Well dear readers, hopefully you enjoyed the Super Bowl, because like the NFL we are moving on to other things! And with the NBA trade deadline right around the corner (nice job on that, sports world schedulers), we’re dribbling our way to a layup of a transition.
Whether you are a die hard or casual fan, the trade deadline is always fun. There are usually some head scratching moves, and some that blow up the internet, and others that get almost no play at all. And we are here to tell you all about all of the above! Your Portland Trail Blazers are already fast at work, the Lakers have been tampering with what the trade rules should be since 1975, and there’s a chance that superstar big man Anthony Davis could be in a new uniform by the end of the week.
So what might you see this week and how might you feel about it? Well, let’s dive in and find out what Fireside Sports co-hosts Bryant Knox and Casey Mabbott have to say about it, and generally speaking, you can form the opposite opinion of these knuckleheads and be closer to the truth than they will ever be.
1. The NBA trade deadline is Thursday and several teams are already working to improve their lineup even marginally. Do you expect to see a blockbuster deal materialize?
BK: I do. I think the Los Angeles Lakers eventually put together an offer that the New Orleans Pelicans just can’t refuse. And let’s put that in a bit more context: NOLA knows it can wait until July 1 and potentially receive an offer from the Boston Celtics centered around Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown. So a Godfather offer would have to be real, and if you ask me, it’s going to be. Anthony Davis will be suiting up for the Lakers this season.
CM: I do expect to see a blockbuster trade, but I don’t think it will involve Anthony Davis to the Lakers. Magic Johnson landed LeBron, or was it the city of LA? Other than that, I don’t have many nice things to say about Magic as an executive. He’s becoming the John Elway of the NBA – a laundry list of accolades and fans as a player but other than landing a past his prime superstar, what has he done? At least Elway has a super bowl ring – ball is in your court Magic, we’ll see if you can pull this off but the last two superstars he tried to lure via trade did not go well.
2. Portland traded Nik Stauskas, Wade Baldwin IV, and two 2nd round picks to Cleveland in exchange for Rodney Hood. What do you think of the deal?
BK: I like it in the sense that Portland took two draft picks that will never likely materialize into playable rotation pieces, as well as two non-rotation players, and turned the bunch into a buy-low wing presence. A 6’8” guard, Hood gives the Blazers some of the backcourt the size it’s desperately needed, and while he’s had a pretty rough 365 days, now being dealt for the second time in as many trade deadlines, you can trust him with the ball in his hands. He’s also just 26 years old, so there’s plenty of time to recapture some of what he had in Utah if he sticks around the roster beyond the duration of his current contract, which expires this offseason.
CM: It looks good on paper and Portland got the better end of the deal so I don’t have a problem with it. Getting a little tired of seeing retread players wind up in Portland but I guess we’re bound to see something good from them eventually. My real question is – at what point do we just do away with the second round of the NBA Draft? Those picks seem like pennies these days since no one develops project players any more, no one wants them but no one knows what to do with them either.
3. If the Lakers find a way to land Anthony Davis, what does this move do to the hierarchy in the West?
BK: One thing a lot of people aren’t talking about is that the Lakers—despite getting a 25-year-old All-World big man in this scenario—are potentially mortgaging their future to pull this off. There’s no guaranteeing Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball are future stars, but without them on board, the Lakers are one tweaked LeBron knee away from asking Anthony Davis to try and win on his own—something he’s proved he can’t do during his time in New Orleans. All that said, if things go according to plan in L.A., the West becomes a heck of a lot more interesting. Because as much as Magic, LeBron and Rob Pelinka preached patience, they’re in win-now mode. f the Lakers pull this off, they become a championship-or-bust team and a much bigger threat to the Warriors’ throne.
CM: To Bryant’s point, they are giving up so many key contributors, but if things go perfectly they won’t be playing third fiddle to the Warriors and Rockets anymore. I really don’t expect them to pull off the deal (personally I would wait and deal with Boston in the offseason) but weirder things have happened. It puts mid range teams like Portland in an even bigger bind to somehow score talent that doesn’t want to come here and put together a championship contender. It won’t happen for Portland so we can just move forward knowing they will be entertaining but they aren’t going to be beating the Warriors in the conference finals this season so I’m all for the Lakers going nuts and going all in.
4. If you had the power to make one deal happen (any number of teams, include any current/active players), what trade would you push through?
BK: Although not much of a needle-mover at this point, I think I’d like to see Markelle Fultz in Phoenix. The Suns are in about Year 6,000 of their search for a franchise floor general, and while adding Fultz to the starting lineup (even if not right away) would raise this team’s ceiling, the floor is already low enough that expectations would be tempered for the former No. 1 pick. Combine all that with the fact that Devin Booker has shown he can thrive in a de facto point guard role, and there’s really no risk for a team currently considered one of the worst in the NBA. (FWIW, I’d also like to see Nikola Vucevic anywhere other than Orlando. The Magic have a clogged frontcourt at the moment, and selling high (or just finally selling) on Vooch would instantly open up opportunities for Mo Bamba to start reaching his sky-high potential—although Bamba’s recent stress fracture in his leg makes this less exciting for the time being).
CM: I want to see Davis wind up in Houston along with Jrue Holiday, and then send Chris Paul and a 2020 first rounder to the Pelicans. We would see CP3 back where it all began, James Harden would be teamed with a superstar big man in his prime (who also doesn’t require the ball to be all-world status) and the Rockets would have a player capable of handling Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins if both teams make it that far. Plus the Rockets would have a younger and more durable backcourt. If the Lakers deal doesn’t happen, this is the one I want.
5. Portland seems to shy away from making big deals. Are you for or against this approach?
BK: I’d like to see Neil Olshey swing for the fences a bit harder. Other than trading for Jusuf Nurkic (an admittedly brilliant deal that also netted Zach Collins via the draft), the Blazers’ GM has made his mark by finding discount bin pickups. He basically stole Mo Harkless from the Magic, Shabazz Napier almost revitalized his career here, and now Rodney Hood is looking to do the same. They’re not bad moves in a vacuum, and even with the context of how much they cost in trades, they can be completely justified. But justifying your trades is very different than celebrating them. Nurk aside, Olshey hasn’t given us much to celebrate.
CM: I agree with Bryant, I want to see more from Olshey. Yes the Nurk/Collins deal was nice, but are we a contender yet? No, and that deal was three years ago.This is not a league of participation trophy winners, we need a GM willing to swing for the fences. Get us a Danny Ainge who rolls the dice big time when it counts and puts his franchise in position to win NOW and win BIG. Right now we can’t beat the best teams and there is no sign we ever will. If I’m being told that we need to wait out the Warriors and Rockets and Celtics and Raptors and then it will be our time? I don’t buy that, by then it will be someone else’s time and we will have wasted Damian Lillard’s prime years. The rebuild began in 2014, when will this championship team be assembled?