With the NBA season more than a quarter of the way complete, teams are finally starting to understand their rosters and if changes are required. There hasn’t been a trade in two months but discussions should begin to pick up soon as most players that were free agents in the offseason will become trade-eligible on December 15. The trade deadline is also two months away, so transactions should start occurring soon. Here are some players that are set to become eligible next week:
Kemba Walker (New York)
Kemba Walker’s decline hay have come more rapidly than many realized. Tom Thibodeau removed Walker from the Knicks’ rotation despite him being just two years removed from being selected as an All-Star starter. The decision was due to defense as the Knicks’ starting lineup with Walker has a 118.9 defensive rating, which is the most among lineup combinations that have played at least 100 minutes together. While the goal was to improve defensively, they’ve actually performed worse on that end while slightly performing better offensively. It may take some time for the Knicks to figure out how to strive without Walker, but the early returns are not looking good.
Walker should become available for trade assuming his exile from the rotation is permanent. After seeing the Celtics and Knicks give up on him, it’s hard to imagine what kind of role he will have in the league going forward. Seeing how he is just making $8.7 million this season and $9.2 million the next, it shouldn’t be hard for interested teams to acquire him and they can justifiably bring him off the bench at his salary. Teams who could improve their bench scoring like Milwaukee, Chicago, and Toronto could take a flier on him.
Dennis Schroeder (Boston)
Dennis Schroeder has played very well for the Celtics so far this season. His numbers and efficiency are on par with where he left off with Oklahoma City in 2019-20. He’s had to start the majority of Boston’s games so far with Jaylen Brown missing time with a hamstring injury and has held his own in those games. He has certainly exceeded his $5.9 million salary and should get a considerable raise this offseason. Schroeder’s contractual situation could make it difficult for the Celtics to retain him and thus could consider trading him.
Boston holds his non-Bird rights which limits them to re-signing him to a four-year, $30.4 million deal with a starting salary of $7.1 million. While very few teams are projected to have significant cap space this offseason, offers for Schroeder can begin at the full mid-level exception. It is projected with a starting salary of $10.1 million with teams being able to offer him up to four years, $43.4 million. Boston isn’t projected to have access to the full mid-level exception next offseason to increase their offer, nor may they want to go over the luxury tax to keep him or become hard capped doing so. If the Celtics are still hovering above .500 around the trade deadline and they’re unsure about keeping him long-term, it would make sense to trade him.
Kelly Oubre Jr. (Charlotte)
Kelly Oubre Jr. has been valuable for the Hornets this season. The Hornets hold the league’s fourth-best offensive rating and Oubre’s 15 points per game off the bench contributes towards that. They play a very thin bench and are below league-average in bench scoring and differential. Oubre has been an important part in keeping their bench production afloat and at $12 million this season, the Hornets are certainly getting their money’s worth.
Charlotte has a lot of offensive talent on their roster but is also well below league average defensively, and their defensive rating has plummeted to league-bottom over the past few weeks. While they’ve been able to outscore their opponents enough to stay afloat so far, it may not be sustainable. If they decide to make a move to improve their defensive personnel, Oubre makes sense to move mostly because of his large salary slot which Charlotte lacks.
Will Barton (Denver)
The Denver Nuggets could be looking at a potentially lost season due to all the injuries they’ve endured thus far. As long as Nikola Jokic is healthy, he will keep the Nuggets in the mix for the play-in. Aside from the injuries, things are already looking very shaky as their defense has fallen off a cliff after starting the season at the top. Their performance towards the trade deadline could be worth keeping an eye on because if things fall off the rails, they could potentially be open to moving role players.
One such player that comes to mind is Will Barton. He’s in his age-31 season and so far is having a career year across the board on great efficiency, largely thanks to his higher usage. If he continues to play well and Denver slides, it could make sense to trade him if there are strong offers. A package with a good young guard or perhaps even a late-first round pick might be enticing enough to accept. Alternatively, Denver could look to consolidate him with a future first-round pick for an upgrade at shooting guard.
Kelly Olynyk (Detroit)
Kelly Olynyk was brought in to boost Detroit’s three-point shooting but he’s been mostly unavailable due to a knee injury. The Pistons have been unable to score or make threes well at all this season, but his return and enough time building chemistry with Cade Cunningham should help improve their shooting.
Despite Detroit’s need for Olynyk’s skillset, he is by no means untouchable. The Pistons are one of the league’s deepest rebuilding teams and most likely all their veterans can be acquired for the right price. Olynyk is on a very reasonable three-year, $37.2 million contract that is only guaranteed for $3 million in year three. Teams who could use a stretch-five like Olynyk include Boston, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Sacramento.
Daniel Theis (Houston)
Daniel Theis is a very productive big man who can help many competitive teams. When he was sign-and-traded to the Rockets, it felt like a long-term asset play on their part. They are in the midst of a long rebuild where no veteran should be off-limits in a trade. Houston’s recent success with him out of the rotation should make him very available, especially with Christian Wood striving at center and the emergence of Alperen Sengun.
At four years, $35.6 million, Theis’ deal is very moveable and could be attractive for many good teams. A trade would be a good piece of business for him as he has a 15 percent trade kicker. He might not fit in Houston’s timeline in the long run and perhaps he got that trade kicker negotiated in with that in mind. Teams like Atlanta, Charlotte, Minnesota, and San Antonio make sense for Theis.
Doug McDermott (San Antonio)
The Spurs continue to tread as competitively as possible while simultaneously developing their young players. They may continue this path for as long as Gregg Popovich remains head coach. If the Spurs go in another direction and fully embrace a rebuild, McDermott would be a prime trade candidate at some point.
McDermott got a raise last offseason and he’s playing up to the value of his deal. He’s currently averaging career highs in three-pointers made per game and three-point percentage at 42.6 percent. The Spurs are dead last in the league in three-pointers, so McDermott and Bryn Forbes still hold a lot of value for them. At $13.7 million annually, any team needing three-point shooting should be able to acquire him in the future.