NBA Trade Watch: Predicting 10 'Showcase' Candidates This Season
While the NBA trade market rarely closes, it typically builds up over the course of the campaign before potentially erupting in a flurry of activity at the deadline.
The extra time spawns movement for several different seasons. Players who inked free-agent pacts aren't eligible to be traded right away. Most teams want to watch a good chunk of their games before determining whether to buy or sell and how aggressively to do it.
Teams that do sell, meanwhile, can use the extra time to showcase a trade candidate and, ideally, generate enough interest to receive top dollar.
Because of contract situations, poor fits with their current rosters or desires for change, the following 10 players rank among the most likely showcase candidates for 2021-22.
Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings
Marvin Bagley III, the No. 2 pick of the 2018 draft, opened this season outside of the Kings' rotation. If his father and his agent have their wish, he'll be out of Sacramento entirely sooner than later.
The Kings "aren't actively looking to trade Bagley," per ESPN's Brian Windhorst, but it sounds as if they're exploring their internal options first before considering a split. As Windhorst put it, the Kings want to "guard their depth and monitor their new smaller style of play," which sounds like a trial run for a life without Bagley before cutting the cord.
If Sacramento is exploring that route (why wouldn't it with restricted free agency awaiting him next summer?), then it will need to get Bagley back onto the floor before brokering a deal. He's usually productive when he plays (career 20.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per 36 minutes), but he hasn't played often enough recently enough to remind potential suitors of that.
The Kings need to give him enough run to send that message around the Association, then finalize a trade quickly and focus on the players they want to keep around.
Goran Dragic, Toronto Raptors
The Raptors acquired Goran Dragic as the money-matcher in the Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade. Dragic, who turned 35 in May, didn't see his trip to Toronto as permanent. The Raptors, who have at least one eye on the future, probably didn't either.
Dragic has something left to give a veteran team. He might be slowing down, but he hasn't exhausted his zip just yet. Last season, he gave the Miami Heat nightly contributions of 13.4 points and 4.4 assists. The year prior, those numbers were at 16.2 and 5.1, respectively.
His bloated $18 million salary might restrict his trade market a bit, but his contract will expire after this season, so the money shouldn't be a deal-breaker. If the Raptors give him a long enough leash to showcase his offensive skills (he logged nearly 22 minutes in the opener), then a team with postseason ambitions and a lack of scoring punch in the backcourt should come calling at some point between now and the trade deadline.
Derrick Favors, Oklahoma City Thunder
Can an interior-only, 30-year-old center actually be showcased? That's a fair question, but the Thunder will give it the old college try in hopes of getting something back for Derrick Favors before any buyout talks take place between the veteran and the rebuilding franchise.
His ceiling never stretched as high as you'd hope for a former No. 3 pick, but his floor easily climbed into the rock-solid range. He is dependable at both ends, and even if the perimeter can give him problems, he can protect the paint, finish around the basket and clean the glass.
The Thunder don't have much use for his skills, but the right win-now shopper might. Whether covering an injury, seeking out depth or hoping to upgrade an underperforming center rotation, veteran teams could target Favors at what should be a more than reasonable trade price.
Gary Harris, Orlando Magic
At 27 years old, Gary Harris can theoretically fit with the Magic. If their rebuild gains traction quicker than expected, he'd still be in his prime when they begin their ascent.
In reality, though, he almost certainly provides more value as a trade chip. Or at least, he could if Orlando can somehow correct his shooting decline. Since shooting 40.5 percent from distance across the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons—a stretch that netted him a four-year, $84 million extension from the Denver Nuggets—he has plummeted to 33.7 in the three campaigns since.
His expiring $20.5 million salary is a tough sell if he's a defensive specialist, but teams might fit it in their budget if they buy him as a three-and-D option. The Magic need to ace that sales pitch, both to maximize Harris' value on the way out and to clear up backcourt minutes for a guard group featuring several players with higher ceilings, including Jalen Suggs, Markelle Fultz, R.J. Hampton and Cole Anthony.
Danuel House Jr., Houston Rockets
The rebuilding Rockets would probably like to showcase Eric Gordon and D.J. Augustin in the hopes of unloading either one, but since both have contracts extending beyond this season, that might be wishful thinking. Houston isn't even making the attempt with John Wall, whose colossal contract and injury history effectively render him untradeable for the time being.
Danuel House Jr. could be a different story. Unlike the players listed above, he isn't past his prime but right in the heart of it. He's also reasonably paid ($3.9 million) and owed nothing beyond this season. If his play perks up a bit after a rocky, injury-riddled 2020-21 season, he might even spawn a bidding war near the deadline.
But first, Houston needs to find him sufficient minutes to show last season's struggles are behind him, which shouldn't be too difficult. This roster has some crowding at center and in the backcourt, but there's nothing to keep House from a healthy workload on the wing. With a reliable three-ball and some flexibility on defense, he shouldn't have trouble attracting suitors.
Josh Jackson, Detroit Pistons
It could be a while before the Pistons start throwing around Josh Jackson trade scenarios. They'll probably keep entertaining hopes of being competitive as long as they can, and whenever they inevitably shift to valuing the future over the present, it may not instantly put Jackson on the trade block.
Saying that, the Pistons have more serviceable wings than they do available minutes, and that crunch will only worsen once top pick Cade Cunningham is ready to debut. Jackson is one of the oldest players in that wing rotation (albeit as a 24-year-old) and one of the only players on the roster who's owed nothing after this season.
He could still play his way into Detroit's long-term plans, but the Pistons could easily prefer Frank Jackson's three-point shooting and Hamidou Diallo's upside. Jackson, meanwhile, could catch the eye of a playoff-focused shopper seeking toughness, defensive versatility and athleticism on the wing.
Terrence Ross, Orlando Magic
Terrence Ross has so much to offer a contending team that if #FreeTerrenceRoss ever gets trending this season, it might originate from rival front office members.
He lost his utility to Orlando when the franchise shipped out all other recognizable faces at last season's deadline. The Magic are shoulders-deep in rebuilding waters, and a trade of Ross would propel them into their final plunge.
He's an ignitable three-point shooter, a bouncy athlete and a capable on-ball defender. He can splash his squad to a victory and more often than not contributes something to winning. That should give him a healthy trade market, and the Magic might run the Ross sweepstakes up to the trade deadline in an attempt to maximize their return.
Ricky Rubio, Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers acquired Ricky Rubio for a reason this offseason. Well, a couple of reasons, actually. They needed a stable substitute to pilot their second-team offense, and Rubio is overqualified for the gig. They also sought an on-court mentor for young guards Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, who are already soaking up all the wisdom they can extract from Rubio.
"I can't wait to just continue to pick his brain on the road trips and different dinners that we have," Sexton said, per cleveland.com's Chris Fedor. "And that's going to help us younger guys, especially like me and DG, he's been helping us tremendously."
The Cavs can juice that leadership orange for as along as he's on the roster, which should be about as long as they can realistically dream about the playoffs. Once they get swallowed up by the depth of the Eastern Conference or derailed by the growing pains of this young roster, though, Cleveland should quickly pivot and shop the 31-year-old to clubs in much closer proximity to contention than this one is.
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
This is a little tricky, because the 76ers can't showcase Ben Simmons without his participation. They haven't received that yet, as he followed his offseason trade request by holding out parts of the preseason, being booted out of practice and, most recently, "telling the team Friday that he wasn't mentally ready to play to his expectations and needed time to step away," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported.
Saying that, the franchise sounds more than ready to wait this out as long as necessary.
"People should buckle in," 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said on 97.5 The Fanatic (h/t NBA.com). "This is going to go a long time because my only job is to help us get the best chance to win the title. ... You're going to think I'm kidding, and I'm not. This could be four years."
Philadelphia is exercising all the leverage it has, as it should. While a trade feels like the best-case scenario for all parties, Simmons is a 25-year-old All-Star with four seasons remaining on his contract. The only time pressure the Sixers might feel here is from their desire to compete for a title and the challenge of doing that with Simmons either on the floor or being traded away for a substantial return.
But if Simmons wants out as badly as it seems, he should recognize it's in his best interest to step inside the lines and rebuild his trade value. The Sixers won't trade him for pennies on the dollar, so he needs to convince suitors he's worth the full buck. As soon as he green lights his return, Philly should clear major minutes for him and, ideally, watch his trade market roar to life in no time.
Thaddeus Young, San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs played 13 of their 14 available players during their season-opening win over the Magic. Thaddeus Young being the lone exclusion easily ranks among the campaign's early puzzlers.
The decision, explained simply by coach Gregg Popovich saying, "Everybody doesn't play," doesn't make much sense. Young is one of the most talented players on the roster, and his glue-guy skills are easy to fit alongside players of all styles. He wouldn't have stepped on the toes of San Antonio's young players, in other words, and could've actually made their lives easier with reliable finishing, on-point passing and steady team defense.
The Spurs can't keep this up for long, since Young is too talented to sit, and they should want him to build up his trade market anyway. They only have between now and the deadline to deal him, which would increase their return from this summer's DeMar DeRozan sign-and-trade. Young already has suitors, but they could lose interest or at least lower their offers if he's being buried on the bench.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.