The NBA being what it is, there’s tons of talent trapped on either inadequate teams or inadequate roles. Supply your own explanation—GM stupidity, the NBA’s labor laws (long guaranteed contracts, etc.)—but it’s true. Players could be moving, and improving teams. The biggest example of this is Pau Gasol, who was stolen from Memphis; though the same-season acquisition of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen was just as big (and, in retrospect, a steal). So, who on the NBA is worthy of being liberated (aside from the big NBA free agents about to switch teams in 2010):
Chris Paul—the biggest example. How angry is Chris Paul right now? Paul isn’t really a smiler in the best of times, and these aren’t that: he’s probably off training with a grim expression reminiscent of Wild West sheriffs. The man showed up to Inside the NBA and had to talk about how good Deron Williams was (and was left off of the top three point guard lists of Kenny and Charles). Chris Paul thinks he’s the best point guard in the NBA, and more importantly: he’s right. But we have to hear about Williams and Nash and Rondo, and it’s unfair: Paul is the real magician with the basketball. He is unfortunate: one, he’s too good—New Orleans bottomed out in the Valley of the Mediocre almost immediately after he got there—and two, the second-best player on the team is probably Darren Collison…who plays the same position as Chris Paul. The cap situation is awful. Chris Paul is trapped, Kevin Garnett-style. What this means is that sometime between now and 2012, Chris Paul will be freed (assuming he exercises his player option). And his vengeance will be terrible.
Andre Iguodala—the rumor had it, back in February, that Cleveland and Philadelphia were willing to trade: Ilguaskas and Hickson for Iguodala. At the time I thought this was a great deal and in retrospect it appears even better: you can put—if you so chose—a West/Iguodala/LeBron/Parker/Varejao lineup on the floor, which means two things: one, you have four stoppers on the floor. Two, you have Iguodala and James on the floor together, a lineup that’s born to run. As it turns out, Hickson is good but not good enough to displace the veterans ahead of him, which means not good enough to become a significant contributor. So Cleveland—as is customary—screwed up. The upside here is that Andre is—or should be—available. Like Pau Gasol, Iguodala isn’t good enough to carry his team to anything significant, but like Gasol, he’d be a great sidekick: has a distinct skill, and brings a lot of stuff to the table. Philly would (presumably) rather have Evan Turner than Iguodala, which is reasonable, but this means Iguodala is expendable, which means he can be had for an affordable price. (And if Philly takes Derrick Favors, as some of the rumors speculate, then, well, Mikhail Prokhorov is the luckiest human being at least in the United States.)
J.J. Redick—well, here’s the inappropriate role: Redick’s better than the minutes they’re giving him. Great shooter, surprisingly above-average defender.
Kevin Love/Al Jefferson and Ricky Rubio/Ramon Sessions—listen, it’s well-known by this point that David Kahn is an idiot. How he’s managed to amass so many assets is beyond me, but they’re mismatched: these pairs simply can’t play together, no matter how hard they try. Which means at least one of each should be traded. Kaaaahhhnnn might not understand the logic, so this may never happen. (By the way: Kevin Love to the Magic—intriguing fake trade, no?)
Tayshaun Prince—still good, but only on a good team. Some good team oughtta liberate him (Spurs? Doesn’t this make too much sense?)
There you have it. Undoubtedly, we’re going to have some other highway robbery shocker pulled on us, which will be delicious for the favored team.