NBA's Top 75 Players Who Could Be Traded This Offseason

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistJune 7, 2019

NBA's Top 75 Players Who Could Be Traded This Offseason

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    Uncertainty is part and parcel of every NBA offseason. Predictions are made knowing full well they could—and probably will—be proved wrong.

    Through it all, though, we can always count on trades.

    We cannot always be sure which players will get shipped out or where they'll be going. Nor can we know exactly how many deals will be struck. But there will always be trades—and plenty of them.

    Diving into this summer's candidates isn't about getting each inclusion correct. It is about identifying the most likely and notable possibilities, all while acknowledging the circumstances under which every player might be available.

    And for that, we turn to tiers. They arm us with context. Jayson Tatum is a likely trade candidate if the Boston Celtics get Anthony Davis. He is not universally on the chopping block. That distinction is important, and it dictates how we sort each candidate.

    Certain tiers invariably overlap with one another. Players are placed into the subset that best suits them. Non-guaranteed contracts are not included unless we're confident they won't be waived, and draft picks don't count toward the final tally.

    Into the trade-value weeds we go!

Stars and Fringe Stars

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    Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

    Bradley Beal's future in Washington is arguably complicated by his inability to secure All-NBA honors and supermax eligibility. The Wizards don't have to worry about paying him a Powerball jackpot now, but they might later. He'll be in line for a five-year extension worth $247.3 million if he earns an All-NBA bid next season, which is a far cry from the four-year, $191 million commitment he would've been allowed to sign this summer.

    Having that extra time might coax the Wizards into doing nothing. Beal has two years left on his current contract and doesn't turn 26 until June 28, and they'll have a better idea of where a team built around him and John Wall stands once the latter recovers from his ruptured Achilles tendon.

    This additional window could also compel the Wizards to act sooner. A max salary for Beal would run $36.5 million in 2021-22 even if he doesn't make an All-NBA team, so it'll still cost more than $80 million per year to keep him and Wall together over the ensuing two seasons. That may not be an expense Washington's next general manager is willing to chance.


    Clint Capela, Houston Rockets

    Everyone on the Rockets is up for grabs, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Clint Capela seems like the most likely casualty if they're aiming for a substantive shakeup.

    Put the James Harden hypotheticals to pasture right now. Houston isn't looking to start over. General manager Daryl Morey has "hopes of reshaping the team into a championship contender," per Woj, and Capela is the closest they get to a blockbuster-trade magnet.

    Bankrolling sizable contracts for bigs who aren't on the level of Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Karl-Anthony Towns et al is no longer all the rage. The four years and $72.1 million Capela has left on his deal are reasonable but not exactly palatable.

    Select teams can still play him off the floor, and his offensive production is tied to put-backs and the playmaking of those beside him. But players cannot be judged solely on whether they're Golden State Warriors-proof. Capela might be able to anchor a major return if the Rockets find a team interested in a young(ish) player under lock and key.


    Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies

    Mike Conley makes little sense for a Grizzlies franchise closer to rebuilding than competing, and he knows it. His fate will be effectively sealed if they use the No. 2 pick on Murray State point guard Ja Morant.

    Keeping him around to mentor his successor is an option, but delaying the inevitable could always come back to bite them. Conley turns 32 in October and is owed $67 million over the next two years. The faintest sign of regression would derail his trade value. Another injury would do the same.

    Memphis is best served ripping off the Band-Aid. The Utah Jazz still want him after the two sides failed to work out an agreement at February's deadline, per The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor. The Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat also have interest, according to Sporting News' Sean Deveney.

    Conley has suitors now. The Grizzlies cannot guarantee the market will be as robust for him later.


    Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

    So much for the Pelicans convincing Davis to stay.

    Executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin "has begun listening to teams and their inquiries" following a recent sit-down with New Orleans' superstar, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania. You know the drill from here.

    Four prospective suitors stand out from the field: the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks. Of this quartet, only the Lakers' interest profiles as unconditional. They already have a star to pair with Davis. The Celtics' best offer likely hinges on Kyrie Irving (player option) sticking around, while both the Clippers and Knicks probably won't dangle all-in packages without landing one of this summer's marquee free agents.

    Don't sleep on dark-horse candidates, either. Suitors always come out of the woodwork in these situations, and left-field admirers might feel emboldened to roll the dice on Davis after seeing how successful the Oklahoma City Thunder were recruiting Paul George and how well the Toronto Raptors appear to be doing with Kawhi Leonard (player option).


    Chris Paul, Houston Rockets

    Chris Paul is no exception to the Rockets' open-for-business stance. They might even prefer to move him.

    Good luck with that. Paul is owed $124.1 million over the next three seasons. The Rockets will have a hard time pawning off that money and improving the team unless they view his deal in addition-by-subtraction terms. (Morey's Instagram suggests otherwise.)

    Buyers won't even view Paul as a primary consolation prize to striking out in free agency at his bloated price point. Perhaps the Lakers get desperate to impress LeBron James if they come up empty. Beyond them, the Knicks going full Inexplicable Knicks or a small-market squad prone to self-immolation (you deserve better, Phoenix Suns fans), it gets hard to come up with a workable landing spot for Paul.

    And this says nothing of what potentially intrigued parties may—or, more importantly, may not—offer for his services.

    At any rate, Paul seems like a stronger trade candidate than Eric Gordon or PJ Tucker. Gordon makes too much to be paired with Capela in most scenarios, and attaching his expiring contract to picks doesn't invite enthusiasm. Tucker is just too mission critical to the defense for Houston to trade him without nabbing a star.

Anthony Davis Assets

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    Brooklyn Nets

    • Jarrett Allen
    • Rodions Kurucs
    • Caris LeVert
    • Dzanan Musa

    Rival executives identified the Nets, Celtics, Lakers and Knicks as the four teams best equipped to break bread with the Pelicans, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania. Brooklyn's involvement is more up in the air compared to the other three after it created two max slots by sending Allen Crabbe, the No. 17 selection and a protected 2020 first-rounder to Atlanta for Taurean Prince and a 2021 second-rounder, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

    Peddling a package built around Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie, Rodions Kurucs, Caris LeVert, the No. 27 pick (after the draft) and the No. 31 pick is a good place to begin, albeit not necessarily enough. Dzanan Musa is there if New Orleans wants a heftier dose of upside, and Brooklyn could sub in a 2022 first-rounder.

    Consider this is an extremely Davis-only example. General manager Sean Marks already mortgaged part of the future for cap space. Aside from Dinwiddie, who overlaps a tad with LeVert and Russell, most of Brooklyn's top assets won't sniff the chopping block outside the Anthony Davis specter.


    Boston Celtics

    • Jaylen Brown
    • Jayson Tatum
    • Marcus Smart

    None of the Celtics' best tangible assets figure to be available for anyone other than Davis. They have three first-round picks they're bound to consolidate—14, 20, 22—but Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart fall outside that just-because purview. 

    Boston has a ton of questions to answer before officially entering the Davis sweepstakes. Chief among them: Is Kyrie Irving coming back? Do they need Davis to guarantee his return? Is it worth pushing for him even if Irving bolts?

    The Celtics then have to figure out how much they're willing to give up. Smart is a given for salary-matching purposes unless the Pelicans are hot for Gordon Hayward. Tatum seems like a necessary inclusion if their packages are to tower above overtures from the Clippers, Lakers and Knicks.

    Negotiations get trickier beyond that framework. Will the Pelicans insist on Brown and Tatum? Can the Celtics afford to go that high even with Irving in tow? Is it possible for them to trounce offers from everyone else if they don't include Tatum? 


    Los Angeles Clippers

    • Danilo Gallinari
    • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
    • Montrezl Harrell
    • Landry Shamet

    More strings are attached to the Clippers' best offer for Davis than those from every other team. They don't have much incentive to go after him without first signing another star. They'll be able to afford him outright next summer if they don't burn their cap space, and, more notably, they'll have a harder time guaranteeing his return without an All-NBA running mate.

    Los Angeles' package is pretty straightforward if it snags a superstar free agent. Danilo Gallinari isn't a salary-anchoring must if the Clippers save some cap space, but he's a non-negotiable inclusion should the Pelicans, as expected, commit to respectability in the post-Davis era.

    Both Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Landry Shamet are musts. The Clippers don't have the superstar-prospect cachet of their direct competition. (Gilgeous-Alexander isn't quite on that plane.) They'll need to empty their coffers for Davis. That includes the Heat's unprotected 2021 first-round pick, which might be their most attractive chip, and potentially even Montrezl Harrell's expiring contract.

So You Play for the Lakers...

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    • Lonzo Ball
    • Brandon Ingram
    • Josh Hart
    • Kyle Kuzma
    • Moritz Wagner

    Basically everything and the kitchen sink was in play when the Lakers tried to acquire Anthony Davis at the trade deadline. They'll need to take a similar stance now.

    Jumping to No. 4 in the draft lottery strengthened their position, but only by so much. They cannot hope to rival a top-shelf offer from the Celtics without unloading their asset clip.

    Talking shop with the Pelicans gets far easier if Boston pulls Tatum from discussions. It likewise helps that New Orleans is intrigued by Brandon Ingram and has "a really high opinion of the trade package that was on the table that was ultimately rejected" in February, as's Dave McMenamin noted on The Sedano Show (h/t CBS Sports' Brad Botkin).

    At least part of the Lakers' best offer is eroded by semi-imminent contract decisions. Ingram is extension-eligible now, not to mention coming off surgery after discovering a blood clot in his right arm. Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma will be in the same contractual boat next summer. (Fun fact: Isaac Bonga and Moritz Wagner become sneaky important to any Davis package the Lakers cobble together should they want to keep Ball and sign a star free agent.)

    Striking out with New Orleans does nothing to change the availability of Los Angeles' youngsters. LeBron James turns 35 at the end of December. The Lakers cannot punt on another year of his extended prime.

    If they cannot get Davis, they'll have to sniff around Bradley Beal. And if they cannot get him, they'll have to set their sights lower, perhaps landing on Mike Conley, Kevin Love, Chris Paul or someone else.

    Potential contingency plans won't cost nearly as much as Davis, but they'll still demand some combination of the Lakers' youngsters. (Please table all LeBron trade ideas until Los Angeles' nightmare scenario comes to pass.)

So You Play for the Knicks...

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    • Damyean Dotson (non-guaranteed)
    • Kevin Knox
    • Frank Ntilikina
    • Michell Robinson
    • Dennis Smith Jr.
    • Allonzo Trier (team option)

    Order of events is everything to the Knicks' presumed pursuit of Davis.

    Using cap space to absorb a chunk of his salary would allow them to preserve their personnel base. They can build packages around Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, the No. 3 pick and a collection of future first-rounders in an attempt to retain their other youngsters.

    Chasing Davis gets hairier if the Knicks are working on a three-star coup. They'll have to send out just under $21.6 million in any deal after first spending their cap space on two max studs. That number climbs above $24.8 million if Davis doesn't waive his 15 percent trade kicker.

    Knox, Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr. and the No. 3 pick (30 days after he signs) earn a combined $21.6 million. That's not an untenable baseline, but it doesn't include future picks or the possibility of New Orleans demanding Robinson. The body count will only increase if the Knicks have to account for Davis' trade kicker. Allonzo Trier's salary gets the job done, while Damyean Dotson is a cheap enhancer for any package they try pushing through sans Robinson.

    Whether New York's assets will be similarly available in other deals remains to be seen. Ntilikina figures to be on the table regardless. Everyone else is more of a mystery. But chances are the Knicks will entertain shopping pretty much any incumbent in favor of veteran help if they poach a superstar free agent or two.

If Their Team Loses Its Superstar

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    Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans

    Jrue Holiday inquiries will inundate the Pelicans once they trade Anthony Davis, but his admirers shouldn't expect much. David Griffin said he viewed him as a foundational piece at his introductory press conference, which suggests New Orleans won't be gearing up for a traditional rebuilding period.

    Holding onto Holiday looks far better this side of the draft lottery. Between him, Zion Williamson and whatever the Pelicans get back for Davis, it shouldn't take long for them to rekindle their playoff hopes. They can always move Holiday down the line if their outlook goes south. He has two guaranteed years left on his deal and a player option for 2021-22.

    Then again, Holiday will be entering his age-29 season. His timeline doesn't align with a team that, to some degree, will be starting from scratch.

    Any suitor slinging a mix of picks, prospects, cheap role players and zero crummy contracts should at least pique the Pelicans' attention. More likely than not, though, Holiday's future is one they reassess at the trade deadline, if not next summer.


    Toronto Raptors

    Imagining what the Raptors will do if Kawhi Leonard leaves is getting increasingly difficult, mostly because he doesn't feel like an absolute goner. As TrueHoop's David Thorpe wrote:

    "Of course, he's about to be a free agent. And because of that, as the media you might expect to hear sunny things about from Raptors sources eager to tamp down the impression Kawhi is bound for the Clippers or another team. But even before the Finals began, we at TrueHoop heard from plugged-in sources associated with players and the league—but not the team—that Kawhi would return to Toronto, at least on a short-term deal."

    Retaining Leonard, even in the interim, would be a huge victory for the Raptors. They might still be active on the trade market, but their priorities would immediately shift. His return would take them from a prospective teardown to blockbuster prowlers. 

    It isn't immediately clear what the Raptors might do if Leonard pulls the rip cord. They don't have to start over. Sticking with OG Anunoby, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet keeps them in the playoff picture, and their spate of expiring contracts sets them up for serious cap space in 2020.

    Count Lowry as the most valuable potential goner if the Raptors hit the reset button. Some team will give up a pick or prospect for his $33.3 million expiring salary, and Toronto would have no reason not to capitalize on his value without Leonard. Lowry turns 34 next March, and even now, with Leonard in tow, he may not factor into the Raptors' long-term outlook.

    Gasol, Ibaka and VanVleet will be far from untouchable if Lowry hits the block. Their expiring contracts can be viewed in the same vein—although VanVleet is only 25 and someone the Raptors could designate as an unconditional keeper. They won't command the same value as Lowry, but getting back the bare minimum without tacking on long-term salary improves Toronto's draft position. 

    Powell is less of an asset with three years and $32.5 million left on his deal. But he enjoyed a few big moments in the Eastern Conference Finals, and his salary is useful for matching purposes in a blockbuster or if the Raptors are open to absorbing a more expensive pact laced with pick-and-prospect add-ons.

Extension-Eligible Players with Uncertain Futures

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    Malik Beasley, Denver Nuggets

    Malik Beasley made himself some serious coin this past season. He hit 42.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes, showcased some off-the-dribble pizzazz and posted an effective field-goal percentage of 70.2 in transition—the 10th-highest mark among 151 players who finished at least 100 fast-break possessions.

    The Nuggets will try to hammer out an extension with him, but the math gets prickly if he's not giving them an early-bird discount. They've already paid Will Barton (three years, $41.2 million) and Gary Harris (three years, $57.5 million), and Jamal Murray is on deck. 

    Denver cannot double-down on a fourth guard before fleshing out the wing rotation. Beasley defended some small forwards this year, but he's no 3. The Nuggets entrust those assignments to Harris before him. 

    Dealing Beasley over the summer might prove to be a necessary alternative to chancing his price tag in restricted free agency. His small cap hit won't net much on its own, but Denver could pair him with a larger salary to increase the return. Expect to hear his name bandied about the rumor mill unless the Nuggets start shopping Barton or Harris.


    Kris Dunn, Chicago Bulls

    "We have not given up on Kris [Dunn]," Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson told reporters after the season, per The Athletic's Darnell Mayberry. "I think he has defensive abilities. But we have to get better at that position, there's absolutely no question in my mind."

    Counterpoint: It kind of sounds like Chicago has given up on Kris Dunn.

    Playoff contenders can kowtow to defensive specialists on the perimeter who don't offer much offense. The Bulls aren't there yet. They need a playmaker who lightens Zach LaVine's on-ball workload and streamlines the career arcs of Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and whoever they select at No. 7.

    Deploying Dunn for spot minutes off the bench doesn't feel right. Chicago might draft a point guard, may also sign one and has LaVine and the returning Denzel Valentine to front the offense for stretches. 

    Keeping Dunn is mostly harmless. But if the Bulls aren't planning on bankrolling his next deal, what's the point? Turning his $5.3 million salary into a cheaper contract or a pick and additional cap space is more useful.


    Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers

    Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner never seemed fit for a long-term partnership. The Pacers were always headed toward an either-or decision, and they've already made their choice.

    Turner's four-year, $80 million deal is a vote in favor of his staying power. The Pacers can try extending Sabonis, giving the pairing another season and reassessing the trade market later, but that wait-and-see play only caps their immediate ceiling. Their offense flopped when both bigs played without Victor Oladipo, and the sample size with all three, while encouraging, wasn't large enough to ignore the spatial limitations or the trio's 2017-18 returns.

    Indiana will run into issues trying to ship out Sabonis. He doesn't make good salary-matching money, and teams aren't anteing up primo assets for a soon-to-be-free-agent big man who, despite his preternatural touch and vision, doesn't check enough of the modern boxes for a post player.

    Shopping Sabonis earlier in the summer would help neutralize those potential warts. The Pacers will have plenty of cap space even if they're looking to re-sign two of their incumbent free agents. They can pitch sellers on deals that give them an impact player, picks and instant payroll relief. 


    Dario Saric, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Chalk this up to a lack of feel for Dario Saric's future in Minnesota and the Timberwolves' overall direction. Funding max deals for Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins implies an immediate timeline, but president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas hasn't provided a specific roadmap for the start of his term.

    Saric is more of an interesting trade candidate if the Timberwolves are looking to buy. They can attach him to a pick and salary filler to upgrade the point guard spot or add wing depth. But the value of his next contract might just convince Minnesota to measure league-wide interest without prejudice. 

    Picking up a first-rounder or cost-controlled prospect who's farther away from a raise is more in tune with a gradual window.

Potential Cap-Space Pieces

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    Courtney Lee, Dallas Mavericks

    Dwight Powell is picking up his $10.3 million player option and inking an extension, according to the Dallas Morning News' Brad Townsend. Having his money on the books for next year demands the Mavericks shed salary to reach the max space needed to sign intended targets Khris Middleton (player option) or Kemba Walker, per the New York Times' Marc Stein.

    Dallas can increase its wiggle room by renouncing restricted free agents Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber, but their cap holds are too small, and thus too valuable, to ditch. Offloading other salary is the smarter play.

    Stretching and waiving Courtney Lee's expiring contract would save about $8.5 million. That might be something the Mavericks explore if they don't have the sweeteners to send him elsewhere. They can't grease the wheels with much more than Justin Jackson and some distant second-rounders.

    Attaching Jalen Brunson no doubt gets it done, but he's too good to use as a sugar pill. Dallas is better off stretching and waiving Lee if it comes to that. It might not. Contenders always need standstill shooters, and rebuilding squads can count on most 33-year-olds to cozy up to buyout talks. If nothing else, the Mavericks need to be one of the many teams contacting the Cleveland Cavaliers about JR Smith.


    Josh Jackson, Phoenix Suns

    Ferrying cap holds for Richaun Holmes and Kelly Oubre Jr. doesn't leave the Suns with much money to spend on the point guard and power forward spots. They'll be better served operating as a team over the cap.

    Jettisoning Josh Jackson's $7.1 million salary permits them to think bigger. They'd have nearly $15 million to throw around, with a line to maxes for Malcolm Brogdon (restricted) or D'Angelo Russell if they're willing to renounce Oubre.

    Jackson tantalizes too often for the Suns to junk him without assurances of a B-plus arrival. He shot 38 percent from three after the All-Star break on real volume, and 6'8" wings who are comfortable switching onto smaller guards and defend with a consistent, albeit reckless, motor have value. 

    But Phoenix hasn't seen nearly enough from Jackson on offense to rule out the possibility of selling low. He paired his post-All-Star shooting from distance with a sorry 41.1 percent clip inside eight feet, and a willingness to pass doesn't excuse his almost one-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio.

    Parlaying him into a low-end pick and extra cap space is worth kicking around if the Suns want to boost their standing on the free-agency market.


    Tyler Johnson, Phoenix Suns (player option)

    File this under "Incredibly Unlikely, But the Suns Might Have It in Them." 

    Turning Tyler Johnson's $19.2 million salary into cap space would do wonders for the Suns. They would get to Brogdon and Russell money without renouncing Oubre or open enough room to divvy it up between two impact players.

    Dumping Johnson's entire salary isn't easy. The Hawks have the wiggle room to swallow him whole and are willing to take on money, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania, but the Suns aren't drowning in disposable sweeteners.

    The Milwaukee Bucks' 2020 first-round pick (top-seven protected) is a good starting point but might not be enough. Elie Okobo probably doesn't tip the scales on his own, and including De'Anthony Melton goes a step too far without a big name already in the bag.

    Offering the Bucks selection to the Cavaliers for Smith feels more realistic. Cleveland's pick-and-prospect stable is on the emptier side, and Phoenix would turn Johnson into another $15.3 million of spending power by waiving Smith.

Potential Luxury-Tax Casualties

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    Milwaukee Bucks

    • Ersan Ilyasova
    • Tony Snell

    Signing Eric Bledsoe to a four-year, $70 million extension ($3.9 million partial guarantee in the final season) gives the Bucks a path to re-signing Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez without nuking their payroll. They'll have to enter the tax without any cost-cutting moves on the margins but can still skirt the luxury-tax apron and maintain access to the full mid-level exception ($9.2 million).

    Pencil in Middleton for a max salary ($32.7 million) and Lopez for the entire MLE, and the Bucks can keep Brogdon on a deal that starts in the $15 million range after waiving George Hill ($1 million partial guarantee). They can fiddle with that number by jettisoning other non-guaranteed contracts, and their maneuverability will increase or decrease based on where the luxury-tax apron lands.

    Hard-capping themselves in this scenario kills their flexibility. And beyond that, Brogdon is going to be more expensive. Along with Kristaps Porzingis and D'Angelo Russell, he is the restricted free agent most likely to field max or near-max offer sheets.

    Milwaukee might balk if Brogdon gets a $27.3 million starting salary. Or maybe not. The Bucks' reaction depends on so many other factors, including the cost of Middleton and Lopez and how much they trust Bledsoe's deal to age.

    Finding new homes for Ersan Ilyasova (two years, $14 million) or Tony Snell (two years, $23.6 million) becomes a must if the Bucks need to pony up for Brogdon and don't want to part ways with Middleton or Lopez. They don't have any imminent first- or second-rounders to use as compensatory goodies, but they might not need them.

    Ilyasova is certainly someone a team would take into cap space. The final year of his contract is fully non-guaranteed, and frontcourt spacing remains a commodity. Snell might be in the same boat. Low-usage wings who splash in 40 percent of their spot-up threes and try on defense are easy to stomach even on above-market deals.


    Miami Heat

    • Ryan Anderson ($15.6 million partial guarantee)
    • James Johnson
    • Dion Waiters
    • Hassan Whiteside

    Sources told The Athletic's Shams Charania that the Heat are interested in trading for JR Smith's partially guaranteed deal. This is one of those duh moments.

    Miami projects to be more than $13 million over the luxury tax if it hangs onto Derrick Jones Jr. (non-guaranteed) and Goran Dragic picks up his player option. Waiving Ryan Anderson makes up $5.6 million in ground but still leaves the payroll in the $140 million range.

    Landing Smith—more on his contract in a minute—positions the Heat to elude the tax. They just have to figure out how to incentivize the dump for the Cavaliers.

    Including the No. 13 pick should be out of the question, but the Heat don't have much else. Throwing in Bam Adebayo goes too far, and the Cavaliers don't have the cap-sheet malleability to take on Justise Winslow's extension without sending back another big salary.

    If the Heat burn a first-round pick, they better be damn sure they're getting off one of their multiyear crosses. Swapping James Johnson (two years, $31 million) or Dion Waiters (two years, $24.8 million) for Smith wouldn't drag them beneath the tax on its own, but waiving Anderson more than offsets the difference.

    At the same time, the Heat shouldn't have to pay a player to go away after sacrificing a lottery pick. Expanding the salary dump by attaching Anderson to one of their multiyear pacts is more in line with the asset cost. Something like Anderson, Johnson or Waiters and the No. 13 pick (before he signs) for Smith and Jordan Clarkson works if the Heat time it right.

    Adding Dragic and Kelly Olynyk (two years, $23.9 million) to the pool of considerations is fine, but they remain critical to Miami's playoff chances. Hassan Whiteside's monster expiring contract ($27.1 million) is more likely to enter the fold before them.

Notable Expiring Contracts from Prospective Buyers

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    Mason Plumlee, Denver Nuggets

    Inaction is the Nuggets' right. They won 54 games during the regular season, finished with the West's No. 2 seed and came within one victory of a conference finals cameo. A healthier Will Barton, Juan Hernangomez and Gary Harris and an actually available Michael Porter Jr. count as at least two total additions.

    Mason Plumlee's expiring contract looms large in the event the Nuggets go for broke.

    Lightly candy-coating his $14 million salary with another asset (Hernangomez?) in a straight dump would give them a crack at max cap space if they also decline Paul Millsap's team option. More likely, Plumlee's expiring deal is a quality math anchor in blockbuster packages. 

    Fixing his salary to some combination of Barton, Harris, Hernangomez, Porter, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig and future picks is a conversation starter in many instances. How much the Nuggets attach to Plumlee and whether they view the extension-eligible Jamal Murray as fair game rests on the player they're targeting.

    Skulking around the Bradley Beal and Anthony Davis markets is cause to make everyone except Nikola Jokic available. Anyone less than a star isn't enough to move Harris or Murray.


    Charlotte Hornets

    • Bismack Biyombo (player option)
    • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (player option)
    • Marvin Williams (player option)

    This is a fast and loose interpretation of "Prospective Buyers." The Hornets will descend into seller mode if Kemba Walker leaves.

    Except, he doesn't sound like someone looking for the exit. As he told The Athletic's Jared Weiss:

    "Oh no question, Charlotte's definitely my first priority. That's where I've been for eight years and that's all I know. Not many people get a chance to play for one NBA team throughout their career. When I go on my Instagram, I see, 'Kemba leave! Kemba get out of Charlotte!' People don’t understand, when they say you need to go 'here' and win, that winning is not guaranteed anywhere."

    Also: The Hornets can offer Walker a five-year deal worth anywhere between $189.7 million and $221.3 million if they so please. That matters. Charlotte diminishes the likelihood he seeks refuge elsewhere by offering anything close to the full boat.

    Assuming Walker comes back, the Hornets have an obligation to go hard on the trade market. They have Dwayne Bacon (non-guaranteed), Miles Bridges, Devonte' Graham, Willy Hernangomez (non-guaranteed) and Malik Monk to fill the prospect quota, but pricey expiring salaries are their best weapon after the No. 12 pick.

    Bismack Biyombo ($17 million), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ($13 million) and Marvin Williams ($15 million) will draw the intrigue of sellers looking to drum up flexibility following next season. Charlotte is one of the teams that can cobble together packages for Bradley Beal, Mike Conley or Jrue Holiday without sending back long-term money.

    For anyone wondering why the meat and potatoes of the Hornets' war chest don't make the cut for this exercise: The availability of their best assets is too unpredictable. Bridges should be a no-fly-zone unless they're getting a top-25 guy, and the inclusion of everyone else will vary by trade partner and target. Piecing together expiring contracts and No. 12 remains Charlotte's default framework.


    Detroit Pistons

    • Langston Galloway
    • Reggie Jackson
    • Jon Leuer

    Reggie Jackson finished the 2018-19 campaign on a miniature tear; he averaged 17.0 points and 4.4 assists while slashing 45.0/40.3/87.4 over his final 35 games. The push to move him is no longer that strong entering an offseason in which he doesn't have to recover from injury. 

    Still, the Pistons can make things happen with his expiring contract. They went after Mike Conley at the trade deadline and can reignite those same talks around Jackson, Langston Galloway or Jon Leuer, the No. 15 pick and potentially another goodie—Bruce Brown, Thon Maker, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (non-guaranteed) or Khyri Thomas.

    Detroit might shy away from the $67 million Conley is owed over the next two seasons, but he's an upgrade over Jackson at both ends, and the time to make noise in the Eastern Conference is now so long as Blake Griffin remains the team's centerpiece.

    Plus, the Pistons won't have nearly as much trouble squeezing in Conley's salary over the summer. They have far more wiggle room under the luxury tax than they did in February.


    Portland Trail Blazers

    • Maurice Harkless
    • Meyers Leonard
    • Evan Turner

    Blazers general manager Neil Olshey can justify standing pat after his team scrapped its way into the Western Conference Finals without Jusuf Nurkic. Continuity is easier to sell after making progress.

    But Portland must once again reconcile close proximity to the luxury tax. Paying it is a given if Al-Farouq Aminu returns—and probably unavoidable even if he leaves. The Blazers won't finagle purposeful upgrades without taking to the trade block.

    Meyers Leonard will be tougher to part with following his strong showing against the Warriors and given Nurkic's injury. Zach Collins is the Blazers' best prospect—Anfernee Simons might disagree—but letting him go is equally hard with Nurkic on the shelf unless he's the difference in acquiring a star. (Kevin Love doesn't count.)

    Expiring salaries for Maurice Harkless ($11.5 million) and Evan Turner ($18.6 million) are good starting points. Partnering one (or both) of their salaries with a future first-round pick or two may hold some sway. That doesn't put the Blazers in Beal or Holiday territory but might get the Timberwolves to listen on Robert Covington, the Clippers to consider cutting bait with Danilo Gallinari (if they strike out in free agency) or the Bulls to think about rerouting Otto Porter Jr.

Notable Expiring Contracts from Possible Sellers

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Timofey Mozgov, Orlando Magic

    Orlando becomes a subtly good destination for Bradley Beal or Mike Conley if it's willing to pair Timofey Mozgov's $16.7 million salary with two or three of Mo Bamba, Jonathan Isaac, Wesley Iwundu (team option) and the No. 16 pick.

    Cap relief has to be a priority for prospective trade partners, otherwise this framework doesn't move too many needles. But the Magic can bolster their flashiest offers by including Aaron Gordon or future first-round selections.


    E'Twaun Moore, New Orleans Pelicans

    E'Twaun Moore may have a place on the Pelicans even without Anthony Davis. He cannot be trusted to create shots in the half court, but he drained 42.7 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes this season, and New Orleans might, yet again, need him to approximate the defensive value of a true wing.

    Moving him still makes the most sense if Davis is sent elsewhere. Thirty-year-olds don't mesh with resets, and Moore's spot-up shooting fits anywhere. Getting an asset before he leaves in free agency jumps to the top of the Pelicans' to-do list if—when?—they relocate Davis.


    Jeff Teague, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Jeff Teague is more of a midseason trade candidate unless the Timberwolves elect to buy over the summer. They can assemble worthwhile packages around his $19 million salary and some combination of Keita Bates-Diop, Josh Okogie, Dario Saric and the No. 11 pick.

    Front-office regime changes seldom portend all-in aggression, though. The Timberwolves' direction is wide open under new president Gersson Rosas, but they don't have the look or feel of a team one Mike Conley away from the playoffs, and it'll take everything they have for their offers to stack up against most Bradley Beal hypotheticals.

    Selling off Teague has to be on the table anyway, if only because he's not the answer at point guard. The Timberwolves aren't converting him alone into a first-round pick or prospect, but they can up their asking price if they're open to saddling themselves with 2020-21 money.


    Atlanta Hawks

    • Kent Bazemore
    • Allen Crabbe
    • Miles Plumlee

    Atlanta has already facilitated one contract dump with the acquisition of Allen Crabbe from Brooklyn. Another one is not out of the question.

    The Hawks have more than $15 million in cap space and would get to around $25 million by renouncing Dewayne Dedmon. That, plus an armory of expiring contracts, renders them a desirable trade partner for other teams looking to pawn off longer-term pacts.

    Crabbe ($18.5 million), Kent Bazemore ($19.3 million) and Miles Plumlee ($12.5 million) will also have value if Atlanta wants to join the buyers parade. They all make good salary-anchoring money, and the Hawks have three first-round picks—Nos. 8, 10 and 17—to sprinkle on top.


    Cleveland Cavaliers

    • Jordan Clarkson
    • Matthew Dellavedova
    • John Henson
    • Brandon Knight
    • JR Smith ($3.9 million partial guarantee)
    • Tristan Thompson

    JR Smith's future will be the Cavaliers' defining offseason decision. His contract was signed under the previous collective bargaining agreement, so interested parties can view him as $15.7 million of inbound salary before waiving him with only $3.9 million on the books. 

    Cleveland has the capacity to take back $19.7 million for Smith alone. That's worth at least one first-round pick or prospect to tax-evaders and cap-space chasers. Smith's contract is even more valuable if the Cavaliers are ready to gobble up multiyear millstones.

    Are they? We don't know. Nor will we until they actually do or don't. The Cavaliers have luxury-tax concerns of their own. Waiving Smith themselves doesn't even guarantee they'll sidestep it. 

    Swapping him for unwanted money would suggest owner Dan Gilbert doesn't care. And that, in turn, opens the floodgates for more salary-swallowing. Jordan Clarkson, Matthew Dellavedova, John Henson, Brandon Knight and Tristan Thompson are all viable pick-and-prospect hooks for cap-relief searchers. The Cavs will have plenty of opportunities to load up their asset cupboard if money is no object.

    (Aside: Anyone waiting for Kevin Love to make an appearance on this list can stop. Now isn't the time to shop him. His four-year, $120.4 million extension isn't a net-positive asset. The Cavs are better off trying to rebuild his value—or keeping him outright—after they held onto him this past season.)

Less-Flattering Salary Anchors for Prospective Buyers

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    Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

    Will Barton, Denver Nuggets

    The three years and $41.8 million remaining on Will Barton's contract don't look so hot. His efficiency plummeted during the regular season, as did the frequency with which he reached the rim and foul line.

    Barton's value both to the Nuggets and on the trade market is now tightly tethered to how much of his regression can be attributed to the right hip injury that cost him nearly half of 2018-19. Adam Mares from Denver Stiffs touched upon this dilemma during an appearance on the Hardwood Knocks podcast (33:45 mark):

    "His game does not scale down. He's not a gunner, but he's very aggressive, very confident, and when he's not effective, I just don't think he can be like 'OK, I'm not good at this anymore. I need to try to do something else.' I think he's just 'No, I get to the rim. I try to attack. I'm in attack mode all the time.' This year, he was an active negative in that regard—and really, in every regard because of that.

    "But I don't think that's the player that he is. I don't think he's the long-term answer for Denver, especially at small forward. But I think if Denver just went back next year, ran it back, started him at small forward, I think they probably win 56, 57 games, get a little bit better and he would be good—even though in the playoffs the Nuggets would still be vulnerable to scoring small forwards the way they were this playoffs. I still think over the regular season he would be a much different and much-improved player and make the Nuggets a lot more dynamic."

    This isn't enough for Denver to price Barton out as an asset in trade talks. He is, however, a potentially high-impact offensive player making salary-anchor money. Much like Mason Plumlee, he can help the math work should the Nuggets try to pull off a blockbuster.


    Dennis Schroder, Oklahoma City Thunder

    According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, the Thunder "have had multiple conversations with various teams about using their No. 21 pick in a trade to reduce team salary and relieve financial pressure." Bet on Dennis Schroder (two years, $31 million) being at the center of those discussions.

    Andre Roberson is another possibility, but using a first-round pick to lop off the expiring contract of an All-NBA defender doesn't track. The Thunder need to have sub-zero confidence in his recovery from a torn left patellar tendon to be that desperate.

    Barking up the Cavaliers' tree to swap Schroder for JR Smith is a better fit. Or maybe the No. 21 pick convinces the Kings to take Schroder into cap space. 

    Something a little bigger feels like it needs to be afoot. The Thunder aren't in a position to just give up Schroder. Their rotation isn't deep beyond the starting five, and they won't have more than the taxpayer's mid-level exception ($5.7 million) to fill the backup playmaking void.

    Perhaps that doesn't bother them, in which case Schroder belongs among the potential cap-sheet casualties. But his salary is high enough to bring back a serviceable player. 

    Think Schroder and No. 21 for Jeff Teague. That doesn't cut the Thunder's tax bill—they can try including Patrick Patterson to do that—but it diversifies their offensive depth.


    Dante Exum, Utah Jazz

    Dante Exum doesn't break the bank with the two years and $19.2 million left on his deal. He's still just 23, and his reach on defense stretches from point guards to high-volume wings. His potential isn't the problem.

    Injuries are.

    Exum has now missed 206 of a possible 410 regular-season tilts—more than half his career. And he's coming off right knee surgery that cost him 40 games just this year. Other squads are not looking at him as an asset at his price tag.

    Salary filler is a different story. A transitioning team such as the Grizzlies could live with soaking up his two-year hit in a Mike Conley trade if the Jazz include other picks and prospects. Exum is young enough for his career arc to stabilize. And if it doesn't, the investment is relatively short-lived.

Wild-Card Candidates

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Robert Covington, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Robert Covington fits whatever timeline the Timberwolves end up abiding by. He'll turn 29 in December, which doesn't perfectly mesh with a rebuild, but he's under lock and key at just $36.4 million over the next three years.

    Every squad has room for a reasonably priced wing who plays great team defense and puts down 39.4 percent of his catch-and-shoot triples. That's sort of the point. Covington is the archetypal championship complement. Suitors will fork over serious value even after a right knee injury prematurely ended his season.

    Minnesota doesn't have to nibble at just any offer. Moving him before getting an idea of where the core sits inside the West next year is certainly a risk. But the Timberwolves have the undefined direction to entertain whatever comes their way, particularly if top-of-the-line overtures include two first-rounders, maybe a prospect on top of that and no long-term contracts.


    Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn Nets

    Spencer Dinwiddie is the one Nets core player whose availability doesn't seem tied to the Anthony Davis sweepstakes. They needn't be in a rush to move him. His playmaking off the bench has "Sixth Man of the Year candidate" written all over it, and a nuclear ball-handling lineup that features him, Caris LeVert and D'Angelo Russell continues to tantalize despite red-flag returns so far. 

    Eventually, though, the Nets have to be concerned with talent overlap. That time might be now. Russell is up for a new contract, LeVert is extension-eligible and they're strong candidates to sign Kyrie Irving, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

    Winning over Irving in free agency while keeping Russell would almost assuredly put Dinwiddie on the chopping block. Brooklyn cannot funnel that much money into the backcourt rotation.

    Similar thinking prevails if the Nets add another star...or even if they're sold on LeVert as a primary playmaker. (They should be.) Dinwiddie's deal is reasonable enough to be acquired as an asset (three years, $34.3 million), but he also earns enough to bring back someone who has already been paid, and Brooklyn needs help at power forward.


    Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic

    Aaron Gordon's contract is tailored for a trade. The Magic signed him on a declining scale, and he has no escape clause. He'll go from $19.9 million next year to $16.4 million in 2021-22, his age-26 season.

    Orlando is uniquely equipped to cut him loose without quashing its frontcourt appeal. Nikola Vucevic might earn less than Gordon in his next contract, Mo Bamba remains a top-five prospect and Jonathan Isaac has already shown he holds up defensively at the 4.

    This isn't the same as saying the Magic have to—or should—look to ship out Gordon. Bamba and Vooch cannot share the floor, and Isaac doesn't (yet) have the same offensive polish. 

    It all depends on who they're getting back. Gordon alone makes them an intriguing destination for potentially available stars like Bradley Beal or Jrue Holiday, and they can always try divesting him into prospects and cheaper role players. 

    Does Kent Bazemore, No. 8 and No. 10 from Atlanta sway Orlando? Would Phoenix offer No. 6 and TJ Warren? Are Doug McDermott, Domantas Sabonis and No. 18, plus the cap space the Magic would save, enough to put Indiana in the running? Might Minny consider something built around Robert Covington and Dario Saric?


    TJ Warren, Phoenix Suns

    Warren's future with the Suns will wind up in limbo if it isn't there already. His three-year, $35.3 million price tag is fine, but he isn't enough of a passing threat to play the 3 full-time, and they have plenty of wings.

    Lineups that run him out at the 4 beside Deandre Ayton will improve on offense. They won't survive on defense. Phoenix coughed up 115.5 points per 100 possessions and ceded an offensive rebounding rate of 28.2 when they played together up front.

    Dumping Warren for cap space is a non-starter. That devalues his scoring. The Suns need something in return: a point guard or a better-fitting option at power forward.

    A Dinwiddie-for-Warren swap has merits on both sides. Brooklyn might need a little more, but Phoenix has De'Anthony Melton (maybe too much) or Elie Okobo to tip the scales. 


    Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.comBasketball Reference or Cleaning the Glass. Salary and cap-hold information via Basketball Insiders and RealGM.

    Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale) and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by B/R's Andrew Bailey.