NBA Trade Value Rules
Here to Help Trade Value Guides Go Right
Salaries matter. Would you rather pay De'Aaron Fox $5.5 million a year or Russell Westbrook $35.7 million?
Age matters. Would you rather have Fox for the next 15 seasons or Russ for the next five?
Contract length matters. These days, 18-20 GMs have their owner convinced that every major free agent is signing with them next summer. “WE NEED CAP SPACE!!! He’s coming!” (Note: He’s probably not coming.)
Pretend the league passed the following rule: For 24 hours, any player can be traded without cap ramifications, but with luxury-tax and next-day-cap ramifications. If Team A tells Team B, “We’ll trade you Player X for Player Y,” would Team B do it?
Concentrate on degrees. For instance, a Simmons-Doncic swap ain’t happening for either side, but Philly would at least say, “Wow, Luka’s available?” That counts in the big scheme of things.
This list runs in reverse order. If Donovan Mitchell is no. 20, then players 1 through 19 are all players about whom Utah’s braintrust would either say, “We hate giving up Donovan, but let’s have a meeting ASAP,” or, “Done! Call this deal in!” And Utah wouldn’t trade him straight-up for any player listed between nos. 21 and 55.
Bill Simmons’s NBA Trade Value Rankings 2018-19
Statistics updated through 12/18/18
Kevin Love: A starter on the 2018-19 Gulp All-Stars. Love has already earned an NBA title, a Gold Medal, three Mokeski Awards, two second-team All-NBAs, five All-Star appearances, 14 passive-aggressive LeBron tweets and nearly $150 million, plus he’s guaranteed another $120 million over the next four seasons. That makes him a good litmus test for the Savvier NBA — even though he’s talented, can the Cavs ever move a deal like this without taking a semibad contract back? Like, would Utah grab him for Derrick Favors, expirings, and a protected first and hope Love doesn’t age poorly into his 30s? Imagine Utah’s front office getting excited about that idea, then checking Spotrac to look at Love’s guaranteed money one more time. Gulp.
Myles Turner: I’m still not 100 percent sure what he does.
Josh Jackson: Our odds-on favorite of any recent top-five pick to write a first-person “How I Blew It” column for The Players’ Tribune.
OG Anunoby: Four January predictions: (1) Mahershala Ali officially breaks out as an A-list star, (2) Zion unleashes the greatest college dunk of all time, (3) Gronk plays his last NFL game, (4) Kawhi disappears for 12 games because of a mysterious leg injury, and then we find out what we have with OG. Because I don’t know yet.
John Wall: Signs of life lately! And yet, Washington’s only chance to trade this contract is when Riley is on his fourth scotch on Micky Arison’s yacht six weeks from now, and they look at each other, and Riley says, “I’m 73, you’re 69 … fuck it. Let’s call Ernie Grunfeld back.”
Andrew Wiggins: I went to a Wolves-Lakers game last month when Wiggins emerged from an in-game coma with a second-quarter dunk. My friend and I turned to each other and said simultaneously, “Forgot he was out there!” Then we looked up and noticed that he had 13 points already. He might have the first 50-point game when a fan says, “Forgot he was out there,” deep in the fourth quarter. He’s only due $147.7 million over this year and the next four, and he’s in the middle of one of the most dramatic statistical free falls of any 23-and-under player ever, so I’m sure it’s fine.
Aaron Holiday: One of those random League Pass dudes who stands out every time I’m watching five games at once. The Holiday family is the Bizarro Rush family.
Josh Hart: I’m playing my annual “I Just Like Him” immunity idol. Don’t question it. Just move on.
Sidenote: Markelle Fultz — 2017’s no-brainer no. 1 pick — couldn’t even make Honorable Mention 18 months after being drafted. Amazing. The Lottery Bust Sunk-Cost Club always yields a trade that’s lamer than you’d expect. Anthony Bennett got thrown into the Love-Wiggins trade like a free set of steak knives. Darko Milicic got traded for a protected first and Kelvin Cato. Hasheem Thabeet got flipped with a first for Shane Battier. Sam Bowie got dealt straight up for Benoit Benjamin. Anyway, last month, Ethan Skolnick suggested a “Fultz for Wayne Ellington and Rodney McGruder” trade … and every Sixers fan in my life kind of liked it. This month, you could argue Miami is giving up way too much. Yeesh.
Jeff Green: Jeff Green, you say? Well, in the past 11 years he’s been traded for late-prime Ray Allen, Kendrick Perkins, a 2019 lottery-protected Clippers pick, and a Grizzlies pick that’s top-six protected in 2020 and completely unprotected in 2021. What other NBA player can net you 400 cents on the dollar nearly every time you trade him?
Miles Bridges: Steal of the 2018 draft. Did it make up for MJ turning down four firsts to take Frank Kaminsky in 2015? Um … no.
Zach LaVine: This year’s captain of the Shareef Abdur-Rahim All-Stars (for the best Good Stats/Bad Teams guys) — an emotional honor since it’s the 20th anniversary of Shareef pouring in 23 a game for an eight-win Vancouver team.
Dennis Smith Jr.: Mavs fans will freak that he missed the Top 55, and that’s fine. I’m not convinced he’s a winning player. Sorry. We’ll make up next month when I give Luka a 400-word lap dance. I might even let you pay for three songs but give you a fourth for free.
Mikal Bridges: The Suns spent the fourth pick in 2017 on small forward Josh Jackson, then gave a $50 million extension to small forward T.J. Warren, then this June they traded a future first to move up six picks to take small forward Mikal Bridges, and then a few weeks later they spent $15 million for small forward Trevor Ariza. I’m just saying, I think this might be one of the reasons Ryan McDonough got canned. It’s one of my working theories.
Lou Williams: He’s like one of those talented baseball relievers who bounces around both leagues, can’t find the right team, then belatedly becomes a competent closer in his early 30s as everyone goes, “Wait a second, Lou Williams has 48 saves?”
Montrezl Harrell: There’s a decent “couldn’t Harrell put up better stats than Clint Capela in Houston for half the price?” argument that I would have made if you’d bought me two more drinks. How did the Clippers manage to assemble an entire roster of guys I like? They went 15-for-15! Ballllllllllllllllllmer!!!!!!!
Joe Ingles: On an All-Star team of lovable 2018-19 role players making a tad too much at $11-14 million, he’s definitely finishing games along with Marcus Smart, Taj Gibson, Iman Shumpert, and Marcin Gortat. (Where are you, Kelly Olynyk?)
Al Horford, Chris Paul: Coming into this year, Horford’s teams were 216-112 since the 2014-15 season. In 63 playoff games since 2015, he’s averaging 15-8-4 with 53-42-81% splits. He’s just a little, um, expensive. Meanwhile, here are some relevant CP3 numbers: 33 (his age), 34 (his age in May), $35.7m (his salary this season), $38.5m (2020), $41.4m (2021), $44.2m (2022, player option), 500m (times Daryl Morey has convinced himself that this contract was worth it because they came within one bad break from beating the 2018 Warriors).
LaMarcus Aldridge: He’s going to make the Hall of Fame someday and it’s going to leave you cold.
Nikola Vucevic: A 21-12 guy who’s making 40 percent of his 3s and successfully passing out of double-teams without whipping the ball off some dude’s face sitting courtside. He might even make the playoffs and get overpaid next summer! What a turn of events for someone whose previous career highlight was somebody making this “White Howard” video.
Jonathan Isaac, Mo Bamba: It’s hard to be brimming with Trade Value when everyone knows your screwed-up franchise is going to mangle your development, yank your minutes around, and then deal you for 40 cents on the dollar two or three years from now. The Magic need to hire Derek Fisher as their GM so they can combine their acumen for depreciating assets with Fisher’s predatory lending company for struggling players; they can become a one-stop shop for ruining NBA careers. If that’s not the perfect way to entice Kris Jenner to offer $2 billion to buy the Magic, then I don’t know anything.
Dillon Brooks, MarShon Brooks: I mean, these guys are VERY hard to trade. Lemme quickly adjust my “GMs Most Likely to Screw Up a Three-Team Deal by Not Double-Checking Who’s Actually in It” Power Rankings.
- Ernie Grunfeld (last month: 2)
- Chris Wallace (last month: 4)
- James Jones (NEW)
- Vlade Divac (last month: 1)
- Dell Demps (last month: 3)
Brad Stevens: Let’s just say I had him higher before the season started.
Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson: Pat Riley since the 2014 Finals: Lost LeBron … turned down four first-rounders for Winslow … traded two firsts for Goran Dragic … matched a $50 million offer for Tyler Johnson … spent over $150 million on deals for James Johnson, Dion Waiters, and Kelly Olynyk … spent $98 million on a Hassan Whiteside extension … couldn’t land Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, or Kawhi Leonard … is headed for the deep lottery and doesn’t have his 2021 first. Meanwhile, Jerry West won two rings in Oakland, then showed up in Clippers Land and they immediately made 29 straight great moves. Up through Thanksgiving … advantage, Jerry! But Richardson’s hot start (he’s cooled off, but still) and Winslow’s recent stretch of superb basketball means this isn’t over yet. Don’t be surprised to see Winslow in the Top 55 next month. I’m planting the seed now.
Danilo Gallinari: Tanned, chiseled, and back to being a consistent 20-and-7 guy.
Kyle Kuzma: Has an excellent chance to become a tanned, chiseled, and consistent 20-and-7 guy.
Pascal Siakam: “He should have made the Top 55! Nobody gives us any respect! It’s just cuz we’re in Canada!” Fine, fine, Raptors fanatics … I’ll move him up. Don’t @ me.
Blake Griffin: You can trace the entire past decade in the NBA through Blake: Lob City (when in-game social media highlights took off); the Kardashian-Jenner shadow (he dated one); contrived corporate tie-ins (the Kia dunk); the birth of NBA Summer Twitter (Blake and Co. “kidnapping” DeAndre Jordan and talking him out of a Mavs deal in 2015 as Twitter lost its mind); the Sterling fiasco (which drove the price of NBA franchises through the roof); the Player Empowerment Decade (leveraging the Clips into a max despite having missed 83 games in the previous three seasons); the Lee Jenkins Celebrity Profile era (last year’s infamous Jenkins profile that barely mentioned Griffin’s wild fight with an equipment manager and positioned Griffin as a Clipper for life — whoops); his excellent Roast Battle with Jeff Ross (because no NBA star just plays basketball anymore); and even his unwieldy max extension (and the always important question, “Should you murder 40 percent of your cap with someone who can’t be the best guy on a title team?”).
The question remains: Can someone be underrated AND untradable? Even at this point of Blake’s career — when he’s still an All-Star (25-9-5, plus 3-point range this year!), but we know about those eight injures/surgeries and the inevitable late-’90s Larry Johnson phase of his career that’s looming — I’d still rather have him than anyone else from Honorable Mention. You gotta spend money on someone. Either way, he probably would have placed fifth after Davis, Curry, Durant and LeBron after the 2015 playoffs. Three years later, he couldn’t crack the Top 55. Seriously, has anyone ever crossed paths with Donald Sterling and ended up better off? He’s like the old lady in Drag Me to Hell.
Without further ado, here’s the Top 55. Remember, write-ups are coming with January’s list.