Usually during early to mid December, the trade rumors in the NBA start to heat up. This is because players who signed offseason contracts become eligible to be traded. Of course in February, the rumors really escalate to a higher level, but typically teams are looking for that missing piece – or looking to slash salary for cap room and picks. However, this season there seems to be a different trend going on, and it has to do with young players with high ceilings that just haven’t panned out so far.
And in some cases, these players are being sent to the D-League in just their second season in the Association. This has helped kick-start the rumor mill as there are big names out there that could be made available if another team wants them. And if you have the right assets – like the Celtics or Sixers, you might be able to unload a few of the array of draft picks they have stored up, in order to land some of these “available players.”
*IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
5. Nerlens Noel
The former Kentucky big man hasn’t really lived up to expectations in the NBA so far. Not to say Noel has been a bust, but at 22 years-old, the defensive-minded big man has experienced injuries and been part of a very talentless Sixers team for the majority of his brief career.
However, Noel’s potential as a defensive stopper is there. The Sixers asking price might be a little too much, but if you’re the Celtics, why not offer a few picks and a young player or two for Noel? A front-line of Noel/Horford is pretty potent and would allow Big Al to move to the four-spot that he prefers.
4. Bradley Beal
A couple of seasons ago this would have been an absurd thought. But an array of injuries, fighting with fellow star, John Wall, and the team underachieving has led to trade talk. It’s hard to tell what Beal could net back in a trade because of his history of injuries, but when the dude is healthy he’s got star potential.
You’d think there would be a team out there willing to risk it all in order to land the young two-guard – assuming they felt he would put them over the top. The Heat, Knicks and Lakers would be interesting spots. Before the Thunder traded for Victor Oladipo, Beal would have made better sense because his shooting would allow for even more spacing for Russell Westbrook.
Wall is 26 years-old, compared to Beal being only 23. Plus there is expected to be several points guards in next June’s NBA Draft, so there is a real chance maybe Wall is the one who’s shipped. Stay tuned…
3. Jahlil Okafor
Talk about a perplexing situation. Okafor started his rookie season out putting up pretty good numbers until he started getting into trouble and also injured. It just doesn’t make sense to see a dude that can score on the block at any given time just rot away on the Sixers bench. His minutes get yanked around and while he’s not a great defensive player, he’s 20 years-old.
If the Knicks could ever pair him with Kristaps Porzingis, this would be an extremely fun duo to watch and might make the small ball trend go away – at least temporarily.
Then again we’re talking about the Knicks and Sixers. Two of the most inept franchises over the last decade.
2. Stanley Johnson
Johnson seems like he was born to play for Stan Van Gundy. Yet the Pistons second-year player has been already sent to the D-League in just his second year and appears to have fallen off a cliff. The former Arizona product is physically built and would appear to be a defensive-stopper from the jump.
Instead the swingman has been in SVG’s dog house and it might only be a matter of time before King Stan ships Johnson in order to bring back some perimeter help. With the right team and playing time, Johnson could turn out to be a stud, but he’s got a ways to go it appears. Doesn’t the Blazers seem to be a fit for Johnson? If he turns out to be a defensive stopper, the Blazers could have one of the most exciting PG, SG, SF combo in the NBA – in regards to youth. Allen Crabbe’s big deal might scare the Pistons off from pulling the trigger on a trade there, but I’m sure there are other options to look at. Make this happen Portland!
1. Mario Hezonja
In 2015’s NBA Draft, there were plenty of folks who said they thought Mario Hezonja would be better than Kristaps Porzingis. Where are all those folks now?
To be fair to Hezonja, he is supposed to be a project as well. But coach Frank Vogel appears not to have the patience to let Hezonja’s talent come to fruition as he’s also been sent down to the D-League.
The Philadelphia 76ers would appear to be a logical choice here if they would be willing to part with some draft picks. Of course Hezonja could be a bust, but if he fulfills his potential, imagine the combinations the Sixers would have at their disposal with the Dario Saric, Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor? It seems that Saric/Hezonja combination could be the Sixers’ swingmen of the next decade.