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

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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: Chris Paul recruiting LeBron James hard to Rockets

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Chris Paul built himself into the NBA’s greatest point guard since Magic Johnson (until Stephen Curry came around). Paul mastered the game, offensively and defensively. He led two franchises, New Orleans and the Clippers, taking huge burdens for each.

Then, he engineered a trade to the Rockets to become James Harden‘s sidekick. Paul learned to excel at that, too.

Now comes phase two in Houston. The Rockets must pay him, and it sounds as if they will. And Paul will recruit his friend LeBron James to join him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Chris is going to return there. And listen, right now, Chris Paul’s focus isn’t so much on his own free agency. He’s trying to recruit LeBron James to Houston, and somebody close to him said to me he is as focused on recruiting LeBron as anything he’s done in this league. He wants to find a way.

The Rockets were on the cusp of beating the Warriors. LeBron could put Houston over the top and get Paul an elusive championship. I certainly understand Paul’s hunger to make it happen. He’ll probably never get a better opportunity to win a title than this.

Could the Rockets get LeBron? Carmelo Anthony, before getting traded to the Thunder, told friends of a desire to team up with Paul and eventually LeBron in Houston. LeBron once said he’d take a pay cut to play with Paul, Anthony and Dwyane Wade – not that LeBron must to play with just Paul in Houston. The Cavaliers, Rockets and LeBron could execute an opt-in-and-trade that sends LeBron to Houston, similar to how Paul got there last summer.

But it seems Paul is fighting an uphill battle. LeBron reportedly said he doesn’t like Houston as a city, and lifestyle matters.

Not that the intensely competitive Paul will just give up.

Report: Marvin Bagley ‘near-lock’ to Kings at No. 2 in draft

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The Suns will almost certainly take DeAndre Ayton No. 1 overall in Thursday’s NBA draft.

The mystery begins with the Kings at No. 2.

They’ve been linked to Luka Doncic, Michael Porter Jr. and now, most strongly, Marvin Bagley.

Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News:

I wouldn’t like that pick. Bagley is a high-end prospect, but I’d take Doncic (and prefer a few others to Bagley).

Bagley is a phenomenal finisher and rebounder due to his athleticism and exertion. He runs the floor hard and is quick off his feet, repeatedly.

But he is a huge liability as a rim protector, making him a tough fit as a defensive center. His just lacks the awareness, length and strength to defend the paint well. He can improve his awareness and maybe his strength to acceptable levels, but there is such a long way to go.

I also don’t trust his jump shot or defensive awareness on the perimeter enough for him to play power forward offensively or defensively.

Of all the top prospects, Bagley might be the trickiest to build around. And the Kings don’t have the greatest track record of roster building, even in the rare times they get a lottery pick right.

Report: Wizards willing to trade No. 15 pick if team takes on bad contract with it

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The Washington Wizards had the fourth highest payroll in the NBA last season — a lot to pay for the No. 8 seed and an unceremonious first-round playoff exit.

One way or another expect changes to the Wizards’ roster going into next season. Big names could be on the move. Even before that, the Wizards have signaled they will trade the No. 15 pick in Thursday’s draft if teams will take on one of the Wizards’ oversized expiring contracts, reports our old friend Ben Standig working for thesportscapitol.com.

The Wizards are open to trading down from the 15th overall pick in Thursday’s draft if another team takes on one of Washington’s expiring contracts. That’s the message relayed from the Wizards to other NBA teams, a league source tells The Sports Capitol.

The Wizards have five players with expiring contracts, including starters Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris. Gortat’s $13.56 million salary for the 2018-19 season dwarfs the other expiring deals. The hefty figure counts among the reasons why the 34-year-old center is considered a likely trade piece.

This plan is unlikely to work unless the team in question actually wanted one of those players anyway. It is worth the shot.

That said, expect a lot of trades and movement on draft night — that is the buzz around the league. After DeAndre Ayton going No. 1 there is not really a consensus, and some teams have fallen in love with players and are willing to trade up and get them. Teams starting with Sacramento at No. 2 are fielding serious offers for their picks, and a few may jump at them.

The problem is the guys teams love will be off the board by No. 15, which means the Wizards may be making a pick. Which is not a bad thing, they have traded their picks away for years and they could use the injection of youth. Still, they will look to trade this pick too if it helps lessen the burden on their payroll.

Report: Cavaliers flying blind into draft because LeBron doesn’t know what he’s going to do

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The first day we’re going to get a hint of LeBron James‘ plan this summer is June 29 — that’s the date he has to opt into, or out of, the $35.6 million on his contract for next season.

Opt-in and that means either he’s staying with the Cavaliers or there has been an arrangement made to trade him (likely to Houston). Opt- out and he becomes a free agent on July 1 — he could re-sign with the Cavaliers, or he could sign anywhere else for next season.

What LeBron is doing could impact what the Cavaliers do at the NBA draft, keep the No. 8 pick and draft for the future or try to trade it (probably packaged with Kevin Love or another player) to get LeBron more help now.

But LeBron isn’t going to let the Cavaliers know because he himself doesn’t know, reports Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

According to sources, the Cavs’ front office and James’ camp have been in contact over the phone and in person, though there has been no meeting with James present, nor has there been any real dialogue as far as James’ future is concerned.

Because the superstar himself doesn’t know.

The Cavs have been signaling (strongly, in some cases) that they’re looking to upgrade their team from the group that was swept out of the Finals this month, whether James stays or goes.

If LeBron is staying, then the Cavaliers should consider trading that pick to a team eager to land someone still on the board (if Michael Porter Jr. is still available there likely would be plenty of solid offers). However, if he’s going they should use that pick to start the rebuild (and Porter would be a good step that direction).

In reality, the Cavaliers have to act as if LeBron is gone. That was the sense one got being around the team through the playoffs and Finals, that this relationship had run its course. The Cavaliers should draft the best player they can with that pick, unless some team comes through with a killer offer for the slot (and Love plus the No. 8 is not going to land Kawhi Leonard, who the Spurs are not moving that fast to trade anyway). Then, if and when LeBron leaves, start looking at possible trades for Love, Kyle Korver, and every other veteran on the roster. Start the rebuild.

Still, new GM Koby Altman is flying blind on draft night, and LeBron’s not going to help the team out.