The Whiteboard: P.J. Tucker and 4 more role players that could be on the move in NBA trade season

Today on The Whiteboard, we're looking at the role players who will make or break the NBA Trade Deadline and how long the Pistons could keep losing.

Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers / Katelyn Mulcahy/GettyImages

Most of the NBA trade rumors flying around right now are about the biggest names who could be available — Zach LaVine, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Donovan Mitchell, etc.

But there's no guarantee any of those players are actually even traded and the deals far more likely to have a meaningful impact on the playoff and championship races are the ones for high-impact role players, the ones who fill a specific need on a contender just outside the inner circle.

Here are five players already mentioned in trade rumors who are dramatically more likely to be moved than any of the stars above and who could each make a huge impact on a new team.

5. P.J. Tucker, Los Angeles Clippers

Tucker has already talked about his frustrations at being left out of the Clippers rotation since being traded but they have a ton of forward depth and the fact that he's shooting under 30 percent from beyond the arc isn't going to help him earn more minutes. His cap hit (just over $11 million) and player option for next season may constrict the his trade market but his defense and experience will certainly have a playoff team or two sniffing around.

As bad as he's shot the ball with the Clippers, Tucker still made 39.3 percent of his 3s with the 76ers over last season and the first part of this year. His defensive versatility has shrunk as he's aged but he can still defend 4s and some power 3s. He'd probably prefer a trade to an inner circle contender but will probably draw more interest from teams in the tier below that, like the Cavs, Knicks, Mavs, Kings, Lakers or Warriors.

4. Bojan Bogdanovic, Detroit Pistons

Bojan Bogdanovic had previously been off limits as the Pistons valued the way his shooting and complementary creation could help space the floor and make things easier on the rest of their young core. But with a now historic losing streak still in progress they're reportedly reconsidering that and open to making almost anyone available.

Bogdanovic is under contract this year and next for roughly $20 million so whoever trades for him won't have to worry about him turning into a one-year rental. He's better suited to play the 4 at this point because of declining athleticism and defensive limitations but he's an excellent movement shooter who knows how to play off a star and attack a defense.

The Lakers would have to include either D'Angelo Russell or Rui Hachimura to make a trade work but he'd be an excellent fit and, at this point, is probably more valuable than either of those players in a championship hunt this season. He'd also be a very interesting fit on the Knicks if they were willing to package a protected pick or two with Evan Fournier's salary and someone like Quentin Grimes.

3. Alec Burks, Detroit Pistons

Like Bogdanovic, Burks was a veteran whose versatile offensive game was supposed to help scaffold things for the rest of the young core. But he's clearly not making a difference and the Pistons may have decided it's finally time to try and turn him into a first-round pick in a trade.

Burks might have drawn a first-round pick in a deal last season but the Pistons may have to settle for less now, considering he's shooting just 32.7 percent from beyond the arc after three consecutive seasons over 40 percent. But his cap hit is reasonable (just over $10 million) and he could look a lot better in a functional offense with his secondary playmaking actually surrounded by other capable shooters. The other catch is that he's on an expiring contract and thus likely a one-year rental. Still, he could draw interest from teams like the Heat, 76ers, Mavs or Lakers.

2. T.J. McConnell, Indiana Pacers

McConnell has been in and out of the Pacers rotation as injuries and defensive struggles have opened opportunities for him. But a lack of consistent minutes says more about the talent around him than any of his own shortcomings. With Tyrese Haliburton emerging as a star and second-year guard Andrew Nembhard looking like the backup of the future, McConnell is almost certainly available.

McConnell is still a shaky outside shooter which is a clear limiting factor. But he's a ferocious defender at the point of attack and a very solid driver and pick-and-roll orchestrator who knows how to pick his spots. He's averaging 17.4 points, 11.4 assists, 6.4 rebounds and 2.2 steals per 36 minutes, shooting 55.5 percent from inside the arc. His $8.7 million cap hit shouldn't be that hard for many teams to match and he's under contract next season as well (partially guaranteed) making him appealing to both teams who want some multi-year value and those looking for a one-season swing.

Specific suitors haven't been mentioned in many trade rumors but he could make a lot of sense for teams like the Suns, Bucks, Raptors and more.

1. Kelly Olynyk, Utah Jazz

Like the Pistons, the struggling Jazz now appear open to trading some of the veterans they had previously retained hoping to build a solid foundation for the development of their younger players. Of that group of veterans, Olynyk may be the most likely to be traded and the most likely to put a contender over the top. 

He doesn't offer a ton on defense but he's a big body who works on the glass and has enough quickness to match up with 4s or 5s. On offense, he offers tremendous versatility as a very good passer who can post up smaller players, attack big players in close-out situations and stretch the defense with his shooting. So far this season, he's averaging 12.9 points, 9.0 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 1.4 steals per 36 minutes, shooting 54.0 percent from the floor and 41.4 percent from beyond the arc.

Olynyk is a free agent this offseason but is still just 32 and might be worth extending if he lands in the right situation. His cap hit, just over $12 million, also means a team wouldn't have to sell everything to add him. Olynyk would make a ton of sense for teams like the Suns, Heat, Cavs, Mavs and Lakers.

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Dec 26, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) looks on during the
Dec 26, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) looks on during the / Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

When will the Pistons end their historic losing streak?

The Pistons made history Tuesday night, losing their 27th straight game, the longest losing streak in NBA history. Fans are crushed (as are the players) and ownership has already vowed changes, reportedly making clear they're willing to trade anyone on the roster except Cade Cunningham and Jalen Duren. But there's a good chance they pad this record a bit before they're done.

The Pistons are on the road tonight against the Celtics, who have the best record in the entire NBA. They then host the Raptors on Saturday before embarking on a four-game west-coast road trip that includes matchups against the Rockets, Jazz, Warriors and Nuggets.

Those games against the Raptors, Rockets and Jazz are slightly likelier opportunities to break the streak but they're not good chances. They come back from that road trip and host the Sacramento Kings on Jan. 9 before the Spurs come to town on Jan. 10 on a back-to-back. That's likely as close to favored as the Pistons will be in any game for the next month until they host the Wizards on Jan. 27. In between those home games against the Spurs and Wizards they'll play the Wizards on the road on Jan. 15 but also have to play the Timberwolves, Bucks (twice) and Thunder.


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