Eric Gordon Would Have to Be Included in Any Jimmy Butler Trade

eric-gordon-rocketsThe Houston Rockets are currently very serious about trading for Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler. I recently reported how they offered four future first-round picks for Butler. They’ve also included Brandon Knight and Marqueese Chriss in these talks.

It doesn’t appear that Minnesota is interested in this deal. They instead want all potential offers to include Rockets guard Eric Gordon.

Minnesota General Manager Scott Layden and head coach Tom Thibodeau both want the team to remain competitive if they do indeed deal butler. Thibodeau wants his team back in the playoffs after they grabbed the No. 8 seed last season.

Adding Gordon – rather than just draft picks and role players – would definitely align with this vision. Gordon is one of the best shooters in the NBA and could ease the impact of losing Butler.

Layden Ultimately Responsible for Finding Trade Partner

Thibodeau obviously has a lot of sway in who Minnesota is willing to deal with. But team owner Glenn Taylor wants Layden to focus on the trade while Thibodeau coaches the team.

So far, the franchise has failed to find a deal that interests them. The Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers’ have made offers for Butler. However, like the Rockets, Minnesota hasn’t jumped at their proposals either.

jimmy-butler-timberwolves-rocketsIt’s unlikely that the T-Wolves will ever take the four picks offer from Houston. They especially don’t like this deal when considering that they’d take on Knight’s bad contract in the process.

Again, they’re looking to keep a competitive team around stars Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins. This is a big reason why they want to add Gordon in any potential deal.

Of course, the key reason why Houston wants to make this deal is to become better than the reigning conference champion Golden State Warriors.

They’re willing to mortgage their future in order to make this happen. But it’s unclear if they’ll give up a key piece like Gorden.

Did Minnesota Leak the Gordon Trade Offer?

Speculation is that Minnesota has leaked the Rockets’ offer to motivate other suitors to increase their potential deals.

Miami thought they had a deal in place after offering Josh Richardson, Dion Waiters, and a protected 2019 first-round pick. However, Thibodeau and Layden wanted more at the last second, which caused Miami’s Pat Riley to coll off on the talks.

Philadelphia has quite a bit of young talent, including point guard Ben Simmons, center Joel Embiid, and guard Markelle Fultz. The Sixers are highly unlikely to part with Simmons or Embidd. But they might be willing to include Fultz – assuming Thibodeau would even be okay with this.

Multiple sources claim that Taylor wants to get a deal finished as quickly as possible. But if the team actually wanted this to happen, it would be done already.

That said, expect the Butler saga to continue playing out for more of the season. Minnesota obviously places a high value on their All-Star shooting guard, and they’re not going to give him up for just any deal.

Why Did the Cavs Fire Tyronn Lue? Will Cleveland Be Any Better?

tyronn-lue-cavs-firedCleveland Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman has fired head coach Tyronn Lue after a disappointing 0-6 start. Assistant Larry Drew will serve as the new coach on an interim basis.

Lue took over the Cavs’ coaching job in 2015, after then-head coach David Blatt was fired. Lue led the team to three consecutive NBA Finals appearances, including a championship in 2016. He ends his tenure with a 128-83 record as Cleveland’s head coach.

Few expected the Cavs to be good this year after LeBron James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers during the offseason. However, Cleveland was hoping to be competitive once again since they have veterans like Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, and George Hill remaining on the roster.

The idea was to revolve the offense around Love, while looking to the other veterans to fill various roles. This plan hasn’t panned out, though, with Love shooting under 35% to start the season.

Overall, the team simply lacks talent without James to carry them. They added point guard Collin Sexton with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft. But he’s not quite ready to carry a franchise.

It’s obvious that Lue isn’t the primary reason for the team’s dismal start. Altman and the rest of Cleveland’s front office did a poor job of acquiring more talent during the offseason. Of course, they have it difficult when considering that they’re strapped with bad contracts involving players like Smith, Thompson, Hill, and Jordan Clarkson.

Why Lue Had to Go Now

tyronn-lue-cavs-fired-1The one thing that Lue did have going for him is respect in the locker room. In fact, the respect that players have for him is a big reason why he took over for Blatt three years ago.

Lue spent 11 seasons playing in the NBA. He was also Cleveland’s top assistant before assuming head coaching duties. James was a big fan of Lue being the coach, considering he wanted a former player to lead the team.

The organization still feels that Lue is an “incredible coach.” This makes it all the more questionable why they let him go.

Cleveland.com writer Chris Fedor reports that Altman began to question whether Lue was the right person to coach this particular group. After all, Tyronn was no longer strictly dealing with veterans. Instead, Cleveland is trying to mix young talent into the rotation.

Fedor writes that the organization was also unhappy with the team’s lack of competitiveness through the first six losses. Here’s more on his report:

“According to a source, the Cavs had grown frustrated with the overall lack of competitiveness, believing the roster is more talented than it has displayed. In all six losses, the Cavs have trailed by at least 16 points. They have yet to lead in the second half of a game. Four of the six losses have been by double figures.

“‘We have radically underachieved and it was unacceptable,’ the source said.

“The Cavs rank 29th in defensive rating for the second straight year despite a change in personnel. Lue, who first made his mark as a defensive assistant, implemented an unproductive switch-everything concept to open the season before shifting the last few games. Those continued defensive struggles didn’t help with the evaluation.”

Why Didn’t the Cavs Fire Lue in the Summer?

Given how quickly Cleveland let Lue go, many wonder why they didn’t just cut ties with him during the summer. The simplest answer is that it would be hard to fire a coach who just led them to a third straight NBA Finals appearance.

Much of this has to do with LeBron, who’s often in the conversation for greatest NBA player ever. Nevertheless, Lue was the one making in-game decisions during the last three Finals runs.

The Cavs already raised enough eyebrows after firing Blatt when his team was in first place in the Eastern Conference. It would’ve been even more insane to dump Lue after losing to the Warriors – one of the greatest teams of all time – in the championship.

Will Cleveland Be Any Better Under Larry Drew?

larry-drew-cavsOne solace is that the team has a solid replacement in Larry Drew. When Lue sat out games due to health reasons last season, Drew guided the club to a 9-1 record.

The team doesn’t immediately have a replacement in mind. Therefore, Drew has a chance to win over the organization as interim coach. He also has head coaching experience, going 143-169 with the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks.

Of course, Drew has a tough road ahead of him when considering the mess that the Cavs are in right now. Love isn’t panning out as a number one option, while veterans like Kyle Korver, Channing Frye, Smith, Thompson, and Hill are all past their prime.

Sexton has potential. But again, he’s nowhere near the type of player who can lead a team at this point. With Lue gone, he may get more plays called for him.

David Nwaba, who’s been a spark off the bench at times, also hasn’t gotten much playing time or looks. Nwaba is an interesting player who can definitely step into a larger role at some point the season. Cleveland outscored the Indiana Pacers by 13 points when Nwaba was on the floor in a recent game.

Larry Nance Jr., who played with Nwaba on the Los Angeles Lakers, would really like to see his friend get more of a chance.

“I didn’t have to tell him to stay ready or anything like that, because he’s always one of the first ones there and one of the last ones to leave, always lifting and doing extra cardio and stuff,” said Nance. “I would love to see him more. We need his energy.”

It seems Cleveland has given up on the idea of winning immediately after LeBron leaving. That said, Drew will likely devote more time to helping Sexton and Nwaba develop in what’s looking like a lost season.

Rockets Willing to Give 4 First Rounders for Jimmy Butler

jimmy-butler-rockets-four-first-roundersThe Houston Rockets are getting more serious about bringing Jimmy Butler to their team. They’re so serious, in fact, that they’re willing to give up four future first-round picks to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Butler.

League rules state that teams can’t trade first-round picks in consecutive years. Going further, they’re also not allowed to deal a pick further than seven seasons into the future.

This has required Houston to get very creative in their offer by spreading the picks out every two years, up to seven seasons. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Rockets would deal their first-round picks in 2019, 2021, 2023, and 2025.

This offer is even riskier for the Rockets when considering that the picks come with little protection. Draft selections can’t be protected when they’re dealt in alternating years, unless the protection allows for a pick to roll over to the next season.

Butler Would Need to Commit to the Rockets Long Term

The tricky thing about trading for Jimmy Butler is that he’s a free agent at the end of the season. Therefore, it’s highly unlikely that the Rockets would make this trade and risk their future if they don’t gain a long-term commitment from the All-Star shooting guard.

jimmy-butler-2018-injury-returnMuch of this deal will hinge on Butler agreeing to a long-term contract with Houston. They might also have to make additional deals in order to free up cap space for Butler’s impending contract.

The upside, though, is that he would be a third elite player teaming up with Chris Paul and James Harden. This trio might actually have a chance to beat the Golden State Warriors, who’ve dominated the Western Conference in recent years.

They had a chance to get past the Warriors in last year’s Western Conference Finals. But they blew a 3-2 lead after Paul got injured. Furthermore, they lost Luc Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza through free agency this summer.

The team did manage to sign Carmelo Anthony during free agency. But Butler would be a much bigger deal if he’s added to the Rockets.

Houston Must Weigh Future Against Getting Butler Now

Again, there’s incredible risk in Houston trading their top draft selections seven years out in exchange for players who may or may not take them to the next level.

The last time that draft selections were traded in this magnitude was when the Brooklyn Nets made a deal with the Boston Celtics to bring in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

The Nets are still paying for this deal five years later, because they didn’t win a championship with Pierce and Garnett, and they’ve missed out on several high lottery picks in the aftermath. Boston, meanwhile, turned two of these selections into Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown – both of whom have All-Star potential.

Morey is certainly no idiot and understands the implications of giving away four first-rounders. Nevertheless, an aggressive move for Butler may be the only way to become a serious threat to the Warriors this season and beyond.

Can Cavs Make Playoffs without LeBron in 2018-19?

kevin-love-knee-injury-impactLeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers this offseason as predicted. He led the Cavs to four straight NBA Finals appearances before his departure.

That said, Cleveland is unlikely to make a fifth-straight appearance in the post-LeBron days. Most analysts don’t expect them to even reach the playoffs. Assuming these predictions come true, the Cavs will be watching ping pong balls bounce in June for the first time since 2014.

But there is some reason to be excited for this year’s team. They have old holdovers from the LeBron era, including J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson. The latter spoke to Cleveland.com on his team’s chances of making the postseason.

“We’re a playoff team. That’s realistic,” said Thompson. “Everyone that says playoffs is overachieving doesn’t know our squad and doesn’t believe in our squad.

“For us, we’re a playoff team. We just have to go out there, be ourself and prove the naysayers wrong, which we will.”

The East Presents a Chance to Make the Playoffs

Every team is obviously going to carry a playoff mindset into the season. But is there any substance to back up Thompson’s words?

The core of the team isn’t bad, especially in the lackluster Eastern Conference. Love should regain the role he played in Minnesota as a No. 1 option. Thompson and Larry Nance will serve a scrappy inside players. Smith, Korver, Rodney Hood, and Jordan Clarkson can supply offense on the perimeter.

jr-smith-clevelandRookie point guard Collin Sexton brings plenty of excitement to the roster. The No. 8 overall pick in last year’s draft should play a big role on this Cleveland team in his first season.

Realistically, though, this squad will need some luck in order to actually make the playoffs. They no longer have LeBron to create floor space and open shots.

Smith hasn’t played well ever since signing a new deal in 2016. Korver is still a great shooter, but he doesn’t create his own shot. Hood didn’t see the floor much until the last two games of the 2018 NBA Finals. Clarkson did see the floor, but he was awful in the postseason. Point guard George Hill looks like he’s already on the downside of his career.

Love is still an All-Star caliber forward who can shoot outside and play in the post. But he’s certainly no LeBron and has never proven capable of putting a weak team on his back. That said, Cleveland will still struggle to earn a playoff berth, even in the dilapidated East.

This could be a Throwaway Season for the Cavs

Many expected the Cavs to make a move in the offseason in order to bring in young talent. After all, they didn’t really figure to have much of a chance to compete for another title without King James.

Love was the obvious trade bait mentioned in the offseason. However, the team shocked everybody by signing him to a long-term deal instead. This signaled a willingness to try and compete despite the odds against them.

kyle-korver-cavsThere’s an obvious reason why Cleveland has chosen to compete rather than overhaul their roster: they don’t have much a choice.

The team is saddle-bagged with aging veterans on big contracts. Smith will be a good trade candidate next season, because the final year of his contract is only guaranteed for $3.8 million in 2019-20. But that doesn’t do Cleveland much good this year.

Nobody is going to trade for Thompson and his $17 million annual salary. Likewise, they’ll have to deal with Hill and his $20 million salary for one more season.

Rather than blow up the team in the offseason and combine rebuilding with disgruntled veterans, the team has simply chosen to compete in the 2018-19 campaign.

Sexton Will Be the Key

Pretty much everything on Cleveland’s roster is a known entity. The only way this changes is if some of the veterans like Smith and Hill play even worse in 2019. However, Sexton is the one unknown variable at this point.

collin-sexton-clevelandIf draft experts are correct, he could provide even more value than his No. 8 selection suggests. The 6’2″ point guard is a tough competitor who plays hard on both ends of the floor.

The problem, though, is that point guard is the toughest position to play as a rookie. Don’t expect Sexton to jump out of the gate and play like an All-Star. This is especially the case when considering that he shot 33% from the three-point line in college.

Nonetheless, he’ll have plenty of chances to learn the game on an under-talented Cleveland team. He’ll also serve as Hill’s understudy for the early part of the season (and potentially beyond).

Assuming Cleveland doesn’t make a serious push for the playoffs and Hill doesn’t do any better than last year, then Sexton might move into a starting role and establish himself as an important future piece.

Final Prediction on Cavs’ 2018-19 Season

Cleveland won 50 games last year and made the NBA Finals with James playing the best basketball of his career. That said, there’s no way Cleveland approaches 50 wins this season with virtually the same roster.

Odds are that they drop off between 15-20 games when compared to last year. They realistically project to win around 33-35 games.

But there’s always a chance that they rally around each other following years of success. Assuming everything goes right, they can compete for the final playoff spot in the East.

More than likely, though, the team is simply looking to get through this year and survive the bad contracts they have until next offseason.

Dallas Mavericks Hire Bob Voulgaris – Famed Sports Bettor

The NBA’s Dallas Mavericks have announced that they’re hiring professional sports bettor Haralabos Voulgaris as their director of quantitative research and development.

Voulgaris is famous for his incredible NBA betting abilities. He’s won millions of dollars by wagering on pro basketball games. Now he’ll use his skills to provide the Mavs with analytics and expertise on player tendencies.

According to ESPN reporters Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wants to use Voulgaris as a “strategic thinker” for the organization. Here’s more from Wojnarowski and Lowe:

“In part, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is expected to utilize Voulgaris as a strategic thinker who will help examine on-court strategy in big-picture ways. The state-by-state legalization of sports gambling has inspired the NBA and teams to better harness information and betting expertise to create revenue, and advance the gathering of information.”

Who Is Haralabos Voulgaris?

Haralabos “Bob” Voulgaris is a Greek Canadian pro sports bettor who’s made a fortune betting on NBA games. He started gambling on pro basketball in the late 1990s and was risking $1 million per contest by the time he was 25.

bob-voulgarisAccording to a 2013 ESPN piece, he identified three coaches’ tendencies and in-game substitution patterns to make a killing. In another case, he used an inefficiency with halftime totals to earn millions:

“In betting parlance, the man could suss out an edge — and in 2002, he discovered one that would line his pockets for years. It all had to do with how most bookmakers set their halftime totals, the predicted number of points scored in each half of the game.

“Each half, of course, is its own discrete period of play, and the fourth quarters of close games can end in elongated foul-clogged stretches of free throws, timeouts, fast play and, hence, a burst of scoring.

“But incredibly, bookmakers at the time didn’t account for this fact; they simply arrived at a total for the full game and cut that figure roughly down the middle, assigning some 50 percent of the points to the first half and 50 percent to the second.

“For years, Voulgaris exploited this edge, playing both sides of it repeatedly. It is possible to say that it alone made him millions, combined with some keen observations regarding the game-management tendencies of three head coaches: Eddie Jordan, Jerry Sloan and Byron Scott. “Those were three coaches I had nailed perfectly,” Voulgaris, now 37, says. “I knew exactly what they were going to do. I mean, it was a joke, it was so easy.”

Voulgaris became so successful with NBA betting that he eventually earned appearances on mainstream sports shows hosted by famed personalities like Bill Simmons.

He’s displayed his immense knowledge of the league through these TV appearances. Now, he’ll have a chance to put his ideas to work for an actual team.

How can Bob Voulgaris Help the Mavericks Win?

The Dallas Mavericks have struggled over the last two seasons, compiling a 57-107 record in the 2016 and 2017 campaigns. That said, they can use all the help they can get in order to turn the franchise around. This is especially the case when considering that cornerstone Dirk Nowitzki is nearing retirement.

Enter Voulgaris, who can help Dallas catch up in the NBA’s era of big data. Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has helped popularize big data throughout the league, using that to transform Houston into a running and gunning team.

Voulgaris can use his advanced grasp of NBA stats to help the Mavs determine the most efficient and inefficient players on the roster. They can then use these numbers to help their players develop, or go sign free agents who are a better fit for their team.

Could Jimmy Butler Be the Missing Piece for the Houston Rockets?

jimmy-butler-timberwolves-rocketsThe Houston Rockets had a rough start to free agency, losing forwards Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute. They’ve since added James Ennis, Marquese Chriss, Carmelo Anthony, Brandon Knight, and Michael Carter-Williams. But these players don’t exactly seem like they’ll keep Houston’s defensive prowess up (sixth in defensive efficiency last season).

That said, Houston has been looking for a two-way impact player who can help them realize what they just barely missed out on last season – an NBA championship appearance. Rockets GM Daryl Morey hasn’t let off the gas in looking for this player.

“We need our best team on April 15,” he said, likely suggesting that Houston must beat Golden State in order to take the Western Conference.

Considering Morey’s words, it’s no surprise that the Rockets are one of the teams that have expressed interest in Jimmy Butler. The Minnesota Timberwolves Guard/forward has requested a trade out of Minnesota.

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is pushing for Butler to be traded, hopefully before the season starts.

General manager Scott Layden and head coach/president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau want the franchise to take its time with this matter. They want potential suitors to come to them and offer a serious trade proposal.

Houston Has Some Competition in the Jimmy Butler Sweepstakes

Miami, Brooklyn, and the LA Clippers have also expressed interest in bringing Butler to their teams. Here’s what ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports on the matter:

It’s likely that one or more of these teams have more assets on the surface to offer Minnesota. But Morey is quite good at figuring out ways to get players for less.

He put a nice trade package together to get James Harden away from the Oklahoma City Thunder. He created the “poison pill” contracts that brought in Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin in 2012. He waived or traded players like Royce White, James Anderson, Thomas Robinson, and Furkan Aldemir to create enough cap space to sign Dwight Howard in 2013.

Other inventive moves by Morey include the three-team, six-player deal that brought Ariza to Houston in 2014, and accumulating non-guaranteed contracts to build a large enough trade package to land Chris Paul in 2017.

The last move was quite incredible when considering that Morey sent a bunch of bench players and lower draft picks to the Clippers in return for a game-changing point guard.

“There’s always fine-tuning, you can always get better,” said Morey. “We have all our draft picks going forward.

“So if something presents itself that allows us to make a trade to improve the team, we won’t hesitate to do that.”

What can the Rockets Offer for Jimmy Butler?

daryl-morey-rocketsIt’s great what Houston’s front office has been able to do over the last few years. But what can they currently offer to bring in Butler?

One speculated move involves sending Sixth Man of the Year Erik Gordon, forward P.J. Tucker, and an unprotected first-round pick to Minnesota. Gordon and Tucker would help the Twolves immediately, while the first-round pick would enable them to add more talent in the future.

Minnesota could also get rid of a bad contract in the process, including reserve big man Gorgui Dieng, who’s still due $48.7 million over the next three years.

Of course, the problem with this is that Houston must involve a third team (and potentially fourth), because they don’t have a lot of salary cap space either. Morey shouldn’t have a problem getting this done, though, when looking at the deals he’s worked in the past.

Another problem is that they’ll have to give away another one or two rotational pieces in order to land Butler. That said, they’d be working with a team of three stars in Paul, Harden, and Butler, along with several backups who must be integrated.

Is Butler Worth the Cost?

jimmy-butler-2018-injury-returnEverything that Houston is currently doing is under the goal of beating the Golden State Warriors next season. And Butler would certainly give them a better chance to topple the Warriors.

The question, though, is whether what they’d be giving up is worth it. Odds are that, yes, the Rockets would improve if they got Butler for the cost of Tucker and Gordon.

But you also have to factor in the loss of Ariza and Mbah a Moute, who were instrumental in helping this team improve from 18th to 6th in defensive efficiency last season.

Depth is obviously important, as the Warriors have shown. But so is having star players, which the Rockets showed by unloading several veterans in exchange for Paul. Assuming Morey can put together a deal that brings Butler in, it should help the Rockets get better on offense and defense. The major question would be if they can integrate all their new pieces in time for the playoffs.

Houston Rockets Odds in 2018-19

Houston currently trails Golden State by a sizable margin in our GTBets odds. But the Rockets still have the second-best odds of winning the conference at the time of this post.

Here’s a look at our current 2018-19 NBA Western Conference odds:

  • Dallas +10000
  • Denver +5000
  • Golden State -245
  • Houston +500
  • LA Clippers +10000
  • LA Lakers +800
  • Memphis +15000
  • Minnesota +4000
  • New Orleans +4500
  • Oklahoma City +2200
  • Phoenix +10000
  • Portland +5000
  • Sacramento +25000
  • San Antonio +4000
  • Utah +2500

Assuming the Rockets can make a trade for Butler, it would likely inch them forward in the odds category. Maybe not enough to match the Warriors, but definitely closer.

It’ll be interesting to see if Morey can work his magic again and get Butler on this team.