The Suns wouldn't be averse to trading any of their players, as Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports wrote today, and as they target Iman Shumpert, Al Jefferson, Gordon Hayward and others, Jared Dudley is a name that keeps coming up on Phoenix's end. The 27-year-old swingman is again performing close to the level he attained in last season's career-best campaign, and with an affordable long-term contract, he could be a fit for teams looking for a steady, if unspectacular, role player.
Dudley has been linked to the Knicks and Jazz in recent days, and the Grizzlies were reportedly insisting that Dudley be included in any offer that would have sent Rudy Gay to the Suns. Among those three teams, he would probably make the most sense in Memphis, where his long-range accuracy (he's made 38.9% of his treys this season) would help a squad that's last in the league in three-pointers made this season. Dudley could provide depth for the Grizzlies, who've continually reduced their forces to shed salary. Even now that Gay is in Toronto, the Grizzlies could slide Dudley's $4.25MM salary into the $7,489,453 trade exception they received in last month's three-team deal, and still have plently of room on the exception and under the tax line to add someone else. The hangup there would probably be over what the Suns would get in return, since Memphis doesn't have much in the way of draft picks to surrender, and giving up a player to get one in return wouldn't solve the team's depth issues.
The Knicks are at the opposite end of the three-point spectrum from the Grizzlies, having made the second-most long balls of any team in the league, so Dudley would likely overlap with existing talent in the Big Apple. Still, too much outside shooting isn't necessarily a problem, and for a high-payroll team like New York, Dudley's contract could be a welcome value. He's set to make the same salary every year through 2016, though the final season of his deal includes an early-termination option. Finding cheap contracts wouldn't really seem like a pressing concern for the Jazz, who have only about $25.3MM in commitments for next season, but GM Dennis Lindsey and company, just like every team's front office, aren't going to turn down a value, particularly if they'd be swapping him out for Gordon Hayward's rookie contract.
Utah is in the bottom third of the league in three-pointers made, but perhaps the reason why Utah and other teams would hesitate to jump at Dudley is that he probably wouldn't really represent a significant all-around upgrade, particularly if he's in the starting lineup. The 22nd pick in the 2007 draft, Dudley set his career mark in points per game at 12.7 last year, his first as a full-time starter. He's at 11.5 PPG this year, with averages of 3.5 rebounds and a career-high 2.6 assists in 29.4 minutes per game. Those conventional statistics suggest mediocrity, and they're backed up by his 15.1 PER, right on the mark for an average player. His presence hasn't been able to lift the Suns out of last place in the Western Conference, and while he could be the missing piece on an established team, Dudley by himself is nothing special.
Teams that can utilize him as a fifth starter alongside a more explosive wing player or use him as a shooter off the bench seem like the right fits. Though his name is not often mentioned when the league's best marksmen are discussed, he's a career 40.5% three-point shooter, and nailed 45.8% of his attempts from behind the arc in 2009/10, the fourth-best percentage in the league that season. He seems like he could be a more inexpensive option for teams going after J.J. Redick, who's making $6.19MM this year in the final season of his contract. Dudley would be a long-term alternative who could also be much easier to obtain, considering the Suns are looking to deal while the Magic seem reluctant to part with Redick. Given the volume of Redick rumors we've seen this season, Dudley's team-friendly pact, and Phoenix's willingness to make changes, I think the Boston College product shouldn't get too comfortable in the warmth of the Valley of the Sun.
The Bulls have been one of the elite teams in the NBA since the summer of 2010, when they missed out on LeBron James and instead added Carlos Boozer and coach Tom Thibodeau. They seem poised to once more make a move toward the top of the Eastern Conference with the impending return of Derrick Rose from injury. Several executives believe they, more than any other team in the Eastern Conference, could have what it takes to knock off the Heat, according to Grantland's Zach Lowe (Twitter link).
So, it's somewhat surprising that they apparently initiated discussions last week with the Raptors about swapping Boozer for Andrea Bargnani. Chicago fans have peppered Bulls.com scribe Sam Smith with potential Boozer trade scenarios nearly as long as Boozer has been in town, and while the 31-year-old power forward hasn't lived up to his five-year, $75MM contract, he has been playing some of his best basketball of late. He averaged 19.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in January, well above the 15.3 PPG and 8.9 RPG he's posted over the past two years as a whole. Not coincidentally, the Bulls went 12-4 last month and rekindled talk of title contention.
If the Bulls are serious about the Bargnani deal, they wouldn't appear to be entirely motivated by finances. As Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors noted when he wrote about the rumor this afternoon, the Raptors don't have an expiring contract to aggregate with Bargnani's deal to make the salaries match in such a swap, meaning Chicago would have to take on at least one more player on a multi-year deal. Plus, the trade would short-circuit any chance either team could seek salary relief by amnestying Boozer or Bargnani, as traded players aren't eligible for the amnesty clause.
Bargnani's deal, which has $32.25MM left on it including this year, ends in 2015, the same year Boozer's does. Bargnani also comes with a 5% trade kicker the Bulls would have to pay. Still, he's due about $5MM less per season that Boozer is, and depending on whom the Raptors add to the deal, the Bulls could at least lower their tax bill this season. Chicago is close to $4MM over the tax line, and owner Jerry Reinsdorf has never been a taxpayer, as Mark Deeks of ShamSports documented.
Perhaps the Bulls simply want to sell high on Boozer, believing that he'll revert back to the norm following his recent hot streak. If so, his contract makes it difficult, meaning they'd likely have to take back another sizeable deal that another team doesn't want. Only the Magic have a trade exception large enough to absorb Boozer's $15MM salary this season, but Orlando doesn't make much sense for him. The Nets appear willing to dangle Kris Humphries and his $12MM salary, but I don't think two teams that entered Friday in a tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference would be motivated to help each other out. That's part of the problem with teams that might have interest in Boozer from a basketball standpoint, as Eastern contenders like the Heat and Celtics would like to boost their front lines, but probably not in any way that enhances Chicago's title chances.
If the Bulls do trade Boozer this year, it would have to be with a team that's not afraid to take on long-term commitments. With so many franchises trying to clear cap space for either this summer or 2014, when King James could hit the market, there aren't a ton of options. In an injury-plagued season, the Timberwolves are looking toward the future and it seems like they're ready to make a move, so maybe they'd be willing to consider a core of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Boozer, but I doubt it. Unless the Bulls get something done with the Raptors, I think Boozer stays put, at least until the summer, when Chicago might have a field of trading partners wider than the one out there now.
Josh Smith might be the best player not named Dwight Howard or Chris Paul on an expiring contract this season, but until last month, he seemed destined to remain in Atlanta past the trade deadline, and perhaps longer. That all seemed to change January 16th, when the Hawks suspended Smith for a game and fined him an undisclosed amount. That same day, we heard that agent Wallace Prather met with Hawks GM Danny Ferry about Smith's frustration with the team's play, and Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported the team had discussed its power forward in trade talks with other teams. Since then, the Smith rumor mill has cranked into high gear.
There's little consensus on just where Smith will end up once the dust settles after February 21st. Hoops Rumors readers were nearly split down the middle when we asked a couple of weeks ago whether he would be traded. Reports that seem to indicate the team is leaning toward trading the 27-year-old are juxtaposed by others that suggest the Hawks don't want to deal him away, even if they have a good read on where to send him should they feel compelled to part ways. Complicating matters is the 15% trade kicker on his $13.2MM salary that any team acquiring him would have to pay. Though the ninth-year veteran is an intriguing talent, trade partners are apparently skittish about taking him on considering he could leave as an unrestricted free agent in the summer, especially since he feels he's in line for a maximum-salary deal.
Smith, who has never been an All-Star, doesn't fit the classic profile of a max player. His scoring and rebounding numbers (16.9 PPG/8.5 RPG) have fallen off after last season's career highs (18.8/9.6). His 45.1% field goal percentage is his worst since 2006/07, and his free-throw shooting has plummeted to 49.7%, far beneath his previous low for a season of 58.8% in 2008/09. He's also averaging 3.1 turnovers per game, close to another career worst. He's blocking shots more often than he has in the last five years, and he's dishing out nearly a full assist more per game than his career average. Still, this season has hardly been the kind of resume-building walk year he probably imagined.
There have been conflicting reports on whether the Suns are going after him, with a package centered around Marcin Gortat and expiring deals. Whether or not Phoenix has interest, I'm not sure Gortat, whose numbers are also off this season, would entice Ferry to sacrifice the team's ample cap space for 2013/14. Gortat is due $7.7MM in the final year of his deal next season, and though acquiring him would leave the Hawks open to pursuing the ballyhooed free agent class of 2014, it seems they'd encounter plenty of competition for that bunch.
The Bobcats and Rockets also apparently have interest in Smith, and Houston is especially intriguing, since the soon-to-be free agent reportedly counts the team among his favored destinations, along with the Grizzlies and Mavs. Rockets GM Daryl Morey seems perpetually motivated to make a splash, but his team isn't flush with the kind of expiring deals that Ferry would likely want in return for Smith.
As Marc Stein of ESPN.com wrote this weekend, the Hawks are reluctant to compromise this summer's cap space, which could allow them to sign a pair of max players. They're poised to make a run at Howard and Paul, though it's unclear if either of them would leave their respective teams in Los Angeles, much less sign with Atlanta. Still, when Smith got married, Howard served as his best man, and Smith has spoken fondly about reuniting with his former AAU teammate. That connection would only be meaningful to the Hawks if Smith is still around, and there's no guarantee he will be past July 1st. Trading him away would ensure he won't there to recruit Howard, however, so my guess is that unless a team bowls Ferry over, the GM will be content to ride it out this season with his athletic forward, and willingly accept cap space as consolation if Smith signs elsewhere.
There are plenty of big names rumored to be on the trade block as we approach this year's deadline, including Rudy Gay and Pau Gasol. Other players, such as Jose Calderon and J.J. Redick, are intriguing not just because of their expiring contracts, but because they could be the final piece of the puzzle for a contending team.
Timofey Mozgov, like Calderon and Redick, is on an expiring contract, but he's unlikely to be a real game-changer if he's moved at the deadline. Still, Grantland's Zach Lowe referred to the Nuggets big man as one of the league's "most available" players back in December, so that certainly makes him a trade candidate, even if he's not one of the more exciting ones out there.
Mozgov, 26, initially came to the Nuggets two years ago as part of the blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks. While Mozgov was hardly the centerpiece of that trade, he was a piece the Nuggets insisted be included, due to a belief that he could develop into a solid big man. While the Russian has shown flashes of that promise in his two seasons with the Nuggets, there just aren't enough minutes to go around anymore now that Denver's frontline includes JaVale McGee and Kosta Koufos, two young centers that have outproduced Mozgov.
Mozgov's best season came in 2011/12, when he averaged 5.4 PPG and 4.1 RPG while playing 15.6 minutes per contest. Those numbers won't turn many heads, but Mozgov's per-minute rates were solid, and he started 35 of his 44 games for the Nuggets, meaning he wasn't just playing against other teams' second-stringers. At 7'1", he should certainly have some appeal to teams in need of size in the middle, and according to Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post, Denver has been fielding plenty of calls about Mozgov since the beginning of the season.
One team that's been linked to Mozgov as a potential suitor is the Heat, a club that could use one more big body in the frontcourt to help Chris Bosh and its bigs shoulder the rebounding load. But as Chris Tomasson of FOX Sports Florida pointed out earlier this month, there's not a perfect match between the two teams. Norris Cole, Miami's most appealing trade asset, doesn't fill a need for a Nuggets team that has Ty Lawson and Andre Miller at the point, and Cole's modest salary wouldn't be enough to match Mozgov's $3.14MM mark. I'm sure the Nuggets, who could use a shooter, would love to add Ray Allen ($3.09MM), but that's not the sort of price the Heat would want to pay for Mozgov.
Besides Miami, there are no particularly obvious suitors for Mozgov. The Warriors could be a fit if Andrew Bogut continues to be nagged by injuries, and the Celtics could use another big. But both teams are up against hard caps, making it difficult to add any salary, and Boston's plans have likely changed now that Rajon Rondo is out for the season. The Suns and Rockets, with cap space to absorb Mozgov's salary, could kick the tires -- if they were to acquire Mozgov and liked what they saw over the season's final couple months, they'd have the first crack to re-sign him in July.
As Dempsey wrote in his previously-linked piece, Mozgov appears unlikely to remain in Denver past February 21st, simply because the Nuggets don't have room for him in their rotation. Nonetheless, it doesn't seem as if there will be a huge market for the big man. If he's moved and it's not part of a bigger deal, it's probably unrealistic to expect Denver to land much more than a second-round pick or a borderline rotation player in return.
One of the reasons Alvin Gentry is no longer coaching the Suns is reportedly because the team wants to focus on developing younger talent, and doesn't think Gentry's the guy to lead that effort. Marcin Gortat, who turns 29 next month, isn't exactly a perfect fit in a youth movement, either, so it's reasonable to expect he could be the next guy heading out of Phoenix. It's harder to get rid of a player than it is to dump a coach, but despite a regression in his performance this year, there should be no shortage of teams lining up to acquire the 6'11" center.
Gortat is coming off a career year in 2011/12, when he put up 15.4 points and 10.0 rebounds per game in his first full season as a starter. This year, those numbers are down to 11.6 PPG and 9.0 RPG, but he's not the first player who hasn't looked as sharp when he's no longer part of nightly pick-and-rolls with Steve Nash. Gortat is seeing 9.4 shots per game as opposed to 11.7 last season in a nearly idential amount of minutes. Still, his 16.5 PER is lower than in any of his six NBA seasons, aside from 2009/10. The sudden lack of efficiency probably can't be pinned on Gortat breaking down, as he hasn't missed a game the past two seasons, so it likely has to do either with the absence of Nash or the indifference that comes from playing on a last-place team.
Gortat vented his frustration earlier this season about the Suns' style of play and his role in the offense to a reporter in his native Poland, and he turned down Phoenix's offer of a contract extension over the summer. Still, he said he won't ask for a trade, feeling an obligation to stick it out with his struggling team.
The Suns might let him off that hook, and if they do, the Celtics have been linked to him as a potential suitor. That stands to reason, given Boston's rebounding deficiencies and lack of a true center. The C's could give up someone from their crowded backcourt — perhaps Courtney Lee, who was reportedly drawing interest around the league a couple of weeks ago. No one has collected fewer rebounds this year than the Heat, who would no doubt love to bring Gortat back to Florida, but they probably don't have enough assets to engage the Suns other than their three stars, whom they're reluctant to break up. The Rockets have been eyeing Gortat as well, and they certainly have enough young players to fit Phoenix's new player development focus, but I'm not sure the Suns would be willing to give up Gortat for anyone Houston would probably dangle.
What the Suns do with Gortat before the trade deadline will have a lot to say about the direction of the franchise. If they deal him, it clearly signals full-scale rebuilding, a step forward with the process that began when they let Nash go last year. If they keep him, it either means they see him as a building block for the future or believe they'll get a better deal for him next year, when he'll be on an expiring contract. Much will depend on the market, but competent NBA centers are usually in high demand. With whispers that the jobs of basketball president Lon Babby and GM Lance Blanks are in jeopardy, I'd bet that a team will come forward with enough of an enticement to get the Suns to trade Gortat before this year's deadline passes.
Leandro Barbosa has been no stranger to being on the bench to start games. While at his peak during the 2006-07 season, he averaged 18.1 PPG and 4.0 APG while shooting 47.6% from the field and 43.4% from distance in 32.7 MPG, appearing as a starter in only 18 of the 80 contests he played in that year. Today, the 6'3 guard still starts the game as a reserve for the Celtics, but plays just a fraction of the high-level minutes that allowed him to become one of the league's best bench scorers for a significant portion of his career.
Several seasons have passed since the 30-year-old guard found his niche as a dynamic second unit scorer in Mike D'Antoni's high-octane "Seven Seconds or Less" offense in Phoenix, and since being dealt by the Suns after the 2009-10 season, he's had brief tenures with Toronto and Indiana. While he may not be as spry as in previous years, Barbosa's numbers have shown that he may still have some value to teams that lack guard depth if given the right amount of playing time. During his first season with Toronto in 2010-11, he averaged 13.3 PPG in 24.1 MPG. Before playing the final 22 games of the 2011-12 season with Indiana (averaging 8.9 PPG in 19.8 MPG), he averaged 12.2 PPG in 22.5 MPG with the Raptors. This year, he totals 10.8 MPG through 30 games.
With Doc Rivers having to account for Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, and the recent return of Avery Bradley in his rotation, Leandro has found trouble earning consistent playing time. Since playing 14.3 MPG in November, he earned 6.5 MPG in December, and just 6.8 MPG this month so far. It's also worth mentioning that after appearing in each of Boston's first 16 games of the season, he has accumulated 11 DNP-CDs in their last 23 games. Despite his sporadic role, Barbosa has shown flashes of solid production this year, going 6-for-8 from the field for 16 points in 16 minutes against the Heat on opening night, 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting in 23 minutes against Utah on the first game of a back-to-back, and 17 points on 5-for-11 shooting against the Nets the next night.
The veteran scorer is making about $1.23MM this year on a one-year deal, and became trade-eligible as recently as yesterday. One could only speculate about possible trade destinations, but with the team supposedly interested in J.J. Redick, Barbosa's contract may be included in any potential deal with the Magic. Other teams that could reasonably show interest are the Hawks, who recently lost Lou Williams to a season-ending injury, and the Lakers, who could be granted a Disabled Player Exception after Jordan Hill was ruled out for the rest of the season. A reunion with Steve Nash and Mike D'Antoni would arguably be the most welcome option for Barbosa if given a choice, and should a DPE be granted to the Lakers (worth about $1.78MM), the team will have enough to bring the Brazilian guard to Los Angeles.
Two days ago, we initially heard a report from ESPN Brazil that Barbosa wanted out of Boston (he strongly refuted the rumor shortly after the story was released). Regardless of whether or not he remains a Celtic past the trade deadline, it wouldn't seem likely that the nine-year-veteran factors into the team's plans after this season. With that being said, it could be in the their best interests to shop Barbosa's contract to teams currently in need of guard depth instead of possibly losing him in the offseason for nothing.
J.J. Redick wants to remain in Orlando, and the Magic are in no hurry to trade him. Nonetheless, GM Rob Hennigan has let Redick know multiple teams are interested in his services, and the team's losing is beginning to wear on the seventh-year veteran, who's said he'll look to sign with a contender if he's traded this season. That means Redick, in the last year of his contract, might wind up as a rental for whoever would be on the other end of a trade, but that might just be part of the plan.
Redick's $6.19MM expiring contract might be Orlando's best trade asset, and it wouldn't make much sense for a rebuilding team to commit long-term money to a 28-year-old who's started just 45 games in his career, despite how much Redick has grown on the team's new front office. He represents an opportunity for the Magic to package him with one or two of their less desirable assets, like Hedo Turkoglu and Al Harrington. The Magic would reportedly be seeking multiple draft picks in return for him, but a team in need of a shooter might be willing to bite.
The Wolves seem to have plenty of interest, and they've long coveted a shooting guard. They'd like to unload Derrick Williams in return, but the Magic aren't keen on that idea. Minnesota could wind up in the lottery again this year, and that pick could be intriguing to Orlando. The Wolves are over the cap, so they couldn't absorb Redick's salary without sending someone out. They could probably cook up a proposal around Greg Stiemsma and Dante Cunningham simply because they, like Redick, can come off the books after this season, but I don't think that would be enough for the Magic. Alexey Shved represents an intriguing prospect the Magic might want, but that's just my speculation. It would represent something of a gamble by the Wolves if they traded for Redick anyway, since it's not clear whether they're ready to contend if healthy, and Redick might not want to re-sign with Minnesota this summer.
A more logical fit might be the Thunder. They're certainly a contender, and they have the Raptors' first-round pick via the James Harden trade to dangle in front of Hennigan and company. They've been going with a shortened rotation this season after letting Daequan Cook go along with Harden. Still, even without Cook's gunning, they're 10th in the league in three-pointers made this season and third in three-point percentage, and Kevin Martin's outside game has been a major reason why. Redick, though more than just a three-point shooter, wouldn't really fit a need for Oklahoma City the way he would for the Grizzlies and Bulls, who are the only two teams behind the Timberwolves in treys made this season. Both those teams are reluctant to take on salary, which could make swinging a Redick deal tough, though it's worth noting that Redick's current contract was originally an offer sheet he signed with Chicago in 2010.
There isn't really a perfect match out there for Redick, and that's why I think he probably stays put this season. I'm not sure the Magic will re-sign him in the summer, preferring to take his contract off their books to create cap space they can either use in 2013 or down the road. Hennigan may prefer draft picks, but space and picks are usually the two most sought-after currencies for teams in Orlando's position, and I think they'd be just as content to take the space if someone isn't willing to bend over backward to give them the picks.
The draft class of 2009 was eligible for rookie scale extensions heading into this season, and more of those players (eight) were extended than in any offseason since 2008. That figure is a little surprising when recalling the top few players selected in the 2009 draft -- Blake Griffin and James Harden were no-brainer extension candidates, and were locked up to max deals by their respective teams. However, Hasheem Thabeet and Jonny Flynn didn't even play out their rookie contracts, and Ricky Rubio isn't for a new deal until 2014, having remained overseas for a couple years.
The other guy at the top of the 2009 draft class not to receive an extension was fourth overall pick Tyreke Evans, who represents perhaps the most interesting case of the bunch. The Kings' ownership and uncertain financial situation, which has been making headlines over the last couple days, could be partially blamed for Sacramento not ponying up the money to extend Evans. But it's not as if the 23-year-old was entirely deserving of that extension. Since his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2009/10, Evans has never matched the PPG and PER rates he posted in year one, and has struggled to find an optimal role in Sacramento.
With reports suggesting that the Kings franchise could be changing hands (and cities) by next season, it's hard to assess exactly what Evans' future holds. New ownership and/or management may value the young scorer more or less than the current group, and if the franchise is in flux when the trade deadline approaches, the Kings may simply choose to stand pat, rather than being active on the trade market. For now, though Grantland's Zach Lowe writes that the Kings are "open for business," and Evans appears to be a more likely trade candidate than teammate DeMarcus Cousins.
Evans hasn't always been on the same page with the front office, and recently told Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee that he'd be neither shocked nor devastated if he were dealt next month. Voisin's report suggested that the Grizzlies had inquired on Evans, and that the Lakers, Celtics, and Nuggets had also shown interest in the past. Memphis makes a little sense as a trade partner to me, considering the Grizzlies are shopping Rudy Gay. A package that includes Evans and Francisco Garcia's expiring contract could be a starting point for a conversation between the two sides, with the Kings landing the small forward they've long coveted and the Grizzlies gaining some cap flexibility. But I have my doubts that Sacramento would take on a pricey, long-term deal like Gay's at this point, and the Grizzlies, faced with the prospect of losing Evans in a matter of months, would likely also be wary about making such a move.
It's hard to see an ideal fit with the Lakers, whose roster is made up primarily of aging, expensive assets, or the Nuggets, who probably don't have the future cap flexibility to extend Evans unless they dump one or two long-term contracts on the Kings. The Celtics make a little more sense, but I'd have to think Boston would balk at including Avery Bradley, and I'm not sure Sacramento does a deal without him.
There are a few other teams who could find Evans' expiring deal attractive, such as the Mavericks -- if the Mavs could put together a package for Evans, they'd hold his Bird Rights, giving them the option of re-signing him in the summer if they don't land one of their bigger free agent targets. However, Dallas already has a wing scorer in O.J. Mayo, who may ultimately be a better value next summer than Evans. The Suns, expected to be active prior to the trade deadline, could be another potential suitor, though with Goran Dragic and Kendall Marshall already manning the point in Phoenix, it might turn into a repeat of the situation in Sacramento, with Evans struggling to find a position.
Because Evans' value isn't exactly at its peak right now, and the Kings' future as a franchise is up in the air, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see the former Rookie of the Year to remain in Sacramento through this year's deadline. That would leave the team a couple decisions this summer -- whether to issue Evans a qualifying offer (worth about $6.93MM), and then whether to match any offer sheet he signs elsewhere. Still, it's certainly worth keeping an eye on the situation as February 21st approaches. Even though Evans hasn't lived up to his potential so far in Sacramento, a change of scenery and a new coaching staff may help the fourth-year player recapture some of that promise he showed when he first entered the league.
It has been a little more than 18 months since the Timberwolves took Derrick Williams second overall in the 2011 draft, but it appears the team is already close to cutting its losses on the 6'8" tweener forward. Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio wrote today that it would be surprising if Williams were still in Minnesota after the deadline, and it's certainly not the first time his name has been mentioned in connection with trades.
Williams figures to see more minutes while Kevin Love is out for "a number of weeks" after breaking his hand again. It may represent one more chance for Williams to show his worth to the Wolves, and an opportunity for Minnesota to showcase him for other teams. So far, we haven't seen much of the Arizona product on the floor, as he's averaged just 20.3 minutes per game for his career, and is seeing even less time this year than he did as a rookie. Agent Rob Pelinka, stopping short of a trade request, has "voiced his displeasure" about Williams' limited role on the team, as Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reported last month.
His lack of minutes persists despite more efficient play this season, as most of his per-36 minute numbers are up, and he's once more showing hints of the three-point accuracy he displayed in college, knocking down 38% of his attempts from behind the arc. His PER has jumped to 15.6 from 12.9 in 2011/12, indicating that he's performing at a slightly above-average level. Still, slightly above average is not the caliber of play anyone expects from someone drafted No. 2 overall.
That's why he's largely regarded as a secondary figure in the trade rumors he's been a part of. Though Wolves GM David Kahn denies having spoken to the Lakers since the summer, Minnesota has reportedly has been offering Williams and Nikola Pekovic to L.A. since last season in an effort to land Pau Gasol. The Wolves would like to make Williams the centerpiece of a deal for Anderson Varejao, but the Cavs predictably have little interest in that. He's been linked to the Magic as part of a J.J. Redick deal, but the Magic apparently aren't as high on Williams as other teams are.
It isn't clear which teams, if any, are willing to give Kahn and company what they want for Williams. He makes some sense as a stretch four in Mike D'Antoni's system with the Lakers, who might be more intrigued if the Wolves offered Williams in tandem with someone other than the ground-bound, soon-to-be free agent Pekovic, a poor fit with Dwight Howard. The Raptors may be open to parting with Andrea Bargnani for Williams and Pekovic, but I'm not sure Kahn would want to absorb Bargnani's eight-figure salary through 2015. The Suns figure to be an active participant in deadline deals and already traded for Wesley Johnson, another of Minnesota's highly drafted disappointments, but Phoenix appears set at power forward with Markieff Morris and Luis Scola's cap-friendly, post-amnesty deal.
Kevin Love, when healthy, has a stranglehold on the power forward position in Minnesota, so if Williams has any future with the team, it will be at small forward. For now, he's blocked there by Andrei Kirilenko, who has a $10.2MM player option for next season. If he exercises it, there's little chance Williams would become a starter until 2014/15 at the earliest, and by then the deadline for the Wolves to decide whether to extend his rookie deal will have already passed. Even if Williams shows a degree of improvement while Love is out, Minnesota is probably better off trading him, unless he suddenly turns into a nightly 20 and 10 threat over the next few weeks. Williams' value decreases when he idles on the bench, so as long as there's a reasonable offer on the table when Love returns, the Wolves should take it.
When the Minnesota Timberwolves signed Andrei Kirilenko to a two-year, $20MM contract last summer, they figured they would be adding him as a complimentary sidekick for Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio (upon his return from a knee injury).
Instead, Kirilenko has emerged as perhaps the team's best overall player, defending the opposition's best perimeter threat on a nightly basis while facilitating Rick Adelman's cut-and-move happy offense with fortuitous passing and a masterful understanding of angles and spacing.
He's averaging 13.1PPG (his most since 2005/06) on a career best 51.5% shooting from the floor, and his blocks, steals, and assists are all around his career averages.
But even though he's playing so well, Kirilenko is 31 years old with a $10.2MM player option on his contract next season. It's probable he seeks a long term deal, and it wouldn't surprise anyone to see him opt out of his current contract and force the Timberwolves to either sign him to a multiple year deal (not likely) or lose him for nothing.
Kirilenko wouldn't be on the hypothetical trading block if it weren't for the recent news that Love broke his right hand for the second time this season. With Minnesota's All-Star out of the lineup for who knows how long (Love will see a hand doctor in New York City next week to determine if surgery is necessary) the Timberwolves could seriously struggle.
It could potentially turn them from a buyer into a seller, as they fall from the playoff picture (as of January 5, the Lakers, Jazz, and Mavericks all trail Minnesota in the Western Conference standings).
One possible suitor might be the Oklahoma City Thunder, who could dangle Toronto's top three protected lottery pick in Minnesota general manager David Kahn's face. It would allow the Timberwolves to get a high draft pick and give them more flexibility moving forward. Kirilenko is playing some of the best basketball of his career right now, but moving him when his value is high might be the smartest options the Timberwolves have.