We’re mere days away from the start of 2019 free agency, which kicks off on Sunday, June 30 at 6 pm EST.
And with the market opening up, so too does the potential of a more active trade market. Sure, we’ve already seen arguably the biggest deal, that of Anthony Davis, go through, but Davis might not be only All-Star on the move this offseason.
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. FRANK NTILIKINA
After a lot of scuttle leading up to the draft stating that New York Knicks point guard Frank Ntilikina might not survive the night as a Knick, a trade never came.
And now, it looks like one might not come at all.
The latest on Ntilikina’s prospects for getting dealt comes courtesy of The New York Post, who reported the following on June 24:
“Because he makes $5 million next season and still hasn’t proven himself durable or productive enough for a mid-lottery pick, the Knicks had entertained offers for the French point guard on draft night and at February’s trade deadline. But the offers weren’t deemed worthy of a player who is a known stout defender and still has upside as an offensive player if he can improve upon his 3-point shooting (career 30.5 percent).”
As the article states, it doesn’t make much sense for the Knicks to deal Ntilikina now, as his stock is at an all-time low.
Although his numbers as a second-year player – 5.7 points and 2.8 assists per game – were far from impressive, he’s still just 20 years old and has flashed huge promise as an elite ball-stopper on the defensive end.
So unless New York thinks they’re set to receive commitments from their two top free-agent targets, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving (which isn’t looking as likely as it did a few weeks ago), there shouldn’t be any sense of urgency to deal Ntilikina, especially for cap space.
The young French ball-handler can still be a decent building block for the Knicks.
4. JOSH JACKSON
Another 2017 NBA draft alumnus, Phoenix Suns swingman Josh Jackson, like Ntilikina, has also been on the trade block for the team that used a lottery selection on him.
Back on June 18, a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania stated that Jackson, along with TJ Warren, was being made available by Phoenix:
“The Suns have discussed forwards T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson in several separate trade packages, as well as the No. 6 pick, league sources said.”
As far as why the Suns would want to cut bait already on the No. 4 overall pick of 2017, there’s questions surrounding his maturity both on the floor and off it, questions that were exacerbated when he got arrested back in May.
He may still be young and possess a lot of potential as a two-way playmaking wing, but Jackson seems to be on thin ice in Phoenix. Maybe another team decides to swoop in this summer and take a chance on the troubled 22-year-old, but the Suns would be smart to hold onto him and see if they can raise his value a bit with a strong season in 2019-20.
3. JR SMITH
The player who holds the record for most appearances in this trade-ranking series, we’re seven months into the Cleveland Cavaliers announcing that JR Smith would be away from the team while they try to find his next team, and the situation has still yet to be resolved.
Many expected the resolution to come during the NBA draft, when the Cavs could have taken on bad salary along with a draft pick in order to ship Smith and his non-guaranteed deal elsewhere, but the night came and went without a Smith trade coming to fruition. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, it wasn’t for lack of trying:
“The Cleveland Cavaliers entered Thursday night hoping to trade JR Smith, but turned down a few offers that would have returned a first-round pick, league sources tell cleveland.com. While the odds of a deal have reduced, there’s still time. The Cavs have until June 30, to be exact. And they remain the leader in the clubhouse to help a team create cap space heading into what is expected to be a frenzied summer.”
Now, we’re approaching do-or-die time for Cleveland to find a deal, or be forced to waive Smith themselves. That’s because if the streaky 2-guard isn’t released by June 30, then his $15.7 million contract becomes fully guaranteed; if he is released by then, teams only have to pay $3.9 million in dead money next season.
The Cavaliers would rather deal him than just outright release him because they believe they can pick up a premium asset in a Smith deal, since they would be willing to take on bad future salary in such a trade. For a rebuilding team like Cleveland, amassing assets is key.
If Smith does get waived by the 30th, be it by the Cavs or whatever team trades for him, look for the Los Angeles Lakers to try and pick him up:
No matter what, mercifully, this will likely be the last time we see Smith in the trade-rumor ranking series; a legendary stint is set to come to an end on June 30.
2. BRADLEY BEAL
Despite making a few appearances on these lists recently, it doesn’t look like Washington Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal is headed anywhere. Not for a while, at least.
According to Beal himself, Washington’s front office has talked to him personally to inform him that he isn’t on the trade block (via the Washington Post):
While his name surfaced in trade rumors following John Wall’s season-ending Achilles’ injury in February, Beal said that Leonsis, Sheppard and Coach Scott Brooks have each independently told him in recent weeks that he would not be moved. ‘They’ve been very transparent and that’s been great,’ Beal said. ‘They’re not keeping me in the dark about anything, even about the trade rumors. . . . It’s great having that peace of mind.'”
Of course, things could change quickly on that front, especially once the Wizards name their next full-time general manager (Tommy Sheppard, currently performing that role, is still doing so on an interim basis, though he seems like the odds-on favorite to land the permanent job).
If whoever their next GM is decides it best that Washington initiates a full rebuild, Beal would be by far the franchise’s most coveted asset, as he is locked up for the next two seasons on a team-friendly contract, and is still just 26 years old.
Beal would land the Wizards a huge haul of assets.
1. CHRIS PAUL
Following reports that Chris Paul and the Houston Rockets were in a bad place and could be headed for divorce, both Paul and team general manager Daryl Morey vehemently denied the rumors (via the Houston Chronicle):
“‘I never asked for a trade,” Paul said. ‘I never demanded a trade.’ He did not seem angry about the reports that he had, in part because he had nearly completed the day’s events on a near-perfect Southern California afternoon. [….] Paul was much more effusive about that cause, but he did briefly address speculation that he wants to leave the Rockets and that there is a rift with star backcourt mate James Harden. ‘I’ll be in Houston,’ Paul said. ‘I’m happy about that. I’m very happy about that. I’m good.'”
Either way, even if Paul wanted a trade or if the Rockets wanted to deal him, a deal would be extremely difficult to come by. Paul’s play is already declining, which is sensible considering his age (34) and the number of minutes he’s played in his career.
That, plus the fact that the future Hall-of-Famer is signed for three more years and is owed another $124.1 million, will make it nearly impossible to find a trade for Paul, at least without Houston adding sweetener in form of assets.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter: @FrankUrbina_.