It’s early, but the 2016-17 NBA season is shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory. There are about 10 legitimate MVP candidates, plus there seems to be more parity league-wide than in recent years.
Because of that, most of the teams in the league have a legitimate chance at a playoff berth and will be looking to make roster tweaks that will improve their squad.
Let’s check in with two centers who are already on the trade block and a power forward who might be finally working toward a deal with the team he played for during the past four seasons.
The Brooklyn Nets won’t be a major factor in the Eastern Conference for the next few years no matter what, so they might as well think about how they can build for the future.
It’s no surprise, then, that ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported that rival executives believe Brooklyn is open to moving center Brook Lopez before the deadline this season. Stein added that sources close to the team have stressed that the squad is "merely fielding calls and doing its due diligence," not actually shopping the 28-year-old center.
Not many teams trade their best player midseason, but the Nets need some sort of spark.
Lopez is the Nets’ best player, but his career isn’t on the upswing anymore and he’s probably not going to be anything more than a fringe All-Star. He’s dealt with some significant injuries in the past five seasons, and the team is likely hesitant to keep him as a franchise cornerstone.
The main thing Brooklyn needs right now is young, exciting talent, but it will be swapping first-round draft picks with the Boston Celtics next summer and outright giving its first-round selection to the Celtics in 2018. Don’t be surprised if the Nets look to get an additional draft pick or move up to get more talent from a deep 2017 rookie class.
The Philadelphia 76ers should’ve traded one of their many big men already. With the league shifting to more and more small ball, it’s not a good idea for one team to have five blue-chip prospects who seem best-suited to play the 4 or 5 (Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid).
Stein did report Saturday that the Toronto Raptors seem to be interested in a "very available" Noel, though. Toronto lost Bismack Biyombo in free agency and could use a player to replace his rim protection. Noel’s trade value is at an all-time low right now, as he is recovering from a minor knee surgery.
Nerlens Noel is a solid player, but he’ll probably never be an All-Star in the NBA.
It makes sense that the Sixers would most want to trade Noel, instead of someone like Okafor. Noel made some comments about his discontent with the situation at the beginning of training camp, and Okafor seems like the type who could thrive as a sixth man with his advanced post game.
While Noel’s trade value isn’t as high as it used to be, he’s the type of big man most NBA teams covet. Some squad, whether it’s Toronto or another, is going to be willing to sacrifice some significant assets to gain an athletic 6’11" post player who is versatile defensively, doesn’t need many touches on offense and is a reliable finisher around the rim.
Only two seasons ago, many considered Donatas Motiejunas one of the NBA’s up-and-coming big men. He had a diverse offensive skill set, with the ability to knock down outside shots and operate efficiently out of the post. But persistent back problems hampered his court time and impact in 2015-16.
Now, the restricted free agent is still unsigned by the Houston Rockets after failing to sign an offer sheet during the offseason. However, Stein said Houston is ramping up its efforts to retain the 26-year-old power forward. The team is reportedly is shooting for Nov. 23 as an unofficial deadline for getting his deal done.
If Donatas Motiejunas returns to his 2014-15 level of play, the Rockets might have a bargain in the event that they get a deal done with him.
Stein added that the Rockets’ latest offer is a multi-year deal starting at about $7 million annually. Of course, Motiejunas is still a restricted free agent, which means any teams with enough cap room could theoretically make an offer Houston would need to match in order to keep him.
It seems doubtful any team other than the Rockets would pursue him now, though, after the entire offseason passed. Hopefully, Motiejunas gets his deal done with Houston soon and he stays healthy enough to make an impact for the team in 2016-17.