The NBA’s Feb.21 trade deadline is fast approaching. Over the coming days, general managers will be frantically taking and making calls to teams around the league in a quest to improve their team or to assist in a rebuild for the future.
Often, a trade can revitalize the career of an NBA player. It can be that they are stuck on the bench behind a team’s star, that they have not impressed their coach or they simply do not fit in the team’s long-term plans. We have seen players like Jermaine O’Neal go from little-used bench player with the Portland Trail Blazers to All-Star for the Indiana Pacers.
The change of scenery, teammates and coaches can do wonders for a young player down on confidence or just looking for a chance to prove himself.
With that in mind, here are five players who could potentially benefit from trades before this seasons deadline.
Derrick Williams – Minnesota Timberwolves
Taken with the second overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, Derrick Williams has yet to find his niche in the league and has struggled at times with the Minnesota Timberwolves. When healthy, Kevin Love rightfully takes nearly all the available minutes at power forward while Nikola Pekovic does the same at the center position. Williams entered the league as a hybrid forward, but has yet to prove that he can play any significant minutes at small forward, where the Timberwolves have minutes available.
With Love’s injury problems this season, Williams has had numerous opportunities to start and prove he is capable of more. While he lacks consistency, he has had three double-doubles when starting games including a 24-point, 16-rebound effort in Wednesday’s loss to the Utah Jazz. Per 36 minutes, Williams has solid averages of 17 points and more than eight rebounds, but in Minnesota this season he has only broken that minute barrier on two occasions.
With Love set to return, it appears that Williams will again be relegated to his limited role off the bench for the foreseeable future. If a rebuilding team could offer Williams an opportunity to log consistent, extended minutes at power forward, he may be able to reach the immense potential he had prior to the draft.
Wilson Chandler – Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets were a surprise inclusion to the blockbuster off-season trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers. In the process, the Nuggets obtained former All-Star and versatile swingman Andre Iguodala. On a team now loaded with wing talent, Wilson Chandler was always going to find it difficult to return from injury and find consistent minutes. In 17 games with Denver this season, Chandler is averaging just 20 minutes per game, well down from his career average of 31.
At just 25 years old, Chandler is capable of playing extended minutes and has shown that earlier in his career. The 6’8” forward has had three seasons where he played more than 33 minutes per game and scored more than 15 points a game. He showed with the New York Knicks he was more than capable of being a full-time starter in the NBA and his versatile game could be an asset to a number of teams around the league lacking impact forwards.
Chandler has been a solid contributor when given the opportunity this season but there is a long list of wing players and forwards in Denver who Coach George Karl is trying to share minutes between. Iguodala, Kenneth Faried and Nuggets’ leading scorer Danillo Gallinari have all cemented their starting roles and take the majority of minutes at the wing and forward positions.
As well as Chandler, Karl has swingman Corey Brewer to consider and Brewer has arguably had his best season coming off the bench. The Nuggets have also amassed a crop of young, talented wing players in recent drafts with Jordan Hamilton, Evan Fournier and Quincy Miller all factoring in to the team’s future plans.
With a chance to return to his consistent starter minutes, Chandler would have the opportunity to continue on the progress he made with some impressive seasons to start his NBA career.
Ben Gordon – Charlotte Bobcats
Ben Gordon and the Charlotte Bobcats appear destined to part ways in the near future. Gordon’s name had already been mentioned in media outlets as a likely trade candidate and recent turmoil within the team has ramped up managements efforts to ship Gordon out of town.
Adrian Wojnarowski from Yahoo Sports reported last week that Gordon was involved in a heated exchange with Coach Mike Dunlap. Dunlap was preparing the team for their upcoming game against the Boston Celtics and Gordon refused to stop bouncing a ball despite numerous requests from the coach, then saying the coach should “humble himself”. This is the latest in a number of reports that Gordon is unhappy with his role and the coaching situation in Charlotte.Having this behaviour around such a young team is unacceptable and both the coaches and management are keen to get Gordon away from their impressionable youngsters.
Averaging a career low in minutes at 29 years old on what is a rebuilding team is definitely not the ideal situation for any player. Obviously a lot of the blame for these recent outbursts lays squarely on Gordon but it appears clear that both he and the Bobcats need to go their separate ways before any further damage is done.
An explosive scorer and outside shooter, Gordon could be an important weapon as a sixth man for a playoff team. We have seen the likes of Jamal Crawford and JR Smith embrace that role for elite teams this season and they are reaping the benefits. Gordon himself won the sixth man of the year award in 2004-05 as a rookie and has proven he is capable of that role when focussed.
It is unlikely a team would return Gordon to the starting role he often had in Chicago, but he should definitely be able to find a significant, consistent and meaningful role with a team as he enters the latter stages of his career.
It may be difficult for the Bobcats to find a trading partner with two years and over $25million still on Gordons contract, however they will be on the phones until the deadline trying to find a suitable deal. If moved, it will be on Gordon to prove that it was simply a case of being in the wrong situation and he can mature into a reliable role player for a playoff team.
DeMarcus Cousins – Sacramento Kings
As the fifth overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, Demarcus Cousins entered the league with unlimited potential and the ability to be a franchise changing big man for the Sacramento Kings. Concerns over his maturity and attitude were the only problems identified after his single year in the NCAA with Kentucky, but the Kings rightly took the chance to add a genuine potential superstar to their roster.
Now in his third season, Cousins has seemingly proven to be everything that scouts made him out to be prior to the draft. At times, he is a dominant center, capable of putting up incredible numbers and single-handedly taking over a game. At others, he is incapable of controlling his emotions, letting them spill over into confrontations, which has resulted in a number of suspensions in his young professional career.
At just 22 years old, Cousins still has time on his side to turn it all around. The ability, the size and the natural gifts are all there, he just needs to mature and find a level of professionalism that will allow him to reach his true potential. One thing the Kings sorely lack is veteran leadership to teach their younger players about conducting themselves as professionals. With such a young and talented team it is important to have experienced, accomplished veterans around the younger guys leading by example and showing them how focussed they need to be in order to be successful.
For the Kings, trading Cousins may not make sense at this stage. They are a young team and he is one of the most coveted rebuilding pieces that there is in a potentially dominant big man. For Cousins’ sake however, he needs to find a veteran mentor as quickly as possible and the Kings may need to make some moves to accommodate that. Cousins desperately needs the voice of a veteran in his ear to help him reach his potential and cast aside the attitude issues that are plaguing his career.
There is no doubt that if Cousins had happened to land on a team with a legendary big man like a Tim Duncan or Kevin Garnett, he may already be challenging for best center in the league under such leadership. As it is, he is unlikely to be moved and the Kings would not be able to land an all-time great player such as those guys, but they need to find an experienced, professional and accomplished veteran to guide Cousins through the next few years of his career. If not, it’s likely he will never reach his full potential.
Pau Gasol – Los Angeles Lakers
The 2012-13 NBA season has been a nightmare for Pau Gasol. After a successful Olympic campaign he returned to the Lakers who, after a series of dramatic off-season moves, appeared to be a championship favorite in the Western Conference.
Gasol and the Lakers started the season with a five game losing streak that cost former coach Mike Brown his job. They then chose to bring in Mike D’Antoni, a man renowned for a run and gun offensive style to coach what appeared to be a veteran, half court paced team. The results have been disappointing for LA who currently sit at 25-29 and are out of the playoff picture in the West.
D’Antoni has struggled to find an answer for how to use Gasol and All-Star center Dwight Howard together in the same line up and as a result Gasol was benched in favor of little known Earl Clark. Gasol had been at the centre of trade talks for nearly the entire season and had been often used as a scapegoat by fans and media for the Lakers poor performances. Gasol is averaging the least points per game in his entire career just months after proving he can still dominate games in the Olympics.
If the Lakers are intent on keeping Dwight Howard and Mike D’Antoni in LA, the best way for Gasol to close out his illustrious NBA career may well be with another franchise. Far from finished, Gasol desperately needs a coach willing to play him in his natural position and allow him to be the outstanding All-Star level big man we had become a custom to seeing in recent years.
Gasol was seemingly one of the most likely trade candidates prior to getting injured. Now in the midst of rehabilitation for a torn plantar fascia injury in his right foot, Gasol is unlikely to be moved prior to this deadline, but he may be the player who would most benefit from a change in scenery at this point. If he lasts the season in LA, he will be the top trade candidate in the off-season.
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Tags: Andre Iguodala Ben Gordon Change Of Scenery Charlotte Bobcats Danillo Gallinari Demarcus Cousins Denver Nuggets Derrick Williams Dwight Howard Jamal Crawford Jermaine O'neal Jr Smith Kenneth Faried Kevin Garnett Kevin Love La Lakers Los Angeles Lakers Mike D'Antoni Minnesota Timberwolves NBA Nikola Pekovic Pau Gasol Sacramento Kings Tim Duncan Trade Trade Deadline Wilson Chandler