One position at a time we will break down the most likely candidates to be traded prior to the upcoming NBA trade deadline of Feb.21. To conclude the series, we take a look at five centers who could soon be on the move.
Marcin Gortat – Phoenix Suns
2012-13 Stats: 11.5ppg, 1.3apg, 8.9rpg
Contract: 2 years, $15 million
After a hot start to the season, Marcin Gortat has been reasonably quiet considering the role he was expected to fill for the Phoenix Suns. Gortat has also expressed his concerns about his fit with the organization earlier in the season, prompting talks that a trade may be on the horizon.
A solid finisher with good hands, above-average rebounding and the ability to block shots, Gortat would be a useful addition to many teams searching for stability in the frontcourt. On a reasonable contract for a starting center, it is likely the Suns could move Gortat for a collection of younger players and draft picks from playoff teams.
Now 28 years old, Gortat is unlikely to stay around while the youth in Phoenix continues to develop and he may be best served helping a playoff team down the stretch while gathering additional young talent for the Suns.
Al Jefferson – Utah Jazz
2012-13 Stats: 17.2ppg, 2.1apg, 9.8rpg
Contract: 1 year, $15 million
In the last year of his contract with the Utah Jazz, it is unlikely that even if he stayed with the team through the deadline that Al Jefferson will be in Utah beyond this season. The Jazz have committed to their rebuilding project and have two young big men waiting in the wings to take over from the current veteran frontcourt.
Jefferson is still a highly effective player on the glass and offensively, where he is one of the best low-post players in the league. Teams looking to trade for Jefferson could do so not just to bring him in to help this season, but in the summer it would give them the advantage in signing him to a new deal.
The Jazz will not take on bad contracts just to trade Jefferson, as his deal is expiring, but knowing his value around the league, it is unlikely they ride out the season knowing he will likely leave for no return in the summer.
Emeka Okafor – Washington Wizards
2012-13 Stats: 8ppg, 1.1apg, 7.4rpg
Contract: 2 years, $28 million
Emeka Okfor is exactly the type of player that a number of playoff-caliber teams are looking for. A solid defensive presence with good rebounding and shot blocking abilities, he would be invaluable to teams having to deal with the likes of Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol or Andrew Bynum in a playoff series.
The catch in trading for Okafor is his contract, even in a time where productive big men are regularly overpaid his price tag is excessive. With the Washington Wizards rebuilding, they would likely take a package that saved them money on Okafor’s deal while bringing in high-character younger players. For a number of teams with a short championship window, bringing in Okafor for two seasons–even on such a large deal–would be worthwhile.
DeMarcus Cousins – Sacramento Kings
2012-13 Stats: 17.4ppg, 2.7apg, 10.1rpg
Contract: 2 years, $8.7 million
DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings have endured a tumultuous relationship during his short NBA career. Cousins has received multiple suspensions from both the league and the team for numerous conduct charges; he has had heated arguments with coaching staff and recently hired a new agent.
The mix of Cousins’ size and talent is unquestionable; it is his ability to reach his potential in Sacramento that is a huge question mark. The Kings are an extremely young team with little veteran leadership. Cousins’ attitude towards the organization has publicly less than complementary and the Kings may wish to move him while his value is still high based on his potential.
With the team set to be sold in the near future it would be understandable if they were to keep Cousins and attempt to build the new franchise around him; at the same time, however, with his temperament and issues thus far they may want a fresh start without the drama. It would take a very enticing package to move him, but countless teams would be interested at the right price.
Pau Gasol – Los Angeles Lakers
2012-13 Stats: 12.2ppg, 3.8apg, 8.4rpg
Contract: 2 years, $38.2 million
To say things have not gone to plan thus far in Los Angeles would be an understatement. The Laker super team has struggled and no player is under more scrutiny than Pau Gasol. New coach Mike D’Antoni is trying to implement a run-and-gun system, while using the power forward position (which Gasol is currently playing) as a perimeter shooter.
Gasol is one of the best low-post scorers in the game and is unlikely to adapt to an offensive scheme that fails to utilize his talents. Unfortunately for the Lakers, Gasol’s contract is going to make finding a deal for him difficult while also improving the team’s chances of a championship.
A number of teams would love to add Gasol to their roster, but are unlikely to pay a premium given the money left on his deal. If moved, Gasol could see a huge increase in his production and seemingly a trade could be the best result for both parties at this point.
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