More than the NFL or the MLB, the NBA is a league driven by trades where the possibility of being uprooted and relocated for a myriad of reasons is a constant possibility for players. Even the elite can find themselves embroiled in trade talks after one underachieving season or a clash with their coach or front office.
As the 2012-13 season rapidly approaches, there are several recognizable faces who will find themselves in the thick of trade speculation and the constant source of chatter on ESPN, the internet and between basketball fans.
Whether they are unhappy with their current situation, facing impending free agency or not living up to expectations, the result is the same: a spot on the trade block and the constant feeling of apprehension and uncertainty that comes along with it.
While the offseason moves of Dwight Howard and Deron Williams should keep trade speculation from spiraling out of control as it did in 2011-12, let’s take a look at several high-profile players who may wind up in new jerseys before the coming season is through.
At this point it seems like Josh Smith has been on the trade block for an eternity, as the hyper-athletic combo forward has voiced his desire to be dealt in the past. With Smith telling Atlanta as recently as the 2012 trade deadline that he would like a change of scenery, it is still entirely possible that the team opts to deal the 26 year old, who is coming off of easily the best season of his career.
With Al Horford missing the brunt of the 2011-12 campaign, Smith stepped up and proved to be a revelation for Atlanta, averaging 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 blocks on 45.8 percent shooting from the floor. Though he still needs to improve his shot selection, there is no denying that Smith is a tremendously versatile player capable of dominating both ends of the court.
However, Atlanta appears to be entering rebuilding mode and with Smith's contract expiring after the 2012-13 season they may opt to acquire either a few young assets or some less expensive deals. By dealing Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams this offseason, Danny Ferry and the Hawks management have made it clear that they are not content with mediocrity, and while Smith is a unique talent, he has never been able to lead his squad past the second round of the playoffs.
There are plenty of teams that could use an injection of youth and athleticism in their frontcourt and having a player like Smith, someone capable of facilitating, blocking shots and slashing to the basket, would be a major upgrade for most NBA teams.
One possibility, although it is not extremely likely, is that Smith is shipped to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Pau Gasol.
The Lakers could look to pair Smith, a close friend of Dwight Howard, with the dynamic center to form a youthful and defensive-minded frontcourt better than any in the league.
Even if Smith is not dealt, do not expect him to be in Atlanta for the long haul as he will most likely switch clubs come free agency.
Tyreke Evans had one of the all-time great seasons for a rookie perimeter player, but he has struggled ever since to recapture his freshman form and now, according to NBA.com's David Aldridge, is unlikely to be tendered a contract extension by the Sacramento Kings.
Evans had a solid third season in the league statistically, averaging 16.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game on 45.3 percent shooting from the field, but those numbers are a regression not only from his rookie campaign but also his sophomore season.
That stagnation is clearly troubling, but there is no denying the talent of Evans, even if he does not have a natural position. The Kings initially cast him as a point guard, and while his size made him a match-up nightmare, he lacks the shooting ability and the pass-first mentality to thrive at that spot on a team full of scorers like Sacramento.
The team tried him for a while at shooting guard before curiously sticking him at small forward to end the 2011-12 season. He played decently but is simply over-matched physically as a small forward and is really not a viable option long-term for a young team like the Kings.
Evans is a below average defender and a poor jump shooter, but he is a gifted athlete and capable of attacking the basket off the bounce. He does not have a clear role in Sacramento because the team is filled with similar skill players, like Marcus Thornton and James Johnson, and other all offense, no defense guys like DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas.
The Kings could very well be looking to deal Evans in exchange for either a proven veteran that can help the team with their dysfunctional culture and locker room, or perhaps a lockdown perimeter defender that they could play alongside Thomas and Thornton in order to shut down the opposing team's best wing player, something this squad has seriously struggled with.
With the Chicago Bulls cap situation becoming increasingly murky, his own production visibly decreasing and of course the continued growth of Taj Gibson, Carlos Boozer winding up in trade speculation for 2012-13 was really an inevitability.
The former All-Star joined Chicago in the summer of 2010 as their marquee acquisition, but has had a pair of less than stellar seasons in the Windy City. Because of this, many fans have been calling for Chicago either to deal the incumbent starting power forward or even amnesty him, simply to clear his contract from the team’s cap.
Boozer managed to stay fully healthy for the 2011-12 season, a remarkable feat in its own right, but his averages of 15 points, 8.5 boards, 1.9 assists and 1.0 steal per contest on 53.2 percent shooting, did not cut it for a banged-up Bulls team that desperately needed Boozer to assert himself, and be the dominant scorer he was during his time with the Utah Jazz.
He is still a capable mid-range jump shooter, post up scorer and rebounder, but Boozer perpetually seemed a step slow defensively and appears to have lost a good deal of his athleticism, making him less of a difficult defensive assignment.
It will be difficult to find a taker for Boozer’s albatross of a contract which still has three years and over $47 million remaining on it, but there is undoubtedly a team out there somewhere that could use a frontcourt scoring punch and would be willing to take a gamble that Boozer would be rejuvenated with a change of scenery and playing in a less rigorous defensive system.
At nearly 31 years old and with his best basketball clearly behind him, it may be difficult for Chicago to find a team willing to broker a deal for Carlos Boozer, but if a potential buyer does emerge, expect the Bulls to give it some serious thought after a pair of underwhelming seasons from the former Duke standout.
Jose Calderon is not exactly a superstar, but the Spanish point guard has undoubtedly carved out a niche for himself in the league as a starting-caliber, pass-first point guard, thanks to his unselfishness and court vision. He is also a capable scorer who can navigate in traffic and hit the occasional three-pointer if left open.
Calderon has been among the league leaders in assists per game over the past few seasons despite the lack of talent around him. Even though his game certainly has holes, he is more than capable of running an offense and effectively using the pick-and-roll or drive-and-kick to find open teammates and create good looks at the hoop.
In the 2011-12 campaign Calderon averaged a solid 10.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 8.8 assists on 45.7 percent shooting from the field, and 37.1 percent from three-point territory.
However, the Toronto Raptors clearly were not comfortable with Calderon as their starter; the team seized the opportunity to trade for versatile but embittered Houston Rockets guard Kyle Lowry after Lowry voiced his displeasure with Kevin McHale and the organization.
Lowry is far more of an athlete than Calderon, and while he is not quite the same pure facilitator, he is a better scorer, rebounder and a far more rugged wing defender than Calderon could ever dream of being.
Calderon is set to earn roughly $10 million next season, and that is a hefty price for a reserve point guard, even for a team like Toronto that does not have significant cap concerns. Though they do not necessarily have a place for him in their rotation, there are a number of NBA clubs that could use an upgrade at the point guard position and some additional playmaking out of their backcourt.
The Dallas Mavericks were considered by many to be a favorite for landing Calderon, but with the acquisition of Darren Collison in the offseason, it leaves the field of potential suitors for the point guard’s services wide open.
No team in the league has committed to rebuilding around youth quite as brazenly as the Houston Rockets have. After striking out on landing a franchise big man this offseason, the team dealt all of their established veterans. All of them except for Kevin Martin.
Martin is a talented scorer and one of a handful of wing players capable of exploding for a huge scoring total any given night, but he has no place on this Rockets team being quarterbacked by Jeremy Lin and filled with young and unproven athletes that will look to play uptempo basketball and run at every opportunity.
Martin has excellent range on his jump shot, is deceptively quick off the dribble and can both finish at the rim and find his way to the free throw line with regularity. He has the ability to take over a game when necessary and can thrive both as a go-to scorer and a complimentary piece.
Despite missing 26 games last season, Martin still averaged 17.1 points, 2.7 boards and 2.8 dimes per contest on 41.3 percent field-goal shooting, and 34.7 percent from beyond the arc.
Given the state of the shooting guard position in today’s NBA, Martin is still among the better players at his spot, but as a 29 year old with no upside he has no real place on this Rockets roster.
Martin also has just one year and $12.4 million remaining on his deal and his expiring contract will be almost as attractive as his actual playing ability. A proven team looking to make a postseason push may be willing to trade young assets for even a half-season rental of Kevin Martin.
It is unclear where he will end up, but it would be surprising to see Martin in a Houston jersey for long.
It has been widely speculated that one of the Utah Jazz’s stable of skilled, athletic big man will wind up being dealt in the near future, and while because of his contract and veteran status Al Jefferson may be the logical choice, expect to see Paul Millsap’s name far more frequently in the rumor mill.
Millsap is an undersized power forward, and with Derrick Favors blossoming as a player and the team still trying to develop Enes Kanter, they could very well opt to keep a frontcourt core of Favors, Kanter and Jefferson to provide some leadership and scoring down low.
Millsap makes up for his lack of size with gritty, physical play on both ends of the court. For the 2011-12 season he averaged 16.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game on 49.5 percent shooting from the field.
He does not have a great jumper, but can bury the occasional shot and most importantly, attack the basket and finish in the paint. He is also a physical rebounder that carves out position well and an underrated passing forward.
Defensively, Millsap uses his strength to make up for his lack of height, and though he is not much a shot-blocking threat, he is capable of reading passing lanes and knocking balls loose to create transition opportunities.
Millsap has one year and $8.6 million remaining on his current deal with Utah, meaning that, though he may want to stay with his current squad—as he told The Salt Lake Tribune—it will be difficult for the Jazz’s front office to pass on a potentially lucrative offer in exchange for an expiring deal.
There are a number of rosters that could use a boost at the forward position, and though Millsap does not have much of a physical advantage, he is quicker and more aggressive than many of the other players at his position.
However, this Jazz team is clearly in the midst of rebuilding and should be expected to pursue all potential offers for Millsap that could yield them youth and help structure their foundation for the future.