Predicting 5 NBA Stars Who Will Wind Up in Trade Rumors Next Season
Trade rumors aren't always synonymous with Kevin Love.
Absolutely absurd, right?
While it's difficult to remember, there was a time—a simpler time, no less—when most waking moments weren't spent poring over NBA gossip exclusive to one player. And there will be a time like this again, when Love doesn't haunt headlines and dominate dreams.
Like, say, around Aug. 23.
That's when Love should officially be a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, joining LeBron James and Kyrie Irving on one of the league's most potent offenses and questionable defenses, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
More importantly, that's when attentions will be free to turn elsewhere, to other stars who, after weeks (months?) of eluding the push, pull and glare of public attention, will be thrust back into the limelight, married to trade tidings of their own.
Josh Smith, Detroit Pistons
Let's start with a disclaimer, shall we?
Rumors aren't fact. They're rumors—substantiated or baseless babble that is often passed off as truth. Yet even the most credible sources and reports are pure speculation until proven otherwise. Just because a player is mentioned in a rumor—or this slideshow—doesn't mean he'll be traded.
Now, onto Josh Smith's future with the Detroit Pistons.
The Pistons have already dangled Smith in negotiations with the Sacramento Kings. They talked shop leading up to the NBA draft and resumed their closed-door confab shortly thereafter, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
Talks have gone nowhere, nor has another interested party emerged from the fray, and it's not hard to see why. There are 40.5 million reasons why Smith is still with the Pistons. Teams aren't foaming at the mouth over a player with a gory shot selection, stigma-stained reputation and $40.5 million left on his contract.
Bet your bottom dollar that this won't stop the Pistons from trying to move J-Smoove. Not as long as Greg Monroe is still on the restricted free-agent market and/or calls Detroit home.
"Detroit knows they’d rather have him (Greg Monroe) than Josh Smith as their starting power forward," BasketballInsiders.com's Joel Brigham writes, "but they’re having a hard time dumping off one of the worst contracts in basketball."
Overpaid or not, Smith still carries near-star clout. Blame that on him surpassing per-game benchmarks of 15 points, 7.5 rebounds, three assists and two blocks through the first 10 years of his career. Only four players have done that in NBA history. Smith is one; Tim Duncan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and David Robinson are the others.
With that being said, rival general managers and team presidents should feel free to hit Stan Van Gundy up on his 1991, limited edition, blue-green beeper (yeah, he looks like a pager guy).
Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks
Disclaimer No. 2: Yours truly is not in possession of a crumpled, time-worn piece of parchment on which, using a quill, I scribbled the many, many ways to anger Atlanta Hawks fans.
Paul Millsap is just this good.
Try to find someone on a better contract (who isn't named Stephen Curry). You won't. You can't. It's not possible.
The rangy forward is entering the last season of a two-year deal that will pay him a beyond-reasonable $9.5 million. Contenders are going to come calling now or soon, hoping that the Hawks aren't keen on paying the then-30-year-old Millsap tens of millions of dollars to remain in Hotlanta.
Over the last two years, split between the Hawks and Utah Jazz, Millsap has evolved into one of the league's premier stretch forwards. He banged in a career-high 35.8 percent of his treys last year, and he shot a blistering 43.8 percent on weak-side corner threes, according to NBA.com.
As a serviceable defender capable of thriving within rotation-heavy systems, Millsap, who has never missed more than eight games in a single season, is going to garner interest. The Hawks are going to receive calls. It's inevitable.
If they're all in on next season, moving him hurts. If they're looking at next summer and all the money it will take to keep him, well, those calls may not be as pointless as they should be.
Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns
Goran Dragic's future with the Phoenix Suns is fluid.
After winning the NBA Most Improved Player of the Year award and helping pilot the allegedly tanking Suns to a near-playoff berth, Dragic would seem untouchable. But it's not that simple.
The Indiana Pacers attempted to broker a trade for Dragic earlier in the offseason, according to Stein. Yannis Koutroupis of BasketballInsiders.com says the Milwaukee Bucks also tried to poach the floor general. Although that doesn't mean he's available, Dragic is generating interest.
Why? Well, for starters, he's an offensive machine. He's also tracking toward free agency. Dragic holds a player option for 2015-16, so he could join the free-agent ranks next summer if he wants.
Potentially turned off by the idea of handing him a Kyle Lowry-sized contract—or a contract that's bigger—the Suns could entertain legitimate offers that help them continue rebuilding while remaining competitive. Chances of them considering proposals increase tenfold if they re-sign Eric Bledsoe after already acquiring Isaiah Thomas.
"What we ultimately decided is: This is the strength of our team," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek told Bob Young of AZCentral Sports on Phoenix's decision to deepen it's already deep point guard corps. "Let's bolster it instead of going in a different direction."
This would seem to be a subtle "Hey! Our point guards are off limits" diatribe. But, at the same time, there are no doubt general managers out there thinking "Hey! You never know."
Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
But not so much.
Rajon Rondo is cyclically linked to trade rumors. Every year, without fail, his name crops up in trade discussions. That's not going to change. In fact, the more some wait for things to change, the more they stay the same.
There was hope the Boston Celtics could enter Love discussions, accelerate their rebuild and justify re-signing Rondo next summer. Around that same time, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald dropped some scalding-hot intel (subscription required): The Celtics would look to trade Rondo if they couldn't land Love.
They didn't land Love, so, like SB Nation's Satchel Price outlines, you know what's coming next—more mayhem:
We've been hearing about these Rondo trade rumors for years, so it's hard to get too excited, but the idea of a Celtics rebuild seems more realistic than it has before. With Rondo trying to prop up a mediocre roster led by an inexperienced head coach, the team may really only have two options: add another star like Love soon, or blow the whole thing up. That's not really a sure thing, though, and the Celtics have always withstood the rumors to stick by Rondo's side. This just might be the latest bump in their up-and-down partnership.
But the Celtics could be seeing a different future, one where Rondo sticks with the team and mediocrity reigns. In that case, yeah, they'll probably blow things up.
When healthy, Rondo is one of the league's best point guards. Drafting Marcus Smart—another guard with limited range—and re-signing Avery Bradley paves the way for Rondo's departure, though.
Too many ball-dominant guards can be problematic, and Rondo is the easiest to remove, since he's set to hit free agency next summer. And while that hardly guarantees the Celtics will trade him, Boston's reality promises to have Danny Ainge's phone ringing like crazy.
Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves
Third and final disclaimer: No glue sticks were consumed during the making of this list.
Love's departure opens the door for more changes to the Minnesota Timberwolves' roster. Mark Perner of the Philadelphia Daily News brings word that Thaddeus Young will be sent from the Philadelphia 76ers to Minny as part of the Love deal, or as a separate transaction entirely.
With Young Thaddy and Sir Andrew Wiggins in tow, the structure of Minnesota's frontcourt changes. Actually, forget the frontcourt. Throw Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Zach LaVine into this conversation as well. The Timberwolves are built to run, more so than they were last year, when they ranked fourth in possessions used per 48 minutes, per NBA.com, and seventh in fast-break efficiency, per Synergy Sports (subscription required).
Pekovic doesn't fit that blueprint. Know who does? Gorgui Dieng. He's more athletic and a better fit alongside Thad, as well as the rest of Minny's young, vibrant, fast-as-hell core.
Inquiries into Pek's availability are lodged regularly, according to the Pioneer Press' Charley Walters. This doesn't figure to change after Love's exit, with the Timberwolves re-rebuilding and in need of the cap flexibility dealing the $47.9 million remaining on Pek's contract provides.
Will they move him?
That we can answer the initial question with another suggests the Timberwolves won't be displacing themselves from the gossip industry anytime soon.
*Salary information via ShamSports.