The clock strikes zero on the NBA's 2016 trade deadline at 3:00 p.m. EST tomorrow. In what was arguably the "blockbuster" of 2015's deadline, Brandon Knight went from Milwaukee to Phoenix. Also, Enes Kanter changed locations from Utah to Oklahoma City. And Tayshaun Prince was sent from Boston to Detroit.
So what should we expect for NBA 'Cats at the 2016 deadline? Not much, if you pay attention to the rumors. However, in a league in which trades like this happen, a coach can be fired after compiling an 83-40 regular season record and a NBA Finals appearance, and Vivek Ranadivé can preach this defensive philosophy, absolutely anything can happen.
There are currently 21 'Cats on NBA rosters. Here are my mostly sourceless estimations of the likelihood that they are dealt by Thursday afternoon, in descending percentages:
Patrick Patterson (Toronto)
The Raptors have firmly solidified themselves as a top seed in the Eastern Conference, so they could adopt the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach. But Patterson, the first PF off the bench up north, behind Luis Scola, has regressed statistically this season across the board, including shooting just 40% from the field. That's a career low for a season. He's also shooting 35% from distance, which is just below his career average of 36%.
That said, everyone wants a stretch 4, as their floor-spacing importance transcends statistics, and there are reports that Toronto has shown interest in swapping Patterson for Brooklyn Nets PF Thaddeus Young. Also, Patterson is the only UK alum mentioned as a semi-serious potential piece in a trade in Zach Lowe's deadline primer and this suggests that the Raps are just looking for a general upgrade at the PF position.
I think it's safe to say that Patterson is the most likely former 'Cat to be traded by tomorrow afternoon.
Terrence Jones (Houston)
It seems that nothing is off the table for the Rockets, as there have been whispers about both of its stars (James Harden and Dwight Howard) being dealt for the right price. Further, over the past few months, Jones has been linked to trades with Sacramento and Phoenix.
Most importantly, though, is that Jones is almost certain to leave Houston this summer when his rookie deal is up. The Rockets could try to send him somewhere that he wants to be long-term for at least a draft pick in return.
Brandon Knight and Archie Goodwin (Phoenix)
In a 'Cat-jammed Phoenix backcourt, I do not believe these two are completely safe. The Suns are horrible and their season is lost, but they have more work to do than just getting rid of Markeiff Morris, and that might involve sacrificing some backcourt depth for much-needed help elsewhere.
Goodwin, more suited to the SG spot, has thrived at the PG position since replacing Knight, who suffered a groin injury in mid-January. Eric Bledsoe, whom I believe is a franchise player, should be the full-time starter at that spot, when healthy (he's on the shelf for the season with a knee injury), though we all know he is effective off-ball, as well. Those circumstances make Knight, who makes just as much money as Bledsoe, seem somewhat expendable.
Independent of the aforementioned observations regarding Knight, Devin Booker's emergence has cast a corona-sized shadow (sun joke, get it? no? cool.) over Goodwin as the squad's starting 2 when everyone is healthy. Goodwin is young enough (21) that other teams might project him as a starter and offer up that kind of caliber player or pick in exchange for him, whereas he seems destined for a bench role in Phoenix if Booker's ascent continues. By the way, Booker is barely 19. Unbelievable.
So, basically, a lot of 'Cat-on-'Cat in-fighting could (but probably won't) lead to Knight or Goodwin migrating elsewhere this week.
James Young (Boston)
Young's potential movement has more to do with Boston GM Danny Ainge's shrewdness than anything having to do with Young, his current play, or his potential.
Still, Young has probably trade value because he is still basically making a name on "potential," as he continues to be held in high esteem despite spending most of this season with the D League's Maine Red Claws (best sports team name ever?). That external patience is the benefit of being a mid-first round pick instead of a lottery pick. Young is also extremely...young, at 20 years old in his second NBA season.
Still, he's buried on the Celtics' depth chart, hasn't logged a minute since late January, and has only played ten minutes since his most recent D League callup. A parting of ways might be the best thing for both Young and the Celts.
UPDATE (5:37 p.m. EST, Wed.): Zach Harper at CBS Sports includes Young as a possible asset that the Celts could offer up in a deal with Atlanta for All-Star F/C Al Horford.
Nerlens Noel (Philadelphia)
While the Sixers only have two truly attractive assets (Noel and C Jahlil Okafor), and they may entertain offers for them, I think the asking price will be unreasonable. I don't see the 76ers parting ways with either until they know what they have with fellow frontcourt lottery pick Joel Embiid, who is recovering from a second foot surgery.
If the price is right, however, I'd expect them to deal Okafor before Noel. Okafor's general defensive abilities are horrific, whereas Noel's offense has been hovering around average since PG Ish Smith returned to Philly.
UPDATE (8:07 a.m. EST, Thu.): According to Tom Moore, the 76ers are "gauging interest" for Okafor, so Noel is presumably very safe. Also, I originally forgot to mention that the Sixers are likely to work to extend Noel's contract next summer. He's not going anywhere; therefore, my 76ers fandom is safe.
DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento)
Wholly subjective rant about how immense talent outweighs coachability/maturity/team chemistry. As the best big man in the league, I'd normally tag him as "untradeable." Also, the Kings' front office seems very busy trying to unload Caron Butler and Ben McLemore.
But there's always smoke surrounding Boogie, often due to his personality, and he plays for the Sacramento Kings.
Enes Kanter (Oklahoma City)
Since arriving in OKC, Kanter has shown how good he can be when he is in a place where he enjoys playing basketball.
The Thunder need a perimeter defender and shooter to bolster the roster in order to make a respectable run at Golden State in the coming months, but none of their potential targets are attractive enough to offer up Kanter's premier offensive skills as part of the exchange.
UPDATE (2:37 p.m. EST, Thu.): The Thunder acquired a perimeter specialist, SG Randy Foye, today and Kanter was not involved. OKC is very likely done dealing.
Rajon Rondo and Willie Cauley-Stein (Sacramento)
Uh...they play for the Kings. But also, Rondo, who is finishing up a one-year deal, will probably reup with the Kings this summer, and WCS is now an integral frontcourt rim-protector (who is quietly improving his offense beyond getting hustle points) for a franchise that wants to return to the playoff picture in the Western Conference, as they were earlier in the season.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte), Anthony Davis (New Orleans), Eric Bledsoe (Phoenix), Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota), John Wall (Washington), Julius Randle (LAL), Trey Lyles (Utah), and Devin Booker (Phoenix)
This group is virtually untouchable. The first six of these guys are all cornerstone franchise players. Teams generally don't trade foundational players unless they have attitude issues (if then, even) or if they're finishing contracts and it's fairly clear that they want a fresh start elsewhere. The latter two are considerably ahead of schedule in terms of their development, starting for their teams, and in the first years of very affordable late-lottery rookie deals.
? -- Injured and Salary Match 'Cats
Jodie Meeks (Detroit), Tayshaun Prince (Minnesota), Aaron Harrison (Charlotte)
If any of these three are traded, it will be to facilitate a deal for a greater asset swap; in other words, to make the deal's salaries "match." No contending teams would look to acquire any of them as enhancements to catalyze a stronger playoff push. The latter two, if traded, could possibly be cut by their new teams soon thereafter.
Meeks is only in this category because he's played just 17 minutes this season after suffering a foot injury. He also suffered a setback and may not play again until next year. Meeks still has decent value as a bench shooter in the NBA.
Prince is nearly 36 years old with a PER of 6.66 while logging ~21 minutes per game this season. That's...not very efficient.
Harrison spent the first few months of the season with the Hornets, catching spot minutes, but has been assigned and recalled to/from the D League several times in 2016. His most recent recall to the NBA was on February 7.
The clock is ticking for NBA franchises to make deals. If a trade involving a Wildcat is executed, rest assured that we'll have it covered here at ASoB.