Since the 2016/17 NBA season got underway, only one trade has been consummated, and that deal happened way back on November 1, when the Thunder and Sixers got together for a swap that featured Ersan Ilyasova and Jerami Grant. Still, while things have been mostly quiet since then, recent history suggests there’s reason to believe we could see at least one more trade completed before we turn the calendar to 2017.
With more than 120 players around the NBA having become trade-eligible last Thursday, and a new Collective Bargaining Agreement tentatively agreed upon – albeit not officially finalized – teams now have the flexibility to move most of their players, and the information to know what effect the new CBA will have on potential deals. That doesn’t mean we can guarantee a trade will happen within the next 10 days, but December has been a moderately active month in recent years.
Here are a few examples:
Hornets trade Chris Paul to Clippers: December 14, 2011
It has now been five years since the Clippers completed one of the most controversial trades in recent NBA history, acquiring Paul from the team known at the time as the New Orleans Hornets. The Hornets appeared to have an agreement in place a few days earlier to send Paul to the Lakers, but commissioner David Stern – as the de facto controlling owner of the franchise at that time – decided not to make that deal.
Of course, superstars like Paul typically don’t change teams in December. The only reason it happened in 2011 was because the NBA’s lockout had just ended, resulting in a flurry of “offseason” moves in early December. We haven’t had such an exciting December since then, and the fact that the NBA and NBPA struck a deal on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement without a lockout this time around means we probably won’t get another December like 2011’s anytime soon.
While Gay certainly wasn’t a star on the level of Paul when he was dealt three years ago, he was in the midst of his sixth straight year averaging at least 18 PPG, and at the time, this deal was viewed as a signal that the Raptors were entering tank mode. A funny thing happened in Toronto after the team made this move though — the Raptors started winning.
Buoyed by players acquired from Sacramento in exchange for Gay, like Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez, and led by Kyle Lowry, who was nearly moved to the Knicks around the same time, the Raptors began their transformation into one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams following this deal. While this would be a difficult feat to replicate for any club, it’s worth remembering that a team making a deal for the future may ultimately benefit in the present as well.
In some ways, the Celtics’ decision to move Rondo in 2014 was similar to the call the Raptors made a year earlier. Still viewed as a high-caliber player, Rondo was no longer a fit in Boston, and the pieces the C’s acquired for him – including Jae Crowder – helped accelerate the team’s rebuilding process.
Unfortunately for the Mavs, their decision to roll the dice on Rondo backfired horribly. The veteran point guard clashed with head coach Rick Carlisle, resulting in a brief, underwhelming stint in Dallas. Rondo has led a nomadic existence since this deal, having spent time with the Mavs, Kings, and Bulls over the last two years.
Of the players on this list, Smith is the least notable name, but he’s worth including here for a couple reasons. First, the change of scenery gave him an opportunity to thrive in a contract year, resulting in him landing a lucrative three-year deal this past July. During this year’s trade season, it will be worth watching to see if any under-the-radar contract-year players get moved to a team that will allow them to play more and increase their value before next summer.
The Smith trade is also noteworthy because it represented the second consecutive year that a deal was made on Christmas Eve. In 2014, the Pistons acquired Anthony Tolliver from the Suns on December 24. That streak may not continue this year, but if a couple teams want to conduct some business before the holidays, perhaps we’ll get a deal later this week.
December 2016: ???
What do those previous December deals tell us about what to expect this year? Well, in the case of the Gay and Rondo trades – and even the Paul deal, though it’s an outlier – teams were ready to move big-name players who simply weren’t the right fit in order to accelerate their rebuilding processes. Who fits that bill this season? Perhaps someone like Nerlens Noel or Greg Monroe, though Gay and Rondo were more productive and more valuable when they were moved.
What do you think? Are any teams ready to make a deal now, or will we have to wait until 2017 for some trade action?