As the NBA continues towards what promises to be an intriguing final couple months of the regular season, the Association itself is bracing for the All-Star Game. Shortly after that, the trade deadline will come and go.
These are two in-season events that mark the difference between ho-hum regular season action and more drama-filled late-season games. They also mark a time in the season when pretenders are left wondering what the future beyond the 2016-17 season will bring. That’s even more magnified in a season where there are seemingly only a handful of legitimate title contenders.
It’s in this that we can expect a more active trade deadline than in season’s past. From DeMarcus Cousins in California’s capital city to another big man in the mid west, here’s a look at eight NBA players set to be traded before the deadline next month.
1. DeMarcus Cousins, center, Sacramento Kings
We’ve already read the reports that Cousins is open to signing a long-term extension with the Kings. That makes sense considering they can offer him the most money on a max deal. However, it’s still not known whether the Kings themselves view this to be a sustainable long-term situation with the enigmatic center.
The backstory here is by now well known. Cousins has continually lashed out against the media and organization in California’s capital city. Add in his on-court antics, and the Kings could very well decide to cut their losses here.
There’s something else pretty big in play here. If Cousins were indeed placed on the trade market, interest in his services my represent an all-time high. Here’s a guy that’s averaging 28 points and 10.2 rebounds per game this season. He’s one of the top-three centers in the NBA and is still just 26 years old.
A change of scenery could do Cousins well. Don’t think that’s lost in the decision-making process when it comes to both the Kings and others potentially looking to trade for him. Pure conjecture here, but both the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics seem to make some sense back east.
2. Jahlil Okafor, center, Philadelphia 76ers
Now that the Sixers are set to get rookie No. 1 pick Ben Simmons back into the mix, there’s very little room for minutes when it comes to Okafor. That’s only magnified by the overwhelming performance of Joel Embiid thus far this season. Add in the presence of fellow rookie Dario Saric, and it makes sense for Philadelphia to look to move Okafor.
That’s the reality of the situation here. Philadelphia simply doesn’t have enough minutes to go around at the four and the five spots in their lineup. And in reality, none of these players are suited to play the three.
There had been many reports leading up to the season that Philly might look to move Okafor or Nerlens Noel. It now looks like both could be moved (more on that later).
Despite his standing as a top-three pick less than two years ago, Okafor simply hasn’t panned out with the Sixers. He’s averaging just 11.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in 23 minutes per action this season. That’s most definitely not representative of Philadelphia getting the most bang for its buck.
While Okafor himself might not bring a huge return, he’s still just 21 years old and boasts some nice upside on the offensive end of the court. That could be enough for the Sixers to get something nice back in return, especially if we’re looking at the team’s talent-stricken backcourt.
3. Jrue Holiday, guard, New Orleans Pelicans
Set to become a free agent this summer, the Pelicans are concerned that Holiday might bolt for another team. That in and of itself could be reason enough for New Orleans to trade its second-best player. Add in the fact that the Pelicans boast a 17-27 record, and this is magnified even further. When you have a talent-stricken roster outside of Anthony Davis, why let a valuable player walk for free during the summer?
Holiday has surely proven himself to be injury plagued over the course of his career. He’s missed 15 games to injuries this season alone. That comes on the heels of the former first-round pick missing a combined 97 games over the previous three seasons.
Though, he’s still a capable point guard when on the court. This season alone, Holiday is averaging 14.5 points and 7.1 assists per outing. There will surely be some decent interest in his services between now and the trade deadline. Playoff contenders such as the Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls could potentially show interest here.
4. Otto Porter, forward, Washington Wizards
At 25-20 and with wins in eight of their past 10 games, the Wizards are actually right in the mix for a top-three seed back east. It’s been an amazing turnaround from a 7-13 start to the season. It has also potentially saved general manager Ernie Grunfeld’s job. But we’re not too sure how sustainable this success is. What we do know is that Washington has been nothing more than mediocre since a 46-36 campaign back in 2014-15.
If the Wizards want to seriously contend for a deep run in the playoffs, they are going to have to find some resemblance of a legitimate supporting cast behind the star-studded backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
That’s where Porter comes into play. The fourth-year small forward has upped his game a great deal this season, averaging 14.2 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 46 percent from three-point range. He’s also set become a restricted free agent this summer and won’t come at a cheap price.
With Beal, Wall, Ian Mahinmi and Marcin Gortat set to count a combined $71-plus million against the cap next season, it seems unreasonable to believe the Wizards would be able to retain Porter at $15-20 million annually.
This is where we put conjecture into play and assume the Wizards might look to get something in return while building up a better situation in the low-post. The team already has Markieff Morris capable of handling the starting small forward job.
Why not try to flip the talented Porter for a couple building blocks inside? As a restricted free agent, his value on the trade market will be there. Washington could easily cash in on his surprising 2016-17 performance by adding more depth and size to an already talented roster.
5. Nerlens Noel, forward, Philadelphia 76ers
Even if the Sixers were to move Okafor, there’s no guarantee that they wouldn’t try to flip Noel for more backcourt talent. With the likes of Embiid, Simmons and Saric inside, that’s already a solid threesome at the four and the five. Why not try to add more talent to a talent-stricken wing situation?
To say that Noel has been on the trade block for some time would be an understatement. The Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors have all reportedly shown interest in the young man. And while the 23-year-old center is averaging just 7.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, we rarely see someone of his talent hit the trade block.
Based on what the Sixers need to build in the backcourt to contend moving forward, they surely need to use some of their assets in the frontcourt to get something done here. That’s where both Okafor and Noel come into play.
Pure conjecture here, but a trade consisting of Noel and other pieces heading to Washington for the aforementioned Otto Porter could make some sense. As could a deal send in Noel to Boston for Jae Crowder and other parts. Either way, look for something to happen between now and the trade deadline.
6. Danilo Gallinari, forward, Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets are trying to go young. They just haven’t been able to utilize that strategy due to the presence of a few different veterans on the roster. And despite being in playoff contention this season, general manager Tim Connelly is surely looking to the future.
At 28 years old and in his ninth season, Gallinari simply doesn’t fit that mold. He plays a position, small forward, where the Nuggets have Wilson Chandler vying for minutes. Both players are averaging 16-plus points per game, making it somewhat pointless for the team to continue trying to find minutes for the two.
With an ability to play the four in small-ball situations, Gallinari would definitely draw some interest in the trade market. It’s similar to the versatile roles we have seen Kevin Durant and LeBron James take on their career. And while he’s surely a lesser player, this former lottery pick can surely add another dimension for a contending team.
Denver is in an interesting spot considering it has a young core to build around. Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris can be a solid backcourt for years to come. Meanwhile, center Nikola Jokic has upped his game at the age of just 21. Add in rookie first-round pick Jamal Murray and there’s a lot to like here.
Flipping Gallinari would be a move specifically made with the idea of bringing in a true power forward to fill out Denver’s already talented starting five. If the Nuggets are able to do that, it would make a whole lot of sense.
7. Greg Monroe, center, Milwaukee Bucks
When Milwaukee signed Monroe to a three-year, $51.4 million contract back in July of 2015, it sent shock waves throughout the NBA. This small-market team was actually able to add a top-end free agent. Needless to say, Monroe opting to go to a less-than-attractive destination was met with surprise.
Unfortunately for both sides, it just hasn’t worked out. As the Bucks build around an athletic and supremely talented core of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, Monroe simply hasn’t fit in too well here. In fact, he’s putting up his worst statistical season since his rookie campaign back in 2010-11. The former lottery pick is averaging just a hair over 10 points in a career-low 21.1 minutes of action.
This isn’t to say Monroe can’t be a top-level center in the NBA. We saw how well he played with the Detroit Pistons before they decided to build around Andre Drummond. If put in the right situation, Monroe could be one of the better all-around fives in the game. It’s all about the right fit.
With centers at a premium in today’s NBA, there will be some strong interest in Monroe on the open market. Add in his relatively small salary compared to what we’ve seen on the current-day market, and that interest would be magnified. Look for something to get done here before the deadline next month.
8. Nikola Mirotic, forward, Chicago Bulls
Recent reports suggest that the Bulls are looking to trade Mirotic. This shouldn’t be considered too much of a surprise. He’s failed to live up to expectations in a role many thought would be expanded this season. He also has the outside shooting ability that other teams might covet.
No longer is Mirotic considered someone a contending team can build around. Instead, he’s just another piece of the puzzle. Someone that can add what he brings to the table in order to help the stars of a squad succeed.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, they simply don’t have a real place for Mirotic in the lineup. He’s taking up minutes from a higher-upside youngster in Bobby Portis and has been seen as a fish out of water in Chicago. Averaging just 9.3 points in 23 minutes of action, there’s surely another situation that could better utilize Mirotic’s talents.