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NBA Orlando Magic Serge Ibaka vs Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam

Magic Forward Serge Ibaka Trade To Raptors Hinges On Price

There has been a lot written about the possibility of the Toronto Raptors acquiring the pending Orlando Magic free agent power forward Serge Ibaka by the NBA trade deadline. As things stand now, this isn’t about to happen unless something changes.

That the slumping Magic are trying to salvage something from the high risk move of acquiring Ibaka by trade in the summer has become increasingly more obvious as the losses pile up, but the only way GM Rob Henningan can recoup anything close to what he gave up is to try and create a bidding war. To that end, the Raptors, Wizards, Celtics, Pacers, Rockets, Trail Blazers, Spurs and Heat have all been mentioned in a process that feels a lot like a GM trying to maximize value.

The Raptors being singled out because it is believed the Magic outbid them for Ibaka in the summer.

Hennigan’s problem is he gave up Ersan Ilyasova, Victor Oladipo and 2016 11th overall draft pick Domantas Sabonis for Ibaka seven months ago and if anything, Ibaka’s value has dropped since then. The Raptors and any other NBA team should be reluctant to provide an equivalent haul of talent for a pending free agent with less than 30 regular season games remaining.

Serge Ibaka’s 2016-17 salary is $12.25 million.

One possible scenario would see Terrence Ross ($10 million salary), a young player like Delon Wright ($1.6 million salary) and a first round draft pick heading back to Orlando, but that seems like a lot for a potential rental.

From a Raptors perspective, something along the lines of Jared Sullinger ($5.6 million), Delon Wright ($1.6 million) and either Bruno Caboclo or Pascal Siakam to make the trade math work. It’s a discount to what Orlando paid that Hennigan would probably feel is too hard to swallow, but they got Ibaka’s services for over half the season.

Neither scenario likely gets a deal done, but time’s a wasting. The Raptors need a boost for the postseason and Hennigan will look pretty foolish if Ibaka walks away in the summer and he left anything of value on the table now.

The biggest risks to a deal getting done are Hennigan sticking to his demands, another team is willing to part with more than Raptors president Masai Ujiri, and Ujiri finding a more reasonable trade partner elsewhere. Ibaka isn’t the only player in play.

What would you give up for a potential rental of Ibaka?

Are the Raptors just too cost conscious and risk averse to get the big deal done that might make this team a contender?



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson




NBA Toronto Raptors Lucas Nogueira

Lucas Nogueira Is Key To Raptors Trade Talks

It’s widely assumed the Toronto Raptors are looking for an impact player at power forward prior to the NBA trade deadline to fill the one gapping hole in their rotation, however, president Masai Ujiri may have other options thanks to the development of third year center Lucas Nogueira.

Nogueira has been an unexpected surprise as an elite rim protector backing up Jonas Valanciunas, but with all of the injuries and rookie Pascal Siakam being, well, a rookie, head coach Dwane Casey  has given Nogueira significant minutes at power forward as well and that makes the big Brazilian a potential key to future moves by Ujiri.

“My normal spot is not the four, but I like it because when I started playing basketball I worked on the skills of a four like shooting threes, putting the ball on the court and passing,” Nogueira told Pro Bball Report. “I have a chance to play at the four, I am so glad to be in that position.

“I know it’s hard to guard fours in this league. Every night I am going to have a tough time at the four, so I have to be ready to play offense, but it is more important to be able to guard those fours. It is a big challenge in this league.”

Unlike many traditional fives, Nogueira has the mobility to guard on the perimeter and his length gives him an advantage in the post on both ends of the court. It isn’t easy to shoot over him, especially for those players under 7′. At this point in his career it’s mostly a lack of experience that’s holding him back from a bigger role, he’s already played four times as many minutes this year as he did in his first two NBA seasons combined.

“Every sport is about concentration,” Nogueira said. “The winner is the one who makes fewer mistakes and if you focus, you are going to make fewer mistakes.”

And yes, Nogueira makes mistakes, but while it isn’t a big sample size yet, Nogueira seems to focus harder when taken a bit out of his comfort zone playing at the four. It is certainly an intriguing lineup and a difficult matchup for most opponents when Casey has two 7-footers out there at the same time.

“I don’t pay attention to statistics about minutes at the four and the five,” Nogueira said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the four or five, every time I am on the court I try to help my teammates because I (play with) some of the greatest offensive players in the league. I just try to do the normal help as a four or five, I don’t care. I don’t pay attention if I block more shots at the four or the five.”

In a bit of a surprise, Nogueira has become a keeper in Toronto and it’s a good thing he doesn’t care about whether he plays at the four or the five as it means Ujiri can effectively tweak his lineup with an addition at either position at the trade deadline.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.



NBA Sacramento Kings DeMarcus Cousins

Sacramento Kings DeMarcus Cousins May Be In Play

Warm up all those fantasy trade rumors, according to Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee, the Kings are sending out mixed messages about the availability of everyone’s favorite trade target at center DeMarcus Cousins. He is most definitely in play.

Within the past two weeks, three different team executives complained the Kings once again were sending mixed signals. Divac was receptive to moving Cousins, while Ranadive was still meddling and still leaning toward keeping Boogie.

The plan of attack should be obvious by now. General manager Vlade Divac should be immersed in conversations with those of his peers intrigued by Cousins and burning up his cellphone battery working over the skeptics. Celtics. Lakers. Cavs. Mavs. Suns. Magic. The list surely will expand before Feb. 23, with Boston, L.A. and Phoenix armed with an array of young assets to facilitate a prudent, deliberate, long overdue Kings rebuild.

This is the way big deals get done. The Kings have to maximize their return in any deal for Cousins as they know, on the right team, Cousins could be the difference between pretender and NBA Finals contender. He is that talented, so teams will bid against one another to get him.

As painful as it will be to part ways with Cousins, Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive and Divac must surely know by now that all the salary cap space in the world isn’t going to bring a max free agent that could take their team into contention. Not with a revolving door coaching policy, a decade in the NBA Draft Lottery, and all that bad press their organization seems to get from just about every NBA player that’s been fortunate enough to escape to another team.

While the Kings could tear this thing down to the wood and do a total rebuild through the draft, that may not be necessary. If the Kings have proven anything over the past decade it’s they aren’t very good at picking and developing talent.

Yes they will absolutely want first round draft picks, but more importantly, the players they get back in any trade for Cousins had better be young, proven, NBA level talent. They need players with potential who can be inserted into a starting lineup right now. It’s not like they don’t need upgrades at every single position outside of Cousins.

Any deal has to be a homerun.

The biggest problem the Kings will have in trying to extract full value for Cousins is his ridiculously low $17 million salary, but it won’t be hard to find parts to add in order to get that number up.

While a broken down Rudy Gay might be challenging to pawn off on another team, Arron Afflalo and his $12.5 million deal is only guaranteed for $1.5 million next year and he’s a guy another GM could be talked into taking. Divac has pieces he can use.

So NBA GMs should start looking at their starters, key rotation players, rookies and draft picks to see if they’ve got enough to make Ranadive and Divac feel like winners as they let the “best center in the game” walk out their door and in all likelihood help some other team become an NBA Finals contender. Rationally they can’t say no to a good deal and they shouldn’t have any trouble convincing other people that Cousins was never going to fulfill his promise in Sacramento anyway.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson




NBA Phoenix Suns Tyson Chandler and Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas

The Raptors Missing Veteran Voice Could Be On The Suns

The Raptors on-court defensive play calling has gone somewhat silent in Toronto this season with the veteran Luis Scola helping out in Brooklyn and backup center Bismack Biyombo anchoring the Magic’s defense and it shows. There’s a lack of proven depth, but that missing veteran voice could be on an imploding Suns team that should be on everyone’s NBA trade deadline radar.

“P.J. Tucker has been in the headlines recently, with his name surfacing in trade rumors and Jared Dudley tweeting about his lockdown defense,” reports Basketball Insiders Michael Scotto.

Suns coach Earl Watson, “It’s all on intensity, passion, toughness and a lot of heart. He plays with that every time he touches the court. He’s one of our best players. To me, he’s the most underrated defender in our league, especially on isolations. I think our isolation defense kind of speaks for itself because of him.”

The 31-year-old Tucker is making trade rumor headlines today, but the Suns will be rebuilding, again, and there are other players that could help a team like Toronto as well.

Everyone knew the Raptors got real young real fast in the event anyone in the rotation was hurt. At the beginning of the year President Masai Ujiri had hung onto prospect Bruno Caboclo, injured sophomore Delon Wright, the very promising sophomore Norman Powell and added three rookies in Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. The only “old guys” in Toronto are Kyle Lowry (30) and DeMarre Carroll (30).

The Raptors started out hot, going 22-8 to start the season, and the current 8-12 collapse coincides perfectly with a knee injury to their best big man defender Patrick Patterson who missed 10 of those games and has been hobbled until very recently in his return. Then as Patterson gets his legs back under him, DeMar DeRozan tweaks an ankle and the slide gets worse.

A team that has counted on mediocre defense and unbelievable offense this season has shown they have no one to replace either of these two players for even brief periods. Not even Kyle Lowry putting up +30 points a night can compensate.

It’s not like Ujiri hasn’t been aware of the situation. Reports of him going hard after Paul Millsap and Serge Ibaka have been out there since July and right up to now, but the price has been unpalatable for the risk of acquiring a player that could walk away as a free agent in the summer.

Adding another “star player” might not be necessary either. A team that won 56-games last season and was on track to exceed that before Patterson was hurt is more in need of a tweak than a homerun.

The Suns thought they’d be better than this or they wouldn’t have signed the now 34-year-old Tyson Chandler to a 4-year $52 million deal in July 2015, but while that was a big number then, $13 million a year now is nothing special. Tyson has lived up to expectations too. The Suns might suck, but he doesn’t as one the best rebounders in the NBA (4th) collecting 22.9 percent of the available boards (better than Jonas Valanciunas at 8th).

Tyson is a veteran leader, a guiding voice on defense, and someone who has the respect of Raptors head coach Dwane Casey. If Ujiri could pry the combination of Tucker and Chandler out of Phoenix, his team’s shoddy defense would have received a major upgrade.

However, the Suns aren’t going to part with these players for nothing.

The Timberwolves offered Shabazz Muhammad for Tucker, a league source told Basketball Insiders. 

The Raptors have assets the Suns should be interested in, young players, picks and contracts that haven’t fulfilled their promise to make the trade math work. There is a deal to be made here if Ujiri wants to make it and it will almost undoubtedly be less painful than trying to pry Ibaka out of Orlando (although he’ll probably keep trying on that front).



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson



NBA Orlando Magic Nikola Vucevic

Raptors Should Target Magic Center Nikola Vucevic

Raptors president Masai Ujiri has openly stated more than once he likes to develop his own young talent, but at some point the goal has to become winning and despite the recent slide, Toronto could be as close as one solid player away from upsetting the favorite Cavaliers in the East this year. That player could be Magic center Nikola Vucevic and there is every indication that he’s available.

“If there is one team that really has to look at the NBA trade deadline seriously it’s got to be the Toronto Raptors,” said Basketball Insiders editor Steve Kyler. “They are one player away from being legitimate challengers in the Eastern Conference.

“Let’s face it, they are not the challenger they would like to be and let’s face it, they could be. They got some assets they could move and the window is not going to be any more open for the Toronto Raptors than it is right now.”

The Magic are having a very disappointing season, the recent 114-113 win over the Raptors in Toronto notwithstanding. Vucevic, who put up 25 points and 10 boards (in a showcase effort?) in Toronto, has been bumped in and out of the starting lineup because, despite general manager Rob Hennigan’s best intensions this past summer, the Magic are a poorly constructed team. Too many quality big men needing minutes and too few quality guards to spread the floor and set up the bigs.

Sending out guard Victor Oladipo for pending free agent power forward Serge Ibaka last summer and signing free agent center Bismack Biyombo seemed like good ideas at the time, but it took minutes away from Aaron Gordon in a crowded frontcourt and left the Magic with a backcourt that’s suspect and unfortunately plagued by injury problems.

“The Magic are probably working the phones now and just seeing what’s available out there and if they find a right fit, then I think they ultimately make a move to help get their team some additional scoring power,” Basketball Insiders Cody Taylor said.

Re-signing Ibaka has become a career-saving necessity for Hennigan as pending free agents just don’t return much in trade during the season, so getting the most possible for Vucevic has become the best way out of this self-inflicted jam.

Fortunately for Henningan, Vucevic is tailor made for solving the rebounding allergic Celtics biggest problem and almost certainly would vault Boston ahead of Toronto this season and possibly beyond. That in itself should be enough to rattle Ujiri (it would certainly rattle the fan base), but the Raptors need to solve their own rebounding issues this season and they need to add another reliable scorer to the All-Star duo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry if they want to advance their own cause.

That’s good news for the Magic. Henningan should be able to get value back for his double-double center despite the bargain contract he’s on.

Now in his sixth NBA season, the 26-year-old 7′ Vucevic has recorded a team-high 20 double-doubles during the 2016-17 campaign and now has 178 double-doubles during his NBA career. Bounced in and out of the starting lineup this season, he has 10 double-doubles off the bench and is averaging 14 points and 9.7 rebounds.

“We asked (Vucevic) for a while to come off the bench, but he’s back in the starting lineup,” Magic head coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s a team player, (has) a great attitude putting the team first when we asked him to do that. Back in the starting lineup, we are running more offense thru him.

“He has responded to me asking him to improve on the defensive end. For the most part this year, he’s been really good (on defense).”

Vucevic is known for his offense, but to get ‘smash-mouth basketball’ Vogel to compliment him on his defense is either a significant change or an overt sales job.

“Vucevic is a handful for anybody,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “He is so talented, so skilled with the basketball that he causes a problem for everybody. He’s not your typical back to the basket center. He’s going to face you first and if you don’t react properly, he’ll knock down a jump shot, so you got a multitude of things you got to guard. The face-up game, plus the back-down game, plus he has a very dominant left hand. He can use that left hand as well as his right.”

A scorer throughout his NBA career, Vucevic has added three-point range to his jump shot this season, averaging one deep attempt per game and hitting on 31 percent of them. Of course in Toronto, he went 3-4 from three as the Raptors failed to guard him standing just outside the three-point line at the top of the arc. It seems every center in the NBA is being looked as a potential floor-stretcher and Vucevic, at least, has legitimate range on his jump shot and should be able to become proficient.

“All centers now are kind of migrating out there (three-point line),” Casey said. “It’s the next evolution of centers. Lucas (Nogueira) is migrating out there and JV (Jonas Valanciunas) is migrating out there. I think that’s going to be the new wave. That’s the new thing with the NBA now.”

In Toronto, Nogueira has shown three-point potential in a handful of attempts, but Valanciunas is still working on hitting a consistent jumper at any range. Right now it’s just Patrick Patterson at power forward and an inconsistent DeMarre Carroll in small lineups. The Raptors could really use another big man to stretch the floor.

The hope in Toronto was the Hawks would part ways with All-Star power forward Paul Millsap, but with Atlanta now just one game back of the third place Raptors, the slim possibly of snagging the Hawks soon-to-be free agent have become even more remote. The Magic’s own soon-to-be free agent Ibaka would be a similar catch, but it would be very tough to part ways with the talent the Magic is going to want back in return for what could easily become a very short term rental.

Vucevic is a lot younger and cheaper than Millsap and unlike Ibaka, he has two years remaining on his contract after this season. In the two seasons prior to this year, Vucevic averaged 18.8 points and 10 rebounds. For a Raptors team in need of someone who could pick up some of the rebounding load and be a legitimate third scoring option, he seems to fit the bill.

Vucevic has 62 career games with 20+ points and 10+ rebounds, six career 20-point/20-rebound games and two career 30-point/20-rebound outings.

There’s nothing like having a player show up in your building and rub your team’s current deficiencies in it’s face. It would become especially painful for the Raptors if Vucevic was doing was he does for the (now) second place Celtics instead of the struggling Magic.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson






NBA Brooklyn Nets Brook Lopez

Is The Stretch-5 Brook Lopez An Answer For The Raptors?

There doesn’t appear to be much of a market for the 28-year-old Brook Lopez, but this new stretch-5 version of the Nets center deserves a second look and the Toronto Raptors should be asking if he is the answer to their need for another big man capable of impacting today’s game?

Once upon a time not so long ago Lopez was an NBA All-Star, one of the top scoring centers in the entire league and top-10 at blocking shots, but that year was sandwiched in-between a couple of injury shortened seasons and Lopez really still hasn’t fully recovered his reputation, even though he’s played over 70 games in each of the past two seasons and has only missed three games this year.

This season Lopez is averaging 20.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.5 steals and 1.7 blocks. His assists are up nicely and his rebounds are down, but part of that is from hanging out more on the perimeter where he is firing 5.2 three-point attempts and connecting on 36.4 percent of them. On corner threes his average jumps to 45.8 percent. He is one the best shooting stretch-5 true centers in the NBA this year and he gets blocks too.

It been suggested by ESPN’s Marc Stein that all Brooklyn wants is a couple of first round draft picks in return for Lopez. The Nets (foolishly) traded their future to the Celtics for a chance at becoming a contender that never happened and now they don’t even have the assets to rebuild. Not that any NBA team feels the need to bail them out of this mess of their own making, but to poach an asset for cheap? A GM has to listen.

Part of the problem is Lopez makes $21.1 million this year and $22.6 million next year, but unlike so many of the other potential impact players being talked about (Paul Millsap, Serge Ibaka), at least he is not just a rental.

Unfortunately his contract means most teams will have to send back at least $16.1 million in salaries and it isn’t likely the players going back would all be on expiring contracts and of limited value. This will become something resembling a real trade if the Nets can get two first round draft picks out of it as well. At least a GM knows the Nets interest is sincere. The Nets, unlike the Hawks, really are playing for nothing. The need to tear down and rebuild right now is very real.

But how would Lopez fit on the Raptors with Jonas Valanciunas entrenched at starting center and Lucas Nogueira doing a respectable job backing him up. Well the Raptors have been unexpectedly experimenting with Nogueira playing along side of Valanciunas in order to provide some needed shot blocking, speed and athleticism and it seems to be working. The two big men provide an effective paint deterrent and a difficult match-up for opposing teams. This gives head coach Dwane Casey options.

Casey could look to splitting the minutes at center between Valanciunas and Lopez depending on the match-up. A traditional rebounding center in Valanciunas and a stretch-5 in Lopez who would finally give the Raptors an effective countermove when the Cavaliers go small with the 6’11 Channing Frye stretching the floor. Nogueira and Patrick Patterson splitting the minutes at power forward would give the Raptors a rotation of four big men, two of whom can stretch the floor, that few teams could match.

If Raptors president Masai Ujiri believes Lopez has made the leap to becoming a stretch-5 and that’s the missing piece in his team’s rotation, this is a deal that needs pursuing. The Raptors need more offense to contend.

It would take a combination of Terrence Ross ($10 million), Jared Sullinger ($5.6 million) and one of Bruno Caboclo, Delon Wright, Pascal Siakam or Fred VanVleet to make the trade math work. Undoubtedly, which young player gets thrown in would determine how many draft picks Ujiri might part with. Like with any trade Ujiri has gotten involved with, if the price got too steep, he would walk away.

There are few players that are truly plausible trade targets where the team with the star has to take virtually anything that’s remotely reasonable, but the Nets are that team. It’s a team in a situation Ujiri has been able to bend to his advantage in the past.

Rumors are beginning to surface that the Nets are considering parting ways with their franchise cornerstone in Lopez, and Lopez (fantasy) owners should be rooting for that outcome. He’s skilled enough to have solid value regardless of his uniform – Rotoworld Jan 8 – 3:34 PM.

Lopez scoring 20 points per game is nothing new and aren’t skilled big men that can shoot the prized possessions in today’s high scoring NBA?



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.





NBA Atlanta Hawks Dwight Howard

Celtics Must Pursue Dwight Howard If They Want To Contend

The Boston Celtics have been accumulating prime assets in order to acquire another star so they can compete with the Cavaliers in the East and with the Hawks seemingly in full rebuild mode, they must strike while the iron is hot and pursue Dwight Howard now.

“That’s a tricky question to answer,” Howard said about the Hawks apparent change in direction. “It’s basketball. It’s a serious business. You never know what can happen, with any team. You never know. I mean, I didn’t expect this to happen, but like I said, you never know.” – Brian Windhorst ESPN Senior Writer

When the Boston Celtics acquired the Atlanta Hawks free agent Al Horford this past summer, president basketball operations Danny Ainge knew his team was still one piece away from really being a contender this season. He also knew the Celtics would be a terrible rebounding team just like Atlanta had been with Horford at center and eventually it was an area he would have to address.

Howard is the answer to Ainge’s problem, this is after all what the Hawks had planned for this summer before Horford jumped ship. It was Millsap who was supposed to be traded to make room for a Horford/Howard pairing that would allow Horford to slide over to his natural power forward spot and solve the Hawks rebounding problems. There is no shame in stealing another GM’s good idea and Ainge should be all over this.

As much as it will hurt in Atlanta to see Horford and Howard playing together on another team, Boston simply has too much to offer for Hawks president of basketball operations and head coach Mike Budenholzer to walk away from.

Ainge could offer Amir Johnson (expiring), 2016 third overall draft pick Jaylen Brown, 2015 16th pick overall Terry Rozier plus the Nets first round draft in pick either 2017 or 2018. Try walking away from that?

While Howard’s reputation has taken a hit in recent years, his production over the last season and a half has been at a difference-making level, 13.8 points, 12.2 rebounds, 1 steal, 1.5 blocks. He is the second best rebounder in the NBA this season (24.5 percent of available rebounds) just behind Andre Drummond (24.7) and no disrespect to Drummond, but Howard is the better player.

From a Celtics standpoint, Howard’s contract should be taken as a positive as well. At $23.2 million this year and $47.3 million over the next two seasons, Ainge will have locked down his center at about 2/3rds of next summer’s maximum contract and it’s a deal he will escape from before Howard turns 35-years-old.

An opportunity to fill the Celtics greatest position of need might not come again. Ainge needs to jump on this opportunity fast before either someone else does or Budenholzer gets cold feet about the price he’ll pay this year for the rebuild he has just embarked on.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.






NBA Atlanta Hawks Paul Millsap

There’s Smoke For A Paul Millsap To The Raptors Trade

Old saying, ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire’ and there’s a ton of smoke suggesting the Atlanta Hawks will trade All-Star Paul Millsap with the most probable destination being the Toronto Raptors as discussed on ESPN Radio Truehoop Podcast on January 3rd (at about the 28 minute mark).

The discussion opens with the idea Toronto sends Patrick Patterson, Terrence Ross, Jakob Poeltl and Delon Wright for Paul Millsap and Kris Humphries suggesting that trade would give Toronto the advantage over Cleveland in the playoffs.

It was noted that Atlanta has developed a reputation for asking for “the moon and the stars” in trade talks and not getting anything done.

Brian Windhorst: “I was talking to an executive just yesterday about a potential Toronto-Atlanta trade and he was like, ‘If they can get two assets out of it, then Atlanta would have done a good job.’ The two assets are Patrick Patterson and Terrence Ross. If he were Toronto, he wouldn’t offer more than Patterson and Ross.”

“There is absolutely a bad taste on the mouth after losing Al Horford for nothing. And that’s something they don’t want to get burned twice.”

Of course nothing precludes the parties from expanding the trade, especially if the Hawks become more future oriented and are looking for pieces to rebuild with rather than maintaining a playoff seed for this season. The Raptors are loaded with young players and draft picks if the Hawks want to head in that direction.

It should also be noted that Raptors president Masai Ujiri has a reputation for being the fleecer rather than the fleeced. It’s the Hawks who are feeling the pressure in this situation and unless they can drum up a number of competing bids for the expiring contract of Millsap, they aren’t going to get “the stars and the moon” and getting burned by another All-Star leaving in free agency for nothing will push them to make a deal happen.

The more solid trade for a Raptors team looking for a clear-cut advantage over the rival Cavaliers would be along the lines of Ross, Sullinger, Wright and a first round draft pick for Millsap. Both Patterson and Sullinger are on expiring deals, so if the Hawks are looking to rebuild, it shouldn’t matter to them, but Patterson is a key defensive cog on Toronto’s second unit. Patterson matters to Toronto.

The Truehoop panel had no trouble coming up with alternative destinations for Millsap, but the most motivated potential trade partner should be the Raptors. Of course, if Atlanta stalls, Ujiri may have other equally interesting options.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson





NBA OKC Thunder Serge Ibaka

Trade Possibilities To Get The Raptors To The NBA Finals

If you listen to Raptors president Masai Ujiri and head coach Dwane Casey, Toronto has everything they need to compete with the Cleveland Cavaliers right now. They don’t need a trade to get to the NBA Finals, but the biggest fly in that ointment (aside from losing to the Cavs three-times already this season) is the fact that this team has three rookies and four more players still on their rookie deals, so when Patrick Patterson went down with a sore knee, Casey has been forced into scramble mode to replace him.

“We’re guessing,” Casey said after the win over the Lakers. “I am telling you right now we’re guessing. We are trying to find that combination.”

Seemingly invisible to the “experts” that follow the NBA is the fact that Patterson is the lynch pin that makes two of the top three best five man units in the NBA work. A fact that isn’t lost on Casey.

“Things that Patrick does well in his offensive approach, in his defensive approach, are huge,” Casey said.

Ujiri will only be able to trade Patterson to upgrade his roster by ripping him from Casey’s cold, dead fingers.

To solve what should be temporary problem, Casey has been trying more minutes for rookie forward Pascal Siakam, playing Lucas Nogueira at power forward despite his young big man still trying to figure out what to do at center, giving DeMarre Carroll a turn at the four and even just flat out going with small ball, but the results have been mixed.

The Raptors might find an in-house solution to Patterson’s absence and in the process prove Ujiri right about this team having all the pieces they need, but it’s more likely Toronto finds out their lack of depth catches up to them a bit and their “solutions” need more seasoning before they are truly ready to take this team to the next level.

Almost forgotten, Toronto does have a potential solution in Jared Sullinger assuming he gets back before the All-Star break and rounds quickly into the rebounding and stretch-four/five big man they thought would be available before breaking his foot in the preseason. But, Sullinger isn’t expected to be the “third star player” many think will be necessary for Toronto to get by the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals.

However, the potential for acquiring that “third star” seems to be developing if Ujiri is willing to take the big risks necessary to take his team to the next level this season.

Raptors Trade Bait

Terrence Ross, 5th year, 6’7 wing, 20.8 min., 10.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 41.2% three-point shooter, $10 million salary plus 2 more years

Norman Powell, 2nd year, 6’4 guards/wing, 14.7 min., 6.3 points, 1.7 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 40% three-point shooter, $0.9 million on rookie deal

Ross and Powell are equally deserving and in each others way backing up DeMarre Carroll ($14 million and 2 more years remaining). There just isn’t enough minutes to go around, so Ujiri needs to pick two guys to go forward with. What would make things really interesting is if the Raptors believe they could run with Ross backing up Powell at small forward?

Pascal Siakam, rookie, 6’9 forward, 18.2 min., 33 starts, 5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 0.5 steals, 0.8 blocks, $1.2 million on rookie deal

Ujiri hates to part with “his guys,” but Siakam was never supposed to be a starter in Toronto as a rookie.

Jared Sullinger (injured) $5.6 million expiring, Delon Wright (injured) $1.6 million rookie deal, Jakob Poeltl $2.7 million rookie, Fred VanVleet $0.5 million rookie, Bruno Caboclo $1.6 million 3rd year prospect.

Both Sullinger and Wright are expected to return sometime in January.

Lucas Nogueira was going to be the limited minutes reserve center before Sullinger was injured and it’ll be challenging to take away his minutes once Sullinger returns. He’s improved so rapidly this season that he may have become almost unavailable.

As much as Jonas Valanciunas seems to be a somewhat insignificant part of this team’s success during the regular season, that’s only “seems to be.” JV turns into an indispensable monster in the playoffs. If would take a lot to even get a response.

Atlanta Hawks – Paul Millsap, $20 million, 2017-18 P.O. $21.4 million

The Hawks have reason to believe Millsap will opt out at the end of this season and reason to fear he’ll look for better opportunities elsewhere in free agency, but Millsap is the player that makes the Hawks a playoff team this year and that would make it a 10-year continuous stretch run in the postseason. Plus Atlanta ranks in the bottom half of the NBA for attendance despite their long term success, so it isn’t going to be easy to give up Millsap without a significant return.

Toronto would have to send back at least $15 million in salaries to make this trade and it shouldn’t be expected that Atlanta will be easy to deal with. They need a power forward, small forward and/or a guard.

A package of Ross, Sullinger and Wright would be intriguing, assuming Atlanta can be convinced both Sullinger and Wright will be able to play soon. Toronto has the Clippers protected 2017 first round draft pick to use as a sweetener. As much as the Hawks will want a boatload of talent back, the Raptors have to find a way to mitigate the risk that Millsap walks away in July.

The unspoken issue with Millsap is he’ll be 32-years-old in February and looking for a new long term deal worth upwards of $150 million as a free agent in seven months.

Sacramento Kings – DeMarcus Cousins, $17 million, 2017-18 $18 million

If you believe the press clippings, everyone wants Cousins, but there are two issues. One, the Kings haven’t shown any interest in trading him and two, he is a potential chemistry disaster anywhere he goes.

The Raptors acquired Patterson from the Kings and if you read between the lines, he hated it there and there was one very big reason for it. Unless Cousins’ teammates from TEAM USA, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, say otherwise, there is little chance the Raptors would even entertain bringing “the best center in the game” to Toronto.

Assuming Lowry and DeRozan give their blessing and the Kings change their mind, the cost is going to be steep. Jonas Valanciunas, Norman Powell, Delon Wright and a couple of first round draft picks for openers.

Acquiring Cousins is the ultimate high risk high return move and if, stress if, the Kings make him available, there will be significant competition.

 Orlando Magic – Serge Ibaka $12.3 million

The Magic traded a pretty good scoring guard to get the pending free agent Ibaka and as of now, they could really use a wing that can score from the outside in the worst way. A backup point guard with a future that could set up their bigs would be very useful too.

Orlando should be motivated to do something. In 12th place, but only 1.5 games out of 8th, the season seems salvageable and on the brink of collapse at the same time. It should be safe to assume that no playoffs equals no chance of re-signing Ibaka.

Ross and Siakam and/or Wright for Ibaka and Mario Hezonja would help to re-balance both teams rosters. The Magic should be able to squeeze a draft pick out of Toronto as well.

Orlando Magic – Nikola Vucevic $11.8 million, plus two years averaging $12.5 million

A starter sent to the bench, Vucevic was a significant double-double machine before this season when the Magic screwed up their big man rotation. He’s not seen as a star, but he averaged 18.7 points and 9.9 rebounds over the past two seasons. As a center with some stretch-five potential (30 percent from three on 0.8 attempts this year), the 26-year-old should draw interest for his current and longer term potential.

Ross and Siakam for Vucevic and Hezonja would re-balance both teams rosters. Not nearly as exciting as acquiring Ibaka for Toronto, but cheaper, more practical and less risky going forward.

Philadelphia 76ers – Nerlens Noel $4.4 million, 2017-17 Q.O. $5.8 million

The 76ers are motivated, but the market is soft for this oft-injured young big man who has fallen out of a terrible 76ers rotation.

Noel could be an impact player right away, despite some obvious concerns. He can block shots, rebound and finish at the rim, if he can learn to accept coaching and accept a role that’s likely less than he wants and less than it will be in a few years, then he’s a guy worth taking a risk on. Noel’s image problem is likely as much a creation of his untenable situation as anything he’s done.

The hard part is figuring out if he moves the needle and who the Raptors would be willing to give up to get him?


There’s still seven weeks until the NBA trade deadline and the Raptors have yet to see what Sullinger can bring to the table. If he can get in game-shape fast enough, he might just sell Ujiri on standing pat. Toronto’s rebounding and starting unit concerns this season should end with Sullinger’s return.

Then there’s the list of teams in the East who will have to decide soon if they are contenders or pretenders and what to do about it. Players who are not on anyone’s radar at the beginning of January could be hot topics in a couple of weeks.

If Ujiri makes a move now, it has to be for a player he would want no matter what shakes out later on and the move that seems to have the highest probability of happening that could actually move the needle for Toronto is to make a hard push for Ibaka.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.





NBA Toronto Raptors Terrence Ross

Magic Want A Scorer, Should Raptors Listen?

The 9-12 Orlando Magic are exploring the trade market for a scorer according to Josh Robins of the Orlando Sentinel and the move shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. This team created a logjam with their big men that forced players out of position and it seems like they have no one to go to when they need a bucket. The Raptors on the other hand are filling the net on a nightly basis, but they have taken a big step back in the rebounding department, so just maybe these two teams should talk?

It’s been obvious for a while that the moves Magic general manager Rob Hennigan made this past summer have had a significant adverse effect on his one-time 19 point 10 rebound starting center Nikola Vucevic who head coach Frank Vogel recently bumped from his starting lineup. While Vucevic is still grabbing double-digit rebounds, his minutes have been reduced and his scoring is down by a third from last year and Vucevic is likely the Magic’s best trade asset by far.

The Magic have plenty of big men needing minutes at the four/five spots with the additions of Bismack Biyombo, Serge Ibaka and Jeff Green and the odd man out has primarily been budding potential future superstar Aaron Gordon who has looked uncomfortable playing out of position at small forward. Trading away one of the bigs to create minutes for Gordon just seems to make sense and with the low value assigned to players with expiring contracts, Vucevic with two more seasons after this one left on his deal may be the only big man Hennigan can swap for a player that can help now.

The Raptors have scoring and if anything, their scoring as been increasing with each passing week and with a 14-7 record, they are a solid second place team in the East on track for another +50 win season. However, this season is starting to take on some of the flavor of two years ago when the scoring came easy, the defense was good, but they couldn’t finish off opponent’s misses with a defensive board and it cost them big time in the playoffs.

Toronto is better than two years ago, but they are getting outrebounded on average and it’s one of the reasons the Cavaliers are still just a little bit better. Toronto is a -0.3 on the boards, but in three games against the Cavs they are -3.4 rebounds and in losses, all with the potential to have been wins, those extra possessions given up matter.

With Sullinger on the shelf with an injury that, in fairness, has an unpredictable return date, Toronto only has Jonas Valanciunas who is reliable on the glass (19.1 percent of the available rebounds). Patrick Patterson, Lucas Nogueira and rookie Pascal Siakam have not been good rebounders, grabbing between 11.2 and 12.4 percent of the available boards.

The obvious scorer on Toronto that should grab Hennigan’s attention would be Terrence Ross. Ross holds the Raptors high water mark for points in a game at 51 and this year he’s expanded his game beyond a three-point threat and is making much better decisions driving the ball, pulling up and using the midrange. At least for the moment, it looks like Ross has finally figured everything out and is becoming the player envisioned when he was drafted five years ago.

If you are looking for scoring, Ross’ value is high and it isn’t going to be easy for Ujiri to let him go. However, the Raptors have their own mini-logjam on the wing with the return of a healthy DeMarre Carroll. Second-year wing Norman Powell has been putting up offensive numbers that rival Ross when he gets a chance to play and there’s a good argument that Powell’s defense is better. Coach Casey keeps looking for reasons to put Powell on the court because he’s earned more minutes, unfortunately minutes are hard to find and as Carroll rounds into form, they’ll get even more scarce.

The mystery in Toronto is whether or not president Masai Ujiri is satisfied with another year developing young talent without any real expectations of getting past Cleveland in the playoffs? Another Eastern Conference Finals appearance would still be pretty satisfying, but are the Raptors really that far behind the team they took to six games in the postseason last year?

Ujiri can stand pat. He has good young talent that will keep getting better, but his (likely) stop-gap measure to cover the loss of Bismack Biyombo’s rebounding broke his foot in the the preseason and as well as the rookie Siakam has played, he’s not going to rebound well enough to replace the more experienced Sullinger – at least not this year.

And then there’s the three-point shot the 26-year-old Vucevic appears to have discovered this season that should garner some serious attention.

The contracts of Ross and Vucevic are very similar and both players would fill an immediate need on the other team. Maybe Ujiri and Hennigan should talk.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini






NBA Orlando Magic Nikola Vucevic

Is It Time For The Magic To Trade Nikola Vucevic?

The Orlando Magic are facing a big man dilemma of their own making that has had many people wondering if it was time time to trade their productive center Nikola Vucevic while his value was still high.

The Magic’s first big move this summer was a trade for Serge Ibaka. Then they signed Jeff Green for one-year and $15 million and finally they added Bismack Biyombo for four-years and $72 million. They also signed their 2016 second round pick, center Stephen Zimmerman, to a three-year partially guaranteed deal and the obvious question became, how was new head coach Frank Vogel supposed to make this work and what about the high-flying third-year forward Aaron Gordon?

The now 6 win 11 loss Magic have lived up to the preseason concerns. They are 26th in scoring at 92.1 points per game and middle of the pack defensively allowing 98.9 points. Sure an injury to Jodie Meeks took away some of Vogel’s scoring punch, but this is a team that’s dead last in three-point shooting effectiveness at 31.4 percent and painfully dead last at shooting from two-point range as well. If Vogel can’t find someone who can score, the Magic will be out of the playoff race before Christmas.

Apparently no one told the Magic that Vucevic and Ibaka both like to take the majority of their shots in the midrange and both players have seen their shooting percentages drop this year. They are also playing fewer minutes than they are used to as Vogel has to find time for his $72 million backup center Biyombo (5.1 points and 7.9 rebounds is about the same as in Toronto). Green has been stinking things up as well, shooting 32.8 percent.

It wouldn’t be fair to lay all of the Magic’s problems at the feet of these big men, the team isn’t getting a lot out of Elfrid Payton (11 points), Aaron Gordon playing out of position at small forward shooting 37.6 percent, D.J. Augustin (41 percent), or C.J. Watson (21.9 percent). Even leading scorer Evan Fournier (17.6 points) is shooting just 42.5 percent from the field. When the offensively challenged Biyombo has your team’s second best shooting percentage (46), something needs to change.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise when Vogel shook up his starting lineup and it equally shouldn’t have been a surprise when it didn’t matter as reported by SB Nation’s Zach Oliver.

“Every time you make the changes guys are out there with different teammates and the chemistry gets altered a bit. So, sometimes you make a change to plug one hole and you create another hole by doing so,” said Vogel.

“We’re 30th in offense; I want to explore some new combinations in the same nine guys being in the rotation.”

That new combination saw Vucevic bumped from the starting lineup for the first time this season and as the big man who has had to sacrifice the most as the result of the Magic’s changes, he wasn’t happy.

“I spoke to Frank [Vogel] about it last night, and obviously I wasn’t happy with the decision they made,” said Vucevic. “I didn’t think that there was a reason for me to go to the bench, but it’s coaches decision. All I can do is control what I can control, which is when I’m on the court, play to the best of my ability and help the team win. Stay professional and whatever is going on, I’ll keep giving my best and give them my full effort.”

Both Ibaka and Green can leave as free agents after this season and if the Magic want to keep either of them they need to turn things around and fast. Even in a season where his scoring is down from 18.2 points last season to just 12.1 points this year, Vucevic is likely Magic general manager Rob Hennigan’s best trade asset as a double-double big man with two more seasons after this one at just $12.5 million per year.

Orlando has enjoyed a soft schedule to-date with 12 of their 17 games played against sub-.500 teams, so it’s hard to see how the Magic can turn around this season without making some changes. Hennigan needs to give Vogel a chance to fix his big man rotation and find a guard and/or a wing that can make shots.

Coming out of USC, Draft Express saw the young 7-footer with inside and outside potential playing at either the power forward or center spot. So, what can Hennigan get to fix his rotation for Vucevic?



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.






NBA Sacramento Kings Rudy Gay

How Badly Does The Kings Rudy Gay Want To Win?

It’s rumored the Sacramento Kings Rudy Gay wants to be traded and multiple sources confirm Gay, Ben McLemore and Kouta Koufos are all being shopped with the Pacers and Celtics supposedly showing some interest in Gay. However, the Kings aren’t exactly dealing from a position of strength and Gay’s value may hinge on just how badly he wants to win. Would Gay accept fewer minutes and a role off the bench in order to join a team with a chance of getting to the Conference Finals?

As Sactown Royalty’s Tony Xypteras says,

At any rate, it’s starting to feel like Rudy Gay’s relationship with the Kings has soured to the point of no return, and I’m sure now that Voisin (of the Sacramento Bee) has made Gay’s trade request public, it will only get worse.

Gay has been on the edge of stardom since his rookie season and perhaps the worst thing that happened to his career was the five year extension he signed after his rookie contract that paid him over $19 million in 2014-15. He never could live up to that salary.

Gay has always put up stats. His 10 year career average is 18.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.8 blocks. A combo forward that shoots 45.2 percent from the field and 34.4 percent from three-point range, but has only been to the playoffs once, lost in the first round and hasn’t been back for four seasons.

What has to hurt the most is the teams that traded him, the Grizzlies in 2012-13 and the Raptors 2013-14, have made the playoffs in every season after he was gone and both teams have since made an appearance in the Conference Finals.

Just maybe there’s a message here for the soon-to-be 30-year-old Gay. There are often sacrifices to be made if you are really willing to put winning first.

Last year was especially tough on Gay. The Kings had a better roster, but still couldn’t put it all together in a rare season when a .500 record earned you a spot in the Western Conference playoffs.

Sactown Royalty’s Blake Ellington reported in March,

A visibly exhausted Gay was asked if there has been a harder season for him than this one.

“No,” Gay said. “I don’t think any of us have been a part of something like this … It’s tough, it’s very tough. I’m not going to sit here and be like I’m happy with how we’re playing or what’s going on this season, because I’m not.”

Gay has looked disengaged on the floor for most of the season.

As the Kings inch toward closing the book on another failed season, Gay must be thinking about what the future holds for this franchise and his career.

At least Gay is on a much friendlier contract now. He’ll earn $13.3 million for 2016-17 and has a player option for $14.3 million in 2017-18. Based on how monies were being handed out this summer, that’s a decent deal for a proven veteran.

It isn’t hard to imagine how good the Celtic’s bench would look with Gay backing up Jae Crowder and soaking up minutes at the four spot in small(er) lineups. A Pacers rotation with Gay backing up Paul George and Thaddeus Young would be pretty scary as well.

However, the Raptors should be looking to get in on this action as well.

Forget the failed experiment using Gay as the focal point of the Raptors offense when he wilted under the pressure of being “the man” in Toronto. Look at Gay as DeMarre Carroll’s backup and a key depth piece in case of injury to any one of the forwards in head coach Dwane Casey’s rotation. In other words, a big upgrade over what James Johnson brought to the Raptors last year.

The question for Gay in any of these situations is, how badly do you want to win?

The issue for the Kings will be they aren’t getting back a player for Gay that can put up the same stat line from anybody. It might take a while, but they are going to have to lower their expectations on the trade of a player who could walk in free agency next summer.

What might get Toronto’s attention is a package of Gay and McLemore for Terrence Ross, Lucas Nogueira and Delon Wright. It’s somewhat of a lateral move, but the Kings would get a proven three-point threat under a favorable contract for three years and two prospects and the Raptors get a needed veteran forward for their push to repeat as Eastern Conference Finalists and a potential replacement for Ross in case Gay walks at the end of the season.

It will be very interesting to see how long the Kings are willing to leave Gay hanging out there on the trade market before they make a move.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini





NBA Philadelphia 76ers GM Bryan Colangelo

76ers Have Big Men And Guards Available To Trade

Philadelphia 76ers new president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo is trying to save his team from yet another embarrassingly bad NBA season, but he’s got a problem. Too many big men and too many guards for a 15 man roster and more coming every day this summer. RealGM Wiretap quotes Colangelo as saying,

“There’s no question you can look at our roster and say we have some unbalance. We’re top heavy. We have some good talent there.”

“We have to figure out what we’re going to do with everybody.”

“We’re not going to make a bad deal just to make a deal. I think we can be a better basketball team if we can distribute that talent better. Maybe take one of those assets and address other needs on the roster. I think right now it’s best to say we like all of them, we want to see if we can make the most out of each of them. At the end of the day, the reality says one has to go at some point but only when the deal is right.”

The 76ers have big men Jahil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Richaun Holmes plus veteran Carl Landry and now 2014 draft pick Dario Saric coming in. Plus 6’10, let’s pretend he’s a small forward, first pick overall Ben Simmons.

Colangelo needs to make a trade, but he also needs to get something of value back if he’s to move one of his high potential young bigs.

Colangelo feels like the League is trying to poach a prospect for next to nothing and he’s probably right, but if he holds out for a while, there will be a team willing to give up a useful player and/or picks for Okafor or Noel.

However, Colangelo’s problems don’t end with the bigs. In a flurry of signings to get someone that might be able to set up his young developing core of big men, he now has too many guards as well, but this problem should be a lot easier to resolve.

Jarryd Bayless, Sergio Rodriguez and Gerald Henderson will give Colangelo’s team some badly needed veteran depth. Rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot needs some playing time as does sophomore T.J. McConnell, the presumptive starter. Hopefully Nik Staukas remembers how to shoot the three-ball. Fortunately? Kendall Marshall, Robert Covington, Hollis Thompson and even forward Jerami Grant all have non-guaranteed deals if Colangelo needs to create room – which he does.

Any of those players on non-guaranteed contracts could be the tweak Colangelo needs to get the player(s) he’d want back for one of his big men.

Thompson has averaged 39.1 percent from three-point range over three seasons. Marshall has averaged 4.9 assists over four seasons with four different teams and shot 37 percent from three. Jerami Grant shows potential as a ‘3-and-D’ combo forward.

Based on what Colangelo has been doing, he like to get an experienced young wing that could stretch the floor and help with the development of his young big men.

The 76ers are so far below the NBA’s minimum salary that they can take back just about anything in additional salary. They can and probably will help out somebody needing to dump a contract, but that’s not the priority. Colangelo needs to get this Philadelphia experiment rolling forward. He needs to make basketball trades that help his team to start getting better this season and beyond.

Make him an offer – please.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.





NBA OKC Thunder Serge Ibaka

Thunder Serge Ibaka Is Being Shopped

As suggested earlier by Pro Bball Report, opportunity knocks for Toronto Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri as the Thunder are shopping the three-time NBA All-Defensive First Team power forward Serge Ibaka.

As discussed two weeks ago,

Once again Thunder GM Sam Presti will be feeling the heat and he can see it coming … like James Harden, Jeff Green and Reggie Jackson before him, Serge Ibaka will be a free agent next summer and Presti must know by now, he isn’t getting three players on big contracts in OKC, he needs to re-jig his roster again.

The 26-year-old four-time NBA block leader has been in decline over the past two seasons, but his numbers are still impactful at 12.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game in 2015-16. It’s worth the gamble that he’ll rebound in a contract year.

Ibaka needs a change of scenery. His once feared percentage of shots blocked in 2011-12 is now half of what it once was and his scoring, rebounding and three-point shooting has dipped noticeably in each of the past two seasons as well. However, he’s still putting up good numbers for a starting power forward and it shouldn’t be hard to convince oneself he’ll bounce-back big in a contract year.

Ibaka’s contract is a modest $12.3 million, so putting enough salary together shouldn’t be an issue in completing a trade and the Thunder don’t have a draft pick in 2016, so Ujiri can help Presti out big time with the 9th and 27th overall picks available for the Raptors to grease a trade.

Patrick Patterson and Nogueira for Ibaka straight up with the possibility of the 27th 2016 first round draft pick being put on the table should get Presti’s attention.

This deal would only be possible because Patterson is the much cheaper version of a “3-and D” power forward and once again Presti is looking for ways to pay Durant and Westbrook true max money while surrounding them with the complimentary talent the Thunder can afford to hang onto.

This would be a case of the rich getting richer at the expense of a small market team, but it is well past the time Toronto starting acting like the highly profitable big market team that it is.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.





Paul Millsap - cropped

Raptors Looking To Nab The Hawks Paul Millsap?

It’s possible the Atlanta Hawks will be going into full rebuild mode after trading starting point guard Jeff Teague for the 12th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. If that happens, the Toronto Raptors are almost certain to inquire about Paul Millsap and his $20 million likely expiring (2017-18 player option) contract.

The speculation about Atlanta’s possible rebuild comes largely from Al Horford and Kent Bazemore’s pending unrestricted free agency. If these two players leave without compensation, the Hawks will be a Lottery Team next season even with Millsap.

However, by moving out Teague, the Hawks could have well over $40 million in salary cap space and it’s been suggested they are trying to create more space (or more incentive for Horford to re-sign?) by using their first round draft picks as bait.

So, the Hawks rebuild is on hold for now, but it’s been setup so it could happen if (the Hawks believe) Horford moves on to greener pastures in July. At that point, look to the Raptors to ramp up their interest in Millsap depending on what president and general manager Masai Ujiri has already committed his resources to. The draft and free agency can’t take a back seat to trades that may or may not happen.

There is going to be a lot of speculation and actual player movement around this year’s NBA Draft.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.





NBA OKC Thunder Serge Ibaka

Two Big Moves To Make The Raptors Real Contenders

As we watch the Golden State Warriors dismantling the highest priced opponent in the NBA, it’s easy to forget just how good LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers really are. Sure they could be looking at what might be considered major tinkering this summer, but the Cavs are the “Beasts of the East” and the Raptors as constructed will still be considered just the next best team despite their youth and success this year.

President and general manager Masai Ujiri Ujiri has performed nothing less than miracle moves since his arrival in Toronto. An opportunist par excellence, he’ll need what might look like another miracle or two this summer in order to get his team over the hump against a Cavs team that will always be the heavy favorite as long as King James sticks around.

Ujiri needs to make a big splash like he did as the Nuggets GM when trading for Andre Iguodala. A second or third tier star player who can take a good team to the next level, but the NBA draft comes first, so player oriented trades might have to wait.

Heading into this year’s draft, Ujiri is preparing to select 9th and 27th overall, but even he was adamant that his team can’t afford to get any younger. He needs to trade up, trade out, and/or trade some of young guys he already has stashed on his roster. There is only so much room for players under development on a Conference Finals team and the Raptors already have too many.

Trade target Minnesota Timberwolves

Ideally Ujiri would talk the Lakers into trading the number two pick in the draft for the 9th, 27th, Terrence Ross and one of Delon Wright or Lucas Nogueira, but those kinds of deals are rare – even if the Lakers have so many holes in that roster that they should seriously consider it.

However, Minnesota, who picks at five, has been looking for what Ujiri could offer for years and now they are actually ready to take advantage of the shooting they’ve been seeking.

Proven three-point bomber Terrence Ross and the 9th pick for the Timberwolves 5th pick gives Minnesota a shooter ready to stretch the floor next season for all those young athletic guards.

For the Raptors, it’ll let them target SF Jaylen Brown, PF Marquese Chriss or Canadian guard Jamal Murray, any of whom are likely more NBA ready with a higher upside than a player they’ll be able to get at 9th. Plus, this move would free up the salary cap space to re-sign Bismack Biyombo.

Trade target Oklahoma City Thunder

Once again Thunder GM Sam Presti will be feeling the heat and he can see it coming. Kevin Durant likely signs a 1+1 contract that will earn him $35 million per season a year from now. Russell Westbrook is a free agent next year and likely signs a similar deal to Durant and will be inking +$35 million two years from now. Then, like James Harden, Jeff Green and Reggie Jackson before him, Serge Ibaka will be a free agent next summer and Presti must know by now, he isn’t getting three players on big contracts in OKC, he needs to re-jig his roster again.

Ibaka needs a change of scenery. His once feared percentage of shots blocked in 2011-12 is now half of what it once was and his scoring, rebounding and three-point shooting has dipped noticeably in each of the past two seasons as well. However, he’s still putting up good numbers for a starting power forward and it shouldn’t be hard to convince oneself he’ll bounce-back big in a contract year.

Therein lies Presti’s biggest problem, if he doesn’t make his move during this summer, he knows players on expiring deals are fetching nothing at the trade deadline and a good season by Ibaka likely prices him right off the Thunder roster in free agency.

Durant should be expected to re-sign this summer only to be a free agent again next summer with Westbrook. Presti needs to have a roster these guys can feel comfortable coming back to or the 2017-18 Thunder could be a lottery team with no big stars.

If he is willing to take the risk that could elevate the Raptors from pretenders to contenders, Ujiri could solve Presti’s problem.

Patrick Patterson and Nogueira for Ibaka straight up with the possibility of the 27th 2016 first round draft pick being put on the table should get Presti’s attention.

However, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey will be reluctant to let Ujiri trade Patterson for anyone as the 27-year-old stretch-four is a key part of Toronto’s solid perimeter defense. Also, Patterson made 46 more threes than Ibaka last year and he hit them at a much better percentage.

Still, even Casey would have to admit Ibaka is the better offensive player, rebounder and rim protector. This deal would only be possible because Patterson is the much cheaper version of a “3-and D” power forward and once again Presti is looking for ways to pay Durant and Westbrook true max money while surrounding them with the complimentary talent the Thunder can afford to hang onto.

Raptors are Ahead of Schedule

Ujiri and Casey are quick to point out their program is ahead of schedule. They didn’t expect the Raptors to be in the Eastern Conference Finals this quickly, but they can’t put that Genie back in the bottle now. Expectations have been set. Their players are ahead of projections, so now Ujiri has to look at what he can do to take his team to the next level.

For three years in a row Ujiri has pulled off the unexpected trade or signing that has elevated his team. Nothing less than that is expected this summer.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.





NBA Toronto Raptors Terrence Ross

Raptors Need To Trade Up In The NBA Draft

Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri confirmed the obvious at his end of season presser on Monday, the last thing Toronto needs is another couple of young players to develop. Unfortunately, Ujiri has two first round draft picks this year and one of them is a lottery pick. The Raptors GM quite literally asked for suggestions from the media – not that he hasn’t thought about it. Trade up, trade out or stand pat and hope to fix it this summer are the only options.

The teams to talk to are the Lakers, Timberwolves and possibly the Pelicans. The Celtics hold the third pick, but they’re another team with too many young assets and too many draft picks. The Suns have three first round draft picks including the 4th overall, but they should want to talk deal with everyone/anyone.

Out of the blue last season Norman Powell emerged as a tough defensive guard/wing with more offensive flair and a better three-point shot than almost anyone in the Raptors organization expected. At least they didn’t expect things to develop this quickly. Unless he gets hurt or implodes over the summer, Powell will be a rotation player next season and there won’t be more than two young guys in head coach Dwane Casey’s defending Eastern Conference Finals rotation in 2016-17.

Ujiri has another big overhanging issue. He would like to bring back his glass-cleaning backup center Bismack Biyombo next season, but to do it, he’s going to have to clear some salary cap space. Trading up in the draft could give him the means to solve both of his problems and he has the trade bait to make a move. If Powell is in the rotation at the start of the season, Terrence Ross is available and opening up his salary slot would give Ujiri the means to bring back Biyombo.

The Raptors roster targets are at the small forward and power forward spots and three-point shooting is a priority. If Ujiri is going to add a rookie to his roster, they need to be ready to contribute. It also means one of the current young guys will be available as well. The Raptors are all full up with players who’ll be watching from the bench and spending time in the NBA D-League in order to get playing time. If Ujiri adds a rookie, someone is getting pushed out.

The 25-year-old Ross signed a three-year $31.5 million extension that kicks in on July 1. How he’ll be valued by other teams is unknown, but you know what he’s done. A career 38 percent three-point shooter who can and will fire up 5 treys per 24 minutes and dramatically improved his two-point effectiveness last season. Ross is a scorer that has shown defensive potential. He’s tied with Vince Carter for the most points ever scored by a Raptors player in a single game and it still seems like he’s a breakout player just waiting for the light to come on. A change of scenery could pay big dividends.

Players in the draft the Raptors could look to trade up for include: LSU forward Ben Simmons (expected to go 1st overall – so skip him), Duke small forward Brandon Ingram, and California small forward Jaylen Brown (who the Raptors saw recently in a workout). Highly-rated Maccabi Tel Aviv power forward Dragan Bender barely played last season, so he’d be tough to draft and expect to contribute much right away.

At this time, the best power forwards in the draft are expected to be available with the ninth pick, although that could change.

Lakers 2nd overall draft pick

What would it take for the Lakers to give up the possibility of drafting Brandon Ingram?

Aside from the realization that they are in a rebuilding phase, likely won’t have a first round draft pick next year or in 2019, and big name free agents just don’t come pounding down the doors of lottery teams? (Yes DeMar DeRozan really does value winning higher than going home.) The Lakers need assets, more assets than just one more player picked up in the draft can give them and the Raptors have assets and the incentive to trade them.

The Lakers could and should fleece the Raptors for the 9th pick, 27th pick, last year’s 20th pick Delon Wright and Terrence Ross for the 2nd pick in this year’s draft. It seems like way too much, but the time to get the assets you need to rebuild is when the other team can’t use them and needs to deal.

Suns 4th overall draft pick

Toronto would likely be hoping Jaylen Brown had dropped past the third spot to be interested in trying to work out a deal with the Suns. The Suns aren’t where they envisioned at this point and have four draft picks between 4th and 34th. Unless the player they really want is available at nine, it’s going to be hard to trade up with them.

Timberwolves 5th overall draft pick

The Timberwolves are tired of losing and frustrated by 12 years in the lottery in a row. They want to win now. Ross is a young veteran who would fit on their team. If there’s a player Ujiri wants available at five, he needs to talk with the T-wolves about trading up.

Pelicans 6th overall draft pick

The difference between picking sixth or ninth in this year’s draft depends more on where the guy you want is available. The Pelicans should be amiable to a deal and maybe Ujiri could grab Canadian guard Jamal Murray with the pick. Murray doesn’t fill a position of need, but he can fire the three-ball and he has real potential at either guard spot.

At some point, if Ujiri wants to keep Biyombo, he has to take what he can get trading some salary off his roster and Murray would be a popular choice.

The optics of trading up in this year’s draft are just better than trading out altogether, but it takes two teams to make a deal and trading up is never easy. It gets harder if teams believe you are trying to create salary cap space, but Ujiri should be able to find at least a couple of teams that should be really tempted to make a deal as they need what he has to offer.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.





NBA Atlanta Hawks Al Horford Paul Millsap & Jeff Teague

It’s Just The Calm Before The NBA Trade Deadline Storm

Unlike the NHL trade deadline which is typically a day long snooze-fest of calm, in the NBA, a storm is the norm and this year won’t be any different. Huge names like Dwight Howard, Kevin Love, Al Horford, Blake Griffin and Carmelo Anthony are swirling in the trade winds and it won’t surprise anyone if a truly big name player changes teams by Thursday at 3 pm.

Plus, there are a boatload of very good NBA players who will be waiting on a trade deadline phone call as well. A sample of the names being tossed around includes:

  1. Hawks Jeff Teague, Thabo Sefolsha, and everyone else in Atlanta,
  2. Nets Thad Young and unlikely but possible Brook Lopez,
  3. Hornets Nicolas Batum and Al Jefferson,
  4. Bulls Taj Gibson and Pau Gasol,
  5. Cavaliers Timofey Mosgov,
  6. Nuggets Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried,
  7. Rockets Ty Lawson,
  8. Pacers George Hill,
  9. Clippers Lance Stephenson,
  10. Lakers Brandon Bass and just about everyone else,
  11. Grizzlies have already traded Courtney Lee,
  12. Heat Chris Anderson traded, Hassan Whiteside available,  plus someone else to get below the luxury tax line
  13. Bucks Greg Monroe and Michael Carter-Williams,
  14. Timberwolves Kevin Martin, plus someone please take Nikola Pekovic
  15. Pelicans Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson,
  16. Knicks Jose Calderon,
  17. Magic already dumped Tobias Harris’ contract, Channing Frye is still in play,
  18. Suns Markieff Morris and P.J. Tucker,
  19. Kings Rudy Gay, Kosta Koufas, Ben McLemore  and more,
  20. Spurs Danny Green (those rumors have to be some kind of joke?),
  21. Raptors Patrick Patterson,
  22. Jazz Trey Burke

It’s getting hard to keep up and it’s about to get worse. Most of the names being bandied about will never come close to being traded, but as past deadlines prove, more than enough big deals will happen to keep trade deadline day very interesting indeed.

Interesting deals that happened last year,

  1. Nets trade Kevin Garnett for Thaddeus Young
  2. Nuggets traded Arron Afflalo and JaVale McGee and got Will Barton
  3. Pistons in a multi-team multi-player deal turned Kyle Singler into Reggie Jackson
  4. Heat in a multi-player deal traded two first-round picks for Goran Dragic
  5. Bucks traded Brandon Knight for Michael Carter-Williams, Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee.
  6. Thunder turned Reggie Jackson into Enes Kanter and Kyle Singler

It was a wild and woolly NBA trade deadline last year. It’s is going to be just as exciting this time around.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.




NBA Houston Rockets Dwight HowardNBA Trade Deadline Teams Motivated By Money

For teams that are underachieving, deals motivated by money become a very real possibility. The luxury tax provisions of the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement are enough to give any general manager reason to pause. It has to be worth it to pay the tax.



NBA Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri

Raptors Search For A Power Forward Dragging To The Deadline

The standard noise in the days leading up to the NBA trade deadline is general managers will only let their obvious trade targets go if other teams “blow them away.” The premise being their non-All-Star who wasn’t a lottery draft pick should somehow command an All-Star player or premium lottery draft pick in return – PLEASE, everyone knows that’s not going to happen. Then there’s the player on the expiring deal and no matter how good they are, the team getting them faces the same risk as the team trading them, so how high does one value a short term rental?

Thus the search for the player who everyone knows is on the market and could possibly help a team inevitably drags out to the final days or even the final minutes before the NBA trade deadline shuts this all down until after the playoffs.

In Toronto, general manager Masai Ujiri has said openly that he is looking for a power forward to boost his team’s chances in the postseason.

“We understand that there is a window in the NBA now”

“that power forward position has always been a position that we need to get better.”

As ESPN’s Marc Stein said in a video on Tuesday morning,

“Toronto is definitely a team to keep an eye on.”

“Look for Toronto to try and get a power forward. They’ve been chasing. They’ve been talking to all kinds of different teams, Kenneth Faried, Thaddeus Young, they’ve talked Phoenix both about Markieff Morris and P.J. Tucker. Ryan Anderson in New Orleans is another one.”

Those are some the most most common names that have been bandied about as Ujiri really is talking to everyone about anyone that could possibly help his team at the forward spot.

What is Toronto likely to be offering in trade?

Ujiri is expected to tie his own hands with his continuing desire to develop his own talent and that is likely to protect him from making a bad deal.

The Raptors own the New York Knicks first round draft pick in June and it’s going to be a lottery pick. Even though the Raptors have four first round picks over the next two seasons, Ujiri values draft picks highly and that pending lottery pick could net him Canadian guard Jamal Murray who is playing for Kentucky where head coach Dwane Casey is an alumni. Now that’s going to be a tough asset to let go of. Toronto’s own first round draft picks over the next two seasons, expected to be in the mid-twenties, shouldn’t be so hard to extract though.

The Raptors are expected to make DeMar DeRozan their big free agent signing in July, so their All-Star shooting guard isn’t going anywhere.

Both Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross were extended this summer making their contracts subject to the NBA’s “poison pill provision.” They would be very difficult to trade, but not impossible, although trading either of these players has never seemed to be on Ujiri’s mind.

It should be noted that Luis Scola is playing on a one-year deal and can’t be traded without his consent as he would lose his Early-Bird rights (NBA CBA FAQ #100). Since Scola signed with Toronto for a shot at a deep run in the playoffs, getting that permission doesn’t seem likely.

It’s obvious head coach Dwane Casey trusts “3-and-D” power forward Patrick Patterson’s defense despite the low offensive output that can be expected on a consistent basis. Patterson is mature for his age, reliable, and usually plays more like a 30-year-old veteran than a 26-year-old who is still developing many aspects of his game. Unfortunately for Casey and Patterson, he has the only contract over $5 million that Ujiri might entertain trading. As in any deal, you got to give something of value to get something of value.

Ujiri’s other obvious trade asset from Casey’s rotation is forward James Johnson. Johnson has settled into a tenth man role whose highest value to the Raptors is as an injury replacement. He has proven to be a very valuable fill-in for DeMarre Carroll and can step in for any of the Raptors wings or big men if needed. It’s been a long tough road for Casey to get Johnson to this point where he accepts his role and is productive in it without becoming sullen or a distraction. This is a guy worth keeping around next season to cover off the inevitable injuries that happen to every team every season.

Other general managers have likely noticed the change in Johnson’s attitude as well and this very versatile forward could be the “value” veteran Ujiri has to include to get a deal to happen.

Toronto also has five players that have spent time in the NBA D-League this season: rookies Delon Wright and Norman Powell, sophomores Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira and Canadian prospect/project Anthony Bennett. They will have little to no impact on how this season turns out for Toronto and as much as Ujiri values young talent, if they are needed to get the player he wants, they’re gone.

Who’s out there associated with the Raptors at the deadline?

Just about every forward option out there comes with some shortcoming or baggage. Slam dunk trades are hard to come by, although Ujiri has put together some impressive winners as a GM.

  • Pelicans Ryan Anderson, expiring $8.5 million salary

Deadly and reliable three-point shooter whose defense is suspect. He could start if Casey can find a way to hide him on defense.

  • Nets Thaddeus Young, contract has 3 more years remaining,  $11.2 million salary (15% trade kicker)

Young is having a career year on the glass averaging 15.1 points and 9.1 rebounds. An upgrade at starting power forward for Toronto. No three-point game.

  • Nuggets Kenneth Faried, contract has 3 more years remaining,  $11.2 million salary

Undersized energizer bunny power forward. A Ujiri guy who rebounds and blocks shots, but defense? Has taken 12 three-point shots over his five seasons.

  • Suns Markieff Morris, contract has 3 more years remaining,  $8 million salary
  • Suns P.J. Tucker, next season non-guaranteed, $5.5 million salary

The Suns players could be looked at like a package or individually. Morris has pending unresolved legal troubles and has a strong, seemingly immature personality. Tucker is no shrinking violet either.

This pair of players could be franchise changing. It’s just hard to know if the change will be positive or not. High risk, high return is possible. Let’s just say they are very intriguing.

  • Bulls Taj Gibson, contract has 1 more year remaining,  $8 million salary

Gibson is a better rebounding version of Patterson, but without the three-point shot. This sounds like something the Bulls would be more interested in than Toronto.

  • Bulls Pau Gasol, player option for next season, $7.5 million salary

Rumors about Gasol are hard to come by, but if the Bulls see their playoff chances slipping away due to the multiple injuries – and they should. It’s time to cash in on Gasol before he walks away for nothing in July.

  • Hawks Al Horford, expiring $12 million salary
  • Hawks Kent Bazemore, expiring $2 million salary

Rumors about the Hawks blowing this team up abound and if they’re true, getting value back for pending free agents will be a top priority before the trade deadline.

Ujiri would have to be salivating about the prospects of playing All-Star power forward Al Horford beside his old teammate DeMarre Carroll in the playoffs. Bazemore could be the filler to get Ujiri to consider trading an asset(s) that wouldn’t otherwise be on the table.

When Atlanta is looking for teams that should be willing to pay the most – take the biggest risks trading for players who could walk in July – Toronto has to be at the top of their list.

  • Other teams

Toronto is well known for running a tight-lipped organization. The trade rumors don’t leak out from there. However, where last year Ujiri was saying, “my phone is always on,” this year he’s pretty much admitting he’s the one making the calls.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise if Ujiri gets a deal done at the trade deadline this year and neither should it be a surprise if he does a deal no one saw coming.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.




NBA Toronto Raptors Masai UjiriRaptors GM Masai Ujiri Confirms He Wants A Power Forward

With just over a week before the NBA trade deadline, Toronto Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri confirmed what everyone has been speculating about, he’s looking for a power forward at the trade deadline.



NBA Houston Rockets Dwight Howard

NBA Trade Deadline Teams Motivated By Money

With about 30 games left in the NBA’s regular season, teams know who they are and their realistic chances of making noise in the postseason, bearing a major trade deadline addition. For teams that are underachieving, deals motivated by money become a very real possibility.

The luxury tax provisions of the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement are enough to give any general manager reason to pause. It has to be worth it to pay the tax. It really has to be worth it if your team is about to be hit with the Repeater Tax which comes into effect if your team has been a tax payer in three of the past four seasons.

Per Basketball Insiders, currently there are eight teams that will be subject to the luxury tax if they don’t do anything about it: Bulls, Cavaliers, Warriors, Rockets, Clippers, Heat, Thunder, and Spurs.

  1. Bulls over $4.3 million, potential tax $6.5 million
  2. Cavs over $24.5 million, potential tax $62 million
  3. Warriors $10.7 million, potential tax $18 million
  4. Rockets $3.5 million, potential tax $5.3 million
  5. Clippers $10.8 million, potential tax $18.3 million
  6. Heat $5.5 million, potential tax $8.4 million
  7. Thunder $12.4 million, potential tax $22.3 million
  8. Spurs $1.7 million, potential tax $2.5 million

(Shamsports.com provides a complete history of luxury tax payments)

It’s likely safe to assume the Cavs, Warriors, Thunder and Spurs are reasonably happy paying the tax. They’re in it to win it and if they make a trade, it will either be a fringe player to save a little tax or a genuine basketball move. Money will not be a major factor for any these teams at the trade deadline.

However, the Bulls, Rockets, Clippers and Heat are all in the thick of the rumor mill and as potential tax payers, it makes sense. Significantly underachieving, these teams are motivated by money.

The Bulls season has been hit hard by injuries, but somehow it seems like injuries have been just a contributing factor. Chicago paid the tax in 2013, but that’s it, a one-time only deal and paying the tax for the hope of clinging to a playoff spot is hard to imagine. The Bulls will be motivated to cut their luxury tax exposure by the trade deadline.

A bad start, a coaching change and sitting in 9th place at the All-Star break isn’t where the Rockets imagined they’d be. Inconsistent and just barely a tax team, those Dwight Howard is available rumors make a lot of sense – both team and money-wise.

Looking at the Clippers who have been tax payers the past two seasons and suddenly those Blake Griffin trade rumors don’t seem so far fetched, especially when one considers this team has been a lot better playing small ball (like almost everyone else) than bully ball with two big men on the court. The Clippers are a distant fourth best in the West and have to be thinking about how they can rise up the ranks. Saving some luxury tax dollars in the process would be sweet.

Is there any team that gets more hype than the Heat for such average results? Paying the tax for an NBA Finals team is easy, but forking over an extra $8 million in tax for a middling playoff team doesn’t fit with this organization’s history. Miami is in the thick of the rumors and they should be. It’s either get a lot better or cut salary. Standing pat at the trade deadline makes no sense.

Money isn’t the only factor in trade deadline deals, but it would be foolish to assume that it isn’t a factor and luxury taxes aren’t the only motivating factor when it comes to money either. Creating salary cap space for next summer matters too. However, since the new CBA came into effect, those expiring contracts that can create salary cap space haven’t been worth much.

Almost to the point in the cycle where changes to the CBA are inevitable and general managers still seem to be working through the impact of all the changes from last time. However, money remains a constant and paying extra without results has never been popular.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.