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Wayne Ellington officially signs with Detroit Pistons

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There are playoff teams — and even Finals contenders — who are scouring the buyout market for shooters and wings who can help them. Which makes it interesting that Wesley Mathews decided to sign with the Pacers (and try to fill in some Victor Oladipo minutes), not going to a contender.

Now sharpshooting two guard Wayne Ellington has also chosen not to chase a ring.

Ellington was traded from Miami to Phoenix in a salary dump move for the Heat. The Suns quickly bought Ellington out and waived him, freeing him up to become a Piston.

Ellington shot 36.8 percent from three on 6.2 attempts per game this season in Miami, and that may be low for him.

He likely will start in Detroit and get a lot of run, which is clearly why he signed with the Pistons. Ellington had options and could have chased a ring, but he chose to get on the court and play. You have to like that attitude… unless you’re one of those contenders.

Report: Wayne Ellington signing with Pistons

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The Pistons just traded their best wing (Reggie Bullock) and another rotation wing (Stanley Johnson). And Detroit was already thin at the position.

Yet, the ninth-place Pistons – 1.5 games out of postseason position – also insist they’re still trying to make the playoffs.

Wayne Ellington will make that more feasible.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Like with Wesley Matthews choosing the Pacers, this is another surprising post-buyout decision. Both wings were likely pursued by better teams.

The sharp-shooting Ellington will likely start in Detroit, though it’s possible Luke Kennard or Bruce Brown starts and gets partnered with a bigger wing than Ellington. Either way, Ellington is primed for a bigger role than he had with the Heat. That’s clearly part of the reason he approved a trade from Miami/buyout from the Suns.

The Pistons have $2,889,072 of their mid-level exception remaining, but they’re also just $2,634,613 below the luxury-tax line. I’d be shocked if they go into the tax for Ellington. Still, Detroit can beat the pro-rated minimum Ellington could get from most other interested teams today ($762,306).

This signing casts the Pistons’ pre-deadline moves in a better light. Detroit got a younger players in Thon Maker and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk plus a second-round pick. Though the immediate downgrade on the wing stands, Ellington softens the blow.

Report: Heat trading Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington to Suns for Ryan Anderson

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The Heat excel at getting players to help reduce the team’s luxury-tax bill, most infamously with Beno Udrih – injured and out for the rest of the season – accepting a buyout in 2016.

This year, Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington are cooperating.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Johnson was entitled to a trade bonus of $1,043,817. But this deal doesn’t meet salary-matching requirements if he gets the full amount. It’d work only if Johnson gets $111,563 or less. So, he had to waive the rest of his trade bonus (or more) to allow the deal. I’m not sure why he left money on the table to leave Miami, which is in the playoff hunt and where he’s getting plenty of playing time, to get to lowly Phoenix. Perhaps, he sees an opportunity with the Suns desperate at point guard. The Heat’s backcourt is more crowded with Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Dwyane Wade, Rodney McGruder, Dion Waiters and Goran Dragic, who’ll eventually get healthy. Still, it’s not as if the Suns will remain content with Johnson. They’ll keep searching for upgrades.

As someone on a one-year contract who’ll have Bird Rights this offseason, Ellington had the right to veto any trade. His decision to approve makes more sense. He wasn’t playing in Miami, and it seems Phoenix will flip him to a better team or, more likely, buy him out. The sweet-shooting Ellington could help plenty of winners.

The Heat now reduce their pending luxury-tax bill by $7,958,197 and save $1,841,835 on the players’ remaining salaries for the rest of this season (though Miami will have to pay any trade bonus Johnson received). Now just $1,176,019 over the luxury-tax line, expect the Heat to find another move that gets them fully out of the tax before tomorrow’s trade deadline.

Miami also shapes up to save money next season. Johnson will be due $19,245,370, but just $15,643,750 of Ryan Anderson‘s $21,264,635 2019-20 salary is guaranteed.

The 30-year-old Anderson hasn’t played much for the Suns, and this trade calls attention to him reducing his 2019-20 guarantee to facilitate a trade from the Rockets last offseason. Miami has even less of a place for Adnderson, and it appears that money is going down the drain for him.

That leaves Johnson as the only player involved in this trade likely to receive a substantial role with his new team. The 26-year-old is a reasonable combo guard who’s wildly overpaid. Phoenix apparently values at him at the $3,601,620 difference between Johnson’s salary and Anderson’s guaranteed amount next season plus the cost of taking Ellington now. Considering any team considering trading for Johnson next season will consider him at his full salary, I don’t like the Suns’ move here.

For the Heat, it’s a big money-saver that couldn’t be turned down. It’ll look even better if/when they fully dodge the tax with one more move.

NBA Power Rankings: Pre-Trade Deadline edition topped by Bucks

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The trade deadline is stirring up the NBA, and we get into where teams stand with 25 hours to go (as of this posting) in these rankings. We also thought the Warriors would never surrender the top spot again, but the Bucks just keep on winning and impressing.

 
Bucks small icon 1. Bucks (39-13, last week No. 2). What was most impressive about the win over the Raptors is how the Bucks identified the guy they wanted to stop (Kawhi Leonard) and then made him a non-factor (16 points). That’s the kind of defense that wins teams playoff games — and a lot of them. The Bucks have been mentioned in the Anthony Davis rumor mill, but sources tell me there’s not anything to it. Also with the Bucks, never forget that Giannis Antetokounmpo can do this.

 
Warriors small icon 2. Warriors (37-15, LW 1). They live by the three — more than live, the Warriors have won rings by the three — but there are nights they are off from deep and then they are vulnerable. That’s what happened in a loss to the Sixers, when Klay Thompson was out and everyone not named Stephen Curry had no range (1-of-20 from three). The Warriors want depth but are likely to get that through the buyout market, not trades. That Sixers loss meant Denver’s Mike Malone and his staff, not Steve Kerr and his, will be coaching the All-Star Game in Charlotte — and you can be sure Kerr is just fine with that.

 
Celtics small icon 3. Celtics (35-19, LW 5). Despite all the Kyrie Irving “does he want to be a Knick?” drama that drives headlines, the Celtics are playing their best basketball of the season. In the last 10 games they are 9-1 with a +10.7 net rating (third best in the NBA in that stretch) and they look like the team we predicted before the season would be the one to beat in the East. All that is lost in the Anthony Davis trade buzz — if he’s on the Pelicans still Thursday night the Celtics are in the driver’s seat to land him.

 
Nuggets small icon 4. Nuggets (37-16, LW 3). Denver’s name gets bounced around as a team that could be an all-in dark horse in the Anthony Davis sweepstakes, but that seems highly unlikely. Not that Davis wouldn’t fit next to Nikola Jokic, he would, and the Nuggets front office can be gamblers, but this would be a bad short-term bet and they know it. They like what they have. Denver has been pushing through injuries all season and had won five in a row without Jamal Murray, the last couple without Gary Harris, but it all caught up with them in an ugly loss in Detroit Monday. That the losses due to injury are rare are why Mike Malone deserves to coach in the All-Star Game.

 
Raptors small icon 5. Raptors (39-16, LW 4). They are 3-3 in their last six, with losses to the Rockets and getting thrashed by the Bucks. However, against the Sixers on Tuesday Kawhi Leonard was a defensive force, attacked the paint, and Toronto looked dominant again. The Raptors have been a roller coaster of late. They may need the All-Star break. Kyle Lowry will not get a break, he will represent Toronto in the All-Star Game (along with Leonard), and the fact he was an easy selection despite having what is, for him, a down year speaks to how much his reputation as a leader and player has grown around the league.

 
Thunder small icon 6. Thunder (34-19, LW 7). Russell Westbrook has been racking up triple-doubles — seven games in a row now — and seems to have broken out of his early-season shooting slump, having hit 32.5% of his threes in his last 10 games. In those 10 games the Thunder have the fourth best offense in the NBA but their elite defense has been more pedestrian. Fun showdown between James Harden and Paul George on Saturday night in Houston.

 
Sixers small icon 7. 76ers (34-20, LW 6). The Sixers felt like a team on a roller coaster — they end Golden State’s 11-game win streak, then Tuesday night Kawhi Leonard’s defense disrupts Philly’s offense and Toronto blows them out — that was good but felt a player short. The Tobias Harris trade changes all that. Only the Warriors have a better starting five right now on paper, if the Sixers can get it to mesh — and Harris will fit in well — they are now serious contenders to come out of the East this year. Then this summer owner Joshua Harris should have his checkbook ready to go.

 
Blazers small icon 8. Trail Blazers (32-21, LW 8). Portland at home is a different team — 22-8, vs. 10-13 on the road — with a +8 net rating. It’s not one end of the floor, the Blazers’ offense is 6.4 per 100 possessions better at home, their defense improves by 5.4 per 100. Portland at home plays like an elite team (fifth best net rating at home in the NBA). The challenge is they have seven more road games left on the schedule than ones at home, and starting Sunday in Dallas they have 9-of-10 away from the Moda Center. Rodney Hood is not going to be able to change that by himself.

 
Rockets small icon 9. Rockets (31-22, LW 10). James Harden’s historic offensive run continues — 27 straight games with at least 30 points — but what goes unnoticed sometimes is he can make plays on the other end. In Houston’s blowout win against Utah (the Rockets’ best win in a while) Harden had six steals and four blocked shots. But that was just one night — in the 11 games since Clint Capela went down the Rockets are allowing 114 points per 100 possessions, fifth worst in the league. They can hang on to a playoff spot with that defense, but not climb the ladder.

 
Spurs small icon 10. Spurs (32-23, LW 11). Don’t expect a lot of trade deadline activity from San Antonio, but one big deal that went down may have bothered them a little — they were a team hoping to poach (or trade for) Kristaps Porzingis. Dallas had a better package right now than San Antonio could have put together (considering the Knicks’ goals) but if KP signs long-term in Dallas that will sting a little. DeMar DeRozan has been slumping lately, trying to play through a sore knee, the All-Star break will be good for him.

 
Jazz small icon 11. Jazz (30-24, LW 9). All kinds of Mike Conley to the Jazz buzz is flying around the league and it wouldn’t be a shock to see that trade go down before 3 ET Thursday. Considering Conley is more of a big-picture question for the Jazz: Do they want to lock down that much money in one player, and give up a pick, pushing the tax and reducing flexibility for the small market team? No doubt Conley would make the Jazz better, if he can stay on the court — he has missed significant time two of the last four seasons with an Achilles issue.

 
Pacers small icon 12. Pacers (35-19, LW 12). The Pacers lost their first four games after the Victor Oladipo injury, but have bounced back to win their last three (including a thumping of a distracted Lakers’ team). In those seven games, the Pacers have had a bottom-10 offense but a top-10 defense, and a net rating of -1.6. Which is pretty impressive, considering. Don’t expect any trade deadline moves from the Pacers, and any moves they might make will be more about next season and beyond than this one.

 
Clippers small icon 13. Clippers (30-25, LW 14). Los Angeles made a smart play in trading Tobias Harris — even if we are all going to miss the Bobi and Tobi Show in L.A. The Clippers could have fought to hang on to the eight seed, made the playoffs, and got crushed in the first round. Now they likely fall back into the lottery, meaning they keep their own first-round pick (otherwise Boston gets it) and they get the much-coveted Miami 2021 unprotected pick. The Clippers are in the mix for Kawhi Leonard this summer, and now they have the assets to go after a big trade (Anthony Davis) or put an interesting team around him. Plus, I want to see what a Shai Gilgeous-Alexander/Landry Shamet backcourt looks like.

 
Kings small icon 14. Kings (28-25, LW 18). Everyone around the league expects the Kings to be involved in a trade deadline deal, one way or another. While they have expiring veteran contracts they can move — Zach Randolph, Iman Shumpert, and Kosta Koufos — what matters more is the $11 million in salary cap space, more than any team in the league. The Kings can go after a more expensive player (Kent Bazemore, Harrison Barnes) or be the facilitating third team in a trade, taking on a bad contract for assets. One way or another, expect a deal.

 
Nets small icon 15. Nets (28-27, LW 13). The banged-up Nets — no Spencer Dinwiddie or Caris LeVert, although the LeVert could be back soon, he and Allen Crabbe are working out in the G-League — have lost three in a row and 4-of-5. The problem has been the offense, which has scored less than a point per possession in those five games. D’Angelo Russell is a deserving All-Star — and it has to sting the Lakers’ front office he made it — but he’s not a guy who can carry an offense nightly on his own, he needs some help. Don’t expect deadline trades out of Brooklyn, their eyes are on free agency.

 
Hornets small icon 16. Hornets (26-27, LW 17). There was a lot of buzz (no pun intended) about Marc Gasol being traded to Charlotte, and maybe that comes together last minute, but the Grizzlies have had a high asking price and the talks have cooled, according to sources. Still, the Hornets would like to make one or two moves at the deadline to shore up their roster and make sure they get into the postseason (and help convince Kemba Walker to re-sign this summer).

 
Lakers small icon 17. Lakers (27-26, LW 16).
Clearly the trade rumors hit the young Lakers hard, they were distracted and disinterested in Indiana and got smoked by 42 points on Tuesday. Thing is, just the deadline passing will not be enough, Ingram/Ball/Kuzma all know they could get traded this summer now, they have to learn to be pros and deal with it. With the Clippers trading Tobias Harris and throwing in the towel, and with LeBron back, the Lakers should make a push into the playoffs. What does LeBron’s return mean? Here is what Josh Hart said after 23’s first game back: ”He made the right plays, he got guys open, he finished when he had to,” Laker guard Josh Hart said. “He’s just so smart. He’s such a good veteran player. He gets guys in their spots to get easy buckets. His basketball IQ is just through the roof.”

 
18. Timberwolves (25-28, LW 19). Don’t expect a trade deadline move, if there are going to be roster shakeups it will be with the new regime — whoever that is — over the summer. With the Clippers throwing in the towel, did the playoff door crack open just a little for Minnesota? Maybe. But they are 4 games back and have to leapfrog the Lakers and Kings, which is a longshot. Especially considering they have lost 4-of-5, and the one win required Karl-Anthony Towns doing this in overtime.

 
Heat small icon 19. Heat (24-27, LW 15). There’s a lot of trade speculation around Wayne Ellington, a veteran shooter a lot of playoff teams could use. But there has been less buzz about where he might end up than expected, maybe the interest in him is not sincere around the league. Tuesday night’s win in Portland kicked off a six-game road trip with a victory, a tough stretch for a Heat team currently the eight seed in the East and trying to hold off Detroit and Washington to keep that spot).

 
Mavericks small icon 20. Mavericks (24-28, LW 20). They went all-in on the future with the trade for Kristaps Porzingis — a good gamble if he can stay healthy and return to full unicorn status (there’s a lot of uncertainty about a 7’3” guy coming off an ACL). Dallas believes in its training staff and thinks they may have Nash/Nowitzki 2.0 now. Speaking of the future Hall of Famer from Germany, classy and smart move by the league office to put Nowitzki (and Dwyane Wade) in the All-Star Game for one final time.

Pelicans small icon 21. Pelicans (23-31, LW 21). As NBC has reported since the start of the saga, don’t expect Davis to be traded before the deadline, there are powerful people in the Pelicans’ organization who want to be patient (and don’t want to help Rich Paul or the Lakers). The interesting question: If Davis is not traded, will he play between the deadline and the end of the season, or will he be shut down. Injury concerns would make it logical for both Davis and the Pelicans to want him to sit, but Davis says he wants to play, and what would the league say about a top-five player in the league being a healthy scratch nightly? It would not be a good look.

Pistons small icon 22. Pistons (24-29, 23). The Pistons have traded away a lot of wing depth this week sending Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson out, although I like the roll of the dice on Thon Maker for a year. While Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk is a Summer League favorite and a shooter, I’m less sold on his ability to help Detroit. The Pistons are just 1.5 games back of the Heat for the final playoff slot in the East, but these trades make you wonder how much they prioritize making it as an organization.

 
Magic small icon 23. Magic (22-32, LW 24). Maybe the most interesting team to watch at the trade deadline. They have players that playoff teams would want — Terrence Ross in particular, but also Nikola Vucevic — but the Magic also want to make the playoffs more than any other team on the back end of the East. As of Wednesday morning, the Magic are four games out of the playoffs (and five games back in the loss column), it would take a little run to just get in. That said, will management keep the price fairly high for those two, thinking that if nobody meets it they will just keep them and try to make the postseason?

 
Wizards small icon 24. Wizards (22-31, LW 22). While the Wizards should be sellers at the trade deadline, the buzz around the league is they plan to keep Trevor Ariza and Otto Porter and try to make a playoff push (they are four games back in the loss column). The John Wall Achilles injury raises some big-picture questions about what this franchise does going forward, and does it start to re-tool around Bradley Beal? Wall is missing a lot of his prime with injuries, and a torn Achilles is especially bad for a guy whose game is based on speed. He’s a fighter, but it’s fair to wonder with him “what if?”

 
Hawks small icon 25. Hawks (18-35, LW 25). Will Dewayne Dedmon and/or Jeremy Lin have new homes after the trade deadline? What about Taurean Prince? All three are being shopped around, and there is a lot of Dedmon buzz in particular. Atlanta would love to find a new home for Kent Bazemore, but the $19.5 million he is owed next season is keeping trade partners away. Despite the distracting buzz around them the Hawks have played fairly well of late, going 4-3 on a just ended road trip.

 
Grizzlies small icon 26. Grizzlies (22-33, LW 26). There’s a lot of interest in Marc Gasol (Charlotte) and Mike Conley (Utah and Detroit) but reports are Memphis is keeping the price high, asking for multiple first-round picks. Teams are hesitant to pay that, and we’ll see if the Grizzlies blink or if they are willing to just play out the season with this roster. If this is the end, Gasol and Conley did it right leading the Grizzlies to a couple of wins.

 
Bulls small icon 27. Bulls (12-41, LW 29). What is Chicago going to do with Bobby Portis, who is a restricted free agent this summer and has played well next to Lauri Markkanen the past couple of games? Do they trade him, or do they see what the market will pay for him this summer then decide whether or not to match. Ideally they would like to trade Robin Lopez, but more likely they buy him out and every contender comes out to try and pitch him.

 
Cavaliers small icon 28. Cavaliers (11-43, LW 28). The Cavaliers keep stockpiling picks with their Rodney Hood trade, and don’t be surprised if Alec Burks has a new home before the deadline as well. The Cavaliers would love to move Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson, but those veterans with healthy contracts are the kind of trades that get done in the summer, not at the deadline. By the way, just a reminder that the Cavaliers remain on pace to have the worst defensive rating in the history of the NBA — not just this season, but the worst ever. It’s impressively terrible.

 
Suns small icon 29. Suns (11-44, LW 27). The Suns have lost 11 in a row, and while the offense hasn’t been good in that stretch (26th in the league) the defense has been abysmal — a couple points per possession worse than the Cavaliers “worst defense ever” mark. That’s not all on Deandre Ayton either, he missed time in there. Devin Booker will be back to defend his crown in the All-Star Saturday Night Three-Point shooting contest, so… there’s that.

 
Knicks small icon 30. Knicks (10-43, LW 30). The Knicks gambled big on cap space in trading away Kristaps Porzingis and it got the league buzzing: Do they really have a back-channel commitment from Kevin Durant? Will Kyrie Irving take up the second max contract slot? If not, can they lure Jimmy Butler or Kemba Walker to Manhattan? It’s a bold stroke by the Knicks. There’s also been a lot of “if they land the top pick and Zion Williamson” buzz, just remember if the Knicks have the worst record they have a 14% chance of picking first and a 48% chance of picking fifth. Welcome to the new NBA lottery odds to discourage tanking.

Rumors: While Lakers would like blockbuster trade, may settle for trying to land shooters

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Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka went a different direction in team building around LeBron James than we saw in Cleveland and Miami: Get more playmakers on the court, more ball handlers so “we don’t run everything through him because now it is Cleveland all over again.”

Except in an NBA increasingly about spacing and shooting, the Lakers lack enough of it. It has showed and hurt their halfcourt offense this season.

The Lakers may try to add shooters at the deadline, so long as those additions don’t mess with next summer’s cap space and the ability to chase another star player next July. Although, what they’d prefer is a blockbuster deal, reports Bill Oram at The Athletic. Here are the Lakers’ two options, according to the sources Oram spoke with:

• The trade that shores up the current roster and increases the Lakers’ chances of saving face and making the playoffs.

• A blockbuster that lands the Lakers a second superstar that makes them a true threat in the Western Conference this season and beyond….

A team source said the Lakers will pursue any 3-point shooter on an expiring deal, a group expected to include former Laker Wayne Ellington, Orlando’s Terrence Ross, Memphis’ Garrett Temple and Trevor Ariza, who many believe could be on the move again before the deadline if Washington continues to falter in the East.

There almost certainly are going to be no blockbusters at this trade deadline. For the Lakers, Anthony Davis would be the primary target, but as I have reported before from sources (as have numerous others, plus the direct statements of coach Alvin Gentry) the Pelicans have zero intention of trading Davis at the deadline. They are actively trying to add players to entice and keep Davis as a free agent. Even if Davis requested a trade — and he has not done so, nor is he expected to — it would not happen until this summer (New Orleans would want Boston and other teams in on the bidding process). Along those same lines, the Raptors are not trading Kawhi Leonard. Players such as Mike Conley (making more than $30 million a season for the next two seasons after this) are not worth the price the Lakers would have to pay.

Shooting, however, makes sense. Especially once LeBron returns, his gravity draws defenders in, and his passes find open shooters.

It should be noted that sources have told me, with their recent run of improved play, the Wizards are not making Ariza or anyone else available (at least at a reasonable price). Maybe that changes between now and the Feb. 7 deadline if the team struggles.

The Lakers have slipped to ninth in the West without LeBron, and now sit 1.5 games out of the playoffs. Worse yet, they are about to head into a gauntlet — their toughest stretch of the schedule is just ahead. LeBron’s return will help the team survive this stretch, but the roster needs more scoring if the Lakers are going to be certain they make the postseason. Or, at least to get guys healthy in time to make a push.