New Orleans, La.- The NBA trade deadline is just a few weeks away but deals are starting to be made. Teams that thought they were better than the play-in spots are starting to feel the pressure. So are the New Orleans Pelicans. Though there were only four trades in January last season, it’s time to start taking hard looks at several options.
Yesterday’s price is not today’s price after the Rudy Gobert trade. The Lakers-Wizards swap but some sense to the market but teams that truly believe in their NBA Finals potential will start upping the bid on the Pelicans. New Orleans is flush with future draft assets and has several desirable contracts for a wide range of teams.
Draft assets and expiring deals are going up in price. There is not a lot of cash in the market. The Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs have room. Everyone else will need to trade salaries that match certain parameters. Then there are the exceptions.
The Boston Celtics ($6.9 million and $5.9 million), Denver Nuggets ($9.2 million), LA Clippers ($9.8 million), Oklahoma City Thunder ($10.2 million and $4.2 million), and Utah Jazz ($9.8 million, $9.7 million and $6.8 million) have large trade exceptions and can acquire a player without sending back salary.
The Pelicans have been heavily rumored to be interested in two Eastern Conference stars but reluctant to part with certain draft picks. Here is a breakdown of a deal or two with every Eastern Conference team, in order of record on January 24. In some cases, a third team will be needed as well.
Possible NBA Finals Foes
The Celtics and Bucks might tinker but why fix what is not broken? Both squads have been to the NBA Finals recently. The 76ers are a Kawhi Leonard bounce away from at least a conference finals appearance in 2019. The Nets and Cavs are finally getting to see the end product of their rebuilds. Can the Pelicans even find a move?
Boston Celtics: Danilo Gallinari and/or Blake Griffin. Gallinari should be ready for the playoff run and the sharpshooter could possibly be enticed into picking up a cheap $6 million player option to stick around. Griffin is playing 14 minutes a night for the best team in basketball. Garrett Temple and Willy Hernangomez to the Nets gets it done.
Philadelphia 76ers: Buy low on Forkan Korkmaz or Matisse Thybulle. Send back second-round picks and Temple, who will be waived in most of these hypothetical scenarios with the top teams. Both are young, have shown potential, and seem to be out of favor with Doc Rivers.
Milwaukee Bucks: Grayson Allen or Joe Ingles would space the floor. Allen ($8.5m) is locked up for another season. Ingles ($6.5m) is on an expiring deal. If they ask for Kira Lewis Jr. in the deal, I’d pass.
Brooklyn Nets: Find a way to get Seth Curry’s 44% from three-point range minutes to the Smoothie King Center for Devonte’ Graham.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Cedi Osman has the better contract. Ricky Rubio might provide the best short-term insurance but is 32 and has a three-year deal. Caris Levert would be a short-term rental most likely. I’d still take Levert, especially if the Pelicans strike out on their main target.
Middle of the Mall Shopping
Ever buy something from the middle of the mall? It might work great forever, but it may never get put together right once home. It’s one of the biggest gambles in retail. The same applies to these teams, even the core of the 2019 champions.
Miami Heat: New Orleans scouts just got a good look at Gabe Vincent and Max Struss. Tyler Herro will not be available. The Pelicans don’t need to ask about Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry regardless. Taking on the Duncan Robinson contract is an option I’d consider though if the Heat pays up in draft picks.
New York Knicks: Bring Mitchell Robinson home. Jonas Valanciunas needs help and the fit around Zion Williamson should work. Robinson would eventually replace Valanciunas. Evan Fournier would be on an expiring contract next season. Perhaps New York has buyer’s remorse on Isaiah Hartlestein?
Atlanta Hawks: John Collins is the big name. Keep tabs on Bogdon Bogdonovich if Atlanta decides to really change course.
Indiana Pacers: Myles Turner rumors continue. Turner has been in the rumor mill for so long, the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent is bound to leave Indiana eventually. It’s a gamble, but for the right rental price, it could pay off.
Chicago Bulls: Alex Caruso brings everything needed on both ends of the court. Nikola Vucevic is making 37.4% from beyond the arc and grabbing 11 rebounds per game. Both will be on a contending team soon. The Bulls ain’t that. Caruso is a known commodity. Vucevic would be more of an experiment given how he adapted from Orlando to Chicago.
Toronto Raptors: Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, and Fred Van Vleet have all been mentioned in NBA circles. The interest in Van Vleet waned once CJ McCollum got to town but if Toronto goes for the full tear-down, the Pelicans have to put in a substantial bid for at least one Raptor.
Lottery Bound, Looking Long-term
These four teams have no chance at a title this season. Their front offices are not even aiming to be a top-4 seed next season. Can the Pelicans find a treasure in what these teams plan on throwing away soon anyways?
Washington Wizards: Some team will get Monte Morris or Delon Wright on the cheap. How much are they asking for Kyle Kuzma? Kuzma is an unrestricted free agent. Offer up soon-to-be restricted free agent Jaxson Hayes. See if the Wizards want to pay for Jaxson’s potential and rights to match a cheaper salary.
Orlando Magic: Bol Bol for Willy Hernangomez makes too much sense. Bol can patiently develop into the reserve big man without pressing for time. Hernangomez gets more playing time leading a young team that is still a few years away from contending.
Charlotte Hornets: Kelly Oubre Jr. for Devonte’ Graham. Call the Graham for a protected first-round pick deal a wash.
Detroit Pistons: Negotiating with Toronto’s front office might be more of a hassle than just sending the extra pick for Bojan Bogdanovic. Detroit has made the asking price known. It’s cheaper to buy things with a tag when the other option is an exclusive auction house.