The flood gates open on Dec. 15.
A whole new group of players become eligible to be traded, and that means we could start to see even more deals. Rudy Gay and Derrick Williams have already headlined trades during the 2013-14 NBA season, and Marcin Gortat was dealt just prior to the beginning of the campaign.
That's already quite a bit of activity for the Association, but there's more on the horizon. Players like Kyle Lowry and Omer Asik are clearly on the blocks, but their respective general managers are waiting to make moves until they have as many options as possible at their disposal.
That happens on Dec. 15, when 114 players who signed contracts since the calendars hit July become eligible for deals. The CBA requires teams to wait either three months or until Dec. 15 before they trade players signed since July, whichever comes later.
Of course, all 114 aren't going to be on the move. Most will stay put, but these are the five most likely to find themselves packing up and heading to a new franchise.
Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come courtesy of Basketball-Reference.
Team: Houston Rockets
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 7.1 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.1 blocks, 15.5 PER
Do the Houston Rockets really need such a valuable player lining up as the third-string point guard?
Nope, not really.
Aaron Brooks is only playing 15.2 minutes per game, and that number is so high solely because both Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley have missed a few games due to injury. When both are available, he's a true—and overqualified—reserve.
As Kevin McHale told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle before the season, "We got some new guys. We’re trying to figure them out. They’re trying to figure our system out. It’s a process of looking at some stuff. We’ll see."
Well, they've figured out Brooks. he's a backup point guard playing for the third team.
If you prorate his stats to 36 minutes, they suddenly look much more valuable: 16.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.1 steals while shooting 43.8 percent from the field, 45.8 percent beyond the three-point arc and 88.2 percent at the charity stripe.
Although those would certainly decline once he moved into a larger role, there's no question that this speedy floor general is more than capable of functioning as a quality backup who can make spot starts when injury creates such a need.
Houston simply doesn't need a floor general with this much value sitting on the bench for the majority of the game, even if he's perfectly content to do so while playing for a winning team. It's possible to turn him into something, although that may just be a backup stretch 4 and a future draft pick.
Most Likely Deal
Los Angeles Lakers receive:
Houston Rockets receive: Ryan Kelly, 2016 second-round pick
The Lakers desperately need a point guard until either Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar or Steve Blake is healthy enough to run the show. For the Rockets, acquiring a stretch 4 like Ryan Kelly isn't the main benefit of the trade, as general manager Daryl Morey could continue his strategy of stockpiling draft picks for future deals.
Team: Atlanta Hawks
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 2.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.6 blocks, 10.7 PER
Elton Brand isn't really going to decline this quickly.
He's "only" 34 years old, and he's coming off a season that saw him make some positive contributions defensively and on the glass. Even if the former No. 1 pick isn't much of an offensive contributor, he can play as an undersized center for lengthy stretches when called into action.
Problem is, he hasn't been called into action very often.
During the 2012-13 season, Brand suited up for the Dallas Mavericks and averaged 7.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. But he wasn't asked to score very often, and he was still able to produce a 15.2 PER that leaves his current mark in the dust.
Thus far with the Atlanta Hawks, Brand continues to be a defensive force. Synergy Sports (subscription required) shows that he's allowing only 0.64 points per possession, good for the No. 16 mark in the Association. He's been particularly dominant against post-up players, which is a positive development after he struggled against back-to-the-back attempts last year.
Atlanta is playing him behind Paul Millsap, Mike Scott, Al Horford and Gustavo Ayon. Plus, he can cede minutes to Pero Antic when the matchup calls for a shooter capable of stretching the floor a bit more.
Brand is still valuable enough to be a more prominent part of the rotation, and he'd be a nice, cheap target for some contending teams.
Most Likely Deal
Miami Heat receive: Elton Brand
Atlanta Hawks receive: Joel Anthony, 2015 second-round pick
Atlanta loses a bit of financial flexibility by taking on the remaining two years of Joel Anthony's contract (we can safely assume that the big man will accept his $3.8 million player option for 2014-15). But that's compensated with the draft pick.
On the Heat's side of things, they get to acquire a defensive power forward who can take some of the pressure off the shallow frontcourt when the playoffs get tough.
Team: Sacramento Kings
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: N/A
Carl Landry has yet to suit up for the Sacramento Kings—except for media day, when he posed for the picture up above. He may never throw on a Sacramento jersey again, despite his history with the team and the impressive season he's coming off with the Golden State Warriors.
Surgery on his left hip has kept him out of action thus far, and it remains unlikely that the creative little big man will be ready to play before the ball drops and the calendars read "2014."
But while he's rehabbed, the Kings have essentially replaced him.
First, general manager Pete D'Alessandro put his stamp on the roster by trading for Derrick Williams. Then he took it a step further and acquired Rudy Gay, intending to use the forwards interchangeably since either can play small forward or power forward.
When Landry returns, he'll undoubtedly be behind both players on the depth chart, and he could find himself fighting Jason Thompson for backup minutes. It's in the Kings' best interest to maximize his value by shopping him, regardless of what they can get in return.
Ideally, the players coming back are expiring contracts, giving D'Alessandro even more financial flexibility to work with during the summer of 2014.
Most Likely Deal
Minnesota Timberwolves receive: Carl Landry
Sacramento Kings receive: Alexey Shved, Dante Cunningham
Alexey Shved has some value at a position where the Kings don't have too much long-term talent, and Dante Cunningham is simply an expiring contract. Fortunately for the 'Wolves, they'd be getting a quality backup for Kevin Love, one they could deploy when the grinding nature of the NBA season takes over.
Team: Milwaukee Bucks
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 14.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.2 blocks, 11.4 PER
It's not exactly breaking news to say that O.J. Mayo has struggled during his first season with the Milwaukee Bucks. As hot as he was during the opening salvo of his 2012-13 campaign with the Dallas Mavericks, he's been that cold for the Bucks, shooting a putrid 40.4 percent from the field.
Yes, Mayo is making up for it with his three-point shooting and work at the charity stripe, but he's failing to make an impact with his passing. Well, he's making an impact, just in the wrong way.
It's still clear that this 26-year-old shooting guard has value, but he doesn't belong in a role that leaves him as the alpha dog. He's a great complementary scorer, and he'd be a perfect fit acting like Kevin Martin currently is for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Additionally, the Bucks don't need Mayo.
He doesn't figure to be a prominent part of their future plans, and trading him away would allow them to completely commit to tanking and landing one of the top spots in the 2014 NBA draft. As long as they get back an expiring contract and a first-round pick, there would be no reason for general manager John Hammond to avoid pulling the trigger.
Commit to losing by ever larger margins. Commit to giving the young players as much playing time as possible.
It makes too much sense, which is the only concern for this team that seems intent on trying to remain mired in mid-level mediocrity.
Most Likely Deal
Charlotte Bobcats receive: O.J. Mayo, Zaza Pachulia
Milwaukee Bucks receive: Ben Gordon, 2014 first-round draft pick (via Portland Trail Blazers)
The Bobcats are suddenly looking like a competitive team, and they could get even better with a player who can create his own shots. That's worth giving up what figures to be the least valuable of the three first-round picks Charlotte has at its disposal.
Team: Detroit Pistons
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 13.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.5 blocks, 12.5 PER
Eventually the Detroit Pistons are going to have to pull the plug on the Josh Smith experiment.
It isn't working, even though the team is currently holding down the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Pistons are allowing 1.2 more points per game than they're scoring, and they rank 19th in Basketball-Reference's simple rating system, indicating that they won't be competitive even if they make the playoffs.
One of the main reasons is J-Smoove.
The former Atlanta Hawks simply hasn't seen a shot that he doesn't like. Despite shooting a vomit-inducing 26.9 percent from beyond the three-point arc, he's still lofting up 4.3 triples per game. On top of that, he's shooting only 43.7 percent inside the arc, and he's made just 54.3 percent of his attempts at the charity stripe.
As Joey Yashinsky writes for DeadlineDetroit.com:
The errant threes, the extra-long free throws, the sketchy body language, the backbreaking lane violation for no reason whatsoever; that’s who Josh Smith is. It’s what he’s always been. And whether you like it or not, he’s probably not changing anytime soon.
It's quite clear that Smith just doesn't work next to both Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. It's either Monroe or Smith who must be on the move if Detroit wants to maximize its potential, and Smoove still has more value.
In the right system—a disciplined one that actually forces him to remain semi-close to the basket—he'd blossom into an All-Star. If not something better.
Smith has proven year after year that he can't control himself, so he needs to be on a team that can do it for him. The Pistons, especially under a first-year head coach, are clearly not the right fit.
Most Likely Deal
Chicago Bulls receive: Josh Smith
Detroit Pistons receive: Luol Deng
The Bulls no longer have to worry about whether or not to keep Luol Deng once he becomes a free agent. Instead, they can use a high-potential forward who would thrive in Tom Thibodeau's defensive systems and strict offense.
As for the Pistons, can you imagine a lineup or Brandon Jennings, Rodney Stuckey, Luol Deng, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond?