So far the biggest deal that has gone down involved Miles Plumlee, Roy Hiibert, and Spencer Hawes. However, given all the hubbub as we approach the Feb. 23 trade deadline, there might still be some fireworks on the horizon. This article mainly focuses on two *New* teams that aren’t exactly new, namely the New York Knicks and New Orleans Pelicans. Though the city and bayou are worlds apart, both franchises are only a few games back in the race for a playoff spot, hoping to build around their seven-foot unicorns while they’re still young and spry.
New Orleans Pelicans Seeking Anchor to Appease Anthony Davis?
First off, let me say that I think Anthony Davis needs to call Kevin Garnett, summon his tutelage, and turn into a total psychopath on defense. The only difference is that unlike K.G., A.D. is less likely to win a title in this day and age alongside an enforcer like Kendrick Perkins. The long and strong but still somewhat slender A.D. may need to do what Garnett did not and operate as a full-time 5. Nevertheless, Davis has expressed distaste for playing the position, he has suffered plenty of injuries, and he could ultimately be better-suited as a 4. Recent reports indicate that the Pels have been hoping to pair him with a center. Just as a shout out, last week TLM’s Quentin Haynes considered New Orleans as a potential trade partner for the Denver Nuggets’ Jusuf Nurkić.
Brook Lopez for Omer Asik, Tyreke Evans, 2018 first-round pick
Lopez was always a highly-skilled center, and that was even before he started sinking triples. Entering Tuesday night’s slate of games, Brook was connecting on 1.8 treys per contest. New Orleans is 13th in made threes per game, but just 18th in three-point percentage. If New Orleans is looking to add an offensive-minded center, Pelicans’ GM Dell Demps would be smart to seize one who stretches the floor rather than shrinks it.
The biggest concern with Lopez is his age: he’s 28 years old, and he’ll turn 31 during the first year of his next deal. Brook has never been particularly fast on his feet, and it’s not difficult to imagine him becoming a sieve on that end eventually as he continues to tack on more and more miles.
Brooklyn is starved for draft picks, and Lopez’s deal is over after next season. The clock is ticking. The return isn’t going to get much sweeter than a first-rounder. Evans is an expiring contract and Asik’s deal isn’t bloated enough for the Nets to worry about since the focus and timeline is strictly long term. Acquiring a first-round pick in 2018 should be a top priority for the Nets because the Celtics own theirs. Caris LaVert could be one of the biggest steals of this past class. Having one first-rounder in each of the next two drafts would afford the Nets two golden tickets to cash in before they escape Boston’s clutches in the summer of 2019.
Nikola Vučević for Omer Asik, 2018 first-round pick
Vucevic is 2.5 years younger than Lopez, and he’s on the books through 2018-19 at a pretty reasonable price. Serge Ibaka is the one receiving all the attention on the trade market. But given the expensive price Orlando paid to acquire him, the fact that he’ll be a free agent this summer, and the questions about his actual age, it might be unlikely that the Magic strike a deal. Furthermore, Ibaka seems much more like a Frank Vogel disciple than Nik Vučević. At 26 years old, Vučević has proven himself to be a lousy defender, and Orlando is essentially forced to make some tough decisions thanks to the logjam they signed themselves into. It’s possible that Pelicans like Anthony Davis, Solomon Hill, and Jrue Holiday could help protect the offensively impressive center on defense. Although not to the same extent as sharpshooters Brook Lopez and Marc Gasol, Vučević has recently shown some promise from beyond the arc. He made just seven treys during his first five seasons combined, but this year he is already at 14.
Jahlil Okafor for Alexis Ajinca, 2018 first-round pick
Since there are so many different sources chiming in with differing) details, here’s a link to Derek Bodner’s summarization of the various media reports. I can confidently say that the only way that Jrue Holiday would be involved in such a deal is if he himself told the Pelicans organization that he was not going to re-sign with NOLA this summer. The two-way fit alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid would be an obvious one, as Jrue’s ability to play away from the ball was on full display during his Philly tenure.
Even then, one would think that the Pels could snatch a better return for Holiday than a defensively dormant center who has already been on the trade block for who knows how long. NOLA is 2-13 without Jrue in the lineup compared to 18-19 with him. Furthermore, Okafor is about as bad a fit in Alvin Gentry’s system as anyone in the NBA. Perhaps the 21-year-old can learn to pass, but right now the ball sticks far too long and far too often when he gets his hands on it, and his go-to move is palming the ball and waving it around before putting it on the deck. Unlike Lopez and Vučević, Okafor would also be shrinking the court on offense unless Davis starts successfully launching large handfuls of three-pointers every game. If the Pelicans don’t care about floor spacing or defense from the 5, it might make more sense to go after a willing passer like Louisiana native Greg Monroe.
The most likely scenario here may be that 76ers management is doing its part to try and build up Okafor’s trade value by demanding Holiday be included, rebuking the idea of taking on Omer Asik, and stating that eight teams are expressing interest in the former Blue Devil big man. Jahlil’s worth around the league appeared to have hit rock bottom prior to this recent onslaught of reported interest. Despite the Monday night excitement, I’ve reached a point where I’ll be surprised if Philadelphia is able to agree to a trade involving Okafor or Nerlens Noel prior to the trade deadline. It seems more and more likely that Noel will be re-signed this offseason, and opposing front office’s are probably low-balling the crap out of Bryan Colangelo.
Is the Carmelo Anthony Era Over for the New York Knicks?
Slowly but surely, Carmelo Anthony is getting old. And Phil Jackson has been actively looking to move on from the Melo Era.
Carmelo Anthony and Brandon Jennings for Kevin Love, DeAndre Liggins, Jordan McRae, and Kay Felder
Unless Blake Griffin is heading to NYC, I just don’t see the Knicks striking a deal with the Clippers. Coincidentally, Love and Anthony are both at their worst on defense. Love’s best attribute offensively is very arguably his passing ability, which beyond the occasional outlet pass is mostly wasted in Cleveland – but would not be in New York’s triangle O. Is Love a much better defender than Anthony? Melo turns 33 in May, he can’t keep up with perimeter players on D, and doesn’t box out or board like Kevin. On offense, I’ll step out on a limb and say that opposing teams would cling closer to Carmelo than Kevin on offense. As good as Love is at putting the ball in the basket, he is not in the same stratosphere as Anthony.
The age difference here is probably the biggest deterrent to this materializing, and it’s undoubtedly a massive one. How much longer can Carmelo continue to be Carmelo? Both will be relentlessly attacked on defense, but does Anthony give the Cavaliers a better shot at matching Golden State’s offensive firepower? Brandon Jennings would also give the Cavaliers another playmaker, which LeBron has been clamoring for. Let the records show, I was among those who advocated for Cleveland trading the No. 1 pick (Andrew Wiggins) for Kevin Love several summers ago, and I’m far from sold on this trade being a good move for northeast Ohio. Nevertheless, I believe it’s worthy of consideration more than many other intelligent basketball writers.