5 NBA Players in Desperate Need of a Trade This Offseason
Players can grow apart from their NBA teams before their contracts split them up. When that happens, the situation is unsalvageable, and a trade becomes necessary.
Maybe a team changes its overall direction and renders a player obsolete. Or perhaps that player gets trapped in a tough situation due to poor choices made by the organization.
For a variety of reasons we'll detail momentarily, these five players must find their ways to different rosters over the offseason.
Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
Aaron Gordon has spent all six of his NBA seasons in Orlando. The next time he encounters anything close to ideal on-court conditions will be the first.
The Magic, who have employed five different coaches during his tenure, have overcrowded their frontcourt and remained understaffed in the shooting and scoring departments. That has effectively narrowed Gordon's attack lanes and left him overexposed with shot-creation duties he isn't equipped to handle.
In the modern NBA, he's a small-ball big who should be an explosive pick-and-roll screener given his moon-boots bounce. Instead, the Magic have tasked him more with handling pick-and-rolls (131 possessions) or running isolations (53) and almost entirely neglected him as a roller (25). He's a 74th percentile finisher on one of those play types and below the 27th percentile in the other two; care to guess where he excels?
Orlando reportedly "tried hard" to deal him at the deadline, per Heavy's Sean Deveney, which means one of two things is taking place. Either the Magic are asking too much or the market just isn't that into Gordon. We'll go with the former since it's hard to imagine clubs ignoring a 25-year-old with limitless athleticism and enviable versatility at the defensive end.
If he can get into a new city, a new offense and a new role, he still has time to show why he was the fourth overall player selected in 2014.
Al Horford, Philadelphia 76ers
When 76ers general manager Elton Brand spoke of the need to "complement" Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid "better," per ESPN's Tim Bontemps, he might as well have been pointing to a billboard of Al Horford.
Philly's problems this season didn't start or stop with Horford. But of all the hurdles the organization encountered, his horrific fit with this roster could be the toughest to solve.
He doesn't work alongside Joel Embiid. Of the 16 different pairings to which Philly gave 600-plus minutes this season, only the Horford-Embiid duo had a negative net rating (minus-0.5 points per 100 possessions).
Embiid is the single most important player to the Sixers' championship hopes, a modernized Hakeem Olajuwon with flawless footwork in the post and there-when-he-needs-it touch from the perimeter. Not working with him means not working in Philly.
Horford, who was demoted to the second team before injuries forced him back out with the starters, can't make this work. He's a center in today's game, so trying to line him up alongside another center—while paying him $28 million—is asking for trouble.
But if he escapes the City of Brotherly Love and again mans the middle of a properly spaced lineup, he could transform overnight from financial liability to hardwood asset. In 2018-19, his last season with the Boston Celtics, he had a 20.2 player efficiency rating and 60.5 true shooting percentage. This year, those numbers plummeted to 15.7 and 53.6, respectively.
He makes no sense for the Sixers, but he could perk up almost any contender that needs an upgrade at the center spot.
Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
How is Kevin Love still stuck in Cleveland?
LeBron James bolted out of Northeast Ohio two summers ago and took the club's championship hopes with him. The Cavs have been buried at the bottom of the standings ever since—they're tied with the New York Knicks for the fewest wins over this season and last—leaving Love to live a fish-out-of-water existence as a 30-something five-time All-Star stranded on a cellar-dweller.
Unfortunately for Love, the how isn't actually hard to decipher. As much sense as a split would make, that can't happen until the Cavaliers take a realistic asking price to the trade market. They're nowhere close right now.
"They want some combination of draft picks and young, ascending players for Love," Chris Fedor reported for cleveland.com.
It's a laughable request. Love is 32 years old, has a lengthy injury history and is owed more than he's worth ($91.5 million over the next three seasons). Cleveland isn't bringing assets back and might need to attach sweeteners just to shed him.
Whatever needs to happen, though, it should.
Love can still help a winning team in a meaningful way. He's only two seasons removed from being the leading rebounder and second-best scorer on a 50-win team that went to the Finals. Some contender should rescue him from this roster.
Chris Paul, Oklahoma City Thunder
Chris Paul's first season back in the Sooner State was unexpectedly fun. Now that it's over, though, everyone can agree it was only a part-time partnership, right?
They are so poorly matched that their union sounds like the pitch for an Odd Couple-style sitcom: "They're a long-term NBA rebuilder; he's an aging point guard with a colossal contract. Watch them try to coexist on Odd OKCouple!"
The Thunder's present is their future. Their top priorities are the development of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort and Darius Bazley and adding to their pile of draft picks. The inevitability of their rebuild played a part in their mutual split from head coach Billy Donovan, as ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported.
A change of address for Paul should be next.
The 35-year-old proved he has plenty left in the tank this past season. He was one of only 10 players to average 17 points, six assists and five rebounds. He landed 13th overall in raw plus/minus (plus-330) and fifth in ESPN's real plus-minus (5.51). He was easily the win shares leader (8.9) of an OKC club that defied expectations with a .611 winning percentage and the Association's 12th-best net rating (plus-2.1).
The 10-time All-Star remains a difference-maker, and he should spend his final seasons helping someone compete for a title.
Thaddeus Young, Chicago Bulls
A lot of things that were supposed to happen with this season's Bulls never did. A successful debut campaign in the Windy City for Thaddeus Young was among them.
The veteran forward struggled to find his niche while handling a reserve role for the first time since 2011-12. The team he was supposed to help compete for a playoff spot instead finished too far out of the race to even earn a trip to the bubble.
Young had issues with his usage, per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, and former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen couldn't find a way to fit him with Lauri Markkanen. So, Young was left handling the short end of the stick until Markkanen was knocked out by the injury bug.
Young is owed $13.5 million next season and has a partial guarantee for 2021-22. Playing out that pact in Chicago seems like the worst idea for him and the Bulls, and everyone around the league might know that. A pair of rival executives told NBC Sports Chicago's K.C. Johnson that Young is the "most readily available" player in Chicago, which is not an insignificant label given all the changes that could happen in light of the front office overhaul.
Young deserves a ticket out of town. His plug-and-play dependability is something every contender craves, and his two-way versatility makes him a fit for virtually any roster.
This was only the second time in the last six seasons his squad didn't secure a playoff invite. The 32-year-old belongs in the postseason, and it seems he needs someone other than the Bulls to help get him there.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.