NBA general managers tasked with rebuilding a team generally view their rosters as having just two types of players. The first kind are the keepers. They're rare. Typically marked by rookie-scale contracts and unrealized star potential, these are the assets that teams want to have around during a rebuilding effort.
The second kind are, well...everyone else. And that larger category is best viewed as being trade bait.
Because if a player isn't young, cheap and loaded with upside, there's no place for him on a team that is starting from scratch.
So as the Boston Celtics head into the dog days of August with the likes of Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace and Rajon Rondo on the roster, don't be surprised when trade talks start to get louder. In fact, expect it.
There's no such thing as an iron-clad guarantee in the unpredictable world of the NBA offseason, but there are a few teams that seem like locks to wheel and deal before the 2013-14 campaign kicks off.
The Kings notched an unimpressive 28 wins last season, which, coincidentally, is the number of facial muscles DeMarcus Cousins pulled while scowling at referees. That's a rough estimate; the number could be much higher.
Careful, DC, you don't want your face to freeze that way.
Trading Cousins has been an option for more than a year, and the perpetually discontented big man has given the Kings every reason to ship him out. But the new ownership group in Sacramento will probably want to experience the joy that is managing Cousins' persistent outbursts and missteps for itself before getting rid of him.
Even if Cousins sticks around, the Kings are still loaded up with a glut of exactly the kind of middle-of-the-road players that rebuilding teams simply don't need. Two-deep with average talent at multiple positions, the Kings need to clear some space and eliminate redundancy.
Ken Berger of CBS reported earlier in July that both Jimmer Fredette and Chuck Hayes could have been moved for Monta Ellis. That deal never materialized, but we know that the Kings are at least entertaining the idea of two-for-one deals.
Expect Sacramento to internally discuss a Cousins trade on a daily basis from now until the end of next year, but count on a preseason trade involving a couple of rotation players in the near future.
Is it too early to call Evan Turner a bust?
Maybe. But the former No. 2 overall pick's PER dipped from 12.69 in 2011-12 to 12.16 last year, and at no point in his three-year career has Turner even sniffed a league-average mark of 15.00 (per ESPN, subscription required).
So it shouldn't be surprising that the Sixers, in full tank mode, are open to the idea of trading him.
We're dealing mostly with speculation here, but according to Kurt Helin of NBC, most of the 76ers' expendable parts are available, which includes Turner, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young. With Turner, there's a concern that the disappointing three-year vet's value might actually sink even lower if the team doesn't ship him out before the season starts.
The Sixers are starting over. Let's hope they use their high lottery pick in 2014 more effectively than the one they wasted on Turner.
If the New Orleans Pelicans' uniform debut party is any indication, it certainly doesn't seem like they're interested in trading Ryan Anderson. After all, he was prominently featured in the unveiling of the team's new duds.
But if the Pelicans have designs on balancing out the roster of their rebuilding project, they'll revisit the rumored discussions they had with the Houston Rockets in July.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Pelicans had a hankering for Omer Asik, with Anderson theoretically heading to the Rockets in exchange for the Turkish big man.
Anderson is a terrific player, capable of spreading the floor on offense and hauling down rebounds aplenty. But he's not an ideal fit in a front line that features the undersized Tyreke Evans at small forward and (probably) the all-finesse Anthony Davis at center.
Asik would bring exactly the kind of defense, toughness and size that the Pelicans need.
Maybe once training camp rolls around, and the Pelicans realize how soft they are up front, they'll pull the trigger.
The Phoenix Suns are a an unusual case. Still in the fledgling stages of a fresh, post-Steve Nash start, this is a team that has loads of flexibility, big ambitions and no potential star power whatsoever. (Sorry, Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, you guys have to do a little more before you qualify).
Maybe that's why they're so blatantly dangling draft picks on the trade market.
New Phoenix GM Ryan McDonough told Adam Green of ArizonaSports.com:
We could have as many as three next [first-round picks] year and two the year after. When teams have maybe a disgruntled superstar, what are they looking for in return? Well, they're looking for picks, that's what they want. I think we're well positioned to strike if and when the next disgruntled superstar becomes available.
Perfect! Stars get disgruntled all the time!
The Suns are primed to pounce on a potentially risky cornerstone as soon as another team makes one available. Oddly, the rebuilding Kings would be a nice trading partner for Phoenix. Cousins could flip out at any second, and the Suns would be happy to snatch him up for a few first-round selections.
Remember, there are still about three months left between now and the start of the season. When's the last time the NBA news cycle went a full quarter of a calendar year without a trade demand from a star?
The Suns are sure to make a run at some discontented soul before the regular season starts.
Rajon Rondo is still relatively young (27) and reasonably priced (owed a total of about $25 million over the next two years). So you could make a case that he's worth keeping around through the Celtics' upcoming rebuild.
But the same can't be said for Kris Humphries or Gerald Wallace.
Both Brooklyn Nets castoffs are grossly overpaid and on the wrong side of the aging curve for what Boston has in mind. Humphries' contract expires after this season, so he's much more likely to be dealt at the trade deadline to a cap-strapped team looking for relief than he is before the year starts.
Wallace, though, is on the hook for three full seasons at the ungodly rate of $10 million per year. In other words, he has no place on a team like the Celtics, who aren't (and shouldn't be) trying to win games this year.
Don't rule out deals involving Brandon Bass or Jeff Green, either. The Celtics are caught in some kind of middle ground right now as they hover between a full-on demolition and an ill-advised run at the No. 8 seed. They'll soon realize that there's a lot more sense in getting rid of their aging vets and embracing a new start.
When that happens, Boston's vets will be on the block in a hurry.