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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

10 NBA trade deadline candidates

On February 2nd, Punxsutawney Phil will emerge from his underground burrow on Groundhog Day to determine whether or not we will have six more weeks of winter. Several days later, on February 8th, NBA general managers will emerge from their underground bunkers on Trade Deadline Day to determine whether or not we have a nuclear winter. The Detroit Pistons’ jaw-dropping trade for Blake Griffin on Monday was one heck of a start and knocked many of us dead in the process. But the fact of the matter is that we in the basketball fandom still crave infinitely more chaos. So in the spirit of the season, here are ten major trade candidates that are still out there.

DeAndre Jordan, C, LA Clippers

Jordan being the only Clippers player left from the notorious Navy SEALS unit that descended upon Dallas in 2015 was a plot twist that I, for one, wasn’t expecting. Nevertheless, he may want to keep an extra suitcase handy as the Griffin trade signaled that, if not a full-scale rebuild, the team is remodeling this roster like an HGTV show. Jordan’s value speaks for itself – basket-to-basket activity with ironman-like consistency (this season’s brief five-game absence was the first time he missed action due to injury in his ten-year career). His expiring contract does give him a specific niche market, but for the lob of God, players of his caliber ain’t available for trade all that often.

George Hill, PG, Sacramento Kings

It took all of six months for the Hill-Kings marriage to go sour, and now we wait and see which team will win custody. A prolonged stay in Sacto is likely untenable – rookie De’Aaron Fox has already lapped Hill on the depth chart, and the Kings’ Western Conference-worst record is pretty much purgatory for a player who has made the postseason in eight of his nine NBA seasons so far. A classic veteran point guard of the 3-and-D mold, Hill would probably be an ideal depth piece for a host of playoff teams. As such, he may not be locked in the royal castle humming “Someday My Prince Will Come” to himself for long.

Rodney Hood, SG/SF, Utah Jazz

When Gordon Hayward left the Jazz over the summer, this was supposed to be Hood’s team. Too bad that he didn’t see Donovan Mitchell’s coup coming. The star rookie Mitchell’s emergence has been the best thing to happen to Utah since the glory days of Jimmer Fredette, but it hasn’t been as great for Hood. Sure, he kicks donkey when it comes to scoring the basketball. But the Jazz don’t need him to be their primary offensive threat anymore, and once you add in his ever-present injury risk on top of that, he becomes expendable. I yearn for a continued future of Hood pouring in threes from the wing with the artful precision of a Renaissance swordsman. But the smart money tells me that said future will not be taking place in the Beehive State any longer.

Lou Williams, PG/SG, LA Clippers

After balling out this season to the tune of a career-high 23.5 points per game and coming to the very edge of All-Star Manor, it may be another sour ending for Sweet Lou in LA. He will be turning 32 this year, and every indication the Clippers are now giving is that they want to get younger and more flexible. Williams is at the apex of his value and would help out a contender much more than he would his current team at this point. That being said, it says “Professional Bucket Getter” on his business card for a reason, so expect the sixth man great to keep reminding us of that no matter where he ends up.

Nikola Mirotic, PF, Chicago Bulls

Mirotic’s surface stats this season (16.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game on 42.9 percent from three) might be enough to get you punch-drunk. But the skillset overlap he has with other players on the tanking Bulls is more than enough to justify a move. Both rookie Lauri Markkanen and fellow pugilist Bobby Portis can play the stretch-four-with-rebounding-upside role just as well as Mirotic can, making him a luxury piece. Fortunately for Chicago, Niko’s $12.5 million club option for 2018-19 opens up just enough daylight to stand out in a market already well-saturated with shooting. Hopefully that means a move out of the Windy City before I run out of fight-related puns.

Kemba Walker, PG, Charlotte Hornets

Whether or not you believe that Kardiac Kemba is a true blue-chipper, 22-23 points per game and excellent one-on-one defense for only $12 million a year is virtually unheard of in today’s NBA. He may never be the best player on a true playoff contender, but his prime years may still be ahead of him in a world where you need a dynamic point guard to be able to compete. The Hornets seem doomed to wither away in the lottery no matter what. But in making Walker available for trade — along with his speed-of-light stepbacks and his homicidal crossovers — they are implicitly acknowledging that he can still be saved. We are now accepting donations for #SaveKemba2018.

Nikola Vucevic, PF/C, Orlando Magic

Vucci Mane remains sidelined with a left hand fracture, but he will return to a Magic team with little need for his services anymore. Frank Vogel’s bunch now has the worst record in the NBA, and No. 6 overall pick Jonathan Isaac needs a yellow brick road to more consistent playing time (once he returns from his own ankle injury). On the right team, Vucevic can be a Kevin Love Lite — a big man who hits the three, doesn’t kill ball movement, and can flirt with 20 points and 10 rebounds on any given night. The extra season he has under contract after this one may just be gravy for potential suitors as well.

Kent Bazemore, SG/SF, Atlanta Hawks

Even the balls of tumbleweed have deserted Atlanta by now, and I suspect that Bazemore, arguably the most valuable trade chip that they have left, will soon be following suit. A lefty slasher with 15-5-5 upside from the wing will always be a coveted player type. There’s just little use for him on a team that will struggle to reach 30 wins this season. If he picks up his player option, Bazemore will also be owed roughly $18 million a year through 2020, which is none too friendly for a roster teardown to say the least. Still not convinced? Well here’s the biggest argument for the Hawks to cash out on Money Baze over these next few days – he plays the same position as Luka Doncic.

Hassan Whiteside, C, Miami Heat

A word of advice for any team seeking a dominating inside presence on this year’s trade market: always look on the Whiteside of life. The former All-Defensive Second Teamer may have worn out his welcome in Miami after three-plus years — getting ghosted in the fourth quarter is becoming a regular occurrence for Whiteside as the Heat often elect to go with the spacing and the playmaking of a James Johnson-Kelly Olynyk frontline instead. Rookie big man Bam Adebayo has proven to be a more flexible, nimble-footed option down low as well. As a result, Whiteside is down across the board in almost all statistical categories this season, and that creates a nice buy-low window for any interested parties (like this Western Conference team perhaps).

Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, Denver Nuggets

The backcourt in Denver has just turned on the “no vacancy” sign. Gary Harris leads the team in points per game, Jamal Murray is playing like a maniac, and Will “The People’s Champ” Barton has reached new heights as a distributor to go along with his scoring thumb. With Nikola Jokic sopping up the rest of the playmaking opportunities, Mudiay seems to be the one Nugget left standing as the music stops. Granted, he is still just 21 years old, and his flaws, while glaring, are not necessarily fatal. A change of scenery could be just what the doctor ordered for a young guard who can pass the ball and penetrate while also quietly creeping up to a rock-solid 38.7 percent from deep this season.

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