Commentary

Ninety players soon eligible to join trade discussions

Updated: December 14, 2008, 3:51 PM ET
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN.com

Elton Brand Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesStarting Monday, the Sixers would be allowed to deal Elton Brand if they so desired.

Only one-fourth of the NBA season has elapsed, yet there already have been five significant trades. But while all that activity has been taking place, nearly 25 percent of the NBA player population has been sitting on the sideline, so to speak, knowing it has not yet had to keep the proverbial extra bag packed.

Well, that extra sense of security for those 90 NBA players is about to become a thing of the past.

Beginning Monday, nearly every player who signed as a free agent in the offseason -- from the big names such as Baron Davis and Elton Brand down to the Louis Amundsons and Anthony Robersons of the world -- becomes trade eligible under NBA rules.

It could be called Buyer's Remorse Day because it's the first day a frustrated owner or GM can turn that unwanted merchandise that looked so appealing over the summer into a trade-in.

Will Dec. 15 unleash a torrent of trades? Normally, it doesn't.

"That's always a hard one, because generally, even if a player isn't fitting in, that doesn't mean a team will be ready to move him Dec. 15 or the next day. Most teams usually need more than six weeks to make a decision on a player," Detroit Pistons president Joe Dumars told ESPN.com.

The only players who remain trade-ineligible are those for whom 90 days have not yet passed since they signed their 2008-09 contracts. There are 21 of them, and among them are Washington's Juan Dixon (who will become trade-eligible Dec. 23), Boston's Sam Cassell (Dec. 29), Minnesota's Kevin Ollie (Jan. 1) and Chicago's Lindsey Hunter (Feb. 13).

Because every team that made a major free-agent signing this past summer is struggling -- making unheralded Roger Mason perhaps the impact free agent of '08 -- players such as Brand, Corey Maggette and Davis might actually be available as of Monday.

With that thought in mind, let's take a look at the situations of the top five players who will become trade-eligible Monday.


1. Baron Davis, Clippers
In the Madison Square Garden press room last week, I was talking with the two young whizzes from the Portland Trail Blazers' front office, Kevin Pritchard and Tom Penn, about the likelihood of their trading Raef LaFrentz's expiring contract before the Feb. 19 deadline. I raised the possibility of going after Davis if the Clippers were to remain in the tank, and they considered the notion for all of five seconds before determining that a player who needs the ball in his hands as much as Davis probably wouldn't be a good fit for them because most of Portland's offense -- especially in the fourth quarter -- runs through Brandon Roy.

The pertinent point for the moment is that the idea that the Clippers could move Davis isn't so far-fetched, given their NBA-worst record (4-17) and the "disconnect" that Davis described in November between himself and coach Mike Dunleavy. Clippers insiders say the relationship has improved, but positive results on the court certainly have not followed.


2. Monta Ellis, Warriors
First things first: The notion of trading Ellis "has not" been discussed in any way, shape or form, according to Ellis' agent, Jeff Fried. And that probably stands to reason, given that no team in its right mind would take on a $66 million, six-year obligation to a fellow who tore up his ankle in a mo-ped accident.

Ellis, still weeks away from returning, has filed a grievance against the Warriors for suspending him 30 games while also claiming they retain the right to terminate him because riding a mo-ped put Ellis in violation of his contract. Fried argues the Warriors can terminate or suspend Ellis, but they cannot keep the termination option open.

Ellis told reporters Thursday he feels "no pain, nowhere" and considers himself "slightly" ahead of schedule for a presumed January return. Then we'll see whether he can be the replacement at the point for Baron Davis that the Warriors envisioned he would be.


3. Corey Maggette, Warriors
Quick quiz: Has Maggette accumulated more assists per week or games missed thanks to a strained hamstring?

He has four assists per week during the season's first seven weeks -- that's 28 total -- while he missed his seventh game Friday night.

Given the recent acquisition of Jamal Crawford, who like teammate Stephen Jackson has been known to, er, make a few shots available for himself each night, one would imagine there won't be enough shots to go around once Maggette, Ellis, Jackson and Crawford are all healthy and playing together.

But even if that becomes the case, the Warriors want to see how the lineup works before they give up on it, so don't hold your breath that Maggette will go anywhere anytime soon. Team president Robert Rowell, who has supplanted Chris Mullin as the chief power broker in the front office, was the driving force behind the free-agent signing of Maggette this past summer after Golden State lost Davis to the Clippers.


4. Elton Brand, 76ers
The real question isn't whether the 76ers will trade Elton Brand but whether they'll fire coach Maurice Cheeks if he doesn't improve the transition into the Brand era. [UPDATE: The Sixers fired Cheeks on Saturday morning]

The new big, slow guy has taken the 76ers away from the speed-and-athleticism game that worked for them last year, and the drop-off among several Sixers has been pronounced -- Andre Iguodala's scoring has plunged from 19.9 to 14.8, and Samuel Dalembert's from 10.5 to 5.8.

"I haven't heard one rumor that he's going to be traded," agent David Falk told ESPN.com. "He is the cornerstone of the franchise, and they are merely going through an adjustment period. Over the next four to five years, he should be the anchor of a playoff-contending team."


5. Gilbert Arenas, Wizards
First, there's the question of whether anyone would touch him, given how he underwent knee surgery before playing a single minute under his new six-year, $111 million contract. Second, Wizards owner Abe Pollin loves him, and that would be a significant mitigating factor in the unlikely event that Wizards exec Ernie Grunfeld comes to him with a deal for Arenas that he thinks the owner should at least consider.

Although Arenas probably doesn't yet belong on a list concerning trade possibilities, if we're talking about major free agents who have teams wondering just what they paid for, he's on the list.

Other notable players who become trade-eligible Monday:

Tony Allen, Celtics; Emeka Okafor, Bobcats; Luol Deng, Bulls; Daniel Gibson, Cavaliers; Delonte West, Cavaliers; J.J. Barea, Mavericks; Antoine Wright, Mavericks; J.R. Smith, Nuggets; Kwame Brown, Pistons; Ronny Turiaf, Warriors; Ricky Davis, Clippers; Sasha Vujacic, Lakers; Tyronn Lue, Bucks; Ryan Gomes, Timberwolves; Craig Smith, Timberwolves; Sebastian Telfair, Timberwolves; Keyon Dooling, Nets; Jarvis Hayes, Nets; Devin Brown, Hornets; James Posey, Hornets; Chris Duhon, Knicks; Mickael Pietrus, Magic; Andre Iguodala, 76ers; Louis Williams, 76ers; Matt Barnes, Suns; Beno Udrih, Kings; Roger Mason, Spurs; Kurt Thomas, Spurs; Jose Calderon, Raptors.

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.