By: Sean Golonka
While most people are currently focused on the Warriors finally starting to roll or James Harden scoring about a billion points with basically zero help, others (*cough cough Thon Maker*) have their eyes set on the trade market. And with the NBA trade deadline now less than two weeks away, it’s time we all focus a bit more on the trade market.
The world of NBA trades is a volatile one, with more rumors floating around than the Regina George-run North Shore High School. Will Anthony Davis be dealt to the Lakers? Are the Grizzlies really taking offers for the only two guys that have actually committed their lives to the city of Memphis? Who’s going to play their next NBA game first, Carmelo Anthony or Zion Williamson? Do the Knicks really care less about Enes Kanter than the Turkish government?
You get the point. The trade market is filled with a whole lot of questions. And in an attempt to answer some of those questions, we need to take a look at who needs to get traded and who needs to stay with their current team and everything in between.
Now presenting: The 2019 NBA Trade-O-Meter.
Level 1 – Do Not Trade
The whole don’t trade level is probably the smallest of all the levels. And that’s mostly because if a player has been brought up in trade discussions, especially in a significant way, then there is probably a good reason for why he was rumored to be on the block.
With that in mind, the only two players worthy of this mark are Mike Conley and Terry Rozier. Conley’s name just recently started swirling around the trade world, with the Grizzlies announcing they were taking offers for him just a few days ago. Meanwhile, Rozier has been on the block for a pretty long time. His name has been out there since the days of the crowded Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier back court, with more Rozier trade talks coming as his contract has gotten closer to expiry.
Now there are a fair few reasons why Conley belongs in this section. One of them is necessity. Conley is making around $30 million a year, and he won’t even be a free agent till 2021. So, if the Grizzlies really did want to trade him, it’d be pretty difficult.
Memphis also should think about keeping Conley around at least until the final year of his contract because he’s a tremendous leader. He’s got gas left in the tank, and his work ethic really is off the charts. Two things that mean Conley can be a good piece to have when you’re trying to get things going with some young up-and-comers.
Finally, trading Mike Conley would just be a true disservice to a man that is a Grizzly through and through, and blowing up the grit-n-grind Grizz to that level would leave NBA fans everywhere with a massive heartache.
As for Terry Rozier, there really just aren’t enough benefits to trading him to outweigh the benefits of keeping him. Sure, the Celtics have been shaky this year. And a move could be the jump start that these Celtics need to meet their preseason expectations. And sure, Rozier’s value basically disappears after the deadline because he could walk in the summer.
But there’s just no way that the Celtics could get a return as useful to their current team as Rozier. He’s only shown flashes of his best basketball so far this season. And if he can return to the form that he found at the end of last season, then T-Ro could be a massive asset to the C’s in a potential championship run.
Just remember, the Celtics are 5-2 against the Raptors, Sixers, and Bucks this season, and giving up Rozier for a worse player won’t do anything to improve that.
Level 2 – Trade Him, Just Not Before February 8th
The whole Dennis Smith Jr. situation has just been a complete mess over the past couple weeks. In 30 games this season, DSJ has averaged 13 points and 4 assists on splits that make his rookie shooting numbers look far worse than they already were. But with Luka Doncic taking over primary ball handler duties, the pairing of Dennis Smith Jr. and the Dallas Mavericks was and is clearly not working out.
This poor pairing resulted in Smith sitting out of games and being “sick” and meeting with Rick Carlisle and being put on the trade block and being taken off the trade block and starting again. The whole thing has been messy, and quite frankly, it just isn’t working out well.
And it isn’t going to work out well. So, the Mavs really should consider trading DSJ. But not now. The Mavs are bad right now, and they really may as well just ride their current trajectory to a decent pick. And more importantly, they should hive DSJ more run and boost his trade value. That way they can trade the still 21 years young Smith for a more guaranteed and possibly better asset in the off-season.
The only other name that really belongs in this category right now is the man, who is the subject of more trade discussion than basically anyone else. Anthony Davis is a basketball god, of sorts. He is a ridiculous talent. And clearly he needs to be somewhere other than New Orleans, ideally Los Angeles or Boston, or hey, maybe even Chicago.
But there’s no reason for the Pelicans to trade him this year. If they keep him through the summer, then maybe he’ll sign a super max with them (the chances of this are pretty slim though based on the frustrations Davis has expressed so far this season) and commit to a sad future with the Pelicans.
Even if he doesn’t sign the super max, keeping him till the summer is still the right move for the Pelicans. Other teams can offer better packages for Davis during the off-season, like draft picks that are guaranteed to be at a certain slot. The bidding war will be far more exciting during the summer. And a few more months of Anthony Davis should really just be reason enough to keep him till then.
Basically though, a mid-season trade to the Lakers for some package centered around Brandon Ingram or Kyle Kuzma would be extremely stupid for the Pelicans.
Level 3 – Probably Should be Moved Before the Deadline
For this group of guys, it would probably be fine if they weren’t moved or moved during the summer time. But honestly, with their current situations, it just seems like a move before the deadline would be best for everyone involved.
Right away, there’s just a few role players that can slot very easily into this category.
Thon Maker wants to leave Milwaukee for more playing time. The Bucks really don’t have much use for him. The Bucks could get a couple veteran assets to help their current East run in return. And with his unique size and skillset, Maker could really thrive in another situation, so there’s reason for other teams to go after him.
Rodney Hood is a free agent this summer. The Cavs don’t want to pay him. He hasn’t looked the same since his Achilles injury. The Cavs have no use for players with talent because they should be doing everything in their power to tank for Zion Williamson. And Hood is still a good enough shooter and talent with a small enough contract to be a useful piece on a better team for the rest of the year.
Dewayne Dedmon doesn’t belong in Atlanta anymore. John Collins needs all the playtime possible. The Hawks should be trying to get younger, and they also have no incentive to win, when there’s a chance they could land Zion Williamson or R.J. Barrett or Cam Reddish right next to Trae Young and John Collins. More importantly, with Dedmon’s strong defensive and rebounding abilities and his surprise new knack for making shots from beyond the arc, he’s the perfect candidate for a move to a contender. He’s even making less than $3 million this season.
Aside from those role players though, there’s a pair of star(?) bigs, whose move to another team could really improve this NBA season.
The first, Marc Gasol, is already on the trading block, though who knows what offers for him the Grizzlies are really willing to listen to. But aside from Gasol being a skilled big with the ability to defend and shoot at an above average level, which by the way make him worthy of being picked up by another team, the Grizzlies just need to make a move.
Conley shouldn’t be traded for the reasons above. And moving Jamychal Green and/or Garrett Temple won’t be a big enough change. That leaves Gasol, who is too old to be a part of the Grizzlies’ JJJ-focused future. Additionally Gasol makes a strong, positive impact on Grizzlies’ basketball, which means his absence will only help the team keep their pick for the next two seasons (if the Grizzlies’ pick is outside the top 8 in 2019, it will go to the Celtics; if it’s outside the top 6 in 2020, it will go to the Celtics; the pick becomes unprotected in 2021, if the C’s still haven’t received it).
So, to the Grizzlies, trade Gasol, and let the “tanking” commence.
The other big on this list is Blake Griffin. Yes, I understand Griffin is playing what might very well be the best basketball of his career, especially because BG is now a pretty dangerous three point shooter and because his handle is almost definitely the best it has ever been.
But with the Pistons’ current roster construction, there is just no way they are going to win with Blake Griffin on their team, even as their number two. So with his value higher than ever, it really just seems like a great time to move Griffin.
The main reason BG belongs here though is because of a trade that I’m just dying to see, Griffin to the Mavericks in exchange for Dennis Smith Jr. and Harrison Barnes. In this deal, the Pistons get another good scorer back and get a talented young point guard. They also add badly needed wing depth. And most importantly, this trade creates a new Lob City that would now feature Luka Doncic tossing lobs to Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. I’m also pretty convinced the Doncic-Griffin two man game would be very nasty and very scary.
Anyways, BG to the Mavericks. Make it happen Mark Cuban.
Level 4 – Needs to be Moved, ASAP
Keeping the Pistons trade train rolling, Stanley Johnson needs to leave Detroit, as soon as they can get him out of there. Johnson is still young, and he’s a tremendous defender. So, he’s got trade value. But whether or not there really is a market for him, the Pistons need to try to move him because things clearly are not working out between the two sides.
Johnson doesn’t have the shooting ability to fit well on that roster. His presence poses a schematic mess for the Pistons. And his once promising(?) career is being wasted in Motor City.
Next up, Kyle O’Quinn. The Pacers have an excess of bigs. With Victor Oladipo now out for the season, they could really use some more guard depth. And with VO out, they need to make some sort of move to ensure they can stay on their top five or six seed track. This is a no-brainer. The Pacers need to free KOQ and get some even low quality return, which would come at basically zero cost to their current success.
These last two players/trades/situations are the ones that just really need changing.
The first of which is Nikola Vucevic. Vuc is having an absurd Sacramento Boogie-like year. He’s putting up 20-12-4-1-1, and he’s hitting threes at an absurd 38% clip. Unfortunately, he’s been doing all that for an Orlando Magic team that’s only good enough to be a sad 11th in the even more sad Eastern Conference.
Now, the Magic probably wouldn’t get an equal return for Vuc, and that is mostly because of the current market for centers in the NBA. But, by keeping Vuc on the roster, the Orlando Magic are doing a disservice to Nikola Vucevic, to the NBA, to me, to the people of Orlando, and to whoever could use Vuc’s tremendous abilities.
Let’s get it trending, so that John Hammond can stop being an idiot. #FreeVuc
The last person that needs to be moved is Enes Kanter. He hasn’t been starting or playing much lately. He’s expressed his frustration with the Knicks. Clearly, the Knicks do not want him. And because of that and because Kanter is a talented enough player to warrant another team trading for him, the Knicks need to just get it together and move the Turk.
The bigger reason for all this, though, is just the entire New York Knicks situation. Currently, the Knicks have vets like Kanter and Noah Vonleh, who are just good enough to help the Knicks win games. But, the Knicks need to trade them, or at the very least trade Kanter before the deadline, so that they can focus on the real prize, Zion Williamson.
The New York Knicks are currently 10-37, the second worst record in the league, behind the Cavs. But, if the Knicks smarten up and trade Kanter and perhaps a couple other solid vets and also give Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, and Mitchell Robinson way more play time, then they can simultaneously give their young guys experience and play worse basketball.
Doing all this, which starts with moving Kanter, would result in a worse record for the Knicks and possibly better young players. These two things could mean a much better future for the Knicks, as their better young players could be a better supporting cast for Zion Williamson, a potential product of the worse record, and Kevin Durant, the real goal for the Knicks’ entire franchise. Seriously, just imagine, Ntilikina, Knox, Durant, Williamson, Robinson.
Now that would be nightmarish, but also so incredibly fun.