NBA Trade Rumors: Examining Who Is on the Block Entering 2019 Free Agency

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 27, 2019

Houston Rockets' Chris Paul (3) and P.J. Tucker talk during the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
Darren Abate/Associated Press

The NBA free-agent market opens for negotiations on Sunday. In a little over a week, contract agreements can become official arrangements, a quietly key part of the process if you remember the DeAndre Jordan fiasco of 2015.

As you might expect, the buzz from the free-agency rumor mill is almost deafening.

Trade talks are being whispered about, too.

From a contender aiming for another star to a cellar-dweller searching for assets, we're breaking down the latest trade talk below.


Rockets Put Three Playoff Starters on Trade Block

The Houston Rockets' perpetual hunt for more stars continues.

Jimmy Butler is their latest preferred target, just like he was back in August. The only difference is he's a free agent now, so Houston has to handle this situation differently.

It doesn't have the wiggle room to sign him outright, so it's searching for draft picks in hopes it can convince the Philadelphia 76ers to engage in a sign-and-trade.

"The Houston Rockets are canvassing NBA teams with significant salary-cap space to individually offer center Clint Capela, guard Eric Gordon and forward P.J. Tucker as a prelude to their pursuit of a sign-and-trade deal for Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Jimmy Butler," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe report.

Tucker, Capela and Gordon finished second, third and fourth, respectively, on the Rockets in total minutes this season. These would not be insignificant subtractions.

That said, there probably isn't an All-Star among them. So, as much as they've meant to Houston's recent success, adding an All-Star likely means more to the franchise's future.


Chris Paul Has Not Asked Out of Houston, Is 'Committed To the Cause'

Smoke has billowed out of Space City this summer, much of it connected to the seemingly fractured relationship between Chris Paul and James Harden.

Sources previously told Yahoo Sports' Vincent Goodwill that the partnership had been rendered "unsalvageable" and Paul had "demanded a trade."

Paul refuted that report, and more recent reporting from The Athletic's Shams Charania paints a much more encouraging picture:

"Paul never demanded a trade from the Rockets, league sources tell The Athletic, nor would there be much of a market for one. League sources said Houston officials and Paul met after the season ended in their Game 6 loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals, and both sides discussed the future. Paul informed the Rockets that if they decided to go younger and move in a different direction, he would understand and be a pro about it, according to league sources.

"The Rockets let Paul know that their intent was actually the opposite, however: That they wanted to keep him and keep contending in the Western Conference. For Paul, that was all he needed to hear. He's been committed to the cause in Houston."

Could this be a convenient reaction to discovering Paul is unmovable? That's certainly plausible. The 34-year-old just posted a new personal-worst player efficiency rating (by a wide margin), and he's still set to collect nearly $125 million over the next three years.

It would make sense for the Rockets to want to shed that contract, but doing so could've cost them assets in the process. With Harden playing at an MVP level, this is not the time to value financial relief over on-court contributions. Paul and Houston might be the best option available to the other, and the Rockets could be scary if they get everything back on track.


Cavs Declined Trade Offers for JR Smith, Still Hoping To Find a Deal

The Cleveland Cavaliers are running out of time to trade 33-year-old JR Smith before his contract fully guarantees at $15.6 million for next season on Sunday.

Because his contract was signed under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement, it is structured in a way to uniquely offer financial relief. To make a long story short, teams could save about $11 million by trading for him, waiving him by the end of Sunday and only being on the hook for his partial guarantee of $3.8 million.

With no shortage of impact players on the market, you'd think teams might be tripping over themselves to grab this cost-cutting contract—and you'd be right. The Cavs have already turned down a few offers that would have delivered a first-round pick, sources told cleveland.com's Chris Fedor.

Cleveland continues searching for a new deal, per Fedor, but the Cavs are cautious of how much money they'd need to take back.

"We're definitely going to investigate what we can do there," Cavs general manager Koby Altman said. "There's a pain threshold of doing it, going into the tax, which we would have to do in terms of taking back money and the rest of the NBA knowing that we're in the tax and my job would be getting us out of the tax."

That's probably a long-winded way of saying, the Cavs would love to turn Smith into an asset, but they won't trade him just to do the deal. That asset needs to have value, because there's a very real—and significant—financial cost to the hypothetical trade.