THESE guys need new teams
There are a handful of star-level NBA players who could certainly benefit from a change of scenery.
Whether they’ve been toiling away on bad teams for far too long, or they’re no longer a fit in their current situations, these guys should make it a priority to play somewhere else.
Here are nine players who would all do better in a new situation, including, of course, DeMarcus Cousins.
PAUL GEORGE, INDIANA PACERS
It wasn’t long ago that Paul George was one of the league’s stars on the rise. He went toe-to-toe with LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals in 2013 and 2014, and even received some on-court praise from James during one of their more memorable sequences.
But the Pacers are no longer one of the league’s elite teams, and seem to be making roster moves (and a coaching decision last summer) that has the franchise headed in the wrong direction. George is coming off an All-Star year when he finished with the best statistical season of his career. He can become an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the 2018 season, and if Indiana hasn’t added enough talent around him by then to once again make the team a powerhouse, George will certainly take a look around the league to see if there are better options.
CARMELO ANTHONY, NEW YORK KNICKS
We know, we know — Melo isn’t going anywhere. He’s making max money playing in the league’s biggest market, and is one of only three active players to have a no-trade clause in his contract. (LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki are the others.) But for selfish reasons, we’d like to see Anthony, who’s now 32 years old and playing in his 14th season, choose to join a contender to try to chase a ring while he’s still capable of playing at an elite level — the way he did for Team USA this past summer at the Rio Olympics to win the third gold medal of his career.
Wall, now in his seventh NBA season, is the best he’s ever been. His scoring average of 22.3 points per game is a career-high, and he’s shooting a career-best 37.7 per cent from three-point distance. An All-Star in each of the past three years, Wall is recognised as being among the best at what he does. But Bradley Beal is now the team’s highest-paid player, and even before Beal got that new deal, the relationship between the two hasn’t always been stellar. Wall’s under contract for two more seasons after this one, but he’s been to the playoffs only twice — and the 6-12 Wizards don’t exactly have us thinking postseason this year.
NERLENS NOEL, PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
The Sixers have a logjam of frontcourt players, and everyone, including Nerlens Noel, knows it. He was vocal at the beginning of the season about the issue, saying the roster “doesn’t make any sense,” and confirmed that his feelings haven’t changed as recently as last week. With Joel Embiid healthy and playing like the best big man of the bunch, Noel is expendable in Philadelphia, and may get the change of scenery he desires before February’s trade deadline
passes later this season.
BRANDON KNIGHT, PHOENIX SUNS
Brandon Knight is the second-highest-paid player on the Suns’ roster, yet thanks to the existence of Eric Bledsoe and the emergence of young Devin Booker, he’s been relegated to a sixth-man role this season. Knight can still score in bunches, like he did in a 32-point outburst in just 28 minutes during a loss in Denver this season, and it wouldn’t at all be a surprise to see the rebuilding Suns move him should another team come calling with the right trade package.
DANILO GALLINARI, DENVER NUGGETS
Danilo Gallinari has been limited by injuries the past few seasons, but averaged a career-best 19.5 points per game last year and (when healthy) is a versatile 6-10 small forward who could be a key role-playing piece on a team with championship aspirations. The Nuggets, however, are about as far from that as possible. Denver has made it past the first round of the playoffs only once in the past 23 years, and has missed the postseason completely for three seasons and counting. The Nuggets would be wise to move Gallinari to continue to add to its young pool of talent that includes guys you’ve never heard of unless you’re a League Pass junkie: Emanuel Mudiay, Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic.
RICKY RUBIO, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
Timberwolves fans have no desire to move on from Rubio, whose poor shooting somehow continues to be a thing even though he’s now in his sixth NBA season. They like his court vision and his defence, but teams need much more from their starting point guard in today’s NBA, and the writing is on the wall after Minnesota selected point guard Kris Dunn with the fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft. As soon as Dunn is ready (and admittedly, it may be taking longer than expected), the Timberwolves will install him as the starter. And for Rubio, playing on a more stacked team from a talent perspective might allow him to fill a role where he can focus on doing the things he does best.
ANTHONY DAVIS, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
There are plenty of NBA pundits who would rank Davis as one of the league’s five best players, and some of the statistics he’s recorded this season would certainly back that up. But the Pelicans are off to another slow, sub-. 500 start, and the roster appears to have gotten worse from the group Davis played with last season. Davis is under contract for three seasons past this one, so he’s not going anywhere anytime soon. But if New Orleans can’t surround him with complementary players and make the team a contender by the time Davis is able to walk, the franchise will lose one of the rare No. 1 overall draft picks who is capable of being a franchise cornerstone for years to come.
DEMARCUS COUSINS, SACRAMENTO KINGS
The Kings have been the poster child for franchise dysfunction in the NBA for the past several seasons, and Cousins has had to play for six head coaches in his seven seasons because of it.
Sacramento is a small NBA market with a long history of failure, where no star-level free agents will willingly sign up. If the Kings lose Cousins — who’s an All-Star talent averaging a career-best 28.7 points this season — their tradition of losing will continue into the foreseeable future.
Cousins is under contract for only one more season after this one. If the Kings don’t believe they have any chance of retaining him when he hits free agency, their best bet is to trade him this season, when they can get maximum value in return because of the extra year remaining on his deal. But if you’re the Kings, how do you trade your only All-Star, when historically they’ve been so tough to come by for your franchise? This is the dilemma the management in Sacramento needs to somewhat quickly figure out.