NBA Players Who Already Need a Trade
Talent can only get you so far in the NBA.
Without receiving a proper opportunity, players are doomed to struggle in roles that weren't made for them. Whether they're stuck behind established contributors at the same position or playing for squads that don't properly value their abilities, they aren't making the impact they could elsewhere.
We're here to set them free.
In reality, only their teams can do that. But we can at least identify the players who need a change of scenery—and then offer up some ideas to unlock their true potential.
Below are the players who would benefit most from a trade but are too difficult to find transaction partners for this early in the season.
Omri Casspi, SF/PF, Sacramento Kings
Although Omri Casspi has denied requesting a trade, per CSN Bay Area's James Ham, he should want one.
After emerging as arguably the league's most underrated player in 2015-16—our NBA 200 countdown slotted him at No. 102, between Ian Mahinmi and Taj Gibson—the veteran has been buried on the Sacramento Kings bench.
But given his expiring deal and his value if injuries strike, it's tough to imagine that Sacramento will get enough in return to part with him.
Monta Ellis, SG, Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers need defensive help on the wings and can afford to let Monta Ellis go to a team in dire need of an offensive punch. Whether he's coming off the bench or operating in a starting lineup, he's still capable of taking on more responsibilities than he receives while sharing time with Paul George, Jeff Teague and C.J. Miles.
But good luck finding a home for his salary of nearly $11 million.
Kenneth Faried/Nikola Jokic/Jusuf Nurkic, PF/C, Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic are two of the most exciting talents on the upside-laden Denver Nuggets. However, it's proved difficult to play them together, to the point that the former even asked to be taken out of the starting lineup, per BSN Denver's Harrison Wind.
Add Kenneth Faried into the mix, and you have a triumvirate of bigs who all need more playing time but can't receive those accommodations unless one is shipped away.
Team: Sacramento Kings
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 26.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.1 blocks
Here we go again.
"I'd say they have three months, tops," an NBA general manager revealed to Sean Deveney of Sporting News. "Probably more like a month, or month-and-a-half, because the closer they get to the deadline, the less they're going to get back. If you're trying to trade him the week of the deadline, it's going to be tougher."
We've been here before—plenty of times, in fact. But not all sources require anonymity during this particular iteration of the never-ending carousel of DeMarcus Cousins trade rumors.
"He hasn't shown me those leadership qualities yet," Shaquille O'Neal, a minority owner of the Kings, admitted on TNT's Inside the NBA, as transcribed by Yahoo Sports' Dan Devine. "That's why I'm hearing talk of, if things don't start to become correct, then they may be looking to go in a different direction."
Cousins is far too talented to labor away with no hope of advancing into the Western Conference playoffs, but the Kings have set him up for failure yet again.
There's little continuity, and his teammates aren't skilled enough to support him. Sacramento is filled with a plethora of youthful pieces that don't necessarily complement each other, and the big man has little reason to believe in a collective brain trust that has struggled to assemble a competitive roster ever since he was drafted.
The time has come for a trade, especially if another talent-starved organization such as the New Orleans Pelicans is willing to pay a king's ransom of budding prospects and impressive, unprotected draft picks for his services. After all, the Pelicans might be willing to sell the farm to keep Anthony Davis from becoming so malcontent he winds up on a future iteration of this list.
Potential Trade: DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans for E'Twaun Moore, Buddy Hield, Alexis Ajinca and two first-round picks (after Dec. 14)
Team: Milwaukee Bucks
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 3.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.8 blocks
When John Henson signed a four-year extension with the Milwaukee Bucks worth $44 million, he probably thought he would fill a significant role. That's…not what's happened.
In 2015-16, he spent just 16.8 minutes per game on the floor—even fewer than he had the year before. Now, his playing time has dwindled further, to the point he's often suited up as the third-string center behind Miles Plumlee and Greg Monroe, logging only 14.5 minutes during his average appearance.
The lack of court time has prevented Henson from finding an offensive rhythm, but he's continued to serve as a defensive stud. That's what makes his diminished role so inexplicable: Why wouldn't a team want to use someone who held opponents to 42.3 percent shooting at the rim in 2015-16, per NBA.com's SportVU data?
Sure, the Bucks finally moved Henson into the starting five for Saturday's contest against the Memphis Grizzlies. He recorded an efficient eight points and seven rebounds but still couldn't receive even 18 minutes from head coach Jason Kidd.
This 25-year-old is still brimming over with two-way potential. Even if he's a one-way contributor, his interior defense is so strong that he could justify a major role.
But it's beyond clear: Milwaukee won't give him that chance.
Potential Trade: John Henson to the Miami Heat for Josh McRoberts, Dion Waiters and Derrick Williams (after Dec. 14)
Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 6.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.3 steals
With Ricky Rubio and Kris Dunn ahead in the pecking order, Tyus Jones can't get the minutes he deserves. He thrived against lesser competition whenever he was handed a larger role during preseason and summer league action, to the point that he should at least get a chance to shine against true NBA foes.
|2015 Summer League||11.4||3.0||3.0||1.5||40.7||25.0||6.1|
|2016 Summer League||21.4||3.9||7.1||1.4||45.1||40.6||25.1|
Sure, Jones has struggled with his shot during regular-season action. But he's also looked the part of an improving defender, and his ability to facilitate without turning the ball over ensures his offensive value. His offensive box plus/minus is a stellar 3.0, which would seem to fly in the face of his 36.4 field-goal percentage.
"Several teams—including Philadelphia and New Orleans—have shown interest in point guard Tyus Jones, 20, whom the Wolves are more open to moving in the short term, league sources said," Adrian Wojnarowski reported for The Vertical back in October.
Those teams, both of which are hungry for help at the point, should remain potential landing spots. But we prefer looking at the Bucks, who could use a legitimate backup to Matthew Dellavedova—Malcolm Brogdon and Jason Terry are better at other positions—and could offer an upside wing player in return.
Potential Trade: Tyus Jones to the Milwaukee Bucks for Rashad Vaughn
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 11.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.0 blocks
"The Sixers have had periodic trade talks this summer involving [Nerlens] Noel and [Jahlil] Okafor and plan eventually to move one of them, league sources said. Philadelphia doesn't believe the two players' talents are complementary," Wojnarowski reported in early September.
Okafor and Noel's compatibility levels haven't changed. But in the wake of Joel Embiid's breakout performance—it's abundantly clear he's the future of this franchise—the two incumbents are in jeopardy.
Noel is still working his way back from surgery on an inflamed plica above his left knee, so we don't know if he can work with Embiid. We can at least assume he'll be able to, since his mobile defense, paired with Embiid's dominant rim protection, could make Philadelphia's preventing ability verge on elite.
But Okafor has been healthy enough to play, and the Sixers still haven't experimented with him and Embiid together. They've alternated time for the most part, sharing the floor for only two of Okafor's 151 total minutes, per NBA.com.
The modern NBA makes it tough to find a perfect fit for the Duke product. He's a lumbering big with a wide-ranging offensive skill set, but he can't space the floor or hold his own defensively, thereby mandating an old-school scheme.
Philadelphia can't give him that, but there are plenty of other struggling organizations that could use an offensive boost in the frontcourt. The Phoenix Suns, for example, could give up on Alex Len and Tyson Chandler, throwing Brandon Knight to the Sixers as scoring guard relief while salivating over the prospect of pairing Okafor with the athletic defense of Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss.
Potential Trade: Jahlil Okafor to the Phoenix Suns for Brandon Knight and a pair of second-round picks
Team: Orlando Magic
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 11.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.3 blocks
As Dan Feldman wrote for NBC Sports in early November, Nikola Vucevic began the season looking like the Orlando Magic's best player, even after they spent so much offseason time and money shoring up the frontcourt:
Numerous analysts pegged Vucevic as the odd man out, likely to be demoted from the starting lineup if not traded. Then, a funny thing happened: Vucevic has held his job as starting center and been the Magic's best player so far this season.
He leads Orlando's frontcourt players in points (14.8), rebounds (12.8) and assists (3.0) per game. The Magic are way better with him on the court than off – scoring 7.4 more and allowing 19.5 fewer points per 100 possessions.
This hasn't changed, though the Magic are now "just" 7.6 points per 100 possessions better when he's on the floor. That's what makes his diminishing run so concerning.
Vucevic is playing only 27.2 minutes per game—the fewest of his professional career since his rookie season with the 76ers. No matter how effective he's been, the Magic won't treat him like a franchise centerpiece, opting instead for the defensive options they just brought in.
It would be best for everyone if they broke up the logjam: Allow Bismack Biyombo to take on a bigger role while trusting Stephen Zimmerman with a spot in the rotation. Let Vucevic thrive as a featured scoring option on a team that needs a distinct offensive boost—the Dallas Mavericks may well be the best destination, even after Dirk Nowitzki is healthy.
Floundering is the most likely result if nothing changes.
Potential Trade: Nikola Vucevic to the Dallas Mavericks for Devin Harris, Justin Anderson, J.J. Barea and a second-round pick
Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @fromal09.