Omer Asik, Danny Granger headline prime trade targets for the 2013-14 season
The offseason offered all 30 NBA clubs a chance to retool and revamp, but the work of team building is never truly finished. There’s always some measure of tinkering left to be done, and from that the possibility comes the league’s ever-active trade market. Different needs and agendas breed all kinds of fascinating trade scenarios, the vast majority of which never come to fruition. But some players inevitably do get dealt during the season, be they marginal reserves or franchise-altering stars.
Below are a host of players from all across that spectrum, each a compelling 2013-14 trade candidate.
Omer Asik, Houston Rockets
Asik, who is at once both valuable and expendable, is the most immediately visible trade chip on the board. He’s nearing the point in his relationship with the Rockets at which his external worth trumps his internal merit. The signing of center Dwight Howard puts an artificial cap on how much Houston can really play the 7-foot Asik, 27, making him a pricey backup or ill-fitting complement. Given how active the Rockets’ front office typically is on the trade scene, it would be surprising if at least a handful of potential trades involving Asik weren’t seriously discussed by this season’s deadline.
Holdover veterans, Boston Celtics
With the Celtics’ evident aim to land in the lottery, Boston has little use for veteran contributors. Power forward Brandon Bass is no longer a rotation big man on a playoff team, but a remnant of a core with entirely different aspirations. Shooting guard Courtney Lee could be good rotation filler, but he comes at a mid-level price and would make more sense on a more complete team. Power forward Kris Humphries, a Celtic solely for salary-matching reasons (to complete the deal that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn), could be had as an expiring contract if he draws much interest. The same goes for Gerald Wallace, though even hypothetically interested suitors would likely be deterred by the three years and $30.3 million remaining on the 31-year-old small forward’s deal.
Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers
Indiana’s success last season has put Granger on the ropes, as the Pacers now have the offensive balance and defensive brilliance to get by without him. The former All-Star forward, 30, will be a helpful scorer this season all the same, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see Granger moved for a more affordable, long-term piece, particularly if Lance Stephenson continues to impress.
Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls
Though the apple of coach Tom Thibodeau’s eye, Deng might soon become a luxury that the Bulls — by way of the 28-year-old small forward’s impending free agency and the team’s self-imposed luxury tax concerns — can no longer afford. Those factors, at the very least, open up dialogue for potential alternatives, particularly with the 23-year-old Bull Jimmy Butler capable of mimicking much of what Deng offers defensively. Finding a deal that could help Chicago subsist without taking on equivalent long-term salary would still be a challenge, but it’s an opportunity to explore after the first stages of Deng’s negotiations with the Bulls went sour.
Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia 76ers
Young stands as the best player — by far — in Philadelphia’s basketball wasteland. Trading the 25-year-old forward would only bring the Sixers’ deconstruction to its natural end. He’s a talented defender who could draw a solid return via trade, which makes sense for a Philadelphia team still several years away from beginning its ascent. As helpful as it would be to have Young around to lead by example, he’d likely be gone by the time the Sixers finally come around — be it when his contract expires in 2016 or after an earlier opt-out in 2015. There’s time, clearly, to find the right deal for Young, but serving out his tenure in Philadelphia seems mostly a formality at this point.
Derrick Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves
A slimmed-down Williams is slotted to play more on the wing this season, but he’ll be a trade-rumor regular as long as he continues to underwhelm in Minnesota. Williams, 22, the No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft, is still a useful player and very obviously talented. He simply hasn’t proved to be a very natural fit on the Wolves roster’ yet and could conceivably be moved for a more straightforward wing.
Jameer Nelson, Orlando Magic
Orlando’s roster teardown is well underway, but Nelson remains as a vestige of the Howard era. The 31-year-old point guard would do much more good for a more competitive team, and with just a quarter of his salary guaranteed next season, he could be an interesting trade chip.
Marcin Gortat, Phoenix Suns
Trading the 29-year-old Gortat — who is playing out the final year of a five-year, $34 million contract — at some point this season is the most likely way that the Suns can derive value from his now-inevitable exit. Phoenix has already moved on; if the trading of veterans Steve Nash and Jared Dudley weren’t enough of an omen for Gortat’s future with the franchise, the drafting of fellow center Alex Len with the fifth pick surely would be. It’s probably best to keep a bag packed and ready to go, Marcin.
Jimmer Fredette, Sacramento Kings
Fredette showed genuine improvement in his second season, but he could be the odd man out in Sacramento’s backcourt crunch. Greivis Vasquez and Isaiah Thomas will share the bulk of the minutes at the point, with rookie second-round pick Ray McCallum qualified to serve as an alternate. At shooting guard, Sacramento will already be juggling the minutes of Marcus Thornton, John Salmons and No. 7 pick Ben McLemore, to say nothing of the natural challenges that could come in slotting Fredette to defend bigger, stronger opponents. Despite his limitations, the 24-year-old Fredette is a good enough shooter to intrigue some potential trade partner. He could be used to swing a deal that would streamline Sacramento’s rotation.
Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks
Shumpert’s inclusion on this list is simply and unfortunately linked to the fact that the Knicks are likely to be the fifth-best team in the Eastern Conference this season. If new general manager Steve Mills isn’t satisfied with that standing, Shumpert could be the first to go — if only because he’s one of the few coveted, tradeable assets on New York’s roster.
Brandon Rush, Utah Jazz
Rush, 28 is a quality 3-and-D type on an affordable deal ($4 million) who suffered the unfortunate end of a salary dump. As part of their acquisition of Andre Iguodala on a four-year, $48 million deal, the Warriors sent Rush (along with Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins) to the rebuilding Jazz — a fun, young team, but one slated to do rather poorly this season. As a strict role player on an expiring contract, Rush can’t offer the Jazz all that much short- or long-term value. That opens the door for a potential trade, particularly with the Jazz in the market to stockpile the raw materials necessary to carry out their rebuild.
Redundant big men, Sacramento Kings
With the signing of Carl Landry this summer, Sacramento has four big men (Landry, Jason Thompson, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes) competing for playing time alongside center DeMarcus Cousins. All are fine players, but a roster in such disarray could do with a little less clutter.