The start of the NBA season is still over two and a-half months away, but there is a huge disparity between the title contenders, pretenders and non-contenders.
Two-time champion Golden State, of course, leads the way of the contenders. Cleveland, Houston, Boston and San Antonio round out the top-tier teams. Then you have the next tier of teams that includes Toronto, Los Angeles Clippers, OKC and Washington.Following those teams, are the up-and coming and middle of the road teams. Finally, there are teams stuck in purgatory such as Brooklyn, Phoenix, Sacramento, Chicago, Atlanta, New York and Detroit.
While we know some trades are going to happen as several have already been rumored like Carmelo Anthony heading to Houston and Kyrie Irving being shipped from Cleveland. This article will examine the teams that are most likely to be sellers before the trade deadline.
6. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are gearing up for the 2018 offseason, preparing to make a run at LeBron James and/or Paul George among others.
Los Angeles has done some nice things this offseason though if things go sour, a few of the recently required players may be intriguing rentals for contenders. These players are Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Corey Brewer.
Los Angeles would likely to get out from under Luol Deng’s contract and may be willing to move Jordan Clarkson, depending on how he ultimately fits in this year. Deng has three years remaining on his contract at an average of $18 million per year while Clarkson is due nearly $38 million over the next three seasons.
5. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks have had a confusing offseason, shedding salary — with the dumping of Dwight Howard — but also signing a few veterans.The good news is that the Hawks didn’t sign anyone to long-term contracts.
Here is the thing, Atlanta doesn’t have many assets beyond Dennis Schroder and rookie John Collins, who are likely untouchable. Second-year pro’s Taurean Prince and DeAndre Bembry could work their way to that level but they must improve significantly. The Hawks would likely be one or two on the list if they had more talent.
Kent Bazemore is perhaps the Hawks most talented player who could be dealt. Bazemore, who signed a huge deal after a career season in 2015-16, took a step back in 2017-18. If he can show the potential that he demonstrated prior to signing the contract, he could draw some interest.
Miles Plumlee is another player that the Hawks would like to shed due to his contract. Plumlee is owed $37.5 million over the next three years and may not be the No. 2 center on the team this year. Recently signed free agents Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova could be solid rental acquisitions as rental players for contenders.
4. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls apparently have decided to embrace the fact that they need to rebuild. They traded Jimmy Butler to Minnesota and while I don’t believe that their haul back is bad as most others, the Bulls will take a step back. Chicago also released veteran Rajon Rondo.
The big question is whether Dwyane Wade will be next. Wade is a hometown boy, but he is 35-years old and making $23 million this season. Wade was still productive in 2016-17 despite missing 22 games. It will be interesting if the team allows him to pursue another championship by trading him prior to the trade deadline. A buyout is also an option if Wade struggles or is plagued by injuries.
Latest report is that Dwyane Wade expected to reach a buyout with Chicago before a season starts.
Robin Lopez is possibly the only other Bull with trade value, currently. Lopez, who has over $28 million left on his contract, is an excellent offensive rebounder and a solid rim protector.
The only other intriguing trade possibilities for the Bulls would be Nikola Mirotic, if he accepts the team’s qualifying offer. But that would also require Mirotic to start living up to expectations. Mirotic has averaged over 10 points in his first three seasons and is a good shooter, who has averaged 1.7 triples per game for his career. He is an average rebounder.
3. Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets have a good mix of veterans and youngsters which will help the team going forward. Their splurge on veteran forward Paul Millsap indicate that Nuggets have designs on making a push up the Western Conference standings.
Denver has the assets to grab a star player or to build more assets if the season goes south. Besides, the Nuggets have previously explored the trade for Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, Emmanuel Mudiay and Darrell Arthur. There is no reason that won’t be the case this year as well.
In addition, Will Barton and Jameer Nelson possess expiring contracts, making them trading bait. Also, Chandler and Arthur hold player options next season.
2. Phoenix Suns
The Suns have been going through the rebuilding process the last couple of years, accumulating a lot of young talent along the way.The Suns know they are not going to contend in the tough Western Conference this year so they will likely let their young players continue to develop.
Phoenix has been linked to obtaining Kyrie Irving, and were in discussions last year about trading for Kevin Love. Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders also reported that they were approached about being involved with the Carmelo Anthony trade to Houston.
The reason being, the Suns have a lot of young stars. So, don’t be surprised that they are involved in a blockbuster or two.
If Phoenix gets involved in a major trade it will likely surround either Eric Bledsoe or Brandon Knight. The Suns are stacked at guard and Devin Booker is making it hard for the team to keep him off the court. Bledsoe has two years remaining on his contract ($29.5 million) while Knight has three seasons left ($42.2 million).
Bledsoe has improved every year, though he has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, is coming off a career season. Knight is expected to miss the entire season after tearing his ACL, so that limits his trade value. T.J. Warren, who had a career season, could also be moved as part of a huge deal.
Tyson Chandler and perhaps Jared Dudley are other Suns’ players who could have value in a trade. Chandler, 34, had a fantastic season in 2016-17 as he averaged double figure rebounds in just 27.4 minutes of action per game. Despite his production, the Suns likely would love to get out of the over $26 million they owe him. The reasons why are that he is 34 years old and has only played in 113 games the past two seasons.
Dudley does one thing well and that is shooting from long-range. The 32-year-old made 1.2 treys last season at a 37.9% clip, which tied for 58th in the league. He is nearly a 40% shooter from long-distance for his career.
1. Orlando Magic
The Magic have missed the playoffs five straight seasons and has not won more than 40 games since 2010-11. Frank Vogel, who posted a 29-53 record in his inaugural season last year, is the team’s fourth head coach in the past five seasons.
Orlando is one of the NBA’s teams that is in purgatory with no clear direction going forward. The Magic do not have any stars or potential stars on their roster. The Magic do have some young talent but those players have yet to develop as they hoped. The organization made some changes in their front office this offseason and now has a new president of basketball of operations and general manager.
All of which make the Magic the leading candidate to make deals this season.
Veteran center Nikola Vucevic appears to be the leading candidate to be traded. The Magic explored the trade market last season for the 26-year-old center, who has a couple of seasons remaining on his contract at $12.5 million per year. Vucevic saw his offensive production and minutes slightly decline last year from his previous four seasons with the team. Still, he collected 46 double-doubles and is one of the best rebounders in the game — averaging 10.4 boards a game in 2016-17.
Orlando, which is over the salary cap, would probably really like to get out from under Evan Fournier’s contract. Fournier, a good scorer and shooter, is not dynamic enough to justify his salary. Plus, his efficiency is below average due to his poor defense. He was a minus-2.7 (plus/minus rating) and ranked 56th among shooting guards in ESPN’s defensive real plus/minus. Fournier has four years, $68 million left on his contract, his last season is an early termination option.
Terrence Ross ($10.5 million) and D.J. Augustin ($7.25 million) bring qualities that contending teams could look for in veteran reserves. Bismack Biyombo has an enormous contract but is still just 24-years old.
Third-year pro Mario Hezonja has done very little since being drafted in the first round of the 2015 draft. Recently signed free-agents Arron Afflalo, Shelvin Mack and Mo Speights could be cheap rentals for some team needing a veteran to provide leadership off the bench.
The Magic also have to make a decision on Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton as both players could be restricted free agents next year. Gordon, 21, took a step back last year in his development. In the meantime, Payton made major strides and had his best season of his three-year career. If both have good years, the Magic probably would be ecstatic to keep them.
2017 first round pick Jonathan Isaac and recently signed free agent Jonathan Simmons are likely the only players who are off limits.