NBA Trade Watch: Central Division

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After taking a look at the players most likely to be traded in the Southeast Division, we take a look at the Central Division.

Trade rumors fly each and every year. Things really tend to heat up around the trade deadline when contenders try to find that missing piece and rebuilding teams look to add young talent and/or draft picks. Inevitably many names will be mentioned as trade candidates as the deadline approaches, with many of those rumors never coming to fruition. While many trade rumors may turn out to be just that – rumors – there are always a few deals that get done during the season. Here is a list of six players in the Central Division who may end up playing elsewhere by season’s end.

O.J. Mayo, Milwaukee Bucks: Mayo signed a three year, $24 million dollar deal with the Bucks in the summer of 2013. The Bucks went into last season with aspirations of a playoff berth and expected Mayo to be the team’s starting shooting guard. The Bucks’ playoff hopes quickly deteriorated and the team ended the season with the worst record in the NBA. As bad as the Bucks were, Mayo wasn’t much better. He came into the season in less than ideal shape and was never able to find his stride. He went from a starter at the beginning of the season to playing spotty minutes by the end.

There have been massive changes throughout the Bucks organization since Mayo joined the team. As a result, the direction of the franchise has changed. Mayo doesn’t appear to be the long-term answer at shooting guard for the rebuilding Bucks. The problem will be finding a team willing to take his hefty contract. Mayo can be very effective shooting the three ball, but struggles to do so on a consistent basis. If he can prove early on this season that he can knock down perimeter shots with regularity, he may catch the eye of a contender looking to add shooting.

Zaza Pachulia, Milwaukee Bucks: Pachulia, like Mayo, signed with the Bucks during the summer of 2013. Again, it was the Bucks’ belief that they could be a playoff team in the East that led to the signing of Pachulia. He was brought in to be a physical presence and provide depth down low. Unlike Mayo, Pachulia performed exactly as expected.

Although Pachulia was as steady as they come last season, he doesn’t fit into the Bucks’ long-term plans. The team has two young big men in Larry Sanders and John Henson, who are expected handle the majority of minutes available at the center position. Pachulia is signed to a reasonable contract with the Bucks, which is due to pay him $5.2 million per year through this season and the next. He proved last season he still has plenty of gas left in the tank and can still be an effective presence in the paint. He could be a great addition to a playoff team looking to bolster their frontcourt. The Bucks will almost certainly receive some phone calls regarding the availability of Pachulia as the season progresses.

Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee Bucks: Ilyasova is currently the longest-tenured member of the Bucks as he prepares to start his seventh season with the organization. Since joining the team, he has developed in a very solid stretch four. He was able to parlay his improvement as a player into a sizable contract extension in July 2012, signing a deal worth $40 million over five years with the last year being non-guaranteed.

Since signing his new deal Ilyasova has struggled to replicate the play that earned him that salary boost. Last season he really had a tough time shooting from three, shooting just 28.2 percent, a career low. The significant changes throughout the franchise make you wonder how Ilyasova fits into the team’s future plans. He can still be a valuable contributor, but on a rebuilding Bucks team are his contributions really desired? Also, the team now has Jabari Parker, who figures to play a good chunk of his minutes at the PF spot. His development will be a top priority for the Bucks. Ilyasova is another player on the Bucks players who could fit nicely on a contender, particularly one looking to add a PF that can space the floor.

Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons: Greg Monroe and the Pistons went through a long offseason where both sides were non-committal. In the end, Monroe agreed to accept the team’s qualifying offer worth just under $5.5 million, keeping him Detroit at least one more season. One benefit of signing the team’s qualifying offer for Monroe is that it allows him to veto any potential trades that the Pistons may work out. If he were to be traded it would have to be to a team and a situation that he feels would be a good fit. Reports have surfaced that Monroe isn’t exactly happy with the way things have played out in Detroit during his first four years with the team. The addition of Stan Van Gundy may be enough to change his opinion and help persuade him to reconsider potentially staying in Detroit. His immediate future with the team will likely depend on how they perform leading up to the trade deadline. If the Pistons can’t prove in the first couple months of the season that they can be a playoff team, the organization may feel it’s best to try and trade Monroe rather than risk losing him for nothing come free agency. Again, though, Monroe has the power to stop any trade should he choose to.

Josh Smith, Detroit Pistons: The other big name in Detroit that has been mentioned in trade talks is Josh Smith. Smith came to Detroit last summer after signing a four-year, $54 million dollar deal. After signing such a lucrative contract much was expected of Smith upon his arrival in Detroit. In his first season with team Smith didn’t exactly play up to level expected from a player making $13.5 million per season. He had the worst year shooting, percentage wise, of his career. Smith shot just 41.9 percent the field, 26.4 percent from three and a lowly 53.2 percent from the free throw stripe.

The most prevalent rumor surrounding Smith is a deal that would send him to Sacramento joining the Kings. This is all speculation, but the Smith-to-the-Kings deal is one that has been mentioned on more than occasion. However, like Monroe, the addition Stan Van Gundy changes things and may be enough to quell any talks of trading Smith. Van Gundy has made it known that he views Smith as important piece going forward and if he were to trade to him it wouldn’t be just to move his contract. The Pistons would expect significant value in return for Smith.

Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers: There have been rumblings over the past six months that Hibbert is ready to move on from the Pacers. There have also been rumors that the Pacers have been shopping around their towering center. At one point Hibbert appeared to an integral part Pacers’ future, but now his time with the team may soon be coming to an end. Hibbert has two years remaining on his current contract with the Pacers, with the second year being a player option. If the Pacers feel the chances of Hibbert exercising that player option are slim, they may look to move him this season.

With Paul George set to miss the majority of the season, the Pacers’ chances of making a deep playoff run are almost non-existent. The departure of Lance Stephenson couldn’t have come at a worse time. With their chances of competing this season being so low the team has even more reason to move Hibbert while they can still get something in return for him. He has tremendous value as an interior defender and the Pacers should be able to bring back noteworthy talent in any potential Hibbert deal. If things go bad early for the Pacers this season, look for Hibbert to big one of the bigger names on the block as trade deadline approaches.

These are just a few players that may be mentioned in trade talks as the season goes on, each with different reasons as to why they might find themselves wearing a different jersey as some point this season.