5 Young NBA Stars Teams Shouldn't Trade in the Offseason

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2012

5 Young NBA Stars Teams Shouldn't Trade in the Offseason

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    Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings arrived to the big leagues in 2009, each making an instant splash in his rookie season.

    The 22-year-olds may both be on the move before long, with the Sacramento Kings and Milwaukee Bucks each considering new directions.

    Jennings perturbed his front office by publicly speculating about his future without putting Milwaukee front-and-center (via Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick):

    Sources said Milwaukee has made third-year point guard Brandon Jennings available "for the right price," as one executive who has spoken to the Bucks put it. Jennings, who was drafted 10th overall in 2009 and has been considered the team's future franchise player, irked Bucks officials with his comments to ESPN.com in early February about a possible departure.

    If the Bucks are absolutely convinced Jennings wants to leave, perhaps a trade is inevitable. For all we know, that eventuality may have been the primary motivation for acquiring Monta Ellis.

    If there's a chance to keep Jennings around for a while, though, Milwaukee absolutely should. They'd have a difficult time replacing the young floor general, especially with a player of similar upside.

    Evans, meanwhile, was more the subject of Sam Amick's speculation that any hard information, and hopefully it stays that way. While it's true that the third-year slasher has seen a slight decline since his outstanding first year, that has more to do with Sacramento's instability than anything else.

    The 2010 Rookie of the Year has already changed positions multiple times in his young career, surviving a coaching shake-up in the process. Giving up on him at this juncture could be a huge mistake.

    Here are five other young stars teams should hold on to.

Rajon Rondo – PG, Boston Celtics

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    Rumors surrounding Rajon Rondo trade possibilities are nothing new, but they make less and less sense every time.

    The Boston Celtics' 26-year-old point guard has become arguably the most consistently versatile floor general in the game. He may be the league's best distributor, but he scores and rebounds plenty for good measure.

    For a team otherwise getting older by the minute, Rondo is the long breath of fresh air, and an absolutely essential one at that.

    The Celtics understand that moving Rondo is the only way they could acquire a superstar, but chances are they won't find anyone available who'd be worth the cost. Boston's urgency to make changes is understandable: the team as currently constituted is on its last legs.

    But Danny Ainge would be sorely mistaken to build a new roster without Rondo at the heart of it. There aren't many guys who will average over 13 assists a game in the playoffs; good luck making up for that kind of production.

Michael Beasley – SF/PF, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Michael Beasley may never live up to his star potential, and there's no question he still shoots the ball at times that he shouldn't.

    But at the end of the day, Beasley isn't a bad sixth man, and at 23, he still has lot of time to figure it all out. If Derrick Williams and Wesley Johnson don't live up to their potential, Beasley could be even more valuable.

    There should probably be a ceiling on what the Timberwolves are willing to spend on the forward this summer, but if they re-sign him, they might as well keep him.

    The once highly-touted prospect was apparently on the verge of going to the Los Angeles Lakers before the trade deadline, and who knows what Mitch Kupchak will now be thinking after a second-round ouster.

    Minnesota should be wary of the salaries it incurs with all the young talent it will eventually have to pay kindly. But given concerns about Beasley's effort and focus, he may wind up a relatively affordable investment.

Josh Smith – PF, Atlanta Hawks

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    It may feel like Josh Smith has been around for a decade, but he's still only 26 and playing the best basketball of his career.

    The Atlanta Hawks have insisted they aren't interested in trading Smith despite claims he wanted to be moved.

    Smith is from the Atlanta area, and he's probably the team's best player. Seeing him leave would be devastating for the franchise unless it netted a huge return or somehow allowed the team to unload Joe Johnson's massive contract.

    Neither scenario is particularly likely. The team should find some way to deal with Johnson's contract, either via trade or amnesty. But losing an athletic defender like Smith isn't the solution. The team needs more scorers, sure, but that doesn't make this guy expendable.

O.J. Mayo – SG, Memphis Grizzlies

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    O.J. Mayo had a terrible postseason for the Memphis Grizzlies. In seven games, he averaged just 8.9 points on an especially unpleasant 27 percent shooting.

    It was bad even by Mayo's recently uneven standards. His efficiency has declined markedly since being relegated to the bench. It wouldn't be surprising for his shot selection to suffer when he thinks every open look will be his last.

    Lionel Hollins has good reason to start Tony Allen on account of his superior defense, but Allen is a serious liability on the other end of the floor.

    The Grizzlies had reportedly discussed a deal to send Mayo to the Brooklyn Nets, and it wouldn't be the first time his name hit the rumor mill.

    But unless the Grizzlies can otherwise secure a legitimate scorer, this team needs Mayo, albeit on a more consistent and efficient basis. Maybe a return to the starting lineup, where Mayo began to thrive in his first two seasons, will do the trick.

Kyle Lowry – PG, Houston Rockets

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    So far, there isn't much to speculation that Kyle Lowry is back on the Lakers' radar, but it wouldn't be entirely surprising to see the Houston Rockets take some calls about the 26-year-old point guard.

    Lowry can score and pass, and he hustled his way to more than four rebounds a game. His ability to shoot inside and out has made him one of the league's most improved players over the last couple of years, and any team in need of a starting floor general could be in the market for Lowry.

    The Rockets might even think he's somewhat expendable with the emergence of Goran Dragic, who started 28 games this season in Lowry's absence. As a starter, Dragic averaged 18 points and 8.4 assists, generating the obvious rationale for Lowry's exit.

    But, Dragic is a restricted free agent and could become an expensive asset. Lowry will make around $6 million in each of the next two seasons, so he may wind up the more affordable option. Either way, it doesn't make sense to lose a guy who does so much at such a reasonable price.