NBA trade deadline: Five young players besides Dennis Smith Jr. who could use a change of scenery
The Mavericks are shopping their young point guard, but he's not the only prospect who could flourish with a new team
In the NBA, as with most professional sports, supreme talent generally wins out -- LeBron James would be LeBron James no matter which franchise he was drafted by. But for the majority of players, one of the keys to fulfilling potential is how well they fit with their team. Whether it's the wrong coach, the wrong system or the wrong teammates, playing for the wrong franchise can stunt the development of players who might otherwise thrive in different environments.
A recent example is second-year guard Dennis Smith Jr., who was already reportedly clashing with Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, but is now , partly due to an inability to coexist with rookie phenom Luka Doncic. Smith will likely be moved before the Feb. 7 trade deadline, and he'll hope to join the long list of young players who have been able to find success after changing teams early in their career.
The best case scenario is someone like Victor Oladipo, who, after less than spectacular stints in Orlando and Oklahoma City, blossomed into an All-Star and franchise player in Indiana. Perhaps a more plausible outcome is a player like Spencer Dinwiddie, who bounced around before finally finding a home with the Brooklyn Nets, recently signing a three-year, $34 million extension.
That's not to say that any of these players will end up having that kind of impact, but it goes to show you that there is plenty of talent out there being underutilized -- you just need to know where to look. Here are five young players who could use a change of scenery heading into the NBA trade deadline.
Obviously, this is the first name that comes to mind when you think of young talent that needs a fresh start. The 2017 No. 1 overall pick has endured nothing but drama in his brief 76ers tenure thus far, and his shooting problems (whether mental, physical or some combination of both) must be solved if he's ever going to fulfill his potential. It's becoming increasingly clear that he's not going to get the chance to do that in Philly -- the Jimmy Butler trade signified going all-in on "win now" mode, and a team competing for a title doesn't have the ability to let Fultz play through his issues. There are probably a lot of teams willing to give Fultz that chance, but it's a matter of what the Sixers want in return.
After showing promise last season in his second year (15.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.4 blocks per 36 minutes), the 6-11 forward has completely fallen out of the Kings rotation because of the addition of rookie Marvin Bagley III and the emergence of Harry Giles, who missed all of last season due to injury. But that doesn't mean Labissiere doesn't have talent -- in fact, according to the November report from Yahoo Sports, he was one of the players that the front office was frustrated wasn't seeing more minutes from coach Dave Joerger. Once the top player in his high school class, Labissiere has shown the ability to play inside and outside on offense, while protecting the rim on defense. There may not be much room on a suddenly promising Sacramento roster, but Labissiere, who's under contract at an affordable $2.3 million for next season, is definitely worth a look if the Kings are willing to sell low.
Kennard has seen about the same amount of minutes for the Pistons this season as he did last year as a rookie, but his field goal percentage (42 percent) and 3-point percentage (37 percent) are both down significantly. He was drafted No. 12 overall in 2017 as a knock-down shooter, so it's no surprise that's how the Pistons have primarily used him. But Kennard is much more than a spot-up guy. He's been good in pick-and-roll situations this season, generating 0.941 points per possession this season as a scorer and passer according to Synergy Sports Tech, compared to just 0.788 points per possession as a spot-up shooter.
With Blake Griffin, Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith around him, Kennard doesn't get many opportunities to facilitate the offense. If he went to a team willing to give him some freedom as a ball-handler in the second unit, we could see a side of Kennard that's been largely untapped so far in Detroit.
Frank the Tank has rumbled off the road in Charlotte under new head coach James Borrego, who has played Kaminsky sparingly over the first half of the season, even after an injury to starting center Cody Zeller (when Bismack Biyombo is getting minutes ahead of you, that's a serious problem). A true stretch-five, the 7-foot Kaminsky performed well in a period from late November to mid-December when he received relatively significant minutes, averaging 7.4 points on 50 percent shooting and 34 percent 3-point shooting, so he's definitely capable of helping a team -- he also shot 38 percent from 3 in 23 minutes per game last season. He can't be a starter due to his defensive deficiencies, but there's certainly room for him in some NBA team's rotation given his ability to stretch the floor. Just look at what Brook Lopez has done for Milwaukee.
The No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 draft, Bender has only appeared in 12 games this season for first-year Suns coach Igor Kokoskov. The Suns also declined the 7-foot-1 forward's fourth-year option before the season, a clear indication that he's not part of their future plans. The fact that he's a free agent after this season might dissuade teams from trading for him, but if you can acquire him as a throw-in in a bigger deal or a salary dump, it might be worth getting an extended look at him for the rest of the season instead of trying to sign him over the summer. It wasn't long ago that Bender was being talked about as a possible "unicorn" (he shot 37 percent on 3-pointers last season), so his potential could be unlocked in the right situation. Keep in mind, he just turned 21 years old in November.
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