The Cavs have reportedly included shooting guard JR Smith in discussions with multiple teams ahead of the Feb. 8 NBA trade deadline. The Cavs offered Smith to “various” front offices. It’s unclear whether those proposals have led to more substantive talks, though. The 32-year-old New Jersey native is enduring one of the worst statistical seasons of his career. He’s averaged 7.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists while shooting 37.7 percent from the field across 49 appearances during his third full season in Cleveland. His player efficiency rating (7.62) ranks 77th out of 82 qualified shooting guards. In addition, he’s under contract for next season with a $14.7 million cap hit followed by a team option for 2019-20 at $15.7 million. Smith said in November his postgame approach was contributing to his poor performance: “Me as a person goes hand in hand with me being a professional. Eating habits, sleeping habits, I can’t take the court home with me. I can’t just stay up all night thinking about the game, watching the game, watching highlights, listening to what people say, things like that”. All told, it’s hard to imagine the Cavaliers finding much interest in a veteran with declining numbers and a costly cap number for at least one more year. They will likely need to use other assets, such as their pair of first-round picks in the 2018 draft, in order to upgrade their roster.
In recent weeks the Cavs have been involved in trade rumors regarding everyone from George Hill to DeAndre Jordan, but following Saturday’s game, LeBron said that questions about potential moves aren’t for him. LeBron said: “That’s not a question for me. I show up to work every day, bust my tail every day, I’m one of the first ones to get to the gym and I’m one of the last ones to leave. I do my part, I control what I can control, and [making moves] is what I cannot control”. Regardless of how much say LeBron actually has about front office decisions, it seems likely the Cavs will make some sort of move before the trade deadline.
The Pelicans have found a temporary solution at center by signing Emeka Okafor. New Orleans announced the 10-day contract. Drafted No. 2 overall by the Charlotte Bobcats in 2004, Okafor was named Rookie of the Year after averaging 15.1 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. After playing 79 games for the Washington Wizards in 2012-13, injuries kept Okafor out of action. He was diagnosed with a herniated disk in his neck in September 2013 and wasn’t medically cleared to play until last May. Okafor, 35, will give the Pelicans frontcourt depth with DeMarcus Cousinsout for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. He has averaged 12.3 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in nine NBA seasons with three teams.
The Celtics and free-agent big man Greg Monroe agreed to terms on a one-year contract Friday. Per Wojnarowski, the deal is worth $5 million. The New Orleans Pelicans also showed interest in Monroe but could only offer him $2.2 million. Monroe, 27, split time with the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns. He averaged 10.4 points and 7.4 rebounds across 25 appearances, most coming following his trade to Phoenix. The Suns reached a buyout agreement with Monroe on Feb. 1 after he fell out of the rotation as the team looked to play its young bigs. While he’s playing for his third team of the season, Monroe has been effective when he’s on the floor. He shot 62.6 percent from the floor in Phoenix and racked up six double-doubles despite inconsistent playing time. The Suns played him in five straight games immediately before his buyout, which came following a stretch of six games where he played three minutes. Boston will look for Monroe to simply play Greg Monroe basketball. His effectiveness has varied at times, but Monroe is generally always the same player. He’s an old-school big who grabs boards and does most of his work inside on the offensive end, while being a glaring minus defensively—especially against small-ball lineups. The Bucks found a way to hide him well within their defensive scheme last season, and he had a good year playing a sixth-man role. Monroe will likely expect similar playing time to the 22.5 minutes per game he got last year in Milwaukee. Given he should be an improvement over the Celtics’ backup bigs, that shouldn’t be a problem. Power forward Al Horford is Boston’s top big man, and backup power forward Marcus Morris has been a solid contributor as well.
In other news, the Celtics would be willing to trade Smart in exchange for a first-round pick. Wojnarowski discussed the situation on his recent podcast with Bobby Marks. As transcribed by USA Today: “You talk about Marcus Smart, he’s a player that’s available for a first round pick. If a team was willing to give Boston a first, Boston would look at. If they didn’t have to take back a lot of money going out in the future. He’s restricted this summer, you don’t know what it will cost to keep him. He’s proven he can help you win a playoff game or two. He doesn’t shoot great from 3-point line, some of the things you want from a guard in this day and age. He defends, he’s super competitive. But they can’t pay everybody in Boston and they’re going to have to make decisions. But does a team want to give up a first for a player when they don’t know what it will cost to keep him. I’m not sure that will happen. But I think certainly if they were going to make a move with one of their core guys, there’s potential that it’s going to be Smart”. The Celtics and Smart failed to reach an extension prior to the deadline for those kind of decisions this season, so Smart will be a restricted free agent this summer. While the Celtics would assuredly love to have him back, they could face some competition for him in free agency. If another team offers Smart too much money, the Celtics could be forced to let him walk. It appears, then, that Ainge and Co. are trying to get out ahead of the situation by seeing what other teams would be willing to offer to get Smart for themselves. At this point, though, it doesn’t seem that anything is imminent.
Spoelstra has liked the versatility and effort he has gotten out of backups Kelly Olynyk and rookie Bam Adebayo, which gives him a luxury he did not have last season, when Whiteside could be dazzling one night and frustratingly nonchalant the next. Spoelstra has the ability to push Whiteside by cutting back his minutes. Whiteside is playing 25.8 minutes per game, which is down from 32.6 last season. His production (14.4 points and 11.8 rebounds) has dropped, too, but on a per-minute basis, he is actually performing better this year. The problem for Miami is that, with $25 million on the books for next year and a player option for $27 million in 2019-20, Whiteside is by far their highest-paid player. One league executive said: “My sense is that the only way they would move him is if they could get an upgrade at the same position. They’re trying to get better in the short term, but they’re not out there trying to give Hassan away”. The most plausible way the Heat deal Whiteside, then, would be for another dominant defensive big man, and the most prominent on the market is Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. But Jordan can be a free agent this summer, and with the Clippers looking to keep cap space clear, they’d likely only want to be included in a Whiteside deal if there was a third team to take Whiteside’s contract. With Dion Waiters out for the rest of the season after ankle surgery, the focus has been on acquiring some punch on the bench, and Miami has been chasing Memphis guard Tyreke Evans earnestly — it would have the double benefit of keeping Evans from the Celtics, who most around the league consider the frontrunners to land Evans. But the Heat owe their first-round pick this year to Phoenix, and the Grizzlies want a first-rounder for Evans. The Heat have been willing to trade third-year man Justise Winslow, but a straight deal of a 21-year-old like Winslow for a few months of Evans doesn’t make much sense for Miami.