The Feb. 23 trade deadline is rapidly approaching, which means there are plenty of discussions taking place behind the scenes and rumors surfacing. Trade talks typically heat up during the All-Star break since all of the NBA’s decision-makers are in the same city and conversing.
But, as we saw yesterday with the Charlotte Hornets and Milwaukee Bucks pulling off a deal involving Roy Hibbert, Spencer Hawes and Miles Plumlee, talks often start when the calendar flips to February and there are always rumors circulating. Here are some of the latest rumors we’re hearing:
Teams Are Shopping Recently Acquired Big Men
Earlier this week, a Western Conference executive told me that several teams were shopping big men that they had just added this past summer. He was somewhat surprised by this, and he mentioned Indiana’s Al Jefferson, Washington’s Ian Mahinmi and Orlando’s Serge Ibaka as some examples of recent frontcourt additions who are seemingly available.
It seems that some teams are already having buyer’s remorse about their offseason splurges. Jefferson signed a three-year deal worth $30 million with the Pacers, Mahinmi inked a four-year deal worth $64 million with the Wizards, and Ibaka was traded to the Orlando Magic in exchange for Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis and Ersan Ilyasova. Now, executives say that all three teams are willing to move on from their recently acquired big man if the right offer comes along.
While Jefferson and Mahinmi are on multi-year deals, it’s worth noting that Ibaka is an unrestricted free agent this summer (which is why Orlando’s trade for him last offseason was so risky). That could limit what teams are willing to offer the Magic, since Ibaka is a rental who can bolt to another team in July.
Keep an eye on these players, as well as other offseason additions who haven’t performed as expected or whose teams aren’t living up to expectations so far this season.
Magic Searching for a Trade
If you check HoopsHype frequently, you’ve seen many Orlando Magic players appear in our rumors page. From Serge Ibaka to Nikola Vucevic to Elfrid Payton, it seems like the Magic are listening to offers for everyone these days.
According to executives, that’s somewhat true. Orlando entered this season with playoff expectations and this campaign has been a massive disappointment. Orlando is currently 19-31, which is the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference (behind only the Brooklyn Nets). Nobody within the organization thought they would be near the bottom of the standings at this point in the campaign.
Also, some people around the NBA believe that Magic general manager Rob Hennigan is on the hot seat. Since Hennigan was hired, the team has a 122-257 record and they haven’t come close to making the playoffs.
One thing is certain: Orlando is trying to wheel and deal before the deadline. I recently asked a number of league sources, “Which NBA teams are most desperate to make a trade before the deadline?”
Every single source mentioned Orlando.
Teams are certainly calling Hennigan and his staff to see who is available. When a team is struggling this badly and has this many proven veterans (Vucevic, Ibaka, Payton, Evan Fournier, Jeff Green and DJ Augustin among others), rival executives circle like vultures in hopes of prying them away.
Elfrid Payton Ignoring Trade Rumors
Speaking of Payton and the Magic, I recently asked the point guard about the trade rumors and how he’s dealing with them.
“Personally, I just block them out,” Payton told HoopsHype. “I just hoop, man. My job is to hoop and that’s what I do. I stay in the gym, focus on my work, and whatever happens, happens. I don’t hear about trade rumors from other people either. It happened one time, from a friend of a friend, but my family and close friends don’t really bring that stuff up.”
At 22 years old, Payton has learned that the NBA is a business and anything can happen. He has seen a number of his friends traded away over the last two years, from Oladipo to Moe Harkless to Kyle O’Quinn to Tobias Harris. These days, the locker room looks very different than it did when he joined the Magic.
Payton understands that anyone can be traded, especially if the team is struggling, and he’s just trying to focus on things he can control.
If Houston Makes a Trade, It’ll “Likely Be for Depth”
When the trade deadline approaches, NBA executives expect to hear from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. He’s known for pulling off deadline-day deals. In fact, he has made 12 trades that occurred in January or February (including many just hours before the trade deadline).
However, with Houston playing so well and emerging as a legitimate contender in the Western Conference, will Morey stand pat?
“We will be less likely to make a move this year, but I have to always listen – as you don’t get many opportunities with a team this good,” Morey told HoopsHype. “If we do any moves, they will likely be for depth.”
In other words, Morey understands that this is a special group and if there’s a trade out there that could yield depth and put them over the top, he’ll listen. But even he admits that he’s not likely to make a big trade and risk ruining this team’s chemistry. Morey’s big moves came in the offseason, when he hired Mike D’Antoni and signed veterans Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Nenê among others.
Houston has exceeded all expectations at 36-17, so don’t expect any significant trades from Morey this year.
Bulls, Celtics Could Revive Jimmy Butler Talks
Several executives who spoke to HoopsHype predicted that the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls will reopen Jimmy Butler trade talks as the deadline gets closer.
With so much drama behind the scenes in Chicago and with Boston owning a ton of attractive trade chips (perhaps the most of any team in the NBA), it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Bulls and Celtics revive their negotiations.
With that said, one executive pointed out that the Bulls can be tough to negotiate with, add that if Chicago does decide make a trade, they would likely wait until just before the deadline to complete the deal. Another league source speculated that moving a face-of-the-franchise like Butler seems more like an offseason move than a mid-season one, but did add that a trade could happen if the right offer came along.
Around the 2016 draft, sources say the Bulls were asking potential trading partners for four pieces (either players or picks) in any serious offer for Butler. It seems likely that Chicago will have the same asking price prior to the deadline if talks get serious with another team, especially since Butler has put up some of the best numbers of his career this season.
Butler is averaging 24.6 points (a career-high), 6.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.8 steals while shooting 45.7 percent from the field and 34.8 percent from three-point range.
The Bulls are currently 25-25, which puts them in the Eastern Conference’s seventh seed. The Celtics are 31-18, sitting in the East’s second seed and just 2.5 games back from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It’s possible that Boston will use their stockpile of assets to make a splashy move in an attempt to dethrone the Cavs and win the East.
Could Carmelo Anthony Stay in New York?
Lately, all of the talk surrounding Carmelo Anthony has been about where he may be traded and whether he’d be willing to waive his no-trade clause. Well, one executive offered up a different scenario that he believes may take place.
Some executives believe that Phil Jackson won’t be the president of the Knicks much longer, either because he’ll retire or because he’s made a number of questionable moves during his tenure.
The executive I spoke to suggested that Anthony might refuse to waive his no-trade clause and see what happens in the offseason with Jackson. If the Knicks and Jackson decide to part ways, then Anthony gets to stay in New York (which he truly wants to do), a lot of the behind-the-scenes drama goes away and he can see how things go with whoever replaces Jackson. Perhaps the replacement’s long-term vision is different and includes Anthony?
At some point in the future, Anthony will likely be dealt since the team will want to build around Kristaps Porzingis and get more players who are on the same developmental track as the big man. But there’s no rush to do that right now, especially since there are seemingly so few teams he’s willing to waive his no-trade clause for. Anthony waiting this out, as the exec suggested, could make sense.
Article, Rumor Notebook, Top, Trades, Al Jefferson, Carmelo Anthony, Elfrid Payton, Ian Mahinmi, Jimmy Butler, Nikola Vucevic, Serge Ibaka, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards