Wade Baldwin

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Report: Rockets drop below luxury-tax line by trading Nik Stauskas, Wade Baldwin, second-rounder to Pacers

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The Rockets did it!

No, not beating the Warriors. The team that once was fearlessly and openly obsessed with toppling the Golden State behemoth has ceded ground in that fight. Houston’s big victory:

Dropping below the luxury-tax line.

The Rockets started shedding salary this offseason, and they continued with multiple trades this week. The latest – dumping Nik Stauskas and Wade Baldwin – will get Houston out of the tax.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

All this salary-dumping has come at a significant cost. The Rockets are down a first-rounder, two second-rounders, James Ennis and De'Anthony Melton. Houston also exchanged second-rounders with the 76ers and agreed to a second-round swap with the 76ers, both of which work in the other teams’ favor.

Those picks and positive-value players could have helped bolster the team on the court. Instead, they went to saving Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta money. To be fair, he said he’d pay the tax to reach the NBA Finals and not otherwise. This doesn’t look like a Finals team. He’s a man of his word. Sometimes.

At least Houston got Iman Shumpert in the string of transactions. He should contribute on the court. The Rockets also opened a couple roster spots to use on post-buyout players. But the Rockets can’t sign anyone immediately, or they’ll go back over the tax line. How appealing will delaying be to free agents?

Houston might make some noise about delaying the repeater clock, but that’s mostly bunk. Even if they paid the tax this season, the Rockets wouldn’t pay the repeater tax until at least 2022. And that’s only if they spent every season between now and then in the tax.

This was about Houston cutting costs this season and receiving the portion of luxury-tax distribution paid to non-tax teams. Nothing more. And it came at the expense of winning for a team that has its championship-contention window open.

Report: Rockets trading first-rounder to dump salary in three-way deal with Cavaliers and Kings

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Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta called the luxury tax a “horrible hindrance.”

So, Houston will do something about it.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Houston Rockets are acquiring guard Iman Shumpert in a three-way deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Sacramento Kings, league sources told ESPN.

The Rockets will send guard Brandon Knight, forward Marquese Chriss and a 2019 lottery protected first-round pick to the Cavaliers, league sources said.

The Cavaliers will send guard Alec Burks to the Kings, and guards Nik Stauskas and Wade Baldwin to the Rockets, league sources said.

Sacramento also got a second-round pick from Cleveland, according to James Ham of NBC Sports California. (Update: The pick will come from Houston.)

This trade puts the Rockets in line to save $7,780,376 – $6,417,710 in luxury tax and $1,362,666 salary – this season. The bigger savings come next season, when Knight – who hasn’t been good in years – is guaranteed $15,643,750. Everyone Houston got is on an expiring contract.

The Rockets are now just $4,290,472 over the tax line and could still try to dodge the tax altogether. But they will likely be active on the buyout market, which would only add to their payroll. Maybe Houston will try to flip Stauskas and/or Baldwin before tomorrow’s trade deadline to make an eventual post-buyout signing less costly. Escaping the tax entirely seems less likely.

At least this trade also helps the Rockets on the court, unlike their money-saving decisions last offseason. Knight and Chriss were non-factors. Shumpert isn’t great, but he’s a reasonable two-way wing with deep-playoff experience. Teams can’t get enough of those.

Still, Shumpert is a minor upgrade relative to what Houston could’ve gotten for a first-rounder if that pick weren’t doing the heavy lifting of unloading bad salary.

That pick is why Cleveland took Knight and Chriss. The Cavs aren’t going anywhere quickly, anyway. Better to stock up on long-term assets like draft picks in exchange for taking negative-value contracts now. Maybe even Chriss is worth a flier. He gets his desired trade. The first-rounder is the real prize, though.

Swapping Shumpert for Burks, who’s also on an expiring contract, seems like a parallel move for the Kings. Burks is an inch taller, and Sacramento needs a bigger wing. But Shumpert had done a nice job of competing at small forward. I’m not convinced Burks will match that. At least the second-round pick offers buffer. But in a season where the Kings could end a 12-year playoff drought, they should focus primarily on the players involved. Maybe they just like Burks.

Three Things to Know: NBA players were as bored with Super Bowl as you were

Associated Press
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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) NBA players were as bored with Super Bowl as you were. Well, that was a dud. Tom Brady added to his legacy and the New England Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3, but the game itself was just a dull puntfest.

NBA players took to Twitter to say all the things you were saying to your friends during the slog of a game.

2) Portland tries to add depth, bolster its second unit with a trade for Rodney Hood. We know exactly how Portland is going to be defended in the playoffs: Opposing teams are going to trap Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, force the ball out of their hands as much as possible, and dare any other Blazer to beat them. It works because who is that third Blazer that scares you? Jusuf Nurkic has played well of late but isn’t a shot creator. Evan Turner was that guy running the second unit for the first month of the season, but he’s faded. It might have been LaMarcus Aldridge but he bolted for San Antonio years ago, and since then nobody has been consistent as the third option.

Rodney Hood is going to get his shot at the role the rest of this season and into the playoffs. Portland agreed to a trade for Hood on Sunday, sending Nik Stauskas, Wade Baldwin IV, and second-round picks in 2021 and 2023 to the Cavaliers.

It’s a decent gamble by the Blazers, one probably will not pay off like fans hope but also not one that risked a lot. Hood has been itching to prove he is a quality scorer, a bucket-getter, ever since he saw his role squeezed by Donovan Mitchell in Utah. In Portland, he’s at least going to get his chance. This season coach Terry Stotts has tried to play Lillard and McCollum together as much as possible (mitigating the trapping idea somewhat) and hoping someone could be a force with the second unit. Evan Turner was that guy for the first six weeks or so of the season but has faded since. Now Hood will get his chance.

We will see how that goes. Hood doesn’t get to the free throw line and that has always hurt his efficiency, but Hood is playing for a new contract and will be out there trying to get buckets. If it works for Portland they become a bigger threat in a West that, after Golden State, is relatively close and could see a number of teams make a run to the conference Finals. If it doesn’t work, not a huge loss.

For Cleveland, this is really about the picks. Hood wasn’t part of the long-term plans (neither are Stauskas and Baldwin), so to get a couple of picks for him is a decent play as they continue to stockpile for future drafts as part of the rebuild in Cleveland. This isn’t a haul, but for a guy in the last year of his deal, it’s not bad.

3) Clutch Kyrie Irving gives Boston a shootout win over Oklahoma City. Well, at least one game on Sunday put up a lot of points and was entertaining.

Boston moved into a tie for third in the East with a 134-129 win at home on Sunday and Kyrie Irving was the key. He scored 30 points with 11 assists in the game, and as it does the Celtics leaned heavily on him to make plays late in the game. With less than 30 seconds to go he got the ball in isolation, blew past Terrance Ferguson and hit the floater over Steven Adams that eventually proved to seal the win. Russell Westbrook still had a chance to tie or take the lead when he drove the length of the court with 13 seconds left, but Irving got in his way and forced Westbrook to fumble the ball and turn it over (something Westbrook rarely does in the clutch). It was just an entire night of Irving making plays.

Boston is playing as well or better than any team in the East right now. In their last 15 games, the Celtics are 11-4 with a +8.9 net rating, third best in the league in that stretch (Golden State and Milwaukee have been better). Boston looks like the team we all thought was the one to beat in the East going into the season.

The Thunder got big games from their stars, Paul George dropped 37 points and Westbrook racked up another triple-double with 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 16 assists. The challenge is that, against the league’s best, they need more from their depth and it just isn’t there often enough. The Thunder are never an easy out with how hard they play, but their usually-stout defense was a step slow against the Celtics and it cost them.

Report: Blazers trade for Rodney Hood

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It’s not the Anthony Davis news some were hoping for on Super Bowl Sunday, but the NBA’s trade deadline is heating up. On Sunday, the Portland Trail Blazers reportedly made a move to grab Rodney Hood from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Portland is sending Cleveland Nik Stauskas, Wade Baldwin IV, a second round pick in 2021 and another second rounder in 2023.

The trade comes as the Cavaliers continue to try and gather assets, and as Portland looks to solidify their wing rotation heading into the second half of the season.

Via ESPN:

Hood had to agree to the trade because his signing of a one-year, $3.4 million qualifying offer last summer with Cleveland granted him veto rights. He’ll lose his Bird rights in summer free agency, but his enthusiasm for joining the Blazers on a playoff push allowed for his approval of the deal, league sources said. Portland can still re-sign Hood using one of its exceptions. The Blazers are 32-20 and fourth in the Western Conference.

The Blazers have needed wing depth all season long, and Hood brings more to the table than they’ve had there. Portland has always been weak in the Damian Lillard / CJ McCollum era at that spot, particularly after LaMarcus Aldridge exited for San Antonio in the summer of 2015.

Terry Stotts has adapted admirably this year in the face of Maurice Harkless continuing to struggle with knee soreness following surgery in March of 2018. Stotts — who has favored veterans and a shorter rotation during his time in Portland — has gone deeper into his bench this season. It’s also helped that Jake Layman, whose contract was only guaranteed by the Blazers in July, has had a breakout season both as a shooter and as a cutter on offense.

Fans in Portland have been clamoring for a trade to bring a wing to Rip City. Their preference was for a bonafide starter, but GM Neil Olshey doing what he does and swapping parts for an “upside” guy like Hood is perhaps what’s more reasonably available to him.

Hood is averaging 12.2 points per game and shooting 36 percent from 3-point range. His offensive rating is up, but his defense has taken a step back this season in Cleveland. Hood’s on/off numbers suggest he’s actually hurt the Cavs with his play, but that could change given new scenery, the chance to prove himself for a new contract, and a locker room in Portland that is perhaps the franchise’s second or third-best asset behind Lillard.

For Cleveland, trading away Hood is yet another move in a series of decisions to ditch salary and acquire draft picks. The Cavaliers have now swapped Hood, Kyle Korver, George Hill and Sam Dekker, most importantly netting seven draft picks in the process. The team is still looking to move JR Smith and Alec Burks, providing them some cap relief now while the team ramps up for the summer of 2020 when they’ll move some $70+ million off their roster.

The Blazers don’t appear to be headed down the path of adding a major star at the trade deadline, especially with how McCollum has played this season. The shifty shooting guard has played below his standard, and as Portland’s best trade chip, has sort of tanked his own value for the time being. Olshey has made a move that’s in line with their biggest weakness, which shows the team is still trying to improve themselves as they make a push for the playoffs.

Hood isn’t a guarantee by any stretch. He disappointed Utah Jazz fans after years of sputtered development on good teams that won plenty of games. He also played significant minutes in Utah before heading to Cleveland, so it’s not as though he wasn’t given a fair shake. Portland didn’t give up much to get him — Stauskas has been in and out of the lineup the past couple of months and Baldwin has seen time in the G League.

This trade isn’t much to write home about, but it could bear short term benefits for the Blazers and long term flexibility for Cleveland.

Lakers’ Josh Hart wins Summer League MVP

Associated Press
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The Lakers wanted to test Josh Hart this summer: What would happen if they gave him a more substantial role? He was solid as a backup point guard last season (a good showing for a rookie), averaging 7.9 points per game and shooting 39.6 percent from three, but with Lonzo Ball and Rajon Rondo in the fold point guard minutes will be hard to come by next season.

What happened if they put the ball in Hart’s hands and made him the leader of a team on and off the court?

Hart responded by winning the NBA Las Vega Summer League MVP, averaging 24.2 points a game and leading the Lakers to the championship game. He dropped 37 on the Cavaliers and Collin Sexton in the semi-finals.

The award was announced Tuesday, in advance of the title contest between Hart and his Lakers vs. the Portland Trail Blazers.

Hart is the second Laker in a row to win the award, last year Lonzo Ball won it in leading the Lakers to a Summer League crown.

It’s an honor, but don’t assume Summer League MVP means NBA success. Sure, Damian Lillard won the award, but he was co-MVP with Josh Shelby. Glen Rice III won the award. The MVP list includes Kyle Anderson and Tyus Jones and other good but not All-Star players.

Hart also made the All-NBA Summer League first team. (Both the MVP award and All-NBA Summer League teams were voted on by a select media pannel.)

Here are the Las Vegas All Summer League teams:

All-NBA Summer League First Team

Wendell Carter Jr. (Chicago)
Josh Hart (Los Angeles Lakers)
Kevin Knox (New York)
Collin Sexton (Cleveland)
Christian Wood (Milwaukee)

MGM Resorts All-NBA Summer League Second Team

Deandre Ayton (Phoenix)
Wade Baldwin IV (Portland)
Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis)
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Los Angeles Lakers)
Trae Young (Atlanta)