February 23rd will soon be here, and when that time comes, there could be some big changes in the NBA. As of Sunday, the Portland Trailblazers kicked off what could be a busy two weeks trading with the Denver Nuggets, trading Mason Plumlee in exchange for Jusuf Nurkic. I see a lot more trades like this happening, teams giving up quality players, on their way to free agency, because they have no intention of paying them salaries that they may garner on the free agent market. Giving up Plumlee was a lot easier to do considering he would be a free agent at the end of the year. With the salary cap going up again, he’d more than likely request a salary that a quality starting center would want in this current free agent climate. In exchange they get a young center in Jusuf Nurkic who was living under the shadows of Nikola Jokic, but is plenty ready to take on starting minutes for the Trailblazers. Oh, and did I mention the Traiblazers got a first-round pick too? Great trade for the Traiblazers, eh trade for the Nuggets.
This leads into what specific players may be the targets of forthcoming trades. Let’s look at five possible trade candidates.
Personally, I find it shocking Okafor hasn’t been traded at this point. The 76ers could use some depth at the guard position and they’ve shown that if they would trade any big man it would more than likely be Okafor. His offensive game is what attracts most suitors, yet he lacks the upside Noel has on defense/rebounding and isn’t the complete package that Embiid is. For a long time, Okafor seemed destined to be in a trade to the Celtics (like many others in the NBA), but that seems to have fizzled out. Some other teams that I’ve seen floated around include the Bulls, Nuggets(probably not after the Plumlee trade), and the Pelicans, but the 76ers have continued to overvalue Okafor’s worth.
According to many in the NBA, Okafor is a one-trick pony without a solid secondary skill.
Here is an article from FiveFortyEight that discusses Okafor’s value in today’s NBA, supporting the theory above. On the other hand, he’ll be on his rookie contract until 2019, and if a team with this specific need comes around it could be a steal. Unfortunately, that has yet to happen. One reason not to trade
Okafor, Joel Embiid recently tore his meniscus, which couldn’t have happened at a worse time. It has put the 76ers in a tough spot and will most likely leave them with Okafor for another season. If they do trade him, I believe the 76ers will cave and trade him at a low value.
Of all the elite players that have been rumored to be on the trade market, Jimmy Butler has the best chance to be traded. Despite being the 7th seed in the East, the Bulls are a mess and don’t seem to have a plan for the future. Their acquisitions of Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo were a last ditch effort to remain competitive, and since that hasn’t worked, a rebuild may be best for the Bulls. I’ve heard some bizarre trade rumors surrounding Butler. The only two possible destinations I see Butler ending up are in Boston or staying put in Chicago
It seems biased from me saying Butler could only end up in Boston, but when you consider what the Bulls want in exchange for Butler, it’s the only destination that makes sense. The C’s have the Brooklyn picks, young players with potential, and flexible cap space. The current asking price is looking like both the Brooklyn picks and a group of players that includes Avery Bradley or Marcus Smart. Ainge would love to have Jimmy Butler in the C’s starting lineup, but if he can’t talk down the asking price then I don’t see this happening.
In hindsight, the trade for Ibaka was a terrible move for the Magic. It baffles me why they thought they needed to do this trade in the first place. Essentially they traded one player on the verge of their contract year (Victor Oladipo) for another player on the same path (Ibaka), but the Magic gave up Ersan Ilyasova as well as a first-round pick, which became Damontas Sabonis. The Thunder found a reliable shooting guard, while the Magic gave up a ton to fill a spot that wasn’t a need. On top of that, the Magic went out and signed Bismack Biyombo to a $17 million/ year contract. I’m not surprised at all to see Ibaka back on the market.
It seems the Magic are just waiting for the best offer and will take the Ibaka sweepskates till the final day of the deadline. Teams that seem to be interested in the services of Ibaka are the Toronto Raptors and the Miami Heat. I don’t know what the Magic are looking for in return, picks or a specific player/position, but it definitely won’t cover their blunder of a trade with the Thunder.
What the Knicks want in return for Carmelo is a mystery. One second they are asking the Cavaliers for Kevin Love, and the next second they are telling the Clippers they are willing to do a trade without Deandre Jordan, Blake Griffin, or Chris Paul. And somehow, when all I’ve seen is resistance from the Celtics front office, a trade involving Carmelo and the Celtics remains possible. Whether it’s as a facilitator remains to be seen.
Let me ask a quick question to the Knicks….what do you expect to get in return for Carmelo? I don’t see single contender actually giving the Knicks a deal that they are expecting to get,. With that said, what up-and-coming team is going to want to touch him as well? He’s clearly incapable of lifting a team out of mediocrity, so who’s it going to be then? The Clippers could be players, but at a low return for the Knicks. Essentially, the Knicks have zero leverage in this situation making it difficult to get a good deal. If they are serious about building around Porzingis, your best bet is to trade Carmelo for a lottery pick, suck for a while, and hope for the best in the future.
I feel like I’ve seen Gallinari’s name a million times during trade season. This trade season, though, is perfect for it to finally happen. Gallinari is heading towards free agency and the Nuggets aren’t going to make a run in the West, so why not see what the trade market can offer. Gallinari remains injured this year, while Wilson Chandler has replaced him well. Considering Chandler’s recent performance, the Nuggets should not be weary of trading Gallinari. The Nuggets could definitely get a solid forward in return to replace Gallinari and possibly some picks to build for the future.