Bird Rights: Pacers Offseason Review and Season Preview…

Steven is joined by Rhett Bauer to talk about the Indiana Pacers, what they did this offseason, and what fans can expect from them this upcoming season. With substantial cap space, what can they do with that money? What potential trades can the Pacers make? Which players on their current roster can anticipating being traded? Tune in to find out!

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Bird Rights: Part 2: Future Rankings with Corban…

Steven is joined by Corban Ford to rank their top teams set up for future success, as well as the next five seasons. Steven and Corban used six factors to rank his teams: current roster, team assets, management/ownership, coaching, market, and salary cap situation. They use these factors rank each team based off likelihood to win a championship or have success as a team over the next five seasons. If you haven’t already, listen to part one of this episode, as this is the second episode!

You can follow our host, Steven, @BirdRightsPod on Twitter

SUBSCRIBE, Rate and Review on iTunes and make sure to follow @BirdRightsPod on Twitter for all our delightful updates and goodies!

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Bird Rights: Part 1: Future Rankings with Corban…

Steven is joined by Corban Ford to rank their top teams set up for future success, as well as the next five seasons. Steven and Corban used six factors to rank his teams: current roster, team assets, management/ownership, coaching, market, and salary cap situation. They use these factors rank each team based off likelihood to win a championship or have success as a team over the next five seasons. Be on the look out for part 2 of this episode!

You can follow our host, Steven, @BirdRightsPod on Twitter.

SUBSCRIBE, Rate and Review on iTunes and make sure to follow @BirdRightsPod on Twitter for all our delightful updates and goodies!

PropUp on ThriveFantasy this NBA season! Use code ETHOS at signup for a 100% deposit match bonus and win big cash by simply flexing DFS prop knowledge on the biggest names on the board!

Manscaped is BACK, baby! Just like the NBA! Use coupon code HOOPBALL20 to get 20% off and free shipping on your purchase at!

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Bird Rights: Lakers Offseason Preview and Coaching Carousel…

Steven is joined by Corban Ford to discuss the Lakers offseason, discussing potential coaching hires, free agent signings, and Russell Westbrook trades. They conclude the episode to discuss potential coaching openings around the NBA this offseason and potential candidates for each job.

You can follow our host, Steven, @BirdRightsPod on Twitter.

The Bird Rights Podcast Trade Deadline Recap and…

The 2022 NBA Trade Deadline week was one of the more exciting ones in recent memory. And as SportsEthos’ Front Office Expert and host of Bird Rights Pod, I’m here to break it down. I give each team in every trade a grade from A-F based on what they accomplished. While it’s always difficult to perceive players’ values on the trade market, my mock deadline articles, which came out last week, tried to demonstrate the expected values for some of these players. Without further ado, lets grade some trades:

Gearing Up Early

    Trail Blazers trade: Robert Covington and Norman Powell

    Clippers trade: Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson, and 2025 2nd round pick (via Detroit)

Trail Blazers: D

My initial reaction tweet to this move: “In 2020, it was the Lakers giving up Zubac for Muscala, last year it was Rondo for Lou Williams and two seconds, this year, it’s this trade.” Every year, there’s always one head scratching trade. Initially, I thought it was this one. But now that I’ve seen other trades go down, this one is easier to swallow.

Clearly, Joe Cronin, the Blazers’ interim GM, was not a fan of the five-year, $90 million deal Norman Powell signed. Going into trade deadline week, the Blazers were a little more than $3 million in the luxury tax. Given this year has the highest luxury tax distribution ever (all non-paying teams are getting $10.3 million each in tax distributions), it was imperative that the Blazers get out of the tax. While they accomplished that with this move, there were much easier ways that could have been accomplished. The Blazers anticipate needing to re-sign Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic this summer, and this gave them some flexibility. I thought due to his expiring contract, Covington would be worth multiple seconds alone, far less than the two firsts they gave up to acquire him.

Finally, Keon Johnson is a type of prospect the Blazers like due to his athletic prowess. They must’ve preferred him over a future first round pick elsewhere. Eric Bledsoe is only due $3.9 million guaranteed next year out of his $19.4 salary next season, so getting off Norm Powell’s $90 million and taking minimal money back towards 2022-23’s cap was appealing to the Blazers.

Clippers: A

While there was plenty of speculation that the Clippers would cut back on their massive $94 million luxury bill with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard out, I was more skeptical. Steve Ballmer is the richest owner in sports, and if an opportunity arose for the Clippers to improve their title chances next year and beyond, he wouldn’t hesitate. Here, they upgraded their wing depth, and I personally have them as my title favorites next year, when healthy.

Norman Powell goes back to a similar switch heavy scheme he thrived in with Toronto. Additionally, as Kevin Pelton of ESPN pointed out, Covington, who’s a weak on-ball defender but a phenomenal help defender, will benefit greatly from playing alongside Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, assuming he re-signs this summer. The Clippers came away with both Powell and Covington, and the only thing of value they parted with was Keon Johnson, the 21st pick in the 2021 draft, and a potentially high second round pick. Ownership is the biggest competitive advantage in sports.

The Rumors Were True

    Cavs trade: Ricky Rubio, 2022 1st round pick (lottery protected), 2022 2nd round pick (via HOU), and 2027 second round pick (via UTA)

    Pacers trade: Caris LeVert, 2022 second round pick (via Miami)

Cavaliers: B-

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. There was a ton of speculation of LeVert landing in Cleveland before it happened, and quite frankly, I feel like Cleveland might have been bidding against themselves.

In terms of contract, LeVert is reasonably priced. He will provide the Cavs with that secondary ball handler or primary initiator off the bench that the Cavs have stretched Rajon Rondo into. LeVert is a quality sixth man, maybe even an overqualified one, but a mid-to-late first and a very early second, in addition to another second-rounder, seems a little steep. While I like the LeVert fit and I think he’s a fine player, it might have been a hair of an overpay.

Pacers: B+

It was reported that the Pacers wanted a first-round pick for LeVert. They were able to get that, in addition to a high second-rounder (pick 33 if the season ended today), in addition to another second. Trading LeVert for two picks in the top 33 of the draft (right now, picks 24 and 33) is solid value. Prior to the Sabonis trade, this allowed the Pacers to do more of a retooling than a rebuilding project, as Rick Carlisle did not take that job to oversee a rebuild.

End of an Era

    Trail Blazers trade: CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., Tony Snell

    Pelicans trade: Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Didi Louzada, 2022 1st round pick (protected for picks 1-4 and 15-30), two future 2nd round picks

Trail Blazers: B

Sure, financial flexibility is nice. And by all indications, financial flexibility is what Portland was trying to accomplish. I’m jumping ahead a bit to Portland’s next trade, but I estimate them to have roughly $40 million in cap space if they release Josh Hart at the conclusion of this season. However, if they keep Hart, that number is more like $30 million. Factor in Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic’s cap holds, and they’re looking closer to a couple million in cap space. Was blowing this team up really worth only a couple million in cap space?

The Blazers acquired a $21 million Traded Player Exception that they can use this summer or next season (Jerami Grant, come on down!). But they can only use that traded player exception if they operate as an over-the-cap team. Additionally, by operating as an over-the-cap team and because they got out of the tax, they’ll be able to utilize their full mid-level exception. In a hypothetical scenario where they trade for Jerami Grant, is a core of running mates of Grant, Simons, and Nurkic a core to make Lillard want to stay in town? I’m skeptical.

Finally, good on the Blazers for getting a likely lottery pick for a negative value contract in McCollum. I thought the trade was a home run for the Blazers until it was reported that Larry Nance Jr. was involved in it as well. But Nance has $9.7 million guaranteed next season, and Portland is in ‘salary shedding beyond this year’ mode.

In the end, Portland only acquired one first rounder in total for McCollum, Nance, Powell, and Covington, all guys who could have fetched close to a first on their own. However, the one first they did acquire would currently be the 9th pick in this draft. Provided that the Pelicans miss the playoffs and do not have extreme lottery luck, Portland will have two lottery picks to help retool. I anticipate Portland moving Didi Louzada and maybe Justise Winslow this offseason to give them even more flexibility.

Pelicans: C

Everything David Griffin has done in the past year has been desperate. When he took this job, he had the burden of shipping off Anthony Davis and ultimately decided to part with Jrue Holiday. He got a treasure trove of picks for both guys. But everything went downhill from there.

He traded a first for Steven Adams, who was clearly a bad fit with Zion, and then extended him two seasons before ever watching the two co-exist on the court. He then flipped Adams with some of those picks in a trade for Jonas Valanciunas and extended him before the season ever started. While Valanciunas has been a revelation for the Pelicans and his 3-point percentage is one of the best in the league, he isn’t that dynamic stretch big that would thrive playing alongside Zion.

After acquiring salary filler and a second-round pick for Lonzo Ball in the sign and trade to the Bulls, he proceeded to give up a first for Devonte’ Graham. Now, he gave up another pick that’s likely to convey in the lottery for a negative value contract in McCollum.

Trading for McCollum was an acknowledgement that their young backcourt was not working out. McCollum helps the offense, especially when Zion Williamson returns, but I struggle to envision this defense being league average at best. What I always worry about is the financial implications. With Zion Williamson already due his rookie extension, this team will be a tax team quickly. And I can’t envision them paying the tax. They’re already at $139.6 million next year with 13 guys under contract, and the tax threshold being $145 million. And that’s with Zion still on his rookie deal. Once his extension kicks in in 2023-24, they may have to go through another makeover.


Pacers trade: Domantas Sabonis, Jeremy Lamb, Justin Holiday, and 2027 2nd round pick

    Kings trade: Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, and Tristan Thompson

Pacers: A

Home run. There’s no other way to describe it. Haliburton is a 21-year-old budding star in today’s league. He’s going to be an absolute star. He was the missing piece the Kings needed to become relevant again, if they could have been patient and built around him. In the industry, everyone used the Nikola Vucevic to Bulls trade as the comparison of what the Pacers could get for Sabonis. Remember, the Bulls got Wendell Carter Jr. and two firsts, one of which became Franz Wagner. That’s a great haul for the Bulls, but Haliburton is an even bigger prize than those guys combined. He’s that good.

Now, the Pacers opted to keep Myles Turner and do a quasi-rebuild rather than tear it down to the studs. And suddenly, they have their centerpiece in Haliburton. When the Pacers traded Paul George for Sabonis and Oladipo, people said it was one of the worst trades in NBA history. Meanwhile, both of those players went on to become multi-time all stars. And now they were able to flip Sabonis into Haliburton. I might be over evaluating him, but I truly think Haliburton is a franchise-altering type of talent. And not to mention, he’s only making $10 million combined over next two seasons because he’s on his rookie deal.

I expect the Pacers to trade Buddy Hield or Malcolm Brogdon this summer because that backcourt is suddenly crowded with Haliburton and rookie Chris Duarte, and that’s before accounting for what Indiana does with their first-round pick, which is projected 5th right now.

Kings: F

The Kings wanted to make the playoffs and avoid having the NBA record for longest playoff drought so badly, it cost them the best draft pick they’ve made in eleven years. The Kings have swung and missed with almost every lottery pick between Boogie Cousins and Haliburton, and they made a desperation trade.

Don’t get me wrong. Sabonis is a great player, I don’t want people to think this is me disparaging him. But to trade a guy like Haliburton, you need to get a superstar in return, and Sabonis is not that level of player. Before getting into the disaster this can be for the Kings, let’s look on the bright side. Sabonis is only 25 years old and under contract for $19.8 million and $20.7 the next two seasons, which is more than reasonable for him.

As I said, Nikola Vucevic was the measuring stick for a Sabonis trade, but I think Sabonis is better, and he’s five years younger. But the Kings, who were 16 games under .500 when making this trade, traded away a franchise cornerstone for the opportunity to get swept by the Suns or Warriors. Is that really worth it? Sabonis is a great player, but does he really increase the Kings’ chances at the playoffs that much more than Haliburton did? This frees up time for Davion Mitchell, who they just drafted 9th overall in the 2021 draft, but he isn’t the level of asset Haliburton is.

And to make matters worse, they didn’t even move Richaun Holmes, who they definitely could’ve gotten value for at the deadline. The Holmes-Sabonis fit is clunky, and now Holmes is likely relegated to a backup role behind Sabonis. Good for the Kings for not giving up a pick to get a 25-year-old All-Star, but at the expense of one of the premier young players in the league, I just can’t get behind it. I understand the rationale, but vehemently disagree with it.

Jazz Make Their Bet

    Jazz receive: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Juancho Hernangomez

    Trail Blazers receive: Joe Ingles, Elijah Hughes, and 2027 2nd round pick (via UTA)

    Spurs receive: Tomas Satoransky, 2022 2nd round pick (via Memphis)

Jazz: C+

I’m surprised the Jazz couldn’t do better. While I’m apparently bigger on Nickeil Alexander-Walker than most, they are in desperate need for an athletic wing defender that they could’ve used Ingles’ contract for to salary-match. Instead, they settled for NAW. I do like Utah’s ability to develop guys, so maybe they view NAW as a reclamation project, but I am genuinely surprised that there was nothing else out there for them. I do believe NAW is worth two second-round picks, especially late ones, but I thought the Jazz would make a splashier move than this.

Additionally, an important reason why the Jazz did this was for luxury tax savings. They saved $11 million towards the luxury tax and created a $9.8 million traded player exception.

Trail Blazers: C+

I’m not going to lie. I was excited to see a Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Anfernee Simons backcourt to close out the season. This move was about Portland getting off NAW’s $5 million contract next season and giving them more flexibility, which is clearly what they’re focusing on. Ingles and Hughes are both expiring contracts, so they essentially got a 2027 second-round pick and some more cap relief for trading NAW. Honestly, I feel like some team would’ve ponied up more for him.

Spurs: A

Spurs got a second-round pick for their troubles, albeit a late one. Satoransky earns $3 million more than Hernangomez did, so they got a pick to save Utah some money towards the tax. Easy enough.

Minor Move for Miami

    Thunder receive: KZ Okpala

    Heat receive: 2026 2nd round pick, amended 2023 1st round pick to 2025 1st round pick

Heat: B+

Let me explain the amended pick before we get deeper into this. Instead of Miami sending a 2023 lottery-protected first in 2023 from the Clippers, they agreed to push the pick back to 2025. This now freed up the ability for Miami to trade their 2023 pick, which they weren’t able to do previously. That aside, this was essentially a salary dump for Miami, and they even got a second-round pick out of it. Now that Okpala is off the roster, Miami has enough room under the luxury tax to convert Caleb Martin’s two-way deal into a standard NBA contract, as well as leaving a roster spot open for the buyout market.

Thunder: A

With that 2023 pick, OKC was projected to have four first-rounders in 2023. Therefore, they pushed it to 2025, where the pick has a lot more upside. The Heat are currently the #1 seed in the East this year, so the Thunder obviously feel that the 2023 pick would not have a ton of value. By pushing it to 2025, you’re banking on a 35-year-old Jimmy Butler, and potentially a retired Kyle Lowry, and all of a sudden, OKC may be in business with another decent pick. The pick is lottery protected, but then becomes unprotected in 2026.

Kings Get Their Guy

    Kings receive: Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Jackson, Trey Lyles

    Pistons receive: Marvin Bagley

    Bucks receive: Serge Ibaka, 2023 2nd round pick (worst of Cleveland and Golden State) and 2024 2nd round pick (via Sacramento) 

    Clippers receive: Semi Ojeyle and Rodney Hood

Kings: B+

The Kings bought low on DiVincenzo, a guy they coveted since initially acquiring him in the Bogdan Bogdanovic sign-and-trade that got voided due to tampering. DiVincenzo has looked rough since coming back from injury, but he’s a decent shooter and good wing defender, and Sacramento now has his restricted free agency rights. It’s also unlikely he prices himself out of Sacramento given that he’s still recovering from that injury.

The Kings definitely weren’t going to re-sign Bagley, and likely won’t have to worry about the tax when signing DiVincenzo this offseason. Good for the Kings for getting any sort of value for Bagley, let alone a guy who is far better than how he’s played this season. Josh Jackson and Trey Lyles were salary fillers.

Pistons: C

Bagley is an extremely inefficient player. And as I said, Bagley wasn’t going to re-sign in Sacramento, so why not just wait to sign him in the offseason? Detroit is one of four or five teams with significant cap space, so they give up two second-rounders for him? We’ve seen Detroit try to rehabilitate multiple players drafted in the top ten of their drafts in recent years. Examples include Dennis Smith Jr., Josh Jackson, Jahlil Okafor, and now Bagley. The first three were all failed experiments.

Bucks: C-

When the Bucks extended Grayson Allen, it became apparent that DiVincenzo was the odd man out. Still, I’m surprised they couldn’t get any sort of real value for him. I would bet on that Kings 2024 2nd being pretty good based on their track record, and the Bucks definitely needed another big man. I just think they could’ve done better than Ibaka. Plus it raised their tax bill by $6.4 million with two open roster spots still. If Ibaka can be the 3-and-D center he’s been in recent years, this trade won’t look so bad. But given his recent back injuries, color me skeptical.

Clippers: A-

Remember when I said I knew the Clippers were going to add to their luxury tax after completing the Norm Powell and Covington trade? Well, after trading Ibaka for two guys on minimums, they reduced their tax bill by over $30 million and basically undid the spike in the tax from the first trade, and then some. So between the two moves the Clippers got substantially better and saved money while doing it. This also opened up more consistent minutes for Isaiah Hartenstein behind Ivica Zubac. It’s been reported that the Clippers plan to keep both Hood and Ojeleye, but I imagine at least one gets waived to make room for Amir Coffey on a standard contract.

Raptors Get Some Thaditude

    Raptors receive: Thaddeus Young, Drew Eubanks, and a 2022 2nd round pick (via DET)

    Spurs receive: Goran Dragic, 2022 1st round pick (via TOR; lotto protected in 2022, 1-13 in 2023, two seconds in 2024)

Raptors: C-

The Raptors player development is the best in the league. With that said, I’m sure they’ll find value at pick 31 with the Pistons second-rounder. The first-rounder that they traded is currently 19th. Was it worth dropping down around 12 spots in the draft to get Thaddeus Young? I honestly thought there was going to be a subsequent move because Toronto was right at the tax line before this trade, and then trading Dragic for Young and Eubanks saved them a few million, so I thought it was to clear space for another trade. However, that other trade did not happen. Honestly, I know Phoenix liked Young, but there’s an alternate universe where San Antonio buys him out after the deadline. Toronto was willing to move off a first for that guy. Maybe Toronto, who have won eight games in a row, think that Thad is the small-ball center they need. As if they don’t have enough 6’9” guys with length. Young will operate out of the high post and rack up assists doing such, a role he should thrive in.

Masai Ujiri is one of the handful of best executives in the league, but this one was rough. It is worth noting Toronto has part of their mid-level exception available and $3 million below the tax to outbid some guys in the buyout market.

Spurs: A

The Spurs were going to buy the guy out and ended up turning him into a first-round pick. Good for them. Sure, San Antonio took on some additional salary, just like they did in the Satoransky deal, but they moved up from that Detroit second-rounder to that Toronto first. Kevin Pelton from ESPN created a pick value chart and said the difference between those two picks is equivalent to the 27th pick in the draft, but the fact that San Antonio was able to get first-round value for Young is pretty shocking.

Don’t get me wrong, Young was one of the best sixth men in the league last year with Chicago. But at 33 years old and executives not seeing much of him this year, I’m surprised Toronto gave up that value. Good on San Antonio. Reports indicate that the Spurs will buy out Goran Dragic. I expect him to end up back in Miami or go to play with his buddy, Luka, in Dallas.

The Salary Dump

    Celtics trade: PJ Dozier, Bol Bol, 2028 Celtics 2nd round pick (top 45 protected), and cash

    Magic trade: 2023 2nd round pick (top 55 protected)

Celtics: B

Salary dump. This move was the first of many to get them under the tax. My only concern is that Boston finished yesterday with only ten guys on their roster. It was reported they’re converting Sam Hauser from his two-way contract, as well as signing Luke Kornet from the G League.

Magic: B

They got potentially a second-rounder (assuming Celtics are essentially a playoff team in 2028) for eating these contracts. Good move.

The Blockbuster

    Nets trade: James Harden

    76ers trade: Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, unprotected 2022 first (can be deferred to 2023), 2027 first round pick (protected 1-8)

76ers: A-

Daryl Morey got his guy. I initially thought the price was a bit steep given the Sixers had the leverage once Harden told the Nets Thursday morning that he wanted to go to Philly and he was in the last year of his deal. But now that I’ve let the dust settle, the fact that the Sixers were able to get Harden without giving up Tyrese Maxey or Matisse Thybulle is a huge testament to the front office. Ultimately though, the Sixers were getting literally nothing from Simmons, and now they add James freaking Harden.

However, the Harden and Embiid fit is kind of clunky. Harden usually thrives best with rim-running or stretch bigs, but they can form a deadly pick-and-roll partnership if Embiid starts rolling to the basket more. And both draw fouls at a ridiculous rate. While Harden’s contract extension that he’ll presumably get from Philly has plenty of potential for downside, the Sixers got an elite talent for a player who people said had the worst contract in the NBA.

Nets: B+

Brooklyn needs to hope that Ben Simmons can be their version of Draymond Green. He might be stretched too thin with Kyrie being part time, as he might be asked to be the primary playmaker in home games without Irving and mainly be used as a screener in road games. Seth Curry also replaces the injured Joe Harris, who recently got a second opinion on his ankle. The backcourt of Patty Mills and Curry will be extremely small, but Simmons and Durant’s versatility on defense may make up for it.

I’m not honestly sure what the Nets want with Drummond. With Aldridge, Claxton, Griffin and Sharpe, they already have basically every type of center you can need. How much will Drummond even contribute with four other centers on the roster?

But Brooklyn cut their losses, recouped some picks that they lost from their Harden trade with Houston, and moved him for a 25-year-old, three-time All-Star, a player with the second best 3P% in NBA history, and a quality backup center in addition to those picks. The Nets also shaved $18 million off their luxury tax payment with this trade.

The Derrick White Deal

    Celtics trade: Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, 2022 first round pick (top-4 protected 2022 first round pick), 2028 pick swap

    Spurs trade: Derrick White

Celtics: B+

White is only 27 years old and has three more years on his deal at a reasonable number. I also think White is a better playmaker than he was able to show in San Antonio playing alongside Dejounte Murray. And after trading Dennis Schroder, Brad Stevens must agree. White can be the Celtics’ sixth man, and he gives them another ball-handler and perimeter defender alongside Marcus Smart.

The Celtics don’t have a history drafting well when they pick in the late teens or 20s, albeit that was under Danny Ainge. But White is a significant upgrade to Josh Richardson, well worth the first-round pick and Romeo Langford.

Spurs: C+

Despite playing together often, White was a bit expendable playing alongside All-Star Dejounte Murray. The Spurs not only acquired the first for Thaddeus Young, but they acquired this one as well. And the Spurs have been finding value in the late first and early second round. Trading White also opens up some more minutes for former lottery pick Devin Vassell. Romeo Langford has also shown some flashes of defensive potential and San Antonio can give Langford more extended run than Boston and evaluate what they got.

A Desert Reunion

Pacers trade: Torrey Craig

    Suns trade: Jalen Smith and 2022 2nd pick

Pacers: C

The Pacers gave up Craig for virtually free. While they get off Craig’s guaranteed money next year and free up more cap space for the summer, Craig is a player they should’ve been able to get some value for. The 2022 second-round pick from Phoenix is likely going to be the last pick in the draft. Further, because Phoenix declined Jalen Smith’s third-year rookie option, Indiana is now limited to re-signing him to what that third year option would have been, while the other 29 teams in the league can pay him more. That number is $4,670,000. Is that enough to keep Smith if he flashes enough in Indiana? Maybe. But the Pacers are extremely limited on what they can pay him. They also have Myles Turner still, plus Goga Bitadze and Isaiah Jackson, so I can’t imagine them wanting to keep Smith long term.

Maybe Phoenix had better value for Craig but prioritized the expiring contract in Smith. Phoenix is projected to have around $26 million in cap space for next year, and Craig was due a hair more than $5 million, so this was basically a salary dump for Indiana for Craig, and maybe they preferred that over a better pick but they would’ve been required to take back salary beyond this year.

Suns: A

This is what happens when you don’t have a player’s Bird Rights. Craig had to leave Phoenix because they didn’t have his Bird Rights, and they preferred JaVale McGee over Craig, and now they had to give up a pick and a former lottery pick to get him back. Craig is likely returning to Phoenix in a different role than he had last season during the team’s Finals run. Last year, after Dario Saric tore his ACL, Craig played the backup center and small ball five role. This year, he’s likely just a backup forward behind Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder, along with Cam Johnson. I’m honestly kind of surprised Phoenix traded what they did to get Craig back.

Including Craig’s deal next season, Phoenix is sitting $14 million below the luxury tax line before you factor in the contract that Deandre Ayton will get this summer. But Phoenix virtually gave up nothing. While Jalen Smith has shown some flashes this year, the Suns couldn’t re-sign him for more than what his third-year rookie option was worth, which is a mere 105% raise of his current salary. That’s $4,670,000 in salary that they could have paid Smith had they decided to re-sign him. I’m not sure if Smith gets more than that in free agency, but the Suns were definitely limited in what they could pay him. Additionally, they have the best record in the NBA, so that 2022 2nd is going to be spent on Mr. Irrelevant.

Hornets Get Their Center

    Hornets trade: Vernon Carey, Ish Smith, and 2023 2nd round pick (via Boston)

    Wizards trade: Montrezl Harrell

Hornets: B+

In 2020 free agency, I thought Harrell was a lock to end up in Charlotte before signing the mid-level exception with the Lakers. Last year, I thought the Hornets were a lock to sign Richaun Holmes before trading for Mason Plumlee. In my mock trade deadline posted on SportsEthos, I thought the Hornets would trade for Myles Turner at the deadline. With this said, those were the three names I was looking at on Thursday for the Hornets. While I was a bit disappointed that it was Harrell who the Hornets landed because he is the worst of the three, they really gave up virtually nothing to acquire him.

Turner and Holmes would’ve each likely cost the Hornets PJ Washington or James Bouknight, potentially in addition to a first-round pick, and either Mason Plumlee or Kelly Oubre to salary-match. With the Harrell addition, the Hornets get to keep their entire young core together and still add a big man they sorely lacked. LaMelo Ball leads the league  in transition assists, and Montrezl Harrell is a perfect running mate for that style of play.

While I was hoping for the Hornets sake that they’d land Turner because they need rim protection and defense desperately, Harrell is the perfect rim-running big man for this offense, and again, they got him for a 2023 2nd, which, for Boston’s sake, could be in the 50s. Additionally, this allows PJ Washington to move back to the stretch four role, as he has not been ideal as the backup five. While Ish Smith wasn’t really in the rotation of late, I expect the Hornets to land a point guard of some kind in the buyout market, because Rozier and LaMelo often play together, and they have enough secondary ball-handlers to get by, but they’ll need an insurance policy on the roster.

Wizards: C+

I suppose the rationale for Washington was that they knew they were trading Spencer Dinwiddie and needed another point guard on the roster, especially with Bradley Beal out for the season. Washington is also eating $1.8 million next year in Vernon Carey’s salary, and he hasn’t shown much since being drafted 32nd overall in 2020. But the Wizards definitely had a logjam at center with Thomas Bryant returning from his ACL injury, in addition to the newly extended Daniel Gafford, plus Harrell.

It was clear one of the three were going to be moved, and with Gafford’s deal facing the poison pill provision, he was the least likely to go. Alas, Harrell was the odd man out. Harrell, a North Carolina native, revived himself in Washington after a year of turmoil with the Lakers. I’m honestly surprised the Wizards couldn’t get more than a 2023 2nd (via Boston) and the option to keep Ish Smith next season (he has a $4.7 million nonguaranteed deal next year). But again, Washington would be left with only Raul Neto at point guard after trading Dinwiddie, so getting a point guard back for dealing from a surplus was the rationale, I suppose.

Shuffling Mistakes

    Mavericks trade: Kristaps Porzingis and a 2027 second round pick

    Wizards trade: Spencer Dinwiddie, Davis Bertans

Mavericks: C-

Very rarely is there a trade that is bad for both teams involved. But this is one of those trades. This was an admission from the Mavericks front office that they made a mistake trading for Porzingis, and this is their attempt to remedy the situation. Davis Bertans is essentially the worst contract in the NBA, yet Dallas is the one who gave up the pick for taking him on. If anything, Washington should’ve had to part with a first-round pick to get off that contract.  Immediately after trading Porzingis, Dallas extended Dorian Finney-Smith for the maximum amount they were able to pay him. That alone, before considering Jalen Brunson re-signing this summer, put them in the tax.

Porzingis’ deal runs through 2023-24, assuming he picks up his player option. Dinwiddie is only fully guaranteed through next season, and then has $10 million guaranteed in 2023-24, while Bertans is fully guaranteed through 2023-24 with a $5 million guarantee and player option through 2024-25. What I’m trying to say is that it didn’t even really save them any money financially through the remainder of Porzingis’ contract, and that shows how little Dallas must have valued Porzingis.

They must have genuinely thought that Bertans and Dinwiddie are upgrades that improve the team’s chances of winning. Plus Dinwiddie provides some insurance in the scenario they aren’t able to match what Brunson receives in restricted free agency.

Wizards: C-

Is Porzingis enough to make Bradley Beal want to stay? Hell no. But I guess good on Washington for getting off of Bertans? In the NBA, we see it all the time; a bad big contract being traded for two bad smaller contracts, mostly because smaller bad contracts are easier to move. Dinwiddie fell out of favor quickly in Washington, often clashing with Bradley Beal. Bertans, meanwhile, has recently been racking up DNP-CDs. While I’m not a big fan of Porzingis, the Wizards literally had nothing to lose by doing this trade.

Sure, Porzingis’ contract looks rough, but Bertans literally was getting paid $16 million this year, $17 million next year, and then has a player option, while Dinwiddie was clashing with the team’s free agent star. While Porzingis isn’t a perfect running mate with Beal, Washington didn’t take too much of a gamble by acquiring him. The only downside is what I said earlier: it’s easier to move smaller bad contracts than one larger one.

Brad Stevens’ Old Friend Trade

    Rockets trade: Daniel Theis

    Celtics trade: Dennis Schroder, Enes Freedom, and Bruno Fernando

Celtics: C

Brad Stevens cannot quit Theis. After Danny Ainge traded Theis at last year’s deadline to get the Celtics under the tax, Brad Stevens re-acquired him. Theis’ deal is questionable at best. He’s getting $18 million over the next two seasons after this one, and then has a team option for $9.5 million in 2024-25. That’s a lot of money for a backup center. Additionally, Theis has proven in Houston this year he isn’t an ideal fit next to another big man (Christian Wood), and now they brought him back when they often play two-big lineups with Time Lord and Al Horford.

For a team who wants to continue to avoid the tax, this contract is a tough one to stomach. Boston is already projected to be in the tax next year with only 10 guys under contract. They can get under that number by cutting Horford, who only has $14.5 million of this $26.5 million contract guaranteed. Boston will be playing cap gymnastics for years going forward, and while I understand the desire to trade Dennis Schroder because you don’t have his Bird Rights and it’ll be difficult to sign him next year, I don’t think this was the move for them. Rookie mistake by Brad Stevens.

Rockets: B+

After Theis has been picking up DNP-CDs, it looks like the Rockets had buyer’s remorse on that contract they gave him. But this was basically a salary dump. They got off Theis’ contract for three expiring deals and cleared their books for next year.

Wizards Clear Space

    Wizards trade: Aaron Holiday

    Suns trade: cash

Suns: C+

For the Suns, I suppose Holiday gives them some insurance for Cam Payne, but Holiday has been underwhelming this year. They only gave up cash and had to cut Abdel Nader as a result, but they didn’t have to part with any assets to get a guy who was the 23rd pick in the 2018 draft. I gave this a C+ because I don’t envision Holiday affecting the Suns’ title run whatsoever.

Wizards: C

If I’m not mistaken, I believe the Wizards gave up a first-round pick to acquire Holiday this offseason in the convoluted five-team trade that brought Spencer Dinwiddie to Washington. Now, less than a season later, they traded him for cash. It’s even rougher when you consider that they traded Dinwiddie and needed a point guard badly. They preferred to bring back Ish Smith. The Wizards did two 2-for-1 trades and had to clear the roster spot. Holiday was the odd man out.

Thank you for reading! While these grades will change based on what transpires between now and the duration of these contracts, these are my initial impressions. Follow me on twitter @BirdRightsPod and listen to the Bird Rights Podcast wherever you get your podcasts. I will be releasing a podcast very similar to this article, and I recommend all of you front office nerds like me take a listen.

Crossover Time! LakersCast & Bird Rights Podcast Front…


It’s Lakers trade season! Fire up the ideas, bring on the banter, and allow the fellas to bring in a very special guest from the Sports Ethos family: Steven from The Bird Rights Podcast!

Steven brings his salary expertise to Laker Nation to see what’s plausible for this group as Ethan and JC try to figure out how more change will help calm the waters.

We talk Jerami Grant, Myles Turner, Russell Westbrook, and…Ben Simmons?!?!

Stick around for a crossover episode that’ll leave you feeling like Allen Iverson.

SUBSCRIBE, Rate and Review on iTunes and make sure to follow @EthosLakers on Twitterfor all our delightful updates and goodies!

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Bird Rights: 10 Most Likely Trade Candidates


Our host, Steven, discusses the Cam Reddish to Knicks trade and how it’ll impact the Knicks future. Steven then talks about the ten most likely trade candidates we should expect to see at the trade deadline. He gets into which teams can be in the sweepstakes for each player, and the potential return we can expect for each player.

You can follow our host, Steven, @BirdRightsPod on Twitter

SUBSCRIBE, Rate and Review on iTunes and make sure to follow @BirdRightsPod on Twitter for all our delightful updates and goodies!

PropUp on ThriveFantasy this NBA season! Use code ETHOS at signup for a 100% deposit match bonus and win big cash by simply flexing DFS prop knowledge on the biggest names on the board!

Manscaped is BACK, baby! Just like the NBA! Use coupon code HOOPBALL20 to get 20% off and free shipping on your purchase at!

Want more codes? We got ’em! ExpressVPN is offering 3 BONUS months on every 12-month membership purchase by using this special link: