The Likeliest Player to Be Traded on Every NBA Team Going into 2017 Deadline
Absolutely nobody has a wholly accurate hold on what will transpire leading into the NBA's trade deadline. The best insight is oftentimes informed guesswork or the remnants of talks that have dissipated into deals that never were.
Knowing what we know about the season thus far, though, we can at least pluck out every team's most likely casualty of the Association's annual yard sale.
These assumptions, in many cases, have nothing to do with a player himself. Individual performances and outside interest help shape availability, but depth charts, contract situations, playoff pursuits, lottery campaigns and team needs matter most.
Not all of these players will end up being moved by the Feb. 23 cutoff. Most of them, in fact, will stay put. But if their team strikes a deal before then, there's a better-than-good chance these dudes will be cleaning out their locker.
Atlanta Hawks: Tim Hardaway Jr.
The Toronto Raptors want this to be Paul Millsap. The New Orleans Pelicans (might) want it to be Dwight Howard. The Cleveland Cavaliers—well, they're just wondering why they traded for Kyle Korver instead of Thabo Sefolosha.
But the Atlanta Hawks left us no choice. They pulled Millsap off the chopping block roughly three seconds into their supposed teardown, per The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, suggesting they're content to wallow in the middle.
Tim Hardaway is the sensible pick, because Atlanta needn't be eschewing wins to justify moving him. He will enter restricted free agency this summer, at which time he'll field offer sheets that pay him more than $10 million per year.
Hence why, during an early January episode of the Lowe Post podcast, ESPN.com's Zach Lowe said the Hawks were open to moving him for second-round compensation. That's unlikely to have changed now.
Atlanta will shell out nearly $60 million next year for Kent Bazemore, Dennis Schroder and Howard. And it's presumably gearing up to re-sign Millsap. Retaining Hardaway beyond 2016-17 doesn't profile as a worthy investment.
Next Most Likely: Paul Millsap
Boston Celtics: Amir Johnson
Amir Johnson isn't the first name that springs to mind when thinking about the Boston Celtics' trade-deadline plans.
Jimmy Butler and Paul George are their primary targets, according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski. That invokes visions of packages constructed around some mix of Avery Bradley, Jaylen Brown, Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart and one or both of the Celtics' Brooklyn Nets picks.
Here's the rub: We don't know exactly what said combination will be. It all depends on which teams Boston is partnering with, in addition to which players its acquiring.
Any blockbuster deal the Celtics make, though, has to include Johnson. None of their best assets are making more than $8.3 million, so his $12 million cap hit is essential to matching inbound salary—assuming, of course, the Celtics are only trafficking in superstar returns.
Next Most Likely: Kelly Olynyk
Brooklyn Nets: Bojan Bogdanovic
"Bojan Bogdanovic?" you might ask, perhaps impolitely, whilst butchering the pronunciation of his name. "What about Brook Lopez?"
He's in play, too. He's also expensive—and that's not solely in reference to the $22.6 million he'll earn in the final year of his contract next season.
The Brooklyn Nets want two first-round picks in exchange for Lopez, according to New York Post's Brian Lewis, and have no incentive to lower their asking price. The 7-footer will only appeal to teams in the playoff race, and the Nets needn't accept one low-end first for a player who's under contract through 2017-18.
Bogdanovic is the more pressing flight risk. He is ticketed for restricted free agency this July, and Brooklyn cannot rationalize paying big money for a soon-to-be 28-year-old.
General manager Sean Marks can always re-sign Bogdanovic and worry about shipping him out at a later date. But keeping him will limit their ability to poach high-upside free agents with overpriced contracts—a la the ballsy, ableit failed, Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson pursuits last summer.
Sending Bogdanovic and his 40.1 percent clip on spot-up threes elsewhere before the trade deadline saves the Nets from having to make some unnecessarily tough calls over the offseason.
Next Most Likely: Brook Lopez
Charlotte Hornets: Ramon Sessions
Acquiring Miles Plumlee already cost the Charlotte Hornets some of their best trade temptations in Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert. They're now severely hamstrung in what they can do to tinker with the roster.
Charlotte can always decide to bust up its weirdly built frontcourt before Feb. 23. Divvying up minutes between Frank Kaminsky, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller and Plumlee doesn't make much sense over the long haul.
Jeremy Lamb has some value after improving as a rebounder and finisher around the rim. But he still can't shoot threes (24.7 percent), and his $6.5 million salary isn't netting the Hornets an impact player on its own.
Ramon Sessions is the more likely goner, and it has nothing to do with his performance. He's played some of the worst basketball of his career, and now he's on the shelf after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
Still, Sessions' contract remains a trade chip. He's making $6 million this season, and his $6.3 million salary for 2017-18 is subject to a team option. Charlotte can sell him as an expiring contract who allows suitors to get out from under longer-term deals.
Maybe the New York Knicks are done with their Lance Thomas (signed through 2019-20) experiment. Ditto for the Orlando Magic and their D.J. Augustin trial run. Whatever the scenario, Sessions is the Hornets' best shot at deepening the roster without eating into the nucleus.
Next Most Likely: Jeremy Lamb
Chicago Bulls: Nikola Mirotic
What a blow to Celtics bros who continue to cape for Jimmy Butler's relocation.
Sources told the Chicago Sun-Times' Joe Cowley that the Chicago Bulls front office is actively gauging the market for Nikola Mirotic, along with Rajon Rondo. The latter might have some clout since his $13.3 million salary for 2017-18 is non-guaranteed, but Mirotic is a player outside teams could, you know, want to keep.
Though the 26-year-old has yet to prove he's a floor-spacing 4, the Bulls haven't done him any favors. They trot out wildly rare one-out, four-in lineups that make it difficult to generate clean shots—or any looks, period—from beyond the arc.
Not that Mirotic is absolved of all blame. More than 50 percent of his three-point attempts are classified as open or wide-open, on which he's shooting a combined 29.9 percent. That's not marksmanship Chicago can double down on when he reaches restricted free agency.
Another team with better court balance will make that gamble, which renders Mirotic one of this summer's lone restricted free-agent flight risks. The Bulls should take what they can get for him now, rather than pay him eight figures annually to continue missing threes in their cluttered offense.
Next Most Likely: Taj Gibson
Cleveland Cavaliers: A Trade Exception
Chris Andersen is bound for Charlotte, and then the waiver wire, as the Cavaliers announced. With him gone, Cleveland has played its last tangible trade card.
Whimsical hoops heads are free to envision a scenario in which the Cavaliers acquire Carmelo Anthony for Kevin Love or strictly spare parts. But that move will never materialize into more than theoretical dream-bait. LeBron James (basically) says so.
"We need a f--king playmaker," he deadpanned after Cleveland's Jan. 23 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, per ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin.
Anthony doesn't qualify as a playmaker—at least not the right one. And the Cavaliers shouldn't be eating into their core to boost the offense when the defense is flirting with bottom-10 placement.
Cleveland has six trade exceptions ranging from $950,000 to $4.8 million following the Andersen deal. One of those will be sent elsewhere in exchange for another setup man if general manager David Griffin isn't content to surf the buyout market.
Any more action than that is beyond unlikely—even with Love missing the next six weeks after undergoing left knee surgery.
Next Most Likely: DeAndre Liggins or Jordan McRae
Dallas Mavericks: Devin Harris
The Dallas Mavericks come far closer to "No one" territory than any team 10 games under .500 reasonably should. They have the Western Conference's open-door playoff policy to thank for that.
Seth Curry, Wesley Matthews or Dwight Powell would monopolize this space if the Mavericks enter seller's mode, but that's not happening after they won 11 of their last 16 tilts.
Andrew Bogut remains a viable option, but head coach Rick Carlisle doesn't see him playing before the All-Star break, per ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon. That torpedoes Dallas' odds of flipping his expiring contract for a first-round pick, which sources told MacMahon was a possibility.
Devin Harris now tracks as the best potential candidate. He can be a solid playmaker, and who knows, maybe he's due to start making threes again.
Dallas has the requisite flexibility at point guard to send him packing, even with J.J. Barea nursing a calf strain and Deron Williams vacillating in and out of good health. Curry has added a jolt of backcourt lightning, and Yogi Ferrell is playing like the best point guard on the roster.
Granted, teams won't be beating down the door for a 33-year-old Harris. But the Mavericks might be able to glean an unwanted talent and/or second-round compensation for his non-guaranteed salary next season ($4.4 million).
Next Most Likely: Andrew Bogut
Denver Nuggets: Danilo Gallinari
Jusuf Nurkic is no longer the Denver Nuggets player most likely to be moved because, well, he's gone. As The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported, he was dealt to the Portland Trail Blazers for Mason Plumlee.
That brings us to Danilo Gallinari, who is appears to be up for grabs, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein:
Now that the Jusuf Nurkic trade we've been anticipating for weeks has materialized at last, league sources say Danilo Gallinari is a prime Nugget to watch between now and the deadline. The Raptors and Clippers are among the teams said to be monitoring Gallinari's availability, amidst a growing belief that Denver is prepared to move him, given that the Nuggets anticipate that Gallinari will bypass the final season of his current contract (valued at $16.1 million) and join Millsap on the open market, and they don't plan to spend big to retain the Italian.
Gallinari becomes dispensable to the Nuggets at $20 million or more per year. Everything runs through Nikola Jokic these days, and there are a ton of wings and ball-handling types behind him—Wilson Chandler, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay to name a few.
Denver also has to start planning for reinvestments into its young core. Harris will be extension-eligible this summer; Will Barton (free agent) and Jokic (extension candidate) will be up for raises in 2018; and, from there, the team will have to contemplate extensions for Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez and Mudiay in 2019.
Ideally, the Nuggets would trade Gallinari as part of a larger deal that consolidates assets into stars. But All-NBA talents seldom become available at midseason. And where Kenneth Faried and Chandler (player option for 2018-19) each have two years left on their deals, the Italian stallion's impending foray into free agency increases the likelihood he'll be sold off on his own.
Next Most Likely: Wilson Chandler
Detroit Pistons: Aron Baynes
If the sources who told Basketball Insiders' Michael Scotto the Detroit Pistons were shopping Aron Baynes don't get you on board with this pick, Stan Van Gundy declaring the 30-year-old an offseason goner will.
"We won't be able to re-sign him, but the critics, who always know, killed us for overpaying him," the Pistons' coach-president told Scotto of Baynes in November. "Right now, we could trade him to 29 teams in about five seconds right now at what he's making. So I don't think we made too bad a deal."
Boban Marjanovic, per Scotto, can be had as well. But he's an affordable backup center with two years and $14 million left on his contract. Baynes figures to get real expensive, real quick, once he declines his $6.5 million player option for 2017-18.
Plodding centers don't enjoy the curb appeal of yesteryear, but Baynes is averaging a double-double per 36 minutes for his career. And he's fourth among Pistons players in points saved on the defensive end, despite placing ninth in total minutes, according to NBA Math.
Pure defensive value won't translate to $18 million per year or anything along those lines—not at Baynes' age. Detroit nevertheless won't be able to foot the bill for his next contract after paying Andre Drummond and Jon Leuer.
Next Most Likely: Boban Marjanovic
Golden State Warriors: No One
- JaVale McGee
- Everyone Else
Left alone, Golden State is a heavy title favorite. There's no point testing the trade market, even if there's interest in non-core players. You don't want to risk morale swings because you're taking calls on Kevon Looney.
Cycling through the Warriors' keepers is a far more instructive exercise. Here are their most untouchable players, ranked:
Point being: Waiving Anderson Varejao to make room for Briante Weber will end up being Golden State's most notable midseason transaction.
Houston Rockets: K.J. McDaniels
Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey knows not to mess with the team that owns the NBA's third-best record.
"I think if we do anything, it will be for depth," he told ESPN.com's Calvin Watkins. "I don't see any big things happening. We got a good thing, a good rotation, good chemistry. I'm pretty reluctant to make any changes there."
Unless said change involves stealing a household name.
Soon-to-be free-agent Serge Ibaka previously caught the Rockets' eye, according to Watkins. (Ibaka, for the record, is now a member of the Raptors, per The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.) They were also linked to Kosta Koufos ahead of the New Year, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
The issue? Any Rockets trade proposal worth a damn must begin with Corey Brewer and his $7.6 million salary next season. That doesn't cut the mustard on the Koufos front, as ESPN.com's Zach Lowe pointed out, so it won't pique attention for an Ibaka-type player.
Pot-sweeteners need to be attached to Houston's best salary-matching packages. And K.J. McDaniels is its best additive, aside from future first-round picks. He's a lanky mystery on the right side of 25 with tantalizing defensive tools and will make under $3.5 million in 2017-18.
Pair him with Brewer, plus a first-rounder, and the Rockets have the means to make a significant(ish) splash. Dangle him on his own, and he still holds more value than Brewer—just without the salary to take back a real asset in return.
Next Most Likely: Corey Brewer
Indiana Pacers: Al Jefferson
In limited work as a backup 5, Jefferson continues to do what he's always done best: score. He's pumping in more than 21 points per 36 minutes on 50.8 point shooting without compromising his typically solid assist rate.
Jefferson's availability has more to do with the state of the Pacers' bench than anything else. Their second-stringers are posting a bottom-six net rating for the season and haven't improved enough since the turn of the calendar (17th) to prevent team president Larry Bird from scouring the market for depth.
Process of elimination leaves Jefferson as the best-guess scapegoat.
His $10.2 million salary allows Indiana to take back a good amount of money in return, and the final year of his contract isn't guaranteed. Most importantly: Bird won't have to tether as many gravy assets to his services as he would for Monta Ellis or Rodney Stuckey.
Next Most Likely: Rodney Stuckey
Los Angeles Clippers: Wesley Johnson
Los Angeles Clippers head coach and president Doc Rivers has spent and traded his team into irreversible inflexibility.
Austin Rivers is the franchise's most enticing asset outside of the Big Four (we got you, J.J. Redick). And the Clippers aren't moving their primary Chris Paul replacement while he's actually filling in for his superior—unless the New York Knicks decide to sell inexplicably low on Carmelo Anthony.
Wesley Johnson is the better bet. His minutes have cratered after signing a three-year, $18 million pact this past July, and Los Angeles is seeking help at his position (small forward).
As of Jan. 20, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein, the Clippers have offered the Phoenix Suns a second-round pick for P.J. Tucker, who apparently has "a not-so-secret admirer in Doc Rivers." Johnson's salary ($5.6 million) aligns nicely with Tucker's keep ($5.3 million), and his future earnings won't break the bank for a Phoenix squad with scant long-term interest in a 29-year-old non-shooter.
Knowing this, it's safe to assume the Clippers will peddle some version of the Johnson-and-second-rounders package to any squads with an available wing taking home $7 million or less.
Next Most Likely: Austin Rivers
Los Angeles Lakers: Lou Williams
While the Lakers would like to pull the rip cord on the contracts they gave them, neither Deng (four years, $74 million) nor Mozgov (four years, $64 million) will garner interest if he's not accompanied by one of Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr., Julius Randle, D'Angelo Russell or Ivica Zubac, according to ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne.
There is zero reason to dispatch a young player to clear up cap space. That's the old Lakers way. The new Lakers way involves rebuilding organically, through the draft, with a touch of free agency sprinkled in between.
Williams offers them the opportunity to stock—not empty—the pick and prospect cupboards. His $7 million salary in 2017-18 is nothing under the new cap, and he has added more points to the offensive cause (146.81) than Kyrie Irving (136.96) and John Wall (135.81) have injected into their respective scoring machines, according to NBA Math.
For those still skeptical the Lakers can net real value for a 30-year-old bench contributor, consider that Williams is just the seventh player in league history to clear 27 points and four assists per 36 minutes while putting down 38 percent or more of his triples. His company: Larry Bird, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Michael Jordan, Tracy McGrady and Isaiah Thomas.
Next Most Likely: Nick Young
Memphis Grizzlies: Tony Allen
Career freakout artists would be wise to remember this is different from the Grizzlies hocking Allen to anyone who will have him. Grit 'n' Grind basketball remains a thing, only with more three-pointers, and Allen can be an important part of what the team does on defense.
Memphis still has to take the future under advisement. Allen turned 35 on Jan. 11, will be a free agent this July and is shooting 55.5 percent around the basket, the second-lowest mark of his career—a real problem when his perennially cruddy three-point success rate is as low as it's been since 2012-13 (22.6 percent).
Allen isn't even as valuable on defense anymore. His disarming strength allows him to defend up a position or two, but the Grizzlies forfeit slightly more points per 100 possessions with him in the game.
Toney Douglas and James Ennis have proved an over-35 Allen is replaceable on the less glamorous end, and Troy Daniels brings something the ructious vet never will—three-point acumen (39.1 percent). If there was ever a time for Memphis to sacrifice its scrappiest forefather, it's now.
Next Most Likely: Brandan Wright
Miami Heat: Wayne Ellington
Just when you think the Miami Heat are sellers, they go on a 13-game winning streak that puts them within a heartbeat of the Eastern Conference's playoff bubble.
Then, from there, they become buyers.
Word "around the league" is the Heat want to steer into this postseason-worthy curve, according to the Sporting News' Sean Deveny. So they've gone from maybe to shopping Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside, per ESPN.com's Zach Lowe, to engaging the Orlando Magic in Serge Ibaka trade talks before he was ent to Toronto, according to another ESPNer in Marc Stein.
What a time to be alive.
Miami's trade-deadline ambitions shouldn't entail baiting partners with any of its key players. If Dragic and Whiteside are off limits, so too are Rodney McGruder, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow. James Johnson's and Dion Waiters' deals will draw interest, but they won't yield impact players on their own; they're guys you move in a fire sale to get picks.
Most of the Heat's best offers will be built around salary-cap relief—expiring or almost-expiring contracts that allow nosediving squads to offload unwanted deals. Tyler Johnson shouldn't be untouchable in the right big-time deal, but the Heat will have a ton of space in the offseason and are more focused on adding to their foundation.
Keep an eye on Wayne Ellington's contract. His $6 million salary makes for great trade fodder, he's shooting north of 35.5 percent from deep for the fifth straight season, and only part of next year's $6.3 million take-home is guaranteed.
Next Most Likely: Josh McRoberts
Milwaukee Bucks: Greg Monroe
There are two ways to spin the Milwaukee Bucks' decision to trade Miles Plumlee: Either they're super confident in the John Henson-Greg Monroe duo, or they've obliterated the need for Monroe at all by bringing in Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert.
Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times is rolling with the second one.
Monroe has been great in his role off the bench. He has Milwaukee's third-best net rating and joins DeMarcus Cousins and Nikola Jokic as the only players racking up at least 18 points, three assists and 11 rebounds per 36 minutes.
But the Bucks' timeline has changed in the wake of Jabari Parker's torn ACL, even with the return of Khris Middleton.
Thon Maker has logged almost as many minutes as Monroe over the past couple games, and Hibbert should factor into the rotation once his right knee is ready to rock. Henson received a "Did Not Play" in Milwaukee's Feb. 11 win over the Pacers, but the team isn't about to deem the 26-year-old a fully lost cause.
More than anything, as they've proved through Monroe's persisting availability, the Bucks don't want to plan around his $17.9 million player option for next season. That's a lot to pay someone barely seeing 20 minutes per game—particularly when you're not contending for a championship.
Interest in Monroe isn't high; he'd be wearing a different uniform if he was in demand. But Parker's injury gives Milwaukee license to sell low, almost irrespective of the potential return.
Next Most Likely: Rashad Vaughn
Minnesota Timberwolves: Shabazz Muhammad
Shabazz Muhammad is primed to become collateral damage of the Minnesota Timberwolves' other perimeter performers.
Zach LaVine, who is done for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee, and Andrew Wiggins are up for extensions after this season. Minnesota can wait until they hit restricted free agency in 2018 to pay them, but that won't change their price tag; both will command max deals.
This is most unfortunate for Muhammad—assuming he's a sucker for Minnesota winters. The Timberwolves shouldn't be matching an offer sheet he signs in restricted free agency. Whatever it costs to keep him will be too much. (Remember: Karl-Anthony Towns will be ready for an extension in 2019, and Kris Dunn will be right behind him in 2020.)
Minnesota has already started the process of expediting an inevitable departure. Muhammad was offered to the Suns for P.J. Tucker, according to Basketball Insiders' Michael Scotto, and is being used as the bow in Ricky Rubio-wrapped proposals, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
Potential suitors won't blow up head coach and president Tom Thibodeau's phone for the right to pay Muhammad over the summer. But he's shooting nearly 50 percent from three through his last 20 appearances, and there's a genuine benefit to evaluating his fit within a new offensive system ahead of the offseason—provided he's picked up for an ultra-cheap price.
Next Most Likely: Ricky Rubio
New Orleans Pelicans: Alexis Ajinca
New Orleans is trying to trade for a center while throwing the remaining three years and $33.9 million on Omer Asik's contract into the completed deal, according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Give the Pelicans this: They set their bar high. Too high.
Tossing a first-round pick on top of Asik's cap-clogging agreement won't get the Pelicans an impact center. They'll be lucky to find a team willing to absorb Asik's pact without giving up anything in return for that offer.
Alexis Ajinca's deal is a different story. He's on the books for just two more years, during which time he'll rake in a total of $10.2 million—or $400,000 less than Asik will make next season alone.
Sellers can talk themselves into paying that much for a player who hasn't been a part of New Orleans' rotation since December. It was Ajinca, not Asik, who's being paired with a first-rounder in offers for Jahlil Okafor, per Basketball Insiders' Michael Scotto.
Using Asik as filler in a trade that nabs servicable talent isn't an obstacle the Pelicans can overcome unless they're bribing frenemies with two first-rounders—something they have no business doing. And that should hold true even if they enter the running for more expensive players, such as Paul Millsap.
Next Most Likely: Tyreke Evans
New York Knicks: Kyle O'Quinn
Expecting to see someone else? Maybe a nine-time All-Star who Knicks president Phil Jackson is trying to use as the face for his follies?
About that: Carmelo Anthony isn't waiving his no-trade clause. He is more determined to remain in New York, according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, and has refuted reports to the contrary.
"I hear the new report every day," Anthony said, per USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt. "Every day is a new team. 'Melo said this, Melo said that.' Melo hasn't said anything yet. That's what I will say. Melo hasn't said anything yet."
Might Anthony shift his stance (and stop quashing rumors in the third person) if he has the opportunity to play with Chris Paul on the Clippers? Or LeBron James in Cleveland? How about after Knicks owner James Dolan waxed allegiance to Jackson's contract while appearing on ESPN New York 98.7 FM's The Michael Kay Show?
Everything is on the table until Feb. 23. But the Knicks will get destroyed if they deal Anthony for a package headlined by Austin Rivers, and the Cavaliers remain a pipe-dream destination if they're not sending Kevin Love to New York or a third team.
The Knicks are better positioned to address their frontcourt logjam than be on either end of a blockbuster. Willy Hernangomez is already better than Joakim Noah, and Kristaps Porzingis' wiry frame needs to see some time at the 5. And with Noah being immovable, per Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler, Kyle O'Quinn's cap-friendly contract becomes the most logical trade chip.
Next Most Likely: Carmelo Anthony
Oklahoma City Thunder: Cameron Payne
Players who can actually make threes top the Oklahoma City Thunder's trade-deadline wish list. Another shot creator beyond Victor Oladipo would be nice, too.
Oklahoma City owes Russell Westbrook that much.
Only the Bulls are shooting a lower percentage from three-point range. And while the Thunder engineer more wide-open outside looks than almost 75 percent of the league, their 32.1 percent clip in those situations places dead last.
General manager Sam Presti was willing to part with Cameron Payne, who has two years left on his rookie-scale deal, in a trade for Rudy Gay, per The Vertical's Chris Mannix. We must assume that openness extends to the pursuit of contingency plans in light of Gay's season-ending Achilles injury.
Payne can be electric off the bench, even this side of his Jones fracture, but his ceiling is forever capped playing behind the human terminator in Westbrook. He'll have more room to work on his offensive command and erratic shooting around the rim playing for a team that doesn't have a set point guard rotation.
To this end, if the Thunder haven't yet contacted the Nuggets about Wilson Chandler or Danilo Gallinari, they're doing the trade deadline wrong.
Next Most Likely: Andre Roberson
Orlando Magic: Mario Hezonja
Here we thought Nikola Vucevic was destined to be the big man Orlando traded away to help clear up its frontcourt clusterclump, when really, it was Serge Ibaka, now a member of the Raptors, per The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.
The Magic had no choice except to move Ibaka if he wasn't sold on sticking with them. And even if he was game to stay, re-signing him would have triggered a logistical nightmare. He's going to snag a max deal, and the Magic cannot devote between $50 million and $60 million to their three primary bigs.
Jettisoning Vucevic would have helped Orlando spin Ibaka's return, but the time he spent on the court with Bismack Biyombo was an unmitigated disaster. There's more upside to an Ibaka-Vucevic alliance, but it's nominal, and no team was dealing for the three years and $51 million left on Biyombo's contract.
So now we're landing on Mario Hezonja.
Orlando could decide to move Vucevic as well, since his on-court chemistry with Biyombo isn't exactly booming. But he's on a pre-cap-eruption deal that spans through 2018-19 without an escape clause. General manager Rob Hennigan needs to make a killing on Vucevic's departure, and he has a better chance of doing that over the offseason.
Hezonja has ambled in and out of head coach Frank Vogel's rotation all year, and his place in the pecking order isn't any more secure with Terrence Ross coming back in the Ibaka trade. While Hezonja is only 21, the Magic are bent on remaining relevant now. Attaching his rookie-scale deal to salary filler—or even Vucevic—gives them the loose outline of a blockbuster proposal.
Next Most Likely: Jeff Green or Nikola Vucevic
Philadelphia 76ers: Jahlil Okafor
Jahlil Okafor is so likely to be traded, there's a strong possibility this slide gets undermined by a Woj-bomb before you finish reading it.
"Jahlil Okafor's situation is transparent," Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown told reporters of the sophomore center not traveling with the team to face the Hornets, per Calkins Media's Tom Moore. "He’s in the middle of being discussed in trade scenarios and so I felt that it complicates things to play him. Now this is continuing on and that's the reason he isn't here."
It was only matter of time before the Sixers addressed their epic frontcourt pileup, and Okafor immediately became Captain Expendable when Nerlens Noel started defending like a boss upon return from injury. It'll be a 24-carat shock if he finishes the season in Philly.
In the meantime, there's still the matter of where he'll go next. A source told HoopsHype's Alex Kennedy the Sixers have talked shop with Chicago, Denver, New Orleans and Portland. The Jusuf Nurkic-for-Mason Plumlee minibuster probably eliminates the Blazers and Nuggets from contention, but the Bulls and Pelicans remain in play.
Because this situation isn't awkward enough, Okafor changed his location on Twitter to Chicago, as brought to our attention by Bleacher Report's Drew Corrigan. He might just be biding his time in the Windy City, where he was born and attended high school, but Bulls fans should plan a fitting welcome for another non-shooter just in case.
Next Most Likely: Nerlens Noel
Phoenix Suns: P.J. Tucker
Of all the Suns' assets, you wouldn't think P.J. Tucker is the most coveted, or even the most likely relocation nominee.
Brandon Knight jumps off the page after being relegated to sixth-man duty. He's still only 25, and the final three years of his contract will pay him a hair under $44 million—a friggin' steal in the new cap climate. But "nobody" wants him and his league-worst plus-minus, according to ESPN.com's Zach Lowe.
Eric Bledsoe seems like another possibility. He's a fringe All-Star who, at 27, may not get any better—a timeline that doesn't jibe with Phoenix's window. But, as Lowe notes, it's hard to find an enticing deal when "there aren't that many teams with a need at the position."
Hello again, 31-year-old soon-to-be free-agent P.J. Tucker who doesn't fit into the Suns' plans beyond this season.
"Tucker's combination of defensive ability and sheer physicality could have everyone from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Atlanta Hawks beating down McDonough's door come deadline day," Bleacher Report's Josh Martin wrote. "There aren't many guys with the chops to check the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan, but Tucker, 31, is one of them."
Buyers around the NBA have taken notice of this defensive grit. Both the Clippers and Timberwolves have come calling with concrete offers, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Basketball Insiders' Michael Scotto, respectively.
Next Most Likely: Brandon Knight
Portland Trail Blazers: Festus Ezeli
Portland is still ripe for a trade after swapping out Mason Plumlee and a second-round pick for Jusuf Nurkic and a first-rounder.
Adding Nurkic keeps the frontcourt rotation in congested limbo, with Ed Davis, Meyers Leonard and Noah Vonleh all vying for minutes. And there could be as much as $142.9 million in salaries on next season's books—which blows past the projected $122 million luxury-tax line ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst delivered in July.
Armed with three first-round picks in the upcoming draft, the Blazers have all the trimmings for a blockbuster offer. And The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor believes they should use them as soon as possible:
I made the case last month for the Blazers to trade McCollum to the Sixersfor high draft picks and dominant defensive center Nerlens Noel. Let's think bigger. If the Blazers put McCollum (or Lillard) on the table in addition to their newfound assets, they could suddenly become leaders in a race for a star like DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, or Jimmy Butler. Though those players likely aren't available now, it doesn't mean an opportunity won't come at some point.
Something that drastic isn't coming together inside 10 days of the trade deadline. The Blazers will no doubt chase significant upgrades through roster consolidation over the offseason; for now, they are more concerned with housekeeping.
That consists of general manager Neil Olshey trying to find new digs for Festus Ezeli, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein. He has yet to play this season while coping with a left knee injury, and his $6 million hit for 2017-18 is non-guaranteed. The Blazers, per Stein, are pitching "some level of draft compensation" to get a team under the salary-cap floor to soak up his salary.
Good thing they now have Cleveland's and Memphis' (top-five protected) 2017 first-round picks.
Next Most Likely: Meyers Leonard
Sacramento Kings: Ben McLemore
Apologies to what's left of the "DeMarcus Cousins needs to go!" holdouts.
Stein also mentioned Arron Afflalo as a possible sitting duck, but his $12.5 million salary doesn't guarantee until the day after the NBA draft, making him an 11th-hour asset this June.
Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler threw Darren Collison and Kosta Koufos into the fold as well, but Sacramento is in no position to auction off a healthy point guard, and Koufos has two years left on his below-market deal (player option for 2018-19).
McLemore is young enough, at 24, for the Kings to peddle potential in negotiations, even though he's never come close to meeting his Ray Allen 2.0 ceiling. And they can get away with trading him for next to nothing.
Minimal compensation, after all, is better than letting McLemore walk for nothing in restricted free agency—or, worse, opening the checkbook for his next contract.
Next Most Likely: Omri Casspi
San Antonio Spurs: No One
Let's keep this simple.
The San Antonio Spurs have the NBA's second-best record and net rating. They lead the league in points allowed per 100 possessions. Their bench, unlike their starting five, ranks in the top five of offensive and defensive efficiency.
They register a top-three net rating (plus-8.3) when Kawhi Leonard, last year's MVP runner-up, is off the court.
Davis Bertans is going to steal some second- and third-place Rookie of the Year votes.
Does this seem like a Spurs outfit about to make its first midseason trade since the great Nando de Colo-for-Austin Daye blockbuster of February 2014?
Toronto Raptors: Patrick Patterson
Don't worry about sounding the "Holy crap, we're in deep, deep ish!" alarm for the Raptors. Kyle Lowry has already done it for us.
"Everything. Everything," he said when asked what went wrong after Toronto blew a 16-point fourth-quarter lead against Detroit on Feb. 12, per the Toronto Star's Doug Smith. "Keep putting in the same situations over and over and not being successful, something gotta give, something gotta change."
"I have an idea," he added, "but I'm (going to) keep my mouth shut, keep it professional."
Lowry was apparently referring to a Serge Ibaka trade, because that's exactly what the Raptors pulled off less than 48 hours later.
One addition won't fix everything for the Raptors. Nor will it close the cap between them and the Cavaliers. But power forward remains their weakest point of attack—especially with Patrick Patterson battling a left knee contusion and Casey trotting out a Jakob Poeltl-Jonas Valanciunas frontcourt. Though getting Ibaka helps, general manager Masai Ujiri may not be done wheeling and dealing.
Toronto was linked to everyone from Paul Millsap, per ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst, to Danilo Gallinari, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, before the Ibaka acquisition. Some combination of Poeltl, Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam and future first-round picks will be part of any deal, but Patterson's expiring contract must be a constant in every hypothetical—for more than just cap relief.
Going on 28, with a knack for expending energy on both sides of the floor, he's someone in-between teams can justify paying $15 million or so per year.
Next Most Likely: Jakob Poeltl
Utah Jazz: Shelvin Mack
Much like the Spurs, the Utah Jazz aren't ones for glitzy midseason pivots. This year isn't going to be any different.
Utah needs to get a better read on its future. Gordon Hayward (player option) and George Hill are charging toward free agency this July, while Dante Exum (extension-eligible in 2018), Derrick Favors (2018 free agency) and Rodney Hood (extension-eligible this summer) are right behind them.
But the Clippers are the only team that has been more adversely impacted by injuries, according to Man Games Lost. Not one of the Jazz's five-man units has logged more than 105 total minutes or appeared in more than 19 games. It would be irresponsible to entertain moving a key piece when they don't know what they have in the current nucleus.
Getting low-rung draft picks in exchange for bit assets in advance of a summers-long spending spree is the smartest play. Shelvin Mack will join the free-agent ranks over the offseason and, as a result, is "most definitely" available, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
Despite his role in Utah's near-playoff run last year, Mack doesn't figure into the grand scheme. Hill will flirt with max-contract overtures if he's healthy, and funneling moderate money into a backup is pointless when Exum exists and the rotation deploys playmaking wings in Hayward and Hood.
Next Most Likely: Raul Neto
Washington Wizards: Andrew Nicholson
The Washington Wizards' feel-good train keeps rolling on and on. They are 16-4 over their last 20 games and have seized sole ownership of third place in the Western Conference. Even their bench has joined the positive-impact party, as ESPN.com's Marc Stein laid out:
You surely know by now that John Wall is one of just three players in the whole NBA averaging more than 20 PPG and 10 APG this season, alongside Harden and Westbrook. You're likely just as aware that Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr. and even Markieff Morris are playing as well as we've ever seen offensively. But did you know that the much-maligned Washington bench, through Friday's win over Indy, ranks eighth in the league in net rating over the past 20 games?
There's a catch, because there's always a catch: Washington's reserves—who are now 14th in net rating over the last 21 games—have totaled fewer minutes than any other bench mob. The starters have logged 154 more minutes than the next most-used lineup during this stretch.
Somehow, someway, the Wizards need to lighten the herculean burden being ferried by their opening five. Ian Mahinmi's return helps, but he doesn't promise relief to anyone except Marcin Gortat.
Washington won't grab a household name on the trade market without sacrificing Kelly Oubre Jr. or one of its starters, either—an avenue of change they cannot feasibly explore.
Packaging Andrew Nicholson with picks represents their best hope of fleshing out the roster. He hasn't been a regular part of the rotation since the first five games of the schedule, but he's in the first season of a four-year, $26 million deal the Wizards should be able to turn into a perimeter flyer. (Danuel House, Nicholson and a second-round pick for Mike Scott and Thabo Sefolosha, anyone?)
Next Most Likely: Jason Smith