8 Players NBA Teams Would Like to Trade Off Their Roster
Many NBA teams will have a similar wish over the holidays: Finding a squad willing to take an unwanted player off their hands.
Trade season should officially get underway come Dec. 15, when players signed this past summer become eligible to be moved. For teams already in the thick of the playoff hunt, this will be their best chance to add a missing piece, while squads well outside the postseason picture can ship out players to receive long-term assets in return.
Whether it's because of a stylistic fit, a regression in play or just a bloated contract, certain players aren't welcome presences on their teams' current rosters. Though major albatrosses are fewer and further between in today's NBA, a number of squads should be actively seeking to make moves by February's trade deadline.
Most of the players featured here likely won't find takers—but their teams certainly wish they would.
Eric Gordon, New Orleans Pelicans
From the moment the New Orleans Pelicans matched Eric Gordon's four-year, $58 million offer sheet in the summer of 2012, they've likely felt buyer's remorse.
Over the past three seasons, Gordon has averaged 15.4 points, 3.1 assists, 2.3 rebounds, 1.4 three-pointers and 1.1 steals in 31.3 minutes, shooting just 42.0 percent from the field. He's also missed 66 of a possible 182 contests in that span, and he's currently out indefinitely with a torn labrum, submarining what little trade value he otherwise may have had.
New Orleans attempted to ship Gordon out this past winter, according to Sean Deveney of Sporting News, "even devising three-team scenarios in order to find him a new home." The acquisitions of point guard Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans in the summer of 2013 created a backcourt logjam for the Pelicans, as all three players prefer operating with the ball in their hands.
Per John Reid of The Times-Picayune, Gordon has yet to decide whether he'll have surgery to repair the labrum. If he does, he could "possibly miss up to three months or more to make a full recovery," Reid reports.
"If I keep on playing, it's going to be a lingering issue," Gordon told Reid. "This thing doesn't heal all the way correctly, I've heard, unless surgery happens. I don't know, it's (surgery option) still hard to determine right now."
With a bloated $15.5 million player option in 2015-16, the odds of a team giving up anything of value for the former Indiana Hoosier are virtually nonexistent. At this point, the Pelicans simply have to view Gordon as a sunk cost and must be counting down the days until his contract is off their books.
Gerald Henderson, Charlotte Hornets
The Charlotte Hornets are floundering on offense, and Gerald Henderson isn't helping matters one bit.
Charlotte currently ranks 26th in offensive efficiency, scoring just 98.2 points per 100 possessions, which is largely attributable to the team's struggles behind the three-point arc. The Hornets have the league's second-worst shooting accuracy from deep (.306), as Gary Neal is the team's only player converting more than 36.5 percent of his three-point looks.
While both Kemba Walker and Lance Stephenson are badly struggling on offense, the Hornets aren't likely to cut bait on that backcourt experiment so quickly. Henderson, on the other hand, shouldn't necessarily feel so confident about his long-term future in Charlotte.
Henderson has largely fallen off the map in head coach Steve Clifford's second season, averaging just 6.8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 22.7 minutes. He's only converting 42.7 percent of his looks—the lowest mark since his rookie season—and his 27.3 percent shooting from downtown isn't helping Charlotte's spacing issues one bit.
Rival executives have told USA Today's Sam Amick that Henderson is "very available," but the Hornets aren't likely to find many interested buyers without attaching an additional sweetener. Between his $6 million player option for 2015-16 and his career-low player efficiency rating of 9.2 this season, Charlotte could be stuck with him and his diminishing returns.
Andrei Kirilenko, Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets' desire to rid themselves of Andrei Kirilenko is hardly a secret.
Take it away, Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski:
Kirilenko failed to fit into Lionel Hollins’ rotation, and he separated from the Nets on a recent West Coast trip to administer to a family issue in New York. The Nets have been working to find a team that'll take the balance of his $3.3 million deal for the 2014-15 season, but a family matter that may require him remaining in New York until January or February could make it difficult for the Nets to trade him soon, sources said.
Kirilenko, who exercised a $3.3 million player option to remain in Brooklyn this season, has appeared in just seven games for the Nets, scoring three total points and snaring eight rebounds in 36 minutes. He hasn't made an appearance since Nov. 15, which caused him to express frustration to reporters last month.
ESPN New York's Ohm Youngmisuk reported in November that the Nets and Philadelphia 76ers had kicked the tires on a trade involving Kirilenko and forward Sergey Karasev. However, Wojnarowski later scuttled those rumors, saying the Sixers "have wanted too much draft compensation."
In recent days, Jody Genessy of the Deseret News and ESPN.com's Marc Stein floated the idea of sending AK-47 to the Utah Jazz for Jeremy Evans and Toure' Murry, but league sources shot the idea down both times, per NetsDaily. Given the number of trade rumors springing up involving the 33-year-old veteran, it appears to be just a matter of time until he finds a new home.
With Kirilenko clearly not in their long-term plans, it makes sense for the Nets to move on from him, provided they don't have to sacrifice too many valuable assets to do so.
David Lee, Golden State Warriors
A hamstring strain has limited Lee to only playing seven minutes so far this season, but that hasn't hindered the Warriors one bit. With Draymond Green as their starting 4, the Dubs have won 17 of their first 19 games, setting franchise records for their best-ever start and their longest-ever winning streak.
This isn't the first time Lee's absence coincided with a surging Warriors squad. As ESPN.com's Ethan Sherwood Strauss noted, Golden State smashed the Denver Nuggets in the 2013 postseason once Lee went down with a torn hip flexor and Harrison Barnes replaced him in the starting lineup.
"The ensuing Warriors playoff upset made Lee look like a role player at best and an accidental saboteur at worst," Strauss later wrote. "Golden State played a breathtaking style of spreading four 3-point shooters around Andrew Bogut and bombing away."
Green's presence in the starting lineup has allowed the Warriors to return to the four-out, one-in look that worked so well against Denver. They currently have the league's fourth-best offense and top-ranked defense, speaking to the type of two-way success they're enjoying sans Lee.
The former Florida Gator has long been a favorite of Golden State owner Joe Lacob, per Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News, which could complicate any trade discussions. He's also owed $15 million this season and $15.5 million in 2015-16, meaning the Warriors would likely have to ship out something additional of value to rid themselves of his presence.
With Klay Thompson's max extension kicking in next season, however, the Dubs won't have many avenues with which to improve their roster unless they do find a taker for Lee. Given how well they're playing in his absence, it's a no-brainer for Golden State if it's able to find a willing taker.
Tayshaun Prince, Memphis Grizzlies
When the Memphis Grizzlies acquired Tayshaun Prince a few weeks before the 2013 trade deadline as part of their three-team Rudy Gay deal, it was a seemingly brilliant move. He had long been one of the league's top three-and-D players, theoretically making him a perfect fit with the defensive-minded Grizzlies.
Instead, Prince experienced a precipitous and immediate decline in Memphis, culminating with a career-low player efficiency rating of 8.2 last season. In the 2014 postseason, he had a ghastly 5.2 PER and 40.4 true shooting percentage, forcing head coach Dave Joerger to limit him to only 16.1 minutes per contest.
Prince hasn't been as dismal this season—he has a 11.8 PER and 53.2 true shooting percentage—but he's still mostly a shell of his former self. Opposing small forwards are posting a PER of 18.5 against him, per 82games.com, and the Grizzlies offense is 12.6 points per 100 possessions better with him on the bench.
Memphis reportedly "failed in several attempts" to trade him this past summer, per Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, but that shouldn't stop the Grizzlies from attempting to court suitors for him. According to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst, the Cleveland Cavaliers could be one such team interested in his services.
Bleacher Report's Stephen Babb recently analyzed how Prince could fit with LeBron James and Co.:
Prince probably still has use-value on the offensive end. He's an intelligent player who can cut to the basket and move without the ball. And though he's never been much of a point forward, he can make some plays, too.
If that's all one expects from him, Prince could be a smart under-the-radar addition for the right team—perhaps even the Cavaliers, at least if they can line up a viable deal.
As Babb noted, the Cavs could struggle figuring out a workable trade for Prince, as his $7.7 million salary is too large to fit into their $5.3 million trade exception. Given how the 13-year veteran has fallen out of the regular rotation, Memphis certainly has incentive to find a taker for him in the coming months, whether it's Cleveland or another team altogether.
Josh Smith, Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons' signing of Josh Smith to a four-year, $54 million contract in the summer of 2013 made little sense at the time—and looks even worse in retrospect. Their attempt to play him alongside Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond failed miserably, perhaps sealing Monroe's road out of Detroit in the process.
In Smith's first season with the club, he shot a personal-worst 41.9 percent on 16.0 shots per game and fired a career-high 3.4 attempts from deep despite shooting just 26.4 percent from that range. Things have only gotten worse this season, as he's currently touting his worst-ever PER (13.8) and true shooting percentage (41.0).
The Pistons and Sacramento Kings reportedly discussed a trade involving Smith this past summer, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein, but nothing ever came to fruition. As Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported, "Detroit never heard an offer that remotely interested them and never seriously engaged in discussions."
The biggest problem with trading Smith, aside from his penchant for frustrating plays, is the three years and $40.5 million remaining on his contract. As Sports Illustrated's Rob Mahoney wrote in October, "Most teams won't touch Smith's deal at this point, but it only takes one. Should a single front office talk itself into Smith…the Pistons are all abut obligated to follow through with negotiations."
According to Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher, the Pistons are expected to be sellers over the coming months, as they've stumbled out to a dismal 3-18 record. If by some sorcerer's magic they're able to find a team willing to absorb Smith's bloated contract, they shouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger.
Jason Thompson, Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings have been one of the league's best early-season surprises, rattling off 10 wins in their first 20 games. That could make them one of the league's most active teams on the trade market in the coming weeks and months.
According to Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher, both Jason Thompson and Ben McLemore "are available," and the Kings "are going to be aggressive in adding a piece, even if it means adding salary." At the start of the season, Grantland's Zach Lowe reported rising interest in Thompson as a bench big due to the league's rising salary cap.
For Sacramento, trading Thompson could free up the Kings to experiment more with different lineup combinations. "In Gay, Derrick Williams, and even Omri Casspi, the Kings have the tools to play small-ball lineups, but that will be a tiny feature of their rotation as long as Malone starts the Cousins-Thompson duo," Lowe wrote.
Despite starting every game for the Kings this season, Thompson hasn't made much of a statistical impact. He's averaging just 4.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 0.7 blocks in 26.7 minutes, posting career-worst marks in PER (7.0), true shooting percentage (43.2) and win shares per 48 minutes (.024).
Even in the five games DeMarcus Cousins has missed due to viral meningitis, Thompson hasn't exactly moved the needle, averaging just 7.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 27.7 minutes. If the Kings could flip him for a more defensive-minded player—they currently tout the league's ninth-worst defense—it could help clear their books in future years and improve their playoff odds, too.
Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers
After a rocky 5-7 start to the season, LeBron James and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers have reeled off six straight wins, including double-digit knockouts of the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards. Despite the turnaround, Cleveland still appears to be a few pieces short of true title contention.
"No one is untouchable, and you're never done building a team, so we're always paying attention to what opportunities are out there," Cavs general manager David Griffin told Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group back in November. "My tendency is always trying to do what we can do to improve the roster. But I'm not looking to create one so much as paying attention to what I'm hearing."
Though James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving aren't likely to be on the move, third-year guard Dion Waiters isn't as lucky. He's been relegated to a sixth-man role this season, averaging 8.1 points, 1.9 assists and 1.2 rebounds in 23.0 minutes, and is posting career lows in field-goal percentage (36.7), PER (7.8), true shooting percentage (42.6) and win shares per 48 minutes (minus-0.024).
According to ESPN.com's Bradford Doolittle (subscription required), "the Cavs shopped Waiters in August to nearly every team with no takers." In early November, Doolittle explained what makes the third-year guard such a viable trade candidate:
Waiters' inability, and unwillingness, to play a passive offensive role is understandable, but it's also why this time last year he was a hot name in trade rumors. Given the chemistry issues on the Cavs, the defensive holes on the roster and the long-term payroll structure Cleveland will have to create, Waiters' name is going to keep getting floated.
Though he's currently saying all the right things—he recently told reporters, "It ain't about me right now."—he'll soon need to prove he's able to acclimate to the sixth-man role if he hopes to remain on the roster.
Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal recently wrote that he "certainly won't be shocked" if the Cavs trade Waiters this season. If they can somehow land a legitimate rim-protector in return for the Syracuse product, it could seal his departure from Cleveland.