The first major threshold in the NBA trade season is quickly approaching and there are several players who could be on the move. Free agents who signed new contracts before Sept. 16 this summer will be eligible for trades beginning Dec. 15.
That opens up lots of new opportunities for NBA general managers, who can either provide their clubs with an extra piece for a major run in the second half of the season or allow them to cash-out on a player who hasn’t panned out as hoped.
Before the Feb. 19 trade deadline, contenders, fringe contenders and rebuilding teams will all seek some combination of role players, young talent, draft picks or expiring contracts.
Certain early contenders like the Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors, Cleveland Cavaliers or Portland Trail Blazers could all seek a scorer or role player to add some depth to their rosters.
But for lackluster, disappointing or rebuilding squads (Boston, Detroit, L.A. Lakers, Utah, e.g.) the main goal is the acquisition of draft picks and expiring contracts.
Below are five players who have a decent chance of winding up on a new team after Dec. 15.
Los Angeles Lakers, PG, Jeremy Lin
The former Rocket and Knick lost his starting job to Ronnie Price recently, and he was quoted earlier this week saying he’s currently in “one of the toughest situations” in his entire basketball career. Lin’s scoring and shooting numbers are down across the board, and he’s been labeled a defensive liability for much of his career.
But what makes Lin most attractive in any trade is his $14.8 million expiring contract. He could certainly help a number of contenders in a back-up role, providing an offensive spark off the bench late in quarters or even leading the second unit for extended stretches.
Nevertheless, the Lakers won’t move Lin unless they gain back a similar expiring contract or contracts, and a draft pick or two. The team is hoarding cap space for next season, and is highly unlikely to take back any long-term contracts.
Detroit Pistons, C, Greg Monroe
The former Georgetown star inked a one-year, $5.4 million qualifying offer with the rebuilding Pistons this summer, and his chances of returning to the team next season are rather bleak. Detroit could have signed him to a long-term contract after his rookie deal expired, but they passed under the guise of new president/GM/head coach Stan Van Gundy. The Pistons did have several sign-and-trade offers this summer for Monroe, but Van Gundy’s asking price was evidently too high.
Monroe doesn’t fit the trending mold of big men, ones capable of hanging around the three-point line, but he is a valuable and talented low-post scorer and passes quite well for a 6-foot-11 player. He’d be a valuable commodity to a number of teams with career averages of 14 points on 50.5 percent shooting and nine rebounds per game.
Charlotte Hornets, SG, Lance Stephenson
In the early lead for biggest free agency whiff of the season, Stephenson’s made little impact for the Hornets this season, shooting 38.9 percent overall, and less than 16 percent from three-point range. However, Stephenson is averaging new career-highs in rebounds (7.4) and assists (5.3) per game, and he’s still one of the better defensive shooting guards in the league.
A report from RealGM on Thursday says four to five teams have expressed interest in Stephenson and Charlotte is open to a deal. The 24-year-old excelled as a second or third option when he came up in Indiana, and his unique skill set might better serve a team that doesn’t need him to score to make an impact.
Stephenson does technically have two years and more than $18 million left on his current deal. But the final year is a team option, making a trade slightly more attractive and not quite as burdensome for any team that acquires him.
Minnesota Timberwolves, SG, Corey Brewer
Over the summer, Brewer was originally linked to the blockbuster deal that sent Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he wound up staying with the Wolves. Last month, the Cavs continued to chase Brewer, who’s second in the NBA with 2.2 steals per game, but the Houston Rockets are also in pursuit.
A long athletic two-guard capable of defending multiple positions, it’s easy to understand why contending teams like Houston and Cleveland want Brewer on their squad.
Brewer, 28, is set to make a cap-friendly $4.9 million next season before he hits free agency, and the Wolves will likely hold out for as long as possible to get teams like Houston and Cleveland into a bidding war.
New York Knicks, PF, Amar’e Stoudemire
Very few things have gone right for the 4-20 Knicks, but Stoudemire’s resurgence is one of them. Knee surgeries have largely derailed Stoudemire the last few seasons, but in 23 games this season he’s averaged 13.3 points and 7.5 rebounds while playing 25.8 minutes, the most since 2012.
The Knicks have tried to move Stoudemire numerous times over the last few seasons, and as recently as July the Sixers were hoping to obtain him and guard Iman Shumpert. Stoudemire is the highest paid player on the Knicks this season, making $23.4 million in the final year of his deal. He’s a valuable trade chip for the Knicks, who have only $40 million committed to player contracts next year, and are looking to hoard cap space. But much like the Lakers, the Knicks are avoiding any more big contracts and are more likely to leverage Stoudemire’s expiring deal for picks or a top young player.