NBA trade rumors: Which big men could soon hit open market?
We’re a week-and-a-half into the NBA season, and these days that means the heating up of trade-rumor season, which now runs something like 11 months of the year — we only take a few weeks off after the trade deadline passes in February.
As always, big men remain a tough bunch to figure in this context. So many of them, while useful on some level as offensive or defensive presences (rarely both), just don’t fit in the modern NBA, yet league honchos continue drafting them with high picks and doling out mega contracts to them in free agency.
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The burly center that the GM views with adoration in July is usually viewed with contempt by the coach in December.
With that, SN spoke with a few league executives this week to get a grip on some of the big men who could be hitting the trade market this winter — and those who probably won’t.
Nikola Vucevic, Magic
The prevailing wisdom has been that the arrival of No. 6 pick Mo Bamba has meant that Vucevic’s days in Orlando are numbered. But multiple league sources told SN that is not the case.
“There is nothing serious going on there with them moving Vuc,” one source said.
The team has entertained no real offers for their center, and in fact, the Magic have been rather happy with the way he has played. He’s averaged 19.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists, and the Magic don’t want to toss Bamba into the starting lineup before he’s ready.
Of course, if Orlando could squeeze a first-rounder or more from another team for Vucevic — who is in the final year of his deal — things could change, but the Magic tried to move him each of the past two seasons with no luck.
Derrick Favors, Jazz
Utah did well to sign Favors this summer to a two-year deal with next season not guaranteed. That means Favors is essentially on a one-year contract.
It’s become pretty clear that Favors needs to play center, and he can’t do so with Rudy Gobert in the middle with the Jazz. Favors vowed entering the season that he’d become a better 3-point shooter, but he’s been saying that for years and it hasn’t come to be.
Few expect that Favors will be in Utah when next season starts, and if the Jazz can find a deal that brings in another forward with some versatility, Favors could be gone come February.
Hassan Whiteside, Heat
The Heat have been looking to trade Whiteside almost from the moment he signed a four-year, $98 million deal in 2016. The market has been decidedly thin, as Miami has done little to hide the difficulty that comes with employing Whiteside, a talent on the glass and in the paint who makes a truckload of mistakes and is unreliable offensively.
The big contract was red-flagged from the beginning, and no one has lined up to relieve the Heat of their error.
Tristan Thompson, Cavaliers
The Cavs are 0-5 and the wait for the fire sale is on. But as one executive put it, “Don’t hold your breath. If they decide to blow it all up, I don’t expect that decision to be made until we get close to the deadline. They still think they can win.”
Kevin Love is expected to be the centerpiece if a talent dump happens, but his contract is prohibitive. It may be Thompson who is the first to go (or perhaps second after Kyle Korver).
Thompson has two years and $36 million left on his contract (including this one). Though he is limited offensively and has a tendency to let his focus drift, Thompson is a good rebounder and screen-setter when he is engaged. If a playoff team comes calling, Cleveland will listen.
Jonas Valanciunas, Raptors
Valanciunas is now only a spot starter for the Raptors, and he is down to about 18-20 minutes per game. But in Toronto’s new system, they’ve been really valuable minutes, and he has squeezed a lot of production out of drubbing second-unit bigs — 11.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
There are no apparent plans, sources told SN, to put Valanciunas on the block.
Robin Lopez, Bulls
Lopez will earn $14 million in 2018-19, the final year on his current deal, so the Bulls would be OK just waiting out the remainder of his contract and going from there. But Wendell Carter is the center of the future, and Lopez is still an effective rebounder, defender and pick-and-roll big.
It’s highly unlikely that the Bulls will land a first-round pick for him, but should a potential playoff team suffer an injury in the middle in the coming weeks, expect Lopez to be an option.
Dewayne Dedmon, Hawks
Dedmon exercised his player option last summer at $7.2 million, probably a wise decision considering the tight free-agent market. He is returning from a nasty ankle injury, and once he shows he is fully healthy, Atlanta will shop him. He’s a low-mistake, veteran big man who is effective defensively and flashed some 3-point ability (35.5 percent on 2.3 attempts per game) last season.
Again, it might be tough to wring a first-rounder from a trade partner for a short-term rental like Dedmon, but his game fits easily into most styles of play. For a potential playoff team seeking depth, he’d be an ideal trade addition.
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