The Next Craig: 5 Superstars Most Likely To Be On The Move Next
- By Michael Miller, Day 113, 2023
PF Taquan Slattery (Atlanta Devils): For whatever reason, the Devils have regressed after making steady improvement over the last 2 or 3 seasons Slattery had a down season last year, averaging only 23.3 points per game and 10.2 rebounds per game as compared to 2021 when he put up 26.6 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game. The Devils defense has been atrocious, and his Defensive Efficiency has risen from 108.9 last year to 114 this year. Devils management has openly questioned whether it may be time to blow it up again, which means the hometown hero could be on the move. No matter what, however, Slattery will be on the team through 2024 because he just signed his extension. This will definitely be a situation to keep an eye on in 2025, however, at least if the current condition exists.
SF Keydren Carter (Chicago Jailbirds): Chicago is on the precipice of a significant cap situation as they have to find room to pay both PG DeAngelo Tarver and C Rasheed Stone as restricted free agents while also paying SG/PG Jason Cheaney on $23,400,000 over the next two seasons. Rumors have made Carter available on the trade market, but it seems like the more logical move will be to keep Carter on the team this year and make a strong run for the JBL Finals. If it does not work out, however, I would expect Carter to be dealt on or before the JBL Draft next year. Carter is still likely the best overall athlete in the league and, although his points per game have declined steadily over the next 4 seasons, this is likely more due to Cheaney taking the primary lead on offense. Carter is still an All-Star player and, at only 31 years old, should still be quite an effective player throughout the end of his contract.
C Kelvin Hawes (Kansas City Knights) - The defending MVP expressed early frustrations this year after Kansas City dealt his running mate, SG/SF Aaron Honeycutt, for a mix of draft picks. Now in his prime, all eyes are on Hawes to see if he is satisfied with best years to teach and lead a group of young players over winning a championship. After a slow start, the Knights have played significantly better, are now at .500 and expected to be the best team within their division. Nevertheless, Hawes has to ask where the legitimate upside is with this team? Kansas City has denied that Hawes is available, but he is taking quite a long time considering the contract extension offered on the table. If he decides to explore his options in free agency this year, could he be signed and traded a 'la Dontay Sowder? Hawes would instantly make a team a JBL Finals favorite and, if Kansas City can acquire another star, that run could still end up with the Knights after all.
C/PF Leon Bowen / PF/C Ryan Pierce - This is a two-for-one special, but my sense is that the Hurricanes current situation is untenable because Bowen and Pierce are very similar players. With the Scorpions, I observed a very similar phenomenon when having both Isaiah Clarkson and Omar Grant on the same team. Having two great defensive frontcourt players on the court at the same time sounds great, but from that experience, I sense that it creates floor spacing issues and you can only gain so much in defensive efficiency with such a tandem. Despite having such good defensive frontcourt talent, the Hurricanes rank only 18th in Defensive Efficiency, 14th in rebounds per game and 6th in rebounds per game. The question, then, is who do you move? The obvious answer seems to be PF/C Ryan Pierce because he is cheaper ($19,500,000 per year to Bowen's $28,000,000 per year) and younger (27 years old to Bowen's 29 years old). Nevertheless, I think Bowen is the all around better player and it is easier to replace Pierce's better defensive skills in the frontcourt than it would be to replace Bowen's offensive skills.
PF/C Marcus Ivory - Lastly, we turn to perhaps the best overall player on this list, but he is slowly entering the downside of his career (if he is not getting there already at 30 years old). As noted recently, Ivory's points per game has declined from 30.3 ppg, to 26.8 ppg over the last two seasons. Yet, with a PER that has not yet dropped below 20.0, Ivory is clearly still an All-Star player and I believe he can be the best player or second best player on a JBL Championship team. The problem, overall, is the immediate direction of the Tritons franchise. They made the decision to clear out a lockerroom issue by trading SG Antoine Peeler to the Portland Lumberjacks for picks and decent role players. It seemed like Peeler and Ivory fit each other quite well, as the Tritons won 52 games last season. By trading Peeler in division, they made it harder to compete with the Thunder and the Scorpions and the now stronger Lumberjacks. It is unclear whether the current team has a legitimate chance to compete for a championship and where the players will come from to compete. As such, I would not rule out the Tritons making a complete tear down and rebooting the franchise by dealing Ivory for picks and players for management to remake the roster in its own image.