So the NBA season has begun and I’m sure you’ve read your fair share of NBA articles to this point. From the NBA power rankings to the award predictions, they’re all pretty much the same. Golden State will be the top team in every power ranking (if they aren’t I suggest changing your source), with the Rockets and Celtics right behind them. Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo will be the most likely to win MVP in every article. Of course, some small stuff might change based on writer bias, but the core will more or less be the same.
Also, just in case you didn’t notice, teams change. A good team one day might make a trade and become a bad team the next day. Injuries can also cause a team’s season outlook to completely turn on its head. NBA power rankings must be updated every couple weeks with the amount of injuries, signings and trades that take place throughout the NBA season.
That is why I am doing something completely different. I thought: How about instead of predicting the teams, I predict the NBA trades? I can’t accurately predict injuries, and mid-season free agent signings rarely have a significant impact on a team’s final regular season record. However, with the right amount of research (and luck), basketball trades are foreseeable and sometimes expected. These are still predictions, but different, fresh and unique. Maybe I’m a little crazy, or maybe I am just 2 steps (or 4 months) ahead of the game.
The NBA season is just starting, but I’m already looking far into the future. February 8th at 3PM ET is the NBA trade deadline, and these are my predictions for who will be moved before that final hour.
Very Likely to be Traded
SG/SF Jimmy Butler (Minnesota Timberwolves) – Ok, so I’ll start with an obvious. Personally, unlike some people, I can’t say with 100% certainty Jimmy Butler will be traded. Crazier things have happened. But it is certainly very likely. President Thibs has to be sweating from the pressure he has put on Coach Thibs. This exact situation is a perfect example of when it is dangerous for a team to have the same person making long-term decisions, also make game time decisions.
Jimmy Butler will help the Timberwolves win games this year, but long term it would be way more beneficial to trade him to any team offering a player who fits their timeline. If, for some wild reason, Thibs trusts Jimmy Butler will re-sign with the team in free agency and doesn’t trade him, then he runs the enormous risk of letting Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, and 7th overall pick Lauri Markkanen leave for practically nothing. Thibs might just be waiting for a team like the Pelicans or Clippers to get desperate and send the asking price to get a great two way player.
PF/C Gorgui Dieng (Minnesota Timberwolves) – No, I promise not everyone on this list are Timberwolves’ players. Gorgui Dieng’s name has floated around in the Jimmy Butler trade rumors for two reasons. Firstly, his statistical decline under coach Thibs is shocking and indicates he needs a change of scenery. Last year, he averaged less than six points and five rebounds per game. That was a four point and a three rebound decline from the year before. Taj Gibson has taken over Dieng’s previous role as the starter, and we all know how Thibs loves playing his reserves…
In the small window this year, Dieng’s numbers have risen a lot. However, I expect that is due to the organization attempting to showcase he is still a good role player. Secondly, Gorgui Dieng is overpaid and the Timberwolves need his contract off their books with both Wiggins and Towns entering into their large extensions. Expect Dieng to be included for salary matching or contract dumping purposes in any NBA trades with Jimmy Butler.
C Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic) – Nikola would be an interesting buy-low candidate for a young team looking for a good backup center. Let’s not forget Vucevic has flashed a lot of potential and talent. Four years ago when he was 24, he averaged 19/11/2, and now he has tested with expanding his game outside the arc. Again, it is still early, but Nikola has actually looked like a reliable starting center for the Magic this year. Another reason Vucevic might get traded is because he’s the odd man out in a crowded front court.
Mo Bamba deserves playing time as the center of the future, while Timofey Mosgov might just get some because of how much he’s being paid. Finally, the Magic are a very imbalanced team and have a glaring need for a playable point guard. Look for a team like the Nets, who have more than enough young point guard talent, to send someone away for Nikola and a possible pick.
SF Trevor Ariza (Phoenix Suns) – As a nominee for the most surprising signing of the offseason, Trevor Ariza inked a one year deal with the Suns. The Suns are in the middle of a rebuild and are doing pretty well so far. They still have Tyson Chandler, a member of a past regime, and Jamal Crawford acting as mentors and leaders. So why bring in a veteran with coveted 3 and D ability? To trade him.
The Suns could have used their cap space to accept bulky contracts attached with picks, but that usually requires long term commitment. By trading Trevor Ariza to a team desperate for more floor spacing and defense (so pretty much every team in the NBA), the Suns can get the picks and also choose what kind of contract they want to accept. I expect the Suns to trade Trevor Ariza to the Bucks or Pelicans just before the trade deadline.
Likely to be traded
SG Lou Williams (Los Angeles Clippers) – Like most players on this list, this is not a shot at Lou Williams’ talent. Lou Will can definitely still ball, as seen in his second Sixth Man of the Year award last year. He will continue to help the Clippers win games this year. However, the Clippers are determined to “win” more than games. They want to “win” the 2019 free agency, and every single penny will matter to free up two max slots. There are plenty of teams who would love to have the offense and bench energy Williams seems to bring to a team.
Also, Lou is 32, and a slight decline over the course of his three year contract is expected. Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari and Patrick Beverly are also potential pieces to be moved. But as the Clippers prepare for this summer, their asking price for Lou Williams will decrease and a team who needs bench scoring, like the Spurs, will buy the bargain.
C Hassan Whiteside (Miami Heat) – Hassan Whiteside could be put under the Very Likely to be Traded category. He has expressed his unhappiness with the organization and with the amount of minutes he plays. I think both sides want to move on. However, this is nothing but a hefty contract dump. Whiteside still has talent and potential, but it is hard to determine how much it would cost the Heat to get rid of this disgruntled, non-spacing center.
Based on the Joakim Noah situation, I am sure it’s not cheap. I don’t think Pat Riley is quite ready to give away assets to get rid of a player. Yet, if the Heat find the right deal or this situation takes a turn for the worse, the Heat may have no other option except to get Whiteside out of the locker room. I could see the Heat trading one bad contract for another bad contract, like Chandler Parsons with the Memphis Grizzlies.
SG CJ McCollum/ PG Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers) – If CJ McCollum or Damian Lillard are traded before the end of the season, then something has gone wrong for the Blazers. There is a lot of pressure for this team to produce after being swept as the three seed in the first round in last year’s playoffs. With a lot of good teams in the West, it is way too early to tell if this team is even of playoff caliber.
If the Blazers begin to lose games and they slip out of playoff contention, I expect this team to split up their all-star back court. The Lakers could cough up the pieces to acquire Damian Lillard, merely because LeBron has reportedly said he would like to play with him. I think the Blazers would rather give up CJ McCollum, and a team like the Orlando Magic would probably be buyers.
SG Kent Bazemore (Atlanta Hawks) – The Atlanta Hawks are on their merry way through a rebuild. Trae Young, John Collins and Taurean Prince look like the prominent pieces for the Hawks’ future. Other pieces are hanging around just in case they have a breakout season. Others are there to establish the culture *cough* Vince Carter will never retire *cough*.
Then there is Kent Bazemore. He is still very talented and could be a great role player for a contender. As a 39% three point shooter last year, now entering his prime, his talent is being wasted on the Hawks. The Rockets were reportedly interested in him last year (as they are in everyone who can shoot threes). Something probably holding teams back is his two years, $36 million left on his contract. I could see the Pelicans or Spurs trading for the floor spacing guard.
PF Thaddeus Young (Indiana Pacers) – The Pacers are far from a rebuild. They look like a team with a low floor and a high ceiling. Led by all-star Victor Oladipo, they were able to take the Cavaliers to seven games last year. They then added Tyreke Evan this summer on a “prove-that-last-year-was-real” deal (slogan trademark pending). Thaddeus Young is a good, not great, starting power forward on the last year of his contract. The Pacers cannot expect the 30 year old to re-sign this summer.
They probably have a future power forward in Domantas Sabonis, so they may not even offer Young another contract. It would be smart to at least test the market for Thaddeus Young before the February 8th deadline. If a team like the Blazers or Wizards offers a pick or even a solid role player, I don’t think the Pacers will hesitate in moving on from Thaddeus Young.
PG Terry Rozier (Boston Celtics) – “Scary” Terry is on the final year of his very cheap contract. The point guard filled in very well during the games Kyrie Irving nursed his knee injury. Since the Celtics are legitimate contenders to make the NBA Finals, they may not be looking to trade players for assets. Except this is the Celtics…Danny Ainge is always weighing the pros and cons of keeping a player. Rozier’s “stock” is at an all-time high right now, and the organization might want to get a lot of bang for their buck.
The team was in a similar situation when with Avery Bradley and they moved him. Also, the Celtics know they probably can’t keep Irving and Rozier. With Irving recently announcing his intent to re-sign, the Celtics might be looking to move “Scary” Terry to another team. If he is traded, I expect the Suns or Magic to buy their potential franchise point guard.
Unlikely to be Traded
PG Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets) – I guess technically every player not in the first two sections could be categorized as ‘Unlikely to be Traded’. However, this category consists of players who have had their name floated through the rumor mill. They could still get traded, but I don’t think it’s as likely. Kemba Walker, for example, is a very common name when talking about possible NBA trades. It would make sense for the Hornets to trade him too, as he will demand max money next year. Yet, I think the Hornets see Kemba, who just turned 28, as a player barely young enough to build around after the Nicolas Batum and Bismack Biyombo contracts get off their books.
According to ESPN, he has reportedly expressed his intent on re-signing. Their rebuild is secretly already underway with Malik Monk, Frank Kaminsky and Miles Bridges all showing signs of becoming a number 2 option. Am I saying the Hornets are right to keep Kemba? No, but it’s what I think they will do. If I am completely wrong and the Hornets are just playing hard to get, the Cavs or Lakers could be calling.
PF Paul Millsap (Denver Nuggets) – The Nuggets are and will be a dangerous team for the next few years. Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Nikola Jokić are all young and oozing with All-NBA potential. Paul Millsap will turn 34 soon, and his best years are in his past. He does not fit the team’s timeline, and that is a good reason for him to be traded. He is also a former 4x all-star on an expiring contract. All this points to him being dealt before the trade deadline.
Except the Nuggets really want to make the playoffs this year. I don’t mean it would be nice if they did, I mean according to an ESPN article, they really want to play basketball in May. It has been almost a decade since the Nuggets won a playoff series. Theoretically, if he’s healthy, Paul Millsap fits perfectly alongside Jokic. A normal Paul Millsap will end the five year playoff drought. If he is traded, teams that would be interested in his expiring contract and all around ability are the Timberwolves, Heat and Lakers.
PF Carmelo Anthony (Houston Rockets) – Much like the Blazers with their back court pair, if Carmelo is traded during the year, then Houston has a problem. Carmelo still has something left in the tank, but that “something” comes with a lot of pride from the 10x all-star. Picture this: The Rockets are not nearly as good as last year. Carmelo is struggling in his new role off the bench and fans begin to blame him for the team’s struggles. He starts losing minutes to James Ennis and Marquese Chriss, and so he starts causing problems in the locker room.
Finally enough is enough, the Houston organization feels the pressure to meet his trade demands and he is shipped to a team who will have him (All of this somewhat similar to his time in Oklahoma City). Granted, all this happening in just four months is very unlikely. However, some experts think the Rockets will regress a lot in 2018, and I think Anthony could see the ugly side of Rockets fans if that happens. If Carmelo is traded, I would predict an Eastern Conference team like the Wizards or Nets to accept him.
All player stats were collected from BasketballReference.com
All contract details were collected from Spoctrac.com