NBA Trade Deadline 2018: 10 Trade Targets Who Could Shape Playoff Picture

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 15, 2018

NBA Trade Deadline 2018: 10 Trade Targets Who Could Shape Playoff Picture

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    Do you have any idea who's going to win the 2018 NBA title? 

    OK, fine, that was an easy one. Smart money is still on a healthy version of the Golden State Warriors, even if the Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors, Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics could all pose significant threats. So let's take a step even further back. 

    Do you have any idea who's going to fill each and every one of the league's 16 playoff spots and how they'll stack up for the postseason's opening round? 

    Of course you don't. That's an impossible question when so many prominent players, like these 10, are bouncing around the trade block and waiting to provide a playoff contender with a sudden infusion of offensive and/or defensive production. 

    Each of these 10 men, assuming they're moved before the Feb. 8 deadline at 3 p.m. ET, will have something to say about the currently inscrutable picture that extends beyond the season's 82nd game.

Kent Bazemore, SG/SF, Atlanta Hawks

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    Robert Laberge/Getty Images

    Age: 28

    2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 12.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.7 blocks

    2017-18 Advanced Metrics: 14.8 PER, 1.82 RPM, 21.18 TPA

    Need an injection of defensive energy? Call the Atlanta Hawks and see if they—more eager to get his contract off the books than to recoup an equal asset—are willing to take a menial return for Kent Bazemore. Though they may demand a first-round pick for the swingman's services, trying never hurt anyone (and that's a fair price tag anyway). 

    Bazemore might have been viewed as an unmovable player last season, largely because of his putrid percentages. But he's become a more palatable offensive commodity during the 2017-18 campaign, shooting 41.5 percent from the field, 38.7 percent from downtown (on 4.1 attempts per game) and 79.8 percent from the charity stripe. 

    Now, he's worth acquiring. 

    A playoff contender or title hopeful isn't looking to Bazemore for a scoring boost. But his hounding defense is made far more valuable when the opposition is at least forced to respect his jumper, or else his team is left playing four-on-five whenever he's logging minutes. Right now, that respect must be present, and it's even better news that the scoring strides haven't come at the expense of his point-preventing prowess. 

    Thanks to his long arms and relentless energy, Bazemore has a score of 1.36 in ESPN.com's defensive real plus/minus, which leaves him behind only Andre Roberson, Danny Green, Victor Oladipo, Jaylen Brown and Jimmy Butler among the 105 men qualified at his position. 

    Who Should Show Most Interest: Cleveland Cavaliers

Tyreke Evans, SG/SF, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Age: 28

    2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 19.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.4 blocks

    2017-18 Advanced Metrics: 22.9 PER, 3.20 RPM, 107.89 TPA

    Though no one saw a massive breakout from Tyreke Evans coming when he signed a meager one-year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies, his strides should be viewed more as legitimate progress than a fluky hot streak. The 28-year-old swingman is finally healthy and playing with unmitigated confidence, freed to handle the rock and shoot from all over the floor. 

    Evans is dominant in isolation, scoring 1.14 points per possession to sit in the 91.1 percentile. He's thriving as a pick-and-roll ball-handler (86.4 percentile). He's hitting his pull-up jumpers well enough to post a 53.3 effective field-goal percentage—the league average on these shots is 43.0 percent—and scoring 1.11 points per possession in spot-up situations (75.1 percentile).

    His overall three-point success rate of 41.3 percent has opened the door for even wider driving lanes toward the hoop, where he can use his physicality and touch to finish 55 percent of his looks within three feet. 

    Everything is clicking. 

    All those individual aspects of his offensive profile should stand out on their own. But put together, he's been an unstoppable scoring force who can also find open teammates and hold his ground defensively. 

    But the best news of all? Because he's on an expiring deal with a team sinking to the bottom of the Western Conference standings (and his Bird rights aren't on the table), he can likely be had for a fairly cheap price. 

    Who Should Show Most Interest: Philadelphia 76ers

Marc Gasol, C, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Age: 32

    2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 18.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.6 blocks

    2017-18 Advanced Metrics: 17.8 PER, 0.89 RPM, 35.04 TPA

    The Memphis Grizzlies may elect to hang on to the face of their franchise for a while longer, hoping better luck with injuries will allow them to be more competitive in the future. Along those lines, as ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski reported, "Teams are curious to study Memphis' plans with center Marc Gasol, but so far, the Grizzlies say they're planning to keep him."

    That's the wrong decision for multiple reasons. 

    Gasol is quite clearly on the decline, looking slower of foot on the defensive end and struggling to impact the offensive proceedings with regularity. As he continues to move deeper into his 30s, his value is only going to diminish further—that's troublesome if the Grizzlies want to move on eventually. Secondly, this Memphis squad isn't suddenly bursting into the playoff picture, and it doesn't have many ways of rebuilding with a veteran-laden, expensive roster and a 2019 first-round pick already departed from its coffers. 

    To be clear, the Spanish center is still an impressive contributor. A slower version of Gasol remains an impact defender who can anchor the interior of schemes (so long as he's surrounded by a bit more perimeter talent), and his deep bag of tricks lets him remain effective on offense. He'd just ideally be used in smaller doses on a more competitive team. 

    Strike while the iron is at least lukewarm, and you might get back the pieces necessary to begin a legitimate rebuild with enduring hope. 

    Who Should Show Most Interest: Cleveland Cavaliers

George Hill, PG, Sacramento Kings

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 10.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.3 blocks

    2017-18 Advanced Metrics: 13.5 PER, minus-1.57 RPM, minus-20.16 TPA

    George Hill's tenure with the Sacramento Kings has been disastrous to the point that he "has already been shopped" mere months after signing a three-year deal with the organization, per Sean Deveney of Sporting News. The fit has just been...off, leading Hill to frequently appear disengaged and discombobulated. 

    Nevertheless, the 31-year-old floor general should retain some value on the trade market—enough to tempt a playoff contender such as the Denver Nuggets or Philadelphia 76ers. Put him in a more advantageous system that allows him to handle the rock like he did in previous locations, and he could begin resembling the 2016-17 iteration who averaged 16.9 points and 4.2 assists per game for the Utah Jazz. 

    Hill isn't a lost cause. Even while he's passively waited for plays to develop and ceded touches to his younger teammates, he's established himself as an enduringly excellent shooter. This might be shocking for a player with a downward-spiraling reputation universally billed as a disappointment, but he's hitting 45.1 percent of his three-point attempts while taking an even three per contest. 

    For context, that's a career high (in efficiency, not volume). And among the 127 qualified players taking at least three triples per game, only Nikola Mirotic, Jayson Tatum, Trey Lyles and Klay Thompson have been more accurate. 

    The skills are still there. And at this juncture, they shouldn't be particularly expensive to acquire. 

    Who Should Show Most Interest: Denver Nuggets

DeAndre Jordan, C, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Age: 29

    2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 11.8 points, 14.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.0 blocks

    2017-18 Advanced Metrics:  20.1 PER, 0.85 RPM, 53.61 TPA

    The Los Angeles Clippers might be more hesitant to trade DeAndre Jordan if they keep winning games and remain in the Western Conference playoff hunt, but they also have to consider the future. The 29-year-old center is already moving past his athletic prime, and he can opt out of his contract this summer to become an unrestricted free agent, effectively sacrificing $24.1 million in 2018-19 to pursue a long-term deal that guarantees his finances for a lengthier duration.

    At this point, why wouldn't he? 

    "Spare a thought for DJ: He loves Los Angeles, but the Clippers... OK, 'hates' is a bit much, but the ebullience that used to characterize his game is gone," Chris Ryan recently penned for The Ringer. "He is still a double-double machine, but it feels perfunctory rather than emphatic and domineering." 

    Imagine what might happen if he were reinvigorated in a new location. Think about what he could do if he had a new point guard throwing him lobs when he wasn't protecting the interior of a defense on the other end. 

    The Clippers have actually been better defensively without Jordan on the floor, but there's good reason to believe that narrative could reverse if he were surrounded by more defensive talent and motivated to give 100 percent for a contender. Plus, he's still scoring 1.2 points per possession as a roll man out of the PnR game, which lands in the 70.8 percentile

    Expect the Cleveland Cavaliers and Milwaukee Bucks—both of whom could use consistent play at the 5 and a true rim-protecting presence—to come calling and offer the Clippers far more than they'd receive if Jordan chose to walk this summer (i.e. nothing). 

    Who Should Show Most Interest: Milwaukee Bucks

Nikola Mirotic, PF, Chicago Bulls

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    Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    Age: 26

    2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 17.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.4 blocks

    2017-18 Advanced Metrics: 23.0 PER, 1.45 RPM, 13.88 TPA

    Since returning from the injury suffered at the hands (well, hand) of his own teammate, Nikola Mirotic has been a man on a mission. Not only has he submitted the per-game line you can see above, but he's done so while shooting 48.6 percent from the field, a league-best 46.5 percent from distance and 75.0 percent at the stripe. 

    Even more importantly, he's transformed the Chicago Bulls. 

    Without Mirotic on the floor, the Windy City natives have been outscored by a whopping 9.6 points per 100 possessions, which would beat out only the season-long mark of the Sacramento Kings (minus-9.8). But when he plays, that net rating skyrockets to 3.5, which would trail just the Golden State Warriors (10.5), Toronto Raptors (8.0), Houston Rockets (7.6), Boston Celtics (5.4) and Minnesota Timberwolves (4.0). And that impact isn't just coming on offense, since Mirotic has also played strong on-ball defense and posted the best rebounding season of his career. 

    Whichever team acquires him will primarily be doing so for floor-spacing purposes. He demands constant attention from foes on the perimeter, and that's not likely to change anytime soon, even as his success rate from beyond the rainbow falls to a more reasonable level.

    That won't be the only benefit the 26-year-old provides. 

    At this point, we basically know Mirotic is going to be on the move before the February deadline. The man himself has continued to say he wants out, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

    Whether the Detroit Pistons—who should be willing to offer the most, given their need for bench scoring and floor-spacing volume—Utah Jazz or someone else gets their hands on him first is the only remaining question.

    Who Should Show Most Interest: Detroit Pistons

Kyle O'Quinn, C, New York Knicks

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 6.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.0 blocks

    2017-18 Advanced Metrics: 20.0 PER, 2.63 RPM, 69.56 TPA

    Kyle O'Quinn may only be playing 17 minutes per game for the New York Knicks, but he's quietly served as one of the team's most valuable pieces.

    The big man never takes a bad shot and has become a knockdown mid-range marksman. He's connecting on 55.2 percent of his shots between 10 and 16 feet, as well as 46.4 percent of even longer twos, which has helped him post a 58.4 field-goal percentage. He's a devastatingly effective rebounder on both ends, capable of boxing out players of all shapes and sizes to prevent offensive boards before squirming around others to create second-chance opportunities of his own. 

    And best of all? The 27-year-old has become a defensive monster. 

    NBA Math's defensive points saved, which accounts for both per-possession efficiency and volume, places only nine players ahead of O'Quinn. The Norfolk State product also sits at No. 12 among centers and No. 23 overall in ESPN.com's DRPM. New York allows three fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, largely because only Kristaps Porzingis is making a bigger impact around the rim among those who see regular time while wearing a Knicks uniform.  

    Ask O'Quinn to step into the starting lineup and play 30 minutes per game, and you won't see him find nearly as much success. His energy is best used in these smaller doses.

    But not every team has a second center upon whom it can consistently rely. Hence, multiple playoff teams are already calling the Knicks to express interest in acquiring this man's services, per Marc Berman of the New York Post

    Who Should Show Most Interest: Oklahoma City Thunder

Julius Randle, PF, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Robert Laberge/Getty Images

    Age: 23

    2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 13.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.7 blocks

    2017-18 Advanced Metrics: 18.2 PER, 0.06 RPM, minus-7.89 RPM

    As Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton recently highlighted, per Harrison Faigen of Lakers Nation, Julius Randle has made significant defensive strides: 

    "Defensively, we asked him just to mainly do switching in the second unit. In my opinion, he's one of the top bigs in our league at switching and guarding every position on the floor. In the starting lineup, we need him to play more traditional coverages and schemes.

    "He's gotten a lot better at that in the short amount of time that we've switched him into the starting lineup, as far as recognizing and calling out coverages. He's been great for us and he's continuing to improve."

    Randle's creative scoring—so long as he's moving to his left—has been tantalizing throughout his NBA career. Ditto for his rebounding, as he's consistently been able to parlay his physicality and inexhaustible energy reserves (buoyed, of course, by more limited playing time) into success on the glass. But these defensive strides have made him an ideal fit on a contender's bench. 

    The numbers back it up, even if we only look at ESPN.com's DRPM over the course of his career: 

    No one should mistake Randle for a defensive stud. But this newfound switchability and the corresponding discipline to play within schemes should make him a more versatile option, as well as a better fit with any team in search of a high-energy bench big. 

    Who Should Show Most Interest: Detroit Pistons

Kemba Walker, PG, Charlotte Hornets

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    Kent Smith/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 21.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks

    2017-18 Advanced Metrics: 20.7 PER, 3.78 RPM, 99.89 TPA

    The Charlotte Hornets have won just 15 of their first 39 games, which leaves them equidistant to the No. 8 seed and the bottom rung of the Eastern Conference ladder. That's not a fluke either. Their net rating (minus-0.9) places them at No. 19 in the league. 

    Eventually, the Hornets will have to pull the plug. 

    Moving Nicolas Batum would be tough, given the enormous expenditures remaining. Shipping off someone like Jeremy Lamb would be pointless, since he's a youthful piece just coming into his own. And that leaves Charlotte toying with the idea of a trade centered around Kemba Walker, as dealing the All-Star point guard would A) clear up the ledgers a bit, B) facilitate a drop further down the lottery standings and C) bring back a sizable return that would help the team invest in the future. 

    To be clear, the Hornets haven't yet given any indication they're willing to part with their best player. No substantiated rumors exist at this stage of the season, and everything on this topic remains purely speculative. 

    But...it just makes sense, so long as the Hornets are willing to test the patience of their fanbase with more rebuilding seasons. 

    Charlotte won't just get a youthful piece in return. It wouldn't receive only a single first-round pick. Instead, it would bring back a significant haul geared toward the future for a floor general still capable of running the pick-and-roll with the best of 'em. 

    Who Should Show Most Interest: Denver Nuggets

Lou Williams, PG/SG, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 23.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.2 blocks

    2017-18 Advanced Metrics: 22.5 PER, 0.11 RPM, 61.64 TPA

    Thirty-four points against the Atlanta Hawks. A 50-burger against the Golden State Warriors. Another 30-spot, this time at the expense of the Sacramento Kings.

    Lou Williams is playing like a man possessed, averaging a mind-numbing 30.5 points, 2.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists per contest while slashing 46.2/44.6/92.3 since a brief one-game absence near the end of December. He can't miss from anywhere on the court, throwing up nearly 10 triples per game and constantly working his way to the charity stripe. Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey might be swooning. Hell, James Harden might be jealous. 

    On the season as a whole, Williams is averaging 23.1 points per game with a true shooting percentage of 60.8—numbers matched by only 10 other players during the last decade of NBA action. He's been an offensive genius for the Los Angeles Clippers, sitting at No. 5 overall in ESPN.com's offensive real plus/minus and No. 7 in NBA Math's offensive points added

    The only issue here? He might be playing so well that the Clippers are hesitant to trade him. Even if he'd return a first-round pick for a half-season of play from the Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Utah Jazz or any other squad looking for a reliable bench scorer, the two sides are discussing an extension that would take him off the market, per The Vertical's Shams Charania

    Williams' worth to a playoff hopeful is obvious. What's more obfuscated—for the time being, at least, since a cold streak could push the Clippers too far back of the Western Conference's No. 8 seed—is whether Los Angeles will actually be willing to shop him. 

    Who Should Show Most Interest: Philadelphia 76ers

                   

    Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter:@fromal09.

    Unless otherwise indicated, all stats from Basketball Reference, NBA.com, NBA Math or ESPN.com and are current heading into games on Jan. 12.