NBA Stars Clearly on the Wrong Teams

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterNovember 5, 2019

NBA Stars Clearly on the Wrong Teams

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    Sometimes, the right surrounding cast and coaching can help mold an NBA star.

    Other times, a player's talent shines through even in a negative situation.

    Long-term contracts, regime changes and teams going from contenders to lottery attendees also play a role in star players getting stuck in bad situations. The feeling can also be mutual, as teams may want to get younger or switch up playing styles but can't due to the need to actually play their star player.

    For the following five standouts, a change of scenery should be desired either by them, their team or both.

    Note: While Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards more than fit this category, Beal's recent acceptance of a contract extension means he's ineligible to be traded this season. Wrong team or not, he's stuck.


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Kevin Love, PF, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    From Cleveland's perspective, there's no reason to trade Love right now.

    The Cavs are desperately trying to build a winning culture from the ground up with new head coach John Beilein, and he needs at least a handful of veterans in a locker room that features three first-round rookies.

    Love isn't just the team's oldest player at age 31. He leads the Cavs in points (19.2), rebounds (15.3) and assists (4.3) per game while shooting 41.5 percent from three. He's Cleveland's only All-Star, a tremendous ambassador for the team and an advocate for mental health leaguewide.

    With five expiring contracts set to come off the books this summer, the Cavs don't need the salary savings that would come from moving Love's four-year, $120.4 million deal and likely won't be able to sign a player of his caliber on the free-agent market.

    For now, Love seems satisfied. He's said as much time and time again, and he's grown comfortable during Year 6 in Northeast Ohio with some hardware to show for it.

    But following an injury-plagued 2018-19 season in which Cleveland won just 19 games, how long can Love be content playing on a young, lottery-bound team after four straight years of Finals runs?

    No one would blame Love for asking to play on a contender, and teams should come calling given the potentially weak trade market and his impressive early-season production. While Cleveland should have no current interest in trading him, the five-time All-Star may want to capitalize on the remaining part of his prime with a team that could potentially help him win a second ring.

    Better Fits: Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics

Domantas Sabonis, PF/C, Indiana Pacers

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    Although the Pacers and Sabonis agreed on a four-year, $77 million contract extension just before the deadline, Indiana "engaged in active trade talks" with teams in October.

    That was likely a Plan B in case the two sides couldn't agree on a new contract, but it seems bizarre that the Pacers would even consider shopping Sabonis, especially since his new deal has a reasonable $19.25 million average annual value.

    All the 23-year-old big man has done this season is average 21.8 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists while shooting 57.0 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three. His new contract should turn out to be one of the NBA's best bargains by the time he hits free agency again.

    While he's incredibly talented, any potential bad blood remaining from the trade rumors, combined with an awkward roster fit, means Sabonis would be better off elsewhere, provided the Pacers are dead set on keeping center Myles Turner.

    Indiana has moved him to power forward alongside Turner, and the pairing has yet to enjoy positive results. Sabonis has produced a better net rating by himself than when he shares the floor with Turner during every season of his Pacers career. Early this year, Indiana has a plus-8.6 net rating with Sabonis in and Turner out, compared to plus-2.3 when they're on the court together, per PBPStats.com.

    This season, the Pacers are 0-3 when Sabonis and Turner are both healthy throughout a full contest. During the two games Turner either exited with an ankle injury or missed while in recovery, Sabonis has averaged 23.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.5 blocks while slashing 60.6/50.0/83.3. The Pacers won both contests.

    Indiana could certainly get a good haul for Sabonis should it put him on the market, and it could target a wing or a more mobile power forward to play with Turner.

    Better Fits: San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks

Chris Paul, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    There's currently no player-team partnership worse than Paul and the rebuilding Thunder, who are stuck together thanks to the 34-year-old point guard's nearly untradeable three-year, $124.1 million contract.

    The Thunder tried to shop Paul this summer. Paul and his representatives wanted him traded. But when Oklahoma City was unwilling to package draft picks to unload his contract, the two sides agreed to begin the season together.

    Oklahoma City has predictably started the campaign just 2-4, and even with the Golden State Warriors decimated by injury, it still finds itself out of the playoff picture in the deep Western Conference. 

    Any hope of Paul increasing his value with a strong start to the season is quickly fading, as the 15-year veteran is averaging career lows in points (14.8), assists (4.5), steals (1.5) and blocks (0.0). His turnovers (3.2 per game) are the highest of his career.

    If anything, the asking price to take on Paul and his contract is growing larger by the day.

    The Miami Heat no longer look like suitors, given their impressive 5-1 start and the play of Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn. Nor do the usually star-happy Dallas Mavericks (4-2) or a Minnesota Timberwolves squad thought to have needed a point guard upgrade (4-2).

    Paul's deal also clogs up cap space for the summer of 2021 when players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Paul George, Blake Griffin and Victor Oladipo can all become free agents. Teams willing to take on the veteran point guard must have a ton of extra cap room or feel they don't have a chance to land a top star.

    Unless the Thunder can find another bad contract to take back and likely include a pick or two, Paul will be staying in Oklahoma City for the next three years.

    Better Fits: Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons

Aaron Gordon, PF, Orlando Magic

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    Gordon was heading toward true star status after his fourth year in the league.

    Just 22 at the time, he had put up career highs in points (17.6), rebounds (7.9), assists (2.3), steals (1.0) and blocks (0.8) per game while steadily improving his outside shooting. It's no coincidence Orlando began to use his 6'9", 220-pound frame more at power forward. A total of 91 percent of his court time came at the 4 and just 7 percent on the wing.

    Now, Orlando faces a major log jam at the post positions with Nikola Vucevic, Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Mo Bamba and Al-Farouq Aminu all competing for minutes. They often employ three-big lineups, pushing Gordon out on the wing and limiting the amount of floor spacing and shooting around him.

    Combine this with underwhelming point guard play the past few seasons and it's no wonder Gordon's production has dipped. He's down to just 11.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, and his minutes on the wing have jumped from 7 percent in 2017-18 to 39 percent over the past two seasons.

    Orlando is trying to put its best players on the floor, but the poor fit between them has resulted in the league's worst offense (95.5 rating).

    Trading Gordon or Isaac for a quality guard or wing would reshuffle the deck, balance out the roster and allow players to stay at their positions of strength. And for a Magic team trying to build off last season's surprising playoff berth, this clunky offense has to change. 

    Better Fits: Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat, Portland Trail Blazers

LaMarcus Aldridge, C, San Antonio Spurs

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    Not so long ago, Aldridge was the perfect Spur.

    He was signed to a roster that featured an aging Tim Duncan in the post, a past-their-prime backcourt of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili and a rising young star named Kawhi Leonard who was just stepping into a leading-scorer role. Aldridge's post game, rebounding and defense fit perfectly in head coach Gregg Popovich's system, one that consistently ranked near the bottom of the NBA in pace.

    Now, the strength of this Spurs team comes from its speedy backcourt.

    Even looking past DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio's future revolves around two-way guards Dejounte Murray and Derrick White. Bryn Forbes is off to another strong start, and 2018 No. 18 overall pick Lonnie Walker IV carries significant potential.

    So where does this leave Aldridge?

    After relying on him for the majority of their offense just two seasons ago, the Spurs are now 20.5 points per 100 possessions better with the 34-year-old on the bench. His slow-it-down style doesn't fit that of the rising guards, and the Spurs' pace increases from 101.4 to 106.1 when Aldridge is out of the game.

    The seven-time All-Star is averaging fewer points (16.5) and rebounds (7.0) than he has since his rookie season in 2006-07, and he's shooting a career-worst 44.4 percent from the field.

    While at the time, he was the perfect signing to help support and carry the Spurs' veterans, it's now Aldridge who's beginning to get phased out in San Antonio.

    Better Fits: Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics

           

    Stats courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball Reference unless otherwise indicated. Accurate through games played Monday, Nov. 4.