NBA Trade Talk: Central Division
The NBA Trade Deadline is almost upon us - 3:00 PM on Thursday - and there will certainly be a large number of rumors floating through the league grapevine. NBA fans all want their team to make a blockbuster trade where they get a stud while giving away nothing, with the money part all magically working out. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work that way.
Here at numberFire, we are breaking down each division to see the trade situations of each team. What exactly does each team need? Can they realistically make that happen? What's the market for their players? Read on and find out.
Current Playoff Odds: 100.0%
Current Championship Odds: 26.1%
2014 Draft Picks: Second-round pick, (First-round pick to Phoenix)
Cap Situation (Cap this season is $58.679 million): $71.404 million this year, $65.709 million on books for next year
Positions/Areas of Need: Bench scorers
Thoughts: The Pacers have, by a wide margin, the best chance of winning the NBA Finals this year according to our power rankings. Tinkering with that type of potential is rarely a good thing, but the Pacers do have one way to improve not only for this year but for the years to come. Granger's expiring contract could really help a team seeking to make a move in the upcoming free agency period. Swapping his contract for a bench scorer (at any position, really) could give the Pacers an even bigger boost in their run to the title. It's a good problem to have, though, because the Pacers' roster is, from top-to-bottom, probably the best in the NBA.
The biggest concern for the Pacers in terms of salary is Stephenson's expiring contract. He's on a tear this season, and many thought he should have been an All-Star. However, he's still a volatile talent, and giving him an oversized contract could go to his head. I don't like to be speculative or hypercritical of players, but I think everyone who follows the league knows that this is a touchy situation for a player like Stephenson. It's unlikely that he'll leave. He's insisted he'll stay in Indiana, but finding a middle-ground during contract negotiations will be crucial. Larry Bird, the best in the NBA, should be able to handle that and leave the Pacers core intact.
Paul George's monster contract kicks in next year, and he'll earn $15.8 million. Roy Hibbert will get $14.9 million, and David West will receive $12.0 million. If you throw in George Hill's $8.0 million, that adds up to $50.7 million before considering what Stephenson's new contract will add. The Pacers have been successful in finding affordable bench pieces, so there's no need for panic quite yet, but swapping Granger for some small contracts might be necessary since Stephenson has played himself into a monster contract.
Current Playoff Odds: 97.9%
Current Championship Odds: 1.0%
Expiring Contracts: Andrew Bynum, $6 million; Kirk Hinrich, $4.1 million; Nazr Mohammed, $1.4 million; Richard Hamilton, $1.0 million; Tornike Shengelia, $789,000; DJ Augustin, $592,000; Erik Murphy, $490,000; Mike James, $82,000; Cartier Martin, $121,000
2014 Draft Picks: First-round pick, First-round pick from Bobcats (top-10 protected in 2014), First-round pick from Kings (top-12 protected in 2014), Second-round pick
Cap Situation (Cap this season is $58.679 million): $73.102 million this year, $63.404 million on books for next year
Positions/Areas of Need: SG, getting rid of Boozer's contract
Thoughts: Derrick Rose just cannot stay healthy, and that's as bad for the league as it is for the Bulls. Rose's impact has not been sufficiently replaced by the aging Hinrich and offensive-minded Augustin. Hinrich averages 8.3 points, 4.5 assists, and 2.7 rebounds, and 1.1 steals a game. Augustin averages 10.9 points, 4.5 assists, 1.6 rebounds, and 0.9 steals. Augustin would be the better backup going forward because of his ability to score and his relative youth, but neither can carry the Bulls through the playoffs if Rose can't stay healthy.
The departure of Luol Deng to the Cavaliers freed up cap space for the Bulls, but the franchise is still locked in for over $63 million next season. Shedding Carlos Boozer's contract ($16.8 million next season) won't be easy, but it has to be the top priority for the Bulls. Boozer has been relatively consistent this season, averaging 14.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.6 assists, but his nERD of -3.7 at that monstrous contract is unacceptable.
The Bulls need to take advantage of having Jimmy Butler at a discount: $2.1 million next season. Their payroll next year will be top-heavy for sure, featuring Rose ($18.8 million), Boozer ($16.8 million), and Joakim Noah ($13.2 million). As it is now, plus a healthy Rose, would make the Bulls a title contender or close to it, so deciding how to bend but not break the roster will be intriguing to say the least.
As it stands, the Bulls have two first round picks just outside the lottery (picks 15 and 19). If the Bobcats stay outside the 10th pick, the Bulls will have two impressive bargaining chips. If they cannot use these to move Boozer, then amnestying Boozer's final year of his contract might be the only option for the Bulls. Keeping both first round picks and amnestying Boozer would leave the Bulls with approximately $49.321 million on the books for next year (including the salary for those two picks) as opposed to $63.404 million.
Current Playoff Odds: 35.9%
Current Championship Odds: 0.0%
2014 Draft Picks: Second-round pick
Cap Situation (Cap this season is $58.679 million): $62.387 million this year, $41.730 million on books for next year
Positions/Areas of Need: SG, backup C
Thoughts: Andre Drummond is the key to Detroit's future, and building a team that fits around him should begin immediately. Drummond's nERD (9.6) is the best on the team, while Monroe is a distant second (0.8).
Heading into this season, The Pistons were one of the unique teams in the league with a rare combination of ability, youth, and veterans. Say what you want about Josh Smith, but he has had relative playoff success while being one of the top-three options on his team during his stead in Atlanta. The Pistons also re-signed NBA champion Chauncey Billups before the season. Adding these vets to the upstarts like Drummond, Monroe, Brandon Jennings seemed like a recipe for homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but the Pistons find themselves half a game out of the eighth seed coming out of the All-Star break.
Detroit, though, will finally rid itself of one of the worst contracts in the league: Villanueva's. Villanueva averages under nine minutes per game and has been effectively eating up cap space for five years while starting only 27 games in that span. With only $41.730 million on the books next season, the Pistons might be content waiting to make another impact during free agency.
However, if Detroit wants to make a push for a playoff run, moves must be made now. The most likely scenario is exchanging Monroe for a viable shooting guard. Along with Drummond and Smith, the Pistons have a more-than-capable frontcourt pairing, but Stuckey's production at the two has been moderate at best: 14.0 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and a nERD of -1.1. Monroe is a very capable big, and Detroit likely won't be content losing him for nothing. Averaging 31.8 minutes per game, Monroe is collecting 14.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.1 assists. Keeping him around will create an expensive frontcourt trio, but it's evident that the Pistons need to balance the frontcourt with the backcourt.
Kyle Singler has been providing steady production (8.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 0.6 assists) and has been drawing starts for Detroit, making Monroe expendable if Smith plays the four. It's looking like Detroit is a year away from reaching the next level, but the right move before the deadline could put them there sooner rather than later.
Current Playoff Odds: 4.3%
Current Championship Odds: 0.0%
Expiring Contracts: Luol Deng, $14.3 million; Anderson Varejao, $9.1 million; Earl Clark, $4.3 million; Alonzo Gee, $3.3 million; CJ Miles, $2.2 million, Henry Sims, $789,000; Matthew Dellavedova, $490,000; Carrick Felix, $490,000
2014 Draft Picks: First-round pick, Second-round pick, Second-round pick rom Grizzlies, Second-round pick from Magic
Cap Situation (Cap this season is $58.679 million): $63.728 million this year, $32.045 million on books for next year
Positions/Areas of Need: Bench depth, post scorer, veteran leader
Thoughts: The Cavaliers are in a tough situation. All signs currently point to their having missed on three of their last four top-four draft picks: Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and Anthony Bennett. (However, the jury is still out on Bennett, Thompson averages a near double-double from attrition, and Waiters has been able to score but at an extremely inefficient clip.) If you include other first rounders, the Cavs have also received no production from Sergey Karasev, a Russian sharpshooter drafted 19th overall in 2013.
They just traded for Deng, who already wants to rid himself from Cleveland, and find themselves stuck in the NBA's cellar yet again.
All indications suggest that Jarrett Jack's stint in Cleveland will be short-lived, and the Nets are pursuing the veteran combo guard. The Cavs are showing interest in shooting guard Marcus Thornton from the Kings as well as point guard Pierre Jackson, a D-League player whose rights belong to the New Orleans Pelicans.
Varejao can be kept around for $9.8 million next season. Although he's posting 8.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists, Wild Thing is still struggling with injuries and may not be worth the risk for such a middling team. His name has been thrown about in trade rumors for the past few seasons, and it's unlikely he'll go anywhere, but he's best suited for a title contender.
It's evident that the Cavaliers want to make a move, but it's still unclear whether or not they'll be trying to improve their team for the short term or the long term. Unfortunately it seems as though they are not sure themselves. With only $32.045 million of the cap guaranteed for next year, the Cavs have plenty of room to haul in free agents, but the struggle of bringing players into Cleveland may have gotten even harder after the volatile 2013-14 Cavs' campaign.
And I won't even mention what you're thinking.
Current Playoff Odds: 0.0%
Current Championship Odds: 0.0%
2014 Draft Picks: First-round pick, Second-round pick, Least favorable second-round pick from Raptors (top-36 protected) or Sacramento's second round pick, Second-round pick from Lakers
Cap Situation (Cap this season is $58.679 million): $55.858 million this year, $46.210 million on books for next year
Positions/Areas of Need: Backup PG, SF, Frontcourt depth
Thoughts: The Bucks are the worst team in basketball, and problems exist at every level of the franchise. Larry Drew won't adhere to a specific rotation, and even if he did, the Bucks are not staying healthy enough to keep that rotation going. They own some of the worst contracts in the NBA, and getting rid of them won't be easy.
Point guard Brandon Knight continues to struggle with offensive efficiency, earning himself a nERD of -5.8. Wolters, the backup PG, provided steady production while Knight missed time with injury this year, and re-signing him should be manageable. Ridnour's expiring deal might be on the move, too, and that would make the PG pairing in Milwaukee one of the few bright spots in the whole franchise.
OJ Mayo has been a bit of a hindrance for the Bucks while earning himself $8.0 million to provide 12.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game. Gary Neal, not too far removed from NBA Finals renown, earns $3.25 million to chip in 10.2 points per game and essentially nothing else. Thankfully, one of the most promising youngsters in the game, Giannis Antetokounmpo is emerging as a clear candidate to be one of the best shooting guards in the Eastern Conference for the next decade. He's only averaging 6.9 points and 4.5 rebounds a game, but this recent move to shooting guard has helped his development. The 19-year-old's potential is off the charts.
The frontcourt is loaded with egregious contracts: Butler ($8.0 million), Ersan Ilyasova ($7.9 million), Zaza Pachulia ($5.2 million), Udoh ($4.7 million), and Larry Sanders ($11.0 million next season). (You can read more about the Larry Sanders Show here.) Milwaukee can bring back Middleton, a wing scorer, for $915,000 next season and has breakout sophomore John Henson under contract for $2.0 million next season.
The Bucks are in for another losing season next year if the players they pay can't produce or be on the court. They're, at times, an exciting bunch with some potential star-caliber performers (Antetokounmpo, Henson, and occasionally Knight and Sanders), but sometimes NBA franchises are destined for the dregs for a few years. And it seems that's the fate for the Bucks regardless of any moves they make at this trade deadline.