Trade deadline: Five deals we want to see
4. Wolves add veteran point guard
Wolves acquire: Jameer Nelson
Magic acquire: Shabazz Muhammad and J.J. Barea
With Wolves coach Rick Adelman weirdly insistent on playing Barea for long stretches (often at Ricky Rubio’s expense), we’re forced to take matters into our own hands. There may be no rotation need in the NBA more obvious than Minnesota’s back-up point guard slot, which Barea has filled this season to irritating and awful effect. Few NBA regulars over-shoot their welcome quite like Barea has this year; it’s not uncommon to see the dribble-pounding point guard ignore several options for better offense on his single-minded drives, which in part explains why the Timberwolves have scored 10.2 fewer points per 100 possessions whenever Rubio has checked out of the game.
That’s a problem worth addressing directly, particularly if Adelman isn’t comfortable trusting Rubio in certain situations. The targeted quality is competence. Minnesota doesn’t need a point guard of the future so much as a useful stopgap in the interim, which they can find easily by raiding the roster of the lottery-bound magic. It’s been a spell since Jameer Nelson was all that relevant on the national NBA landscape, though he’s still plenty capable of helping a team in Minnesota’s position. If the Wolves are going to trust a back-up point guard in tough spots, after all, why not move to acquire one who can do so without upsetting the larger offensive balance?
Nelson wouldn’t be a knockout acquisition by any means, but that’s precisely why he’s attainable. Orlando is moving in a direction that leaves little need for a decent 31-year-old point guard, and thus could wind up waiving Nelson after the season as to save on the unguaranteed portion of his 2014-15 salary. That puts something of a clock on any effort to redeem value for Nelson via trade, which in this case could lead the Magic to accept Barea and 2014 lottery pick Shabazz Muhammad in exchange. Picks or lesser players could be added to move the needle on either side of this deal, but ultimately this is a compromise from Orlando’s expressed interest in netting a future first round pick for Nelson; he may not be worth that, but he could land a recent first-round selection if the Magic are willing to take on the final year of Barea’s contract.
Supposing Orlando likes Muhammad, I don’t see why they wouldn’t. Cap space is only a pressing concern for those teams looking to make use of it, and I’m not sure the Magic are quite to the point where Barea’s $4.5 million hit would present all that much of a problem.
5. Bobcats go all-in on playoff chase
Bobcats acquire: Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes
76ers acquire: Ben Gordon, Jeff Taylor, Portland’s top-12 protected first round pick, Charlotte’s own 2014 second round pick
It’s another trade rumor coming to fruition, albeit at a lesser price than the Sixers have reportedly been asking. Getting first round picks in exchange for both Turner and Hawes is a tough sell; the former might be able to pull a first rounder in light of his terrific offensive showing this season, but Turner’s impending free agency isn’t all that friendly to potential suitors. Should a team angle to trade for Turner and keep him beyond this season, they’d need to pony up an $8.7 million qualifying offer — a ridiculous sum for a player of Turner’s limited abilities. That nearly prohibitive cost needs to then be accounted for in any kind of trade package, as looking for a team to give up a first round pick for the right to overpay Turner might be expecting too much.
Charlotte does seem to have taken a liking to Turner, though, and while I don’t love the fit I’m willing to play along provided we can bring Hawes to Charlotte to be a stretched-out, souped-up version of Josh McRoberts. He’s the better value and the better player of the two, and the real reason why the Bobcats would theoretically be willing to part with a first rounder in a potential deal.
Nabbing Turner will demand something worth the Sixers’ time, though, which is where Jeff Taylor and the Bobcats’ 2014 second rounder come in. I’m not really convinced that Philadelphia could do all that much better for Turner under these particular salary conditions; he is not an efficient shot creator, not yet a useful defender, and at the moment not of any kind of cap value. For a player bearing that many asterisks, Turner returning a potential rotation player (when healthy) and a second round pick isn’t too bad.
Add Gordon’s contract to make the salary-matching math work, and voila: Charlotte gets its man, Hawes finds a new home, and the Sixers get a few more picks to play around with.
Worth a note: Trades 2, 3, and 5 on this list can actually be collapsed into a four-team, nine-player transaction.