With the NBA trade deadline right around the corner, rumors and speculation are rampant involving which players will be dealt. Rightfully so, as seemingly every year there are big-name players switching teams for a multitude of reasons.
There are often players dealt because they're impending free agents and their incumbent teams have doubts about their chances or willingness to retain them. Other players are moved because the team they play for is trying to shed salary. Lastly, we'll often see trades involving disgruntled players that may have worn out their welcome in their respective cities.
This year's deadline figures to be no different, and there are players being shopped for some of the reasons previously stated. However, things aren't always what they seem. What may sound like an enticing move could end up backfiring majorly.
Here are the players on this year's trade market that teams should refrain from acquiring.
It's not that Brandon Jennings isn't a good player, because he certainly is. The problems with Jennings are that he's a restricted free agent following the season, and he's looking for a huge contract extension. He's also looking to go to a team that's in a big market, according to ESPN's Chad Ford.
Jennings has, according to one source, "irreconcilable differences" with Milwaukee. He's frustrated, according to sources, that the two sides weren't able to work out a long-term extension this summer. In addition, he feels as though he doesn't get the attention he deserves and wants a bigger market to take his talents to.
Jennings isn't bluffing. He recently changed agents in an attempt to get some traction on his relocation. Jennings' marching orders for his new representation? Get him out of Milwaukee, either by the trade deadline or via a toxic offer sheet from another team this summer.
Now, if you're a team that resides in a big market and has a ton of cap space, then it may be worth the risk in trading for Jennings. At least as a restricted free agent, whichever team he last played for gets an opportunity to match his contract offer and keep him.
But the odds are that Jennings is going to get a huge contract offer from one of the 30 NBA teams. And while Jennings is a good player, whether or not he's a max-contract player is debatable.
He's a good scorer, but he's not elite. While his assists per game are at a career high, his assist percentage is actually lower than his rookie year—this proves that he's not necessarily a better distributor, but that his assists increased due to a career high in minutes per game. His career field-goal percentage of .393 leaves a lot to be desired, and his .395 clip in that category this year shows that he's not really improving much.
Any team trading for him is taking a risk that a) he leaves via free agency following the season or b) they offer him a huge contract that he simply isn't able to live up to.
So, Jennings is a good player, but he may not be worth the risks involved in acquiring him.
Josh Smith fits in the same category as Jennings: He's a good player but may not be worth the risk of acquiring him.
At least Jennings is a restricted free agent, meaning all his incumbent team has to do is match the offer he receives to retain him. Smith, on the other hand, is an unrestricted free agent. There are no such guarantees, making trading for him potentially even more volatile.
Another thing that makes Smith's situation more worrisome for a team trading for him is his contract demands. With Jennings, we have to go on rumors from Chad Ford of what he's looking for. Smith just came right out and said it.
“I feel like I’m a max player,” Smith said, according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution. “I feel I bring a lot to the table. I have a lot of versatility. For what I do and what I give this ball club, I feel like I’m worth it.”
According to RealGM.com, the Hawks aren't interested in giving Smith a max extension, meaning there's a good chance they move him prior to the deadline in order to recoup some value before he leaves in free agency.
With Smith's comments, at least his expectations are known. However, with his unrestricted free agency, there's no guarantee that he takes the max offer from whichever team trades for him.
That team could take some solace in the fact that it could offer him more money than any other team under the CBA. It could also deduce that Smith values money. Even then, there's no guarantee he's willing to take it from whichever team offers him the most.
It's a buyer-beware situation. Any team that's willing to trade for him should have the expectation of offering him a max contract lest it surely risks losing him. But because of his unrestricted free agency, there's still a risk he bolts anyway.
Andrea Bargnani has a track record of being a successful scorer in the NBA. However, he also has another track record that should make teams wary of trading for him—a track record of getting hurt.
After missing a total of 10 games from 2007-08 through 2009-10, Bargnani has had trouble staying on the court the last three years. He played in 66 of 82 games in 2010-11, 31 of 66 games in 2011-12 and 24 of 52 games this season. Granted, he's still been a solid scorer, averaging 19.7 points per game during those seasons. As a center, that's good volume scoring.
Beyond the injury concerns that come with Bargnani is a lack of efficiency. His field-goal percentage has plummeted over the years. It topped out at .470 in 2009-10, but it's regressed each subsequent year as follows: .448, .432, .408. His three-point percentage has also taken a considerable hit. After hitting 37.1 percent from downtown in his first five campaigns, he's seen that clip dip to .296 in the last two years.
Other than volume scoring, what else does Bargnani provide? His 4.9 rebounds per game is completely unacceptable for a seven-footer. His previously documented shooting percentages are troubling for a center. Furthermore, he provides next to nothing on defense.
What's to like about a center that can't stay on the court, can't rebound, can't defend, can't make shots with any regularity and is owed $23 million over the next two seasons? His points per game is just window dressing. When you actually get inside the store and see what Bargnani has to offer, you soon realize there's not much there.
DeMarcus Cousins clearly has more upside than anyone else on this list. He's still incredibly young at 22 years old, and his averages of 17.3 points and 9.9 rebounds are some of the best put up by any center in the NBA, regardless of age. For that reason, trading for Cousins is enticing.
He's also got an extremely affordable contract for a player of his caliber, as Cousins is slated to make $11.4 million over the next two years (assuming his team picks up his qualifying offer), before hitting restricted free agency following the 2014-15 season.
As a Kings fan, I can tell you better than most. Cousins' talent is tantalizing. Most nights when I watch him play I leave the game convinced the only thing stopping him from becoming a perennial All-Star is himself. The problem is that's always been the case with DMC, but he still hasn't figured out how to get out of his own way.
One could argue that all he needs is a change of scenery to start taking his career more seriously. However, he's had similar issues wherever he's played. One could argue that it's a product of being young, which it could be, but he's now in the middle of his third NBA season and, if anything, his transgressions have only increased in frequency and stupidity. One could argue it's because he's losing in Sacramento, but he caused problems at Kentucky and in high school while his team was predominantly winning.
Teams are always willing to take a chance on players of his talent. The Kings knew the drawbacks when they drafted him, and they obviously still know them now, but they're still supposedly not interested in trading Cousins.
That means in order to pry him away from Sacramento, a team would have to give up a pretty package of players. If that team knew he'd wise up, he'd surely be worth nearly any package it gives up. But with DeMarcus, it could just be a situation where the more things change, the more they remain the same. That makes trading for him a risky proposition.
Pau Gasol seems like the ultimate high-risk/high-reward player. For one, Gasol was in the middle of the worst year of his career prior to his injury. His .453 field-goal percentage is a career low, as well as his 14.4 points per 36 minutes.
Now, there is certainly some validity to the fact that Gasol simply isn't a fit in D'Antoni's system. If you subscribe to that theory, then you could easily write off Gasol's dip in production as a reflection of the system he's playing in. To a large degree, that makes sense.
The one potential issue with that is that Gasol's production has been dipping over the past few years. His field-goal percentage has dropped every season since joining the Lakers. This could be a coincidence, or it could be a sign of a slow decline. However, before this season Gasol was still an elite big man, so assuming he attains close to the levels he was at in recent years, he's probably still worth trading for.
The clincher is that he's going to be out for an extended period of time this season, so having him impact a stretch run will largely depend on how soon he can get back, and how effective he is once he does. He's also due $19.3 million next season. Those are two factors seriously worth considering, as his salary for next season is that of an elite player—a level Gasol may not be able to return to.
While he's had a pretty solid record of health throughout his career, his injuries this season are somewhat troublesome. Yes, they don't fit the trend with the rest of his career. But it's also true that players generally break down more as they age, not less.
His dip in production and injury issues could simply be a blip on the radar. But, considering his salary next season, it'll cost a team a ton of money to find out.