An NBA player’s team situation can have a major effect on his impact. I think fans sometimes underestimate how important it is for a player to have a team that is truly maximizing his skills from a personnel and strategic standpoint.
There are many players in the NBA who are currently playing in an ideal situation to show off their unique skill sets, but that’s unfortunately not the case for everybody. USAbetting identifies six current NBA players who would probably benefit significantly from moving to a different team.
Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
Gordon is the quintessential guy for this list. He has played in Orlando ever since joining the Magic in 2014 as their No. 4 overall draft pick. The franchise has won 35 or fewer games in all but one of those seasons and the team’s problems have usually been on offense.
Orlando’s coaching staff has asked Gordon to be an offensive creator and to play mostly on the perimeter. The Magic have also played a slow pace throughout much of his career. Gordon’s biggest advantage is his athleticism when matched up against slower players, so he doesn’t match up well against wing players when his team is playing a slow-paced game.
If Gordon were to move to a more talented, fast-paced offensive team that could let him act mainly as a play finisher and not initiator, that would be ideal for his development.
DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs
With just two years of experience on the Spurs, DeRozan has spent less time with his current franchise than anyone else on this list. That duration of time has been more than enough time to see that he is not a good fit for the direction the Spurs should be heading.
San Antonio has been one of the more frustrating teams to watch this year. The squad has just a 27-36 record, 12th-best in the Western Conference, yet it continues to prioritize its veterans who are over 30 years old, like DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills. If you are a clearly below-average team like the Spurs, there is no reason to feature such old players so heavily instead of young prospects.
Since DeRozan is a talented slasher and playmaker at the wing spot, he needs a team where he has reliable outside shooters around him who can also play defense. San Antonio has no proven three-and-D weapons on the roster currently, and that has been a huge reason the team has floundered this season.
In this fall’s offseason, DeRozan could exercise his player option and become a free agent. I think that would be the best outcome for both him and the Spurs. DeRozan deserves to go to a team that can win with him and the Spurs need to go all-in on their rebuild.
Frank Ntilikina, New York Knicks
To be honest, you could put the entire Knicks roster in this article. New York’s organization has been a disaster for many years and the squad continues to struggle making smart personnel decisions. No one deserves to be stuck on the Knicks, but Ntilikina’s situation is uniquely frustrating.
I’m still a bit confused why the Knicks invested a No. 8 pick on Ntilikina in 2017. In all three seasons since then, the team has never really given him a great opportunity to develop his skills. They have stuck a variety of older point guards in front of him despite the fact that the squad is already bad and has nothing to lose giving the French youngster more opportunities.
When Ntilikina is on the court, he is a menace on defense, but he is usually a bystander on offense. Granted, he has been quite inefficient shooting the ball, but I’d still like to see what he could do on a team that believes in him a bit more.
Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans
Holiday is a fantastic two-way guard, providing stout perimeter defense and well above-average skills as a scorer and distributor. He averaged 19.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.8 blocks per game this season. With his skill set and experience as an 11-year veteran, there is no doubt he has the potential to help take a young Pelicans team to the next level as a contender.
I just don’t think Holiday is the best fit with the Pelicans in the long term. Holiday is due a combined $51.7 million over the next two seasons and his production and impact is likely going to decrease as New Orleans puts more and more trust in its improving young players. Point guard Lonzo Ball is turning into a great primary ball-handler and facilitator. Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram are a star scoring duo that could combine for 50 points per game.
It is tough to see where Holiday’s production is exactly going to fit in the next year or two. With his salary, it will be tough to justify keeping him on the roster. After a solid seven-year tenure in New Orleans, he deserves to go to a team that can give him a better role over the next couple of seasons.
Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
Love’s name has surfaced in trade rumors for a couple of years and for good reason. There’s no point in a bad Cavaliers team keeping around a 31-year-old veteran big man that is making more than $30 million per year through the 2022-23 season.
Cleveland has now featured Love on the roster for seven seasons and his best days are clearly behind him. That said, he could provide a lot of value to a good team as an outside shooting big man who can also rebound well. Currently, the Cavs don’t have the offensive talent or structure in place to get the most out of his skill set. Honestly, it could be a long time before Cleveland is relevant again.
Will Love be on the move this offseason? I think he could be rejuvenated by a new situation that puts him on a winning team.
Cody Zeller, Charlotte Hornets
Exactly four players from the 2013 NBA Draft are still playing for the team that drafted them: Giannis Antetokounmpo, CJ McCollum, Steven Adams and Cody Zeller.
If it wasn’t already apparent, Zeller is the name on that list that is out of place. Antetokounmpo is the reigning league MVP and face of the Milwaukee Bucks franchise and McCollum and Adams are fringe All-Star players. Zeller is a decent big man, but if he is playing a big role on your team, it is probably a sign that you are not a great team. Indeed, the Hornets have had a very mediocre 46.3 winning percentage since the former Indiana standout joined the roster.
I actually like Zeller’s game. He is a very nimble 7-footer who defends pretty well overall, sets good screens and finishes at the basket reliably. Unfortunately, he can’t shoot outside the paint and he doesn’t have an elite skill. He also has an extensive injury history. I think he would fit perfectly as a backup big man for a fast-paced team with some talented perimeter players on offense.
As of now, though, Zeller is stuck on a Hornets squad that just overhauled its roster and has a long rebuild ahead of it. I hope a contending team realizes what Zeller can bring and snags him to play a somewhat reduced role.