Atlantic Division Trade Candidates
Whether the NBA season is canceled or not, the question every fan wonders is how their team will fare during free agency, whenever that eventually occurs.
Going division by division, I will identify one player from every team that will most likely be traded this offseason. Next up, the Atlantic Division.
Philadephia 76ers- Al Horford
The most recent move by 76ers has removed Al Horford from the starting five, and inserted Shake Milton in his place. Horford, now 33, has been underperforming ever since signing a four-year/$109 million dollar deal with Philly. Right beside Horford, the entire 76ers team is underachieving and appears to be a shell of last year’s 51 win squad.
With Philly struggling, someone is to blame, enter Al Horford. After being removed from the starting line-up, his playing style will only depreciate with the bench squad. Horford’s defensive intensity, pick and pops, and strong screens will struggle with one of the weakest benches in the league.
It will not be long until Horford is moved to accommodate Philly's biggest needs, shooting and bench depth. The problem is, very few teams are willing to take on Horford’s $26M yearly salary after such a sharp decline of play. Philadelphia will likely be forced to include their 2021 first round pick, along with a sum of second rounders, which they have accumulated over the next four drafts.
Few teams will take on Horford’s contract, the one frontrunner in my opinion? The Cleveland Cavaliers. Horford would be a great developmental piece to develop their plethora of young guards. Horford’s veteran anchor presence and play style of putting the team first would be practical in the evolution of Collin Sexton, Kevin Porter Jr, and Darius Garland.
An abundance of draft picks would also be sent to Cleveland to sweet talk them into the deal. In return for Horford, the Cavaliers would send Kevin Love to Philly to aid the team in some much-needed spacing. Although Love is a defensive liability, players like Matisse Thybulle, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid will make it tough for Love to mess up on the defensive side of the ball. Along with Love, Philly could receive a player like Mathew Dellavadova to strengthen their bench and return as Eastern Conference contenders.
Brooklyn Nets - Garrett Temple
During Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving’s absence, many Nets players had the opportunity to scavenge lost minutes while the team awaits the return of their star duo. One of those players was Garrett Temple. Out of all 15 seasons Temple has played in his long career, his highest minutes per game was tallied this year at 28.1 MPG. Along with his minutes, he has also recorded career-highs in points, rebounds, and assists, all at 33 years old.
Once KD and Kyrie return, the abundance of playing time for Temple will drop significantly and a consistent spot in the rotation will be hard to fulfill. The starting guards of Kyrie and Caris LeVert will be followed by Spencer Dinwiddie and sharpshooting Joe Harris. Garrett Temple will struggle for minutes and most likely be removed from the rotation.
Temple’s impressive resurgence raised his stock significantly and the Nets will not let it go unnoticed. The NBA veteran will be traded this offseason in order to improve Brooklyn’s bench unit.
Toronto Raptors- Stanley Johnson
The 2019 NBA Champions are still riding high, but after this season they will enter rebuild mode. With Gasol and Ibaka both free agents this coming summer, the big man duo will sign elsewhere, opening the cap space door for president Masai Ujiri.
The Raptors have already done a great job entering their rebuild while staying competitive. Guys like Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, and Terrence Davis serve as an ode to Toronto’s top of the line scouting department.
The one youngster who has not had similar success to Toronto’s young core? Stanley Johnson. The 5th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft has been flat out horrible. After signing a two-year deal with Toronto, he is averaging 1.2 points, 1.1 rebounds, and 0.4 assists, on 26% from the field, and 15% from 3-point land. Johnson only played 20 games last year and I see why, albeit he only logs 4.8 MPG, those percentages are atrocious and can not be backed up by a lack of playing time.
Johnson is on the chopping block next for the 905, and I would be surprised if any team traded for him alone. Johnson would be in some sort of package deal accumulated with picks to clear up cap, as Toronto is silently entering the Giannis Antetekounmpo sweepstakes.
New York Knicks- Bobby Portis
The recurring theme of turmoil in the Knicks’ front office has steered this franchise two different directions. Accumulating draft picks and young guns infers a potential rebuild, then signing veterans in their 30s such as Wayne Ellington and Taj Gibson makes NY appear too eager to start from scratch.
One can only pray that comes this offseason, the Knicks will commit to a full-blown rebuild. 7The first step of any rebuild is to trade players who could win you a game. Bobby Portis did not win NY many games, but he has the potential to, so he must be sent away. Bobby Portis gained high value this season and he will be on the move first, probably to a contender. Portis’ 2-year/$31M deal has a team-option next season. Barring a decline in production, said contender would simply cut him loose, which is why his low risk-high reward contract has frequently risen in trade talks.
Moving Portis will not be an obstacle, any playoff bound team in need of a backup forward will be blowing up Scott Perry’s phone. The assumed direction for trade returns such as Portis will be picks and developmental pieces. Assumed is too easy for New York, the Knicks will find a way to ruin their trade acquisitions and maintain the lead position for laughing stock of the league because Knicks are gonna Knick.
Boston Celtics - Gordon Hayward
Ever since Boston won the Hayward sweepstakes in free agency, Hayward has been an above-average role player generating franchise-player sized checks. It is tough to believe that Hayward could be the same player he was before his gruesome ankle injury. Although this season Hayward is averaging 17.3 points on 50% shooting, any need for scoring from the small forward position is filled by rising stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
While Hayward is slowly resurging, the C’s have bigger holes they need to fill. The backup at the small forward position will be what ultimately drives Hayward out of Boston. The C’s just do not need him as much as they need a dominant, interior defending center. Trading Hayward away from his college coach in return for an anchor to fuel Boston's offense would be the missing key to championship DNA.
A return to Utah is not as far fetched as originally perceived. Any possible turmoil in Utah’s locker room about Gobert’s antics could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Sending Gobert to Boston for Hayward in a more complicated deal than just one-for-one could be the answer for both franchises to move forward.
Boston gets their much-needed center while Utah alleviates locker room turmoil and figures out how to move forward without Gobert. The many weapons in Utah would revamp their offense and breathe freely with the return of Hayward.
Whether Gobert comes to town or Hayward is shipped elsewhere for a similar return, sending the Butler product out of T.D Garden is the team’s most realistic trade possibility moving forward.