Dikembe Mutombo, Ray Allen, Rasheed Wallace, Pau Gasol and most recently DeMarcus Cousins have one thing in common: all five have experienced relocation halfway through the season, thanks to the notorious NBA Trade Deadline. So, when February rolls around each year, players and teams all over the league prepare themselves for a day that can either be utter madness or a complete non-event. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at who could on the move before the deadline.
Mike Conley and Marc Gasol
When you think about the Memphis Grizzlies franchise, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are the two players that spring to mind.
On January 22, news broke via ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that for the first time, the organisation and ownership are willing to listen to any offers put forward to the team. For years, we have heard that other franchises around the league were interested in trade talks with Memphis, but got shut down quicker than a flash of lighting. So why, after all the constant rejection of trade requests, are they open to offers now?
For first time, Memphis will begin listening to trade offers on franchise stars Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, league sources tell ESPN. Memphis has reached a crossroads and is preparing to weigh deals involving one or both of its cornerstone veterans. Story soon on ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 22, 2019
The likelihood of seeing either player moved is something we’ll need to keep an eye on, because any team that trades for them could face a potential problem. The majority of clubs in the NBA would love to have Gasol on their roster, but it could just be a short-term rental due to the big man’s contract allowing him to opt out of the final year (2019-20) and become a free agent this summer.
Teams looking to move for Conley also face a big decision as Memphis signed the 31-year-old to a five-year, $153 million deal back in July 2016. At the time was the richest deal in terms of total value in NBA history. However, for a player who’s coming off the back of an Achilles injury, it was a significant risk to take by the Grizzlies and one that could scare away potential suitors.
After this current season, Conley will still be owed $67 million and needed to play 55 games either this year or next to fully guarantee his 2020-2021 money – he’s already featured in all 49 games this year. In addition, there’s also early termination clause in 2020, which would see him potentially hit free agency a year earlier than planned.
If Conley agrees to that early termination, he would leave $35million on the table, and even though he has been playing back at his best, he would struggle to find elsewhere in the open market. Any team looking at trading for him could be locked to at least two and a half years with a player who could go down at any given time.
Both players would bring a lot of experience and talent to whichever team would like to take them on, but when you think of the bigger picture – trading away possible assets and future draft picks for two players who may not stick around or may not even be healthy enough to play – is it worth the risk?
If you were to ask “who is the best player possibly on the market?”, Nikola Vučević is the answer. Vooch has been having a career year and has even found himself in the hunt for a debut All-Star bow, so why would Orlando want to trade away by far its best player?
Vučević is a free agent at the end of the season and is yet to signal his intentions of re-signing in Orlando, which could lead to the Magic dangling him as bait — just seeing what the return on the 28-year-old could be. Of course, the organisation hasn’t given off any signs that they would entertain the idea of doing so. Is the risk of letting Nikola walk away free one the Magic would take? It is knowing Orlando.
He is having a career year and is currently averaging 20 points per game, 12 rebounds, and four assists, while shooting 52.1% from the floor and 38% from three. Any team in the market for a center of his quality would be mad to pass on him given his numbers and his form, but who needs him or even has a chance to re-sign him this summer?
Teams that have been rumoured to be interested are the San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. But what would the cost be? And is this something the Magic would even consider? Well, that’s a complete unknown right now. It will, however, be worth keeping an eye on how this develops, but regarding any potential movement, all is quiet for the moment.
Bradley Beal is a talented player who, ever since teammate John Wall went down for the season, has carried the Washington Wizards from a team that looked destined for the lottery, to now sitting on the fringe of the playoffs. So is he an option for a team to target or will DC hold on to its best player?
Although starting 1-7, the Wizards are now 21-27 and, even if it’s still a losing record, they remain just 2.5 games back of the Charlotte Hornets for the eighth seed. This could play a big part as to whether or not Washington would be willing to talk trades.
What exactly gets a deal done for a player who is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals?
Boston and the Lakers are realistically the only two that could offer the kind of assets that would see Beal leaving the capital city. And, if it came down to it, Boston would be the favourites to land the 25-year-old due to the draft picks that Danny Ainge has stored away. That doesn’t mean that others are out of the picture though, and when Double Clutch’s Ben Moorcroft broke down further options for Beal, they also included the Toronto Raptors and the New Orleans Pelicans.
Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram
When LeBron James signed to the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer, it was clear that the Lakers hierarchy was intent on winning now and building around the league’s best player. The team is struggling to keep the pace with the rest of the Western Conference, as it hovers around .500, so it’s not a real surprise they want to add another superstar to play alongside LeBron. That, of course, means that some (or all) of the team’s young core will be shown the door to acquire a high-level talent.
On January 25, Bill Oram of the Athletic broke the news that the Lakers intend to make a trade at the deadline for either a player that will ensure the team reaches the playoffs or a superstar. He also stated that they would do so even if it means giving up one, two or even all three of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Brandon Ingram.
“A team source said the Lakers will pursue any three-point shooter on an expiring deal, a group expected to include former Laker Wayne Ellington, Orlando’s Terrence Ross, Memphis’ Garrett Temple and Trevor Ariza, who many believe could be on the move again before the deadline if Washington continues to falter in the East.”
Oram went on to mention the team’s main priority of adding a second superstar to the roster:
“The second is obviously the priority, even if it means parting with some combination of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma. Ideally, the Lakers would be able to land a second star in free agency and keep the core intact. However, with Anthony Davis unlikely to become available by the deadline, that particular dilemma may be a moot point this season.”
The news that the Lakers want to add Anthony Davis isn’t a surprise. Just three days after Oram’s report, Davis shocked the NBA world by officially requesting a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans. This would cue endless amounts of trade machine mocks of how teams could acquire the 25-year-old, but the cost of a player of his quality is unknown, and the Pelicans don’t actually have to trade him right now. Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka will have a real chance at landing that superstar player on February 7 should they package a deal that is in the interest of the Pelicans.
From the young core, Kyle Kuzma has been standing out this season. The 23-year-old sophomore is averaging career-highs in points, assists, field goal percentage and free-throw percentage. Should any move be made, then you would have to expect to see him involved. But for now, it’s a waiting game for the Lakers young core to find out just where their NBA futures lie.