Predicting Which NBA Players Will Be Trade Bait During the 2014 Offseason
After yet another mundane NBA trade deadline, there are plenty of big names that could be on the move this summer. The reluctance to pull the trigger on a blockbuster deal in February has left a lot of unfinished business for teams trying to compete in 2014-15.
This year's NBA trade deadline turned out to be more sizzle than steak. With a potentially loaded draft class this summer and an equally impressive crop of free agents the next two seasons, teams weren't in a rush to push their chips to the middle of the table and pull off any "win now" maneuvers.
As a result, the biggest name moved at the deadline was center Spencer Hawes, who mysteriously went to the aimless Cleveland Cavaliers. All of the juicy rumors that normally surround the midway point of the season turned out to be just fodder for ambitious columnists and message board posts.
This summer, that dynamic will change. Teams will go back to the drawing board and begin jockeying for positions. The names on this list of players expected to be dangled in trade talk during the offseason should sound familiar, as they were mostly the same names tossed around in recent weeks.
The difference is, with an entire summer to work out deals and the pressure on teams to improve, there's a greater likelihood of these guys finding new homes than there was a couple weeks ago.
SG J.R. Smith and G/F Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks
As has been the case for quite some time, the New York Knicks find themselves in a bit of a rut. Superstar forward Carmelo Anthony has the option to leave the Big Apple and the team has done a poor job of building around 'Melo during his tenure.
To convince the former Syracuse standout to stick around, the Knicks will need to make some big splashes this summer to prove they are serious about contending for a championship. The problem is the team doesn't have much in the form of assets to make such a radical change happen.
They don't have a first-round pick in what should be a good 2014 draft and there aren't any players on the roster beyond Anthony that other teams would be convinced to give up elite talent for. New York's best trade chips are guards J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert.
Both players are extremely talented, but have their own set of flaws. The team tried to shop Smith, according to CBS Sports' Ken Berger, earlier in the season, but didn't find much of a market for a 28-year-old with a history of immaturity and bad shot selection.
As for Shumpert, he was a hot commodity at the deadline, but the Knicks never pulled the trigger on a deal. They were in talks with the Los Angeles Clippers about a mind-boggling deal that would have brought well-traveled point guard Darren Collison to Madison Square Garden in exchange for Shump and possibly Ray Felton, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
The team also turned down an offer from Oklahoma City, according to ESPN's Chris Broussard, that would have netted New York a first-round pick in exchange for Shumpert. Shumpert inevitably suffered a strained MCL, which further hurt his trade value and added to his reputation for being fragile.
Despite the team's inept dealings with both men, they represent the Knicks' best chance of improving the team via trade. Smith, when his mind his right, is a capable scorer on an affordable deal (owed a little over $12 million for the next two seasons), while Shumpert has the potential to be a promising two-way player.
New York has roughly two more months to build up both players' stock before the offseason. Don't be surprised these two are the subject of trade talk yet again this summer.
Eric Gordon, SG, New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans Pelicans guard Eric Gordon's nickname should just be "trade bait" instead of "EJ". Why, you ask? Pick a reason. Any reason.
Could it be the former Indiana Hoosier's albatross of a contract, which Grantland's Bill Simmons recently ranked as the seventh-worst in the NBA? Gordon is set to make $14 million this season with a little over $30 million combined for the next two years. In exchange for that high salary, Gordon has rewarded the team by being its third-highest scorer with an average of 15.8 points per game this season.
Could it be the 25-year-old's litany of injury problems? While he has surprisingly missed just three games this year, Gordon was out for a good chunk of his first two seasons due to knee troubles. Prior to coming to the Big Easy, he struggled to stay healthy during his time with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Perhaps it might be how ineffective he is when he's on the court? According to 82games.com, Gordon's effective field-goal percentage allowed is 53.3 percent, compared to 47 percent when he's not on the floor. The team's net points per 100 possessions when Gordon is on the floor is minus-5.7.
You'd like to think $14 million could buy you something better than that.
While all of those are reasons for the Pelicans to move their former face of the franchise, they are also exhibits A, B, and C as to why a deal will be tough to come by. That shouldn't stop New Orleans general manager Dell Demps from trying though.
According to CBS Sports' Matt Moore, the team was looking to trade Gordon as well as fellow high-priced guard Tyreke Evans earlier this season. If Gordon can maintain his clean bill of health this season (which has been impressive, given his history and the Pellies' injury woes so far), his chances of finding a ticket out of New Orleans could increase.
It's not that he lacks the skills to be worthy of his contract. It's that he hasn't shown the willingness to live up to his potential nor has he been a great fit since coming over as the centerpiece of the Chris Paul trade.
Much like a troubled prospect in the draft, all it takes is one team to fall in love with your skill set. With a strong second half, Gordon could attract a couple suitors this summer.
Omer Asik, C, Houston Rockets
As soon as Dwight Howard signed on the dotted line to join the Houston Rockets, former starting center Omer Asik's days were numbered. Even if he were content with playing behind D12 (and occasionally alongside him), it didn't make much sense for the team to pay such a high price for a backup center.
This season, we have learned that Asik wasn't thrilled with being a reserve following his breakout year as a starter (shocking!). The big man from Turkey requested a trade on numerous occasions, but has yet to find a new home.
While waiting for a trade, Asik spent most of the season dealing with injuries and low morale. He missed two months with knee and thigh troubles and recently made his return shortly before the trade deadline. With little time to prove his worth to a potential suitor, the deadline passed with Asik still a member of the Rockets.
That could change this summer. Asik is due nearly $15 million (with a cap hit of a little over $8 million) next season. That's a pretty steep price for a second center that is both unhappy and limited offensively.
That's not to say Asik doesn't deserve to be a starter somewhere. Even with the high price tag, the 27-year-old (will be 28 in July) is solid enough on the boards and protecting the rim to be considered among the league's best big men.
Teams such as the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, who are in need a big man and have substantial cap space, have always been the best fits for an Asik deal. It also helps that both of those teams are in the midst of rebuilding outside of the Western Conference, which makes a deal less likely to come back to haunt Houston.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said in interview last month, per ClutchFans.net's Ben Dubose, that the team will hang on to Asik until his contract expires next summer. That seems a bit hard to believe given the cost and the interest a man of Asik's talents is likely to garner.
Arron Afflalo, SG, Orlando Magic
It's hard to call anyone a "lock" to be traded this summer, but Orlando Magic guard Arron Afflalo seems (keyword: seems) like a lock to be moved in the offseason.
For starters, he's having the best season of his career as he's averaging 19.7 points per game and shooting 47 percent from the field (including nearly 44 percent from three).
Secondly, the Magic have Afflalo's heir apparent in rookie Victor Oladipo. The No. 2 overall pick has dabbled a little at point guard, but shooting guard is his more natural position. Dealing Afflalo to open up more room for Oladipo makes more sense.
Lastly, he's 28 years old and is due $7.5 million with a player option of $7.75 million for 2015-16. That's a reasonable price for a man with Afflalo's skills.
The Magic were wise to hold off on moving Afflalo at the deadline. The team isn't headed anywhere this season and interest is only going to pick up as Afflalo's career year continues. With Afflalo and a potentially high pick in a top-heavy draft, Orlando could turn things around with the right moves.
An Afflalo deal that would make sense for all parties would involve sending the former UCLA Bruin back out West to Phoenix in exchange for guard Goran Dragic. Like Afflalo, Dragic is also having an All-Star worthy season (20.2 points and 6.2 assists per game, 50 percent from the field and 41 percent from deep).
The salaries match up perfectly and would give both teams a solid backcourt tandem (Eric Bledsoe and Afflalo in Phoenix, Dragic and Oladipo in Orlando). Whether it's Phoenix or elsewhere, the Magic have one of the best trade chips at their disposal and are in a good position to cash in this summer.
Rajon Rondo, PG, Boston Celtics
Rajon Rondo is a franchise-caliber point guard. He's the kind of player you build a contender around. He's one of the few floor generals in the NBA that can be a factor on both ends of the court.
However, Rondo is also 28 years old going into a contract year next season for a Boston Celtics team that is years away from contending. The question for GM Danny Ainge becomes do you build around an enigmatic superstar whose coming back from knee surgery or do you finally play your last trade chip and start from scratch?
The latter seems like the better move. The Celtics aren't going to contend anytime soon and there's no sense in taking the chance that Rondo will want to stick around after next season. Plus, a potential haul for Rondo could set Boston up nicely for the next few years as they try to rebuild.
Back in December, the Sacramento Kings, per Yahoo! Sports' Mark Evans, offered up point guard Isaiah Thomas, rookie Ben McLemore, then-King Marcus Thornton, forward Jason Thompson and two first-round picks for Rondo.
The Houston Rockets also came calling, but a deal never progressed after Boston asked for forward Chandler Parsons in return, according to ESPN's Marc Stein. Ainge may also be looking for multiple draft picks in a Rondo deal, which has been mentioned by some, including Grantland's Zach Lowe.
The asking price is a bit steep, but it is worth it if a team can get Rondo to agree to an extension. When healthy, he's arguably the best point guard in the game. Ainge knows that, which is why he's wise for waiting until the summer for someone to meet his demands.