NBA Notebook: Breaking down the Top 10 newly trade-eligible players

Houston Rockets forward Tari Eason (17) and Toronto Raptors forward Otto Porter Jr. (32) battle for the ball during second half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Wednesday, November 9, 2022. (Nathan Denette/CP)

As the calendar changed to Dec. 15, the unofficial start to the NBA’s trade season began.

Seventy-four players who signed new contracts in the off-season became trade-eligible, giving teams many more options as they look to build toward a championship – both now and in the future.

This doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a deluge of activity right away, but expect to see the hot stove heating up with rumour-mongering among more players as the Feb. 9 trade deadline draws even nearer.

The biggest name now trade-eligible is probably Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden. Don’t expect him to be moved, though, as he can veto any trade this season – to say nothing of the fact the Sixers likely aren’t looking to deal him.

Another notable name who can be traded is Bol Bol, who is blossoming in his first season with the Orlando Magic. Unlike Harden, he can be traded, but he looks to be an exciting building block for Orlando, so to see him get dealt would be a real shocker.

So, with that said, here’s a look at the top 10 players who are newly eligible to be traded this season as of Dec. 15.

Patty MillsBrooklyn Nets

Coming off a career year in 2021-22 that led to him signing a two-year, $14.5-million contract to remain in Brooklyn, Mills is having a rough time this season, averaging just 5.5 points in just 12 minutes per game. Making matters worse, he’s virtually out of the Nets’ rotation these days, not seeing the floor in eight of Brooklyn’s last nine games.

This all sounds bad, but there’s still value to be had in Mills, who’s shooting 38.1 per cent from three-point range on three attempts per game this season. He can help a team that needs shooting as a bench gunner still.

From Brooklyn’s perspective, if Mills is out of the rotation, it could look to deal him and add reinforcements to a team that’s found its stride of late, having won eight of its last nine games after beginning the season 9-11.

Goran Dragic/Andre DrummondChicago Bulls

Puttering along with an 11-16 record and sitting in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls look like a team that needs to pull the plug on this season sooner than later.

As such, expect to hear DeMar DeRozan’s name pop up a lot as trade season gets going. And included in possible DeRozan packages should be one or both of Dragic and Drummond.

Though nothing like their former selves, both are still productive enough veterans who can come off the bench and contribute in meaningful ways. Dragic is shooting 39.7 per cent from deep on nearly three attempts per game in 25 games this season, while Drummond has played only 20 contests but is hauling down 7.5 rebounds per game.

John WallLos Angeles Clippers

After sitting out all of last season, Wall is back this season with the Clippers, not looking anything like his old all-star self, but not looking terrible, either.

Wall is averaging 12.3 points and 5.6 assists in 22.2 minutes per game as the primary backup point guard to Reggie Jackson. Like before, he’s still an above-average defender who can’t shoot. Unlike before, though, he lacks that game-changing burst that allowed him to get into the paint at will.

If you’re looking for a backup point guard, though, you could do far worse than Wall.

The Clippers might still want to look to deal Wall, however, because he’s on a relatively easy-to-move contract worth just a shade under $6.5 million this season with a club option for next season worth about $6.8 million.

The Clippers are jockeying for a playoff spot and will likely look to be buyers at the deadline. With Terance Mann on the roster, they have a player that could take Wall’s place in the rotation – and he’s a better shooter to boot – so using Wall’s contract as a means to grease the wheels of a bigger deal seems feasible.

Damian Jones/Juan Toscano-AndersonLos Angeles Lakers

Neither Jones, a 27-year-old reserve centre, nor Toscano-Anderson, a 29-year-old slashing wing, will move the needle for any team that might acquire them, but their value lies in how inexpensive their contracts are (approximately $2.3 million for Jones and $1.9 million for Toscano-Anderson), and how they may be used for the sake of salary matching for a potentially larger Lakers trade.

As mentioned before, DeRozan could be a hot commodity in the trade market and he’s a player who has long been connected to the Lakers. Could a package involving either Patrick Beverley or Russell Westbrook along with Jones and/or Toscano-Anderson and picks be enough to sway Chicago to part with its star guard?

Don’t be surprised if something like this happens.

Kyle Anderson/Bryn ForbesMinnesota Timberwolves

Unlike the pair discussed above, Anderson and Forbes bring some real on-court value to a team.

Anderson is a quality reserve forward who brings a wide range of skills that includes creative playmaking, toughness and solid defence. He’s not the greatest shooter, but he can knock down the occasional three if left alone.

Forbes, on the other hand, is a deadeye shooter. He’s shooting 41 per cent for his career from deep and can get hot in a hurry. At six-foot-two, he’s on the smaller side for two guards, but his stroke more than makes up for it.

Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, though, Forbes has been uncharacteristically cold this season, connecting on just 23.1 per cent of his attempts from three-point range, something that might be indicative of the inconsistency Minnesota’s struggled with in general.

The Timberwolves are in the thick of the play-in/playoff hunt in the ultra-competitive Western Conference and making panic moves probably isn’t the right course of action for them, but between Anderson and Forbes there’s about $11 million worth of salary to use in a trade. Not an insignificant sum.

Otto Porter Jr.Toronto Raptors

Porter has only played eight games for the Raptors and is expected to be out for at least a month with a toe injury now.

In the few games he has played, he’s been moderately effective, averaging 5.5 points on 50 per cent shooting from the floor and 35.3 per cent from deep.

The Raptors could desperately use Porter’s outside stroke – he’s a career 39.7 per cent shooter from distance – as they’re among the NBA’s worst three-point shooting teams, but that just isn’t happening with him missing as much time as he has.

So, why not look to deal him? Or, at least, package him as part of a bigger deal?

From the Raptors’ perspective, though it’s not theirs or his fault, this signing hasn’t worked out. Porter’s contract is worth about $6 million for this season – very movable, especially if paired with another piece.

However, one complication the Raptors may find when looking for suitors is the fact that Porter has a player option for next season. Toronto’s front office likes to offer player options to free agents as a means to get a leg up on competition, but if it’s looking to move a player before he’s in that option year it could make doing so a little more difficult.

Collin SextonUtah Jazz

When the Jazz made the blockbuster Donovan Mitchell trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the off-season, the expectation was that Utah would be taking a big step back to rebuild with the slew of draft picks, along with young players Lauri Markkanen and Sexton.

Well, things have changed a bit. The Jazz got off to a 10-3 start to the season and now find themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt in the West. Markkanen has been everything Utah’s wanted and more, looking like he should be a lock for his first all-star appearance averaging 22.1 points and 8.6 rebounds on 52.7 per cent shooting from field.

Sexton, who was looking like an ascending star during his four years in Cleveland, has taken a step back since his arrival in Salt Lake City.

The 23-year-old is averaging a career-worst 14.3 points per game, primarily coming off the bench, playing behind Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson.

Sexton is in the first year of a four-year contract worth $70.95 million. You normally don’t look to pay that kind of money to a reserve player, meaning he could be an interesting trade piece at Utah’s disposal – for either path it may wish to take.

Should the Jazz look to be buyers, using Sexton’s large contract could be useful for salary matching in order to chase to a high-profile, expensive player in a trade.

On the other hand, if they decide to go back to their original plan of bottoming out, they could look to acquire more future draft assets and young players for Sexton, who should still be a good player.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.