Chris Paul, Kevin Love and Other NBA Players in Desperate Need of a Trade
It's tough to imagine much more player movement than what we just witnessed.
Since the NBA Finals ended less than two months ago, the number of players who've changed teams exploded well into triple digits. Six of the 15 guys selected to All-NBA teams will wear different jerseys next season.
And yet, it feels like we might not be done.
A handful of high-profile players are still in less-than-ideal situations. In the past, that wouldn't have been noteworthy. But in today's league, "less than ideal" is often a precursor to a trade demand.
The following isn't a suggestion that these players will go there, but speculation is sure to surface if—and in some cases, when—their teams struggle out of the gate.
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This season, Bradley Beal became the 13th player in NBA history to average at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists in an age-25 (or younger) season.
His company on that list is, well, see for yourself: LeBron James, Tracy McGrady, Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Jerry West, Kobe Bryant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Clyde Drexler, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Chris Mullin and Dwyane Wade.
The average Hall of Fame probability of those 12 players is 87.3 percent. Giannis (who has only played six seasons) and Mullin (who is already in) are the only two the formula doesn't consider locks or virtual locks.
Now, this doesn't mean Beal is well on his way to the Hall. His own probability sits at just 0.6 percent. But with John Wall out for most of the season, Beal joined exclusive company as the undisputed No. 1, and the Washington Wizards are understandably interested in keeping him around as long as possible.
"We want to make sure he hears it from us: our commitment to him has never wavered," Washington general manager Tommy Sheppard told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski when asked about offering a max three-year, $111 million extension. "And I want to say this: Bradley's commitment to us has never wavered."
With the NBA's salary cap set to go up for a couple more years, Beal can sign for 30 percent of a higher cap when the two years left on his current deal are up. If Wall misses most or all of next season, Beal has a shot at an All-NBA team and a 35 percent supermax.
It doesn't make a ton of financial sense for Beal to sign the $111 million deal Washington can offer this summer. It may not make a ton of basketball sense, either.
Washington's 2019-20 over/under is at just 28.5 wins. Over the course of Beal's seven-year career, the team's winning percentage is below .500. As he enters his prime, the Wizards are tethered to Wall's contract, one of the most cumbersome in the league.
There's no way to know what Wall will look like when he returns from his torn Achilles. Even if he's all the way back to his old self, his contract makes building a contender tricky. Add all this up and it would be hard to blame Beal for getting a little NBA wanderlust.
Thus far, he's offered no hints that he might pull an Anthony Davis or a Paul George and demand out. But if he does, Washington would be wise to at least consider it. The Wizards don't want to end up waiting too long and getting nothing for their star—like the Charlotte Hornets did with Kemba Walker.
Even if Beal doesn't ask out, this is a possibility that deserves exploration.
It's tough to see a path to title contention for the Wizards, and Beal has the only contract on the books that would fetch the kind of assets that could kick start an effective rebuild.
Several have posited the idea of the Denver Nuggets sending Gary Harris, Michael Porter Jr., salary filler and multiple draft picks for Beal. In combination with Rui Hachimura, that's the kind of package that would give Washington an intriguing young core.
Kevin Love is entering his age-31 season. He's averaged just 47 appearances per season over the last three, and he's under contract for the next four.
The Cleveland Cavaliers' short-term outlook may be even bleaker than Washington's. Their All-Rookie guard, Collin Sexton, is forecast to total minus-6.5 wins above replacement over the life of Love's contract, according to FiveThirtyEight's CARMELO projection system. His "five-year market value" is projected at minus-$50.9 million.
Darius Garland more than offsets that prediction. Larry Nance Jr. (26) and Cedi Osman (24) offer some young(ish) intrigue in the frontcourt, but it's tough to imagine anything close to contention by the time Love's current deal expires and he heads into his age-35 season.
If he's healthy, he can still help teams in the hunt for a title.
Getting anything close to pre-Cleveland Love is probably a pipe dream. He trailed only LeBron James and Kevin Durant in 2013-14 box plus/minus. But he has still been a clear plus as a stretch 4 during his time with the Cavs.
In the same time frame, Love leads all 6'10"-plus players in threes made, despite all the time he's missed because of injury. There are only 14 players who match or exceed his true shooting percentage and total for threes since 2014-15, regardless of height.
If there's some contender or near-contender out there in need of a floor-spacing big who can also carry enough of a scoring load to be a second or third option, Love might be it.
Something like PJ Tucker, Eric Gordon and any other deal in excess of $1 million would work under the cap. Losing Tucker might devastate the Houston Rockets defense, and Cleveland might insist on a future pick. But an attack with James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Love would be a nightmare to defend.
Maybe a swap of Love and Hassan Whiteside could serve both teams. Portland can get a true 4 to play alongside Jusuf Nurkic and take some pressure off Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Cleveland would get an expiring contract that would open up loads of flexibility going forward.
Love will always be a hero in Cleveland. His defensive stand on Stephen Curry down the stretch of Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals is legendary. It was a crucial part of the Cavs' only title. But that era is long gone.
Tristan Thompson is another player who doesn't fit Cleveland's current timeline. But at 28, he could still be a helpful rebounder off the bench for a team in need of some toughness.
He only appeared in 43 games last season, but he posted career highs in points, rebounds, offensive rebounds and assists per possession.
That unique combination of offensive boards and dimes put Thompson on a short list: Andre Drummond, Dennis Rodman, Joakim Noah and Jerome Lane were the only players in NBA history who had seasons with at least as many offensive rebounds and assists per 75 possessions.
But Thompson's contract situation is tricky.
The fact that it's expiring is good, but he's set to make $18.5 million in 2019-20. Satisfying the collective bargaining agreement's salary-matching rules on that may prove difficult.
Fortunately (at least on this front), the Cavs are in a position to take back bad salaries. They're not going to be terribly competitive for the next few years, and the guys they're developing are mostly on rookie deals. So, having bad deals tying up the books shouldn't be a problem.
Right after the Golden State Warriors traded Andre Iguodala to the rebuilding Memphis Grizzlies, the assumption was he'd be bought out and headed to a contender.
Back on July 1, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith elaborated:
"He has basically, according to sources, informed everybody he's going to work out a buyout and then go to the Lakers. So Andre Iguodala is planning on joining the Lakers from what we're being told. I don't know how true that is, whether or not it is going to definitively happen. But that is the plan at this particular moment in time."
The Grizzlies quickly pumped the brakes on that, opting to explore Iggy's trade market before going the buyout route. Like with Thompson, though, unloading Iguodala's deal may not be a walk in the park. He's owed $17.2 million next season, and unlike Thompson, the 35-year-old Iguodala is in the twilight of his career.
It made plenty of sense for a team like the Lakers to be all over the possibility if it just required signing him to the veteran minimum. But they don't have the salary-matching assets to be in on a trade.
Even if L.A. is out of the picture, it's hard to imagine Iguodala playing any games in a Grizzlies jersey. Like the Cavs, they're in the midst of a full-scale rebuild, and after going to five straight NBA Finals with the Warriors, the veteran Iguodala may not be interested in that.
Knicks Power Forwards Not Named Julius Randle
Your guess is as good as anyone's on why the New York Knicks signed four power forwards this summer. In terms of on-court fit, it's not ideal.
Mitchell Robinson is the only center on the books, so perhaps any of the following could play up a position, but New York decided Taj Gibson, Julius Randle, Bobby Portis and Marcus Morris all being on the same team made sense.
The Knicks' draft picks, RJ Barrett and Ignas Brazdeikis (via the Kings), both have the size to play some 4 in today's NBA as well. But perhaps the thinking was that some of these players could be moved after Dec. 15, when the restriction on trading players signed this summer is lifted.
Morris' deal is for just one season. Portis' is for two, but the second is a team option. Gibson's is for two, but the second year is only guaranteed for $1 million.
So, practically speaking, all three are on expiring contracts.
Could one or more be flipped for something that fits with the rest of the roster a little bit better?
In the immediate aftermath of the trade that sent Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets, it looked like CP3 would be quickly rerouted elsewhere.
OKC unloaded Westbrook, Paul George and Jerami Grant in what appeared to be a full-scale teardown, something that doesn't make sense for 34-year-old Paul.
But with so much of the league under trade restrictions (free agents signed this summer can't be traded until Dec. 15), a deal was understandably tough to find. Adrian Wojnarowski explained: "OKC has been working with Paul and his representatives on finding a trade, but nothing is materializing so deep into summer free agency, sources said. Both sides believe there are benefits to Paul, 34, playing out the year with the Thunder."
Now, a lineup of Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Andre Roberson, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams could actually be sneaky good. Not title-contender good, but certainly "make things tough on the contenders" good.
But that's another situation that doesn't seem to align with where Paul is at this point in his career. If the Thunder appear to be out of the playoff hunt when trade restrictions lift, expect talks to open on the future Hall of Famer again.
Will the Miami Heat be more willing to move better assets for CP3 if they don't get off to a hot start? A top two of Jimmy Butler and Paul may not put Miami in the NBA's top tier, but it could make the Heat dangerous in the East.
What a difference a month makes.
Prior to Kawhi Leonard's power play that landed him on the Los Angeles Clippers with Paul George, there was a path to several years of contention.
Toronto just won its first title and had the ability to bring back the entire roster. Most Improved Player Pascal Siakam still has room to grow. Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Danny Green all have some gas left in the tank.
The Raptors might've opened as title favorites in 2020 had Leonard returned, and they would've been flush with cap space next summer to build around him, as Lowry, Gasol, Ibaka and Fred VanVleet are all on expiring contracts.
Instead, Raptors President Masai Ujiri may finally get his chance to rebuild this team from scratch, and those expiring contracts may wind up being trade fodder.
Right now, the Raptors' over/under tabs them as the 13th-best team in the league, with a line set at 45. That's not bad, but it doesn't forecast a successful title defense. With Leonard and Green gone, it's not hard to see why that number came in well below 50.
Last season, when both were off the floor, the Raptors were minus-2.5 points per 100 possessions (39th percentile), per Cleaning the Glass.
If they perform close to that level over the first few months of 2019-20, Ujiri may make all those veterans available. Those players might net future draft picks—or young players who didn't quite fit with their first teams—as the start of a young core to build around Siakam.