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The Trade Deadline Diary

E  ditor’s note: Every time there’s an NBA trade deadline, Zach Lowe and Bill Simmons like to trade emails about the relative nonaction while secretly hoping that something huge will happen. It never does. Every February, they gamely press on. Here are today’s emails from coast to coast, as they appeared in real time, as our boys killed time until the 3 p.m. ET trade deadline.

Zach Lowe (10:08 AM EST)
So, I was about to ask for your thoughts on why the deadline is so quiet at this point — whether it’s the new CBA in effect, general managers getting smarter, some sort of overcautious groupthink, or something else. But Spencer Hawes just got traded to Cleveland for two second-round picks!! Spencer Hawes is officially the best player to have been traded so far at the deadline, and we only have about five hours to go!

Irony: His last game as a Sixer came against Cleveland, and he was blatantly not trying on defense. He was leaping out of the way when Cleveland players attacked the rim. TRADE FOR THAT MAN!!!

Bill Simmons (10:16 AM EST)
Now that it’s over, I want Spencer Hawes to know how much I appreciated his little cat-and-mouse game of “Oh, you think you’re gonna shamelessly sabotage this team while dangling me around the league in trade talks for three months? DANGLE THIS!”

Check out his monthly splits — each month, he gets 15 percent worse. He went from 16 and 10 with 51/47/72 shooting percentages in November to 8 and 8 with 32/27/78 in February. And that doesn’t even count the other end of the floor; by February, he was wandering around on defense like a Walking Dead zombie. I wonder if Philly made Hawes its tanking mole. Maybe the Sixers said, “Hey, Spencer, give us three gawd-awful months, and then we’ll send you to an awesome contender”? And then they double-crossed him by sending him to Cleveland?

Zach Lowe (10:19 AM EST)
Philly will receive two second-rounders, which is decent return for a mediocre unrestricted free agent who has regressed defensively this season. That’s especially so if Philly is getting Orlando’s 2014 second-rounder from the Cavs, which is pretty much a first-round pick without the long-term salary guarantees. But we’ll have to see. Ditto for what the Cavaliers are sending out, since they are over the cap and don’t have a trade exception to just fit Hawes. It will almost certainly be random expiring contracts. No way Sam Hinkie is taking on Jarrett Jack’s contract.

Bill Simmons (10:21 AM EST)
So, to recap — Jordan Crawford was worth more than Spencer Hawes in an NBA trade this season. I love the NBA. Never change, NBA!

Zach Lowe (10:22 AM EST)
Well, Crawford is much cheaper, which will come into play as we discuss Hawes deals that didn’t happen. I can see the thinking here for Cleveland, I guess.

Bill Simmons (10:22 AM EST)
That sentence hasn’t been written in four years.

Zach Lowe (10:22 AM EST)
Don’t be mean! The Cavs already hate you, and that hatred is starting to trickle over to me!

Anyway, they want to make the playoffs, they’re on a nice six-game winning streak against mostly very bad teams, and Hawes gives them a big man who can shoot 3s. The Cavs suffer from spacing issues, in part because none of their bigs can really shoot beyond 15 feet or so on the pick-and-pop/pick-and-roll — which is just about all the Cavs run, in various forms. Anderson Varejao has become quite good from midrange, and Tyler Zeller has shown flashes of late on jumpers and rolling hard to the rim. So has Anthony Bennett, even out to the 3-point line.

But Hawes is a proven 3-point shooter and an elite passer for his position. He should help unclog a cloggy Cleveland offense, especially if Varejao is banged up for any prolonged period. Cleveland is giving up assets to chase the no. 8 seed, which is stupid in a vacuum. But the Cavs aren’t operating in a vacuum. They’re operating under a screaming owner who wants to win.

Bill Simmons (10:24 AM EST)
On NBA Countdown last night, we discussed how the two most exciting types of people at the trade deadline are new owners and restless owners. I totally forgot about screaming-and-restless-owners-who-want-to-win. Any sane person running the Cavs would be thinking two things. First, missing the best lottery in six years just so the Cavs can get annihilated by Miami or Indiana in Round 1 sounds like the dumbest plan since “We have a young and impressionable team … let’s bring in Andrew Bynum as a mentor for everyone.”

And second, they needed to use these next two months to (a) see if Kyrie and Waiters can be their long-term backcourt (and not a long-term threat to fight to the death), and (b) get Anthony Bennett as many minutes as possible. Bennett was just starting to show flashes and extricate himself from that Kwame Brown/LaRue Martin narrative … now he’s going to lose minutes to Hawes? What???

Zach Lowe (10:30 AM EST)
They’ve now given up five total picks for Hawes and Luol Deng, plus swap rights with the Bulls in 2015, which could be valuable — to Chicago. Four of those picks will be second-rounders, and the first-rounder, from Sacto, is protected in such a way that it might become a second-rounder. Still: That’s a lot for two unrestricted free agents. Cleveland fans are bombarding me on Twitter, saying second-round picks “don’t matter.” Umm … what did you just use to trade for Hawes and Deng? Extra second-round picks!

They absolutely matter, as sources of cheap labor and as wheel-greasing ingredients in trades. If you think they don’t matter, you haven’t been paying any attention to how the league is evolving. It’s true that teams gather extra picks in order to monetize them, as the Cavs have done here. But I’m not sure monetizing them for two unrestricted free agents, one of whom doesn’t really move any team’s needle, is the smartest play. It will be interesting to see whether the Cavs re-sign either guy, and for how much. They won’t have much cap flexibility, if any, if they devote about $21 million combined to Deng and Hawes. But both will help this season, especially if Varejao’s injury is serious.

Bill Simmons (10:36 AM EST)
One of my favorite underrated traditions: when a healthy Anderson Varejao plays well for three or four weeks, then the Cavs forget to trade him before he gets hurt … and then he gets hurt. I think this has happened in every NBA season since 1965.

Zach Lowe (10:39 AM EST)
Also: Don’t talk to me about needing to please Kyrie Irving so desperately. He’s going to become a restricted free agent. The Cavs control the situation. This only changes if he’s made it known he’ll sign the one-year qualifying offer, or the mini-max extension LeBron and Bosh signed. Otherwise, it’s just noise.

Bill Simmons (10:41 AM EST)
But they have to please Kyrie — he doesn’t make his teammates better, thrives in pickup games when there’s no defense, and has lost over 60 percent of the NBA games he’s played. You have to take care of guys like that! Here’s my question, Zach — where the hell were the Clippers on Hawes??? If the price was two second-rounders, they couldn’t have topped that? They have Ryan Hollins, Byron Mullens, Hedo Turkoglu, Keith Closs Jr., Mike Golic, Stan Verrett and Snoop Dogg as their backup bigs right now. Hawes REALLY would have helped. Explain this to me.

Zach Lowe (10:45 EST)
There’s no question the Cavs frontcourt is crowded now. And Bennett can’t really play small forward, though they’ve tried him there. Look: The Cavs feel they need a culture change, and that making the playoffs will help everyone jell and get serious. There is some precedent for the value of a first-round loss in the no. 8 spot — see the 2011 Pacers, for instance — but the precedent is all over the place on that.

As for the Clips, well, Hawes is making $6.6 million this season, and the Clips are $2 million over the tax. So that’s hard to swallow, even though this is a freaking potential title contender in obvious need of a third quality big man.

Bill Simmons (10:49 AM EST)
Is it OK if I don’t break out my violin for the Clippers — playing in America’s second-biggest market, filling Staples every night, charging Hollywood prices and trotting out two of the NBA’s most marketable players — because they might creep into the luxury tax this season? Especially when the league is about to double its media revenue with its next media deal? And especially when 29 of the 30 NBA teams aren’t for sale right now because the league has quietly turned into a cash cow? The Clippers could sell for ONE BILLION DOLLARS right now. That is not a misprint. If they’re afraid of the tax, that’s embarrassing. You’re right, Donald Sterling is incapable of being embarrassed. Forget everything I just wrote.

Zach Lowe (10:53 AM EST)
Less sympathetic figure to you, in terms of non-tax spending: Sterling or Clay Bennett? (Please don’t reenter the James Harden Vortex!)

Bill Simmons (10:54 AM EST)
I can’t answer that because everyone in Oklahoma City already hates me. I keep making the mistake of pointing out that it could have had the probable 2014 MVP (Durant), one of the NBA’s five or six best guards (Westbrook), the NBA’s best third banana (Ibaka) and someone who just started the All-Star Game (Harden) all on the same team. Sorry, this seems relevant.

Zach Lowe (10:58 AM EST)
In any case, the Clips also don’t have great pieces to sell in a direct two-team trade with the Sixers, since they need Jamal Crawford (given J.J. Redick’s injuries) and Jared Dudley has long-term money the Hinkster won’t want. Now you’re starting to talk about cobbling together a three-team deal when the Clips might actually want to duck the tax so they can reap the Brooklyn bonanza payout only non-tax teams can get. I’ve also heard indirectly that Doc Rivers isn’t a huge fan of Hawes’s, but I haven’t asked him directly about that. Maybe they’re hoping there’s a buyout candidate looming. Chris Kaman?

Bill Simmons (11:02 AM EST)
Update: Philly got Earl Clark’s expiring contract in that Hawes trade. Earl Clark made $4.25 million this season, Zach. Let that one soak in for a second.

Here was my dream 2014 trade deadline deal that died an hour ago: Thaddeus Young and Willie Green to Phoenix; Hawes to the Clippers; then Philly gets Jared Dudley, Byron Mullens, Emeka Okafor’s expiring contract, Byron Mullens’s expiring basketball career, the highest of Phoenix’s 2014 first-rounders and a super-duper-ultra-protected future first-rounder from the Clips. Everyone would have been a winner. Alas.

Zach Lowe (11:10 AM EST)
That’s not bad. Young is an interesting trade piece. There hasn’t been much noise about him. He’s due about $19 million combined over 2014-15 and 2015-16, and that kind of price tag is scaring teams right now — even when it is attached to a good player. And that gets back to the overcautious thing I mentioned earlier. Teams are just paranoid about taking on money right now, even though most of them have cleaned up their cap sheets under the new collective bargaining deal. Half the teams are going to walk into every summer with semi-significant cap room, which didn’t used to be the case. If everyone has cap room, it would seem to follow that your team’s individual cap room isn’t quite as valuable as it once was.

There’s an opportunity, I think, for teams to recognize quality players on fair-value contracts, and swoop in to get them — to take advantage of the paranoia. The Mavs did this with Monta Ellis, but they had supreme confidence in their coaching staff, their system, and their superstar to mold Ellis’s game in a way that maximizes it. The Bucks tried the same sort of money play with O.J. Mayo, and, umm, it went badly. But there’s opportunity here. Four hours to go!

Bill Simmons (11:19 AM EST)
You just laid out Cuban’s zigzag theory: If a growing cluster of NBA teams are trying to execute the same strategy (in this case, keeping their cap unclogged, avoiding that no-man’s-land range of 39-45 wins, stockpiling picks and maybe even semi-sabotaging their current team for ping-pong balls), then common sense says it’s better to zag the other way because you’ll find inefficiencies just by thinking differently. In this case, there might be hidden value in targeting contracts for quality starters ranging from $7.5 million to $10 million — Jeff Green, Thaddeus Young, Jeff Teague, Arron Afflalo, Taj Gibson, Whatever Gordon Hayward Gets Paid Next Season, etc. — because there’s no real market for these guys. So if you’re getting them for 60 cents on the dollar, that’s great: You just got a quality starter for 60 cents on the dollar. I gotta say, I like this line of thinking.

(By the way, Marcus Thornton — you absolutely did NOT qualify for the previous paragraph.)

Zach Lowe (11:27 AM EST)
We’ll get back to Marcus Thornton later, I suspect. The Nets are an anomaly, clearly, and they may cause the next lockout that ends with me hanging myself in a hotel ballroom at 4 a.m. while waiting for the two sides to come out and hold a press conference announcing NOTHING. Sorry, flashed back to 2011 there.

The CBA has done two other things that chill the trade deadline: shortened contracts and eliminated the most toxic ones via the amnesty provision and that reduction in length. Teams can see the end of any contract almost the second it is signed, meaning they don’t feel an urgent need to move it. (Exception: Josh Smith, currently being shopped everywhere.) Fewer toxic deals means fewer Rashard Lewis/Gilbert Arenas–type crap swaps.

Bill Simmons (11:29 AM EST)
Crap swap! Good one. Anyway, four hours until the deadline ends and I’m super-confused by two things right now …

First, why aren’t the Clippers doing everything they possibly can to add a backup big right now? They’re really pinning their hopes on a game of Backup Big Buyout Roulette after the deadline? Kaman? Okafor’s broken-down body? Andris Biedrins? The Artist Formerly Known As Marcus Camby? I don’t think even the likes of Kris Humphries will be there … I just don’t see it. There’s no 2008 P.J. Brown this season. So where’s the big Clips move?

Zach Lowe (11:32 AM EST)
Biedrins has made one free throw this season, and I predicted he would exceed his total of four from last season. So: GET ANDRIS BIEDRINS, SOMEONE! FREE HIM AND HIS PERFECTLY PARTED HAIR! But, yeah, the backup big thing is tricky. Okafor being unable to play chilled the potential buyout market. Maybe you could get Bernard James from Dallas? Joel Anthony from Boston? Chuck Hayes from the Raps, provided you can swallow the midlevel salary somehow? Jason Thompson is out there, but he’s got a long-term salary obligation a team like the Clips can’t touch.

Bill Simmons (11:38 AM EST)
I like the Joel Anthony call! He’s better than any of those Clips backups, that’s for sure. And for the record — he’s available, Zach. He’s very, very available.

The second deadline subplot that confuses me: Why isn’t Phoenix trying to parlay one or more of those four first-rounders, Okafor’s expiring and/or Alex Len into a major trade piece? What are they waiting for? That’s a dangerous playoff team with one more quality perimeter guy; they remind me of some of those explosive Western Conference teams from the early ’90s (KJ’s Suns, the Run TMC Warriors, etc.) — potentially, anyway. But it seems like the new wave of GMs are afraid to make in-season moves unless it’s absolutely the perfect move. Do you think GMs are getting too smart and too risk-averse? I would hate this. I need stupid contract extension, crazy trades and insane free-agent overpays, Zach — that’s the NBA gasoline that fuels me.

Zach Lowe (11:51 AM EST)
There’s definitely a caution taking over the league, and I think the CBA is only partly responsible. Like, everyone says teams are overvaluing first-round picks, or hoarding them. But look at all the first-rounders that flew around the league in the offseason, and then during this season: Washington, Indiana, Golden State, Brooklyn, and Cleveland have all dealt first-rounders since the end of last season. Teams are handcuffed in trading first-rounders today because so many of them have already traded first-rounders, and you can’t trade two consecutive future firsts. Picks are moving. People are valuing them more highly than ever before, but they can move.

Bill Simmons (11:59 AM EST)
Quick interjection: Imagine how much more fun this trade deadline would be if teams could trade their amnesties (remember, 10 teams have amnesties left) and teams could trade back-to-back first-rounders? Remember, the NBA created that first-rounder rule because of the immortal Ted Stepien, who recklessly traded so many first-rounders that the NBA actually had to give Cleveland’s next owner LOTTERY PICK REPARATIONS to quell some of the damage. Three decades later, I just can’t imagine any team giving away first-rounders left and right to the point that the NBA would have to intervene for their own safety. (Thinking.) You’re right, this could totally happen with James Dolan’s Knicks. My bad. Forget I brought this up.

Zach Lowe (12:05 PM EST)
I actually wrote during the lockout that teams should be able to trade amnesties. It rewarded teams who had done dumb stuff, but did not offer any similar reward to teams with no real amnesty candidate.

Bill Simmons (12:05 PM EST)
Yeah, if I had been an NBA owner who didn’t have an amnesty candidate, I would have gone nuts about that. Thrown a drink across the room, flipped over a chair, stormed out of the room, the whole thing. You shouldn’t be able to make massive mistakes and then get mulligans on them.

Zach Lowe (12:08 PM EST)
Anyway, the paranoia about money is the larger story to me. Teams are becoming very risk-averse about taking on anything above $5 million or so, even if the player in question has real value. The CBA plays a role in that, since the tax penalties are so onerous now. But if you have, say, $50 million committed next season, and $35 million committed in the next season, you’re nowhere near the tax. What are you afraid of? Sure, there’s opportunity cost in using up cap flexibility, but that was always the case. And like I said earlier, half the league will have major cap flexibility going forward; is yours so meaningful?

On the flip side of that opportunity-cost argument: Shorter contracts also mean more free agents every summer. Teams may hesitate to trade for a $10 million guy today in hopes of signing a better one in July. If the new CBA does end up chilling the trade deadline, it will probably also invigorate free agency. July is the new February, on steroids. We also had seven trades from October 1 through early February, about on par with what has happened each season over the last decade. (I actually went back and checked!)

Bill Simmons (12:12 PM EST)
And also — the cap keeps going up as long as revenue keeps going up. Everyone forgets this part. In November 2012, David Stern announced that the NBA’s revenue had increased to $5 billion, a 20 percent bump from the league’s last full season (2010-11). Last season, the league broke its own record for gate revenue. This season, attendance is still popping, and the TV ratings are better than ever; just last month, Forbes reported that the Knicks and Lakers are the most valuable NBA franchises ever. And a bunch of teams have figured out how to leverage local TV deals into ongoing cash cows.

All 30 NBA teams know — for a fact — that the salary cap will keep climbing. So, claiming they’re afraid of long-term deals is disingenuous, I think. It’s OK to be afraid of Josh Smith’s deal or Eric Gordon’s deal. It’s not OK to be afraid of Thaddeus Young’s deal. To me, it seems like too many NBA franchises are operating like that guy in your fantasy football auction who thinks he’s being cute by passing on the expensive players so he can clean up on value guys later in the auction. What always happens to that guy? He realizes he has 40 percent of his money left for a bunch of half-decent guys, so suddenly he’s spending $17 on Darren Sproles. That’s where 40 percent of the NBA is headed.

Zach Lowe (12:20 PM EST)
I also agree with the theory that GMs are just getting smarter. A lot of guys have looked at the Atlanta-Brooklyn Joe Johnson deal and told me, basically, “Every team trying to make a big trade wants a lopsided return like Atlanta got.” And there are just fewer guys who can get hoodwinked now. The specter of Kevin Durant’s free agency is affecting some teams, too. They want those post-2016 books as clean as possible.

Bill Simmons (12:24 PM EST)
Yup. We should also mention that those teams are delighted that OKC is standing pat at the trade deadline. Every KD suitor (Washington, the Lakers, Philly, Chicago, etc.) is praying for a 2014 playoff universe in which Derek Fisher, Thabo Sefolosha, Jeremy Lamb and Kendrick Perkins are playing more than one-third of OKC’s available playoff minutes. That’s their dream scenario. All of these teams want to keep reading stories with lines like “an increasingly frustrated Kevin Durant” and “Kevin Durant seems surlier than ever.”

Zach Lowe (12:29 PM EST)
All this said, I know for a fact there are big names and big contracts being talked about right now — and not just teams begging other teams to swallow some unpleasant deal. There are real discussions about teams taking on some large contracts, and giving up stuff to do it. Those deals probably won’t happen, but teams are considering them, at least.

Bill Simmons (12:30 PM ET)
Sorry, I’m coughing — (Melo Houston) — still coughing (Melo Houston).

Zach Lowe (12:31 PM EST)
And Josh Smith. And Rondo, too. And I didn’t even address Phoenix! I think they have their eye on a bigger prize than is available now. I know Ryan McDonough thinks he can nail all those picks if the Suns end up keeping them.

And, hey, the Heat just traded Roger Mason to Sacramento for a fake second-round pick they’ll never see. Miami is officially open for buyout business. I’m so rooting for the Kings to buy out Jason Terry and for JET to sign in Miami, even though the Heat have a million small guards. Dirk might kill him.

Bill Simmons (12:35 PM EST)
Here’s a theory for you: If you’re a GM, what’s the best way to make sure you’ll stay employed for four to five years? The answer: Blow everything up, bottom out, build around young players/cap space/lottery picks, make a bunch of first-round picks, and sell the “illusion of hope” to your fans. What the new wave of young GMs like Sam Hinkie, Ryan McDonough and Rob Hennigan are doing is extremely smart — both from a basketball standpoint and a self-preservation standpoint — because it’s hard for anyone to say “YOU FAILED!” when you’re executing a multiyear plan that can’t be judged until 2016 or 2017 at the earliest.

I’d like to see people in other professions try this. For instance, the guy who runs ABC right now, Paul Lee, is mired in a two-year mega-slump. I think he’s launched 23 shows in the past two years and only two of them have had even mild success. Last week, Kimmel’s 11:35 late-night show outrated ABC’s 10 p.m. prime-time show on three different nights. That’s almost impossible.

OK, so let’s say Paul Lee started thinking like an NBA GM. What would happen? He’d tell everybody, “Look, we fell into the bad habit here of throwing up 10 to 12 shows every year just because we had to have new shows for our schedule. I gotta be honest, I knew most of these shows wouldn’t work. But we needed to put SOMETHING on. So next year, I’m swinging the other way — I have only two new shows that I like, so we’re launching those and that’s it. Instead of wasting your time with the other eight to 10 shows that won’t work, I’m filling those spots with the cheapest reality shows possible, then long-term, I’m using the extra money we saved on failed pilots and lousy pilots to develop better shows with more accomplished showrunners. We’re going to be really good … in 2016!”

You know what would happen if Paul Lee announced that? He’d get fired within five minutes. But in the NBA, everyone accepts that mind-set and even encourages it. Hey, fans — who’s ready to bottom out? Who wants to hinge their hopes to a bunch of maybes and might-bes? Totally bizarre. I find it hard to believe that every Phoenix fan would rather use those four first-rounders over parlaying one or two of them into players who would make this season’s already-fun Suns team even more fun. But what do I know?

Zach Lowe (12:45 PM EST)
There is truth in that. Job preservation is a bigger driver of transactions than a lot of fans realize, and teardowns can fall under that category. But in some of the cases you mention, and maybe all of them, the GMs are new and came in with a mandate from ownership to rebuild/tear down. So they are not changing course in order to save their jobs. They do, however, get a long window.

This also impinges on the sometimes hysterical tanking debate. There is the notion that every team should be trying to get better in the immediate future, on the court, all the time. And I’ve never bought that. Sports don’t work that way. Should Phoenix trade real assets for, say, Pau Gasol, just because? Why? He’s an awkward fit, he’s old, his defense is in serious decline, and he doesn’t move the needle much. On the other hand, I pitched on Twitter a potentially less costly deal that upgrades a position of greater need: Okafor’s contract and one first-rounder to Cleveland for Luol Deng. He’s an easier salary to fit, might cost a tad less in terms of which pick Phoenix would have to send, and can take minutes from several players who aren’t as good as he is.

Bill Simmons (12:52 PM EST)
Come on, Zach — the Cavaliers can’t make that trade! Don’t you realize they’re trying to win the 2014 title? They’re in this thing!

Zach Lowe (12:53 PM EST)
Breaking: The Bobcats and Bucks just agreed on a trade that will send Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour to Charlotte for Ramon Sessions and Jeff Adrien. Are you excited yet?

Bill Simmons (12:54 PM EST)
Also breaking: a three-teamer with Jan Vesely going to Denver, Eric Maynor and two second-rounders going to Philly, and Professor Andre Miller, PhD, going to Washington! Trades! TRADES!!!!!!!! Are you excited for the Professor in our nation’s capital?

Zach Lowe (12:55 PM EST)
The Nuggets insist Miller is in shape, and that they would have eventually welcomed him back, since, you know, all their point guards are hurt. But we’ll see. Dre does not have the strongest history of working out diligently outside the team context.

Bill Simmons (12:58 PM EST)
Kudos to the Nuggets — they knew Miller was one of the proudest and surliest veterans in the league, so they crammed him into a playing rotation with three other point guards, yanked his minutes around and involuntarily ended his consecutive games streak. I still can’t believe that didn’t work out.

Zach Lowe (1:01 PM EST)
But the Wizards badly need a backup point guard, and they got a very good one while really giving up only Vesely. The Wiz score about 105 points per 100 possessions with John Wall on the court, and a hair shy of 93 points per 100 when he sits. That last number is miles worse than the worst offense in the league (Philly). And we get a Professor Miller–Nene reunion! Fun times.

Bill Simmons (1:03 PM EST)
Is it wrong that I kinda like Washington’s top eight? Nene, Gortat, Booker, Ariza, Webster, Wall, Beal and Miller. Some major toughness/attitude/moxie in that group — they’d absolutely spend Round 2 woofing it up with Miami or Indiana. Miller fits in with that. He’s not afraid of anyone, obviously. That’s why we love the Professor. Like that move for Washington. RIP, the Vesely era in Chocolate City. Yet another horrible Washington lottery pick. At least we’ll always have this.

Zach Lowe (1:08 PM EST)
Vesely can’t play, but he’s tall and he tries hard, so he might be a workable rotation guy somewhere. Denver is cornering the market on athletic big men with no shooting range. Good on them for finding a third team, Philly, to eat Eric Maynor’s $2.1million player option for next season; the Nugs save a bit of future scratch with this deal. Philly, by the way, is still about as far below the minimum salary floor as they were before the day started. They just don’t appear to care. It will be interesting to see if the NBA ever increases the penalty for going below the floor, provided the Sixers remain this far down. The Wiz were supremely disappointed in Maynor, especially in his defense and overall (in their view) lack of effort. (Miller can’t guard anyone, either.)

Bill Simmons (1:11 PM EST)
I’m supremely disappointed that the Wiz were supremely disappointed in someone who’s never been good.

Zach Lowe (1:12 PM EST)
Also, Philly gets two more second-round picks, with these two falling in 2015 and 2016, it appears. This is what you do with cap space: rent it, and charge assets (the two picks) in return — especially when you’re likely out one first-rounder and one second-rounder already via the weird Arnett Moultrie draft-day trade from 2012. The league should just let Sam Hinkie announce the second round of the draft for the next three years. It’d be great! He could come out dressed as Ben Franklin or the Liberty Bell, fans would boo him, and he could start negotiating contracts with every pick onstage. Maybe Allen Iverson could be involved.

Bill Simmons (1:15 PM EST)
“Next on When GMs Totally Outsmart Themselves, we’ll talk to Sam Hinkie — who mistakenly accumulated 38 second-round picks over a three-year span when you’re allowed to carry only 15 players at the same time! And coming up later — more of our interview with Chris Grant!”

Zach Lowe (1:17 PM EST)
And, hey, Maynor might prove semi-useful to the Sixers next season. Philly is trotting out D-League-level pseudo ball handlers behind Michael Carter-Williams and Tony Wroten. If Maynor remains this unproductive, well, I don’t see Philly really trying to win games, anyway. Meanwhile, the Bobcats-Bucks deal makes sense for both teams in some sad way.

Bill Simmons (1:18 PM EST)
It’s an inherently sad combination, so that makes sense.

Zach Lowe (1:19 PM EST)
I like Charlotte taking Ridnour, even though they come out with about $1.7 million more in payroll now because of the trade. Gary Neal isn’t a backup point guard, and if the Kitties were going to trade Sessions, they needed someone to fill that spot other than Neal or Jannero Pargo. Sessions has actually been a big piece for Charlotte, in part because of injuries to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffery Taylor. Sessions and Kemba Walker play a ton together, and Sessions is doing what he does — attacking the rim, getting to the line, shooting poorly, and defending like he’s allergic to the task.

Bill Simmons (1:22 PM EST)
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually had a strong first-blink opinion on this trade. I like Sessions. That dude gets to the rim, the SportVU numbers back it up. He’s overqualified to be a backup point guard. I’d rather have Sessions than Ridnour. And they could have gotten Neal for nothing. I am confused. Is there a chance MJ swung this deal between the 11th hole and 12th hole after two Bloody Marys, had bad cell reception and mistakenly thought he was getting Gary Payton?

Zach Lowe (1:27 PM EST)
Charlotte has the sixth-worst offense in the NBA, and only two teams have attempted fewer 3s. Neal will help them space the floor, and Ridnour can partner with him so that Neal doesn’t have to handle the rock too much. That’s a small backcourt, but so was Sessions-Walker, and with only three healthy “bigger” wings in the rotation now — Gerald Henderson, MKG, and Anthony Tolliver — it’s just hard for Charlotte to play entire games with two real wing players on the floor at once. But, yeah, Sessions is the best player in the deal. Maybe Charlotte could have gotten Neal for less, though they don’t have quite the right tradable asset, or a trade exception. Also, they probably avoided Evan Turner by making this trade! They could still pull the trigger, in theory, but it’s a good idea to pass on dealing a first-round pick for Turner and then coughing up the inevitable four-year, $40 million instant albatross on him in the summer. Yay!

Bill Simmons (1:37 PM EST)
Or as it’s more commonly known, “The John Hammond.”

Zach Lowe (1:39 PM EST)
For the Bucks, this is simple: They save money, both this year, and next, with Neal’s $3.25 million for 2014-15 off the books. Both teams are pretty flexible going forward, with max or near-max cap room, but every dollar helps. Neal made the mistake of yelling at Larry Sanders and not being very good this season. So he’s out.

Bill Simmons (1:45 PM EST)
Yeah, you can’t yell at someone who just got paid a lot of money right before he was involved in a PETA incident and a disco fight video that went viral. That’s just a bad career move. The Bucks made me sad. I don’t care what happens to them — I just don’t want the Greek Freak infected in any way. I love the Greek Freak so much. Every decision Milwaukee makes right now needs to revolve around two questions: How can we keep getting worse to ensure that we get a top-three pick? And how can we make sure we surround the Greek Freak with high-character teammates? Nothing else matters.

Zach Lowe (1:55 PM EST)
And Sessions, by all accounts, is a great dude.

Bill Simmons (1:56 PM EST)
I feel like he already played for Milwaukee. I’m having lottery team déjà vu with this one. (Looking it up.) Yup, he already played for Milwaukee — they drafted him in the second round in 2007, they lost 56 games with him as a rookie, then they turned him into a key bench guy for their 34-48 team in 2009. RAMON SESSIONS IS COMING HOME!

Zach Lowe (2:03 PM EST)
Breaking: Daryl Morey somehow just got Jordan Hamilton for Aaron Brooks. Morey loves to take shots on failed projects who once had first-round talent, and Hamilton fits the bill. He looks like he could be a silky scorer, only he never really scores efficiently and plays zippo defense. He dominates summer league with herky-jerky off-the-bounce stuff and midpost scoring that doesn’t translate to the NBA. But he’s got good size, he’s a league-average 3-point shooter, and he’s on a cheapo expiring deal. I could see Houston giving him a small shot if they try to revive the small-ball lineups they’ve ditched of late. It’s not like Francisco Garcia is lighting the world on fire.

The Rox have no space for Brooks, barring a Jeremy Lin deal, which they’ve tried like heck to execute all day. Denver needs a point guard, since they have zero healthy ones. But they’re toast this season anyway, as far as the playoffs go.

Bill Simmons (2:11 PM EST)
Yup, we’re at the point of the day when you’re spending two paragraphs on an Aaron Brooks–Jordan Hamilton trade and I’m juggling texts on my BlackBerry from league insiders wondering if Jason Thompson could potentially swing the title race if he somehow lands with the Thunder, Clippers or Miami (either via trade or a Sacramento buyout). I have to admit … I had higher hopes for the 2014 NBA trade deadline. Let’s take a quick break. You make some calls and send some texts, see if you can dig anything up. And I’ll pretend to do the same while secretly watching the end of the USA-Canada women’s hockey game. Will hit you back in 20.

Bill Simmons (2:30 PM EST)
My favorite tweets from the last hour (my notes in parentheses) …

Howard-Cooper: “Philly has 9 picks in the second round.”

(Only 21 more to go!)

Broussard: “Lots riding on Shumpert MRI: in addition to possibly going to LAC, source says possible he goes to OKC for 1st round pick. If mcl not torn!”

(The perfect trade deadline tweet — just stuff getting thrown around left and right, only you have no idea what’s true and not true. I love the trade deadline so much.)

Woj: “After trading for Steve Blake, Golden State is shopping Jordan Crawford before the deadline, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.”

(Cut to Danny Ainge doing the Dr. Evil “muhwahaaaaaahaaaahaaaa” laugh.)

Bill Simmons (2:37 PM EST)
Uh-oh, Zach, you went MIA. Really hope ESPN didn’t just trade you to Sam Hinkie for three second-round picks. Was just thinking about it … my favorite deadline move is still the first one: Steve Blake to the Warriors for Kent Bazemore and 750 elaborate Sacre-Bazemore sideline celebrations to be named later. Golden State desperately needed another ball handler; the Lakers desperately needed the night-to-night possibility of two teammates knocking each other unconscious with a violent chest bump. Loved that one for both teams.

Bill Simmons (2:50 PM EST)
Big non-call in the USA-Canada game! Canada should have gotten a penalty shot on a breakaway. Still, this doesn’t look good. Any deadline news? Anything? You alive?

Bill Simmons (2:52 PM EST)
We just lost the gold to Canada. Dammit. My favorite tweet from the last 20 minutes …

Shelburne: “Sounds like Jordan Hill discussions are dying or dead, per sources on both sides.”

(I like how this is open-ended — it can be discussions about trades, Hill’s career as a whole, whatever you want.)

Zach Lowe (2:55 PM EST)
Jordan Hill is a pretty good two-way big man, and especially a rebounder!

Bill Simmons (2:55 PM EST)
You’re alive!

Zach Lowe (2:56 PM EST)
I can think of a lot of good teams that could have used Hill — Atlanta, the Clippers, Portland with Freeland out, and, heck, even the Spurs. But finding the right contract to send out — one that fits in terms of cap math and leaves L.A.’s books beyond this season unencumbered — was strangely tough. I thought until the very end the Nets would just cave and take him into the Lopez disabled player exception, but Brooklyn apparently balked at paying the equivalent of nearly $17 million for a few weeks of Hill competing with Andray Blatche step-back jumpers. Oh well. Maybe Prokhorov needed that money for a heli-skiing trip.

Bill Simmons (2:57 PM EST)
Just looked up Hill’s stats — had no idea he was throwing up 8.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in less than 20 minutes a game. That’s impressive! If he were doing that on the Celtics, I’d be demanding two first-round picks for him. Speaking of the Clips, our pal Windhorst just reported that the Clippers traded Antawn Jamison to Atlanta. Don’t think they’ll be breaking in to SportsCenter for this one. This deadline is shaping up to be a dud. What else is new?

Zach Lowe (3:01 PM EST)
That was a pure tax dump for the Clippers, but guess what. They’re still about $1.1 million over the tax! Donald Sterling is paying the luxury tax for the first time ever!!

Bill Simmons (3:02 PM EST)
Next up: War, Famine, Pestilence and Death.

Zach Lowe (3:03 PM EST)
In New Orleans, Clips officials were adamant they would not sacrifice any asset to get under the tax — not Reggie Bullock, not a first-round pick, not even a borderline rotation player like Willie Green. I guess they were telling the truth, or that at the very least, they were willing to swallow that kind of outcome if they couldn’t find a deal that was palatable in some other way.

The Hawks can actually use Jamison, which is to say they can use a tall human with professional basketball experience. Mike Budenholzer’s dream is to have outside shooting at all five positions, and Jamison kind of brings outside shooting. And the Hawks are banged up, badly.

Also: My wife is a Canadian citizen, so this is going to be a tough night. Stupid hockey.

Bill Simmons (3:08 PM EST)
Did the fork in Jamison’s back count against the Clippers’ luxury tax? If so, good trade. Two things …

1. No Knicks trade! Any time you can keep your roster intact when you’re 21-33 and might lose your superstar in four months for nothing, you have to do it.

2. No significant Lakers trade, either. The Celtics and Lakers are standing pat. It’s a race to the top level of the lottery. It’s like the mid-’80s in reverse. Kris Humphries and Chris Kaman are Bizarro Bird and Bizarro Magic. You hearing about any late ones?

Zach Lowe (3:10 PM EST)
Hold up! One for the buzzer! The Raps trade Austin Daye for Nando De Colo! I actually like that one for Toronto. De Colo is interesting, with a weird skill set and some high-level national experience. Daye has basically done nothing in the NBA beyond having his agent call every team he’s been on to complain about his lack of playing time. But long ago he projected as semi-stretch power forward, and if you’re the Spurs (Hubie Brown mode: engaged!) and you have a million marginal NBA ball handlers, why not flip one for Darren Daye’s kid?

Bill Simmons (3:12 PM EST)
The Spurs go through stretch-4’s like Leo goes through models. Is that really it? We’re ending on “Austin Daye for Nando De Colo”?

Zach Lowe (3:20 PM EST)
But wait!!! The Clippers just unloaded Byron Mullens, who plays NBA basketball as if it were Pop-A-Shot, into the Sixers cap space! Does that do it? (Whips out calculator.) No, it does not! The Clips are still about $162,000 over the tax line. Do they have anything else to trade that adds up to $162,000? Some old uniforms? Elgin Baylor’s old jock strap? A down payment on an apartment in one of Sterling’s buildings? They’re down to Ryan Hollins and Hedo Turkoglu as backup big men at this point, since they’ve been using Pizza Man as a small-ball power forward. That is … not good.

Bill Simmons (3:24 PM EST)
I have three thoughts …

1. We learned a valuable lesson with Doc’s signing of Mullens: “Don’t trade for someone who had the best game of his career against you.” Oh, and “Don’t rely on someone who plays basketball like it’s Pop-A-Shot as your backup big man when you’re trying to win a title.” That one, too.

2. I don’t think the Clips care about falling under the tax. They’re clearly a buyout guy waiting to happen. My guess: Jason Thompson. My backup guess: Kris Humphries. My backup backup guess: Chris Kaman. My backup backup backup guess: Emeka Okafor. It’s going to be one of those four guys.

3. Jason Collins? Jason Collins! JASON COLLINS!!! LET’S DO THIS!!!

Zach Lowe (3:31 PM EST)
The Clips have only 12 guys on their roster, so they’re not going to duck the tax after all; they need to add someone. You listed all the good candidates, including Jason Collins, who is based in L.A. and has played for Doc before. That would be a nice story. Thompson would be an awfully expensive buyout, with three years left on his deal after this one.

Bill Simmons (3:33 PM EST)
If I’m Thompson, I’m asking the Kings to buy me out for 40 percent of my deal, then I sign with a contender, hope I impress other teams this spring … and make up that lost money this summer. But that might be too logical. By the way, Doc Rivers loved Collins in Boston and claimed that Collins was one of the best people he ever coached. Also, Collins defended Dwight Howard as well as just about anyone. He’s Kendrick Perkins for one-tenth the price, only he’s smiling instead of scowling. And the advanced metrics community doesn’t break out in hives when they think about him. Sure, the thought of Donald Sterling being Jason Collins’s boss is frightening for about 243 different reasons. But I hope they sign him, anyway.

Zach Lowe (3:37 PM EST)
As for the Knicks … they’ve got nothing good to trade, and they took the Iman Shumpert–centric talks down to the very last minute. I suspect we’ll be talking more about them in the next few days. Ditto for Thunder, your favorite trade candidate, and a team that reportedly made an offer for Shump.

Bill Simmons (3:39 PM EST)
What a shocker — wait, the Thunder cheaped out, avoided the luxury tax and decided to “go with what they had?” Who saw that coming? Keep rakin’ in that money, Clay Bennett. And keep looking the other way, everyone who lives in Oklahoma City.

Just got this email from Friend of Grantland Alan Sepinwall: “Please mock the Knicks as much as possible for the worst of all possible trade deadline worlds: didn’t face reality and blow it up by trading Chandler and/or Melo, didn’t do anything to improve chances of the team making the playoffs (in a season with ZERO draft picks), and didn’t fire Woodson (who has ruined Shumpert and refuses to play the optimal lineup except when injuries leave him no choice).” The natives are restless!

Zach Lowe (3:45 EST)
Whoa! This is like when you go see a bad comedy movie, only you decide to stick around for the credits, and they unleash a surprise blooper reel that tops the entire movie! The Sixers just dumped Evan Turner on the Pacers for Danny Granger!

Bill Simmons (3:46 EST)

Zach Lowe (3:47 EST)
And … let’s settle down. Turner has been only OK this season. Let’s not act like the Pacers are acquiring the missing piece here. They are taking a flier on Turner doing what Granger was trying to do: fill the modest wing minutes Indy was giving to Solomon Hill types before Granger came back. That’s it. Viewed that way, Turner could be an important upgrade.

Bill Simmons (3:50 EST)
Fine, fine.

Zach Lowe (3:52 EST)
The negative stuff: Turner can’t shoot from 3-point range, and he’s a very bad perimeter defender with so-so instincts and a disastrously slow and out of whack first step on defense.

The good-to-middling stuff: He’s a tricky ball-handler who does well on the pick-and-roll, has learned to draw fouls by taking one extra bounce toward the rim, and throws nifty passes in tight spaces. He’s a decent midrange shooter when open, even though he lost the corner 3 this season after flashing it last season. He’s putting up strong per-game stats — 17 points, 6 boards — but Philly’s insane pace and lack of overall talent around him are inflating those numbers.

Put broadly: Turner is just not that good an NBA player, and the things he does well require him having the basketball. Well, Lance Stephenson has already turned into the ball-handling captain of the second unit, even pushing C.J. Watson, a nominal point guard, mostly off the ball. Stephenson’s a good enough 3-point shooter to spot up around Turner-centric plays, but that would represent a large rejiggering of Indy’s second-unit offense late in the game. Turner isn’t providing much spacing as a spot-up guy around Stephenson, and he’s probably a defensive downgrade even from a hobbled Granger. And those bench units have survived based upon very stingy defense. Turner might be able to goose the offense a bit by pushing the base, running the occasional pick-and-roll, and driving past defenders when Stephenson kicks the ball to him on the perimeter. But we have to see that in action.

Bill Simmons (4:04 EST)
I concede all of those points. But Granger looks done to me – we just watched a 24-game sample size of someone who couldn’t shoot anymore and lost his brakes. You lose your brakes in the NBA, you’re done. They couldn’t have relied on him against Miami … and who knows if he would have broken down before then? Turner offers the following things: creates his own shot, played in big games (college and pro), a little fearless (irrationally so), can play either guard position, provides an extra set of young legs … oh, and remember his 26-point game on Opening Night when Philly shocked the defending champs? I’d rather take my chances with Turner than Granger in Round 3. Plus, they saved some money and added Lavoy Allen, who quietly averaged 20 minutes a game in the 2012 playoffs when Philly almost made the conference finals. You can throw either of those guys into a playoff game without wincing. You still liked the gamble for Indy, right?

Zach Lowe (4:10 EST)
Yes. This is a free rental of a strange NBA talent. The Pacers give up only an expiring and a future second-round pick, per a source familiar the deal. A team with shaky ball-handling tendencies could certainly use another ball-handler. I don’t see Allen playing real minutes with four rotation bigs and Andrew Bynum already around, but a center who can walk and chew gum is always nice to have around. Shows you how far the market for Turner fell, too. As I said before, picks are moving to some degree, but Indiana had already moved its 2014 pick for Luis Scola, and it appears only teams in urgent win-now mode are willing to even consider dealing first-rounders.

Bill Simmons (4:11 EST)
And as you predicted right after the Gortat trade happened, Phoenix was smart to grab that first-rounder for him right away, if only because you never know when the market might change? Clearly, it changed – Hawes and Turner fetched less than Gortat. I loved Indiana’s gamble on Turner, personally. Just don’t think they risked anything. Plus, I’m excited for how Grantland’s Mark Titus handles this one – his hometown Pacers acquiring his archenemy from his college days (the man Titus nicknamed “The Villain”), then going into battle against Miami and his good buddy Greg Oden in Round 3? Can you say “conflict of interest?”

Any chance Turner re-signs with the Pacers and haunts Titus for the rest of the decade?

Zach Lowe (4:15 EST)
Let’s not act as if Turner gives Indiana huge leverage when negotiating with Stephenson this summer. Both Turner and Stephenson are free agents, which is why Indiana can do this deal in the first place. They couldn’t flip Granger for a player who carried money into next season, since that would imperil Indy’s ability to re-sign Stephenson without going into the tax. Stephenson is clearly a better two-way player than Turner, he’s two years younger, and he will command a higher market value. The Pacers want Stephenson. They are not excited about Turner as a potential alternative.

But for this season? He should be an upgrade over Granger, who has lost his jumper and off-the-bounce oomph. And the Pacers won’t ask much of him. A healthy Turner also gives Indiana more flexibility in going small against Miami, though the Pacers have been loath to do that, and the Heat have been playing bigger of late. The Sixers get another second-round pick, a buyout candidate in Granger, and they hit the salary floor. Hooray! Thaddeus Young is weeping somewhere right now. Philly might not win five games the rest of the season.

Bill Simmons (4:23 EST)
Philly’s over/under for wins in Vegas was 16½. Right now, they’re 15-40. And they’re trotting out the likes of Byron Mullens, Eric Maynor, Tony Wroten and a sobbing Thad the rest of the way. They might not get to 17 wins! That would be an amazing “under” cover. As for Indiana, let’s all agree that “The Villain” makes the Heat-Pacers playoff series a little more fun. Maybe this trade deadline was a belated success – at least SOMEBODY did something. We may have blown the Celeb Game on Friday thanks to six straight missed free throws and a little too much Kevin Hart, but hey, we’ll always have the 2014 Trade Deadline column.