The first week of 2020 has come and gone without much NBA news, but you can be assured this is the calm before the storm.
Big moves are coming.
Players who were acquired in the offseason weren’t eligible to be moved until Dec. 15, so teams can now talk with all assets on the table. As we approach the league’s halfway point, there appear to be more sellers lining up than buyers.
We’re about to find out who thinks they can truly compete against the Lakers, Clippers and Bucks. That trio has separated themselves as the class of the league and only have a tweak or two left to make.
Both L.A. teams are likely to bid on the services of free agent point guard Darren Collison, who retired this offseason but has had a change of heart and would prove useful coming off either bench. Doc Rivers’ Clips have had defensive issues of late and haven’t practiced much as a full unit due to injuries this season, but they’re likely to work with the pieces they have in place barring some long-term injury.
Rumors are the Lakers are willing to trade forward Kyle Kuzma, whose ceiling appears to be as a scoring spark off the bench, in search of a more consistent two-way presence.
Milwaukee, on pace for a run at 70 wins, probably doesn’t have to do much, if anything. That leaves teams like the Nuggets, Jazz, Mavericks, Rockets, Celtics, 76ers and Heat to line up as big buyers.
Kevin Love, disgruntled in Cleveland, is the biggest name available. Minnesota isn’t going to trade Karl-Anthony Towns regardless of how aggravated he is with the team’s struggles, but the Cavs will oblige Love if there’s a taker for his contract that’s also willing to part with a few pieces.
The Pistons may see Blake Griffin opt for surgery and miss the remainder of the season, in which case moving center Andre Drummond and point guard Derrick Rose for assets and embarking on a full rebuild would make sense. Memphis still has the Andre Iguodala chip to play since there are a number of contenders who would love to add his defensive versatility and playoff experience. Meanwhile, the Warriors team he starred on could make a number of players available, from shooter D’Angelo Russell to center Willie Cauley-Stein. Guard Alec Burks would also be attractive.
The Spurs will have decisions to make over the coming weeks, which will undoubtedly lead to inquiries about the availability of power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and shooting guard DeMar DeRozan. Orlando would probably be willing to hear offers for forward Aaron Gordon and shooting guard Evan Fournier.
Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday is also an attractive two-way threat and shooter J.J. Redick is a weapon any championship contender would covet, so New Orleans may find itself in the asset collection business.
One addition that appears certain is the Pacers will be getting back an All-Star with Victor Oladipo expected to return. Indiana has thrived despite his absence and gets to throw him into a mix that already has a number of players producing at a high level. Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. Warren, Myles Turner, Jeremy Lamb and the two youngest Holiday brothers, Justin and Aaron, form a high-level rotation currently running sixth in the Eastern Conference but barely a game outside of fourth entering the week.
There’s no reason Indiana can’t compete with all the other top East contenders outside of the Bucks, which makes the 25-1 conference title future and 100-1 championship future book wager available at the Westgate SuperBook the best value bet currently available.
Due to the likelihood they’ll make a move to try and improve their fortunes, the Heat also offer a nice return at 10-1 to win the East. Miami opens the week owners of the league’s longest division lead and will take a 17-1 home record into its Jan. 15 date against the Spurs. It should be in a position of strength even without executing a deal and will get a boost when versatile wing Justise Winslow is healthy enough to lend Jimmy Butler a hand on the defensive end.
Oklahoma City had a five-game win streak snapped in Philly on Monday but currently resides in the seventh spot among the West’s top-eight, which makes it worth a squeeze since it is still carrying 150-1 odds to win the conference. Due to the preconceived notion that losing Russell Westbrook and Paul George would lead to a complete freefall, there is now immense value since point guard Chris Paul appears more likely to stay put by the day.
Keep an eye out on value buys over the next few weeks and try to get in on teams likely to make a splash. Denver has seen rookie Michael Porter, Jr. take a step forward and could end up becoming a buyer, so 20-1 title odds currently offer up nice value.
Heat at Nets: For this week’s individual game picks, we’re looking to back Miami to win in Brooklyn as a road favorite against the slumping Nets and then look for them to buckle down and hold serve. HEAT
Pelicans at Knicks: New York will be returning to town following its latest four-game Western swing to face New Orleans at Madison Square Garden. Although it has improved under interim head coach Mike Miller following the firing of David Fizdale, the team will have just completed a stretch of 11 of 15 games away from home, playing mostly on the left coast. Tired legs should lead to a lopsided loss to New Orleans. PELICANS
Heat at Knicks: Both teams played in the Big Apple Friday and the Heat won’t have any travel issues. The day off between games should allow Miami to play its entire lineup against the Knicks, who are just 5-12 in the Garden. HEAT
Last week: 2-1