8 NBA Players Most Likely to Be Traded Before February Deadline

Josh Cohen@@arealjoshcohenCorrespondent IIJanuary 19, 2014

8 NBA Players Most Likely to Be Traded Before February Deadline

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    The 2014 NBA trade deadline is poised to be as active as ever, with plenty of players who should be prepped to change teams in the coming weeks.

    Considering how many teams fancy themselves contenders this season and how many more are bringing a forward-thinking approach to futility, no buyer should have trouble finding a seller and vice versa.

    The Western Conference is stacked at the top and fiercely competitive, so the championship hopefuls will have to make moves to better their chances. Meanwhile, the struggling franchises out there have eyes on the tantalizing 2014 draft and will have no problem shipping off talent to improve their lottery odds.

    With such clear delineation of what roles each organization will play in the trade market, we can make pretty good guesses about who will get dealt. Not all of them are destined for new homes, but there will be consideration for all of them.

8. Jameer Nelson

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    There are plenty of reasons for the Orlando Magic to trade Jameer Nelson now, but the market might not support a move.

    A veteran point guard with a decent three-point shot and solid distribution skills, Nelson can be a nice asset running the second unit for a playoff team. He's the highest-paid player remaining on the rebuilding Magic, and Orlando would much rather save that money than spend it.

    That said, in this point guard-heavy era of the NBA, the best teams are relatively set at that position. He's better than almost all of the backup point guards out there right now, but making his $8.6 million salary fit might not be worth the upgrade.

    Nelson can be bought out for $2 million this summer, voiding the last season on his contract. That increases his value as a trade piece, but it also might make the Magic want to keep him more. His absence would open up more playing time for Victor Oladipo at point, but Nelson is the surer-handed option for a young team developing some offensive coherency.

    On the other hand, as Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel proposes, the Magic could start thinking about another point guard of the future. With Marcus Smart expected to declare for the 2014 draft and Orlando well on its way to a high lotto pick, the Magic could go all-in on the future.

    For now, Nelson gives them the preferable present. If the market breaks the right way (read: someone gets hurt somewhere), Nelson could easily be moved, but it's not essential for Orlando to do so.

7. Paul Millsap

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    This is Paul Millsap's first year with the Atlanta Hawks, but unfortunate circumstances could already bring about his exit.

    Atlanta is one of just four teams above .500 in the miserable Eastern Conference, but that isn't giving GM Danny Ferry any misconceptions about the Hawks' short-term potential. Their ceiling is a feisty and above-average team; that they're still at that level following Al Horford's season-ending injury means they're playing over their heads now.

    That's no reason in itself to trade Millsap; at just 6'8", he can muscle his way to points and rebounds inside and stretch the defense with his jumper. The Hawks have Millsap and his 17.4 points and 8.5 rebounds locked down for $9.5 million this year and next, which is a very favorable contract to keep on the books.

    It also makes Millsap a bargain to prospective suitors trying to match salaries in a trade; considering Atlanta is unlikely to contend next year, either, Ferry could torpedo this season if he gets a coveted first-round pick in return.

6. C.J. McCollum

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    Both this season and in future years, C.J. McCollum could be a tantalizing addition alongside Damian Lillard in the Portland Trail Blazers backcourt. However, they have more pressing needs if they want to win now.

    Robin Lopez has stabilized the defense with his rim protection, but Portland suffers on that end when he sits, diminishing the team's ability to capitalize on its greatest asset.

    LaMarcus Aldridge's star-making work on the block is powering the Blazers' unlikely rise into the juggernaut ranks. Even so, he's a middling defender at best, and in order to conserve his strength and maximize his output on the other end, Portland hides him by playing him with a more bullish big.

    While Mo Williams, Dorell Wright and company have bolstered the perimeter scoring off the bench, the frontcourt corps is still thin. Behind Robin Lopez, Thomas Robinson doesn't have the size to protect the rim, while Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard just aren't good enough to man the center position.

    From 2015 onward, the Blazers have first-rounders to deal, but it would actually make more sense for Portland to part with 2013's 10th overall pick in order to fill that void.

    At 6'4", 200 pounds, McCollum would be smallish in the same lineup as Lillard, who has cemented his role as a cornerstone of the franchise with his play this season. With Williams coming off the bench, McCollum is expendable for a team hoping to make a deep postseason run.

5. Donatas Motiejunas

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    The first 11 guys in the Houston Rockets rotation are set, with Donatas Motiejunas, Greg Smith and Ronnie Brewer each seeing some meaningful time in that last active roster spot.

    Brewer and Smith have clear prospective roles providing wing defense and center depth, respectively. Motiejunas has the most talent and upside of the three, but he has been uneven in his play as a stretch forward.

    Though he scored 25 points over the course of a mid-January back-to-back, that performance upped his shooting percentage to just 40.8 percent. He's not knocking down his shots, and at 7'0", 220 pounds, he doesn't have the bulk to defend post scorers or the mobility to guard outside the paint.

    Terrence Jones, Omri Casspi and Chandler Parsons are playing just fine ahead of Motiejunas on the depth chart, so Houston doesn't need its 23-year-old project to figure his game out.

    On top of that, Daryl Morey has constructed a roster so well-suited to Kevin McHale's frenetic system that just about every player is more valuable in Houston than he is elsewhere. That makes Motiejunas unique; he's both someone Morey can sell to trade partners and someone McHale won't miss.

4. Mike Dunleavy

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    Like with the Hawks and Millsap, the Chicago Bulls stole Mike Dunleavy in free agency. His contract is for two years and $6.5 million total, a pittance for a swingman shooting 45.1 percent from the field and, most importantly, 41.2 percent from beyond the arc.

    That's what Chicago got him to do: be the perfect offensive addition to a team lacking shooters around a rejuvenated Derrick Rose. With more scoring punch to support the staunch Bulls D, Chicago would have its best chance at a title since Michael Jordan.

    Then Rose again tore his ACL and Chicago dealt Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers, quashing any contention hopes the Bulls had.

    As long as Tom Thibodeau is on the sideline, the Bulls will still keep points off the board at an elite level, so it's hard to tell whether or not the front office is actively tanking. Regardless, Chicago will get plenty of offers for Dunleavy; every great team needs a bench shooter like him, and his favorable price tag will garner him even more suitors.

3. Eric Gordon

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    In the summer of 2012, Eric Gordon signed a max offer sheet with the Phoenix Suns, openly declaring "Phoenix is just where my heart is."

    The then-Hornets matched that offer nonetheless, Gordon's balky right knee kept acting up and the New Orleans Pelicans still have a fraught relationship with their talented, pricey, risky shooting guard.

    Converging factors have now made a Gordon trade even more desirable for all parties involved.

    With Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans in town, New Orleans now has an overabundance of combo guards. Nevertheless, Gordon's 16.5 points per game, 45.1 percent shooting and 41.9 percent on threes best Holiday's and Evans' stats; the field-goal percentages are also career highs.

    For the first time since signing his max deal, Gordon looks like he can be a building block for the right franchise. But the Pelicans belong to Anthony Davis and have never needed Gordon less.

    His cap figure is $14.3 million now and rises every season through 2015-16. That's a hefty salary to take on, but with an unusually large portion of the league in various stages of rebuilding, there should be a market for Gordon's yet-to-be-realized star potential.

2. Thaddeus Young

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    The Philadelphia 76ers are tanking hard, but a handful of guys are nonetheless boosting their value with their individual performances. That's a win-win for Philly, even if it creates some instability for the players.

    Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes are also showcasing themselves, but Thaddeus Young is the most movable of the bunch.

    The small-ball power forward is putting up a career-high 17.6 points per game along with 6.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals. He's is a more consistent scorer than Turner and a more able defender than Hawes; Young is also currently under contract through 2015-16, while Turner and Hawes both become free agents this summer.

    Any team that would give Philly a first-round pick would want the greatest available return on its investment. With his longer deal and his ability to play either forward position in any number of systems, Young provides that.

    And the Sixers will by no means play hardball when it comes to a Young trade. With Nerlens Noel and at least one more lottery pick sure to come in 2014-15 (Philly also has New Orleans' top-five protected pick), it's fire sale time for Sam Hinkie, and every vet who can be turned into a meaningful pick will be.

1. Andre Miller

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    To hear Brian Shaw talk about it, per Jody Genessy of the Deseret News, the first-year coach could welcome Andre Miller back to the Denver Nuggets, though the relationship between the two has certainly gotten ugly. Shaw said of the situation:

    He’s dealing with what he needs to deal with. I’m focusing on the team and what’s best for the team right now, ... As I’ve said, I’m willing to coach any(body) and everybody who wants to put the team first. I have nothing but respect for him.

    After Miller yelled at Shaw on the bench on New Year's Day, the veteran point guard has not seen the court. Shaw held him out of that game, and the team put him on paid leave afterward.

    Though his steadiness and craftiness bring a lot to the point guard position, the Nuggets were running three deep there with him. Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson can make up for Miller's absence without much issue, and Randy Foye can take some ball-handling duties in small doses to rest the true point guards.

    Only Shaw's diplomatic words, though a classic example of coachspeak, point to Miller staying. Yet the Nuggets, over .500 even in a down year, don't have any need to trade Miller unless he's a hopelessly toxic presence in the locker room. Considering Miller's years of leadership in Denver, that's not likely, leaving a glimmer of hope for Shaw and Miller to reconcile.

    Otherwise, the market for Miller will be varied. He can reprise his role elsewhere as the savvy backup point guard on a contender, or a young, developing team could bring in Miller to leverage his years of experience.