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.

Clippers guard Landry Shamet tests positive for coronavirus

Landry Shamet coronavirus
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Clippers’ guard Landry Shamet just a few days ago talking to the media: “There’s no option with no risk at this point.”

Saturday we learned that Shamet has tested positive for the coronavirus. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news.

This comes a couple of days after a positive test for one member of the Clippers traveling party caused the team to shut down its training facility (that may have been Shamet, it may not have been, the Clippers are not saying).

Shamet has to go through a 14-day quarantine and two negative tests 24 hours apart before he can join his teammates in Orlando, which he still plans to do. If there are no setbacks, he will be in Orlando and cleared well before the Clippers take on the Lakers on opening night.

The second-year shooting guard is an important role player for the Clippers, scoring 9.7 points per game but shooting 39.2% from three — he is critical to their floor spacing in certain lineups. He is exactly the kind of player that will need to have a couple of big playoff games — when defenses collapse on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George — if Los Angeles is going to be a threat to win it all. As they believe they are.

Utah’s Rudy Gobert ‘in a good place,’ trying to move forward

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There were the tweets from strangers.

“I hate you.”

“You ruined the whole world.”

“You deserve it.”

And there was the scorn from inside his own locker room, the presumption that he infected a teammate with coronavirus, the suggestion that his recklessness somehow caused the entire sporting world to come to an absolute standstill.

Utah center Rudy Gobert is still standing tall, after all that and more.

Plenty of eyes will be on Gobert when the NBA season, the one that shut down March 11 when he became the first player in the league to be diagnosed with the coronavirus, takes a giant step toward returning by having teams gather at the Disney complex in Central Florida over the next few days. The Jazz will be a fascinating case study during this restart, particularly regarding whether or not Gobert and Donovan Mitchell — a fellow All-Star who was diagnosed with the virus shortly after the shutdown began and did not hide his anger with Gobert about it all — can coexist peacefully again.

“I’m happy now. I’m in a good place, you know,” Gobert told reporters Friday. “And I’m happy that I get the joy back from playing basketball with my team and the competitiveness is back. I’m ready to try to go out there and try to win the championship. That’s the goal. And to be honest, after everything we’ve been through as a team and as human beings, it would be a great comeback.”

Gobert answered questions for about 11 minutes. He talked about the relationship with Mitchell. (“It’s never going to be perfect,” he said, acknowledging strains that have been no secret.) He talked about the potential of signing a lucrative extension — he’s supermax-eligible — with the Jazz, which could happen before next season. (“I don’t plan on leaving right now,” he said.) He talked about his recovery from the virus, which is ongoing, at least in how his sense of smell hasn’t totally recovered. (“Smelling, I took that for granted too. It’s back now, it’s back at 80%, I’m not worried,” he said.)

He spoke softly, calmly, thoughtfully. And even though he is the two-time reigning NBA defensive player of the year, he didn’t swat any question away.

“Obviously, when you have the whole world judging you and threatening you or sending you a lot of negative energy and stuff like that, it’s something that I would say is not easy as a human being,” Gobert said. “But at the same time, people just judge you on the perception they have and the perception they get. Sometimes it can be one picture, one video, one interview, one action.”

In this case, that’s pretty much exactly what happened.

A picture, a video, an interview, an action. It was the start of the downfall.

It was the morning of March 9: Before leaving a media session at shoot-around in Salt Lake City on Monday in advance of a game against Detroit, Gobert touched all the tape recorders that were placed before him on a table, devices that reporters who cover the Jazz were using. He meant it as a joke. When he tested positive two days later, it was no laughing matter.

The Jazz were in Oklahoma City, just moments away from starting a game against the Thunder, when word came that Gobert tested positive. The game was called off. The season was suspended that same night.

Just like that, Gobert was a center of negative attention.

“First of all, you make sure he’s OK,” said Orlando guard Evan Fournier, a fellow French national-team player, who reached out often to check on Gobert. “You know, you call him and once we’re on the phone or just talking, text, whatever, you just ask him a few questions. How is he feeling, blah, blah, blah. And then once he starts to open up and say things about how he sees the whole situation, then you just try to give your best judgment to him. And you know, that’s what I did.”

Gobert immediately started trying to show remorse. He donated $200,000 to a fund established to help those who work part-time at Jazz games, people who lost income because contests were canceled. More money — about $310,000 — went to families affected by the pandemic in Utah and Oklahoma City, plus in his native France. He taped a public-service announcement for the league.

“I won’t be able to control everyone’s perception of me, but I can control my actions,” Gobert said. “I can control, you know, the things I do for the people around me, for the community, the things I do for my teammates on the court, off the court. All that stuff, I can control and that’s what really matters to me.”

For his part, Mitchell said the relationship with Gobert has improved.

“Right now, we’re good,” Mitchell said Thursday. “We’re going out there ready to hoop.”

The Jazz have secured a playoff berth. They’ll be without the injured Bojan Bogdanovic for the remainder of the season, yet still have enough depth to be considered a contender in the Western Conference.

And Gobert expects he and Mitchell, on the court anyway, will be fine.

“As long as we respect one another and we both share the same goals and we both do what’s best for the team, that’s what matters,” Gobert said. “And, you know, I think over the last few years that’s what we’ve been doing and that’s what we plan on continuing doing.”

Celtics’ Gordon Hayward may leave bubble in September for birth of child

Celtics' Gordon Hayward
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The Celtics’ Gordon Hayward has been at his wife’s side for the birth of their three children, he’s not going to miss the fourth — even if that means leaving the bubble.

Hayward’s wife Robyn is due with their fourth child in September — very possibly while the team is still playing — and he said in a conference call with reporters that he will leave the bubble to be with her. Via Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

“There’ll be a time if and when we’re down there and she’s going to have the baby, I’m for sure going to be with her,” Hayward said of his wife, Robyn. “We’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there…

“It’s a pretty easy decision for me on that,” Hayward said. “I’ve been at the birth of every one of my children, and I think there are more important things in life. So we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

“I know the NBA has a protocol for that type of thing, and hopefully I can do the quarantining and testing the appropriate amount of time and then be back with the boys.”

That protocol says that if Hayward notifies the team and league, is gone fewer than seven days, gets tested and is negative every day he is outside the bubble, then upon his return he will have a four-day quarantine (so long as he continues to have negative tests). This applies to all players who might need to leave the Walt Disney World campus for a family emergency or situation (Utah point guard Mike Conley‘s wife is due with their child in late August, for example).

If Hayward is gone longer or isn’t tested every day outside the bubble — or, if a player leaves the bubble without notifying teams — he has a 10-day quarantine upon his return.

The second round of the playoffs are set to begin Aug. 30 and will run as long as Sept. 13. The Eastern Conference Finals — which the Celtics have a good chance of making, but likely would need to beat out a strong Toronto squad — start Sept. 15 and run through the end of the month.

Hayward will be missed, and it’s not just his 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, or 4.1 assists per game, or the fact he shot 39.2% from three and is an important part of the Celtics’ floor spacing. It’s also that Brad Stevens uses Hayward in versatile lineups — Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Hayward make a very switchable foursome — that can both defend and difficult for opponents to stop. Boston loses some of that versatility without him, Semi Ojeleye is not going to be able to give the Celtics the same quality minutes.

 

NBA releases scrimmage schedule for restart, games tip-off July 22

NBA scrimmage schedule
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We are 18 days away from NBA basketball.

Well, NBA scrimmages at least. On the Fourth of July, the NBA released the schedule of scrimmage games for teams, which begin July 22 and run for six days, leading up to the start of the season July 30.

Here is the full schedule, with each team having three scrimmage games, all against teams from the other conference or unlikely playoff matchups.

The details on the broadcasts of the NBA scrimmage schedule of games have not been released, but it’s safe to expect they will be available on the team’s regional networks at the least (with maybe a few games picked up nationally).

Teams arrive at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at the Walt Disney World resort in Orlando starting next week. After players and team staff go through a 24-48 quarantine period (with two negative tests 24 hours apart), they will begin full team practices in the run-up to these scrimmages, and eventually the eight “seeding” games, which count as regular-season games.

Those seeding games start July 30 with a TNT double-header of Utah vs. New Orleans followed by the battle of Los Angeles, the Lakers vs. the Clippers (the top two seeds in the West heading into these games).