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NBA Trade Watch: Southeast Division

A look at five players who could get traded in the Southeast Division, including Tobias Harris.

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Trade rumors are a part of the world that is basketball. Fans love trade rumors because they create buzz and hype for their respective teams. Each offseason trade rumors are stirred up around draft night and then generally fizz away until December when players signed over the offseason are eligible to be traded (Dec. 15 to be exact). Teams have a good idea on where their team is headed around December and January and from there will determine if they are buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.

Here are five players that are on trade watch from the Southeast Division:

Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks – There were reports over the summer that the Hawks quietly shopped Horford around last season in exchange for the right price, which was said to include an unprotected 2014 first-round draft pick. Nothing ever came of those talks, but the very idea that the Hawks fielded phone calls for Horford highlights the fact that if the right offer presents itself, the Hawks will likely consider it. There is no denying that when healthy, Horford is one of the top players in the league and could be a very great pickup for a team in need. Horford is due $12 million in each of the next two seasons, a relatively cap-friendly contract considering he’s one of the top big men in the league. Led by Horford, the Hawks have quietly made the playoffs in each of the last seven seasons but have never made it past the second round. A change might be in store for the Hawks to make some noise and a couple of draft picks and young assets might just be what it takes to sway their minds.

Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic – Reports surfaced as recently as Friday that Harris will not sign an extension with the Magic by the October 31 deadline. Harris will become a restricted free agent next summer if a deal isn’t signed by the deadline, and as previous reports have it, that will likely be the case as the two sides are said to be far apart on negotiations. Despite the fact that the two are far apart, the fact remains that the Magic would have the right to match any deal that is presented to Harris and at this point they would just be bidding against themselves. The Magic will likely want to see how Harris performs this season to see if he is worth locking in long-term. Harris is having a good preseason thus far averaging 14 points a game, but the Magic will want to see how he holds up for the season before potentially matching an offer sheet. As the trade deadline approaches, the Magic will likely evaluate where the team is and where Harris’ development is and see what kind of return they can get.

Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks – The Hawks are in an interesting situation with Millsap. They signed him to a two-year, $19 million deal, which is too short to extend. If the Hawks want to retain the services of Millsap, they’ll have to let him become an unrestricted free agent before they can sign him again. The two-year deal also presents a challenge for the Hawks because they only have Millsap’s early Bird rights meaning they can only offer him a maximum of four years and not five years like they would if they had his full Bird rights. So once Millsap becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer, the bidding war will really begin. The Hawks have to decide whether they are all-in on Millsap prior to the trade deadline. If they sense that Millsap could command money they aren’t willing to spend, then they could very well trade Millsap away. Millsap was a steal last season for the Hawks considering the production he had versus the $9.5 million that he made. In 74 games last season, Millsap averaged a career-high 17.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and three assists per game. The Hawks have maintained that they are interested in bringing Millsap back, but the right offer might change that stance.

Norris Cole, Miami HEAT – Erik Spoelstra and the Miami HEAT are currently faced with creating minutes for the three point guards that are currently on the roster. The HEAT have Norris Cole, Mario Chalmers and rookie Shabazz Napier in line at the point guard position. With those three players on the roster, the HEAT may be open to trading one of them. The team drafted Napier to be their guy in the future and so far Napier has shown some flashes as to what he can give the HEAT on a nightly basis. The team just gave Chalmers a two-year deal that will pay him $4 million this season and $4.3 million next season, so they might have a hard time moving that kind of money for player like Chalmers, which brings up Cole. Early reports have it that Cole will be the HEAT’s starter in the season opener on Wednesday and could help his trade value if he gets off to a good start. If Napier shows by the trade deadline that he can handle the duties of running the floor then the HEAT might be forced to make a move and it could put Cole on the block.

Cody Zeller, Charlotte Hornets – Many were left wondering why the Hornets selected Noah Vonleh in June’s draft when they had drafted Zeller with the fourth pick a year ago. Zeller played in all 82 games last season in his rookie year with the Bobcats, but averaged just six points per game in 17 minutes. Drafting Vonleh has created a logjam in the frontcourt between Vonleh, Zeller and starter Marvin Williams. Having those three players on the team hasn’t presented a problem yet because Vonleh is still recovering from a sports hernia and isn’t ready to return yet. The Hornets are certainly a team that is expecting to compete for a deep playoff run, so Zeller or Vonleh’s impact likely won’t make or break them, but trading one of them could return a player that can make a more immediate impact. The team will be monitoring Vonleh closely upon his return and should he come back healthy and ready to go, Zeller could become expendable.

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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