Having been caught up a little in the MLB Hot Stove action – Shohei Ohtani has finally made his decision and Giancarlo Stanton looks to be heading up the East coast, despite making it clear he wanted to move west (we called both wrong HERE) – it’s about time we take a quick look at one of the sport’s currently in-season. With roughly a third of the NBA season gone, East Atlantic Look thought it could be a bit of fun to speculate a little. The facts have been written and discussed a load over the first couple of months of the season; everyone knows that the Chicago Bulls suck and that it’s probably a matter of time before Golden State Warriors overtake Houston Rockets at the top of the Western Conference. With talk turning to trades, we thought we’d look at two names from two struggling teams with bad first-third records and which other teams they could be a fit for prior to the February 8th deadline in the new year. *All winning records and player stats are correct at time of writing
Chicago Bulls – Record: 5-20 – Player on the block: Kris Dunn, Point Guard.
Picking a ‘star’ Bull from a 5-win team isn’t the easiest, even with back-to-back wins, but so far this year Kris Dunn has managed to make some sort of metric impact in his 21 appearances (12 starts); 4th in points per game with 12.8 (Lauri Markkanen leads with 14.7 from Power Forward), leads assists per game, steals per game, turnovers per game resulting in a player efficiency rating of 14.2 – good enough for 4th out of those that have appeared in 20+ games. His high fouls per game and low blocks per game count against him as far as being a PG goes, so it’s hard to see which other clubs need the 23-year-old who was traded in June after a poor rookie year at the Minnesota Timberwolves. Trading someone after a couple of good rebound months is unlikely – no club will be actively seeking to give up talent to acquire Dunn, nor give up their draft picks – but if Dunn is to continue on an upward curve throughout the rest of this campaign, Dunn could be a crucial part of a trade prior to the 2018/19 season as PG cover for someone, especially with a number of PGs hitting free agency after the current season. Maybe as cover for Jrue Holiday for the New Orleans Pelicans if they lose Rajon Rondo to FA and veteran Jameer Nelson doesn’t return?
Atlanta Hawks – Record: 6-19 – Player on the block: Dewayne Dedmon, Centre.
With 2 rookies and 5 others with just 1 years of experience on the roster, it’s maybe no huge surprise to see Atlanta toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Through the first third it’s clear where the Hawks problems lie; their defence – only the Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic average higher points against in the division (111.1 and 110.8 respectively). The player EAL think could be a trade piece is the 28-year-old, veteran of 4 years and over 200 games, Dewayne Dedmon. Why trade one of the experienced players in the young side? Because the club are rebuilding and they could possibly get something back for him. Though his shooting has been limited through his 20 games thus far, his percentages are solid, and team leading; .601 FG%, .483 3P%, .864% (4th) and .629 2P% – he also leads the team in eFG% with .647. So, where would the man formerly of the Warriors, 76ers, Magic and Spurs be a fit? With a still positive VORP value (0.3), and a relatively modest contract of $14MM/2 years, in his first year as a full-time starter, Dedmon has continued to develop from his 2016/17 showing with a career-year (so far), Dedmon could fit onto most rosters in the Eastern as a back-up if he was happy to go back to that. As a starter? Ranking 14th in real plus-minus centres of 17-18, could he be a better option than Meyers Leonard at the Portland Trail Blazers? Cheaper…
Dallas Mavericks – Record: 7-19 – Player on the block: Nerlens Noel, Centre.
Having signed for his qualifying offer, Nerlans Noel would lose his Bird rights if traded, meaning he could veto any trade the Mavs were interested in. Considering the current on-court situation in Dallas – worst record in the Western Conference – if a trade was to become a possibility, it’s likely that Noel may waive his no-trade clause if a suitable opportunity arose. With unrestricted free-agency looming in 2018, and a potentially impressive contract on the horizon, it’s expected that Noel won’t be staying with Dallas long-term, so getting shot early may be an option. With Noel set to miss ‘several weeks’ as he under goes thumb surgery, the Mavs may be looking to ship Noel quickly before the trade deadline for players signed in the summer bypasses them. So where would Noel waive his no-trade for? Nearly anywhere. Anywhere that might give him some more playing time. When it comes to trading players, club officials like the option to ship players out of their division so they can’t hurt them in the future – enter the Eastern Conference. Who in the East would Noel move too? How about division leading Boston Celtics? The only positive to come from Gordon Hayward’s opening day horror-injury is the disabled player exception that would allow the Celtics to easily absorb Noel’s contract. Couple that with the fact Noel could get a substantial amount of playing time in Boston and that his big, athletic skill set would be well suited off the bench, they could be a good fit. Oh, and Noel is from Boston so he could well be willing to cut a cheaper deal to remain there during free agency talks.
Memphis Grizzlies – Record: 8-18 – Player on the block: Marc Gasol, Centre.
Already one of the most talked about trade candidates of the season, Marc Gasol coming out and questioning the urgency and desire of his teammates after losing to the Toronto Raptors this week – their 12th loss in 13 games – confirmed to many that he was on his way out. Having sacked David Fizdale as Head Coach during the current skid, Memphis Grizzlies clearly aren’t averse to making wholesale changes, meaning that clubs calling about Gasol’s availability may now get answered, despite the front office’s earlier statement’s stating no move was on the cards.
Guaranteed to draw interest from many, Gasol would be a fit (and improve) nearly all sides; the sticking point for most would be the salary. Whilst nothing is owed in sport, it would seem only right that the aging franchise icon was sent to a win-now side if he was to be shipped – so where? Toronto Raptors have shown interest before and could beat off interest from Eastern Conference rivals Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers or the contender in the West San Antonio Spurs; all at present with better records, too. The Raptors may have the luxury of being able to send a player back to Memphis that could fit in immediately in Jonas Valanciunas – someone whose style hasn’t quite fitted the Raptors game and could be better suited to a more controlled, struggling side. Boost the deal by adding in defensive multi-positioner OG Anuoby and this deal is almost ‘bite your hand off’ territory for the Grizzlies – it could be a case of whether Toronto are willing to give up that much to overcome the conference powerhouses or if there are deals involving picks from elsewhere that Memphis may value more.
Phoenix Suns: Record: 9-19 – Player on the block: Tyson Chandler, Centre.
Tyler Chandler isn’t young – he’s 35 – so he’s not necessarily going to be advertised as ‘on the block’, but if someone comes in with an interest in him then Phoenix Suns are sure to listen. Enter, according to Gery Woelfel, Milwaukee Bucks. Playing as part of a young Suns side, the veteran has performed admirably – averaging nearly 10 rebounds per game – but the outlook in Phoenix is that they would rather play young guns. If the Bucks couldn’t make a play on DeAndre Jordan too sure up their defence, Milwaukee may be looking to do business with the Suns once more this season to provide depth alongside Thon Maker and, of course, John Henson.
As always, a lot of speculation. But trades are fun to consider and there are certainly some attractive players potentially available from some of those teams that have struggled through the first third. Contenders are always looking for that final push, either for a top seeding or just to get a seat at the table, so expect there to be some movement in coming months, and expect different names to become potential trade pieces.
Hold tight, James Dawne.