Ranking the 10 Most-Coveted Players on the 2015 NBA Trade Block

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 27, 2015

Ranking the 10 Most-Coveted Players on the 2015 NBA Trade Block

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    The 2014-15 season has already contained a flurry of NBA trades, with notable players like Rajon Rondo, Iman Shumpert, Timofey Mozgov, Jeff Green and J.R. Smith changing locations well in advance of the mid-February deadline.

    But we're not done yet. 

    Before Feb. 19, a few more players will change hands, even if many of the most attractive ones have already been shipped off to a new organization or won't be moved at all. The pickings are slimmer at this stage of the season, given so many squads already made early moves, but some quality options at reasonable prices do still exist. 

    As we count down toward the player more coveted on the trade market than any other, it's important to remember that we aren't ranking these players in a skill-centric vacuum. Contracts are extremely important, and the same is true of injury histories.

    Everything comes into play, as teams certainly aren't going to make a decision on the market without factoring in, well, exactly that.

10. Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets

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    Position: SG

    Age: 33

    2014-15 Per-Game Stats: 15.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.2 blocks, 14.3 PER

    If you want Joe Johnson on the roster, you have to be prepared to take what comes along with him—a massive albatross of a salary. The shooting guard is slated to make nearly $25 million next year, and that puts serious financial restrictions on whichever team will be his employer, be that the Brooklyn Nets or some other squad willing to take the plunge and attempt to make an immediate playoff push.

    The Charlotte Hornets are one such franchise that has expressed interest. According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the Eastern Conference up-and-comers are trying to keep the postseason dream alive by shipping Marvin Williams, Gerald Henderson and failed free-agency experiment Lance Stephenson to Brooklyn for the 2-guard's services. 

    But why? Johnson isn't particularly appealing anymore, and that's due to more than just his contract status. As he told Newsday's Roderick Boone, he's fighting some injuries as well:

    I've just got tendinitis real bad in my right knee and in my left ankle. I've been playing with both of them, and been pretty banged up for probably about the past month and a half or so. We don't have time to have guys sit and rest, like some other teams do. We just don't have the roster for that, so I just have to play through it.

    When healthy and motivated, Johnson is capable of thriving as an isolation scorer and playing some underrated defense. But this 33-year-old body is both banged up and overpaid.

    Teams would be wise to let Brooklyn sleep in the bed that it traded for after Atlanta made it. Unless, of course, they're looking at a potentially stacked-beyond-belief free-agent class in 2016. Johnson's contract doesn't run forever, and it will be a nice expiring deal in 2015-16, set up perfectly to allow for maximum spending during arguably the best summer to do so. 

9. Jose Calderon, New York Knicks

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    Position: PG

    Age: 33

    2014-15 Per-Game Stats: 9.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 0.6 steals, 11.1 PER

    Jose Calderon's reasonable salary extends beyond this season and carries over to the 2015-16 campaign, and that's a problem for the New York Knicks. After all, the veteran point guard and Carmelo Anthony are the only players who have guaranteed deals past the conclusion of this year, and the franchise is trying to clear the books for some massive free-agency pursuits. 

    The very fact that Calderon has another year left on his deal makes him a bit less appealing to other teams as well, as he can't be viewed as a half-season rental and expiring contract. But it's not as though he's utterly devoid of value, even though he's struggled mightily while playing for a putrid New York squad. 

    Calderon isn't a very well-rounded player at this stage of his career and has trouble doing anything but matador impressions on the defensive end of the floor. But he's still a great shooter who should be able to come off the bench for a contender and help space out the court. 

    Even while struggling, the 33-year-old Spanish floor general is shooting 40.9 percent from beyond the arc, doing so on 3.7 attempts per game. And this is his worst perimeter shooting season since 2011-12, back when he was still playing for the Toronto Raptors. 

    Calderon is now a niche player, but he's still a useful one.

8. Miles Plumlee, Phoenix Suns

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    Position: C

    Age: 26

    2014-15 Per-Game Stats: 4.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.6 steals, 1.0 blocks, 13.2 PER

    Miles Plumlee is a 26-year-old big man with size, athleticism and some skill, but he's fallen out of the rotation for the Phoenix Suns. It's not because he's been a terrible player in the desert. Instead, the Suns have gained better options after the acquisition of Brandan Wright and the development of Alex Len. 

    During the center's last 10 games, he's averaged only 2.1 points and 3.4 rebounds per contest while shooting 55.6 percent from the field. But again, this isn't because he's devoid of value. He just isn't getting minutes because he's become extremely expendable. 

    Plumlee was an underrated option at the 5 during the 2013-14 campaign, performing nicely on the glass, protecting the rim fairly well and displaying some offensive upside as a last-resort option in the half-court set. At the very least, he can be a capable body in the rotation of a contending team with a size deficit. 

    "Sources told ESPN.com ‎that the Suns are working in conjunction with Plumlee's agent, Mark Bartelstein, to try to find a new home for the third-year center, who has seen his playing time steadily dwindle as the season has progressed," ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported in the middle of January. 

    The asking price of a future first-round pick is a bit much, but Plumlee should find a new home if the Suns are willing to accept slightly less for his services.

7. Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets

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    Position: PG

    Age: 30

    2014-15 Per-Game Stats: 13.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.3 blocks, 16.8 PER

    When Deron Williams is healthy, he's still a threatening point guard on both ends of the court. Such was the case early in the year, when he averaged 17.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.2 steals while shooting 44.6 percent from the field, 40 percent from beyond the arc and 89.2 percent at the charity stripe during his first 17 appearances of the 2014-15 campaign. 

    In fact, a healthy Williams is the best player featured in this countdown, bar none. 

    But when is every part of his body going to be functioning properly? The 30-year-old has a laundry list of past maladies that he's had to overcome, and his fragile nature now forces him to sit out indefinitely with fractured rib cartilage that's kept him from the lineup since Jan. 7. 

    There's no certainty about when he'll return. None exists when discussing his level of play upon returning, either. The only real fact is that he'll be overpaid, as he's set to make $21 million next year and has a $22.3 million option for 2016-17 that he'd be foolish to turn down. 

    Trading for Williams is quite the risky proposition. He still carries some upside in that 30-year-old frame, but it's no longer worth the massive uncertainties created by his injury-riddled body and the inevitable hit on the salary books.

6. Lance Stephenson, Charlotte Hornets

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    Position: SG

    Age: 24

    2014-15 Per-Game Stats: 9.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.1 blocks, 9.9 PER

    It gets better. 

    The refrain is a common one whenever a situation is inexplicably bad. But it doesn't seem to apply to Lance Stephenson's first season with the Charlotte Hornets, as he's continued to play poor basketball since returning from a groin-induced 14-game absence. 

    In the six contests since coming back to the lineup, the 24-year-old shooting guard has averaged just 8.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and five assists, shooting a putrid 37.7 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from beyond the arc. He's still a terrible fit for Steve Clifford's offense, and it's about time Charlotte accepted bargain-basement returns for him. 

    Stephenson has recently been offered as part of a package for Joe Johnson, per Wojnarowski, and the Yahoo Sports reporter also clarifies that this isn't the first time Stephenson-to-Brooklyn has come up: 

    "The Nets and Hornets had serious talks on a three-way deal that would've sent Brook Lopez to the Oklahoma City Thunder, but the deal fell apart when Brooklyn had hesitancy on adding the combustible Stephenson and wanted a bigger haul for Lopez."

    If Brooklyn isn't the ideal landing spot, someone has to be willing to risk Stephenson's "combustible" nature.

    Sure, he's a volatile player with occasional maturity issues and a broken jumper. But he's also a talented athlete capable of providing non-traditional production and locking down on the defensive end, all while playing on a fairly reasonable contract. 

5. Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets

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    Position: C

    Age: 26

    2014-15 Per-Game Stats: 14.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.6 blocks, 19.0 PER

    The case of Brook Lopez is a strange one. 

    He's a game-changing presence at center on the offensive end of the court, as he's a threatening mid-range scorer and a creative force with his back to the basket. But he's still a lackluster defender who spends far too much time right around the hoop, and he can't rebound as well as some players whose heads only come up to his chin. Plus, his contract is potentially problematic, as he has a player option for $16.7 million in 2015-16. 

    And if that wasn't enough, we have no idea if Lopez can stay healthy. His feet have been troublesome in the past, and it's been quite a while since he's stayed in the lineup for a significant stretch of consecutive games. 

    Now, the big man has fallen behind Mason Plumlee in the center rotation for the Brooklyn Nets, and he's spent only 25.7 minutes per game on the floor in his last 10 outings. That's not enough for a player with this level of offensive upside. 

    The latest rumor about Lopez comes courtesy of The Denver Post's Christopher Dempsey, and it involves the Denver Nuggets: 

    When the trade wheels get back turning again — and they will — there will be no shortage of suitors, and the Nuggets are expected to be among them. They've already made one run at it, but were rebuffed along with everyone else by the Nets in favor of negotiations with Oklahoma City, and those talks got intense before breaking down.

    Nothing has come to fruition yet, regardless of whether it's the Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder or Charlotte Hornets being linked to the big man. 

    Lopez, much like everyone else on the block, has flaws. But his offensive talent can still trump them for a team willing to take a high-risk, high-reward gamble.

4. Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Position: PG

    Age: 23

    2014-15 Per-Game Stats: 15.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.4 blocks, 12.5 PER

    Sean Devine of DYST Now, a Syracuse-based website, first reported that Michael Carter-Williams was on the block. Since then, plenty have jumped on board that train of thought. 

    During an interview with CineSport's Noah Coslov (h/t Bleacher Report's Bryan Toporek), The Philadelphia Inquirer's Bob Ford explained that he expects Carter-Williams to be shopped by the Philadelphia 76ers: "I think they're trying to deal him right now. I wouldn't be surprised if Michael Carter-Williams were traded before the deadline. …I think they've looked at him for a couple of years and decided his shot is not fixable."

    As Toporek wrote, however, don't expect a deal to actually come about. Not only is Carter-Williams one of the few remaining point guards on the Sixers, but the timing is off: 

    Additionally, with Tony Wroten presumably out for the season due to a partially torn ACL, the Sixers lack any reliable point guard options behind Carter-Williams. Larry Drew II, who signed a 10-day contract with the team in mid-January, would be the next man up if Philly trades MCW and doesn't receive a point guard in return.

    Unless a team is willing to cough up multiple first-rounders for Carter-Williams, expect him to stay put through the trade deadline. A draft-night trade is far more feasible, especially if Emmanuel Mudiay is on the board when the Sixers are up.

    The issue here is that Carter-Williams hasn't done much to live up to the Rookie of the Year hype. He's regressed in nearly every meaningful category, and it's not as though he was particularly impressive during his first go-round, winning the notable award due to a dearth of competition and a wealth of opportunity on a bottom-feeding team that played at an uptempo pace. 

    Still, Carter-Williams has upside.

    His frame is spectacular for a point guard, and he's a working jumper away from dramatically improving his value. Plus, there are no contract worries of note for this particular player who could be changing locations.

3. Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Position: PG/SG

    Age: 24

    2014-15 Per-Game Stats: 13.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.1 blocks, 15.5 PER

    Reggie Jackson is by no means a perfect player. 

    He's not entirely efficient and can take too many ill-advised shots while attempting to carry an offense. And his ability to actually carry one is questionable as well, since the Oklahoma City Thunder struggled to win games while Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were out, leaving him as one of the go-to scorers. 

    But Jackson is an athletic combo guard with plenty of two-way upside. Just because he's a malcontent in OKC and hasn't yet peaked doesn't mean teams shouldn't want to acquire his services…so long as they're confident they can keep him in town. 

    Sometimes, an expiring contract is a positive. But that's not the case for Jackson, whose deal is up after the 2014-15 season has reached its conclusion. He'll have an opportunity to ink a new contract with whichever team he's playing for, but there's going to be a flight risk no matter where he is, as he seems to desire nothing more than the ability to be a starter and go-to player, even when everyone else is healthy. 

    "The Oklahoma City guard who will be a restricted free agent this summer wants to be a starter, for one, not to mention an All-Star and perhaps even a Hall of Famer," Sam Amick writes for USA Today. "Yet unfortunately for the Boston College product who was taken 24th overall by the Thunder in 2011, those goals are seeming more distant by the day given all that surrounds him in this current climate."

    Jackson doesn't have the same injury-related risks that plague so many players on the trade block. It's just that whichever team trades for him knows that his happiness—and thus, his willingness to come back as more than a half-season rental—isn't exactly guaranteed. 

2. Wilson Chandler, Denver Nuggets

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    Position: SG/SF

    Age: 27

    2014-15 Per-Game Stats: 14.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.4 blocks, 11.9 PER

    Wilson Chandler plays on a reasonable contract. He's not the type of player who causes chemistry concerns, and he tends to put forth 100 percent effort no matter who joins him on the roster. There's no lengthy history of injury, and his 27 years on the planet offer little risk of a huge age-related decline in the near future. 

    All the concerns that plague the other players on the trade block are virtually irrelevant here. In fact, the only thing really holding Chandler back is a distinct lack of upside. 

    When players like Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Lance Stephenson are at their best, they're more valuable options. But Chandler's lack of downside and ability to function as a two-way player allow him to take one of the top spots, even if the Denver Nuggets haven't yet shopped him around extensively. 

    Is he an elite defender? Not at all, and he actually needs to be in the right system (ideally not the one in Denver) to function as a quality one. Is he one of the league's best snipers? Far from it, though he's an above-average threat from the perimeter. 

    Steady is the name of the game here, and the options could be far worse in this lackluster trading market.

1. Thaddeus Young, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Position: SF/PF

    Age: 26

    2014-15 Per-Game Stats: 14.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.4 blocks, 14.7 PER

    "ESPN sources say Wolves are willing to move Thaddeus Young as part of ongoing rebuild and Young said to be high on list players BKN covets," ESPN.com's Marc Stein tweeted out on Jan. 16. Nothing has happened since then, but it still makes sense for the rebuilding Minnesota Timberwolves to shop Young in a continuing effort to look for more ways to get their young, high-potential players involved on a regular basis.

    Plus, the return should be rather significant for Young. 

    The combo forward is only 26 years old and will be paid slightly under $10 million next season. He's not exactly a bargain, but it's not as though a team has to break the bank in order to add him to its roster. 

    Young has declined rather significantly after a great 2013-14 campaign with the Philadelphia 76ers, and it's largely because his style of play has been altered under the supervision of head coach Flip Saunders. No longer can he serve as a floor-spacing forward. He's instead been confined within the three-point arc for much of the game, where his versatility isn't on display to the same extent. 

    While he averaged 17.9 points per game and took 3.7 triples per game during his final season with the Sixers, knocking down 30.8 percent of those deep looks, he's only put up 14.3 points per contest as a Wolf. Saunders has limited him to only 1.4 attempts per game from beyond the arc, and he's connected on just 28.3 percent of them.  

    On the right squad, Young still has plenty of value. He's a rim-seeking threat in transition, a floor-spacing option (note: by no means an elite one) in the half-court set and a passionate player who never fails to exhibit professionalism on the floor.

    In a trade market littered with options that boast significant downsides, Young certainly stands out in a positive way.

    Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from Basketball-Reference.com and are current heading into Jan. 27's games. 

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