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NBA Trade Watch: Western Conference

Who are some Western Conference teams to watch as the trade deadline approaches?

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As mentioned in our Eastern Conference Trade Watch feature, we should expect the bulk of discussions to surface after Dec. 15 once players that signed contracts this past summer are eligible to be included in deals. Although we are still weeks away from that date and months away from February’s trade deadline, that hasn’t stopped speculation and some early discussions that several teams have already reportedly had.

It may seem as though the 2014-15 season started just moments ago, but we are actually nearly 20 percent through the schedule in many cases, leaving teams with plenty of time to have assessed whether moves are necessary.

Here are some of the Western Conference teams to keep in mind as trade talks increase over the coming months:

Los Angeles Clippers –

Players who could be on the move: Reggie Bullock, Matt Barnes

The Clippers have been searching for an answer at the small forward position for several seasons, and it doesn’t appear they’ve found the solution as of yet. The lack of consistent productivity from the position is an issue on many nights, but particularly when matching up against some of the better scoring swingmen. It is one thing to provide limited production, but an entirely larger issue when the counterpart at the position is routinely scoring 25 or more points, which has already taken place six times.

Matt Barnes provides toughness and a willingness to do the dirty work that doesn’t always appear in the stat sheet, but is better suited in a reserve role as a change-of-pace player at this point. The market could be relatively small for Barnes, but another playoff contender could value the tenacity and experience he brings to the table.

The team drafted Reggie Bullock last summer, but his rookie season was marred by nagging injuries and box scores littered with DNPs (Did Not Play). Signed this past summer, journeyman swingman Chris Douglas-Roberts is still recovering from what was initially described as a partially torn Achilles. Clearly, the team needs to address the position, but may need to go bargain-hunting once again unless they’re able to persuade a team to take on a player with a contract.

Denver Nuggets –

Players who could be on the move: Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee

General manager Tim Connelly made it abundantly clear the Nuggets were open to the idea of making moves when he recently told ESPN.com’s Kevin Arnovitz that “every player on [Denver’s] roster is a movable asset.” The team may pride itself on the depth of the roster, but doesn’t sound entirely against the idea of packaging multiple contracts in order to obtain an established star player.

Faried’s name has been in an out of trade rumors for the better part of two seasons, but the 25-year-old power forward may prove to be the more difficult piece to move given his four-year, $50 million extension that is set to kick in at the start of 2015-16.

Gallinari still has a ways to go before returning to the form he was in as the team’s leading scorer in 2012-13, but appears to be settling in after missing an entire season due to a torn (right) ACL. If he can remain healthy and get into a shooting rhythm, look for his name to surface in discussions, as the 6’10 small forward can stretch the floor and provide matchup problems for many teams.

McGee simply hasn’t lived up to the sizable contract he signed a few years back. One of the better athletes at the center position, McGee hasn’t been able adjust and flourish in what has become a more controlled and deliberate offense under head coach Brian Shaw. It could make more sense to acquire him as an expiring deal next summer, but teams desperate for a rim-protecting weakside defender could come calling before this year’s deadline.

Houston Rockets –

Players who could be moved: $8.34 million trade exception

According to Jonathan Feigan of the Houston Chronicle, the Rockets have already been in discussions with other teams regarding the availability of 10-12 players that would provide frontcourt depth with Dwight Howard’s recovering knee, Terrence Jones being out indefinitely and head coach Kevin McHale being forced to play several players out of position in order offset the losses.

The team’s ongoing interest in Minnesota small forward Corey Brewer has been widely-documented over the past couple seasons, but it will be interesting to see if the team’s frontcourt depth concerns trump the desire to bring in another contributing swingman.

One intriguing frontcourt remedy that hasn’t been mentioned for these Rockets could be a return of Jordan Hill. Hill is having a career-year for the Los Angeles Lakers (13.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 31.3 MPG), and has a deal that expires after next season. While not the impact player that Howard is, Hill could be used as a reserve at either power forward or center. He’s an active body on the boards, isn’t a guy you necessarily have to call or design plays for, and he does appear far more confident in his face-up game and on the offensive end in general recently.

Los Angeles Lakers –

Players who could be moved: Jordan Hill, Steve Nash (expiring contract)

The reality for these Lakers – whether they would ever publicly acknowledge it or not – is that the team needs to secure what will undoubtedly become a lottery pick next summer. While such a proud organization may not be able to openly embrace a “tank” season in the manner by which the Philadelphia 76ers have, that doesn’t negate the fact that their 2015 pick (1-5 protected from the Phoenix Suns) will be a vital asset for a team hoping to welcome back a recovering Julius Randle. While some would say the organization may have been a bit cavalier in how they tossed future picks into deals in the past, a team that is clearly in a full-blown rebuilding process cannot afford to lose assets.

Their two biggest and most realistic trade assets are the aforementioned Hill and the expiring contract of Steve Nash. Any number of teams with playoff and title aspirations (Cavaliers, Clippers, Suns, etc.) could inquire about Hill’s services before the deadline if he continues producing at this level. As Basketball Insiders’ Eric Pincus points out in his most recent Trade feature, Hill cannot be moved until January 15th, but it would conceivably leave plenty of time for teams to reach out.  Any team looking to shed contracts for immediate salary cap flexibility could be interested in obtaining Nash’s deal. The Lakers are a team in need of either upgrades and/or depth at every position, so regardless of their previously reported desire to maintain their own flexibility, at some point you have to be willing to bring in additional talent to make your existing roster more desirable for potential free agents around the league.

We’ll continue looking at potential trade scenarios throughout the season (until February 19), but make sure you also keep an eye on our MVP, Rookie Watch and Power Ranking discussions along the way as well!

 

Jabari Davis is a senior NBA Writer and Columnist for Basketball Insiders, covering the Pacific Division and NBA Social Media activity.

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