Lowe: NBA trade talk and what might happen before the deadline


The fun thing about the trade deadline is that it’s a deadline — which spurs activity. Just when you think it’s barren, seven trades come across Woj’s Twitter feed in a two-minute span.

The lead-up has been a tad dull. Bradley Beal‘s extension took him off the market until the offseason, removing a big name who without that extension would have been nearing the end of his contract on a bad team — grist for a mega-trade.

There is also something of a dearth of sellers, though a few teams — including the super-active Minnesota Timberwolves — seem poised to fill that void. Four bad teams in the East — Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Washington — either are under pressure to show signs of life now, or believe they can compete for a playoff spot next season (or both). They won’t sell just to sell. The remaining lottery teams in the East don’t have much that appeals.

In the West, everyone save the Wolves and Golden State Warriors can talk themselves into the idea of competing for the No. 8 seed.

Teams holding good players on expiring deals — at risk of losing them in free agency — know how little cap space there will be this summer, and that bad teams have almost all of it. Teams might have a better-than-usual chance of re-signing their own free agents, or signing-and-trading them to a team without space — and getting assets in return.

With that said, things always perk up this week.

Jrue Holiday is the belle of the ball. New Orleans is 4½ games out of the No. 8 spot, with four teams to jump. If the Pelicans can nab a haul for Holiday, they should. With Zion Williamson playing like a star, how many wins do the Pelicans lose if they downgrade from Holiday to a league-average shooting guard — say, Gary Harris?

Denver and Miami are among many teams who have expressed interest, sources say, and both offer clean on-court fits. It’s unclear if either can craft a realistic deal without roping in a third team.

Miami probably could if it included Tyler Herro, but that appears unlikely, sources say. The Heat also have to be careful adding salary that extends beyond 2021; Holiday has a $27.1 million player option for 2021-22.

The Nuggets aren’t trading Michael Porter Jr. It feels as if there could be a deal-making sweet spot centered on Harris, Malik Beasley, and an unprotected future Nuggets first-round pick.

But: Harris has quietly had a pretty bad past two seasons on offense, and he makes $20 million per year over 2020-21 and 2021-22.

Beasley is solid, and Denver has tested the market on him, but he’s an impending free agent who wants a big raise. How valuable are future Denver picks? Holiday is really good, and the Pelicans have a chance to make noise next season. I could see New Orleans asking for at least one additional first-round pick atop that theoretical Harris/Beasley/pick offer, and that is probably where Denver starts feeling queasy. Is Holiday the piece that moves the needle toward true contention?

The Nuggets are still very young; Jamal Murray is 22. They might not feel the same urgency as the Los Angeles teams, Houston, and even Utah.

Things could change around the deadline if one Holiday suitor gets desperate. The Nuggets might be young, but they’re good; you get only so many cracks at this.

• Both Miami and Denver will look other places for help, too; the Heat are among teams who have expressed interest in Danilo Gallinari, for instance, sources say.

• Teams who have called about JJ Redick have been shooed away, sources say. Reminder: Everything is fluid.

• Our Adrian Wojnarowski blew the doors off the Clint Capela situation just before halftime of the Super Bowl. Houston’s on-again, off-again, usually-on willingness to part with Capela is fascinating. The Rockets are 15th in points allowed per possession and 22nd in defensive rebounding. They appear to need a rim-protecting center.

As Woj reported, they have telegraphed a desire for another wing — either directly for Capela, or using assets they get for him.

The Hawks are among the teams who have expressed interest in Capela, per Woj. They have talked to several teams about centers. Some of those teams have inquired about John Collins, sources say, thinking the Hawks might be worried about extension talks with Collins in the offseason.

Even if those teams are right, the Hawks have shown no interest in dealing Collins on any of the general terms bandied about, sources say. It will be interesting to see how Collins’ game evolves if Atlanta really commits to a paint-bound center. (They of course have paired Collins with such players a lot over his career, but none considered potential long-term pillars.) He has extended his range and rounded out his game, but still looks most comfortable on offense as Trae Young’s rim-rattling pick-and-roll partner.

Anyway, I assume Houston has an in on a center somewhere. Non-shooting centers are not hard to find.

• The Thunder also have a starting-caliber center — Steven Adams — and could dictate how this deadline unfolds.

You know what would be really fun? If Oklahoma City — hoarders of draft picks, once-presumed sellers of every high-priced veteran — went the other way and packaged Andre Roberson‘s expiring $10.7 million and one of its gazillion extra picks for a real wing. Imagine if the Thunder got someone like Robert Covington, Beasley, or Redick to play some of the Terrance Ferguson/Luguentz Dort/Hamidou Diallo/Deonte Burton minutes? (Yes, Dort has been solid lately. Still.) Even Tony Snell, Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore, or one of Golden State’s surplus wings might help.

Alas: Oklahoma City is a hair over the tax, and a team in its position should try to get under if possible. Given the Thunder’s spot in the standings, the safest best is they stand pat with their major names: Adams, Gallinari, and Dennis Schroder. That is what most teams expect — even teams who report the Thunder have not exactly shut down discussions.

That could change in a blink if the Thunder receive a meatier offer. The Thunder have a track record as practical, cool thinkers. They are a cinch to make the playoffs almost regardless of what they do at the deadline. I doubt they would let the possibility of falling from No. 5/6/7 to No. 7/8 preclude them from acquiring more assets in their rebuild.

This summer’s cap crunch also might give the Thunder some leverage in the sign-and-trade market with Gallinari, and the regular trade market for Schroder and Adams. (Schroder seems a much more likely trade candidate for the offseason.) That trio of players doesn’t make a ton of sense for rebuilding teams with money — Atlanta, New York, Charlotte, Memphis, and Cleveland.

Good teams will have interest in Gallinari but not room to sign him. The Thunder can work that to their advantage.

That said, the Hawks and Knicks have signaled some interest in making jumps next season; New York is still in desperate need of a competent point guard.

The Hawks are slated to have about $66 million in cap space this summer. There is no universe in which they can use all that on players who are good and fit both of their roster and timeline. Having that much space is a recipe for paying a fourth option like a first option. The Hawks have some incentive to acquire a good player on a set-in-stone contract. They could also absorb such a player in the summer.

• The Lakers and Clippers are in an arms race for supremacy in the West. The Clippers are looking, sources say, and have more to work with: Maurice Harkless‘ expiring deal, some handy filler salary, and their 2020 first-round pick — the last pick they can trade for eons.

They could use a bit of help in a few places: ballhandling, another tweener forward to absorb some of the Harkless/JaMychal Green/Patrick Patterson minutes, maybe some rebounding. They won’t find all those things in one player, so they’ll have to choose.

The problem has been finding anyone worth that package. Sources say the Knicks seem hell-bent on keeping Marcus Morris Sr. — someone the Clippers coveted in free agency. Of course, if the offers get rich enough — and Morris is good enough to generate something of a bidding war — the Knicks could change course, as Wojnarowski reported Monday morning. Again, I can’t stress this enough: Everything is fluid until 3 p.m. Thursday.

That package might not be enough to snag Covington — as good a bet as any high-wattage player to move this week, sources say.

• Almost every team in the No. 2-6 logjam in the East would welcome an upgrade, though there has been very little noise about the Pacers; Victor Oladipo might be their midseason acquisition of sorts.

The Raptors have three players on big expiring contracts, though all three — Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, and Fred VanVleet — are key rotation pieces. Norman Powell‘s $11.6 million player option for 2021-22 might muck up Toronto’s books for the critical summer of 2021, but he was playing the best ball of his career until injuring his finger over the weekend.

Holiday would be a dynamite fit. It’s hard to see how the Raptors get him without dealing OG Anunoby, and though Masai Ujiri has pushed chips in on previous deadlines — 2017 and last season — he has never included a young player on Anunoby’s level.

Still, what an incredible story these Raptors are: 11 straight wins, on pace to exceed last season’s win total. Four months ago, rivals wondered how far Toronto would have to fall — No. 5 in the East? No. 6? — for Ujiri to contemplate a selloff. Now those rivals are fretting about a potential win-now move involving one of those above players and a future first-round pick. (Toronto owns all its firsts.)

Logic dictates the Raptors would prefer to trade this season’s pick; they know it will land toward the end of the first round. They required zero draft picks of any kind to find VanVleet, Chris Boucher, and Terence Davis; you think they are afraid to give up the 25th pick if it means making an honest run at a second straight Finals?

Of course, suitors would prefer a pick down the line with more upside.

• That Clips package (Harkless/filler/first-rounder) should be enough to get them in the conversation for Andre Iguodala. Memphis has continued to insist in talks that they will trade Iguodala, sources say, and not buy him out — a blow to the Lakers, who would love to sign him as a free agent.

The Grizzlies are a playoff team as things stand now. They surely know they cannot buy out Iguodala so their potential first-round opponent might snag him for free. That would demoralize their players, and just look bad for them and the NBA.

I suspect the Grizzlies have a floor deal they are willing to do now for Iguodala. My best guess would be the Mavericks readymade package of Courtney Lee‘s expiring contract and two second-round picks — including Golden State’s 2020 selection, which is almost as good as a first-round pick. (Let me repeat: That is pure speculation.)

That is not super-sexy, but it’s better than losing Iguodala for nothing.

• Back to the Clippers: Harkless and Patterson are key parts of their current rotation. The Clippers can try to upgrade until the buzzer Thursday, but if they can’t find a deal worth including either of those guys and/or their first-round pick, they could always trade that pick at the draft for a protected future first-rounder — a trade asset they can carry forward.

• The Lakers have investigated the market on Kyle Kuzma, per sources and prior reports. They have poked around on a long list of ball handlers.

It will be interesting to see if the Lakers attempt to somehow acquire another salary in the $12 million range which they then use in a trade for a higher-priced guy — Iguodala or someone else.

• Also at the top of the league: Watch Milwaukee. The Bucks have Indiana’s first-round pick and too many rotation guys to play. They are somewhat wary of disrupting their chemistry, but they might also need to show Giannis Antetokounmpo they are all-in. They could make some sort of consolidation trade for another shooter who can swing to power forward. Covington would fit well here, actually.

On a smaller scale, sources say a lot of teams have asked about Sterling Brown — a free agent this summer.

• The Wolves are still in hot pursuit of D’Angelo Russell, sources say. Two months ago, it looked as if any Russell discussion — if the Warriors had interest in one — would wait until the offseason, but Minnesota has not given up hope of acquiring him now, sources say.

Matching salaries could make for some interesting cap gymnastics. Russell earns $27 million this season. Minnesota has Andrew Wiggins and Gorgui Dieng on big contracts. Minnesota could in theory acquire draft picks and salary in a Covington deal, and sweeten the pot with those.

The Warriors are $3.8 million over the tax, and should at least try to get under. Kevon Looney‘s salary could come in handy in that regard. There’s a ton of moving parts here.

• The Bogdan Bogdanovic situation could go to the wire. The Lakers and Hornets are among teams who have expressed interest, sources say. The Sixers seem like a natural fit, but the two teams do not appear to have had any substantive talks. It’s hard to see those talks progressing past the phrase “Matisse Thybulle” — Philly isn’t including him in any deal at this level, and the Zhaire Smith/Mike Scott/pick platter might not pique Sacto’s interest. The Kings have matching rights on Bogdanovic this summer.

The Kings should get something good for Bogdanovic — at least a first-round pick. They can wait and see if offers fatten closer to the deadline. At that point, it’s time to decide if the return outweighs the benefits of re-signing Bogdanovic.

• The Sixers are most likely to tinker around the fringes, sources say. Who knows what might happen in the summer if they fall flat in the playoffs.

• Keep an eye on Harry Giles III. Sacramento declined his third-year option for next season — a bizarre decision, even given Giles’ spotty health record — and a few teams have poked around, sources say.

• The Grizzlies have sought a first-round pick from a long list of teams inquiring about Jae Crowder, sources say. I would bet heavy against them getting one; Crowder is shooting 29.7% from deep. They could probably snare two second-rounders, but that will present Memphis an interesting choice: sitting at .500, as one of the feel-good stories in the league, should they deal a starter in exchange for future assets?

The answer: Probably. They don’t lose much dropping from Crowder to Kyle Anderson.

The flip side: Crowder is eligible for a contract extension with a Year 1 salary of up to $11.5 million, and given this summer’s cap environment, that could make sense — if Memphis has interest.

It would be more fun if Memphis made some sort of win-now buy on the margins, though that seems unlikely. The Grizzlies are ahead of schedule. They are not going to rush this.

• The Cavs appear to have very little market for Kevin Love right now, sources say. Everything is malleable until Thursday’s deadline, but nothing appears serious on the Love front at this moment. The wild card was always Phoenix. The Suns are hard to predict. Rivals struggle to get a feel for the Suns’ objectives.

They are four games out of the No. 8 spot, and Robert Sarver, their owner, has made no secret over the past few years of his ardent desire to snap their streak of postseason absences. They have Tyler Johnson‘s $19 million expiring contract, all of their own first-round picks, and a bundle of $3 million-$6 million contracts to use as filler. Playing time patterns suggest they do not conceive of Dario Saric as their long-term starting power forward.

Right now, there isn’t a ton of Phoenix noise, but you always have to watch out.

• The Pistons haven’t given up hope of moving Andre Drummond, but if they manage it — far from a sure thing — they will probably not get the return they envisioned, sources say. Drummond’s $28.7 million player option for next season has cooled the market, but talks aren’t completely dormant, sources say.

• Teams have inquired with the Pistons about both Christian Wood — a free agent this summer — and Svi Mykhailiuk, sources say. Given Wood’s free agency, the Pistons might engage on that front. I’d be surprised if they dealt Mykhailiuk for future assets. Detroit is thin in young perimeter talent, and Mykhailiuk — shooting 43% from deep this season on heavy volume — has been a pleasant surprise. Detroit holds a small team option on him for next season. The Pistons should keep him.

• The Blazers sliced their tax bill by a lot in the Bazemore-Ariza swap, and they are slated to be well under the tax next season. They might not feel pressure to duck the tax this season, though it’s always helpful. (They could get close by dealing Ariza again, and several contenders — including the Heat — have expressed interest in Ariza at points this season, sources say.) They are only two games out of the playoffs, and they owe Damian Lillard (absolutely volcanic right now) and CJ McCollum an honest chance.

That said, the noise on Portland making a big win-now move has cooled, sources say. That makes sense. The Blazers are climbing from a deep hole. Any big deal would have to involve Hassan Whiteside‘s expiring contract, and Whiteside is giving Portland quality minutes — at a time when they have no other healthy center. They can regroup next season with Lillard, McCollum, Rodney Hood, Zach Collins, Jusuf Nurkic, and all their young players and picks.

• The Nets have become one of my teams to watch at the deadline. The trio of Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Caris LeVert just hasn’t meshed yet. Right now, the Nets are bringing both LeVert and Dinwiddie off the bench. That seems unsustainable.

Dinwiddie can hit free agency after next season, when the league should be more flush with cap space. The Nets have been active at least taking calls and listening, as most teams are, per several league sources. (Woj also mentioned this on his podcast Sunday.) They obviously aren’t trading Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving. Names on the fringes — Rodions Kurucs types — don’t get people talking. That leaves the middle-ground players.

The Nets are almost certainly not dealing LeVert, Dinwiddie, or Jarrett Allen for a package centered on picks, sources say. That wouldn’t make sense with Irving and Durant on board. Irving’s knee injury is also a last-minute monkey wrench. LeVert suitors would be subject to what is effectively a poison pill because of his contract extension that kicks in next season. Ditto for Taurean Prince.

I’ve always been intrigued by a Dinwiddie for Aaron Gordon swap, but it’s unclear how feasible that is. The Magic are thin up front with Jonathan Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu injured. They are going to make the playoffs by de-fault, the two sweetest words in the English language (and the Eastern Conference).

They are happy with Markelle Fultz at point guard.

All three of LeVert, Dinwiddie, and Allen should have solid trade value this summer, provided LeVert snaps out of his post-injury doldrums. If that is the Nets’ view of things, they could hang onto all three and see what stars might hit the market in the offseason and beyond.

• I have zero idea what the Magic are going to do with Evan Fournier, which probably means they end up keeping him and swallowing whatever his next contract is.

• The Pistons should be able to move Markieff Morris for a second-round pick, sources say.

• Indiana could probably get a first-round pick for Aaron Holiday, who has been out of the rotation since Oladipo’s return. They have shown little inclination to move him, sources say.

• Washington has so far waved away teams inquiring about Davis Bertans, sources say. A future first-round pick beyond 2021 isn’t doing much to appease Beal. Come with something better and more concrete, and things might change on the Bertans front.

• Other names to watch: Denzel Valentine, Jakob Poeltl, Marvin Williams, and Malik Monk.

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