The NBA trade deadline is only a couple of days away. There already has been plenty of movement and traction last week in regards to an inevitable Anthony Davis trade and Kristaps Porzingis departure for Dallas. Some teams are looking to clear cap space while others are looking for that missing piece that could propel their luck post-All-Star break. Regardless, this might turn out to be one of the more critical trade deadlines in recent NBA history with plenty of teams looking to positional themselves in the best possible situation. With that in consideration, let's jump into players who might be on the move within the next 48 hours.
Jimmy Butler: Could he be out of Philly already?
He just got traded to the 76ers who incidentally had to part ways with two key rotation players. But Jimmy Butler does come with baggage. While he has never had a season-ending injury, only twice has he played 75 games or more. Butler always has a nagging injury that forces him to miss time. He has spent most of his career under Tom Thibedau, who is synonymous for running his starting players into the ground. Butler does not have a smooth game nor is he excellent in any one thing. Already an old 29-year-old, his injury history along with his heavy minute's load under Thibs is a cause for concern for Elton Brand and Brett Brown.
All of the above before you consider the locker-room issues he has caused in Chicago, Minnesota, and now in Philly. Brett Brown and starting shooting guard for the 76ers JJ Reddick (on his podcast) have both downplayed the events of the latest scuffle as nothing but ordinary behaviour.It cannot be denied that Butler is not the easiest player to handle in a locker-room. He's wanted a more significant role in the Sixers where he allowed to play iso-ball and run a pick-and-roll offense as the lead ball handler. In fairness to Philly, ever since that meeting and the subsequent reporting of it, Butler has gotten most of his demands.
It is ridiculously unlikely that he gets traded within the next two days. While not an MVP-calibre player, Butler is indeed much better than your average All-Star. His iso-scoring ability gives the Sixers a lead option that they lacked last season. Simmons still has not developed a jump shot, and Joel Embiid 's ability to break past defenders off the dribble is somewhat limited in clutch situations.
The only reason he gets traded is if Elton Brand and the Sixers are confident that he will not resign with them with the Nets and Clippers in the hunt for him. Butler's suitors are limited though. Miami was actively chasing to acquire Butler when he was on the Timberwolves and should he become available, will they be willing to offer the same package to the Sixers as they did to the Wolves?
Again, this is all speculation and dealing in the hypothetical realm. Given the fact that Butler will be a free agent this summer, it is unlikely that any team will part with any of their remaining assets for a player that is unlikely to resign with them. This is still an interesting conversation to have. Even though the 76ers Big Three are starting to look better on the court, there are times when Butler looks wholly zoned out of the offense. There is the train of thought that he might leave this summer in search of finding a team where he can be 'The Man.'
Sure he could walk away with the 76ers having nothing to show on a trade where they parted with two of their prized assets. This could open up. This could potentially open up over $30 million in cap space which they could use to sign a marquee free agent. The Sixers had cap-space to sign out a max-level start last summer. They could not get a meeting with Paul George, and they didn't really have a meeting with LeBron James. Signing a superstar is a lot easier said than done.
That is part of the reason why they traded for Butler in the first place. Their failures over the summer taught them they may not have as much sway over free agents as they thought they had.
Is it time to officially call it quits for the Grit and Grind era?
Mike Conley and Marc Gasol were the physical embodiment of the philosophy the Grizzlies have played with for the past decade. Both aged and well beyond the best stages of their career, they both should have been moved at least a season ago if not earlier. With that in mind, their biggest concern should be the fact that if they trade both players immediately, they run the risk of being unsustainably bad for years to come. Part of that is because of the first-round pick they owe the Celtics. Top-8 protected for this upcoming draft, top-6 protected for next years selection and unprotected in 2021.
That, and that the Grizzlies cannot afford to be bad for multiple seasons. Aside for two good seasons with prime Carmelo, the Knicks have been terrible for the past two decades. The 76ers intentionally tanked for consecutive seasons, and the Lakers had the worst record for five seasons ending last year. Despite, all this losing, their franchises have never been more prosperous from a financial perspective. A small market team like the Memphis could risk losing their franchise to another city should they endure consecutive terrible seasons.
Gasol might be the easier of the two to trade, should he not pick up his player option for next season (worth $25.6 million). The Pistons have reportedly shown interest in him and would likely send back Andre Drummond. Conley's fit beside Jaren Jackson Jr., whom Memphis drafted 4th overall in this past draft, would prevent the ship from floating while they surround they two with young talent. Hopefully, by 2021, the Grizzlies would be good enough to ensure that their unprotected draft pick owed to the Celtics is not worth much. Conley would be in the last year of his massive deal and Jackson Jr. - along with the players they build around him - would be developed enough to guide the Grizzlies into a new era of basketball.
Time to break-up the Trailblazers' backcourt?
Simply put, the Blazers should consider finding a new home for one of their two starting guards. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are one of the league's most formidable yet underrated backcourts. Yet, for three straight we have seen that they are evidently limited in the postseason having ten straight playoff games. Their upside is clearly limited despite their consistency and excellence in the regular season.
But what kind of trade packages are out there? Lillard is clearly the better of the two, and only a GodFather offer would make the Blazers even consider parting ways with their All-NBA caliber point guard. CJ, on the other hand, has stagnated since his explosion during the 15-16 season that earned him the M.I.P of the Year Award. How valuable is McCollum to other teams in the NBA? CJ is already in his age 27 season despite this being his fifth season as a pro-basketball player. Also, he's owed $60 million after this season and is expecting another max-contract at which time he'll be knocking on the door of age 30. So how much are other teams willing to give up for a combo-guard who might have already hit his ceiling?
Anthony Davis Updates
So much for patience. This was supposed to be the season were the Lakers assessed all the moving parts around LeBron before evaluating them ahead of this summer. Davis was expected to give it another go with the Pelicans this season before evaluating his options. According to FiveThirtyEight, the Pelicans only have a 14% chance of making the postseason and currently, stand as the 13th seed in the West. Parting ways with Davis right now would increases their chances of getting a Top-5 pick would should help them rebuild. The Pelicans are still holding out with a flurry of Woj tweets indicating that they are engaged in talks with the Lakers. Despite establishing official negotiations with the Lakers, Dell Demps is waiting on the Lakers to offer 4 first-round picks along with a player package for Anthony Davis. With time running out, Magic Johnson has to move fast.