The NBA Trade Deadline is just days away and with the excitement that surrounds the days and weeks leading up to it, it's almost become a holiday for basketball fans around the world. The playoff picture is beginning to take shape as the league heads into the last couple of months of the season and with that, teams are now able to more clearly identify the holes that they may have on their roster.
Much like every other year, big names are being thrown around left and right even for players that are playing for teams that are in the playoff picture. Blake Griffin, Al Horford and Kevin Love are some of the major names that have been discussed and though it's unlikely that any of them will be moved (with Horford perhaps being the exception), there will undoubtedly be a few trades made by teams that are looking to jockey for position in their respective conferences.
Although there aren't many deadlines that see a star player being traded, role players are incredibly valuable to contenders and they don't come cheap. Last year the Cleveland Cavaliers shipped off two first round picks for Timofey Mozgov, and the Phoenix Suns received the same haul when the shipped Goran Dragic off to the Miami Heat.
With contract numbers set to explode due to the rising salary cap, the value of rookie deals has become even more apparent. Teams should be hesitant to give away first round picks, especially for players with expiring deals, especially when there are a bevy of talents in the D-League that could be had without the cost of a player or a draft pick.
Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Atlanta Hawks
With the NBA as a whole shifting towards a more three-point heavy approach, the value of '3-and-D' guys has gone through the roof. Players like P.J. Tucker and Jared Dudley are being thrown out as potential options for teams in need of a player on the wing that can stretch the floor a bit while also being a reliable defender and there's not many players in the D-League that typify that better than Liggins.
He already has 57 NBA games under his belt (39 of those coming with Oklahoma City) and he's continued to grow as a player since he was last season in the league just under two years ago. He may be the best wing defender that the D-League has to offer and he's knocking down nearly 45% of the 3.5 three point attempts he takes per game. Standing 6'6 with a 6'11 wingspan, Liggins is able to handle himself at any position on the perimeter, and his lateral quickness allows him to keep up with quicker guards.
Currently sporting a plus/minus of 8.0, Liggins is clearly one of the driving forces behind the strong season that Sioux Falls has managed to put together and with the improvements that he's made even over the course of this season, he's ready to make the next step.
One of the more surprising players from this year and a serious candidate for the D-League's Most Improved Player Award, Putney's game is perfectly suited towards what the NBA is moving towards. Markieff Morris, Ryan Anderson and a few others are currently being sold as big men who can help open up the lane for their teammates to attack, but the cost of acquiring them (especially Anderson, who's a free agent after the season) may be a bit much for a contender to take.
Putney has gained notoriety as one of the best big man floor spacers throughout the league this year and for good reason; he's attempting over seven three pointers per game and still managing to hit them at a 38% clip. In addition to his work beyond the three-point line, he's also been one of the better shot-blockers that the league has to offer. His talent may not be quite on the level of his NBA counterparts, but he comes with no cost other than his contract.
The MVP of this year's D-League All-Star Game, Fredette is a name that should be known by most basketball fans. After 'Jimmermania' swept the nation during Fredette's college career at BYU, he was drafted with the 10th overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks (who immediately traded him to the Sacramento Kings). The transition to the NBA was not a smooth one, but he still did manage to shoot 40% from three-point range during his 2+ years with the Kings.
After bouncing around a bit over the past couple of years, Fredette has found his way to the D-League and has managed to recapture some of the magic that he had throughout his college career. He has worked hard all season long and has helped guide the Westchester Knicks to second place in the Atlantic Division. The Trail Blazers have C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard in their backcourt, but Fredette could provide some instant offense and may be a boost over Tim Frazier, while the Knicks and Jazz could also use a spark off of the bench from the point guard spot. It may not be the role that was envisioned for him after he was selected with a lottery pick, but Fredette's offense should be able to find a place in the NBA.
Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks
The current league leader in points per game throughout the D-League with 26.5, on .476/.438/.773 shooting splits, Kilpatrick has already managed to see time in the NBA earlier this year when he was on a 10-day contract with the Denver Nuggets. He's able to attack teams both from the perimeter and driving to the lane and he's a threat to score whenever the ball is in his hands.
His defense leaves a bit to be desired, but his offense can make up for it if he plays in spurts at the NBA level. For the Hornets, he can be the backup guard that can get points in a hurry that they had hoped P.J. Hairston could become, and he could provide a valuable punch for both Miami and Dallas. The Mavericks, in particular, are a team that is looking to get younger and faster and that needs help with scoring from their bench, so Kilpatrick could be the player that they're seeking.