Do not let the effects of the "Summer of LeBron," as some have called it, fool you. There are still a good number of players available to be had in the NBA. Even though most Team USA players are set with their teams, even a couple of them, including Chauncey Billups (pictured) may be changing addresses.
With teams still looking to position themselves to gain ground on the Lakers and Celtics (the defending conference champions), and keep pace with the Heat and Knicks, in terms of adjusting their rosters, there are several key players that can be gained through trades that can sway a few games, division, or even playoff series.
Recent trades like the 4-team deal a couple of weeks ago show that teams are looking to shape their rosters to appease stars and improve themselves with greater urgency than usual in the offseason.
These players are all under contract, and I admit, there are mitigating factors that have to be at play prior to the majority of them to be moved by their current teams. But if you will take off the status quo blinders and follow along, you will see where the opportunity is.
Set back, relax and enjoy the show. As always, I look forward to your review, debate and ideas on this article!
I will admit, a headline I saw today sparked this article. It said on the ESPN Insider of ESPN.com that the Nuggets may look to move PG and team leader Chauncey Billups.
Mitigating Factor: It seems that a probable trade of team superstar SF Carmelo Anthony could in fact, precipitate a teardown of the team that two seasons ago, lost in the Western Conference finals to the Los Angeles Lakers. It actually makes sense because several other players are set to be free agents after this season, including C Nene, PF Kenyon Martin and SG J.R. Smith.
As it stands, the Nuggets may look drastically different by the end of the season, because if the Anthony takes place, and the team struggles to adjust, management may see little value in keeping it around when players (especially Billups) can bring back greater long-term value in trades.
Who might acquire Billups? Teams in search of a veteran PG that can lead a good playoff team into the upper stratosphere of the NBA's second season. Or even teams looking for some leadership to get them into the playoffs.Teams that might be interested in Billups could include the Hawks, Grizzlies, Bobcats, Kings and maybe even his old team, the Pistons.
Mr. Antawn Jamison was acquired near the trade deadline in February in an attempt to better prepare the Cavaliers to get over the hump against the Magic and Celtics. It didn't work out so good, not necessarily due to Jamison's production (or lack thereof).
His acquisition was seen as what could have been the final building block to the first championship seen in Cleveland since 1964, but that obviously did nnot happen. The former All-Star has an onerous contract that may be challenging, to say the least, to take on for many teams.
Mo Williams was acquired prior to the 2008 season. He was seen as a solid PG that would play the secondary star role to LBJ. That year he became an All-Star, and was the starting PG on the team as it won over 60 games the last two years.
Mitigating Factor: The Cavs are clearly starting over since one player in this picture took his talents to "South Beach." A complete rebuilding effort is taking shape on Lake Erie, and these two players figure to be the next two to go.
Teams interested in Jamison would be teams needing a stretch PF, who can shoot from outside, score appx. 16-18 ppg, be counted on for 8-10 rpg or possibly be the Bob McAdoo-type big man off the bench for a winning squad. Such teams could include the Magic, Pistons, Thunder, Bucks or Suns.
Teams interested in Williams would be the type looking for a scoring PG or tweener G that could buy a few minutes at either guard spot. Possible destinations could be the Bobcats, Kings or Raptors.
In a twist of irony, can it be that the Cavs will have NONE of these guys in this picture after securing home court through the entire playoffs last year with them?
2008 Olympian and Milwaukee Buck SG Michael Redd is in the last year of his contract which pays him in the neighborhood of $17 million this year. His last two seasons have ended in January with knee injuries requiring extensive surgery. His future is looking more bleak with the Bucks having made the playoffs without him, taking the Hawks to seven games and adding Corey Maggette to go with John Salmons, Carlos Delfino, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Keyon Dooling and Darrington Hobson filling the wing spots.
Mitigating Factor: There are only so many minutes (96 exactly) to go between the SF and SG positions. By my count, the Bucks have about 10 players to fill that time. Unfortunately, I don't think Redd, if he can come back, will be there at the end of the 2010 season.
My feeling is that teams will watch him to see if he plays like he did, pre-injury and can still fill it up from the outside. A very good thing for Redd, is that his game is not predicated on speed or jumping ability. He, like Paul Pierce, has carved out his niche in the League by knowing how to get to where he needs to just ahead of the defense.
Should Redd be able to maintain that sweet shooting stroke, and show he has overcome the physical issues of the last two years, he can expect to be leaving the home of "Happy Days" and "Laverne & Shirley." Hello, as Squiggy would say.
Teams interested in Redd could include the Grizzlies (if no extension can be made with Zach Randolph), Kings (for a playoff push, they need a gunner), perhaps the Jazz (for #9 on the list), Nets or possibly even the Cavs, which would result in a homecoming of sorts for the Columbus-born Redd.
Before the less-informed of readers say, "Who is this?" let me say that the third-year forward from Rider has career averages of 12 ppg and 8 rpg, numbers that are not that bad, considering he arrived in Sactown as the only inside threat.
Thompson has shown that his being taken in the Top 15 of the 2008 Draft was not a reach by the Kings, he has rewarded them with solid inside play. The Kings have made him potentially the fourth big in their rotation with the additions of Carl Landry (in February), Samuel Dalembert and DeMarcus Cousins. His time will most likely be reduced as the new additions are integrated in auditions to be the running mate with ROY Tyreke Evans.
Mitigating Factor: Should Kings' brass decide that Landry, Dalembert or Cousins are better fits, long-range, than Thompson, or Thompson decides he wants to have a bigger role than the new players; another team can swoop in and pickup JT.
Teams that would be interested (especially at his low cap cost) would be the Heat, Nets, Knicks, Hornets, Pistons, Timberwolves, Cavaliers, Pacers, Bucks, Bobcats and Suns. All these teams are in need of a productive big with young legs and a good future.
Now we are getting to the players that will be a little more difficult to procure and predict. Starting with one of my favorite players to watch for pure athleticism and giving everything he has, Gerald Wallace of the Bobcats.
He is the longest-tenured member of the team (since the inaugural 2004 season), and the team's only All-Star representative ever (this past season). Wallace, known as "Crash", plays the game with reckless abandon, grabbing double digit rebounds, blocking shots, making steals and making highlight reels nightly.
Wallace is one of the two unquestioned team leaders (along with Stephen Jackson). The Bobcats just made their first playoff appearance and of course, Michael Jordan is now the owner. So why would the 'Cats move him?
Mitigating Factor: Jordan has gone on record as saying that moves would be made that may not seem to make sense on the floor, but do in the team's accounting department. Wallace is to make $10.5 million this upcoming season, and if perhaps a near equal talent can be obtained at a discount, would not Jordan and Rod Higgins have to consider a move?
Teams I would think are interested in Wallace would be the TrailBlazers (perhaps for Batum & Fernandez), Nets (in case they can't get Carmelo), Knicks (see Nets reasoning), Warriors, Suns, 76ers and Kings.
Andre Iguodala has shown himself to be a talented player. He has shown the Scottie Pippen-like ability to impact games from the areas of scoring, rebounding and defense.
With the many veterans Philly has moved over the last four years, including Allen Iverson, Andre Miller, Chris Webber, et. al was done with the idea that A.I. 2 would step in and be the leader for the forseeable future.
He also has been sitting in the lead chair while the 76ers have struggled the last 2 seasons, seeing Mo Cheeks, Eddie Jordan and now, Doug Collins, occupy the role of coach starting from 2008.
The 6 year, $80 million contract extension Iguodala signed a couple of years ago, plus the drafting of Evan Turner and the potential (eventual?) emergence of Thaddeus Young (who just turned 22!) as SF for the Sixers could possibly lead to his exodus from the City of Brotherly Love.
Mitigating Factor: A team looking to add an almost-All-Star, or teams needing help to possibly facilitate a major trade (see Carmelo Anthony), may also have big interest in Iguodala.
My guess would be any number of the teams interested could include the Nuggets, Bulls, Cavs, Warriors, Suns or Wizards would be my best bets.
I admit, this one will have people wondering if I am a competent adult, but hear me out.
Jeff Green is a wonderful secondary ball player. The Thunder are a very young team that has several players to consider. The CBA will expire after this upcoming season is done. If the team does not have Green's signature on an extension by Oct. 31, he will not be a member of the team in 2011, whenever that season starts! Here's why:
1) Durant has been extended to the tune of approximately $85 million.
2) Russell Westbrook will be looking for an extension in line with his prodigious talents and rising status at the PG position.
3) James Harden will look to assume a bigger role and will need to be extended at the SG position after the 2011 season.
4) Serge Ibaka, Cole Aldrich will become the eventual, longtime starters at the power positions.
Mitigating Factor: Green is the ideal sidekick except for a couple of things. 1) His natural position is SF. 2) The inherent SF is Kevin Durant. 3) There is only so much money the team will be able to spend (and that amount is expected to go down once the new CBA is put into place. 4) The Thunder has several young bigs, bigger than Green who will probably gain more time as they will be more physically equipped to bang down low and clear out the dirty work. This will allow Durant and Westbrook (Team USA members, Green was cut) to elevate their own games and the Thunder as a team.
Possible teams would be the Warriors, Kings, Wizards (hometown team), Cavs (a new building block?), Rockets or Raptors.
Some people have lambasted Monta Ellis for his off-court, moped injuries, his initial hesitancy to play alongside Steph Curry, shoot-first mentality, and basically for being an undersized two who has thrived in Don Nelson's system. Ellis has also been praised as one of the few pure scorers in the NBA, a cat-quick (even post-injury) combo guard and a hard worker who has risen from the doubters who questioned the 2005 second round pick for skipping college altogether.
Ellis is one of the few players in the NBA who wakes up and is good for 20 points a night without trying too hard. His Iverson-like ability to score in a myriad of ways and skill at knifing into defense can expose the vulnerability of most defenses in the League with ease.
One would think that Nellie can continually craft the small, but quick duo of Ellis and Curry into a younger version of Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars (as a smallish backcourt that was hard to play against). But not so fast, my friend!
Mitigating Factor: If the rumors continue to swirl that the Warriors new owners will be cleaning house, there is a very good chance that Ellis, one of Nellie's finds, will be broomed out along with the coach. His ability to swing between guard spots will be appreciated, his $12 million a year contract, will not be. to move Ellis will require finding the right size in the backcourt will not be easy, and perhaps a shift of conferences may be in the offing.
Possible teams could be the Suns, Bobcats, Mavericks, Nets (pure speed with he and Devin Harris) or the Raptors.
Andrei Kirilenko, the last link to the Stockton/Malone era in Utah, has seen it all in Salt Lake City. Coming in 2001, he came just long enough after the Finals runs, as the team was going down the slope of the upper echelon of the West.
Then the team, with shrewd moves like signing Carlos Boozer away from the Cavs and drafting Deron Williams, ascended to Top Four status in the conference again.
Now, the Jazz are sitting as good enough to make the playoffs, but lacking enough to be considered title contenders. Enter AK-47.
Always a versatile player, able to score, rebound and defend better than many SF's aand able to swing up to the PF position, Kirilenko can do a lot of things and solve many issues for teams on the court. Always a strong shot blocker, AK can snuff anyone, anytime on the floor, as his career 2.1 bpg will attest.
He is in the last year of his contract extension, which comes at a price of $17.8 million this season. And he can make a good impact on any number of teams looking to match up against the Lakers' Lamar Odom most specifically.
Mitigating Factor: If Utah is looking to upgrade their chances of resigning Deron Williams, AK-47 can be a huge chip to trade around the deadline. If he can be moved for 2 solid-good players, plus a first round pick, can position the Jazz to climb back up the mountaintop in time to resign All-NBA PG Williams.
Possible teams include: the TrailBlazers, Cavs (looking to rebuild), Nets, Hornets (another potential piece for CP3), Suns and Kings.
The Gilbert Arenas story has been told several times over, no need to completely reiterate it again. Suffice to say, Arenas should have been on the Olympic Team in '08, because he too, is looking to redeem himself in a major way.
If he has recovered completely from the knee issues, and if he is completely serious about returning to his place of prominence among the stars of the League, and if he is willing to be a more team-first player, he could be in line for Comeback Player of the Year! However...
Mitigating Factor: The new day has dawned in the nation's capital. John Wall is the future and present of the Wizards. Gilbert Arenas has been the leader, or alpha dog, in DC since he arrived there in 2003. He may have said all of the right things since Wall was drafted, but considering how far he has fallen, what else can he do right now? He cannot show any ill feelings or anger or indignation about things until he first shows he's back as a ball player, first and foremost.
Should Arenas show that he can be a little bit more conventional both on and off the floor, perhaps a team looking to add a name player that doesn't mind a headlines-making smash for the controversial move would be most likely to pick up the former Agent Zero.
Teams most likely to add Arenas are the Warriors, Mavericks, 76ers (maybe for Iggy), Nuggets (a longshot, but maybe as part of an Anthony deal) or even the Pistons (looking to change their overall team roster).
In the final analysis, we all can admit that teams have been more receptive to the concept of roster turnover this offsason than we have seen in several years, posibly going back to 1996. The last year where we saw several high-profile free agents changing locales.
This group of players may not be in the class of LeBron, Bosh, etc., nor have their same level of expectations in terms of impact, but that's not the only reason teams make acquisitions. They are looking to build championship teams, and teams need more than just stars, contrary to what the four letter network would have you believe.
This list is not all-inclusive, as several other players could be on the move, given the right circumstances, like Baron Davis (pictured), Rudy Fernandez, Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince. We could be on the verge of unprecedented turnover for high-level players with the uncertainty of the CBA, set to expire after the season.
Of course, there are other trade particulars to work out, like matching salaries, required draft picks, etc., but that's the GM's concern, not mine.
What I know is that some of these players can affect the way the 2011 playoffs play out in the long run. We shall see shortly, won't we?