Most of the players who signed new contracts as free agents in the fall of 2020 became eligible this past weekend to be traded. That list includes a handful of major offseason additions, such as Hornets forward Gordon Hayward, who can now technically be dealt.
Of course, just because a player can be traded doesn’t mean there’s any chance he will be. While many notable players became trade-eligible on February 6, it’s merely a technicality for the ones like Hayward who aren’t going to be brought up in any trade discussions this season.
Today then, we’re focusing on several newly trade-eligible players who are noteworthy not because of their star power but because they’re viable candidates to be moved in advance of this season’s March 25 trade deadline.
Approximately 90 players became trade-eligible on Saturday, so the list below makes up less than one-tenth of that group. You can check out the full list here.
Here are eight notable players who are now eligible to be traded:
- Rajon Rondo (Hawks): The Hawks signed Rondo to be a reliable backup to point guard Trae Young, but that hasn’t happened yet — the veteran has battled injury issues and is averaging career lows in several categories, including PPG (3.4) and FG% (.345). If Atlanta gets impatient and seeks out a new backup for Young, Rondo would be a clear candidate to be included in a deal, though his second guaranteed year will hurt his trade value.
- Aron Baynes (Raptors): Like Rondo, Baynes was signed to a deal worth a little less than the full mid-level in the hopes he could bring a much-needed consistency to his role for a new team. Like Rondo, Baynes has struggled and has posted a career-low field goal percentage (39.7%) so far. The veteran center continues to start game for the Raptors, but he has been outplayed by backup Chris Boucher, and his pseudo-expiring contract (next season is non-guaranteed) could be dangled if Toronto pursues a frontcourt upgrade.
- Wayne Ellington (Pistons): The offseason signing of Ellington to a guaranteed minimum-salary contract looked like an odd move for a rebuilding Pistons team, but the veteran sharpshooter has thrived in Detroit this season, knocking down a career-best 49.1% of his three-point attempts. The 6-18 Pistons appear unlikely to contend for a play-in spot, so teams in need of a low-cost floor-spacer will likely be inquiring on Ellington.
- Willie Cauley-Stein (Mavericks): Cauley-Stein was a regular part of the Mavericks’ rotation in the early going this season, starting 10 games and playing reasonably well. But since Kristaps Porzingis has shifted to center, Cauley-Stein’s playing time has plummeted — he hasn’t seen the floor at all in Dallas’ last two games. The big man’s contract gives him the ability to veto trades, but if he isn’t going to be part of the Mavs’ rotation, he may welcome a change of scenery.
- Elfrid Payton (Knicks): Payton has established himself as the Knicks’ starting point guard and seems to have emerged as a Tom Thibodeau favorite. However, with Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley also in the point guard mix, the Knicks have the flexibility to consider moving Payton and his expiring contract — at least one playoff contender has reportedly shown interest. The 26-year-old does have the ability to veto a trade, however, so he’d have to be sent to a destination he’d approve.
- Hassan Whiteside (Kings): Sacramento signed Whiteside late in free agency for the veteran’s minimum, and his role so far reflects the fact that he may not have been part of the team’s initial plans. He’s averaging just 14.1 minutes per game, easily his lowest mark since he returned to the NBA in 2014. Whiteside’s impressive box-score numbers generally oversell his impact on winning, but a team in need of depth at center could do worse than adding one of the league’s best shot-blockers on a minimum-salary deal.
- Tristan Thompson (Celtics): While Thompson has been fine as the Celtics’ starting center, the team figures to be in the market for a frontcourt upgrade prior to this year’s deadline. Unless the C’s find a move that allows them to use their big trade exception without sending out any salary, Thompson and his $9.3MM salary would be a logical outgoing piece.
- Meyers Leonard (Heat): If the Heat attempt to make a splash on the trade market, they have no shortage of players on sizeable expiring contracts who could be used for salary-matching purposes. Leonard, who will miss the rest of 2020/21 after undergoing shoulder surgery, looks like the most expendable of the bunch now, since he’s the only one who won’t be able to contribute on the court this season.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.