As the countdown to the deadline passes the two-week mark, there has been a slight increase in trades occurring throughout the league. Despite this, we are still waiting for our first major blockbuster (or even significant) transaction to go through. No offense, Kent Bazemore.
As the rumors continue to accumulate, it’s time to take a look at the second group of players that could realistically be switching teams in the coming days.
It’s no secret that Kevin Love wants out of Cleveland. The veteran forward has made his intentions known in less-than-cryptic fashion, most recently by letting his frustrations get the better of him during a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
While Love could provide an immediate upgrade at the forward spot for many teams around the association, he is 31 years old and is under contract until 2023, averaging $30 million per year. Such salary is a huge chunk to take on regardless of the player, but for an ageing forward whose production will inevitably decline over the years, in a populated market of cheaper yet still-effective power forwards, Love’s value might be too low to warrant making a deal.
The Portland Trail Blazers have been the team consistently thrown around in discussions, mainly due to their lack of talent at the forward spot. Their expensive, long-term commitment to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum makes adding Love’s additional salary unlikely. The Phoenix Suns could look to expedite their ever-stalling rebuild by adding Love to their roster. The Toronto Raptors have large salaries in Serge Ibaka ($23 million) and Marc Gasol ($26 million) to make a deal work if they wanted to pair the forward alongside Pascal Siakam.
Talking of improving the forward spot at a cheaper price, Davis Bertans has been a revelation for the Washington Wizards this season, averaging a career high 15 points and 8.6 three-point attempts per game, of which he is hitting 43 percent. He’s in the final year of his contract, earning $7 million before entering free agency in the summer.
The Wizards are in no position to compete, so it would be expected that they are after picks or young assets in any package that they get for Bertans. David Aldridge reported that the Latvian might expect to earn a contract in the $15-20 million range this summer – a value that will no doubt come into consideration during trade talks. Many teams might see Bertans as a short-term upgrade before letting him walk in July.
There has been an abundance of teams linked with the big man, including the Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets, according to Chase Hughes of NBCS Washington. The Lakers could match salary, but have limited assets to tempt Washington, after waving goodbye to three first round picks in the Anthony Davis trade. The Celtics are arguably the best fit for Bertans, who could use help in their frontcourt rotation, but it remains unclear how many future assets they would be willing to part with in order to challenge this year.
At the top of most contending teams’ wish lists sits a prime 3-and-D role player, on a reasonable contract, who can guard multiple positions – Robert Covington fits that mould. He is a 6’7 wing that can reliably knock down threes (at 36 percent for his career) and defend at the highest level, while playing for $11 million this season.
Covington plays in a similar vein to Andre Iguodala (discussed in last week’s piece), except he’s six years younger, cheaper and has two more years remaining on his contract after this season. The Minnesota Timberwolves are out of the playoff race in the Western Conference and so should be open to trading the small forward for assets that better suit their long-term vision.
According to The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski and Shams Charania, interest has been driven by the Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks. Houston has its 2020 and 2022 first round picks, and could accumulate the salary to make the required $9 million (approximately) that would have to be included in the deal. Covington has already played five seasons in Philadelphia, so the 76ers know his value and fit better than most teams. The Dallas Mavericks are looking to develop their depth around Luka Dončić and Kristaps Porzingis, and with Covington under contract until 2022, it could line up with the Mavericks’ timeline for championship contention.
The New York Knicks acquired Bobby Portis in the aftermath of missing out on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, signing him to a two-year $31 million deal with a team option on the second year. He has played reasonably well for the Knicks this season, averaging 9.9 points from the bench and offering value as a stretch five, shooting 36.6 percent from outside the arc on three attempts per game.
At 24, there is still time for Portis to develop his game and consistently achieve the potential that he has shown in flashes throughout his five years in the league – but where is this most likely to happen and who would be willing to pay for him?
The Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers are all rumored to be considering a move for Portis. While his production is far from elite, his value is consequently lower than many of the other forwards on the market (including teammate Marcus Morris). Of the teams discussed, the Blazers make the most sense in the short term, considering their lack of forward depth. With frontcourt spots being occupied by Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, Mitchell Robinson, Marcus Morris and Kevin Knox (and considering the recent addition of Kenny Wooten), the Knicks should be open to trading Portis for small returns, including second round picks.