10 NBA Players Who Could Be Traded Following Free Agency

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 7, 2017

10 NBA Players Who Could Be Traded Following Free Agency

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    The frenzy of free agency eventually quiets, and a sense of relative calm settles over NBA teams—generally around late July.

    That's when 30 revamped clubs can evaluate themselves in a colder, more rational light. At that point, they'll ask themselves the important questions.

    Where are we?

    What do we still need?

    How long do we give this thing before hitting "detonate"?

    Buyer's remorse might set in immediately for a few, triggering exploratory trade talks. Mainstays might be getting squeezed out by new additions. We'll also see teams look to move players who've been involved in rumors for months. Finally, there are always short-timers who clubs might look to dump if there's a risk of losing assets for nothing next summer.

    The trades are coming—some sooner than later.

    Post free-agency, keep an eye on these guys as potential movers.

DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans Pelicans

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    Committing five years and $126 million to good guy and good player Jrue Holiday was, among other things, a signal to DeMarcus Cousins that the New Orleans Pelicans will do what they must to stay competitive in the short term.

    The Pels didn't have cap space to replace Holiday with a starting-caliber point guard in free agency. So it was either overpay him, or take a major hit at a key position.

    That's a hit New Orleans decided it couldn't afford, possibly because Cousins, a free agent after the 2017-18 season, might not want to stick around if the only other quality talent on the roster were Anthony Davis.

    Call it a gut feeling, but the Holiday signing may not be enough to keep Cousins in the end.

    Remember, he didn't choose to be in New Orleans. He was traded there by the Sacramento Kings.

    Maybe he'll dig the partnership with AD in his first full season. Maybe New Orleans will shock the world and compete for a playoff spot in a Western Conference adding All-Stars by the second.

    But if the Pels struggle, as seems more likely, Cousins may make clear his intent to explore free agency. After Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Paul Millsap and so many others did the same, the risk of losing a star for nothing should be at the front of the Pelicans' collective mind.

    The urgency to flip Cousins for assets will only rise as the season progresses, the losses mount and bargaining leverage diminishes.

    New Orleans will be able to offer him more money than anyone in 2018 free agency, but we've seen several recent examples of that supposed advantage count for little. Durant and Horford turned down more money and longer deals to join new teams. Gordon Hayward just did it, too.

    Thinking ahead isn't New Orleans' style, but you'd have to think the possibility of losing a star for nothing would prompt some foresight...and a Cousins trade.

Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

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    If Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks were going to reach agreeable terms on a buyout, it seems they'd have done it by now.

    But they haven't, probably because there are some thorny emotions involved in figuring out how much of $54 million to pay someone once pegged as a franchise cornerstone to go away.

    That means Anthony's exit depends on him waiving his no-trade clause, which Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com says the 14-year veteran is willing to do, if it means landing on the Cleveland Cavaliers or Houston Rockets.

    The mechanics will be messy. Kevin Love would probably have to be involved to make a Cavs deal work, and Houston would need to send out Ryan Anderson and other assets. That's not to say it's impossible.

    Clearly, both Anthony and the Knicks are in need of a fresh start. Each should be motivated to move on—particularly Melo, whose biological NBA clock is ticking.

    As much as anything, an Anthony trade is one of those things that's been rumored—first in whispers and later in shouts—for so long that it just has to happen eventually.

Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Love ties directly to the Cavaliers getting Anthony, but his potential as a trade candidate is more broadly significant than that.

    He's more expendable than Kyrie Irving, he's got a salary that will help match one from another star in a trade, and there's a sense that his limitations on defense make him less useful against the teams Cleveland needs to beat to win a title. The Cavs need another two-way wing more than they need Love's spot-up shooting, rebounding and post game.

    Also, it hasn't been that long since LeBron James spent considerable energy subtweeting Love and excluding him from team photos. Just saying.

    A two-year-old spat won't be the reason Love gets traded—if he gets traded. Instead, any potential move will be about basic basketball.

    The Cavs need to change the composition of their roster to compete with the league's best team. Moving Love is the most realistic way to do that.

Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets

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    Paul Millsap joining the squad was the last straw, right?

    Kenneth Faried, a trade rumor staple roughly five seconds after he signed his four-year deal back in 2014, has long been expendable for several reasons—the main ones being the excessive number of forwards on the Denver Nuggets' roster and Faried's defense and spacing-free game.

    Now, though, Millsap is aboard on a big contract. And even with Danilo Gallinari gone, the Nugs can't possibly envision Faried as anything more than their fourth big. Nikola Jokic, Millsap and Juancho Hernangomez are all ahead of him in the rotation. Throw in trade acquisition Trey Lyles, Mason Plumlee (for whom the Nuggets surrendered Jusuf Nurkic and a pick) and Wilson Chandler (best utilized as an undersized 4), and there's just no room.

    Faried can help another team, though. He'd fit in fine as a starter alongside a shot-blocking big who could stretch the floor. His energy and rebounding are still valuable. And now that he's only got two years and $26.7 million left on his deal, taking him on wouldn't be a cap-crippler.

Any Hawks Vet

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    It's difficult to defend the trade that sent away Dwight Howard and brought back more salary than went out, and it's not exactly clear why the Atlanta Hawks didn't make any kind of offer to Millsap before letting him walk.

    From a distance, it looks like the Hawks are incongruously committed to purging the wrong personalities at a cost while letting the good guys go for nothing.

    It's...confusing.

    But if you're one of the other 29 GMs in the league, you should be pouncing on a team that is a) acting irrationally, b) clearly trying to tear itself down and c) doesn't have much use for veterans.

    Nobody on the current roster is slated to make more than Kent Bazemore's $16.9 million next year, but the Hawks would likely be willing to move him for future assets, and they'd surely love to get off Miles Plumlee's remaining three years and $37.2 million.

    Somebody in Atlanta is going to get dumped for picks—or maybe for nothing but empty roster spots the Hawks could fill with cheap rookies who'll help them lose games.

    The signs of a full-on Sixers-esque tank are all there.

Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Jahlil Okafor is kind of the younger version of Faried: long rumored to be moved, yet still somehow with his current team despite a roster that increasingly marginalizes him.

    Joel Embiid is the Process' premium return, and he'll always be ahead of Okafor on the depth chart, health permitting. Add Richaun Holmes and signee Amir Johnson, and there's not much room for Okafor even if Embiid gets hurt.

    Dario Saric and Ben Simmons are likely to soak up most of the minutes at the 4 (a position Okafor can't really play anyway), so even creative lineup maneuvering may not free up time for the former No. 3 overall pick.

    Maybe it sounds odd in light of having just explained Okafor's obselescence in Philly, but he should be a hot commodity for opportunistic buyers.

    He didn't fool draft scouts and luck into being a high lottery selection. He's got talent.

    It so happens that offensive-minded bigs who don't shoot threes aren't in demand these days, but we've seen centers learn to shoot. Marc Gasol and Brook Lopez both figured it out last year.

    Even if Okafor doesn't expand his skill set, he's a good buy-low option for any team needing someone to be a second-unit fulcrum. Those guys aren't always easy to find, and it's even rarer to snag one with Okafor's considerable upside.

Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns

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    A report from Chris Haynes of ESPN.com had Eric Bledsoe involved in talks for the Nuggets' Emmanuel Mudiay and the No. 13 overall pick in last June's draft, a deal that never came to pass.

    But Bledsoe, 27 and coming off a quiet career year for the forgotten Phoenix Suns, should probably keep a bag or two packed.

    The Suns are loaded with young pieces after adding No. 4 pick Josh Jackson to a roster that already had Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and Devin Booker. With Wojnarowski reporting their interest in taking other teams' bad contracts into cap space for picks, it's clear which direction this organization is headed.

    Don't be surprised if the only other 25-and-over players on the roster—Jared Dudley, Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight—all get shopped, but keep in mind that Bledsoe would net the biggest return. He was one of just seven players to average at least 20 points, six assists and four rebounds last season.

    Would Phoenix swap him for a protected first-rounder? Could he be part of a larger package that brought back expiring contracts and picks?

    Expect the Suns to find out.

Cory Joseph, Toronto Raptors

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    Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders reported the Toronto Raptors were in talks to deal Cory Joseph to the Indiana Pacers early in free agency.

    And though the salary-saving aims of that deal have changed a bit from Toronto's side—free agents Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker both agreed to sign elsewhere, meaning the Raps have fewer potential payees to consider—there's still some sense in moving the 25-year-old backup point guard.

    Joseph would fill a hole in Indy, where Jeff Teague's departure led to the Pacers adding Darren Collison while considering Lance Stephenson as an answer at the point. At $7.6 million next year (plus a player option for $7.9 million in 2018-19, Joseph's stable play comes at a bargain.

    Wouldn't you pay backup prices to avoid the calamity of Born Ready: Starting Point Guard?

    Remember, too, that Toronto drafted Delon Wright with the 20th pick in 2015. He upped his minutes to 16.5 per game last year and has posted a player efficiency rating at or above the league's average in each of his two seasons. Still on his rookie deal, Wright can give Toronto a lot of what Joseph does at a fraction of the price.

    The Raps are committed to Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka on new three-year deals that'll eat up a combined $165 million. DeMar DeRozan is also due to make $27.7 million a year through 2021.

    Every penny counts, and though Joseph is a fine backup, that's not where a team like Toronto should be splurging.

Zach Randolph or George Hill or Vince Carter, Sacramento Kings

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    George Hill, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter are all good players and, the Sacramento Kings probably hope, better examples.

    Hill and Randolph were signed earlier in the week, while V.C. came to a one-year, $8 million agreement with the Kings on Thursday, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

    Sacramento's three big free-agent gets should probably be rent-a-mentors, though. Because the Kings are still a team in the early stages of rebuilding, and what they need more than solid veteran presences (especially ones good enough to win games and sabotage lottery odds) are assets.

    Flipping any combo of Hill, Randolph and Carter after they've helped establish a professional culture should be the play.

    Or, at least it should be the play now that the Kings have decided their cap space is better used on veterans than as a way to take on bad contracts to accumulate more picks. That would have been the better approach, but the Kings can still make the best of a less favorable situation.

    It's hard to peg a timeline (When is a cultural foundation firm enough to remove its scaffolding?), but if the Kings get offers from contenders for their new vets later in the season, they'd be wise to listen.

    Otherwise, these signings (though made at fair prices for useful players) are harder to defend.

    Unless the Kings think they're in a position to challenge for a playoff spot at the cost of lottery position, Hill, Randolph and Carter would be best utilized as leaders for the kids, and then dealt.

Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder or Marcus Smart

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    The Boston Celtics need to clear up a few extra bucks of cap space to add Gordon Hayward on a max deal, which means somebody's got to go.

    The simplest route would be working a deal with the Utah Jazz to turn Hayward's arrival into a sign-and-trade, which is what Tony Jones and Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune reported may happen. Jae Crowder would be the Celtic to go in that scenario, but it's important to note that Boston doesn't have much incentive to send the Jazz anything.

    Why not shop Bradley or Smart to see what the market bears? At least then you're fielding offers from a wider swath of buyers, rather than dealing exclusively with the Jazz.

    Plus, if the Celts are already getting Hayward, why not add something else with another trade? That makes more sense than just moving Crowder for a guy you've already agreed to sign. Even if all Bradley or Smart return is a pick or cap space, at least that's an additional asset.

    Bradley makes the most of the three at $8.8 million in the last year of his deal next season, so he'd probably be the logical guy to move if Boston wants cap relief and draft considerations.

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    Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference or NBA.com. Salary info via Basketball Insiders.