5 NBA Players That Need a Trade to Fulfill Complete Potential
The NBA is a dream come true for the players who work hard enough to make it, but plenty still find themselves one trade away from being in the right situation.
For the five in this slideshow, reaching their full potential may be just around the corner, but getting there will be next to impossible with the teams they currently represent.
Whether it's a logjam at the player's position, an issue with management or just the need for a fresh start, there's a reason to believe each one would be better off individually somewhere else.
They're in order by age, and each has qualified for the list by being involved in some kind of trade rumor during the last year.
Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors
Even before his freshman season with the North Carolina Tar Heels, Harrison Barnes was widely considered a surefire NBA prospect.
He was the No. 1 high school recruit for the 2010 ESPN 100 and was named to the AP's All-American Team before he played a single game in the white and Carolina blue.
But the hype that surrounded Barnes in high school hasn't translated to success in the NBA. He posted a player efficiency rating of 9.8 in his sophomore campaign with the Golden State Warriors, dead last among those who played at least as many minutes as him.
Plus, last season's addition of Andre Iguodala and the rise of Draymond Green means Golden State has fewer minutes for Barnes to develop or work through his struggles.
A new setting might be best, and his name was tossed around as part of the rampant speculation surrounding Kevin Love.
"If your name is out there, it means you have some type of value," Barnes said in an interview with 95.7 The Game. It's easy to see why that's the case.
He's still just 22 years old and has shown glimpses of a solid perimeter game for a 6'8" player. A different team may give him a better opportunity to showcase that game in a sink-or-swim scenario.
Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns
Eric Bledsoe entered the 2014 offseason as one of the biggest prizes of free agency. Two months later, after all of the other dominoes have fallen, Bledsoe is still available.
The impasse in contract negotiations between Bledsoe and the Phoenix Suns has clearly damaged the player-team relationship. And in the midst of those negotiations, Phoenix signed point guard Isaiah Thomas and offered Bledsoe in a sign-and-trade package.
According to ESPN's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne:
With just hours to go before a planned megadeal that would send Kevin Love to Cleveland, the Phoenix Suns reached out to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday to ask once more about the possibility of acquiring Love in a sign-and-trade for guard Eric Bledsoe, sources told ESPN.com...
Talks between the Suns and Bledsoe, who is a restricted free agent, have been fractured for weeks, and the team is now vetting all options. That includes sign-and-trade talks with teams besides the Wolves.
Bledsoe's discontent, combined with the addition of Thomas and the minutes he's bound to take from him, makes staying in Phoenix seem like the wrong option for all involved.
According to the report from Stein and Shelburne, he's looking for a max deal, and max responsibility naturally follows. In that role, Bledsoe could reach his full potential as a court general on both offense and defense.
Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons
Of all of the teams with positional logjams, the Detroit Pistons may have the tightest of all with the trio of Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Josh Smith.
All three thrive at the rim, and get worse the further they get from it. And with Stan Van Gundy now running the show, it appears the goal is to surround Drummond with floor spacers the way the Orlando Magic did with Dwight Howard.
This summer, Detroit's signed Jodie Meeks, D.J. Augustin and Caron Butler. All fit the bill for better spacing on offense. Monroe does not.
He's unreliable unless he's at the rim, and flat-out bad beyond 16 feet:
|FG% by Distance|
To have a dynamic offense surrounding Drummond, the Pistons need more of a stretch 4. Or they at least need one more shooter in the lineup with Smith at power forward, his more natural position.
According to The Washington Post's Michael Lee, the Pistons may have already passed on a few opportunities to add that kind of player before signing Monroe to a $5.5 million qualifying offer:
Monroe and his agent, David Falk, never sought an offer sheet from another team but pursued sign-and-trade proposals with at least five other teams, including Portland and Oklahoma City, according to person familiar with the discussions. Monroe denied receiving a reported five-year, $60 million offer – or anything close – from Pistons and would’ve been unlikely to accept either way.
Monroe would thrive with either of the aforementioned teams, both of which could use a boost in low-post scoring. LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trail Blazers and Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder both have deep range for power forwards and would make great inside-out partners with Monroe.
But with the Pistons big man now signed on for such a small salary in 2014-15, the opportunity to see that in action may have to wait.
Eric Gordon, New Orleans Pelicans
It's not difficult to find the trend in Eric Gordon's career scoring average. Following three seasons in which it went up with the Los Angeles Clippers, the average has gone down in each of his campaigns with the New Orleans Hornets and Pelicans.
That number in 2011-12 is skewed, as he only appeared in nine games, but you get the picture. Ever since Gordon was traded to New Orleans as part of the deal that landed Chris Paul in Los Angeles, he's struggled to get his career going in the right direction.
It might be even more difficult now, as New Orleans has buoyed its backcourt by adding guards Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Jimmer Fredette in the last two offseasons.
Evans could pose a particular threat to Gordon's career trajectory, as coach Monty Williams has suggested he may be in line for the job of starting shooting guard. NOLA.com's John Reid (h/t Bleacher Report's Dave Leonardis) relayed Williams' thoughts following the season:
It's going to take some conversations with me and the staff to try and figure out what's best for the team. I don't want to speculate but it is part of the equation. But I have thought about Tyreke in a starting role. For whatever reason, it clicks for him. When you look at Tyreke and his effectiveness as a starter, you can't just sneeze at that.
All of this doesn't mean Gordon's career is doomed to continue on a downward trajectory, though. At 25, he's still a young player and only a few years removed from a season in which he averaged 22.3 points and 4.4 assists while shooting 45 percent from the field.
He has plenty of time to work his way back to that level of productivity, and Leonardis thinks another team may offer a better environment:
If Gordon is traded this summer, his situation (theoretically) improves, regardless of where he goes. He gets a fresh start on a new team and an entire season to show what he can do before opting out next summer.
Gordon can still be a solid cog for the up-and-coming Pelicans, but in terms of individual potential, his ceiling lies elsewhere.
Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
Rajon Rondo's spent his entire career with the Boston Celtics. His individual potential may have already peaked, but there's still a lot more he can accomplish, and it doesn't look like Boston is the place to do that.
At 28, Rondo's now in the prime of his career, just as the Celtics organization is going all-in on a full-scale rebuilding. The idea of Rondo piloting that effort has a romantic feel to it, but more rings and a return to the gaudy assist numbers he once put up are more likely elsewhere.
As is the case with most players, Rondo's more effective when surrounded by serious talent, particularly scorers. He's one of the league's last true distributors, and his abilities may be squandered passing to the likes of Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and the rest of the Celtics' inexperienced core.
The Sacramento Kings are one team that's been rumored to be in the hunt for Rondo, but according to Basketball Insiders, "Sources close to the process in both Boston and Sacramento are adamantly denying that a Rajon Rondo deal is being discussed."
The idea of Rondo setting up Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins is intriguing, but even that trio might not make the Kings a contender. However, it's certainly closer than the current incarnation of the Celtics.