Apart from the trade deadline, the NBA’s offseason is the most likely time when a player would be dealt. Teams have had time to review their just-completed seasons and can decide if they need a final piece or two in order to contend or if it’s time for a complete rebuild. The NBA Draft also gives teams extra ammunition to make a deal as lottery picks are highly coveted, especially in a deep draft.
Every year it seems as if there’s a big name or two that gets traded during the offseason. Just over the last few years alone we’ve seen the likes of Kevin Love, Serge Ibaka, Derrick Rose, and Dwight Howard get traded during the offseason. Perhaps the best thing about NBA trades is that they usually always involve actual NBA players as opposed to player-for-picks trades in the NFL and players-for-prospects trades in MLB.
This coming offseason should be very eventful in regards to the trade landscape. Not only is it a deep draft class which means lottery picks will incite some GMs; but also, many star players who we expected to get dealt at the trade deadline stayed put. GMs have had time to think about how their teams are constructed and aren’t pressured by a clock ticking down like when they are up against the deadline.
Sometimes the players you expect to be traded are actually traded, but other times a trade comes out of left field and shocks everyone. We’ll explore all possibilities and here are the 15 NBA players most likely to be traded during the offseason.
15 Ricky Rubio
Rubio has seemingly had one foot out the door since Tom Thibodeau took the reins in Minnesota. First he drafted Kris Dunn, then he tried to trade for Reggie Jackson and, finally, sniffed around on a reunion with Derrick Rose. Lost in all of this is the fact that Rubio is better than all three of those other players! No, he can’t shoot, but he is still a positive on both ends of the court and there’s only a handful of point guards you can say that about. With the T-Wolves Big 3 firmly in place, the trio of soon-to-be 22-year-olds could use a veteran presence and a bridge until Dunn is ready.
14 Mario Hezonja
Someone with the nicknames of “The Beast” and “Super Mario” needs to be more than the 10th man on a team with a 9-man rotation. Orlando’s trade for Terrence Ross pushes Hezonja even further down the wing depth chart, so much so, that coach Frank Vogel decided to do this with Super Mario:
Frank Vogel has reiterated what many thought was a brain fart. Mario Hezonja could play PF for the @OrlandoMagic. Someone check on Frank.— David Baumann (@DavidBaumannORL) February 22, 2017
13 Brandon Knight
Over his first five seasons Knight started all but 13 games and averaged 19.6 PPG as recent as the 2015-16 season. This year he’s been relegated to the bench and has more DNPs than he has 20 point games. There’s only so many former UK Wildcats to feed in Phoenix and Knight seems like the odd man out. Knight is just 25 and a former top-10 pick, but he’s best suited for a sixth man role à la Patty Mills or Jamal Crawford. OKC seems like a logical fit as they have a need for some backcourt scoring off the bench and he and Westbrook can even share the court at times.
12 Emmanuel Mudiay
11 Tyler Zeller
10 Tyson Chandler
9 Omer Asik
8 Austin Rivers
7 Meyers Leonard
6 C.J. McCollum
Weren’t expecting this one? Yes, McCollum just signed a 4-year deal last offseason, but the Blazers are starting to realize that the Lillard-McCollum backcourt just doesn’t work, defensively. You can get away with one poor backcourt defender, but not two. Lillard is the better playmaker and moves more merchandise, so he’s not going anywhere. Thus, Portland should be looking to move McCollum for some defensive help as their bottom-5 defense won’t make any noise in the playoffs. It took the Warriors two-and-a-half years to realize that their Steph Curry-Monta Ellis backcourt was only good for lots of points and nothing on the other end.
5 Marcin Gortat
The Wizards don’t want to get rid of Gortat, but they may be forced to. With the (unexpected) development of Otto Porter, the Wizards will likely have to fork over a max contract in order to retain their small forward. (Side note: that means John Wall will become the team’s third highest player…yeah, that will go over well with him). Porter getting the max will squeeze out Gortat and the Wizards will be forced to deal him for nothing more than cap relief. They would prefer to trade Ian Mahinmi, who actually makes more than Gortat, but with his injuries no one will take his contract on.
4 Jonas Valanciunas
3 Brook Lopez
2 Paul George
Everyone from Paul George to Paul George’s agent to Larry Bird to Magic Johnson knows that PG longs for home and the Palmdale native will look to return to Los Angeles. With George under contract for just one more year (he has a player option in 2018-19 he is sure to decline); it’s in Indiana’s best interest to move him this offseason for something or risk letting him leave next offseason for nothing. Indiana is a middling team in the East who isn’t likely to be a contender for a couple of years.
1 Jimmy Butler
Chicago may be home for Dwyane Wade but he doesn’t want to be on a team battling for the 8th seed in the East so he’ll opt out of his contract this offseason. That means Butler will be on a team whose next best player is…Robin Lopez? Niko Mirotic? Butler will be 28 next season and doesn’t want to waste his prime on a non-contender so he’ll be the next Bull who wants out. There were rumors at the deadline that the Celtics were looking into acquiring Butler and once GM Danny Ainge sees that Jae Crowder and Jaylen Brown at the 3 aren’t enough to overthrow LeBron and Co., he will pull the trigger on a Butler deal. It’s a win-win for both teams; Boston gets its superstar (Isaiah Thomas is “just” an All-Star) while Chicago gets a plethora of draft picks (including the Brooklyn pick) as well as young talent (Brown, Marcus Smart, etc.).
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