The 2016-17 NBA season is heading into only its third week, but we’re already seeing trade buzz crop up surrounding names who have seemingly been on and off the market all offseason.
DeMarcus Cousins, Nerlens Noel and Brook Lopez spearhead the latest group of rumors, which should come as a surprise to exactly no one. Cousins has been on and off the block seemingly since the moment he was drafted. Noel has long been the likeliest of the Philadelphia 76ers’ big men to bounce. Lopez is a good player being wasted on a team that’s a half decade away from being competitive.
Cousins Has ’50-50′ Shot of Being Traded
Well, this time it’s coming from the mouths of opposing executives who spoke to Sam Amico of Amico Hoops.
“They’ll never get what they want in return,” an Eastern Conference general manager said. “They think Cousins is worth more than he actually is. He hurts you every bit as much as he helps you. He’s like a cheeseburger or booze. Too much and you’ll pay a price.”
Cousins, 26, is averaging 25.5 points and 9.1 rebounds during the Kings’ 3-5 start. He remains far and away their best two-way player. The team craters offensively when he sits, and he’s arguably the only above-average starter on the entire roster.
You can argue Cousins has been a product of bad circumstances more than anything. The Kings haven’t won more than 33 games in a season since his arrival. His best teammate in that stretch has arguably been Isaiah Thomas. Thomas is the player Sacramento kicked to the curb rather than signing him to a long-term cheapo contract. Now in Boston, he is now arguably the NBA’s second-best veteran bargain (behind Stephen Curry).
But Boogie is far from blameless. He’s developed a well-earned reputation for being difficult, which is suppressing his trade value.
Lopez Available for Right Price
It’s a heady time to be Brook Lopez. The 7-footer returned this season with a brand new three-point shot, knocking down four in last Wednesday’s win over the Detroit Pistons. He had only three in his career heading into this season. After taking 31 threes in his first eight NBA seasons, Lopez has already taken 21 in 2016-17.
One problem: The Brooklyn Nets are still bad at basketball. They’re 2-4 heading into Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves and have no clear plan to become relevant anytime soon. With the Boston Celtics holding their draft picks or pick-swap rights from now until infinity, we’re probably looking at another few years before progress is made.
Hence the continued Lopez trade rumors. He’s the only attractive veteran trade piece on the roster who could fetch young players and draft picks. ESPN’s Marc Stein reported the Nets are aware and continue to do their due diligence by taking phone calls.
No deal is imminent, and the Nets have been understandably wary of making a trade. Lopez is the only player on the roster with tangible ties to the organization. He has been with the franchise since it drafted him in 2008 and overcame a series of career-threatening foot injuries to become a solid two-way piece.
Raptors Interested But Hesitant With Noel
Through four games, the Joel Embiid experiment has sure as heck been fun. The 7-footer, who missed his first two NBA seasons due to foot injuries, has largely been excellent in limited minutes. He’s leading the Sixers in points per game (18.5), rebounding at a solid enough rate and blocks. He’s swatted a ton of shots.
The fact that he’s made two-thirds of his three-point attempts has made the situation exhilarating despite Philly’s 0-5 start. With JahlilOkafor also playing his way back into shape, the minutes are looking like they’re going to be hard for Nerlens Noel to earn upon his return.
There is no current timetable for Noel to get back after he underwent surgery for an inflamed plica in his left knee last month. But when he returns, it seems likely Noel will be auditioning for his next employer.
Stein noted the Toronto Raptors have expressed interest in the wake of Jared Sullinger’s foot injury. They had success last season splitting time between offensively minded Jonas Valanciunas and defensive stalwart Bismack Biyombo. It’s likely they see similarities between Noel and Biyombo, and the former arguably has a higher ceiling.
However, the Raptors are satisfied with giving their young frontcourt players a chance to earn minutes for the time being.