With the Feb. 23 trade deadline approaching, HoopsHype wants to keep you updated with the latest rumblings from around the NBA. In addition to checking our rumors page, we’ll be posting weekly notebooks with the latest rumors.
Denver Has the Assets to Make a Big Move
For quite some time, the Denver Nuggets have tried to acquire a star who can help the team become a perennial playoff squad.
They pursued Kevin Love before the Minnesota Timberwolves dealt him to the Cleveland Cavaliers and they have had conversations about a number of other big names. Remember, Denver’s brass even met with Dwyane Wade over the offseason and made a huge offer, which Wade later admitted was tempting. This is clearly a franchise that wants to go from rebuilding to competing at a high level.
Nikola Jokic has developed into a very talented centerpiece for Denver, but that doesn’t mean the Nuggets are no longer trying to upgrade their roster. After all, Jokic’s best attributes are his court vision and passing, so putting elite talent alongside him will only help Jokic and the team as a whole.
While everyone talks about the Boston Celtics’ stockpile of assets (and understandably so), Denver has some very attractive trade chips as well.
The Nuggets have a ton of young players in Jokic, Emmanuel Mudiay, Jamal Murray, Jusuf Nurkic, Juan Hernangomez, Malik Beasley and Gary Harris. They have all of their first-round picks going forward as well as the Memphis Grizzlies’ 2017 first-rounder (Top 5 protected). And if a trade partner is interested in acquiring more experienced players, Denver also has veterans such as Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Will Barton, Darrell Arthur, Jameer Nelson and Mike Miller. These vets could also help when it comes to making salaries match in a potential deal.
Speaking of which, the Nuggets have just $77,174,506 on the books for this season. That means they have cap space to absorb a contract in a deal. It also gives them even more incentive to make a trade since they’re under the NBA’s $84.7 million salary floor.
Rival executives believe Denver’s front office wants to be active at the deadline and they certainly have the pieces to make a move, so they’re a team to keep an eye on.
Tanking May Be Best for Lakers
As Eric Pincus recently wrote on Bleacher Report, the Los Angeles Lakers’ best course of action moving forward may be to tank this season.
That’s because the Lakers’ 2017 first-round draft pick will go to the Philadelphia 76ers if it falls outside of the Top 3. But it doesn’t end there. If L.A. loses its 2017 first-round pick, they will also have to give their 2019 first-round pick to the Orlando Magic. That means if the Lakers fall outside of the Top 3 on lottery night, they will lose two of their next three first-rounders.
Now, if the Lakers finish in the Top 3 and keep their pick, not only will they have the chance to add a talented player in this upcoming draft, they will only owe two 2019 second-rounders to Orlando. These owed picks are from the Steve Nash and Dwight Howard trades.
Needless to say, the Lakers have a lot riding on this year’s lottery and they clearly aren’t going to make the playoffs in the Western Conference. They currently sit at 18-37, which is the second-worst record in the West. Trading off veterans like Nick Young, Lou Williams, Luol Deng or Jose Calderon would give the young core more playing time, allow the Lakers to acquire more picks and young prospects, and increase the likelihood that they’ll keep two very important first-rounders going forward.
Despite head coach Luke Walton’s negative comments about tanking, executives believe the Lakers will strongly consider this route. If they do, other teams will certainly be calling about L.A.’s veterans.
Okafor Won’t Let Trade Rumors, Criticism Bother Him
One name that has surfaced quite a bit in recent trade rumors is Jahlil Okafor. The Philadelphia 76ers obviously have a logjam at the center position with Okafor, Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel, and many rival executives expect them to make a move prior to the deadline.
Reports have linked Okafor to the Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Pelicans among others, and it’s clear that Philadelphia is listening to offers for the 21-year-old (if not outright shopping him). Okafor still has plenty of potential and room to grow, and there’s a reason he was the No. 3 pick in the 2015 draft. I’ve talked to a number of executives who are still intrigued by Okafor and believe he can thrive in the right situation. Buying low on him now is seemingly a low-risk, high-reward move.
Okafor tries to block out the trade rumors, but he admits that it’s hard to do in this day and age. Instead, he tries to prevent the outside noise from affecting his production.
“Well, of course you hear it,” Okafor told me in June. “You hear it because of people texting you and asking you and all of that stuff. There were trade rumors involving me throughout [last] season. Then, at the All-Star break, there were some more trade rumors. So I talked to my head coach, Brett Brown, and he just told me that as long as I’m in the NBA, that’s going to be part of my life. I try to block it out, but being an NBA player, it’s just something you have to deal with.”
Okafor has a similar approach to dealing with criticism.
“As I [watched] the playoffs, I realized that winning cures everything,” Okafor said. “Obviously, we lost a lot, so with that being said, I’m going to be criticized a lot. But, look, I watched Golden State lose a few games and I saw some fans and reporters criticizing Steph Curry. LeBron James loses and then he gets criticized a lot. When you lose, you get criticized. And I’m obviously nowhere near as good as those guys, so I wouldn’t expect any less criticism for me. … Of course there’s been some people who want to doubt and criticize me, but I’m just going to work hard every day and get better.”
Head coach Brett Brown today said that he’s extremely proud of the way Okafor, Noel and others on the 76ers have handled all of the trade reports.
“The world that we have lived in, you just can’t make up,” Coach Brown said regarding the constant trade rumors. “I give amazing credit to a bunch of young and talented good friends, good people. You’ve got Richaun [Holmes], Nerlens, Jahlil and Joel, these four or five men [dealing with] rampant, never-to-go-away rumors and questions like, ‘Will you be in the city of Philadelphia tomorrow?’ Stuff like that, it just never goes away. So navigating a locker room like that, [it’s about] how you communicate with the guys, how you keep them up [for games] and how they interact amongst each other. They’ve retained their friendships and truly want the best for one another. That’s very admirable and rare, to me, in professional sports.”
This season, Okafor is averaging 11.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and one block in 23.2 minutes while shooting 51.6 percent from the field. He has started just 21 of 36 games.
Kings’ Comment About Not Trading Cousins Isn’t a Smokescreen
This week, Sacramento Kings general manager Vlade Divac made headlines when he insisted that the team isn’t considering any trade involving All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins.
“We’re not trading DeMarcus,” Divac told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. “We hope he’s here for a long time.”
While some fans may look at that quote and think it’s a smokescreen or a way for Divac to gain leverage in trade talks, sources say that isn’t the case.
For months, Divac has been telling executives, agents and anyone willing to listen that the Kings aren’t going to trade Cousins. He’s adamant about this and hasn’t budged from that position.
Many executives also believe that Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé wouldn’t sign off on a Cousins trade since he thinks very highly of the center and believes he can keep the big man in Sacramento for years to come.
Because of his antics and public criticism of Sacramento’s front office, Cousins is often brought up in trade rumors, but everyone involved says he will be in a Kings jersey on Feb. 24.
Article, Rumor Notebook, Top, Trade, Danilo Gallinari, Darrell Arthur, DeMarcus Cousins, Emmanuel Mudiay, Jahlil Okafor, Jameer Nelson, Jusuf Nurkic, Kenneth Faried, Louis Williams, Luol Deng, Nick Young, Nikola Jokic, Wilson Chandler, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings