Prime NBA trade targets for 2014-15
One of the benefits of having 30 teams committed to unique approaches all at varying points on the team-building life cycle is a consistent flow of trade chatter and activity. Executives talk potential transactions all the time. Below are a collection of players that will pop up frequently in those discussions, whether due to their current team's desire to move them or the mere perception that they could be had.
A transition back to power forward will help Smith greatly, but make no mistake: His contract -- worth $40.5 million over the next three seasons -- is still one Detroit should make every effort to clear from its books. Most teams won't touch Smith's deal at this point, but it only takes one. Should a single front office talk itself into Smith (and to be clear: there's still much in his game to like), the Pistons are all but obligated to follow through with negotiations given the shy market for the forward's services. The next few months will be crucial in establishing some level of trust between Smith and his employer for the next few seasons, be it the Pistons or some other team. If Smith can buckle down under Stan Van Gundy and re-establish himself a reliable contributor, his trade appeal could swell despite his contract's ball and chain.
Phoenix's commitment to three high-level point guards comes at a cost. As it stands, Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas figure to monopolize the Suns' backcourt minutes. That leaves Green, the re-signed P.J. Tucker and the recently extended Marcus Morris to squeeze into the 48 minutes of the small forward spot -- a tight fit for a trio that averaged a combined 81.1 minutes per game last season. Of those three Green makes the most sensible trade chip. His flair for offense is both an attractive selling point on the market and a point of some redundancy now that Phoenix has acquired Thomas. His reasonable, expiring salary makes Green a low-risk get for a team looking to shore up its bench. Phoenix has been good for Green and its spread offense restorative to his career. It may soon be time to move on, though, if for no other reason than Phoenix can both replace his production and fill his minutes.
Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green, Celtics
Two semi-permanent residents on the trade block have extended their leases. Rondo is the star guard who doesn't appear to fit into Boston's rebuilding plans, yet could force the Celtics into a difficult decision with his free agency next summer. Through his skills and playing style alone, Rondo is one of the most difficult players in the league to appraise. Add his injury history and stubborn personality to the ledger and pricing out his next deal becomes fuel for a migraine. I suspect Boston will embrace that challenge if Rondo makes clear sense in the next stage of teambuilding, but a roster this young and a head coach this new to the NBA suggest otherwise. To this point the Celtics have demanded a high return for Rondo, though that ask could waver as his free agency nears.
Green is a less appealing talent saddled with $9.2 million in salary for each of the next two seasons, assuming he claims his 2014-15 player option. On its face that diminishes his market -- only so many teams have the room to pay that wage to an inconsistent role player. Still, just as the Celtics sold themselves on the strength of Green's better games when acquiring him in 2010, some other suitor might see opportunity in Green's skill set. At the very least he's long and quick enough to contend with the league's biggest small forwards, capable enough off the bounce to create some supplementary offense and useful enough off the ball to contribute on most nights. That combination of smaller skills could make more sense for another team than it does the torn-down Celtics, furthering the possibility of a potential trade.
Anything not nailed down, 76ers
Sam Hinkie is nothing if not opportunistic. If the right return comes along, I'd suspect that most everything -- save, perhaps, Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid -- is on the table.
Should things in Cleveland get off to a rough start, Waiters would make for the most productive trade bait. LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are presumably off-limits, while players like Mike Miller and Shawn Marion have more value to the Cavs than they would via trade. Anderson Varejao, though effective when he plays, is an animate preexisting condition. Brendan Haywood's soon-to-be-unguaranteed contract can't be redeemed until the summer. Tristan Thompson might be attractive to some, but the snag in his sharing an agent with LeBron will likely keep him in Cleveland. Among those players remaining, Waiters projects both the highest value external to the Cavs and the most potential for redundancy within. In all likelihood, Waiters will be a useful piece for a very good Cavs team. Yet if Cleveland finds itself wanting in any particular regard as the season goes on, moving a score-first guard who is only his team's fourth-best scorer (perhaps with the aid of Cleveland's recently generated trade exception) would make good sense.
On a healthy Nuggets team, Foye is a luxury. He'll be stuck behind Danilo Gallinari, Arron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler on the wing, with all three of those superior players expecting consistent minutes. The rotation at point guard isn't much more accommodating, given that Nate Robinson will return to the lineup to claim most of the minutes behind Ty Lawson. It's nice to have Foye around in case of emergency -- he fared well last season filling the gaps for Denver, be it as a ball handler or streak scorer. Yet there will likely come a point at which the discrepancy between Foye's skills and playing time creates the kind of inefficiency that could be resolved via trade. Denver would hardly be worse off for keeping Foye, though only so much can be done to accommodate him on a crowded roster.
The Grizzlies are walking awfully close to the luxury tax line -- close enough, perhaps, that player incentives, contract guarantees, or midseason signings could push them over the edge. Memphis will monitor its salary situation closely, and in the event that the total edges into tax territory could look to jettison some salary to compensate.
Indiana will do its diligence. A humbling finish to the season, Paul George's brutal injury and Lance Stephenson's unceremonious exit give the Pacers cause for some soul searching, beginning with a reexamination of the roster's core. Any of the three listed could be worth moving if the right deal came along. Hibbert, through empty statistical performances and all, remains one of the NBA's best rim protectors. That in itself has considerable value around the league, though whether Indiana would be willing to sell low on Hibbert's rare size and skill remains to be seen. West is a useful player, but also a 34-year-old owed upwards of $12 million this season and next. A player of that ilk won't likely land Indiana the means to improve immediately, but West could be shipped off for smaller assets and cap savings to facilitate a rebuild. Hill would seem to be the most difficult of the three to move for the length of his deal: Indiana owes the conservative guard a flat $8 million in each of the next three seasons, a clear overpay if Hill continues apace from last season.
Whether the Pacers acknowledge it or not, the window has closed. Their season will likely be spent clawing for the No. 8 seed, if that, and any hope of competing for a title is shelved until George's return. Even then this team is in dire need of offensive upgrade, seeing as Rodney Stuckey currently rates as Indiana's best off-the-dribble creator by default. Continuity has its place, but this season will test the Pacers' commitment to the concept.
Budinger survived the most recent round through the rumor mill, but all three of the Wolves' veteran wings are potentially movable. For these purposes Budinger and Brewer are essentially interchangeable: Both are impressive NBA athletes and serviceable rotation players on two-year deals worth around $10 million in total. Either could be traded away without much damage done, as should be the case given Minnesota's current predicament. Middling wing players just aren't an asset worth hoarding for a team in transition.
Martin is a different story, as his three years of salary (via a third-year player option) at $21.3 million are a bit unsettling from a cap perspective. It's a point of fact that the NBA's salary cap is set for an explosion in due time as a direct result of its lavish new TV deal. With that comes the potential for bigger spending that should make Martin's guaranteed contract less of a burden; if the cap rockets up as expected, after all, then Martin's salary would account for a smaller percentage of a team's allotment than he does currently. The problem is that no team executive can say with any certainty how that market might operate. Virtually every team in the league will have significant cap room in due time, and with the uncertainty of that landscape will come some trepidation in taking back long-term salary like Martin's. He's a fine scorer, still, though not so productive or efficient as to justify considerable risk.