The 2015 NBA Draft has passed, which signals the beginning of what is sure to be a busy off-season in a league that seems poised for seismic change in the coming years. The league’s gargantuan new TV deal continues to inch closer (it takes effect in time for the 2016-17 season), ushering in an economic boom that could begin to take shape this summer with the salary cap likely to increase in anticipation for huge growth after next season.
There’s also the formidable presence of a cadre of superstar free agents coming available over the next couple years. As the NBA Finals extol the virtues of small ball, this summer ironically brings a fruitful market of free agent big men, with LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Kevin Love and LeBron James chief among them. Teams seeking a franchise small forward that don’t figure to factor into the 2016 Kevin Durant sweepstakes could also target a plentiful restricted free agent market that includes Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Draymond Green.
These signs point to an active off-season filled with player movement. The wheeling and dealing has, in fact, already gotten underway. The 2014-15 season wasn’t even in the books when the Detroit Pistons acquired Ersan Ilyasova from Milwaukee. Since then, Lance Stephenson has found a new home in LA with the Clippers, Nicolas Batum was surprisingly dealt to Charlotte for Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh and talented players like Greivis Vasquez and Mason Plumlee have switched addresses. Heck, we haven’t hit July yet and Luke Ridnour has already been moved four times!
With free agency looming on July 1st, an exciting NBA season is about to transition quickly into what is sure to be a frenzied, active off-season. There’s no time like the present, then, to take a deeper dive into some of the players who might find themselves changing addresses this summer. Here are 15 NBA players who could be on the trade block:
14 Terrence Ross
Viewed as a bit of a reach when taken eighth overall in 2012, Terrence Ross is rapidly approaching bust territory in Toronto, where he has yet to put together a skills package that was suppose to include long range shooting and stingy perimeter defense. He’s shown brief flashes, including a 51-point game against the Clippers, but hasn’t shown any real consistent development since entering the league. At 24 years of age, Ross still has time to turn it around. After a four-game sweep at the hands of the Washington Wizards, change is in the air in Toronto and Ross could be a trade chip to facilitate that change.
13 Robert Covington
Possibly the biggest “who’s that guy?” talent to emerge this past season, Robert Covington made the most of opportunities presented with the lowly Philadelphia 76ers and averaged 13.5 points while showcasing a solid inside game mixed with a potent three-point shot. At 24, Covington is still young and also carries a very favorable contract that includes three more years with just $3.1 million remaining on it. So why would the Sixers unload a young, inexpensive talent with upside? GM Sam Hinkie has a proven track record of using his assets in a number of unique ways, including dealing Michael Carter-Williams and K.J. McDaniels at the trade deadline.
13. Luol Deng
Luol Deng finds himself at an apparent crossroads, wondering whether Miami is where he wishes to find himself in one of what could be his last NBA seasons, while also toting a $10.2 million player option that will prove tough to decline. Pat Riley and the Heat may not see Deng as a future staple for the club, but they could surely find value - even at $10.2 million - for a reliable, minutes-logging small forward whose age-related decline has been mitigated by a veteran knack for doing so many little things well. With Justise Winslow coming in, the writing may already be on the wall for Deng in Miami.
12 Tiago Splitter
For the first time in recent memory, the San Antonio Spurs are being discussed as a potential off-season player, a team that could be targeting Aldridge or Gasol to eventually replace Tim Duncan. The issue, then, becomes one of cap space for the Spurs, who will also be looking to lock Kawhi Leonard up long-term. ESPN’s Marc Stein reports that Tiago Splitter could be the odd man out in a bid to free up the space necessary to land a premier free agent. With two years and about $17 million remaining on his contract, Splitter should prove easy to move for GM R.C. Buford.
11 Ben McLemore
Under owner Vivek Ranadive, the Sacramento Kings have been a franchise rife with head-scratching decisions. While none are bigger than the perplexing firing of coach Mike Malone, the team’s treatment of 2013 lottery pick Ben McLemore stands as a close second. It seems like the Kings have been engineering McLemore’s exit since he first arrived in Sacramento, reportedly dangling him in attempted trades for veterans like Rajon Rondo and drafting another shooting guard - Nik Stauskas - in the first round just one year later. If Ranadive and Kings executive Vlade Divac find a player they covet available, McLemore could be on the way out.
10 Marcus Smart
On the surface, it doesn’t make sense for Danny Ainge and the sensible Boston Celtics to deal away Marcus Smart, a key cog in their rebuilding effort. But the Celtics have successfully stockpiled draft picks, recently acquired fellow point guard Isaiah Thomas and enjoyed a surprise playoff appearance this spring. All of those elements put them in prime position for both the immediate and long-term future, meaning that Smart could be a key asset that could be packaged as part of a major return. Smart may well stay put, but Ainge has some options moving forward.
9 Kenneth Faried
Hiring Mike Malone was a positive step for the Denver Nuggets, but the club still lacks an identity and a real direction. If they ultimately decide to build from the ground up, the “Manimal” Kenneth Faried could be one of the first players to go. Faried has a four-year, $50 million extension kicking in next season that Denver may be loathe to pay, but there should be plenty of suitors for the 25-year-old energetic rebounder. A trade with the Raptors for Ross and other pieces might be interesting...
8 Nikola Pekovic
With the No. 1 overall pick in the June 25th Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns and created a logjam at center, alongside the incumbent Nikola Pekovic. The 29-year-old Montenegro native is undeniably skilled, but he is also injury-prone and doesn’t quite fit within the youth movement in Minnesota. Still, Pekovic would represent an awfully appealing option for any team that misses out on the free agent big man bonanza that is forthcoming this summer.
7 Deron Williams
Deron Williams might be the only player on this list who wouldn’t net a significant return based on the size of his crippling contract. If the Nets can find a team willing to take on the $43 million owed to Williams, they can’t expect to secure much in the way of picks or prospects. Still, dealing Williams would be a much-needed step for Brooklyn towards a rebuild for a club that is short on both cap space and draft picks. It won’t be a quick or easy turn-around, but dealing Williams (or Joe Johnson) is a start.
6 Ricky Rubio
Is Ricky Rubio a part of the Timberwolves’ future? That’s the big question that has to be answered in light of recent speculation about the Spanish point guard. Rubio, who recently signed a new five-year extension and is still just 24 years of age, seems like a sensible chip for Minnesota to move in order to bolster their incredibly young roster. There have also been whispers of his desire to leave Minnesota. While he has quashed that speculation by insisting that he doesn’t want to be traded, the writing certainly seems to be on the wall.
5 DeMar DeRozan
A significant shake-up in Toronto seems imminent, but it remains to be seen what form that overhaul takes. It’s tough to see whether a core of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas can grow to be much more than it currently is, but Raptors GM Masai Ujiri also understands that the team would be foolish to punt on what could be several more years in a wide open Atlantic division. At 25 years of age and having improved every year, DeRozan would probably bring the biggest return of any Raptor asset. Ujiri would have to be pretty blown away to pull the trigger, though.
4 Ty Lawson
You’d think that a proven scorer and playmaker with plenty of good years still ahead of him would have rival GM’s lining up to make an offer, but that hasn’t been the case for Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson. The 27-year-old is known to be on the trade market and is coming off of a season in which he averaged 15.2 points and a career-high 9.6 assists, but they reportedly aren’t getting the types of offers that they are hoping for. Of course, it’s still early and more appealing trade offers could always materialize as the summer progresses along. With the Nuggets' drafting of Emmanuel Mudiay, the writing seems to be on the wall for Lawson.
3 Dwyane Wade
It seems odd to even picture Dwyane Wade wearing any NBA uniform aside from that of the Miami Heat, the club he has been a part of since getting drafted in 2006. But Wade’s divorce from his career-long home has never seemed closer at hand, with the 33-year-old and the Heat engaged in contentious contract negotiations that Wade is reportedly unhappy with. He could still exercise a $16.1 million player option for the upcoming season, at which time Miami might explore a trade, particularly if a separation appears at hand.
2 Carmelo Anthony
Can the Knicks win with Carmelo Anthony on the team? Melo hasn’t appeared comfortable in the Phil Jackson-led attempts to implement the triangle at Madison Square Garden and, at 31 years of age and injury-prone, his presence seems directly at odds with any rebuild efforts the club might undertake. Reports last season suggested that Anthony was open to a trade, but his $124 million contract, which took effect last season, will surely prove challenging to move. Still, if New York decides that they want to rid themselves of Anthony, there are plenty of teams who would be happy to land an elite scorer.
1 DeMarcus Cousins
There has been plenty of speculation in recent years over the future of DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento and, frankly, it’s difficult to see why the Kings would be in a hurry to trade the potent interior force known as ‘Boogie’. Known as a hothead, Cousins has actually remained largely incident-free in recent years while improving significantly in each of the past three seasons. Plus, as a top-10 talent, Cousins boasts a skill level that would make any behavior questions considerably more palatable for a team bringing him in. If Sacramento makes him available, the offers will be there.