In today's article of Around The League, you will read the responses of Oliver Maroney, Brady Klopfer and Spencer Percy on: which teams are buyers and sellers heading into the Trade Deadline season, Dennis Smith Jr.'s future with Dallas, do the Utah Jazz have the right pieces in place to contend in the West and what has been the root of the Boston Celtics struggles this season.
*Some of these answers were submitted before the Oladipo injury...
Photo Credit: The Boston Globe
1). Which team(s) do you see as the biggest buyers before the NBA Trade Deadline and what upgrades do they need?
Oliver Maroney (Lineups & The Big 3): "I think there’s a lot of teams that’ll end up being buyers. Teams like Houston, Portland seem like obvious choices based on where they are and the assets they can potentially throw in a deal. I think a team like Brooklyn may end up being buyers because of the players they possess, the injuries on the roster and their potential cap flexibility."
Brady Klopfer (SB Nation): "The Rockets, and they need virtually everything. Houston still has as good a chance as any team in the West to dethrone the Warriors, but they're compromised in the areas that allowed them to push Golden State to the brink a year ago. Even if Chris Paul and Clint Capela return to full health, the team lacks the versatile, switch-everything three-and-D perimeter players that drove them to a top-seven offense and defense a year ago. Gary Clark and Danuel House Jr. are good finds, but they're not replacing Trevor Ariza. Kenneth Faried is a nice pickup in January, but not a difference maker if Capela is in foul trouble in May. James Harden's brilliance will take the Rockets far, but their ceiling is capped until they find more quality role players."
Spencer Percy (Queen City Hoops & Buzz Beat Radio): "I'd put Indiana right atop of that list. The Pacers are a team that should be looking to improve on the margins now and attempt to close the gap on Toronto and Milwaukee, which they're not far away for doing. With six expiring contracts, this team is primed to make a deal.
The news of Memphis now ready to listen to offers for Mike Conley and Marc Gasol is interesting. Conley would be an immense upgrade for Indiana at point guard and make them a serious contender in the East. What's better, Conley's huge deal comes off the books in 2021, which lines up with Oladipo's contract. This would help Pacers management plan the next step of the franchise three seasons from now.
Houston will make a trade to improve, Portland should be thinking creatively with some of the assets they roster, and Utah has some ammo to improve if they wish. Don't forget about the Lakers, but conventional wisdom is they will be relatively patient until this summer. Lastly, New York - watch carefully what they do to get off salary in preparation for this summer. The Knicks are about $12-15 million away from creating a max slot, depending on a few different factors."
Photo Credit: Slam Online
2). Which team(s) do you see as the biggest sellers before the NBA Trade Deadline, and what type of return would they want?
Oliver Maroney (Lineups & The Big 3): "Obviously, the Knicks want to clear cap space and they’re basically signaling to tank the rest of this season. They’ve got young players like Allonzo Trier and Mitchell Robinson that could get some much needed experience starting too, so I think it would be beneficial for them.
I also think a team like Chicago, who possess a lot of potential players that could help another team. A guy like Lopez, maybe Jabari Parker for a draft pick and/or maybe a young piece would potentially net them enough to sell their future and where they are headed. They have a decent young core with players like LaVine and Lauri Markkanen, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see them let go of other pieces they may not see as the future for draft picks or other compensation."
Brady Klopfer (SB Nation): "It could shape up to be a good year for sellers, as 14 teams in the West and 11 in the East currently have legitimate playoff aspirations. Only five teams - the Suns, Cavaliers, Hawks, Bulls, and Knicks - are ready to start playing for 2020. Of those five, the Cavs jump off the page. They sport the league's worst record, yet have a roster replete with veteran talent that doesn't fit into their timeline at all. Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, Matthew Dellavedova, and Larry Nance Jr. are all players capable of improving a playoff team and bringing back a decent return. Cleveland isn't rushing to trade any of them, but certainly will do so if the price is right. If they're willing to eat some bad contracts in return, they could find themselves pulling in a nice haul."
Spencer Percy (Queen City Hoops & Buzz Beat Radio): "Atlanta is the leader in this category. It was reported last week that the Hawks have Jeremy Lin, Kent Bazemore and Dwayne Dedmon all for sale. All three of these players could help numerous contenders and the Hawks will be seeking young players plus draft picks. Lin and Dedmon are on reasonable expiring deals, but Bazemore has a player option for $19 million next season, so matching that salary becomes tricky.
Memphis is apparently ready to sell, but is that a real want to make a deal, or simply a willingness to listen?
I'll say it now. New Orleans needs to get Anthony Davis healthy and trade him. I'd say there's a 1% chance he re-signs with the Pelicans this summer and them team is starring at a missed postseason now three games out of the eighth seed with what sounds like 2-4 weeks without AD. Yikes.
Chicago will try to find a home for Jabari Parker and Carmelo Anthony via trade before being forced to talk buy-outs. Would they be willing to have a conversation about Zach LaVine now that he's back healthy?
Cleveland should be having conversation to desperate teams about Kevin Love (looking at you Charlotte), but there's nothing else in that cupboard that's worth anything of real value."
Photo Credit: RAY CARLIN SPECIAL TO THE STAR-TELEGRAM
3). Dennis Smith Jr. and Rick Carlisle had productive conversations and he looks to return to the team. However the writing is still on the wall, whether he will be a long term piece of the Mavericks core. What type of player do you see Dennis Smith Jr. becoming in the NBA, whether it’s with Dallas or someone else?
Oliver Maroney (Lineups & The Big 3): "I think he’s talented in a guard heavy league. He’s not James Harden or another elite-level player and I don’t think I see him reaching that potential ever. But, if he’s given a role to be a true number one or two, I think he’ll thrive and exceed anyone’s expectations.
This league is all about fit and where players stand with coaches and the organization. Obviously, Dallas hasn’t really worked out. But, If another coach took Smith under his wing and really worked with him, gave him full offensive freedom, I could see it really work in the right situation. I still don’t think he becomes Curry, Harden or even someone like Lillard. But, he could be a really gifted offensive player and it wouldn’t be the first time we’d see a player play leaps and bounds better in a new situation (see Oladipo)."
Brady Klopfer (SB Nation): "Smith entered the 2017 draft as a tantalizing athlete with a few major weaknesses. In his short NBA career, he's displayed a lot more of the latter than the former. I'm not particularly bullish on his future, as he seems to occupy combo guard purgatory. He's not a good enough playmaker to have full-time ball-handling responsibilities, but he's not a good enough shooter to make a living off ball. The potential is still high enough, and the age still young enough, that Smith could likely net a nice return on the trade market from a team willing to take a chance on a clear talent. But to this point, I don't see many signs pointing to Smith ever being more than a mildly above-average combo guard."
Spencer Percy (Queen City Hoops & Buzz Beat Radio): "I like Dennis Smith Jr. An explosive guard who can get to the cup, has made strides as a pick and roll ball handler and also shows promise as a catch and shoot player. Smith is ultimately more of a combo guard type of player. Reminds me of Eric Bledsoe in some ways, but I think the ceiling is higher.
Phoenix and Orlando should both be inquiring about Smith and Orlando might be desperate enough to make a deal prior to the February 7 trade deadline. I still believe there's a universe where Doncic and Smith can play together. At the very least, Smith would be a wonderful super-sub off the bench for Dallas. That takes sacrifice on Smith's part and doesn't seem like something he's willing to do at the present time."
Photo Credit: Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune
4). The Jazz have been playing much better here of late, but they’ve been somewhat underwhelming based on preseason expectations. Do you believe that Utah has the right pieces in place, to be a serious threat in the Western Conference?
Oliver Maroney (Lineups & The Big 3): "Utah are right at the top of the Western Conference in my mind. They’re really talented and have tons of good role players surrounding stars like Gobert and Mitchell. This team is well coached, understands what they need to do and they seem to catch fire later in the season. I think they’re a force to be reckoned with and a team that could go deep in the playoffs."
Brady Klopfer (SB Nation): "It depends on how you define "threat". At this point I don't see any team in the West posing a serious threat to the All-Star laden Warriors. But are the Jazz a serious threat to be the best of the rest? Absolutely. They may have started slow, but this is a team that finished fifth in the entire league in net rating a year ago, and has only improved on paper. They have a truly elite defense, and when they can find lineups that create spacing - or, against all odds, work despite a lack of spacing - their offense is good enough. Much depends on which version of Donovan Mitchell we see for the rest of the season, but there's no reason Utah can't fight back to the second seed and a spot in the Western Conference Finals."
Spencer Percy (Queen City Hoops & Buzz Beat Radio): "Utah has underachieved this season. They've started to come on more recently now that Donovan Mitchell has woken up. The Jazz space the floor and share the ball as well as any team in the league. This team is littered with high IQ players.
All that said, Utah is one playmaker away from having enough juice to make a serious run in the postseason. Imagine Brad Beal and Donovan Mitchell next to each other... By the way, the Wizards should be open season on anyone on their roster, but they won't be.
Jeremy Lin could also help Utah, depending on how creative Quin Snyder is willing to get with small lineups.
Ricky Rubio and Derrick Favors expiring deals for Mike Conley? Utah could throw in a pick.
The Jazz need to think outside the box leading up to this trade deadline. I believe they could be a top-four team in the West by the end of the regular season and that's still well within reach."
Photo Credit: NBA.com
5). Many expected Boston to be the clear cut Favorites to represent the East in the NBA Finals this season. However, they haven’t lived up to expectations, as they’re currently 5th in the Eastern Conference. What has been the root of Boston’s struggles and can they overcome them by Playoff time?
Oliver Maroney (Lineups & The Big 3): "Too much talent that isn’t playing consistent? I don’t know. I couldn’t pinpoint one thing. I think the Celtics have so much talent and depth that it’s difficult to figure out what players to play, when and for how long. Stevens is an excellent coach but no coach can get every player to buy into playing their role all the time. They have guys who are expecting big paydays, players who expect more minutes or who’ve had more minutes in the past and I think that’s a huge issue. Nobody likes to go from playing more to less. Whether they say it in the media or not, I don’t think any player appreciates when their minutes are taken. So, it’s a really tough dilemma the Celtics face.
However, even with all this, I think come playoff time the Celtics will be a scary team to play. All the players will be pushing for minutes, guys will hopefully be more bought-in to winning and not their individual roles. Plus, they possess one of the deepest teams in the league without question."
Brady Klopfer (SB Nation): "It's a boring answer, but I think the issues with Boston are overstated, and really just came from a poor start to the season. The Celtics are third in the league in net rating, trailing only the Warriors and the Bucks. They're back to playing like a team that is one of the best in the Association. The season started slow, for myriad reasons - a sophomore slump for Jayson Tatum, the integration of Gordon Hayward, and Brad Stevens opting for his five best players to start, rather than his best and most cohesive five-man unit - but those problems are all slowly dissipating. I would still aver that the Bucks and Raptors are the top squads in the East - by the slimmest of margins - but that speaks more to their gains than to Boston's regression. This team is really good."
Spencer Percy (Queen City Hoops & Buzz Beat Radio): " I didn't mention Boston in the buyers question earlier because I saw this specific question about them. There seem to be some chemistry issues with that group. Kyrie Irving isn't quite the leader he aims to be yet and the younger crop on that roster has clearly had some issues following. It feels like Boston might need to move a key piece before value drops even more.
It's probably going to be difficult to trade the $67 million remaining on Gordon Hayward's deal over the next two seasons, but there are clearly some fit issues there. Jaylen Brown is the name to watch - an incredibly high ceiling two-way wing still on his rookie deal. The Celtics will almost assuredly get in the Anthony Davis trade talk before the deadline, and with how things have gone so far this season, the sense of urgency for them to make a godfather offer now to acquire AD is likely real. Waiting until the summer could prove costly with the Lakers and Knicks looming."
Written By: Alex Golden
I talked with Andy Larsen (Salt Lake Tribune), Jeff Garcia (Locked on Spurs) and Justin Rowan (Fear The Sword) about All-Star voting, Oklahoma City's pedigree, Kemba Walker's future, James Harden and Chris Paul's pairing and more. Here are the six questions we covered in this week's version of: Around the League with Alex Golden.
Photo Credit: SI.com
Question 1: Should winning matter when it comes to selecting the All-Star Starters and Reserves? Who are your starters for both the East and the West?
Andy Larsen (Salt Lake Tribune): "Sure, in as much as those players contribute to winning."
West: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Steph Curry, James Harden
East: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Joel Embiid
Jeff Garcia (Locked on Spurs): "No. If the player is worthy of an All Star nod, he should get the nod plain and simple. The game is about celebrating their accomplishments at the midpoint of the season."
West: James Harden, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Luka Doncic, LeBron James
East: Kemba Walker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, K.awhi Leonard, Dwyane Wade (sentimental pick), Joel Embiid
Justin Rowan (Fear The Sword): "Starters no, I think the fans pick the players they would get the most enjoyment out of seeing. However with the reserves I think if there’s a player that is doing something exceptional and the team is out of the playoffs exceptions should be made. What would an All Star game be without Anthony Davis?"
West: Steph Curry, James Harden, LeBron James, Paul George, Anthony Davis
East: Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Joel Embiid
Photo Credit: NBA Getty Images
Question 2: Out of the Top 5 teams in the Eastern Conference (Boston, Toronto, Indiana, Milwaukee and Philadelphia), which team needs to make a move to bolster their roster the most (before the trade deadline), and why?
Andy Larsen (Salt Lake Tribune): "In my mind, Indiana is a clear talent tier below the other four, but obviously they're having another tremendous season. And given their whole long-term-oriented situation, it's hard to suggest that they need to make a trade. So for me, the answer is Toronto: with the clock ticking on Kawhi, some clearly defined weaknesses, they have the most to gain by making a trade to fill that hole on the wing."
Jeff Garcia (Locked on Spurs): "None. Toronto is playing great leading the East, Philly is starting to figure out things with J. Butler added, the Bucks are playing well and Indiana are quietly flying under the radar while riding a solid record. Don't fix what's not broken."
Justin Rowan (Fear The Sword): "I think it’s Toronto. While they might legitimately have a shot this season without making a move if they catch a few breaks, I think a trade is essential to keep Kawhi. It’ll be tough to go into this summer with multiple teams able to offer two max slots for Kawhi to build the team he wants, and Toronto can only counter with a 33 year old Kyle Lowry and his bad back. I think they need to be aggressive in going after a Bradley Beal or CJ McCollum to help build up both their chances in June, and to keep Kawhi."
Photo Credit: Slam Online
Question 3: Kemba Walker is having a fantastic season, but his team is still floating around a .500 record. Will Charlotte ever be able to get guys around him to win, or would he be better off exploring his options in Free Agency this summer?
Andy Larsen (Salt Lake Tribune): "It depends what Kemba wants: does he want to be a No. 1 guy, or does he want to be a championship contender in the East? I could see Charlotte making a jump into the group of Eastern Conference contenders with some well-timed moves, but they haven't exactly made a lot of those, have they? And, to be frank, are Eastern Conference contenders actually contenders, or a clear tier below their Western Conference counterparts? He probably needs to leave to have a realistic chance at winning a title, but it's not necessarily clear that his FA opportunities are going to be definite contenders as well. Still, it's worth exploring for him."
Jeff Garcia (Locked on Spurs): "No trade. Stay the course. He is their cornerstone. He will attract free agents. If the Hornets don't have him then who can they lure?"
Justin Rowan (Fear The Sword): "I’m skeptical that they will ever be able to attract the talent he needs in that market. That’s another team that should be aggressive at the deadline, I just don’t know how meaningful any potential moves would be. Charlotte can offer him more money than anybody, so if I’m Kemba I’m probably staying unless there’s a super team situation where they are able to add him. If it’s just another team that has flexibility, would like to build around him, but doesn’t already have the pieces in place I don’t think it’s worth the risk."
Photo Credit: Bleacher Report
Question 4: James Harden has been unbelievable here lately, all while Chris Paul is out injured. Did the Rockets make a mistake in tying up so much money in Chris Paul, that they won’t have the significant funds to build a deeper team around Harden? Or is a healthy Paul still the best counterpart for Harden?
Andy Larsen (Salt Lake Tribune): "Full stop: yes. Chris Paul was in the same draft as Deron Williams, point guards can age harshly, and the prospect of paying him four years into the future is a rough one. Healthy Chris Paul in 2018-19 is still a pretty good counterpart to Harden, though maybe not ideal. But in 2023? I have significant doubts."
Jeff Garcia (Locked on Spurs): "When healthy Paul is a solid counterpart for Harden. He removes the ball handling from Harden and can direct the troops on the floor. Yes, giving him that much money was a bit much but having Paul in tow once he comes back makes Houston that much deadlier in the West.... when healthy!"
Justin Rowan (Fear The Sword): "I don’t think it’s a mistake, because they didn’t have the ability to go out and get another star. They tried pitching LeBron and Paul George, but neither had an interest. I think it’ll end up looking like a bad deal, but it was the best option available."
Photo Credit: ClutchPoints
Question 5: Are we believers in OKC, or will their inability to spread the floor hurt them in the playoffs?
Andy Larsen (Salt Lake Tribune): "Their inability to spread the floor will hurt them, but so will Russell Westbrook's insistence on taking multiple bad shots per game. Obviously, they've started the 2018-19 season well, but I have significant doubts, largely due to their paper schedule. They're a good team, but not a great one, and largely due to George this season."
Jeff Garcia (Locked on Spurs): "That will ultimately be their downfall. They do not have reliable shooters. Consistent shooters. If any team that may need to explore adding a player would be OKC. They got the inside game down with Adams and Westbrook drives, and Grant doing his damage in the paint. But outside of that, lack of perimeter shooting will be their doom in this day and age of the NBA where shooting is a premium."
Justin Rowan (Fear The Sword): "It’s tough to get behind them. Not only due to their lack of spacing, but just because there are so many teams that are more talented than them and I just don’t believe in Westbrook’s decision making in playoff situations."
Photo Credit: AwfulAnnouncing,com
Question 6: Who is your favorite NBA play-by-play announcer and why?
Andy Larsen (Salt Lake Tribune): "For me, it's Kevin Harlan. Sure, there's Ian Eagle's brilliancies, and Mike Breen is very very good, but Marv Albert has clearly slipped multiple notches. Kevin Harlan's "LEBRON JAMES WITH NO REGARD FOR HUMAN LIFE" or "RIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES" or any number of his catchphrases are still among the top individual calls in play-by-play history. The game-by-game quality varies with him, but his floor is still pretty high, and at his best, no one does it better."
Jeff Garcia (Locked on Spurs): "Whenever he calls games (and I know it is rare nowadays).... Bill Walton. Need it say more? However, I would go locally in San Antonio. The radio voices for the Spurs, Bill Shoening and Paul Castro, do a bang up job doing play-by-play and deserve a pat on the back."
Justin Rowan (Fear The Sword): "My favorite color commentator is probably Hubie Brown, just because I always felt like value was being added to the broadcast which is so rare. For play by play it’s definitely Kevin Harlan, just because of his great signature calls, the excitement he brings, not to mention he narrated most of my favorite basketball moments. Including Game 7 of the 2016 Finals."
Written By: Alex Golden (Creator of The Up & Under)
Welcome to Around The League With Alex Golden. In today's debut article, I gathered some of NBA Twitters finest, to discuss some of the current events in the NBA. The League is always on the go, and with so many storylines and topics to discuss, I wanted to find a central location where we can cover that for you. So without further ado, here is the debut of: Around The League.