This weekend begins the real NBA season. On Sunday, all players who were signed or acquired in the offseason are now eligible to be traded, which means it is the unofficial opening of the NBA Trade Season.
Yes, it’s time to warm up the Trade Machine!
Let’s start the conversation with the players who you can expect will be involved in most of the rumors.
Andre Iguodala — After the Warriors shipped him off to Memphis in a salary dump, Iggy did not report to the Grizzlies and they were fine with it. He hoped for a buyout but Memphis wasn’t giving him money to go away for nothing. They already got a protected first round pick from Golden State to take on his contract and now they’ll be looking to get another one from the team that wants the versatile veteran/defender/champion bad enough. He prefers one of the LA teams, so expect the Lakers to try to do whatever it takes to keep him from going to the Clippers. Imagine adding a third player who can defend LeBron in a playoff series.
Kevin Love — This might be the year those trade rumors that have hung over his head from the day he arrived in Cleveland finally come to fruition. Word is he prefers to go back to the Western Conference with the Trail Blazers as a reported preferred destination. The rebuilding Cavs want salary cap relief, picks and youth.
Bogdan Bogdanovic — He’s unhappy with a 6th Man role and is headed for restricted free agency knowing the Kings aren’t about to offer him big money like they just did Buddy Hield. Not with De’Arron Fox getting closer to his payday, too. The Kings know Bogdanovic has value, but whoever trades for him has to be concerned about paying him this summer.
Marcus Morris Sr. — Despite the Knicks record, Morris has played exceptionally well and has been lights-out as a three-point shooter(48.9%, third best in the NBA). His toughness, shooting and playoff experience make him a valuable piece to any contender. The fact that he’s also on a one-year deal makes it very easy to acquire him, but at what cost? The Knicks would have to hope as the trade deadline draws near some teams may be willing to part with a first round pick. But Morris recently said he doesn’t want to be traded and prefers to be part of the solution in New York.
Danillo Gallinari – The former Knicks lottery pick is on his fourth team and could be heading to his fifth before the deadline. His contract expires after this season and the rebuilding Thunder have to expect he’ll be looking to go elsewhere as a free agent. Gallo is 31 and has been through some injuries but is still a very good perimeter shooter.
Thad Young — When he signed a three-year, $41 million deal with the Bulls this summer, it seemed like Chicago wanted to add some veteran stability at the wing. But he hardly plays and isn’t happy about it. The contract isn’t terrible — $13.5 million next season and the third year is only partially guaranteed for $6 million — and Young, at 31, can help give a contender depth and experience. But the Bulls can’t expect to get much in return.
D’Angelo Russell — Just what do the Warriors plan to do with him? While this season, with the injuries to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, he’s a guard who can score so his presence is needed. But when those two are back and at full health next season, how does Russell, in the midst of a $117 million contract, fit? He has serious value right now, so Golden State may want to get out from the contract while collecting an asset or two along the way to help kickstart next year’s revival.
This is the youngest (average age of 26.1) the NBA has been since the early 1980s. But something worth looking at as the league gets closer to the end of the one-and-done era is how there are more and more examples of how players who spend more time in college arrive at the NBA more physically and mentally ready for the life, more ready for the challenge and, best of all, more ready to play. And if you’re a team in the lottery, you tend to need more of those than you do a teenager that, for the most part, buys you time.
Sure, there’s always the hope to land a LeBron James or, in the case this season, Ja Morant, but for every immediate-impact prospect there are a handful of overwhelmed kids just trying to survive their first tour around the league.
Is there reason to rethink the value of the age-out prospect?
Consider this season’s runaway Most Improved Player candidate, Devonte’ Graham of the Charlotte Hornets. In his second season, he’s leading the Hornets in scoring at 20 points per game and is shooting 43% from three-point range. He’s drilled game-winning daggers against the Knicks and Nets already this season.
At 24, he might be considered a vet on most rebuilding teams. But Graham is only emerging now as an NBA talent after spending half of last season in the G-League. Before that, he played four seasons of college basketball and finished at Kansas as the Big 12 Player of the Year. You’d think that would be a strong enough resume to be a lottery pick, but, instead, he went in the second round.
What a steal.
Similar to Graham’s story is Kendrick Nunn. He played four years of college, was also his conference Player of the Year and yet in 2018 went undrafted and spent a year in the G-League. He’s a rookie now with the Miami Heat and, at 24, is making everyone remember his name.
Malcolm Brogdon is now with the Pacers but he won Rookie of the Year after the Bucks took him in the second round of the 2016 NBA Draft. Brogdon entered the draft after a four year career at Virginia that ended with him named ACC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. Amazing.
Fred VanVleet is right now the ultimate story. He was part of an upstart group at Wichita State that routinely advanced in the NCAA Tournament by knocking off major programs. When he finished as a senior, he, too was named conference Player of the Year. But he went undrafted. The Raptors signed him and he spent most of his time with their G-League team. By the end of that season, he was a big part of a G League championship. Two years later, he played a big role in the Raptors first NBA title.
This year’s draft had several seniors drafted, with guys like Eric Paschall (Golden State, 41st overall) and Cam Johnson (Suns, 11th overall) making an immediate impact.
We already know about Draymond Green, a second round pick who aged-out in college at Michigan State. Jimmy Butler was a 30th overall pick. Buddy Hield opted to stay in college for his senior year and became a 6th overall pick in 2016 and is now enjoying a $99 million contract extension in Sacramento.
Oh and how about the confidence the Blazers showed back in 2012 and ‘13 when they twice picked aged-out players in consecutive drafts, and dared to do it in the top 10, which has historically been the place to snatch up one-and-dones with the promise that they may grow into superstars. But in Portland, they took a couple of old heads named Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
Take a moment to say a prayer or send good thoughts to former NBA commissioner David Stern, who on Thursday was hospitalized after suffering a brain hemorrhage. The league put out an official statement Thursday evening to confirm reports that Stern had a medical issue and also revealed that Stern underwent “emergency surgery.”
The following statement has been issued by the NBA pic.twitter.com/XgGB65ZFTg
— NBA (@NBA) December 13, 2019
According to several reports, Stern was in midtown Manhattan at a restaurant when he collapsed. After EMTs arrived on the scene, he was transported to Mount Sinai West medical center, ESPN reported.
Stern is 77, and yet even after he retired in 2014, he has maintained a very public life. I covered him as a reporter through the 2011 lockout and often found his pugnacity entertaining. Stern was quick to debate and spoke with classic lawyer-speak that made a simple “Go to hell” sound like an invitation to dinner. Part of his success was his understanding of the role and importance of the media, but not to a point of catering to reporters. He would include you in the conversation and then scold you for being there.
He also upon retirement sent personal letters to many members of the media who covered his league.
Stern’s legacy has been solidified as one of the greatest — if not the greatest — commissioners in the history of professional sports. The New Jersey native and Rutgers graduate began his relationship with the NBA in 1966 and by 1984 he was named commissioner. That same year saw the arrival of Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Hakeem Olajuwon to join the league’s saviors, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
And, yes, many believe the Knicks landed Patrick Ewing — speaking of saviors — thanks to a frozen envelope planted by Stern, who, as the legend goes, believed the league needed the New York market to have a star and a strong team.
Here’s to hoping he’s outside the hospital soon enough, to update us on his condition and then grumble at reporters for getting him out of bed to do it. Get well soon, DJS.