This season’s trade deadline day promises to be one of the busiest in recent memory. Whereas last year’s deadline day business gave us nothing more than an underwhelming (and in hindsight, very dumb) J.J. Redick trade to the Bucks, this year there are a number of teams willing and able to do some big business. It’s partly a result of the number of teams currently phoning this season in, looking ahead to the tantalizing 2014 draft class.
Struggling teams are looking to ship out any remaining assets that don’t belong in their long-term plans and are a detriment to their short-term goals of getting a higher pick. Conversely, teams that feel that they are one or two pieces short of making a serious championship run will be seeking that missing piece among this season’s unabashed tankers.
With that in mind, here are six players that could be moved by the trade deadline.
Danny Ainge’s Celtics have regressed to a place in the standings indicative of their rebuilding status after a surprisingly impressive start to the season. But Ainge will be looking to strip the team down further in order to get as many Celtics balls as possible in the draft lottery—and who knows, maybe someone else’s first-round pick.
With star man Rajon Rondo unlikely to be traded (unless someone floors Ainge with a monster offer), the Celtics are looking to unload some of their useful role players. One such player is power forward Brandon Bass. Bass was involved in trade rumours earlier in the season with the Houston Rockets, and you can expect to see his name crop up again. The 28-year-old Louisiana native is having his usual unspectacular, yet highly-competent season—posting up 14 points and seven rebounds per 36 minutes.
Bass rebounds well for his size and position and is a versatile player who can log time at centre in small-ball lineups. Most importantly, as it pertains to his trade value, he can stretch the floor. He doesn’t have 3-point shooting range, but for a team looking for a guy who can knock down the mid-range jumper, off the pick-n-pop, he’s perfect.
Potential Trade Scenario: The Charlotte Bobcats possess cap-room a-plenty and are tired of finishing in the lottery. A Brandon Bass trade would shore up a big void in their power forward spot, and could help them make that final push for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. In this hypothetical trade, look for Portland’s pick (only protected for selections 1-12 and owned by the Bobcats) to head to Boston.
The Houston Rockets are currently in that tier of NBA teams that are one or two pieces short of being true championship contenders, along with Golden State, Portland and the L.A. Clippers. They have the core of a team that could win it all, but are lacking when it comes to guys that can get off the bench and win the occasional playoff game. However, the Rockets do have one major trading chip that could help with acquiring that kind of championship-caliber depth, and that chip is Omer Asik.
The Turkish centre’s value this season may have taken a slight hit due to injuries and perceived attitude issues—he’s been seen sulking on the bench on more than one occasion this year. But that said, Asik remains one of the best defensive big men in the NBA, a game changer at that end of the floor. The Rockets already have an elite defensive centre in Dwight Howard, but an attempt to play Asik and Howard on the floor at the same time failed miserably early in the season—to say there was a lack of floor spacing is an understatement.
Rockets GM Darryl Morey set a well-publicized deadline back in December for an Asik trade, uncharacteristically giving off a sense of desperation. There are also rumours that Morey was asking way too much in return for Asik—namely, two first-round picks—but what the Rockets really need for Asik is a power forward who can step out and shoot, and possibly a defense-first wing player.
Potential Trade Scenario: Thaddeus Young of the Philadelphia 76ers would take some getting, but he’s the perfect fit for the Rockets. Young can defend three positions and would be perfect stretching the floor alongside Dwight Howard. However, the Rockets might need to send a first-round pick, as well as Asik, in return for Young’s services.
76ers GM Sam Hinkie might just be the busiest man in the league come trade deadline day.
The Sixers, as many predicted, are in full-on tank mode this season—recently coming off a game against the Clippers in which they trailed by 56 points at one stage. Short-term ugliness aside, the Sixers are in a position that many fans, with teams stuck in the dreaded NBA no-man’s land, would envy. Their own first-round pick promises to be high and they possess the Pelicans’ first-rounder (also likely to be a top-10 pick). Throw in the fact that they have some very talented players in Michael Carter-Williams and (potentially) Nerlens Noels, and this team is set up for a bright future.
The first order of business, however, will be to unload players who, while talented, aren’t part of Hinkie’s long-term plans. Thaddeus Young, as mentioned above, may well be on the trade block, as well as talented big man Spencer Hawes. But the player most likely to be traded is the talented but enigmatic swing man Evan Turner.
Turner is putting up career-high numbers this season in points per game (17.4) and true-shooting percentage. However, those statistical improvements probably reflect his higher usage rate. Turner, as talented as he undoubtedly is, remains a frustrating player. On his best days, he’s a player who can put the ball on the deck and attack the rim; a guy who can defend opposing two-guards and small forwards; as well as rebound well at both ends. Too often, however, he drifts in and out of games, and his long-range shooting is non-existent.
The talent is there, however, and the fact that Turner’s still on a rookie-year deal makes him a tempting prospect for teams looking to compete for a championship.
Potential Trade Scenario: The Dallas Mavericks are reportedly interested in Evan Turner’s services and could use his young legs and defensive versatility. Any deal with the Mavs for Turner would likely see Shawn Marion’s expiring contract, and a first-round pick, head the other way.
When the Cavaliers traded for Luol Deng, just over a month ago, it was seen as the deal that would steady the ship and rescue the team from a disastrous season. Things haven’t panned out that way, however. The Cavs remain a dismal 18 and 33—still four games back of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Players have reportedly been clashing all season, and those same players seem to have checked out on coach Mike Brown. Just recently the team lost to a Los Angeles Lakers team that, by the end of the game, only had five players available.
Chris Grant, the general manager responsible for putting together such a dysfunctional mess, was recently given his marching orders, but it remains unlikely that the Cavs are suddenly going to turn things around and race up the standings. Dan Gilbert, Cleveland’s owner, doesn’t want a trip back to the NBA lottery this season (hence the trade for Deng), but swallowing his pride and cutting his losses might be his best course of action at this point in time.
Deng is free agent this summer and, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein, there’s no way that he’s willing to re-sign with the toxic Cavs. It would be wise, therefore, for the Cavs to trade Deng before the deadline in order to get something back for a guy who will walk in the summer.
Possible Trade Scenario: According to some reports, the Detroit Pistons are interested in Deng’s services, and a deal involving one of Detroit’s expiring contracts (Stuckey or Charlie V.), plus a second-round pick, could make it happen—but only if the Pistons can trade the next guy on this list.
You’ve really got to hand it to Pistons GM Joe Dumars—the guy really is feast or famine when it comes to constructing an NBA team. He’s either hitting home runs trading for Rasheed Wallace, signing Chauncey Billups and drafting Andre Drummond, or he’s swinging and missing big time. This year’s Pistons team is the result of a major swing and miss from Dumars.
With the Pistons loaded with cap-space last summer, Dumars signed the talented but extremely inefficient Brandon Jennings to a three-year deal, as well as the infinitely more egregious four-year, $52-million signing of Josh Smith. That J-Smoove is talented is not up for debate, but it made little sense to sign Smith unless he was able to see substantial minutes at his best position, power forward. Instead, Smith has played big minutes at small forward in a disastrous frontcourt lineup featuring Greg Monroe at the 4-spot and Andre Drummond at centre.
At this stage, if Dumars could trade Smith, he would, but there will be few takers given the size and length of his contract. That leaves Monroe as the odd man out. Monroe will be a restricted free agent this summer and the Pistons are unlikely to match any big offers coming in for him. It would be smart to get something back for Monroe before the bidding process begins.
Monroe is an offensively-gifted power forward who can score, rebound and facilitate from the high post. Defensively, he’s not the greatest, but teams with a defensive stopper at centre would be more than willing to take a punt on an uber-talented big man in the last year of his rookie deal.
Potential Trade Scenario: Okay, we’ll preface this by stating that this hypothetical trade is a little indulgent, but here were go: the Raptors are looking to upgrade their power forward position with Amir Johnson hobbled and probably better suited to an off-the-bench role. They could send Steve Novak, Tyler Hansbrough and their 2014 first-round pick in exchange for Monroe, and possibly Billups, as a salary dump.
The biggest name to be traded on deadline day could be Lakers big man Pau Gasol. Gasol has been involved in trade rumours for what seems like an age now. He was even involved in that nixed Chris Paul trade a couple of seasons ago that would’ve sent him to the Houston Rockets.
Unlike in previous trade scenarios, however, the Lakers won’t be trading Gasol away to upgrade at any position. In fact, they’d be trading him in order to phone in the rest of the season and attempt to get as high a draft pick as possible—as well as to get under the dreaded repeater tax threshold. With a team already thin on talent and ravaged by injuries, it makes sense for the Lakers to enter into full-on tank mode, post-All-Star break. Gasol is in the last year of his current deal, and it’s unlikely that he figures into the Lakers’ long-term plans.
Gasol has undoubtedly regressed as a player over the last few years, with injuries taking their toll. But the big Spaniard has shown over the last few weeks that he’s still more than talented enough to contribute to a team looking to win. Gasol is putting up 17 points and 10 rebounds per game this season, a big improvement over his disastrous 2012-13 campaign. He’ll never be the player he was during the Lakers’ back-to-back championship seasons, but a new environment could be the tonic that allows Gasol to maximize his final few seasons in the NBA.
Potential Trade Scenario: The Phoenix Suns are the best story in the NBA this season. Slated to be a lottery team, the Suns have defied all expectations and are currently fighting for a playoff spot in the loaded West. Given the fact that they currently possess four first-round picks and are seemingly willing to part with a few of them, they look like they may be one of the more intriguing dealers come deadline day. They’re currently involved in discussions about a trade for Gasol, and one scenario could see them trading a first-rounder (possibly Indiana’s) and Emeka Okafor’s expiring contract for the Spanish big man.