Welcome to the eerily quiet NBA trade deadline
The NBA trade deadline is rapidly approaching, and if you hadn’t noticed, that’s okay. The heartbreaking passing of Kobe Bryant has understandably overtaken pretty much any news of a more trivial basketball nature, but there’s more to it than that.
Quite simply, there hasn’t been much transactional business happening in the NBA of late, which is partly a byproduct of the frenzied activity last summer. But the lack of activity is also somewhat of a surprise.
With no clear, overwhelming favorite to win the title (like there has been courtesy of the Golden State Warriors for the past several years), the marketplace would seem primed for a number of teams to make a big play in the trade market in search of glory.
Instead, what we have seen so far in advance of Thursday’s deadline is — no disrespect to those involved —a trickle of relatively uninteresting rumors. Kevin Love appears to be staying in Cleveland. Marcus Morris has been halfheartedly linked to a move away from the New York Knicks. Per Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN, the Phoenix Suns are keen to land Detroit Pistons guard Luke Kennard.
"They need a bonafide 3rd scorer. If they don't get a deal [by the trade deadline], the best thing for them to do is keep Kuzma and teach him how to play winning basketball."@Chris_Broussard breaks down the @Lakers needs ahead of the trade deadline pic.twitter.com/HbPp84igfA
— The Association on FOX (@TheAssociation) February 4, 2020
And that’s about it. Of course, the final day, hours or even minutes before the hard cutoff could shake some teams into action, and the possibility is there for said action to have a seismic impact on the season. Remember this time last year, when the Toronto Raptors landed Marc Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies and ended up with an NBA title for their trouble?
This year’s deadline just doesn’t have that feel to it, however, and when you take a glimpse around the league there is more incentive for most to stay put than to roll the dice.
“We certainly don’t want to make a deal,” Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge told Boston.com, “Just to make a deal.”
The teams that plan on contending made their big moves over the summer and likely don’t see enough value in trying to rip things up now. One team that might have been tempted to do so is the Philadelphia 76ers, which has a unit that just isn’t working right now. The problem is, you don’t get much value when a lot of teams still feel they have a chance at getting something productive out of the current campaign.
D’Angelo Russell on the persistent trade rumors: “I just want to be somewhere where it’s home and I can unpack my bags, but I’m so comfortable with being uncomfortable nowadays.” https://t.co/dtEJRNwdI4
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 4, 2020
And that’s where we’re at. In the Western Conference, it is likely only the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Golden State Warriors who truly feel out of the equation, with Minnesota having turned a poor campaign into an abysmal one with its latest streak of losses, now sitting at 12.
The Portland Trail Blazers are starting to bubble nicely and hold hopes of forcing their way into playoff position, while the San Antonio Spurs, probably destined for their first year out of the postseason since Gregg Popovich was young and hip, aren’t exactly a rip-it-up-and-start-over kind of franchise.
For the New Orleans Pelicans, Jrue Holiday might be one of the juiciest trade pieces of the current crop, but with Zion Williamson back on the court, front office shaker David Griffin might feel there is some value in keeping the highly-respected veteran around to mentor a young team.
The Eastern Conference has some bad teams that could, in theory, embrace tank mode, but the potential benefit for doing so is far from rosy this year.
Not only is the incoming draft crop devoid of a blockbuster name like Williamson, but it seems low on talent across the board, with LaMelo Ball easily the biggest name — but not necessarily the best player.
Zion is averaging 19.5 PPG through 6 games… look back at his epic NBA debut that included 17 straight 4th quarter points!@Zionwilliamson and the @PelicansNBA host the #1 in the NBA Bucks tonight at 7:30pm/et on TNT. pic.twitter.com/PYjPfxeKSN
— NBA (@NBA) February 4, 2020
Offloading productive pieces in exchange for draft picks looks a lot less enticing when the incoming talent is of uncertain quality. Neither is there much call for freeing up cap space, with this summer collection of free agents remarkable only for its paucity, especially when compared to a year ago.
All that movement, highlighted by Kawhi Leonard heading to the Los Angeles Clippers and all the other big name maneuvers — Anthony Davis, Paul George, Russell Westbrook — came about because of major fluidity in the market.
Assuming Davis re-signs with the Los Angeles Lakers (and yes, we are assuming that), next summer’s free agent crop is probably headlined by Gordon Hayward and DeMar DeRozan. Of the group, 35-year-old Paul Millsap is currently the second top earner.
Thursday is still a ways off, and we could still see some deals done. Kevin O’Connor at The Ringer reported that Minnesota tried to engineer a deal that would give them D’Angelo Russell, send Robert Covington to Houston and Clint Capela to Atlanta, only for it to stall.
Sources: A three-way deal was discussed to send Robert Covington to Houston, Clint Capela to Atlanta, and picks to Minnesota.
The Wolves hoped to flip assets for D'Angelo Russell, but Golden State denied their offer. Talks have stalled.
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) February 4, 2020
Some kind of negotiation that ends with Russell leaving the Warriors is feasible, as Golden State tries to figure out what to do amid the mess of its lost season. Capela, too, is the most obvious departure if the Rockets want to position themselves to square off with the Lakers and Clippers in April and beyond.
And then there is Andre Iguadala, who is intriguing only for the drama value of the fact that he doesn’t want to play for the Memphis Grizzlies and isn’t going to suit up until he’s traded. Is it just me who kind of loves the fact that Grizzlies youngsters Dillon Brooks and Ja Morant are making no secret of the fact they can’t wait until Iguodala is moved o,n so that they can face him on the court and show him what he’s missing?
It’s all fun, knockabout stuff; just about enough to keep us entertained ahead of what promises to be the most emotional All-Star Game in history and a truly fascinating postseason.
But that’s all it is for now: words and little action. NBA teams did their big business last summer, and now they’re hitting the pause button for a while.
Dillon Brooks reacts to the Andre Iguodala situation just days before Thursday afternoon's trade deadline. "A guy that's on our team but doesn't wanna be on our team. I can't wait until we find a way to trade him so we can play him and show him what really Memphis is about." pic.twitter.com/KR6bGCgtpJ
— Mike Ceide (@MCeide_WREG3) February 4, 2020