The face of the NBA is constantly changing with all these spectacular rookies coming in every year. Every season we see the game growing, mostly through what the rookies can do, and with the amazing skill-set, they have. However, that has a huge impact on how other players perform. At this point, there are numerous teams who have found production from their rookies, so other players get pushed aside.
Moreover, there are teams that have signed star players, in an attempt to break the Warriors-Cavs combo in the NBA Finals. Those moves have left a lot of teams looking for additions to their rosters, and other teams looking to off-load some of their players in order to give playing time to rookies. Here is a list of the five players most likely to get their careers back on track with a trade this season :
5. George Hill
George Hill was hand-picked by Gregg Popovich in the 2008 NBA draft, which goes to show that he actually is the player the media made him out to be. Earning the trust of one of the best coaches of all time is no small thing. The highlight of George Hill’s career was when he reached the Eastern Conference Finals with the Pacers, in 2013 and 2014. Last season he was with the Utah Jazz, where he was actually really great in the start of the season before injuries forced him to miss numerous matches. His contract ended in the off-season, and despite staying with the Jazz in the wake of Hayward’s departure, Hill chose to look for a big pay-check.
He eventually signed a 3-year, $57 million contract with the Sacramento Kings, who were looking for a leader after trading away DeMarcus Cousins last season. The Kings also brought in veterans Zach Randolph and Vince Carter, in an attempt to have some experienced players help their re-build.
However, Hill has been stuck in a really awkward situation there, as rookie DeAaron Fox has been starting over Hill in a lot of matches. Moreover, their other rookie, Frank Mason III has also been getting a lot of minutes, while the team also signed European prospect Bogdan Bogdanovic. There are a lot of mouths to feed there with Buddy Hield also in the equation, so George Hill will surely need yet another trade out of there in order to be competitive.
4. Alex Len
The Phoenix Suns have been struggling in all fronts in recent years, and despite the amount of talent, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. One of the players that have suffered in that situation, is without a doubt, Alex Len. The problem is that the Suns still have Tyson Chandler on a big contract, and they keep on using him as a starter. For a team that also features prospects Alex Len, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender among others, starting a 35-year-old veteran seems suspiciously odd. Interim coach Jay Triano has stated that the veterans are asking for minutes, so he just gives them the playing time they want. But it is hurting a team in the rebuilding process.
To make matters worse, the Suns traded Eric Bledsoe to the Bucks, in exchange of a couple of draft picks, and Greg Monroe. The logjam continues. Now there’s two veterans to showcase in Phoenix, and even though that might change shortly, Alex Len’s playing time has been a disaster. He became a restricted free-agent last summer, and after failing to get a better deal, he signed a one-year, $4.2 million qualifying offer to return to the Suns. At least one of the Suns’ three bigs is expected to be traded (or bought-out) before the trade deadline, so Alex Len will most likely need a trade out in order to fulfill his potential.
However, Monroe and/or Chandler are the most likely candidates to be moved, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Suns moved the disgruntled Len.
3. Jahlil Okafor
When the 76ers drafted Jahlil Okafor, there were rumors that he didn’t like that outcome at all. For a team that had already drafted Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel, it was an overkill to draft a third big man. The 76ers eventually traded Noel to the Mavericks last season, but even that didn’t provide Okafor with a spot in the rotation. He has lost his backup Center spot to Richaun Holmes, who might not be as talented as Okafor, but he plays solid defense and hits triples. That is exactly what Okafor is lacking, but he should be an appealing asset for a team looking for a big man around the rim.
The emergence of both Embiid and Simmons this season, along with the addition of veteran Amir Johnson, have stuck Okafor at the depths of the bench. He is one of the players most likely to be traded before the deadline, but his lack of long-range shooting and defense do not make him an appealing target. There are still teams that are thin on the front-line, and the 76ers are reportedly only asking for a first-round draft pick for him. His antics a couple of days after his draft day really don’t help his case, as he was seen punching another guy in the face outside a night-club shouting “We got money”. He needs to get his head together if he wants to succeed in the NBA.
2. Julius Randle
The Kentucky product came into the NBA having had a really strong college career, even if he only played a single season with the Wildcats. Drafted at the 7th overall pick of the 2014 NBA draft, Julius Randle had some really tough luck in his career. He only played 14 minutes in his NBA debut before breaking his right tibia, an injury that cost him the entire season. In his next two seasons with the Lakers he did quite a good job, and he has been called “a poor man’s Draymond Green”. Well, not so much in the defensive department, but Randle used to be a big man that can also dish out assists, and hit a triple now and then. Note that he has already a couple of triple-doubles under his belt, and if given consistent minutes, Randle can really be a beast of a player.
This season, Randle has been a part of a really crowded Lakers front-court that also features Centers Brook Lopez and Andrew Bogut. Moreover, the emergence of rookie Kyle Kuzma, but also of Larry Nance Jr., have only allowed Randle to play most his minutes as a back-up to Lopez. The Lakers are keen to have as much cap space as possible when the summer comes, so they can bring in a couple of max contracts. With LeBron James and Paul George being linked with a move to LA, Julius Randle seems the odd man out. Rumors around the league say that he is the player most likely to be traded away from LA, but with his talent, he will definitely shine wherever he lands.
1. Nerlens Noel
Nerlens Noel has been really unlucky in his short career so far, mostly because of the lack of playing time. The Mavericks thought they were bringing the Center of the future, as they have slowly started on the re-build. Noel did not play heavy minutes with the Mavericks last season, but he did what he does best. The Mavericks offered him a contract extension worth four years and $70 million in the off-season, looking to lock their future Center. However, Noel declined that offer, fired his manager, and signed a one-year qualifying offer that will make him an unrestricted free-agent this summer. It was a huge risk to take, hoping that he would earn consistent playing time this season. However, the reality is far worse than he had imagined, and he might wish he had signed that deal last summer.
This season, Noel actually played really good in the premiere, but he is now stuck at the end of the bench. It is uncertain if it’s a lack of effort or a fall-out in his relationship with coach Carlisle, but one thing’s for certain, Noel is not playing.
Carlisle is an old-school coach who has traditionally been hard on young players. He has little patience for guys who make mental mistakes and don’t accept their role. And Noel hasn’t made it easy for him, as he was recently seen eating a hot-dog in the halftime of one of their matches. Noel might have missed a really good chance in the off-season, as he would have seen consistent minutes had he signed that contract. Instead, he is now perceived as a player who could leave for nothing at the end of the season, so the Mavericks will most likely trade him at this point. His skill-set is needed in the NBA, despite his struggles in the offensive end. He badly needs a trade right now, and the Dallas Mavericks will be keen to move him before the deadline.