Sacramento is listening, but the Kings are in a holding pattern and currently have no plans to make a deal despite sitting in 13th place in the 15-team Western Conference, the sources said.
But should owner Vivek Ranadive, general manager Vlade Divac and coach George Karl decide to change course, they have been made acutely aware what is available from the Celtics, Heat and Bulls.
And if Cousins stays put in Sacramento, do not discount the possibility of Miami and Houston swapping centers, Dwight Howard going to the Heat and Hassan Whiteside going to Houston, our publisher, Chris Sheridan, is reporting. (More on that in the video below).
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge has long been enamored with Cousins, and he has a plethora of draft picks – including Brooklyn’s unprotected 2016 and 2018 first-round picks – plus young assets (Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, Marcus Smart, etc.) and the expiring contract of David Lee to make a deal happen. This is a similar formula Ainge used in the past to acquire Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
Heat president Pat Riley and the organization are no strangers to getting the most out of talented but troubled players. Hassan Whiteside, the latest reclamation project for Miami, and rookie Justise Winslow would be the centerpieces of any trade proposal, along additional players who would be added to make the salaries match.
Why would Miami consider parting with Whiteside, the league’s top shot blocker?
Look no further than this upcoming summer when Whiteside will become one of the league’s top free agents.
Because of NBA rules, there is almost no way the Heat can keep him.
After originally signing a two-year deal with Miami, Whiteside falls short of full Bird Rights. As a result, the only way Whiteside can be signed without regard to the salary cap is by accepting a minimum salary or the Early Bird average salary of $8 million as Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel has noted. Neither of those scenarios is plausible since Whiteside will command close to max money on the open market due to his current play and the dearth of available young centers.
It would be ironic to say the least if Whiteside were traded to the Kings after Sacramento selected both him and Cousins in the 2010 draft.
As for Chicago, the Bulls are loaded with expendable frontcourt talent. Joakim Noah’s $13.4 million expiring contract and Taj Gibson are available, along with a young asset or draft pick. With former first-round pick Bobby Portis stuck behind a crowded frontcourt, Chicago is looking to clear a path for him to play more, one source said.
And if there is a chance to get their hands on the guy I have named the best center in basketball, the Bulls, Celtics and Heat are willing to do it.
Today is Dec. 15, the date that players (including most rookies) who signed over the summer become eligible to be traded – including Josh Smith, Marcus Thornton, Brandon Bass and Omer Asik. Expect even more rumblings throughout the league before the trade deadline in mid-February.
Smith already has been rumored to be on the block. Thornton’s Rockets are looking to make a deal and the whole team – minus James Harden – is available for the right price.
Bass is the type of veteran role player who can help a playoff team off the bench. In 16 minutes per game, Bass has shot 56 percent from the field and averaged 5.6 points and 4.3 rebounds. With the Lakers rebuilding and out of the playoff hunt, trading Bass to a contender before the deadline makes sense for both sides. With most contenders over the cap, Bass’ $3 million salary makes it easier to match in a trade scenario. As for Asik, league sources say the Pelicans have made him available after signing him to a five-year, $52 million deal this past summer.
If your team is looking for a big man that could provide a lift off the bench, Trail Blazers center Chris Kaman and Timberwolves forward Adreian Payne are available on the trade market as well, league sources said.
Keep an eye on another center, Nikola Pekovic, as trade talks pick up around the league heading into the new calendar year. The Timberwolves have Karl-Anthony Towns anchoring the pivot, and with Gorgui Dieng behind him, there won’t be a lot of minutes available whenever Pekovic returns from ankle surgery.
With that in mind, here are five trade candidates whose names you will also hear mentioned as bait before the trade deadline:
1. Markieff Morris, Suns, 6-10, 245 pounds, 4 years: Morris wanted a trade over the summer and may finally get his wish. After falling out of the rotation in favor of Jon Leuer and Mirza Teletovic, Morris has played only seven minutes over the last five games. What makes Morris the most attractive trade candidate is his four-year, $32 million contract – an incredible bargain when his head is on straight and with the looming salary cap rise toward the expected $90 million range. At 26, Morris was coming off his best season a year ago and hasn’t yet hit his prime. Phoenix has discussed a deal with Houston for Corey Brewer and Terrence Jones, one source said.
2. Ryan Anderson, Pelicans, 6-10, 240, 7 years: Anderson is in the final year of his contract at $8.5 million. The best stretch-4 on the market, Anderson’s name has been mentioned previously over the years as a trade chip. The difference in this case is the struggling Pelicans could look to totally rebuild and get as many assets as possible for Anderson, who may command nearly double his salary on the open market this summer. With Anthony Davis effective in the mid-range game and further developing his 3-point shot, having a stretch forward next to him isn’t a dire need, which makes Anderson expendable.
3. Jamal Crawford, Clippers, 6-5, 195, 15 years: Crawford was shopped by the Clippers over the summer and was back on the block less than a week ago, as I previously reported. In the final season of his deal with $5.7 million owed, Crawford is the type of bench scorer who – at least in theory – can help a contender get past Golden State and Cleveland in each conference. With Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith and Paul Pierce all looking for shots, something has to give for the Clippers. There simply aren’t enough basketballs to go around.
4. Donatas Motiejunas, Rockets, 7-0, 222, 3 years: Entering restricted free agency this summer, Motiejunas has been dangled as trade bait. As I previously reported, Motiejunas and Terrence Jones were dangled with the hope of making a blockbuster deal to save the season for Houston. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey knows the time to win is now with Dwight Howard in a contract season and James Harden in his prime. Sacrificing Motiejunas – who becomes a restricted free agent this summer – to add a piece to help Houston win now is a price Morey is willing to pay.
5. Kevin Martin, Timberwolves, 6-7, 199, 11 years: At 32, Martin has struggled since being inserted into the starting lineup, shooting 39 percent from the field. On a rebuilding team looking to develop Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammad, every minute for Martin takes away valuable playing time from a youngster. Martin has a $7.4 million player option next summer and will be gunning for his own stats in a contract season. Teams are always looking for shooters, and Martin has been a 39 percent 3-point shooter over the course of his career.
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