8 NBA Trade Targets Who Could Be Switching Teams in 2015
With Dec. 15 having come and gone, NBA trade season is officially underway.
On Thursday, the Boston Celtics kicked off the madness by sending Rajon Rondo and Dwight Powell to the Dallas Mavericks for Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, Jameer Nelson and two future draft picks. The Houston Rockets got in on the fun one day later, acquiring swingman Corey Brewer from the Minnesota Timberwolves in a three-team deal.
In the weeks to come, front-office executives should remain glued to their cell phones. Playoff hopefuls will be looking to make moves that bolster their chances of winning a title, while teams already far outside of the postseason picture could attempt to move their most enticing pieces for longer-term assets.
Based on the latest rumors and speculation around the league, the eight players that follow could very well be playing for new teams come Feb. 20, the day after this year's trade deadline.
Eric Gordon, SG, New Orleans Pelicans
Ever since the New Orleans Pelicans matched Eric Gordon's four-year, $58 million contract in the summer of 2012, his tenure with the team has been fraught with peril.
Gordon hasn't been able to shake the injury bug, missing 73 of a possible 191 games since the start of the 2012-13 season. He's been sidelined since Nov. 25 with a torn labrum in his left shoulder and isn't likely to return until the calendar flips to 2015, according to Nakia Hogan of The Times-Picayune.
Despite the injuries, the Pelicans front office and coaching staff still "believe Gordon is a key piece to the team," per Hogan. Though he poured cold water on the idea of an impending trade, he did leave the door open:
I don’t expect the Pelicans to try and move Gordon. They want to continue to build continuity with this team. That could all change, though, if the Pelicans can get an attractive deal they believe makes them better immediately and helps their future cap space. Either way, don’t expect the Pelicans to make a move simply to rid themselves of Gordon’s salary ($14.9 million this season and $15.5 million next year).
Finding an interested suitor won't be easy for New Orleans, given Gordon's massive contract, his continued injury issues and the team's seemingly unrealistic demands. However, rival executives told Bleacher Report's Howard Beck that any Pelican not named Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson or Omer Asik is on the market, which means Gordon could be had for the right price.
Jeff Green, SF/PF, Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics made the first big splash in this season's trade market by sending Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks. Celtics general manager Danny Ainge might not be done there, either.
According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc Spears, Boston has "consistently been shopping forward Jeff Green, trying to acquire a package that includes a first-round draft pick." The Celtics have "received inquiries" about Green from the Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies, per USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt but reportedly weren't interested in the offers.
In speaking with reporters Friday following the Rondo trade, Ainge suggested that no other deals are imminent:
Well, let's take a deep breath and let's enjoy the holidays and let's let these guys play, see how everybody fits in. Of course, we're not actively pursuing anything at this minute. I anticipate that there will be a lot of calls coming in in the next little bit and I think that there will be some activity at the trade deadline; whether we do a trade or not, I have no idea, but we’ll continue to try to improve our team.
With Rondo now gone, the Celtics have plenty of incentive to move on from Green by February, too. He's in the midst of his best-ever year, posting career highs in points per game (19.5), player efficiency rating (16.3), true shooting percentage (.566) and win shares per 48 minutes (.110) through Saturday, Dec. 20, which makes him a potential sell-high candidate.
Additionally, as CSNNE.com's A. Sherrod Blakely suggested, it "isn't necessarily an ideal scenario" to have players at their career apex as a "central part of a team that's rebuilding." If the C's do find a team willing to cough up a first-rounder for Green—or if they lower their asking price between now and February—it wouldn't be surprising at all to see him moved.
David Lee, PF, Golden State Warriors
The Dubs have roared out to a league-best 22-3 record with Draymond Green as their starting 4, while Lee has played just seven minutes all season due to a strained left hamstring. He's expected to make his return Monday against the Sacramento Kings, per Jimmy Durkin of the San Jose Mercury News, but head coach Steve Kerr only plans to play him 12-15 minutes off the bench.
Given Golden State's success without Lee, the team has little option but to float his name in trade discussions, as Bleacher Report's Howard Beck suggested:
It's not a given, but the Warriors have to at least gauge his value. Lee has played just one game in their 21-2 start, and Draymond Green has proven a better fit at power forward. Green is also a restricted free agent next summer, and the Warriors badly need cap flexibility if they hope to keep him.
Green will be a restricted free agent in July, and the Warriors likely won't be able to re-sign him and keep Lee without exceeding the luxury-tax threshold. Finding a taker for the $15.5 million remaining on Lee's contract in 2015-16 won't be easy, but the Warriors owe it to themselves to try regardless.
Greg Monroe, PF/C, Detroit Pistons
Given the way Greg Monroe's restricted free agency played out this summer—he ultimately signed a one-year qualifying offer instead of a longer-term deal—his time with the Detroit Pistons appears to be coming to an end one way or another.
If Detroit doesn't move him by the trade deadline, he's liable to walk at the end of the season as an unrestricted free agent. Further complicating matters, he's allowed to veto any prospective deal between now and the trade deadline, which could thwart any potential efforts to move him.
A source told Sporting News' Sean Deveney "there is almost nothing [Monroe] would shoot down," but sticking points remain for both sides. The Pistons are allegedly seeking a first-round pick in return for the big man, per Deveney, and Monroe doesn't want to forfeit his Bird rights, according to USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt, as it could limit his earning potential and team options as a free agent.
Monroe's agent, David Falk, emphatically told Zillgitt that his client "does not want a trade," however. "He wants to honor his commitment to Stan and give it the year and evaluate everything at the end of the season," Falk said.
In reference to a potential trade, Monroe echoed Falk's comments to Vincent Goodwill Jr. of The Detroit News. "If they feel the need to come to me, I would have to have the discussion, but that discussion would have to be initiated by them, not by me," he said.
In the wake of the Pistons' shocking release of Josh Smith on Monday, the likelihood of Monroe being moved is far lower than others on this list. However, if the Pistons somehow stumble upon a situation that's amenable to both them and him, they should have no hesitation pulling the trigger instead of potentially losing him for nothing in July.
Lance Stephenson, SG, Charlotte Hornets
The above photo sums up the Lance Stephenson experience in Charlotte to date: an ill-advised drive into traffic that ends poorly.
The Hornets inked Stephenson to a three-year, $27 million deal this summer in the hopes that he could continue building upon his career-best numbers from 2013-14. Instead, he's shooting a ghastly 38.6 percent from the field and an even more horrific 15.1 percent on triples.
Here's how bad that latter figure is: Stephenson owns the worst three-point shooting percentage of any player who has attempted at least 50 treys. Frankly, his next-closest competition, Nicolas Batum, isn't even close.
On Dec. 14, ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported the Hornets had "already begun the process of searching for potential trade partners" for Stephenson. Four days later, however, ESPN.com's Chris Broussard and Ramona Shelburne reported Charlotte was "underwhelmed by the quality of trade offers [it] received" for Stephenson and had "decided to keep the volatile guard 'for now.'"
According to Broussard and Shelburne, the Hornets believe "a groin injury has hindered [Stephenson] all season and played a significant role in his lack of production. … The Hornets want to rest Stephenson, let him heal and see if he can either fit in with Charlotte or re-establish his trade value."
In other words, though Stephenson is theoretically off the market for now, Charlotte will still readily field offers for him up until the trade deadline. Given his mammoth struggles this season, he's one of the league's most logical trade candidates, as ESPN.com's Amin Elhassan recently suggested (subscription required).
Isaiah Thomas, PG, Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns' signing of Isaiah Thomas to a four-year, $27 million deal in July looked like a steal at the time. When Eric Bledsoe agreed to a five-year, $70 million contract a few months later, however, the Thomas signing lost much of its luster, as the Suns suddenly had a glut of talented point guards.
Between Thomas, Bledsoe and Goran Dragic—who will be an unrestricted free agent in July—head coach Jeff Hornacek has struggled at times carving out enough time in his rotation for all three. Accordingly, "Multiple teams already are inquiring as to what it would take to break up the Suns' three-guard rotation," according to CBS Sports' Ken Berger.
Team executives across the league "expect the Suns to trade one of the three," per Bleacher Report's Howard Beck, with some believing Thomas to be the most likely trade candidate. ESPN.com's Amin Elhassan explained the rationale behind moving the diminutive point guard (subscription required):
Point guard in name and size, Thomas often exhibits tunnel vision on the floor and can burn through multiple possessions while his on-court teammates barely touch the ball. …
With Dragic's free agency impending, keeping this collection of guards will only end in disappointment. Dragic and Bledsoe are the more natural fits, having the benefit of a year's worth of chemistry while also being able to guard both backcourt positions. A talented scorer with a more than manageable contract makes Thomas inherently tradable, along with the fact that he hasn't played himself out of his reputation as Stephenson has, for example.
The Suns "fully intend" to re-sign Dragic this summer, per Berger, but failing to move Thomas (or Bledsoe) could result in him walking as a free agent due to the team's dearth of playing time. Breaking up this point guard triumvirate makes perfect sense if it results in a more balanced roster in return.
Dion Waiters, SG, Cleveland Cavaliers
If the Cleveland Cavaliers are serious about hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy in June, they'll need to make a move for a rim-protecting big man between now and Feb. 19. The Cavs are allowing opponents to convert 56.8 percent of their looks at the rim, the second-highest mark in the league, which is almost certain to subvert their title hopes come playoff time.
Enter Dion Waiters, the No. 4 overall pick from 2012. The Syracuse shooting guard openly bristled this summer about the prospect of moving to the bench, per CSNNW.com's Chris Haynes—which, of course, is exactly what happened just four games into the season.
He played fewer than 10 minutes in two of the Cavs' five contests from Dec. 11-19, and only topped the 30-minute mark in the season opener. According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, Cleveland has made peace with the idea of trading Waiters to acquire the rim-stopper it so desperately needs:
Sources say that the Cavs are well aware landing a quality big man likely depends on selling on potential trade partners to take back polarizing shooting guard Dion Waiters. Cleveland rates Waiters' talent highly, but sources maintain that the Cavs have let a number of teams know they are prepared to surrender him if they can acquire a difference-making center in return.
According to Bleacher Report's Howard Beck, the Cavs are "expected to use Waiters, along with Brendan Haywood's expiring contract, as the key pieces of a major deal." Given Cleveland's defensive woes, the team can't afford to hang on to a luxury like the Syracuse product if it's serious about contending for a title this season.
Deron Williams, PG, Brooklyn Nets
Five years into owner Mikhail Prokhorov's five-year championship plan, the Brooklyn Nets appear to be nowhere near title contention. With the team having paid a record $90.57 million in luxury taxes this summer, per ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst, it appears as though the Nets could commence a fire sale in the coming weeks.
On Dec. 9, ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ohm Youngmisuk reported the Nets had "begun reaching out to teams to let them know that former All-Stars Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson are available via trade." Sources told the two that Brooklyn hoped to "construct a deal or two that bring back sufficient talent that enables the Nets to remain a playoff team."
On Dec. 20, Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Nets and Sacramento Kings were discussing a deal that would send Williams to Sacramento for point guard Darren Collison and forwards Derrick Williams and Jason Thompson. "The Nets' partnership with Williams has become increasingly fractured over the past two years," sources told him, "and the idea of a breakup has appeal for both sides."
The Kings reportedly want Mason Plumlee included in the deal, per Woj, which remains a "hurdle to a possible deal." Williams also suffered a strained right calf in the Nets' 95-91 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, which could pour some cold water on trade talks given his extensive injury history over the past few years.
However, nothing will complicate trade talks more than his bloated deal, which still has two full years and more than $43 million left. Even with D-Will looking more and more like his former self, the Nets will have a tough time convincing any team to swallow that monstrosity and give up valuable assets in return as well.