The Western Conference trade targets kicks off this week with the Northwest division.
Fresh off a catastrophic injury to their point guard and playoff disappointment (hello, kinship!), the Oklahoma City Thunder:
- Sam Presti just let James Harden go after retaining Serge Ibaka for a not inconsiderable discount. There's no big in the draft who could prise Ibaka out of OKC.
- Sending the 3rd pick in the draft away has to net at least one possible future starter at a position of need. Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb have no place in this trade, not as centerpieces, much as the latter might make qthaballa happy.
- The Thunder would have to send a raft of assets to the Wizards to make a trade work, and I just can't see the Wiz looking to take on a fresh crop of unproven youth. (All due respect to Reggie Jackson.)
The James Harden trade was all about setting up the future. The Wizards don't want more uncertainty whose upside won't stack with the core. Neither side will offer what the other considers proper valuation of their assets; no deal.
- Yes, that was unfair to the Nuggets.
- Denver is in win-now mode, but also boasts a fairly deep rotation at SF and PF. That might indicate a willingness to part with a starter and prospect, but this is Denver. The organization's platoon approach to the game without a superstar showed its vulnerability when Danilo Gallinari went down (of course, Gallo is HUGE in that squad). Kenneth Faried tweaking his ankle helped not at all, either.
- A factor likely working against any trade is Masai Ujiri heading to Toronto with Denver opting to let Karl go. With all that uncertainty, will they want to deal?
- Yet owner Josh Kroenke was reportedly unhappy with Karl not "developing" (read: playing) JaVale McGee and Evan Fournier. Apparently the price of the election to play established veterans on the Nuggets was second-round-or-bust. Coach of the Year be damned.
- Assuming Kroenke hires someone to fill the coaching position who is more amenable to ownership's agenda, it's possible new GM Tim Connelly would be interested in the No. 3 pick, but seeing as the Wizards likely wouldn't be too interested in swapping for any player but Gallo...
All that said, there are win-now moves the Wizards could make, but won't. The No. 3 pick would be quite a prize, but the Wiz would never accept a package built around Faried and I can't see Kroenke/Connelly raising the stakes any higher. No deal.
All I have to say is that if Charlotte gets the Hornets back, the Jazz name damn well does not belong in Utah. I mean Pelicans are kewl and all, but ... on to the third-place finisher in the division, the Utah Jazz:
- This team is cap-healthy, and depending on how you look at Alec Burks, poised to raise promising prospects at four out of five positions. The Wiz aren't in a position to offer them a premium point guard prospect.
- Prior to the 2011 draft, for those of you who might not recall, the Wizards were interested in moving up to draft Enes Kanter. The Jazz, who held pole position to do so, supposedly wanted the Wizards' 2011 6th, 18th and 32nd picks to go with the 2012 first-rounder that became Bradley Beal. (Editor's note, by Mike: I'm not sure I buy that claim. They surely wanted a bunch of picks, though).
- They're not trading Kanter for the No. 3 pick and the Wizards don't have anything else to offer. Derrick Favors is also probably out in such a scenario.
- A sign-and-trade for Paul Millsap would fit John Wall's request for a pick-and-pop PF, but no matter what contract Utah took back for the No. 3 pick, it wouldn't be enough.
The Jazz may very well elect to enter full rebuilding mode while further seasoning their youth and end the season with a decent shot at drafting Andrew Wiggins. (ENDER WIGGIN?) Or, they can retain some of their quality veterans, patch holes in free agency and make another run at the Western Conference playoffs. They don't need the Wizards for that.
I can't stop wondering when the Portland Trail Blazers are going to be good again. On paper, you'd think Damian Lillard-Wesley Matthews-Nicolas Batum-LaMarcus Aldridge would have done better than 33-49 last year, right? Right. Getting started:
- Portland paid handsomely to prise Matthews away from the Jazz and keep Batum from the Timberwolves. Paul Allen probably couldn't give the okay to trade Matthews fast enough, but Ted will never okay trading such a valuable asset for long-term, high-priced veterans.
- The Trail Blazers need depth at PF and a starting C wouldn't go amiss, either.
- The Blazers pick No. 10, so we can assume their pick is eminently available. Steven Adams or C.J. McCollum should be available here.
There's no player to build a package around. The No. 10 pick would yield a potentially nice player at a position of need. Emeka Okafor would be a good fit to show Meyers Leonard the ropes without saddling the Blazers with an onerous contract. Would they be willing to consider sending LaMarcus Aldridge for the No. 3 pick, Emeka Okafor and whoever isn't name John Wall or Bradley Beal? No? No.
Time for everybody's sexy pick for trade partner, the Minnesota Timberwolves:
- There are a LOT of decisions for Flip Saunders to make here. Kevin Love ended up with a four-year deal with a player-option on the last year because David Kahn is insane. Nikola Pekovic is a free agent. Andrei Kirilenko is on a huge expiring deal.
- Unless the Wolves lust after Victor Oladipo even more than reported, I can't see a deal getting done for Love. For those saying Nene is too injury-prone for the Wolves to consider, Love played 18 games last season to Nene's 61. The difference is offensively simple: for all his virtues, Nene is not a rim protecter, can't effectively space the floor, has a game predicated on athleticism which is gen and Kevin Love provides Team USA-caliber offense and rebounding.
- Nikola Pekovic is oft-injured and will probably going to cost $11 million-plus per year. The guy is a killer, but I doubt the Wiz are that keen to acquire #viciousdunks at such a price tag with how nicely Okafor's and Nene's contracts are set to expire versus Wall's and Beal's contract extensions.
- After that? Unless Luke Ridnour, Derrick Williams and the 9th pick floats your boat, there's no sailing to be done. The Wolves desperately want to move up for Oladipo, but that's not a great trade package.
The Timberwolves are looking to finally get healthy and make a run at the playoffs. If the Wizards are truly interested in sending their pick and a PF for Williams and the No. 9, I think Saunders does it, but that literally seems to be the only trade avenue the two teams would explore.