As the All-Star break approaches, we’re going to see a seismic shift in the NBA landscape. This is becoming the norm for a league whose trade deadline has become the most impactful throughout sports.
Sorry, Major League Baseball, your trade deadline day has been surpassed. The global transfer deadline in pro soccer is always good for a few headlines, but it doesn’t affect matters like Thursday’s noon PT deadline will impact the world’s premier league.
Last year’s action centered around the Cavs seeking out personnel to make one last LeBron-led push for a championship and returned Dwyane Wade to Miami as result. DeMarcus Cousins was finally moved by the Kings to the Pelicans in ’17, while Tobias Harris, Markieff Morris, Lance Stephenson and Jeff Green were moved three years ago.
The NBA trade deadline emerging as an event in itself will likely never be clearer than this week since All-Star Anthony Davis has issued a trade demand that New Orleans must seriously consider accommodating since offers may not improve if they wait until the summer. One of the league’s top five talents may be debuting in a new uniform by the time next week rolls around.
Magic All-Star center Nikola Vucevic is also a prized target in addition to long-time Grizzlies standouts Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. Hornets All-Star guard Kemba Walker isn’t going to be moved a week before the league’s marquee mid-season event comes to Charlotte next week, but he and Wizards guard John Wall have been available.
Davis is the big prize and was touched upon here last week, but the clock is ticking as teams weigh how much is will take to land him now that the Pels have no choice but to move him. GM Dell Demps only has the leverage of being able to wait a few months as ammunition. Keeping him away from Boston, which can’t get involved in discussions to acquire Davis with Kyrie Irving’s current contract on the books due to a collective bargaining rule, should be sufficient motivation for someone who really covets his services to bow down to New Orleans’ every demand.
That’s why you’re hearing the Pelicans seeking out every young gem on the Lakers roster in addition to an irrational amount of first-round picks. This will be their only opportunity to ensure their franchise’s viability for the next decade and they better get it right by getting the most they possibly can for a generational talent like Davis.
Dallas got in on the act early by packaging the expiring contract of DeAndre Jordan, 2017 first-round pick Dennis Smith, Jr. and shooting guard Wes Matthews to New York to land 7-foot-3 Latvian forward Kristaps Porzingis.
He’ll likely sit out the remainder of the season as he continues to work his way back from an ACL injury suffered last February, but is expected to be 100 percent for next training camp and will be teamed with Rookie of the Year lock Luka Doncic for the foreseeable future as the new-look Dirk Nowitzki/Steve Nash combo that launched Mark Cuban’s team to prominence after his purchase of the team in early 2000. So long as Porzingis is healthy, the versatility the Mavs will bring to the table should again make them a top contender.
Given the landscape may change in the next 24 hours, here’s a couple of games to consider this week.
Bucks at Mavericks (Friday): The trade deadline makes handicapping trickier, but since Dallas has made its big move, I feel comfortable picking on its short-handed state with Milwaukee coming to town. The Bucks own the NBA’s top record and lead in margin of victory, so expect them to run their streak of road victories to five with a comfortable win in Dallas. Victories in Detroit, Toronto Washington and Brooklyn since Jan. 31 have all come by double-digits and resulted in covers. BUCKS
Spurs at Jazz (Saturday): Our second free pick seeks to take advantage of the grind settling in for the Spurs as they play their fourth game in a row outside San Antonio now that they’ve embarked on their annual “Rodeo road trip” that sees them get out of town so the city’s Stock Show and Rodeo can take center stage.
Saturday night’s game at the Jazz will be their fourth in a different arena since Monday night and will come on the heels of a grueling back-to-back against the Warriors and Trail Blazers. Even it you’re laying double-digits, ride Utah. JAZZ
Last week: 0-2
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