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Post-trade-deadline blues got ya down?
We’ve got you covered! The offseason is one of the best times for linking up with your best front office pal and going on a summertime shopping spree.
For those with minimal financial flexibility, offseason trades can be the best means of acquiring talent and filling out rosters. For every deal including superstars like Anthony Davis, Kemba Walker, Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Mike Conley, there were those that provided incremental improvements including the likes of Jerami Grant, Derrick Favors and Davis Bertans.
In some instances, a team can seek to add an asset for a player far too expensive to retain or extend.
Regardless of the circumstance, here are 10 players who are unlikely to suit up for their respective teams in 2020-21.
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We know all about Bradley Beal’s loyalty to Washington, D.C. Despite all of the Wizards’ misfortune, the two-time All-Star continually reinforces his dedication to the capital city.
“I respect the fact that they drafted me, that’s first and foremost,” Beal told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports on Posted Up on Jan. 23. “Just being in one spot for your whole career, having your jersey in the rafter one day, being that important to an organization, those were all things that drew me.”
The Wizards have put that dedication to the test.
After having advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals in three of Beal’s first six seasons, Washington has gone 50-83 in its last two campaigns.
The recent string of misfortune has come at the hands of poor personnel decisions and bad luck in the form of John Wall‘s Achilles injury. Regardless, Beal is a loser again and headed toward the lottery.
“I don’t like losing. I’m sorry,” Beal told reporters after losing to the Bulls on January 15. “Especially winnable games. … I don’t like losing, so [my frustration is] gonna keep building up for me until we starting winning and changing our culture.”
New general manager Tommy Sheppard could have provided help with a trade deadline acquisition but largely stood pat. He likely could have dealt floor-spacing big man Davis Bertans for a sum but instead might lose him this summer for nothing.
So Beal will keep losing. Losing has come at a cost beyond just missing the playoffs, as the L’s appear a culprit in Beal being left out of the All-Star Game, much to his irritation.
Things won’t get easier in 2020-21. Even if Wall returns from his ruptured Achilles at 100 percent, his four-year, $171 million contract makes building a contender around the duo problematic. The Wizards already have over $99 million dedicated to an estimated $116 million cap next season.
While we appreciate the dedication, the NBA is a business. For Beal and the Wizards to thrive, a split is unavoidable. A team like the Denver Nuggets or Miami can hand out the pieces Washington needs to rebuild while giving Beal a platform for contention.
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With a low cap figure ($7.2 million) for next season and one of the league’s best three-point jumpers, Nemanja Bjelica has value.
With an increased workload, Bjelica has quietly put together the best season of his career in scoring, rebounding, assists and effective field-goal percentage with shooting splits of 48.8/45.0/85.7. The 6’10” Serbian is third in the NBA in three-point shooting and has improved his mid-range shot to the 81st percentile (UPDATE).
So, why would Sacramento move on from a net positive with a manageable deal?
Bjelica has just one more year (non-guaranteed) left on his deal, and the 31-year-old probably isn’t a part of the team’s long-terms plans. The Kings have just seven players guaranteed for 2020-21 and a lot of work to do in filling out the remaining positions. They also have a big decision to make on Bogdan Bogdanovic, who they opted not to trade at the deadline. With his restricted rights, they could still seek to deal him.
With $61.2 million already committed to Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield and Cory Joseph in addition to a possible summer extension to De’Aaron Fox, it may make sense to get a first for Bjelica before he becomes too expensive to retain next summer.
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The “Pterodactyl Project” has not worked in Orlando, and it’s time for a shake-up.
John Hammond and Jeff Weltman deserve much credit for drafting Jonathan Isaac and adding Markelle Fultz in last season’s deadline heist.
Outside of that, their roster construction assemblage of stretched out arms and legs remains downright befuddling. Sure, there’s some luck (or lack thereof) involved. The Magic could have added Trae Young had the draft unfolded the way many predicted it would have. Instead, they added Mo Bamba to a frontcourt crowded with Isaac, Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Khem Birch and now Al-Farouq Aminu. Soon, 2019 first-round pick Chuma Okeke will be added to the mix.
Instead, they find themselves eight games back of .500 with 28 left to play—and with plenty of questions to answer this summer.
Fournier has a player option this summer and should seek to get paid following his most productive and efficient season. With nearly $100 million guaranteed to the Magic’s 2020-21 payroll before factoring in his option or extension, the Magic will have to make a choice.
The choice will be Fournier.
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It’s put up or shut up time for this group.
The Process has led to this. Expectations are unmistakable after the Philadelphia 76ers backed up the Brink’s truck this summer to near half a billion dollars. Their front office made it rain nearly $460 million to lock up Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and free agent Al Horford.
At 33-21 and slated as a fifth seed, they’re off to a bumpy start. The 76ers trail the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors by 13.5 and seven games, respectively.
That’s not good enough.
The Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons marriage needs to make good on its hefty price tag. Next season, the 76ers have over $140 million in guaranteed salary, above the expected luxury-tax threshold of $139 million.
Moving off Embiid and embracing Simmons as the team’s captain is the best option should the 76ers fall short again this postseason. Moving off Harris and Horford will be problematic due to their contracts. Embiid is the only one who can net a positive return while relieving the team of its cap woes. The New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks have more than enough assets and space to trade for him.
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The Denver Nuggets traded the wrong shooting guard when they dealt Malik Beasley to the Minnesota Timberwolves. It can’t be understated how bad Gary Harris has been on the offensive end in 2019-20. A career 35.6 percent shooter from three, Harris has dropped to 29.4 percent on four attempts per game this season, making him the NBA’s fifth-worst shooter from distance. Open looks haven’t helped. Pull-ups don’t do the trick, either. The dude can’t shoot.
And we already know the Nuggets are looking to move the six-year vet. Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Mannix labeled Harris as “very available” before the Feb. 6 trade deadline.
Harris may still carry value or at least can retrieve talent when attached to a sweetener. After all, we’ve seen Andrew Wiggins and a protected first get back a 23-year-old All-Star! Harris is third in the NBA among guards in defensive real plus-minus in addition to having happy hands on that end, can pop from mid-range and has the size to defend multiple positions. We’ve seen him succeed on the offensive end, though it’s been a hot second. In 2016-17 and 2017-18, Harris placed in the 96th and 89th percentile in effective field-goal percentage. A team that can rediscover that touch could make out well in the transaction.
And Harris hasn’t peaked by any means. He has plenty of room to grow at just 25, and his contract (two years, $39.6 million after this season) is entirely movable.
If the Nuggets trade for a superstar such as Jrue Holiday or Bradley Beal, Harris is the likeliest candidate to move in the deal.
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The Pelicans don’t need Jrue Holiday.
How can a team be better without a one-time All-Star and two-time All-Defensive-teamer? I’m so glad you asked!
With Anthony Davis, Holiday (at his ceiling) was an elite complement and secondary creator. He was one of three players to average 21.0 points and 7.7 assists in 2018-19.
In 2019-20, Holiday continued his dynamic style of play, breaking down opposing defenses in half-court sets as the NBA’s second-most efficient isolation scorer (57.7 eFG).
The problem is that the Pelicans already have three blue-chip creators under 23 in Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. Zion has quickly emerged as the Pelicans’ alpha scorer and playmaker with a team-leading 29.3 usage rate. The other three have seen their production and usage dip in that time.
The Pelicans don’t need Holiday to manage the offense. They need an elite defender who can hit shots from the perimeter, and that’s not Holiday’s strength. Among those taking four or more three-point shots per game, Holiday ranks in the bottom 40 in the NBA (34.9 percent, 39th percentile).
To further complicate matters, Holiday becomes extension-eligible this summer, forcing executive vice president David Griffin to ask a difficult question.
Should the Pelicans lock up Jrue Holiday for the long term?
It’s in the best interests of both parties to move on. The Pelicans may already have their long-term answer in Josh Hart. Hart does all the little things that make a fit next to Ball, Ingram and Zion ideal. Hart is ninth among shooting guards in ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus, can defend positions 1-4 and has emerged as the team’s second-leading rebounder since Zion’s debut (7.9). In those eight games, he’s shooting 37.8 percent from three on 4.6 attempts, while Holiday has sunk to 26.7 percent from the perimeter.
Time to move on.
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According to SNY’s Ian Begley, Frank Ntilikina’s name surfaced in Knicks trade rumors involving then-Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell.
At 6’5″ Ntilikina has imposing size and versatility in the backcourt to go along with tenacious relentlessness on the defensive end.
Offensively, he barely contributes. His 17.4 percent usage rate qualifies him in the ninth percentile for his position. Off the ball he doesn’t help much either, shooting 34.5 percent catch-and-shoot opportunities and just 28.6 percent from three when left open. He’s scored in double digits only eight times in 48 games with a high of 17 points.
The FIBA Frank who showed up at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, however, is a different animal. That aggressive player who captained the offense, managed the pick-and-roll, pulled up in the mid-range and drained threes in the clutch is the Frank the Knicks picked eighth overall.
He was smooth. He was confident. He even posted a 66.1 defensive rating over a five-game stretch at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, per The Stepien’s Spencer Pearlman.
The Knicks have a lot of soul searching to do this summer with Leon Rose overseeing the development of a group that continually fails to shown signs of progress. Moving Ntilikina for a comparable asset should benefit both parties.
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The Oklahoma City Thunder (32-21) have been a feel-good NBA story since moving Paul George and Russell Westbrook in the summer. Chris Paul has been the fulcrum of that success, reclaiming some of the respect he may have lost while playing second fiddle to James Harden for two seasons.
While playing the second-lowest minutes total of his career, Paul is still averaging 17.2 points, 6.6 assists and 5.0 rebounds in one of his most effective shooting seasons. The Thunder have also gone 23-13 in games that feature Paul in clutch situations, and they’ve had a 25.4 net rating with him on the floor in those spots. His 68.3 clutch true shooting percentage ranks 16th in the league.
At nearly 35 years old, Paul should move to a contender to try to reach that elusive NBA Finals appearance.
Matching salaries remains the roadblock, and it’s a sizable one. Chris Paul will earn $41.4 million in 2020-21. Few teams can approach that number with matching and disposable contracts that won’t cripple OKC’s books for years to come.
Sign-and-trades can help this summer, and that’s why the opening hours of free agency will be the most critical for Paul. Thunder general manager Sam Presti and Paul’s camp will have to get creative. Still, it seems likely they’ll find a way to leave the negotiating table satisfied.
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This isn’t an indictment of Myles Turner. Last year’s leader in blocks per game (2.7) was 13th in the NBA in ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus while placing in the 86th percentile in three-point shooting. At 24 years old, Turner can anchor a team’s frontcourt for a long time.
Domantas Sabonis has just been that good. The 2020 All-Star is sixth in rebounding and one of just two players averaging 18.0 points and 12.5 rebounds (Giannis). Most impressive has been his playmaking. Only two centers dish out more assists per game (4.7) than Sabonis, who has emerged as the team’s 1B playmaker to Malcolm Brogdon’s 1A.
It’s probably not fair to judge Turner’s performance this season after his methodical recovery from a sprained ankle, so we’ll use last season as a guide. His impact at the 5 was substantial, chiefly on the defensive end, where the Pacers ranked in the 88th percentile—but just 43rd on the offensive end.
Sabonis has fared well next to a traditional 5, and the Pacers have a 2.4 net rating (48-win expectancy) with him at the 4. When he plays at the 5, Indiana’s net rating soars to 7.7 (59-win expectancy).
Turner’s upside and manageable salary (three years, $54 million after this season) make him a logical candidate to be moved. The Pacers can attach an asset to him to bring back a wing who can complement Brogdon and Victor Oladipo and make this group a legitimate contender for the Eastern Conference in 2020-21.
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We’re not buying the “can a stable organization unlock Andrew Wiggins?” talk.
The Golden State Warriors needed Minnesota’s top-three-protected 2021 pick to add to this year’s GSW first to bring back a big fish. Someone better suited to bring Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green back into win-now mode.
The Warriors aren’t using those picks. By early March, each of that threesome will be at least 30 years old. Their window is closing.
Andrew Wiggins is just for salary-matching purposes. Think about it, the Warriors don’t have cap space to assume a large salary. If they combine Jordan Poole and Kevon Looney, they can only approach a $10 million salary in return.
With Wiggins, they can package those two enticing picks and target Karl-Anthony Towns, Bradley Beal, Jrue Holiday and Aaron Gordon, among others.
Wiggins can become a productive player, but his skill set doesn’t fit with this franchise. Right now he’s an inefficient, high-usage player who ranks 441st in ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus.
Per Basketball Reference:
“VORP is an advanced stat that we can measure back to 1973-74. In that span, only one player in our database has averaged 30+ minutes per game in his career and posted a negative VORP. That player is Andrew Wiggins.”
With three years and $94.4 million remaining on his contract after this season, Wiggins will be difficult to move—but not impossible. He will not be a Warrior in 2020-21.
Preston Ellis covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@PrestonEllis)