Ranking the Top 10 Most Coveted Players on the 2014 NBA Trade Block
Here's hoping the NBA trade deadline in 2014 is much more exciting than the "action" that occurred last year.
Almost nothing happened, and we basketball fans were left trying to get excited about swaps like the one that sent Dahntay Jones to the Atlanta Hawks and Anthony Morrow to the Dallas Mavericks. Yay!
Well, this year is going to be different...we hope.
There are actually quite a few prominent names on the trade block, and the stacked nature of the 2014 draft class makes tanking more likely for quite a few struggling teams. Additionally, the Western Conference is a giant mess of good teams, and the Eastern Conference is wide open after the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat, so the right move could create a new semi-contender.
We're going to see some action as the Association's 30 franchises try to figure out their paths for the near future.
But who are the best players available?
It's important to note these 10 potential trading chips aren't being ranked by their skill on the court, nor are they ranked by the merits of their 2013-14 seasons. Instead, the countdown proceeds toward the player who will draw the most interest if he's officially placed on the block, which combines each of the previous two elements while looking toward the future.
Additionally, not all of these players will be made available, but there are situations in which each of them could.
Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, are current as of Jan. 29 and come from Basketball-Reference.
Honorable Mention: Omer Asik
Team: Houston Rockets
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 4.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.4 blocks, 10.6 PER
The Houston Rockets tried to trade Omer Asik, but there were no takers. Of course, that may have been due to Daryl Morey asking for more than he could get in return for the services of the defensive stud.
Although the first venture flopped, there's still time left to trade the Turkish big man.
However, as relayed by Ben DuBose of ClutchFans.net, the Rockets general manager recently said the following about Asik:
At this point, Omer is very likely going to be here until the end of his contract at the end of next season, not this season. The window to trade him was [in December], and teams weren’t aggressive enough to get him, so we’re excited about him being a part of our future.
Not "certainly" or "definitely," but "very likely."
That means there's still a chance we could see a deal centered around Asik if the return is great enough. And it should be, because there's no doubting the Turkish big man's skills on the defensive end of the court.
He's always been a tremendous asset defensively and when crashing the boards, and there's usually a market for big men with such skills.
10. Emeka Okafor
Team: Phoenix Suns
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: N/A
Emeka Okafor has literally done nothing during the 2013-14 campaign except get traded from the Washington Wizards to the Phoenix Suns.
Troubled by the recovery from neck surgery, he hasn't been able to step onto the court, and there's a solid chance his career as a productive NBA player is all but behind him. However, he's still a coveted player because of his salary.
Okafor makes $14.5 million this season, but then he becomes a free agent at the conclusion of the year. That makes him one of the larger expiring contracts in the Association, and a team coveting future financial flexibility would be wise to acquire his services.
While he might not do anything on the current contract, he's essentially a great asset for the future. And as Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports, "All along, the Suns' plans have been to flip Okafor's expiring and insured deal before the trade deadline."
General manager Ryan McDonough should be able to find a taker.
9. Evan Turner
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 18.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.1 blocks, 14.1 PER
Evan Turner is finally showing flashes of the potential that made him the No. 2 pick of the 2010 NBA draft.
They're only flashes, but that's better than nothing for the 25-year-old swingman from Ohio State. The flaws in his game—turnover issues and poor shooting from the perimeter—are still present, but they're being cancelled out by his strengths.
Especially when sharing the floor with Michael Carter-Williams, Turner has displayed an aggressive mentality that leads him to attack the hoop with reckless abandon. It's what made him so special while he was a member of the Buckeyes, and it's led to a few great performances in 2013-14.
Although he's been inconsistent, there have been outings like the 34-point game against the New York Knicks on Jan. 22, one in which he went 13-of-22 from the field and added another 11 rebounds and two dimes to his line.
Turner is also an expiring contract, so the team that lands him will have the opportunity to either open up cap space or re-sign him to a lengthier deal that will finally see him live up to his lofty ceiling.
8. Eric Gordon
Team: New Orleans Pelicans
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 16.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.2 blocks, 15.8 PER
If only Eric Gordon didn't come attached to a ridiculous contract.
According to ShamSports.com, the 2-guard is owed $14.3 million this year, makes $14.9 million in 2014-15 and then has a player option for $15.5 million in 2015-16. You're crazy if you think he's going to turn down the final year of that deal.
If Gordon were more affordable, he'd skyrocket up this list. But alas, that's not the case.
All the same, the 25-year-old shooting guard is a tremendous asset on offense. He can drill three-pointers—1.5 makes per game while shooting 39.4 percent beyond the arc—and possesses the athleticism and instincts necessary to do work around the basket.
Gordon hasn't gotten to the charity stripe nearly as often this season, but he's shown he has the tools to do so in the past.
There still aren't many shooting guards with the inside-outside skill set Gordon boasts, and that should make him a coveted player if the New Orleans Pelicans really do make him available.
Contract and all.
7. Thaddeus Young
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 17.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 2.1 steals, 0.5 blocks, 17.5 PER
According to Steve Kyler of Basketballinsiders.com during a chat session, Thaddeus Young is back off the trading block.
Even if that's true, it won't remain that way for long.
The Philadelphia 76ers have no reason to win games during the 2013-14 campaign, and Young is actively helping them keep their record somewhat respectable. Thanks to his ability to get to the basket and his newfound knack for draining three-pointers, he's been a tremendous source of offense.
And offense leads to wins.
It's hard to believe this particular forward is only 25 years old, but he is. A few seasons remain between the present and Young's true prime, and it would behoove a competitive team to snatch him up now before his development continues.
Young has been a do-everything guy for the talent-devoid Sixers, and it's likely he'd get even more efficient if he weren't tasked with so much on a nightly basis.
6. Arron Afflalo
Team: Orlando Magic
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 20.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.0 blocks, 17.8 PER
Arron Afflalo deserves some serious consideration for an All-Star spot in the Eastern Conference thanks to his shooting exploits for the Orlando Magic.
Not only is he averaging 20.3 points per game, but he's doing so while knocking down 47.1 percent of his shots from the field and 42.2 percent of his looks from beyond the three-point arc. That's efficiency right there.
In fact, Afflalo has played so well he may have worked himself off the trade block and into general manager Rob Hennigan's plans for the future. Then again, maybe not, as the Magic can play Victor Oladipo at either guard position and draft a replacement in the stacked 2014 class.
Given the dearth of quality 2-guards in the NBA, it still makes sense to deal Afflalo. The return would likely come in the form of young, high-upside players and draft picks, and both of those types of assets make sense for a retooling Magic squad.
Finding a 20-point scorer who plays at a position filled with a relative lack of talent is highly beneficial for any team hoping to make that extra push in the race for a championship.
5. Spencer Hawes
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 13.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 0.6 steals, 1.3 blocks, 16.8 PER
Stretch 5s aren't exactly commonplace in the NBA.
Anthony Davis is becoming one as he continues to work on his perimeter game, Chris Bosh looks like one out of necessity even though he's a natural power forward, and that's about it.
Oh, and Spencer Hawes.
The 25-year-old big man has made the most of his opportunity with the Philadelphia 76ers, and he's emerged as one of the more valuable shooters in the Association.
Take a look at how his current season from beyond the arc compares to his career-high marks:
|Previous Career High||1.5 (2008-09)||35.6 (2012-13)|
How's that for a career season?
Hawes is also emerging as a quality rebounder, despite the ubiquitous perception that he's always been a soft player.
There's always a market for a skilled center, and the man with the double zeros on his jersey certainly qualifies as such a player.
4. Greg Monroe
- You've never watched a basketball game in your life.
- You don't understand numbers.
- You're the Detroit Pistons.
Team: Detroit Pistons
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 14.2 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.4 blocks, 17.5 PER
Look at this chart of PERs from 82games.com, then tell me which position you'd rather have Greg Monroe playing:
If you answer power forward instead of center, even after seeing he's better on both offense and defense as the biggest man on the court, then one of three things is true:
Fortunately, there will be plenty of teams willing to take the talented center off Detroit's hands. He's a skilled player who brings a lot to the table by scoring, passing and rebounding at a high level. So long as he's not the defensive centerpiece, he can look like a borderline All-Star.
And he's only 23 years old.
3. Kyle Lowry
Team: Toronto Raptors
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 16.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.2 blocks, 20.4 PER
Kyle Lowry has been playing like a man possessed ever since Rudy Gay was traded to the Sacramento Kings.
A strong All-Star candidate—especially in the weaker Eastern Conference—Lowry has averaged a sensational 18.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game ever since Gay's last appearance in a Toronto Raptors uniform, which came on Dec. 6.
Also impressive has been his efficiency.
The 27-year-old point guard has thrived with the ball in his hands, as he's been able to pick and choose his own shots with more care while distributing the rock around to his teammates. He's shot 45.5 percent from the field and 43.1 percent beyond the arc over the same span, and that hasn't been the only impressive aspect of his game.
Lowry has always been a bulldog out on the court, a man who wants to make the opponent engage in a physical battle where not a single inch is given rather than earned. Now that he's staying healthy, he's more able to impose his physical will than ever before.
There's just one downside to trading for Lowry.
His contract expires at the end of the year, and it's becoming increasingly likely that he'll command a rather large salary in free agency.
Note: Lowry did not originally appear in this slideshow, as I firmly believe that the Raptors have removed him from the block and will not trade him for any reason. With the team hanging tough in the Eastern Conference playoff race and Lowry continuing to impress in a lead role, he's basically off limits. But in light of recent rumors (via Chad Ford of ESPN.com) that the point guard is still drawing interest, he's been added into the spot he would have otherwise occupied.
2. Carmelo Anthony
Team: New York Knicks
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 27.1 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.7 blocks, 24.9 PER
Are the New York Knicks going to trade Carmelo Anthony? Probably not.
But there's a chance.
If things continue going south or 'Melo makes it quite clear he won't be re-signing with the team, then the high-scoring forward will suddenly become one of the most coveted players on the trade block. He's not there yet, but he easily could be in the next few weeks.
After all, this season has become a real-life example of Murphy's Law for the Knicks. If something can go wrong, it does.
So, let's work under the assumption Anthony is on the block, even if that could prove to be a faulty one.
Once there, it's hard to imagine him failing to draw some serious interest, expiring contract and all. Although New York has struggled tremendously, it's hard to pin the blame on 'Melo because he's scored at such a ridiculously high level—62 points, anyone?—and consistently tried to involve his teammates via his improved passing skills.
Only the contract status and his age keep him out of the No. 1 spot.
1. Rajon Rondo
Team: Boston Celtics
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 6.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 4.9 PER
Has Rajon Rondo been effective since returning from his torn ACL?
Nope, not at all.
Does it matter?
Nope, not at all.
We're dealing with a situation that's quite similar to the one explained on the Carmelo Anthony slide. The Boston Celtics have shown no indication they're willing to trade Rondo, but the trade rumors circle and swarm nonetheless.
All it takes is the right offer, and the point guard could be on the move. According to ESPN.com's Chad Ford (subscription required), rival executives think general manager Danny Ainge will indeed use Rondo to bring back multiple assets for the future rather than allow him to remain the central figure of the rebuilding process.
There's no guarantee Rondo will be traded, but he'd be the No. 1 player out there if he were made available. Even though he's coming off an ACL injury, the dynamic floor general's game has never been predicated on athleticism, which offers plenty of hope for a full recovery.
It's hard to remember because it's been so long since Rondo has been fully healthy, but he's still one of the best point guards in the NBA. And point guard just so happens to be one of the most coveted positions.