Slowly but surely, the NBA trade market is starting to heat up as front offices around the league better understand their teams' directions as the season's quarter pole approaches. While there might not be any blockbusters right away, it wouldn't be a surprise to see smaller moves in the weeks ahead.
One date to keep in mind is Dec. 15. That's when players who were signed in free agency this past offseason become eligible to be included in trades. Those contracts are often necessary to make the financial sides of deals work, which is why there usually isn't much movement before that date.
For now, let's check out some of the latest buzz from around the league as more names begin to trickle into the marketplace one month into the regular season.
Brandon Knight Available?
Brandon Knight is becoming a less crucial piece of the puzzle for the Phoenix Suns. The point guard started 50 games last season, but he's been in the starting lineup just four times in 17 appearances this year. His average of 25.1 minutes per game is on pace to set a new career low.
In addition, his play has fallen off in the lesser role. His player efficiency rating of 11.7 is his worst mark since his rookie campaign in 2011-12, per Basketball-Reference.com. A lot of that is due to his poor shooting, as he's connected on just 38.4 percent of his field-goal attempts.
All of those factors have led to his name popping up in the rumor mill. Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported rival executives anticipate Knight being made available for trade, even though Suns general manager Ryan McDonough recently noted he wasn't "actively trying" to find a deal.
Phoenix features a deep, versatile backcourt, so a couple of players are always going to slip through the cracks in the battle for playing time. The Kentucky product has fallen into the wrong side of the equation so far, which means dealing him for another frontcourt asset makes sense on the surface.
Although Knight is already in his sixth season, he's just 24. Moving to a team where he could play more of an impact role would give him the best chance to find his comfort zone again after a sluggish start to the season.
Rudy Gay Still Generating OKC Interest
The Sacramento Kings are off to another lackluster start at 6-10. While DeMarcus Cousins is the name most often associated with trade rumors out of Sactown, a smaller deal—such as moving Rudy Gay—would likely be the first sign that a rebuild is coming.
Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical first reported the potential link between the Kings and the Oklahoma City Thunder in October. He noted the deal would have included OKC point guard Cameron Payne.
Although the sides never came to terms originally, it's now becoming a situation where, if there's smoke, there's fire. That's because ESPN.com's Zach Lowe reported the Thunder are still trying to find "bigger wings," listing Gay among the possible targets.
Oklahoma City could use a marquee wing asset to take some of the pressure off Russell Westbrook, who has been forced to do much of the perimeter work himself. Andre Roberson has failed to provide much production in the small forward spot.
Payne still hasn't played this season as he recovers from a foot injury. If he's still an important part of the return package for the Kings, they'll probably want to see him back on the floor before making a deal. But this is a situation to monitor based on the persistent buzz.
Minnesota Timberwolves May Shake Things Up
The Minnesota Timberwolves were a popular sleeper team coming into the season—and for good reason. The roster features a multitude of young talent, led by Karl-Anthony Towns (21), Andrew Wiggins (21) and Zach LaVine (21). They haven't taken the next step many outside observers expected, though.
Now the question is whether the front office and new head coach Tom Thibodeau are willing to show further patience to see if things finally come together as anticipated. Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher noted the answer may be no:
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
According to @RicBucher, Thibodeau is growing impatient and may deal one of his young stars for a veteran who can help him win now https://t.co/e0UkUhYkB52016-11-18 16:49:23
It's a tricky situation to navigate. Trading young assets for proven veterans would likely improve Minnesota's short-term outlook, but the team isn't close to contention in the Western Conference, so the question is whether it's worth risking some of the long-term potential just to upgrade now.
Point guard is the position to watch. Ricky Rubio has never become the dynamic offensive playmaker he was projected to be, Kris Dunn is off to a mundane start and Tyus Jones is still a work-in-progress. They haven't combined to give the team nearly enough production.
If the Wolves could make a move for a veteran floor general without giving up Towns, Wiggins or LaVine, that could help the process while they wait for Dunn to settle in. Otherwise, Minnesota is probably better off playing the waiting game—at least for now.