Pacific Division Trade Targets
Whether the NBA season is canceled or not (it seems likely to proceed, at the time of writing), there are some questions that have begun to burn in the hearts of many an NBA franchise fanatic: how will my team fare during free agency? Will there be any major shake ups in my division? Does my team need to make a trade to stay ahead?
Going division by division, I will identify one player from every team that will most likely be traded this offseason (which starts Oct. 18). First up: the Pacific Division.
Los Angeles Lakers: Kyle Kuzma
If the Lakers do not win the NBA Championship in Orlando, Kuzma will likely be on the chopping block. The last young talent of the pre-LeBron era could easily be dealt away to a rebuilding team looking for a volume/rhythm scorer with solid defensive potential.
Kuzma’s numbers do not jump off the paper; actually, they make me want to crumble the paper up and throw it into the garbage. Or eat the page, vomit it back up, and shred it. Besides a +/- of -3.5, Kuz shoots 29% on 4.4 three-point attempts per game, a mark that has consistently trended downward since his rookie year. He ranks dead last on the Lakers in VORP (Value Over Replacement Player), serving up a score of -0.5 in the well-regarded catch-all metric.
Kuzma was thought to be a crucial floor-spacer for LeBron’s passing abilities and paint penetration; instead his youthfulness poses more opportunities in trade negotiations than on-court opportunities in the Purple and Gold. That is to say, if the Lakers fail to win their 17th championship, Kuzma will likely be the scapegoat - whether it is his fault or not.
LeGM would not hesitate to trade Kuzma away for an immediately impactful asset; in his age-35 season and seeking his fourth ring as he chases the ‘Ghost who played in Chicago’, it’d be hard to fault such a roster move. Whether it be floor spacers, wing defenders, or paint protectors, whatever asset LeBron desires will walk through the revolving door as Kuzma takes his talents elsewhere.
Phoenix Suns: Ricky Rubio
Rick Scuteri - AP
Any previous notions of Ricky Rubio being washed up have been silenced during his stint in Phoenix. The 5th pick in the 2009 draft has posted career highs in points per game at 13.1, 3-point percentage at 35%, and is only 0.2 assists shy of matching his career-high per game assist mark (9.1 apg) for a single season, which he set in 2016.
The Suns see a light at the end of the rebuilding tunnel for the first time in nearly a decade. Rubio, 29, has two more years left on his deal, and is trending in the opposite direction of the youthful Phoenix franchise. The next young asset Phoenix needs in their rebuild is a point guard to match Devin Booker in the back court. Although Rubio is a veteran and can mentor young guards, I believe the Suns best direction with him is to put him on the trade block while he is still putting up highly desirable numbers.
Rubio most likely wants to go to a contender where he can contribute en route to acquiring his first NBA ring. The Suns, meanwhile, have young pieces they want to develop and are unlikely to seriously contend anytime soon. Trading Rubio away for a high pick that will land them a new young point guard, or for a current young guard, is their most favorable route.
The Suns must deal Rubio away while he is still flirting with a points-assists double double. A trade package for Rubio must be on the table for the time being, and is something GM James Jones should be looking to evaluate as Phoenix exits the Disney bubble.
Golden State Warriors: Andrew Wiggins
Ever since Andrew Wiggins was traded to Golden State, concerns of his fit in the offense have plagued much of Warriors’ news. Wiggins is a slashing shot-creator who plays on the wing, and although he is a better fit as a 3-and-D player than D’Angelo Russell was, his playstyle is not ideal in The Bay.
The Warriors have their main shot creator in Steph Curry; everyone else should (mostly) just sit on the perimeter. However, Wiggins has shot above 35% from 3-point range just once in his career. Wiggins is not known for his shooting ability, instead tending to be renowned for his ability to consistently underachieve. Maybe Wiggins' history of bad teams has served as a roadblock to his success, and a winning franchise could be the key to his potential?
Probably not, though. Wiggins’ slashing abilities could space the floor for the greatest shooting duo to ever play, but I cannot picture Wiggins as the primary ball handler or initiator of the offense. Rather, I could see Wiggins being dealt away for a tried and true 3-and-D forward, like Jerami Grant or Trevor Ariza, just to name a couple.
Wiggins’ time in Golden State may be as short as D’Angelo Russell’s tenure was. GM Bob Myers will do whatever he has to in order to get the Dubs back on top of the league with a roster that is finally healthy.
Sacramento Kings: Buddy Hield
Jeff Haynes - Getty Images
Buddy Hield getting shipped out of Sacramento is not as far fetched as one may think. After losing the starting job to Bogdan Bogdanovic at the end of last season, Sacramento surged, winning 13 of their last 20. Now, Bogdanovic is sitting pretty as the starting shooting guard, and Buddy Hield sits out in late game situations.
Numbers do not always tell the whole story. Bogdan’s 14.5 points per game. 36.1% 3PT, 3.2 rebounds per game, and 72% FT% are all inferior to Hield. Instead, Buddy Hield’s lack of shot creating ability, tendency for late-game blunders, and inability to produce in clutch situations have left the reigning 3-point contest champion benched.
Paying a bench player $23M a year for four years is a perfect way to ruin the rebuild Sacaramento’s faithful have been patiently waiting for. If the Kings deal Buddy Hield away this offseason, they should receive a bountiful return. Sacramento could swap Buddy Hield with a younger star, potentially forming a big three with De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley. Sacramento could accumulate draft picks and a couple bona fide bench scoring options to improve their second unit. The Kings could even pull off a blockbuster trade this offseason, looking to skyrocket into playoff contention.
Whatever route the Kings decide to take, sending Buddy Hield elsewhere should be viewed as necessary for this front office. In searching for maximal return value, the Kings should seek to trade Hield away while he is young, has some potential, and is still shooting the lights out.
Los Angeles Clippers: Landry Shamet
Hannah Foslien - Getty Images
After the Clippers acquired Reggie Jackson in the middle of the season, the abundance of guards on the roster would prove troublesome. Doc Rivers now has four point guards who desire their fair share of minutes: Lou Williams, Patrick Beverly, Landry Shamet, and Reggie Jackson.
There is no winning scenario for every guard on the roster who wants 15+ minutes per game. With the acquisition of Reggie Jackson, Landry Shamet’s bench role and minute distribution has been significantly reduced. Through nine games with Reggie on the roster, Jackson has been averaging 19.4 MPG, leaving no playing time for Shamet - whose abilities have proven redundant.
With the possible re-signing of Reggie this summer, Landry is likely better off in different colors. Shamet is a solid bench player; through his four year career, he is averaging 9.3 points per game on elite 41% shooting from three-point range. The Clippers do not have many holes in their roster, but dealing their extra shooting guard away could be beneficial. Whether it be for draft picks or better-fitting role players, sending their unneeded talent elsewhere would likely improve this championship contender.