The 1 Player Every NBA Team Should Trade Before the Deadline
Year after year, the NBA trade deadline is full of surprises. Fans and analysts watch closely to see who ends up where, and while there are a number of predictable moves, it's the bombshells that get people talking.
Despite the notion that some teams are content with where they stand, no squad is perfect. Every franchise is competing for a championship—either now or down the road—and every group has at least one asset it should be willing to part with before the deadline hits on Feb. 20.
For some, that trade piece is easy to identify. Pau Gasol has been the focus of rumors for years, and nobody should be shocked if the Los Angeles Lakers finally pull the trigger.
Blake Griffin, on the other hand, is a very different story—one we'll come to in just a bit—but he's someone who shouldn't be untouchable in the eyes of the L.A. Clippers.
It's not always easy to part ways with players, but the NBA is a business. Wheeling and dealing comes with the territory, and very few players are exempt this time of year.
*Statistics and rankings are accurate as of Jan. 20 at midnight ET.
**All salary-related information is courtesy of HoopsHype.com.
Atlanta Hawks: Lou Williams
Following the loss of Al Horford for the year, the Atlanta Hawks' outlook on the current season has changed drastically. Despite being a one-time near shoo-in for the third seed out East, there's now no guarantee that this group even makes the playoffs.
Atlanta needs to trade for a big man, and Lou Williams is the most intriguing asset it has.
When scanning the roster, you see players such as Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague who are too important to the team's immediate success. Conversely, the majority of the team's perimeter players lack the track record Williams has as a scorer to garner any true attention.
Kyle Korver is the only exception, but it would take one heck of an offer to pry him away from the grasp of general manager Danny Ferry.
Trading Williams isn't ideal unless a solid center comes back in return, but if the Hawks can make that happen, they'll once again be the favorites for the No. 3 spot out East.
Boston Celtics: Gerald Wallace
Once upon a time, Gerald Wallace earned the nickname “Crash” because of his willingness to put his body on the line. In his mind, every loose ball was going to be his, and his efforts and athleticism translated nicely on both ends of the floor.
Today, Wallace has become more “Crash and Burn” than Crash, and trading him should be priority No. 1 for the Boston Celtics.
Making more than $30 million through 2016, Wallace is the third-highest-paid player on the team this season. The 31-year-old is posting some of the worst numbers of his career. To put it simply: His game hasn’t aged well.
The sexier name surrounding Boston will undoubtedly be Rajon Rondo. Trading the point guard would be the next big move toward starting over, and the fact is, he's a much more desirable trade asset to opposing GMs.
If the right deal comes along for Rondo, general manager Danny Ainge should consider it. But regardless, Boston needs to find a new home for Wallace, ridding itself of one of the worst contracts in the NBA.
Brooklyn Nets: Jason Terry
Before the calendar flipped to 2014, this topic looked much different for the Brooklyn Nets. The disappointing start had people ready to abandon ship, and nobody on the roster was deemed safe in the midst of the struggles.
In 2014, the team is 6-1 with impressive wins over teams that include the Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat. Assuming the Nets don't want to blow up the roster, we'll turn our attention away from the stars (loosely defined for some) and to the more traditional role players.
Looking at Jason Terry's season thus far, the Nets would love to get out from underneath his contract. He's owed more than $5 million each season through 2014-15, and health, defense and overall production are all variables moving forward.
But if you're a believer of the newfound success this team has encountered, swapping the shooting prowess of Terry for youth and athleticism would be an opportunity worth jumping on for this organization.
Charlotte Bobcats: Ben Gordon
The Charlotte Bobcats are rebuilding toward a better tomorrow, and the first step is trading Ben Gordon today.
Despite having completely disappeared as of late, Gordon’s track record can’t be ignored. He’s a long-range shooter who can score in bunches, and while he’s not going to be a No. 1 option in any rotation, he could fill the role of shooter for any number of contenders.
Even more important is to note that Gordon has a $13.2 million expiring contract. The Bobcats could let him walk in free agency, but remember this: Cap space is only valuable if you can attract free agents.
Charlotte proved it can do just that when it signed Al Jefferson in 2013, but recognizing that it had to overpay to make it happen is important.
The Bobcats aren’t going to attract marquee free agents in 2014, which means getting all it can now would be preferred to risking disappointment later.
Chicago Bulls: Carlos Boozer
The rebuild has begun for the Chicago Bulls, and while it's going to be difficult to move Carlos Boozer, general manager Gar Forman would be foolish to sit back and concede to the idea that he's stuck with him.
The truth is that Boozer is still a solid option at power forward. He’s averaging 15 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. While he’s no longer a consistent double-double threat, he’s capable of making a difference both on the block and in mid-range.
It’s his contract that Chicago doesn’t like, and it’s easy to see why.
Making $15.3 million this season, Boozer is the team’s second-highest-paid player behind Derrick Rose. That number boosts to $16.8 million in 2015, which is a lot of cash the team would like to allocate elsewhere.
Kirk Hinrich is another player the team would like to trade, as roster changes are in full effect. That said, in an ideal situation, the Bulls would rid themselves of Boozer’s contract, clearing space to continue rebuilding.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Dion Waiters
Dion Waiters has only been with the Cleveland Cavaliers for a season-and-a-half, but it might be time to move on and trade the former No. 4 pick.
According to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal, players have "quietly grumbled about Waiters' act off and on all season." The act Lloyd is referring to is an overall level of maturity (or lack thereof), specifically "sulking on the court when things aren't going his way."
This isn't the only example of negative narratives surrounding Waiters. In December, it was reported by B/R's Jared Zwerling that Waiters wanted out of Cleveland and that the Cavs were actively shopping him.
Nothing ultimately came from the rumors, but with the deadline looming, the organization could continue shaking up the league by trading the sophomore.
Dallas Mavericks: Samuel Dalembert
The Dallas Mavericks brought in Samuel Dalembert to be a defensive anchor. Alas, they're still 24th in points allowed, and according to TeamRankings.com, they're also 24th in points allowed in the paint.
Despite standing 6'11", Dalembert is letting his opponents shoot 52.1 percent at the rim, per NBA.com. The hope was that he would have a Tyson Chandler-esque role on this team, but up to this point, his impact has been far less significant.
In Dalembert's defense, he is averaging 1.1 blocks per game. He's playing just 20.4 minutes per contest, which has helped boost his PER to a respectable 16.04.
Unfortunately for the Mavs, the big man just hasn't provided the leadership and production needed at the position—two characteristics of a true defensive anchor.
Denver Nuggets: Andre Miller
The Andre Miller situation in Denver is unfortunate, but it's one that the team can deal with before the deadline.
Earlier this season, we saw the 37-year-old receive the first DNP-CD of his career, according to Royce Young of CBSSports.com. Miller didn't take kindly to the decision, leaving us to believe that the point guard's departure from the franchise is imminent.
Throughout Miller's career, we've heard him talk about wanting a significant role. He did it with the Portland Trail Blazers, and now he's doing it for the second year in a row with the Denver Nuggets.
This isn't to say that Miller is unjust in his requests; it's simply to point out that we've heard this story before.
It's always possible that the two sides work out their differences, but with Denver having as deep a rotation as it does, the two parties are likely to find happiness only through separation.
Detroit Pistons: Josh Smith
Forty games into the season, it’s safe to say that the Josh Smith experiment has been a failure.
Averaging 15.5 points and 6.9 rebounds, Smith hasn’t helped the Detroit Pistons the way they hoped he would. His win shares are the lowest of his career, according to Basketball-Reference.com, and they're significantly lower than his average in that category.
The Pistons’ struggles shouldn’t be put solely on the shoulders of Smith; however, it’s clear watching him in a crowded frontcourt that he’s not going to thrive at small forward. According to 82games.com, he’s played 41 percent of the team’s minutes at the 3—a spot that allows him to fire away from deep without much of a conscience.
Finding a suitor for Smith’s contract will be easier said than done, but it’s time to get on the phone and find out who’s interested. Admitting you were wrong is never easy to do, but the Pistons need to move on before things get worse.
Golden State Warriors: $4 Million Trade Exception
When the Golden State Warriors acquired Andre Iguodala, they almost simultaneously brought in a slew of trade exceptions. The team recently spent the hefty one (Richard Jefferson, $9.8 million) to acquire Jordan Crawford, but that still leaves them $4 million left over from Brandon Rush.
The Warriors have shown enough improvements as of late to believe they can contend out West. However, bringing in a defensive-minded big to complement David Lee and crew would be ideal.
At this point, Golden State simply needs to find suitors looking to shed salary. It has a chance to add a piece to the puzzle using the exception, and even better is the fact that it can do it without ridding itself of another piece in the process.
The Warriors aren't exempt from rumors, but if they keep quiet and continue making the small moves, it could be a big step in the right direction.
Houston Rockets: Omer Asik
The fact that the Houston Rockets haven’t already traded Omer Asik is mind-blowing.
Early in the 2013-14 campaign, Asik began to voice his discontent through his agent, Andy Miller. “I would say the situation is very frustrating right now, and we're trying to work through it,” Miller said, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
In a perfect world, Asik and Howard would forget about positions and just play defensive-minded basketball. The concept of twin towers would be in full effect, and absolutely nobody would be able to score at the rim.
Let me reiterate: absolutely nobody.
As it turns out, the two take up too much space for their own good—especially on offense. The Rockets may be holding out for the best deal available, but they'll be sorely mistaken if they choose not to get a deal done before Feb. 20.
Indiana Pacers: Danny Granger
Danny Granger returned to the floor in late December, but it's been clear for a while that he's not a part of the Indiana Pacers' blueprint for long-term success.
Granger is in the final year of his contract, and chances are, he'll be allowed to walk in 2014 as a free agent. However, the Pacers could be more proactive, expediting the process with a trade before the deadline.
According to Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star, team president Larry Bird stated earlier this season that he was not looking to trade Granger. However, he followed up that statement with, "But you never know. If the right thing came along that would help the franchise, I would have to look at it, but I'm not out there looking at deals."
Granger has been inefficient in his new role with the Pacers, but as a dangerous scorer with an expiring contract, that right thing might just come along before Feb. 20.
Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin
Pardon me for a moment while I delve into the unfathomable notion that the Los Angeles Clippers could trade Blake Griffin before the 2014 trade deadline.
Despite scoffing at the idea earlier this season, per Matt Moore of CBSSports.com, coach Doc Rivers (and the rest of the Clippers organization) should recognize that Griffin's style of play clashes with DeAndre Jordan. The power forward even has a tendency to stymie Chris Paul's progress at the rim, as he takes up space by not being a reliable option outside of the paint.
Griffin's fans will certainly point to the big man's improvements, and they should. He's clearly worked on his defensive positioning, as well as his mid-range game.
The problem is that unless he becomes a drastically different player, his tendencies and physical abilities will remain the same, forcing the organization to swallow its pride and find a stretch-4 to better accommodate half-court sets.
Los Angeles Lakers: Pau Gasol
The Los Angeles Lakers may not want to trade Pau Gasol out of respect for what he’s accomplished, but it’s time for the organization to realize there’s not a long-term relationship here.
According to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, GM Mitch Kupchak has indicated that Gasol isn't going anywhere. “He’s playing at a high level right now, and there's no reason why he can't play at a high level and finish this season as a Laker,” said Kupchak.
Gasol has seemingly been on the trading block for years, and despite Kupchak’s comments, the 2013-14 campaign has followed suit. The team hasn’t pulled the trigger, but with his expiring contract as a desirable trade piece, testing his value is a no-brainer.
The other option is to let his contact disappear in free agency. Parting ways in the offseason might seem more admirable to the Lakers, but seeing what’s available now might make for a smoother transition down the road.
This situation isn't going away, and until the deadline comes and goes, you're bound to hear plenty of chatter surrounding this storyline.
Memphis Grizzlies: Tayshaun Prince
The Memphis Grizzlies have gone through a number of phases in a relatively short amount of time. They've gone from irrelevant, to competitive, to contender to rebuilding in about four years, and with reconstruction clearly taking place, they're hoping they can retool before they dip back down into irrelevancy.
The big name surrounding the Grizzlies is Zach Randolph. The forward has a player option that he could decline this upcoming summer, and if he's seeking a max deal, Memphis might be forced to let him walk for nothing.
Despite the notion that the Grizzlies could truly start over, let's consider trading Tayshaun Prince a more reasonable option. He's clearly in the twilight of his career, and health and production are both variables moving forward.
Prince is due to make more than $7.5 million in 2014-15, and that's money the Grizzlies would love to pocket—or more realistically, spend somewhere else.
Miami Heat: James Jones
The Miami Heat are an interesting team to analyze when it comes to this topic.
Looking up and down the roster, the squad doesn't have a lot of tradable assets. It's a lock for a top-two seed out East, and yet upgrading role players seems like a near impossibility at this point in the process.
For that reason, we'll look at the salary situation more closely than other franchises.
Based on production versus cost, James Jones is the odd man out. He's played in just 12 games all year, and while he's still a knock-down shooter, 5.8 minutes per contest isn't enough time to showcase your abilities.
Jones is making $1.5 million in the final year of his current contract, and while that's not a lot by today's standards, he's earning a top-10 salary on a roster despite having made so few appearances.
Milwaukee Bucks: Gary Neal
As you might imagine, the Milwaukee Bucks have a few names that fit this category. The team is second to none when it comes to the league's worst record, and ridding themselves of Gary Neal should happen sooner rather than later.
The concept of trading Neal is actually already in the works. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, a confrontation between Neal and Larry Sanders gave the team extra incentive to move the guard, and the Bucks will "do everything they can to find a new home for Neal before the Feb. 20 trade deadline."
The Bucks aren't going to win anything significant this season, but team chemistry can't be ignored. Furthermore, Neal simply hasn't elevated his game to the level everyone expected.
Moving Neal won't do much for the team right away, but it will help create a clearer picture of what the future looks like for this rebuilding organization.
Minnesota Timberwolves: J.J. Barea
Kevin Love and his impending free agency is one of the hottest topics in the NBA, but the way people theorize where he'll end up would lead you to believe he's on an expiring contract.
Love's deal is good through 2015-16. Trading him isn't outside the realm of possibility, but until the franchise believes it can do no more to woo the big man, Love should remain on the roster.
The first step in winning over Love is trading J.J. Barea. The 29-year-old is averaging a respectable 8.6 points in 18.6 minutes, but he's also been at the forefront of Love's discontent.
According to ESPN, the forward was displeased with the guard's body language and effort during an early-January loss. "We all need to be in this together," Love said. "That kind of pisses me off. We're supposed to be a team."
Ultimately, trading Love down the road may be the best course of action, but for now, riding it out and expending all other options will go over better with fans in Minnesota.
New Orleans Pelicans: Eric Gordon
When the then-New Orleans Hornets traded Chris Paul, their only goal was to get as much in return as possible. The superstar point guard had successfully orchestrated his way out of town, but in defense of the organization that dealt him, it received a decent package surrounding a young, coveted up-and-comer in Eric Gordon.
As it turns out, Gordon has yet to live up to his potential, and while that’s largely because of health, it’s difficult to imagine him in the long-term picture.
This organization has done a masterful job of rebuilding since the Paul trade. Selecting Anthony Davis first overall was a no-brainer, acquiring Ryan Anderson was shrewd, and trading for Jrue Holiday showed that it's not afraid to take advantage of a fellow rebuilding franchise.
Now figuring out what to do with Gordon is the next step, and if general manager Dell Demps is smart, he’ll find a way to rid himself of Gordon and his team-high salary.
New York Knicks: J.R. Smith
The New York Knicks knew what they were getting themselves into when they signed J.R. Smith to an extension last summer, and now they're stuck with his antics until they can unload him onto someone else.
Following the infamous series of events involving Smith and a couple of pairs of shoelaces, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year was benched by coach Mike Woodson. The benching only lasted two games, but it was enough for Smith to question what his long-term status with the team looks like.
"Honestly, I don't even know at this point," Smith said, via ESPN's Ian Begley. "But it is what it is. It's the nature of the business."
It may be the nature of the business, but it's unfortunate that Smith's questionable future is self-inflicted. His production on the court hasn't been anything to brag about, either, which will make him a tough sell before Feb. 20.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Kendrick Perkins
Kendrick Perkins has played important roles in important games. He’s a big body who takes up space in the middle, and historically, he’s been solid to the tune of about six rebounds per game.
Unfortunately for the Oklahoma City Thunder, they’re not interested in the past. This is a team trying to win a championship, and simply put: Perkins is no longer a championship-caliber center.
So far this season, Perkins is averaging just 3.3 points in 19.5 minutes. He’s not getting it done on either side of the floor, as he's allowing his opponent to double him up in PER (per 48 minutes), according to 82games.com.
Perkins was brought in to be a key component in a postseason run, but his recent numbers in the playoffs have shown consistent declines. Last season was his worst playoff performance of his career, and if the Thunder can work their magic, they'd be getting rid of their fourth-highest-paid player.
Orlando Magic: Jameer Nelson
The Victor Oladipo era has begun for the Orlando Magic, and if the team believes the rookie can be a long-term floor general, dealing Jameer Nelson becomes the next step in the rebuilding process.
In order for this team to grow, starting fresh must continue to be a priority. It’s true that veteran leadership is important on a rebuilding roster, but a deal to a contender would be a fitting parting gift for someone who has been with the franchise since 2004.
Nelson has been a valuable piece to this organization for a long time, but as they say: All good things must come to an end.
Saying goodbye is never easy, but at least this one won’t be such a
Philadelphia 76ers: Evan Turner
Evan Turner is playing the best basketball of his NBA career, which means it’s time to sell high if you’re the Philadelphia 76ers.
It’s no secret that Philly doesn’t want to win right away. The move to deal Jrue Holiday was the first step in that process, and a 13-27 record at this juncture solidifies the notion that it's playing for the draft.
Now that Turner has finally turned into a productive player, the Sixers would be smart to test his value. His numbers are likely inflated due to extra responsibility, but you can’t ignore the fact that he’s stepped up when given the chance.
Teams would be smart to consider bringing in the 25-year-old, and Philadelphia would be equally as smart to let him go before the deadline.
Phoenix Suns: Emeka Okafor
One name that isn't being discussed much is Emeka Okafor. He hasn't played a single game since being acquired by the Phoenix Suns, and at 31 years old, it's questionable if he's a double-digit threat in either points or rebounds any longer.
Despite the calm around his name, the Phoenix Suns should use him as a bargaining chip before Feb. 20. He has an expiring contract worth more than $14.5 million, and that's something any team looking to start over would want to exploit in the offseason.
For Phoenix, letting him walk is an option, but the truth is that the Suns are trying to make a push at the playoffs right away. They've shocked everybody with their success this season, but with Eric Bledsoe out, the team needs all the weapons it can get.
Okafor isn't going to be a part of the new era of Suns basketball, so finding someone who will would be ideal both now and into the future.
Portland Trail Blazers: Meyers Leonard
The Portland Trail Blazers are in a pickle. They know they need an interior defender to protect the rim, yet they don’t want to make any moves and risk damaging the chemistry they’ve built at this point in the process.
The paradoxical nature of this dilemma means there’s no easy answer, but if the team has a chance to acquire a defensive-minded big man, it shouldn’t be afraid to part ways with Meyers Leonard.
Early in Leonard’s career, we’ve seen flashes of excellence on offense. At 7'1", he runs in transition as well as anybody, and in true Rip City fashion, he can finish both above the rim and in the mid-range.
Then again, we’ve seen a whole lot of confusion on defense as well. He's improved in some respects throughout his sophomore season, but his timing and strength are two areas where he still needs to grow.
The Blazers are the No. 1 scoring team in the NBA, making the other side of the floor a priority at the deadline. Throw in Thomas Robinson's name here, if you want, but upgrading the backup 5 spot could be crucial for immediate postseason success.
Sacramento Kings: Jimmer Fredette
Jimmer Fredette has the potential to be a lights-out shooter, and we've known that ever since he entered the league in 2011.
Unfortunately, the Sacramento Kings are too confusing of an organization to predict whether or not he'll hit his ceiling with the current makeup of the roster.
Fredette's trade value is lower than it used to be—although it's never been near elite levels—but the Kings would be smart to see what they can get before it dips any lower. The 24-year-old is only playing 11.3 minutes per game, but his 50 percent shooting from downtown is what teams across the league will look at.
The Kings aren't going to contend this year, but if the personalities come together, we could be looking at a different level of success sooner than expected. Sacramento needs to ask itself if it sees Fredette in that picture, and if it doesn't, pulling the Band-Aid is ideal for both parties.
San Antonio Spurs: Frontcourt Combo
Berger's report stated that the Spurs are looking to be active when it comes to midseason wheeling and dealing. Kaiser acknowledged the report but also added an important piece of commentary.
"What positions and players the Spurs are targeting is anyone's guess at this point," Kaiser said, and he's right. The Spurs are a top-six team in terms of points scored, and that same stat holds true for points allowed.
At this time, consider any of the team's frontcourt members not named Tim Duncan or Tiago Splitter potential trade bait. Jeff Ayres, Matt Bonner and Aron Baynes should all be made available, and if the right upgrade comes along, a package deal could be enough to find a new role player for the second-half stretch.
Toronto Raptors: Landry Fields
When it comes to the Toronto Raptors, the name everyone wants to talk about is Kyle Lowry. Once Rudy Gay was dealt, the point guard would surely be the next to go, and it makes sense if the team is worried about losing a point guard during the upcoming free-agent period.
All that said, the Raptors have shocked the NBA since Gay's departure, and with the third seed now a realistic goal, sacrificing talent at this juncture is risky.
General manager Masai Ujiri has a tough task ahead when it comes to dealing Landry Fields, but he was brought in to shake things up—something he's done efficiently since his arrival.
As B/R's Christopher Walder put it, "With Ujiri at the helm, anything is possible. That includes finding a trade partner for seldom-used Landry Fields and his asinine contract."
It won't be easy, but this is the one guy on the roster the GM would love to trade as soon as possible.
Utah Jazz: Richard Jefferson
The Utah Jazz are about as bad as it comes. They're 27th in scoring, they're 14-28 through 42 games, and they're in a constant battle with the Sacramento Kings for last place out West.
Richard Jefferson has been a bright spot on the roster this season, which means the Jazz should sell high and utilize his expiring contract.
Although it's safe to assume the 33-year-old won't put up the numbers he is now for a contender, he could provide solid shooting and a veteran presence. His production has been great for someone in his 13th year, but again, it's his contract that will draw the most attention.
With Jefferson set to become a free agent, the Jazz could, of course, let him walk. However, knowing that Salt Lake City doesn't attract top-tier talent, acquiring assets before the deadline sounds like the best option for this rebuilding franchise.
Washington Wizards: Eric Maynor
Eric Maynor has the unfortunate pleasure of being voted off the Washington Wizards' island. However, with his value being so low, it's going to make finding a replacement awfully difficult.
On the year, Maynor, who was once considered the quintessential backup floor general, is averaging just 2.4 points and 1.8 assists in 9.5 minutes. He's been surpassed by Garrett Temple in the rotation, making it painfully obvious that the bar must be raised for the team's reserve point guards.
With second-string-caliber players available on the trading block, Washington must make a move. Finding that piece will be crucial for immediate success, and including Maynor in the deal will be icing on the cake.
Seeing Maynor struggle is unfortunate considering how much potential he had before his ACL injury, but sometimes that's how the story plays out. Maynor himself recognizes he must improve, as he told The Washington Post's Michael Lee, "It’s been real tough for me, trying to figure out everything. ... But you’re going to get the best out of me, come here soon."
That's at least a positive sign for prospective suitors, giving Washington hope that it can unload the two-year deal it gave Maynor this past summer.