This offseason alone, six All-NBA players changed teams. Only eight of the 23 players selected for the 2017 All-Star Game are still with the same team they played for then. Needless to say, the last few years have seen unprecedented player movement. As entertaining as that can be, common sense dictates that it can't last forever. After all, the league eventually runs out of players capable of moving.
That is going to make this season a bit quieter on the trade front. Fewer big names are available. The ones that are come with meaningful flaws in terms of health, age, contract or production.
In a way, that makes this upcoming trade season even more exciting than usual. Realistically, only a few teams could have afforded to trade for Anthony Davis. But virtually every team in the mix will have a chance to add major talent at the deadline this year. Odds are, they'll do so with one of these players.
"Likely" is a tough sell on a trade with as many obstacles as a potential Chris Paul deal. He has three years left on his contract worth $124 million. Most teams already have a starting point guard that they are happy with, and many of the ones who don't can't feasibly match Paul's salary in a trade (see Lakers).
"Should" is the better word for this instance. Paul should be traded because a player of his stature deserves better than wasting away on a lottery team he didn't choose, and because even with all of the factors complicating a potential deal, there are still plenty of teams that could both use and acquire him. The Miami Heat are the obvious destination. The Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic all have both the means and motive to make a trade. If they really wanted to, the Los Angeles Clippers could even facilitate a reunion.
The Oklahoma City Thunder won't force the issue. There is value in having an elder statesman like Paul around for a rebuild. But odds are, some playoff team comes to its senses and snatches Paul up for one last run at a ring.
Now here's one we can call "likely." Gallinari comes from the same situation as Paul, but at a scarcer position and with none of the risk. He is owed $22.6 million this season and nothing after that. Assuming he stays healthy, there are simply too many teams in desperate need of competent wing play for the Thunder not to get a good offer at some point. In all likelihood, they'll hold out for a first-round pick. But eventually, expect Gallinari to find a new home on a contender.
Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol are the most desirable Toronto Raptors veterans, but Serge Ibaka is likely the most acquirable. With Pascal Siakam now entrenched at power forward, Ibaka is a starting-caliber player stuck in a bench role. Not every team can take in a $23.3 million salary, but on an expiring deal, it's manageable enough.
Of course, this is all moot if the Raptors believe that they can make a run in the postseason. Until the season actually begins, discerning their long-term plans is going to be nearly impossible. Lowry's extension indicates that the Raptors don't plan to be major players in 2020 free agency, and Ibaka is eligible for a similar deal. That Toronto hasn't given him one means that he either expects to earn more in free agency than the Raptors are willing to give him, or that the Raptors want to feel out the trade market for him first. Either way, the Raptors should listen to offers.
Give the Knicks some credit. At least they're going to lead the league in something other than losses this season, though employing roughly 80 percent of the NBA's power forwards is hardly a viable long-term strategy. Julius Randle and Bobby Portis are young enough to theoretically remain as parts of the next winning Knicks team. Gibson, in all likelihood, is not. Fortunately for New York, plenty of teams that are ready to win right away would love to have his defense and rebounding for a playoff push. The Knicks will get a second-round pick or two out of the deal.
DeMarcus Cousins, the player, has almost no value this season. Players that tear ACLs in August just don't contribute during the upcoming season, and Cousins is under contract for only one year. His $3.5 million salary, though, is critical to the Lakers. Los Angeles is very light on tradable salary, especially because so many of its players (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee) have implicit no-trade clauses by virtue of their contract status.
If the Lakers want to make a major trade this season, Cousins' contract is almost certainly going to be involved. Don't expect the Lakers to chase a $20 million player, but with Cousins' cap figure, any player with a seven-digit salary should be reasonably attainable.
Iguodala is the sort of player that the Lakers would love, but cannot reasonably acquire via trade because they lack the necessary salary for such a deal. He would need to be bought out to become a Laker, but too many teams should be interested in his services for the Memphis Grizzlies to let Iguodala get away for free.
Notably, the Denver Nuggets (Mason Plumlee), Portland Trail Blazers (Kent Bazemore) and Dallas Mavericks (Courtney Lee) have expiring contracts in Iguodala's general salary range that could facilitate a deal. One of those teams, if not more, will be willing to surrender a draft pick to get Iguodala, and that will keep him off of the buyout market.
Whiteside could well bounce back to his near-All-Star form in Portland, but in the likelier event that he doesn't, he is a Blazer primarily to buy the team time. Jusuf Nurkic is going to miss a meaningful portion of the season, and Portland needed a starting-caliber center to fill in for him until his return. Once he comes back, the Blazers are likely set with him and Zach Collins.
Where Portland isn't set, though, is on the wing. That is where Whiteside can make his greatest impact as a Blazer. His $27.1 million expiring contract gives them access to virtually any high-priced forward on the market. Two players we've already discussed, Iguodala and Gallinari, would make sense as trade targets in a potential Whiteside deal. He'll be a valuable innings eater until Nurkic comes back, but once he does, the Blazers would be wise to flip him for a wing.
For all of the jokes we make about the Knicks, the Kings have five power forwards on their roster who need minutes. The difference is that the Kings have so much talent elsewhere that a logjam is more of an opportunity than an opportunity cost, but it is still a logjam nonetheless. Marvin Bagley isn't going anywhere. Harrison Barnes' contract suggests that he isn't either. Harry Giles and Richaun Holmes are young and cheap, leaving Bjelica, a deadeye shooter coming off of a strong World Cup, out to dry. Sacramento's loss will be someone else's gain when he inevitably finds a new home.
The Heat tried and failed to trade Goran Dragic as part of the salary cleanse that got them Jimmy Butler. With Butler handling the ball more than most wings and Justise Winslow , Dragic's fate in Miami has been sealed. He is coming off of an injury-riddled season, but if he can prove that he is healthy, he is still more than productive enough offensively to justify his $19.2 million salary.
Had Kevin Love been healthy last season, he likely would have found his way into the league-wide game of musical chairs that saw over a dozen former All-NBA players change teams this offseason. If he proves that he can still produce at an All-Star level this season, he shouldn't last much longer on a Cleveland Cavaliers team that is rebuilding and in desperate need of defense in its frontcourt.
Players as productive as Love always find suitors, but there are few obvious destinations out there. The Utah Jazz would have made sense prior to acquiring Bojan Bogdanovic. The Denver Nuggets were interested before signing Paul Millsap, and have since added multiple younger power forwards. Love is one of the last stars still standing, and as such, many of the teams that could have potentially acquired him have already filled their hole elsewhere. He'll find a home somewhere, but unlike many of the other players on this list, an immediate option doesn't spring to mind.