The NBA can sometimes be an extremely brutal place to work. We may think that with their huge salaries, endorsements and celebrity status that it would be anyone’s dream job, but all these benefits come with a cost.
Teams want to win at all cost and will make decisions based on what they think will help them achieve that. These decisions are often made without any regard for the feelings of the players they are dealing with. Essentially, NBA athletes are pieces of meat franchises use for their own ends. A morbid description I know, but sometimes it appears like that.
Isaiah Thomas was one of the main stars of last season. He was 3rd in the league in scoring at 28.9 points a game and lead the Celtics to the top seed in the Eastern Conference thanks to his incredibly gutsy performances for someone who only stands at 5 foot 9. Thomas showed so much heart that he played the day after his sister Chyna Thomas was tragically killed in a car accident.
Even after showing so much passion and hustle for Boston, a city famed for its blue-collar work ethic and love of loyalty, the Celtics traded him for Kyrie Irving. There is always a lot of talk about player loyalty in this league and how important it is to the integrity of the NBA, but how can we slate players who change teams as ‘disloyal’ when this loyalty doesn’t go the other way?
Some trades can be brutal; a player could be settled in a particular city with his family and really enjoying life, and all of a sudden he’s shipped off to the other side of the country just on the decision made by a few individuals.
Other trades can be welcomed both by the players and teams involved. Sometimes a player just isn’t fitting in. Their style of play could clash with others on their team, or maybe they are a star player whose talents are being wasted on a dud roster. Every year there are guys who should be traded for the sake of everyone involved, and no doubt this season will have its fair share of players on the move.
Here are my top 10 players likely to be traded this season.
10. Luol Deng - LA Lakers
Finally, for the first time since 2013 the Lakers have something to be really excited about. I have no idea how good Lonzo Ball will be in the NBA, but his potential is definitely very high. His up-tempo style and court vision will get everyone involved and with the Lakers young roser exciting times await the Staples Center.
With young talent, you need to give it room to grow. Young players need as much time on the court as possible to learn how the NBA game is played. They need to make mistakes and get used to the intense pressure that comes with playing basketball at the highest level. Deng is a veteran whose best basketball is behind him. Right now he offers very little for the Lakers organization. Maybe he can mentor LA’s young players but the fact that he’s taking up a roster spot is too big a price to pay. Maybe they could get a 2nd round pick for Deng and try and find a hidden gem in next year’s draft.
9. Thaddeus Young - Indiana Pacers
Continuing the theme of developing young talent, the Indiana Pacers need to make some serious moves this year. The departures of Paul George and Jeff Teague mean one thing and one thing only; rebuild.
The Pacers will not do very well this year. I expect them to not win over 25 games, and that’s more than ok. A team can’t always be at the top. The NBA is a cycle where teams rise then fall. The Pacers have a pure stud in Myles Turner and now their MO should be about developing him and finding the right pieces to go alongside him.
Replacing George with Victor Oladipo and Donatas Sabonis was deemed very questionable as both of those two players aren’t seen as having very high potential. However in what little time we got to see of Sabonis he did fare reasonably well. He’s only 21 and could turn out to be a decent stretch 4 alongside Turner.
Thaddeus Young is a decent veteran in the NBA who can do a decent job for the Pacers this season, but Indiana should go all out and give Sabonis a tonne of minutes this year to see what he can do. If he’s anything like his father Arvydas then Indiana will have a real treat on their hand.
8. Marcus Smart - Boston Celtics
If this offseason has shown us anything, it’s that the Celtics are going all in on best a LeBron James team and making it back to the Finals for the first time since 2010. They traded away Isaiah Thomas, who was 3rd in the league in scoring last season, for Kyrie Irving.
Irving along with Gordon Hayward and Al Horford should make a potent trio, one that can score on the inside as well as the outside, but for me, this move alone isn’t enough for the Celtics to beat the Cavaliers. LeBron James is just too good and the Cavs have added a lot of quality depth to their roster with the likes of Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Jeff Green and Jose Calderon.
If the Cs are to stand any chance then they need to make one more serious move before opening night, preferably for another player on this list.
7. Kenneth Faried - Denver Nuggets
The Manimal was always a fan favorite in Denver, but his time in the mile high city may be coming to an end. The Nuggets signed 4-time All-Star Paul Millsap to pair him with their budding star in Nikola Jokic. This frontcourt duo mean that there is no starting role for Faried anymore and for someone who salary is nearly $13 million, that’s a hell of a lot for a bench player.
Faried is right in the middle of his prime and his energetic playing style should attract a number of suitors. The Nuggets have a chance to bolster their backcourt which should put them in a good position to compete for a playoff spot this season.
6. Greg Monroe - Milwaukee Bucks
Bucks fans have a whole lot to be excited about this season. They competed well in the playoffs last year and their young roster should be even more ferocious this season. They also have one of the best all-round players in the NBA in Giannis Antetokounmpo.
They play a very up-tempo style of play with very little post play which makes for very little space for Monroe in this system. He still has a lot of trade value and the Bucks could get some quality pieces in return for him to really boost their chances of getting a top seed in a weak Eastern Conference.
5. Jahlil Okafor - Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers are another young team in the East with lots to look forward to this season. Joel Embiid is a stud when healthy, Ben Simmons looks like a power forward LeBron James and Markelle Fultz should develop very nicely this season with some experience under his belt.
One player who won’t like all the attention Embiid is getting is Jahlil Okafor, who right now should feel pretty frustrated. Okafor has the offensive skills of a young Tim Duncan but he hasn’t had the chance to show it fully. At Duke and in his 1st season as a pro he displayed many a move that would have the likes of Kareem and Hakeem bouncing out of their chairs.
Right now, his is overlooked thanks to the far more flashy Embiid. The Sixers should be able to get a lot for Okafor who I reckon could average 20 and 10 given a consistent starting role.
4. Eric Bledsoe - Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns are in a classic rebuild phrase right now and if they want to be competing for a title anytime soon they should continue down this course. They have Devin Booker who at only 20 years of age scored 70 points in a single game, the most since Kobe’s 81 point masterclass.
With a rebuild you want to stockpile young talent and draft picks then let it grow together so you can see what needs fixing to take you to the next level. Spending a big chunk of your salary cap on players who in a few years will be past their prime is not a good idea and this directly applies to the Suns right now.
Eric Bledsoe will be 28 very soon and will be way past his best by the time the rest of the Suns' roster catches up. He is a very valuable asset though as he averaged a career-high 21.1 points a game last year. The Suns could easily get a tonne of good draft picks and a lot of young talent for Bledsoe and the sooner they make the move, the better they’ll be.
3. Andre Drummond - Detroit Pistons
Detroit basketball has always been highlighted by a blue-collar attitude and hustle. The Bad Boys in the 80s certainly knew how to be physically intimidating. The early 00s Pistons with Ben Wallace, Rasheed and managed to beat the far more talented LA Lakers in 2004.
Alas nowadays Detroit has become a bit of a laughing stock. They haven’t made the Playoffs since 2009 and don’t look to be returning anytime soon. It may be time to have another reboot and start from scratch which means trading away their keys players.
Andre Drummond still has a huge amount of potential. He’s averaged over 13 rebounds a game for the last 4 seasons and is immensely strong and agile. He can be the defensive anchor for any team for at least 7 seasons and can provide easy points on offense like DeAndre Jordan. The Pistons be able to get loads for him in return and then maybe they can starting putting this pitiful period of basketball behind them.
2. Mike Conley - Memphis Grizzlies
Nobody plays a more boring style of basketball than the Memphis Grizzlies. It’s extremely slow and methodical which is why the FedEx Forum has become known as the Grindhouse. Playing boring basketball is ok if you win, but Memphis only won 43 games last season and that number looks set to drop this year.
It’s time for them to realize that this current squad is not going to get them anywhere; time to rebuild. Mike Conley is a very steady hand at the point guard slot and he can provide all the things you want in your floor general; good passing, shooting, leadership and defense are all traits he possesses. Qualities like this are something every GM desires and Conley is the type of player who will be effective for a long time.
It’s time to pull the trigger on the Memphis rebuild and the first step is trading Conley away so the Grizzlies can prepare for the future.
1. Marc Gasol - Memphis Grizzlies
The other victim of the Memphis meltdown is the veteran Spanish Center Marc Gasol. Another All-Star season for the big man means that his skills are very much desired around the league. His passing, size and the overall offensive package would mean he would easily fit into most offenses around the league.
I mentioned earlier that Marcus Smart could be moved in a deal for another player on this list and Gasol was who I was getting at. The Celtics need just one more star player to really give Cleveland a run for their money and the addition of Gasol would allow Al Horford to move to his more natural role of power forward. Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford and Marc Gasol would make a very strong starting lineup, with tonnes of passing and shooting from the bigs giving Irving and Hayward that much-needed room to drive and finish in the paint.