The Derrick Rose road show arrives in St. Louis Monday where the humidity festival is just about played out for the summer as the Bulls play host in a “home” game to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Don’t ask. Preseason works that way in the NBA. Someone has to be home when it’s no one’s home.
The national TV and reporters have left since the Rose return was a version of baseball’s opening day. Sure, there’s six months left. But we’ve seen enough to make our predictions. In any case, the Bulls and the rest of the NBA get back to the grind of the preseason for three more weeks as teams begin to truly assess what they have and what they are missing.
It’s too soon to make any major personnel decisions. The general rule in the NBA is you take 20 games to determine the quality of your team. Then perhaps you think about doing something. Or scouting.
But as the Bulls get set to play the Grizzlies, who had a strong playoff run but are not generally considered a top four Western Conference team, one of the issues you hear is about the fate of former All-Star Zach Randolph. With the Grizzlies making the surprising move of letting go coach Lionel Hollins for untested assistant Dave Joerger, there’s been talk of other moves. The most common theory is that the Grizzlies will move forward with a core built around point guard Mike Conley and center Marc Gasol. And though there is no imminent word of any changes regarding Randolph, many around the NBA wouldn’t be surprised if the Grizzlies, whose lack of perimeter strength betrayed them in the playoffs last season, eventually make some moves.
So here’s a list from pure speculation of the 10 most likely players to be traded this season:
Zach Randolph: Randolph rescued his reputation in Memphis, but his scoring declined in his return from knee surgery and he’s 32. Making about $18 million this season and with a player option for about $16 million next season, he’s not highly marketable. But I could see someone like the Kings, with a surfeit of perimeter and wing players like Marcus Thornton, John Salmons and Jimmer Fredette, taking a shot with a new owner who wants to make a splash. Randolph would also have DeMarcus Cousins as some cover and would give the Kings a formidable front line.
Omer Asik: This has to be the slam dunk of deals. Though Asik is valuable and the best insurance for Dwight Howard, the Rockets would run into the same issue the Bulls did as Asik isn’t sticking around to be a backup, and he’d walk on them as well. Especially now that he knows he can start in the league. And there’s no chance Howard’s making any accommodation so Asik can play center. The Pelicans are going to get Anthony Davis decimated playing next to starting center Greg Stiemsma. The Pelicans have added some powerful scorers. They don’t need Ryan Anderson, who makes the same as Asik. And they need a center. And Houston needs a shooter to play off Howard. It’s hard to figure why this deal hasn’t been done yet.
Rajon Rondo: He’s the leader of the Celtics, though not playing for a few more months healing from his ACL surgery. But, hello, the Celtics really don’t want to win too many games. They want the shot at one of those high lottery picks. Rondo can help you win games. There’s some thought that you keep Rondo as you rebuild because it’s tough to find All-Star point guards. But Boston is a few years away. Rondo will be 28 this season and at least 30 before Boston's doing anything. And then he’s a free agent. He also doesn’t seem the type to sit around and patiently wait. Houston could use a point guard. Asik? Perhaps if the Pelicans don’t act. There’ll always be a market for that kind of talent.
Marcin Gortat/Goran Dragic: Certainly one, if not both. You don’t want your guys walking for nothing, as Al Jefferson did on the Jazz last season. Gortat certainly isn’t returning to the rebuilding Suns as he’s in his last season. Dragic is a different case as he was their best player and with three seasons on his deal. But the new general manager didn’t acquire him. He acquired Eric Bledsoe. Plus they still have Kendall Marshall. Good point guards are hot items. Though Gortat has been the less happy and you likewise can find a place for a good big man with a manageable $7.7 million for one season. New Orleans?
Steve Nash: No point keeping him around now. There won’t be many bidders at $19 million for the next two seasons. But there’s one place, Toronto, the return to Canada for the favorite son. Forget LeBron going to Cleveland. This is the guy going home. The Raptors still aren’t going anywhere and aren’t exactly enamored with their point guard, Kyle Lowry. They’ve got shooters, so Nash would be back in his preferred role. You figure the Lakers take Lowry, for sure, in his last season and maybe Toronto throws in a youngster they’re not likely to use much, like Terrence Ross. Or maybe Landry Fields to expand a deal.
Andre Miller: Denver’s likely in for a tough season with the big management change and Danilo Gallinari recovering from surgery. They’ve got Ty Lawson, Randy Foye, Evan Fornier and former Bull Nate Robinson. Miller’s a luxury. He’s got a season left and then a buyout. He’d be great making just $5 million to finish a season for a contender. Probably cost you an expiring deal and a pick. How about free agent Thabo Sefolosha and one of their young players, like Perry Jones, with Russell Westbrook down?
David Lee: You heard rumblings last season as they were making their late run without him, his high salary and that they have plenty of scoring, especially with Andrew Bogut back. And they’ll probably want to pay free agent Bogut. You’d say maybe they believe they can make a run this season with Andre Iguodala and want to take a shot first. But with the chance to get out from under that $30 million after this season, perhaps they do a deal. Given they can’t get free agents, maybe Dallas, which has Vince Carter and Shawn Marion in their final seasons. The Warriors did bring in Marresee Speights this season.
Arron Afflalo/Glen Davis: Afflalo’s got three seasons at $7.5 million per season, which is tough to take. You get forgotten with bad teams, like the Magic. But a lot of executives still like Afflalo for his shooting and defensive play. The Magic isn’t going anywhere quite yet, and they’re transitioning to their young nucleus. You’d assume it wouldn’t take much to get him or Glen Davis.
Rodney Stuckey: The Pistons had him untouchable at one time. Along with Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon. It’s a new day. They’ve got loads of duplication in the backcourt and moving to a rookie shooting guard, Kantavious Caldwell-Pope, along with Chauncey Billups returning. It’s Stuckey’s last season at $8.5 million, though he can score and could be a valuable sixth man for a good team.
Austin Rivers: So you have Eric Gordon and then trade for Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans. That experiment seems over, though Rivers had a strong exhibition season debut. Perhaps a reunion with dad? The Clippers lost Bledsoe. They did add Darren Collison. But Jamal Crawford doesn’t have full guarantees after this season. And Doc is making the personnel decisions these days.