The All-Star Break is nearly here, and as things continue to play out in this pandemic-stricken season, teams are slowly beginning to determine where they land as buyers or sellers with respect to the NBA’s March 25 trade deadline.
That means the rumour mill is alive and well, constantly churning out a surfeit of new stories for fans and pundits alike to immediately dissect and pontificate over.
So, without further ado, here’s a look at this week’s most notable buzz from around the league.
Oladipo a possible deadline target?
This past Monday, it was reported that former all-star Victor Oladipo had turned down a two-year, $45.2 max extension offer from the Houston Rockets, who acquired him in the four-team blockbuster that ultimately sent James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets.
Oladipo was quick to note that the Rockets had made the offer some time ago knowing he would not accept, more as a gesture of goodwill (and perhaps to indicate to other teams that he is healthy) than anything else, and one that he appreciated.
"They wanted to show me they wanted me,” he told reporters when asked about the extension on Monday.
Though what the Rockets tendered Oladipo was indeed the most they could have offered him at the time, it was expected that he would turn them down as he’s reportedly seeking a longer-term contract, something Houston won’t be able to offer until the off-season if they so choose.
At that point, they could present Oladipo with a four-year, $113 million extension (immediately following the end of the season prior to the opening of free agency) or a five-year, $195 million extension (once the free agency window opens). That’s more than any other team could offer, as the most another suitor could tender would be four years, $145 million.
Of course, Houston may have no desire to offer Oladipo -- who hasn’t quite been able to return to the level he was at prior to a ruptured quadriceps tendon he suffered in 2019 -- such a deal and may instead be focused on other options, including openly placing him on the trade market.
This has reportedly yet to be the case, but should Houston opt to test the waters, Oladipo’s potential and expiring contract could garner more interest than any other available asset at the deadline. It is a well-known fact, for example, that both the Miami Heat and New York Knicks have sniffed around Oladipo in the past, though each presently have the salary cap space to sign him outright in free agency.
Exactly what the Rockets will choose to do with the 28-year-old depends on a multitude of things (including just getting to know him better and evaluating the outlook of the team’s current core), but it shouldn’t come at all as surprising if his name becomes increasingly bandied about as the weeks pass by.
Redick, Bledsoe remain available
The New Orleans Pelicans, who have been playing solid basketball as of late but still sit 11th in the hellish Western Conference, are making themselves known as sellers and remaining open to conversations around veteran guards JJ Redick and Eric Bledsoe.
According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, the two remain “very much available” as the Pelicans look to continue rebuilding around the titanic talents of 20-year-old Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Such moves would open up playing time for the likes of Nickeil Alexander-Walker (in his second year) and Kira Lewis Jr. (a rookie), whom the team is evidently hoping to develop as its back court of the future.
Redick, now in his 15th season and at age 36, is having arguably the poorest campaign of his career (something that will surely lower his market value), but he remains an intriguing option for any team requiring extra oomph along the perimeter as a space-generating sniper on a friendly $13.1 million expiring contract.
Fischer, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, and Shams Charania of The Athletic have all mentioned the Nets as a potential Redick destination, which isn’t at all surprising considering he has family ties to the city. In terms of an on-court fit, however, Redick doesn’t provide relief to Brooklyn’s defensive concerns, and instead simply adds another weapon to a team already bursting with firepower.
Still, if the Nets find themselves striking out on defensive upgrades, opting to fully succumb to the identity of a purely overpowering offensive club isn’t such a bad fallback.
Aside from Brooklyn, the Philadelphia 76ers (whom he played two seasons with from 2017-2019), Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets have reportedly all had some level of interest in the grizzled guard.
Much like Redick, Bledsoe has had a rather poor start to the season, with his numbers down nearly across the board. Unlike Redick, however, Bledsoe is not generating much trade market buzz nor is he on an expiring contract, and while his present deal of $16.8 million isn’t terribly difficult to move in and of itself, the fact that the two remaining seasons ascend in value (he will be making $19 million in his age 33 season) may see teams that would otherwise have been interested in him pass.
Celtics facing increasing pressure
All is not well in Beantown.
In a season that’s been marred with injuries to key players, the effects of the league’s health and safety protocols and the noticeable void left in the wake of Gordon Hayward’s off-season departure to Charlotte, the Celtics (5-5 through their last 10 games and clinging to the fourth seed in the East by a thread) find themselves searching for answers with the All-Star break mere days away.
This has led many to believe -- including league executives -- that they could be active in trade talks as the deadline inches ever closer.
“There comes a time where you have to do something to keep your stars placated and show that you’re trying, especially when they’re young and early in their primes,” an East executive told ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “You have to make that commitment to them.”
Those stars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, have individually been tremendous, and were both recently recognized as all-stars. But the roster around them has not only been impacted by injuries (Marcus Smart and Romeo Langford are currently both sidelined), it also simply has some significant flaws — namely, grabbing defensive rebounds (they rank 25th in the league) to close out possessions and a lack of high-level passers to keep the ball moving (they rank 27th in assists).
Even so, Celtics general manager and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, who has famously been hesitant to make significant roster-altering moves in the past, has yet to give any serious indication he’s thinking of shaking things up. The last time Boston acquired a player in an in-season trade was six years ago, when it landed Isaiah Thomas from the Phoenix Suns. Only the San Antonio Spurs have a longer drought.
If things continue on the same path, though, that streak may finally come to an end.