Young NBA Players Ready for a Trade at the Deadline
Almost every NBA player needs a change of scenery at some point. For some, that point comes quick, even soon after being drafted.
For the following young players, the time for a trade is now, early in their careers, before crucial months or years are wasted.
Based on developmental needs and roster situations, these prospects on rookie contracts should hope to hear their names shopped before the deadline.
Mohamed Bamba (Orlando Magic, C)
The only reasonable explanation for Mohamed Bamba still playing for the Orlando Magic: They're asking too much in trades.
He holds little value to Orlando as its third-string center, and Bamba, now averaging 8.6 minutes per game in in his third season, needs an opportunity to start playing consistent minutes.
The injuries and lack of toughness have been frustrating with Bamba, but the 22-year-old still possesses unteachable, useful tools for finishing and rim protection, and he has flashed enough touch throughout his career for teams to feel they can get something out of his jump shot.
The Washington Wizards lost Thomas Bryant to an ACL injury. The Toronto Raptors may need to think about retooling. The Oklahoma City Thunder are rebuilding and could upgrade their center depth, and the Charlotte Hornets may represent a positive change of scenery for Bamba.
Jarrett Culver (Minnesota Timberwolves, SG/SF)
Since the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted Jarrett Culver, the team added D'Angelo Russell, selected Anthony Edwards at No. 1, saw Malik Beasley develop into 20-point scorer and watched 2019 second-round pick Jaylen Nowell outproduce its lottery pick.
Culver isn't blameless for the slow start to his career, but looking ahead, with so much overlap at the 2-guard and wing spots in Minnesota, his role in the offensive pecking order might not be conducive for development. Before injuring an ankle, Culver's usage rate (18.2 percent) and field-goal attempts (6.9) were down from his rookie season.
He's ninth on the team in touches per game, per NBA.com. Shooting remains an issue for Culver, but he may benefit from going to a different roster that offers more on-ball opportunities to make plays and build confidence. And he could use a more consistent role. There has been no continuity with his minutes. One night he's getting 30, the next it's 20, then it's 10.
Though Minnesota could use Culver's defense, it's clearly not a difference-maker for the 7-21 Timberwolves. They need to make some personnel changes, whether that means shopping for veterans or shooters, and despite Culver's unconvincing start, there should still be enough interest around the league in the 21-year-old.
Carsen Edwards (Boston Celtics, SG)
At full strength, the Boston Celtics won't be using Carsen Edwards, who'll likely lose minutes to Payton Pritchard and eventually Romeo Langford and Aaron Nesmith.
And Edwards hasn't shot well, so he deserves some criticism. Regardless, he should be interested in seeing what other opportunities are out there—ones for offensive-starved teams that can offer bigger roles with longer leashes.
Confidence ultimately represents Edwards' shot-making fuel. He'd benefit from a lower-pressure situation that allows him to play through mistakes in order to catch fire.
The Atlanta Hawks are banged up and rank last in bench scoring. The Orlando Magic's backcourt and roster have broken down. The Houston Rockets are No. 25 in offensive rating and could use more firepower for their second unit. The Detroit Pistons might as well try to find any low-cost value they can get.
Mfiondu Kabengele (Los Angeles Clippers, PF/C)
Mfiondu Kabengele has logged a total of 128 NBA minutes since the Los Angeles Clippers took him in the 2019 first round. And there isn't a path into the rotation this season after the front office loaded up on veteran forwards and bigs.
Last year's 27th pick was productive as a rookie in the G League, where he averaged 18.7 points and hit 53 threes through 27 games.
Knowing Kabangele isn't useful right now for the Clippers, opposing teams should be checking on his availability and assuming there is still notable value tied to his athletic finishing and shooting for a 6'9", 250-pounder.
At 23 years old, Kabengele should be getting anxious for playing time and to get his career going.
Kevin Knox (New York Knicks, SF/PF)
At 38.5 percent from three, Kevin Knox is having his best season as a shooter, and he's still fallen out of the New York Knicks rotation.
He needs a change of scenery. It's impossible to measure a player's ability to gain or lose confidence, but Knox's has appeared vulnerable from the start in New York. And the constant benching hasn't done any good.
At this stage, it's important to acknowledge Knox's limitations, and no matter where he goes, his coach won't want him handling the ball or trying to score off his own creativity. However, he has a good-looking stroke, and other teams could have use for an athletic stretch 4.
Ideally, he'd go to a winning organization that could offer a simplified, consistent role as a corner, wing and off-screen shooter. But realistically for Knox, he should be interested in heading anywhere outside New York, where almost nothing has worked and there doesn't seem to be any path to regular minutes behind RJ Barrett and Julius Randle after the Knicks added Obi Toppin, Reggie Bullock and Alec Burks.
Frank Ntilikina (New York Knicks, PG/SG)
For players from the 2017 NBA draft class who haven't been extended, this is the final year to make an impression and increase the value of their second contract. Malik Monk is doing just that now with the Charlotte Hornets. But Frank Ntilikina, who's managed to remain with the New York Knicks through multiple front office and coaching changes, has been limited to just four games this season because of injuries and COVID-19 protocols.
And with the emergence of Immanuel Quickley and the addition of Derrick Rose in New York, there won't be many opportunities for Ntilikina this year with the Knicks.
A trade makes sense for both parties. Other teams should see an opportunity to buy low on Ntilikina, who's developed into a reputable defender who can still contribute by making life tough on opposing guards, even if it's for short stretches of a game.
Meanwhile, Ntilikina should welcome a deal to a team that needs backcourt depth. While he's struggled to make a convincing case as a lead ball-handler, he brings enough passing, open shot-making and defensive versatility to a combo role.
The Milwaukee Bucks could use a perimeter-defensive specialist off the bench for their playoff run. The Dallas Mavericks rank No. 27 in defensive rating. The Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers have weak reserves behind their starting guards.
There will be teams interested in Ntilikina, and he should have interest in actually seeing the floor regularly as a fourth-year pro.