Impact Players Most Likely To Be Moved
(Ranked from most likely to least likely to be traded)
1. Josh Smith, F, Hawks
Smith has been on the trade block for several years, but the Hawks always pull back at the last second. Once again Smith is the talk of the NBA after he was thrown out of practice Tuesday and suspended for Wednesday's game against Brooklyn. His agent says Smith is frustrated, but hasn't demanded a trade.
The Hawks have been fielding calls, but have been reluctant to trade him because they believe Smith's presence in Atlanta could be a powerful lure for Dwight Howard this summer. But with Howard's situation up in the air, the time seems right for the Hawks and Smith to move on. Dallas, Houston, Boston, Milwaukee, Toronto and the Lakers are all potential suitors. The biggest question is: What is the price tag for a mercurial forward who is entering his prime and will be a free agent this summer?
2. Rudy Gay, F, Grizzlies
The fact that Memphis has been exploring trades for Gay has been well-documented. The team has to start cutting payroll, and Gay, while talented, seems to be its best trade chip. The Grizzlies aren't parting with Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph and Mike Conley aren't going to bring back the assets (draft picks, young players or vets on less expensive contracts) the Grizzlies are looking for.
The Grizzlies have recently pulled back a bit on the Gay sweepstakes because they haven't been blown away by what teams are willing to offer in return. But trade offers inevitably get stronger as we get closer to the deadline, and many GMs around the league believe the Grizzlies will eventually get what they want in mid-February. The Wizards, Clippers, Magic and Mavs have all shown interest in Gay.
3. Al Jefferson, F/C, Jazz
The one thing I know about the Jazz is that we're not going to know about any Jefferson deal until the Jazz hand him a plane ticket. The Jazz are as secretive an organization as there is and they've been tight-lipped about their trade plans this season. But virtually every GM in the league believes the Jazz are moving one of their two big men -- either Jefferson or Paul Millsap. Because Millsap is a favorite of the team, Jefferson could be the odd man out.
The team needs to clear more playing time for Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter and would probably be happy with a nice draft pick or a young point guard prospect in return.
4. Danny Granger, F, Pacers
Granger has missed the entire season with a knee injury, but the Pacers are eyeing his return in late January or early February. If they can get him back into the swing of things quickly -- and get his trade value up -- expect them to try to flip him fast now that Paul George has replaced Granger as the alpha dog of the team.
Indiana needs a long-term replacement for David West, who becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. So if the Pacers could get a young power forward or another young point guard for Granger, I would expect them to make a deal.
5. Marcin Gortat, C, Suns
The Suns are a mess and there's no clear way to fix this team right now. They parted ways with coach Alvin Gentry on Friday, but Gentry wasn't the person who put together this mismatch of assets, and it's highly doubtful any coach is going to make a major turnaround. The Suns are going to need to make some trades. The truth is there aren't a lot of players on their roster with a ton of trade value.
Gortat may be the exception. Teams are always looking for tough, productive big men. If the Suns decide to blow things up and try to collect young assets, I think they can get a draft pick and a young prospect in return for Gortat. Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta are all on speed dial.
6. Andrea Bargnani, F/C, Raptors
GM Bryan Colangelo loves Bargnani, whom he selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft. That's the only reason the Italian big man wasn't shipped away years ago. At various times in Bargnani's career, Colangelo has compared the sweet-shooting big man to Dirk Nowitzki. The problem is that Bargnani hasn't come close to living up to that comparison.
If the Raptors can package Bargnani and point guard Jose Calderon for picks and expiring contracts, they could be major players in free agency next summer. Or perhaps they try again to ship them to the Lakers in return for Pau Gasol. Colangelo may no longer have the patience to wait on more rookies to turn the team around.
7. Brandon Jennings, PG, Bucks
The Bucks have been among the most active teams in the league when it comes to trade calls. It doesn't look like anyone on their roster is safe. While my esteemed colleague Marc Stein wrote recently that Jennings was the least likely Buck to be moved, I'm not so sure.
Jennings hits restricted free agency this summer and, with a plethora of teams under the cap, someone is going to make him a big offer. Jennings would prefer a trade, and the Bucks aren't going to want to break the bank for him, so the team has been open to parting ways if they can get a point guard and big man in return.
8. Eric Bledsoe, PG, Clippers
The Clippers don't want to trade Bledsoe. Not only has he been a terrific sparkplug off the bench for them, he's also been valuable insurance for those occasions when Chris Paul is out with injury. Furthermore, Bledsoe is even better insurance should Paul decide to bolt for another team this summer when he hits free agency.
The problem is there is almost no chance that Bledsoe is wearing a Clippers uniform next year. A restricted free agent in the summer of 2014, he will get a major offer from a team under the cap and the Clippers already know they won't be able to afford to match it. With so many teams coveting Bledsoe, the Clippers could get some terrific assets in return -- either now or this summer. But with his stock probably as high as it's ever going to be, now may be the time to make a deal. It's a very tough call, but a number of GMs I spoke with are convinced that at the end of the day the Clippers will try to get some value in return for him before the deadline.
9. DeMarcus Cousins, C, Kings
Several GMs have told me that their calls to the Kings about Cousins' availability are being rebuffed. With the team currently for sale, it makes sense that president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie's hands are tied, even if he wants to trade Cousins.
The reason he's on the list is because Cousins seems like he's one more incident away from forcing a trade. Given his background and desire for a new team, that's not out of the question. There are a lot of teams, including the Mavs, Rockets, Celtics and Suns, ready to help take Cousins off the Kings' hands.
10. Rajon Rondo, PG, Celtics
Rondo actually sat atop our trade list last year and ended up going nowhere. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge has been out front this year claiming it doesn't make sense to move Rondo or any of the other Celtics veterans. They're going for a championship. Fair enough. Other GMs around the league report the Celtics are looking to shore up their team with a veteran big man.
However, I'm also hearing that Ainge has been quietly exploring other options should his quest to strengthen his team fail. If a team offers significant young assets for Rondo or Paul Pierce, this might be the year the Celtics finally blow things up.