There are three players that are likely to have their names floated around in rumors and potentially even end up traded away this upcoming offseason. Rumblings of unhappiness have already surfaced from two of the names that will be mentioned, and the third is known to have been on the trade block this past deadline.
Lauri Markkanen (Chicago Bulls)
Lauri Markkanen finished his second season in the NBA averaging 18.7 points and 9.0 rebounds while shooting 43.0 percent from the field and an impressive 36.1 percent from three. Chicago was ecstatic with the performance of the 7th pick of the 2017 NBA Draft and were likely already preparing the max contract extension.
Markkanen’s third year did not go as planned. Not only was there a lack of progression from the nearly 20 point per game scorer he was the year before, the Finnish big man regressed to 14.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in 2019-20.
His play has been uninspiring and inconsistent this season and Markkanen has not been hesitant to speak out on the Bulls’ issues as a whole, hinting towards Jim Boylen’s gameplan specifically.
Teammates Denzel Valentine and Zach LaVine have expressed similar frustrations with the way that the Bulls are currently being run. Within the last week, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Lauri Markkanen is demanding change, or he’d rather be traded.
Make no mistake about it, third-year big man Lauri Markkanen was one unhappy camper before the coronavirus put the NBA on hiatus. Unhappy enough that if the direction of the organization was going to stay unchanged, he’d rather be elsewhere.
The Bulls are currently pursuing change at the head of the snake, with Denver Nuggets GM Arturas Karnisovas stepping into the general manager role in place of John Paxson and Gar Forman.
Will that lone change be enough to satisfy Lauri Markkanen enough to rediscover his competitive fire on a nightly basis? Or will the new front office also need to kick Boylen to the curb? Would that even salvage this relationship, or will Markannen ask to be traded no matter what?
Lauri Markkanen will have one year ($6.7-million) left on his rookie-scale deal and be eligible for an extension this offseason.
Buddy Hield (Sacramento Kings)
Buddy Hield has been quick to vocalize his discontent in various circumstances this season. To start the year, he felt as though the Sacramento Kings were low-balling him in extension conversation before they settled on a four year deal with $86-million guaranteed.
After shooting an absurd 42.7 percent from deep on 7.9 attempts in 2018-19, Hield under performed relative to the bar he set for himself this season. His three point percentage fell to 39.5 percent, and with so much of his value being based upon that shot, that three percent hurts.
45 games into the season, Buddy Hield was benched by head coach Luke Walton in favor of Bogdan Bogdanovic. The Kings went 13-7 in the 20 final 20 games pre-hiatus with Hield on the bench, but that was not enough for the Bahamian sharpshooter.
An embarrassing article for Sacramento was posted to The Athletic speaking on Vlade Divac and Luke Walton’s jobs being in jeopardy due to ownership feeling as though the roster was underperforming. In this same piece, there is a mention of Buddy Hield potentially wanting to be traded, should he not regain his position starting alongside De’Aaron Fox.
If Hield remains displeased with his role, a source with knowledge of his thinking said he might request a trade. He believes he is a starter in the NBA and there’s no guarantee he’ll get that job back, given how the team has played lately.
Luke Walton has opted to sit his leading scorer the entirety of multiple fourth quarters this season, pointing toward Hield’s defensive shortcomings as his justification.
Hield could be a tricky contract for Sacramento to move, as it could be viewed as a negative value by front offices across the association. First, a trade parter would have to be able to match Hield’s $26.4-million salary next season and secondly, they would have to be confident in the fit as four years and potentially over $100-million for a 27- year old is no small commitment.
Aaron Gordon has shown flashes throughout his career that have convinced many that he can be a valuable asset on both ends of the floor. His defensive efforts are often understated and Gordon averaged 17.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game in his best year as a pro. Sadly, that was three seasons ago, and Gordon has seen his attempts per game fall with each passing season.
Nikola Vucevic has emerged as an all-star and the leader of Orlando’s offense and there is a slew of forwards competing for the frontcourt spots alongside him. Jonathan Isaac, despite his unfortunate season-ending injury, has all but cemented his name, with overwhelming defensive player of the year level play.
That leaves Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Khem Birch, and Chuma Okeke for the final starting position. The issue is that Gordon and Isaac are an unideal fit together as both of their offensive games are reliant on attacking the basket.
Aaron Gordon has not requested or hinted at wanting to be traded by the Orlando Magic organization publicly, but the talent around him speaks for itself and the Magic were reportedly already looking to move him at this past deadline, per heavy.
There’s little doubt that, ahead of last week’s NBA trading deadline, the Magic were beating the bushes to see what could be brought back in a trade for forward Aaron Gordon.
As one source told Heavy.com, “They were trying, and they tried hard to get something done with him at the deadline. All that gets brought back into focus once the season is over and you have a good idea what the market is for him.”
The Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Phoenix Suns were mentioned as having had conversations regarding Gordon. Aaron Gordon could find himself a new home this offseason where his role and position would be more clearly defined.
Gordon has two years remaining from his four-year $84-million. The contract was structured to be frontloaded and as a result, there is a reasonable $18.1-million on the books in 2020-21 and $16.4-million the year after.
Aaron Gordon, Buddy Hield, and Lauri Markkanen could all benefit from a change of scenery and it should come as no surprise is any or all of these names are traded and sporting new jerseys at the start of the 2020-21 season.