One position at a time we will break down the most likely candidates to be traded before the NBA trade deadline of Feb.21. Next up, we take a look at five power forwards who could soon be on the move.
Josh Smith – Atlanta Hawks
2012-13 Stats: 16.7ppg, 3.8apg, 8.4rpg
Contract: 1 year, $13.2 million
The talk of trading Josh Smith had quieted considerably with the Atlanta Hawks’ hot start to the season. Now just weeks away from the deadline, Atlanta seems to be falling back to the pack in the Eastern Conference and a move may be in the cards.
The exceptionally talented Smith is on the last year of his contract and will likely command a near max deal in the off-season. There are no guarantees the 27-year-old Smith will re-sign in Atlanta and if he is not in the team’s long-term plans, they may move him for value before he walks away for nothing.
An elite athlete, defender and finisher, Smith is a highly coveted forward and would help a number of playoff teams make the jump to contender. His shot selection at times is questionable; however, in a more structured system and defined role the impact of that may be reduced.
Andrea Bargnani – Toronto Raptors
2012-13 Stats: 16ppg, 1.4apg, 4.3rpg
Contract: 3 years, $32.2 million
The Toronto Raptors have greatly improved in recent weeks and the timing of their run could not have come at a worse time for Andrea Bargnani, who sat out with injury.
The team has improved drastically by starting a front line capable of playing defense and rebounding the ball, two areas where Bargnani struggles immensely. There is no doubt the Italian, a former No. 1 overall pick, is talented; however, his deficiencies appear to be outweighing any positive his scoring has on the team.
As a No. 1 option offensively, Bargnani has struggled to lead the team to any success and the Raptors may look to trade him for value while they still can. There is no doubting that Bargnani could help teams with his scoring; however, his ideal role is likely to be as a scoring big man off the bench unless he is alongside a dominant rebounder such as Dwight Howard.
With a young team and years left on his deal, the Raptors will not be forced into a trade this season, but it is likely they offload him to begin the rebuild around their other young pieces.
Paul Millsap – Utah Jazz
2012-13 Stats: 14.9ppg, 2.7apg, 7.7rpg
Contract: 1 year, $8.6 million
The Utah Jazz have recently drafted two big men with top-five picks in Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, neither of whom are starting. The next step in their development is an increase in minutes, where the majority of time is currently absorbed by Paul Millsap and frontcourt partner Al Jefferson.
Millsap has been a steady contributor for the Jazz this season; however, with the youth waiting in the wings and his pending free-agency status, this will likely be his last season in Utah. The Jazz will likely cash in on Millsap’s talent and reputation around the league in order to assist in their rebuilding project.
There would be no shortage of teams lining up for Millsap’s services; he rebounds well, defends and is capable of scoring both inside and out. On a reasonable contract and a consistent performer, he will likely be shipped to the highest bidder by the team the deadline closes in.
Nene –Washington Wizards
2012-13 Stats: 12.7ppg, 2.5apg, 6.5rpg
Contract: 4 years, $52 million
Nene missed the start of the season due to injury while the Washington Wizards slumped in a miserable losing streak. The return of the big Brazilian has seen some leadership and consistency return to the lineup and produced better results.
Unfortunately due to the slow start, the season is all but lost for the Wizards, who are mired in the middle of a rebuilding project. Seemingly set in the backcourt going forward with John Wall and rookie Bradley Beal, Washington needs to assess the current crop of young big men it has on the roster before next season’s draft and free-gency period.
While Nene is a steady presence, his long-term deal and age mean he will not be contributing when the team is aiming to peak and they may be best served moving him now in order to gain additional rebuilding pieces. With a number of teams lacking frontcourt size and depth, it is likely the Wizards could find a trade partner for Nene even with his large long-term deal.
Anderson Varejao – Cleveland Cavaliers
2012-13 Stats: 14.1ppg, 3.4apg, 14.4rpg
Contract: 3 years, $27 million
Anderson Varejao joins what seems to be a recurring theme on this list, being a quality veteran player on a young team in the middle of a rebuilding project. The Cleveland Cavaliers have an abundance of young lottery-pick talent on their team built around star point guard Kyrie Irving.
Varejao has been a fan favorite in Cleveland his entire career and it would be hard for the franchise to trade him. Adding to the dilemma is Varejao’s recent injury, which may hold him out beyond the trade deadline, making potential trade partners wary of giving up too much value in any deal.
Varejao, who currently leads the league in rebounds per game, would be a huge asset to a number of playoff teams with his dominance on the glass, hustle and work on the defensive end. He is signed to a reasonable deal for a player with his numbers and the Cavaliers had apparently been asking a high price for his services.
His latest injury is the latest in a career which has been riddled with injury problems; however, if a team can pick him up and acclimate him with new teammates in time for the playoff run he could be an invaluable addition.
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