Trade Targets in the West
In roughly 24 hours, the NBA Finals will finally begin after a six-day break from the end of Conference Final play. Many individuals have been able to pass the time debating how LeBron James’s career matches up to Michael Jordan’s, the pressure on Kevin Durant to finally win a NBA title and who wins hypothetical player match ups in the Finals.
However, there are still 28 other teams in the Association, including many who will be looking to improve their respective rosters through trades. With the NBA Draft coming up, there is an additional catalyst for transactions to occur as draft picks are potentially in play in various potential trades. Here we take a look at a few players who are potential trade targets in the Western Conference.
J.J. Redick – Los Angeles Clippers
J.J. Redick has been a member of the Los Angeles Clippers for four years. During that time he has continued to perfect the art of using off-ball screens as the foundation for a very capable and precise three-point attack. This season he shot 42.9 percent from three-point range. Redick’s off-ball movement has been a catalyst for the Clippers’ offense for years and his defense has been surprisingly effective as well.
Redick is now an unrestricted free agent and is in control of his own destiny. Put another way, if Redick chooses to sign with a team that has the requisite cap space to afford his services, the Clippers will not have the option to match his contract and retain his services. Redick earned $7.34 million for his services this season and is set for a handsome pay raise this upcoming offseason.
For a trade to be possible, Redick would have to be amenable to a sign and trade. So, why would this happen?
Redick may wish to play for a team that does not immediately have the cap space to directly sign him. In addition, there have been rumors involving New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, who has been a subject of trade speculation for some time. Notably, Anthony is in a position to decline any potential trade as he has a no-trade clause (NTC) in his contract. For him to be traded, he would have to authorize the transaction or he would invoke his NTC. With a NTC, Anthony is in a position to dictate which teams he is open to being dealt to. With Phil Jackson and the Knicks seemingly eager to move Anthony, and with Anthony being tied to the Clippers in previous reports, a trade scenario involving these two teams is feasible. A lot of things would have to come together, but this is a situation worth keeping an eye on.
D’Angelo Russell – Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell is just 21 years old, is on a team-friendly rookie contract and has played well in his two years in the league. Russell has demonstrated the potential for further improvement and has already had a few signature moments in his brief career. With major skill and upside, why would the Lakers look to trade Russell?
With the second pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, it is widely anticipated that the Lakers will select UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball. Ball recently agreed to conduct a solo work out for Lakers officials. Ball is seen as a gifted, pass first point guard who does a great job of making the players around him better. He is also a gifted scorer and can defend opposing guards effectively with his length. With excitement around Ball and the prospect of building the franchise around him, Russell suddenly looks to be somewhat expendable.
Russell is going into his third year of his rookie contract and is a great value for any potential suitor who might trade for him. Russell himself has shown the ability to be creative with the ball in his hands both as a scorer and facilitator. The Lakers even briefly experimented at the end of the season with Russell playing as the off-ball guard, allowing him to score more freely without the pressure of facilitating.
Standing in the way of this trade is a failure to get decent value for Russell. The Lakers are in a new era of management with Jeannie Buss’s hiring of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. Lakers management would be loathed to give away one of their best young pieces for poor value. Furthermore, the Lakers are not seen as being a single transaction away from being truly competitive yet and are not under intense pressure to trade away core players.
Ricky Rubio – Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio has been the subject of trade rumors on an annual basis for quite some time. To hear rumblings of Rubio possibly being traded is par for the course for Timberwolves fans. Rubio is a talented player with prodigious passing abilities, which peaked at a career high 9.1 assists per game this season. He can make almost any pass and genuinely enjoys setting his teammates up in creative ways. So, what’s the problem?
To put it bluntly, Rubio is a poor shooter. On pick and rolls, defenders go under the screen frequently, daring Rubio to shoot from the outside. This allows opposing defenses to clog up the lane and stymies Rubio’s own ability to facilitate Minnesota’s effectively. Rubio did show signs of improvement this past season with a couple of high-scoring games as well as hitting a career high 44.3 percent of his shots from two-point range.
Unfortunately, these incremental improvements did not coincide with a winning season for a franchise still searching for a return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2004 playoffs. At $14.2 million, Rubio is one of the Timberwolves’ more expensive players and yet with recent cap increases is still relatively well priced for potential suitors. With talented but untested backup point guard Kris Dunn (the fifth pick in the 2016 NBA Draft) on the roster, the Timberwolves may look to capitalize on Rubio’s most recent campaign and finally trade him.
Enes Kanter – Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter has had a bad summer. While hosting a basketball camp in Indonesia he received a tip that Indonesian police were looking for him based on a call from the Turkish government and that he should leave. Kanter took a flight a few hours later in the middle of the night, found his passport had been revoked by the Turkish government, but eventually made it back to the United States where he wrote above the whole ordeal. Let’s hope Kanter can focus on basketball now to create distance from this ordeal.
As the backup center and occasional front court partner of starting center Stephen Adams, Kanter had solidified a role as an off the bench scorer for the Thunder. Criticism of his defense has never really subsided but in this role, his defensive shortcomings have been easier to hide. Unfortunately, the 2017 NBA Playoffs included a harsh realization for Kanter. When it mattered most, the Thunder couldn’t hide Kanter’s poor defense, which relegated him to the bench and forced him to watch as the Thunder eventually fell to the Houston Rockets.
Kanter is still a talented basketball player who can score. If the Thunder look to move on from Kanter, there are teams that could use a player with his abilities. The biggest question then is, will another team be willing to absorb his contract? Kanter has two years remaining on his contract, the second being a player option. He is set to be paid $17.88 million next year and $18.86 million the year after if he opts in. As mentioned, Kanter’s defense stuck out like a sore thumb and got him benched. Now his contract might prevent the Thunder from generating more interest. Any team looking to trade for and invest in Kanter’s services will also have to have a creative game plan that takes into account his less than stellar defense.
Brandon Knight – Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight has been around the league. Having played for the Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks and now the Suns, another move presumably wouldn’t be a total shock for Knight. In fact, a trade would likely be a benefit to Knight. In his first five seasons, Knight has been a starter for all but 13 games. In his first four seasons, he played roughly 32 minutes a game, which jumped in 2015-16 to 36 minutes per game when he averaged 19.6 points per game.
Now in his sixth season, he has since been relegated to a bench role behind oft-injured point guard Eric Bledsoe and young scoring phenom Devin Booker. In this role, his scoring (11 points) and minutes (21.1) per game dropped to career-lows. Knight is not far removed from being a primary option and would benefit from joining a team that is more stable and looking to maximize his scoring abilities.
What could get in the way? Knight may simply not generate a lot of interest. He is set to be paid $13.62 million this upcoming season, which is not a bad value if you are getting something close to pre-2016-17 version of Knight. In addition, he is a poor defender, with his defensive RPM dropping from -1.5 in the 2015-2016 season to -3.0 this past season.
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