NBA trade guide: The title contenders

Bobby Marks
·The Vertical
LeBron James has expressed concern that his roster may need a boost. (Getty Images)
LeBron James has expressed concern that his roster may need a boost. (Getty Images)

The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a former 20-year executive with the Nets, looks at each team’s roster and trade assets, as well as examining the track record of each team’s general manager during previous trade deadlines.

The series begins with a look at the past three NBA champions as the Feb. 23 deadline approaches.

CLEVELAND
Roster
Player Value Insider info
1. LeBron James Franchise No-trade clause
2. Kyrie Irving All-NBA
3. Kevin Love All-star
4. Tristan Thompson Key starter
5. J.R. Smith Key starter/injured
6. Iman Shumpert Top reserve
7. Kyle Korver Top reserve Expiring contract
8. Channing Frye Rotation
9. Richard Jefferson Rotation
10. James Jones Roster Expiring contract
11. Chris Andersen Injured/roster
12. DeAndre Liggins Development 2017-18, No protection
13. Jordan McRae Development 2017-18, No protection
14. Kay Felder Development 2017-18, $455,000 Protection

Trade assets: limited and costly

Putting together a championship roster comes with a price.

For Cleveland, that price came in the way of first-round picks that were traded in deals for Channing Frye (via Orlando to Portland) and Korver (Atlanta).

As a result, Cleveland will not have a first-round pick to trade until 2022, at the earliest. Since signing LeBron James in 2014, the team hasn’t had a first-round pick to add to the roster and will not until 2018.

The Cavaliers are also limited on future second-round picks and cash to be included in any trade.

In the next four years, the Cavaliers have only a 2019 second-round pick from either the Lakers or Minnesota because Cleveland’s second-round picks have been traded in past deals.

Cleveland does have the draft rights to 21-year-old Cedi Osman, a former second-round pick (32nd overall in 2015) who currently plays in Turkey for Anadolu Efes.

Because of previous transactions (Sasha Kaun’s trade to the 76ers in July 2016 and Korver), Cleveland has $750,000 left to send out in trades.

The Cavaliers, however, do have five trade exceptions, ranging from $4.8 million to $947,000, that can be used to acquire a player in a trade or off waivers.

However, using a trade exception will come at a significant cost.

Cleveland is currently $14.3 million over the luxury tax and would become a Tier 4 tax team with additional salary.

Any additional salary would cost Cleveland $3.25 million for every $1 million spent and would increase the Cavaliers’ $27 million luxury-tax bill significantly.

GM David Griffin acquired J.R. Smith in January 2015. (AP)
GM David Griffin acquired J.R. Smith in January 2015. (AP)

GM history at the deadline

The Korver trade is an example of the aggressive nature of general manager David Griffin.

While the Frye acquisition last year is the only February deadline deal on Griffin’s résumé, he has made three January trades (including the Korver deal) since taking over in 2014.

In early January 2015, Cleveland acquired a starter in J.R. Smith, a key reserve in Iman Shumpert and a future first-round pick from Oklahoma City.

Two days later Griffin, sent the Oklahoma City pick along with a Memphis future first acquired in a previous trade to Denver for Timofey Mozgov.

Both trades helped the Cavaliers reach back-to-back NBA Finals.

Post-deadline roster movement

The Cavaliers have the prorated minimum exception available for their remaining roster spot.

With depleted draft assets and an unbalanced roster, the most likely scenario for the Cavaliers is adding a player in free agency after the trade deadline, when veterans are often bought out of their contracts.

GOLDEN STATE
Roster
Player Value Insider Info

1. Kevin Durant Franchise 2017-18 player option
2. Stephen Curry Franchise Expiring contract
3. Klay Thompson All-NBA
4. Draymond Green All-NBA
5. Zaza Pachulia Starter Expiring contract
6. Andre Iguodala Top reserve Expiring contract
7. Shaun Livingston Top reserve Expiring contract
8. Ian Clark Rotation Expiring contract
9. Patrick McCaw Rotation
10. JaVale McGee Rotation Expiring contract
11. James Michael McAdoo Roster RFA expiring contract
12. Anderson Varejao Roster Expiring contract
13. Kevon Looney Development
14. Damian Jones Development
15. David West Injured/rotation Expiring contract

Trade assets: limited

The Utah Jazz control the Warriors’ first- and second-round picks in June’s draft.

Both picks are the final terms of the 2014 Andre Iguodala sign-and-trade, when Golden State moved the contracts of Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush and Andris Biedrins to Utah to clear cap space.

The Warriors have their future first-round picks but are not permitted to trade a first until 2019.

In addition to the 2017 second-round pick that goes to Utah, Golden State also owes second-round picks to Denver in 2018 and Dallas in 2019.

An eye toward the future

With a roster that will likely be in the luxury tax the next three seasons, Golden State needs to put a heavy emphasis on retaining its own future first-round picks.

Because the Warriors’ roster likely will have $100 million committed to four players for the foreseeable future, Golden State will need to build its bench through the draft along with minimum and tax mid-level exceptions.

Although Golden State does not have a first- or second-round pick this June, it will have $3.5 million in cash available to use in the draft.

Last season the Warriors spent $2.4 million to buy a second-round pick and draft Patrick McCaw.

Kevin Durant’s possible long-term presence means the Warriors will have to be frugal in rounding out their roster. (AP)
Kevin Durant’s possible long-term presence means the Warriors will have to be frugal in rounding out their roster. (AP)

GM history at the deadline

Three deadline deals highlight general manager Bob Myers’ tenure since taking over in 2012.

However, none of the trades occurred after 2014, when the Warriors have had the league’s best record at the deadline.

In separate trades in 2013, Golden State created roster spots by moving Charles Jenkins and Jeremy Tyler, plus cash and draft considerations.

A year later and in need of a backup point guard, the Warriors moved Kent Bazemore and Marshon Brooks to the Lakers for Steve Blake.

Post-deadline roster movement

Do not discount Golden State when it comes to roster additions after the deadline.

Though Golden State has 15 guaranteed contracts, five players – including seldom-used Anderson Varejao and James Michael McAdoo – are on minimum expiring contracts.

SAN ANTONIO
Roster
Player Value Insider info

1. Kawhi Leonard Franchise
2. *LaMarcus Aldridge Core
3. Tony Parker Key starter
4. Pau Gasol Key starter/injured 2017-18 player option
5. Danny Green Starter
6. **Patty Mills Starter Expiring contract
7. Manu Ginobili Top reserve Expiring contract
8. David Lee Top reserve 2017-18 player option
9. Dejounte Murray Rotation/development
10. Davis Bertans Rotation/development
11. Kyle Anderson Rotation
12. Jonathan Simmons Rotation RFA expiring contract
13. Dewayne Dedmon Rotation 2017-18 player option
14. Bryn Forbes Development 2017-18 no protection

*Aldridge was not voted to the All-Star Game, but his value equals that of an All-Star-level player.

**Mills is not the starter when Tony Parker is healthy, but for roster valuation Mills’ impact equals that of a starter.

Trade assets: plenty of picks available

Unlike Cleveland and Golden State, the Spurs have their current and future first-round picks.

Other than the 2022 second-round pick that was sent to Utah in the Boris Diaw trade in July 2016, San Antonio has its own second-round picks in the future.

The Spurs also have the draft rights to former first-round pick Nikola Milutinov, a 22-year-old playing in Greece for Olympiacos.

GM history at the deadline

San Antonio’s philosophy in past deadlines has been to not alter the foundation.

Since being named general manager in 2002, two-time NBA Executive of the Year R.C. Buford has made six trades at the deadline.

The two biggest deals occurred in 2005, when the Spurs sent two first-round picks to New York for Nazr Mohammed. One of those picks turned into current Spur David Lee.

Seven years later, Richard Jefferson and a first would be sent to Golden State for Stephen Jackson.

Jackson was eventually waived a year later right before the playoffs started.

The last time San Antonio made a deadline deal was the 2014 trade of Nando De Colo to Toronto for Austin Daye.

Post-deadline roster movement

The Spurs are one of the most aggressive teams after the March 1 playoff eligibility waiver deadline, signing Andre Miller (2016), Kevin Martin (2016) and Patty Mills (2012) in past years.

San Antonio currently has one roster spot available and the minimum exception to use.

More NBA coverage from The Vertical: