As wear and tear hits players, injuries start to pile up. This is what we are seeing 55 games into the NBA regular season. Each team has either seen the injury bug or is currently still fighting it, causing them to make moves they may not have done before-hand. We saw it already with the Cleveland Cavaliers acquiring Kyle Korver right after J.R Smith went down with a broken thumb. Also, the Portland Trailblazers received Jusuf Nurkic after finding out Festus Ezeli would be out for the season with a knee injury. Could the injury bug force the Cavaliers and other NBA teams to make significant moves to hold on in the playoff picture?
The Cleveland Cavaliers found out Tuesday morning that Kevin Love will be out the next 6 weeks with a knee injury. Right when we thought the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors were dead, something happens to re-visit the possible trade. Should the Cavaliers be worried about Kevin Love missing significant time?
Yes, they should be worried but David Griffin (Cavaliers GM) should not panic! I would only revisit the Melo trade if it does not require Love because Melo cannot do the small things that Love brings to the table. Love is a much more polished offense and defensive rebounder. This gives the Cavs extra possessions while limiting the opponents. With that said, any trade with Carmelo Anthony is extremely unlikely. Melo’s contract is massive and holds a no trade clause which gives him leverage to veto any trade. Teams are not willing to mortgage their future for an aging all-star who is currently being over-paid.
The only trade involving Kevin Love that should interest the Cavs is one for the Sacramento Kings center, Demarcus Cousins. Cousins is a monster down-low who can stretch the floor and hit the jumper. Sacramento has been public about not being interested in trading Demarcus Cousins, although the rumors have continued to swirl. The Kings would be foolish to trade Cousins for Love. Love has not been able to stay healthy for a long period of time and does not offer the same kind of potential Cousins brings. But it does not hurt to call if you are Cleveland.
Expect- The Cavaliers to stand-pat at the trade deadline. Look for the Cavs to fill their open roster spot with a potential buy-out candidate (Jose Calderon, Andrew Bogut, or Deron Williams) and sign Derrick Williams for the rest of the year.
The Minnesota Timberwolves is another team that may have their mid-season plans changed due to injury. Zach LaVine (former 2016 NBA Dunk Champion) tore his ACL against the Detroit Pistons on Feb. 3. The Timberwolves have been rumored to be shopping Ricky Rubio but may have a change of plans since they no longer have a logjam at the guard position.
If they do look to trade Rubio, they have a few options. They can look at a swap for Detroit Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson, another point/shooting guard such as Jrue Holiday, or they can look for a first round pick to continue the rebuild around the young nucleus. Minnesota will be a team to keep an eye out all the way up to the trade deadline on Thursday, February 23 at 3:00 p.m.
Expect- Ricky Rubio to still be in Minnesota after the trade deadline.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Self-inflected wounds are disheartening and can lower the overall team confidence. Something Oklahoma City Thunder did not need more of after losing Kevin Durant in free agency. However, OKC received more bad news with Ernes Kanter punching a chair from the bench resulting in a broken forearm (expected to miss 4-6 weeks). This is a big injury for a team fighting for the playoffs (31-25 record, 7th place in the West). Ernes Kanter brings scoring (14.4 ppg) off the bench for a team that lacks players who can get buckets on their own.
Oklahoma City will need to find some kind of upgrade if they realistically expect to make a run in the playoffs. Possible players to trade for: Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Tobias Harris, Lou Williams, or Carmelo Anthony. Whatever they do, they must do something because this team is currently a one man wrecking crew which won’t get it done come playoff time.
Expect- A small trade that gives the team a little more offensive fire power.
The 76ers are a little different from the other three teams on this list. Instead of an injury happening to the team, they are expecting power forward Ben Simmons to return from a foot injury at some point this season. It is well known the 76ers have been shopping their two big men in Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel. They are trying to clear up the log-jam they have in their front-court.
Jahlil Okafor is the younger player between the two and has a more complete offense. A team looking to trade for one of these two players (Okafor & Noel) would have to give up more assets for Okafor because of his age and complete offensive game.
One may ask, why give away the better player? Simple, Nerlens Noel fits this team better going forward, and the 76ers would get a better package for Jahlil Okafor. Noel is the better defender, gets up and down the floor faster, and crashes the offensive glass. The 76ers do not need another post scorer when they have holes in their roster at both guard positions.
Expect- Jahlil Okafor to be traded by the deadline for a combination of guards. I don’t expect the 76ers to get fair value in a trade since everyone in the league knows their situation.