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Houston, we have a blockbuster trade—and it just so happens to involve Houston, along with a slew of other squads.
The Rockets, Atlanta Hawks, Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves have agreed upon a four-team blockbuster, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Tuesday. The headliners of this deal include Clint Capela, who’s heading to Atlanta, and Robert Covington, who’s going to Houston.
Here are the available details so far:
- Atlanta Receives: Clint Capela, Nene
- Denver Receives: Keita Bates-Diop, Gerald Green, Shabazz Napier, Noah Vonleh, Houston’s 2020 first-round pick
- Houston Receives: Jordan Bell, Robert Covington, Golden State’s 2024 second-round pick (via Atlanta)
- Minnesota Receives: Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez, Evan Turner, Jarred Vanderbilt, Brooklyn’s 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected; via Atlanta)
Anyone else feel drunk?
This brain-bender yanks two of the most coveted players off the market in Capela and Covington. But don’t you worry. The league has plenty more dominoes that can and will still fall in advance of Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline.
After parsing the piping-hot rumor mill, we’ve come up with some ideas for you to consider and love or loathe accordingly.
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Los Angeles Clippers Receive: Andre Iguodala
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: Moe Harkless, Jerome Robinson, Detroit’s 2021 second-round pick
Andre Iguodala is painting the Grizzlies into a corner.
He is reportedly “prepared to sit out the rest of this season if Memphis isn’t able to orchestrate a trade with one of the agreed-upon teams he designated by Thursday’s trade deadline,” according to The Athletic’s David Aldridge. That effectively limits prospective trade partners to the Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and, as Shams Charania noted for Stadium, Miami Heat.
Pettier franchises would hold onto Iguodala and then waive him after the March 1 deadline for playoff eligibility passes. Memphis could also just send him to a place he hasn’t approved. Even his preferred list of suitors must acquire him under the guise that he’s likely bolting for the Golden State Warriors this summer. Certain teams should be willing to gamble on him changing his tune or as a means of jettisoning unwanted salary.
Memphis should still aim to get something—heck, anything—for Iguodala. It doesn’t need to be a first-round pick. A second-rounder and/or a player who will actually suit up for the Grizzlies can go a long way. They’re contending for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot without Iguodala. Just think about how much their postseason chances would improve with another rotation piece.
The Clippers can check just about every box. Harkless beefs up Memphis’ frontcourt defense and is an extra playable body, if nothing else. Jerome Robinson was a late-lottery pick in 2018 and is minimalist insurance against Dillon Brooks or De’Anthony Melton (unlikely) becoming too expensive in restricted free agency. That Detroit Pistons 2021 second-rounder could be a fringe first if they lean into a rebuild.
This deal can be expanded to include Jae Crowder if the Grizzlies are dead set on the first. Sending him out while taking back Rodney McGruder and another smaller salary (Patrick Patterson?) should get Memphis the Clippers’ 2020 pick.
That permutation wouldn’t be without hassle for either side. The Grizzlies need to open two roster spots and lose a critical contributor to their surprising playoff push. The Clippers get two players who help them now but burn their best assets without bolstering the center rotation.
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Milwaukee Bucks Receive: Marcus Morris
New York Knicks Receive: Sterling Brown, Ersan Ilyasova, D.J. Wilson, Indiana’s 2020 first-round pick (lottery protection), Indiana’s 2021 second-round pick
Marcus Morris is officially available now that the Knicks have, essentially, reassigned team president Steve Mills, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. That he wasn’t considered gettable beforehand speaks to why Mills is out (as do a bunch of other smack-you-in-the-face factors).
Alternative landing spots are going to be more popular for Morris. Buyers like the Los Angeles Clippers and Miami Heat can put together packages that don’t entail the Knicks needing to create two roster spots. But New York has the expendable bodies to waive and digestible salaries to workshop separate deals that open up slots. This is not one of those ill-thought three-for-ones with zero legs on which to stand.
Picking up the Indiana Pacers’ first-round pick this year and second-round selection in 2021 is worth the Knicks’ trouble. Getting a look at Sterling Brown (a restricted free agent this summer) and D.J. Wilson also isn’t nothing if they’re committed to a more gradual rebuild. The latter’s $4.5 million salary for next year might give them pause, but that’s where the extra second-rounder comes in: as a sweetener for the 2020 cap space this costs them.
Ersan Ilyasova’s inclusion is mostly immaterial. His salary for 2020-21 is non-guaranteed; he becomes a buyout candidate almost every contender around league would be watching.
Milwaukee is going out on a limb here. That’s fine. The time to win a championship is now, and staying on a 70-victory pace cannot deter action. Acquiring Morris shows Giannis Antetokounmpo how serious the team is about maximizing his prime.
The Bucks wind up juuust above the luxury-tax threshold with this trade, but that shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. While they clearly have no interest in paying the tax, they can move off another small salary to duck it.
Traveling that extra length is worth the player they’re getting. Morris is shooting almost 44 percent from three, has shown he can score off the dribble and can match up with bigger wings. Running out Antetokounmpo at center would be far scarier with both Morris and Khris Middleton on the floor. Milwaukee could feel better about smaller lineups in general with the former on the docket.
Some will call this a rental. It doesn’t have to be. The Bucks wouldn’t have Morris’ Bird rights, but they could still offer him up to 120 percent of his 2019-20 salary in free agency. That’s more than enough of an advantage when working off his current $15 million price point.
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Boston Celtics Receive: Luke Kennard, Markieff Morris
Detroit Pistons Receive: Romeo Langford, Vincent Poirier, Memphis’ 2020 first-round pick
It turns out Luke Kennard isn’t only available, but that a baseline price has been set, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski: The Phoenix Suns’ first-round pick.
The Celtics can match and exceed that framework. Whether they immediately want to is a different story. They’re mostly being linked to big men, and, well, Kennard isn’t a big man.
Let’s agree not to care. Boston is doing well with its hodgepodge of centers. Matching up against Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo in prospective playoff series would still be problematic, but it will always be problematic. The Celtics can get by on defense with Daniel Theis, Semi Ojeleye, Grant Williams, a little bit of Robert Williams III and some mismatch-heavy small-ball lineups.
Markieff Morris fits into the latter combinations. He’s dealing with a hip injury, but he’s shooting 39.3 percent from downtown and capable of defending certain bigs. Boston can monitor the buyout market for more girth if needed.
Figuring out Kennard’s value to the Celtics specifically is tough. He hasn’t played since Dec. 21 while dealing with knee tendinitis and doesn’t jibe with the lengthy-wing motif Boston has going on the perimeter.
Maybe that’s a reason for the Celtics to dangle their own first-rounder instead of the Memphis Grizzlies’ pick. It isn’t cause to completely reject this idea. Kennard adds optionality to an offense in need of exactly that off the bench. Boston ranks fourth in points scored per 100 possessions but is just 14th in three-point accuracy and doesn’t have many dependable ball-handlers beyond of its starting five. Kennard is a deadeye shooter who can make plays out of the pick-and-roll.
Footing the bill for Kennard’s next contract—he’s extension-eligible this summer—may scare the Celtics. Jayson Tatum’s second deal will also take effect in 2021-22. Paying both in addition to Jaylen Brown might seem redundant. But Gordon Hayward will be off the books by then. Boston wouldn’t be locked into the NBA‘s most expensive core.
Detroit shouldn’t need much convincing to push this deal through if it’s already shopping Kennard. Romeo Langford is a lottery prospect with shot-creation upside, and that Grizzlies pick will most likely land within the top 18.
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Trade No. 1
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Andre Roberson
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: Quinn Cook, DeMarcus Cousins
Kudos to The Athletic’s John Hollinger for inspiring the stepladder element of this scenario. The gist of this thinking: The Lakers can improve their potential trade-deadline return by first flipping for a more expensive player and then using him as part of a non-simultaneous multi-deal scenario that nets them more talent.
First comes the stepladder part of this concoction.
Oklahoma City’s participation in this hypothetical should be a cinch. Neither Quinn Cook nor DeMarcus Cousins, who’s still recovering from a torn left ACL, readily fits within the team dynamic. That’s not why the Thunder would do this. Their motivation is purely financial.
They shave more than $4.2 million from their bottom line, which comfortably pulls them beneath the luxury-tax threshold. Opening up a roster spot to complete the trade would be a slight nuisance but worth the overall savings, particularly when it doesn’t come at the expense of compromising their postseason-bound core.
Then—for the Lakers, at least—comes the next part of the connected scenario.
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Trade No. 2
Detroit Pistons Receive: Andre Roberson, 2023 second-rounder, 2024 second-rounder
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Markieff Morris, Tony Snell
Trade No. 3
Detroit Pistons Receive: Troy Daniels, Talen Horton-Tucker, Kyle Kuzma
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Derrick Rose
Timing is everything for this idea. All three trades must be completed separately and in this specific order.
Working through motivations for the Pistons and Lakers demands we look at the sum of their returns:
- Pistons Receive: Troy Daniels, Talen Horton-Tucker, Kyle Kuzma, Andre Roberson, 2023 second-rounder, 2024 second-rounder
- Lakers Receive: Markieff Morris, Tony Snell, Derrick Rose
Kuzma enthusiasts aren’t going to love this setup. The Lakers have made him available—they’ve held exploratory talks with the New York Knicks, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania—but they’re emptying their asset clip for what amounts to three reserves.
That’s hardly the end of the world, especially when Morris (player option), Rose and Snell (player option) could all stick around into next season. Equally important: They each serve a purpose.
Snell gives the Lakers another three-and-D wing. He doesn’t match up extremely well against bigger assignments, but he has positional range. The Pistons have also dropped him into a tertiary playmaking role over the past few weeks, and he’s looked pretty good.
Rose does nothing for the Lakers’ mercurial floor spacing, but he’s a noticeable upgrade over the Rajon Rondo minutes. Their offensive rating has plummeted whenever he and Anthony Davis play without LeBron James. Rose will brighten up those reps by putting extra pressure on half-court defenses and with his knack for finding shooters in the corners.
Morris is kind of a throw-in, but not really. He’s downing more than 39 percent of his threes, and the Lakers will need someone to stick on bigger forwards with Kuzma headed to Detroit.
The Pistons could feel short-changed depending on their long-term plans. This return jibes with a rebuilding timeline; those distant Lakers second-rounders get more interesting as LeBron ages. A more accelerated arc won’t look as fondly upon this package.
Detroit initially wanted a first-round pick for Rose’s services, according to The Athletic’s James L. Edwards III. Whether the Lakers are even beginning to meet that threshold rests on the organization’s view of Kuzma. He is overrated as a complementary scorer but can do damage with the ball in his hands. His defense has been passable since the middle of last season.
Taking on Horton-Tucker equates to another late draft pick. Three seconds, Kuzma and a ton of breathing room under the luxury tax should whet the Pistons’ whistle if they consider Morris, Rose and Snell placeholders. The optics on this deal fall apart if they want them to run it back alongside Blake Griffin next year.