickup for the Rockets, and the same could be said for Prigioni, who could provide veteran minutes as a backup point guard for the stretch run of the season. The Knicks netted two second-round picks for the 37-year-old Prigioni, which is a coup in and of itself.

Pelicans acquire Norris Cole from Suns (via Heat) in exchange for John Salmons

Grades: Pelicans – B, Heat/Suns – B

New Orleans needed guard help with Jrue Holiday sidelined due to injury, and with Cole becoming a restricted free agent this summer, the Heat were happy to let him walk. Cole was technically included from Miami in the deal for Goran Dragic, but the Suns had no need for another guard, and in fact, are expected to waive Salmons (who’s more of a wing) when all is said and done.

Blazers acquire Arron Afflalo in trade from Nuggets

Grades: Blazers B+, Nuggets C

The Western Conference is crazy in terms of its competitiveness, and while the Blazers are currently tied with Houston for third, there’s no guarantee that they’ll stay there. Portland had a deficiency in defense and scoring on the wing, so the team went out and got Afflalo in order to help fill that gap. He could also fill in nicely for Nicolas Batum, should Batum continue his sub-par play this season.

The Nuggets, meanwhile, got some pieces in Thomas Robinson (now playing for his fourth team), Will Barton and Victor Claver, but all of those players will require development. Afflalo can play, but this trade may be for now more than it is for the future, because he has a player option for next season that he’s likely to forego in order to become an unrestricted free agent.

Kings acquire Andre Miller from Wizards in exchange for Ramon Sessions

Grades: Wizards B, Kings A-

The Wizards needed an upgrade at the backup point guard position, and with Andre Miller having a reduced role in favor of Garrett Temple, he became expendable. Sessions could be that upgrade, though he was averaging career-lows in points (5.4) and minutes (17.8) in Sacramento this season. He’s guaranteed only one more year at a little over $2 million, though, so it was a low-risk maneuver for the Wizards that was worth taking as they look to improve for the stretch run of the season.

In Sacramento, meanwhile, this is about George Karl having a veteran voice in his new locker room that is on his side. Karl has tons of respect for Miller, and the feeling is mutual, thanks to a relationship that was formed when the two were members of the Nuggets organization. As Karl implements his system, Miller can help be a liaison of sorts to make the transition go that much more smoothly.

Report: NBA’s minor league won’t allow potentially eligible college players

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USC’s De’Anthony Melton, Louisville’s Brian Bowen and Auburn’s Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy haven’t played this season due to the FBI’s probe into college basketball. Mitchell Robinson left Western Kentucky before his freshmen season started to train for the NBA draft.

But they’re all potentially eligible to play college basketball again someday.

So, they can’t play in the NBA’s minor league.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

That ineligibility stems from a rule that prevents players who were enrolled in college during an academic calendar year from being offered a contract in the same season, unless they have been ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA with no opportunity of being reinstated (as was the case with P.J. Hairston in 2013).

“We’re not looking to compete with college basketball for their players,” a G League source said. “The NBA, specifically NBA lawyers, are concerned about the optics of NCAA players being disgruntled with minutes or coaching decisions and leaving college with the hopes of joining the G League. This is a blanket rule unfortunately that applies to all players. Like all of our rules, we are open to revisiting them if needed, but at the moment any player that was enrolled in a college this season is ineligible to play in our League.”

NBA executives and scouts are griping because they can’t evaluate these prospects in games. I don’t care about that.

This is an affront to capitalism. The basis of our economy should be competition, and the NBA is handing the NCAA – a cartel – a monopoly in this level of basketball. And it’s the workers (players) who lose.

So what if a freshman is disgruntled with his minutes and wants to turn pro during the season? He can’t join the NBA due to the age minimum. Why shouldn’t he be allowed to at least enter the NBA’s minor league, for which he’s old enough? We should trust him to manage his future, not protect the almighty college coach from facing consequences to his rotation.

I don’t know whether or not the NBA and NCAA colluded, but the NBA’s stance is the exact one it would take if it colluded. The NBA has worked to improve the quality of play in its minor league by increasing salary to compete against foreign leagues for players. It’s strange to just willingly take a backseat to college basketball when there’s a great opportunity to compete for top talent.

The players could legally challenge the policy, but they’ll be eligible for the NBA draft in June, and there’s risk in upsetting a potential future employer. And would anything be decided quickly enough in court to matter for the challenging player?

Players like Melton, Bowen, Wiley, Purifoy and Robinson aren’t allowed to let the market set their compensation as college basketball players, because NCAA schools have colluded to cap wages. Those players aren’t allowed to seek employment in the comparable American professional league, because that league doesn’t want to compete with the NBA.

It’s a travesty for capitalism and these workers.

LeBron James has tepid response when asked about Tyronn Lue’s job safety

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LeBron James was no fan of David Blatt, so he was let go around the All-Star break with the Cavaliers a couple of years ago when the team had the best record in the East.

Now the Cavaliers have fallen to third in the East and have lost 8-of-11, were blown out by the Thunder on national television on Saturday, have one of the worst defenses in the NBA, and have a brutal stretch of games against good teams ahead.

Is Tyronn Lue’s job in danger? That question has been asked around Cleveland, and when LeBron was asked about it after the OKC loss his response was tepid (via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com)

Is a coaching change really the answer? I’m not Lue’s biggest fan as a coach, I think Cleveland’s offense has too much isolation and can get simplistic, but he’s got an older team that lost Kyrie Irving (and replaced him with Isaiah Thomas, who just returned to the rotation a couple of weeks ago and is still getting his legs under him).

Maybe that wakes the team up, but the more likely change is a trade or two at the deadline. If Cleveland isn’t willing to put the Brooklyn pick in the mix (reportedly they will only do that for an elite superstar) it’s hard to see them getting a player that really makes a difference. However, get one who wakes the team up out of its malaise and plays a little defense, and the Cavaliers become more likely to out of the East.

It’s going to be an interesting few weeks in Cleveland.

Thunder drop 148 points on defenseless Cavaliers, win in rout

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If you wondered why Cleveland is so active in the trade market as the deadline nears — and why they are hunting out guys who can play defense — all you had to do was watch the Thunder dismantle the Cavaliers on Saturday afternoon on national television, 148-124.

The Thunder went into Quicken Loans Arena and list of offensive accolades is long (and ugly if you’re a Cleveland fan):

• Oklahoma City dropped 148 points.

• Oklahoma City shot 58 percent overall.

• Oklahoma City shot 46.7 percent from three.

• Oklahoma City got 44 percent of its shots within four feet of the rim.

• Oklahoma City’s big three of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George combined for 88 points.

• Westbrook had 23 points and 20 assists.

• Paul George had 36 points on 12-of-19 shooting.

Steven Adams had 25 points and 10 rebounds.

• Westbrook, George, Adams, and Anthony combined for 113 points on 66 shots.

To be fair, this was also about the Thunder playing one of their most complete offensive games of the season. They moved the ball beautifully, there wasn’t the “your turn/my turn” issues from earlier this season.

For a team still unsure of its identity and looking for validation, this game provided it.

It also provided another glimpse into the troubles in Cleveland.

Last season the Cavaliers counted on an exceptional offense to cover up for a defense that was decent when they cared and horrific when they didn’t, but when it got time in the playoffs Cleveland was able to flip the switch (it just wasn’t enough in the Finals). LeBron James has another gear and was able to lift his teammates up with it.

This season, they don’t seem to know where the switch is. The good defensive habits they had built over time seem lost and forgotten, as they run out a litany of minus defenders in their regular rotation.

Cleveland looks like a team that needs help at the trade deadline to ensure it gets out of the East. The question becomes will they throw in the Brooklyn pick to do it? And even if they did, would DeAndre Jordan really solve their issues right now?

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo out a couple of games to manage sore knee

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It’s not discussed much, but Giannis Antetokounmpo has a chronically sore knee that has been an issue since last summer. It’s not debilitating, it doesn’t require surgery, but it’s something Antetokounmpo and the Bucks need to actively manage.

Hence, Antetokounmpo is sitting out the next couple of games. From Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Milwaukee Bucks all-star Giannis Antetokounmpo will sit out Saturday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers as well as Monday’s home game against the Phoenix Suns as the team actively manages the health of Antetokounmpo’s sore right knee….

Antetokounmpo’s injury, which is not considered to be tendinitis, is regarded as something that is always going to bother him to some extent, according to a league source. There will be days where the discomfort is higher and some when it’s lower, and the team’s goal is to manage that on a daily basis to keep the injury from becoming severe or significant — something it is not considered to be at this point.

Antetokounmpo is going to get eight days of rest this way, which is the smart long-term move for the Bucks.

The challenge is the Bucks may be sixth in the East as you read this, but they are just one game up on the nine seed Pistons. They need to get wins without Antetokounmpo, which is hard because they have been outscored by 10.6 points per 100 possessions. However, they could be without him a lot longer if Antetokounmpo’s knee isn’t managed now.