Trade Candidate

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Top Veteran Targets

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 the top veteran trade targets on the market.

The January blockbuster trade that saw James Harden, Victor Oladipo, and Caris LeVert change teams is unlikely to be topped in the next six days. No player in Harden’s class are believed to be available, and it’s possible that the best player to be dealt by March 25 will be… well, Oladipo himself, who is back on the block just a couple months after being acquired by Houston.

Bradley Beal, Zach LaVine, and Karl-Anthony Towns have been the subject of some trade speculation, but that appears to be wishful thinking. The Bulls are in the playoff hunt, and Beal and Towns will likely only be moved if they push for it — so far, there’s no indication that they are.

Still, even if no All-NBA type players are on the move in the next few days, there are plenty of intriguing veteran players who could be had. The final installment of our Trade Candidate series today will focus on those players.

Let’s dive in…


Probably off-limits, but you never know:

Vucevic has said he’s happy where he is, but he has drawn significant interest from several teams. It would take a huge package to convince the Magic to move their lone All-Star, especially since he’s under contract for two more years after 2020/21.

Lowry’s $30.5MM expiring contract would make salary-matching tricky, and the Raptors won’t simply move him for the best offer — if the veteran point guard wants a change of scenery and Toronto can get something worthwhile in return, he could be on the move. But it seems more likely that he’ll stay put through the deadline and the Raptors will figure out his future in the offseason.

Young would help just about every contender and looked at one point like a prime trade candidate. But the Bulls are playing pretty well under head coach Billy Donovan and seem far more likely to push for the postseason than to essentially throw in the towel by selling off Young and their other veterans.

Turner was discussed in trade talks during the offseason, but he’s been tremendous for the Pacers this season, leading the NBA in blocked shots and anchoring Indiana’s defense. He’s not necessarily untouchable, but the price will be higher now than it was back in November.

As for DeRozan, there have been rumblings that he could be on the trade block if he and the Spurs don’t agree to an extension, but San Antonio typically doesn’t do anything too big during the season, so I’d be surprised if he’s dealt.


Intriguing targets who could realistically be available:

While Vucevic may be off the table, the Magic have a trio of other key contributors whose price tags should be more reasonable. Fournier is on an expiring contract, so there may be a little more urgency to address his situation than to do anything with Gordon or Ross. But of the three, Gordon is the most valuable and would command the biggest return. If Orlando can get a bidding war going, it could lead to a pretty tempting offer for the forward.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Kings wait until the offseason to increase their efforts to move Hield and/or Barnes, since both players are on long-term deals. But the right offer could get it done by next Thursday.

Houston is in sell mode, making Oladipo available. Still, it’s worth remembering that the Rockets didn’t have to expand the Harden deal to acquire Oladipo — they went out of their way to do so because they like him. So if they’re being low-balled at the deadline in Oladipo negotiations, they may well hang onto him.

Powell and Nance are two of the most interesting names out there and could be difference-makers for a contender. There has been no real indication that the Raptors are shopping Powell, but he can opt out this offseason and is in line for a big raise on the heels of a career year. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, have reportedly passed on offers for Nance that feature multiple late first-round picks, signaling it’ll take a lot to get him. The price for Osman would be more modest.


Their contracts complicate matters:

If Love, Drummond, and Aldridge were to hit waivers tomorrow, their agents’ phones would be inundated with calls from interested teams, and it wouldn’t take long for them to land with a contender, like Blake Griffin did with Brooklyn after he was bought out by Detroit.

However, the cap hits for Love ($31.3MM), Drummond ($28.75MM), and Aldridge ($24MM) probably outweigh their value at this point in their careers, so it will be a challenge for the Cavaliers and Spurs to extract assets in a trade without taking on some bad money.

Drummond and Aldridge, both on expiring contracts, are away from their respective clubs as they await resolution, so it’s a safe bet that they’ll be either traded or bought out. I think the Spurs probably have a slightly better chance to get a trade done, but both are toss-ups. As for Love, he still has two guaranteed seasons on his deal after 2020/21, so a buyout isn’t a realistic option for him — he’s a safe bet to stay put.


Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Intriguing Non-Player Assets

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 the non-player assets that could be important at the deadline.

In our first four round-ups of this year’s potential trade candidates, we’ve listed a total of 88 different players. Before we move onto the top tier of potential trade targets on Friday, we’re going in a bit of a new direction today, identifying the non-player assets that could be crucial when it comes to completing deadline deals.

These are draft picks, cap exceptions, and other assets that will help grease the wheels of potential deals when player-to-player swaps don’t produce equal value or don’t work based on NBA rules.

Let’s dive in…


Draft picks:

Many of the teams that hold extra first-round picks in upcoming drafts – including the Thunder, Rockets, Pelicans, and Knicks – probably aren’t in position to start packaging those picks to acquire impact players, so their effect on the deadline will be limited.

However, the teams whose first-rounders those clubs control will feel the impact of those past deals. The Bucks, Clippers, Lakers, and Mavericks are among the teams that are significantly restricted in their ability to offer up draft capital in deadline deals, since they’ve already surrendered multiple picks in other trades.

The Timberwolves’ 2021 first-round pick (top-three protected) controlled by the Warriors would be an asset to monitor closely if Golden State were a buyer. But that seems increasingly unlikely, given the Warriors’ modest 21-20 record and the fact that Klay Thompson won’t be back until next season. The team is probably better off hanging onto that pick for now.

The Nets are also worth watching — despite trading away their own second-round pick, they could have up to three other second-rounders, via Atlanta, Phoenix, and Indiana (the Pacers’ second-rounder is 45-60 protected, so if they miss the playoffs, they’ll have to send it to Brooklyn). The Nets are a veteran team that doesn’t need to draft a bunch of rookies this summer (they’ll have a first-round pick anyway), so all of those second-rounders could be up for grabs in trades.


Traded player exceptions:

The Celtics‘ massive traded player exception worth $28.5MM has received most of the attention in recent months, and for good reason — it’s technically big enough to fit all but 34 NBA players, though Boston would have to send out some money to avoid surpassing the hard cap in certain scenarios.

There are plenty of other trade exceptions available around the league though, include a Thunder TPE that’s nearly as big as Boston’s ($27.5MM).

The Rockets ($10.7MM), Nuggets ($9.5MM), Sixers ($8.2MM), Heat ($7.5MM), Jazz ($5MM) are among the other clubs with sizeable TPEs that could come in handy in the next week.

As a reminder, a trade exception allows a team to take back a player earning any amount up to the value of the TPE (plus $100K) without sending out any salary in return. A more in-depth explanation can be found in our glossary entry.


Disabled player exceptions:

Disabled player exceptions, which can be awarded to teams when a player suffers a season-ending injury, are somewhat similar to trade exceptions. They’re more versatile in some ways (they can also be used to sign a free agent or claim a player on waivers), but more restrictive in others (any player acquired, signed, or claimed must not be under contract beyond this season).

In 2020/21, five teams were awarded disabled player exceptions, but the Heat forfeited theirs by trading away their injured player (Meyers Leonard). That leaves the Warriors ($9.3MM), Magic ($6.1MM and $3.7MM), Nets ($5.7MM), and Wizards ($4.2MM) as the teams with at least one DPE available.

All four of those teams, unfortunately, are either already in luxury tax territory or are very close to it, so the odds of them taking on extra salary via their disabled player exceptions aren’t great.

Still, there are creative ways to use these exceptions without actually increasing team salary. For instance, let’s say the Wizards trade Ish Smith for a player earning $4MM on an expiring contract. The Wizards could fit the incoming salary into their DPE and create a new trade exception worth $6MM (Smith’s salary) that would be available to use for a year.

Disabled player exceptions will expire if they’re not used by April 19 — obviously, after the March 25 trade deadline, they can only be used on free agents or waivers claims.


Cap room:

Only one team has any cap room that could come in handy at the trade deadline — the Knicks still have more than $15MM in space available. That would allow New York to trade for a player like J.J. Redick ($13MM) without sending out any salary.

If the Knicks wanted to acquire a player whose salary exceeds the available cap room, such as Victor Oladipo ($21MM), they wouldn’t have to match his full salary as long as they send out enough to remain below the cap after the deal is complete. In the case of Oladipo, New York would have to include about $6MM in outgoing salary.

While it sounds like the Knicks would like to upgrade this year’s roster, the club could also accommodate a salary dump with its cap room, taking on another team’s unwanted contract and acquiring another asset for its trouble.


Cash:

Teams are permitted to send or receive up to $5.6MM in trades during the 2020/21 season and most teams remain well below that limit, as our tracker shows. The Rockets are the lone team that’s tapped out and can’t send any more cash this season, while the Pistons – who acquired $4.6MM in an offseason deal – are the closest to their incoming limit.

Cash considerations can be either a deal sweetener or the entirety of a team’s return in a given trade, like today’s swap that sent Torrey Craig from Milwaukee to Phoenix for just cash.

2021 NBA Trade Candidate Series

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.

Here are the groups we’ve covered so far, along with the ones still to come:


Restricted free agents to be

John Collins is the headliner in this group, but a number of other intriguing players, including Lonzo Ball, Lauri Markkanen, and Devonte’ Graham are among the RFAs-to-be who could be moved.


Mid-sized expiring contracts

Some of these players, such as Danny Green and Will Barton, are solid rotation players who would only be available in a deal for an upgrade. Others would be primarily salary ballast, like Meyers Leonard is in the Heat’s trade for Trevor Ariza.


Young players on buyers

Players like Michael Porter Jr. and Tyler Herro are probably off-limits unless a star is available, but other promising young players, such as Kevin Huerter, Donte DiVincenzo, and Precious Achiuwa could be up for grabs in deals for solid rotation players.


Useful, affordable veterans on sellers

Unlike Andre Drummond or LaMarcus Aldridge, these players don’t have oversized cap figures that would be difficult to match. Delon Wright, George Hill, J.J. Redick, Wayne Ellington, P.J. Tucker, and Mason Plumlee are among the headliners.


The intriguing non-player assets

Trades often involve more than just players, so we took a closer look at the various assets that could help grease the wheels on potential deals, including draft picks, trade exceptions, cash, and more.


Top veteran trade targets

If Kyle Lowry, Nikola Vucevic, and Myles Turner can’t be had, teams looking to make a splash could target the likes of Aaron Gordon, Victor Oladipo, and Harrison Barnes.

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Affordable Vets On Sellers

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…


Guards:

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.


Three-point specialists:

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:

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.


Big men:

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.

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Young Players On Buyers

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 young players on buyers who could be moved as their teams explore upgrades.

Playoff contenders and championship hopefuls who are in the market for roster upgrades often rely on first- and second-round draft picks to acts as sweeteners in their trade offers. But for clubs that have already traded away many of their future picks or simply prefer not to sacrifice draft capital, using promising young talent to build a package may be a more viable option.

In today’s installment of our Trade Candidate series, we’re focusing on young players who could (or should) be available if certain teams seeking roster upgrades make deals this month.

We’ve already looked at several restricted free-agents-to-be who may be trade candidates — we won’t repeat them here, which is why young players like John Collins, Kendrick Nunn, and Talen Horton-Tucker don’t show up in the space below.

Additionally, since we’re focusing on teams expected to be buyers, we won’t be mentioning young players on presumed sellers who may benefit from a change of scenery (such as Marvin Bagley or Mohamed Bamba).

Let’s dive in…


Non-rotation players:

Some of the players in this group have been regulars for their respective teams at times this season, but none are currently playing 15-20 minutes per night.

Although we’re grouping all of these players together, that doesn’t mean their values are roughly identical. Players like Bol or Smith are developmental prospects who are still relatively raw and are viewed as having upside, whereas someone like Knox – who is in his third season but has still been unable to carve out a regular role – has seen his value dip since being drafted in the lottery.

Other players in this group, such as Elleby and Oturu, were second-round picks and were never considered premium prospects, but still could have some value to teams that view them as potential role players.

The players here could be used to sweeten a trade offer, but – with a few exceptions – likely wouldn’t be the centerpiece of any deal for a difference-maker.


Regular rotation players:

This is a more intriguing group than the first, even if there may not be any future All-Stars in the bunch.

Huerter and Reddish are part of the second tier of Hawks’ young players, behind presumed untouchables Trae Young and De’Andre Hunter. If Atlanta takes a big swing at the deadline, it’s a safe bet that at least one of Huerter and Reddish would be among the outgoing pieces.

Simons, Holiday, and Mann have received glowing reviews from their respective teams over the years, but have yet to break out and should be available in the right deals. Meanwhile, the Bucks have already shown that DiVincenzo is available in the right trade, having reportedly agreed to send him to Sacramento last fall in a sign-and-trade for Bogdan Bogdanovic before that deal fell apart.

It would probably take a lot for the Sixers, Celtics, and Heat to part with promising rookies Maxey, Pritchard, and Achiuwa (Maxey’s inclusion in a James Harden offer was reportedly a point of contention), but they shouldn’t be off-limits, even if Philadelphia would probably rather move Thybulle and/or Korkmaz.

Including any Timberwolves players here may seem odd, since they have the NBA’s worst record. But even if they’re not traditional “buyers,” they’ve been linked to power forwards like John Collins and Aaron Gordon. They’d want to hang onto Anthony Edwards in any such deal, so any of their other young players would probably be available.


Would likely only be available for a star-caliber player:

If Bradley Beal were available, these players are the kinds of prospects the Wizards would presumably be targeting. But since Beal, Zach LaVine, and most other All-Star caliber players aren’t expected to be in play at this year’s deadline, it’s unlikely we’ll see any of these youngsters on the move. The one exception could be Herro, if the Magic get serious about moving Nikola Vucevic.


Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Mid-Sized Expiring Contracts

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 players with mid-sized expiring contracts who could be useful salary-matching pieces for deadline buyers.

NBA players on expiring contracts are, by definition, nearly all trade candidates. Many of those players aren’t in their teams’ long-term plans, and even the ones that are viewed as keepers could be shopped if a team isn’t fully confident in its ability to re-sign them.

There are a few exceptions, especially among players who have already been recently traded. The Lakers and Cavaliers gave up first-round picks to acquire Dennis Schröder and Jarrett Allen, respectively — given the price they paid, it seems clear they plan to re-sign those players and aren’t expected to shop them this month. That’s especially true for the Bucks and Jrue Holiday, whose price tag via trade was much steeper.

Most players on expiring contracts are at least at a little risk of being dealt though, so many of those players will be the ones we explore in our Trade Candidate series this week and next week.

On Monday, we examined several players who will be eligible for restricted free agency this summer. Today, we’re shifting our focus to a group of players on mid-sized expiring contracts who may be viewed as expendable salary-matching pieces by teams looking to upgrade their rosters.

Let’s dive in…


Regular rotation players who would be available for an upgrade:

These players are ones who are earning regular minutes for teams with playoff – or championship – aspirations. Some of them are having pretty nice seasons — Snell, for instance, is shooting an otherworldly 56.5% on three-point shots through 23 games. McDermott is averaging a career-best 13.2 points per game.

However, it’s hard to imagine any of these guys would be off-limits if their teams had the opportunity to include them in a package for an impact player, or even just a rotation upgrade.

Green, Zeller, and Iguodala are three of the most intriguing trade chips here. They all earn right around $15MM, so even without attaching another player, they could be used to acquire anyone earning in the $10-20MM range. All three teams are good bets to pursue deadline upgrades too — the Sixers and Heat will be among the top threats to come out of the East, while the Hornets would like to secure a playoff spot for the first time since 2016.

Olynyk ($12.6MM), Barton ($13.7MM), and Snell ($12.2MM) are also interesting salary-matching pieces for their respective teams, though trade partners may be wary of Barton’s $14.7MM player option for 2021/22 — if there’s any expectation he’ll pick up that option, he can’t be viewed as a true expiring contract.

At just $7.3MM, McDermott is a less versatile trade chip than the rest, but he’s still worth mentioning, since he’s the highest-paid Pacer who doesn’t have at least one more guaranteed year left on his deal after 2020/21. He’s also a relative bargain at that price and an excellent shooter whose Bird rights would be valuable. Presumably, he’d only be available in a package for a borderline star.


Players who would primarily be salary ballast:

Dieng ($17.3MM) and Johnson ($16MM) are still certainly capable of playing good minutes, but they’ve been racking up DNP-CDs as of late, and their pricey salaries hurt their value.

While Dieng is a viable trade candidate, Dallas is probably more likely than Memphis to attempt to make a splash at the deadline. If so, Johnson would be more expendable than Tim Hardaway Jr. ($19MM), who is also on an expiring deal but is playing a key role for the Mavericks.

Hood ($10MM) may need more time before he’s fully recovered from the Achilles tear that sidelined him in 2019/20 — he has had his worst season since entering the NBA and his $10.9MM salary for next season is non-guaranteed, so he’ll be the Trail Blazers’ most logical salary-matching candidate as they peruse the trade market.

Leonard ($9.4MM) is one of three Heat veterans on expiring contracts who could be on the move, and has become the most dispensable, due to a season-ending shoulder injury and an off-court incident that involved him uttering an anti-Semitic slur. If he’s dealt, it’s probably safe to assume his new team will cut him pretty quickly.

As for Felicio ($7.5MM), he has been a trade candidate almost since the moment he signed an outsized four-year contract in 2017. It’s not clear yet if the Bulls will be buyers or sellers, but if they seek out a minor upgrade, Felicio would be far easier to move than Otto Porter ($28.5MM).


The wild cards:

These players don’t comfortably fit into either of the first two categories for a handful of reasons. In the cases of Gay ($14.5MM), Mills ($13.5MM), and Oubre ($14.4MM), it’s simply not clear what the Spurs’ and Warriors’ deadline intentions are.

If San Antonio is ready to hand the reins to its young players, the team could fetch a decent return for veterans like Gay and Mills. But the Spurs are currently 18-14 and don’t generally make major deadline deals, so their vets may just stay put — that applies to LaMarcus Aldridge as well, whose $24MM expiring salary is too large to be considered “mid-sized.”

The Warriors, meanwhile, have the assets necessary to be aggressive and pursue an upgrade at the deadline, perhaps using Oubre and the Timberwolves’ 2021 first-round pick. But Golden State is a No. 9 seed in the West and won’t have Klay Thompson available this season, so going all-in might not make sense. The club could just as easily shop Oubre for an asset or two that could eventually be packaged with the Wolves’ pick in a future package.

I nearly put Dinwiddie ($11.5MM) in the “salary ballast” group above, since he’ll likely miss the rest of 2020/21 due to a knee injury. But he averaged 20.6 PPG a year ago and his Bird rights have value — he may be expendable from the Nets’ point of view, since he won’t play this season and the team has a pair of All-Stars in its backcourt going forward, but he’s more than just a salary throw-in.

As for Baynes ($7MM), he could theoretically be placed in either of the first two sections above. He has started 26 games at center for the Raptors and remains a rotation regular, but he’s having a down year and almost certainly won’t be a part of the club’s future plans. If Toronto makes a deadline deal, whether as a seller or buyer, Baynes seems like a good bet to be part of it.


Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: RFAs-To-Be

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 players who will be eligible for restricted free agency at season’s end.

Players eligible for restricted free agency make for interesting trade candidates. On one hand, they generally don’t make a ton of money, making them tricky to include in a deal for an impact veteran whose salary must be matched. And many RFAs-to-be will require a significant investment when their contracts expire in a few months, which reduces their trade value.

Conversely though, if a team is unsure about its willingness to match an offer sheet for an RFA-to-be during a coming offseason, or if it knows that player isn’t in its long-term plans, it can make sense to explore the market in the hopes of getting something for that player, rather than letting him walk in a few months for nothing.

In one of 2020’s biggest trade deadline deals, the Timberwolves acquired Malik Beasley and Juan Hernangomez, then signed them to multiyear contracts as restricted free agents a few months later. In 2019, the Mavericks did the same with Kristaps Porzingis.

Who are the likeliest candidates among this year’s RFAs-to-be? Let’s dive in and take a look…


The top RFAs-to-be:

It’s a safe bet that the players in this group will do well for themselves in free agency this summer. Collins should get a maximum-salary offer or close to it; Robinson could command Davis Bertans– or Joe Harris-type money; and Ball and Markkanen have flashed enough of the upside that made them lottery picks to entice a team to make a big multiyear commitment.

The Hawks, Heat, Pelicans, and Bulls will have to decide how much they’re willing to pay to retain their respective players. If they’re worried the price tag will exceed their comfort level, trying to work out a sign-and-trade in the offseason could work — they could also match a summer offer sheet in the hopes of trading the player down the road. But it might be wise to gauge what they could get at this month’s deadline.

Of these four, I think Robinson is probably the least likely to be moved at the deadline — it would only make sense for the Heat to trade him if it’s part of a package for a star, and I don’t expect that sort of star to be available this month.

Ball, and Markkanen are more interesting trade candidates, though I won’t be surprised if the Pelicans and Bulls ultimately don’t feel as if the offers on the table are strong enough to accept. Rival suitors may believe they’ll be able to poach Ball or Markkanen away from their current teams with an aggressive offer sheet, lessening the need to give up assets for them now.

Trent is a key part of the Blazers’ rotation and one of the team’s top outside shooting threats, but it’s unclear if the team will be eager to invest big money in another guard. He’d be an appealing trade chip in a package for an impact player.

Collins is the most intriguing case in this group. Although the Hawks weren’t comfortable going up to the maximum salary when they discussed an extension last fall, I could see them matching a max offer sheet this summer to make sure they don’t lose him for nothing. If a team really wants Collins, now may be the time to make a play for him.


The wild cards:

The first six names in this list are former second-round draft picks or undrafted free agents whose solid play has put them in line for significant raises on their next contracts. Those raises could come from their current teams, but it’s unclear whether they’re all part of the long-term plans for their respective clubs.

Graham, for instance, may be the odd man out in a backcourt that now features LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier. Nunn has been in and out of the Heat’s rotation since last year’s playoffs, raising questions about whether he’s viewed as a long-term fixture in Miami.

Horton-Tucker was a preseason star in December, and while he’s been just okay during the regular season, he’s just 20 years old and has plenty of potential, so he’ll be a popular target in free agency. It remains to be seen whether the Lakers are committed to keeping him as part of an increasingly expensive roster.

Mykhailiuk is a talented young shooter, but he wasn’t acquired by the Pistons’ current front office, and GM Troy Weaver has almost entirely turned the roster over since he arrived — Mykhailiuk could be the next player shipped out.

Davis recently had domestic assault charges against him dismissed, but the Raptors’ front office may not view that outcome as an exoneration. That case could factor into the club’s enthusiasm for a new long-term deal with Davis.

The one player who doesn’t quite fit in this group is Monk. A former lottery pick, he looked for a long time like a disappointment at the NBA level and a player who wouldn’t be part of the Hornets’ future, but that changed, beginning in late January.

In his last 16 games, Monk has averaged 16.9 PPG with a .436 3PT%, and is making a strong case to receive a $7MM+ qualifying offer that seemed extremely unlikely just a few weeks ago. Presumably, Charlotte would still trade him in the right deal, but he has more value than just a salary throw-in now.


The players who probably won’t even become RFAs:

This group is made up of players who are technically eligible for restricted free agency but probably won’t receive qualifying offers, and will instead become unrestricted FAs.

In some cases, these guys may end up as salary-matching filler in a deadline trade — the Sixers, for instance, could include Ferguson in a package to acquire a player who would actually see regular minutes. Ditto for Wilson and the Bucks.

Ntilikina and Jackson may still have a small amount of value if there are teams out there that believe they can get more out of these former first-round picks than their current clubs have. Ntilikina has at least shown he can defend at the NBA level, while Jackson is only a couple years removed from knocking down 35.5% of his threes as a regular rotation player (19.9 MPG) across 81 games.

Dennis Smith Jr. would have been included in this group as well, but he has already been dealt to a new team, with the Pistons auditioning him in advance of his free agency.


The full list of potential 2021 restricted free agents – including Josh Hart, Zach Collins, and others – can be found right here.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

O’Connor’s Latest: Ball, Rockets, Dieng, A. Johnson

While Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball was a subject of frequent trade speculation earlier in the season, trade talks involving the former No. 2 overall pick have “fizzled” for the time being, sources tell Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. A report last week also suggested that a Ball deal is becoming less likely as the trade deadline nears.

Still, that doesn’t mean that Ball will be untouchable before March 25. As O’Connor writes, New Orleans will have to assess how high it’s willing to go to retain the fourth-year point guard in restricted free agency this summer. If they think there’s a chance a rival team will give him an offer sheet they won’t want to match, the Pelicans have to at least consider getting something in return for Ball now.

Executives around the NBA still aren’t sure whether the Pelicans will end up as buyers or sellers, according to O’Connor, so they’ll be a team worth keeping a close eye on at the start of the second half.

Here are a few more items of interest from O’Connor:

  • While the Rockets are getting calls about veterans like Victor Oladipo, Eric Gordon, and P.J. Tucker, multiple league sources believe that young wing Sterling Brown will garner interest and is another candidate to be moved, per O’Connor.
  • Multiple front office executives believe Grizzlies big man Gorgui Dieng is a trade candidate to watch, says O’Connor. His $17.3MM cap hit may be a challenge to match for some teams, but his contract is expiring and he’s a solid role player.
  • Raptors 905 forward Alize Johnson, who has played well in the G League bubble, is receiving interest from the Raptors, Magic, Rockets, Spurs, and Suns for a possible NBA contract, a league source tells The Ringer.

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Central Division

Over the course of the 2019/20 NBA season, up until February’s trade deadline, we’re keeping an eye on potential trade candidates from around the NBA, monitoring their value and exploring the likelihood that they’ll be moved. Each of these looks at possible trade candidates focuses on a specific division, as we zero in on three players from that division.

With just nine days left until the 2020 trade deadline, we’ve surveyed each of the NBA’s divisions three times this season, identifying three potential trade candidates during each go-round. So far, every one of the five in-season trades completed in 2019/20 has included at least one player we’ve previously discussed as a trade candidate. Here’s the full list.

Although we may not have time to circle back through all six divisions a fourth time, we’re revisiting the Central today, taking a look at three more possible trade candidates. Let’s dive in…

Denzel Valentine, SG
Chicago Bulls

$3.4MM cap hit; RFA in 2020

While Valentine has been in and out of the Bulls’ rotation this season, any teams keeping an eye on him Monday night were rewarded with perhaps his best game of 2019/20. He racked up 16 points and made 4-of-6 three-point attempts with a +19 rating in 19 minutes.

The performance provided a glimpse of what kind of value Valentine can bring as a rotation player when things are going well. However, he seems increasingly unlikely to reach his potential in Chicago. Since a solid 2017/18 season, the 26-year-old has appeared in just 27 games due to ankle issues and Jim Boylen‘s rotation decisions. Restricted free agency is on tap for the fourth-year wing this summer, and I’d be surprised if he’s in the Bulls’ plans moving forward.

Given his modest cap hit, controllable rights and .377 career 3PT%, Valentine may appeal to teams looking for a low-cost shooter. The Bulls shouldn’t expect a substantial return, but if they can get a second-round pick out of a deal, it might be an offer worth taking.

Derrick Rose, PG
Detroit Pistons
$7.3MM cap hit; guaranteed $7.68MM salary in 2020/21; UFA in 2021

Like Dwight Howard in Los Angeles, Rose has experienced an impressive resurgence this season. The former MVP isn’t the superstar he once was, but he has been the Pistons’ most reliable scorer, with 18.8 PPG in just 26.6 MPG through 41 contests. He’s a walking bucket and could be a formidable play-making threat for a contender if Detroit decides to move him.

It certainly seems that there has been interest. The Lakers and Sixers were recently cited as potential suitors, with the Clippers also reportedly inquiring. The Pistons may actually have a better chance of acquiring a first-round pick for Rose than they would for Andre Drummond, given the two players’ respective contract situations and cap hits.

Still, with Rose currently battling a sore right knee, potential suitors will proceed with caution. Health has always been the concern for the former Bull, and a contending team willing to surrender a first-rounder for a roster upgrade may prefer to pursue a player with a less worrisome injury history.

John Henson, F/C
Cleveland Cavaliers
$9.7MM cap hit; UFA in 2020

Besides Tristan Thompson, whom we covered in an earlier look at the Central, the Cavaliers have three other veterans on pricey expiring contracts who could be on the move at this year’s deadline. However, none of those players have positive trade value.

Brandon Knight ($15.6MM), Matthew Dellavedova ($9.6MM), and Henson are borderline rotation players, and the Cavs will be hard-pressed to acquire a real asset for any of them unless they’re willing to take on some unwanted multiyear money.

Of the three, Henson looks like the most realistic trade candidate. Knight has barely played this season and is dealing with a knee injury, while Dellavedova’s numbers have been dreadful. Henson, in a part-time role, has at least showed he’s still capable of cleaning the glass and protecting the rim, with 10.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per 36 minutes. The Cavs also have a -1.4 net rating when he plays, compared to -9.8 when he sits.

Cleveland will still be hard-pressed to get much of value for Henson, but I’d expect the team to get more traction on him than some of its other expendable vets.

Revisit the rest of our 2019/20 Trade Candidate series right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Atlantic Division

Over the course of the 2019/20 NBA season, up until February’s trade deadline, we’re keeping an eye on potential trade candidates from around the NBA, monitoring their value and exploring the likelihood that they’ll be moved. Each of these looks at possible trade candidates focuses on a specific division, as we zero in on three players from that division.

The Atlantic is perhaps the most confounding NBA division when it comes to the trade deadline. The Raptors, Celtics, and Sixers are all potential contenders to come out of the East and may theoretically be looking to make upgrades, but their contract situations make it tricky to identify specific moves that would help.

The Nets are essentially in a holding pattern until they get their full roster healthy next season. The Knicks as sellers appeared to be the only safe bet on the board in the Atlantic, but they’ve resisted that label to some extent.

As we wait to see how the Atlantic teams approach the deadline, here are three (or four) more potential trade candidates from around the division…

Dennis Smith Jr., PG
New York Knicks

$4.5MM cap hit; $5.7MM guaranteed salary in 2020/21; RFA in 2021

A report last month indicated that teams, including the Timberwolves, had expressed some interest in Smith. There are plenty of factors complicating a potential deal though. For one, he was sidelined for a month with an oblique strain before returning last night, and will probably have to show he’s fully healthy before the deadline to increase the odds of a trade. That means the Knicks will have to give him more playing time than the four minutes he received on Wednesday.

Even then, Knicks management may be reluctant to move Smith without a decent return, since doing so would represent a further admission that last year’s blockbuster with the Mavs isn’t working out. The team already failed to land a star with the 2019 cap room created in that deal, and the two future first-round picks owed to New York almost certainly won’t be as valuable as initially hoped, given Dallas’ improvement.

Considering how poorly Smith has played in limited minutes this season, it’s hard to see the Knicks netting more than a low second-round pick and salary filler in exchange for Smith. The club may decide it would rather take its chances on DSJ turning things around and recapturing some of the potential that made him a top-10 pick in 2017.

A trade before the deadline is a possibility, but I think it’d be more likely if the same executives who acquired Smith a year ago weren’t the same ones tasked to decide whether or not to move him.

Raul Neto / Trey Burke, PG
Philadelphia 76ers
$1.62MM cap hit; UFA in 2020

Neither Neto nor Burke has really been involved in any rumors yet, but they’re trade candidates in a roundabout way. The Sixers have been linked to point guards who could be on the trade block, and if the team actually acquires a point guard, either Neto or Burke would become expendable.

The 76ers have gone back and forth this year between Neto and Burke as the primary backup to Ben Simmons, so it’s not entirely clear who would be the odd man out if the team makes a move to fortify its backcourt.

Both players are on minimum-salary contracts that expire at season’s end, meaning there’s no financial incentive to move one over the other. Neto is the better defender and perhaps the steadier floor general, but he doesn’t possess Burke’s play-making or scoring ability. The on/off-court numbers favor Burke — the Sixers have a +7.2 net rating when he plays, compared to +1.2 for Neto.

If the 76ers end up standing pat or focus on improving another area, both Neto and Burke could certainly finish the season in Philadelphia. But if they go out and acquire another guard, I’d expect the Sixers to try to find a trade partner interested in acquiring Neto or Burke as a third point guard.

Rodions Kurucs, F
Brooklyn Nets
$1.7MM cap hit; $1.8MM guaranteed salary in 2020/21; $1.9MM team option for 2021/22

After a promising rookie season, Kurucs has taken a step backward in 2019/20. Despite a series of injury creating a path to a regular role for the Latvian forward, he doesn’t seem to have fully earned Kenny Atkinson‘s trust. His minutes per game have dipped from 20.5 to 13.3 and he’s received several DNP-CDs.

There are some promising numbers in this year’s small sample, including a .439 3PT%, and teams monitoring the Nets may view Kurucs as a buy-low candidate. However, off-court concerns may scare those teams away, since the 21-year-old was arrested during the offseason on a domestic violence charge.

We heard in December that there are teams doing their homework on Kurucs to see if he makes sense as a trade target. Presumably, that research centers on the domestic violence allegation — if it’s credible, clubs will be less enthusiastic about the idea of making a deal for the former second-round pick.

Kurucs is due back in court on February 11, meaning there will be no resolution in his legal case by the February 6 trade deadline. As a result, it’s hard to see him being moved.

Revisit the rest of our 2019/20 Trade Candidate series right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.