Trade talk around the league has been relatively quiet compared to previous years as teams waited for updates on the new CBA. Teams are also trying to figure out if they’re contenders or pretenders due to league-wide parity. However, it won’t be long before trade winds begin to swirl.
The No. 3 and 12 seeds in the Eastern Conference are separated by only four games in the standings as of December 22.
Meanwhile, similar parity has taken place in the bottom half of the Western Conference. The No. 8 seed and 15 seeds are separated by only four games.
Our salary cap guru, Eric Pincus, has uncovered many new CBA details. As a result, teams now have a better understanding of what trade discussions mean regarding future salary cap space.
As we get closer to the February trade deadline, teams are expected to separate themselves from the pack as championship contenders, playoff contenders and cellar dwellers.
With that in mind, here’s a list of several guards who could be on the trade market:
1. Brandon Knight, Suns, 6-3, 189 pounds, 6th year:
Knight, 25, was asked to be a sixth man for the first time in his career and has struggled with the transition. Phoenix’s backcourt tandem of Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker has left Knight as the odd man out, and he’s averaging a career-low 24.2 minutes per game. The lack of playing time has taken Knight out of his usual offensive rhythm. He’s shooting career-lows from the field (38.3 percent) and beyond the arc (31.8 percent). His 12.9 points per game are the lowest since his rookie season. He’s owed $43.9 million over the next three seasons, which is good value for a starting-caliber guard with the salary cap rising over the next few seasons, as colleague Eric Pincus detailed. Executives around the league are keeping an eye on Knight as the trade deadline draws closer.
2. Goran Dragic, Heat, 6-3, 190 pounds, 9th year:
Dragic, 30, has played well for Miami despite the team’s struggles. Dragic is shooting a career-best 42 percent from downtown. His 19.1 points and 6.7 assists per game are the second-highest averages of his career. As reported by Basketball Insiders earlier this season, the Kings and Heat kicked the tires on a potential Rudy Gay and Darren Collison for Dragic swap. While Miami is in a rebuilding situation, Pat Riley has shown the ability to turn things around quickly. The question: Is Dragic is part of the long-term solution in Miami? Dragic is owed $54.3 million over the next three seasons. The final year of his contract is a $19.2 million player option in the summer of 2020.
3. Ricky Rubio, Timberwolves, 6-4, 194 pounds, 6th year:
Rubio, 26, is a veteran of the rumor mill and that’s not going to change as February approaches. Minnesota selected Kris Dunn with the fifth overall pick in the draft and he’s viewed as the long-term starting point guard. Meanwhile, Rubio is struggling this season, averaging career lows in points (7), assists (6.9) and steals (1.5). Making matters worse, he is struggling even mightier from the field (35.7 percent) and beyond the arc (24 percent). Rubio is owed $29.2 million over the next two seasons. Once Dunn is ready to become the clear floor general, Minnesota is expected to shop Rubio on the trade market.
4. Will Barton, Nuggets, 6-6, 175 pounds, 5th year:
Barton, 26, has already drawn exploratory trade interest from the Wizards and Pelicans, according to ESPN. Barton is a bargain at only $3.53 million for this season and next season as well. Last season, Barton was one of the league’s top sixth men – averaging 14.4 points and 5.8 rebounds in 28.7 minutes. Denver has a backcourt logjam with Barton, Emmanuel Mudiay, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Jameer Nelson and Malik Beasley. At some point, it has to get broken up. The question is if Barton will be the odd man out.
5. Arron Afflalo, Kings, 6-5, 210 pounds, 10th year:
Afflalo, 31, began the season as a starter through the first 20 games. However, his recent playing time has fluctuated in his last nine games. Afflalo sat for the first two games, then played a combined 34 minutes in the next three games, sat out two games after that, and then averaged 28.5 minutes in his last two games. Afflalo’s homecoming has been an adjustment, as he told Basketball Insiders in a recent interview. Sacramento essentially has him on the books as an expiring contract since his $12.5 million salary next season is non-guaranteed. Afflalo is on his fifth team in four seasons.
Which big men will potentially be available at the trade deadline? Check out colleague Tommy Beer’s latest piece for more.
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