Christmas has come early!!! Starting on Sunday the 15th, teams can start swapping players left and right (players who signed contracts over the summer can officially be traded on the 15th.) With so many teams eyeing the Larry O’Brien trophy, I anticipate a whirlwind of trades. Stars may be on the move and role players will be shipped out to bolster the frames of playoff hopefuls. Let’s dive into a few.
Kevin Love: I got into a pretty good debate about Kevin Love’s trade aspects with my buddy Joe the other night. While I think his offensive skillset could really benefit some teams, I highly question how viable of a defender he is as well as the contract (4 yrs $120mil) he carries over in a trade.
Love has never been more than an average defender and he’s only declined on that end as he nears the end of his prime. He isn’t quick enough to defend most fours and struggles to really protect the rim at the five.
That being said, Love is phenomenal in pick and pop, pick and roll, and catch and shoot scenarios which are premium out of a frontcourt player. He hasn’t gotten to work much in the post since his tenure in Minnesota, but he is a skilled elbow passer and decision maker who can really help flow the offense inside-out.
Love has been tied to Portland, which is a nice offensive fit, but no one can cover him on defense as they are paper thin outside of Dame and CJ. He could easily be traded for Whiteside and a pick, but if I’m Neil O’Shea (Portland’s GM), I look elsewhere. Love’s cap hit is already an overpay for him this year, this deal stretches into his age 34 year and I do not think that contract will be sufferable at the latter end. I don’t think he moves the needle enough for the Blazers and don’t like this fit, but Portland is certainly a possibility.
One move that I do potentially like for Love is him being shipped to Miami. Almost every Heat player is a plus defender, and with Bam Adebayo there, Love could routinely take on less demanding defensive assignments. The Heat are a very good team this year, adding Love could be a create a wrinkle in their offense that creates matchup problems for top East teams.
Phoenix has potential too, but I don’t expect them to restrict their cap sheet that much with a player almost decade older than their core.
Jrue Holiday: Holiday is one of the more intriguing names to watch. New Orleans has been uhhh let’s say…. disappointing. Holiday is the best player on this team, but he’s a veteran that is much older than the core group of young players and future draft picks. Jrue is a defensive menace who can handle the ball and be a solid secondary scorer. He could be a huge needle mover for second tier contenders. Whoever takes him on is going all in to win this year.
He would be a perfect fit in miami, giving them a proven lead guard and they also have the pieces to make a trade happen. He fits the Heat’s defensive culture and unselfish mindset incredibly well and would only enhance the Heat’s on both ends.
Another possibility for Holiday could be a trade to Minnesota. The Wolves have fallen down to earth after a hot start, and Karl Anthony Towns has visibly shown immense frustration during games. He needs help. And in order to avoid Anthony Davis departure 2.0, I think the Timberwolves bring KAT the best playmaker he’s had since being drafted.
The last landing spot, while less likely, would be awesome to see. The Milwaukee Bucks. I think Milwaukee’s front office is still looking at Eric Bledsoe’s game film from the playoffs last year and cringing. Bledsoe, all due respect to his abilities, evaporated into thin air during the playoffs last year. Already not a great shooter, his shooting slips dramatically in the playoffs as does seemingly his confidence. Maybe I’m wrong and he’s able to figure things out this postseason. But, the past two years say otherwise. Holiday is an all around upgrade who proved himself as a guy who can perform in the playoffs. The Bucks would certainly have to give up draft assets as well as shipping out Bledsoe and another $5-6 mil contract. Again, I doubt this happens, but I’d love this trade for Jrue Holiday.
Danilo Gallinari: Gallo is of a similar mold to Love, except he’s on an expiring deal, so much more stomachable. He’s a great shooter, solid playmaker, and all-around a phenomenal offensive player who could slide into most lineups. However, for teams that already have defensive issues, adding Gallinari would likely be a gamble. He has never been even an average defender during his time in the league, and that hasn’t changed with age.
He’s been tied to Portland, but I question that fit. He could be an interesting move to a team like Miami that has highly skilled defenders throughout the lineup
Players You Already Hear About 24/7
Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Marc Gasol: I’m saving this for last because I’m so unsure as to what Masai Ujiri does with this team. I’m pleasantly surprised by what this team has been this year, but especially with the recent slippage the past two weeks, I’d expect Toronto to try and maximize the value of the older cogs of last season’s championship machine.
LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan: I talked extensively about them on a podcast about two weeks ago. TLDR: I wouldn’t trade for either, but they don’t pay me to run teams. Miami would maybe take LA, DeRozan is linked to Orlando, but I think that’s a bad move.
High End Role-Players/Starters
Robert Covington: Covington is one of my favorite role players in the league. Dude is the definition of grit, tenacity, and effort. He’s a one time 1st team All-Defense, but he should have three more (they don’t let me vote what can I say) He’s not a crazy athlete or offensive player, but he knows his role. Shoot threes and defend the best perimeter player on the opposing team. He’s a guy who is always in trade talks because of his easily movable contract, and his stellar play. There is not one GM in this league who would legitimately pass at a chance to add this guy to their team.
Kyle Kuzma has just not fit for the Lakers this year and he is their only real trade asset. He has potential, but the Lakers need a fully realized player by the start of the playoffs. Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for RoCo just about matches salaries, maybe the Lakers throw a draft pick in as well for good measure. If this trade happens, I’m picking the Lakers to win the West without a doubt. Covington is a slightly taller Danny Green, aka perfect to play alongside Lebron. The Lakers have no one to capably defend PG and Kawhi as we saw during the first game of the season. Covington and Green are two of the ten best players to try and defend that pair. This trade is just too perfect.
He makes sense in Denver as well for the same reasons. They have a lot of savvy high IQ defenders, but no one who can defend the best wings in the West for an entire series. They need to figure out what’s going on with Nikola Jokic, but Covington is insurance for the hope that that happens before the playoffs.
Tristan Thompson: You heard it here first, Love’s frontcourt partner in Cleveland will a.) be traded first b.) have more of a market demand. Thompson is only 28, a capable defender at the rim with the ability to switch onto the perimeter, and still a monster on the glass.
He’s on an expiring contract that is much more manageable at about $19 mil, so it’ll be much easier for teams to match salaries.
The Clippers are definitely lacking in their interior rotation, while Thompson isn’t an elite rim protector he could provide them with physicality and size that they’re in need of. He could also find his way out to Portland if they make a splashier move beforehand.
Rudy Gay: With Thursday’s OT loss to Cleveland, San Antonio looks down for the count. I’d be shocked if they don’t blow up their core and focus on developing their young players.
Gay has arguably been San Antonio’s best player this season. I’ve spoken about this on podcasts recently, Aldridge and DeRozan have been pretty subpar this year. Gay’s shot from outside has been pretty streaky so far this year, partially due to San Antonio’s overall lack of deep shooting. Gay is still a walking bucket and with a more movable contract than either Spur star, Rudy could intrigue teams looking to add firepower to their bench and spot starter.
Marcus Morris: Marcus Morris is enjoying a career year as the primary scorer for the Knicks. He is not going to be around after the trade deadline. He’s not the plug and play offensive player that people seem to think, but he’s lighting it up from outside this year shooting 48% on a 6 attempts per game. He can be a bit of a ball stopper, but Morris has played in tough playoff series and is tough lengthy defender. He’ll be a hot commodity. I think there are many teams that will pursue him, but I don’t really have a feel for who it will be. I could see Denver, but I don’t know that he helps that offense. Maybe the Bucks look for another deep threat at the forward spot. Perhaps even a Houston Reunion could be in the cards.
Aaron Gordon: I’ve talked about Gordon as a trade prospect extensively on my podcast. He is the most interesting prospect for me. He’s been overtaxed in Orlando as an offensive player and I while this season has been sort of a let down for him, I believe he’ll flourish in a different role alongside established stars. I think Portland should definitely go all in for Gordon. His contract as well as defensive versatility won’t just be a short term fix like Gallinari could be. It might not pop immediately, but a core of Dame, CJ, Nurkic, and Aaron Gordon all locked up for the foreseeable future is very tantalizing.
Bogdan Bogdanovic: Bogdanovic is having a solid season that you haven’t heard about because he plays in Sacramento. Bogdanovic is a sharpshooter from outside with secondary playmaking capabilities. The 27 year old excels in both an on and off ball role and is a free agent this summer. So why is he available? This kind of upside quality player should not be available right? Shoutout Vlade Divac for abusing the King’s cap sheet this summer!
Bogdanovic is clearly ready to be a starter, he’s still coming off the bench, but Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes are both locked up with the Kings for five more years. The Kings have really hurt themselves with what their spending spree this offeseason, and I fully expect teams swooping in to trade for and sign Bogdanovic as an effect. Unless Sacramento pulls a last minute move to shed Barnes’ contract, it’s unlikely they can keep Bogdanovic.
A team looking for a third option or complimentary scorer and ballhandler will be primary suitors. I would love to see the Lakers or Mavs make a run for him. He could fit well alongside Lebron or Luka and both teams can make the deal happen as Bogdanovic is only an $8.5 mil cap hit this season.
Dennis Schroder: Schroder is a streaky shooter but, by god he’s a bucket getter. He’s the perfect point guard to play a sixth man role and invigorate a struggling bench. I would love to see Utah go after him to try and galvanize one of the most disappointing bench mob’s in the NBA. Orlando has been tied to him, but I don’t think he moves the needle enough for them and his rather average shooting doesn’t bode well on that team.
Roster Round-Outs (Glue Guys)
Davis Bertans: The Latvian Laser as he is better known. When Bertans is in the game, he does one thing and one thing only. Shoot the hell out of the ball from three. He has maybe the smoothest shooting stroke and shooting motion I’ve ever seen. He tries his ass off on defense, but he’s a pretty underwhelming athlete so he often can be a minus on defense and on the glass, but his floor spacing can’t be understated. Any team that needs shooting should trade for him ASAP. Philadelphia, Philadelphia, and also Philadelphia should really target Bertans.
Nemanja Bjelica: Bjelica has been a solid floor spacer for the Kings this season. He really isn’t above average at anything, but he is a lights out shooter (43% on 4 attempts per game). The Kings will most likely be looking to move on from him as he takes a backseat due to the return of Marvin Bagley.
He’s not a huge name or star player, but his ability to shoot and on a cheap contract ($12m/2 yrs) will be attractive to top end teams who need spacing. Look for Milwaukee, Philadelphia, or Utah to target him.
Alex Len: Len is big and can kinda protect the rim, the Celtics have neither of those two things. He’s on a pretty small deal, it may be worth making a trade so a bigger body can at least give some of the big men in the East something to think about in the playoffs.
Nerlens Noel: Another guy who I think could find his way to Boston, he’s rail thin at 6’10 but he’s a high energy defender and rebounder. He won’t be mistaken as someone who can body Embiid in a series, but he adds another wrinkle to what Brad Stevens can do with his team. He’s much more able to keep up with the Celtics switch heavy defense than any other center Boston could be intrigued by. Fun fact: He currently leads the league with a 5.7 Defensive Box Plus Minus, (which doesn’t make him an Alonzo Mourning, but still cool)
Jae Crowder: Crowder plays excellent defense on the wing. He’s been a part of deep playoff runs and successful teams and he can hit an outside shot. He’d be relatively easy to snag from the rebuilding Grizzlies and could be a great addition looking for a team to bolster it’s perimeter defense before the postseason.
He could be an interesting addition for any west team that could face the Clippers. Think the Lakers, Denver, and Houston. He can’t shut down PG or Kawhi single handedly, but he can contain them for stretches in tandem with other capable defenders.