10 NBA Players Who Should’ve Been Traded Already
NBA teams have a habit of holding onto players for far too long. Rather than trading a player when his value is at an all-time high, teams will keep him and miss their opportunity to cash in.
With the NBA’s trade deadline only three days away, we take a look at some players who fit this description. These are the 10 players who should have already been traded:
1. Pau Gasol – Los Angeles Lakers – $19,000,000
The Lakers waited too long to deal Gasol and his trade value has plummeted as a result. If they had moved him awhile back, they likely would’ve acquired a decent package in exchange for the skilled big man. The problem was that the Lakers overvalued Gasol. Teams were inquiring about Gasol several years ago, but the Lakers turned them all away because they were underwhelmed by the talks. Now, those offers probably look pretty good considering there aren’t many teams expressing interest in Gasol.
And why would they? Executives aren’t lining up to acquire a 32-year-old reserve who will make over $19 million next season and who has been sidelined for long stretches due to injuries (most recently a tear of the plantar fascia and knee tendinitis). Gasol is on the decline and his value is at an all-time low. He’s the perfect example of what happens when a team waits too long to trade a player.
2. Josh Smith – Atlanta Hawks – $13,200,000
It’s never easy to trade a player who’s in the final year of his contract. Think back to the Denver Nuggets trying to trade Carmelo Anthony to understand why it’s difficult. Because Anthony could test free agency after the season, he had control over the process. He wouldn’t commit to any team but the New York Knicks, so potential suitors like the New Jersey Nets or Houston Rockets were hesitant to part with significant pieces to acquire him. Those teams could have traded for Anthony and tried to persuade him to stay, but if he left after the season then that team would be depleted and someone would probably get fired.
That’s where things are at with the Hawks and Smith, who is an unrestricted free agent after this season. Plenty of teams have been linked to Smith, but most teams are going to want a commitment from Smith before trading away a bunch of players and picks for him. Had Atlanta traded Smith last season, they would have had more control over the process and teams would have been more open to trading for Smith without a commitment since they’d have more than enough time to persuade him to stay (like the Toronto Raptors and Rudy Gay). Smith’s name has come up at the trade deadline in recent years, but the Hawks didn’t move him. That may have been a mistake.
3. Anderson Varejao – Cleveland Cavaliers – $8,400,000
The Cavaliers missed their chance to trade Varejao and add a piece or two to their young core. Earlier this season, Varejao was looking like the best center in the league, averaging nearly 15 points and 15 rebounds. Many teams were calling Cleveland about Varejao, but the Cavs didn’t seriously consider moving the 30-year-old, despite the fact that he’s not part of their long-term plan as they rebuild around lottery picks Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. Rather than taking advantage of Varejao’s hot start and using him to add another long-term answer, Cleveland decided to stand pat.
Shortly after, Varejao sustained a quad injury and underwent surgery. While recovering from the surgery, the veteran center developed a blood clot in his lung, which will force him to miss the rest of the season. Varejao will have to use blood thinners over the next several months and wait for the clot to resolve itself. Because Varejao has only had one clot, he’ll likely be able to get off of the blood thinning medication after several months, but the injury may still affect him. For example, there’s a chance that Varejao will experience shortness of breath or chest pain once he returns. In the past, teams were already concerned about Varejao’s injury history and now his medical file is even thicker. The Cavs may still be able to move Varejao, but they missed their chance to sell high and get significant players and picks back for him.
4. Al Jefferson – Utah Jazz – $15,000,000
The Utah Jazz has done an excellent job of stockpiling young talent and it’s inevitable that they’re going to hand the reins over to their up-and-coming players at some point soon. Jefferson has played well in Utah and helped the Jazz reach the postseason last year, but his time in Utah is likely coming to an end either before the trade deadline or this summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Enes Kanter – the 20-year-old whom the Jazz selected with the third overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft – seems ready to play a bigger role and he’s clearly one of the cornerstones of Utah’s future.
Again, it’s tough to trade an upcoming free agent at the trade deadline because they can scare away some teams so the better move may have been trading Jefferson last year. However, the Jazz have received plenty of calls for Jefferson, with the San Antonio Spurs mentioned as a potential suitor.
5. Paul Millsap – Utah Jazz – $7,200,000
Millsap is in the exact same position as Jefferson. He just turned 28 years old so he’s significantly older than Utah’s core group of players. Just as Jefferson has Kanter nipping at his heels, Millsap has Derrick Favors ready for increased minutes. Favors – the 21-year-old whom the Jazz acquired when they traded Deron Williams to the Nets – has star potential and everyone around the league knows it. It’s only a matter of time before Favors and Kanter are playing alongside each other in Utah.
The Jazz have shown some interest in re-signing Millsap, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. They offered him a contract extension over the summer, but Millsap wants to test free agency. Knowing this, the Jazz almost have to trade the 28-year-old. Moving him before this point may have been better for the franchise, but it’s understandable that they didn’t want to break up last year’s surprisingly successful squad.
6. Ben Gordon – Charlotte Bobcats – $12,400,000
Not only has Gordon failed to turn the Bobcats into a competitive team on the court, he has reportedly been a negative presence off the court. Gordon has been “disrespectful” and displayed “disruptive behavior” during his brief stint with the Bobcats, according to a report by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Gordon has butted heads with Bobcats head coach Mike Dunlap and openly challenged him in practice. Now, it seems more and more likely that Gordon will be dealt before Thursday’s deadline.
The moment Gordon started acting out, the Bobcats should have moved him. Charlotte is a young team that doesn’t need that kind of influence in the locker room. Also, Gordon is making Dunlap’s job much harder in his first year as a head coach. Entering the season, Gordon was saying all of the right things and emerging as a veteran leader for Charlotte. However, something must have changed and the situation doesn’t seem repairable. The Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors have been mentioned as possible suitors for Gordon and the Bobcats should trade him as soon as possible.
7. Andrea Bargnani – Toronto Raptors – $10,000,000
The Raptors have been extremely transparent as the deadline approaches, making it clear that they’re shopping Bargnani. The 27-year-old, who was selected with the top overall pick in 2006, hasn’t become the franchise cornerstone that Toronto hoped he’d be. In fact, the Raptors have been better without him this season. The Raptors lost 10 of 11 games with Bargnani and then right after his injury, they won eight of nine games without him.
It’s never easy to trade a player when it’s obvious to everyone around the league that this is an addition-by-subtraction move and that Bargnani hasn’t developed into the player he was projected to become. The Raptors would’ve been better off trading Bargnani one or two years ago, when his name was surfacing in trade rumors but the team wasn’t seriously considering moving him. He still had some upside and believers back then, certainly more than he has now.
8. DeJuan Blair – San Antonio Spurs – $1,054,000
The Spurs nearly traded Blair to the Miami HEAT right before last year’s draft, but the deal fell apart in the late stages. Moving Blair last year would’ve been smart for San Antonio since he was coming off of a season where he started 62 of 66 games for the Spurs. Even though he fell out of Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich’s rotation in the postseason, teams had still seen Blair start and contribute for most of the season. That’s why teams, such as Miami, were interested in Blair last offseason. They knew what he could do and, at 23 years old, he still had plenty of potential.
However, the Spurs held onto Blair to the surprise of everyone. Even Blair thought he would be dealt over the offseason, but that wasn’t the case. Now, Blair’s minutes have continued to drop, which affects his stock. He’s playing a career-low 13.8 minutes per game and is averaging career-lows across the board in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. Most league sources believe that Blair will be moved before the deadline, but San Antonio may have been better off trading Blair last year.
9. J.J. Redick – Orlando Magic – $6,000,000
It’s somewhat surprising that the Magic haven’t already traded Redick. After all, Orlando has a long-term answer at the shooting guard position in Arron Afflalo and the team’s rebuilding effort has focused on their young players, draft picks and cap space. It doesn’t seem like the 28-year-old Redick fits into Orlando’s long-term plan, even though he’s become a well-rounded player and is currently having a career-year. By the time Orlando’s core of Nikola Vucevic, Andrew Nicholson, Maurice Harkless and others reach their prime, Redick will likely be out of the league.
While Redick has said all of the right things and even indicated that he may re-sign after the season because he and his family are settled and happy in Orlando, it would be risky for Magic general manager Rob Hennigan to let his most attractive trade chip hit free agency. If Redick does walk, which is certainly possible if another team throws a lot of money at him or a contending team offers him a starting job, then the Magic lose Redick for nothing. The safe move is dealing Redick before the deadline and bringing in young players, expiring contracts or draft picks, which will help the team as they continue to rebuild for the future.
10. Rodney Stuckey – Detroit Pistons – $8,500,000
The Pistons have Brandon Knight and Jose Calderon leading their backcourt, which has some wondering what the future holds for Rodney Stuckey. This has been a terrible year for Stuckey, from his horrendous 1-23 shooting slump at the start of the season to being deactivated last month for unknown reasons. There have been some whispers that he and Pistons head coach Lawrence Frank have butted heads, which wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone considering he clashed with former Pistons coach John Kuester. Stuckey’s trade value has taken a hit this year and it’s going to be tough for the Pistons to find a deal that nets significant assets for the guard.