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Kawhi Leonard for DeMar DeRozan could be NBA’s first immediately clear and enduring star-for-star trade in nearly two decades

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In 2011 – well before DeMar DeRozan earned even serious All-Star or All-NBA consideration – Kawhi Leonard called him a “great player.”

In 2014 – before Leonard became Finals MVP and arguably the NBA’s best two-way player – DeRozan said, “If Kawhi gets his hands on you, you’re not going anywhere.”

Leonard and DeRozan were ahead of the curve on assessing each other, but the rest of us have caught up. Both players are universally recognized as stars. Traded for each other this week, they could fulfill the Raptors-Spurs deal as a rare trade that was recognized immediately and in hindsight as star-for-star.

Sometimes, we don’t realize when a star-for-star trade is made. Paul George for Victor Oladipo was a star-for-star trade, but we didn’t yet grasp Oladipo’s abilities.

Sometimes, we think a star-for-star trade was made and it wasn’t. Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas looked like a star-for-star trade, but Thomas hasn’t been healthy since and the odds are strongly against him regaining star status.

I’m looking for trades immediately recognized as star-for-star and then stood the test of time. To set a parameter, both players were All-Stars before and after the trade. There have been just nine such trades in NBA history:

2008: Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson (Denver Nuggets-Detroit Pistons)

I needed some way to define star-for-star trades, and this deal technically fits. But it completely violates the spirit of the exercise and is included here for only posterity. Allen Iverson deteriorated rapidly in Detroit. He made a couple more All-Star games from the fan vote, nothing to do with his remaining ability.

2001: Jason Kidd for Stephon Marbury (New Jersey Nets-Phoenix Suns)

Kidd pleaded guilty to spousal abuse earlier that year, perhaps opening the door for his exit from Phoenix. He was clearly the better player and only continued to prove it after the trade, leading the Nets to consecutive Eastern Conference titles.

Marbury was at least intriguing – four years younger and a flashy scorer. He was legitimately good during the two All-Star seasons of his career, his last in New Jersey and second in Phoenix. But he mostly confirmed he was a big-stats-on-a-bad-team player.

1997: Shawn Kemp for Vin Baker (Cleveland Cavaliers-Seattle SuperSonics-Milwaukee Bucks)

This actually looked like a star-for-star-for-star trade with Kemp (Seattle to Cleveland), Baker (Milwaukee to Seattle) and Terrell Brandon (Cleveland to Milwaukee). Brandon was coming off consecutive All-Star seasons with the Cavs, but he never regained that level. Kemp and Baker didn’t maintain it for long. Each remained an All-Star the season following the trade then never made it again.

Kemp was unhappy with the Sonics because he got paid less than Jim McIlvaine, who signed a seven-year, $33 million deal. The Collective Bargaining Agreement allowed no feasible way for Seattle to renegotiate Kemp’s contract, so he rebelled by arriving late to practices and flights. His weight ballooned in Cleveland, and cocaine and alcohol issues steadily derailed his career over the next several years.

Baker appeared disenchanted with the Bucks after they posted losing records his first four seasons, and Milwaukee feared him leaving in 1999 free agency. The result for the Sonics was far worse than the one the Bucks feared for themselves. Baker began drinking heavily in Seattle. Before, after and even during games. But the Sonics still re-signed him to a seven-year, $86 million deal in 1999 that proved to be highly toxic. Baker hung around longer than Kemp, but both trended sharply downward after this trade.

1982: Bernard King for Micheal Ray Richardson (New York Knicks-Golden State Warriors)

Coming off an All-Star year with the Warriors, King signed an offer sheet with the Knicks. Golden State matched and King planned to return. But just before the season, the Warriors traded him to the Knicks for Richardson.

Richardson was a perennial All-Star in New York, but the Knicks had tired of his attitude and contract demands. Unfortunately, this trade contributed to his spiral. While his agent negotiated terms with the Warriors, Richardson remained in New York and abused drugs. He didn’t kick the habit in Golden State and lasted less than a season there, getting flipped to the Nets. He got clean in 1985, winning Comeback Player of the Year and regaining his All-Star status. But it didn’t last, and Richardson was banned from the league in 1986 for his third positive test for cocaine.

King was no stranger to off-court problems himself. He won Comeback Player of the Year in 1981 after issues with alcohol and pleading guilty to misdemeanor attempted sexual assault (and facing more serious related charges). He starred for the Knicks a couple seasons, hurt his knee then was never the same player again.

1980: Dennis Johnson for Paul Westphal (Phoenix Suns-Seattle SuperSonics)

This is another trade that fits by technicality, not spirit. Westphal got hurt, crossed the wrong side of 30 and underwhelmed in his lone season in Seattle. He was never the same player again. But fans voted the popular guard an All-Star starter that year with the Sonics, anyway.

1978: Bobby Jones for George McGinnis (Philadelphia 76ers-Denver Nuggets)

George McGinnis possessed so much size, athleticism and natural talent, people always wanted more from him. So, every problem involving him in Philadelphia felt huge. He fit poorly with Julius Erving. McGinnis had some bad moments in the playoffs on a team with championship expectations. His practice habits were poor even when he wasn’t sneaking cigarettes.

Eventually, the 76ers had enough and shipped him to Denver for Bobby Jones.

Jones, still a star in his own right, was much more adept at fitting in. He made six All-Defensive first teams in Philadelphia. After consecutive All-Star appearances with the 76ers, Jones won Sixth Man of the Year on their 1983 title team.

McGinnis remained an All-Star his first year with the Nuggets, but his experience in Denver largely made everyone there miserable. Nuggets coach Larry Brown endorsed trading for McGinnis, loathed the forward’s practice habits then wanted McGinnis traded. Larry Brown changing his mind – who ever heard of such a thing? When Denver kept McGinnis, Brown resigned. But McGinnis got hurt and lost his confidence, and the Nuggets traded him back to Indiana, where he played in the ABA before signing with Philadelphia and finished his career.

1972: Elvin Hayes for Jack Marin (Baltimore Bullets-Houston Rockets)

Drafted No. 1 by the Rockets, Elvin Hayes led the entire NBA in scoring as a rookie. But four losing seasons later, Hayes and the Rockets were losing patience with each other. Houston blamed him for posting stats – 27 points and 16 rebounds per game – that were more gaudy than actually helpful. He blamed the team for putting so much pressure on him, it caused health problems.

Despite already having Wes Unseld – who actually won Rookie of the Year over Hayes – as a big and sharing widespread concern over Hayes’ mindset, the Bullets rolled the dice on Hayes anyway. Asked whether the trade was a one-for-one, Bullets coach Gene Shue quipped, “No. We get Elvin’s psychiatrist, too.”

The Bullets eventually realized what a steal they got. Hayes was an all-time great. In nine years together, Hayes and Unseld led the Bullets to three conference titles and the 1978 NBA championship.

Marin had just two All-Star seasons – the year before this trade and the year after. The Bullets just wisely traded him at age 27, in the middle of his short prime.

1968: Wilt Chamberlain for Archie Clark (Los Angeles Lakers-Philadelphia 76ers)

This trade is often listed as one of the most lopsided in NBA history – for good reason. The Lakers got Wilt Chamberlain, arguably a top-five-ever player coming off an MVP season. Philadelphia got the unmemorable trio of Archie Clark, Darrall Imhoff and Jerry Chambers.

But Clark was an All-Star, both the season prior to this trade and a few years later after the 76ers flipped him to the Baltimore Bullets.

Chamberlain declined from peak form in Los Angeles, but he remained excellent during his five years there and helped the Lakers win a title.

1964: Bailey Howell and Don Ohl for Terry Dischinger (Baltimore Bullets-Detroit Pistons)

The first star-for-star trade was actually a star-and-star-for-star deal. And Baltimore got the two best pieces in the deal.

The Pistons had just suffered through a miserable year – losing a lot while playing for a tyrant coach. Charlie Wolf imposed strict rules that alienated his players. Howell and Ohl were happy to leave town, and each remained very good with the Bullets.

Dischinger, 1963 Rookie of the Year, certainly seemed to be worth acquiring. And he continued to produce like a star his first season in Detroit. But he went into active military service, missed the following two seasons and returned a far lesser player.

Who could have predicted the escalating conflict in Vietnam would swing the Pistons’ fortunes so significantly?

That uncertainty is why we don’t know whether the Leonard-DeRozan trade will join this club.

Each player must make an another All-Star team. Leonard is a lock if healthy, but his quad issues are a huge uncertainty. DeRozan will turn 29, and he’s heading to the better conference. But he’s joining a well-coached team built to win now, and success will boost his chances. The NBA, with captain-picked All-Star teams, might even pick All-Stars regardless of conference. The league should also increase All-Star rosters to 13 players each, matching the regular-season active-roster size, but that idea has less traction.

There are so many variables.

But this trade has a better chance than any recently to fit my star-for-star criteria.

Report: Celtics re-signing Marcus Smart for four years, $52 million

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Marcus Smart put out word he was “hurt and disgusted” by the Celtics’ approach to his free agency. He threatened to take the qualifying offer. He used the Kings for leverage.

All that agitating paid off.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Boston retains a key player in a year with championship potential. That’s most important. The Warriors will be favored against any opponent, but the Celtics might present the biggest challenge. (The Raptors and Rockets are also in the running for Golden State’s biggest challenger.)

This deal probably represents fair value for Smart. He thought was worth more. Boston surely wanted to keep him for less – especially considering the luxury-tax concerns.

Smart will earn between $11,607,143 and $14,772,727 next season, based on these reported terms. Even the low end would push the Celtics over the tax line.

They could escape the tax this season with a trade, but bigger bills are coming as Kyrie Irving, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are due major raises in coming years. Would Boston frontload Smart’s contract and pay more now to potentially save if this team faces the repeater tax down the road? That’d also make Smart more valuable in the future, with a higher share of his contract already paid off.

Smart is an excellent defender, capable of guarding all three perimeter positions and switching inside. He plays so hard and makes hustle plays all over the floor. He’s also a decent distributor. But he’s an awful 3-point shooter for someone who still launches jumpers so often, and that can kill spacing.

He’s a complex player – one definitely worth having, but also one Danny Ainge could easily trade. Boston also has Irving and Rozier at point guard, though both can become free agents next summer.

For now, Smart provides the Celtics with excellent production. He represents insurance for the following season. After that – or maybe even sooner – he could be a trade chip.

Boston accomplished its top offseason priority by retaining Smart. He gets life-changing money, and the Celtics bolster their present and future. Everyone involved should feel good about this agreement.

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor: Jimmy Butler rejected contract extension

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The Timberwolves offered Jimmy Butler the largest-allowed extension this summer. It would’ve paid:

  • 2019-20: $24,534,935
  • 2020-21: $26,497,730
  • 2021-22: $28,460,524
  • 2022-23: $30,423,319
  • Total: $109,916,508 ($27,479,127 average annual salary).

If Butler plays out the season and opts out, he could re-sign for a projected $190 million over five years (about $38 million annually). Even if he opts out to leave, he could get a projected $141 million over four years (about $35 million annually).

Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN:

It probably just wasn’t enough money. Butler is worth a max contract when healthy.

He’ll also turn 29 before the upcoming season and has shown significant wear and tear while playing big minutes for Tom Thibodeau in Chicago and Minnesota. I’d be leery of paying Butler big money into his 30s.

But he’s probably correct to bet on at least one team being enamored with him in what should be a looser market next summer. He also might not want to lock into playing with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns and without Kyrie Irving.

Report: LeBron James made no effort to win over Kyrie Irving after trade request

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LeBron James told the Cavaliers not to trade Kyrie Irving last summer.

Cleveland acquiesced Irving’s trade request, anyway, sending him to the Celtics.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com on 92.3 The Fan Cleveland:

Let’s be honest: LeBron didn’t do anything, until they were going to trade him, to try to keep him here. He didn’t try to talk to him. He didn’t try to mend the fences. It wasn’t until they said, “LeBron, we’re giving him to Boston” is when he said, “No, no don’t do that.”

When it came out, there was a month – a whole month – before anybody had any idea that the trade was going to be to Boston. LeBron didn’t do anything. There was no love lost between them.

On one hand, it’s not necessarily LeBron’s responsibility to ensure all his coworkers are happy with their employer. The Cavaliers should have had a general manager for that.

On the other – let’s say, right – hand, LeBron reduced his chances of winning a legacy-boosting title last season. Even though he clearly never felt a responsibility to do the Cavs’ bidding for them, his reluctance to reach out to Irving hurt LeBron himself.

LeBron left Cleveland in a nearly impossible position. If the Cavaliers traded Irving against LeBron’s wishes, LeBron – approaching free agency – would have held it against them. (That became even more true considering the Cavs’ return for Irving flopped.) If the Cavaliers kept Irving and he underwent season-ending surgery – as he threatened – LeBron probably still would have held his worsened situation against the team.

That wouldn’t have been fair, but LeBron held the power. He didn’t have to be fair.

And he didn’t have to use his position to court Irving.

Their relationship was clearly broken, years of mistrust culminating in Irving’s trade request. I can understand if LeBron felt too proud to beg Irving to stay. And, again, that didn’t have to be LeBron’s responsibility.

But it could have been, and his unwillingness to accept that extra burden put the Cavs in a horrible spot. We can appreciate that without laying all the blame on LeBron.

I don’t believe Irving’s relationship with Cleveland was irreparable when he requested a trade last summer. But it would have taken a huge effort – including by LeBron – to salvage it. It’s clear LeBron wasn’t interested in doing that beyond the cursory effort of telling the Cavaliers not to trade Irving.

Report: Marcus Smart leaning toward accepting Celtics’ qualifying offer

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Marc Smart wants more than $12 million-$14 million annually.

Instead, he’s “hurt and disgusted” by the Celtics’ handling of his restricted free agency.

What will he do about it?

A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

While no deal is imminent, two NBA officials whose teams have had some level of interest in Marcus Smart are getting a strong sense that he will sign the $6.1 million qualifying offer made by the Celtics and become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019.

The Celtics don’t seem to fear Smart taking his qualifying offer. They’ve shown a willingness to pay the luxury tax, but with their stacked roster, they could be over the tax line for several seasons in the foreseeable future. Keeping Smart at his $6,053,719 qualifying offer could allow Boston to avoid the tax this season and delay costly repeater-rate penalties down the line.

The downside: Smart would become an unrestricted free agent next summer and could leave unilaterally. That might be worth the risk – especially with Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier also at point guard (though they can also become free agents next summer).

Smart can pursue an offer sheet now, though potential suitors are dwindling. He could negotiate a multi-year deal with the Celtics, though that would require him taking enough of a discount they’d prefer it to him signing his qualifying offer.

So, Smart accepting the qualifying offer is far from his only option.

But it definitely appears increasingly likely.