2023 NBA Trade Watch: Best Available Bigs and Their Top Landing Spots

Eric Pincus@@EricPincusFeatured Columnist IJanuary 27, 2023

2023 NBA Trade Watch: Best Available Bigs and Their Top Landing Spots

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    Myles Turner.
    Myles Turner.Justin Casterline/Getty Images

    Sorting through the gossip and rumors leading up to the NBA's Feb. 9 trade deadline can be a puzzling mess, but organizing it by position can bring order to the chaos.

    While lines have blurred recently, it's reasonable to split players into three groups: ball-handling guards, wings and bigs. With guards complete and wings in order, the focus shifts to bigs. These delineations can be subjective, with guards playing without the ball (Eric Gordon, Alex Caruso, etc.) and bigs spreading the floor as wings. For clarity (and sanity), players like John Collins, Jarred Vanderbilt and P.J. Washington are considered bigs.

    The following list includes NBA bigs bandied about on the trade market. Some are more likely to get dealt than others.

    A few teams have glaring needs for size, but then a few free-agent stragglers and buyout candidates may scuttle the big-man trade market.

Turner: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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    Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
    AP Photo/David Zalubowski

    The Indiana Pacers are in a unique position with a competitive roster and a payroll below $96 million. The minimum team salary for 2022-23 is $111.3 million. If Indiana doesn't add about $15 million in salary, it will need to send that amount to the National Basketball Players Association to be redistributed to the players on the Pacers' roster.

    Since Myles Turner, who re-signed with the team in 2017, is eligible for contract renegotiation, the Pacers can give Turner that $15 million—money they are required to pay out in one form or another—and extend him based on a near-max salary.

    It makes sense for both parties, but reaching that right figure is a negotiation. Some competing executives think the Pacers will look first to use its cap room in trade to try to acquire talent. Then, if any is still available, use that to give Turner a more modest renegotiation.

    Others say Indiana and Turner will try to cross the finish line a week before the deadline; this way, if they are at an impasse, they have time to part ways via trade.

    If it's the latter, teams linked to Turner include the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors. The smart money says he will stay in Indiana long-term, but that decision has yet to be made.

Collins a Long-Term Option

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    ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 20: John Collins #20 of the Atlanta Hawks reacts during the second half against the New York Knicks at State Farm Arena on January 20, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
    Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

    The Atlanta Hawks have had a tumultuous relationship with John Collins, choosing not to extend him after his third year, paying him a sizable deal after his fourth and then almost immediately putting him on the trade block for a season-plus.

    Collins isn't for everyone because he's owed $78.5 million over the next three seasons (player option on the final year). But then, for teams that struggle to land free agents, Collins' contract may hold a certain appeal if the price to acquire him via trade isn't overwhelming.

    The buzz out of Atlanta has been inconsistent, perhaps with recent changes in management with Landry Fields replacing Travis Schlenk. Is he someone the Hawks want to salary-dump, or are they expecting a bounty in return? It depends on who you ask, but clarity should come in the next couple of weeks.

    Collins is one of the most talked-about names on the trade market all season; he's been connected to various teams, including the Phoenix Suns, Washington Wizards, Utah Jazz, New Orleans Pelicans, Cleveland Cavaliers, Mavericks and Clippers.

Poeltl Can Be Pried from Spurs

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    PORTLAND, OREGON - JANUARY 23: Jakob Poeltl #25 of the San Antonio Spurs looks to pass against the Portland Trail Blazers during the second quarter at Moda Center on January 23, 2023 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
    Steph Chambers/Getty Images

    The San Antonio Spurs like Jakob Poeltl and would be happy to extend him, but existing rules limit him to $50.5 million over four additional seasons. Several NBA sources peg his asking price in the $17 million to $20 million range in the first year alone as an unrestricted free agent.

    While the Spurs can pay that, the team will have to wait until July to do so. And that may be beyond their price range, which could inspire the team to get a deal done before the trade deadline.

    The asking price is believed to be a first-round pick and a good young player. Teams linked to Poeltl include the Boston Celtics, Raptors, Lakers, Clippers and Warriors. The Celtics may be a reach, given their tax position and commitment to Al Horford and Robert Williams III.

    With the Lakers getting solid minutes from Thomas Bryant, they may be less inclined to chase a big man. The Clippers have Brandon Boston Jr. and Amir Coffey, prospects in demand that could appeal to a rebuilding team like the Spurs. The Warriors don't appear ready to give up on James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga or Moses Moody.

Charlotte a Seller?

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    ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 21: Mason Plumlee #24 of the Charlotte Hornets makes a move against Onyeka Okongwu #17 of the Atlanta Hawks during the first half at State Farm Arena on January 21, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
    Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

    The Charlotte Hornets have struggled all season and may be looking to trade away several players. The question for some executives regarding Mason Plumlee is "trade or buyout?"

    Plumlee is in the final year of his contract at $9.1 million. He'd be much cheaper on a minimum contract in salary and trade compensation, but the Hornets would prefer to get something back if they can. Teams will probably reach out to Plumlee's representation to gauge free-agent interest (be it with Charlotte's permission or just outright tampering to do so).

    He'd help most of the teams previously listed looking for size, including the Clippers as a Plan C option—the team has a big enough trade exception (via Serge Ibaka) to absorb his salary outright. That assumes the Clippers aren't able to bring back Isaiah Hartenstein from the New York Knicks, another player on the list of potentially available big men.

    Another variable for the Hornets is P.J. Washington, who is still establishing himself as a player. Can he play more of a 3/4 wing position, or is he more of a 4/5? Is he a starter or a sixth man? Washington, per NBA sources, is expecting a hefty pay increase, which may scare the Hornets into putting him on the block. Or maybe Charlotte feels it has the advantage in negotiations, given his pending restricted free agency in July?

    The answers on Washington aren't clear, including potential destinations.

Other Possibilities

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 15: Chicago Bulls Center Nikola Vucevic (9) in action during warm-ups before a NBA game between the Golden State  Warriors and the Chicago Bulls on January 15, 2023 at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    After months of competing teams speculating that the Chicago Bulls would/should decide to blow up their roster rather than hold pending free agent Nikola Vučević at the deadline, that appears to be the case. The Bulls could change course, but a couple of weeks out, that doesn't seem likely (per various NBA sources). Instead, look for the Bulls to try to re-sign Vučević over the summer.

    While there's been no indication the Golden State Warriors will move Wiseman (or Kuminga and Moody), many NBA executives think they should to improve their chances of repeating in June. The market for Wiseman is challenging to quantify. Interest would probably come from some of the young, rebuilding teams who can afford to develop the soon-to-be 22-year-old center patiently.

    The Sacramento Kings are believed to be shopping Richaun Holmes, who is not a priority in coach Mike Brown's rotation. Holmes has two more years on his deal at nearly $25 million (the final season is a player option).

    The Orlando Magic have a glut of size (and guards) and may look to consolidate talent with Mo Bamba available, per NBA sources. Jonathan Isaac recently returned from over a two-year absence, but his contract may be especially appealing, with only $7.6 million of $34.8 million guaranteed over the next two years. Other teams are interested in Wendell Carter Jr., locked in through 2025-26 at an economical $12 million a season.

    Other names to keep an eye on include Toronto's Chris Boucher (but only if the Raptors decide to start blowing up their roster) and Khem Birch. Jaxson Hayes (along with guard Devonte' Graham) is believed to be available from the New Orleans Pelicans. The Jazz are thought to be lightly shopping Kelly Olynyk and Vanderbilt, happy to keep both if offers aren't rich enough.

    The Mavericks would like to get out of the contracts of JaVale McGee and Dāvis Bertāns (whose next two seasons at $33 million are only $22 million guaranteed). The Mavericks could move Dwight Powell if they're getting a center back. Powell has been linked to Indiana's Rick Carlisle, who used to coach him in Dallas.

    The Phoenix Suns aren't married to Deandre Ayton, but any significant decisions on his future may wait until the summer. Dario Šarić could be included in other moves with his expiring $9.2 million salary.

    The Minnesota Timberwolves may not have plans to re-sign Naz Reid, which could lead to a trade before the deadline. Also, Nerlens Noel can be had from the Detroit Pistons.

    Finally, several free agents could damper the big-man trade market. Players like Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside, Dwight Howard (currently in Taiwan), Greg Monroe, Cody Zeller, Enes Freedom and a long list of prospects in the G League are all likely cheaper than orchestrating a trade.

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