Ranking the Most Attractive Trade Targets in the NBA

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 18, 2013

Ranking the Most Attractive Trade Targets in the NBA

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    The NBA trade market can be tough to gauge.

    It's basketball's biggest swap meet, with all parties involved trying to keep one leg up on their peers.

    Trade chips are immensely valuable. But what makes one better than the next?

    Talent is obviously a big part of the equation. Teams can't ask for a king's ransom without something remotely resembling royalty to offer in return.

    But trade value doesn't stop there.

    Economics play a part in the discussion. Salary commitments, both present and future, have to be considered. Some might bite a big bullet on a piece they'd like to build around; others are searching for major money that will be coming off the books at season's end in hopes of landing a big fish in free agency.

    Things like age and experience carry their own weight. Present production isn't always a good indicator of future impact. A good player now might become a great one down the line.

    With players like Pau Gasol, Luol Deng and Rajon Rondo churning through the rumor will, which one holds the most attraction in the eyes of their suitors?

    *Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and up to date through games on Dec. 17.

    **Salary information used via Shamsports.com.

10. Spencer Hawes, C, Philadelphia 76ers

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    If you're looking for excitement from Spencer Hawes, this picture might be as good as it gets.

    He doesn't fill highlight reels on either end of the floor. He has five dunks on the season, per NBA.com. That's about one trip through the pregame layup line for the Miami Heat.

    But teams aren't looking at Hawes to energize a fanbase.

    His interest stems from his rim protection (1.6 blocks), glass presence (9.0 boards) and, most importantly, 7'0" of floor spacing (43.6 three-point percentage). His ability to stretch the defense at one end and control the paint at the other is hard to quantify.

    Luckily, an underwhelming start to his career (9.0 points, 6.0 rebounds over his first six seasons) has kept his cost low. He's due just $6.6 million this season, with no future financial commitment attached to that number.

    The chance that his breakout performance is more than a mirage makes him well worth the low-cost gamble. If these numbers hold up, a franchise could find its big man of the future without the typical price tag attached to that role.

9. Kenneth Faried, PF, Denver Nuggets

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    Like his nickname "The Manimal" suggests, Kenneth Faried is oozing with excitement.

    He's consistently played above the rim in his two-plus NBA seasons. Whether he's crashing the offensive glass or hammering home thunderous slams, he seems to always be using his jumping ability to his advantage.

    Not surprisingly, his name has been bandied about this season. Equally predictable is the way the Denver Nuggets have tried to quiet that noise.

    No one knows exactly how good he'll become. The 24-year-old is raw, often getting by on an insatiable mix of athleticism, energy and drive.

    Considering he's still working on a rookie-scale contract for this season and next, the Nuggets have plenty of time to figure out if he's more valuable as a building block or a trade chip. That task should get easier as offers continue to roll in.

    He's a low-risk, high-reward big; when's the last time teams weren't interested in that?

8. Jeff Green, SF/PF, Boston Celtics

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    It's hard to tell if the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Celtics are in win-now or fire-sale mode. It's even tougher to figure out in which scenario Jeff Green would be the most helpful.

    The 27-year-old is plagued by one of the NBA's worst cases of split personalities. Some nights, he seems ready to make the most of his superstar gifts (see: seven games of 20-plus points already this season); others he looks far too comfortable living in the shadows (see: eight-point outings each of his last two times out).

    Green seemed to be a building block for the retooling Celtics. But according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst, his name is one of many that has surfaced in the ongoing Omer Asik trade talks.

    His basement is relatively comfortable. Even if he never makes his anticipated ascent, he's still good for about 15 points and five rebounds a night. Not spectacular by any stretch, but his price tag reflects that fact ($9.2 million for next season, $9.2 million player option for 2014-15).

    He's not a franchise focal point, but he could do well as a two-way second or third option on a good team. Then again, with his athleticism and shooting stroke (40.6 percent from deep this season), maybe it's too early to pluck the superstar card out of his future.

7. Thaddeus Young, SF/PF, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Thaddeus Young is another name caught up in the Asik trade winds, via NBA.com's David Aldridge.

    In case you're unfamiliar with Young's work—considering he's spent his career on some underwhelming Philadelphia 76ers teams, there's a good chance that you are—think Jeff Green with a slightly lower ceiling but a wider safety net.

    It's tough to label Young as a "grinder." He's simply too skilled for that. Yet that's exactly how he approaches the hardwood, never taking possessions off and competing at both ends of the floor.

    His three-point shot sputters at times (career 33.4 percent) and his 6'8", 220-pound frame limits his effectiveness on the block, yet he's found a way to remain remarkably consistent. Over his last six seasons, his scoring average has fluttered between 12.7 and 15.8 with a field-goal percentage topping out at 54.1 and never falling below 47.0.

    He's far from a bargain (two years, $19-plus million left on his contract, although he has an early termination option for 2014-15), but he'll never be accused of NBA larceny. Teams get what they pay for with Young, a claim not all NBA players can make.

    The Sixers have a long rebuilding road ahead of them, and Young has a good enough reputation to help land them some assets to use in that process.

6. Arron Afflalo, SG, Orlando Magic

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    The Orlando Magic have had Arron Afflalo on the chopping block for a while now. Remember, Afflalo nearly netted the rebuilding Magic Eric Bledsoe this summer.

    But Afflalo's given Orlando plenty to think about since.

    The 28-year-old is either a late bloomer or the ridiculously fortunate recipient of ample opportunities on a bad team. Frankly, the league has never seen him perform quite like this.

    The seven-year vet is enjoying a breakout season in every sense of the phrase. His scoring (21.6), rebounding (4.7) and distributing (4.0) are all coming in at career rates. He's added more than 11 percentage points to his three-point stroke (41.5) from last season (30.0) and is making a compelling case for the first All-Star selection of his career.

    His contract didn't look like a bargain before the season ($7.5 million next season, $7.5 million player option for 2014-15), but maybe it should now. He's always been a strong perimeter defender and is now flashing an equally potent offensive game to match.

    He might be too old to remain part of Orlando's rebuilding plans, which should be good news for teams in need of perimeter help.

5. Pau Gasol, PF/C, Los Angeles Lakers

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    There are few certainties in the NBA, but as long as there's a basketball bouncing somewhere, there's a trade rumor swirling with Pau Gasol's name attached.

    It's simply par for the course for the Los Angeles Lakers' 7'0" scapegoat.

    But for L.A. to find a taker for the 33-year-old and the remainder of his expiring $19 million contract, it will have to do something it has refused to do all along—admit that coach Mike D'Antoni has sapped Gasol's effectiveness.

    The Lakers have no choice but to blame D'Antoni's systems for Gasol's struggles. If not, L.A. has nothing more than an aging, declining big body well past his prime.

    For the second straight season, Gasol's production has dropped to a new career low. Last season, his scoring took the nosedive (13.7 per game). This time around it's his field-goal percentage that's plummeted (43.9).

    Still, he should hold some serious weight on the trade market. His footwork on the low block is some of the best in the business. He's an elite passer out of the post and still a knock-down shooter from the elbow.

    But his value only rises as far as the Lakers will allow it. L.A. needs to right some wrongs with its favorite punching bag, or it risks watching him walk for nothing next summer.

4. Evan Turner, SG/SF, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Is Evan Turner a victim of circumstances or a beneficiary of them? Probably both.

    The No. 2 pick in 2010, he's failed to live up to his draft slot. Until this season, when his Sixers have emptied the cupboards around him and relieved all expectations.

    Just how much should rival teams trust his new-found numbers? He's pouring in a career-best 19.3 points (exactly six more than his previous high) and putting together a career performance in player efficiency rating (14.3, which still falls under the league average of 15.0).

    But here's the good news—teams only have to believe his production to the point that they pony up the final year of his rookie contract ($6.6 million). Come next summer, they could still cut bait if Turner's exposed as an empty producer on a bad team.

    The verdict should still be out for the 25-year-old. He's seen major changes around him, both with the players at his side and the coaches calling the shots.

    He may just need a change of scenery to become the versatile, well-rounded producer that predraft scouts thought he could be. As long as that possibility stays in play, Turner should remain a coveted target.

3. Luol Deng, SF, Chicago Bulls

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    Luol Deng has made it known that he doesn't want to leave the Chicago Bulls. Derrick Rose is on record saying he doesn't want to see any of Chicago's veterans go.

    Yet, Deng's been working his way through the rumor mill (again) ever since Rose lost a season to knee injury (again).

    Deng's exit could be just a formality. He was unable to reach an extension on his expiring contract this summer and could command a higher price than the Bulls are willing to pay.

    He's not a franchise savior, no matter how badly Bulls fans would like to see him play that role. His offense often comes in waves, and his surge in scoring (career-best 19.6 points) has come during yet another decline in his three-point shooting (27.8 percent).

    As a complementary piece, though, he has everything a team would want from a supportive player. He plays hard at both ends of the floor and literally gives his club as much as his body can afford (league-leader in minutes per game in each of the last two seasons).

    The potential payout with Deng isn't as high as some of the names before him here, but he's a proven commodity in the midst of his prime. If Chicago's ready to hit the reset button, help should come in droves if it cuts ties with Deng.

2. Greg Monroe, PF/C, Detroit Pistons

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    The "Moose" seems like he'll be cut loose at some point.

    The Detroit Pistons have too much money invested to think about shopping Josh Smith. And Andre Drummond's ceiling is simply too great to wave the man-child in front of potential suitors.

    So Greg Monroe could be the odd man out in a frontcourt built to compete in a different era.

    The Pistons haven't exactly been a mess, but at 12-14 they don't seem ready for the championship stage, either. Monroe isn't the source of Detroit's woes—did anyone think Brandon Jennings could handle this assignment?—but he could be the most easily replaced in the rotation.

    His future in the Motor City was already in jeopardy. The Pistons didn't extend his rookie deal, so the 6'11" 23-year-old is set to enter restricted free agency next summer. If someone comes calling with a substantial offer, Detroit might balk at that price and reserve funds for Drummond's future payday.

    Make no mistake, Monroe will have suitors. He's a walking double-double (15.0 points, 8.9 rebounds this season), a load with his back to the basket and an insanely gifted passer for his size.

    All of the players on this list to now are supporters, but Monroe might be different. If he found the right kind of help, he's the type of talent a franchise can build around.

    There are no questions about the top player on this list's ability to shoulder a franchise, but Monroe's the next best bet for an organization in need of a cornerstone.

1. Rajon Rondo, PG, Boston Celtics

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    Ever since Danny Ainge cut ties with former Boston Celtics mainstays Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers this summer, there's been a prevailing thought that Rajon Rondo could be the next to go.

    Ainge has been adamant that Rondo remains a part of Boston's future. But that hasn't stopped other teams from inquiring about the hobbled point guard, although none of those talks has appeared to find any traction just yet.

    There is no magic ticket to get inside of Ainge's head. Rondo could be out on the trade market, in the exclusive realm of the NBA untouchables or anywhere in between; none of us really knows.

    If there is some fire behind this smoke, though, don't expect to see it before Rondo makes his return from the torn ACL that ended his 2012-13 campaign. Even the most aggressive Rondo pursuers will need to see the four-time All-Star back in action before committing their future to him.

    Rondo's a transcendent talent, a unique trait among this list of trade targets. He has crazy court vision, a crazy competitive edge and even crazier physical tools.

    He also doesn't have the cleanest track record in terms of meshing with his teammates or his coach. For a team in need of a fresh start, Rondo might not be the ideal player to lead the Celtics through this transition phase.

    Then again, he's wildly productive with a contract that seems beneath his elite status ($11.9 million this season, $12.9 million for next).

    There's a reason other teams are calling about him. And a reason the Celtics (so far) are resisting.

    It might take something close to a blockbuster offer to pry him out of Boston, but he's an attractive enough trade target that that offer may still be coming.