Lottery-bound teams around the league are frantically looking for a way to dump their established stars for future assets. A cache of those potential targets would benefit greatly from joining a new team. Here are five players that could use a change of scenery:
Hornets President Michael Jordan went out of his way this week to claim that Charlotte had no interest in trading Walker unless another All-Star was included in the return. A haul of that nature is unlikely given the current NBA climate. More established stars like DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmy Butler, and Kevin Love fetched exactly zero All-Stars for the team that traded them away. MJ will have to settle for a smaller coup than he originally anticipated.
The Hornets have been a hapless franchise ever since they drafted Walker in 2011. They've enjoyed just two winning seasons in that time span. Charlotte has never cultivated an offense playing to Walker’s strengths. The speedy guard excels in the open floor, and Charlotte hasn’t finished a season ranked in the top-10 in pace since 2006. A team that could play a faster style -- while covering for his deficiencies (like Boston did for Kyrie Irving) -- would help Walker’s ascension to an All-NBA level.
The feisty Bulls have been one of the league’s best stories through the halfway point. All good things must come to an end though -- as a brutal February stretch awaits Fred Hoiberg’s club. Lopez’s style fits in perfectly with the top teams of the league. He sets great screens, hustles all game long, and doesn’t need the ball to contribute on offense. Lopez comes at a fairly affordable price, and his contract only lasts until 2019. A bevy of squads (Boston, Milwaukee, Portland) could use his size and paint-protection ability.
Talk of Noel being taken first overall in the 2012 NBA Draft feels like centuries ago. The springy big man seemed like a lock to be one of the very first names called that year -- but slipped all the way to the sixth pick. After sitting out a year due to injury, Noel had the best season of his career during his rookie campaign. He’s been an afterthought ever since -- having appeared in just 18 of 47 games with Dallas. In those games, Noel is averaging just 12.5 minutes per contest.
There’s a clear rift between Noel and the Mavericks. The former Wildcat certainly can’t be too thrilled knowing he turned down a lucrative long-term contract last summer. A new team could revitalize the 23-year-old. It requires a certain kind of culture for a limited big man to excel in. DeAndre Jordan has found it with the Clippers, and Jordan Bell has fit in perfectly with the Warriors. Noel is closer to Bell than he is Jordan, but he certainly should be seeing the floor far more than he is now.
When the Kings inked Hill to a 3-year/$57 million deal in the offseason, the NBA world collectively scratched its head. The Kings were always going to be light-years away from competing for the playoffs, and signing Hill wasn’t going to expedite that process. The deal made even less sense knowing the Kings were bringing three rookie guards into the fray (2017 draftees De’Aaron Fox and Frank Mason, and 2014 draftee Bogdan Bogdanovic).
Hill’s numbers took a massive hit this year due to a reduced role. The Kings have also opted to give their younger players heavy minutes as the season has unfolded. Although his raw totals haven’t been up to snuff, Hill is still a capable player on both ends of the floor. Any contending team would love to add his three-point shooting marksmanship (44-percent) to its roster.
The Hawks should be in full-on “Fire Sale” mode from this point forward. After starting the season 6-23 -- and looking like an early lock for worst record in the league -- the Hawks have somehow won four of their last six games. Losing should be the No. 1 priority in Atlanta. As such, the Hawks are getting far too many contributions from NBA-level players to completely tank.
Assuming Dennis Schröder, Taurean Prince and John Collins are off-limits, the next group of tradeable assets are Ersan Ilyasova, 7-footer Dewayne Dedmon, and Belinelli (Kent Bazemore’s contract makes it tough to move him). All three are affordable, and can be taken off the books after this season.
The best bet is Belinelli -- who has the experience playing for a title team (2014 Spurs). The Italian is the best shooter of the bunch (although Dedmon's accuracy on 36-percent of his attempts from three also makes him rather intriguing), meaning plenty of teams will likely be interested in his services.
Sources: Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports, Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports, Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports, Ed Szczepanski/USA TODAY Sports, Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports, Bleacher Report, CBSSports, AOL.com