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Another name is joining the laundry list of the NBA‘s most talked-about trade candidates.
Please give a warm welcome to Dennis Smith Jr., who is, at age 21, the new kid on this block.
Rival teams are “monitoring” his availability in advance of the Feb. 7 deadline, according to the New York Times‘ Marc Stein. And despite the Dallas Mavericks’ insistence they’re not looking to ship him out, they have at least started to gauge the value of their sophomore point guard, per ESPN.com’s Tim MacMahon.
In honor of Smith making his first appearance on the “Who Says No?” block, he’ll take center stage for two of our latest ideas. After him, we get back to business as usual.
Many of the same faces continue to populate the rumor mill, and we’ve cooked up some fresh deals to facilitate their relocations.
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Dallas Mavericks Receive: Terrence Ross, Nikola Vucevic
Orlando Magic Receive: Harrison Barnes, Dennis Smith Jr.
The Magic are a natural trade partner if the Mavericks, as Stein noted, aren’t in love with the long-term fit between Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic. Orlando needs a point guard to groom for the future and doesn’t have an obvious path to getting one.
Next year’s rookie class isn’t teeming with exceptional floor generals. In the latest mock draft from Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman, the only point guards who crack the lottery are Murray State’s Ja Morant and Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland—and the latter is hardly a surefire top-14 prospect.
Free agency doesn’t offer the Magic much more of a safe haven. They’re not a prospective destination for Kyrie Irving (player option), and Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon (restricted), Terry Rozier (restricted) and D’Angelo Russell (restricted) won’t be as palatable at significantly more expensive price points. Anyone they sign at a reasonable rate will either be a stopgap (Patrick Beverley, Darren Collison) or just not lead-guard material (Cory Joseph, T.J. McConnell).
Smith has two years left on his rookie-scale contract after this one, so he gives Orlando an upper-tier prospect to develop without the imminent threat of breaking the bank. And to get him without forking over Jonathan Isaac or a future first-round pick is a big deal.
Terrence Ross and Nikola Vucevic are having career years, but they’re potential goners over the offseason. Mo Bamba and Aaron Gordon make it difficult to justify a top-dollar investment in Vucevic, and Ross, who turns 28 in February, isn’t a clean fit for a rebuilding timeline.
And make no mistake: The Magic are rebuilding. They don’t yet have a face-of-the-franchise anchor. Smith could be that guy, or he could just be the answer at point guard. Either outcome is worth flipping two expiring contracts and stomaching the final year of Harrison Barnes’ deal (player option).
Dallas is selling sort of low on Smith if Ross and Vucevic aren’t part of the big picture. But Doncic has accelerated the Mavericks’ window, they aren’t flush with wings, and DeAndre Jordan isn’t the solution in the middle. Ross and Vucevic could be keepers, and they most certainly improve Dallas’ chances of breaking into the playoff picture this season.
Worst-case scenario, the Mavericks end up using Smith to chisel out another $25.1 million in cap space for this summer. Wiping Barnes off the ledger fast tracks them toward more than $75 million in wiggle room while carrying restricted free-agent holds for Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith. That, plus the opportunity to play with Doncic, positions Dallas to shell out two max contracts and/or build an insta-contender.
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Dallas Mavericks Receive: Josh Jackson, Elie Okobo, 2019 first-round pick (from Milwaukee, via Phoenix)
Phoenix Suns Receive: Salah Mejri (must consent to trade), Dennis Smith Jr.
De’Anthony Melton has not changed the Suns’ backcourt calculus. They are playing well since inserting him into the starting lineup but still need a point guard to pair with Devin Booker.
Dennis Smith Jr. is the higher-ceiling play. He looked a lot more active on the defensive end before suffering a sprained right wrist, and despite Dallas’ apparent concerns, his off-ball offense is miles from hopeless. He’s hitting 35.7 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes, and as a 6’3″ pogo stick, he should be able to work as a modest-volume cutter.
The Mavericks are likely the tougher sell in this scenario. Everything rests on how they feel about Josh Jackson. He’s more of a distressed asset than Smith, and his 2018-19 salary ($7.1 million) actually tacks money onto their books.
Jackson has performed better over the past few weeks…in that he’s actually playing. He’s averaging 11.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.4 steals for the month of December while slashing—gulp—36.1/32.4/66.7. His energy is there. The efficiency is not.
Maybe the Mavericks believe they can fix the hitch and extra-long windup in his jumper. Perhaps they see someone with the defensive range of Dorian Finney-Smith. They can talk themselves into rolling the dice.
Kelly Oubre Jr. is a possible substitute target if the Mavericks can’t get on the Jackson bandwagon. But he’s headed for restricted free agency and cannot be traded in combination with other players. They’d have to accept a package built around him and the Bucks’ first-rounder, which is protected for pick Nos. 1 to 3 and 17 to 30 and probably won’t convey until 2020.
Other permutations of this deal should be on the table. Adding Richaun Holmes to the package of Jackson, Elie Okobo and Milwaukee’s first is one the Suns could explore if they view Smith as a top-shelf prospect. Holmes is playing ridiculous basketball in 15- to 25-minute bursts, but he’ll be a free agent this summer, and they have Deandre Ayton. His inclusion shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.
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Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Wesley Johnson, 2019 second-round pick, 2020 second-round pick
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: Rodney Hood (must consent to trade), David Nwaba
New Orleans has to do something—anything.
Anthony Davis speculation is annoying but not without foundation. His free agency will play out this summer, one year ahead of schedule, when he accepts or rejects the “supermax” extension the Pelicans are going to offer.
Missing the playoffs doesn’t bode well for their chances of coaxing a long-term commitment from him. The Western Conference is brutal, almost unfairly so, but Davis’ future has been hanging in the balance for years. New Orleans has swung and missed on too many other occasions for this to be an issue of one or two seasons. As SI.com’s Rob Mahoney wrote:
“There is no one misstep that brought the Pelicans to this point, but a series of them, building on one another like a lopsided, ill-fated house of cards. It wasn’t just the contract given to [Omer] Asik, but the fact that Pelicans gave up a first-round pick to acquire him in 2015 and another to dump his contract in 2018. It wasn’t [Ryan] Anderson, [Tyreke] Evans, or [Eric] Gordon, but the intersection of the three and what the Pelicans paid in opportunity costs. Even the best of teams can only make win-now moves for so long. New Orleans has essentially been making them for seven years, without winning nearly enough to convince Davis of anything at all.”
Now the Pelicans find themselves in a position where they have to make those same win-now moves without mortgaging the future—a tall order in any instance, but an especially steep one given their limited asset pool.
Rodney Hood and David Nwaba aren’t sources of salvation on their own, but they help. Hood is burying 38.6 percent of his pull-up threes, and the 6’4″ Nwaba, who’s grappling with knee and ankle issues, can guard positions 1 through 4. Most importantly, because the Cavaliers are open for business, both are gettable.
Rival teams “are studying” Cleveland to “scavenge spare parts,” according to The Athletic’s Joe Vardon. Hood is playing on his qualifying offer, and though he can reject any trade, the Cavaliers’ ongoing fire sale suggests he’s as good as gone.
This deal can be expanded to include the final year of Solomon Hill’s contract and J.R. Smith, but that’ll cost the Pelicans a first-round pick. And if they’re going to give up even a heavily protected version of their top selection, they need to suss out a more impactful return.
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Indiana Pacers Receive: Otto Porter
Washington Wizards Receive: Darren Collison, Tyreke Evans
Trading for Trevor Ariza has quelled speculation of a Wizards teardown. They’re yet again acting like a team bound for the postseason. They just, you know, don’t have the wins to support it.
Another shakeup isn’t out of the question. The Wizards have “been open to discussing any and all members of their core,” with Otto Porter looming as the “most likely” member of the Medium-Sized Three to be rerouted by February’s deadline, according to The Athletic’s Sam Amick.
Plug-and-play wings are a commodity at virtually any pay grade, so the Wizards will have a market for their combo forward. But it won’t be a robust bidding war. Porter has missed time with a right quad injury, is shooting a good-not-great 36.8 percent from deep and will make $55.8 million over the next two seasons (2020-21 player option).
Washington cannot expect more than salary-cap relief via serviceable rotation pieces without taking on serious money. Indiana is uniquely equipped to meet that asking price.
League executives told ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst they think the Pacers will try moving either Darren Collison or Cory Joseph, both of whom are on expiring contracts. The Tyreke Evans experiment, meanwhile, has gone sideways. He’s posting the lowest effective field-goal percentage of his career and currently dealing with a right knee injury.
Packaging Collison and Evans together should catch the Wizards’ attention. They’re getting out from under the final two seasons of Porter’s deal and saving another $3.6 million this year. Brokering this trade leaves them roughly one Sam Dekker dump away from evading the luxury tax, and both Collison and Evans are playable enough to preserve their postseason hopes.
Taking on Porter’s money isn’t without risk for the Pacers. He squeezes them out of the max-contract discussion in free agency. But marquee names haven’t historically flocked to Indiana, and they can still hover around $17 to $20 million with him on the docket.
Besides, Bojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young may both be playing their way into the Pacers’ big-picture plans anyway. Floating their free-agent holds in July will cost cap space, so a trade for Porter could wind up dwarfing any new additions Indy might otherwise make over the summer.
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Chicago Bulls Receive: MarShon Brooks, Emmanuel Mudiay, Chandler Parsons, 2020 second-round pick (from Charlotte, via New York), 2021 first-round pick (lottery protection, via Memphis)
New York Knicks Receive: Jabari Parker, Cameron Payne
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: Tim Hardaway Jr., Justin Holiday
Sources told ESPN.com’s Ian Begley that New York is among the teams showing “preliminary interest” in acquiring Jabari Parker, whom Chicago has completely removed from the rotation. That interest, though, figures to be conditional.
The Knicks need to trim money off next season’s bottom line to enter the Kevin Durant discussion. Parker has a team option for 2019-20 and is only valuable to them if he’s coming in as part of a deal for Tim Hardaway Jr. (2020-21 player option) or Courtney Lee (signed through 2019-20).
Chicago ranks among the league’s most attractive salary-dumping grounds, but New York doesn’t have the timeline to surrender a future first-rounder. Finding a third team that might treat Hardaway or Lee as a quasi-asset makes the logistics easier. It also doesn’t leave the Knicks or Bulls many options. That brings us to Memphis.
Paying the balance on Hardaway’s deal (two years, $37.1 million) shouldn’t be a complete turnoff for the Grizzlies. Their offense ranks 26th in points scored per 100 possessions and could use the extra juice. Hardaway isn’t the most efficient scorer, but he’s hitting 40.0 percent of his pull-up triples. He will get shots up off the dribble and fits within Memphis’ window if the team intends to keep Mike Conley (signed through 2020-21) and Marc Gasol (2019-20 player option) in town.
Bringing back Justin Holiday and ditching Chandler Parsons should help the Grizzlies part with that protected first-rounder. Holiday’s efficiency has started to dip, but he’s a solid complementary weapon who can hold his own against most backcourt assignments on defense. Parsons is cleared to play, but Memphis has no plans to use him, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
Getting two future picks and a flier on Mudiay should be enough for the Bulls to bite this bullet. Parsons comes off the books after next season, and they aren’t going to compete for anything special before then. And as for the Knicks, jettisoning Hardaway arms them with Kevin Durant money in free agency—plus a whole lot more.