NBA Trade Deadline Primer 2018: A Busy Week at LAX

The Los Angeles Clippers officially kicked off the trade deadline season in the NBA when they traded Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons in a blockbuster. The trade signalled a clear shift for the Clippers from contenders to a team that is in asset-collection mode. Because of this, the top players on the trade market play for the Clippers, including DeAndre Jordan, Lou Williams, and Avery Bradley. Also featured on the rumour mill are Lakers players Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle, as they look to create cap space for LeBron James’ pending free agency frenzy.

In terms of the buyers, there are plenty of them in this years edition of the week where real-life GM’s become kids playing video games. The Cleveland Cavaliers have one of the most attractive trade chips to dangle – the 2018 Brooklyn 1st rounder – and the salaries to match in a trade for any star. Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers are looking to take the spot among the elite in the West vacated by the Clippers, and need another star to keep up with the Timberwolves. The market has all the capabilities to explode for yet another entertaining deadline, but GMs must be willing to take on large salaries in most cases to get the deals done. With the salary cap levelling off after a meteoric rise recently, teams are more cash-strapped than ever. As the countdown to Thursday at 3 PM begins, I try to predict the biggest deals that (hopefully) will go down.

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The Trade:

Cleveland Cavaliers Acquire: PG Jordan Clarkson, PF Julius Randle, PF Larry Nance Jr., 2018 Second Round Pick (via Denver)

Los Angeles Lakers Acquire: SG Iman Shumpert, PF Channing Frye, 2018 First Round Pick (via Brooklyn)

The Cavaliers finally part with their valuable Brooklyn pick, but not for DeAndre Jordan like so many seem to be hoping. Instead, the Cavs opt for a package of high-flying young guys in Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Larry Nance Jr., who offer more long-term options in the case LeBron leaves Ohio. While Randle is an RFA this upcoming offseason, and Nance the next, Clarkson is locked into a reasonable deal for the role he would be asked to play in Cleveland. The trio would all fill needs, with Randle filling in for Kevin Love at the 4 and forming a tenacious rebounding frontcourt with Tristan Thompson. Nance will come in off the bench and provide energy and athleticism, something that the aging Cavs lack. Clarkson can play a secondary playmaking role off of the bench behind Isaiah Thomas, or even start with LeBron’s unit, and allow Isaiah to have complete control of the bench unit.

More importantly, this trade would give Cavs fans something to have hope about in the case that James leaves in free agency. The Cavs could go into next season with a starting lineup of Clarkson, Smith, Crowder, Love, and Thompson with Randle and Nance providing excellent minutes off the bench. Although it isn’t looking likely, they could even bring back Isaiah Thomas. That is still a playoff team in the Eastern conference.

As for the Lakers, they get out from under Clarkson’s contract – not a bad deal necessarily, but an obstacle to signing a max free agent – and avoid having to hand out an extension to Randle, who will be looking for a substantial raise. I really like Nance and his fit in Los Angeles, but being able to acquire the Brooklyn pick while creating salary cap flexibility is extremely valuable for the rebuilding Lakers, who don’t own their first round pick this year. The Lakers can either use that pick to draft a promising young player in this year’s loaded draft class, or package it with Luol Deng and clear enough cap space for potentially 3 max contracts, while still having key contributors Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Brandon Ingram on the roster. The Lakers would likely buy-out the remainder of Frye’s contract, which expires at the end of this season, but would be on the hook for Shumpert’s $11M player option for the 2018-2019 season. That shouldn’t deter them however, as they reportedly are setting their sights on the 2019 Free Agency period, which includes the likes of Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard.

Screen Shot 2018-02-05 at 2.54.44 PM.pngThe trade:

Portland Trail Blazers Acquire: C DeAndre Jordan

Los Angeles Clippers Acquire: SF DeMarre Carroll, PF Noah Vonleh, C Jusuf Nurkic, Trail Blazers 2018 Unprotected First-Round Pick

Brooklyn Nets Acquire: SG Evan Turner, 2019 Second Round Draft Pick (via Clippers), 2019 2nd Round pick (via Trail Blazers)

The Clippers don’t get the coveted Brooklyn pick (which is possibly over-hyped with Brooklyn having a successful year on the court), but they do get the first round pick they want. They also get a stretch four in Vonleh, and an extremely effective big in Nurkic, who is an RFA in the offseason.

The reason Brooklyn is involved in this trade is because the complications with matching DeAndre’s salary. While Evan Turner would have done the job, the Clippers consider themselves a destination spot for marquee free agents, and taking on another two years of Evan Turner would have complicated those opportunities. Instead, the Nets come to the rescue, swapping Carroll and absorbing the extra year and roughly $2.3M per year in exchange for a second round pick from both the Blazers and Clippers.

For Brooklyn, this trade is easy to make, as they acquire two potentially valuable second round picks in exchange for taking on Turner’s contract. There are rumours that they are looking for a first round pick for Carroll, who is having a resurgent season in Brooklyn, but I think this is the best deal they can find for the injury-prone forward.

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The Trade:

Denver Nuggets Acquire: SG Lou Williams

Los Angeles Clippers Acquire: PG Emmanuel Mudiay, SF Richard Jefferson, 2018 Second Round Pick (via Golden State)

You wouldn’t typically see a team in 9th place trade their (arguably) best player to the team who sits one spot in front of them, but the Clippers are no ordinary 9th seed. In the real world, they just dealt their franchise cornerstone and best player, Blake Griffin. In this fictional world, they have also traded DeAndre Jordan to the Trail Blazers, and are in full rebuild mode. Trading Lou makes sense, and the Nuggets are a team that could use another scorer. With Jamal Murray and Gary Harris excelling at the guard spots, Mudiay has become expendable in Denver, and is approaching restricted free agency. While the Clippers get to take a cheap flier on a player who was once a top prospect, the Nuggets use him to acquire a lethal scorer who is having the best season of his career.

Reports say that the Nuggets are dangling Mudiay in exchange for Marcus Smart, but they would be better off moving him for the All-Star snub Williams. The one-time 6th Man of the Year award winner is averaging a career high in points (23.3) and assists (5.3), and has proven himself capable of running the point for short spells. The Nuggets need another ball-handler, and Williams is the best on the market.

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The Trade:

Golden State Warriors Acquire: SG Avery Bradley

Los Angeles Clippers Acquire: SG Nick Young, SF/PF Kevon Looney, C Damian Jones, 2018 First Round Pick

The Golden State Warriors reportedly are looking to improve their bench, and have inquired about the recently-traded Bradley. A pending UFA, and acquired as a salary piece in the Blake Griffin deal, Bradley still has tremendous value as a 3-and-D guard, despite a tough year. Teams around the NBA still seem to be high on Bradley, who played a vital role in the Celtics’ trip to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, but not many have much to offer.

An obvious fit for Bradley would be in Oklahoma City, where Andre Roberson was just lost for the season and the Thunder are in desperate need of wing help. Unfortunately, any deal for Bradley would have to involve taking on two more years of Kyle Singler, and OKC doesn’t have a 1st rounder to trade until 2022.

The Warriors’ ability to include their first round pick – something they apparently aren’t willing to do at the moment – moves the needle for the Clippers, and gets the deal done. The rich continue to get richer in the NBA.

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