HoopsHype recently started a series where we rank players based on the amount of times they’ve been mentioned in our Rumors Page under the trade tag over the prior 14-day stretch.
Obviously, a certain star player, who dominated headlines after a very public trade request, was the main focus of the first installment of the series.
But now that the Jimmy Butler deal has finally gone down, it’s time to turn our focus to the other names that have been bandied about on the trade market.
5. KYLE KORVER, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the most talked about teams in terms of trade rumors has been the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs, one season removed from being a contender, boast a paltry 2-12 record and sit 28th in net rating at -8.7.
As such, it would make sense to see them place some of their veteran pieces on the trading block – pieces like Kyle Korver, for example.
The first time Korver’s name was mentioned in trade reports this season came approximately two weeks ago, when ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst reported the following:
“Meanwhile, the Cavs have initiated testing the trade market for guard Kyle Korver in the past several days, sources said. There was some trade interest in Korver last summer, and the Cavs are circling back on those talks.”
Since then, more Korver-related reports have come out, linking the sharpshooting 2-guard to playoff teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks.
Philadelphia, in particular, would make a lot of sense for Korver, as they need to replace the outside shooting that was lost when Robert Covington was dealt as part of the Butler trade.
We’ll see when a deal actually comes together, but a move seems inevitable at some point prior to the trade deadline. The veteran belongs on a contender.
4. BRADLEY BEAL, WASHINGTON WIZARDS
Though Bradley Beal’s name has popped up in trade rumors recently, it’s been in more of a he’s-not-going-anywhere sense.
The most recent report on Beal’s availability came via the NY Times’ Marc Stein, who wrote:
“Word is the Wolves did try to engage Washington — another team falling well short of expectations — in trade talks for the sharpshooting guard Bradley Beal. But the Wizards have kept Beal off limits amid their 4-9 start. They would naturally prefer to trade the struggling Otto Porter, or perhaps even John Wall, but both possess hard-to-move contracts.”
A Butler-for-Beal deal would have been one heck of a blockbuster, and a fantastic return for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Unfortunately (for us, the fans, at least), it didn’t come to fruition.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to fault the Washington Wizards for being hesitant to move their All-Star shooting guard.
Despite the team’s slow start, Beal is still putting up 22.3 points and 3.6 assists per contest in this, his age-25 season. And with the former Florida Gator just now entering his prime and under team control for the next three years, it’s hard to envision Washington’s stance on Beal’s availability changing anytime soon.
3. JOHN WALL, WASHINGTON WIZARDS
Beal’s All-Star backcourt partner in Washington John Wall has also seen his name pop up in trade rumors in recent weeks, but it’s been in a speculative sense more than anything.
Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo believes the Miami Heat would make for a sensible Wall landing spot if the Wizards do decide to move on from him. Woo wrote:
“Granted, the money will make any negotiations complex. If there is a Wall suitor that makes sense, it’s the Miami Heat, who need an injection of star talent, and are financially saddled entering next summer’s potentially starry free agency period. Stuck with Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson through 2020, the Heat are in a position to take a risk and inject some energy into a roster replete with tough players, but lacking in ceiling.”
However, it must be noted that if Washington does decide to blow things up, moving Wall could prove tricky because the Kentucky product is on the final season of his previous contract; in 2019-20, his super-max extension kicks in, and for the next four seasons he’ll be making, on average, $42.3 million annually.
Even with the league’s salary cap projected to increase every year for the foreseeable future, that’s still a huge cap hit for teams to take on.
That’s all to say: If the Wizards do decide to become sellers by this year’s trade deadline, don’t count on a Wall deal to go down this season. Moving a deal of that size before it’s even kicked in will be nearly impossible.
2. TERRY ROZIER, BOSTON CELTICS
Whether Terry Rozier is content with his current role in Boston was a point of contention last week, with the Ringer’s Bill Simmons reporting that word had gotten out around the league regarding the fifth-year guard and his displeasure with his playing time.
Simmons’ report is particularly interesting due to the fact that, at the moment, Rozier is one of the more obvious trade candidates league-wide.
The Celtics re-signed one of their main ball-handlers, Marcus Smart, to a four-year, $52 million contract this past summer. What’s more, this upcoming offseason, they still have to deal with Kyrie Irving‘s impending free agency, which will undoubtedly culminate with Irving getting a max or near-max deal.
There’s only so much money (and playing time) that can be devoted to one backcourt, so even if Boston loves Rozier and his hard-nosed, bucket-getting style of basketball, it’s going to be nearly impossible for them to keep him around long-term.
Additionally, because of Irving’s knee injury last season, Rozier was able to prove he’s more than capable of being the primary point guard on a really good team. In the playoffs, the Louisville product averaged 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game, and helped guide Boston so deep in the playoffs that they were just one game short of reaching the Finals.
Surely, teams around the Association took notice of Rozier’s postseason performances. And that’s why once we get closer to the trade deadline, his name will only pick up more steam as a likely trade candidate. Look for rebuilding teams, especially, to be interested in acquiring the 6-foot-2 guard.
1. JR SMITH, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
The only player to make a repeat appearance from our debut piece of this series is JR Smith. And yet, we’re not anywhere closer to a deal.
Since Smith’s original borderline trade request, the mercurial 2-guard has seen an uptick in playing time, averaging 28.1 minutes nightly since Nov. 3. In that span, Smith is also putting up 10.3 points and 2.0 threes per contest while knocking down a healthy 37.5 percent of his looks from deep.
Could Cleveland be giving Smith more playing time in order to buoy his value as a trade asset? It’s possible, but the Cavs have suffered some injuries to their wing rotation, which also sort of forced their hand as far as giving Smith more action.
Whether Smith eventually gets dealt remains to be seen, but the fact that his contract is only guaranteed for $3.9 million next season could help matters.
At the end of the day, guys like Smith and Korver simply don’t make sense on a rebuilding team like Cleveland. Their ability to knock down threes along with their playoff experience could make them enticing to contenders looking for more shooting.
In the cases of those two players, a trade feels like a matter of when, and not if.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter: @FrankUrbina_.