Palawan, we have reached the point of the regular season where teams in the National Basketball Association (NBA) are exploring to either upgrade their rosters for a power move to advance their playoff aspirations or, for some teams on the bottom rung of the regular season standings, to trade marquee players for future assets with hopes for a good position in the draft lottery or a good off season rebuild.
In today’s NBA, a high salaried player can be an asset in the early years of his contract but as the contract matures, sometimes the value of the player in the team erodes whether by injury, change in coaching staff or system, or a sub-par season from the player. Based on current performance trending of teams, the following high profile players could be on the move before the trade deadline on the first week of February:
* Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons): he is still a dominant force down low and a monster off the boards but Drummond’s stint with Detroit has been mired with low playoff success. He can be a match-up nightmare down low but could also be a liability in a pick and roll situation. His tandem with Blake Griffin, in my opinion, just simply clogged up the offensive line for the Pistons. In today’s quick ball movement, less isolation pace, there’s only as much low post passes you can do. Drummond has a player option for 2020-2021 in his max contract and if the Pistons are considering a rebuild, now is the perfect time to hit the restart button and trade the 6’11 center for future assets. He has done good service in Detroit but both parties could do well to move different directions at this point. The Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat or the Boston Celtics could be good possible destinations for Drummond
* Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers) – a former all-star with an NBA ring who is under performing in a team that is obviously on “re-set” mode. Love will be very difficult to move what with 3 more years of max salary level pay due to him. The Portland Trailblazers are rumored to be very interested in getting the services of Love but to what extent? They have Hassan Whiteside as a lead contender to be traded. Add a role player plus future assets and the Blazers may find them with 4 deadly options on the offensive end combining with Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Carmelo Anthony. The Celtics could also be a potential candidate but they have to trade away young stars like Gordon Hayward or Jayson Tatum. There will be an upside for the Celtics considering that they lack depth at the post when all Horford moved Philadelphia. A Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Daniel Theiss (or Enes Kanter), Love and Jaylen Brown starting unit looks promising in the East. Depth would be an issue for the Celtics but they have stacked some good picks for the future anyway.
* The KAT, Karl Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves) – I believe KAT has given his share to the Wolves franchise. The team just couldn’t break out of the very competitive western conference. Another high salaried player that could be tricky and challenging to move… unless a smart team has done some off-season maneuvers last summer with him as an ultimate mid-season target. The Golden State Warriors are basically tanking this year. Their resident superstars Klay Thompson and Seth Curry are basically out for the majority of this season but they do have an ace up their sleeve that could possibly interest the Timberwolves. Just signed over last summer with a lucrative contract by the Warriors, guard D’Angelo Russell, fresh from a stellar season from the Brooklyn Nets last year, could be a viable trade option for KAT. It may not necessarily be a 1 to 1 deal and the Dubs of Golden State may need to yield future assets in exchange but adding Towns in the mix would make them contenders yet again. Imagine a starting unit that would include Curry, Towns, KAT, and Draymond Green and surround them with quality backups that coach Steve Kerr can do every season and you have an instant powerhouse squad ready to dominate again
* Chris Paul (Oklahoma City Thunder) – CP3 is making the OKC Thunder a playoff team this season but this may not necessarily mean he is not on the team’s trade radar. With still 3 years left on his super-max contract, Paul may be a big gamble to secure with his age and the amount of money he is yet to earn but he still is a good quality play maker that could be very valuable to a playoff contender. The Miami Heat comes to mind with the team looking to possibly move the expiring contract of Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters. The Heat may need to churn a draft pick too to make it happen but they do get a proven playoff competitor in Paul who could very well make big men Bam Adebayo and Myers Leonard play like all-stars. If this happens, here’s hoping Paul doesn’t clash with resident superstar Jimmy Butler
* Al Horford (Philadelphia 76ers) – there seems to be a spacing issue down low for the Sixers with both Joel Embiid and Horford sharing the paint. Add the fact that play maker Ben Simmons continues to refuse to hit the 3, we are talking about a clogged 76ers offense. I believe the Sixers could benefit to move Big Al to the Indiana Pacers for Miles Turner. Turner can possibly fulfill the stretch 4 role the Sixers need to balance their front line.
Such is the nature of the NBA today and sometimes it takes a season or two before general managers actually get the player they like for their team. Gone are the days of athletes playing for one team throughout their NBA careers. It’s finding that sweet spot in a franchise that can give you the best chances to get a championship ring at the end of the season that matters the most, Palawan.
(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)