Trade scuttle slowed down over the weekend and early in the week for obvious, tragic reasons, but that doesn’t mean teams have stopped talking business entirely behind the scenes. And although Woj is cautioning fans that it might be a slow trade deadline, as there are a lack of big-name players being discussed on the market at the moment, that doesn’t mean we won’t see some action over the coming days. Judging by some of the players being discussed, some teams might pick up half-decent role players by the deadline, who will undoubtedly help them in the upcoming playoffs.
Below, HoopsHype ranks the five players who have popped up the most in rumors on the site’s Trade page over the past week.
5. KYLE KUZMA
Despite all the scuttle that made it seem like Kyle Kuzma was all but gone from the Los Angeles Lakers, the most recent talk on the matter indicates that the team is now hoping to hold onto the floor-spacing big man in hopes he can develop some consistency playing off of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Here’s what Sports Illustrated reporter Chris Mannix wrote late last week (via SI):
“More importantly: Giving up on Kuzma this early isn’t something the Lakers should be interested in. Kuzma is just 24. He’s a proven NBA scorer. He’s experiencing a learning curve playing alongside James and Davis, but there simply is not enough evidence to declare the fit in L.A. a failure. Expect the Lakers to hold on to Kuzma in the hopes he develops into a reliable third scoring option this season—and beyond.”
Kuzma’s recent play, particularly when Davis missed time with a tailbone injury, probably also factored into Los Angeles’ decision. Prior to a completely stinker against the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, Kuzma was averaging 17.2 points and 5.2 rebounds over a nine-game stretch in which the Lakers went 7-2.
Still on a rookie-scale contract, it would benefit Los Angeles greatly if Kuzma can develop into legitimate third option for their title-contending team.
4. ANDRE DRUMMOND
The closer we get to the deadline, the more it looks like the Detroit Pistons are going to be forced to hold onto Andre Drummond and either pay him this summer when he hits free agency or risk losing him for nothing.
According to reports from various outlets, Detroit’s demands – mostly the fact they really want a first-round pick for their All-Star big man – has forced the market to grind to a near-halt with regards to Drummond. And unless the Pistons get a little more lax on their ultimatums, they may be stuck with Drummond for the rest of the season.
The main teams who were reportedly after Drummond, the Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks and Boston Celtics, all own the draft capital necessary to meet Detroit’s demands, even if they may not want to right now, so there’s a chance trade talks for the double-double machine and league’s leading rebounder open up again as we get closer to the Feb. 6 deadline.
3. DENNIS SMITH JR.
We don’t have word on any potential destinations for third-year guard Dennis Smith Jr., but we do know he probably doesn’t factor into the New York Knicks’ future plans as the 22-year-old has only played in three of the team’s last five games, all for under 15 minutes of action.
On the year, Smith is averaging a meager 5.0 points and 2.6 assists per game in 15.5 minutes, resembling nothing like the Russell Westbrook reimagining that many hyped him up to be as a prospect.
Even so, Smith is under contract for one more season after this one, at an extremely team-friendly price of $5.7 million, so teams could consider taking a cheap flyer on him if the Knicks do decide to move the young ball-handler.
To his credit, Smith is taking his demotion to the Knicks’ third string like a complete pro, telling New York City media:
“Everything happens for a reason, you know what I’m saying? It was already written, God’s plan, I just gotta execute my part, put my work in and everything will work out. It’s a business. I’m here, playing for the New York Knicks, that’s my job right now, so that’s what I’m focused on. You realized [last year] anything can happen, so you just gotta be the best version of yourself.”
2. ALEC BURKS
The Golden State Warriors, arguably the worst team in basketball this season while possessing various cheap-but-productive veterans, are obvious sellers ahead of the trade deadline.
That became even clearer when the team dealt big man Willie Cauley-Stein to the Dallas Mavericks for a second-round pick.
28-year-old guard Alec Burks could get them even more in a potential trade, too, according to reports, which state that Golden State netting a late first-round pick for Burks is entirely possible. Makes sense, as Burks is a low-maintenance and productive option, one averaging a career-high 15.8 points to go with 4.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists on the year and earning $2.3 million.
The fact that Burks will be a free agent this summer should only make him more enticing to interested parties. Expect the Colorado product to get dealt over the coming days, it just makes too much sense.
1. ROBERT COVINGTON
On the year, Robert Covington is averaging 12.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game while hitting nearly 35 percent of his three-point attempts, roughly enough to make him a viable threat when left open.
Covington’s game, that of a 3-and-D specialist who can cause major havoc defensively, has made him a hot trade commodity ahead of the deadline, especially because the Minnesota Timberwolves have played like one of the worst teams in the league recently. His team-friendly contract, which pays him on average $12.1 million over the next three seasons, also makes him a coveted trade target around the Association.
Some of the teams that have been mentioned as potential trade suitors for Covington include the Clippers, Lakers, Rockets, Sixers and Mavericks, all contenders with big aspirations this season who have the salaries and assets needed to entice the Timberwolves in theoretical trade talks.
At the same time, Minnesota knows what an excellent player – and asset – they have in Covington, so he won’t come cheap in a trade. Prying the 29-year-old swingman away from the Timberwolves won’t be easy.
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Basketball, Business, NBA, Top, Alec Burks, Andre Drummond, Dennis Smith, Kyle Kuzma, Robert Covington, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks