Players, teams to watch for potential draft trades
The midseason trade deadline generated no major deals four months ago. Will the draft change that dynamic?
A variety of established players could be moved leading up to the draft Thursday night. Trade talks that didn't work out in February could be renewed now. Or teams will use the promise of draft picks -- even in a draft as poor as this one -- as a way to jump-start plans to build up or tear down rosters in anticipation of July 1, when free agents can be recruited.
This week is especially intriguing because seven teams have hired new executives to run their front offices since the end of the regular season. Five were brought in because of unhappiness with his predecessor, which means that the new manager will be liberated to make big changes.
Among the more conservative new bosses is likely to be Timberwolves president Flip Saunders, whose main potential trade involves forward Derrick Williams, the No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft. Otherwise, Minnesota will look forward to contending for the playoffs next season behind Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio while re-signing center Nikola Pekovic, a restricted free agent.
Four other new leaders, in Toronto, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Sacramento, are more likely to make deals -- with any or all of them interested in tearing down the roster in order to build it back up again.
The Sixers' Sam Hinkie, Suns' Ryan McDonough and Kings' Pete D'Alessandro don't have a track record or any allegiance to the players they have inherited as general managers. The players on those teams will be wondering about their futures, because the new GMs weren't hired to maintain the status quo.
While attention in Philadelphia is focused on the future of free-agent center Andrew Bynum, none of his rivals would be surprised if Hinkie used this week to begin a shakeup. Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes would be the Philadelphia veterans who would draw the most interest, depending on Hinkie's yet-to-be-defined preferences.
Phoenix center Marcin Gortat enters next season with an expiring contract, which is going to increase his value in a potential trade. Veteran power forward Luis Scola will be far more valuable to a contender than he is with this rebuilding team. If the Suns want to move off the rookie contract of point guard Kendall Marshall, now will be the time to do so.
The Kings have made it clear that they aren't (yet) interested in dealing volatile but extremely talented center DeMarcus Cousins. But just about anyone else with an existing contract could probably be had for the right price -- including Marcus Thornton, John Salmons, Chuck Hayes, Jason Thompson, Jimmer Fredette and Patrick Patterson.
One reason to not make major tear-down trades this week is because the upcoming draft is lacking in star power. But there are still players available in this draft who can contribute to a rotation on cheap rookie contracts, which are extremely valuable to teams seeking to rebuild via trades this week. Payroll-slashing deals could also be made to teams with cap space in exchange for future draft picks.
If the new GMs don't like parts or all of their rosters, then they can't afford to waste time waiting for a better draft. The opportunity to make trades is available now, and some of them are likely to cash in quickly.
New Nuggets GM Tim Connelly won't be expected to be so active after inheriting a young, 57-win team from Ujiri. The Nuggets' deep roster is filled with players who are approaching their peak, and the more likely course will be to see how new coach Brian Shaw meshes with the team before changes are made.
Then there is Doc Rivers, who took on control of the Clippers' personnel when he left the Celtics this week to become coach in Los Angeles. A widely reported trade possibility involving the Clippers' Eric Bledsoe and Orlando's Arron Afflalo will be one of many options for Rivers to consider -- though he may not want to give up Bledsoe as an explosive asset at both ends of the floor.
Rivers' former team will be gauging the market value of Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, among others, as Celtics president Danny Ainge decides whether to break up his team's longstanding rotation sooner than later. Pierce could be bought out for $5 million by the end of the month, or they could trade his full upcoming salary of $15.3 million for lesser picks and/or a trade exception that would enable them to participate in a sign-and-trade in July.
The rebuilding Magic figure to explore deals, as will the Bobcats, who have hinted at speeding up their long-term rebuilding plans. Ben Gordon (Bobcats), Kris Humphries (Nets) and Shawn Marion (Mavericks) all have expiring contracts that their teams may be seeking to unload; Gordon and Humphries would go for assets, if possible, while Marion would be moved to create more cap space.
Miami's Chris Bosh and Indiana's Danny Granger have been involved in trade speculation, but neither is likely to be moved. Bosh was scoreless in Game 7 of the NBA Finals and had trouble matching up with bigger centers, especially Roy Hibbert, but it's hard to imagine a trade involving him that would improve the Heat's chances of defending their championship next year. Granger's trade value is going to be unusually low after a knee injury sidelined him for most of the season. A better option for the Pacers would be to invite him back in hopes that he will improve their perimeter scoring next season in the final year of his contract.