JR Smith has not appeared in a game for the Cleveland Cavaliers in over three months, but there is apparently still at least one playoff contender hoping for a chance to add him down the stretch.
Joe Vardon of The Athletic reports that the Milwaukee Bucks have interest in Smith, though there is not much optimism that the veteran will reach a buyout agreement with the Cavs before the March 1 deadline to be eligible to play in the postseason. Smith is currently guaranteed $3.9 million for next season, and that number will increase to $15.7 million if he remains on the roster after July 1. Cleveland could waive him and pay him the $3.9 million before that, so they do not stand to save that much even with a buyout agreement.
If the Cavs keep Smith on their roster after July 1, they can try to trade him either over the summer or prior to next February’s trade deadline. They could also “waive and stretch” his contract by the August deadline if they’re unable to trade him.
Vardon speculates that Smith might be willing to give back $1 million in a buyout agreement with Cleveland, so you can understand why they might prefer to take their chances of trying to trade him. That said, he’ll be 34 next season and will have taken a lot of time off. Trading him will not be easy, and there seems to be no chance of a reconciliation after the way Smith called out the team earlier this year.
The Bucks are currently 43-14 and in first in the Eastern Conference. It makes sense for them to want to surround Giannis Antetokounmpo as many catch-and-shoot specialists as possible.
The NBA trade deadline has passed, which means we more or less know what teams will look like in the NBA playoffs. There will be a few new faces who join playoff teams, but the bulk of these rosters are in place. With most of the season behind us, we also know who will likely be making the playoffs and seeded highly for a Finals run.
Keeping in mind the trade deadline activity, here are the top ten contenders to take home the title in June.
10. Utah Jazz
The Jazz were ultimately quiet at the trade deadline despite being linked to Memphis guard Mike Conley. In the end, they will go with what they had, which isn’t bad. Donovan Mitchell is a star, and Rudy Gobert is playing with a point to prove after being a quite egregious All-Star snub. They’re not really deep enough to challenge the best of the West, and they don’t really have enough in the way of top-level talent, but they’re good enough to cause a few headaches.
The 2019 NBA trade deadline was an exceptionally active one with multiple big names changing teams, even if the biggest name on the market ended up staying put. That doesn’t change the fact that the action, especially in the Eastern Conference, was fast and furious, and that isn’t even factoring in the Kristaps Porzingis deal.
Here are ten big takeaways from all the moves that took place prior to Thursday’s deadline.
1. The Anthony Davis saga will drag on into the summer, and the Lakers look worse for it
It didn’t seem like the New Orleans Pelicans ever had any real intention of negotiating with the Los Angeles Lakers in good faith on an Anthony Davis trade. The Pelicans have every incentive to wait until summer to deal Davis, when they should have a wider range of interested teams. The Lakers will be disappointed, as they don’t look great publicly, seem to have muddled the minds of their young players, and may now find themselves in a situation where they can be outbid. LeBron James probably won’t be happy, either.
In exchange for Mirotic, the Bucks will send Jason Smith and Stanley Johnson to Pelicans, while four second-round picks will also go to the Pelicans in total.
To complete the trade, the Bucks will send power forward/center Thon Maker to the Pistons.
While the wide-held expectation was that Mirotic would be traded by the deadline, Milwaukee was a bit of a surprise destination. However, the Bucks may be a strong fit for Mirotic, who can settle into the role of sixth-man and feast on strong matchups given that Milwaukee takes 41.6% of their shot attempts from beyond the three-point line, which is second in the NBA.
The 27-year-old Mirotic, who has appeared in 32 games this season, averaging 16.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists, will likely remained sidelined until after the break as he continues to nurse a calf injury.
The Denver Nuggets think they’re pretty good this season, but the Milwaukee Bucks still think they’re better.
The Nuggets moved to 36-15 with another victory on Friday night, reclaiming the best record in the Western Conference in the process. That led to coach Michael Malone remarking that the Nuggets have “beaten every team in the NBA,” but that, as the Bucks pointed out, was something of an oversight.
The two teams have not played since November, but the Bucks are right. They defeated the Nuggets twice in the span of eight days.
The Bucks ultimately do not appreciate being disrespected. Their Twitter account will be more than happy to continue correcting the record on stuff like this. After all, the Nuggets may have the best record in the West, but it’s the Bucks who can claim the best record overall.
Lopez is a good bet to start for Milwaukee, who will be looking to take a few steps forward in a weaker Eastern Conference this season. He started 72 games for the Los Angeles Lakers last season, averaging 13 points and four rebounds per game. He averaged 20 points per game the two seasons prior to that while playing for the Brooklyn Nets.
Mike Budenholzer is trading one Eastern Conference team for another.
Budenholzer has reached an agreement with the Milwaukee Bucks to become their new head coach, as first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The Bucks were in the market for a new coach after firing Jason Kidd midway through the season, his fourth with the team. Budenholzer was looking for a new job after parting ways with the rebuilding Atlanta Hawks. He also interviewed for the Knicks’ position.
The Bucks finished the season 44-38 — their best record since 2009-10. They have made the playoffs in three of the past four seasons, but they haven’t advanced past the first round since 2000-01 when they made the conference finals. They’re hoping that Budenholzer will be able to take them to the next level.