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Potential Trading Partners for Knicks in a Carmelo Trade

There are multiple reasons why the Knicks should explore trading Carmelo Anthony. Here are several potential trades involving the superstar.

Tommy Beer

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Let’s start by fast-forwarding 12 months into the future… One year from now, what’s the best-case scenario for the New York Knicks? Could they be 10 games better than they are this season? Could they be a few games above .500? Even under ideal circumstances, could they possibly be considered a championship contender?

Keep in mind: Not even including Carmelo Anthony, New York’s 2014-15 team salary will still exceed $70 million – including $49 million committed to the trio of Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani for the 2014-15 season. Thus, Knicks GM Steve Mills will have very limited roster flexibility this summer. Because New York will be over the cap, they will not be able to reel in any significant free agents. They also don’t have either their first or second-round pick to improve the roster.

This is something Anthony will have to consider this summer when he has to make a life-altering decision in July. Will Anthony be willing to essentially sacrifice another year of his prime? Has the Knicks organization exhibited an ability to build a winner?

Looking at the big picture, are the Knicks completely convinced Anthony will be willing to commit to the Knicks long-term?

Of course, he’d have to be willing to leave $30 million on the table to play elsewhere, and the Knicks will have cap space to spend money in the summer of 2015.

Still, are the Knicks 100 percent sure that they can keep Carmelo? If they are not, they are taking a huge risk by not trading him prior to the February 20 trade deadline. Once that date passes, Anthony holds all the power. He will be the one making the important decisions.

Interestingly, as I have argued over the last couple of months, ‘Melo leaving the Knicks high-and-dry would not actually be the worst-case scenario. Considering all the long-term ramifications, committing $129.1 million to a 30-year-old Anthony might actually be the more detrimental outcome. The Knicks are 11 games under .500 with a healthy, in-his-prime Anthony playing at an incredibly high level. What happens as he ages and his skills deteriorate, while at the same time his salary escalates? Remember, if the Knicks max him out, ‘Melo will pocket a cool $29.1 million in 2018-19, when he’ll turn 34 years old.

Thus, there are multiple reasons to believe the Knicks should, at the very least, explore all options when it comes to trading away their best player.

Despite being fully aware that, in all likelihood, owner James Dolan won’t even consider trading away Anthony, last week I looked at a potential deal between the Knicks and Bulls that could possibly benefit both organizations.

Today, let’s get creative and examine a few other potential landing spots for Anthony that make sense for both the Knicks and their trading partner.

New York and Phoenix

Knicks send: Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton and $2 million in cash

Suns send: Emeka Okafor, Goran Dragic, 2014 first-round draft pick, and a 2015 first-round pick

Why it makes sense for the Knicks: Dragic, who is playing incredibly well this season, would finally solve the Knicks gaping hole at point guard. Okafor’s value lies in the fact that his insured deal expires at the end of this season. The draft picks would obviously help re-stock the cupboard with top-tier rookies. Including Felton in the deal would wipe his salary off the books and increase the Knicks spending budget in the summer of 2015.

Why it makes sense for the Suns: Amazingly, Phoenix will have a total of six first-round picks in 2014 and 2015, including up to four selections in the first round of the loaded 2014 draft. Thus, they could be looking to package a couple of those picks for a player that will provide immediate benefit.

Furthermore, sitting 10 games above .500 with a 30-20 record, the Suns have been one of the NBA’s pleasant surprises this season. And it appears they unearthed a gem in Eric Bledsoe. As a result, there have been rumors they are willing to move Dragic in the right deal, as they are going to have to shell out major money in order to re-sign Bledsoe this summer.

If they traded for Anthony, they would secure his Bird Rights and could then pay him far more than any other team. In addition, they could surround him with a rising star in Bledsoe and a bevy of young, promising bigs: Markieff and Marcus Morris, Miles Plumlee and Alex Len. They will also have all those picks in a deep draft that could certainly supplement the depth on any roster. If the Suns are serious about making a major push towards legitimacy, they could do just that in one fell swoop.

New York and Memphis

Knicks send: Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith

Grizzlies send: Zach Randolph, Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis, Kosta Koufos and a future first-round pick

Why it makes sense for the Knicks: If the Knicks do actually seriously consider trading Anthony, one option to explore would be fully committing to a full, complete rebuild/overhaul. This is the type of trade that would allow the Knicks to hit the reset button, tear the whole thing down to the studs and start fresh on July 1, 2015. If New York was able to move ‘Melo, Smith and Felton, the Knicks would be looking at over $50 million in cap space in 2015. If the Knicks have the most cap space in the league heading into the summer of 2015 (All four Grizzlies coming over have two or less years left on their contracts), it could make for a very interesting offseason in NYC – especially considering the free agent class that year could include names such as Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo, Paul Millsap, Marc Gasol, Al Jefferson, Tony Parker, Roy Hibbert, DeAndre Jordan, etc.

If ‘Melo re-signs with the Knicks for the max this summer, he’ll be on the books for $24.1 million in 2015-16. Could that money and cap space be better spent on a pair of younger studs? Granted, relying on free agency is always a gamble, but so is guaranteeing a 30-year-old scorer $129 million through 2019.

It could certainly be argued that in the unlikely event that the Knicks do decide to move ‘Melo, this is the way to go. Blow the whole thing up and start from scratch. This type of deal gives Steve Mills and Jim Dolan maximum flexibility in 2015 (as opposed to be saddled with a maximum contract). Once ‘Melo is moved in this scenario, you try to trade Chandler and get back additional assets. In this particular situation, they would also look to quickly flip Randolph as well.

Why it works for Memphis: The Grizzlies were legit contenders for the crown last season, advancing all the way to the Western Conference Finals. They have struggled over the first half of this season, due largely to injuries, but are still in middle of the pack out West.

Adding a superstar such as Carmelo Anthony would obviously revive hopes and increase expectations in Memphis. Anthony, flanked by a healthy Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Tony Allen would be a formidable and dangerous squad.

New York and Dallas

Knicks send: Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and Cole Aldrich

Dallas sends: Shawn Marion, Shane Larkin, Brandan Wright, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington, Ricky Ledo and two future first-round picks

Why it makes sense for the Knicks: Larkin, the 18th overall pick in the 2013 draft, is a young point guard with some promise, and is locked into a very cap-friendly rookie contract. Wright is a former lottery pick that has exhibited flashes of potential. Dalembert and Ellington’s deals expire in 2015. Ledo is raw but talented.

Why it makes sense for Dallas: We know Mark Cuban has money and that he isn’t afraid to spend it. Would be willing to give ‘Melo the max contract he’ll be looking for?

Having three potent scorers in Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Anthony on the floor together (with Jose Calderon facilitating the offense) would be fascinating to watch. Defense would obviously be an issue, but this team would be an awfully scary postseason opponent.

New York and Washington

Knicks send: Carmelo Anthony, Beno Udrih, Kenyon Martin and Cole Aldrich

Wizards send: Marcin Gortat, Otto Porter Jr., Trevor Ariza, Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton, 2014 second-round pick and 2016 first-round pick

Why it makes sense for the Knicks: Otto Porter, the No. 3 overall pick last June, has not lived up to expectations during his rookie season, but showed during his collegiate career at Georgetown that he possesses a unique and enticing skill set. Vesely and Singleton have also disappointed during their career in the nation’s capital, but could their career’s be revived in NYC? Ariza has played well this season and has just one year left on his deal. The Wizards owe their 2014 first-rounder to the Suns (top-12 protected), so the earliest first rounder they could trade would be their 2016 pick.

Gortat is set to become a free agent after this season. If the Knicks didn’t view his as their “center of the future,” they could try to flip him in a convoluted three-way deal, in an attempt to acquire younger players or picks. However, from a New York perspective, this deal would primarily come down to how they felt about Porter.

Why it makes sense for the Wizards: Washington has finally climbed out of the Eastern Conference basement after spending seemingly an eternity below .500. They have their franchise point guard (John Wall) and shooting guard (Bradley Beal) in place. Bringing in a veteran superstar like Carmelo Anthony, could be the piece that transforms them into a real threat overnight.

New York and Boston –

Knicks send: Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin

Celtics send: Kris Humphries, Brandon Bass, Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger and a 2014 first-round pick

Why it makes sense for the Knicks: Sullinger has been a beast in Boston of late, averaging 19.8 points and 12.8 rebounds per contest over the last three weeks. Olynyk has been inconsistent during his rookie campaign, but possesses the size and athleticism that scouts and coaches love. Both players are locked into extremely affordable rookie-scale contracts. Humphries has one year left on his deal, and Bass has two, so both will be off the books by 2015.

Why it makes sense for the Celtics: GM Danny Ainge has, on multiple occasions, adamantly attempted to squelch rumors that the Celtics intend to trade Rajon Rondo. A move like this would certainly send the message loud and clear that C’s have no interest in tanking or a long-term rebuilding project. We’d have to assume this would make Rondo happy, increasing the chances he agrees to a long-term deal with the Celtics.

Boston could have as many as five first-round picks over the next two seasons, so trading one away would not be crippling. It would be a major roll of the dice by Ainge and the Celtics; one that would cause a seismic shift in the Atlantic Division.

 

Tommy Beer is a Senior NBA Analyst and the Fantasy Sports Editor of Basketball Insiders, having covered the NBA for the last nine seasons.

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Second Half NBA Story lines

With the All-Star break in the rearview, here are the key storylines to keep an eye on for the home stretch of the season.

Dennis Chambers

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The long winter has ended.

Ok, not really. But the break after All-Star weekend has finally come to a halt, and the second half of the NBA season is ready to get underway.

Each team has around 25 games remaining on the schedule. February is in its last week, and March and April will truly define how the May schedule aligns. The first leg of this season provided more than enough entertainment, combating the narrative that the regular season is a bit of a bore nowadays.

Because of some unexpected turns through the 50-plus games already played, this final stretch that will bring the regular season to a close should be more than entertaining for the fans that think the NBA season is just a six-month placeholder for the inevitable.

So, as we get ready to bounce back into action Thursday night, let’s focus on what needs to be monitored down the homestretch.

Houston Rockets can make the Finals

When the Golden State Warriors signed Kevin Durant, a narrative swept across the league that everyone not in the Bay area should just wave the white flag. Game over.

After dropping just one game through the entire postseason last year, completely decimating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals, the assumptions were proved correct.

But things may be different this year.

The Houston Rockets are trying to end the Warriors’ Durant-Era dynasty before it starts. After trading for Chris Paul in the offseason, the Rockets are in a legitimate position to pose a threat to Golden State.

At the moment, the Rockets have the best offense in the NBA. But, not just for this season, for every season. Their efficiency is revolutionary and unprecedented. Their defense is improved, too. Ranking 18th in defensive rating last season, Houston is eighth this season, and proving to be competent enough on that end to get a few stops of their own against the Warriors. In fact, Houston has won two of the three meetings between the two Western Conference powerhouses so far this season.

For all of the damage Houston put on the league pre-All-Star break, and even leaping Golden State in the standings, the oddsmakers are taking notice.

Take a look at how drastically the Rockets’ odds at contending for a title have changed from the summer to present day. According to this odds tracker on Sports Betting Dime, Houston has almost entered the same realm as Golden State in the bettors’ mind.

Postseason basketball is a different beast, and Durant and Steph Curry are as formidable a tandem as any (not to mention their supporting cast), but the growing pile of statistics that says Houston has more than a puncher’s chance is becoming hard to ignore.

These last 25 or so games will be telling as to if the Rockets are truly a team that can go shot-for-shot with the mighty Warriors.

LeBron’s new teammates

The trade deadline in Cleveland was basically a mass upheaval of the roster the Cavaliers had struggled with for the first four months of the season.

Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Jae Crowder, Iman Shumpert, Derrick Rose and Channing Frye were all shipped from The Land in hopes to bring LeBron James new players that could help him back to his eighth straight Finals appearance.

So far, so good.

The return that brought George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., into wine and gold gave the Cavaliers a much-needed boost heading into the All-Star break. Since the trade, Cleveland has won three straight games, the last two including a blowout victory against the Boston Celtics, and a road win in Oklahoma City.

But, before the roster turnovers, the Cavaliers were one of the league’s worst defensive units. Their lack of consistent effort on a nightly basis was beginning to spread doubt in the basketball minds across the league that the team would be equipped enough to beat the Celtics or Toronto Raptors in the postseason.

Coming out of the break, the Cavaliers will take on another playoff contender in the Washington Wizards. Another strong showing from the new-look Cavs could further the belief that the team is now in a better position to make their way to a fourth straight Finals.

As the regular season comes to its final stages, close eyes will be kept on Hood, Hill, Nance and Clarkson. They’re the key to any real postseason success Cleveland hopes to have. We know LeBron will be there at the end, at this point, and it’s worth watching to see if it teammates can join him.

Tight Playoff Races

For all the talk that surrounds the lack of disparity and entertainment around the league, the playoff races in both conferences appear to be coming down to the wire.

In the West, the 10th-seed Utah Jazz is just two and a half games behind the 5th-seed Oklahoma City Thunder. In between the two clubs, Denver, Portland, New Orleans and the L.A. Clippers are all clawing for spots in the postseason.

Over their last 10 games, every team besides the Thunder is at least .500. The Jazz have won 11 straight games, the Clippers are 7-3 and surging, Denver is hoping to return Paul Millsap to their lineup soon, the Trail Blazers have the luxury of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum and while the Pelicans have lost DeMarcus Cousins, their three straight wins suggest they’re learning to live without Boogie.

That’s six teams fighting fiercely for four playoff spots. Each is deserving and well-equipped enough to make it to the postseason happen.

The West isn’t the only conference with a wild bunch at the bottom of the playoff standings. The Eastern Conference contenders also find themselves in the midst of a playoff battle post-All-Star break.

Just outside of the playoff picture at the moment, the Detroit Pistons, with new star Blake Griffin, are just four and a half games behind the 5th-seeded Indiana Pacers. Philadelphia, Miami and Milwaukee are all also vying for their spot in the playoffs.

At the moment, the Miami HEAT seems to be on the verge of being the odd man out, losing two straight before the break and seven of their last 10 games. As the Pistons begin to find new life with Griffin, they could bump Miami right out of the picture if their slide continues as games pick back up.

With a limited number of games remaining, each of these teams in both conferences cannot afford to fall into a rut. Coming down to the final weeks of the season, watching the playoff carousel develop will be entertaining and worthwhile.

In the blink of an eye, the 2017-18 regular season is almost over. Be sure to keep an eye on these unfolding storylines as the league charges towards playoff basketball.

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NBA Daily: Larry Nance Jr. Is Ready To Move On

At All-Star Weekend, Larry Nance Jr. talked about moving on from being traded, Dr. J and the love that Los Angeles still has for him.

Ben Nadeau

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At the end of the day, the NBA is a business and Larry Nance Jr. found that out the hard way when the Los Angeles Lakers traded him and Jordan Clarkson for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2018 first-rounder just a few weeks ago.

Naturally, Nance was due back at the Staples Center nine days later to compete in the league’s annual slam dunk contest. Although he would finish second to the Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell, Nance was frequently reminded just how many fans he still has out on the West Coast.

“It’s either one of two responses,” Nance said over the weekend. “Either people don’t understand how a trade works and they ask me why I left, or, you know: ‘Larry, we miss you, come back in free agency’ and stuff like that. So, either way, they’re kinda on my side — I mean, I’m still a little bit of purple and gold.”

Over his first three seasons, Nance had become a familiar contributor for the Lakers, using his rim-rocking athleticism to carve out a steady role under two different head coaches. Before he was moved to the Cavaliers, Nance was on pace to set career-highs in points (8.6), rebounds (6.8) and steals (1.4). This statistical rise also comes in the midst of his field goal percentage jumping all the way up to 59.3 percent — a mark that would rank him fifth-highest in the NBA if he qualified.* Given the noteworthy change of scenery, his current average of 3.6 field goals per game could grow as well.

But as the Lakers prepare for a potentially crucial offseason, the front office remained committed to shedding salary ahead of free agency, where they may or may not chase the likes of LeBron James, Paul George or DeMarcus Cousins. In just three short years, Nance had quickly become a fan favorite as a jaw-dropping in-game dunker and an improving prospect on a cheap rookie contract, so his involvement at the deadline may have come as a surprise to many as it was for him.

“It’s been a week, so, no, it’s still kinda like: ‘Jeez, I gotta pick up and move right now,’” Nance said. “So, no, I’m not fully adjusted, I’m not, for a lack of a better term, over it. But it’s still fresh in my mind, it’s something that is still kind of shocking.”

Nance, for his worries, is now a key member of the James-led Cavaliers, a franchise that has won 11 more games than the Lakers and sits in third place in the Eastern Conference. While the Cavaliers will likely have to go through the Boston Celtics or Toronto Raptors to reach their fourth consecutive NBA Finals, James himself has reached the championship series every year since the 2009-10 postseason. With the Cavaliers’ maniacal mid-season reboot — which also brought in Rodney Hood, George Hill and the aforementioned Clarkson — they could be poised for an encore performance.

Since he was acquired by Cleveland, Nance and the Cavaliers are 3-0 and, just like that, much of the lingering narrative has been reversed. As the Cavaliers look to further stabilize their season, Nance figures to play a large part down the stretch, particularly so as All-Star Kevin Love continues to rehab from a broken hand.

Still, Nance knows that the Cavaliers will certainly face some speed bumps along the way.

“It’s a learning process, obviously we started out super fast, but there will be a learning process,” Nance stated. “Just like there is with every team and every new group, so we’ll figure it out and we’ll get past it [for the] playoffs.”

But before he makes his first-ever postseason appearance, Nance returned to Los Angeles in an attempt to capture a slam dunk title, something his father — Larry Nance Sr. — did in the inaugural competition way back in 1984. In that contest, the older Nance famously upset Julius Erving and Dominique Wilkins to take home the crown in a nine-person field. On Saturday, Nance paid homage by changing into a retro Phoenix Suns uniform to execute his father’s signature dunk — the rock-the-cradle throwdown that won it all 34 years ago.

“For me, [his highlights were] like normal kid Sesame Street or Barney or something. I was watching his clips when I was growing up, so, yeah, I see it all the time,” Nance recalled.

But when asked what he remembers the most about those distant memories, the second generation son decidedly kept it in the family.

“The fact that he beat Dr. J,” Nance said. “Dr. J is normally thought of as almost like the dunk inventor, kinda brought the dunk contest back — but, really, [I remember] my dad.”

Although Nance couldn’t replicate his father’s success in the contest, his emphatic, springy dunks indicated that the 6-foot-9 skywalker could be an event staple for years to come. In one of the best dunks all night, Nance pulled off the rare double tap — a jam so technically difficult, that he immediately told the judges to look at the jumbotron to make sure they understood what exactly he had just pulled off.

Nance, for his original acrobatics, earned a perfect score of 50.

Earlier that day, Nance discussed the difficulty in standing out amongst a field of explosive guards.

“I think the guys that are taller and longer have a different skill-set than smaller guys,” Nance said. “Obviously, if the smaller guys do something, it looks super impressive because they got to jump a little bit higher, or it looks like they got to jump higher.

“There are ways for bigger guys to look good and I think I’ve got that hammered out.”

For now, Nance doesn’t know if he’ll return to the dunk contest next season after his narrow two-point loss to Mitchell. Instead, Nance wants to focus on helping the Cavaliers in their hunt for the conference’s top seed and, of course, with James, anything is possible. But it’s fair to say that Nance, who nearly pulled down a double-double (13 points, nine rebounds) in his second game with Cleveland, has gone from a rebuild to a legitimate contender in a flash.

“At the same time, I can’t wait for all this to be done with so I can just get back to learning how to gel and mesh with my new team,” Nance said.

From the West Coast to the Midwest, Nance is clearly ready to make some waves once again.

* * * * * *

*To qualify, a player must be on pace for 300 made field goals. As of today, Nance is on pace for 252.6.

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Updating the Buyout Market: Who Could Still Become Available?

Shanes Rhodes examines the buyout market to see which players could soon be joining playoff contenders.

Shane Rhodes

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While it may not be as exciting as the NBA Trade Deadline, another important date is approaching for NBA teams: the Playoff Eligibility Waiver Deadline.

March 1 is the final day players can be bought out or waived and still be eligible to play in the postseason should they sign with another team. As teams continue to fine-tune their rosters, plenty of eyes will be on the waiver wire and buyout market looking for players that can make an impact.

So who could still become available?

Joakim Noah, New York Knicks

This seems almost too obvious.

The relationship between Joakim Noah and the New York Knicks hasn’t been a pleasant one. Noah, who signed a four-year, $72 million contract in 2016, has done next to nothing this season after an underwhelming debut season in New York and has averaged just 5.7 minutes per game.

After an altercation between himself and Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek at practice, Noah isn’t expected to return to the team. At this point, the best thing for both sides seems likely a clean break; there is no reason to keep that cloud over the Knicks locker room for the remainder of the season.

Noah may not help a playoff contender, but he should certainly be available come the end of the season.

Arron Afflalo, Orlando Magic

Arron Afflalo isn’t the player he once was. But he can still help any contender in need of some shooting.

Afflalo is averaging a career-low 12.9 minutes per game with the Orlando Magic this season. He is playing for just over $2 million so a buyout wouldn’t be hard to come by if he went asking and he can still shoot the basketball. A career 38.6 percent shooter from long distance, Afflalo can certainly get it done beyond the arc for a team looking to add some shooting or some depth on the wing. He doesn’t add the perimeter defense he could earlier in his career, but he could contribute in certain situations.

Vince Carter, Sacramento Kings

Vince Carter was signed by the Sacramento Kings last offseason to play limited minutes off the bench while providing a mentor for the Sacramento Kings up-and-coming players. And Carter may very well enjoy that role.

But, to a degree, the old man can still ball — certainly enough to help a contender.

Carter is 41-years-old, there is no getting around his age, but he can still provide some solid minutes off the bench. Playing 17.1 minutes per night across 38 games this season, Carter has averaged five points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists while shooting 35.3 percent from three-point range. Combining all of that with his playoff experience and the quality of leadership he brings to the table, Carter may be an ideal addition for a contender looking to make a deep playoff run.

Zach Randolph, Sacramento Kings

Like Carter, Zach Randolph was brought in by the Kings to contribute solid minutes off the bench while also filling in as a mentor to the young roster. Unlike Carter, however, Randolph has played much of the season in a starting role — something that is likely to change as the season winds down.

Randolph has averaged 14.6 points, seven rebounds and 2.1 assists in 25.6 minutes per game; quality numbers that any team would be happy to take on. But, in the midst of a rebuild, the Kings should not be taking minutes away from Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere and (eventually) Harry Giles in order to keep Randolph on the floor.

As he proved last season, Randolph can excel in a sixth-man role and would likely occupy a top bench spot with a team looking to add rebounding, scoring or just a big to their rotation down the stretch.

Wesley Matthews, Dallas Mavericks

Wesley Matthews remains one of the most underrated players in the NBA. He provides positional versatility on the floor and is a solid player on both sides of the ball.

So, with Mark Cuban all but saying the Mavericks will not be trying to win for the remainder of the season, Matthews is likely poised for a minutes dip and seems like an obvious buyout candidate. Matthews, who has a player option for next season, has averaged 12.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.2 steals this season across 34.1 minutes per game this season.

If Cuban is true to his word, both parties would be better served parting ways; the Mavericks can attempt to lose as many games as possible while Matthews can latch on to a team looking to win a title. It’s a win-win.

Isaiah Thomas, Los Angeles Lakers

Isaiah Thomas’ three-game stint with the Los Angeles Lakers before the All-Star break looked much like his short tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers: up-and-down. Thomas shined in his Laker debut, putting up 25 points and six assists in just over 30 minutes.

He then followed that up with three points and two assists, and seven points along with five assists in his second and third games with the team, respectively.

Thomas needs time to get himself right before he can start playing his best basketball. Re-establishing his value is likely his top priority.

But will he be willing to come off the bench for a team that won’t be making the postseason?

With Lonzo Ball close to returning, Thomas will likely move to the Laker bench. Adamant in recent years that he is a starting guard in the NBA, Thomas may be more inclined to take on that role for a team poised to make a deep playoff run — there is no shortage of teams that would be willing to add Thomas’ potential scoring prowess while simultaneously setting himself up for a contract and, potentially, a starting role somewhere next season.

Other Names to Look Out For: Channing Frye, Shabazz Muhammed, Kosta Koufos

There are still plenty of players that can make an impact for playoff-bound teams should they reach a buyout with their current squads. And, as the Postseason Eligibility Waiver Deadline approaches, plenty of teams out of the running will move quickly in order to provide their guys an opportunity to find their way to a contender.

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