30. New York Knicks: 10-44. Offense: 98.7 (28th). Defense: 107.6 (28th)
Traded: Pablo Prigioni ($1,662,961 this season, $290,000 of $1,734,572 guaranteed next season)
Received: Alexey Shved ($3,282,057 this season, RFA this summer) and the Rockets' 2017 and 2019 2nd round picks
I'm surprised that New York actually added salary after Phil Jackson nearly got them under the Luxury Tax, but this is good trade for the Knickerbockers. They add some much needed draft picks (even if they are so far into the future), shed the modest amount due to Prigioni this summer, and get a look at the much younger Shved, who actually fits Phil's preference in the triangle offense for a big PG with some shooting ability. It is ridiculous that Carmelo Anthony played in the All-Star game before shutting it down for the season -- if his knee was in enough pain to require surgery, why play in an exhibition? -- but they've secured cap space and are on the right track to secure the best lottery odds for the post player they desperately need in this system, Jahlil Okafor...even if those odds are still just a 25% chance at the #1 pick.
29. Los Angeles Lakers: 13-41. Offense: 101.3 (23rd). Defense: 108.6 (29th)
With the fourth worst record in the league right now, L.A. has an 82.8% chance at keeping their top-5 protected pick, but whenever that pick ends up being conveyed to complete the Steve Nash deal, they'll still owe another first round pick to Orlando two years later thanks to the Dwight Howard trade. While they were wise to pick up Houston's first round pick by taking Jeremy Lin off their hands, second round pick Jordan Clarkson has some nice potential, and Ed Davis was an incredible steal at the minimum for this season, this roster is still barren of talent overall, with no foundation player at any position. Seventh overall pick Julius Randle breaking his leg in the first game was one of the biggest tragedies of the year, and Kobe Bryant ending up injured for the third straight year makes his ridiculous contract extension look even worse. It will be interesting to see how they navigate their cap space in free agency this summer with the last year of Kobe's contract coming off the books in the summer of 2016 when the massive TV contract will jump up the salary cap.
|Andrew Wiggins has soared above his peers.|
28. Minnesota Timberwolves: 12-42. Offense: 99.5 (T-25th). Defense: 109.2 (30th)
Traded: Thaddeus Young ($9,660,869 this season, $10,221,739 early termination option this summer)
Received: Kevin Garnett ($12,000,000 this season)
The Big Ticket returning to where it all started 20 years ago is a great story, but trading 26 year old Thad Young wasn't the best use of assets considering that he cost them Miami's first round pick from Cleveland in the Kevin Love trade. Maybe there weren't any future values better than KG's influence if Young indicated that he was going to opt for free agency this summer, but the mere fact that this was a possibility made the choice to trade for him instead of simply keeping top 10-protected pick a questionable one. President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders has had an uneven performance so far (which is still better than what Head Coach Flip Saunders has done), with this trade capping off a trade season that included dumping Corey Brewer for Troy Daniels and two second round picks, including a valuable one from Sacramento this year; flipping Daniels and cheap free agent signing Mo Williams for Gary Neal's expiring contract and a possibly valuable 2019 Miami second round pick via Charlotte; and trading a heavily protected 2017 first round pick for Adreian Payne, who was the 15th pick in last year's draft but hasn't been overly impressive in the D-League.
Of course, the most important move of all was trading for Andrew Wiggins, the #1 prospect of his class and next great NBA star, last summer as the key piece of the Love trade. He's had some ups and downs as you'd expect from a 19 year old, but things appeared to have clicked since the end of December. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what caused this change (it occurred not long after Shabazz Muhammad joined the starting lineup, allowing Wiggins to have the ball in his hands more and have a size advantage against opposing shooting guards, but it has continued with Muhammad injured and Kevin Martin back healthy), but since December 23rd, when he went off against the Cavaliers team that traded him, he has averaged 18.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.5 assists with 47.1% shooting overall in 14.7 attempts, 34.9% from three in 2.3 attempts, and 76.9% from the line in 4.8 attempts in 28 games, all the while defending the opponents' top perimeter threats. This kind of two way versatility provides a foundation piece for a franchise that has Ricky Rubio locked up along with Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, Anthony Bennett (the other piece of the Love trade), Zach LaVine, and now Payne all on their rookie scale contracts. They could all become solid rotation players down the line to go with Wiggins, Rubio, and their high lottery pick this summer-- I hope they end up with Karl Towns as their elite big to be mentored by Garnett compared to the others they already have.