NBA Power Rankings: The trade request heard 'round the world could define 2019 season

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NBA Power Rankings: The trade request heard 'round the world could define 2019 season

 

As NBA All-Star reserves are announced, team’s league wide are in full scramble mode following Anthony Davis’ trade request. It has long been expected that Davis would request a trade if the Pelicans weren’t seen as taking serious steps towards being championship contenders.

The Pelicans took the steps they deemed necessary to improve their roster--which included letting DeMarcus Cousins walk in free agency--and so far it has resulted in them being on the outside looking in when it comes to the postseason, sitting a full 5.5 games back of the No. 8 seed.

With Davis’ agent Rich Paul being the founder of the LeBron James-associated Klutch Sports, the theoretical Lakers trade packages have come pouring in from all angles.

With LA struggling to stay in playoff position themselves, the pressure is on for them to make a move to acquire a superstar to pair with James ahead of the February 7 trade deadline.

At one game over .500, the Lakers need James back ASAP as they gear up for a six-game road trip that includes five matchups with teams currently in the playoffs.

The Western Conference is making a big push as a whole, as the West has five teams with current win streaks of at least three games. This is compared to the East which currently has no teams with three-game win streaks, and the Knicks, who have lost 11 straight despite some solid play from their young talent.

And speaking of the Knicks, the race to the bottom is getting just as crowded as the playoff race. The Bulls, Suns, Magic, Pistons, Wizards, Grizzlies and Pelicans are all teams currently with top 10 draft lottery odds, and each has varying reasons for why (and how) they would drop further in the standings.

Orlando and Detroit are still making hard charges for the postseason due to the current No. 7 and 8 seeds having records below .500, while Memphis and New Orleans are likely to trade one or all of their franchise cornerstones to pivot in a new direction. If either franchise is to trade their star(s), there would have next to no incentive for them to collect wins throughout the rest of the season.

With roughly 30 games left for all 30 teams in the league, everyone will be looking to show signs of progress to close out the 2019 season. See how everyone from the elite, to the middle of the pack, to the bottom of the barrel rank in our latest power rankings here.

Dunc'd on Podcast suggest possible landing spots for Bulls' Jabari Parker

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Dunc'd on Podcast suggest possible landing spots for Bulls' Jabari Parker

On Wednesday's episode of the Dunc'd on Podcast, hosts Nate Duncan and Danny Leroux wento over the current state of the Bulls and discussed potential teams that could be interested in Jabari Parker.

Duncan and Leroux are two of the more reasonable basketball minds, and they quickly came to the conclusion that it would be tough to find a team that necessarily needs Parker. But they nonetheless went through a couple of teams that could possibly make good use of the 23-year old forward.

Orlando Magic:

Duncan and Leroux weren’t that into the idea of Parker on Orlando but acknowledged that they certainly could use some help in the scoring department.

The Magic are currently 26th in the league in PPG (103.5) but are hovering around a .500 record due to their strong defense and slow pace of the play—the same style of play that has improved the Bulls D while torpedoing their offensive efficiency.

But the Magic do have skilled offensive players like DJ Augustin, Terrence Ross and Nikola Vucevic. All three players have managed to be efficient scorers this season, but only Vucevic and Ross have been able to do it while also shouldering a big offensive workload. Outside of Ross, Jonathon Simmons is the only other Magic bench player who carries a decent usage rate. Parker—for all of his shortcomings—offers more size and upside than Simmons.

On top of that, the Magic are one of the more pass-happy teams in the league, averaging just over 25 assists per game. It would be a solid team to compensate for Parker’s occasional penchant to develop tunnel vision when looking to score.

Parker’s terrible assist-to-turnover ratio wouldn’t hurt Orlando too much either, as they currently sit inside the top 10 in team AST/TO ratio.

Atlanta Hawks:

The Hawks are very short on quality forwards. And that is exactly what Leroux stated when trying to picture Parker on the Hawks:

“[Atlanta] needs depth basically everywhere on the forward line, especially with Taurean Prince out.”

At full strength they place John Collins—a very solid young talent—at the four next to Dewayne Dedmon or Alex Len, with the latter being the much stronger tandem. But with Atlanta rebuilding at the moment, having functional lineups is much more important than having effective ones. And that is where Parker helps them.

According to Basketball-Reference play-by-play information, 41-year old Vince Carter is playing 61 percent of his minutes at power forward. So it is no shocker that he is posting one of the five worst individual defensive ratings on the team.

After Collins and Carter, rookie Omari Spellman and Taurean Prince play the most minutes at PF. Spellman is more of a center and Prince is good enough at guarding small forwards and wings to make it unnecessary for him to play the PF.

Slotting Parker into their rotation allows all the aforementioned players to return to their natural positions more often. At his natural PF position, Parker would be free to slide into a role as a (moderately) high usage player. Trae Young, Collins and Jeremy Lin could actually form quite a potent offensive combination with despite how bad that lineup would be.

But being bad at defense is another key to Parker’s possible success with Atlanta. Out of all the likely NBA lottery teams, perhaps only the Hawks, Knicks and Cavaliers had less expectations than the Bulls, who some (not many) pegged as a possible dark-horse No. 8 seed in the playoffs.

New Orleans Pelicans:

The Pelicans are in the same situation as the Bulls in terms of needing a quality small forward and struggling to attract star free agents. Parker doesn’t help with either of those issues and that is why Duncan suggested he could essentially be a nice depth piece for New Orleans, stating that Parker could help just by being on their roster as “a forward for when [Julius] Randle and [Nikola] Mirotic are inevitably hurt.

Though Pelicans general manager Dell Demps has had his fair share of misses, it is unlikely he would be looking to back up his oft-injured forwards with another injury-prone player. But if the New Orleans front office truly thinks Parker can improve from his current level of play, it would be worth it to part ways with Solomon Hill and salary filler for Parker. Whatever draft compensation Chicago wants would make or break this deal.

But with fellow Chicago-native Anthony Davis drawing tons of attention on his dives to the rim, it isn’t impossible to imagine a world in which Parker scores effectively as a pick-and-roll ball-handler with Jrue Holiday providing some floor spacing.

Philadelphia 76ers:

We’ll keep this one short. Nate Duncan had perhaps the best line of the episode when he stated flatly “they don't need more usage on this team.”

But while the Sixers certainly don’t need more player who want the ball in their hands, Duncan himself brought up the fact that they need more quality players in general. Parker has glaring holes in his game but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t be good in a complementary role.

After the recently acquired Jimmy Butler and Wilson Chandler, the Sixers don’t have many players who can hold down the forward spots. Ben Simmons can obviously play in the frontcourt in a pinch, but the point of Simmons’ uniqueness is that you can keep him at the one and surround him with big, two-way guards and forwards.

So Parker would actually fill somewhat of a need for the Sixers. Again, for all of his shortcomings, I don’t think anyone is going to strongly argue that Mike Muscala is clearly a better backup option at power forward than Parker. Muscala fits better because he is a great 3-point shooter, whereas Parker would cramp the floor spacing in Philly. But Muscala is a terrible rebounder for his position, averaging 4 rebounds per game compared to Parker’s 6 boards a game, which actually leads the rebound-deficient Bulls.

And in a best case scenario where Parker is engaged on defense, he and Simmons could have some great success as a duo in transition.

They both possess the coveted “grab-and-go” ability that allows them to turn quick shots by an opponent into an easy bucket. Parker was around the 60th percentile as a transition scorer in his last year in Milwaukee (which is good) but has fallen off this year on an injury-riddled Bulls team.

A big reason for Parker’s transition offense falling off is his high turnover rate. But the hope would be that Simmons—who also turns the ball over a lot—Butler and Embiid would have the ball in their hands so much that Parker’s turnovers would decrease dramatically.

As far as the framework for this deal? Markelle Fultz, Muscala and Jonah Bolden would be enough to make the trade work. This trade wouldn’t really weaken the Sixers in any way on the court. And off the court, Parker’s expiring deal would be interesting for a Sixers team that will be trying to re-sign Butler while adding depth around the margins.

2014 NBA draftees Jabari Parker and Julius Randle on very different paths to third contract

2014 NBA draftees Jabari Parker and Julius Randle on very different paths to third contract

The 2014 NBA Draft produced an intriguing crop of talent, with most of the players just starting to come into their own now.

Jabari Parker and Julius Randle were the second and seventh picks respectively in 2014, and both players are on very different paths to their potential third NBA contract.

Wednesday's matchup between the Bulls and Pelicans provided a decent look at how the year is going for both players in what is a huge contract year for both. Parker was drafted second overall  in 2014 because of his immense offensive potential and despite a large amount of difficulties along the way, he still has a similar reputation as a player who can be a consistent scorer in the league. Randle has almost the same reputation but has actually improved his defensive game whereas Parker's defense has a very long way to go.

In the Pelicans 107-98 win in New Orleans Randle finished with 12 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in 24 minutes and was a +4 on the floor. Parker ended the game with 20-point, 12-rebound double-double on 50 percent shooting but finished with a -11 plus/minus rating in his 36 minutes of playing time.

Parker has proven that he can still get buckets but his ability to score efficiently is not present in 2018-19, obviously only time will tell but the early returns are not great.

He went 0-3 from the 3-point line against the Pelicans and has so far seemed to regress as an outside shooter, his 28 percent from 3-point range through 10 games being one of the worst marks of his career. But it is not for a lack of trying. This season represents the second-highest 3PA per game of his career but his poor percentages have obviously killed any excitement about his willingness to shoot the 3-point shot. And curiously enough, Parker is taking less corner 3-pointers than any point in his career—and I mean a dramatic decline in attempt rate—which is weird considering that he has an elite percentage from that specific area (career 40 percent on corner 3-pointers).

The defense of Parker has seemed to decline, to the point where we actually saw Fred Hoiberg confront him about his effort during the game:


When Lauri Markkanen, Bobby Portis and Kris Dunn return, the Bulls will have a ton of score-first players at their disposal, meaning playmaking is the skill that is most likely to lift Parker's value—outside of efficient scoring—but even that has took a downturn this season. He is averaging a career-high in turnovers per game (2.6) and has made some truly head-scratching passes:


Overall, the fact that Parker is on a team-option helps the Bulls end of year decision become easier. Through 12 games he is not giving a ton to be excited about, but this is a player working his way back from injury. I have little doubt that Parker will play better as the season wears on but his fit with Chicago will continue to be in question until we get a good enough sample size of Parker-Markkanen-LaVine lineups.

The question is, how much better? If he does enough to seem like he could fit with the fully healthy version of the Bulls, it is easy to see the Bulls working out a long-term contract or simply giving the Parker-experiment one more year.

The test for Randle in 2018-19 would be seeing if he could play well while fitting in with a team that won 48 games last season, a much different task from fellow '14 draftee Parker. With his year being more about team play than personal numbers, Randle has passed with flying colors so far.

New Orleans has gotten off to a sluggish start due to a mixture of unfamiliarity and injury woes, but sit 1.5 games back of the eight seed in Western conference. And his he has played extremely well this season with averages of 18 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2 assists per game. He is shooting 56 percent from the field—improving on last season's career-high of 55.8 percent—and has started to experiment with stretching his shooting range, hitting 35 percent from 3-point line this season.

The big difference between Parker and Randle heading into 2019 is that while Parker's team option was a franchise taking a chance on him, Randle's player-option in his Pelicans contract allows him to control his future. Both players still have a chance to be success stories in the NBA, especially if they can both overcome their defensive woes.

Things look much brighter for Randle as of now, if only because of his ability to play center. But both players stand to show how quickly the game can change around you, as the "positionless basketball" that—theoretically—was supposed to help develop both has put their long-term roles in the league in jeopardy.