NBA Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz on Jimmy Butler, D'Angelo Russell and More

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJune 28, 2019

Philadelphia 76ers guard Jimmy Butler warms up before the start of Game 4 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets, Saturday, April 20, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

All eyes in the NBA are focused on Sunday when the free-agent moratorium period begins, but don't underestimate the power of the trade market at a time when the league feels as wide open as it has in years. 

The Los Angeles Lakers have been the early offseason winners after agreeing to a deal with the New Orleans Pelicans and Washington Wizards for Anthony Davis and clearing $32 million in cap space to potentially add a third superstar, per ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski, Zach Lowe and Bobby Marks

Even with that league-altering move expected to be finalized on July 6, there are 29 other teams trying to figure out the best way to maximize their assets for 2019-20 and beyond. 

Here are the key trade rumors to keep an eye on leading up to the start of a sure-to-be busy offseason in the NBA. 


Rockets' New Plan For Success

It's probably best not to focus closely on what the Houston Rockets intend to do this summer, because it seems to change every hour. 

With Chris Paul seemingly on board for the Rockets moving forward, general manager Daryl Morey is busy plotting moves to get his team over the hump after consecutive playoff disappointments against the Golden State Warriors. 

Per ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Rockets hope to work out a sign-and-trade deal with the Philadelphia 76ers for Jimmy Butler

Per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, previous reports of Paul wanting to leave Houston were apparently unfounded:

"Paul never demanded a trade from the Rockets, league sources tell The Athletic, nor would there be much of a market for one. League sources said Houston officials and Paul met after the season ended in their Game 6 loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals, and both sides discussed the future. Paul informed the Rockets that if they decided to go younger and move in a different direction, he would understand and be a pro about it, according to league sources."

This came after Yahoo Sports' Vincent Goodwill reported Paul wanted out of Houston because his relationship with James Harden had become "unsalvageable."

Houston is already cash-strapped at $17.1 million over the salary cap right now. Potential trade pieces from the Rockets side, per Wojnarowski, include Clint Capela, Eric Gordon and PJ Tucker. 

With the Western Conference potentially opening up due to all the questions around the Warriors, the Rockets could conceivably run things back with this current roster and remain one of the two or three favorites to play in the NBA Finals. 

Morey tried that strategy last season and it didn't pay off, so it's not difficult to see why he would like to add a third star like Butler to the mix. 

The Sixers have great incentive to convince Butler his best path to future success is with them. They took the Toronto Raptors to seven games in a competitive back-and-forth playoff series before coming up short on a miracle buzzer-beater by Kawhi Leonard. 

If Philadelphia's core of Butler, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris returns, there's no reason it can't compete for a title next season. The Milwaukee Bucks could lose key pieces like Malcolm Brogdon and Brook Lopez in free agency. The Raptors have to wait on Leonard's decision before figuring out what their course of action will be. 

Morey's understanding of how fleeting success in the NBA is certainly increases his incentive to do something big this offseason. Whatever he ends up doing, it will likely include Paul staying on the roster. 


A Sleeper Team in D'Angelo Russell Sweepstakes

With most of the focus around D'Angelo Russell being on the Los Angeles Lakers, an interesting sleeper team has emerged from the shadows. 

Per Darren Wolfson of SKOR North, the Minnesota Timberwolves have tried to engage the Brooklyn Nets about a potential sign-and-trade swap involving Russell for Andrew Wiggins. 

Wolfson later added those discussions "never got even an inch off the ground."

While that would seem to put an end to any discussion of Russell ending up in Minnesota, The Athletic's Zach Harper appeared on 1500 SKOR North radio (h/t Joe Nelson of BringMetheNews.com) to offer this bit of information:

"So here's the thing that's tripping me out about this. Every smart person I talk to and every person who knows stuff I talk to says the Wolves have a real chance of getting D'Angelo Russell. And then I look at the cap situation and I look at the guys they have to send out to make it work. 

"I don't see how it's possible. I just don't. I've seen the layouts to what needs to happen and everything. There's no way Gersson [Rosas] can pull this off and yet there's so many smart people around the league telling me, 'no this is a real thing, this could happen.'"

If Minnesota is going to get Russell, it will most likely have to come through a sign-and-trade. The team is already $7.7 million over the salary cap with eight players under contract, including the non-guaranteed deals for Robert Covington and Cam Reynolds. 

Wiggins is still owed $122 million over the next four years. The 2014 No. 1 overall pick has been a disappointment so far, averaging 19.4 points on 44 percent shooting and being a poor defensive player

One option for the T-Wolves if they can't move Wiggins is to dangle Jeff Teague. The 31-year-old was being shopped prior to the trade deadline last February and is owed $19 million in 2019-20, the final season of his three-year contract. 

Per ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski, Zach Lowe and Bobby Marks, Russell will be among the Lakers' targets in free agency after they cleared $32 million in cap space as part of their trade agreement with the New Orleans Pelicans and Washington Wizards for Anthony Davis. 

It seems to be a long shot that the Timberwolves can make this work because of their cap situation and the degree of difficulty in making a trade work, but just being in the race does mean something with two days before players can start negotiating with teams. 

A pairing of Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns would certainly make Minnesota more interesting in the Western Conference. It would also give the franchise two foundation players who are both 23 years old. 


Celtics Keeping an Eye on Steven Adams

Coming off a season everyone involved with the franchise would like to forget, the Boston Celtics enter this summer seemingly in need of a makeover. 

It already seems a given that Kyrie Irving won't return. Brian Lewis of the New York Post reported the All-Star point guard is leaning toward taking an offer of $141 million over four years from the Brooklyn Nets when free agency begins. 

The Celtics also need a replacement center for Al Horford after Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald reported the 33-year-old expects to sign a four-year deal elsewhere this offseason. 

On the trade market, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston noted Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams "is on Boston's radar."

Blakely added there's no indication how strongly the Celtics will pursue Adams, or what they might be willing to offer to facilitate a deal with the Thunder. 

One potentially significant change for the Celtics came on Wednesday when Wojnarowski reported they are the front-runner to sign Kemba Walker with an expected contract offer of four years and $141 million. 

Celtics general manager Danny Ainge has made it clear through his roster decisions in recent years he's not going to act on emotion in an attempt to score public relations points with the fanbase.

Ainge traded Isaiah Thomas at the peak of his popularity to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of the Irving deal. He didn't want to use Jayson Tatum in an offer for Davis, per Marc Stein of the New York Times. He seems willing to let Horford leave for a more lucrative deal than he wanted to make. 

The Thunder have incentive to make a trade in an attempt to get under the luxury tax. Sports Illustrated's Joe Fischer reported prior to the draft Oklahoma City was making Adams, Andre Roberson and Dennis Schroder available to teams. 

Adams is owed $53.4 million over the final two years of his contract. The 25-year-old has value as a center who averaged 13.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game with 4.0 defensive win shares last season, per Basketball Reference.