Ranking the Top 10 NBA Trade Candidates with the Most Overall Value
Not every player in the NBA is a legitimate trade candidate.
The Cleveland Cavaliers would laugh uproariously if asked to deal LeBron James. The Oklahoma City Thunder would lose themselves in giggles if a proposal was made for Kevin Durant. A request for Anthony Davis would leave the New Orleans Pelicans in fits. Cleveland's front office would just roll its eyes if asked to swap Andrew Wiggins for anyone, as he's basically untouchable right now.
OK, maybe that last part isn't true.
Point is, there's a group of players who can legitimately be called "trade candidates," and it's a far smaller collection than the overall list of NBA talents. I'm also only considering established players in these rankings, so Wiggins will not be appearing, even though his trade value would be right at the top of the list.
In order to qualify for this countdown, a player must be movable. The Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks might potentially want to part ways with Deron Williams and Andrea Bargnani/Amar'e Stoudemire if their respective seasons don't get off to good starts, but they wouldn't find many takers because of the exorbitant price tags attached to them.
The following 10 players can all be deemed available and acquirable in 2014-15.
Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from Basketball-Reference.com.
10. Ersan Ilyasova
Team: Milwaukee Bucks
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 11.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.1 blocks, 13.8 PER
Don't let one season filled with poor shooting completely negate the value of a 27-year-old combo forward who can capably stretch out the court and still thrive on the boards. Ersan Ilyasova put up terrible percentages during the 2013-14 campaign, but he was also plagued by injuries and surrounded by a group of lackluster, underachieving teammates.
It was only the season before that the Turkish forward averaged 13.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game while shooting 46.2 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from beyond the arc, a mark that came on 2.9 attempts per game from downtown.
Ilyasova is the type of player who would be best served as a complementary piece on a quality team, much like Channing Frye was last year for the Phoenix Suns. However, he's stuck in Milwaukee on a roster now overflowing with talent at the positions he plays.
He might have been the only player Jason Kidd named at his introductory press conference with the Milwaukee Bucks, but it's tough to see him keeping Jabari Parker, Khris Middleton and John Henson on the bench for too long.
9. Eric Gordon
Team: New Orleans Pelicans
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 15.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.2 blocks, 14.9 PER
Remember when Eric Gordon was viewed as the next big thing at shooting guard?
Amazingly enough, that was only back in 2010-11, when the 2-guard was finishing up his brief career with the Los Angeles Clippers. He was thought of highly enough to be given a max contract, and his two-way upside and inside-outside play on the offensive end were going to make him the next superstar at the NBA's weakest position.
So much for that.
Or is it?
Gordon, plagued by knee injuries ever since, is still only 25 years old, and he has time remaining before we can definitively say he failed to live up to the hype. It's increasingly unlikely he realizes the full extent of his former potential, but he can still become an All-Star-caliber player in the next few seasons.
Just not with the New Orleans Pelicans.
It's in the team's best interest to part ways with him—assuming it can find a taker for his albatross of a contract—which allows the Pellies to shift Tyreke Evans to the 2 and find a natural small forward to complete their impressive starting five.
8. David West
Team: Indiana Pacers
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 14.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.9 blocks, 17.5 PER
Paul George's injury changes everything.
The Indiana Pacers were primed to keep most of their core together and prove that Lance Stephenson didn't matter too much to their success, but that's just about hopeless now that George is out for the season with a broken fibula and tibia. The team's top returning scorers are David West (14.0 points per game), Roy Hibbert (10.8) and George Hill (10.3).
That's a terrible trio when it comes to scoring, even if it's a fantastic defensive one. Rodney Stuckey—the biggest offseason acquisition—might have to average 30 points per game and lead the league in scoring for them to average 90 big ones as a team.
I'm honestly not sure how much of an exaggeration that is.
At this point, it's best for Indiana to blow things up and start over. The title window is firmly slammed shut, and it's advisable for the Pacers to adopt a tanking strategy, dealing David West to a contending team for draft picks and a shot at finishing right near the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
West is a soon-to-be-34-year-old power forward who can still make huge contributions on both sides of the court, but how much value will he retain when George is back at full strength and ready to lead another charge? Not much, which is why his remaining impact should be dealt to a contending squad or one trying to make the proverbial leap.
In the NBA, when you're not first, it pays to be last.
7. Thaddeus Young
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 17.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.1 steals, 0.5 blocks, 16.6 PER
Thaddeus Young falls into the same category as David West, though he's only 26 years old and still has plenty of years remaining as a major contributor.
The Philadelphia 76ers are making no pretenses at attempting to be competitive, especially after drafting two players who will make either limited contributions or none whatsoever during the 2014-15 campaign (Joel Embiid and Dario Saric) and failing to sign any notable free agents over the summer.
"The NBA is pushing toward changes to the draft lottery system by next season but is facing a strong objection from the Philadelphia 76ers, the franchise that could suffer the most from it, multiple sources told ESPN.com," reported Brian Windhorst, providing the clearest indication of all that tanking is the route du jour for these Sixers.
After he thrived as the top option for Philadelphia, Young would make some contending teams quite happy. He's a rim-seeking threat in both transition and half-court sets, and 2013-14 saw him extend the range of his jumper out beyond the three-point arc.
Young may not be an All-Star, but he's a terrific complementary piece, one who can provide quite a bit of offense at either forward spot without sacrificing much on the defensive end of the court.
6. Roy Hibbert
Team: Indiana Pacers
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 10.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.4 steals, 2.2 blocks, 13.5 PER
For the same reason as given when discussing David West's inclusion as a player who could be traded, Roy Hibbert is going to find himself on the block at some point during the 2014-15 season—especially because he has even more value, given his huge upside and the fact that he's only 27 years old.
Lost in the midst of Hibbert's futility late in the regular season and during the Pacers' playoff run was the fact that the 7-footer from Georgetown was supremely dominant during the first half of the year.
He was a game-changing defensive presence, one who sparked a historically excellent defense while completely shutting down the paint. On top of that, he managed to average 11.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game before the All-Star break while shooting 46.4 percent from the field, a far cry from the 39 percent clip he accumulated after that midseason classic.
Now, Hibbert is working with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar over the offseason and hoping to restore his confidence. If that's a successful mission, he'll resume his status as one of the better centers in basketball, an All-Star capable of providing mediocre scoring numbers and leading the charge for Defensive Player of the Year.
Who wouldn't want that?
5. Josh Smith
Team: Detroit Pistons
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 16.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.4 blocks, 14.1 PER
Josh Smith is a frustrating player, especially because he's shown almost no self-awareness during the most recent stages of his NBA career.
Take this ridiculous quote, for example:
"I just play basketball. I'm a basketball player. People try to throw statistics in there. I'm not one to look at where I am on the court (when I shoot)," Smoove explained to USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt during the middle of January. "I'm confident in each and every play I make. I don't think about it. I just play and play with confidence."
When those words escaped his lips on Jan. 14, the 28-year-old forward was shooting 38.5 percent from the field and a putrid 26.9 percent from behind the arc, the latter coming on 4.3 attempts per game. To put that in perspective, Basketball-Reference.com shows that Mookie Blaylock is the only qualified player in NBA history to take more than four triples per game and connect on worse than a 27 percent clip.
Smith might be painfully unaware of what's given him such a bad reputation, but he can also change that. All he needs to do is land on a team where he can play the 4 and be thrown out onto the court at a position in the lineup that forces him closer to the basket.
He's still a tremendous athlete who wreaks havoc on the defensive end and can dominate in transition. Quite frankly, he has the ability to play like an All-Star if he doesn't loft up those ill-advised perimeter jumpers he's so awful at.
4. Greg Monroe
Team: Detroit Pistons
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 15.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.6 blocks, 18.1 PER
In a recent podcast appearance with Aime Mukendi Jr., Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski revealed the Detroit Pistons' latest dealings with Greg Monroe, who remains a restricted free agent (as transcribed by Nate Williams of Detroit Jock City):
Detroit has tried to help him with some sign-and-trade possibilities around the league. Monroe doesn't really have a great interest in going back and playing with the Pistons. But if they're going to move him in a sign-and-trade, they've got to get value for him. And they've got to get back some significant players, some significant talent, to compensate for that loss. They haven't been able to find a deal for him.
The Pistons aren't going to move Andre Drummond, as he's the franchise centerpiece throughout the foreseeable future. It's also tough to see things working with Drummond, Monroe and Smoove, even with Stan Van Gundy surrounding the big man troika with an abundance of shooters.
Moving Smith doesn't solve as much as dealing Monroe, as the man they call "Moose" can't play his natural position with Drummond on the floor.
It's not like he's devoid of value, either.
Monroe is only 24 years old, and he's proven himself a top-notch threat in the scoring and rebounding columns when allowed to play at the 5. He put together a player efficiency rating of 20.6 when playing center last season, per 82games.com, which is obviously better than the seasonal mark you can see up above.
On the right team—i.e. not the Pistons—Monroe could begin looking like a fringe All-Star once more.
3. Eric Bledsoe
Team: Phoenix Suns
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 17.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.3 blocks, 19.6 PER
Eric Bledsoe was having an incredible season before a knee injury knocked him out of the Phoenix Suns lineup. Fear not, though, as he didn't skip a beat upon his return.
From his March 12 return against the Cleveland Cavaliers through the end of the 2013-14 season, the 24-year-old guard averaged 17.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.3 blocks per game while shooting 46.5 percent from the field and 36.7 percent beyond the arc.
Durability questions should exist, but there should be no concerns about Bledsoe's current status. Well, his health status; his free-agency status is a whole different story.
CSNNW.com's Chris Haynes recently came out with a report that claimed things were turning sour between the two sides, who have yet to come to terms when dealing with this particular restricted free agent:
According to league sources, an "ominous development" has arisen with sides still "very far apart" in contract negotiations. It has even escalated to the point where the "relationship is on the express lane to being ruined," a source with knowledge of the situation informed CSNNW.com.
If that's the case, a sign-and-trade becomes a distinct possibility, especially with Isaiah Thomas and Tyler Ennis waiting in the wings.
Phoenix, though, still appears to want Bledsoe back, even if he's unhappy. Jeff Hornacek's two-point guard system would work much better with a three-1-guard rotation comprised of the restricted free agent, Thomas and Goran Dragic.
2. Rajon Rondo
Team: Boston Celtics
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 11.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 9.8 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.1 blocks, 15.3 PER
Rajon Rondo is now 28 years old and still working his way back from a major injury, but he's undoubtedly an elite point guard.
Not only are there few better perimeter defenders out there, but Rondo brings another elite skill to the table: his passing.
Even while playing with a lackluster supporting cast, Rondo racked up the dimes upon his return from an ACL tear. He averaged 9.8 assists per game, which—had he played enough to qualify—would have left him trailing only Chris Paul for the passing crown. As the Boston Celtics offense improves around him, he's only going to get better, even if the development of his perimeter jumper continues to stagnate.
However, there's no guarantee he remains in Beantown through the end of his current contract, which expires at the conclusion of the 2014-15 season. He's as expendable as ever now, especially with the C's continuing to rebuild rather than acquiring the pieces necessary to contend immediately.
Committing to Avery Bradley with a four-year deal worth $32 million was one indication. So too was drafting Marcus Smart with a lottery pick, seeing as he's a point guard with the same shooting limitations as the incumbent floor general.
Rondo would bring back a huge return, even when saddled with his expiring deal. Whether in the form of picks or quality players, the incoming pieces could greatly aid the Boston rebuild.
1. Kevin Love
Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, 26.9 PER
Kevin Love is in a class of his own, at least until Rondo resumes his pre-injury excellence and takes a place among—or close to—the top 10 players in the NBA. After all, that's the group Love is in, thanks to his historically excellent combination of rebounding, passing and scoring.
The saga has dragged on for a while now, involving—to some extent, at least—the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics. Now, there may finally be some resolution.
While speaking on ESPN Radio, Brian Windhorst broke the news that the Cavs and Minnesota Timberwolves have a handshake agreement to swap Love for Andrew Wiggins, per DraftExpress.com's Derek Bodner. A last-minute change of heart could alter those plans, though, as Wiggins can't be traded until 30 days after signing his rookie deal with Cleveland, which happens on August 23.
So for now, Love still remains on the list of players who can be traded. And think about how valuable he is if he's drawing a trade chip like the No. 1 pick in a stacked 2014 NBA draft, especially when Wiggins is almost certain to be accompanied by Anthony Bennett and future picks.
It's not every offseason that an established 25-year-old superstar is put on the block.