Likeliest NBA Players to Be Dealt This Offseason

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2018

Likeliest NBA Players to Be Dealt This Offseason

0 of 7

    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    Last summer, Carmelo Anthony, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Victor Oladipo and Isaiah Thomas all swapped cities.

    Bold prediction: We will not see an entire galaxy of NBA stars get traded again in the 2018 offseason. Last year was an outlier, a uniquely unstable environment in which big names agitated for movement and got what they wanted.

    Expect plenty of lower-stakes dealing this time around.

    Several teams need to shed money, and there are bargains to be had for anyone with cap space willing to absorb cash with picks attached. In addition, there are ticking-clock scenarios throughout the league in which organizations must move quality players quickly lest leverage disappear.

    We'll draw from last year's comparable situations when possible, rely on some gut feeling and intuit which clubs are primed for moves.

    The trade deadline has passed, but if we learned anything from last year, all the serious transacting takes place over the summer.

    So, if you're a repeatedly rumored trade candidate who somehow survived the deadline, congratulations! Please accept these pins and needles. You'll be sitting on them until September.

Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets

1 of 7

    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    The Charlotte Hornets should be overcome by creeping dread right now, by a sense of impending loss caused by Kemba Walker's ever-diminishing trade value.

    Walker is playing on one of the league's team-friendliest deals, and his free agency looms in 2019. It was a mistake not to trade him at this year's deadline—one created by an organizational resistance to rebuilding, which is also responsible for oodles of bad long-term money allocated to role players.

    Owner Michael Jordan wouldn't move Walker for less than an All-Star, but that stance must change this summer because keeping the Hornets' best player would lead to one of two unpalatable scenarios: surrendering him for nothing in free agency or signing him to a megadeal that runs well into Walker's post-prime career.

    Either way, Charlotte loses.

    Add the fact that a Walker move may be the only way to get off bad money owed Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and (to a lesser extent) Marvin Williams, and you've got even more incentive to swing a deal this summer.

    None of those guys are value contracts. Nobody's taking them without Walker or a significant future draft asset attached. Every second that passes costs the Hornets leverage because Walker's value declines as he becomes more and more of a rental.

    The best time to move Walker already passed. Charlotte has to salvage the situation by getting proactive at its next opportunity.

Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic

2 of 7

    Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    The Orlando Magic's new front office wasn't sentimental about Elfrid Payton, flipping the 2014 lottery pick for a second-rounder ahead of his restricted free agency. The message was clear: "We don't know what it might cost to keep Payton, but we're not interested in paying it."

    That kind of thinking should put every member of the Magic on notice—particularly those the previous administration drafted or signed.

    Evan Fournier is productive but a bit overpaid. Bismack Biyombo is less productive and even more unreasonably compensated. Nikola Vucevic is...just right.

    If the Magic are willing to take back a second-rounder for someone like Payton—cost-controlled, unlikely to command huge money in free agency and solid offensively (he averaged 13.0 points and 6.3 assists per game while shooting 37.3 percent from long range before the deadline)—they'll surely take back less than dollar-for-dollar value on Vooch.

    Plus, his deal expires after next season. A team could send Orlando a pick with bad long-term money attached, taking on Vucevic's matching value. From there, Vucevic's new team could let him lead second units or buy him out.

    The Magic need to recalibrate their timeline. It's tied to Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac now, and getting a pick for a serviceable scoring big man on an expiring deal would be one good way to embrace that.

Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks

3 of 7

    Reinhold Matay/Associated Press

    Zach Lowe of ESPN.com reported Feb. 1 that Dennis Schroder's name came up in conversations with the Milwaukee Bucks before Eric Bledsoe wound up getting the gig alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo.

    On Feb. 6, Sean Deveney of Sporting News noted Schroder, along with almost every Atlanta Hawk not named John Collins, was available at the deadline.

    It's not hard to read the tea leaves on this one.

    Schroder isn't part of the Hawks' rebuilding plans, and though the overall salary he's owed is cumbersome, at $15.5 million per year through 2020-21, the annual rate isn't all that bad. There's bound to be a team out there willing to bet Schroder can become a top-15 point guard, which would justify his paycheck. Maybe a few clubs are already convinced of his worth, but perhaps Atlanta was holding out for too rich a return package at the deadline.

    This is a situation in which Atlanta's teardown approach and willingness to listen to Schroder offers will dovetail into a trade eventually. This offseason seems like a good bet, perhaps with the Hawks moving on from their point guard for a pick ahead of the draft.

Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors

4 of 7

    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    The Raptors poked around for DeAndre Jordan at the deadline, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times, and it's fair to assume Jonas Valanciunas would have been part of any offer. Toronto would have little use for him with DJ aboard, and he's been the subject of trade chatter repeatedly since he signed a four-year, $64 million extension in 2015.

    The Toronto Raptors are invested in Serge Ibaka (and should view him strictly as a center, especially as he ages), and Jakob Poeltl is more than adequate as a backup. Valanciunas is guaranteed $16.5 million in 2018-19 and has a player option for $17.6 million the following season—money the Raps should look to shed if they want to retain pieces of the best young bench in the league.

    This organization has surrendered a first-rounder to clear cash before, sending DeMarre Carroll to the Brooklyn Nets with picks attached in 2017. It may take less than that to unload Valanciunas because the big man, still only 25, is building appeal as an asset.

    Valanciunas is quietly extending his range and improving his defense. After shooting just four threes in the first five seasons of his career, he's 20-of-41 from deep in 2017-18. That's not much volume for modern stretch bigs, but it's an explosive change for Valanciunas. Coupled with a positive defensive real plus-minus figure, per ESPN.com, Valanciunas is less of a lumbering antique in today's spread-out, switchier schemes.

    Toronto is due to be a taxpayer next year, but moving Valanciunas, who is expendable on this deep roster, could help it duck the penalty. There's bound to be a rebuilding club with cap space and a desire to see how much more progress Valanciunas can make as a shooter.

CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers

5 of 7

    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    It's painful to suggest breaking up one of the most exciting backcourts in the league, but how else can the Portland Trail Blazers clean up their messy payroll situation and get off the mediocrity treadmill?

    Damian Lillard is already an iconic figure in Blazers lore, so he's not going anywhere. CJ McCollum is the only way to shuffle the deck, to move bad deals attached to Meyers Leonard, Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless and, if they retain him at a market rate, Jusuf Nurkic.

    President of basketball operations Neil Olshey reiterated the organization's commitment to McCollum after the trade deadline, but Sean Deveney of Sporting News wrote Feb. 8 that "executives around the league told SN that McCollum will continue to be a target in the offseason, especially if the team struggles to make the playoffs or falls out of the picture altogether."

    I'd argue McCollum should be on the table whether Portland makes the playoffs or not. He's a fantastic player, but he's duplicative for a team that has needs in other places and has to dump some of its bad deals.

    The Blazers should ask the world for McCollum, a 26-year-old high-efficiency scoring star. Somebody should be willing to give it to them this offseason.

Kenneth Faried and/or Wilson Chandler, Denver Nuggets

6 of 7

    Bart Young/Getty Images

    Both of these guys fit the Avery Bradley special: when a team has a reasonably compensated quality role-filler who might get overpaid on his next deal and whose production could be replicated by younger, cheaper alternatives.

    Explained that way, the Avery Bradley special sounds complicated. But it's not.

    In the Denver Nuggets' case, both Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler will be expiring contracts in 2018-19 (Chandler would have to opt in to the final year and $12.8 million of his deal, which he almost certainly will). It seems unlikely Denver would have either player in its mid- or long-range forecasts.

    So rather than keep both and lose them for nothing or try to move them at the 2019 deadline, the Nuggets should follow the blueprint laid out by the Boston Celtics last year.

    The Celtics sent Bradley and his expiring deal plus a second-rounder to the Detroit Pistons in summer 2017 for Marcus Morris, getting ahead of the situation while they could. Denver is in a slightly different scenario, as neither Faried nor Chandler figure to make more in the first year of their next contract than they'll collect in 2018-19. When Boston traded Bradley, it was widely believed he'd more than double the $8.8 million he was set to make in 2017-18...though that's looking less realistic as the market has cooled and money has dried up around the league.

    Still!

    The point is: Denver should be proactive and move assets before it loses control over them. With Nikola Jokic set to sign a max extension this summer, the Nuggets should be motivated to shed cash—particularly if it's allocated to players they don't intend to keep around long-term.

Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons

7 of 7

    Chris Schwegler/Getty Images

    The Portland Trail Blazers shipped Allen Crabbe to the Brooklyn Nets in July, effectively dumping his bloated four-year, $75 million contract into Brooklyn's cap space for Andrew Nicholson, whom Portland promptly stretched.

    The general idea: Swallow hard, and give away a quality piece for pure tax relief.

    Applied specifically to the coming offseason, the same idea fits Reggie Jackson and the Detroit Pistons.

    Jackson is due $35.1 million over the final two seasons of his deal, far less than Crabbe was. Perhaps that means Detroit can expect a small asset in return, whereas Portland wound up with nothing.

    The Pistons are going to be over the cap next season, and they'll flirt with the tax again if they don't cut some salary. With the offense likely to run through Blake Griffin (and to a lesser extent Andre Drummond) at the elbows for the foreseeable future, a ball-dominant drive-and-kick point guard earning $17 million is an expensive, ill-fitting piece.

    Jackson's replacement would have to come cheap, either through a roster exception or on a minimum salary. But Detroit could find a decent defender who can hit an open three. A Patrick Beverley type, perhaps. Or, better yet, it could scrap conventional point guards altogether and maximize Griffin's best skill, playmaking, by surrounding him with an extra wing.

    Either way, Jackson's costs outweigh his benefits. An injury rendered him tough to move at the deadline, but that'll change this summer.

        

    Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference, Cleaning the Glass or NBA.com unless otherwise specified. Salary info via Basketball Insiders.

    Follow Grant on Twitter and Facebook.

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.


X