Draft Day Trade Targets
With the 2017 NBA Draft less than a month away, not only are NBA teams zeroing in on draftable players, they are also starting to sniff around on who might be available in trade. While teams cannot trade pending free agents or players with options that have not been exercised, there are several “under contract” names that continue to surface, some of which may be on the move on draft night.
Ricky Rubio, Minnesota
The worst-kept secret in the NBA is that the Timberwolves are ready to move on from guard Ricky Rubio, and it seems that Rubio may feel the same way. The Wolves entertained a few things last summer involving Rubio and revisited his trade value at the trade deadline back in February. The problem with moving Rubio around the draft is that he counts $13.5 million against the cap in trade at the draft. That number increases to $14.25 million in July, but some teams would have cap space to offset that number. Rubio has one more season after next on his deal, making the remaining debt to Rubio two years and roughly $29 million.
Comparatively, that’s going to be less than market value for a starting caliber point guard, but with Rubio’s injury history (he’s missed 123 games in his six-year career) there is a risk. There has been talk that the New York Knicks might move on a Rubio trade if they miss out on one of the elite point guard prospects in the draft.
Sources near the Knicks situation said it’s also possible the team looks to Rubio as the immediate answer at point guard and swings for the fences in the draft targeting a huge upside player like Jonathan Isaac, especially as the Knicks try to move on from Carmelo Anthony this summer.
Rubio recently changed agents, and there has been more talk in NBA circles of moving Ricky to a higher profile situation where he can establish a value for his next deal.
It’s more likely than not that Rubio is moved this offseason. The question is can the Wolves get something done around the draft?
Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia
As much as fans in Philadelphia want the former third overall pick Jahlil Okafor moved, there is talk that the 76ers are not as eager to dump him. But there is a sense the 76ers would move Okafor in trade. The question is what does he return?
The 76ers, under current leadership, have been mindful of the return they get in trades. They are not trading just to trade, and that’s not just for the public perception, but being mindful of retaining value for assets, even underwhelming assets.
That said, the 76ers have made abundantly clear they would be open to moving all of their second round picks this year, making them a team that will have a lot of conversations, especially as the draft gets closer and something of a pecking order develops.
There is a sense that Okafor could be had in the draft, as picks and assets often change hands on draft night. Okafor could be on the move, although it seems less certain than some of the other names in play. That’s simply because the 76ers won’t give Okafor away and extracting value for him may be tough given how up and down his NBA career has been.
Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix
It would not be draft season if Suns guard Eric Bledsoe’s name was not being kicked around in trade circles.
The prevailing thought around the NBA is that the Suns are going to draft another high profile young guy and Bledsoe likely gets marginalized out of the forward-looking plan.
Suns sources continue to deny that there is a lot of interest in moving Bledsoe, but eventually, the team has to embrace their youth, which is why so many opposing teams believe Bledsoe can be had.
Bledsoe has two more years and roughly $29.5 million left on his deal, and like Rubio, would be tough to trade at the draft without taking back a sizable bundle of salaries.
It’s not out of the question that Bledsoe gets moved, especially if can be part of a deal to move fellow guard Brandon Knight. Such a deal becomes more practical in July than around the draft, however, as the draft gets closer, Bledsoe seems to be a name worth watching.
Elfrid Payton, Orlando
With new leadership in place in Orlando, roster evaluating is expected to begin in full force.
The Magic face a couple of tough decisions, not only with whom to select with the sixth overall pick, but what parts of the current roster make sense for the future.
For guard Elfrid Payton, this will be a stressful summer, not just because the Magic can offer to extend his contract, but because his NBA career has been so up and down. It’s more likely than not the Magic explore trading him rather than paying him this summer.
Payton has had some impressive games, but the fact the current Magic head coach Frank Vogel wavered on how to use Payton last season, it is more likely that the Magic select a point guard with the sixth pick and move on from him at some point in the future.
The question is, will that be around the draft and if so, what’s the return?
As things stand today, the Magic hold four of the top 35 picks in the 2017 draft, giving them plenty of options to either package a player and pick to move up or to simply draft a roster full of youthful talent.
There isn’t much of a sense what the Magic’s new leadership will do, but what’s become clear from those on the outside looking in is that no one in Orlando is untouchable (nor should they be). New leadership plans to put an immediate imprint on the team and that could mean fairly abrupt changes.
Will Barton, Denver
The Denver Nuggets have an embarrassment of riches at virtually every position. The problem is some of those players are heading into free agency, and while the Nuggets can pay many of them, there is not yet a sense of who the Nuggets want to pay to keep and who they will ultimately let walk (or trade).
Nuggets forward Will Barton shut down the idea of a contract extension, opting to play out his final $3.5 million contract year. Barton isn’t so much asking to exit the Nuggets as betting on himself and the chance to be an unrestricted free agent and cash in on his blossoming NBA career. The Nuggets, however, have to decide if they want to risk losing Barton next July for nothing or whether to try and cash him out in trade.
The Nuggets have the 13th overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft and could be staring at several compelling players in that range, including Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell, North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, and Terrance Ferguson, who played professionally in Australia last season.
The Nuggets have all kinds of options, but there is a sense in NBA circles that the right offer for Barton would get real consideration, especially considering the Nuggets have so much depth to manage as things stand, swapping out Barton, drafting a new young guy and getting value in the moves might be smarter in the long run.
The Nuggets like Barton a lot, so this won’t be a case of selling low. If the Nuggets entertain trading Barton at the draft, they’ll want real value in return.
Keep in mind it is possible for teams to agree to a framework of a trade on draft night, but wait until the new NBA season opens on July 1 to finalize the deal under the new salary cap. It’s tough at the draft to move contract money, however, once the NBA calendar flips to 2017-18, teams will gain cap space and the ability to take on another team’s contract money.
While the names above are by no means a complete list of players being talked about in NBA circles, these are the ones that have come up most frequently, as opposing teams try to understand if any of these players will be made available around the 2017 NBA Draft.
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