The 10 Best Players Who Could Realistically Be Dealt at the NBA Trade Deadline

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterJanuary 24, 2020

The 10 Best Players Who Could Realistically Be Dealt at the NBA Trade Deadline

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    With the NBA trade deadline less than two weeks away, we're getting a clearer picture of which teams stand to be buyers and sellers.

    The list of names circulating in trade rumors has stayed consistent, a collection of solid role players and starters with few All-Stars available.

    While a player like Chris Paul, based purely on talent, would easily make a top-10 list of available contributors, his contract still looks untradeable, especially since the 34-year-old point guard won't give up the final year and $44.2 million attached to it.

    Jrue Holiday is another player with top-10 talent, but the return of Zion Williamson makes it unlikely the New Orleans Pelicans would sell off veterans now. They're just four games out of the playoffs.

    With those two names excluded, these are the 10 best players who might switch teams before the deadline. Rankings are based on talent and experience alone without factoring in contracts.


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10. Tristan Thompson, C, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    While Thompson hasn't added any new tools to the toolbox, the ones he has are sharper than ever.

    The 28-year-old center is averaging career highs with 12.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists while also blocking 1.0 shots per game and shooting 51.2 percent from the field. He's seemingly shaken off two injury-plagued years, returning to the iron-man form that defined the early part of his career.

    He'd bring a tough, defensive-minded presence to a contending team preparing to face talented offensive centers in the postseason. Thompson also packs four years of Finals experience, most notably with the title-winning 2015-16 Cavaliers. 

    While his contract looked bloated at first, it's down to a team-friendly one year and $18.5 million that expires this summer.

    Cleveland seems fine keeping him if it doesn't get a competitive offer, given that Thompson has been praised as a locker-room presence for the young Cavs to follow. As Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor wrote:

    "Could they get a first-round pick, one that's inside the top 20 or so? If that's the case, I could see the Cavs trading him. If it's a package similar to the one for Jordan Clarkson—two second-round picks and a young player who could possibly be a reclamation project—I think they would balk and keep him, hoping to work out a long-term deal this summer."

    Any playoff team that needs size should be interested in Thompson, who ranks fourth in screen assists per game (5.1).

    The Los Angeles Clippers could use another playoff-tested big, and the Dallas Mavericks may be in the market given the Achilles injury suffered by Dwight Powell. After years of playoff battles, the Boston Celtics could certainly use Thompson on their side as a defensive anchor, as well.

    Teams That Should Call: Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks 

9. Kyle Kuzma, PF, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Kuzma stands to be viewed differently by certain teams.

    For some, he's a smooth, offensive-minded 24-year-old forward with breakout potential who hasn't yet had the opportunity to shine in a big role. In six starts this season, he's averaged 20.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists while shooting 47.4/36.4/75.0.

    Others would argue he's a one-dimensional player, a power forward who does little more than score. They might view him as a poor passer, rebounder and defender, one who could ask for far more in contract negotiations than teams would be willing to pay after his rookie deal expires following 2020-21.

    Either way, he's the best trade asset the Lakers have left.

    At 36-9 and on top of the Western Conference, Los Angeles shouldn't be in a big hurry to move Kuzma if there's no deal it likes. Sean Deveney of Heavy.com reported L.A. was seeking "a high rotation player" and a first-round pick for him earlier this month.

    With the Lakers in win-now mode, moving Kuzma for the right veteran piece would make more sense than simply dumping him for draft picks. A rebuilding team in need of young talent would be a good fit, as would franchises with a strong culture that could help mold and improve the other areas of his game.

    After the breakout seasons enjoyed by Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball following their trade away from the Lakers, perhaps Kuzma needs the same opportunity.

    Teams That Should Call: New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs

8. Danilo Gallinari, PF, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The ultimate floor-spacer, Gallinari is a shot-making machine from anywhere on the court. While his expiring $22.6 million salary will be tough to match, playoff-bound teams that need a shot of offense should certainly try.

    While Chris Paul's deal will keep him in OKC for now, there was never much of an expectation for the 31-year-old Gallinari to stay following an offseason trade from the Los Angeles Clippers.

    While he's been an important part of the Thunder's 26-19 start with averages of 19.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists, as well as a 40.8 percent success rate from three, Gallinari probably won't be getting any long-term contract offers from OKC this summer.

    At 6'10" his shot is extremely tough to deter, and Gallinari is shooting 61.2 percent from within three feet, 45.0 percent on jumpers from 10-15 feet and 44.0 percent on all shots from 16 feet to the three-point arc. His stroke is lethal from all areas.

    The Ringer's Kevin O'Conner wrote that "multiple playoff teams have expressed interest in the Thunder forward, including the Mavericks and Sixers, according to league sources."

    While Gallinari would absolutely help both teams, they already have multiple floor-stretching bigs. Others out there could use his services more.

    Teams that trade for Gallinari now should also have use for him beyond this season as they'd acquire his Bird rights and could offer better deals.

    Teams That Should Call: Portland Trail Blazers, Miami Heat, Detroit Pistons (if they go for the playoffs)

7. Marcus Morris Sr., F, New York Knicks

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    As Morris enjoys the best season of his career on a floundering Knicks team, it's probably best for New York to see what offers exist for the impending free agent.

    Averaging 19.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists while shooting 45.7 percent from three (third-highest in the NBA), Morris is setting himself up for a hefty payday after he signed a one-year, $15 million deal with the Knicks this past summer. 

    There's even a chance this offer comes from New York, SNY.tv's Ian Begley reported: "Multiple contenders continue to monitor the Marcus Morris situation with the hope that New York considers moving the veteran. As SNY previously reported, there are people in the Knick organization who see Morris as an important part of the club's future and would like to re-sign him."

    Morris would bring toughness, playoff experience and versatility to any playoff team given his ability to line up at small forward, power forward and even center.

    The Los Angeles Clippers offered him a three-year, $41 million this past summer and could once again visit him as a trade target. As one former executive told Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus: "Marcus Morris would solve a lot of their problems. He can shoot and is tough enough to play center."

    His no-nonsense attitude and defensive versatility would be perfect for the Miami Heat as a starting power forward, and a young playoff-hopeful like the Phoenix Suns could use his experience.

    Teams That Should Call: Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns

6. Steven Adams, C, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Moving Adams would be a tough sell for Thunder fans who already lost Russell Westbrook and Paul George last summer. It would leave Terrance Ferguson as the only remaining starter from 2018-19.

    At 26, Adams can still be part of a rebuild, and he has been a huge part of OKC's success despite the roster turnover. It shouldn't be in any hurry to trade him.

    In only 27.0 minutes per game, he's giving the Thunder 11.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.1 blocks while shooting 60.3 percent from the field. He's not a threat to shoot from outside, but Adams would give contenders the muscle needed to body opposing centers in the paint.

    Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that the Atlanta Hawks have Adams on their radar, a trade that would move him from a near-playoff lock to the team with the second-worst record in the NBA.

    After this season, Adams only has one year and $27.5 million left on his contract. There's a good chance he'll be willing to talk about an extension with a new team given the immense amount of talent (Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, etc.) that can also hit free agency in 2021.

    One of the most durable and toughest players in the NBA over the last seven years, Adams fits both rebuilding and contending teams.

    Teams That Should Call: Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks

5. Derrick Rose, PG, Detroit Pistons

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Less than two years ago, Rose was without a team, putting up shots in a near-empty Cleveland State University gym following his trade from the Cavaliers to the Utah Jazz, who immediately released him.

    Now, he's one of the hottest trade targets on the market.

    Rose is enjoying his best season since 2011-12, the year after he took home MVP honors. Coming off the Pistons bench, he's averaging 18.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 0.8 steals while shooting 49.7 percent from the field with the highest assist percentage (41.9 percent) of his career.

    Almost as good as his play is his contract: a modest $7.3 million with an additional year at $7.7 million that should be easy for contenders to match.

    Although the ninth-place Pistons are just 17-28 and will likely be without Blake Griffin for the rest of the year, the bottom of the East is awful enough that they're just two games out of the playoffs. According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Rose is "happy with the Pistons and isn't looking to be traded," even though teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers have expressed interest.

    The point guard would be a tremendous fit on a Lakers team that can struggle to create offense when LeBron James rests, and his presence in Philadelphia would allow Ben Simmons to play off the ball more, an area in which he's excelled as a screener and cutter. With point guard Jamal Murray out due to an ankle injury, Rose could help the Denver Nuggets, as well.

    While he still isn't a good outside shooter or defender, the 31-year-old has played in 86.7 percent of the Pistons' games this season and is distributing better than ever.

    If Detroit could get Kyle Kuzma from the Lakers or a first-round pick elsewhere, it's worth trading Rose and officially hitting the reset button.

    Teams That Should Call: Los Angels Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets

4. Bogdan Bogdanovic, SF, Sacramento Kings

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Bogdanovic is never going to reach his full potential on the Kings bench and could greatly benefit from a change of scenery.

    Except Sacramento may want to hang on to the upcoming restricted free agent despite earlier trade talks involving the Los Angeles Lakers.

    James Ham of NBC Sports expanded on that:

    "Barring a major change in the team's thinking, the Kings are likely to hold onto Bogdanovic and try to work out a long-term solution with him over the summer. Sacramento's front office knows Bogdanovic's market value could hit the $15-18 million per year range, but they also understand the type of player he is when healthy and how important he is to the Kings franchise."

    Currently the Kings' sixth man, Bogdanovic is averaging 14.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.0 steals in 28.0 minutes per game while shooting 37.6 percent from three. Sacramento is 15-29 overall, tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves for 13th place in the Western Conference. Trading the 27-year-old forward for picks or younger talent would seem like the best course of action.

    A 6'6" wing who can play on or off the ball, Bogdanovic would fit best with a team that can give him a starting role and more opportunity. Any organization that trades for him should be prepared to pay him this summer, either with its own offer or by matching any offer sheet he gets from a competitor.

    We've seen what Bogdanovic can do on a big stage. It's time to let a playoff team give him that opportunity. 

    Teams That Should Call: Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs

3. Robert Covington, F, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Is Covington better than Bogdan Bogdanovic? It depends on what a team needs.

    Covington can play either forward position, and he's a great defender and capable scorer who would be great to deploy as a defensive weapon come playoff time. He's made every team he's ever been on better, registering a sparkling plus-7.9 points per 100 possessions in his 369 career games.

    While the Timberwolves began the year with playoff aspirations, they have lost seven straight games to fall to 15-29 overall. At age 29, Covington doesn't fit their eternal rebuild and would slide in beautifully on the wing for a number of teams.

    According to Ben Cohen of the Wall Street Journal, an arms race between the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers is taking place for Covington's services.

    Wing defenders become especially valuable come playoff time, particularly since the last eight Finals MVPs have all been small forwards. Running into LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Jimmy Butler or Jayson Tatum in the postseason becomes a little less painful with a player like Covington on the roster.

    He has a fairly easy salary to match ($11.3 million) and is under contract the two following years for a total of $25.1 million.

    Teams That Should Call: Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz

2. Andre Drummond, C, Detroit Pistons

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    There's no debating Drummond's talent, as the 26-year-old is on his way to a fourth rebounding title in the last five seasons.

    An athletic 6'10" and 279 pounds, Drummond is having a career year with 17.3 points, 15.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks per game. While he still doesn't shoot from outside 10 feet, his free-throw percentage (60.0) has reached a point at which he's no longer worth fouling on every possession.

    As talented as he is, Drummond's game is still pretty limited and would only fit with a select number of teams. They need to have a good three-point-shooting power forward in place to keep the floor somewhat spaced and, ideally, a talented point guard to help get him the ball in his spots.

    Given the right situation, however, Drummond can feast.

    He had the highest rebounding average of any player in the playoffs last year (13.0), is a two-time All-Star and made an All-NBA team in 2015-16.

    His next contract is a concern since Drummond is expected to opt out of his $28.8 million player option for 2020-21. Last summer, a 33-year-old Al Horford secured a four-year, $109 million deal from the Philadelphia 76ers. The Orlando Magic gave Nikola Vucevic a new four-year, $100 million deal. Brook Lopez, Dewayne Dedmon and Jonas Valaciunas all got between $13 million and $15 million per year on new contracts.

    Teams are likely trying to figure out what a new contract would look like for Drummond and if they're willing to pay a player who doesn't quite fit the modern NBA over $100 million.

    Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that the Hawks broke off a potential deal for Drummond that would have included expiring salary and a first-round pick, but they could still get back into the mix. The Boston Celtics could use his size but would probably have to give up Gordon Hayward to match the big man's $27.1 million salary.

    If a team needs a center with muscle who can score, rebound and protect the rim, Drummond should be available.

    Teams That Should Call: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks

1. Kevin Love, PF, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Looking purely at talent, Love is the best player who could be moved before the trade deadline.

    A five-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA member, Love joins Karl-Anthony Towns as the only two players in the league to average at least 17 points, 10 rebounds and two three-pointers this season.

    Love's game fits the modern NBA, and few in history have combined his rebounding and outside-shooting prowess.

    It's quite clear Love desires a new home, and the Cavaliers should be happy to find him one so long as they get something back in return. Salary relief doesn't mean much for a franchise that should already have cap space heading into the summer, but a first-round pick or young player would likely get a deal done.

    Teams will naturally fear the contract, which has three years and $91.5 million remaining after 2019-20, even if it dips by $2.4 million in the final season. Love has been durable after missing most of 2018-19, though the Cavs typically rest him on one night of a back-to-back.

    Ever since he apologized for showing frustration on the court in a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Love has played some of his best basketball of the season, averaging 21.0 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists in his last seven games.

    The Phoenix Suns continue to make the most sense for Love given his relationship with general manager James Jones and the team's need for a veteran with championship experience in its starting lineup.

    The contract and injury history will keep a lot of teams away, but Love is clearly the most talented player we could see moved.

    Teams That Should Call: Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, Boston Celtics