Every NBA season there are multiple teams that are on the brink of really being able to make some noise in the playoffs but are just missing that one key piece. And every season there are those key pieces that are on the market for the right price. Here I take a look at five players that contenders should be looking to make a move for.
1. Trevor Ariza
As we all know, Ariza was signed in the offseason by the Phoenix Suns after spending the previous four season with the Houston Rockets. He is averaging 10 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game this season. However, the Suns are sporting the worst record in the league at 4-20 record and know they can receive a generous package for Ariza looking towards the future.
Outside of the offensive statistics and ability to hit multiple corner threes a game for your team Ariza’s main skill that he brings to the table is his defense. Houston’s defensive drop off after the loss of Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute is staggering. Their defensive rating has gone down over seven points per game which means they are giving up over 113 points per 100 possessions. The Rockets’ overall defensive rating dropped from sixth last year to 25th this year.
Defensive intelligence and ability, veteran leadership and the ability to make a few shots is a package that most contenders would love to be able to count on in the postseason. These are the main reasons why Ariza will be moved after December 15th to a team that he can have a real impact on.
Price: Early Second Round Pick
Potential Suitors: Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, New Orleans Pelicans, Philadelphia 76ers
2. Bradley Beal
Beal has become a star in this league over the past few years. The one thing that has gone wrong? The fact that the Washington Wizards, who also have an all-star point guard in John Wall, can’t seem to figure out how to play together and achieve the success that they have the capability to do so.
Beal hasn’t had his best season. Especially after coming off his all-star season last year where he averaged nearly 23 points per game on 46% from the field and 37% from three while playing every single game of the year. This year he is averaging a little over 21 points per game but his three-point percentage, which is his biggest weapon, has dipped to a career-low 32.5%. Having said that, he is still one of the best players that have been confirmed on the market for potential trade suitors.
As mentioned previously, the Wizards should be able to make a run in the East. They should have been able to with or without LeBron James being in the conference. In the eight seasons since Beal was drafted by Washington, they have made the playoffs four of those years and have not made it past the Conference Semi-Finals. Now they sit outside of the Eastern Conference Playoff picture early in the season and definitely underperforming with a 10-14 record. It is time to blow it up and it looks like Beal is one that can move to a playoff team and he would immediately make that team a legitimate finals contender.
Price: A Jimmy Butler to Minnesota Type Package (Zach Lavine, Chris Dunn and the 7th Overall Pick in 2018 Draft).
Potential Suitors: Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, Minnesota Timberwolves
3. Courtney Lee
Lee missed the first 24 games of the New York Knicks’ season due to a mysterious neck injury. He just made his debut earlier this week scoring seven points on 1-4 from the field. Lee is one of those veterans in the league that every team can appreciate having on their team. He is great in the locker room and on the court, he can do a little bit of everything.
Lee, although getting older, is still a three and D guy at heart. He has the ability to rip off 15-20 points after hitting four or five threes in 20 minutes of game time. He also can lock in on the other side of the court which again is always a huge asset when the postseason rolls around.
Price: Early 2nd Round Pick
Potential Suitors: Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Charlotte Hornets
4. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
It is no doubt that Caldwell-Pope has struggled for the Los Angeles Lakers this year. His minutes are way down, his field goal and three-point percentages and overall scoring production have all dropped. However, a lot of times for these key players that can make a difference for a team and all they need is new scenery.
Caldwell-Pope did average over 12 points per game in four of his six seasons in the league thus far. He shot the three at a 38% rate last season. So we know he can score the basketball and in this league that is obviously very valued. It is also worth noting that Caldwell-Pope has been playing better over the past few weeks, scoring double digits in five of his last six games.
Whether the ups a downs remain to be long-term or not, I can guarantee that a team on the brink of making some noise in the playoffs are going to take a risk, at the very least for the remainder of this season.
Price: Mid-Late Second Round Pick
Suitors: Philadelphia 76ers, Memphis Grizzlies, Oklahoma City Thunder
5. Nikola Vucevic
In maybe the most surprising start to the NBA season, this year is the big man for the Orlando Magic Nikola Vucevic. He is having a career year as he is averaging 21 points and 11 rebounds per game on 55% shooting from the field and 41% from beyond the arc. All of these numbers are career best. He has a legitimate case at an MVP argument as we are around the quarter mark of the season.
This is a tricky situation as Orlando is sitting near the bottom of the Eastern Conference but they have young pieces and are trying their best to compete in a weaker conference this year due to the departure of The King. However, it just hasn’t happened as quickly as they would have liked. Vucevic is 28 years old and you would have to think he is going to be playing the best basketball of his career this year and maybe the following two years. Do they try to move him for some more draft picks? Or do they stick with him and try to compete now. If they want the ladder than Vucevic has to stay in Orlando.
Price: A First Round Pick, A Second Round Pick, A Solid Starter/First Man Off The Bench
Suitors: Los Angeles Lakers, Washington Wizards, New Orleans Pelicans
Overall, I think it will be interesting to see who is being moved, when they are being moved and where. But if I had to make a bet I would say start with this list when looking who will be most likely to be moved.