Philadelphia 76ers: Robert Covington
The 76ers logjam is certainly in the frontcourt, with the much-discussed Nerlens Noel for Jeff Teague swap being a constant possibility. Moving a big seems more likely than not – as it’s hard to imagine the 76ers go into next season with Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and potentially Dario Saric on the roster. It stands to reason that the five most-talented players the 76ers have control over would all be best at the 4 or the 5. Point guard is the glaring need, but the wing is just a mystery. If the 76ers opt to make another or larger move, Covington would be a logical chip. He has two years left on his contract at just over $1 million per season. The cheap contract is more valuable to teams looking to spend up to or near the cap, while the 76ers will struggle just to reach the salary floor.
There are effectively two types of rotation players – players with “vacuum” value and players with “derivative” value. Players with “vacuum” value will be initiators, and they will have value no matter who else is on the court. They’re often primary play-makers and the focal point of the team’s offense. The 76ers are still searching for players of this ilk. Covington is a player with derivative value. He plays off of the guys around him, likely succeeding as a catch-and-shoot option offensively and an adequate system defender on the other end. Covington would likely be better utilized on a team with the lead offensive players already in tow. Philadelphia should consider moving him now, while he still has the two years remaining.
Brooklyn Nets: Chris McCullough
Brooklyn is down their first round pick to Boston, and they had to swap their second round pick with that of the Clippers. They may opt to trade Brook Lopez or Thaddeus Young, but fringe moves seem more likely. Chris McCullough may be more appealing to another team, and he was selected by the previous administration. Truly any path or direction is on the table for the Nets, and it stands to reason that McCullough’s value and roster spot may be better served elsewhere.
New York Knicks: Kyle O’Quinn
I thought the Knicks got a bargain when they signed O’Quinn to a four-year, $16 million contract last offseason. Then, they buried him on the bench. O’Quinn has value, but it is unlikely to be in New York. Porzingis and Lopez will start at the 4 and 5, and Carmelo will need to see some minutes as a stretch-four, as well. Instead of seeing his value wane further with limited run, the Knicks should try to see if someone sees O’Quinn as a viable bench contributor.
Milwaukee Bucks: Rashad Vaughn
While there is much talk about the potential to move Michael Carter-Williams and/or Greg Monroe, these trades have to be considered less than likely. The rumors about the Bucks’ demands for Carter-Williams have been unreasonable, and their demands for Monroe would have to be high when considering the PR hit they would take for trading their biggest free agent acquisition just twelve months after signing.
However, the team is likely to have significant turnover. Many role players are unrestricted free agents, and the Bucks have to be wary of committing too many long-term dollars when Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo will be up for large extensions on their rookie contracts in the coming years. Vaughn is a player who could potentially be moved to open up a roster spot, clear a little money above the minimum salary hold, and/or bring back a competent rotation bench option.
Orlando Magic: Nikola Vucevic
It is hard to imagine new coach Frank Vogel being content with Nikola Vucevic anchoring his patented defense. Vogel has had defensive centers Roy Hibbert, Ian Mahinmi, and even competent rookie Myles Turner in past seasons, and Vucevic would represent an unprecedented shift in the other direction. With a robust market for defensive centers this offseason, including past-Vogel options Hibbert and Mahinmi, the Magic could certainly opt for an alternative who would better fit Vogel’s ideals. However, the Magic could run into a problem similar to that of the Thunder with Enes Kanter and the Bucks with Greg Monroe. While the Vucevic, Kanter, and Monroe contracts are not necessarily bad deals, it is unclear that any team will give up assets to take them on. As free agency develops, some teams will be left with significant cap space and no desirable players to spend on. These bigs could have a market then. However, if the Magic had not locked up a replacement earlier in July, Vucevic may be unavailable. Sequencing will play a huge role here.
Washington Wizards: Marcin Gortat
Unlike the aforementioned offensively focused bigs, Gortat is desirable for a wholly different reason. He is a strong all-around center who has valuable cost certainty. Gortat has three years left on his deal, costing just under $13 million per season. This is a substantial bargain. The Wizards will have substantial cap space, and they will have effectively more when considering the difference between Bradley Beal’s cap hold and his eventual salary. They could opt to reinvent their frontcourt, seeking someone younger and more athletic potentially. The Wizards could spend slightly more money to acquire a different center in free agency and then move Gortat to bring in wing assets. The market for the free agent centers figures to be active and aggressive, meaning that the centers already under contract could also have a market as cheaper alternatives.
Chicago Bulls: Tony Snell
Many organizations have a player who may be relatively talented, but – for whatever reason – never seems to have the confidence of the organization or the fans. While LeBron was in Miami, this was Mario Chalmers. For the 2015-16 Warriors, it was Festus Ezeli. For the Bulls they past few seasons, it has been Tony Snell. Snell is in the final year of his rookie contract, making $3.4 million this upcoming season. As players like DeMarre Carroll last year and Kent Bazemore this year emerged from unexciting role players to eight-figure salary 3-and-D options, Tony Snell could represent an intriguing buy-low. Snell has shot 36.6% from three-point range the last two seasons, shooting even higher than that from above the break. The Bulls allowed 9.5 fewer points per 100 possessions with Snell on the court than they did with him off last season, and it is not as if Snell played exclusively with starters. The Bulls disinterest in Snell could be warranted, but the statistics certainly indicate that he has value and could have substantial upside.
Detroit Pistons: Marcus Morris
The Pistons could go in a variety of directions this offseason, but it is clear that backup point guard is their primary need. Marcus Morris has three years left on his contract at a miniscule $5 million per season. He would have substantial value on the open market, and he could be a great chip to acquire a viable backup point guard. The free agent point guard market is horrific, and the Pistons may be wary to overpay. If the Pistons moved Morris to fill that need, they could then take their eight-figure cap space and try to buy low on a wing or backup big. This may be the optimal asset allocation, as the Pistons are beginning to have a strong array of combo forward options.
Indiana Pacers: George Hill
Hill is in the last year of his contract, making just $8 million for this season. He is an extremely valuable player, as he can add value on or off the ball. Hill can defend point guards, competently run a pick and roll, and also represent a strong spacing option with his shooting ability. The Pacers may have an opportunity to acquire a point guard that they see carrying the team beyond just this year, and they could attempt to extract value for Hill before he leaves next year. It has been well-documented that Hill has many ties to the Indiana area, so they would likely want him to sign off on any trade deal, slightly complicating the situation. However, the Pacers may choose to go in a younger direction, and Hill could be attracted to more of a win-now situation. He would be a great bridge option in Utah, Dallas, Sacramento, and Milwaukee. In Milwaukee, especially, Hill’s ability to defend point guards while not demanding the ball offensively would be particularly valuable.
Charlotte Hornets: Jeremy Lamb
Lamb will begin a three-year, $21 million contract extension this upcoming season. Every team views every contract differently. While Lamb is not necessarily overpaid on that deal, Charlotte may prefer to have that $7 million to spend on retaining at least two out of Marvin Williams, Jeremy Lin, and Nicolas Batum. I am a big fan of a Trey Burke for Jeremy Lamb swap, personally. This would clear a few million for Charlotte and solve their potential need at backup point guard. Utah is unlikely to spend much of its cap space for this year, and the upgrade from Burke to Lamb makes them better and deeper in the short-term.
Miami Heat: Josh McRoberts
Josh McRoberts has been an entertaining value, as his value has oscillated as much as any NBA role player’s has in the past few years. With two years and under $12 million remaining on his deal, I think we can safely say that McRoberts is a positive asset. The Heat, however, may prefer to have that cap flexibility, as that $6 million a year could be part of a much larger deal for a superior player. So many teams could use McRoberts’ playmaking ability, and his $6 million may help them to reach the salary floor. Generally defensive minded teams like Indiana or Orlando may value McRoberts’ as a second-unit playmaking stretch 4, and I think the Heat could potentially recoup a small asset here.
Atlanta Hawks: Paul Millsap
The Hawks are an organization that is subtly on the verge of a massive rebuild. With the Jeff Teague rumors logically running rampant and Al Horford’s free agency, the Hawks could look much different next season. There is a viable scenario where Al Horford leaves, Jeff Teague is flipped for Nerlens Noel, and the Hawks are left with a Schroder-Millsap-Noel core. Millsap is obviously on a wildly different timeline, making him also a potential trade candidate. Millsap could bring back substantial value, and he would make a great Boston Celtics trade target. The Hawks would, in this scenario, be a team that would value draft picks as a way of moving their timeline back. The Hawks could build a very fun and hope-inducing core around Schroder, Noel, and multiple high draft picks in the coming years. Their cap flexibility would allow them to make moves like last summer’s Portland Trail Blazers, where they can attempt to simply find value wherever the market allows – without worrying about pressing short-term needs.
Boston Celtics: Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko
Nearly every Celtic is at the heart of trade rumors, but these two seem both logical and hushed. Johnson ($12 million) and Jerebko ($5 million) both have unguaranteed contracts for this season. They would both likely get larger contracts, in terms of years, dollars, or both, on the open market. The Celtics may not want to keep them on their roster, but they ought to guarantee the contracts. This combination of value contract and difficult roster construction make both players – especially Johnson – logical trade candidates.
Toronto Raptors: Jonas Valanciunas
While unlikely, a Valanciunas trade actually makes a world of sense. The Raptors will be unable to retain Bismack Biyombo this offseason without clearing significant cap room. However, if they moved Valanciunas’ four-year, $64 million contract, they would create the space. Biyombo will likely demand something slightly less than this, and he may be the superior player. The Raptors should strongly consider moving Valanciunas, bringing back a small asset or draft pick, and using the newfound money on Biyombo. These sorts of trades are uncommon, but with this large amount of cap space available, I can envision teams becoming much more creative in these situations. Valanciunas is a great example of a player who is adequately paid, but his contract may not represent the best allocation of resources for his current club.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Iman Shumpert
Shumpert was a disappointment for the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers this offseason, and they must now make some tough decisions on the wing. This team figures to once again be among the most expensive in basketball, even if they do not retain Timofey Mozgov or Matthew Dellavedova. With J.R. Smith opting out, the Cavaliers will have to shell out eight-figures annually for him as well. Even with the rising cap, this luxury tax bill will be sizable. A Shumpert trade would allow the Cavaliers to shed his remaining three years and $31 million, while potentially recovering a cheap young player or draft pick. If the Cavaliers could bring back a player who would not make much above the minimum roster cap hold, they would save over $10 million on Shumpert’s salary and considerably more in luxury tax considerations. Given the way their rotation looked at the end of the season, they may not be end up any worse off on the court, anyway.