The NBA rumor mill has been churning out some delicious content as of late for us basketball-obsessed folk. From Anthony Davis’ trade request last week, to the Kristap Porzingis and Tobias Harris trades, and every Kyrie Irving/Kevin Durant/LeBron James gossip mashed in between it all, we still haven’t hit what has the possibility of being a league-altering trade deadline.
The official deadline for all NBA trades for the remainder of the season is Feb. 7 at 3 P.M. EST, an eternity in terms of NBA trade framework. We saw with the Prozingis trade how swiftly deals can be born into the world without any public knowledge until it’s already official, flooding timelines and airwaves across all platforms. Similarly, deals can quietly be on the one-yard line and crumble into dust right before crossing into the endzone. That’s what makes the potential for chaos so beautiful. It’s unknowing.
The possibility of Davis being traded has been discussed 100 times over and I’ve most recently talked about it here and here. But outside of Davis, there is a good chance that we could see at least one, if not several, members of the BBNBA find a new home by Thursday afternoon. Here a few different players I think could potentially be on the trading block.
Julius Randle/Darius Miller (New Orleans Pelicans)
No matter how the New Orleans Pelicans handle this situation with Davis, it is ultimately going to end with them embracing a rebuild (or at least it should). Which means most of the players they have spent the last few seasons surrounding Davis with are no longer necessary proponents to their future.
The Pelicans starting point guard, Jrue Holiday, is reportedly off the table and currently has another two years after this season – and a player option on a third – left on his contract making over $25 million per year. Nikola Mirotic (owed $12.5 million this season), Wesley Johnson ($6.1 million), Elfrid Payton ($3 million), and Darius Miller ($2.2 million) are all on expiring contracts and could be valuable trade chips if the Pels chose to make other deals outside of Davis.
Miller’s trade value is likely incredibly low, however.
There is no denying that he is an elite shooter, despite his three-point percentage dipping from one of the best in the league last season (41.1 percent on 4.4 attempts per game) compared to just above-average this year (37.6 percent on 5.1 attempts per game). He’s been brought into this league to shoot at the perfect time and has a distinct role within the Pelicans offense. Could a team in the playoff race be willing to see if they can fly under the radar and snag Miller for cheap? Other shooting options such as Wayne Ellington or Luke Kennard could also find their way onto a new team and will be much hotter names than Miller on the trade market. He can’t do much outside of shooting the basketball from long range, but he’s one of the league’s best in that department and could be seen as low risk with the potential for solid return.
Julius Randle might perhaps have one of the most valuable contracts if we view him strictly as an asset. He makes only $9 million this season and is playing well above that figure. He has a player option next season for another $9 million that I would expect him to decline in order to hit the open market, but he could be an incredibly dynamic third or fourth scoring option for a team trying to make a playoff run. Something I could see is the Clippers possibly attaching a first-round pick to Marcin Gortat in exchange for Randle, although that’s unlikely with Montrezl Harrell on the roster and their recent moving of Harris. The Hornets have bad contracts they should try to get out of in Marvin Williams and Nic Batum who could be attached to a pick or two in exchange for Randle if Charlotte wants to make a playoff run in the East (Although Marc Gasol appears to be the guy that Charlotte wants manning the middle, but we’ll see if that actually happens). Could Randle somehow find his way back to the Lakers?
Enes Kanter (New York Knicks)
A trade sending Enes Kanter out of New York has felt inevitable for months now, but will it actually happen? New York has been uncharacteristically meticulous in how they’ve handled their business this offseason and don’t seem like they’ll trade Kanter just because he wants out. The Knicks aren’t going to deal Kanter unless they know it can benefit the organization more.
With that being said, he is on an expiring deal. Albeit, a lucrative $18 million expiring deal, but expiring nonetheless. Kanter is still a good player, which can easily be forgotten as he’s been glued to the bench for the last month. All of the complaints from Knicks fans about Kanter’s uninspiring play is justified and he simply wasn’t and hasn’t been in the future plans for New York. The main reason he got there in the first place was so the Knicks could finally rid themselves of Carmelo Anthony and that entire miserable debacle. Kanter had plans to be an All-Star this season, so of course he’s going to be taking a healthy amount of shots on a team where he’s the best scorer on the floor more often than not. His defense has never been good and at 26 years old it likely won’t ever be. You know what you’re getting with Kanter on both sides of the floor.
The Knicks are playing rookie Kevin Knox over 31 minutes per game since the new year, for crying out loud. They’re doing everything they can to develop talent while losing games at the same time. That timeline does not include Kanter one bit.
So where could Kanter end up? Well, it’s possible he doesn’t get moved at all if New York prefers to stand pat with their newfound cap space. A new team would surely reenergize him, though, especially if he goes to a team in the playoff race. And perhaps he’d be more willing than he was in New York to accept a role player position if it meant wins would follow. Winning does solve most issues and Kanter hasn’t seen too much of it during his seven years in the NBA.
The Raptors could also find some use for Kanter. Serge Ibaka has been struggling with his shot a bit this season and Jonas Valanciunas has missed a significant amount of time (although he could return rather soon). While it’s not an ideal scenario for Toronto, it might be one their willing to make if they don’t think they can figure out their frontcourt come playoff time. Once again, the Clippers are a team in need of some depth at the center position and could bring in Kanter. I wouldn’t cross him going back to Utah off the list, either.
Rajon Rondo (Los Angeles Lakers)
Los Angeles Lakers guard Rajon Rondo has been involved in some of the potential Davis-Lakers deals that have been floating around, but even if that deal doesn’t get done, there might be some other suitors out there. It’s really going to come down to the Lakers and if they think they can snag Davis before Thursday. If they don’t, then keeping Rondo to help man the offense (particularly if LeBron misses any more time) would be a smart decision. Outside of New Orleans, it really doesn’t make much sense for the Lakers to trade Rondo anywhere for something like a pick or another player.
But if the Lakers were to listen to offers, the Jazz, Trail Blazers, and possibly even the Spurs (?) could all use a veteran backup point guard for the upcoming playoffs. It’s not anything I think will honestly happen, but by speaking it into existence I get to claim that I had it first.
Willie Cauley-Stein (Sacramento Kings)
Willie Cauley-Stein has seen his name propelled into the rumor mill over the previous week. Zach Lowe of ESPN reported that the Sacramento Kings have been willing to talk about WCS in trade discussions. As Lowe notes, the Kings have two young and talented forwards waiting behind Cauley-Stein in Harry Giles and Marvin Bagley III, who have both shown massive signs of growth since the season began. Cauley-Stein is set to be a restricted free agent this season so Sacramento can refuse to pay him altogether and let another team swoop in, but if they can swindle a player or a pick for him now, they might as well go for it.
The Kings appear to be making a run for the playoffs and keeping Cauley-Stein would surely help them more than it would if they traded him, but realistically, a first-round sweep at the hands of the Warriors or Nuggets is the likeliest scenario. If Sacramento can swing something worth trading away their starting center for, it’s probably in their best interest in the long run. Cauley-Stein is a solid big man, but not one that the Kings have planned on keeping for their long-term future.
Two potential surprises
There are two players in particular that I think should be closely watched, just in case. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (CHA) and Eric Bledsoe (MIL) are both names that I believe could find themselves in trade talks within the coming days.
Starting with MKG, who has one more year after this season left on his deal at $13 million per season, which is probably just slightly over his actual value. His role has been heavily reduced this season with a new offensive system focused around Kemba Walker and outside shooting, making him a perfect off-the-bench spark plug on both sides of the court. MKG is never going to be a consistently good offensive player. He’s a career 23.9 percent shooter from three and that jump shot is just as broken as it was when he was at Kentucky. But he’s an excellent on-ball defender and always plays harder than anyone else on the court. In the playoffs, those are two incredibly valuable traits. And despite his shooting woes, I think MKG will have a larger role in the postseason than the regular season, whether it’s with the Hornets or some other team. Had Charlotte gone through with the Gasol trade, there’s a great chance that MKG could be included and it could still happen if the two sides decide to revisit it.
As for Bledsoe, who is in the middle of having the most effective season of his career (and a personal All-Star snub of mine), the Milwaukee Bucks would have to find a perfect deal to ship him off, but there will surely be interest in him. He’s on an expiring contract worth $15 million this season and there are several teams that could use a player of Bledsoe’s caliber. The Jazz, possibly the Detroit Pistons, or maybe even the Indiana Pacers, who recently lost their All-Star guard Victor Oladipo. I think Bledsoe is probably the least likely to get traded out anyone in this column, but I also think he’s one of the best possible tradable assets that no one is talking about.
Brandon Knight (Houston Rockets)
Ever since he was traded to the Houston Rockets from the Phoenix Suns, Brandon Knight has never really found a spot within the rotation. Granted, he has been recovering from an ACL injury that sidelined him for damn near two full years and has only resumed playing in games since December. But he hasn’t looked anything like the player Houston had hoped. In 12 games this season, Knight has averaged just 3.0 points and under 10 minutes played per game. He’s had to miss even more games recently with knee soreness. Knight just isn’t fully healthy yet and it’s undetermined when – or if – that will happen. Moving on from him seems like a perfect chance for the Rockets to snag another disgruntled bench player from a bad team. The only problem is his contract. Knight won’t be a free agent until next summer and is scheduled to make over $15 million in 2019-20. That’s a lot of money to pay a guy with only one good knee and no promise of him ever getting back to the Knight of 2015-16.
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