5 NBA Stars Most Likely to Be Traded in 2013-14
Typically, the NBA's biggest names don't move around much during the regular season.
As we saw this past summer, headline-grabbing trades featuring guys like Kevin Garnett, Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala tend to be offseason activities. But there are actually a few stars who could wind up switching addresses during the 2013-14 season.
Some will be dangled as trade bait because their teams want to bottom out more thoroughly. Others will be on the market because they don't quite fit alongside marquee stars on their own rosters.
The Los Angeles Lakers are in some kind of weird limbo before they pass on into the next era of the franchise, which means a certain two-time NBA champ could wind up on the market.
In addition, rebuilding efforts and lineup mismatches could have big-name players from Toronto to Houston packing their suitcases between now and February.
Rudy Gay, Toronto Raptors
Rudy Gay will make nearly $18 million this season, and if he exercises his player option for the 2014-15 campaign, he'll collect another $19 million next year. Anyone trading for him will have to be thoroughly convinced that he's worth superstar money, a position fewer and fewer executives are prepared to take, as the growth of analytics has shrunk Gay's value.
But nothing moves a product like a motivated seller, and Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri will try desperately to ship out the most overpaid member of the roster he inherited.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have playoff dreams this season, but their small forward options are positively nightmarish. If they get desperate near the trade deadline, Gay might be an enticing gamble.
Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
After suffering a substantial dip in production last year, Pau Gasol's numbers have recovered a bit in 2013-14. But he's still nowhere near the player he was three or four years ago.
As a result, the Lakers have to be harboring doubts about whether Gasol fits into the next-generation roster they plan to build through the 2014 free-agent market. If the big Spaniard is willing to return at a reduced rate, maybe the Lakers will keep him around.
On the other hand, Gasol has real value to contenders in need of a big man right now. So if L.A. wants to kick-start its rebuilding process early, it could flip Gasol for a young player and some picks. As was the case with Gay, Gasol's hefty contract will require the Lakers to take back a lot of money to make any deal work.
Nobody's saying it'll be easy to move a 33-year-old center whose skills are on the decline, but it seems like he's primed to be the most desirable short-term rental on the market this year.
Quick, advance to the next slide before Kobe Bryant reads this and loses his mind. No. 24 definitely doesn't want to see his running mate leave L.A.
Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets
Apparently, the Denver Nuggets are interested in seeing what Manimals fetch on the open market.
According to Grantland's Zach Lowe, the team quietly floated Faried's name in trade talks before the season began: "Multiple sources around the league have reported in the last month that Denver has put out targeted feelers on Faried, gauging his value and demanding very good return."
Faried is young, athletic and an extremely hard worker. Plus, he's still on his rookie contract, which makes him an appealing long-term keeper. The Nuggets, though, have cut his minutes this year in an effort to field a lineup that better illustrates head coach Brian Shaw's defense-first principles.
Faried is an energy player, but sometimes, his desire to go "all-out, all the time" prevents him from making simple defensive rotations. And his hunger for boards occasionally results in him sacrificing proper defensive position.
The Nuggets remain committed to JaVale McGee as a key piece of their future, and because they essentially can't play Faried alongside their defensively unpredictable center, it's not surprising their power forward could be on the move.
Omer Asik, Houston Rockets
If there's any debate about Omer Asik's place on this list, it'll have more to do with his status as a "star" than it will with the likelihood that he'll be moved at some point this season.
For the record, Asik is an elite post defender and a fantastic rebounder. He's at least as good on the defensive end as someone like Gay is on offense. So if we can all just accept that Asik is at least a borderline star, we can move on to the discussion of whether or not he'll wind up on another team this year.
It's a short discussion, actually. He's definitely getting traded.
The Houston Rockets have Dwight Howard, a franchise big who plays lots of minutes and does everything Asik does—only better.
It'd be great to keep Asik around as a backup for Howard in case of injury, but there are too many other obvious holes on the roster to allow such redundancy to linger. The elusive stretch-4 that would pair so well with D12 is nowhere to be found, and filling out that role might be the final piece in Houston's championship puzzle.
We know from the season's early going that an Asik-Howard frontcourt tandem is basically a nonstarter. Per NBA.com, they're only playing 12 minutes per game together, and those minutes have yielded an average net rating of minus-3.4 points per 100 possessions.
Houston has needs to fill and an asset to move. Asik should have his bags packed.
Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns have a good problem. Goran Dragic is a solid backcourt producer in the prime of his career, but he might not fit alongside budding superstar Eric Bledsoe in the team's future plans.
So they might have to find a taker for the Slovenian lefty.
As B/R's D.J. Foster wrote before the deadline to extend Bledsoe passed on Oct. 31:
It should also be noted that Dragic will be on the block no matter what happens with Bledsoe's extension, primarily because he's slightly older at 27 and he already has a substantial contract on the books. Rebuilding teams usually look to move guys like that, regardless of who else is on the roster.
Maybe it seems strange that the Suns would be interested in moving such a good asset. But with the way Bledsoe is playing, it appears as though he's going to command a max offer as a restricted free agent this summer. So not only will Phoenix have to match whatever offer sheet he signs, but they'll also want to assure that they've got a suitable backcourt mate for the man they'll soon be paying franchise-cornerstone dollars.