Imagine trying to figure out which freshly signed NBA free agents may not finish the 2019-20 season with their current teams. Can't we let the ink dry for a second or two?
Free agency isn't what it used to be. Contracts are shorter in general, and one-plus-one deals are more common than ever.
These placeholder agreements don't just open the door for this discussion. They demand having it in the first place.
Exceptions exist, like always. Some teams sign players to short-term contracts with every intention of keeping them. Similarly, next season's trade candidates aren't only on one- and two-year pacts. Teams sometimes give out longer deals with future market value in mind.
To be clear: This is not a predictive exercise. Most of these players will stay put through next season. But more so than other recently signed free agents, they have a better chance of hitting the trade market come Dec. 15.
Not-So-Obvious Players to Monitor
Trevor Ariza, Sacramento Kings
Trevor Ariza will undoubtedly enter the rumor mill if the Kings fall outside the Western Conference playoff picture. He isn't a bargain at two years and $25 million, but only $1.8 million of his 2020-21 salary is guaranteed, per Spotrac. Sacramento could flip him as part of a cap-relief package to teams trying to get off long-term money.
Whether the Kings are open to that avenue is a separate matter. They didn't spend this summer like a team with temporary postseason aspirations.
The money they gave to Harrison Barnes (four years, $85 million), Dewayne Dedmon (three years, $40 million; nonguaranteed in 2021-22) and Cory Joseph (three years, $37 million; partially guaranteed in 2021-22) suggests they're done functioning as a squad on the rise. They may not have the stomach to downgrade the roster in exchange for draft and prospect equity.
Frank Kaminsky, Phoenix Suns
Frank Kaminsky is a gut-feeling pick. The Suns exist in a constant state of unrest, and his two-year, $9.7 million pact can lend a salary-matching hand.
Aron Baynes and Tyler Johnson are more likely to go. They're both on expiring contracts and are earning a combined $24.7 million. They may be all the salary-matching fodder the Suns need.
Still, Kaminsky looms as an intriguing trade tool should Phoenix need to cobble together money for an ultra-expensive get—say, if Russell Westbrook's uncertain future leaks into mid-December and the Oklahoma City Thunder aren't open to swallowing Ricky Rubio's new three-year, $51 million deal.
Garrett Temple, Brooklyn Nets
Garrett Temple at the room exception feels like an overpay. He's a good locker room guy and can be moved around three positions, but he's also 33 and didn't shoot the ball well last season after getting traded to the Los Angeles Clippers.
A two-year deal worth close to $10 million doesn't scream "salary-matching tool." But the Nets have the requisite other pieces to get creative on the trade market.
They are a net-positive in the first-round-pick department after grabbing protected 2020 selections from the Philadelphia 76ers (via Clippers) and Golden State Warriors. Meanwhile, Jarrett Allen, Nicolas Claxton, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Rodions Kurucs, Caris LeVert, Dzanan Musa and Taurean Prince make for a blockbuster-worthy war chest.
If the Nets attach Temple to Dinwiddie, some combination of younger players and first-rounders, they'd be cooking with gas. However, that doesn't mean they'll actually kick the tires. Their timeline is warped by Kevin Durant's recovery from his Achilles injury.
Asset consolidation doesn't make much sense when he's their line to championship contention. They need to know what he looks like upon his return before going nuclear.
Then again, the Nets have Kyrie Irving. As delayed as it may be, their window remains now.
Los Angeles Lakers Signees
Potential trade chips for the Lakers include:
DeMarcus Cousins (one year, $3.5 million) and Danny Green (two years, $30 million) can be thrown in here as well, but they aren't as readily expendable. Boogie isn't making salary-anchor money and Anthony Davis recruited him to Los Angeles, while Green is too important to the team's wing defense and floor spacing.
Full-blown nods cannot be given to the rest of the pack at large.
Default aggression is the Lakers' obligation with both Davis and LeBron James in tow, but they don't have the supplementary assets to flesh out trade proposals. Their draft commitments to the New Orleans Pelicans extend to 2024 and could leak into 2025 if the Pelicans exercise their right of deferral.
Kyle Kuzma is Los Angeles' best sweetener, but he alone won't tip the scales of a blockbuster package. Strictly consolidating free-agent salaries will help the Lakers take on a more expensive player, although they'll have to weigh the opportunity cost of compromising depth and future cap flexibility by going that route.
Everything figures to be on the table unless the Lakers are the toast of the NBA next season. That comes with the territory of operating inside James' window.
But after acquiring Davis, the Lakers are somewhat limited in what they can do next.
Avery Bradley (two years, $9.8 million)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (two years, $16.6 million; player option in 2020-21)
Quinn Cook (two years, $6 million; nonguaranteed in 2020-21)
JaVale McGee (two years, $8.2 million; player option in 2020-21)
Rajon Rondo (two years, $5.2 million; player option in 2020-21)
New York Knicks Signees
The length and structure of the contracts that the New York Knicks handed out this summer says it all:
Reggie Bullock can be looped into this group as well, and Marcus Morris might not be far behind.
Wayne Ellington (two years, $16 million; team option in 2020-21)
Taj Gibson (two years, $20 million; team option in 2020-21)
Elfrid Payton (two years, $16 million; team option in 2020-21)
Bobby Portis (two years, $31 million; team option in 2020-21)
Julius Randle (three years, $63 million; team option in 2021-22)