THIRST - \ ˈthərst \ - an ardent desire : craving, longing - a thirst for success
NBA trade deadline deals are often motivated by desire, not by need. And you can almost feel it, physically/psychically feel it from teams this time of the year that the desire they are feeling overrides all common sense and leads to some really ill-advised trades. They thirst so badly to be better right n:ow (h/t DLo) that they are willing to throw away 1st round picks like they are celery on a chicken wing platter.
The Blake Griffin trade is a perfect example of this. The Fightin’ Van Gundys so desired, thirsted getting into the playoffs and perhaps the 2nd round, that they willingly gave away Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, 2 picks and BOBAN! for Blake Griffin. It’s not that the trade is horrible but it is a clear indication of Detroit’s desire to play basketball during the time of the year that the snow outside the Little Caesars Arena has finally melted.
What we are looking to do here is rank the teams that their desire/thirst to make the playoffs burns the hottest and thus those teams are the ones that the are most likely to make some kind of deal at the deadline. This is the Thirst Rankings, going from slightly parched to deathly dehydrated, each team will be awarded 8-bit soda cups you’ll see below to represent their thirst level.
(Before we get to the rankings: shameless plug alert. Download and subscribe to our Brooklyn Nets podcast The Glue Guys right here! Subscribe to the Glue Guys on iTunes. We’ve got some exciting guests upcoming, possibly even one later Monday night on the trade deadline)
SLIGHTLY PARCHED - Washington Wizards
John Wall’s surgery knocks the Wizards down a few notches. What makes them thirsty is Ernie Grunfeld, who is now tied with Danny Ainge and Pat Riley as the 2nd longest tenured GM in the league (!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!). Ernie has a proclivity for flipping 1st round picks for short term rentals. And overall with the Wizards, there is an inflated sense of self. They believe they are on the level of the Celtics, Cavs and Raptors. That belief means, even with Wall’s surgery, they think they have a shot at going to the Finals IF they add a piece or two. If anything, this mini-surge they’re on now that Wall is out will embolden Ernie.
POSSIBLE NETS-CENTRIC TRADE:
- Nets get lottery-protected 1st round pick and Jason Smith salary dump ($5.2 mil this year, $5.5 mil next year PO)
- Wizards get Joe Harris and Tyler Zeller
I love the Harris-Zeller combo when trying to make fake trades for the Nets. Two expiring contracts that are super cheap right now, meaning there’s no amount of salary-cap-math-voodoo you have to do to put together a deal with another team. That’s a big deal. Look at the Mirotic trade. The Bulls had to take back Omer Asik to make the math work on that deal for New Orleans. Harris and Zeller fit snugly into any team’s cap situation.
But just those two players together, I don’t know if they equal up to a 1st round pick. That’s why the Nets would take back Jason Smith, who even though he doesn’t make that much money, that $5.2 this year and $5.5 next season matters to the Wizards. And to be real real son? He’d kind of help the Nets as a stretch-4 type.
Zeller doesn’t matter much to the Nets future. Harris's inclusion is obviously interesting because there’s a constant debate of whether you trade him to get future value but lose out on a guy you’ve developed in-house, steeped in your culture and the ways you practice and play. Or you hold onto him for now and potentially lose him for nothing if another team swoops in and offers more than the Nets are willing to pay. Seeing as how good Jarrett Allen has played recently, I’d rather give Nets GM Sean Marks another shot in 1st round.
Yea I Could Use A Drink - Charlotte Hornets
I don’t totally understand the messages the Hornets are sending out. First we have reports they are shopping Kemba Walker. Then Michael Jordan comes out and says we won’t trade Kemba for anything other than an All-Star, which while I guess technically means he is on the market, though that kind of asking price essentially prices any other team OUT of the market.
I think the Hornets are staring at the standings, seeing that they are only a handful of games out of the playoffs, and will make the decision that it is worth competing for the 8th seed as opposed to selling off Kemba. For one thing, even if they trade Kemba, there is not another move they can make because no one wants Batum/Howard/Zeller/Kidd-Gilchrist. The ‘tear it down and complete rebuild’ option doesn’t exist for them. And according to PlayoffStatus.com, the Hornets have the 2nd easiest remaining schedule in the East. So that leads us to....
POSSIBLE NETS-CENTRIC TRADE:
- Nets get Malik Monk
- Hornets get Spencer Dinwiddie
I KNOW! Everyone is mad. Why would the Nets ever trade THE Spencer Dinwiddie for a failed 1st round pick? But I’ll counter that sentiment with another question. Didn’t we all love Monk coming out of college? (I googled ‘Malik Monk is awesome’ to find this video).
Just 9 months ago, Monk was this swaggering, 3-point bombing 2-guard that seemed destined to be the next Lou Williams. Knicks fans face-palm-emoji’ed themselves when the Knicks passed on Monk for Frank Ntilikina in the draft. Even Monk thought he was going to be drafted by the Knicks.
So part of this is the Nets would be buying low on a former lottery pick (former as in this past draft) who actually fits in nicely next to either D’Angelo Russell or Caris LeVert. And the other part is it’d be delightful, as a Nets fan, for the Nets to grab Monk, turn around his career, and make Knicks fans watch what Monk has become. Sure, they’d say things like ‘Yea but Ntilikina is one of the best defensive guards in the NBA.’ In their hearts though, they know that is a hollow and sad defense when Monk is randomly dropping 34 against unsuspecting teams and Ntilikina is registering 9 ppg and 4 apg (but he plays defense!).
Regarding Dinwiddie. I’ve written this before but it is going to cost a surprising amount of money to re-sign him. A decision will ultimately have to be made which two among Dinwiddie, Russell and LeVert will be kept. This deal may not be the best value for Dinwiddie but it is not far off from what Sean Marks will be able to procure in a Dinwiddie trade.
Where’s The Fridge - Denver Nuggets
This is an undercover thirst. We haven’t heard much from the Nuggets, which is normal for them. When was the last time you had a conversation with a friend about the Nuggets? When Melo was on the team with Chauncey Billups maybe. But the Nuggets have two distinct features of a team that is thirsty: a playoff drought and lack of attendance.
Last season the Nuggets had the worst attendance in the NBA. The worst. This season they are 22nd overall in average attendance, behind the Suns and Kings. They also currently sit in the precarious position of 8th in the West. You know what drives up attendance and interest in your team? GOING TO THE PLAYOFFS.
Denver is an intriguing team because unlike the other ones listed above, they have plenty of assets to trade. They do not owe a 1st round pick to anyone. They are in the bottom half in the league in terms of overall salary. And there are several interesting names at the end of their bench that don’t play that Denver can flip in a deal.
POSSIBLE NETS-CENTRIC TRADE:
- Nets get Emmanuel Mudiay, Darrell Arthur Salary Dump ($7.5 mil next season) and a protected 1st round pick.
- Denver gets DeMarre Carroll
I really want Trey Lyles and I’d give up trying to get their 1st round pick for him but I don’t think the Nuggets are going to deal him at this point, he’s too important to what they do after averaging 14 ppg and 7 rpg in January.
Getting DeMarre gives the Nuggets a crunch-time lineup of Gary Harris, Jamal Murray, Will Barton/Trey Lyles, DeMarre and Nikola Jokic. And when Paul Millsap comes back sometime after the All-Star break, DeMarre allows the Nuggets to play smaller at times with Millsap at the 5 or bolster their bench lineups.
In terms of dollars, the Nuggets would only pay DeMarre $3 million more next season than they would for the combined salaries of Mudiay and Arthur. And by trading 2-for-1, it’d open up a roster slot, which would help since apparently they’re sniffing around for point guard help that can best be attained in the post-deadline buyout market.
For the Nets, they give Atkinson a run at trying to crack the Mudiay Code (directed by Ron Howard) while giving Marks a 1st round pick likely somewhere in the late-teens. The salaries coming back are less than what’s going out, a rarity for a Nets trade. And by doing this, Marks will have gotten two 1st round picks for renting DeMarre for 5 months, an amazing and realistic possibility.
I Don’t Care What It Is Give It To Me! - Detroit Pistons
The thirst is real for the Pistons. The thirst for the other teams above was a guessing game. We KNOW Detroit is thirsty, having already pulled off the biggest in-season trade so far. They are likely to dive even deeper into Win-Now mode now that they have Blake Griffin.
POSSIBLE NETS-CENTRIC TRADE:
- Nets get Stanley Johnson
- Pistons get Joe Harris
What a letdown, I know. The problem with creating a Nets-Pistons trade is that Detroit already gave up their 1st round pick in the Blake trade. Stanley Johnson is the one semi-interesting asset at this point that we know Detroit is willing to give up. Luke Kennard is the other option but SVG is unlikely to want to part with him. We could add a 2nd round pick going to the Nets to make it more attractive.
The reason for why the Nets may consider this trade is that they don’t think they’re going to re-sign Joe Harris. And it gives them a look at Johnson, and they could flip RHJ to another team for something else. Johnson slides into the athletic, former Arizona Wildcat who can’t shoot role that Rondae is currently inhabiting.
WATER! The Cleveland Cavaliers
Ohhhh baby. The Cavs thirst is rising day, by day, by day, by day. Cleveland is a mess. So much so that a story got out that LeBron James would consider meeting with the Golden State Warriors if they could clear the needed cap space to sign him to a max contract, one the LeBron later called BS but who do you think leaked that story? I say someone within LeBron’s management team, to poke at Cavaliers management, remind them that LeBron is prepared to leave.
And now we’ve entered the ultimate stage of desperation, one that we were previously told the Cavs would never enter. A report is out that Cleveland would trade their Nets pick for a young player under team control for a few season. My thirst meter is pinging loudly over here.
POSSIBLE NETS-CENTRIC TRADE:
- Nets get their own 1st round pick back and Iman Shumpert salary dump ($10.3 mil this year, $11 mil next season)
- Cavaliers get Spencer Dinwiddie, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Jahlil Okafor
Again, I just want to say I wouldn’t necessarily do these trades but these are trades that could potentially work.
Why the Cavs do it: They get a point guard who can play with Isaiah Thomas because of Dinwiddie’s length and he’s cheap for the next two seasons. Everyone loves Spencer. He’d fit under the category of young, good player under team control. Rondae fills the immediate need of the defensive-minder/grinder role they thought they were getting in Jae Crowder.
Okafor is an expiring contract and they get out from Iman Shumpert’s deal, giving them a huge financial incentive to do it. That matters to Cleveland. Brian Windhorst reports the Cavs lost $18 million last season because they paid $25 million in luxury tax. If they lost money with LeBron on their roster while going to the NBA Finals, they will likely lose even more money when he’s (in all likelihood) not on the team next season.
In reality, the Cavs would probably demand it’d be JR Smith’s contract ($13.8 mil this season, then $14.7 mil next and then $15.7 mil after that). The financials get messier when it’s JR and not Iman, and if I’m Marks, I don’t give up Spencer & RHJ plus take back JR’s horrible contract. You’d commit too much of your salary cap in Mozgov-Crabbe-JR, and only one of those players actually provides the Nets with on-the-court production.
In terms of saving the Nets pick for a bigger trade, there really aren’t that many more available difference makers. We talked about Kemba Walker before, and he’s better than Dinwiddie, but just getting Kemba doesn’t accomplish as much as what the Cavaliers would get from trading away Shumpert and taking in all that the Nets would be giving up. Look through the NBA, there are not a ton of cheap/young/good players that are available.
Why the Nets do it: After all these years in the NBA Draft Desert, searching for water (playing off of our thirst theme) THE NETS CAN FINALLY USE THEIR OWN DRAFT PICK. The Nets currently only have one more win (19) than the team in the 5th lottery slot, the Phoenix Suns.
It’d be ugly and against everything Marks and Atkinson have built but getting back their own 1st round pick, the Nets could immediately go into tank mode, try things like ‘Hey, Isaiah Whitehead is going to run the show’ or ‘You know what, I really believe Timofey Mozgov gives us a better chance to win.’
Let’s say the Nets pick ends up 7th overall. That puts them in Trae Young Territory. Giving up 1.5 seasons of Dinwiddie, 1.5 seasons of RHJ and swallowing Shumpert’s contract for Trae Young on a rookie deal feels worth it.