NBA AM: Is It Time To Make A Trade?

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Time To Gauge The Market:  With the NBA’s unofficial trade season less than a week away, a number of names are starting to surface as possible early trade targets. While NBA teams talk constantly, there is a ramp up in conversations at the quarter mark of the season as teams get a sense of who they are, what they need and what they may be willing to part with to improve their situation either now or in the future.

Here are some of the names garnering attention and what’s worth knowing about each:

Ryan Anderson, New Orleans

The New Orleans Pelicans don’t want to trade Ryan Anderson, but there is a looming reality that’s headed toward the Pelicans – Anderson will be an unrestricted free agent in July and he is going to command a lot more than the $8.5 million he’s currently earning in New Orleans.

The Pelicans will likely have to explore Anderson’s trade value, although that’s not their first choice. However, if moving Anderson can return a long-term answer at small forward then there seems to be an inevitability to a deal getting done.

The Pelicans have been linked to Phoenix’s Markieff Morris, Houston’s Terrence Jones and Indiana’s Solomon Jones, so there are conversations taking place. But how serious the Pelicans are in moving a key part like Anderson still remains unclear.

The Pelicans also have Eric Gordon and his $15.51 million ending contract to shop, so they have plenty of cap money they could move to make a significant deal.

There seems to be real interest in change in New Orleans; the question is will they cash out arguably the best trade chip in Anderson or does they wait until much closer to the February 18 NBA trade deadline?

Brandon Jennings, Detroit

The Detroit Pistons look like they’ll be getting guard Brandon Jennings back from injury in the coming weeks. From there, the question becomes how long will he remain a Piston?

Jennings is coming off an Achilles tear, which can be the death blow for a guard, so getting him back and proving he can still play at a high level will be key to Jennings’ future. If the injury has robbed him of his explosiveness, he’ll likely finish out his contract in Detroit and they’ll use his cap space next summer in free agency.

If Jennings can show he still has bounce and can attack, the Pistons may find themselves with some duplication they don’t have a lot of minutes for with Reggie Jackson clearly their starting point guard.

There is a sense that Jennings will be moved at some point, especially if he can return some frontcourt depth for Detroit; however there is also a sense that Detroit isn’t in any hurry to make a change either.

Jennings looks to be one of the names to watch closer to the trade deadline, but given that he is an ending contract and that he’ll likely see a limited role when he returns, the odds that Jennings’ camp tries to push for a trade are pretty high. After all, for him to get a significant deal next summer he’s going to need to log minutes and prove he can be a full-time starter again.

Lance Stephenson, L.A. Clippers

L.A. Clippers president and head coach Doc Rivers laughed off reports that his club was exploring deals involving Lance Stephenson and others, but there is some truth to the idea that the Clippers would like to add to the roster and have had talks with a number of teams.

To characterize the Clippers as ready to deal might be a little aggressive, but they are clearly one of the teams making and taking calls – they just do not seem close to anything at this point.

As for Stephenson specifically, there is virtually no trade market for Lance. As one league source pointed out, if the Clippers want to move Lance, it would have to be in a deal that included another player (possibly someone like Jamal Crawford).

There is a sense that the Clippers would be open to taking on a big contract, so packaging the contract of Stephenson ($9 million this year and team option for next) and the ending deal of Crawford ($5.67 million) could return a sizable deal.

Clippers sources described their stance as exploratory and not much more, but that could always change if the right player is made available to them.

The Clippers are in the market, but to classify them as eager to deal might not be the right phrase.

Markieff Morris, Phoenix

This summer, it seemed all but inevitable that the Phoenix Suns would have to trade Markieff Morris after his very public spat with the front office. The Suns made it clear they were not dealing Morris before training camp; they believed once he got around the team that the hard feelings over trading away his brother, Marcus, would go away and Morris would be a big part of the Suns team this season. For a time, that’s exactly how it seemed.

The Suns’ coaching staff has opted to explore a few lineup changes and that’s left Morris on the outside of the starting lineup (and even as a healthy scratch at one point) and his name firmly in the rumor mill.

League sources point out that a number of teams have interest in Morris, with the New Orleans Pelicans and Houston Rockets being the two teams mentioned the most. However, the same source said the pending legal issues surrounding him make him tough to trade.

There is a sense that Morris is going to be moved; the question is where? The Rockets seem motivated to make a deal on a number of fronts and they do have the smaller contract pieces that could get a deal done.

Joakim Noah, Chicago

Has the time come for the Chicago Bulls to explore moving Joakim Noah? A number of league sources point to Noah’s looming free agency as well as his declining role and production as key reasons the Bulls may not only gauge Noah’s value, but might make him the player the team looks to cash in to bolster a postseason run.

Talking about Noah as a trade candidate is a touchy thing, because Noah is arguably the locker room leader and one of the more emotionally invested players on the roster. Moving Noah is not viewed by the Bulls as ideal, but there are realities that Noah may no longer be in the Bulls’ long-term future and Noah does have trade value around the league.

As the Bulls continue to be inconsistent on a night to night basis, the clock on an eventual trade seems to be ticking louder and louder.

Noah’s value as a leader and his ability to unify the locker room is not lost on the Bulls, but his $13.4 million ending contract could return real value to a Bulls team that may be seeing their window for a Finals run starting to close, especially with big man Pau Gasol hinting that he may opt-out of his deal this summer.

If there is a deal that surfaces that could push the Bulls over the top in the East, it does seem Noah could be the chip the Bulls would be open to cashing.

The 2016 NBA trade deadline is February 18, which is roughly 70 days from today.

The trade restrictions on most of the players signed to free agent deals this past summer come off on December 15. Teams are not prohibited from making deals now, but a lot more players become trade eligible in five days, making it easier for teams to consummate multi-player deals when more of the player pool is trade eligible.

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