After roughly the first quarter of the NBA season, December 15th draws near. It’s the time of year where trade rumors become reality, front offices pick up those phones, and fans and analysts alike fire up those trade machines. As the league gets ready to see the trade market pick up, here is one player each team should look to trade.
The tank is in full effect for the 5-18 Atlanta Hawks. Losing games in favor of a high pick may not be their intention, especially with a renewed NBA Draft Lottery system, but there is a priority to develop young talent. Trading Kent Bazemore would fit the bill of their plan for this season. Bazemore’s 26 minutes per game might better fit the Hawks being redistributed to young wing players, like DeAndre’ Bembry, Kevin Huerter, or Tyler Dorsey. Clearing his potential $19.2 million from next season’s books could pave the way for Atlanta to enter the summer with just over $70 million in cap space.
Kyrie Irving is all but a lock to remain with the Boston Celtics when he hits free agency this summer. With money already shelled out to Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown only having one year left on his rookie deal after this season, it is looking like Rozier isn’t in their long-term plans for a guard rotation.
It is time for Danny Ainge to do what he does best and flip Rozier for future assets. Anything he could get in return for Rozier could be packaged to big fish hunt for names like Anthony Davis or used to continue to add rotational pieces to the team. Fixturing Irving as the focal point of the offense could help the Celtics rediscover their identity offensively, as well.
Unfortunately for the Brooklyn Nets, their hopes of making the playoffs this season are looking just out of their reach with Caris LeVert out for significant time. Since he went down earlier this month, the team is 2-8. As D’Angelo Russell continues to put on a show for this team, it becomes obvious that he is their point guard of the future.
This places priority on trading Spencer Dinwiddie. As an upcoming unrestricted free agent, the Nets front office would be smart to cash in on him now while his stock is high rather than lose him in the summer for nothing. This is especially true if they are able to utilize their cap space on max players like they plan to be able to do, as it would leave little behind to bring back Russell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Dinwiddie.
It is beyond tempting to advocate for a player like Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, or Bismack Biyombo to be moved in the name of creating cap space. Despite the desire for optimism, the harsh reality is that the only way the Charlotte Hornets would have any meaningful cap space moving forward is an entire roster overhaul.
Given an inability to build around him over the next two years if they can retain him, the Hornets would be better suited selling high and seeking young assets in return. Kemba’s value contract helps to facilitate a trade without taking on more money and he is having a season worthy of a promising return for Charlotte.
No need to over think this one. Sitting at the bottom of the 5-19 Chicago Bulls roster, Cristiano Felicio isn’t much more than dead salary. With a young core in place, any extra cap room Chicago can get their hands on is a premium.
As of right now, they will enter free agency with just over $35 million, assuming Jabari Parker picks up his player option. Clearing Felicio’s $8.1 million for next summer allows them to likely bring back Bobby Portis without sacrificing a max slot. It may take a second-round pick and certainly won’t bring back any talent to their roster, but the Bulls have a big interest in trading Felicio.
As a JR Smith trade is an eventual guarantee, a name the Cleveland Cavaliers should seek to move is veteran point guard George Hill. Rookie Collin Sexton has turned on the burners as of late and the organization has made no effort in hiding their intentions to prioritize the development of their young talent.
Trading Hill would not only open up the guard rotation to increase playing time for young players like Sexton, Jordan Clarkson, or David Nwaba, but it would also grant the team an extra $18 million in cap space next summer, which is something they won’t have much of.
The Dallas Mavericks have turned things around after finishing 13th in the Western Conference last season. Presently 11-10 and in the eighth seed, not only are they having a better than expected season, their first-round pick, Luka Doncic, looks destined for stardom.
Much of this roster looks unlikely to be with the team long-term, but Dwight Powell sticks out as a player Dallas could benefit from trading as quickly as possible. While he has been playing decent basketball, Powell’s $10.2 million player option this coming summer should be avoided at all cost. With promising young players in Doncic and Dennis Smith jr. and only one big contract after this season ends in Harrison Barnes, the Mavericks look to have a lot of cap space they can use to build for the future.
Not many other teams have been quite as pleasant of a surprise as the Denver Nuggets. Just missing the playoff last year, their young players have turned the corner and they are one of the best teams in the West. This is the time to do everything they can to make a run.
The Nuggets should seek a trade for Malik Beasley in order to obtain some perimeter shooting. Only 34.7 percent of their threes, good for 19th in the league, this is something that would be more valuable to the team than Beasley’s potential or current contributions. When injured players like Will Barton or Isaiah Thomas make their return, Beasley’s playing time is likely to dip, anyways. Denver is better off constructing the team with the hopes of playoff success in mind.
The Detroit Pistons have been off to a great start to the season, led by a star front-court duo of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. Unfortunately, the rest of the team hasn’t had quite the impact those two have had, especially not Reggie Jackson. Jackson hasn’t lived up to what the Pistons hoped he would be beyond his first two years in Motor City.
As the team sits second to last of the league in terms of shooting efficiency, Jackson is shooting only 39.6 percent overall. Ish Smith is showing he can still contribute meaningfully to a roster and makes it easier to move on from Jackson. Owed $18 million next season, it could be advantageous to the Pistons to swap out Reggie in favor of a point guard on the trade market or seek a replacement in free agency.
Golden State Warriors
Poised to make their fifth consecutive title run, the Golden State Warriors shouldn’t seek to change much on their roster. They will likely be heavily involved in the buyout market, but there is one player they should seek to trade: Quinn Cook.
He garnered attention last season as an outstanding role player for the already stacked Warriors but is still just a luxury for a team like this. He has slumped a little this season and the emergence of Alfonzo McKinnie would help the Warriors not miss Cook. Quinn’s contract is up after this season and he will likely find a payday elsewhere in the league.
Golden State, who is normally a step ahead already, may favor cutting him loose early rather than letting him walk, as he isn’t essential to their title hopes. Swapping Cook for another rotational piece could be the key to bagging a big that can bolster some of the workload their young centers seem to struggle with from time to time.
There isn’t any nice way to say it: Marquese Chriss has been unplayable for the Houston Rockets. After being acquired from the Phoenix Suns in a trade that let Houston unload Ryan Anderson, he has been a bad enough fit to warrant declining his player option for the coming season. With arguably the worst bench in the league right now, the Houston Rockets have their backs against the wall.
Multiple players out with injury or having played themselves out of the rotation, James Harden has played more than 40 minutes three times in just the last six games. Trading Chriss wouldn’t bring any assets or rotational players back to the Rockets, but if they find a team willing to take out a flyer on him for a top 55 protected future pick for example, the empty roster spot may be exactly what they need as they struggle to give this team depth.
The Indiana Pacers are in an excellent situation right now. They are fifth in the Eastern Conference, have a talented and fairly balanced roster, and don’t have excess long-term cap space tied up. With their sights set on making noise in the postseason, there isn’t too much tinkering they should look to do. One player they could part ways with, however, is Kyle O’Quinn.
O’Quinn hasn’t played poorly by any means, but as Domantas Sabonis has stepped his game up and shown he can play at center, the role O’Quinn was brought in for is a little occupied already. Kyle O’Quinn is the fifth big man on their roster and isn’t doing much for the Pacers. Flipping him for a little extra depth at the 2 or 3, especially with Victor Oladipo tending to a sore knee, could be a move forward for Indiana.
Los Angeles Clippers
Very few people saw what the Los Angeles Clippers are doing this season coming. Made possible by multiple breakout performances, the Clippers are on a tear and look to not only make the playoffs, but possibly have home-court advantage as they continue to out effort teams night in and night out. Many Clippers players are putting up career best numbers and performances, but Patrick Beverley isn’t one of them.
Still an absolute dog defensively and a great locker room and energy presence, Beverley is quietly putting up some of the worst counting stats of his career. One of the biggest factors that makes a Beverley trade so suggestable is how impressive Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is playing. Picked just outside of the top ten in this past summer’s draft, the rookie out of Kentucky is putting on a show and looking almost as mature as a first-year player can. Moving Patrick gives Los Angeles an opportunity to both give Shai more playing time and take advantage of a few teams’ desperate need for a point guard.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers aren’t where they’d like to be, but with an 11-9 record in a crowded Western Conference they haven’t quite fallen into panic mode. The one thing worth panicking about regarding this team already, however, is the three-point shooting.
Going into the season the whole world knew this would be a weakness of the team. It was preached that perimeter scoring would be sacrificed in the name of running the floor and giving the young players a chance to develop with LeBron James playing more off the ball compared to years past. As they continue to shapeshift their identity, with the pace slowing and LeBron running more of the point, it is time to add some shooting.
Michael Beasley is the obvious odd man out in terms of who to trade. Kyle Kuzma has been building upon an impressive rookie season and has now started 18 of 20 games. Meanwhile, Beasley has only played 59 minutes in totality compared to Kuzma’s 30.8 per game. The Lakers still need the shooter everyone has been telling them they need, and Beasley is taking up that player’s roster spot.
Finishing second worst in their conference last season, the Memphis Grizzlies have bounced back, and their success looks sustainable as long as their stars in Mike Conley and Marc Gasol stay healthy. No stranger to injury, Gasol is currently playing just over 35 minutes per game, with eight games over 37 minutes.
At age 34, this is less than ideal considering how impactful he is to this team. With the lack of depth at center the Grizzlies have, however, they don’t have many options other than to play him. Their guard rotation has been exceeding expectations, though. Conley is doing what he always does, and players like Garrett Temple and MarShon Brooks are playing big in their time on the floor. This means Wayne Selden is a perfect piece for Memphis to look to send out in order to bring in a backup center. Selden hasn’t been overly impressive, but he can still offer a little quick offense or shooting for another team.
As the Miami Heat’s season increasingly begins to look more like Dwyane Wade’s farewell tour and this team looks less and less likely to see the playoffs, looking towards the future seems to be their best option. Asking Pat Riley and the Heat front office to start up a tank job would likely give you a return of so many expletives your ears would ring, so no one should expect to see big names like Hassan Whiteside or Goran Dragic moved.
That said, if Miami could find a way to get off of Tyler Johnson’s contract next season, that could be an enormous positive for the outlook of the highest payroll in the league. There might not have been a single player that benefited more from the cap spike in 2016 than Johnson. His contract next year is a $19.2 million player option, though it’s hard to believe anything short of an act of God would keep him from declining. While the Heat let Wade have his last go around and compete for, if no other reason, the sake of competing, shedding Johnson’s salary is the best money move they could make happen.
New coach Mike Budenholzer and MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo have appeared a match made in heaven so far into the season as the Milwaukee Bucks have dominated their way to 15-7 and the second seed in the East. With the top half of the roster being perfectly set up around the Greek Freak, there isn’t much the front office would want to change.
Matthew Dellavedova is one of the few players the team could do without. The need for a back up point guard that far down the roster is almost not there, as Giannis has taken over more floor general responsibilities and players like Donte DiVencenzo and Malcolm Brogdon have shown they can play the point when needed. There are teams around the league in need of a point guard that might be willing to take on Dellavedova’s $9.6 million this year and next. If Milwaukee can make that move, they will have an easier time spending to retain Eric Bledsoe and Kris Middleton in the coming offseason.
The Minnesota Timberwolves feel they have shed weight off their shoulders and are on a tear after trading Jimmy Butler. Going 7-3 since their trade, they look like a new team. New additions Robert Covington and Dario Saric have been looking right at home since their arrival and Minnesota seems to be turning their season around. The acquisition of Saric has helped bulk up their big man rotation, meaning it is time for the Timberwolves to part ways with Gorgui Dieng. Only playing 13.5 minutes a game this season, it is apparent that he isn’t needed in Minnesota.
Karl-Anthony Towns will likely see more and more playing time as he continues the hot streak he has been on and Taj Gibson has potential to play minutes at back up center. Even if it takes attaching minimal assets, shipping out Dieng and his $33 million in salary over the next two years would allow the T-Wolves to add to the team in free agency, rather being forced to stand idle, and with KAT heading into a contract extension, cap space is something they need to take advantage of while they can.
New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans have hit some bumps in the road after starting the season with a dominating win against the Houston Rockets. Part of their troubles have been caused by Anthony Davis missing a couple games. Another cause, however, is that this team is not as deep as they thought they were heading into the season.
Julius Randle is providing monstrous numbers coming off the bench, but he is very alone in that. Out of all the bench players in New Orleans, Solomon Hill is the worst offender. Playing almost 19 minutes a game, he is averaging 2.8 points with an effective field goal percentage of 38.5 percent. Those numbers alone are scary, but when combined with the realization that he is making over $12 million this season and next, it is absolutely mortifying.
If the Pelicans hope to keep Anthony Davis despite swirling rumors that he could pack his bags for teams like the Celtics or Lakers, the front office must do a better job of surrounding the young star with talent. Trading Hill for any kind of playable wing or guard piece should be first on their to do list, regardless of if it means tossing some second-round picks or young players in with him.
New York Knicks
Though they hold the 12th seed in the Eastern Conference currently, there is a lot for the New York Knicks to be hopeful for. Kristaps Porzingis being sidelined for likely the remainder of the season has given the Knicks a chance to let their young talent, like Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, and Allonzo Trier grow, as well as chase one more lottery pick before they aim to bring big names to NYC in the offseason.
In next summer’s free agency, they will seek to retain Porzingis, who will be a restricted free agent, and sign at least one max salary level player. To do this, they will need all the cap room they can get. This means letting go of Courtney Lee and his $12.7 million next season is in the best interest of the team’s immediate and long-term goals.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder have been playing with a fire in their eyes and aren’t letting anything stop them. The loss of Andre Roberson led many to believe they would experience deterioration on the defensive end, similar to last season. Instead, they are first in defensive efficiency. When Russell Westbrook missed a few games, Paul George and Dennis Schroder stepped up and didn’t let the team find itself in a rut early in the season. This Thunder team is playing great and utilizing its roster well.
They do, however, have a little dead weight at the end of the bench: Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. After taking a flyer on the young guard originally drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers, it is apparent that he will not be a playable part of their rotation, only averaging eight minutes per game in 14 games. In the last year of his rookie deal, he would likely be easy to move to a team willing to take on a project or trying to acquire a second-round pick or two from Oklahoma City. Finding a way to exchange TLC for some added three point shooting is exactly what this team needs, and Sam Presti may be just the man for the job.
Following a hot start to their season, the Orlando Magic are starting to regress to their mean and are presently 11-12. This team isn’t devoid of talent, but the roster lacks many of the necessities required to find themselves a serious playoff contender. For this reason, Orlando needs to cash in on Nikola Vucevic. He has been great for the Magic so far this year and is finally getting recognition for the numbers he puts up. However, he is in the last year of his deal, the Magic just drafted their center of the future, and this team has peaked a quarter into the season. Selling high on Vucevic, who could be the final missing piece in eyes of other teams around the league, could grant Orlando much more than finishing as a fringe playoff team or first round exit if they keep him. If the Magic are lucky, they could possibly even trade Vucevic for draft pick compensation, which would help out a team as capped out as Orlando.
Since acquiring Jimmy Butler, the Philadelphia 76er’s have gone 8-2 and are starting to feel like they have their core for the future. Unfortunately, it seems that Markelle Fultz does not see himself as part of that core in Philly. The former first overall pick has spoken out about wanting a fresh start with another team and is no longer taking the court for the 76ers as he tends to his shoulder and his wrist.
The return for Fultz will likely not be the return expected for such a young player that was once seen as a cornerstone piece for Philadelphia. The more time that passes, though, the more obvious it becomes that they need to trade him while they can, as his trade value seems to be trending downwards rapidly. If they are lucky, they may be able to find a trade that sends out Fultz while delivering themselves some much needed shooting and wing depth.
It seems to be more of the same for the Phoenix Suns, who are owners to the worst record in the Western Conference. The addition of young players with lots of promise, namely Deandre Ayton and De’Anthony Melton, prior to the season position the team better off than in years past. Their big offseason acquisition via free agency, Trevor Ariza, should be the front office’s number one player to place on the trading block, however.
The signing of Ariza made sense for the Suns when they did it, but it hasn’t gone according to plan. Ariza hasn’t been able to do a lot on the court for Phoenix and with the season going the way it is, getting all of their young wings ample playing time should be the priority. Trevor Ariza’s name has been thrown around a lot as a wing defender many teams would love to add to their roster. Phoenix should seek to send him out and try to fill the worrisome hole in their roster at the point guard spot.
The Portland Trailblazers have cooled off a little after climbing their way to the first seed in the West early on. As they look ahead to redeem themselves from an early exit in the postseason last year, their tweaked game plan with Evan Turner running the floor with the second unit seems to be a big help. The Blazers are rich with hard-to-swallow contracts, but only one is giving them little to no production this year: Maurice Harkless.
Harkless is two for nine from three over his last six games and is playing 16.8 minutes per game in the 11 out of 23 he has suited up for. It makes it even harder to give him playing time when Nik Stauskas is playing like he is and shooting 40 percent from deep- something much needed for this team. Portland needs to move on from Harkless, even if it means giving up minimal picks or taking back a similarly rough contract, as long as they get some production.
The Sacramento Kings took a big leap forward from last season and currently sitting at 10-11. Armed to the neck with young, talented players, the Kings are sticking to their strengths and playing fast and athletic. Willie Cauley-Stein has looked impressive in his contract year and reminding Sacramento why they drafted him.
It’s like in the cowboy movies, though, when one guy says to the other guy “this town ain’t big enough for the both of us.” In the Kings case, it’s Marvin Bagley III saying that to Harry Giles. With Sacramento eyeing a Cauley-Stein and Bagley front court for the franchise’s foreseeable future, it is important to get those two some playing time together.
Trading Giles would be the best way to help facilitate that. Since Giles still has another year and team option remaining on his rookie deal, he still has considerable trade value to the right team and could help the Kings bring in another building block for their future.
San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs has been very busy since the end of the last season. The departure of Kawhi Leonard, the welcome of DeMar DeRozan, the retirement of Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker’s change of scenery, and the Dejounte Murray injury have all contributed to a very different looking Spurs team. As is true Gregg Popovich fashion, they haven’t let this stop them from winning, with a current record just under .500 at 11-12.
Losing Murray due to a torn ACL has been rough for San Antonio, who saw him as their guy at the point. Patty Mills has been fantastic in taking over the starting role, and Bryn Forbes has been great as well, but the Spurs would benefit from bringing a little depth at the point. San Antonio should look to move Jakob Poeltl, who hasn’t given them much this year, in favor of an extra point guard. LaMarcus Aldridge is blossoming since being moved into the starting center role, and Pau Gasol remains a serviceable back up, at least in terms of offense and rebounds. Poeltl could offer a way to mend their wounded point guard rotation without giving up too much.
The Toronto Raptors wasted no time in claiming the throne in the Eastern Conference. Kawhi Leonard has helped this Toronto team look dominant and the Raptors are already being considered heavy favorites to find their way to the NBA Finals. The rise of Pascal Siakam cannot be overstated, as he has taken a quantam leap and become one of the most reliable scoring bigs in the league, touting an impressive 66.7 percent effective field goal percentage.
This, combined with Serge Ibaka rekindling some of his impact after being moved to center, has led to Jonas Valanciunas playing less than 20 minutes per game for Toronto. While still a serviceable player, the Raptors would be better off sending him out and bulking up their wing rotation. Typically the weak link for the Raptors come playoff time anyways, Valanciunus offers this team more as trade stock than he does as a reliable rotation piece down the stretch.
Experiencing a backslide after surprising much of the league last year, the Utah Jazz started the season with a tough schedule that put their record a little behind what they expected. With five players on the roster shooting under 30 percent from deep, their troubles shooting the ball have been the source of many of their problems. They have shown that Joe Ingles and Jae Crowder are the mainstays of their wing rotation, so the team needs to trade Thabo Sefolosha in favor of a guard that can shoot.
Ricky Rubio can be a great fit next to Donovan Mitchell at times, but if Mitchell is cold, they need another guard they can rely on to score for them. Dante Exum has had flashes of being a reliable point guard, but shooting has never been one of his strong suites. Sefolosha currently sits at the bottom of the rotation and wouldn’t be missed if they used him to take care of areas of need on the roster.
Otto Porter Jr.
A lot can be said about the Washington Wizards’ season so far. This team currently sways back and forth between “maybe everything will all work out” and “blow it all up right away.” The best first step to a cautious approach of remedying this team’s issues is trading Otto Porter Jr. Kelly Oubre Jr. has earned heavy minutes at times playing under Scott Brooks, and even if he isn’t as polished as Porter Jr. right now, he can still offer Washington more than Porter Jr. has, who has been slowly worked out of the offense.
Otto Porter Jr.’s contract does have some weight to it, making upwards of $26 million this year and next, and a player option in 2020-21. However, a 3 and D wing player is always of value and teams that feel they are a player away from being where they want to be might be willing to give Washington the cap relief they desperately need without having to break the whole band.