It’s December, so nearly everyone is desperation-shopping — including NBA executives. More trades like the one that sent Kyle Korver to the Jazz are bound to come for teams falling short (cough cough, Houston) from teams not falling quite short enough (cough, wheeze, New York). Here are four players worth putting on the wish list.
Trevor Ariza, Phoenix Suns
Among the names of those eligible beginning December 15 is Ariza, who is seen as a top priority among “rival teams,” according to The New York Times’s Marc Stein. Leaving Houston to sign with Phoenix over the summer was a get-my-money move for Ariza. He’s making $15 million on a one-year deal with the Suns, who gave no illusion of being competitive, and Ariza is 33 years old and already has a ring. But he might end up on a competitor this season, anyway, should anyone be able to foot his fully guaranteed $15 million. Many defenses ache for a presence like his on the wing, and despite Ariza’s career-low field goal efficiency (37.2 percent), he can still be an effective player in a functioning offense.
Ironically, Ariza’s former unit sure could use him right now, though Houston has little flexibility with its cap. (Even more ironically: Brandon Knight, whose $14.6 million salary this season would make for a near-clean swap, can’t be sent back to the Suns because league rules stipulate that teams can’t reacquire a player they traded in the same season.)
Kent Bazemore, Atlanta Hawks
Before the season, the Bucks were thought to be eyeing Bazemore. As were the Rockets. And the Pelicans. He’s due $18 million this season and $19 million the next, sure, but #FREEBAZEMORE. Like Ariza, Bazemore can inject 3-and-D straight into the veins of a poor-shooting, poor-defensive, poor-energy team. (Disclaimer: The Baze Gaze is off-kilter this season; he’s shooting a career-low 29.3 percent from 3. Dedicated to the tank! Sacrificing his stats! Team player!)
Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn Nets
For a team on a tight budget, Dinwiddie is ideal. He’s a free agent after this season and is on the books for $1.65 million. That’s GoFundMe-able for the right fan base. San Antonio and New Orleans are two teetering teams pining for depth at point guard with starters Dejounte Murray and Elfrid Payton out (Murray for the season; Payton likely until late December). While Brooklyn might be finally treading water now, the Nets have their eyes on the future. Dinwiddie’s stock is high; general manager Sean Marks could reap a nice package from, say, the Pelicans, who are about a year out from losing a disinterested Anthony Davis if the team’s mediocrity keeps up.
Trey Burke, New York Knicks
If for only the sake of Knicks fans’ hearts being broken, the guard to deal is Burke, not Frank Ntilikina. (Not yet, anyway.) There’s no chance that Burke will accept another cheap deal when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, like the two-year, $1.3 million one New York signed him to in 2017. The Knicks are keeping as much space open as possible (their total cap allocations are set to drop from $92 million to $50.9 million this season to next), and a beefier Burke contract probably isn’t in those plans.