The Trade Rumor Mill Is Buzzing
We are a few days into the 2016-17 season and there are numerous situations around the league worth keeping an eye as it relates to the trade market. But don’t expect a flurry of activity during the early goings, as league executives have traditionally waited to see how their roster performs as currently constructed before pulling the trigger on a deal.
Also, keep in mind that the majority of players who signed new contracts this past summer aren’t eligible to be dealt until mid-December. So while the total amount of completed transactions may be minimal up until then, the level of preliminary trade discussions between front offices around the league has definitely increased.
Here are some trade situations to keep an eye on over the next few months:
The Future of Nerlens Noel in Philadelphia
We’ve touched on this topic in this space last month. Nerlens Noel could eventually be the odd man out in Philadelphia’s talented young frontcourt. Noel and 2016 No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons are injured to start the season, but when you factor in Dario Saric, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, things could get crowded awfully quick on the low block for the Sixers.
Complicating matters is the fact Philadelphia has until Oct. 31 to agree on a contract extension with Noel, otherwise, he’ll become a restricted free agent next July. If the sides fail to reach an agreement on an extension, the Sixers could potentially lose an asset for nothing in free agency.
League executives often refuse to lose a talented asset for nothing in return, which could lead to the Sixers gauging the market for the defensive-minded center. But to call a deal imminent would be far from the truth. Simmons is hurt with no timetable for return and Embiid missed the past two seasons with foot trouble. It isn’t out of the question that the Sixers opt to take a more patient approach given the current injury concerns.
The DeMarcus Cousins Trade Talk Will Gain Momentum
According to Marc Stein of ESPN, you can expect to hear Sacramento Kings All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins’ name in plenty of trade rumors as we get deeper into the season.
Here is the latest from Stein:
Can’t promise you that the Kings will actually trade Cousins. If you insist on squeezing a firm prediction out of us on this one, as we speak on Oct. 28, I’d have to say he’ll stay. Sacramento is determined to make the playoffs this season, or at least a credible playoff run, which somewhat compels the Kings to keep their best player.
But the reality is that Cousins has only one season left on his current contract after this one. If the Kings keep him beyond Feb. 23, they better be sure they can re-sign him, because they’re sure to fetch less in return for Expiring Contract Boogie.
Cousins is arguably the best center in the game today, so it has always been a bit alarming watching how volatile his relationship has been with the Kings since entering the league. Going back to the “never losing a top asset for nothing in return” philosophy, it’s hard to see the Kings being confident if Cousins ever hit the free agency market unrestricted.
Will the Miami HEAT Shop Goran Dragic?
Also from Stein’s latest report, there are more than a few teams around the league that would have an interest in veteran point guard Goran Dragic. The problem for them is, Miami isn’t selling at the current time.
Around the league, though, there’s a growing sense that Dragic is a name to keep tabs on for those of you (and, yes, we mean everyone) who enjoy the sport unto itself known as NBA Wheeling and Dealing since Miami is a team rival executives are watching closely.
Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking on the part of clubs who’d love to pilfer a front-line floor leader, but I’ve heard this warning more than once this month: Don’t be surprised if the HEAT decide to make Dragic available if they get off to a slow start with a roster that suddenly no longer features Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh.
It remains to be seen how the 30-year-old Dragic fits into the HEAT’s new young core of Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson, but the prevailing notion is Miami’s front office wants to see how the club responds as currently constructed before making a huge deal that plots the unit into a different trajectory entirely.
Rondo Settling in Quickly With the Bulls
The Chicago Bulls won their season opener by defeating the Boston Celtics and, in the process, may have temporarily silenced some of the team’s critics. There had been questions since this past summer about how the Bulls’ new additions – namely Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo – would fit with All-Star wing Jimmy Butler since the team seemed to lack shooting and spacing.
Rondo played 33 minutes in the opener and posted four points, six rebounds and nine assists. The box score wasn’t one of Rondo’s best, but his new teammates have embraced the veteran’s leadership since entering the fold.
“It was important to play with the spirit of a tough-minded team,” forward Taj Gibson told veteran Bulls.com writer Sam Smith. “Rondo is a tough-minded guy; he loves his teammates. The whole night he was just chattering away, telling us what to do. You see when the scuffle happened he was the first one in there. It’s great to have guys like that having your back.
“The good teams know how to find a way to win games. That comes from having guys like D. Wade, Rondo, guys who have actually won before and are not afraid to take those shots. All during the game all I heard was Rondo’s voice constantly motivating guys, constantly telling guys where to go; even when D. Wade hit that big shot, Rondo was in there saying, ‘Stop celebrating, let’s get ready for the next play.’ Those are the things that help teams.”
Rondo signed a two-year, $28 million deal this past summer. The second year isn’t fully guaranteed. Before the start of the season, the club traded for former Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams to handle the primary backup duties behind Rondo in the lineup. Carter-Williams will be a restricted free agent next summer.
Wade also surprised in his Bulls debut, shooting 4-6 from three-point range after hitting just seven threes in all of last season. His last game in which he had knocked down four three-pointers was back in January of 2013.
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