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NBA PM: Who May Be Traded Early?

The season hasn’t started, but there are a few trade situations to keep an eye on around the league.

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It’s never too early to explore the NBA trade market. Although most trades each season take place after December 15, when players signed the previous offseason are eligible to be dealt, there are always a few situations to keep an eye on early and the 2015-16 campaign is no different.

Here are some situations worthy of a look:

Kevin Martin, Minnesota Timberwolves

Earlier this week, Minnesota Timberwolves interim head coach Sam Mitchell made the surprising decision to name Zach LaVine the team’s starting shooting guard before their first preseason game. Surprising in the fact that LaVine beat out veteran Kevin Martin, a career 18-point-per-game scorer for the role before the opening tip to their season.

The decision to relegate Martin to a reserve role likely had less to do with LaVine being the better player at the moment and more to do with the Timberwolves’ full investment in the development of their young core.

Martin, 32, averaged 20 points per game last season in 39 contests, but in Minnesota he is an elder statesman on a team clearly preparing for the future.

If LaVine steps into the role and performs well, Martin becomes one of the Timberwolves’ most attractive trade assets and incredibly expendable. Martin is owed $7.1 million this season and holds a player option worth $7.4 million for the 2016-17 campaign. Martin’s deal is flexible enough to attract a solid number of suitors if he becomes available.

Brandon Jennings, Detroit Pistons

Jennings has started 409 out of the 412 regular season games he’s appeared in since entering the league. Although streaky at times, the veteran is a legitimate starting point guard in the league.

However, Jennings is coming off of an Achilles injury and the Pistons invested $80 million in point guard Reggie Jackson in free agency over the summer. For the moment, the Pistons are publicly talking like the Jackson and Jennings duo can co-exist, which may be true to a degree.

But follow the money, as it usually speaks the loudest.

The Pistons put the big money behind Jackson. Also, factor in that Jennings is headed to unrestricted free agency next summer and could command a big pay day of his own.  Lastly, consider that teams rarely allow talent to walk in free agency without getting something back in return. All of this means it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Jennings’ name being floated in trade rumors at some point during the campaign (especially as good teams lose point guards to injury).

Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns

Prior to the start of training camp, Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris went on a public tirade against the organization and hinted at his desire to play elsewhere. Most believe a lot of the tension was caused by the Suns’ decision to trade Morris’ twin brother Marcus to the Detroit Pistons over the summer.

But surprisingly, when training camp opened its doors, Morris was singing a different tune and stating his happiness to be back in Phoenix with his teammates. Whether this was just lip service to help his trade value or the truth remains to be seen.

But according to Basketball Insiders’ Steve Kyler, the potential of a trade is still in play:

Sources close to the situation said that the plan for now is to try and make this relationship work and let some issues play out. While Morris is expected to play a big role for the team this season, there is a belief that if Morris can resolve his legal issues, play well and stay out of the press, his trade value could come up and a deal that’s more to the Suns liking could materialize.

Sources said that the Suns and Morris had a lengthy conversation, and both expressed a desire to try and make this situation work. Time will tell if the commitments made before the season will truly play out for the entire year, but the sense from those involved is that Morris is on board. How long he stays that way remains to be seen.

Morris, who is owed $32 million through 2019, posted averages of 15.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists on 47 percent shooting last season. The forward has been extremely durable, having missed only four games since entering the league during the 2011-12 campaign.

There is a large role for Morris in Phoenix and plenty of minutes available in the nightly rotation. In an ideal situation, Phoenix would like a fully invested Morris given his talent level and cap friendly deal. However, blood in the water usually attracts the sharks and if Morris becomes available, more than a few teams will express interest.

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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