We have entered that part of the NBA season where losing teams are willing to sell off bad contracts for draft picks and good teams are looking for help to cement their playoff run. The Cavs want a point guard. The Celtics want a star. The Clippers want a small forward. The Warriors want size. The Rockets want a power forward. The Knicks want anyone who can play defense. The Spurs want to get younger. The Bulls want three point shooting. The Thunder want someone besides Westbrook who can win games. And on and on it goes.
More than likely, no one will go anywhere. First off, teams are hesitant to give up first round draft picks to win now. The CBA has made first round talent a high commodity since players who stay with their drafted teams and become All-Star talents can get huge paydays and it doesn’t matter if you contend for a title. DeMarcus Cousins is going to be very rich on July 1st and he’s never been to the playoffs. The pressure is on organizations to scout first round talent well so they can get a player they want to keep for a decade. Giving up first round picks can be a disaster. Ask the Brooklyn Nets. They may indeed get the #1 pick this year which the Celtics will cash in as theirs because of a catastrophic trade. So be careful if you want to win now. If it doesn’t work out you have mortgaged your future.
But the lure of giving up your first round pick is to get help immediately. Several players are likely, in theory, to change teams. They have a valuable skill set. Here are a few.
Lou Williams. The combo guard is having a career year and the only reason he won’t win his third Sixth Man of the Year award is he is on a pathetic team. Williams is the Lakers leading scorer. He will be an asset to a team needing three point shooting. He is draining 36.8% of his threes and averages 17.7 points per game. He is the 6th ranked shooting guard (Real Plus-Minus). His contract is doable. $7 million next year when the contract ends.
Monta Ellis. The shooting guard is making almost 50% of his two point shots. He would be a good fit for a team that doesn’t need three point shooting but someone to score from the mid-range. He is averaging the lowest point per game since his rookie year but he is only playing 28 minutes. This is Monta’s 12th year. He would be instant offense coming off the bench. His contract is a problem though. $11 million next year and a player option in 2018-19.
Ricky Rubio. Forever linked to trades because Rubio is that rare thing, a point guard that can’t shoot. But Rubio can get into the paint, drive to the cup, pass to the open three. He has good court vision and when everyone was talking about Kris Dunn taking his job all Rubio did was keep the job for himself. Unlike Williams and Ellis, Rubio can defend his position. If you have a lot of scoring and don’t need buckets from the point, he is the one. He is the 4th ranked defensive point guard. (Defensive Real Plus-Minus). He has a bad contract. $14 million next year. $14 million in 2018-19.
Goran Dragic. Unlike Rubio, Dragic can score and score in bunches. He can find the open man. Dragic just can’t be the best guard on the team if you want that team to be playoff tough. It’s not that Dragic himself isn’t tough, he is. But his game is suited to be a complimentary second or third option, not a first. He doesn’t have defensive talent. This year for Miami Dragic is taking the most shots he ever has in his career and he still is shooting 45.4%. His three ball is 40.8% so he is a hot commodity on the trade market. His 19.0 points is the second highest total of his career. He just signed a max deal in the summer of 2015 so he is going to drain the cap. $18 million a year until 2019. A player option for $19 million in 2019-2020.
Serge Ibaka. Most people don’t realize that the Thunder drafted Ibaka in the same draft that they grabbed Russell Westbrook. Ibaka was the reason the Thunder didn’t keep James Harden. They chose to extend Ibaka. Then they chose to trade Ibaka in favor of signing perimeter shooter Victor Oladipo. Plus Ibaka’s efficiency has dwindled. Ibaka rebounds, block shots and stretches the floor with the three ball. He is a proven playoff veteran who can pay dividends. This year for the Magic Ibaka is scoring a career high 15.6 points. An unrestricted free agent July 1st.
Greg Monroe. Does anyone want Greg Monroe? This past summer no one did. Monroe is a dinosaur. In a league with stretch fours he plays around the rim and can hit the mid-range but can’t do anything beyond the arc. He’s not particularly explosive around the rim, particularly when guarded by jump out the gym athletes. He is only playing 21 minutes this year which tells you everything you need to know about Monroe. He does make 52% of his shots and is an efficient rebounder for the amount of minutes he does play. He is a great defender. He is also a good mover of the ball. But 10.6 points is the lowest point total since his rookie year. He has an opt-out year this summer but is he worth more than $17.9 million on the open market? His agent will convince him that he is.
Rudy Gay. The season had barely started when Rudy defiantly said he was done with the mess in Sac-town. Of course he is. Since he isn’t get DeMarcus money, why stay? Gay has always been an enigma. Just look at him. He has the length, the body, the athleticism of an All-Star but he doesn’t have the will or the game. He doesn’t attack the rim. He is not a driver. He just wants to shoot jumpers. It has worked for Gay. He has been in the league 11 years and you can pencil him for 17-19 points per game. Just don’t expect leadership or him to be your best player. He is a second or third option. Come July 1st expect him to say goodbye to California and hello to _______ . His $13 million salary will be a thing of the past.
photo via llananba