Here is part 5 of the trade value rankings, where we really start to get into the elite players in the league. Again, 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 7: Borderline/Future All-Stars on Decent Contracts
39. Jrue Holiday
Most people scoffed at Holiday’s 5-year, $125 million deal to stay in New Orleans, but he has earned every penny of it so far. A true two-way combo guard, Holiday is a great fit on any team. He is older than the other members of this tier, and his contract isn’t as stellar so that is why he is at the bottom and behind players in upcoming tiers.
34. Devin Booker
He is making only $3 million this year, but then his max extension kicks in. Booker shockingly just turned 22 and already has three 20 point-per-game seasons under his belt, but those have come as a member of the dreadful Phoenix Suns. His playmaking has greatly improved since being the primary ball handler following the Eric Bledsoe. (Side note: isn’t it crazy how the Suns went from playing Isaiah Thomas, Eric Bledsoe, and Goran Dragic to having Ellie Okobo as the only true point guard on the roster?) While Booker’s extension is daunting, the cap projects to continue increasing and $30 million for an elite scorer in his prime could be pretty cheap in 2021 and beyond.
31. Gary Harris
Harris has been yet another steal by the Denver’s front office while also making fools out of GarPax, surprise! Harris’ contract is very reasonable, especially when compared to Andrew Wiggins, Otto Porter, Zach LaVine, amongst others. Harris’ ceiling projects to be Bradley Beal, so it is highly unlikely he will ever be a superstar face-of-the-franchise. Still considering his age, contract, and high floor as an efficient scorer and defender, Harris would be coveted by many teams.
30. Clint Capela
His $90 million contract this past summer is a bargain modern NBA standards, but are we positive he would be a top ten big if he wasn’t being set up by two of the best playmakers in league history?
29. CJ McCollum
Another second or third banana on a good team who signed a rookie max extension that now seems like fair value. He’s pretty much an-ever-so -slightly worse version of Beal.
28. Jamal Murray
Despite surprisingly low shooting percentages, Murray has demonstrated a confidence and swagger about him that poises him to be an elite scorer in the league for the next ten years; possibly the second best player in the 2016 Draft. Murray’s positional fit is interesting as he is a combo guard who is slightly small to defend many two-guards but doesn’t have a point guards skillset. Either way, he is killing it as Nikola Jokic’s sidekick despite key injuries to vital teammates. However, it’s all fun and games until he’s due for his rookie extension
27. Bradley Beal
There’s a flurry of rumors surrounding Beal who has plenty of reasons to be unhappy about the utter dysfunction in Washington. Beal is a great complementary star who can fill a secondary scoring role on a great team, and his contract is reasonably valuable compared to the silly money that will be thrown around the next two summers.
Tier 6: He’s Our Cornerstone Player, but We’d Let You Take His Contract
25. Jimmy Butler
23. Paul George
These two players are always mentioned together in that class of elite swingmen in that tier below LeBron, KD, and Kawhi. Both players are tremendous on both sides of the ball while having some question marks about their personality/mental makeup. For George, many question his ability to be an alpha as he had notoriously missed every single “Gatorade commercial” game-winning shot of his career before connecting on one vs the Nets this regular season. And of course, we can never forget his 2/16 performance vs Utah in the win-or-go-home Game 6. Butler is on the other end of the spectrum as maybe he is a little more confident than he should be. Jimmy Butler is that kid who took middle school gym class way too seriously and always gave you a little shove in flag football. Being overlooked out of high school and taken with the last pick of the first round in 2011 has placed a permanent chip on his shoulder which can sometimes create a harmful toxicity as evidenced by the end of his tenure in Chicago and his tumultuous run in Minnesota. While Butler is more of my cup of tea as a player, George ranks one slot ahead here because he wasn’t just dealt for the unspectacular package of Robert Covington and Dario Saric and is already locked into a reasonable contract.
25. Jimmy Butler
17. James Harden
Wait, aren’t James Harden and Russell Westbrook the two most recent MVPs of the league?- Yes. And you’re telling me that there are 16 and 25 players teams would rather trade for over them? Yes, and I’m probably showing more deference to them than deserved. Both Harden and Westbrook are effervescent superstars who are able to single-handedly make any team respectable. BUT, I think it’s time we come to the reality that you probably can’t win a championship with these guys, especially when each of them is owed over $200 million over the next five years. As great as these guys are, they have developed too many bad habits over their 10+ years in the league to suddenly change their games after 30. Harden is slightly younger than Westbrook while being a far better 3 point shooter which makes him a better investment going forward. Also, Westbrook just turned 30, so it will be extremely intriguing to see if and how he can adjust his game to remain effective as he inevitably loses some of the raw athleticism that made him so dynamic in the first place. Despite all the negatives I mentioned, Harden and Westbrook are both top 10 NBA players, and I’m sure many star-hungry owners would salivate at the chance to bring either guy in even if it hinders the organization’s long-term plans. Don’t forget you need to put asses in seats and these guys certainly do.
Photo: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports