Say what you will about his desire to bolt small market New Orleans for the L.A. limelight, but a major factor seems to consistently be missing from the CP3-to-LA discussions. For the first time in his career, the league’s best point guard has been paired with a player (Blake Griffin) whose ceiling is also incredibly high so Paul’s change of scenery will work well for everyone involved. But there are other players in the league who would benefit from donning a new uniform. From superstars trying to hold together obviously sinking ships to more obscure talent being underutilized, the following five players should pray to David Stern that something materializes before the NBA’s March 15th trade deadline.
1. Ben Gordon, Detroit Pistons
The first word that comes to mind when I think of Ben Gordon is “disappointment.” One of the most electrifying scorers in the league during his days as a Bull, he foolishly signed with a Detroit team that was absolutely loaded with wing players, and now everyone unfairly considers him a Charlie Villanueva-type bust. As dangerous of a shooter as Steph Curry, a team starved for perimeter scoring options should pay attention to Gordon. Imagine if the Celtics scooped him up. Yes, Ray Allen looks good in Celtic Green, but look past the sentimentality and a team with Rajon Rondo and Gordon in the backcourt would be more than formidable.
2. O.J. Mayo, Memphis Grizzlies
Kind of crazy to consider a player of Mayo’s talent to be an expendable commodity, but that’s where the Memphis Grizzlies find themselves in 2012. Mayo had a phenomenal rookie year, but has seen his numbers decline as he shares a remarkably similar game to Memphis’s other young wingman, Rudy Gay. And, considering how quickly that squad came together when defensive stalwart Tony Allen got inserted into the starting lineup, it’d be foolish to assume that Mayo is still the Grizzlies two-guard of the future. Young, developing teams in need of scoring wing players – say, the Cavaliers – should have Memphis’s number on speed-dile. Dude’s only 24; even if he has worn out his welcome in Memphis, his NBA legacy is far from set.
3. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
I’m a die-hard Cleveland fan and, as such, will always prefer to see small market teams hold onto their superstars. But enough is enough. Dwight Howard has been forced to burden the load in Orlando for far too long, and he doesn’t appear much closer to playing for a championship-calibur team now than when he entered the league in 2004. Anybody that regularly watches D12 ball knows that, for as talented as he clearly is, he doesn’t want to be a team’s number-one scoring option. Put him on a team like Chicago (who has as good a pool of talent as any other team to snag Orlando’s big) where he can focus more on defense and we should see him blossom into the league’s best number two option. He’s going to continue to be the best center in basketball for the next five-to-ten years, but Dwight Howard will reach his full potential in more of a supporting role.
4. Jerryd Bayless, Toronto Raptors
Responsible for more than a handful of big games as a member of the Portland Trailblazers, Bayless has never seemed capable of transforming his unreal amount talent into anything lasting. But still, at 23 years, his cause is not a lost one. Any teams that strive to be “up-tempo” should look into Bayless. A decent outside shooter with Sonic the Hedgehog-speed, Phoenix, New York or Golden State seem like natural homes for the tween-guard.
5. Ramon Sessions, Cleveland Cavaliers
Bucks, T’Wolves and Cavs fans have seen more than enough to know that Ramon Sessions is one of the better pure point guards in basketball. He always racks up assists, and can beat his opponent off the dribble at a consistent rate; the only big knock against him is horrendous outside shooting. Tasked with making mediocre teammates look better for the bulk of his career, there’s no way that Sessions sniffs Cleveland’s starting lineup now that Kyrie Irving has been handed the keys. A team starved for a point guard – and I’m looking squarely at the Knicks – should do everything to pry the young playmaker away from Cleveland. Given the opportunity to start next to players capable of taking and making shots, Sessions could average 8-plus assists per game.