8 Players Who Could Still Be Moved Before Start of NBA Season

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2014

8 Players Who Could Still Be Moved Before Start of NBA Season

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    Will Josh Smith and Greg Monroe enter the 2014-15 season with Detroit? That remains to be seen.
    Will Josh Smith and Greg Monroe enter the 2014-15 season with Detroit? That remains to be seen.USA TODAY Sports

    Though the long-awaited Kevin Love-to-Cleveland deal has finally come to fruition, NBA trade season isn't over just yet.

    As Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Aug. 26, the Los Angeles Clippers agreed to send swingman Jared Dudley and a future first-round pick to the Milwaukee Bucks for Carlos Delfino and center Miroslav Raduljica. ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported that the Clippers will be sending a protected 2017 first-rounder to Milwaukee, while the Bucks will ship over a future second-round pick to L.A.

    That wasn't the only deal consummated that day. The Philadelphia 76ers agreed to take on the contract of Oklahoma City Thunder center Hasheem Thabeet in exchange for cash considerations, according to Stein. The Sixers reportedly planned to waive Thabeet immediately, per Stein, before his $1.25 million contract became guaranteed.

    On Sunday, Woj broke the news that the Houston Rockets were finalizing an agreement to acquire Sacramento Kings guard Jason Terry in exchange for "a package centered on non-guaranteed contracts, including Alonzo Gee, that the Kings can ultimately waive and gain salary savings and roster space." Sacramento is also sending Houston two second-round picks in the deal.

    Though Dudley, Delfino, Thabeet and Terry aren't exactly headliners, a handful of bigger names still remain available on the trade market. A few restricted free agents could be dangled in sign-and-trade discussions over the coming weeks, while other teams simply need to clear out gluts at certain positions.

    Let's take a look at eight such players who could be moved between now and the start of the 2014-15 season, based on recent reports from those plugged into their respective teams' situations.

    Note: Players are arranged in alphabetical order.

J.J. Barea, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Point guard J.J. Barea's time with the Minnesota Timberwolves seems to be coming to an end one way or another.

    Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported in early August that the Wolves hoped to dump Barea's contract (among others) in the long-awaited Kevin Love deal, but couldn't convince Cleveland to absorb him. Minnesota involved a third team, the Philadelphia 76ers, to take on the contracts of Alexey Shved and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, but the Sixers refused to take Barea, per Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.

    If the Wolves can't find a taker for the diminutive floor general, Zgoda speculates that the team could just waive him and eat the remaining $4.5 million on his contract. He gave Minnesota a "75-80 percent" chance of "subtract[ing Barea] some way" before the start of the season, which would open a roster spot for Michigan rookie Glenn Robinson III.

    "He's valuable only to a contender," Zgoda wrote, "and those teams don't have space just to absorb his contract unless they have a trade exception." He mentioned the Dallas Mavericks as a possible trade partner, but noted that they can't simply absorb Barea's contract without shipping out something in return.

    After signing backup floor general Mo Williams to a reported one-year, $3.75 million deal this offseason, the Timberwolves have little-to-no use for Barea. If they're able to find a point guard-needy trade partner in the coming weeks, they'll seemingly be happy to offload him for whatever they can receive in return.

Brandon Bass, PF, Boston Celtics

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    The Boston Celtics currently have a roster-management problem on their hands.

    According to ESPN.com's Nick Borges (subscription required), Boston has reached its limit on players allowed under contract (20) heading into the preseason. Evan Turner, who agreed to terms with the Celtics this summer, currently remains unsigned, meaning Boston must get rid of at least one player in the coming weeks.

    Seven Celtics—Chris Johnson, Chris Babb, Tim Frazier, Rodney McGruder, Christian Watford, Phil Pressey and Keith Bogans—have fully non-guaranteed contracts, meaning it won't be difficult for Boston to cut down to the preseason maximum. However, teams are only allowed 15 players on the roster come opening night, which means a number of painful cuts await in the coming months.

    ESPN Boston asked a panel of Celtics writers which player—Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, Bogans, Marcus Thornton, Joel Anthony or "None of the players listed"—would not be a part of the opening-day roster. Bogans earned 53.3 percent of the votes, largely thanks to his non-guaranteed contract, but Bass came in second with 26.7 percent.

    Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog noted that Bass "doesn't fit the long-term plan and he stands in the way of younger players," while Padraic O'Connor of CelticsLife.com believes "it is more a question of 'when' than 'if' he will be traded." With Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk clamoring for playing time at the 4, Bass' future in Boston could soon be at an end if the Celtics find a team willing to absorb his $6.9 million salary.

Eric Bledsoe, PG/SG, Phoenix Suns

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Phoenix Suns remain at a standstill with combo guard Eric Bledsoe.

    Bledsoe, a restricted free agent, is seeking a five-year, $80 million max contract, while the Suns have yet to offer more than a four-year, $48 million deal, per ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard. Team president Lon Babby told Paul Coro of AZCentral.com "we continue to hope and expect that he will remain in a Suns uniform," but CSNNW.com's Chris Haynes reported that the "relationship is on the express lane to being ruined."

    Bledsoe could opt to sign Phoenix's one-year $3.7 million qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent next summer, but given his injury history—he missed two months last year with a torn meniscus—it would be a huge risk. Thus, if both sides are unwilling to budge, a clean breakup might be best.

    Accordingly, the Suns have begun to explore sign-and-trade talks for the combo guard, Coro reported for USA Today. They've "contacted at least one team and taken inquiries from others regarding the possibility" of a sign-and-trade, Coro reported, but the looming possibility of Bledsoe becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer could drive down the price on what suitors are willing to offer.

    If Bledsoe won't settle for less than a five-year max contract, the odds of Phoenix finding a willing sign-and-trade partner aren't great. Given the risk associated with signing the qualifying offer, the combo guard would be wise to remain flexible with his contract demands, thereby facilitating the Suns' ability to find him a new home.

Greg Monroe, PF/C, Detroit Pistons

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Like Eric Bledsoe and the Phoenix Suns, restricted free agent Greg Monroe and the Detroit Pistons have yet to reach an agreement on a long-term deal.

    According to USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt, the big man "has informed the Detroit Pistons he will accept the qualifying offer, play for Detroit in 2014-15 and become an unrestricted free agent next summer." Monroe has until Oct. 1 to follow through with that decision, per the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

    Since Monroe has yet to actually sign the offer, Pistons.com's Keith Langlois speculated that the report could be "a way to provoke a response" from Detroit. "All of the other possibilities remain on the table—an offer sheet from a team with cap space (increasingly unlikely), a sign-and-trade transaction or a long-term contract between the Pistons and Monroe," Langlois wrote.

    Much of Monroe's future is likely tied to the fate of fellow forward Josh Smith. If the Pistons can somehow offload Smith onto another team, they could presumably up their offer to the former Georgetown big man. Failing to do so, however, means that Monroe could be sign-and-trade bait.

    If Monroe does actually sign the qualifying offer, the Pistons wouldn't be able to later trade him without his consent. Thus, if Detroit wants to guarantee it receives something in return for the big man before he departs next summer, a sign-and-trade before he signs the qualifying offer is the best option.

Timofey Mozgov, C, Denver Nuggets

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    USA TODAY Sports

    With LeBron James and Kevin Love in the fold, the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers have just one remaining major need: an interior defensive presence.

    Anderson Varejao missed a total of 74 games over the past two seasons, while the Cavs sent Tyler Zeller, who started 55 games for them in 2012-13, to Boston in a three-way salary dump that freed up enough space to sign James in free agency. Accordingly, Cleveland has been hot in pursuit of Denver Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov this season, per multiple reports.

    In a recent interview on ESPN Cleveland radio (h/t CBSSports.com's James Herbert), ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst said the Cavs have been trying to work out a trade for Mozgov for the past six to eight weeks. According to Alexander Chernykh of Spurts.ru, new Cleveland head coach David Blatt told Russia outlet ITAR-TASS earlier this month that the Cavs had tried to acquire Mozgov, but a deal was unlikely to materialize.

    Bleacher Report's Rob Goldberg explained what would make Mozgov an ideal fit in Cleveland:

    As much talent as Cleveland added this summer, the team is still relatively weak in the low post. Love is a below-average defender, which will leave Anderson Varejao even more exposed. The team will need someone else capable of coming in to play center without losing much.


    This is where Mozgov could be perfect. He would be solid either off the bench or as a starter in a limited offensive role. He knows exactly what he contributes to a team and would certainly not overstep his boundaries as the star players light up the scoreboard.

    While Mozgov may be more of a pipe dream than a legitimate possibility for Cleveland at the moment, it sounds as though the Cavs will remain persistent in their pursuit of the Russian big man. Given his potential fit on their roster, it's not difficult to understand why.

Rajon Rondo, PG, Boston Celtics

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is no stranger to trade rumors. He's seemingly been on the block for the past few years, and that chatter should only further pick up as he creeps ever closer to becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer.

    According to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, moving Rondo "is not a high priority" for the Celtics at the moment "because they are still trying to determine if he's part of the future." However, the mercurial point guard could wind up forcing their hand in the coming months, as the threat of losing him for nothing could be too great to ignore.

    In a behind-the-scenes clip on ESPN's Around the Horn, Jackie MacMullan told Frank Isola of the New York Daily News (h/t CBSSports.com's James Herbert) that Rondo has told the Celtics "he wants out." Though both he and his agent denied the report via a spokeswoman, per Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald, he wouldn't be the first NBA player to say one thing in the open and the opposite behind closed doors.

    Boston drafted a logical heir apparent to Rondo this June, nabbing Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart with the No. 6 overall pick. Owner Wyc Grousbeck told reporters that the selection of Smart didn't have "any impact on Rajon at all," but it's clear that he'll serve as a phenomenal insurance policy for the Celtics if they do decide to ship out the four-time All-Star.

    Getting anywhere near fair value for Rondo will be a challenge for Boston, however, as his looming free agency could scare away suitors. As Bleacher Report's Stephen Babb notes, the best-case scenario for Boston might be Rondo "spend[ing] the first months of the 2014-15 campaign improving his value in advance of the trade deadline."

Ramon Sessions, PG, Milwaukee Bucks

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Point guard Ramon Sessions is technically a free agent at the moment, with the Milwaukee Bucks having renounced his rights earlier this summer. That won't necessarily preclude him from being involved in a trade, however.

    The Houston Rockets are reportedly interested in engaging the Bucks in sign-and-trade discussions for Sessions, per Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy. As Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times notes, Milwaukee could still unrenounce Sessions to include him in a sign-and-trade by virtue of being under the salary cap.

    There is "mutual interest" between Sessions and the Rockets, Kennedy reported, but "nothing is imminent" in terms of a sign-and-trade. As Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin notes, "there are several small hurdles" to a potential sign-and-trade, "which collectively add up to a decently sized impediment."

    The Rockets still have their bi-annual exception available and could thus sign Sessions outright, but their unwillingness to do so suggests they're hoping to save it for next offseason. They're also over the regular-season roster limit of 15, even if they waive all of their non-guaranteed and partially guaranteed contracts. Jason's Terry arrival further complicates matters, as Houston could rely upon him as a spot ball-handler at times. 

    Having traded Jeremy Lin to the Los Angeles Lakers in the failed bid to land Chris Bosh as a free agent, the Rockets are understandably searching for a reliable backup to Patrick Beverley. It remains to be seen whether Daryl Morey can work his magic and concoct a sign-and-trade agreement that satisfies all sides.

Josh Smith, SF/PF, Detroit Pistons

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    It's no secret that if the Detroit Pistons could find a taker for forward Josh Smith and the $40.5 million he's owed over the next three seasons, they'd do so in a heartbeat. Getting anywhere close to a fair return on Smith will be a significant challenge, though.

    Detroit engaged the Sacramento Kings in trade discussions centered around Smith in the days leading up to the 2014 draft, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, but nothing came to fruition by draft night. The two sides reportedly rekindled discussions in mid-July, per Stein, and were "on the hunt for a third team that could help facilitate the deal."

    Stein explained the rationale behind the Kings' interest:

    Sources say the Kings continue to give the addition of Smith serious consideration, largely because the discussions to date have not required them to part with any players in their long-term plans and would also add a versatile and athletic defender to a roster that badly needs one, given how much Kings coach Mike Malone is known to preach defense.

    Detroit president and head coach Stan Van Gundy reportedly reached out to Smith and told him that—"barring an unexpected turn of events"—he'll be a part of the Pistons heading into training camp, per Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. There's no guarantee that such an "unexpected turn of events" doesn't materialize over the coming weeks, however.

    If the Pistons do begin heating up trade talks, the Kings might not be the only team interested in Smith. Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal laid out a case for the Boston Celtics, New Orleans Pelicans and Phoenix Suns, too.