Playing Trade or Keep with Every NBA Team's Best Trade Asset

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2021

Playing Trade or Keep with Every NBA Team's Best Trade Asset

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    The NBA trade market is always ready to burst.

    While more than a few trade seasons have come and gone with little in the way of notable activity, the 2020-21 iteration won't be one of them. James Harden, Victor Oladipo and Caris LeVert have already swapped jerseys. Any number of trade chips could be up next.

    That makes this the perfect time to assess each club's asset collection to find the very best. Since untouchable players can't serve as assets by their definition, don't be surprised to see most players in the vicinity of stardom excluded from this discussion. But if a player could reasonably hit the trade market between now and the March 25 deadline, he's eligible for this discussion.

    Roster-building materials like draft picks and financial flexibility are in the running, too.

    With those parameters in place, let's identify every team's best trade chip and decide whether it should stay or go.

Atlanta Hawks: John Collins

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    On first glance, John Collins seems like an untouchable. He's a 23-year-old with a 20-point, 10-rebound season on his resume and career per-36-minute averages of 20.6 points and 11.1 boards.

    And yet, the Atlanta Hawks keep sending signals they're less than certain about a long-term relationship with the bouncy big man. While he fashioned himself as a max-contract type of talent, they put his value in the $90 million range. They've also used the trade market (Clint Capela), the draft (Onyeka Okongwu) and free agency (Danilo Gallinari) to find frontcourt reinforcements.

    Tack on Collins' frustrations with his role in the offense—in a contract year, no less—and this situation feels like a pressure-packed pipe waiting to burst. The Hawks have the depth to withstand his subtraction, and they should seek out something in return before he walks for nothing in free agency.

    Verdict: Trade

Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    The Boston Celtics have a pair of untouchables in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, an on-the-mend All-Star in Kemba Walker, a small collection of role players and a host of prospects who haven't shown enough pop to be considered a top trade chip. Marcus Smart lies somewhere in between, which earns him sole possession of the top-asset designation.

    His toughness and ferocity have ingrained him in the fabric of the franchise, so he wouldn't be shown the exits in just any deal. But if Boston sensed a soft spot in its roster—say, the Al Horford replacement the team has yet to uncover—then Smart's $13.4 million salary would almost certainly need to be sacrificed.

    Anything short of a blockbuster, though, and the bulldog defender with a better-than-you-think outside stroke (35.3 percent since the start of 2018-19) would be too valuable to let go. The unlikelihood of said needle-mover coming together midseason should keep Smart draped in green and white.

    Verdict: Keep

Brooklyn Nets: Kyrie Irving

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    The Brooklyn Nets pushed almost all of their trade chips to the center of the table in the landscape-altering acquisition of James Harden. But perhaps the most interesting name around this discussion belonged to one of the few players who wasn't let go: Kyrie Irving.

    His name was attached to those talks, which makes it fair to wonder if the organization might tag him as expendable should the right opportunity come along. His mysterious absence of late creates some questions and offers no answers, and he's likely facing the most dramatic adjustment with Harden in town.

    After engineering awkward exits from the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, perhaps Irving's trade value isn't quite what it could be, but it should still be significant. He makes the short list of the league's toughest covers, as his scorching seven-game sample from 2020-21 can attest: 27.1 points and 6.1 assists per game with an absurd 50.4/42.6/100.0 shooting slash.

    The Nets seem more than comfortable with being top-heavy, so barring an unforeseen Godfather offer for Irving, they should keep that top tier as loaded as possible. If head coach Steve Nash can find the right allocation of minutes, touches and shots, the Irving-Harden-Kevin Durant trio could be magical.

    Verdict: Keep

Charlotte Hornets: Devonte' Graham

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The Charlotte Hornets remain early enough in their post-Kemba Walker rebuild to keep all notable youngsters off the table. The production levels of Gordon Hayward (22.2 points on 49.3/40.9/93.1 shooting) and Terry Rozier (19.9 on 47.8/44.3/77.3) are too rich to rock the boat there, too.

    That bends this spotlight over to Devonte' Graham, then, almost by default. While he's struggling mightily to replicate last season's surprise success, he remains a capable scorer who can orchestrate an offense (career 5.5 assists against 1.9 turnovers) and catch fire from distance (3.5 triples per night last season, seventh-most overall).

    He's also increasingly expendable with No. 3 pick LaMelo Ball finding his form. Between the need to clear the runway for the rookie and the gaping void at center—Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo are both ticketed for free agency after this season—a Graham-for-a-big swap should certainly be explored.

    Verdict: Trade

Chicago Bulls: Zach LaVine

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Zach LaVine is cruising at All-Star altitudes. While the best player on a bottom-feeder can sometimes be knocked for having good numbers on a bad team, at some point the numbers become too good ignore. LaVine's scoring average—26.9 points per game, sixth-best in the NBA—certainly qualifies.

    The problem is he's playing above his pay grade ($19.5 million salary both this season and next) and unsurprisingly disinterested in keeping that going. "LaVine is not only looking for All-Star respect but financial respect," Joe Cowley reported for the Chicago Sun-Times, noting the sides moved on from extension talks before the season tipped.

    Chicago isn't in position to splurge, and despite the gaudy scoring numbers, LaVine isn't worth a face-of-the-franchise investment. The Bulls, who have overhauled their front office and changed coaches since acquiring the scoring guard in 2017, should cash in LaVine for assets now before he becomes too expensive to keep.

    Verdict: Trade

Cleveland Cavaliers: Andre Drummond

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    Paul Beaty/Associated Press

    Raise your hand if you think the Cleveland Cavaliers are ready to be substantial buyers on the trade market. Now, lower your hand if you're: a member of the organization, a relative of someone who is or in the running to be named the world's most optimistic fan.

    All hands are down, right? Good. That eliminates both all of this club's youth and all current and future draft picks from consideration.

    That should leave Andre Drummond on a tier to himself. He shouldn't be in the franchise's long-term plans given its savvy acquisition of Jarrett Allen, but he should have positive trade value—something that eludes Kevin Love—given Drummond's expiring $28.8 million salary and established elite skill.

    Interior bigs might be going out of style, but rebound-needy teams should still have an interest in someone who's on pace to claim his fifth rebounding title in six seasons. (If Drummond doesn't have an endorsement deal with a glass cleaner, his marketing team is doing it wrong.) As soon as a win-now shopper wants to bulk up in the middle, Cleveland should be on the horn to squeeze as many assets as possible for the big fella.

    Verdict: Trade

Dallas Mavericks: Tim Hardaway Jr.

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    The Dallas Mavericks' hunt for a third star signals two things. First, that its two incumbent stars, Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, are going nowhere. Second, that the rest of this roster may well be up for grabs.

    There's an interesting debate to be had about the next-most valuable asset—if there wasn't, then the third-star search wouldn't be necessary—but we'll side with professional net-shredder Tim Hardaway Jr. Scientists have classified his shooting stroke as a flammable substance (3.8 threes a night at a 42.4 percent clip so far), and he's capable of attacking on or off the ball.

    If that's not enticing enough, he's also attached to a colossal $19 million expiring salary, meaning suitors could get a scoring lift now and financial flexibility this offseason. But is that enough to anchor an exchange for a legitimate difference-maker like Bradley Beal? We're skeptical (at the very least), so the smart strategy is probably playing out this season with Hardaway and seeing if free agency might deliver the missing piece of the Mavs' Big Three.

    Verdict: Keep

Denver Nuggets: Michael Porter Jr.

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    When the Denver Nuggets kicked the tires on a James Harden megadeal, Jamal Murray was never mentioned. He already held untouchable status, with the club holding him in the same "franchise cornerstone" light as Nikola Jokic, per Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

    Instead, the Houston Rockets' interest "centered firmly" on sophomore scoring forward Michael Porter Jr. As it should have. If you're trudging into a rebuild, you should probably do it around a 22-year-old averaging 20.8 points per 36 minutes on 51.6/42.2/83.8 shooting through his first 59 games.

    He's a nightmare matchup as a 6'10" three-level scorer, and his stock perked up as soon as his defensive effort did late last season. He could be the focal point of a trade package for a top-tier star, but Denver should be careful about unloading its asset collection before getting a better grasp of where the ceiling sits for the Murray-Jokic-Porter trio. That might become a championship foundation sooner than later.

    Verdict: Keep

Detroit Pistons: Derrick Rose

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The Detroit Pistons haven't even hit the water yet after starting their deep-dive into a rebuild at last season's trade deadline. All picks and prospects should be considered off limits until further notice.

    Blake Griffin has so much wear and tear that he'll challenge the notion that all NBA contracts are tradeable. Jerami Grant's $19 million salary is too rich once his stats are hit with the "bad team" caveat. Wayne Ellington's three-ball might entice spacing-starved contenders, but Detroit will be lucky to bring back more than a mid-level second-rounder.

    Derrick Rose is the clear choice here, even if his numbers aren't as rosy (sorry) as last season. As a quick-strike scorer who can pilot a second-team attack, he might be worth a first-round pick from someone, and the Pistons should pounce as soon as that offer materializes. That's simply worth more to this rebuild than any mentorship Rose is providing to rookie Killian Hayes.

    Verdict: Trade

Golden State Warriors: Minnesota's 2021 1st-Round Pick

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The Golden State Warriors could make this a fascinating debate if they were willing to discuss deals involving No. 2 pick James Wiseman. They shouldn't be. He's as tools-y as they come at the center spot, his offensive bag features a lot more than rim-running, and his nimble feet can handle a lot of perimeter switches on defense. Oh yeah, and dude is 19 years old, plus he fills a position of need for this roster.

    So, apologies to all the Wiseman dreamers residing outside the Bay Area, but he should not be in play in almost any deal.

    That shifts top billing over to the juicy 2021 first-round pick owed to the Warriors by the Minnesota Timberwolves—i.e., the team tied for 28th in winning percentage and dead last in net efficiency rating. The pick carries only top-three protection, and as bad as the Timberwolves can be this season, they won't have more than a 40.1 percent chance of netting a top-three selection.

    There are more than three drool-worthy prospects in the upcoming draft class, so if the Warriors fielded offers for the pick, they should get some goodies. But the win-now motivation to move the selection in-season just isn't there.

    The Warriors can use the rest of this campaign to gauge how good they really are (and how good they can be with a hopefully healthy Klay Thompson), and if they discover they're close enough to title contention to justify dealing this draft pick, they can engineer a trade over the offseason.

    Verdict: Keep

Houston Rockets: Victor Oladipo

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The wheels hadn't even touched down during Victor Oladipo's journey to the Houston Rockets before word leaked that he wanted out of Space City. "Oladipo...landed in another place he doesn't want to be," The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor reported, and he "still hopes to find himself in Miami."

    Condolences to anyone who ponied up for an Oladipo Rockets jersey.

    That's just as well, though, since Houston shouldn't want him around long term. He's 28 years old, coming off of a pair of injury-ravaged seasons and possibly about to be owed a metric ton of money in free agency. The Rockets don't have the upside to justify covering that cost, so they should reroute him elsewhere for assets as soon as possible.

    Verdict: Trade

Indiana Pacers: Myles Turner

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The Indiana Pacers are feisty, as per usual. They probably haven't even played their best hand yet, since Jeremy Lamb, T.J. Warren and newcomer Caris LeVert are all on the mend.

    The Pacers could bunker down and see where new coach Nate Bjorkgren can take them, and for the most part, that's the sensible move to make. For as deep as this roster is, there aren't many expendable players.

    Myles Turner should probably be considered as such, though. While he's a tremendous talent—on course to nab his second blocks title in three seasons—he just looks out of place on the same roster as Warren and Domantas Sabonis. If the Pacers could use Turner to find more shot-creation and perimeter scoring, that's a deal worth making.

    Verdict: Trade

Los Angeles Clippers: Ivica Zubac

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    Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Clippers have three chips to help them grant Kawhi Leonard's wish for an upgrade at point guard: Ivica Zubac, Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley. Zubac should hold the most appeal for his age (23) and unique skills for this roster.

    "[Zubac] has the most value because he's a true big man and he's still young," a rival executive told Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times.

    For as potent as Williams' point-production can be, the Clippers have other scoring options. They also have the defensive depth to survive without Beverley. Take Zubac off of this roster, though, and L.A. would be backtracking in boards, blocks and brute force on the interior. That's what separates him from the two guards, but it's also what probably makes Zubac more valuable than whatever he'd bring back in a trade.

    Verdict: Keep

Los Angeles Lakers: Talen Horton-Tucker

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Are we jumping the gun on Talen Horton-Tucker? Perhaps. He wasn't even a rotation regular last season, and he might not always hold that role this time around. He's obviously less established than other possible trade assets like Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell.

    So, why give the nod to the 20-year-old scorer? Well, Kuzma is brutally hard to trade now with the poison-pill restriction of his new pact, Harrell's market might be limited as an interior scoring specialist, and interest in Horton-Tucker is already trending up. "Multiple teams" are expected to chase Horton-Tucker in free agency this upcoming offseason, per's Sean Deveney.

    But the Lakers will have some control of the situation, since they can give Horton-Tucker the highest starting salary. Unless his market goes bonkers, he's almost certainly worth keeping as he provides both a present lift with spark-plug scoring and hope for the future with ample time for his game to develop.

    Verdict: Keep

Memphis Grizzlies: Kyle Anderson

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    The Memphis Grizzlies have been without Jaren Jackson Jr. this entire season, and they've only had Ja Morant available in four contests. That should have sucked the fun out of Beale Street, but Kyle Anderson didn't let that happen.

    Instead, the jumbo playmaker used the many absences to propel is strongest statistical start to date. If the curtains fell on this campaign today, he'd leave it with career highs in almost every category, including points (12.8), rebounds (7.2), assists (4.3) and threes (1.4). Tack on a decent amount of defensive pliability, and you have a legitimately interesting player.

    But he's not worth keeping around. Not with his trade value presumably at an all-time high, and especially not if he can help deliver a wing scorer who would make Memphis less dependent on the shot-chucking Dillon Brooks.

    Verdict: Trade

Miami Heat: Tyler Herro

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    NBA existences aren't meant to be lived on the extremes. Never getting too high or too low is perhaps the most critical advice a neophyte hooper can hear.

    Players like Tyler Herro make that tricky to remember. Whether due to his still-developing skill set or the fact he participates in the Miami Heat's egalitarian attack, there are nights where he seems ticketed for superstardom and others that make you wonder if he'd be optimized in an instant-offense sixth-man role.

    The Heat are banking on the former, and they're working to help realize that potential by increasing his on-ball responsibilities. If he grows into a primary-creator role, his ceiling rockets toward the penthouse. That makes him a must in any Miami move for a superstar, but the Heat may not have the complementary trade chips to get a megadeal done, in which case there's no sense in shopping Herro.

    Verdict: Keep

Milwaukee Bucks: Donte DiVincenzo

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The Milwaukee Bucks moved most of their available trade chips to the center of the table for this offseason's acquisition of Jrue Holiday. So unless there's an enormous fan of D.J. Wilson, Jordan Nwora or Sam Merrill out there, there shouldn't be a peep of pushback to this selection.

    Donte DiVincenzo, the 17th pick in 2018, is Milwaukee's only rotation regular who's still ascending toward his peak. He might plateau a tier or two shy of stardom, but he's a solid starter with the glue-guy tools to fill a number of different roles. And who knows, maybe his production would considerably perk up if he weren't surrounded by the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Holiday.

    Don't spend too much time mentally unraveling that hypothetical, though. DiVincenzo should be going nowhere. He'd only make sense to swap out for a star, and the Bucks didn't leave enough in the cupboards to broker that kind of trade.

    Verdict: Keep

Minnesota Timberwolves: Jarrett Culver

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Stop us if you've heard this before, but the Minnesota Timberwolves are going nowhere fast. They have the worst net rating in the league, and insult gets added to insult upon remembering this franchise owes the Golden State Warriors a top-three protected pick at season's end.

    The Timberwolves can't keep going like this. Even if they're hopeful of better days ahead when Karl-Anthony Towns can return, they have to realize their ceiling hangs uncomfortably low.

    At the very least, Minnesota should explore selective selling ahead of the deadline. Why not see what the market might bear for 2019's sixth overall pick, Jarrett Culver? Sure, it might be selling low, but how is he supposed to establish any trade value when competing with Anthony Edwards, Malik Beasley and Josh Okogie for minutes and shots? Hanging onto Culver for longer might only send his trade worth further into the red.

    Verdict: Trade

New Orleans Pelicans: Lonzo Ball

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    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    The New Orleans Pelicans could be on the verge of something big. Overloaded with draft picks and prospects, they might be the next team to negotiate a blockbuster trade.

    "The Pelicans are sitting on a pile of future firsts acquired for Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, plus a bevy of talented young players and tradable veterans," The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor wrote. "Execs from other teams don't believe Pelicans executive vice president David Griffin will sit on his assets for long considering how good Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson already are."

    If a blockbuster is coming to the Big Easy, that likely means Lonzo Ball is going. Even if his shooting never comes along, 2017's No. 2 pick will intrigue with his playmaking, vision, rebounding and defense. He's also in a strange spot with the Pelicans, since restricted free agency awaits him at year's end, and they might not want to pay his next pact with Eric Bledsoe, Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kira Lewis Jr. all on the roster.

    Verdict: Trade

New York Knicks: Cap Space

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    If the New York Knicks aren't linked to most trade talks, then their front office is doing it wrong.

    They have more than $15 million in available cap space, and that number should attract anyone needing a dumping ground for a bloated deal or more spending money for 2021 free agency. Should the Knicks feel frisky enough to chase a star, this maneuverability could help with that, too, since they could bring back an unsightly salary along with the marquee addition.

    Either way, this flexibility should be put to use. The Knicks should be playing it patient with their young players, and few things (if any) will be more beneficial to those budding ballers than the arrival of roster-strengthening future assets.

    Verdict: Trade

Oklahoma City Thunder: George Hill

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Remembering that we're all in a safe space here, how many of you would care to admit that you forgot George Hill played for the Oklahoma City Thunder? It's OK, folks. Between the condensed offseason schedule, all of the off-court situations holding your attention and OKC's transparent focus on the future, maybe Hill's residence in the Sooner State slipped your mind—or never actually entered it.

    Want to guess who's very familiar with Hill's setting? All of the contenders ready to pluck him out of it. Interest was brewing around the battle-tested guard before the season even tipped, and he should have increased it by shooting a scorching 47.9 percent from the field and more than quadrupling his nine giveaways with 38 assists.

    Oh, and have we mentioned that only $1.3 million of his $10 million salary is guaranteed for 2021-22? Yeah, every win-now buyer with a backcourt opening should be flooding the Thunder with phone calls, texts, emails, DMs and any other method of bending the ears or eyes of GM Sam Presti, who's surely eager to turn Hill into even more draft picks.

    Verdict: Trade

Orlando Magic: Nikola Vucevic

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    Jeffrey McWhorter/Associated Press

    In November 2018, Nikola Vucevic told The Athletic's Josh Robbins, "There's been rumors about me being traded for years now." Well, sorry, Vooch, but those probably weren't quieted by the two short playoff appearances the Orlando Magic made between then and now.

    Vucevic turned 30 years old in October. Save for securing an annual pass to the play-in tournament, what could the Magic realistically hope to achieve by keeping him around? The franchise's two most important players—Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz—remain rough around the edges, and neither will suit up again this season due to knee injuries.

    This should be fire-sale time for the franchise, and Vucevic should be atop the wish list of several win-now shoppers. He's on course to average 19 points, 10 rebounds and three assists for the third straight season, a feat only matched by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Karl-Anthony Towns. Vucevic's jump in three-point volume and efficiency has also rocketed his true shooting percentage up to 60.3, about the same as Stephen Curry's 61.0.

    Vucevic would be a godsend for a team needing more offense on the interior, and Orlando should be happy to collect a package of picks and prospects from that suitor.

    Verdict: Trade

Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    No player moved the needle more in the James Harden sweepstakes than Ben Simmons. While the Philadelphia 76ers can deny how heavily 2016's No. 1 pick was actually discussed, it sounds like he was very much obtainable should the Houston Rockets have been given the green light to reunite Harden with Daryl Morey.

    "The Sixers thought they had a deal for Harden done, according to sources," Keith Pompey reported for the Philadelphia Inquirer. "The team won't come out and say it, but Morey pushed hard to reunite with the 2018 MVP. Simmons and [Matisse] Thybulle were even informed by their agents on Wednesday of an expected trade."

    Simmons, a five-position defender who doubles as a super-sized playmaker and open-court locomotive, is the kind of player you only consider parting with when a talent like Harden is on the table. As soon as that door closed, though, so too should have any pathways connecting Simmons to the trade market.

    Verdict: Keep

Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The Phoenix Suns engineered an identity-changer in November when they won the Chris Paul sweepstakes. But the rest of the league was so frightened of the remaining money owed to the Point God ($41.4 million for this season, $44.2 million player option for 2021-22) that the Suns barely dipped into their asset pool to get a difference-making deal done.

    They have the war chest needed to pursue a superstar should one catch their attention. Even after removing Devin Booker from consideration, they have a pair of possible centerpieces in Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges. If forced to choose, though, the wager is Phoenix would rather sacrifice Ayton, if only because interior bigs lag behind ace three-and-D wings in the modern NBA's pecking order.

    But considering how impressive the Suns have looked while clearly still finding their rhythm—their starting five owns a minus-6.5 net rating—why would they rush to do a second massive trade? Playing this out to determine their ceiling (and Ayton's) is the much more advisable option.

    Verdict: Keep

Portland Trail Blazers: CJ McCollum

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    Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

    It feels like CJ McCollum has hovered around the rumor mill forever. Don't expect him to abandon his post any time soon.

    He's evolving from superstar sidekick to full-fledged elite. Averaging 26.7 points per night is impressive enough on its own. Doing it while also assembling a 47.3/44.1/84.4 shooting slash is borderline sorcery. If teams come calling for McCollum, that will be the reason for the inquiry. Well, that and the ongoing debate about whether the Portland Trail Blazers need to break apart the undersized, offense-centered backcourt of McCollum and Damian Lillard.

    Can the Blazers win the big one with these guards leading the charge? Great question. The more important one to ponder, though, is whether a McCollum trade would actually move this group any closer to championship contention. It would probably help the 26th-ranked defense, sure, but at what cost to the seventh-ranked attack?

    If Portland makes a move, it should be to beef up the roster around these guards, not break them apart.

    Verdict: Keep

Sacramento Kings: Marvin Bagley III

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    Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

    Well, Marvin Bagley II, you asked for this.

    The father of 2018's No. 2 pick, Marvin Bagley III, aired out his frustrations on social media—always a great idea—and begged for the Sacramento Kings to send his son elsewhere. We'd advise the Kings to grant that wish, so long as the father's rumblings didn't spoil the potential return.

    Bagley isn't short on talent, but he has battled injuries and inconsistency. It's easy to wonder if a change of scenery might help to ease his mind by moving him away from a fanbase that might always remember him as "NOT Luka Doncic." Sacramento could get a lot of mileage out of a deal that swaps out Bagley for an impact wing and allows Harrison Barnes to man the 4 spot full-time.

    Verdict: Trade

San Antonio Spurs: DeMar DeRozan

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    There are three wildly entertaining points of NBA interest in the Lone Star State: Luka Doncic doing Luka Doncic things in Dallas, Christian Wood launching into stardom in Space City, and the youth of the San Antonio Spurs breathing new life into the Alamo City.

    None of San Antonio's up-and-comers should find themselves in the same zip code as the trade block. Conversely, all of the Spurs veterans on expiring contracts should be up for grabs.

    That's technically a quartet, but DeMar DeRozan is the most coveted of the group that also features LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills. Scoring-starved shoppers will be hard-pressed to find more production than what DeRozan supplies: 20.7 points and 6.7 assists on a nightly basis. If clubs can make the money work to accommodate DeRozan's $27.7 million salary, the Spurs would be wise to grab the picks or prospects made available.

    Verdict: Trade

Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    When is a trade chip not a trade chip? Maybe when the player has intrinsically tied himself to the identity of a franchise and played a pivotal role in delivering its first NBA title? Perhaps.

    But sentimentality goes out the window at some point, and maybe the Toronto Raptors and Kyle Lowry have moved beyond it. The defense doesn't look the same without Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, and the offense might be missing a top-shelf option. It's still early, but the clock is ticking louder by the day considering we're talking about a 34-year-old (35 in March) on the final season of his contract.

    Separate the #Feelz from the business of basketball, and it could be in the Raptors' best interest to field offers for their floor general. Should a contender view Lowry as its missing piece—a distinct possibility given his two-way impact—it might be willing to part with enough for the Raptors to let go of their iconic lead guard.

    Verdict: Trade

Utah Jazz: Joe Ingles

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    This spot almost went to the 2021 second-round pick coming from the Golden State Warriors. It's not that the Utah Jazz lack desired players. It's that it's almost impossible to find ones who could conceivably be had in trade and be worth as much (or more) to trade suitors as they are to the Jazz.

    Even this feels like a stretch, since Utah gets tons of mileage out of Joe Ingles' ability to pilot a second-team attack, splash open jumpers and defend multiple positions. But if not him, then who?

    Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are off-limits. Mike Conley is too expensive and too talented to give away. Utah targeted the firepower of Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson for a reason. Royce O'Neale's defensive impact is enormous. Ditto for Derrick Favors.

    Suitors wouldn't get far calling about any of the above. And they wouldn't place calls about the rest of this roster. But if Ingles, who has this season and next on his contract, wouldn't crack Utah's playoff closing lineup, then maybe it would consider moving him in the right deal. We can't figure out what that deal would possibly be, though.

    Verdict: Keep

Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    In Bradley Beal's three highest-scoring games of the season, he's delivered 60, 41 and 39 points. The Washington Wizards are 0-3 in those contests.

    How much longer does this need to go on before one side (or both) decides it's time to cut the cord? The Wizards could easily see a Beal deal as their ticket to a revamped roster, and he might soon be ready to admit it just isn't working in Washington.

    "I just want to win," he said after his 60 points weren't enough to knock off the Philadelphia 76ers, per ESPN's Tim Bontemps. "Sometimes you might be able to score 40, 50, 60, whatever the case may be, but I just want to win, whatever that looks like."

    Contenders should be racing to give him that opportunity and paying a heavy premium to get that done. Washington's roster is in such dire shape that a mountain of picks and prospects might be the only way to eventually fix it.

    Verdict: Trade


    All stats current through games played on Jan. 17 and used courtesy of and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.

    Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.


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