With the 2018-19 season coming to a close and the potentially crazy summer of 2019 approaching, the trade market is starting to heat up.
From a contender trying to clear cap space to make noise in free agency this offseason to a former contender trying to get rid of one of the few remnants of the team’s last great run, as well as a Top-5 player still on the trade market, there isn’t a shortage of storylines heading into July.
Below, HoopsHype ranks the five players who popped up the most in rumors on the site’s Trade page over the past week. Let’s jump right in.
5. JR SMITH
As has been the case for a good while now, the Cleveland Cavaliers are still trying to find a way to trade their enigmatic 2-guard, JR Smith.
It appears we may finally be seeing some sort of progress made on that front.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Miami Heat have emerged as potential suitors for Smith:
“A team that has expressed an interest in a salary-designed trade of J.R. Smith: the Miami Heat, sources said. The Heat also have contracts they could look to move in the offseason in a deal such as this, and would have to absorb Smith’s deal.”
Of course, Miami isn’t interested in Smith for his basketball abilities, but rather, because of the non-guaranteed nature of his contract. If the Heat acquire and waive him by June 30, Smith would only cost Miami $3.9 million in 2019-20, instead of the $15.7 million he would be due if he isn’t waived by that date.
Although that would probably cost the Heat some sweetener, likely in the form of their 2019 lottery pick, slated to be the No. 13 overall selection, Pat Riley and Co. might consider a Smith deal worth it anyway if they’re able to get rid of some of their worse long-term money, i.e. the contracts of James Johnson (which has two years and $30.9 million left on it after this season) or Dion Waiters (two years, $24.8 million left on it after this year).
Trading Waiters or Johnson for Smith and then waiving the shooting guard would allow Miami to become players in 2020 free agency, an area the franchise used to specialize in.
We’ll see if anything comes of Sharania’s report, and if the Heat are actually willing to part with a valuable first-round pick just to open up cap space towards next year.
4. CHRIS PAUL
After failing to topple the Golden State Warriors yet again, despite having their best stroke of luck yet due to Kevin Durant’s injury, reports began to trickle out regarding the Houston Rockets’ willingness to part with any of their non-James Harden pieces this summer.
One of the names mentioned was Chris Paul’s.
“Sources: In calls to front offices, Houston GM Daryl Morey is showing an aggressive desire to improve roster with all players and picks available in talks. Hard to imagine James Harden scenario, but the rest under contract – perhaps even Chris Paul – could be moved in right deal. […] Paul’s remaining contract (three years, $124 million) and advancing age (34) does make deal possibilities somewhat prohibitive. The Harden-Paul dynamic wasn’t without its challenges this year for the Rockets, league sources said.”
Although Paul is a future Hall-of-Famer and still producing at a high level, his contract is starting to resemble an albatross, one that greatly inhibits Houston’s ability to add meaningful depth.
With Paul owed $44.2 million in his age-36 season (2021-22), the Rockets may have a hard time moving him without adding sweetener and making it a salary-dump deal.
Even so, if Houston is willing to add some sweetener in order to trade Paul, there are a few landing spots that make sense for the 34-year-old, including the Los Angeles Lakers, who desperately need a strong summer to offset the messy last year they’ve undergone.
3. PJ TUCKER
If Houston is serious about clearing cap room this summer, a player that may have an easier time moving is PJ Tucker. And according to the New York Times’ Marc Stein, the Rockets may be looking into doing just that:
“The Rockets are indeed shopping everyone on the roster not named Harden. The complexities involved in moving Chris Paul, who at age 34 has three years and nearly $125 million left on his contract, have Houston officials actively exploring the trade market for Clint Capela, Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker.”
The bruising, tough-nosed forward is coming off a great season, one where he averaged 7.8 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting a tidy 37.7 percent from beyond the arc and playing elite perimeter and paint defense. What’s more, Tucker is due merely $8.4 million next season, and $8.0 million the year after, a season that is actually non-guaranteed.
All in all, thanks to the value Tucker adds on the defensive end and as a 3-and-D wing, his contract is actually one of the most team-friendly deals in the Association, at least among role players.
Houston wouldn’t find a shortage of suitors if they actually place him on the trade block this summer.
2. ERIC GORDON
For the Rockets, Paul may prove too difficult to trade while Tucker might be too valuable to seriously considering move.
“Gordon is entering the final year of his four-year, $54 million deal, another bargain on the market given his skill set. It’s no surprise these were among the pieces frequently talked about in possible trade scenario. One person close to Gordon still believes Houston could move him this summer or before the trade deadline if a long-term extension agreement can’t be reached.”
The 2016-17 Sixth Man of the Year posted another strong season for the Rockets this year, averaging 16.2 points and 3.2 triples per contest on 40.9/36.0/78.3 shooting splits. Considering he’s about to be on the final year of his deal, it shouldn’t be difficult for Houston to find him a new home if they choose to do so, as many teams, especially those who think they’re on the cusp of playoff contention, would be interested in his services.
Bucket-getting 2-guards who can defend will always be an important archetype in the NBA, and Gordon fits that mold perfectly.
1. ANTHONY DAVIS
The saga between Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans has been ongoing since his original trade request went public back in late January, and it hard to tell whether we’re close to a resolution just yet.
Although a recent report from Wojnarowski stated that New Orleans would like to have a deal done soon…
…new Pelicans general manager David Griffin said in a press conference that there isn’t a “shot clock” on getting a trade done, meaning New Orleans is anything but in a rush.
Considering the type of haul the Pelicans are reportedly hunting in a deal for Davis…
“According to front offices who’ve engaged in conversations with Griffin, he hasn’t sounded convinced that a singular team is likely to fulfill his wishes for a Davis deal. To that end, Griffin has been working to find multi-team trade scenarios that could redirect assets for players or picks more preferable to the Pelicans, sources said. […] Griffin is pursuing a combination of assets that include an All-Star player, a young player with All-Star potential and two first-round picks, league sources said. Those wants are on a sliding scale. For example, the better the player, the softer the asks on the draft picks — and vice versa.”
…it might take some time for New Orleans to find the right package.
From Davis’ side of things, reports state that the MVP-caliber big man has zeroed in on the Lakers and New York Knicks as his two preferred landing spots, though that really doesn’t matter much if Griffin and his staff don’t feel like they can make the best offers for Davis.
Resolution in this matter should come over the summer, possibly as soon as June 20, on NBA Draft night.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter: @FrankUrbina_.