5 players who should be dealt before Thursday's NBA trade deadline
Noah is certainly someone who could find himself on another team come next week.
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
By Fred Katz
We're only two days from the NBA trade deadline, which means major names are going to begin popping up in the news -- if they haven't already started.
There are the obvious guys out there who could be traded, the Markieff Morrises of the world, who are unhappy in their current positions and whose teams just don't fit them all that well. Then, there are the ones who should find themselves sent out of their current situations, not because they're disgruntled or because of conflicting personalities, but because sometimes, players and teams just outgrow each other.
Stuck with a player who may mold better elsewhere? Deal him out for pieces that can help you. Here are five guys who may fit that description:
The good news: Noah was a First-Team All-NBA performer just two years ago, during the 2013-14 season when he finished fourth in MVP voting while leading an undermanned and injured-all-over Bulls team to the postseason. The bad news: Check out just how far Noah has fallen over those past two seasons. His offense is almost non-existent now. Defenses play him just to pass, which has taken away much of the facilitating ability he showed off during his MVP run. He has lost some of the lift and athleticism that allowed him to finish around the rim accurately. He's not the same, and he won't command the same value as he did a couple of season ago heading into free agency this summer. But the Bulls center is now coming off the bench for coach Fred Hoiberg, who hasn't been able to get through to the fiery Noah the same way former coach Tom Thibodeau could. Maybe a change of scenery could help him recapture some of the old magic.
Whiteside is putting up numbers this season, but that doesn't mean the Heat will certainly be keeping him around this summer. Miami doesn't have Bird rights on Whiteside, so it won't be able to go over the salary cap to re-sign him. Meanwhile, the Heat have lots of big contracts on the books and will presumably be renegotiating with Dwyane Wade, another of the summer's free agents, in July. Whiteside leads the NBA in blocks and has been a mainstay in the top 10 in rebounds, but Erik Spoelstra sits him for fourth quarters often, and his defense often appears to be far too stat-paddy and not practical enough to give big-time money to in the offseason. That situation spells trade, and if a team like the Lakers or Rockets or anyone else think they have a legitimate chance to re-sign the 26-year-old this summer, they may end up ponying up some assets to swipe him from South Beach.
Anyone's on the table here. Al Horford is a free agent this summer and is no guarantee to re-sign with the only team for which he's ever played. Kyle Korver hits the free-agent market after next season, so Atlanta could still snag some value for him with a year-and-a-half left on his deal. Same goes for Jeff Teague, who makes a team-friendly $8 million in each of the next two years but who may be a less-attractive option for Atlanta at point guard than the 22-year-old Dennis Schroder. The Hawks have been reportedly shopping Teague for at least a few weeks. They could use an extra wing or two after losing DeMarre Carroll in free agency last summer, and if the team does actually want to hit the restart button a mere season removed from a 60-win campaign, Teague and/or Horford could yield major return.
2. Dwight Howard, C, Houston Rockets
Big fish time. Dwight's name is one we've heard on the market all season, and considering he could -- and probably will -- hit free agency this summer (Howard has a $23 million player option for next season), it's only prudent for the Rockets to see what they could get for him. Howard is still one of the NBA's best players (when he's healthy), but he's not the one-man defense he once was in Orlando and Los Angeles or even during the early stages in Houston. That said, he's rebounding about as well as ever and still finishes around the rim competently. The Rockets could get more than just a nice return for one of the NBA's biggest names, and teams like the Hawks, Heat, Celtics, Raptors and maybe more will certainly come up in the rumors.
OK, so this one is less realistic, but it does make sense. The big hurdle here is Anthony's no-trade clause. It's something he likely wouldn't waive until after the season ends, considering he has a trade kicker that doesn't kick in until the finale of 2015, meaning he could actually make more money if he were traded after this season as opposed to during this season. But from the Knicks' perspective, trading Anthony from a team that's currently nine games under .500 makes total sense. Melo has three more years left on his deal after this one and is already limping through problems with the surgically repaired knee he injured last season. At 31 years old, Anthony's personal timeline doesn't match up ideally with the organization's. So, if you're Knicks president Phil Jackson, wouldn't you deal Anthony to a win-now situation for a younger star? Or for a number of cheaper pieces that you could build around as you move into the future with Kristaps Porzingis? Anthony probably won't go this year, if only because of that trade-kicker idiosyncrasy, but talks could always start now and progress into the summer. That's when the real magic could come.
Fred Katz covers the NBA for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter: @FredKatz.