NBA Trade Big Board: Ranking the Top 10 Players to Be Dealt This Season
The rosters you see leading into the NBA season rarely remain the same at the end, and not just because of free-agency pickups and out-of-nowhere additions to the rotation. The trade deadline doesn't come until February, but the stove is always cooking, churning out new rumors and leading to player movement that could take place any month prior to that cut-off point.
We're already seeing this with the Jimmy Butler saga, which could end with the Minnesota Timberwolves sending him to a new organization at a moment's notice. But who will join the superstar swingman on the move in 2018-19?
To be clear, we're only interested in players likely to be dealt during the upcoming campaign, which is why you won't see Butler himself listed below. Although he'd easily take the No. 1 spot, it would be downright shocking if he opens the year in a Minnesota jersey.
We're also less preoccupied with outlandish hypotheticals here. Sure, we could craft trades that involve Anthony Davis, but the New Orleans Pelicans are unlikely to deal their franchise centerpiece anytime soon. Ditto for Kemba Walker after the Charlotte Hornets spent an offseason trying to acquire new veterans who could help with an inevitable playoff push.
These following 10 players may not be stars, but they have a legitimate shot at switching uniforms in the coming months.
10. Norman Powell, SG/SF, Toronto Raptors
Where do the minutes come from for Norman Powell?
Once billed as a breakout candidate, the swingman has stagnated after a promising start to his NBA career. During the 2017-18 campaign, he earned only 15.2 minutes per game for a deep Toronto Raptors squad, averaging 5.5 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.2 blocks while shooting 40.1 percent from the field, 28.5 percent from downtown and 82.1 percent at the stripe. For the second consecutive season, many of his advanced metrics trended in the wrong direction.
But hope should endure.
Powell isn't likely to receive a notable uptick in playing time under the supervision of first-year head coach Nick Nurse, who must allot minutes to Danny Green, CJ Miles, Kawhi Leonard and OG Anunoby on the wings. Nurse could also trot out two-point-guard lineups that minimize the need for players with Powell's skill set. That should make it easier for another organization to take a cheap flier on the 25-year-old.
What if his shooting stroke returns? He did connect on 40.4 percent of his deep looks as a rookie while taking 1.8 per game. What if he continues displaying proficiency running the show as a pick-and-roll ball-handler? What if the defensive improvements became more noticeable?
Powell is by no means a sure thing. He instead has enough untapped potential remaining while buried deep in the Toronto rotation that he could become an intriguing deadline target.
9. Tyson Chandler, C, Phoenix Suns
During the 2017-18 season, Tyson Chandler played only 25 minutes per game in his 46 appearances. Now he's a year older and is blocked by Deandre Ayton, who's sure to gain the lion's share of the playing time at center after the Phoenix Suns spent the No. 1 pick on him in June.
But Chandler is also on an expiring contract, which makes it far easier for someone to hand the Suns a lesser asset and hope he can continue filling his niche this season. After all, he's still been valuable in two areas while receiving such minimal run.
First, the former Defensive Player of the Year has remained impactful when patrolling the interior. Earning a 2.02 defensive real plus-minus in 2017-18 (No. 16 among the 64 qualified centers), he's overcome diminished foot speed with discipline around the basket. That's no longer the primary mold for modern-day centers who need to display some semblance of switchability, but it's still a useful attribute in an off-the-bench big. He allowed only 0.72 points per rolling possession, which left him in the 88th percentile.
Second, his soft hands and physical advantages ensure he's still valuable as a roll man. He can stop the set, but he can operate within it as well. Chandler scored 1.28 points per possession when functioning as the rim-runner, which places him in the 86th percentile.
That combination of skills is rarer than you may think. Although Chandler posted his numbers in a relatively small sample size, no other center finished in the 85th percentile or above on both ends.
8. Courtney Lee, SG, New York Knicks
The rumors swirling around Courtney Lee have already begun, per Marc Berman of the New York Post.
"Courtney Lee arrived a week-and-a-half ago at the Knicks' Tarrytown training center for voluntary workouts, gearing up for Monday's start of training camp. The Knicks guard just doesn't know how long he'll be there.
"According to an NBA source, Lee's preference if he gets traded is to be dealt to a playoff team or a contender. It's an understandable wish formulated during an offseason spent in Orlando and Los Angeles as he saw the Knicks franchise's youthful direction.
"The Knicks are trying to trade Lee because of his age (32) and long-term contract. The Knicks want to ship Lee to open up more cap space for 2019. Lee has $12.2 million remaining on his deal for 2018-2019 and $12.7 in 2019-2020."
Lee has since responded to those rumors, indicating that he'd prefer to remain with the New York Knicks, per ESPN.com's Ian Begley. But where there's smoke, there's fire, and the Knicks still may opt to deal him despite his protestations. Lee can't deny that the organization is interested in shopping him, after all. He can just say he wants to stay.
Shipping him away would make sense for a franchise looking to embark on a full-scale youth movement, especially because Lee's three-and-D skill set would make him a coveted commodity on the open market. Though he'll celebrate his 33rd birthday before the start of 2018-19, he's coming off a season in which he connected on 40.6 percent of his 3.7 three-point attempts per game while playing solid defense on the wings.
Lee might not be a high-profile contributor, but he's the exact type of 2-guard every contender would love to have.
7. Kyle Korver, SG/SF, Cleveland Cavaliers
If you think the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to keep Kyle Korver through the end of 2018-19, then you're likely also convinced the LeBron James-less organization will overcome its devastating offseason loss and make the playoffs. As weak as the Eastern Conference may be in comparison to its Western counterpart, that's still a tall ask.
This is only one statistical measure, but ESPN.com's basketball power index projects the Cavs at 31-51 with a 7.3 percent chance of making it to the playoffs. The major betting sites concur. So does conventional logic, as a team trotting out George Hill/Collin Sexton, Rodney Hood/JR Smith, Cedi Osman/Kyle Korver, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson in the starting five shouldn't garner too much support, Northeast Ohio residents notwithstanding.
And if the Cavaliers aren't going to function as a playoff threat—or even if they make the opening round and serve as little more than broom fodder for the East's top squads—they shouldn't be looking to keep Korver. He has two more cheap seasons on his current contract, and his sharpshooting ability would work anywhere.
The veteran sniper may be unplayable against spread offenses featuring shooting from all five positions (see: Warriors, Golden State), but he's still a situational asset coming off a year in which he knocked down 43.6 percent of his deep tries while firing away 5.2 times per game from beyond the rainbow. Among all qualified players in 2017-18, only Joe Ingles and Klay Thompson matched those numbers.
Korver's All-Star days, however fleeting they may have been, are behind him, but he's still an underrated passer with strong hands in rebounding lanes. He'll just keep freeing himself on screens, wearing out off-ball defenders and tickling twine from downtown.
6. Justise Winslow, SF, Miami Heat
Now that Jimmy Butler has indicated the Miami Heat are his preferred trade destination, per Marc Stein of the New York Times, Justise Winslow may not remain here for long. The Heat either could send him to the Timberwolves in a package for Butler, or he may remain in South Beach operating next to a new teammate on a roster with an entirely new identity.
But for the sake of the argument, let's say Butler goes elsewhere. If that's the case, Winslow could be an intriguing target for teams seeking out defensive help at the 2019 trade deadline.
Now that Josh Richardson has broken out into arguably the team's best player, Winslow is more disposable than ever. Minutes could be tough to come by on a deep roster also featuring Dion Waiters, Dwyane Wade, Wayne Ellington, Tyler Johnson, Derrick Jones Jr., Rodney McGruder and James Johnson on the wings.
But put the 22-year-old elsewhere, and he could blossom. That's particularly notable when the two sides have yet to agree to an extension. If they don't do so before the Oct. 15 deadline, Winslow would become a restricted free agent next summer.
Fortunately for any down-the-road suitors, we're already seeing signs of an offensive breakthrough. He shot 38 percent from deep while taking 1.9 attempts per game in 2017-18. He finished in the 76th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler. He continued his growth as a facilitator and began creating more of his own looks around the hoop.
Should those trends continue without hampering his physical defense, Winslow could begin to prove himself a late-bloomer who may yet justify the No. 10 pick Miami spent on him in the 2015 NBA draft.
5. Hassan Whiteside, C, Miami Heat
"The Heat have told teams this offseason that Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson and Dion Waiters are available, according to two opposing front office executives who have spoken to the Heat," Anthony Chiang and Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald recently reported. "... But Justise Winslow could be put in play because of questions about whether the Heat will keep him if he enters restricted free agency next summer."
We've already covered Winslow. Johnson's poison-pill contract makes him unlikely to move and far less appealing if he does. Waiters needs to prove he's past a lingering ankle issue before entering these rankings.
That leaves Whiteside.
The big man will be tough to trade, sure. He's owed $25.4 million for the coming season, and he has a $27.1 million player option for 2019-20. According to FiveThirtyEight.com's CARMELO model, he's projected to be worth a combined $21.9 million during the next two seasons. Plenty of organizations will reasonably balk at any trade talks centering around him, if only for financial reasons.
But the Heat shouldn't stop shopping him, even if he isn't included in a potential deal for Butler. He's been too disgruntled and too ineffective to function as a Miami mainstay, but his talent is appealing enough to find a suitor so long as the Heat are willing to accept a minimal return just to slough off his contract.
Yes, Miami's net rating slipped by 4.4 points per 100 possessions with Whiteside playing last year. He lost focus on defense far too frequently, and his demands for interior touches didn't always fit within the flow of head coach Erik Spoelstra's offense.
Still, he's among the league's best rebounders and can be an imposing defensive presence when he's locked in and refuses to bite on up-fakes. His silky touch around the hoop and from mid-range zones can also make him an asset in the right offensive system (read: not a drive-and-kick scheme).
Put him in the proper spot and he'll be worth the hassle, if not the money as well.
4. Patrick Beverley, PG/SG, Los Angeles Clippers
If Patrick Beverley regains his 2016-17 form, he may move even higher up these rankings.
Operating alongside James Harden for the Houston Rockets, the combo guard averaged 9.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.4 blocks. Those numbers aren't too impressive from a volume standpoint, but they came while he slashed 42.0/38.2/76.8 and played well enough on defense to earn an appearance on the All-Defensive first team. He finished the season 40th in real plus-minus, with a score high enough to trail only 10 of the 80 qualified point guards.
But injuries curtailed Beverley's momentum, cutting short his first year with the Los Angeles Clippers. He continued to function as an elite defender and emerging force from downtown (40 percent shooting on 5.5 attempts per game), but he suited up only 11 times.
Beverley is now on an expiring deal and is on an organization with a surplus of talent at the guard spots. Even after shedding Austin Rivers' salary in a deal for Marcin Gortat, the Clippers are staring at a backcourt boasting Beverley, Milos Teodosic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (the Clippers' future at the point), Tyrone Wallace, Jawun Evans, Lou Williams, Avery Bradley, Jerome Robinson and Sindarius Thornwell.
That's classified as whatever comes beyond logjam status.
Don't be surprised when some team (namely the Phoenix Suns) buys into Beverley's return to form and offers a significant package for his services. The Clippers have to redistribute their depth chart; otherwise, they run the risk of severely mitigating the talents on their own roster.
Plus, they're entering training camp with 17 players on partially or fully guaranteed contracts—two more than the number to which they must whittle down by Oct. 16. Wallace is an obvious cut candidate, as he has only $300,000 of his contract guaranteed, but the nonguaranteed nature of Beverley's 2018-19 pact makes him an interesting piece as well.
3. Trevor Ariza, SF/PF, Phoenix Suns
Trevor Ariza has yet to play a single game for the Phoenix Suns, but everything still points toward him finishing the year in another uniform whether through trade or buyout.
He unexpectedly signed a one-year, $15 million contract with Phoenix in July, which makes him a movable asset. Every contender in the Association should covet his skill set, complete with three-point-shooting ability and defensive acumen that lets him switch between multiple positions. He's a quality locker room presence.
And perhaps most importantly, he's expendable on the current Suns roster.
How can first-year head coach Igor Kokoskov justify playing a 33-year-old who doesn't factor into the long-term plans when his minutes would come at the expense of Josh Jackson, TJ Warren, Mikal Bridges and/or Dragan Bender? The answer to that rhetorical inquiry is a simple one: He can't, and he shouldn't.
As soon as the Suns inevitably make Ariza available, someone should snatch him up. And virtually any deal would make sense for Phoenix, considering it would have used its cap space in a way that doesn't hurt the long-term books, gained a half-season of some veteran mentorship for the many youngsters and picked up an additional asset to use toward the ongoing rebuild.
2. Nikola Vucevic, C, Orlando Magic
Nikola Vucevic has notable weaknesses.
He's a lackluster, slow-footed defender, which makes him somewhat of a dinosaur against today's space-out-the-floor systems. That's prevented him from becoming a star for the Orlando Magic, although the team was still able to overcome his presence and avoid suffering any defensive decline with him on the floor in 2017-18. That's primarily due to his teammates and his ability to clean the glass, thereby preventing the opposition from racking up second-chance opportunities.
But Vucevic is a spectacular offensive threat, even while surrounded by scoring liabilities who increase the amount of defensive attention focused on him. He's now adding three-point range to an arsenal that includes passing skills you wouldn't expect from a 7-footer, turnover-averse play and a wide variety of scoring methods closer to the basket.
He wouldn't be a star on a contender, but he's at least a useful rotation member who can be deployed advantageously. And now that he's entering the final year of his 2014 extension with the Magic, the time to trade him has officially arrived.
The roster composition also points in that direction. Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba are the future in Orlando. Through cold-hearted attrition, that leaves this 27-year-old out in the cold.
Someone give him some shelter.
1. Kent Bazemore, SG/SF, Atlanta Hawks
Back in the 2017 offseason, Bleacher Report's Dan Favale included Kent Bazemore in a ranking of the NBA's worst contracts by position, writing the following about the small forward with the fifth-most-egregious deal:
"Kent Bazemore's contract is entering dangerous territory.
"Like anyone else who signed a massive deal in 2016, he's being judged against a completely different financial outlook. That shift in perception is problematic for just about everyone, but it's especially damning for those who are working off a decline.
"Bazemore falls into that category of regressors. His efficiency plunged to rookie-year levels as he tried adjusting to a more expansive job description. Atlanta's thin supply of secondary creators necessitated more playmaking responsibilities, and Bazemore never looked comfortable. His per-possession assist rate improved, but that uptick comes with an increase in volume. The Hawks came to favor Hardaway over him, and he was invariably pushed out of the starting lineup."
Since then, Bazemore has escaped dangerous territory and bounced back from those shadowy realms.
During the 2017-18 season, he made across-the-board improvements and upped his slash line from a miserable 40.9/34.6/70.8 to a head-turning 42.0/39.4/79.6 while taking more threes and making additional trips to the charity stripe. Despite the Atlanta Hawks' season-long futility, he became a living embodiment of the three-and-D archetype, joining Otto Porter Jr. and Joe Ingles as one of only three qualified players to shoot better than 39 percent from downtown on at least four attempts per contest while posting a defensive box plus/minus north of one.
To Favale's credit, he prophetically allowed for this possibility: "At the same time, Bazemore's contract is not a lost cause. He's almost everything teams look for in a complementary wing. He was more effective on offense when he didn't have the ball as much, and his defensive grit seldom suffered as a result of his warts at the other end."
With two years remaining (assuming Bazemore picks up his $19.3 million player option for 2019-20), he has successfully made the albatross-to-asset transition. As much as he boosts the Hawks while on the floor (3.8 points per 100 possessions in 2017-18), he'll be even more valuable when a contender inevitably comes inquiring about his services and offers rebuild-aiding pieces to the Eastern bottom-feeders.
Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @fromal09.