The Trade Target Each NBA Team Should Be Chasing Right Now
Hopefully, you own an NBA general manager's hat for all 30 teams.
The league's unofficial trade season begins next Thursday. That's when most players who signed new contracts over the offseason can be dealt, increasing the pool of available names by more than 100.
Not every team will be aggressive working the phones. Some have no reason to rock the boat. Others lack the assets to make a splash. But many of the association's general managers are already working feverishly, scouring the market for upgrades, both minor and drastic.
Coming up with a trade target for every squad feels right this time of year. To keep things interesting, we won't repeat a name once it's used. We also won't force an issue—if a team doesn't have the assets to strike a deal of any kind, there will be no suggestion.
Trade parameters will be outlined in every instance. The returns for every team have to be realistic and are independent of players who were discussed in other scenarios. Assume all deals that include those on new contracts will go through after Dec. 15 or whenever the affected player is eligible to be sent packing.
Atlanta Hawks: Tyus Jones
Dennis Schroder's transition into the starting point guard role isn't going as planned: The Atlanta Hawks rank 27th in offensive efficiency. Plus, they are scoring more points per 100 possessions when he's on the bench.
Unless the Hawks are ready to hit the reset button, they don't have the expendable assets to obtain a real impact player. Trading for a higher-end point guard after handing Schroder a $70 million extension doesn't make sense either.
Tyus Jones is stuck behind Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn in the Minnesota Timberwolves' backcourt rotation and could probably be had. He won't provide a season-saving punch, but he's another body to plug at the 1.
Atlanta has a bunch of expiring contracts (Kris Humphries, Thabo Sefolosha, Mike Scott) it can package with an excess of second-rounders. The Timberwolves also owe the Hawks a first-round pick that's lottery-protected between 2018 and 2020 which becomes two second-rounders if not conveyed. Extinguishing that commitment shouldn't be off the table.
Boston Celtics: Paul George
Any trade the Boston Celtics make must position them to challenge the reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers. They are already contending for the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, so small-scale deals won't push them forward.
Paul George doesn't qualify as an available superstar. During a recent episode of The Lowe Post podcast, ESPN.com's Zach Lowe said Indiana Pacers team president Larry Bird is, as of now, preparing to see his cornerstone's contract through to the end.
But George is a free agent in 2018 (player option), at which point he will definitely be a flight risk. The Pacers are running a treadmill of mediocrity and are nowhere near catching the Cavaliers. Another team will be able to sling George max money and offer the chance to legitimately contend.
Can the Pacers really say no to a deal built around the Brooklyn Nets' next two picks, Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder? Maybe so, but the Celtics can tailor that framework to Indiana's liking. They have additional first-round picks, the ability to absorb an unsavory contract and a slew of other attractive pieces in Jaylen Brown, Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and Terry Rozier.
Indiana is better off capitalizing on George's value now, before it dips over the summer, when he'll essentially be working on an expiring contract. Boston needs a superstar to pair with Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas.
These two teams are a good match.
Brooklyn Nets: Rashad Vaughn
The Nets' new regime has made it a priority to target youngish players who can man multiple positions and chuck threes.
Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson both fielded offer sheets from Brooklyn over the summer. Their incumbent teams matched. The Nets recently tried to poach unsigned stretch 5 Donatas Motiejunas from the Houston Rockets, only to see their claim fall short.
Enter Rashad Vaughn.
He fits Brooklyn's desired bill as an edgy wing who, at his peak, should stroke threes, create off the bounce and defend both the 2 and 3. Better still, he's gettable.
Vaughn is struggling to crack the Milwaukee Bucks rotation. He will only be more hard-pressed for playing time once Khris Middleton returns and as Malcolm Brogdon develops.
Milwaukee could see him as the eventual permanent alternative to the Tony Snell-Michael Beasley stopgap, but Brooklyn has the flexibility to take on money its partner doesn't want. Vaughn also makes for a nice headlining piece if the Bucks are interested in Brook Lopez. (Greg Monroe rental, anyone?)
Chicago Bulls: Goran Dragic
Rajon Rondo isn't a point guard the Chicago Bulls should plan around. The offense isn't much more efficient when he runs the show, and his $13.4 million salary for next season is non-guaranteed. (And then there's the whole postgame temper tantrum thing.)
Goran Dragic represents a stark upgrade. He doesn't always need the ball in his hands and has experience playing beside Dwyane Wade. His 41.0 percent clip from three will be huge for a Bulls squad that's trying to deploy a top-10 scoring attack while posting a bottom-five effective field-goal percentage.
At 30 years old, with more than $70 million left on his deal, Dragic isn't a pursuit to be taken lightly. Nor will he be cheap. But the Bulls aren't rebuilding, and the Miami Heat, it seems, entertained moving Dragic over the offseason, according to ESPN.com's Zach Lowe.
Chicago has a bunch of assets it can dangle in front of Miami—a team that should be ready for a thorough reset.
Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic could be a dream alongside Hassan Whiteside, and Jerian Grant would give the Heat another option to test out at point guard. The Bulls have all their own first-round picks, in addition to the Sacramento Kings' selection next year (top-10-protected or a second-round choice). Taj Gibson's expiring pact or Rondo's deal can be used to make the incoming and outgoing salaries work.
Charlotte Hornets: Raul Neto
Signing Ramon Sessions and bringing back Brian Roberts seemed like a good idea for the Charlotte Hornets. They lost Jeremy Lin in free agency and needed more options at point guard behind Kemba Walker.
Neither Sessions nor Roberts has been very good, though. The former is shooting under 25 percent from deep, and the latter doesn't get playing time. Charlotte's offense craters whenever one of them is on the floor.
Raul Neto has canned 40.0 percent of his three-pointers since entering the NBA last year but can't find spin with the Utah Jazz. Dante Exum and (for some reason) Shelvin Mack are in front of him. George Hill's starter minutes are too valuable to trim when he's healthy.
Though the Hornets don't have much to offer, the Jazz won't need a ton to part with Neto—their depth chart is stacked top to bottom. Roberts and a second-round pick could get a deal done. Neto doesn't break the bank, but he's signed through next season, and Utah will approach luxury-tax territory if it extends Derrick Favors and then re-signs Gordon Hayward and Hill.
If the Jazz finally start using Neto over Mack, the Hornets shouldn't shy from chasing the latter.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Marcelo Huertas
Damn it, Mo Williams. The Cavaliers were so close to the ultra-coveted "No One" designation.
Backup point guard isn't an enormous problem in Cleveland. Kyrie Irving and LeBron James shoulder almost all of the ball-handling duties on their own, and Iman Shumpert can serve as the pilot in a pinch. Rookie Kay Felder is a solid garbage-time option.
Acquiring another floor general is a good idea, though. Irving isn't the most durable player, and the Cavaliers don't want a situation in which they're calling upon the super-slumping J.R. Smith to create for others.
Marcelo Huertas is a quality target for a team bereft of tradable assets. The Los Angeles Lakers weren't playing him until Jose Calderon and D'Angelo Russell went down. With Russell on the mend, per the Los Angeles Times' Jesse Dougherty, Huertas will be expendable in due time.
Cleveland has trade exceptions to absorb him if the Lakers are feeling generous. A pair of second-round selections from the Portland Trail Blazers in 2019 (via the Lakers or Timberwolves) and 2020 could also help grease the wheels.
Dallas Mavericks: 1st-Round Picks
Dirk Nowitzki is dealing with an Achilles injury that has limited him to five games. J.J. Barea is down with a left calf tear. Seth Curry is coping with a sprained left knee. The second unit is among the worst in the league.
Forget about salvaging this season. The Dallas Mavericks need to throw in the towel.
They are already in line for a top draft pick and would do well to auction off other assets in hopes of restocking a depleted cupboard. As Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com wrote, however, Dallas isn't there yet:
Sources tell ESPN that Mavs have no immediate intention to shop C Andrew Bogut, as their focus for now is trying to salvage their season. However, Mavs management recognizes that Bogut has significant value in the trade market as a proven championship-caliber complementary piece in a contract year and could become motivated to move him if and when it becomes clear that the Mavs have no hope of making the playoffs this season. Several league sources said the Mavs should be able to get a first-round pick from a contender for Bogut.
Bogut, for the record, isn't healthy himself. He has a bone bruise in his right knee and is slated to miss two weeks, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein. If the Mavericks can get a pick or prospect for his expiring deal, they should do it without the slightest hesitation.
Ditto for everyone else on the roster not named Harrison Barnes or Dirk Nowitzki—yes, that includes Wesley Matthews. The Mavericks' run of perpetual playoff contention is over. Their days of thinking like a win-now franchise should be too.
Denver Nuggets: DeMarcus Cousins
The Denver Nuggets are in the Celtics' boat. They aren't nearly as talented when left alone but have so many assets that the goal has to be consolidation.
Just look at their (full-strength) depth chart:
|Emmanuel Mudiay||Gary Harris||Danilo Gallinari||Kenneth Faried||Jusuf Nurkic|
|Jameer Nelson||Will Barton||Wilson Chandler||Juan Hernangomez||Nikola Jokic|
|Jamal Murray||Mike Miller||Darrell Arthur|
Injuries to Harris (foot) and Jokic (wrist) have thinned out the rotation a bit, but absences aren't forever. The Nuggets need fewer options and more polished talent. They need a superstar.
DeMarcus Cousins can be that pillar. He can play beside any of the bigs Denver retains in talks with Sacramento and will likely embrace a reunion with head coach Mike Malone—one of the few sideline presences who seemed to truly connect with him.
Convincing the Kings to deal Cousins is, of course, an issue itself. They have been stubborn in their refusal to move or properly rebuild around him for years, and nothing has changed—except Cousins' contract status. He is a free agent in 2018, and the idea of his staying with Sacramento after what will be eight years of losing remains laughable.
Letting go of Cousins won't be easy, but it won't be as hard if the Nuggets are offering, say, two first-round picks, Chandler, Murray and Nurkic.
Detroit Pistons: Anthony Morrow
Congratulations to the Detroit Pistons for treading playoff water while Reggie Jackson recovered from left knee and right thumb injuries. Now that he's back, it's time to fix the spacing.
Detroit is draining more than 34 percent of its threes—a more than reasonable conversion rate. But the offense ranks an unimpressive 20th in points scored per 100 possessions. Head coach Stan Van Gundy needs an insurance policy in case Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's career-best three-point clip (37.5) and Tobias Harris' three-point shooting (34.1) regress to the mean.
Anthony Morrow is a good solution to the Pistons' miniature quandary. He is shooting under 35 percent from long range, but that number will climb in Detroit. The Oklahoma City Thunder, even with Russell Westbrook, don't have the array of offensive threats necessary to set up Morrow with wide-open bunnies.
Price will be an issue. The Pistons aren't forking over a first-rounder for Morrow's expiring pact, and the Thunder can't afford to give away one of their best outside options. But Oklahoma City is also love-drunk on Jerami Grant and always looking to get younger.
Offering the injured Reggie Bullock, Michael Gbinije (silent "G!") and a 2018 or 2019 second-rounder (via Cleveland, Houston, Orlando or Portland) should be enough for Van Gundy to get a hold of Thunder general manager Sam Presti.
Golden State Warriors: No One
Do not touch the Golden State Warriors.
Golden State's biggest problem is that Kevon Looney, a power forward who has played center in the past, has to defend small forwards during garbage time—but only when he plays with JaVale McGee and Anderson Varejao.
On the "Real-Life Problems" scale, this concern ranks somewhere between "My gold shoes are too tight" and "This wad of Benjamins is too big to fit inside the back pocket of my $250 skinny jeans."
Sure, the Warriors wouldn't say no to an upgrade at starting center over Zaza Pachulia. But they aren't making actual improvements to this roster without shipping out one of their key players.
To suggest the Warriors do that, when they're living up to their billing as championship favorites, is beyond stupid.
Houston Rockets: Joe Ingles
Kosta Koufos was initially the best-fit target for the Houston Rockets. He can be a quality rim protector and would find opportunities to score at the basket within head coach Mike D'Antoni's diver-friendly offense.
But while the Rockets need a defensive spark, they don't need it from the center position. Though Clint Capela has been exposed in many of D'Antoni's lineups, you're not cutting into his playing time. And Nene is holding down the fort just fine off the bench.
Alleviating Corey Brewer's workload should be the main priority. He's shooting just under 20 percent on three-point looks, and his defense has long been a tick overrated.
Joe Ingles is a more suitable option for what Houston needs. He has swished 38 percent of his triples since entering the NBA in 2014-15 and is a decent defensive option at the 3 and 4. He has even guarded some 2s during his time with the Jazz.
Utah isn't in the business of dealing players midseason, period. But Ingles is buried behind Gordon Hayward and Joe Johnson, he will be a free agent this summer, and the Jazz probably won't be able to foot his bill after paying George Hill and Hayward. Rodney Hood will be extension-eligible too.
Enticing Utah with K.J. McDaniels and a 2017 second-round pick (via Denver or Portland) should get Houston somewhere. General manager Daryl Morey can also see if there are enough second-round sweeteners for the Jazz to take on Brewer.
Indiana Pacers: Lance Thomas
Lance Thomas isn't someone the Pacers chase if they enter full-on rebuilding mode.
But until the Celtics wear down Larry Bird, we have to assume they're aiming to make a run now.
Indiana doesn't have all the pieces necessary to play fast and small without giving up too much on the defensive end. Monta Ellis looks out of place in a starting five that's failing on offense, and Thaddeus Young—while shooting better than 39 percent from long distance—doesn't create the mismatches indicative of true wing-loaded outfits.
Paul George, C.J. Miles and Glenn Robinson III are a good start. Thomas, who can't be traded until after Jan. 14, is a quality finishing touch. He can defend shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards, and his three-point accuracy checks in above 40 percent for the second consecutive season.
Justin Holiday's emergence doesn't render Thomas irrelevant to the New York Knicks, but he's no longer a necessity either. The team has Courtney Lee, and Mindaugas Kuzminskas is playable at either forward slot.
New York might embrace the chance to wipe Thomas' deal off the ledger. He is signed through 2019-20 and will never take home more than $7.6 million, but that's breathing room team president Phil Jackson can use to manufacture max space this summer, when Brandon Jennings, Derrick Rose and Holiday are free agents—and when a score of big-name point guards reach the open market.
Coming up with a workable deal is hard. The Knicks aren't taking Rodney Stuckey or Ellis. The Pacers will need to send back a 2018 first-rounder if they wish to build a proposal around Lavoy Allen's expiring contract (team option) and filler. Miles and a couple of post-2017 second-rounders work as well if Indy isn't interested in giving the former a raise when he opts out of his deal this summer.
Los Angeles Clippers: No One
It's not that the Los Angeles Clippers don't need upgrades. Their bench is deceptively bad, and "starting small forward Luc Mbah a Moute" will never have a great ring to it, no matter how well he's playing.
But we need to save the Clippers from themselves—or rather, from head coach and team president Doc Rivers. As Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal wrote ahead of the season:
Who exactly are the Los Angeles Clippers going to trade?
Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick should be untouchable, and opposing teams won't have any interest in Brandon Bass or Paul Pierce. Brice Johnson is the only other player on the roster eligible to be traded before mid-December, and LAC shouldn't move the rookie power forward so soon after using a first-round pick to acquire him.
That leaves draft picks, except Doc Rivers has made...interesting(?) moves like sending away a first-round selection for a half-season rental of Jeff Green.
Rival general managers aren't touching Jamal Crawford's or Austin Rivers' contract with a 10-foot pole. Wesley Johnson doesn't play much, but the Clippers need him in the event their defense implodes. The corpse of Pierce isn't fetching anything. Mbah a Moute is more valuable as a contributor at his $2.2 million salary.
Rivers cannot trade a first-round selection until 2021. Cap flotsam and that pick might get him Kosta Koufos from the Kings, but doling out first-round goodies when Griffin (early termination option), Paul (early termination option) and Redick are all ticketed for free agency would be a special kind of reckless.
Los Angeles Lakers: Noah Vonleh
Looking at the Lakers' books and the quality of play for all their kiddies—plus Lou Williams and the injured Nick Young—it's tempting to churn out a star-level trade target.
Resisting that urge is key for us hopeless trade-machine romantics, and for the Lakers themselves.
Things are too good to mess with in Los Angeles. The Lakers are a feel-good story even if their postseason ambitions are dissipating. They are rebuilding, organically and properly, for the first time in forever. Pursuing developmental projects is more in tune with this new Lakers Way.
On that note: Noah Vonleh is only 21 and on his rookie-scale deal through 2017-18. The Blazers have tried incorporating him into their rotation at different points, even using him at center for stretches, but he gets lost easily, and often, in their litter of bigs.
Tarik Black and Larry Nance Jr. are both playing really well, and Timofey Mozgov isn't going anywhere, so the Lakers seem set at the 5. Luol Deng, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle all need ample time at the 4 spot as well. Still, Los Angeles doesn't have a stretch 5.
Vonleh is an unpolished shooter, but he has three-point range. That's big for a team now married to Randle at power forward. The Lakers should try to engage the Blazers with one of their other promising bigs, Black or Nance, and a collection of second-rounders.
Memphis Grizzlies: Josh McRoberts
For the Memphis Grizzlies, it's all about thinking small.
They don't have any tangible assets to parlay into impact players. Mike Conley, even when injured, and Marc Gasol are untouchable. Few, if any, general managers are touching Chandler Parsons' $94 million deal while he recovers from yet another knee injury.
Zach Randolph's $10.4 million hit comes off the ledger after this season, but trading him feels wrong for nostalgia and chemistry purposes. Tony Allen still can't shoot, and JaMychal Green doesn't even make $1 million. Both are more valuable to the Grizzlies as players rather than assets.
That leaves Memphis to surf for trade-market dregs such as Josh McRoberts. The Heat don't know what to do with him when he's healthy, and the Grizzlies could use another savvy passer and sometimes-shooter to aid frontcourt spacing.
Swapping Brandan Wright for McRoberts holds appeal on both sides. Wright hasn't played since last February and remains sidelined with tendinitis in his left ankle. But he costs about the same as McRoberts, and Miami could stand to (eventually) try him out as an explosive pick-and-roll finisher behind Hassan Whiteside.
Miami Heat: Doug McDermott
Doug McDermott isn't a default selection for the Heat. Yes, getting Goran Dragic to Chicago remains a goal. But Miami needs shooters up front.
Defenses are packing the paint against Hassan Whiteside, making it more difficult for him to operate on the run. The Heat surround him with four wings, and he's become a more frequent passer. But the likes of Luke Babbitt, Wayne Ellington, James Johnson, Tyler Johnson, Rodney McGruder, Josh Richardson and Dion Waiters don't instill fear into enemy combatants.
Getting McDermot generates an iota of respect. He is hitting more than 36.4 percent of his treys and shoots even better off the catch. The Heat can afford to cover up for his defensive lapses since he is interchangeable as a combo forward when playing next to Justise Winslow.
There isn't a way to get McDermott to Miami in a smaller deal without Dragic. The Bulls would have to be interested in Ellington and picks, but the Heat can't trade a first-rounder until 2023 and shouldn't be stripping themselves of selections anyway.
Turning Dragic into some combination of Chicago's picks and younger assets, including McDermott, is the best way for Miami to inject both spacing and youth into its fold.
Milwaukee Bucks: Brook Lopez
Brooklyn should be targeting Rashad Vaughn. Milwaukee should be pursuing Brook Lopez.
Isn't it nice when things come full circle?
None of the Bucks' current centers space the floor. John Henson and Miles Plumlee are best suited as pick-and-roll divers, while Greg Monroe is a post-up brute. Head coach Jason Kidd has taken to a Jabari Parker-Mirza Teletovic pairing up front to carve out extra room.
Brook Lopez leads the Nets in made three-pointers and blocks; Kristaps Porzingis is the only other player doing the same. Inserting Bro-Lo into the starting five opens offensive avenues the Bucks cannot hope to explore as currently constructed.
Owed around $43.8 million through 2017-18, Lopez is both affordable and obtainable. He is Brooklyn's best player but will turn turn 30 before his next contract. The Nets' new regime is better off getting younger and wasn't opposed to moving Lopez as of early November, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
Henson, Vaughn and cap dreck should be enough to sway Brooklyn, but Milwaukee doesn't have a ton of fodder. Attaching a lottery-protected pick in 2018, when the Nets don't have a selection, to Monroe and Vaughn (probably) gets the deal done without issue.
Minnesota Timberwolves: DeMarre Carroll
Sources told Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher in November that Timberwolves coach and president Tom Thibodeau was getting "impatient" and would eventually use some of his younger players to acquire a proven veteran.
Then December came, and Thibodeau sounded more tolerant of Minnesota's losing record and defensive growing pains. As he told NBA.com's David Aldridge:
When you begin, you begin with the end in mind, the things that you're gonna need to be successful and be a good team. So you try to work on those concepts. For us, it's building a foundation. So we start with the individual fundamentals, and then obviously the team schemes we're adding into that. And hopefully, through repetition and trial and error, and them seeing, okay, when we do it like that, this is how it works, this is how it should look like. And that's part of learning.
Balancing immediate expectations without jeopardizing the future is a tricky game. Going after someone such as DeMarre Carroll is an optimal compromise. He would work well inside Thibs' defensive constructs and doesn't clog the financial pipeline with an average annual salary of $14.8 million.
Landing Carroll would move Gorgui Dieng to the bench, which is fine. He and Karl-Anthony Towns allow more than 109.2 points per 100 possessions when sharing the floor, and the Timberwolves should primarily be running four-out lineups when Ricky Rubio and Kris Dunn are their main point guards.
Norman Powell and Terrence Ross are ready for bigger roles with the Toronto Raptors, so the Timberwolves should try selling them on Nemanja Bjelica, Shabazz Muhammad and a couple of second-round choices. If Toronto plays hardball, Minnesota can tender a lottery-protected first in 2022.
New Orleans Pelicans: Nerlens Noel
Suggesting the New Orleans Pelicans put out feelers for Nerlens Noel is only partly about reuniting the center with the team that drafted (and immediately traded) him.
The Philadelphia 76ers have too many bigs, and Noel wants a new home, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein. The Pelicans need a competent big to run alongside Anthony Davis when he plays power forward—so, not Omer Asik—but can't afford to tap their well of first-round picks.
Staying youthful without bailing on this season is no small task, and New Orleans isn't blessed with a gaggle of tangible assets. Buddy Hield, a top-six prospect who's still trying to find his shot at the NBA level, and Philly's 2017 second-rounder are its best tools.
That won't be enough for the Sixers to part with Noel. His value is down following left knee surgery and with restricted free agency on the horizon, but Philly has enough swingmen in Gerald Henderson, Nik Stauskas and Hollis Thompson.
Sussing out a third team is crucial to any trade unless the Pelicans and Sixers can find common ground on Tim Frazier, Solomon Hill or E'Twaun Moore. The Phoenix Suns (spoiler alert) are a possible partner. They can justify rolling the dice on someone like Hield, who doesn't need the ball in his hands to be a full-fledged future weapon.
New York Knicks: Richaun Holmes
He's a big-time multiple effort guy and he understands defenses and what people are trying to take away. And then defensively, there's not much he can't do. Great feet. Great pick-and-roll defender. He'll make post touches difficult. He'll make hustle plays that will get your team fired up. But like any player, the health is a big component. When he's healthy, he's elite. And I do believe he'll get there.
Is Thibodeau's conviction so strong he'd ship out the two seasons remaining on Pekovic's contract for Noah's four-year, $72.6 million deal? He can justify it as a defensive-minded pickup, and the Knicks open more than $6 million in additional cap space this summer while getting out from under Pekovic's pact in 2018. Alas, the Timberwolves already have Cole Aldrich, Gorgui Dieng and Karl-Anthony Towns. Paying Noah just to get out of Pekovic's deal would be met with leaguewide disdain.
Which brings us to the ever-affordable Richaun Holmes. He is 23, under team control at less than $1.1 million annually through 2018-19, explosive and capable of playing alongside Kristaps Porzingis.
Minus the Porzingis bit, the Sixers won't want to part with him for those same reasons. But he is part of an overwhelming frontcourt logjam that won't get much more manageable by trading Nerlens Noel.
Philly doesn't have a lot of two-way wings and has to worry about raises for Hollis Thompson this summer and Robert Covington in 2018. Gerald Henderson and Nik Stauskas (restricted) will be up for new contracts in 2018 as well. Lance Thomas' deal would be a nice boost in exchange for Holmes—provided New York has faith in Justin Holiday and is interested in shedding some salary in advance of free agency.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Omri Casspi
Oklahoma City was still attempting to trade for Rudy Gay as of mid-November, according to ESPN.com's Zach Lowe. You can't fault general manager Sam Presti's interest.
Gay plays more defense than Anthony Morrow and shoots threes better than Andre Roberson. He is almost everything the Thunder need yet don't have in a wing who plays with Russell Westbrook. He's also earning more than $13.3 million—salary Oklahoma City will have a tough time accommodating.
Alex Abrines and Kyle Singler push the trade through all the financial hoops, but they combine for an underwhelming return. Gay is one of five Kings players making above-average contributions on both ends of the court, according to NBA Math. Sacramento will scour the market for a higher-end prospect or a 2017 first-round pick—the latter of which the Thunder cannot offer.
Omri Casspi is raking in a more affordable $3 million. He is working off two career seasons through which he shot better than 40 percent from three, but the Kings can't ask for the world for him when he's nailing less than 30 percent of his deep-ball attempts under head coach Dave Joerger.
Does an ice-cold Singler and a 2018 second-rounder get Casspi to Oklahoma City? The Thunder owe it to their clunky offense to find out.
Orlando Magic: Allen Crabbe
Allen Crabbe may already be on the Orlando Magic's brain. They are in the market for a scorer, according to the Orlando Sentinel's Josh Robbins.
This is hardly surprising. The Magic rank 24th in three-point accuracy (33.3 percent) and 28th in offensive efficiency (97.5 points scored per 100 possessions). They need someone like Crabbe who stretches defenses while spending most of his time without the ball.
Crabbe would instantly become Orlando's highest-paid player, which is awkward. No team is contending for a title with him as its chief earner, but the Magic aren't at that point. They're in the early stages of pivoting off a frontcourt pileup that has no chance of competing for anything special.
Aaron Gordon, Jeff Green and Nikola Vucevic are the most likely collateral-damage candidates. Orlando is into Bismack Biyombo for $68 million over the next four years, and Serge Ibaka cost the team two top prospects in Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
Flipping Gordon in any deal for Crabbe would be an overpay. Crabbe's contract isn't terrible, but it's not desirable. And teams know the Blazers need to cut his or Evan Turner's salary to avoid obscene luxury-tax penalties in the coming seasons.
Something along the lines of Ed Davis, Crabbe and Cleveland's 2018 first-round pick (top-10 protected) for Green's expiring deal and Vucevic can be peddled as a win for both parties.
Philadelphia 76ers: Brandon Knight
Well, isn't this convenient.
Philly needs a point guard. Phoenix has too many. We named the Suns as a partner for a three-team trade with the Pelicans and Sixers. It's almost like this was meant to be.
Here's some possible framework:
- New Orleans Pelicans Get: C Nerlens Noel
- Philadelphia 76ers Get: PG Brandon Knight
- Phoenix Suns Get: F Robert Covington, SG Buddy Hield, unprotected 2017 second-round pick (from Philadelphia, via New Orleans)
Either Philly or New Orleans can send a little something extra to Phoenix if need be, but Brandon Knight isn't soliciting a much better return. His production has plummeted as a reserve, and the Suns don't have the minutes for him to work through this rut with Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker headlining their backcourt.
Knight is more likely to regain his mojo with the Sixers. He gives Joel Embiid a viable pick-and-roll partner until Ben Simmons makes his NBA debut and can be used as a situational spot-up shooter once last June's first overall pick is ready to rock.
Phoenix Suns: K.J. McDaniels
Scan the Suns' depth chart, and you'll become susceptible to a migraine. They have a lot of rotation-worthy players, and yet they're not stocked enough to compete for a playoff berth or negotiate a cornerstone-type trade.
What's an imaginary general manger to do? Keep it simple.
Offloading the final three years and $39 million of Tyson Chandler's deal is a sound strategy, but 34-year-old bigs who can't shoot and are on the decline do not set the trade market on fire. Dumping Eric Bledsoe or Brandon Knight for an unprotected draft pick puts the Suns on track for top-three lottery odds, but they're basically there already. And the line for point guards isn't as long these days—at least not for the kind of first-rounder Phoenix should be targeting.
Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, Jared Dudley, Alex Len and TJ Warren, along with Chandler, eliminate any need for a prospective power forward or center. The same goes for Bledsoe, Knight and Tyler Ulis.
There is more flexibility on the wing, behind Devin Booker and Warren. The Suns have the NBA's second-worst three-point defense, and a super-long K.J. McDaniels is worth a look for the sole purpose of swarming guards and forwards.
It's impossible to predict what the Rockets would want in return. But McDaniels remains behind Corey Brewer in the rotation, and Houston needs another perimeter pest. P.J. Tucker for McDaniels and filler is worth discussing.
Portland Trail Blazers: Nikola Vucevic
We have come full circle yet again! Orlando should be pining for Allen Crabbe, and Portland needs to get its hands on a big with Nikola Vucevic's skill set.
Zach Lowe of ESPN.com elaborated on Vucevic's value to Portland:
Portland also has to decide whether any of those centers moves the needle. They are better rebounders than [Mason] Plumlee, and beefier obstacles. Plodders tend to do well hanging back in [head coach Terry] Stotts' scheme. Having another scoring fulcrum like Vucevic or Monroe on the block would help. The league has adjusted a bit to Portland's spin-cycle offense, and several players said they are finding it harder to get to some of their pet looks this season.
But some of those guys are sieves on defense. None are as adept as Plumlee making plays in space on the pick-and-roll.
In an ideal world, the Blazers find a big who blends Meyers Leonard's 2015-16 three-point shooting with Ed Davis' defensive malleability and Plumlee's passing. But those towers are hard to find, and Portland doesn't have trade chips to procure one without sacrificing C.J. McCollum.
Vucevic is as close as the Blazers will get. He is a fantastic playmaker and a decent threat on long twos. His rim protection has been good under Magic head coach Frank Vogel and should hold in Portland if Stotts lets him hang back far enough on pick-and-rolls.
Sending Crabbe, Davis and Cleveland's 2018 first-rounder to the Magic for Green and Vucevic increases the Blazers' reliance on Maurice Harkless' career-best shooting from the field. But with nearly $130 million in guaranteed contracts on next season's books—before considering Plumlee's jaunt into restricted free agency—this is one of the best chances Portland has at brokering a cost-cutting deal that also moves the needle.
Sacramento Kings: Maurice Harkless
Remember, we're thinking like Sacramento here: Just because it makes sense for the Nuggets to pursue DeMarcus Cousins doesn't mean the Kings have to oblige.
Granted, the smart play is to trade Cousins. But these are the Kings; they will be more invested in propping up a contender for the West's eighth seed.
Maurice Harkless won't get Sacramento there on his own, but the Kings need a small-ball 4 who can shoot the three. Omri Casspi and Rudy Gay (player option) are good as gone this summer, if not sooner. Matt Barnes has been horrible from three-point range (29.4 percent), and depending on him at all is dangerous, arguably irresponsible, territory.
Harkless is connecting on 37.1 percent of his three-balls and shooting 40.2 percent on spot-up missiles. His four-year, $40 million deal is now among the league's best contracts.
Sacramento cannot match Harkless' value to Portland. General manager Vlade Divac can, however, float the idea of absorbing Evan Turner. He works best as a pseudo point guard, and the Kings, unlike the Blazers, don't have anyone special there.
Calling Portland with an offer of Kosta Koufos, Ben McLemore and Gay in exchange for Harkless and Turner should at least be enough to get a dialogue underway.
San Antonio Spurs: Thabo Sefolosha
Midseason trades aren't a San Antonio Spurs staple. The last deal they made where they took back anything more than a draft pick was the great Nando de Colo-for-Austin Daye swap of February 2014.
If there were ever a time for the Spurs to break character, it would be now.
Thabo Sefolosha can be a defensive monster and would thrive as a secondary defender next to Danny Green and/or Kawhi Leonard. His three-point success rate has cooled to 31 percent, but he might improve as a marksman going from Atlanta to San Antonio.
Matching Sefolosha's expiring $3.9 million salary is the Spurs' biggest obstacle. The Hawks could use Patty Mills, but that feels like an overpay—as does any package including Kyle Anderson or Jonathon Simmons. Tony Parker would make a shred of sense in Atlanta if Dennis Schroder didn't pen a $70 million extension and San Antonio were willing to move him.
Assuming the Hawks aren't itching for second-round picks and salary fodder, the Spurs need to get creative. Offering Danny Green for Kyle Korver and Sefolosha will tickle Atlanta's fancy and help San Antonio clear some cap room as a prelude to Chris Paul conspiracy theories. But that's too un-Spurs.
Or is it?
Toronto Raptors: Aaron Gordon
Armed with Cory Joseph, Patrick Patterson's expiring deal, Norman Powell, Terrence Ross, Jonas Valanciunas, the Clippers' 2017 lottery-protected first-rounder and all their own selections, the Raptors are ripe for a blockbuster trade.
Only, that's not Masai Ujiri's style.
Toronto's general manager is as savvy as they come. He knows the mountain between his team and Cleveland is too large-scale without another franchise cornerstone to complement DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. That's why he hasn't pulled the trigger on anything substantial—such as a long rumored Serge Ibaka trade, per Sportsnet's Michael Grange—over the last two years.
Picking up a low-priced young player who can help the Raptors tread water right behind the Cavaliers is more Ujiri's speed. And the Magic have Aaron Gordon to spare.
Orlando uses the 21-year-old as a small forward. He's really a power forward, and Toronto could run him out as a stretchy 5. Gordon stands 6'9", but he has the juice in his legs to protect the rim and will improve upon his sub-30 percent three-point clips when catching passes from DeRozan and Lowry.
With the Magic in desperate need of spacing, the Raptors can pair one of DeMarre Carroll or Ross with Patterson and a first-round pick—two if they're really vibing Gordon. Powell would be able to supplant the departed wing, and Toronto will have successfully beefed up its frontcourt rotation without torching its future trade and free-agency maneuverability.
Utah Jazz: Kosta Koufos
The Jazz almost earned the "No One" label and for good reason. They have the net rating (plus-6.7) of a 55-win squad, and their depth chart is overrun with guys who need to play:
|George Hill||Rodney Hood||Gordon Hayward||Derrick Favors||Rudy Gobert|
|Shelvin Mack||Dante Exum||Joe Johnson||Trey Lyles||Jeff Withey|
|Raul Neto||Alec Burks||Joe Ingles||Boris Diaw|
Name the players who wouldn't see burn on any other roster. (If you come up with more than one, it's time to reassess your life choices.)
Utah can justify leaving its roster untouched, but there is value in chasing extra depth at center.
Diaw can soak up minutes at the 5, but he is 34, has already missed some time and doesn't have a guaranteed salary for next year. Favors is nursing a bone contusion in his left knee and will be a free agent in 2018. Lyles won't work long at center on defense.
Most importantly, Withey is slated for free agency in July. Another team will steal him; that's a fact. He is better than most realize, and the Jazz cannot match his eventual market value with max(ish) money devoted to Rudy Gobert and the prospect of paying Exum (extension-eligible), Hayward, Hill, Hood (extension eligible) and Favors.
Kosta Koufos is owed a reasonable $25.2 million over the next three years (player option in 2018-19)—backup money in the new cap climate. Sacramento has too many bigs, so Utah might be able to get him for this year's Golden State first-round pick and a player of its own choosing—Mack, Neto, maybe even the injured Burks.
Washington Wizards: C.J. Miles
They won't make meaningful tweaks unless they trade Bradley Beal or John Wall. And yet moving either, with both under contract through at least 2018-19, isn't a reset button worth hitting.
Acquiring C.J. Miles from Indiana is the type of understated move that strengthens Washington's postseason hopes without clearing the deck. Markieff Morris, Otto Porter and Miles let Wizards head coach Scott Brooks field four-out lineups almost exclusively, and Miles' 44 percent clip from outside would be a godsend for any Wall-led offense.
Miles is also one of the Pacers' most important players, but he'll be up for a massive raise in free agency (player option) over the offseason. That might be incentive enough to go younger and cheaper—especially with Paul George's future in Indiana beyond 2017-18 up in the air.
Kelly Oubre Jr., Tomas Satoransky or a 2018 first-rounder has to be the centerpiece for the Wizards. From there, depending on who or what gets dealt, Washington has the salary-cap placeholders to make salaries match.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com. Salary information via Basketball Insiders. Draft-pick commitments from RealGM. Everything is accurate through Wednesday's games unless otherwise noted.
Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @danfavale.