5 players on other teams' radar as 2017 trade deadline nears

Sekou Smith

Sekou Smith

We’ve already had one blockbuster deal, and yet the NBA’s trade deadline is still two days away. DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis will team up together in New Orleans to give the Pelicans a wicked 1-2 big man punch as they chase a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

But that Kings-Pelicans deal could be the start of something even more seismic. There could be other teams willing to navigate the deadline-day pressure to tweak, tinker or totally overhaul to their rosters to prepare for the future — be it a playoff run or nose-dive to the lottery of what is projected to be one of the stronger Drafts in recent memory.

Either way, it would be wise to buckle up for what should be a crazy 48-plus hours of chatter, rumors and (perhaps) actual deals that help reset the NBA landscape for the stretch run of this season and beyond.

The hot list of guys who could be in play by Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET, deadline (starting with the All-Stars):

Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls

Butler is no doubt the face of the franchise in Chicago, but for how much longer? It’s not secret the Bulls are contemplating a complete reboot of the franchise (the same reboot they eyed last summer before adding Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade). And Butler would fetch the biggest bounty on the trade market. The Boston Celtics are hunting another All-Star to pair with All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford. Butler, who plays at an elite level on both ends, would have no problem fitting in with the Celtics. Plus, Boston has all the resources to make a deal for Butler happen. If the Bulls’ front office is ready to start over (again), moving Butler now is the move.

Paul George, Indiana Pacers

Surely the Pacers wouldn’t part with George, the franchise anchor who has rebounded from a devastating injury two years ago to regain his All-Star form? Never say never, especially where Larry Bird is concerned. George is a dynamic talent that would put a contender over the top. And the Pacers, simply put, are nowhere near the team that made back-to-back Eastern Conference finals appearances just three seasons ago. George has not committed to signing a long-term extension with the Pacers, insisting that he wants to play on a team capable of winning it all. The Celtics would jump at the chance to add him.

Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

It doesn’t matter how uncomfortable Phil Jackson makes things for Anthony, he continues to refuse any opportunity to show his hand leading up to the deadline. His no-trade clause and trade-kicker make any potential deals much more complicated for both sides. If you’re Anthony, why would you consider any deal that doesn’t put you in a position to work with a top-two team in the Eastern or Western Conference? The stress test the Knicks are putting him through, however, continues to simmer (even if the headlines from a few weeks ago have dissipated). For as much as his name has been associated with Cleveland, the LA Clippers could be much better suited to make something happen here.

Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons

The relationship between Jackson and coach Stan Van Gundy has never been strong, with both believed wholeheartedly in their own specific approach to the point guard’s role both in this offense. Jackson is a talent … but an enigmatic one in the eyes of many around the league. From the start there were questions as to whether or not he possess the sort of leadership qualities and temperament that Van Gundy is looking for from his point guard. Jackson’s not an easy fit everywhere because he knows he’s a starting point guard, despite the desires of some to peg him as an ideal backup (the role he played in Oklahoma City to Russell Westbrook before being traded to the Pistons).

Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia 76ers

Most people figured Okafor would have been dealt already, as the Sixers have spent the entire season exploring their options with the young big man. The Sixers were reportedly close to dealing Okafor to the Pelicans, days before the DeMarcus Cousins deal went down, but ultimately decided to pass on what the Pelicans offered. The dilemma for any team with Okafor is figuring out how a young post player with his skill set fits into a league where everyone is attempting to play some version of a pace-and-space game. He’s not an elite shot blocker or defender, but Okafor could develop into a 20-point scorer in the right situation. Joel Embiid’s injury situation also factors into how the Sixers proceed here.

Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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