With the March 25 trade deadline fast approaching, Hoops Rumors is taking a closer look at players around the NBA who are candidates to be moved this month, breaking them down into several categories based on their age, contracts, on-court value, and other categories. Today, we’ll zero in on useful, affordable veterans who could be moved if their teams become sellers.
The presence of the play-in tournament has made it harder than ever this season for an NBA team to truly fall out of postseason contention. The current No. 10 seed in the Eastern Conference is four games below .500, so many of the Eastern lottery teams can talk themselves into entering the playoff mix with just a modest hot streak.
As a result, there appear to be fewer sellers than ever at the 2021 deadline. But with so many teams looking to make upgrades, it’s inevitable that some clubs will become willing to trade off veterans in the next week, taking advantage of what should be a sellers’ market.
We’re focusing today on some of those potential sellers, identifying the players on their rosters who can still provide useful production at a relatively fair price — we’re classifying this list of players as “affordable,” which generally means their salaries range between the minimum and the mid-level range. LaMarcus Aldridge could be a nice addition for a contending team, but at $24MM, his salary doesn’t qualify as affordable, so he’s not listed below.
Let’s dive in…
- Delon Wright, Pistons
- George Hill, Thunder
- Michael Carter-Williams, Magic
- Raul Neto and Ish Smith, Wizards
- Austin Rivers, Knicks
Wright is having perhaps the best season of his career in Detroit, averaging 10.5 PPG, 4.9 APG, and 4.5 RPG on .465/.383/.768 shooting. He’s also under contract at a reasonable rate ($8.5MM) in 2021/22, which should appeal to suitors. Pistons general manager Troy Weaver isn’t shy about pulling the trigger on trades, making Wright a good candidate to be dealt.
Hill is the other most intriguing trade candidate here. A thumb injury has sidelined Hill since January 24, which may hurt his market, but he’s a proven veteran with a ton of playoff experience and should be healthy in time for the home stretch. His $10MM salary for next season is only partially guaranteed, so he should draw interest from teams wanting to maximize flexibility and teams looking for a player who could stick around for one more year.
Carter-Williams, Neto, and Smith are lower-cost – and lower-level – options for a team looking to add some depth.
The Knicks likely won’t be sellers, but Rivers doesn’t appear to be in the team’s plans anymore, so he’s a good bet to be placed on the trade block. The second and third years of his contract are non-guaranteed, making it a team-friendly deal.
Redick and Ellington deserve a category of their own, since their value stems primarily from their ability to knock down three-point shots.
Ellington will likely draw more interest and a stronger return due to his minimum salary and his excellent 42.2% mark from beyond the arc this season.
Redick’s $13MM salary is the highest of any player in this list and will make it trickier for the Pelicans to find a taker, as will the heel issue he’s currently dealing with. But there should still be interest — after a slow start, the 36-year-old has looked more like his old self, converting 46.4% of his three-point attempts in his last 15 games.
Forwards and wings:
- P.J. Tucker and Danuel House, Rockets
- Trevor Ariza and Kenrich Williams, Thunder
- Nemanja Bjelica, Kings
- James Ennis, Magic
Three years ago, Tucker and Ariza would’ve been prime targets for any teams with title aspirations due to their defensive versatility and their ability to hit outside shots. Now, they’re both 35 years old and look much less like key parts of a championship lineup.
Tucker’s performance has fallen off this season and he’s almost non-existent on offense. Ariza hasn’t played a single minute in over a full calendar year, having spent the season away from the Thunder after opting out of the summer restart. It’s possible one or both of these guys will be rejuvenated by joining a contender, and that could be a risk worth taking if the price isn’t high.
Teams in need of help on the wing may prefer to talk to the Rockets and Thunder about House and Williams, respectively, as they’re younger and more affordable. Williams, in particular, is having a nice year in Oklahoma City in a three-and-D role and has a very team-friendly contract ($2MM annually, with two non-guaranteed years beyond 2020/21).
Ennis is currently out with a calf injury, but was having a nice year for the Magic, posting a shooting line of .500/.447/.786. Bjelica has struggled this season, but his ability to stretch the floor from the power forward spot has value and he’s a good bounce-back candidate — he’s making 32.0% of his three-pointers this year after knocking down over 40% in each of the previous three years.
- Mason Plumlee, Pistons
- Hassan Whiteside, Kings
- JaVale McGee, Cavaliers
- Ed Davis, Timberwolves
- Mike Muscala, Thunder
- Robin Lopez, Wizards
Plumlee is in a category of his own here as a center who is under contract for two seasons beyond this one — any team interested in acquiring him is probably looking for a multiyear option rather than a short-term fix. He also figures to demand a more significant return than anyone else in this group, since the Pistons value him highly.
The other available centers here, all of whom are on expiring contracts, offer a variety of skill-sets. Whiteside is one of the league’s best rebounders and can score around the basket; Muscala is a solid outside shooter; McGee is an athletic, shot-blocking option; and Davis and Lopez offer the sort of stable defense and reliable screen-setting that doesn’t show up in the box score.
Of those five guys on expiring deals, Whiteside, McGee, and Muscala are probably the least likely to finish the season with their current teams.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.