The Boston Celtics have clearly emerged as the early-season class of the East. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers may wind up taking their expected place atop that mantle, but look weaker than ever. Correction—James is, per usual, playing at an unfathomably high level, yet his supporting cast, especially with Isaiah Thomas sidelined, hasn’t been this weak since he first entered the league. Celtics aside, a glut of teams that includes the Raptors, Wizards, Pistons (!?), Knicks (!!??), Bucks, 76ers, Magic and Cavs are all in the running in an Eastern conference with its window open wider than ever since LeBron’s reign began. So what does it all mean? Expect more early-to-midseason trades as teams jockey to take advantage of the landscape in what could become an arms race out East. Frankly it’s already begun, with Milwaukee making the first strike by rescuing acquiring star point guard Eric Bledsoe from the Phoenix Suns earlier this month. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (who tends to know a thing or two about these things), that move was the first of potentially many. So who else could be on the trading block and land on an Eastern Conference contender? Here are some early-season trade targets: Julius Randle, PF, Los Angeles Lakers This is an easy one. Although we’re just one month into the NBA season, reports have already surfaced that Randle’s time in L.A. is short and that he’s “very unlikely” to be a part of the Lakers long-term plans. It’s not so much the fault of Randle, the seventh pick in the 2014 draft, but more a result of the presence of both Kyle Kuzma and Larry Nance Jr., two young Lakers players at the same position whom the team is said to prefer over the former Kentucky standout. Randle is far from the dominant post presence he was in college, but he would be a big plus to any team in need of frontcourt help. Although his minutes have been fairly limited with Lakers head coach Luke Walton trying to find playing time for all his bigs, Randle is averaging 20 points, 12 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per 36 minutes.
Five early-season trade targets
Sportsnet | Nov 18