So, we're well into the preseason now and we're starting to get a sense of how teams are really stacking up, where their holes are, et cetera. Every expert out there predicts a Rudy Gay trade - I personally think it only happens if our first 20 games or so are bad, but if they're bad, then all bets are off. So, based on other teams' preseasons so far, who's potentially hungry for Rudy if Masai decides to trade him?
IMPORTANT: I am not advocating that we necessarily trade Rudy at this time. This thread is just about likely trade partners. Calm down.
Washington - This was a dark horse candidate for me a couple months ago but they're starting to look more and more like a potential trade partner. A couple months ago, my thinking was as follows: 1.) they don't want to trade Emeka Okafor - who has to be in the trade to make the money work - because Emeka is central to their defense, and 2.) they have Otto Porter, Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster, that's not a Rudy Gay combined but that's not a bad SF unit.
But now Okafor is injured and going to miss a chunk of the season, and Al Harrington is filling in reasonably capably at power forward alongside Nene. (I also think Washington probably considers signing Jason Collins as well since he's well-liked on the team and lockdown D is what Collins specializes in.) And looking at the Wizards' preseason so far - they're 1 and 4 - Ariza and Webster at SF are the gaping hole on this team; both are okay backups but neither one is a serious starting SF and the Wiz have been outplayed at small forward pretty much every single game.
As for Otto Porter, he had a bad summer league and apparently didn't impress at training camp, and that's not good considering everybody back at draft time was figuring "Otto Porter is a starting SF, maybe not a great one, but decent and he'll be ready day one." If Porter is a project the Wiz are in trouble. Unless, of course, they trade for Rudy Gay. The Wiz are in win-now mode; both the fans and management want playoffs this year, even if it's only one-round-and-done.
What can Washington offer for Rudy? Okafor, obviously. Probably one of either Glen Rice Jr. or Porter. And, of course, picks. Washington has all of theirs. In a Rudy trade they might look for an additional young big: Hansbrough or Acy would both be excellent trade sweeteners in this case.
Charlotte. If Charlotte decides to go for it - and they're much better than they were last year, although I still don't think they're a playoff team even if they're .500 in the preseason so far - they need a better answer at small forward than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Or, rather, 2013 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who is the Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who can't shoot the ball worth a damn.
Unlike Washington, Charlotte doesn't have a two-way liability on the court at small forward - MKG is a terrific defender with potential to become elite and he has good floor sense. But he can't shoot, and until he finds a jumper or learns to be a better cutter he's a project. If Charlotte decides to go for it based on a strong start (and let's be honest, it's Charlotte, this is eminently possible), they need to fix the hole at SF, because the rest of their starting five is solid with flashes of greatness (Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson and the Zeller/McRoberts unit at power forward). And I think they might, because Michael Jordan is not a patient man.
What can Charlotte offer for Rudy? Ben Gordon makes the money work so it becomes about what Charlotte adds to the trade. They have Detroit and Portland's first-round picks this year; they have Bismack Biyombo (whom they appear to be giving up on, and who may be reclaimable), and if they're looking to replace MKG they might as well consider him a trade chip. In a Rudy trade they'd probably look for another young shooting wing as well - Terrence Ross or Austin Daye might sweeten the pot here.
Cleveland. Starting out 3-2 in the preseason so far Cleveland sure looks exciting, but the one thing that has been constant is the lack of a starting small forward. Earl Clark is playing like a backup SF forced into a starter role because that's what he is. The team's been experimenting with Anthony Bennett as an oversized three and Sergey Karasev as an undersized three and neither of those experiments is quite panning out (Bennett and Karasev are both good players, but Bennett seems to be more naturally an undersized power forward and Karasev seems much more comfortable at shooting guard, and their best play in the preseason has been when they have played to their strengths). Alonzo Gee wasn't a starter last season or at least should not have been. And so forth.
Cleveland is even more seriously in win-now mode than Washington is: the Gilberts have declared war and laid out large for Jarrett Jack and Andrew Bynum, and Bynum is their big question mark of course. So is Anderson Varajao, really.
What can Cleveland offer for Rudy? Bynum, if he doesn't pan out for them (the $12M contract is only half-guaranteed so basically they would trade him and we would immediately waive him and only take a $6m cap hit). If Bynum pans out and Varajao is injured, then they trade Varajao. If both Bynum and Varajao are healthy and playing, then A) I'm gonna go buy some lotto tickets because the laws of probability are out of whack, and B) the answer is probably something along the lines of Clark and Gee to help with the money plus some other pieces.
In terms of "other pieces" - man, Cleveland has so many options for us it's kind of nuts. Bennett and Thompson are both very obvious trade targets for us - not just because they're Canadian (although that is a bonus) but because they're good. Karasev would be a nice bit of trade bait as well. The Cavs have all of their draft picks and a host of other picks to boot - a protected Sacramento first-rounder (meh), Memphis and Miami's first-rounders in 2015 (hmmm), Orlando's second-rounder this year (probably a 34th pick, not awful at all) and still more beyond those.
In terms of what sweetens the deal for Cleveland: if they're trading Bynum or Varajao they'll want a cheap quality big (Hansbrough or Acy - maybe even Aaron Gray). They might also want Steve Novak's shooting.
Milwaukee. I've consistently maintained that despite everybody saying Milwaukee is a natural trade partner for Rudy that they really aren't, and I maintain that position. Yes, Caron Butler is not a starting quality SF, but he wants to play in Milwaukee (how many people can say that?) and the Bucks don't want him to be their starting SF anyway, they want him to be their backup veteran grooming the kids; they want John Henson to develop into a starting power forward and then slot Ersan Ilyasova at SF to play big-ball, or they want Giannis Antetokounmpo to be ready faster than anybody expected and install him at SF, and the thing about these plans is that neither of them is totally far-fetched. It's far more likely that, if we trade anybody to Milwaukee, it's Kyle Lowry - Brandon Knight is not yet a starting PG in this league.
But let's say neither happens and the Bucks get their itchy trigger finger like they always do (man, Tobias Harris for two months of JJ Redick, that was a good idea). So...
What can Milwaukee offer for Rudy? Caron Butler plus Ekpe Udoh plus the Bucks' 2014 first-rounder is about it. Unless they go absolutely insane and offer us Giannis, which will not happen.