2023 NBA Trade Watch: Best Available Guards and Their Top Landing Spots
Organizing the chaos with the NBA's Feb. 9 trade deadline drawing near can be daunting. Perhaps the best way to manage the gossip, rumors and analysis is by position.
While lines have blurred recently, it's reasonable to break players into three groups: ball-handling guards, wings and bigs. Some straddle those delineations, such as Eric Gordon and Alex Caruso, who often play off the ball but can, to an extent, run the point.
It's an inexact science, but the following list includes the point guards bandied about on the trade market. Some are "likely" to move, while some are TBD.
That uncertainty centers around the play-in tournament, which has led to more buyers than sellers with at least 25 teams still in the postseason mix. It's still too early for some to give up on even faint playoff hopes, but that time is rapidly approaching.
VanVleet in Demand
The Toronto Raptors have underperformed for most of the season, with several competing franchises hopeful they will look to restructure their roster for the future. Most notably, Fred VanVleet is nearly 29 and in the final year of his contract (he has a $22.8 million option for 2023-24 that many in the industry expect him to decline).
Either the Raptors and VanVleet will extend their marriage, or the team will look to get value for him in a trade before the deadline. If it's the latter, several playoff contenders (at least teams that consider themselves playoff contenders) would have interest, such as the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards. So, too, would the Orlando Magic, per multiple NBA sources.
The Magic are eager to return to the playoffs. This may not be their year, but locking in a mature point guard to play alongside and mentor Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero is believed to hold longer-term appeal. That assumes VanVleet is amenable to a long-term stay with Orlando.
While it's unclear how open Toronto is to a move, the buzz is the team is asking for a premium in general for its talent (young players, picks, veterans on friendly contracts, etc.).
Charlotte Ready to Embrace Slide?
The Charlotte Hornets didn't intend to tank this season, even with French prospect Victor Wembanyama in the draft. The team hasn't been healthy or whole from the start (restricted free agent Miles Bridges pleaded no contest to a felony domestic violence charge in November), and while the front office had been reluctant to dialogue with other teams on trades, that ice may finally be melting.
That could mean a new home for Terry Rozier, a career 37.1 percent three-point shooter who is averaging a personal best of 5.3 assists per game this season. Rozier, 28, has three more years under contract in the $24 million range. His deal won't appeal to every team, but he's relatively young and could fetch a solid return.
Charlotte's hesitancy to talk trades has left the Rozier market murky. Still, the team previously discussed a swap with the Lakers when trying to acquire Donovan Mitchell via the Utah Jazz before the season. Marc Stein recently linked the Suns to Rozier.
D-Lo Decision Looming
Will the underperforming Timberwolves and D'Angelo Russell re-partner this summer? If they do, then both sides should try to agree on an extension in the next few weeks.
"I don't think the Wolves reinvest in Russell," a Western Conference executive said. "The combination of players they have just isn't clicking."
If Minnesota goes in a different direction by the deadline, it would need to fill Russell's 32.5 minutes a game. It's unclear where he might land, though teams mentioned as possibilities by various NBA sources included the Heat, Suns, Mavericks and Clippers.
Conley to a Contender?
The consensus was that the Jazz were rebuilding, but they were one of the better teams in the Western Conference for the first few months of the season.
Now that Utah has come down to earth, the front office is believed to be shopping veterans such as guard Mike Conley.
Conley's contract is favorable, with $14.3 million of $24.4 million guaranteed next season. The same (real or wannabe) contenders are thought to have interest, among others: the Lakers, Clippers and Timberwolves.
While the younger VanVleet holds broader appeal, Conley, 35 would undoubtedly come at a lower price for teams lacking (or unwilling to part with) draft assets.
Houston Asking Too Much for Gordon?
Eric Gordon is more of a combo guard, but he's a strong, physical 6'3" and can play with or without the ball. The Houston Rockets have been open to trading the veteran for a couple of years but have held out for a high price (a first-round pick).
Gordon has another season on his contract at $20.9 million, but it's non-guaranteed (until June 28) unless his team wins the title or he's named an All-Star. That extra year gives the Rockets time to wait for the best offer.
A compromise might consist of a pick swap, with Houston using the Milwaukee Bucks' first (projected to be around No. 25) it has from the 2021 P.J. Tucker trade. The Rockets run the risk of a diminishing return, but Gordon seems likely to be dealt by the deadline.
Interested teams include the Suns, Lakers and Bucks.
Westbrook Sticking in LA?
The Lakers managed to survive another Anthony Davis foot injury, and assuming he returns in the next week or so, the team is expected to be a willing shopper.
How big the Lakers go will depend on what's available in return for Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook has filled the sixth man role, but the team still has concerns about his fit in the playoffs when rotations shrink. To date, the price to get any impact talent back for Westbrook has been two firsts. That may be too much for the Lakers to give unless someone such as Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal becomes available—but there's no indication either will be.
After acquiring Rui Hachimura from the Wizards on Monday, the Lakers could still look for minor deals around guards Lonnie Walker IV and Patrick Beverley. Walker may hold some on-court value but has a knee injury. Neither may bring back a massive haul unless Los Angeles sends back draft compensation (a first or multiple seconds). If it does, the target would be additional wing depth and possibly a backup big, with Westbrook staying in his reserve role behind Dennis Schröder.
Honorable Mention: Trae a Summer Project
Bookmark this one for later. The Atlanta Hawks are looking to make changes, and while Trae Young is not asking out and the team isn't trying to trade him, this could be a hot topic in the offseason.
"I think Trae will want out after the season," one NBA source said. "The Hawks probably try to get out of John Collins and others by the deadline, but Trae's a long shot. Maybe the [Lakers] in July with his ties to Klutch [Sports]."
Atlanta already acquired a potential replacement in Dejounte Murray. While this may not be a trade deadline topic, keep an eye on the Hawks and their relationship with Young over the coming months.
The Chicago Bulls aren't expected to make significant changes but could part with one or both of Caruso and Coby White.
For the Heat to make a significant move, Kyle Lowry may be the necessary outgoing salary given other teams' disinclination to take on Duncan Robinson's contract. If so, Lowry could hold a similar appeal to the Conley suitors.
The Magic may be willing to consolidate their ball-handling guards (perhaps in chasing VanVleet) by using one or two of Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs and Markelle Fultz as bait.
The Suns aren't expected to trade Chris Paul, 37, but the franchise is believed to be looking for a long-term replacement. With the team nearing a sale, that decision may not be made by Feb. 9, but it's not out of the question.
The Clippers are considered open to moving John Wall for a different flavor at guard. It's unclear where the franchise stands on Reggie Jackson, who has recently played a diminished role.
The New York Knicks are said to be willing to part with Derrick Rose, though several teams are skeptical there's enough tread on his tires. New York would find greater interest if it made Immanuel Quickley available.
The New Orleans Pelicans are believed to be shopping Deveonte' Graham.
In general, the teams interested in adding help at guard include Dallas, both Los Angeles teams, Miami, Minnesota, Orlando, Phoenix, Toronto and Washington. The Rockets and San Antonio Spurs might have an interest in adding young talent at the position, though that may come through the draft.