Orlando makes trades: sends Vince Carter and others to Phoenix, get Arenas from Washington

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Otis Smith just swung for the fences. We’ll see if he connects.

The Orlando Magic have traded Vince Carter, Mikael Pietrus, and Marcin Gortat to the Phoenix Suns for Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, a first-round pick and Earl Clark. The Magic have also traded Rashard Lewis to the Washington Wizards for Gilbert Arenas.

ESPN, CBSSports.com, and Yahoo! Sports have all confirmed the deal.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Orlando

Orlando wants to win now. Not for the next few years, not down the line, growing together like a bunch of young saplings. Now. Otis Smith has acquired a dynamic scorer and playmaker in Gilbert Arenas who is not shooting well this year (39%) but has a chance to get some space now that he’s in Orlando. They acquired a power driving dunk artist with prolific three-point range in Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu who is now old and not nearly the player he was two years ago, a first-round draft pick and Earl Clark, who will never see the floor, ever.

Gilbert Arenas has shown flashes of his scoring ability that made him so prolific four seasons ago. He managed to work reasonably well off-ball in Washington, and in Orlando will be granted license to run the offense. Jameer Nelson can work off-ball in conjunction with Arenas. How he’ll work with Dwight Howard will be a significant issue to keep an eye on. Arenas has never worked with a player like Howard before, and he’ll have to maintain the “it’s his team” attitude he had with Wall.

Richardson is the big win in this trade for Orlando. He’s averaging 19 points on 42% three-point shooting and he’ll get just as many open looks in Orlando. The question will be if he can play the kind of defense Stan Van Gundy will need him to and how he’ll fit in with the rotation. But Richardson is a clutch performer who has a history with Arenas in Golden State and should be thrilled to be going to a contender again.

Hedo Turkoglu is a no-lose option for the Magic. If he’s terrible, the team is deep enough not to worry about it. If he’s able to recapture anything close to what they had two years ago, they’ve got another great player to go to. His contract is long. So was Rashard Lewis’. And as we’ve seen today, no contract is unmovable.

Phoenix:

The future is later. Despite Steve Nash still being Steve Nash, the Suns have moved towards the future. Vince Carter is an expiring contract, they acquired a first round pick to build with, and ditched Hedo Turkoglu’s contract. They’re obviously moving towards the future. You have to wonder if this is a capitulation by Robert Sarver to move towards saving money. Vince Carter may experience a resurgence in Phoenix as so many players have with their training staff. But in the end, he’s just not a very good player anymore and not a player you can depend on in key situations. Losing Turkoglu at least clears up their frontcourt rotation and will allow Hakim Warrick more minutes.  Phoenix looks towards the future.

Washington:

The Arenas-Butler-Jamison era is finally washed away completely. Agent Zero is over. Rashard Lewis is a marginal player at this point with a massive contract, but now the team is John Wall’s, 100%. The Gilbert Arenas era is through. They’re a bad team and they just got worse. But they do save a slight bit of money and can try and take a new approach in order to move towards the Wall-led future. It was over before it started for the Arenas Show in Washington. You’ve got to move forward eventually. They chose now.

76ers coach Brett Brown says he doesn’t expect rookie Zhaire Smith to play in NBA this season

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Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons.

Zhaire Smith?

A few recent 76ers first-round picks missed their entire first professional season due to injury. Smith, the No. 16 pick in last year’s draft could join them.

Smith has missed the entire season so far with a broken foot then allergic reaction. He just returned to practicing with the 76ers, but maybe not in time to play for them this season.

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

If the 76ers clinch their playoff seed before the regular season ends, I wouldn’t be surprised if Smith plays for them. But meaningful minutes seem unlikely.

Philadelphia is trying to win now, and a rookie who entered the NBA relatively raw then missed so much time is unlikely to help.

That said, backup wings James Ennis and Jonathon Simmons aren’t exactly reliable options. If everything breaks right for Smith – essentially the opposite of his season to date – maybe, just maybe, he plays for the 76ers this season.

Warriors vs. Bucks or Raptors betting favorite to be NBA Finals matchup

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Who will we see in the NBA Finals come June?

The West looks cut and dried — if the Warriors are healthy, it’s hard to imagine any other team in that conference giving them too much trouble.

The East? That’s wide open. A good case can be made for Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, or Milwaukee finding their way in. (For a more detailed breakdown, listen to the latest PBT Podcast where Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports and myself break down the East in more detail.)

The bookmakers over at BetOnline put together these odds on potential Finals matchups, and after the first four options the odds get pretty long.

Milwaukee Bucks vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Toronto Raptors vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Boston Celtics vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Indiana Pacers vs Golden State Warriors 28/1
Brooklyn Nets vs Golden State Warriors 33/1
Boston Celtics vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Toronto Raptors vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Charlotte Hornets vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Detroit Pistons vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Miami Heat vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Orlando Magic vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Washington Wizards vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Boston Celtics vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Toronto Raptors vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1

A few quick thoughts on that list:

• Interesting that the Sixers and Celtics are just a little behind the Bucks and Raptors in the minds of the bookmakers.

• I don’t know that I’d have Houston in front of Oklahoma City as the second-best option in the West. Not this season. The Thunder have the defense and star power to do playoff damage.

• If you’re thinking about putting money on Washington or Orlando to make the Finals — against anyone — just donate that money to charity instead. That way it will do some good.

Likely No. 1 pick Zion Williamson leaves Duke-North Carolina game with knee injury

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Zion Williamson will probably be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

He’s a generationally good prospect. The rest of this draft also looks relatively weak.

In fact, Williamson has such a stranglehold on the top pick, some have suggested he sit out the rest of his freshman season.

His injury during Duke’s game against North Carolina tonight will only heighten those calls.

Duke:

Hopefully, Williamson is OK.

And hopefully, the system changes. The NCAA is a cartel in which schools conspire to cap compensation for athletes at a scholarship plus some expenses. In a free market, Williamson would earn far more.

Unfortunately, it probably can’t be both. If Williamson escapes this without major injury, the status quo will likely endure.

But, if this injury even allows him to play again this season, it might be a warning shot that causes him to sit until he can enter the NBA draft.

Again, I hope he’s healthy enough to make that decision for himself.

Jayson Tatum guarantees Celtics will win 2019 NBA championship

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Friday morning, Jayson Tatum guaranteed the U.S. team would beat the World team in the Rising Stars game that night. The U.S. team won.

So, Tatum was asked Saturday morning whether he wanted to guarantee anything for that night. He guaranteed he’d win the Skills Challenge. He won.

So, then ESPN’s Rachel Nichols asked Tatum whether he wants to guarantee anything else. And he really let it ride.

Tatum:

We’re going to win the Finals this year. February 16th, mark it. Jayson Tatum says we’re going to win the Finals this year.

Obviously, Tatum wasn’t going to pick against Boston. But this wasn’t that. He could have easily avoided such a grand proclamation.

Instead, even if he were just caught up in the emotion of an All-Star Saturday Night victory and taking the interview especially seriously, Tatum put a little more attention and pressure on the Celtics.

I’m not convinced that’s what this team needs.