Ranking the NBA's 10 Best Trade Assets This OffseasonJune 10, 2022
Ranking the NBA's 10 Best Trade Assets This Offseason
Another brand-spanking-new NBA trade season is fast approaching, making it our obligation to take stock of the glitziest assets around the Association.
By ranking them, of course.
Selecting players and draft picks will heavily weigh franchise directions and intentions. Luka Doncic is not a trade asset for the Dallas Mavericks, and neither is the No. 1 pick for the Orlando Magic. So on and so forth.
This exercise will instead focus on players and picks who have the most appeal as centerpieces in aggressive blockbuster buys. Maybe the Utah Jazz decide to move Rudy Gobert. That amounts to selling because star-for-star swaps are so rare. We want only the assets teams will use to acquire stars or, depending on availability, fringe stars.
Sign-and-trade candidates (shout-out Deandre Ayton) will be excluded since there are too many variables for which to account. Draft picks are fair game, whether they're moved in real-time or after they turn into actual prospects.
Please be careful not to interpret inclusion as "Team X should trade Player Y or Pick Z!" endorsement. This is more of a "Which teams are both equipped and most likely to monitor the blockbuster trade market, and what is the best asset they have to flesh out prospective packages?" situation.
10. Tyler Herro, Miami Heat
Others will have Tyler Herro higher up on this board. Twenty-two-year-old tough shot-makers still on their rookie-scale deals seldom become available. Who wouldn't want him?
There is some merit to this stance. Herro is coming off a season in which he registered among the Miami Heat’s most stabilizing half-court forces. His mid-range touch spans everything from stop-and-pop jumpers to feathery floaters, and he was one of just six players to convert 37.5 percent or more of his pull-up triples on at least three attempts per game.
Herro's defensive limitations will prompt select teams to devalue him. Miami's opponents went after him relentlessly—and often successfully. But his extension eligibility hurts his standing here more than anything.
Nobody is acquiring Herro without intending to keep him, and retaining him could cost max money. That means offering him a contract starting above $31 million in Year 1 (2023-24) based upon the current salary-cap projections.
New contracts should not be considered a deal-breaker. Bankrolling maxes, however, takes serious consideration if you're entering a rebuild or youth movement unless the player in question is unequivocally on the superstar track. Herro, for all his offensive value, isn't that sure thing.
9. Bones Hyland, Denver Nuggets
Surprised to see Bones Hyland this high? Or here at all? Don’t worry. That shock will wear off.
Bones has quickly emerged as one of the crowning steals from the 2021 draft. Injuries up and down the Denver Nuggets roster forced him into a more prominent role than rookies tend to play on teams with immediate aspirations, but the outsized responsibility looked good on him.
At his core, Bones is a caps-lock, italics-text SHOOTER. The functional pressure his range puts on defenses belies his age (21)—and a certain logic. He can uncork mega-deep threes, down standstill triples and rain hellfire from the perimeter off the dribble.
His season-long shooting numbers barely tell the story. He buried 36.7 percent of his spot-up triples and 36.9 percent of his pull-up treys—marks that may be his floor after he downed 47.2 percent of his off-the-bounce treys post-All-Star break.
Outside shooting will endear Bones to teams on its own, but he's more than his boundless range and touch. He has the handle to put defenses on tilt when attacking inside the arc, and his passing ability was a pleasant surprise for the Nuggets.
This is someone who might be both a primary playmaker and leading scorer, and he still has three years left on his rookie-scale contract. Hyland has all the appeal of a higher-end, cost-controlled cornerstone for teams prepping or leaning further into a reset—should Denver pursue an acquisition impactful enough to warrant making him available.
8. Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls
Left wrist surgery severely limited Patrick Williams' availability in what was billed as a promise-packed sophomore campaign. Rather than harbingers of concrete progress, his 17 appearances instead served to reinforce what he might one day become.
And at 20 years old, with two full seasons to go in his rookie-scale contract, that’s more than enough for him to crack the top 10 of this shindig.
Everything known about Williams, so far, nods toward someone who can be one of the top-five players on a ridiculously good team. He has the size and length to be deployed against superstar wings—and a sample of holding up against many of them to go with it. His offense falls firmly under the plug-and-play umbrella.
He needs to ratchet up his three-point volume before he's declared a lights-out shooter, but his career 41.3 percent clip from deep on 167 attempts is nothing if not an encouraging indicator.
Whether Williams tilts more toward actual stardom or superstar role player will come down to offensive expansion. He has hinted at the capacity to dribble into jumpers—he downed 45.2 percent of his pull-twos this year—and flashed fair-weather ball control when attacking downhill. Putting all this together at a faster speed and on higher volume is the next frontier.
Dynamic power wings remain all the rage in today's NBA—the player archetype for which every team is on the prowl. Williams' abridged 2021-22 campaign may have repressed his appeal in the interim, but make no mistake: If the Chicago Bulls enter the trade market with a sense of urgency, he retains plenty of crown-jewel shine.
7. John Collins, Atlanta Hawks
John Collins is the rare player who straddles both ends of the trade-market spectrum. He's so established that he could be disqualified on the basis of that value. Teams will target him with the intention of accelerating their timeline, which could make it difficult for the Atlanta Hawks to move him as part of their own upgrade.
Then again, Collins occupies a unique niche in the trade-asset space. He is young enough, going on 25, to fit any timeline, and his contract strikes the right team-friendly notes. Collins is owed $102 million over the next four years with a 2025-26 player option, giving his next squad three full seasons of fringe-star service at no worse than market value.
Anyone arguing that Collins is overpaid relative to what he provides needs a reality check. He may be a one-position player on defense—Atlanta's already-bad defense devolved further when he played without Clint Capela—but he's come a long way as a helper and decision-maker in space. Teams with more dependable presences on the perimeter should be able to steal plenty of one-big minutes in which he's manning the middle.
More also needs to be said about the malleability of Collins' offensive arsenal. He can still thrive as the primary screener and rim-runner, but playing beside Capela forced him to hone his outside touch (36.6 percent on spot-up threes) and polish his floor game. There may even be some additional post-up utility to plumb.
The Hawks seem to be gearing up for an aggressive offseason. If the endgame is acquiring someone they deem a better fit—or another entrenched star—including Collins will give them a leg-up over most other packages built around inexperienced prospects and mystery-box draft picks.
6. No. 7 Pick, Portland Trail Blazers
Picks inside the top half of the lottery are alluring almost entirely because they can become anyone. Selections invariably forfeit some appeal when they turn into actual players, but everyone taken in the top seven maintains a certain building-block, could-be-a-star mystique until they suit up for the regular season.
These selections also usually belong to teams that won't part with them. Front offices drafting this high are supposed to be in the thick of a rebuild or about to jump-start one. It can be hard for organizations to dangle them in talks for stars, let alone for players who don't qualify as one.
The Portland Trail Blazers are different. And maybe this draft is different, if you subscribe to the theory that it's a rookie class with four to five star possibilities. Mostly, though, it's the Blazers themselves.
General manager Joe Cronin is expected to jettison the No. 7 pick in search of immediate help that jibes with Damian Lillard's win-now timeline, per The Athletic's John Hollinger and Sam Vecenie. It isn't quite clear what that means.
The current trade market is light on obviously available stars. Either they're smitten with, for example, Rudy Gobert, waiting for alternative names to hit the chopping block or content to turn a top-seven selection into, say, Jerami Grant.
Regardless, the No. 7 pick is an enviable starting point. Pair this with other players or picks while utilizing the team's cap-sheet flexibility, and the Blazers should have access to whatever blockbuster sweepstakes unfold. Whether they should travel down this immediate and urgent path is a separate matter. The point is they can, and it sounds like they will.
5. No. 4 Pick, Sacramento Kings
If top-seven picks are hardly up for grabs, then the No. 4 selection in what might be a four- or five-star draft is certainly an asset that's almost never readily available.
And yet, the Sacramento Kings exist. So this year's No. 4 pick might be gettable.
This isn't (entirely) a low-brow troll job. The Kings inferred a deep-seated, albeit potentially aimless, sense of urgency when they unloaded a standout 22-year-old still on his rookie scale for the more established, older-but-still-youngish, extension-eligible Domantas Sabonis.
Maybe Sacramento is prepared to take Shaedon Sharpe or Jaden Ivey at No. 4 and figure out the rest later. Partnering the latter with De'Aaron Fox feels untenable, but drafting for fit is overrated. Sabonis turned 26 in May, while Fox won't turn 25 until December. The Kings needn't be in a rush.
Dealing for Sabonis at all, though, suggests they are in something of a rush. They weren't on the clock to choose between Fox and Tyrese Haliburton (and never needed to in the first place).
Perhaps they're more inclined to use No. 4 to move back in the draft while scooping up another veteran. But based on this past trade deadline's body of work, it's reasonable to assume they're open to chasing another blockbuster name—inasmuch as one who doesn't play Sabonis' best position becomes available.
4. Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies
Desmond Bane skews older for a prospect. Teams can easily value the idea of what a higher draft pick might become over a 23-year-old third option from the Memphis Grizzlies.
In some cases, if not many cases, that would be foolish. Proven performers still on their rookie scales are immensely valuable, and Bane has enough enchanting unknownness to his stock that he can be acquired as both an impact player and down-the-line investment.
Scant few make the Year 1 to Year 2 leap he just completed. Bane went from an offensive accessory deployed in measured doses to logging nearly 30 minutes per game and taking on more on-ball and self-creation responsibility, all without ever conceding his plug-and-play label.
His defensive value climbed, as well. Memphis used him more liberally on-ball versus tougher assignments, and he has a certain incessancy to his presence away from the rock.
Penciling him in as a three-and-D contributor doesn't give Bane's ceiling nearly enough due. He may not be a superstar-in-training, but he was arguably the Grizzlies' best player for most of the postseason.
Finding someone capable of that, as a sophomore with two years left on his rookie scale, is impossibly hard. It's why Memphis neither has to nor is overwhelmingly likely to deal him. And it's also why he can be the central asset the Grizzlies use in trade talks if they get the itch to go star-hunting.
3. Jonathan Kuminga, Golden State Warriors
Making it all the way to the NBA Finals almost prohibits anyone from the Golden State Warriors from cracking this list. Team governor Joe Lacob has made a big to-do about the organization juggling between contending now while building for the future. Coming within a few victories of another championship, if not actually bagging another title, validates that dual-purpose timeline.
Any organization with a 34-year-old Stephen Curry playing at the peak of his powers would be remiss not to explore every option that optimizes now over later. That isn't a matter of preference. It is the obligation ingrained into having one of the 10 to 15 best players of all time still playing at the level of a top-five star.
What Golden State has actually earned is the right to be choosy. It no longer needs to indiscriminately chase big names after playing this deep into the postseason. It need only unbottle its best assets should the right superstar become available—which, at this point, would be an out-of-left-field name no one's currently discussing.
Jonathan Kuminga is the player the Warriors would need to peddle at the centerpiece in any such scenario, however unlikely. And that's bad news for other teams.
Still only 19, Kuminga has the look and feel of a Pascal Siakam-type who plays at warp speed. His offensive armory has provided glimpses into bulldozing finishes, driving kick-outs, baby jumpers off live dribbles, standstill outside shooting and general ball-moving.
Meanwhile, he profiles as a positionless defender who can pick up smaller primary ball-handlers at half-court, chase around wings, tussle with bigs and stamp out looks around the rim.
Prioritizing the No. 4 pick, even if the No. 7 pick, over Kuminga is not an egregious stance to take. Those picks can be anything, but so can Kuminga. He just so happens to offer the added benefit of already being something while only being one year deeper into his rookie-scale pact.
2. OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors
OG Anunoby poses the same dilemma as John Collins: Is he not someone buyers would target rather than an asset his own team would use to make an upgrade?
Much like Collins, Anunoby's value scales to all types of trade talks—so much so, in fact, he normally wouldn't make the cut. But sources told Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer that, while OG has not demanded a trade, he "grew dissatisfied" with his role inside the Toronto Raptors offense. That opens the door for us to at least talk about him.
Plus, the Raptors are captained by team president Masai Ujiri, an executive who will in no way sit on a good-not-great Toronto team for long. A consolidation move will come, at some point, because that's how he operates.
And if the Raptors aren't going to include Pascal Siakam or Scottie Barnes in potential blockbuster buys, Anunoby is their next most valuable asset, ahead of even Fred VanVleet—who, despite providing way more shot creation, is older and smaller.
Specialists wouldn't typically check in above the exotic awe of a top-four lottery pick or Jonathan Kuminga. Nonetheless, Anunoby is at the pinnacle of the three-and-D wheelhouse and has the potential to graduate beyond it, if he hasn't already.
Going on 25, with three years and $55.9 million left on his deal (2024-25 player option), he is a team's archetypal dream, injecting any rotation with complementary shooting, positionless defense, straight-line driving and occasional off-the-methodical-dribble.
He is young enough to get better—imagine where he'd be with even tighter handles and better passing on downhill attacks—yet established enough to boost a team's immediate hopes. Think of him as a finished product with room to still improve and a contract no team in the NBA wouldn't be happy to acquire, regardless of its direction or timeline.
1. Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers
Tyrese Maxey shouldn't be available unless the Philadelphia 76ers have hatched some grandiose plot to snag another top-15 player to partner with Joel Embiid and, presumably, James Harden (player option).
It turns out team president Daryl Morey may intend to do just that. As ESPN's Brian Windhorst said on an episode of the #Greeny show (h/t Philly Voice's Nick Tricome): Philly "has dreams and plans." That's Morey-speak for "superstar ambitions."
Giving up a 21-year-old Most Improved Player candidate with two years left on his rookie scale might seem shortsighted. That's also what it'll take for the Sixers to enter any star discussions.
Maxey doesn't earn nearly enough to be the sole outgoing piece in any major trade, but he alone juices up any larger package as an up-and-coming cornerstone who has also shown he can exist within the context of an offense catering to others.
Sticking him at No. 1 is not an exaggeration of the season he just delivered. He is fast and savvy, with infinite range and genuinely improving ball pressure. He is also now the first player in league history to clear 17 points and four assists before his 21st birthday while shooting 50 percent on twos and 40 percent from threes.
That Maxey spent most of the season amassing those numbers as the Sixers' second-most important player prior to the Harden trade only increases his appeal. That he then parlayed a more streamlined role following Harden's debut into 18.7 points and 3.5 assists per game on a supernova 48 percent clip from downtown drums up his value even further.
Youth, star potential and cap relief are the hallmarks of any quality blockbuster offer. Maxey offers two of the three on his own.
Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference, Stathead or Cleaning the Glass. Salary information via Spotrac.
Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale), and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by NBA Math's Adam Fromal.