NBA Free Agency & Trade Review: Cleveland Go All In, Boston Bottom Out
Welcome to the inaugural ‘NBA Free Agency and Trade Review’!
As the name implies, each week we’re going to overview all of the transactions and rumours from around the league to keep you in the know.
It’s been quite a turbulent couple of days on the trade market with a number of teams looking to solidify their rosters before they begin a push towards the playoffs. We’ve seen the Cleveland Cavaliers make their championship intentions clear by trading away future draft picks, whilst the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks have evidently set their sights on the draft and made the moves to have a box seat at the lottery. It’s been an interesting week to say the least, so let’s take a closer look at what’s gone down…
The Waiters three-way trade
Cleveland Cavaliers receive: J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and a 2015 protected first-round pick (OKC)
Oklahoma City receive: Dion Waiters
New York Knicks receive: Lance Thomas, Lou Amundson, Alex Kirk and a 2019 second-round pick (CLE)
Whilst the players involved in the deal were no strangers to trade rumours, this was truly a deal that came out of nowhere. What began with Dion Waiters being pulled from Cleveland’s game in Philadelphia quickly transcended into a swarm of reports about a possible trade.
At first it looked as though New York were trying to acquire Reggie Jackson from Oklahoma City, however it soon became clear that this was a salary dump for the Knicks, who were able to clear JR Smith’s guaranteed $6.4 million contract for next season. The move gives New York approximately $28 million of cap space to chase a big name free agent next summer and will undoubtedly help their effort in securing a high lottery pick in next year’s draft. The Knicks waived the players that they had acquired (plus Samuel Dalembert) through the trade, however signed Lance Thomas and Lou Amundson to 10-day contracts a few days later.
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) January 10, 2015
For Oklahoma City, they’ve turned Lance Thomas and a 2015 top-18 protected first-round pick into Dion Waiters, who they’ll look to play in a sixth man role for solid minutes and offense off the bench. Given Waiters’ characteristic hot-and-cold shooting streaks, it’s a bit of a gamble for the Thunder. If he can provide the team with performances like his second outing with OKC (15 points, 4 steals), he’ll be a very valuable asset in their battle for the lower playoff seeds in the West.
Oklahoma City are trying to downplay the James Harden comparisons, even denying Waiters’ request to wear #13, but it’s exactly the role they’re trying to get him to fill and the player that they want him to become.
Kevin Durant is high on his new teammate. His full comments on Dion Waiters: pic.twitter.com/2FkT7moaJH
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 6, 2015
As for Cleveland, many will tell you that they have just traded Dion Waiters for an older version of Dion Waiters. Whilst Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith do have similar shooting percentages and tendencies, it’s become evident post-trade that Waiters was unhappy with his role on the team and felt that it held him back and restricted his game. This translated into career lows of 10.5 points and 2.2 assists per game and resulted in him shooting just 25.6% from three-point range.
The difference with J.R. Smith, is that Cleveland gets a genuine sixth man who relishes his role of providing heat check offense off the bench. Given that Smith is a 34.6% shooter from deep this season, it’s clear that Cleveland have upgraded three-point shooting through this deal and are looking to employ the same approach as the Miami Heat did during their championship seasons, by surrounding LeBron with outside threats.
However, let’s not forget that Cleveland also acquired Iman Shumpert through the deal. Here, the Cavaliers get the wing depth and defense that they were searching for in their unsuccessful attempts to trade for Tayshaun Prince of the Memphis Grizzlies and Corey Brewer, when he was still with the Minnesota Timberwolves. LeBron described Shumpert as a Jimmy Butler style defender and a great addition to the Cavaliers, however he won’t immediately be able to play for his new team as is still recovering from a dislocated shoulder and expected to miss at least the next two weeks.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 8, 2015
Getting Mozgov to Cleveland
Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Timofey Mozgov and a 2015 second-round pick
Denver Nuggets receive: a 2015 protected first-round pick (OKC) and a 2015 protected first-round pick (MEM)
As I wrote about last week, with Anderson Varejao out for the season, the Cavaliers severely lack an inside presence and struggle to protect the rim. With this in mind, I was fairly surprised to see that the New York didn’t send Samuel Dalembert to Cleveland with J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. Averaging 1.3 blocks per game and restricting opponents to 45.4% at the rim, Dalembert was a perfect candidate that the Cavaliers could have scooped up cheaply.
Instead, the Knicks waived Dalembert and Cleveland finally found themselves able to convince Denver to trade Timofey Mozgov for the hefty (despite the protections) price of two future first-round picks. Nevertheless, Mozgov brings an inside presence to the Cavaliers, evident already in his first game against the Golden State Warriors where he had 9 points and 8 rebounds off the bench. Further, Mozgov is averaging 8.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game and limiting opponents to shooting 48.8% at the rim this season, which significantly better than the team’s total of allowing a staggering 56.2% of shots fall at the rim, the second worst mark in the league.
LeBron may have said in his Sports Illustrated article not to expect a championship right away, but by the way General Manager David Griffin is pulling out all stops to fix their weaknesses and put a solid supporting cast around him. They may potentially evolve into a team that could contend for a championship in the next couple of seasons.
But this deal wasn’t all about the Cavaliers, it also works out incredibly well for the Nuggets. Denver could well be seen (in the future) as the winners of this trade, given that they have acquired two future first-round picks and managed to clear the logjam (McGee [when healthy], Hickson, Nurkic) at center. The departure of Mozgov also allows the Nuggets to give promising rookie Jusuf Nurkic valuable starters minutes.
Nurkic is averaging 12.5 points, 6 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game as a starter and has had a handful of good performances against some of the NBA’s leading big men including Marc Gasol (11 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks) and Demarcus Cousins (16 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks). With the Nuggets currently sitting at 17-20 (11th in the West and 4 games out of 8th) and consistently hampered by injuries, if they are looking towards a rebuild, they’ve certainly got off to a solid start with this trade.
A Jusuf Nurkic vs. Steven Adams match-up likely ends with someone knocked out. Too much trolling and attitude there.
— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) January 10, 2015
Brandan Wright set to blaze on in Phoenix
Boston Celtics receive: a 2015 protected first-round pick (MIN)
Phoenix Suns receive: Brandan Wright
If the Boston Celtics hadn’t already made their future intentions clear with the Rajon Rondo trade, then the next set of moves from general manager Danny Ainge spelled it out loud and clear: they’re going into rebuild mode, and they want more draft picks.
The pick that the Celtics are receiving is originally from the Minnesota Timberwolves and is top-12 protected in the 2015 and 2016 drafts. If the pick is protected through these drafts, then the Suns will send their 2016 and 2017 second-round picks. Boston had acquired Wright through the Rondo trade, but made it apparent that he was likely to be traded given that he was placed behind Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller in the rotation despite his productive 7.5 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in just 17 minutes per game.
Wright should be a solid addition for the Suns, who are in the thick of the race for the latter playoff seeds in the West. Given his efficiency, sitting 10th in the league in PER at 24.25, Wright should complement Miles Plumlee well as the back-up centers for Alex Len.
Celtics next draft pic.twitter.com/flvoIP2Yuc
— Mike (@Celtics_Mike) January 10, 2015
With Wright-to-Phoenix trade, here’s how updated C’s draft picks list looks (and add a future 1st for Green deal): pic.twitter.com/pRnQJwBL2s
— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) January 9, 2015
Jeff Green departs Beantown
Note: To be made official by the league on Monday
Boston Celtics receive: Tayshaun Prince, Austin Rivers and a future protected first-round pick (MEM)
Memphis Grizzlies receive: Jeff Green and Russ Smith
New Orleans Pelicans receive: Quincy Pondexter and a future second-round pick (MEM)
ESPN’s Marc Stein initially reported that the Memphis Grizzlies were targeting Luol Deng of the Miami Heat and Jeff Green of the Boston Celtics in a search for wing scoring depth. This presented a number of complications for the Grizzlies given that Miami are still in playoff contention and only recently signed Luol Deng as a free agent last summer. Subsequently realising that they couldn’t make any headway on their Luol Deng pursuit, Memphis zeroed in on Jeff Green despite the fact that he’d recently talked about his willingness to stay in Boston and disinterest in being traded. What eventuated was a three team deal where New Orleans were sending John Salmons to the Celtics. However, various sources then began to report that New Orleans had altered the terms of the deal and instead offered Austin Rivers to Boston in the place of John Salmons.
The deal has not yet been officially completed, but all teams involved appear to be in agreement and the trade is expected to be finalised when league offices open on Monday morning. The acquisition of Green for the Grizzlies gives them a versatile scorer who has been averaging 17.6 points per game this season whilst shooting 43% from the floor. Obviously in time we’ll be able to gauge just how much Green adds to the Memphis offense (and how he fits in with the defensive identity of the team), but in the meantime, on paper this looks like a solid upgrade (over Tayshaun Prince) for a team that has a perfect opportunity to go a long way this season.
Boston Celtics receive: a future second-round pick (LIKELY) and/or Jordan Farmar (POSSIBLY)
Los Angeles Clippers receive: Austin Rivers
Austin Rivers to reunite with Doc in New Orleans?
Almost as soon as it was known that the Boston would be acquiring Austin Rivers in the Jeff Green trade, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today was reporting that the Celtics were looking offload Rivers to the Clippers. Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski confirmed the rumours, tweeting that the Celtics would accept a second-round pick in return for Rivers. If the deal is completed, Doc and Austin Rivers would become the first father-son duo to play/coach in the NBA.
The trade cannot take place until the Jeff Green trade is formally completed and Boston acquires Austin Rivers from New Orleans. The Clippers don’t have enough cap space to take on Rivers without either trading away or waiving another player. As is stands, the Clippers are $1.7 million under the salary cap, where Austin Rivers’ contract is worth $2.4 million. This drew speculation that Los Angeles would trade bench point guard Jordan Farmar to the Celtics for Rivers, but it’s unlikely that Boston would take him on without also receiving a draft pick.
Further scrutiny has been brought on the deal (not only because of the father-son dynamic between Doc and Austin) given that the Clippers are in desperate need of depth at small forward (don’t be surprised if they chase Wilson Chandler). The latest on this deal is that the Celtics and Clippers are looking for a third team to help facilitate the trade. Expect more to happen once the Jeff Green trade is finalised on Monday.
Celtics willing to move A. Rivers for 2nd-round pick. For Clippers, it's free look at 10th overall pick — who'd only be college senior now.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) January 11, 2015
Austin's 22, pending free agent. Clips searching for PG depth. Front office/ assistants telling Doc: Forget his last name. This makes sense.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) January 11, 2015
Jared Cunningham’s sign and waive
Philadelphia 76ers receive: Jared Cunningham, the drafts rights to Cenk Akyol and cash considerations
Los Angeles Clippers receive: The draft rights to Sergei Lishoukd
The deal avoided making Cunningham’s contract fully guaranteed and allowed the Clippers to create a $915,000 trade exception whilst clearing a roster spot. He was immediately waived by Philadelphia.
NBA 10 day contract signings
Signings – 10-day contracts became available to be used by teams on 5 Jan
- The Utah Jazz signed Elijah Millsap and Elliot Williams to 10-day contracts
- The New York Knicks signed Langston Galloway, Lance Thomas and Lou Amundson to 10-day contracts
- The Minnesota Timberwolves signed Miroslav Raduljica to a 10-day contract
- The Milwaukee Bucks signed Kenyon Martin to a 10-day contract
- The Miami Heat signed Tyler Johnson to a 10-day contract
Heard tonight Bucks want to keep Kenyon Martin for duration of season.
— Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) January 10, 2015
- The Utah Jazz placed Toure’ Murry and Patrick Christopher on waivers
- The Brooklyn Nets placed Brandon Davies on waivers
- The New York Knicks placed Samuel Dalembert, Lou Amundson, Alex Kirk and Lance Thomas on waivers (Amundson and Thomas re-signed to 10-day contracts)
- The Philadelphia 76ers placed Jared Cunningham on waivers
- The Miami Heat placed Andre Dawkins on waivers
- The Washington Wizards placed Glen Rice Jr. on waivers
- The Minnesota Timberwolves placed Jeff Adrien on waivers
- The Cleveland Cavaliers placed A.J. Price on waivers
- The Milwaukee Bucks placed Nate Wolters on waivers
- The Phoenix Suns placed Tony Mitchell on waivers
Not a lot of teams I would say shouldn’t go after Jeff Adrien.
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) January 7, 2015
Cavaliers waive A.J. Price: Cleveland opens roster spot, which will undoubtedly fuel Ray Allen speculation http://t.co/vjW03tIhJ2
— Dan Feldman (@DanFeldmanNBA) January 7, 2015
Nate Wolters, whom the Bucks released Thursday, has already drawn interest from several teams.
— Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) January 10, 2015
Reggie Jackson – Knicks
According to Ken Berger of CBS Sports, the New York Knicks are targeting Oklahoma City back-up point guard, Reggie Jackson. Jackson was initially believed to be on his way to New York as a part of the Dion Waiters, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert trade, however it was later revealed that the Thunder would only be giving up Lance Thomas. Jackson would fit into New York’s $2.6 million trade exception that they acquired from the recent trade but sources report that Oklahoma City aren’t ready to trade him yet despite his impending restricted free agency this summer.
Tony Wroten – Clippers
Dan Woike of the Orange County Register reported that the Los Angeles Clippers were interested in Philadelphia 76ers guard, Tony Wroten. However, with Jamal Crawford (untouchable) and Jordan Farmar behind Chris Paul in the Clippers rotation, it’s unlikely that Los Angeles would make a move for Wroten, especially given their tight financial situation ($1.7 million under the salary cap). Woike later tweeted that no deal was imminent, but interest in Wroten still remains.
Jermaine O’Neal – Portland Trail Blazers
Reports in December indicated that Jermaine O’Neal would re-evaluate his playing future in January. Now, according to Marc Stein of ESPN, the Portland Trail Blazers have joined a long list of potential suitors ready to take on O’Neal, should he wish to continue his career. O’Neal has recently been in Germany, receiving treatment on his knees, which has further fueled speculation that his return to the NBA is likely. The Dallas Mavericks are the favourites to land his signature, given that he has been using Dallas as a base for training during the off-season and living there with his family. However, other teams such as the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors are also in the mix.
Deron Williams/Goran Dragic – Houston Rockets
According to Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report, the Houston Rockets are looking for an upgrade at the point guard position and have their sights set on Deron Williams or Goran Dragic. However, both present major complications for Houston to acquire without offloading valuable assets given Williams’ massive contract and the high level of league-wide interest in Dragic and his upcoming free agency. The Rockets do have a first-round pick from New Orleans that they could offer to the Suns, but with Phoenix still in playoff contention, it’s unlikely that they would want to part with their starter, despite the fact that Isaiah Thomas is their sixth man.
Wilson Chandler – Portland Trail Blazers
Grantland’s Zach Lowe indicated in a tweet that the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets have been in talks regarding Wilson Chandler. It’s not yet known how advanced the discussions are or who (if anyone else) is included in the potential deal, but Lowe makes it seem as though Chandler is on his way to Portland if they agree to include a first-round pick. This follows reports last month from Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated that the Oklahoma City Thunder were interested in trading for Chandler.
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) January 9, 2015
Jameer Nelson – Washington Wizards
J. Michael of CSN Washington has speculated that Jameer Nelson could end up with the Washington Wizards. After signing with the Dallas in the off-season and then being traded to the Boston as a part of the Rajon Rondo trade, Nelson is expected to negotiate a buyout with the Celtics. Michael indicates that if Washington doesn’t sign Ray Allen, they would inevitably target Nelson “because he’s experienced and the type of combo guard (the Wizards) covet most for the open roster spot.”
Jimmy Butler – Chicago Bulls
Ahead of Jimmy Butler’s restricted free agency next summer, David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune has written that the Chicago Bulls “fully expect to sign Butler to a max deal next July before another team even gets involved to tempt him with an offer sheet, which the CBA says they can after the moratorium ends. They accept that the size of Butler’s contract will put the Bulls in position to pay the luxury tax, something Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf says he will do for a championship contender his team is.”
Andrei Kirilenko – Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers have suspended Andrei Kirilenko for failing to report to the team after he was traded to them last month from the Brooklyn Nets. As Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports has reported, the Sixers want him to be in playing condition so then they can trade him (presumably for draft picks) before the deadline in February. It’s believed that a family medical issue is keeping him in New York and is the reason that he’s been inactive since mid-November.
Kevin Love – Cleveland Cavaliers
It’s been a case of incredibly misleading headlines involving Kevin Love after various sources reported that he will not sign a long term deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers and will opt-out of his contract at season’s end. This is true, however Kevin Love will not be leaving the Cavaliers. As Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal indicated, Love will most likely opt-out of his current contract in order to sign a one-year deal for next season. This places Love in a prime position to take advantage of the increase in the salary cap (due to the TV deal) during the summer of 2016 and sign a significantly larger contract.
Is Kevin Love opting out and signing short term deal really news? Seemed like foregone conclusion once details of national TV deal came out.
— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) January 12, 2015
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