The Extra Pass: Assessing Trade Situations (Northwest Division)

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The Extra Pass is a new daily column that’s designed to give you a better look at a theme, team, player or scheme. Today, we look at potential homes for players on the trading block. 

Here’s a look at the trade situations for every team in the Northwest Division:

Oklahoma City Thunder32-9, 1st in Northwest Division, $1 million short of the tax

Off-limits: The Core (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Kevin Martin, Nick Collison)

There’s virtually no chance this core gets broken up. That includes Kevin Martin and Nick Collison, who provide unique production that would be very hard to replicate elsewhere.

Most likely to be dealt: PG Eric Maynor ($2.3 mil/1 year)

Maynor has lost almost all of his backup point guard minutes to Reggie Jackson lately, and there was a recent report that Philadelphia was interested in making a move for him.

Potential Trade Partners:

Philadelphia is a good fit, as backup point guard Maalik Wayns is shooting 26 percent and has a PER of 2.2, while Royal Ivey somehow has only 8 assists in 235 minutes played. Although it’s unlikely Philadelphia would bite, swapping Maynor and a second round pick for Lavoy Allen would make some sense, as Allen is an affordable, productive backup big with range out to 17 feet.

Dallas is unlikely, but a straight up swap of Maynor for Rodrigue Beaubois would theoretically put both players in situations better suited for their skills.

Player to target: G Ramon Sessions, Charlotte Bobcats 

Sessions fits right into the Thunder mold — he plays fast and he draws a ton of fouls. Sessions gets to the line 7.6 times a game per36 minutes, which is tied for 5th in the league with Carmelo Anthony. A good scorer, Sessions can play on or off the ball, and he’s on a very affordable $5 million dollar contract over two years.

Chances of a deal: Low

They have the assets, but why rock the boat when you’re clearly a championship contender?

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Denver Nuggets: 25-18, 2nd in Northwest Division, $6 million short of the tax

Off-Limits: Andre Miller and Kenneth Faried

Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri has proven with trades of Nene and Arron Afflalo that he’s comfortable trading players after signing them to long-term deals. Are Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee next?

Faried is hands-off because of his production on a cheap rookie deal, and Andre Miller is the glue that holds the Nuggets together and was one of Ujiri’s personal acquisitions.

Most likely to be dealt: C Timofey Mozgov ($3.1 million/1 year)

Yes, it’s the same guy Blake Griffin turned into a verb a few years back. With JaVale McGee and Kosta Koufos playing well at center, the Nuggets don’t have much of a need for Mozgov, who they will likely be let go this offseason due to financial reasons. There’s also this:

“It think it’s logical, you can see that, trading me,” Mozgov said in an interview with FOX Sports Florida. “I’m in my contract year. So if they can get something for me. … I don’t think it would be a surprise for me (to be traded).”

Potential Trade Partners:

Cleveland could use another backup big with Anderson Varejao’s shaky health, and with perimeter shooter Omri Casspi reportedly wanting out, it might make sense for Denver to kick the tires on him and hope he could help on the perimeter.

Chicago is one frontcourt injury away from Nazr Mohammed time (yes, he still plays), so that should be incentive enough for the Bulls to upgrade. The salary matching wouldn’t be easy, but Vladimir Radmonivic and George Karl are soulmates and nothing can get in the way of love.

Player to target: Kyle Korver, Atlanta Hawks SG

The Nuggets are 29th in the league in 3-point shooting percentage, and desperately need someone to space the floor. Kyle Korver is a 44 percent 3-point shooter on a $5 million dollar expiring contract, and Denver has the young pieces GM Danny Ferry likely covets for his rebuild. Promising scorer Jordan Hamilton (or Evan Fournier) with Mozgov for Korver would likely do the trick.

Chances of a deal: High

Ujiri may be shopping Gallinari, who has yet to fulfill his potential as a shooter. Mozgov is the more likely piece to be dealt, but keep an eye on Gallo — he’s highly coveted around the league.

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Utah Jazz: 22-19, 3rd in the Northwest, $3.4 million short of the tax

Off-Limits: Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Gordon Hayward

Utah has been looking at a rebuild for a while now, and these guys represent the future. Favors and Kanter should be dominant up front for years to come.

Most likely to be dealt: C Al Jefferson ($15 million/1 year)

From Chad Ford of ESPN.com:

“(…) virtually every GM in the league believes the Jazz are moving one of their two big men — either Jefferson or Paul Millsap. Because Millsap is a favorite of the team, Jefferson could be the odd man out.”

Keeping Millsap over Jefferson would also likely cost Utah less money this offseason, as Jefferson should demand a higher price as one of the last true back-to-the-basket centers still left in existence.

Potential Trade Partners:

Toronto has long been rumored to be chasing Pau Gasol, but Al Jefferson is younger and his expiring deal would allow Toronto flexibility in their direction. Kyle Lowry and Landry Fields for Al Jefferson would land Utah a really underrated point guard on one of the league’s best contracts ($5.75 million/2 years). Although Utah would sacrifice cap space, it’s unlikely they’d find a better bargain or player in free agency than Lowry.

Milwaukee only really makes any sense if they don’t want to match whatever offer Brandon Jennings fetches in restricted free agency. If they can use Jennings to shed Drew Gooden’s ridiculous $6.6 million a year 3-year contract, they might be tempted. An offer of Jennings, Ekpe Udoh and Drew Gooden for Al Jefferson and Randy Foye could be a “we’re not going to sign this guy” swap.

Player to Target: Kyle Lowry

I honestly think Toronto is a little desperate to get a “star” and Lowry has been hidden behind Jose Calderon most of the year. There are lots of exciting young point guards in the league for Utah to target, but not many teams will readily make them available like Toronto likely will with Lowry.

Chances of a deal: Very High

Utah should move either Jefferson or Millsap so they don’t anger a whole new group of frontcourt players. It would be silly to lose them and receive nothing but cap space in return — free agents aren’t going to be flooding to Utah, folks. It ain’t exactly Miami.

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Portland Trailblazers: 20-20, 4th in Northwest Division, $14 million short of the tax

Off-Limits: Damian Lillard

Portland GM Neil Olshey will never shy away from a blockbuster, but Lillard might be on the best contract in all of basketball right now. He’s going nowhere.

Most likely to be dealt: PF J.J. Hickson ($4 million/1 year)

It’s always a good idea to sell high. Hickson doesn’t help you at all defensively, but his work on the offensive glass, gaudy PER of 20, and cheap expiring deal could make him good bait for Portland to bring in a piece for the future. Here’s the problem though — Hickson has to approve of the trade because he’s on tap for bird rights next year. Basically, he would need to go to a contending team (likely) where he’d still get the chance to get monster minutes and stats (unlikely).

Potential Trade Partners

Because Hickson holds the keys, he’s unlikely to get dealt. With Portland unexpectedly chasing a playoff spot, they could stand to upgrade their bench but it’s highly unlikely Olshey does that at the cost of future assets. If they were worse off in the standings, selling LaMarcus Aldridge or Wes Matthews might make sense, but that’s very hard to justify with where Portland sits now.

Player to Target: PF Derrick Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves

If Portland does get involved in the trading market, why not give Timberwolves GM David Kahn another call about Derrick Williams, who was reportedly offered up during the offseason? The Blazers don’t have an awful lot to offer, but Hickson, Luke Babbitt and a draft pick for Williams might get them in the ballpark.

Chances of a deal: Low

Olshey works the phone with the best of them, but there just aren’t a lot of movable assets on the roster.

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Minnesota Timberwolves: 17-20, Last in the Northwest Division, $8 million short of the tax

Off-Limits: Ricky Rubio

The Wolves saved their “super-max” contract for Ricky Rubio instead of Kevin Love, which tells you something about who they value more. Love has clashed a bit with management in the past, and he’s been vocal about playing for a winner. He should be an untouchable talent, but the time may come where he demands out. Scary stuff.

Most likely to be dealt: SF Andrei Kirilenko ($9.7 million, 2 years)

AK-47 is a wonderful fit with Rick Adelman, and he’s played up to his contract on both sides of the ball this season. That said, Kirilenko is 31-years-old, and he doesn’t help the Wolves at all with their perimeter shooting, which is part of the reason why Minnesota is dead last in 3-point percentage this year. He could certainly be moved for a younger, better shooting piece.

Potential Trade Partners:

Houston just gives off the vibe that they’re ready to push some chips towards the center of the table any second now, and putting a great cutter and defender like AK-47 in that high-octane system would be fun to watch. Kirilenko’s big salary could be cause for concern, but Carlos Delfino and Patrick Patterson for Kirilenko would give Minnesota a young, promising big man and a pretty decent outside shooter who create his own opportunities.

Memphis wants to avoid the luxury tax and still compete. Trading Rudy Gay for Kirilenko, Greg Steimsma and a draft pick would accomplish just that. For Minnesota, they could absolutely compete for quite a few years with a healthy core of Rubio, Shved, Gay, Love and Pekovic.

Player to target: SG Marcus Thornton, Sacramento Kings

Thornton’s contract will scare away a lot of suitors ($7.25 million over 3 years), but you have to think Sacramento is willing to part with him on the cheap given their change of ownership. Thornton is a 36 percent career 3-point shooter and 15 PPG guy, and he could likely excel in a 6th man role going forward.

Chances of a deal: High

It’s hard to imagine Kahn sitting on his hands while his entire roster fights for spots on the trainer’s table. The question is, will Minnesota try to salvage this year with a trade for immediate help, or will they play for the future?

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Check out tomorrow’s Extra Pass for a look at the Pacific Division.

Doc Rivers says Paul George will be out for the first 10 games

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We are expecting not to see Paul George on the court with Kawhi Leonard in a Los Angeles Clippers uniform until November. But until this week, we didn’t have a good idea about when George could return over the course of the next month.

Speaking to reporters this week, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers let it slip that George could miss up to the first 10 games of the regular season. That would put George at a tentative return date of Nov. 13 against the Houston Rockets.

Via Twitter:

The Clippers are still expected to be one of the best teams in the NBA, and the real question heading into the first several weeks of the season will be how much they allow Leonard to sit out due to load management if George is not on the floor.

The real question in Los Angeles — on both sides of the hall at Staples Center — will be about health, and the Clippers know that it’s not how you start the season but how you finish. It seems likely they will wait until George is fully ready to return to action rather than rushing him back from dual shoulder surgery.

Kyle Kuzma reportedly cancelled plans to announce Chinese sponsorships

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Tensions are still high between the NBA and China, and both sides are hoping that things return to normal soon. Whether that’s possible is another thing altogether, particularly with how raw the response to the NBA has been by domestic fans concerned with the NBA sticking to its stated principles with regard to social justice.

This has affected not just the league, but players too. James Harden and Russell Westbrook were involved in an incident where an official shut down a legitimate question by a CNN reporter. Now it’s being reported that Los Angeles Lakers big man that Kyle Kuzma decided not to announce sponsorship deals with Chinese companies during his team’s visit to the continent this month.

Via Bill Oram:

Kuzma’s plans to announce additional sponsorship deals with Chinese companies were scrapped once the Lakers arrived on Tuesday and found themselves caught in the middle of a stalemate between the NBA and the Chinese government.

The whole story of what it was like to cover the trip in China as an American is worth reading by Oram. It’s an interesting look at the collision of politics, business, and the perception of sports as separate from those spheres.

Meanwhile, players and their management teams will need to think more carefully about the social perception of business deals both at home and abroad.

Facilitator Kawhi Leonard in Clippers opener could be glimpse into season

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This story is part of our NBCSports.com’s 2019-20 NBA season preview coverage. Every day between now and when the season opens Oct. 22 we will have at least one story focused on the upcoming season and the biggest questions heading into it. In addition, there will be podcasts, video and more. Come back every day and get ready for a wide-open NBA season.

LOS ANGELES — You could see the impact almost immediately.

In his first minutes in a Los Angeles Clippers uniform last Thursday against Denver, Kawhi Lenoard drained a 14-foot midrange shot, stole a Gary Harris pass and turned that into a step-back three-pointer. Five points and a steal, all in 21 seconds.

More importantly for the Clippers, you could hear the impact almost immediately, too.

Leonard was talking a lot on defense, directing players and making his presence heard. That has been the case in team practices as well, according to people with the Clippers.

“He’s more verbal than you would ever know,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s more demanding in a very positive way. You have to do it right. I love that for our team.”

Questions abound about how Leonard — and Paul George, when he returns at some point likely in November — will fit in with an established Clippers roster and culture this season. The Clippers on paper may be title favorites, but how all those pieces come together remains one of the potential turning points of this NBA season.

The cultural fit seems smooth.

Patrick Beverley and Montrezl Harrell brought an intense, hard-working, tough-to-play-against ethos to Los Angeles — but Leonard and George are lunchpail guys at heart. The Clippers’ new editions may be top five (certainly top eight) NBA talents, but they came into the league seen as “3&D” guys with some potential. They worked their way to the top, and that works for the Clippers.

On the court — at least in the slightly more than 10 minutes he played against Denver — the roster fit also seemed smooth.

Leonard had seven points on 3-of-6 shooting, but what stood out were the six assists. Leonard played a facilitator role. The first bucket of the game was a Leonard drive-and-kick to JaMychal Green in the corner, who hit the three. Leonard’s other assists were mostly to bigs Ivica Zubac and Harrell cutting to the basket.

Doc Rivers’ plan is to let Leonard feel how other teams are going to guard him, them adapt.

“Some teams will try to guard him one-on-one and he’ll probably try to score,” Rivers said. “Some teams, like Denver today, was up doubling him a lot, and he’ll be a facilitator…

“That’s what Kawhi does, it’s not like we’re recreating anything here. He’s a smart player. We’re going to try and keep as much shooting out with him, so teams can’t help. We will try to keep one roller on the floor with him, so that guy’s going down the middle of the paint and he’s creating help. We don’t have to make it that difficult.”

“He found me every time I was open,” Zubac said. “I really like playing with him.”

This was not by direct design so much as Leonard taking what the defense gave him.

“It just happened naturally,” Leonard said. “For the most part I cause a lot of attention, and I’m going to pass it to the open man. They was knocking down the shots tonight.”

We will see more of “facilitator Leonard” this season, and facilitator George as well. That Rivers wants to keep shooters on the court around his stars speaks to what a vital role Green and second-year guard Landry Shamet will play in Los Angeles — they are going to get opportunities and have to make the defense pay. (Shamet had 11 points against Denver and was 2-of-5 from three.)

Then off the bench, Los Angeles rolls out the best pick-and-roll combo in the league right now, Lou Williams and Harrell. Those two drove the Clippers offense last season, which is why both finished in the top three in Sixth Man of the Year voting, but this season there will be less pressure on them. They may not even close games, even though Williams is one of the better end-game bucket getters in the league.

The Clippers are that deep with talent.

Leonard showed already how he just makes the game easier for that talent. Zubac setting picks for Leonard and rolling, with shooters on the floor, is not going to be easy to stop — and that’s without George in the mix yet.

It’s more than the Xs and Os, however, Leonard and his rings just bring a gravitas to the Clippers they needed.

“He has a presence about him when he is on the floor, just feels a little different, how he carries himself, how he plays,” Shamet said.

That presence could carry the Clippers franchise to places it has never been before. It’s the impact the Clippers are ultimately hoping to see.

Cavaliers visit owner Dan Gilbert, recovering from stroke

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CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Cavaliers visited team owner Dan Gilbert, who is recovering at home after suffering a stroke in May.

After playing an exhibition game in Detroit on Friday night, the Cavs delayed their trip to Boston so they could spend time Saturday with the 57-year-old Gilbert.

He recently returned to his home in Franklin, Michigan, after staying at a rehabilitation facility in Illinois. Gilbert suffered a stroke on May 26 after being taken to a hospital by a family friend following stroke-like experiencing symptoms.

All of Cleveland’s players, along with first-year coach John Beilein and his staff, held a film session and short walk-through on a replica basketball court Gilbert has at his home before having lunch. Gilbert and his wife, Jennifer, spoke with many of the players.

The Cavs play their third preseason game Sunday against the Celtics.

Gilbert has owned Cleveland’s franchise since 2005.=