7 NBA Starters Who Need to Be Traded This OffseasonAugust 24, 2020
7 NBA Starters Who Need to Be Traded This Offseason
Now that the NBA playoffs are underway and the draft lottery has taken place, a more concrete sense of the offseason is setting in. Whether it’s seeing how their team performed in the bubble or officially knowing where their 2020 draft pick is, front offices around the league are quickly establishing direction for their offseason plans.
One aspect of every offseason is the trade market. Though coronavirus-induced financial losses might make teams especially risk-averse this year, there are clubs both in and outside the postseason picture that could be in need of revamping anyway.
Today, through the lens of eight players, we’re looking at seven of those teams who could be a trade away from breaking through for the foreseeable future.
A logistical note: We’re only talking about players who will realistically be traded. That rules out the notoriously well-paid duo of Blake Griffin and John Wall, as well as Ben Simmons, whose absence from the playoffs could be used as an excuse for the Sixers to give it another go with him and Joel Embiid.
Will Barton/Gary Harris, Denver Nuggets
Considering these two are often grouped together in conversations about the Nuggets, it’s only fair that we pair them here.
Without Harris and Barton eating minutes in Orlando, Michael Porter Jr. has blossomed, posting four consecutive double-doubles in the seeding games and making the All-Bubble Second Team. Now that he’s seemingly here to stay as Nikola Jokic’s frontcourt partner, Denver has more than five starter-caliber players, which could force the team to search for a blockbuster deal.
Now, it’s easy to quibble here. Barton and Harris are two of the Nuggets’ best defenders, and their absences in the bubble are a key reason why the team has been gashed on defense of late (Denver's given up at least 120 points in nine of 11 games in Orlando, and comfortably has the worst defensive rating in the playoffs). But Jrue Holiday is a long-rumored target for the team, while players like Victor Oladipo (assuming good health), Bradley Beal, and maybe even Chris Paul could be on the table.
Three of them are former All-NBA defenders, and Beal is one of the most prolific scorers in the league (and a better defender than he looked like this year alongside a historically awful Wizards team).
Would the Nuggets lose a bit of the upstart spark that has made them exciting to watch? Sure. On the other hand, slotting any of those four players alongside Jokic, Jamal Murray, Porter Jr., and Paul Millsap or Jerami Grant puts the team in the West’s top tier. To be truly in the hunt for a title, Denver needs to take big swings.
DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs
This is contingent on DeMar DeRozan picking up his player option, though considering the financial uncertainty that will plague the NBA over the next several seasons, it seems fair to assume he'll be taking that $27.7 million. In such a case, the USC alum is a prime trade candidate.
In April, CNBC's Jabari Young reported that DeRozan was unhappy in San Antonio, and while we haven't heard an update on this front in the ensuing four months, the team's performance in Orlando might hasten DeRozan's departure.
For the first time in a while, the Spurs' young players led the way in the bubble. Though the team doesn't have a franchise player just yet, the trio of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Keldon Johnson proved more than worthy of being ancillary pieces on a contender, while Lonnie Walker IV and Jakob Poeltl shined at points as well.
Though San Antonio's 22-year-long playoff streak is now history, it seems that the team is organically turning over a new leaf as well, and DeRozan just isn't on the same age timeline with the team's new core.
Given his allergy to three-pointers, DeRozan is a clunky fit pretty much anywhere in today's NBA. Nevertheless, teams like the Magic and Heat have been floated as fits for him in recent months. Though a bit anachronistic in a frustrating way, it would be nice to see the four-time All Star finish out his prime on a playoff-caliber team.
Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
In a macabre sense, the 2020-21 season might be just what Aaron Gordon needs to break out in Orlando. With Jonathan Isaac set to miss the entire campaign, the Arizona alum could move back to power forward on a full-time basis and combine his increased skill with proper space and playing time. However, with Al-Farouq Aminu and redshirt rookie Chuma Okeke still on the roster, such a scenario may still prove unlikely.
So, for the fifth year in a row, we say to the Magic front office: trade Aaron Gordon!
The big man remains an intriguing target. Though nowhere near as good as peak Blake Griffin, Gordon claims a similar skill set as vintage Griffin and would hopefully utilize it more properly elsewhere. Anybody from the Chicago Bulls to the Golden State Warriors to the Minnesota Timberwolves could use the big man, and at 24 years old, he's still years away from his physical prime.
It appears that the Magic have looked into a Gordon trade, and just didn't receive the level of interest they expected, per Forbes' Sean Deveney. But from Jan. 1 on, Gordon played some of the best and most well-rounded basketball of his career, and could have very well turned a corner, albeit for a team that was always bound to lose in the first round of the playoffs.
On a team not stuck in the middle of the pack, however, Gordon's breakthrough—assuming it's sustainable—could pay major dividends.
Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings
Though Buddy Hield was superb off the bench this year for the Kings (17.9 PPG on 45.4/45.1/92.1 splits in 28 games), it seems he wasn't happy about the supposed demotion.
With Joe Dumars taking over the front office and Bogdan Bogdanovic posting career-best numbers this year on the verge of restricted free agency, it would make sense if the team wanted to double down on players happy to build the next contender in Sacramento and traded Hield, whose enmity towards the organization has bubbled to the surface several times in recent months.
Despite being a poor defender, Hield could be incredibly valuable in the right circumstances. The Philadelphia 76ers have long been a rumored destination for the 27-year-old, and teams like the Dallas Mavericks or the New York Knicks could use his dynamic shooting as well. Hield wouldn't necessarily be a starter for those first two teams (the Knicks have no earthly reason not to start him, given that he'd arguably be the best player on the roster), but he may be less perturbed by a bench role on a more talented team.
Perhaps Hield's issues with the Kings stemmed specifically from Vlade Divac's presence, and the arrival of Dumars will smooth things over. But considering the lack of depth at other positions on Sacramento's roster, boasting two starting-caliber shooting guards means that one should be moved, and Hield's already-checkered history with the franchise makes him a more obvious choice than Bogdanovic.
Al Horford, Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers are likely to bring Ben Simmons back, but GM Elton Brand has eyes. He's watched this team underachieve and struggle to combine its talents all season long, with the current series against the Celtics being the latest example. By now, Brand has to have realized that at least one Sixers starter (loosely defined, given the shape of their season) must go, and Horford has stuck out the most this season.
A skeptical Sixers observer may classify Horford alongside Griffin or Wall as untradeable, and while the aging big man has clearly lost a step from his halcyon days, that's not completely fair.
In hindsight, it was a mistake to try and slot him next to Joel Embiid on a full-time basis. Lineups with both of them recorded a -0.5 net rating this season, and every so often, Horford showed frustration with essentially becoming a glorified stretch-four when the two shared the court.
This is not to excuse Horford's performance this season. To be clear, it's not like he dominated second units either once moving to the bench. But you can easily see a rebuilding team like the Charlotte Hornets, New York Knicks or San Antonio Spurs talking themselves into Horford's basketball intelligence and floor-spacing capabilities, swapping Philadelphia another big-monied player alongside draft capital for the opportunity to squeeze a few more productive years out of the 34-year-old.
He deserves better surroundings, and the Sixers deserve a better-fitting roster.
Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls finally caught a break in the draft and boast the fourth pick this year. It's true there are no guaranteed stars in this draft, but plenty of good potential role players are available. Combining the opportunity to select one of them with an established scorer like Zach LaVine could be enticing for numerous teams.
LaVine’s reputation has taken a major hit ever since he became the Bulls’ primary scoring option. However, the 25-year old still has obvious talent and has likely just been miscast. That round-peg-in-square-hole fit, combined with a regime change in Chicago, has put the Knicks and Nets on high alert for a LaVine trade, per SNY’s Ian Begley.
While the former team’s lack of roster talent could make for an even worse version of LaVine’s current situation in Chicago, a deal with the latter club might be just what the doctor ordered for the UCLA alum. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving handling virtually all shot creation responsibilities, LaVine would be free to spot up from three and finish flashy dunks, his two best skills. In this vein, the Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets could be useful landing spots as well.
Of course, a LaVine trade would also help the Bulls immensely. It could give the team a battle-tested veteran while also positioning it well for 2021 free agency, when a number of big-name players will become available. And before we know it, Chicago basketball might matter again on a nationwide scale.
Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are back, folks.
After a gap year that saw the team almost literally go from first to worst, Golden State is regaining Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, just won the second overall pick in the 2020 draft and claims the Timberwolves' first-round pick in the much more enticing 2021 draft. Combining those picks alongside Wiggins gives the NBA's Evil Empire a chance to add another star and further burnish its legend.
Steve Kerr recently defended Wiggins on The Bill Simmons Podcast—though it would have been out of character for him to openly say anything negative about a new player. However, we just saw Warriors personnel go through similar motions with D'Angelo Russell, and he was traded less than a year after being acquired.
Granted, Russell was a worse fit in Golden State than Wiggins is, but given that the Venn Diagram between players “worthy” of the second overall pick and NBA-ready prospects is basically non-existent this year, the Warriors are looking to trade down or out of the draft. Getting rid of the wing while using Minnesota's 2021 pick as a sweetener is the best way to construct such a trade from their perspective.
Given the Warriors' last half-decade, you can't blame opposing front offices for blindly rejecting any calls from a Northern California area code. But if another star-level player publicly requests a trade, look out for Golden State as a dark horse candidate in those sweepstakes.