Buying and Selling Latest NBA Trade Rumors
The 2021 NBA trade deadline isn't for another month, but the rumor mill is starting to heat up.
Here, we'll look at several of the latest rumors and gauge their likelihood of occurring. Smokescreens reign supreme around the trade deadline, so it's worth diving in to determine whether a specific deal is feasible.
Celtics Looking for an Upgrade
After getting off to an 11-8 start, the Boston Celtics have dropped seven of their last 11 games, including a blown 24-point lead against the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday. Kemba Walker has looked shaky since returning from his knee injury, and general manager Danny Ainge admitted last week that the team was "obviously not good" at the moment.
Ainge told B/R's A. Sherrod Blakely that "he's having conversations like always this time of year," while an Eastern Conference executive said, "I can't see how Danny can keep them as they are and not make some kind of a change."
The Celtics have a pair of All-Stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but they could use an upgrade in the frontcourt. Head coach Brad Stevens has been leaning on Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson, but neither project to be difference-makers in the playoffs.
Ainge has a $28.5 million traded player exception at his disposal, but it's unclear whether the Celtics have the assets to land a big fish such as Nikola Vucevic or Kristaps Porzingis. The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor mentioned Chicago Bulls forward Thaddeus Young as a potential trade target, but he'd be more of a stopgap for a franchise with aspirations of San Antonio Spurs-esque sustained contention.
Given the clamoring for something to change, Ainge will likely make a move at the deadline. It's unclear whether that will materially change Boston's 2020-21 trajectory, though.
Verdict: Buying that a trade will occur, selling that it will be an upgrade.
P.J. Tucker Is the Apple of Contenders' Eyes
After trading away James Harden, the Houston Rockets have less of a need for veterans like P.J. Tucker.
The 35-year-old has been stewing over his contract status for months, according to Kelly Iko, Sam Amick and Shams Charania of The Athletic. He's set to become a free agent after this season, and with the Rockets in free fall, they may decide to flip him before he leaves them empty-handed.
According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski (via Jordan Greer of Sporting News), the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat have all expressed interest in the gritty forward.
Tucker's relationship with Harden would make him a natural fit in Brooklyn, while all four title hopefuls would value his defensive versatility. However, the Rockets want a rotation player rather than draft picks and salary filler in return, according to Woj, which could complicate trade discussions.
Will one of the Lakers, Bucks, Nets or Heat acquire Tucker? Perhaps. Will he be on the Rockets at the end of the season? Almost certainly not.
Verdict: Buying Tucker's departure as confidently as possible.
Porzingis on the Outs in Dallas?
Kristaps Porzingis is rounding back into form after offseason knee surgery, but he's still far from the player whom the Dallas Mavericks hoped he'd be when they acquired him two years ago. He's been a major defensive liability, which begs the question of whether he can be Luka Doncic's long-term star sidekick.
The Mavericks also seem to be asking themselves that questions, as they're "quietly gauging Porzingis' trade value,” per B/R's Jake Fischer.
Considering what they gave up for him, the Mavericks were smart to trade for Porzingis when they did. Counting on him to be their defensive anchor is a risky proposition moving forward, though.
Big men with a history of lower leg injuries rarely have long and prolific careers. Porzingis' numerous ailments seem to already be taking a toll, as the explosiveness that he showed with the Knicks has only appeared in spurts with Dallas.
On the other hand, Porzingis is far from the only Maverick suffering from inconsistency this year. Most of the team has missed significant time because of injuries or COVID-19 protocols, and Dallas just had a weeklong layoff between games because of the inclement weather in Texas.
It would be harsh to judge Porzingis even based on a normal 17-game sample size. Given the circumstances surrounding his struggles, it would be surprising if the Mavericks moved him in the next month.
Verdict: Sell a Porzingis trade this season.
Michael Porter Jr. Only Available for a Superstar
Until Michael Porter Jr. is moved or consistently performs like an All-Star, he'll be a subject of trade rumors. However, the Denver Nuggets don't appear inclined to move their young X-factor.
"It's hard to envision Porter being traded for anything other than a [Bradley] Beal-type difference-maker," Nick Kosmider of The Athletic wrote. "The Nuggets need more time to collect evidence."
Porter has been inconsistent in terms of both performance and availability, but the Nuggets' biggest weakness is their lack of wing/forward depth. Trading Porter, Gary Harris and salary filler for Beal or another star would further exacerbate that problem, even if it might give Denver the best Big Three in the West.
The Nuggets never succumbed to the pressure to make a blockbuster trade even when they had deep rosters for the better part of the last decade. Now more than ever in the Nikola Jokic era, they should hold steadfast to their incumbent core, hope for progress from Porter, Bol Bol, R.J. Hampton and Zeke Nnaji, and continue to develop a homegrown contender.
Verdict: Buying Porter's untouchability.
Andre Drummond Drawing Significant Interest
When the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired Jarrett Allen in mid-January, it raised questions about Andre Drummond's future with the team.
Cleveland answered those questions emphatically last week.
According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Adrian Wojnarowski, the Cavaliers are "no longer planning to play" Drummond "as they work to trade him" prior to the March 25 deadline. A source close to Drummond told Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor that the big man is "disappointed because he wasn't looking to move on."
Fedor reported 8-10 teams have since reached out to the Cavaliers to inquire about Drummond. While he'd be a great addition to a team in need of interior help like the Dallas Mavericks or Toronto Raptors, his $28.8 million salary could complicate trade negotiations.
Given Drummond's rebounding acumen and athleticism, he might command a sizable market in free agency. But it's unlikely that roughly a third of the NBA's teams want to acquire him on his current contract.
Verdict: Buying outside interest in Drummond, selling that there's "significant" interest.
Blake Griffin Might Be Stuck
Blake Griffin and the Detroit Pistons have been growing apart for a while now. The Pistons are in the early stages of a rebuild, while the soon-to-be 32-year-old Griffin is a shell of his former All-Star self.
Last week, the two sides "agreed that he will be out of the lineup until the franchise and his representatives work through a resolution on his playing future," per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Following Woj's report, HoopsHype's Michael Scotto talked to several executives around the league about Griffin's future. One Western Conference executive said the Pistons had "been trying to trade him for months and can't find a taker."
Griffin is earning almost $36.6 million this year and has a nearly $39.0 player option next season. That's far too costly for a player averaging only 12.3 points on 36.5 percent shooting and 5.2 rebounds this season.
With John Wall showing a surprising amount of life in Houston and Russell Westbrook slowly playing his way back into form with the Wizards, Griffin has the worst contract in the NBA at the moment. Expect the Pistons to bite the bullet and buy the big man out at some point in the next several weeks.
Verdict: Buy that he won't be traded, sell that he'll finish the season in Detroit.
Orlando Wants to Keep Nikola Vucevic
Nikola Vucevic is playing the best basketball of his career, while the injury-riddled Orlando Magic are careening toward the bottom of the East standings. That sounds like the perfect recipe for a franchise-wide reset, but there's been radio silence on that front from Central Florida.
"Executives around the league say Orlando has shown no interest in moving Vucevic," according to Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer. "... Though the 30-year-old may not be part of their long-term future, he's an important piece to facilitate development of their young players."
Vucevic also seems to be in no hurry to move on.
"For now, I'm happy here," he said on the Ryen Russillo Podcast (h/t Frank Urbina of HoopsHype). "And I think that this year if we're full strength we would definitely be a playoff team and playing for something, and we would have a chance to fight in the playoffs and do something significant now. "
Vigorous denials from both sides should close the book on a Vucevic trade. But considering that Orlando wasn't set up for title contention even before season-ending injuries to Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz, the logic behind a Vucevic trade still makes sense.
Unfortunately for Boston Celtics or Dallas Mavericks fans, the Magic's attachment to their franchise big man seems genuine. The mediocre middle may seem like the worst place to be in the NBA, but they seem content with it right now.
Verdict: Buying that Vucevic stays put.
Hawks Want a Major Haul for John Collins
When the Atlanta Hawks spent the No. 6 pick on Onyeka Okongwu and signed Danilo Gallinari in free agency, it raised questions about John Collins' long-term future with the team.
The Hawks offered him an extension in excess of $90 million, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, but he's reportedly "seeking something at or near the max." However, sources around the league told Chris Kirschner of The Athletic last March that "there's hesitation on the Hawks' part when it comes to giving Collins significant money."
The Hawks "have shown a willingness to listen to offers for Collins" leading up to the trade deadline, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic. They want a "high first-round, lottery-level pick" in exchange for him, per The Athletic's Shams Charania.
If the Hawks don't trade Collins, he'll become a restricted free agent this offseason. Although they'll run the risk of losing him for nothing if they don't trade him by March 25, they'll have the right to match any offer sheet he signs with another team in free agency.
A Collins deal feels inevitable at this point. But it would make sense for the front office to see how the team fares over the second half of the season before deciding how to proceed.
Verdict: Selling a deadline deal.
Daryl Morey, 76ers Want to Go All in
After years of sitting in the East's second tier of contenders, the Philadelphia 76ers now have the best record in the conference and boast a legitimate MVP contender in Joel Embiid. However, new team president Daryl Morey is often active around the trade deadline, and that tradition looks like it may continue in Philadelphia.
Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer reported they're eyeing a big deal:
"League sources say Philadelphia, which came up short in its bid for Harden, is still seeking major moves to increase its championship odds. The trade market still needs to take shape in the coming weeks, so realistic targets are unclear. But one name to monitor is Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, a 34-year-old Philadelphia native in the final season of his contract. A veteran perimeter shot-creator is the only piece the Sixers truly lack, and there aren't many other players on Lowry's level who are even theoretically available."
It's unclear whether the Raptors are willing to listen to offers for Lowry, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. The Sixers would have trouble matching salaries for his $30 million contract, but Morey's history with blockbuster trades suggests we shouldn't rule out anything.
It would take a Herculean effort by the Sixers to pull off a deal for Lowry or somebody of his caliber, but don't be surprised if it happens.
Verdict: Buying Morey's interest in a blockbuster, selling that it actually happens.