It goes without saying that trades in the NBA are made with the motivation to get better. Even if a team is salary dumping certain players to get worse in the short-term, as to optimize their standings in the NBA draft, every team’s long-term goal is to get better and to win.
The NBA trade deadline is no different.
Moving on gracefully
The Toronto Raptors have been struggling this year, and are now expected to trade veteran point guard, and club legend, Kyle Lowry to either the Miami Heat or Philadelphia 76ers. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski did open the door for the Los Angeles Lakers to also be a candidate, which would add to the coming intrigue.
The Raptors do not want to trade Lowry. He’s tremendously well-liked by the organization, he’s got a strong connection to the fanbase, and he’s won a championship with the club. But Lowry will turn 35 on the day of the deadline, suggesting time is running out for him to make another run to the NBA Finals.
Since it will take the Raptors at least a few years to get fully back on track, the organization is working with the former All-Star to send him to a place he actively wants to go.
This has numerous benefits, including satisfying a player who has given that organization the best years of his career, while also allowing the Raptors themselves to pivot into a re-tooling process quicker. Toronto’s willingness to help Lowry’s situation also won’t go unnoticed by players around the league or their agents. This type of loyalty reflects positively on the Raptors, making everyone a winner.
Lowry, whether he goes to Los Angeles, Philadelphia or Miami, will get a chance to compete for another ring. The Raptors will get compensation and can move into something new, without feeling obligated to hang onto Lowry due to his legacy.
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The Chicago Bulls are expected to be a serious contender for the services of New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball, according to Wojnarowski. What Chicago would be sending the other way under such a scenario remains to be seen, but forward Lauri Markkanen has been rumored to be available.
Ball would instantaneously become Chicago’s most prolific playmaker, a dire need for a team that too frequently sees the ball die in the hands of Markkanen and Coby White. Ball’s three-point shooting evolution (38.5% accuracy on 7.8 nightly attempts) has turned him into a reliable offensive weapon, while his strong defensive acumen remains in place.
Ball could take the tougher defensive assignment between himself and Zach LaVine, while also playing off of the attention LaVine receives offensively, opening himself up to remain a high-volume three-point shooter. Alternatively, Ball’s presence also allows both LaVine and White to move more off the ball, where they both are comfortable shooting in catch-and-shoot scenarios.
The Bulls were hoping for more playmaking this season, but received it from a strange source, when veteran forward Thaddeus Young began piling up high assist numbers. Now, getting it from a ball-handling guard would allow them to have playmakers at multiple positions, making it more difficult for defenses to key in on certain actions.
While Ball is a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) after this season, and has set a price-point of $20 million per year, that needn’t scare off the Bulls. That number is fair, especially considering that Ball, who is just 23, is likely to further improve as he ages.
What the Bulls should be worried about is a scenario wherein a team offers Ball the max, and puts Chicago in a position where they have to either match that type of offer sheet, or walk away and lose Ball for nothing. They’re already in that situation with Markkanen, who is also an RFA, and they likely aren’t interested in having to deal with such situations at the same time.
A necessary piece
While Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon has been linked to the Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets in recent days, the Minnesota Timberwolves are also giving Gordon a hard look.
It’s not a bad look to give.
Gordon is a superbly agile and athletic new-age power forward who defends at a high level, initiates the offense, shoots the three at a reasonably high volume and who cause havoc on drives.
In other words, he is the perfect front-court partner for Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Wolves have one of the worst defenses in the NBA, and while Gordon alone won’t change that, his impact will have an affect and provide the Wolves with a level of defensive versatility they currently do not have.
With Towns developing into a fine playmaker in his own right, and with D’Angelo Russell also on board, the Wolves would have an agile line-up with significant amounts of passing in it, which also should accelerate their offensive development.
Gordon is likely to land in Boston or Denver, however, unless the Wolves blow off Orlando’s pants with an offer so overwhelming in talent or value, the Magic would feel compelled to do it. While unlikely, crazier things have happened on trade deadline days.
Because in the end, teams will more often than not do everything within their power to get better.