The Whiteboard: Power ranking the NBA’s most appealing trade targets

Indiana Pacers, NBA Trade Rumors, Portland Trail Blazers, The Whiteboard

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We’re just four days away from the NBA Trade Deadline and we’ve already seen some dominoes fall with the Cleveland Cavaliers picking up Caris LeVert from the Pacers for Ricky Rubio and a lottery-protected first and the Clippers revealing themselves to be deadline buyers, adding Robert Covington and Norman Powell from the Blazers for Eric Bledsoe and spare parts.

There’s always a chance an unexpected name will pop up over the next few days but for the most part, we’ve all been tracking the rumors and have a pretty good idea of what each is willing to put on the table for the right offer. That includes players with star potential like Ben Simmons, Bradley Beal, De’Aaron Fox and Damian Lillard, as well as role players who could elevate a contender, like Eric Gordon or Thad Young.

Today, I’m mostly interested in the players between those two tiers. One’s who won’t single-handedly change the course of a franchise but also have a lot more to offer, in the present and future, than adding general depth or leveraging some specific skillset or advantage in a playoff matchup.

In that category, here are the five potential NBA trade targets I find most generally interesting

Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings

Hield has been featured in trade rumors for multiple seasons and has been made increasingly redundant by the emergence of Tyrese Haliburton and the selection of Davion Mitchell in last year’s draft. His price tag — two more seasons after this one, at around $38 million total — is a bit too pricey for the Kings as a third guard but not for a team with playoff aspirations and a weaker guard rotation (Wizards, Knicks, Timberwolves, etc.). Hield is just 29 and one of the best shooters in the league, capable of doing damage in multiple scenarios — spotting up or running off curls and screens. You probably don’t want him creating off the dribble against a static defense but he’s capable of attacking closeouts or leveraging space against a defense that’s already been bent out of shape. Some of his numbers have regressed over the past two seasons but he’s a player with significant skill who seems ripe for some progression if he can get himself into a better situation.

Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers

The Pacers have reportedly made just about everyone available and they’ve already started the sell-off with the LeVert trade this weekend. If they’re looking for a quick rebuild that spins right back into competitiveness the Pacers may be looking to keep one of the Sabonis/Turner pairing with perhaps the quality of offers they receive for each dictating who they keep. However, you can also see a scenario where they decide to tear things down to the studs, trade both of them and really start building something new from the ground-up.

Everyone on the Pacers has looked a little worse this season, by virtue of the team’s collective collapse. But Turner is still one of the most intimidating and effective rim protectors in the league and someone who could be the anchor of an elite defense. He’s not a game-changer on offense but he’s effective in the pick-and-roll has improved a lot as a passer and has enough stretch in his game to affect a defense, even if his actual 3-point shooting (34.9 percent for his career) leaves a bit to be desired. He’s also just 25, on a reasonable contract (just one more year, at $17.5 million) and has spent the last five seasons trying to figure out how to play with and around Sabonis. He’s another player who could have another level to his game once he’s playing in a different situation.

Sabonis is one of the best big man passers in the league, a crafty scorer and excellent finisher and someone capable of being an offensive hub next to a top-tier perimeter scorer. He could make a huge difference for a team like the Kings or Hornets and the Bulls would probably be in an even better position right now if they had been able to trade for Sabonis last year instead of Nikola Vucevic. He’s the same age as Turner although a bit more expensive (two more years at a total of about $39 million) and he brings some significant defensive question marks. But because he’s so versatile and talented on offense he could turn out to be more of a ceiling raiser.

John Collins, Atlanta Hawks

I will admit I still don’t have a great read on the Collins trade rumors, whether they are about a mutual discomfort and the Hawks actually looking to trade him, versus him being their most desirable trade asset and them being willing to put him on the table in talks for players like Ben Simmons. His contract is large — four more years at over $100 million — but he has as high an offensive ceiling as any player who is likely to be moved at the deadline this year, outside of Lillard.

He ranks in the 95th percentile as a finisher in the pick-and-roll and developed into a proven frontcourt floor-spacer, making 39.8 percent of 508 3-point attempts over the last three seasons. He can play in an up-tempo attack — 76th percentile in transition scoring efficiency on nearly two possessions per game — and he adds plenty of hustle on the offensive glass, adding 2.3 second-chance points per game. Collins has a huge impact as a high-volume, high-efficiency complementary scorer but I think he could potentially add even more value, taking on more offensive primacy without sacrificing efficiency. His face-up game is under-utilized, he ranks sixth on the team in time of possession and both Onyeka Okongwu and Clint Capela average more elbow touches per game. Collins might even be a value at his current contract for what he is. But I think in the right situation, he could do even more.

CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers

McCollum has become the face of the failed rosters around Damian Lillard and all he’s done over the past seven seasons is average 21.7 points, 3.9 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game, shooting 45.5 percent from the field and 39.7 percent on 3-pointers. He’s 30 years old and expensive (two more years, $69 million total) but he’s also as good a shooter and complementary scorer as its likely to be available at the deadline. He can score in the pick-and-roll, create for others and he’s a reliable threat to pull up off the dribble from anywhere. The Philadelphia 76ers have reportedly decided that he wouldn’t be fair value in a trade for Ben Simmons but he could be an absolute game-changer for their rotation. His contract and the particular rebuilding demands of the Trail Blazers may make it hard to get a deal done but there are a handful of fringe contenders who could be catapulted forward if they could land McCollum.

Other NBA stories:

We’ve already seen two big trades in the NBA and reactions are mixed. The Blazers’ move, and their supposed commitment to keeping Eric Bledsoe, reek of desperation. The Pacers’ moving Caris LeVert adds a lottery-protected pick that can hopefully pay dividends this summer but it also clears minutes for rookie Chris Duarte to keep stepping up. The Cavs, meanwhile, added a young and meaningful wing talent as they continue their surprise playoff push. But they paid a steep cost.

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The point guard position is one that has had some of the greatest of all time, but when looking at each franchise, it’s hard to pick just one for each team. Nick Villano tried anyway.

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