The midway point of the NBA season is always a good spot for me to begin writing about hoops, once again. The All-Star break is a measuring stick for each team jockeying for a playoff spot throughout the league as it’s evident who is pushing for playoffs and who is plummeting for picks.
The halfway point is also a good spot for me, personally, to jump back into the swing of things as school is slowing down and the season is heating up. It’s hard for me to toss schoolwork to the side so I can share my opinions on a league that is going to change 27 times before the break, anyways. Most teams take half the season — give or take a few weeks — to find their true identities. I’ve been in the lab, I’ve been watching League Pass, and am excited to be back.
“I’m thinking I’m back!”
As always, you can Tweet us a question @NBART or @DSchroeder34, just be sure to use the #NBARTMail hashtag so you can be featured in upcoming mailbag columns!
How can the Raptors trade for Drummond? Will that be enough to win the East? – @oilersfan991
First off, in order to make this trade it would have to be centered around Jonas Valanciunas. So, lets say Jonas, a young player (or two), and a first round pick for Andre Drummond. (If needed, Jared Sullinger can be waived.)
Raptors get: Andre Drummond
Pistons get: Jonas Valenciunas, Jakob Poeltl (who I’d want, assuming Joseph is untouchable), and a future protected first round pick.
The difference between Jonas and Andre is about a basket per game and a handful of rebounds. Drummond is one of the best low post bigs in the league and could give Toronto help in areas that they need it. However, I fully believe that the asking price would simply be too much for what Jonas already brings to the team. Jonas is a better rim protector, shooter, and offers help in the PNR that isn’t available with Drummond.
Maybe I’m just a gigantic Valenciunas fan, but he’s really freaking good. There have been series the last two playoffs where he has been their best player for important stretches. I firmly believe they’d stay about the same if they traded for Drummond, or maybe a little worse depending on his attitude to buying into a role and being asked to strengthen his defense. The risk of a draft pick and a young prospect isn’t worth it.
Anytime you have a chance to trade for a high level player, make sure he’s able to stay on the court during the final 5 minutes of the game. Andre Drummond often doesn’t participate in winning time because his free throw shooting is horrifically bad, everybody knows this.
What would you think about a trade for a shooter for OKC? How high of a quality of shooter can they get? — @njreardon
With the trade deadline approaching, every Oklahoma City fan across the country wants Sam Presti to find Russell Westbrook some help. The Brodie has ratchet strapped the Thunder to his back as he has drug them to the seven seed, one triple-double at a time.
Finding Westbrook shooting isn’t the problem, there are shooters all across the league at a low price. But Westbrook needs more than shooting. He needs a player (or two) that he can rely on for his upcoming F-you-I-can-make-the-conference-finals-without-Kevin showing. He needs a player (or two) that can help revive the Thunder roster.
Here’s what I was thinking: Danilo Gallinari, SF, Denver Nuggets
This is assuming you can talk Denver into rebuilding while they’re holding onto the eight seed. Maybe give them a long talk over the phone about how the New Orleans Pelicans are coming for their spot (and potentially your own) and they should accept your first round pick for this very deep draft class.
Gallinari brings instant offense to your one man band as he has one of the most unique offensive games in the league. He is a perennial leader in free throw attempts each season, supplies the outside shooting that is needed, and offers offensive versatility because of his ability to play multiple positions. But most importantly, he brings efficiency to your clown show.
Gallinari is one of my favorite players being placed in trade rumors and trade machines this season. I’ve been a big fan of his game for a couple years. Best case scenario for a team trying to get Gallinari is that you are able to obtain Chandler or Faried as well in a mega-package, but the finances don’t lineup great for OKC to try that — unless they can get Denver to take on Kanter’s ginormous contract.
How can the Cavs get Tyreke Evans? – @davidjcisco
Tyreke Evans on the Cavaliers? Uhh, why?
With JR Smith returning soon, the only thing that the Cavaliers need is a back up point guard. I’m still shocked that Mario Chalmers hasn’t been signed in Cleveland yet, since it’s kind of LeBron’s M.O. to keep former teammates around way longer than they should be. But then I think about all of those times where Miami was losing games and LeBron couldn’t help screaming — literally SCREAMING — at Mario Chalmers for not being able to manage Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and himself on the court.
Hey Cleveland, you need a backup point guard? Look no further than the kid you drafted a couple of years ago in Tyus Jones. Send Shumpert to Minnesota for Jones and second round pick and you’ll be taken care of.
Tyus Jones — in my opinion — has been the best point guard in Minnesota this season when he has been given the minutes. He makes winning plays, the spotlight is never too big, and any other cliches that you can think of are legitimately true for Tyus.
But for real, he has won at every level in his life when he manages the game, why not let him run the show for 8-10 minutes per game when Kyrie/LeBron aren’t on the court? His ability to catch and shoot will blend in with the rest of the army as well. He’s as trustworthy as they come and might be a great option to get Kyrie off the ball sometimes, too.
Did you see the Wizards being as good as they are? – @crispy_kreem
Honestly, yes. They’ve always had the potential to fly through the league like they have as of lately. The issue has always came down to health and coaching in my opinion.
For the first time in years, the Wizards have stayed healthy. As a result, John Wall is emerging as an MVP candidate and the backcourt is one of the top three in the league. Oh yeah, and that Scott Brooks guy has been terrific as well. Hopefully when Washington loses to Cleveland in the playoffs he doesn’t get killed like he would in Oklahoma City. Praise Scotty!
Best breakout player? – @Quentin_Close98
Is this even a question anymore? Giannis Antetokounmpo is the future of basketball.
Before the season started, I predicted Zach LaVine to win the Most Improved Player of the Year. I’m sure there will be arguments made for Isaiah Thomas since he has emerged as a superstar and the best 4th quarter player of the generation — kinda, sorta joking. And lastly, Devin Booker was a very popular choice for this before the season started. And guess what, it’s never the guy we think it’s going to be.
Since the start of the season, Antetokounmpo has ascended into a basketball sphinx. That’s the best way I can put it. He’s the most untouchable player in the league (if you believe in such a thing, I don’t).
He’s the most exciting player during a fast break that I’ve ever seen. I’m convinced that one of these nights he’s going to leave from behind the three point line and it’s not even going to seem that weird. A couple of weeks ago, he left from only a few inches inside the free throw line and dunked the ball after ONE dribble inside of half court. ONE DRIBBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!
Unfortunately for Milwaukee, Jabari Parker’s injury halts any plans of a postseason run this year. It’ll be very exciting to watch a healthy Parker, Middleton, and even freakier Giannis next year.
What do the Timberwolves need to do to get Paul Millsap? — @GarrettBerg5
After initial belief that Millsap was going to be available around the package of a first round pick, Budenholzer has changed that narrative by simply saying, “He’s not going anywhere”.
After years and years of watching general manager’s around the deadline, I believe there is no such thing as an untouchable player. EVERY player has a price, and can be taken away from that team as long as you match or overpay that price. Wasn’t Vlade just discussing a $200 million extension with DeMarcus Cousins?
Paul Millsap was born to play on this Timberwolves roster. He’s the veteran they need, he’s the shooter they need, he’s the defensive big next to Towns they need, he’s the stretch-four they need, and he’s the I’ve-been-here-before-so-give-me-the-rock guy they need when helping close a game.
If I’m the Timberwolves, I would call Atlanta and offer this. They have to AT LEAST think about it:
Shabazz Muhammad, Nikola Pekovic, 2017 UNPROTECTED first, 2018 second
(If that isn’t enough, I’d really give up anybody on the roster that isn’t Towns (obviously), Wiggins (obviously), LaVine (obviously), or Dunn (not obviously).) I’d potentially include a future first round pick as well, but it’d be highly protected.
Do you think Russ will leave OKC cause they won’t be able to compete with any top 4 teams in the West? — @Kiech_Mula
Westbrook has three years left on his contract. I’m assuming that his ability alone will be able to bring in some sort impactful talent to OKC within that time frame via free agency or trade. They can be a top four team again as early as next year.
I think betting on Westbrook to stay in OKC for his entire career is almost the lock of the decade. I know there have always been rumors of him packing up and going to Los Angeles, but I just can’t see Russ doing that to the Thunder after everything that has transpired this last year. He has really shown us how much those fans mean to him, along with commitment and loyalty. The only way he’s not playing for Oklahoma City in the future is if they move back to Seattle.
Most disappointing team and most surprising? — @Josh_Eastman23
Most Disappointing Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
Too much young talent. You got the BEST coach on the market. Still can’t win games. Can’t play defense for Thibs. One of the youngest teams in the league, and lose more games because of effort than maybe anybody. They need Kevin Garnett there to kick the players in the ass so badly. Or really, ANY vet.
Honorable Mention: Toronto Raptors
I know Toronto will be there in the end. I know they’re likely going to be in another Conference Finals, but how can you slip to 4-6 in your last 10 and lose your home court advantage? How???
Most Surprising Team: Houston Rockets
I took Harden as my MVP before the season started. I loved the direction their team was heading, but I did not expect Houston to be sitting here at the break with the third best record in the NBA. He’s still my MVP and I think Houston is the only team that has a real shot of upsetting Golden State in the West.
Honorable Mention: Memphis Grizzies
I will be the first to admit that I didn’t think the Grizz had any chance of surviving another year in this league without facing the lottery. After making the needed adjustments, and riding Marc Gasol’s All-Star back to the six seed, I have been pleasantly surprised, and pleasantly reminded by The Grindfather that Memphis basketball simply doesn’t die!