It's trade deadline season and we're already off to a big start.
In case you missed it, here are some of my trade breakdowns for the Pelicans, the Kings, part 1 of our pod series, and part 2. Last week, I hit on the Plumlee-Nurkic deal and also the Ross-Ibaka deal. If you like stats, check all of those out.
The NBA world looks to have finally given up on the Carmelo Anthony trade rumor and it seems way overdue. Melo has his no-trade clause, so it was surprising to see it pick up as much steam as it did over the last two months. Now, we're staring the Jimmy Butler to the Celtics talk square in the face and it's being compounded by some cryptic tweets from players:
Isaiah Thomas had this one:
And Jae Crowder had this one:
I knew I should've got that NBA player Twitter decoder ring.
Unlike the Melo talk, this potential deal is almost a perfect storm. With DeMarcus Cousins now off the market, Jimmy Butler looks to be the best player even close to being available. Yes, the Bulls are saying Butler isn't being shopped right now, but they have to be listening. On top of that, the Celtics are in position to be the biggest buyers out there leading up to Thursday.
Butler is just getting to the tail end of his prime at age 27 and he is under contract for through 2018-19 with a player option for 2019-20. Despite the talk of The Three Alphas, Butler has shattered his previous career high in scoring with 24.5 points per game with career highs in rebounds, assists and efficiency, as well.
It's not just about the box score numbers either. Here's a glimpse of his usage rates, efficiency, made free throws per 36 minutes, effective field goal percentage (eFG%) on jumpers, and assists per 36 over the last four seasons:
||eFG% of Js
The massive uptick in free throws explains his career-best efficiency and usage rate. He was actually leading the NBA in that department earlier this year, but he's still sitting third behind James Harden and Russell Westbrook -- Isaiah Thomas is fittingly fourth.
Butler also currently leads the Eastern Conference in real plus minus due mostly to how bad the team is around him while he's been an absolute All-Star. Clearly, Butler is worth a lot in the trade market and the Celtics have the ammo to get it done. How much ammo do they have? Well...
The Boston Asset Party
In recent memory, perhaps no team is more loaded in assets outside of their roster than the Boston Celtics. Before we even consider what they have in future drafts, don’t forget this team still has 2016 first-round picks Ante Zizic and Guerschon Yabusele overseas — Dancing Bear is one of the best nicknames ever, by the way. Both of those players have a chance to come over next year, too. This season, Yabusele is averaging 21.5 points, 9.5 boards, 2.1 assists, 1.0 blocks, 1.3 steals and 2.0 treys on 54.2 percent from the field and 68.9 percent from the line in China with the Shanghai Sharks. Meanwhile, Zizic is averaging 15.5 points, 7.1 boards, 1.0 assist, 1.1 blocks, 0.5 steals and 2.0 turnovers in 25.5 minutes per game in multiple high-end Euro leagues. Pretty solid. Yabusele projects as a wide-bodied, floor-spacing four with the ability to play the five, which makes him a great fit for the way NBA teams construct rosters now. Zizic is more of a typical five at 7'0", but you can never have enough decent centers, right? Just look at how many bigs have been overpaid in the past few years.
When it comes to the upcoming drafts, Boston is completely stacked. They have what should be the No. 1 lottery position with the Nets unprotected pick in a pick swap (that means Brooklyn gets the Boston pick in the late first), they get the Nets pick unprotected in the 2018 draft, Boston also gets its own picks in the 2018 and 2019 drafts, a 2019 lottery-protected first round Clippers pick, and a top-eight protected Memphis pick in 2019. By the way, they got those picks in the fleecing Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett deal, the Memphis pick from the 2015 Jeff Green deal, and that Clippers pick is from 2016 draft night when they traded the No. 31 and 35 picks to get that upcoming selection.
On top of those, Boston is stacked in the second round. Sparing you some protections here, here are their second-round assets: they have the 2017 second-round picks of the Wolves, Clippers and Cavs. They also have the second-round picks for the Pistons in 2019, and also in 2020 they have the Miami pick in the second round. Crazy. If the protections work out, that’s 13 picks in the next four years!
Chicago is wisely waiting this out to see if Boston will budge and unload some of their picks. With all those draft picks, they almost have to make a move just because they only have 15 roster spots and some of those picks just won't have a spot.
This should be fun.
Cap Space Odyssey
Teams will always be looking to dump bad contracts to teams with space. For their trouble, there is usually some draft pick compensation to help facilitate the move and free up money. In simple terms, this usually comes as a three-team deal with two teams coming to terms on a trade with some key players, but need a third team to allow one to make the money side of things work.
To the untrained eye, that third team taking on salary might seem like a patsy. However, Sam Hinkie showed why he’s one of the best of turning nothing into something. Just because the Kings wanted to get Nik Stauskas off the books to allow them to sign Marco Belinelli, Kosta Koufos and Rajon Rondo, they had to deal Sauce Castillo. Yes, those three guys.
Because the Kings were so desperate for space, they gave the 76ers a right to pick swap to start things off. You can bet the Kings will be dropping like a rock in the standings based on how the Kings are a -7.1 net rating when DeMarcus Cousins is off the court — they could trade away even more talent to make them even worse, too. The Kings are currently in the No. 11 lottery spot, but chances are they will slide to at least the No. 6 spot. Even if the 76ers have a better lottery position, the No. 6 spot has a 15.0 percent to be a top-three pick, so that’s some added value for the 76ers to dominate the top part of the draft along with the top-three protected Lakers pick. After that, the crown jewel of this deal is the unprotected 2019 first-round pick. The Kings are going to be really, really bad for a long time, so that pick looks like it’ll be a top-five pick. Trust The Process.
Yes, this is not going to happen every day, but Hinkie hit the jackpot big time. Someone needs to hire him. Kings?
Moving on to this season, owner Mark Cuban said he’s willing to be one of those teams to take on money, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein. There are also a lot of other teams that could fit the bill here, so he’s a quick little table to give him an idea of who has some money to potentially be a third team in a deal (dollar amounts via Bobby Marks of The Vertical):
|Oklahoma City Thunder
Furthermore, the 76ers, Nuggets, Nets, Jazz, Suns and Wolves are not at the NBA's salary cap floor, so they have to take on salary -- this isn't hard to do, of course. You'll notice that the Mavs are not on this list, which makes it even more likely guys like Deron Williams and/or Andrew Bogut will be traded or bought out.
The most recent news item is the Lakers announcing Magic Johnson will be the President of Basketball Operations. The timing of this is crazy, just one day after former player Vlade Divac had a rough day in his press conference. Chances are Magic will want to make an impact on his roster and now will have a say at the deadline.
Enjoy the deadline! We'll be posting every credible and relevant rumor for the next three days on our player news page. I will leave you with this tweet from 2015: