The Top 10 NBA Players with the Most Trade Value Right Now
Nothing prepares us for a sixth helping of Thanksgiving turkey and gravy like some hypothetical NBA trade talk—a riff on players with the most chopping-block appeal right now, to be more specific.
These names are not necessarily in the rumor mill. Nor do they absolutely, positively need to be moved without question. But each has a good case to be here.
Maybe a player is nearing the end of his contract and poses a semi-imminent flight risk. Perhaps offseason moves, an overloaded depth chart or a recently drafted prospect renders him expendable. Talents on underachieving teams who could reasonably reverse course and start rebuilding are in play too.
And, yes, there's always the rumor mill.
To be clear, this is not a straight ranking of the NBA's best players sorted by trade values. Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Chris Paul, et al. reside atop Untouchable Mountain. They would all command huge returns, but interested suitors would also get laughed off the phone for even calling.
Nikola Jokic/Jusuf Nurkic, Denver Nuggets
Let's defer to Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal on this one:
Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic are two of the most exciting talents on the upside-laden Denver Nuggets. However, it's proved difficult to play them together, to the point that the former even asked to be taken out of the starting lineup, per BSN Denver's Harrison Wind.
Add Kenneth Faried into the mix, and you have a triumvirate of bigs who all need more playing time but can't receive those accommodations unless one is shipped away.
Jokic and Nurkic hold far more trade value than Faried, but their rookie-scale deals make it difficult to get back adequate value. It's also hard to imagine Denver's shopping either of them. The dream of playing both together hasn't yet faded, and the Nuggets need a star, not more picks and prospects.
Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets
Brook Lopez exists in a gray area on the trade-value scale.
His $21.2 million salary doesn't break the bank this side of last summer's salary-cap eruption, but it's still a lot to match in potential deals. He fits the mold of a big who shoots threes and blocks shots, but teams aren't going to forfeit a top-end pick or a superstar to get him.
Sure, there will be interest if the Nets look to move him. But the organic obstacles in play will noticeably curb their return.
Greg Monroe, Milwaukee Bucks
Before Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd made Greg Monroe a nightly "did not play" candidate, the big man was brutalizing rival second units and providing surprisingly good rim protection.
Entering the DNP pool, however, doesn't do anything for Monroe's value. Besides, $17.1 million for a version of him that plays defense is still probably too expensive.
10. Omri Casspi, Sacramento Kings
While Omri Casspi denied requesting a trade from the Sacramento Kings, per CSN Bay Area's James Ham, things sure seem to be trending in that direction.
Most of Casspi's minutes came at power forward last season, but up to this point, head coach Dave Joerger has nixed a lot of Sactown's small-ball combinations. That's left Casspi (6'9") buried behind Arron Afflalo, Matt Barnes and Rudy Gay on the wing, without a clear path to additional playing time.
And then there's this from Cowbell Kingdom's Matt George:
Earlier this week, head coach Dave Joerger held a team meeting to announce his permanent rotation going forward. Casspi was nowhere on it. He was asked if he had gotten any kind of explanation or one-on-one time with Joerger.
"We haven't talked since preseason. It was a team-wide meeting only."
Granted, Casspi's 22.2 percent clip from deep isn't doing him any favors. But it's not like the Kings have given him a real opportunity to sink or swim. He has logged less than 100 minutes of court time this season and registered a DNP in five of Sacramento's last six contests.
Over the past two seasons, though, Casspi averaged 15.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per 36 minutes while putting down almost 41 percent of his triples. Plenty of general managers with voids at either forward position would enthusiastically roll the dice on a change of scenery helping Casspi regain his form.
The problem? His expiring deal is worth under $3 million. Unless a contender is willing to pony up a first-round pick, Sacramento will need to package him with more salary to capitalize on his value.
9. Terrence Ross, Toronto Raptors
Despite once again contending for a top-two record in the Eastern Conference and the emergence of Lucas Nogueira as Baby Bismack, the Toronto Raptors are at least one player short of sniffing the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Terrence Ross might be able help them land said performer.
DeMar DeRozan is playing like a superstar, while Toronto has no choice but to use the half-hobbled DeMarre Carroll. And head coach Dwane Casey has an affinity for playing sophomore Norman Powell when it matters. That doesn't make Ross expendable, but there's enough depth at the 2 and 3 to shop him—especially with Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph able to hold their own at shooting guard.
Ross alone doesn't get the Raptors a star. But he's a bargain over the next three years at $31 million, and his $10 million cap hit is enough for general manager Masai Ujiri to take back a sizable deal. And Toronto can always deal him with another player to pad that return.
Attach Ross and his 44-plus percent three-point clip to Patrick Patterson's expiring deal plus a pick or two, and Toronto has a legitimate proposal for any starry power forward who may become available.
8. Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic
Nikola Vucevic would be higher up on this ladder if the Orlando Magic's frontcourt pileup didn't butcher his value. Then again, he's only here at all because of that logjam.
With head coach Frank Vogel trying to juggle Bismack Biyombo, Aaron Gordon, Jeff Green and Serge Ibaka, Vucevic is seeing less than 30 minutes per game for the first time since he was a rookie. His shooting percentages are way down in the face of suboptimal spacing (career-low 41 percent from the field), and he's not getting as many opportunities within the pick-and-roll.
Vucevic does have a better net rating than Biyombo and Ibaka, but that's not saying much. The Magic are getting outscored by 4.3 points per 100 possessions when he's on the floor—akin to the league's seventh-worst mark.
Still, Vucevic's struggles look more related to Orlando's wacky rotation.
Bigs in their mid-20s don't randomly fall off a cliff when they haven't suffered a major injury. And the 7-footer spent the previous two seasons generating All-Star buzz while averaging 18.8 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game on 51.7 percent shooting.
Owed under $37 million over the next three years (including this one), he is worth something to someone. He can create his own looks when he has enough space, is an above-average passer and, until this season, was a proven blueprint for how towers who don't shoot threes or block a bunch of shots can thrive in today's NBA.
7. Wilson Chandler, Denver Nuggets
All "Top Trade Value" lists are legally required to mention Wilson Chandler whenever he's healthy.
And, well, he's healthy.
Chandler is on one of the NBA's best contracts following the extension he signed with the Denver Nuggets in 2015. He is owed $23.2 million through this season and next, with a player option for 2018-19 worth $12.8 million.
Teams do not get leading scorers for that kind of money, but Chandler's 17.1 points per game pace the Nuggets. His effective field-goal percentage (53.3) ranks third among teammates who have appeared in at least five tilts, and he's shooting 53.5 percent on drives—tied for the 10th-best mark of anyone averaging six or more attacks per night.
Combo forwards should bury threes, and Chandler's outside touch has always been erratic. He is shooting 33.9 percent from long range for his career and has only twice hit 35 percent of his three-balls over an entire season. But he is a decent marksman off the catch from three-point range (36.7 percent), and this season, he spaces the floor enough with dead-eye shooting on long twos.
Injuries are Chandler's lone detraction. He will turn 30 in May, missed all of 2015-16 and has made 50 regular-season appearances just twice since 2010-11.
Should the Nuggets ever try to consolidate their treasure trove of assets into a patented superstar, though, Chandler remains worthy of serving as primary bait.
6. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves
Ricky Rubio has yet to develop into the most basic scoring threat. He can't shoot threes (25 percent in 2016-17) and isn't good at finishing around the rim. And yet, if he ever officially reaches the chopping block, he'll be a scorching-hot commodity.
Some of Rubio's appeal lies with his contract. He is owed a ridiculously reasonable $42.8 million in salary through 2018-19—borderline reserve money in the new cap climate.
Mostly, Rubio is as good as someone can be without being a scorer. Rookie Kris Dunn already surpasses him on the defensive end, but Rubio is scrappy in his own right. He forces turnovers on or off the ball, and his anticipation on closeouts is off the charts; he's on top of orbiting snipers before they catch a pass, even when he's shooting gaps.
That forethought is more pronounced on offense. Rubio needs the ball to be effective but doesn't take as long as, say, Rajon Rondo to dump it off.
Hell, Rubio doesn't even rank in the top 30 of average possession time per touch. He makes lightning-quick decisions on the move, threading passes a moment or two before defenders are set.
This command shows whenever he's on the floor. The Minnesota Timberwolves are scoring more points per 100 possessions and posting higher field-goal clips when he's on the bench, but they're not using him like they did years past. Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins have forced him off the ball more, creating a time-share for which Rubio isn't fit.
That isn't to suggest the Timberwolves will give him away. The offense exploded when it ran through him last year, and Minnesota doesn't yet know if Tyus Jones or Dunn can be the primary point for an entire season. So if the Timberwolves move on from Rubio, it will be for a blockbuster return.
5. Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings
Contract-year Rudy Gay (player option) is good.
Ten other players are clearing 20 points per game and shooting 40 percent or better from beyond the arc—a list made up of names you want on your team: Jimmy Butler, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, C.J. McCollum, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kemba Walker, John Wall and Andrew Wiggins.
Of those 10, only Butler, Wiggins, Leonard and Durant have higher free-throw-attempt rates than Sacramento's combo forward.
No more of Gay's shots are coming at the rim than usual, but he's driving and drawing contact with greater frequency. He has stepped up as a passer in the absence of an adequate point guard rotation and is busting his butt on the defensive end.
Players tend to flip a switch when there's money on the line, but you can easily see Gay contributing to a quality basketball team. He is swishing 44 percent of his catch-and-fire threes for an offense that isn't particularly good at spacing the floor and shooting better than 55 percent whenever he doesn't use a dribble—signs that he can function as a complementary scorer alongside ball-dominant point guards or wings.
According to ESPN.com's Zach Lowe, the Oklahoma City Thunder remain interested in acquiring Gay, who requested a trade over the summer, per the Sacramento Bee's Ailene Voisin. There will be a handful of other teams that check in with Kings general manager Vlade Divac too. But it's unclear what it will take to get him out of Sacramento.
Expiring contracts don't fetch a lot on the trade block unless suitors consider them the missing pieces to this year's title hopes. Gay is playing like he can be that guy, which should allow the Kings to command a high-end pick and/or prospect or use him as the headliner of an even bigger deal.
4. Goran Dragic, Miami Heat
Miami Heat president Pat Riley may have already considered dealing Goran Dragic ahead of this season, according to ESPN.com's Zach Lowe. That temptation only figures to grow now, with the team sitting five games under .500 and barely registering on the playoff radar.
If and when the Heat tumble further down the Eastern Conference's ladder, Dragic becomes a remnant of bygone hopes—the idea that Riley could swiftly cobble together another contender on the heels of LeBron James' exit in 2014.
Luol Deng and Dwyane Wade have already joined the departed ranks, and Chris Bosh's career in Miami appears over. The franchise has taken fliers on young vets in hopes of staying competitive (Luke Babbitt, Derrick Williams, Dion Waiters, etc.) but is also gradually turning the reins over to Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside.
Dragic turns 31 next May, and his window no longer aligns with those who make up the Heat's nucleus. With the way he's playing now—relative to how he struggled upon his arrival in Miami—the time to move him is coming, if not already here.
Though he's converting a lackluster 43.6 percent of his two-pointers, Dragic is shooting better than 60 percent from inside three feet for the seventh consecutive season and finding nylon on 42.5 percent of his three-pointers. His assist rate (30.2) is the highest it's been since 2012-13, and seven Heat players shoot 40-plus percent on treys when fielding his passes.
Trading Dragic is not without its conditions. It cost the team two first-rounders to get him, so Miami cannot move him for anything less than a monster return. Fortunately for the Heat, their point guard's blistering offense is partnered with a pre-cap-boom contract.
They should have little trouble commanding a king's ransom for the four years and $70.2 million left on his deal.
3. John Wall, Washington Wizards
The speculation factory has yet to spit out anything remotely resembling a John Wall trade rumor, but the Washington Wizards are disappointing enough to spark speculation.
Don’t be fooled by the Wizards’ dominant win over the depleted Celtics on Wednesday night. They are in shambles. Washington ranks bottom-10 in many important categories: defensive rating, net rating, assist percentage, assist-turnover ratio, and true shooting percentage. If this slide continues, maybe they should acquire a care package of youth and draft picks for their one true superstar?
Washington's offense has improved slightly in recent games but is still below average. And the locker room seems like a terrible place to be. Bradley Beal's beef with Wall, imagined or legitimate, isn't taking a back seat anytime soon, and Marcin Gortat already called out the bench.
Hiring head coach Scott Brooks while investing in Andrew Nicholson and Ian Mahinmi, who has yet to suit up, was a win-now play. The Wizards aren't about to abandon playoff hopes in a wide-open East, and there's a case to be made that they should shop Beal before Wall.
But Wall's free agency in 2019 isn't that far off. Can the Wizards expect him to stick around if things haven't changed? Their salary outlook, along with Otto Porter's foray into restricted free agency this coming summer, leaves them without a clear path to implement change.
Picture what suitors would give up to get the final 2.5 years of Wall's deal. Teams have more than enough time to sell him on an indefinite marriage, and Wall is averaging 23.5 points and 8.9 assists per game with a career-best 40.5 percent three-point clip.
The Wizards, if they wanted to, could get it all for him: high-value picks, top-flight prospects and affordable role players who can keep a team built around Beal competitive. And then some.
2. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
DeMarcus Cousins is wasting another year of his prime on a directionless Kings squad.
Head coach Dave Joerger is still figuring out how and who he wants to play. Cousins doesn't think the team has enough "urgency," per the Sacramento Bee's Jason Jones. The Kings have a jillion big men. They have a bottom-two defense (108.4 points allowed per 100 possessions). The offense is unimpressive and doesn't space the floor too well.
Meanwhile, Cousins is a free agent after next season, and his market value is at an all-time high. He gives you headaches with his demeanor and technicals, but when he's locked in, he is the NBA's most dominant big man.
This will likely be the fourth time in as many years that Cousins collects at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and one block per 36 minutes. Only Karl Malone and Shaquille O'Neal have ever done that once, and neither of them did it more than twice.
Cousins hasn't been great (or good) on defense this year. But he is exceptional when he tries. Another team, with better players and real playoff hopes, will give him more of an incentive to try—if only because he may not have to work himself beyond exhaustion on offense.
At least a few front office executives think a Cousins trade is somewhat imminent, according to Sporting News' Sean Deveney. We've heard some version of this shtick in the past, but it won't be long before Cousins is on an expiring contract that bilks Sacramento of its leverage.
Twenty-something superstar bigs who shoot threes, handle the ball like guards and attack the rim like runaway freight trains don't just become available. It. Does. Not. Happen.
The best trade proposals for Cousins will reflect as much.
1. Paul George, Indiana Pacers
Paul George rumors are limited to updates on his sprained ankle. But, much like the case of Wall with the Wizards, you can envision a feasible, if unlikely, scenario in which general managers feel confident enough to contact the Indiana Pacers about his availability.
Indiana's letdown to start the year is the impetus for such aplomb. As Ben Golliver of SI.com wrote:
The early results under new coach Nate McMillan and with new point guard Jeff Teague are a classic case of whack-a-mole: The offense has improved to average, but the defense has slid from third to 28th. That trade-off left George moaning to The Indianapolis Star after a loss to the Hornets that the “lifeless” Pacers displayed “no trust, no chemistry and no belief.” The situation devolved further four days later, when the hapless Sixers snapped their 0–7 start with a win over Indiana.
The Pacers defense is finally creeping back to middle of the road, placing 19th in points allowed per 100 possessions. Last we checked, though, having an almost-average offense and defense isn't a recipe for playoff success. And while Indiana's net rating with George (plus-5.6) compares to a 50-win contingent, it's worse than the Philadelphia 76ers' without him (minus-14.4).
Now, team president Larry Bird doesn't have an immediate need to flip George. The two sides talked about an extension in August, and Indiana isn't flush with young prospects beyond Myles Turner. Most of the core—Monta Ellis, Al Jefferson, Thaddeus Young—is, like George, under contract through at least 2017-18.
Still, the short-term commitments to Jefferson, Young and maybe even Ellis should be worth salary-cap relief, and Indiana would enter negotiations with more leverage than Sacramento would have in Cousins talks. That edge begins to dissipate after this season, when George's player option for 2018-19 essentially makes him an expiring contract and he becomes an imminent flight risk.
How much is a team willing to part with for a superstar wing in his mid-20s who pressures opposing players at an All-Defense level, functions as a point forward, cans 40.3 percent of his triples and is under lock and key through at least next year?
Enough for the Pacers to get out in front of the rebuild they tried to avoid.
Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @danfavale.