NBA trade deadline rumors: Ranking best players available, including Dejounte Murray, Alex Caruso, Bruce Brown

Daryl Morey has been one of the most active general managers in the league when it comes to making moves at the trade deadline. He generally wins those trades, too. He shared one of the reasons why in Michael Lewis’ book “The Undoing Project.”

Morey has a number of techniques to rid his staff of cognitive biases that lead to making bad trades. One of these, meant to combat the endowment effect where you tend to overvalue your own players, is to assign a draft pick value to everyone on his roster.

Putting aside matching salary and other wonky trade rules, what is the lowest pick that you would take back for a player in a vacuum? Joel Embiid might be worth multiple No. 1 overall picks, for example. A player like Tobias Harris could be closer to the 15th pick in the draft. 

That creates a useful scale for how much it would take to acquire some of the players who will be available during this year’s Feb. 8 trade deadline. It’s also much more precise than the current vernacular of one, two or three first-round picks, given that the difference between an unprotected pick in the draft lottery and a top-20 protected pick is massive. 

One important note — these valuations are based on trading for a player’s contract rather than skill level. Players on very good deals (Alex Caruso) are going to be worth more than better players on worse deals (Zach LaVine). 

Here are the top 20 players who will be available at the deadline, ranked by their draft pick value. 

MORE: The widespread impact of Joel Embiid’s meniscus injury

Doug McDermott

Ranking best players available at the trade deadline

20. Doug McDermott, Spurs

  • Remaining contract: One year, $13.8 million
  • Pick value: 40th pick

19. De’Andre Hunter, Hawks

  • Remaining contract: Four years, $90.0 million
  • Pick value: 37th pick

18. Royce O’Neale, Nets

  • Remaining contract: One year, $9.5 million
  • Pick value: 35th pick

17. Harrison Barnes, Kings

  • Remaining contract: Three years, $54.0 million
  • Pick value: 32nd pick

T-16. Daniel Gafford, Wizards

  • Remaining contract: Three years, $40.2 million
  • Pick value: 30th pick

T-16. Andre Drummond, Bulls

  • Remaining contract: One year, $3.4 million
  • Pick value: 30th pick

Andre Drummond Chicago Bulls

(Getty Images)

14. Kelly Olynyk, Jazz

  • Remaining contract: One year, $12.2 million
  • Pick value: 29th pick

13. D’Angelo Russell, Lakers

  • Remaining contract: Two years, $36.0 million (player option in year two)
  • Pick value: 28th pick

T-12. Tyus Jones, Wizards

  • Remaining contract: One year, $14.0 million
  • Pick value: 27th pick

T-12. Kevin Huerter, Kings

  • Remaining contract: Three years, $50.5 million
  • Pick value: 27th pick

Zach LaVine and Austin Reaves

(Getty Images)

10. Zach LaVine, Bulls

  • Remaining contract: Four years, $178.1 million
  • Pick value: 26th pick

LaVine is among the two best players currently available in the trade market. The issue is that his production doesn’t match his contract. He’d slot best as the No. 3 guy on a championship team, yet he’s the 16th-highest-paid player this season.

Put the contract aside for a second. LaVine was one of the best offensive players in the league in the previous two seasons. He’s a killer 38.2 percent career 3-point shooter, and those aren’t on easy attempts. He’s also a great finisher at the rim and can get there in a hurry, although both his shooting and finishing have taken a dip this year. 

A big concern with LaVine is injuries. He has suffered several knee injuries, and he’s now out for the rest of the year with a foot issue that will require surgery. That has killed his trade market, to the point where the Bulls may need to attach an asset to get off his deal, per Bulls insider K.C. Johnson

At this point, it’s probably best for the Bulls to hold onto LaVine and hope that he can rehab some of his value next year. 

MORE: Zach LaVine reportedly would like trade to Lakers. Should LA pursue?

9. P.J. Washington, Hornets

  • Remaining contract: Three years, $46.5 million
  • Pick value: 25nd pick

Washington is a solid forward who can create offense for himself, shoot well enough to be respected from outside and do his job defensively. He’s capable of some big offensive outbursts — he scored 43 off the bench earlier this season. He has decent positional versatility, playing some small ball center in a pinch.

Washington’s very reasonable contract makes him a good value for a team looking for a fourth or fifth starter. 

8. Bruce Brown Jr., Raptors

  • Remaining contract: Two years, $45.0 million (team option in year two)
  • Pick value: 20th pick

Brown proved during last year’s playoffs that he is good enough to be in a seven-man rotation on a championship team. He’s a jack-of-all-trades guard who is one of the smartest cutters in the league, can hit some 3s and playmake a little bit.

Where Brown really brings value is on the defensive end as a tenacious pitbull that plays bigger than his 6-4 height. Every playoff team needs a two-way glue guy like him. 

Brown has been playing well for the Raptors since being acquired in the Pascal Siakam deal, but he doesn’t make a ton of sense for them. His contract also offers a lot of flexibility for the team acquiring him. They can use him as a rental for the end of the year or bring him back on his $23.0 million option.

MORE: This sequence shows why Bruce Brown Jr. is a perfect fit on the Raptors

Bruce Brown Jr.

(Getty Images)

7. Malcolm Brogdon, Trail Blazers

  • Remaining contract: Two years, $45.0 million
  • Pick value: 19th pick 

Last year’s Sixth Man of the Year has very quietly put up a good season on a terrible Blazers team. Brogdon is a smart defender, a career 39.1 percent 3-point shooter and a heady playmaker. He’s another one of these role players who can solidify a team’s offense and support stars around him. 

Brogdon does have real injury concerns, which depresses his value. But he can help a team in the playoffs and he’s been mostly healthy this year. 

6. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Hawks

  • Remaining contract: Four years, $68.0 million (team option in year four)
  • Pick value: 18th pick

Bogdanovic is a great movement shooter who has canned 38.5 percent of his career 3s. He’s a good creator with the ball in his hands, too. His 17.2 points per game off the bench for the Hawks has made him a very strong candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year award. 

He’s not known for his defense, which makes him a tough fit next to Trae Young, but every team needs shooting, and Bogdanovic can get them up. He’s on a solid contract that has him locked up through his age-34 season. 

5. Quentin Grimes, Knicks

  • Remaining contract: Two years, $6.7 million
  • Pick value: 17th pick

Grimes has been a limited player in New York, relegated almost exclusively to shooting 3s and the occasional open layup. He has fulfilled that role well, though, hitting 37.9 percent of his tries from deep for his career. That, along with his tough on-ball defense on the wing, makes him the type of solid starter who could slide into the rotation of multiple teams immediately.

Grimes also offers value because of his youth. At 23 years old, he’s still on his rookie deal which pays him a paltry $2.4 million this season, well below what a starter-quality player should earn. Any team that trades for him will get his restricted free-agency rights once his current deal is up. 

Grimes seems like a smart buy-low candidate who has fallen in the Knicks’ rotation due to their depth at wing. 

Kyle Kuzma Washington Wizards

(NBA Entertainment)

4. Kyle Kuzma, Wizards

  • Remaining contract: Four years, $90.0 million
  • Pick value: 16th pick

Kuzma is in such a bad situation in Washington that it’s tough to evaluate him, but he’s a good scorer, an improved passer and he has positional size at 6-9. He showed a few years ago that he can be a good enough on-ball defender in a better situation. 

Kuzma’s contract pays him a little more than average starter money. That’s a bargain for a player who can give a playoff team 20 points per night. 

3. DeMar DeRozan, Bulls

  • Remaining contract: One year, $28.6 million
  • Pick value: 15th pick

DeRozan hasn’t quite been the same level of player as his previous two All-Star campaigns. At 34, father time is starting to catch up to him, particularly on back-to-backs when he doesn’t have rest. 

He’s still one of the top 30ish players in the league because of his gifted scoring. There isn’t a better player at getting his midrange jumper off or drawing a foul whenever a defender leaves his feet. He has great footwork in the post as well. When teams are forced to send doubles at him, he makes the right pass to set up a teammate. 

DeRozan’s two glaring weaknesses have been a lack of 3-point shooting and poor defense. He’s been a more willing shooter this year and his defense has been more locked in. 

DeRozan is on an expiring contract, making him a rental for the end of the year. That limits his value, although a team that trades for him will have his Bird Rights if they choose to go over the cap to re-sign him in the summer. 

MORE: DeMar DeRozan trade destinations: Lakers, 76ers, Knicks among top options

2. Alex Caruso, Bulls

  • Remaining contract: Two years, $19.4 million (partially guaranteed in year two)
  • Pick value: 10th pick

Caruso has won the Bulls a ton of games by making seemingly impossible defensive plays when it matters most. He can guard everyone from a bruising power forward like Julius Randle to a constantly-moving Stephen Curry, and he does a better job than perhaps any player in the league in those one-on-one settings. 

That makes him immensely valuable to any playoff team that needs a stopper. Caruso was named to the All-Defensive First Team last season, and he’s been just as good this year. 

Caruso has also become a much more reliable offensive player. He’s shot a decent percentage from 3 before but was so reticent to shoot that teams would leave him open. This year, he’s hitting 40.5 percent from deep while almost doubling his attempts. The Bulls have even used him as a lead guard more, showcasing his ability to drive and set up teammates. 

The reason why Caruso is above some of the bigger scorers is that he is a ridiculous bargain on his deal. His $9.5 million makes him very easy to trade for, and he’s locked up at a similar rate for next year.

1. Dejounte Murray, Hawks

  • Remaining contract: Five years, $128.8 million (player option in year five)
  • Pick value: 8th pick 

Murray has made an All-Star and All-Defensive team in the past, showing the type of two-way player he is capable of being. He’s a good pick-and-roll player, averaging 21.5 points and 5.2 assists on the year. A shaky shooter from deep earlier in his career, he’s hit 36.8 percent of his 3s this season. And he’s always been fantastic from the midrange. 

He’s taken a step back on defense, but Murray is still adept at getting into passing lanes. He is certainly worthy of a good lottery pick and the best player available at this deadline. 

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