To reiterate: the criteria centers around talent, age, contract status, and ability to put asses in seats. Again this is NOT a ranking of the best players, it is a ranking based on who I believe the majority of teams would prefer if they could choose to acquire a player for their team along with their contract. Another thing to consider is that there are more rebuilding teams than legit contenders, so young players have more value to a larger amount of the teams in the league boosting their ranking. The list is structured by categorizing players into tiers, which has similar players based on age, skill, and contract status. However, not all players in the same tier have the same value, so their actual ranking in the overall trade value list will be beside each player’s name.. When the series is over I will publish the whole list in order. Lastly, why did I rank the top 83 players? Because I wanted to.
Tier 11: The Last Tier of Bigs on Rookie Contracts
47. Marvin Bagley
46. Wendell Carter Jr.
College teammates who played the same position at Duke, Bagley and Carter are two very different bigs who will each have useful roles in the NBA. Bagley was the darling of Duke’s recruiting class as he reclassified late to enter the 2018 draft. He is the traditional prospect that GMs and fans alike drool over. Elite length and athleticism to go along with an effortless ability to put the ball in the net. Maybe these old-school traits teams love are why the baffling Kings took Bagley over Luka. Anyway, while Bagley has been promising on a frustratingly competent Kings squad, I would still take Wendell Carter Jr. over him. No Carter doesn’t have the same jaw-dropping measurables and jump-out-the-gym hops as Bagley, he is a much better defender, facilitator and polished player. Carter’s overwhelming NBA player comparison has been Al Horford. If I’m tasked with choosing between the freak big man who scores and rebounds a lot while turning the ball over, playing sloppy defense, and lacking awareness versus the guy who puts up 15-9-5 while running the floor, contesting every shot, and setting the best almost-illegal screens in the game, I’m taking the latter every time, and I think most GMs would too. And yes, I do have to make everything about Al Horford, get over it.
45. Lauri Markkanen
44. Domantas Sabonis
Both Sabonis and Markkanen were packaged in trades for stars as the Pacers got Oladipo and Sabonis for Paul George and Chicago snagged Markkanen with the seventh pick it picked up from the Timberwolves in the Jimmy Butler blockbuster. Both players have matured rapidly and exceeded expectations as Markkanen appears to be the prototypical stretch big of the future and Sabonis is doing everything to help a scrappy Pacers team that continues to pile up Ws. I’m laughing at everyone who criticized both trades, especially the George one. I can’t believe no one saw Kevin Prichard’s brilliance in identifying Oladipo and Sabonis as two foundational players. How blind could you be?… Also, please don’t look at my old tweets from late June 2017.
Tier 10: The 30 Club: For Contenders Only
54. Paul Millsap
49. Mike Conley
48. Marc Gasol
43. LaMarcus Aldridge
42. Kyle Lowry
37. Al Horford
All these players are over 30, making close $30 million, but still are still top 30 players in the league. The similarities continue as these guys have always been in that second class of All Stars due to a style of play that is more functional than flashy. If you notice, this tier is above another group of high-priced stars and it comes down to the length of contract. All players in this “30 Club” have deals that will expire within the next 2 season, so acquiring teams will not have worry about paying absurd amounts of money for unproductive years. Also, the players in this tier have all had multiple deep playoff runs but have never made the Finals, so it is probable they would take a below-market deal with a contender after cashing in as max-level players in the NBA for a decade.
The ranking ultimately comes down to how good the player is now, and is likely to be for the next three seasons. Horford is the perennially overlooked unicorn who can do it all. Lowry has probably been the best Raptor over the past few years and is finally the sidekick to a legitimate superstar. LaMarcGasolDridge have both experienced rejuvenations in the past year and continue to out-fundamental their gifted yet inexperienced competition. And with Millsap, the proof is in the results as he seemingly transformed the Nuggets from a point-bleeding machine to a stingy defensive unit. Also, these guys have high value because they can be complementary stars who add value to winning without needing the ball which is very important because unless your team has someone named LeBron, Kevin, Steph, Anthony, Giannis, or Kawhi, it probably isn’t contending for a title with a “star” who dominates the ball.
Photo: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports