5 NBA Players Guaranteed to Wind Up in Trade Rumors This Season

Kelly Scaletta@@KellyScalettaFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2013

5 NBA Players Guaranteed to Wind Up in Trade Rumors This Season

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    Once th NBA season tips off, trade rumors will start swirling. It’s part of the season's fun. 

    Most trade rumors involve a smattering of players, and the majority of those rumored never end up getting moved. There are some whose names are guaranteed to wind up in such rumors this year.

    The bigger the names, the bigger the rumors, and the smaller the likelihood of a move happening.

    Here are some players who are assured of coming up and the chances that a trade actually occurs. They are ranked according to the likelihood they get moved.

5. Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Pau Gasol will be involved in trade rumors for three reasons: 

    1. He’s a Los Angeles Laker.
    2. The Lakers will probably not make the playoffs.
    3. He makes a lot of money.

    Being a Laker automatically means you’re going to get a zillion times more media attention than a player on a typical team.

    The Lakers are easily the most popular team in the NBA. Over the last dozen years, they’ve led the NBA in road attendance in all but three seasons and finished a narrow second the other three.

    Their popularity means they get coverage, and if they’re not winning, covering them means speculating about trades.

    Realistically, the Lakers are not going to be competitive this year. That means lots of talk about whom they can trade.

    Pau Gasol is the easiest player to discuss as a trade chip. He makes a lot of money, and he has a history of All-Star games and championships.

    Here’s the problem, though. He makes too much money, and all that history is just that—history. He’s a 33-year-old center who averaged 13.7 points and 8.6 rebounds last year. He shot .466 from the field. He doesn’t play great defense. He’s not worth what he makes.

    Now, that’s not to say that he’s a bad player or that he didn’t suffer from a roster in constant disarray, coached by an inept coach, hired by even more inept management. All of that is true.

    But Gasol’s on the last year of his contract, and he'll make $20 million in that last year. What team is going to send over $20 million worth of players to get 14 and nine? Sure, maybe he’s still capable of getting 18 and 10, but is that worth giving up $20 million of salary and young assets?

    Chris Sheridan (being serious) sets the hypothetical asking price for Pau Gasol.

    (The Chicago Bulls) have the goods to get Pau Gasol. It’ll cost them the No. 1 pick the Bobcats owe them, plus another No. 1, plus the rights to Nikola Mirotic, plus a couple guys to make the money match. But with Gasol, they can beat anybody.

    To “make the money match” would require Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich, which, according to the ESPN  Trade Machine, would make the Lakers one game better and the Bulls one game worse. So, according to Sheridan, the Bulls should send at least three young assets, and get, in return, the chance to be worse.

    All that for a player who is getting paid a third of the cap this year and could retire or walk at the end of the season.

    This sort of unrealistic thinking will drive the Lakers fanbase and media (and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference) for a third consecutive year, as they float one ridiculous Gasol trade after another—none with any chance of happening.

4. Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls

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    Luol Deng is a dichotomy. Few players have seen a bigger divide between the way that the coaches and the fans perceive him.

    In the last two seasons, he’s garnered few All-Star votes from the fans. In fact, his 406,949 votes over two years are only 32nd among all NBA players, and less than half of what Jeremy Lin of the Houston Rockets received last year alone.

    Yet the Bulls forward has made it both seasons as an All-Star based on the coaches' votes.

    Clearly, there is something to his game that coaches see which fans don’t. As a result, he’s likely to receive more attention from other teams’ GMs than fans of other teams.

    That will encourage rumors of Deng being traded, although many on the receiving end will doubtless not be happy.

    Bulls fans will be looking for him to be dealt in a package for a second superstar to play beside Derrick Rose.

    Deng is an All-Star with an expiring contract on a team that will be in contention. He’s good enough to be considered a key trade piece, who, along with assets, could be dealt for a superstar. However, the Bulls will be winning too much for them actually to consider a major change.

3. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers

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    The rumors already spread this summer about LaMarcus Aldridge, and Aldridge himself confirmed to Chris Haynes of CSNNW that prior to this summer, if “moves weren’t made to his liking,” he would like to be traded.

    He also said, “I don't have to worry about that because we've added some good pieces this summer and I'm looking forward to working with them.”

    Still, that leaves a pretty gaping hole in the room-for-speculation department. Major-market teams hunting for a superstar, and/or their fans, are going to be running with that snippet, especially if Portland is losing.

    Haynes also reports,

    Prospective teams holding the rights to Joakim Noah, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Al Horford and Anthony Davis, as of now, have declined to involve their franchise players in any potential deals for Aldridge, a league source told CSNNW.com.

    And therein lies the problem. Portland is in a bit of a bind when it comes to moving Aldridge because all it would mean is a swap of big men. Even a straight-up trade isn’t guaranteed to make any of those teams better, and at least in the case of Chicago, it looks like the Trail Blazers are setting an unrealistic price on Aldridge, asking the Bulls to send back not just Noah, but Jimmy Butler as well.

    Aldridge might be a better scorer than Noah, but he’s not a significantly better player, and he may not be better for what the Bulls do. Noah is a bona fide potential Defensive Player of the Year, and the Bulls are a defense-first club.

    Teams aren’t going to make a trade unless it makes them better, either in the short term or the long term. The way most trades work is either both teams trade from positions of strength to fill a weakness, or one team trades from a present strength to acquire a future strength (like the Pau Gasol for Marc Gasol trade between the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies a few years back).

    We can get into semantics about why Aldridge might be better than Blake Griffin, but the argument is moot. Griffin already has a certain chemistry developed with his teammates. He already has a fanbase in Los Angeles. He’s already a huge marketing tool for the Clippers.

    The Clippers aren’t going to throw all that up in the air for another power forward who is essentially on the same level. The same goes with Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves or the Atlanta Hawks and Al Horford.

    There is some chance Aldridge goes elsewhere, especially if it starts to look like he’s forcing his way out, but Portland would have to adjust its expectations for it to happen.

2. Danny Granger

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    Danny Granger was once the Indiana Pacers’ best player, but he was already in a bit of a decline before he got injured last year. In 2008-09, he scored 25.8 points per game. That fell to 24.1 in 2009-10, then 20.5 in 2010-11 and 18.7 in 2011-12.

    Last year, he played in just five games and scored only 27 points the entire season.

    Now, he looks to be ready and healthy for the start of the 2014 campaign. A funny thing happened while he was out though.

    His “fill-in,” Paul George, slid over from the shooting guard spot and played the small forward, making the All-Star Game in the process.

    Now, the Pacers are in a situation of trying to figure out whether they should keep George as the starting small forward and bring Granger off the bench as a sixth man or move George back to shooting guard to start Granger at the 3.

    It may be that elevating the 30-year-old Granger’s trade value will be the deciding factor. The Pacers already tried to move him this summer, but teams were reluctant to take him on with his health uncertainty.

    If the Pacers can give Granger enough time to shine, they could swap him for a more proven shooting guard than Lance Stephenson, who has been capable, but not exceptional, as a stopgap.

1. Eric Gordon

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    The New Orleans Pelicans acquired two guards with the ability to score this summer, Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday. That’s leaving Eric Gordon in a somewhat precarious situation, particularly considering that many believe he didn’t want to be there in the first place.

    Gordon signed an offer sheet with the Phoenix Suns last summer, only to see it matched by New Orleans.

    It’s like Gordon got a date with the hot chick to the prom but was forced to take his cousin instead, and then, when they got there, his cousin started flirting with two other guys and left him sitting by himself. So now he’s just standing by the punch table, hating that he’s there. "Awkward" just doesn’t do it justice.

    The Pelicans are going to play Evans at small forward for now, but he’s not a pure small forward. He’s better off playing shooting guard, but that’s Gordon’s position.

    There are too many reasons for the Pelicans to trade Gordon for this not to be a trade rumor. There’s the “unhappy player” reason (remember whether he is actually unhappy or not has little relevance to the rumor mill; it makes for a good story, so it’ll get relayed as fact). There’s the overload at the 2 and the shortage at the 3.

    In fact, it makes so much sense that Gordon stands the best chance of being a star-caliber player who will get moved before the trade deadline.