NBA Trade Bait: Ranking 2019-20's Most Valuable Expiring Contracts
Let's get flexible.
The expiring contract is one of the sweetest trade chips in all of basketball. Whether an NBA team is gearing up for a playoff run or preparing an all-out pursuit in free agency, they all have reasons to want expiring salaries.
But this season, most buyers will likely be seeking immediate on-court assistance. The championship field feels wide open this side of the Golden State Warriors' dynasty, which could embolden a host of shoppers to make their moves. Plus, the upcoming batch of free agents is rather uninspiring, so salary savings are only so appealing on their own.
With an eye toward maximizing competitiveness, we have identified the most valuable expiring contracts that could realistically hit the 2019-20 trade market. The potential impact and ease of assimilation for these players are significant factors in the rankings, but we're also evaluating who might be available (i.e., not on a clear-cut contender, not a no-brainer keeper for a rebuilder) and whether teams can afford them.
No traditional rookie contracts are included since their values are predetermined and the good ones are rarely traded away.
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Andre Iguodala, Memphis Grizzlies
If trade values were based solely on postseason impact, then Andre Iguodala might top the list. The 35-year-old remains defensive kryptonite to the league's super scorers, or at least he can reach that level by the playoffs if he carefully paces himself over the 82-game marathon.
His hoops savvy is off the charts, his playmaking helps offensive flow, and his one-on-one playoff defense might one day demand Hall of Fame enshrinement. But his hesitance to shoot and middling efficiency (career 33.3 percent from three, 71.0 percent at the line) can hurt spacing, and his $17.2 million salary is an overpay for his regular-season contributions.
Contenders want him, but no one has met Memphis' asking price. It's hard to imagine his trade value increasing while he's working out away from the team.
Andre Roberson, Oklahoma City Thunder
It seems every year win-now shoppers are in the market for versatile defenders, and this season could be extra active with the wide-open championship field. That could make Andre Roberson and his $10.7 million expiring contract among the Association's most coveted commodities come February.
But that's assuming Roberson remains an elite defender after he missed a season-plus with injury. He hasn't suited up since tearing his patellar tendon on Jan. 27, 2018. Expecting All-Defensive contributions from him might be too much, and his trade value is bogged down by debilitating offensive limitations without that level of stopping prowess.
Toronto Raptors Veterans
While the Raptors aren't shopping Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol or Serge Ibaka just yet, per Heavy.com's Sean Deveney, that's the natural progression for their post-Kawhi Leonard rebuild. All three are on the wrong side of 30, and all three are entering their final season under contract.
Trade accessibility shouldn't be an issue too much longer, and all three have the skills and smarts to smoothly transition to a new team. The problem is the price points of these colossal contracts.
Landing Lowry ($35 million), Gasol ($25.6 million) or Ibaka ($23.3 million) would require a massive money match, and most win-now teams don't have nearly that much financial flexibility. Besides, all three amounts seem a bit bloated with Lowry coming off his least productive season in years and the two bigs splitting starts while logging fewer than 30 minutes per night.
5. Marvin Williams, Charlotte Hornets
2018-19 Notable Numbers: 10.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 36.6 3P%, 0.45 Real Plus-Minus
"He is a warrior," Charlotte head coach James Borrego said, per Hornets.com's Sam Perley. "The number one thing is he is a leader, he anchors that locker room. He gives us a wonderful professionalism out there every single night."
Win-now buyers want players who can hit the ground sprinting, and Williams wouldn't need long to find his footing.
He works as a role-playing starter or a high-level reserve. He has logged steady minutes at all three frontcourt spots, although his days at the 3 are probably behind him. He doesn't force the issue on offense, but he can space the floor or attack the basket (79th percentile as a cutter last season). His combination of length, quickness and instincts makes him a shapeshifter on defense.
No modern team has too many versatile, three-and-D bigs. Those who can stomach Williams' hefty but not burdensome salary would be glad to get him.
4. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Sacramento Kings
2018-19 Notable Numbers: 14.1 PPG, 3.8 APG, 1.9 3PG, 1.19 Offensive Real Plus-Minus
More than a few Sacramento Kings fans are surely seething over the suggestion that Bogdan Bogdanovic would ever be available this season.
That's fine. Frankly, that just means he's good.
Sacramento's spark plug packs a ton of playmaking into his 6'6", 205-pound frame, plus a three-ball that can run fiery hot and soft touch from all three scoring levels. He might be the most versatile player on Sacramento's roster, and he's only entering his third NBA season.
How, then, could the Kings possibly let him out of their grasp?
Because they may not have enough money to go around. Buddy Hield needs a new contract by next summer, De'Aaron Fox and Harry Giles III will be extension-eligible in 2021, and Marvin Bagley III could command an extension in 2022. Bogdanovic is the oldest of that group and arguably the most expendable.
If Sacramento fades from the playoff picture ahead of the deadline, it could make a proactive move to fetch an asset for Bogdanovic before he potentially leaves for nothing next summer. His growth potential could catch the eye of up-and-comers, and his floor already seems high enough to entice contenders.
3. Derrick Favors, New Orleans Pelicans
2018-19 Notable Numbers: 11.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 21.8 Player Efficiency Rating
Chances are Derrick Favors' numbers aren't jumping off the page the way they should.
Admittedly, roughly 12 points and seven boards per game don't sound so impressive. But what if they were compiled in fewer than 24 minutes per night? And what if he was forced to spend 42 percent of that floor time out of position?
Now we're getting somewhere, right?
Stretch those statistics out on the per-36-minutes scale and his line jumps to 18.3 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. Let Favors spend the entire year at the 5, where he might have played in any frontcourt outside of Salt Lake City, and those numbers could've climbed even higher.
When utilized correctly, Favors might be elite—or elite at what he does, at least. This past season, he led all high-volume interior defenders with a 50.1 field-goal percentage allowed at the rim. His 101.6 defensive rating was second-lowest among all rotation players. He also ranked in the 72nd percentile as a pick-and-roll screener.
Sounds like a keeper, no? Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin would agree, as he labeled Favors "a vital piece of our nucleus moving forward," per The Athletic's William Guillory.
But NBA plans can change quickly. What if New Orleans isn't as competitive as it hopes? What if the Pelicans clearly need developmental time for Jaxson Hayes or even the small-ball-center version of Zion Williamson? Any of those situations could make Favors the odd man out, much to the delight of interior-needy shoppers.
2. Danilo Gallinari, Oklahoma City Thunder
2018-19 Notable Numbers: 19.8 PPG, 2.4 3PG, 43.3 3P%, 3.58 ORPM
Something interesting happened last season. Either Danilo Gallinari mixed up his calendars and had the worst-timed contract-year emergence, or the 6'10" scoring forward proved he's an elite offensive force when healthy.
It's tempting to assume the latter, if only because the numbers were so staggering.
He became just the 10th player to average 19 points and bury 160 triples on 43-plus percent shooting. For context, Stephen Curry, Ray Allen and Klay Thompson are the only players to do so more than once. Gallo's 3.58 ORPM placed him 11th overall, one spot behind LeBron James, three ahead of Kawhi Leonard and five up on MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
By any measure, Gallinari orchestrated the rare age-30 breakout. His 21.0 PER was a career high. The same goes for his 63.3 true shooting percentage and 23.8 usage percentage. In other words, he handled more opportunities than ever and maximized each chance like never before.
He's a mismatch waiting to happen. Many players don't have the size to bother him. Most that do aren't quick and comfortable enough to chase him around the perimeter. While he probably works best as Robin to someone else's Batman, he can be an offense's scoring, shooting or table-setting focal point for prolonged stretches.
A healthy Gallinari is potent enough to make a good team great. He's also a fish out of water with the rebuilding Thunder. If contenders can squeeze his salary into the budget, he could be the missing piece of the league's next champion.
1. Joe Harris, Brooklyn Nets
2018-19 Notable Numbers: 13.7 PPG, 2.4 3PG, 47.4 3P%, 64.5 True Shooting Percentage
While adding Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in the same offseason is normally an instant fix, the latter's ongoing Achilles recovery means this team is playing the long game. It's ready to wait as long as he needs and then wait some more.
"I'll be over-patient with Kevin," Irving said, per Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.
Brooklyn could go this entire season without Durant, which might force it to consider shopping its expiring contracts. With five eight-figure salaries already on the 2020-21 books, the Nets might not have enough room to keep Joe Harris in the budget. While it'd be tough to let him go after building him into an offensive force, the bidding process would be fun.
Contenders always covet shooters, and Harris has multiple claims as the best in the business.
Last season, he paced the field in perimeter conversion rate and topped Stephen Curry—in Curry's hometown, no less—during the All-Star Weekend's Three-Point Contest. Harris' true shooting percentage ranked sixth overall and first among non-centers. Over the past two seasons, his 44.8 three-point percentage is second-highest among players with 100-plus makes.
Harris could play big minutes for a big winner right away, and his floor presence helps everyone since his off-ball movements draw so much defensive attention. He'd be perfect for the full-strength Nets, but timing and finances might force a split before Brooklyn's blueprint comes together.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.