Every year, a ton of drama leads up to the NBA Trade Deadline.
Contenders do their best to bolster their rosters towards the final push of the year, middling teams decide whether to buy or sell and rebuilding clubs tend to offload veterans or those with expiring contracts.
Last season, the three big names (Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Carmelo Anthony) all stayed with their respective clubs through the remainder of the season before later being traded in the summer. However, a number of important deals involving veteran difference-makers were completed before the February 23, 2017 deadline.
The Toronto Raptors acquired P.J. Tucker and Serge Ibaka, the Oklahoma City Thunder added Taj Gibson, Bojan Bogdanovic went to the Washington Wizards, and the Houston Rockets landed Lou Williams. Although none of the additions led to a championship, each undoubtedly made their new clubs stronger heading towards the playoffs.
With this season’s February 8 deadline approaching quickly, here are four proven veterans who could be dealt.
Zach Randolph (Sacramento Kings)
After spending eight productive seasons as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies, Randolph signed a two-year, $24 million deal with the rebuilding Sacramento Kings. Surrounded by a mix of fellow veterans and inexperienced youngsters, Randolph has continued to perform at a solid level this year, averaging 15.8 points and 7.0 rebounds in just 26.2 minutes per contest.
Although it’s certainly possible that the Kings want to keep Randolph around to mentor the team’s younger frontcourt players (there are quite a few of them), it’s also presumable that they’d entertain offers for the 36 year old. It’s also possible that Randolph might want to join a contender.
Earlier this month, Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune revealed that one Kings veteran isn’t happy with the current situation.
“These are respected vets who can play,” he wrote on December 9. “These are vets brought in to help a young team, and according to sources, were brought in with the promise of a team aiming to be playoff competitive. But that promise was made to them by Scott Perry, who since left Sacramento and now makes personnel decisions for the New York Knicks. So the direction of the franchise has shifted since Perry left. An organization that brought in veterans aiming to win now is aiming to lose.”
He added, “Not surprisingly, Hill isn’t happy, according to multiple sources And the other veterans can’t be too happy, either.” Randolph could very well be one of those other veterans who isn't thrilled with the situation. Due to his early play and basketball reputation, he would likely be a very attractive target for a contending club.
Lou Williams (Los Angeles Clippers)
31-year-old Lou Williams is having the best statistical season of his 13-year NBA career this season for the Los Angeles Clippers. Mostly due to the crucial injuries that his Clippers teammates have suffered, Williams has been thrust into a go-to scoring role and has delivered, averaging 20.7 points while dishing out 4.8 assists per contest, both of which are career-highs.
In the final season of a three-year, $21 million deal, Williams is set to become an unrestricted free agent this upcoming offseason. Judging by the fact that J.J. Redick was given a one-year, $23 million deal by the Philadelphia 76ers this past summer, Williams is in line for a gigantic payday. That being said, the Clippers probably won’t want to dish out tens of millions of dollars to a combo guard of his age as they look to rebuild and re-tool towards the future.
Therefore, getting some type of compensation for Williams would be a smart move before he presumably bolts after this season. Based on his immense value, he'd likely bring back a mid-to-low first round draft pick if traded to a contender.
Tyson Chandler (Phoenix Suns)
After acquiring Greg Monroe in an early-season deal with the Milwaukee Bucks, the Phoenix Suns have had a hard time figuring out how to get Monroe, Tyson Chandler and Alex Len in during the same game. Often times giving either Monroe or Chandler the night off, the Suns have consistently given Len 15-to-25 minutes per game while trotting out either veteran for the remainder of the time at the center position.
While all indications have suggested that the team would have an easier time trading Monroe based on the fact that he’s 27 years old (eight years younger than Chandler) and is a better offensive player, Chandler might be the more appealing target based on his defensive and rebounding ability. Monroe is putting up 9.9 points and 7.4 rebounds over 21.2 minutes per contest this season while Chandler is averaging 6.8 points and 9.6 boards in 25.6 minutes per game.
However, implementing the defensive-minded Chandler onto a contending team would likely be a more seamless transition than Monroe in the sense that Chandler would almost never demand the ball on offense, thus allowing for some consistency with the current rotations.
“It’s been difficult at times, in all honesty,” Chandler told The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn about playing for a rebuilding team last month. “But I approach the game the same way regardless. No matter what.”
“When I get done playing, I’ll be able to look back and see the things I was able to accomplish, see the imprint that I left on the game,” Chandler said. “It’s a little feather in your hat, at the end of the day. Working with the young guys here is great because it keeps me sharp; teaching them the game makes me study the game even more. So that part is very enjoyable.”
So, while he has embraced his current role, it seems as though part of him wishes he was in a position to contend for his second-career NBA title.
Marcin Gortat (Washington Wizards)
Now in his fifth season with the Washington Wizards, the 33-year-old center has seen his numbers decline across the board. Averaging 9.0 points and 8.5 rebounds in 27.6 minutes per game (all of which are his lowest as a Wizard) Gortat has seen his playing time drop recently, indicating that he’s slightly fallen out of coach Scott Brooks’ good graces.
Although he’s started all 34 games this season and all 14 in the month of December, he’s averaged just 24.2 minutes per game this month and has had three separate games playing fewer than 20 minutes.
The possibility of being traded has been on Gortat’s mind dating back to last season. With the rest of this season and next left on Gortat’s five-year, $60 million contract he signed in 2014, the Wizards also have his backup Ian Mahinmi under contract on a four-year, $64 million deal that he signed in the summer of 2016.
After the Wizards were eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season, Gortat made it clear that he wasn’t making himself comfortable in Washington heading into this season.
"I had 103 games this year and I haven't missed even one game. I didn't miss one practice or shootaround. On top of that I'm the oldest guy on the team," Gortat said during exit interviews, per J. Michael of NBC Sports Washington. "I know how the business works. I'm the oldest guy on the team. They signed Ian also. He's younger than me and he got a longer contract. I just know how the business works so I'm prepared for everything just in case.”
It appears as though the club is starting to slowly shift their focus towards Mahinmi at the center position. That would make Gortat expendable and a relatively attractive option for a team looking for a traditional, physical big man.
All four of the veterans above could be moved in the coming weeks. As always, there will be some surprises, but they seem like viable targets for contending teams looking to bolster their rosters ahead of the playoff push.