The NBA Draft is a little more than 3 weeks away. There is a ton of excitement about that, but that isn’t all basketball fans can look forward to. Free agency will have it’s big names. And of course we will be talking about a ton of trade rumors. Here is a list of names I think we could be discussing quite a bit. I am not including any player who is a free agent, restricted or otherwise.
I am just highlighting players under contract that might be looking for a change of scenery or their team might be looking to go in a different direction. These are players that could be moved before the draft, or after.
Kevin Love- Obviously he will be brought up more than any other. If the T’Wolves want the biggest package in return, doing it before the draft is the best time. If they wait, they’ll get less or nothing. A small market, that doesn’t generally attract free agents, it’s risky for Minnesota to move a big-time player unless they can insure getting one back in return. In other words, I think it’s now, or never, and never means rolling the dice that Minnesota has a good year and Love wants to stay beyond 2015.
Rajon Rondo- The Celtics don’t have a direction yet, and that’s okay. Rondo isn’t a franchise player in my mind, but he is a cornerstone guy. If Boston deals him they should get plenty back in return, and a contender (or wanna-be) in need of a point guard could fix that problem in a hurry.
Al Horford- The Hawks might be ready to part ways with a good player, who they’ve forced to play out of position, especially if they can get back a respectable package in return. Plenty of teams would show interest, even with Horford’s injury history. Atlanta got an all-star season out of Paul Milsap so they already have his replacement in house as a power forward.
Brook Lopez– The Nets success came after Lopez went out for the season. Injuries have plagued the big man, but bigs are hard to find. Dealing Lopez is about the only way the Nets to can retool on the fly with the team in salary cap hell. Teams like Portland, Atlanta, New Orleans, the Lakers, and Phoenix could all entertain the idea.
Kenneth Faried- The Manimal was almost dealt last year, and responded after not being traded with a huge second half. He isn’t a game-changer, but he is a valuable contributer. The Nuggets could probably squeeze youth or a 1st round pick out of a contender looking for what would be a great role player like Faried. Imagine him in Houston or Oklahoma City.
David Lee- The Warriors clearly look ready to hand over the reigns to Draymond Green at power foward. With a healthy Andrew Bogut at center, it was their best lineup. Lee is a fine player, but overpaid and a liability on defense. For a team with cap space and in need of offense, it could be a good get.
Tony Allen- He was dangled out there at the deadline by the Grizzlies after they picked up Courtney Lee in a separate deal. Allen is entering the 2nd year of his long-term deal, but if you need a defensive wing, they don’t get much better.
Eric Gordon- Like David Lee, the contract is a major issue to deal, but the Pelicans might be ready to turn the page on their mistake. There isn’t room for him and Tyreke Evans on the same team. They’d probably take less in a deal to move him, but it’s probably best for their long-term future.
Tyson Chandler- Phil Jackson’s first goal is find a coach. Second will be convincing Carmelo Anthony to stay. Regardless of Melo’s decision, Chandler is their best trade chip, and best chance to rebuild quicker, with or without Melo.
Aaron Afflalo- Both a solid player and citizen, the Magic are probably best served to deal him this summer. Afflalo can opt-out of his contract next season, so you’d risk losing him for nothing if you hold on too long. There is a better than decent chance Orlando will be adding one or possibly two wing players in this draft so having Afflalo around serves little good.
Thaddeus Young- The young man survived last season’s tear-down in Philly, but it remains to be seen if he is thought of as part of the solution or problem. He has his warts, but definitely has value if they choose to move him.
Wes Matthews- The Blazers are in an interesting position. How do they get better? Their starting lineup has been locked in two straight seasons while re-tooling the bench. Matthews is entering the last year of his deal, and his spot appears to be the one they could attempt to upgrade at most easily.
Enes Kanter- He openly complained about not playing enough last year. Some scouts only see him as a back-up-type center, while others think he can evolve into a competent top-15 center. What do the Jazz think? They might be drafting another big guy with the 5th overall pick, and with the team already locked into Derrick Favors long-term, are they sure Kanter is the guy, or not?
Keep your ears open on these guys over the next 3 weeks!