Buying or Selling Latest NBA Trade Rumors

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2021

Buying or Selling Latest NBA Trade Rumors

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    Darren Abate/Associated Press

    Trade musings are starting to mount as the NBA inches closer to the March 25 trade deadline. The intensity is palpable, the reports wide-ranging and the sources anonymous.

    It is our job—nay, our obligation—as respectable basketball junkies to parse the latest chatter and offer our totally and completely unsolicited opinions.

    As a reminder, all buy-and-sell verdicts are not meant to comment on the validity of included reports. They are instead barometers for the sensibility and feasibility of each rumor.

    Let's go gossip-hunting.

Boston Wants Harrison Barnes

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge previously said he was on the prowl for "shooting with size." If it seems like he was describing Harrison Barnes, well, you're right.

    "The Celtics want Harrison Barnes," Brian Scalabrine, the team's color commentator, said (via NBC Boston's Chris Forsberg). "Don't listen to all the smoke and mirrors about all these other guys." Sam Amick of The Athletic echoed this sentiment, writing that the "rumblings had grown louder in recent weeks."

    Barnes fits neatly inside the "shooting with size" bucket. He is 6'8" and swishing 39.2 percent of his threes, not to mention downing a career-best 55.4 percent of his twos. He also happens to fit neatly into the Celtics' Gordon Hayward trade exception without forcing them to send out a larger salary to remain under the hard cap.

    Cost still figures to be an issue. Barnes is a complementary scorer and solid defender at both forward spots on a declining deal that pays him $36.8 million over the next two seasons. The Sacramento Kings aren't moving him strictly for cap relief.

    Offering this year's first-rounder and either another protected pick or one of their low-salaried youngsters is a good place for the Celtics to start. But it still might not be enough. Serviceable wings are in scant supply on this year's trade market. Other contenders will be sniffing around Barnes.

    Boston may need to throw out two heavily protected picks and one of its non-core kiddies to really stand out. That should not be a deal-breaker.

    The Celtics are desperately thin on the wings after Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Grant Williams has sponged up some time at the 3, and they have Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson logging minutes together. Barnes would address both positional shortages, and the two years left on his deal dovetail nicely with the expiration of Kemba Walker's contract should he exercise his $37.7 million player option in 2022-23.

    Verdict: Buy the Celtics' interest. Partially buy their giving up the assets necessary to get a deal done.

Sacramento Is Shifting to Seller Mode

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Speaking of the Kings: They must be willing to entertain offers for Harrison Barnes if teams like the Celtics want a shot at him. It turns out they may have reached that point.

    Sources told The Athletic's Sam Amick that Sacramento has "shifted to 'seller' mode in recent weeks after losing 11 of 13 games heading into the All-Star break." This tracks—and strongly.

    A Kings auction has long felt inevitable, even before their latest rut. General manager Monte McNair hinted at his commitment to a youth movement by letting Bogdan Bogdanovic, 28, walk in restricted free agency this past offseason.

    Barnes, who turns 29 in May, is an obvious goner if Sacramento fire-sales it up. Buddy Hield should be considered up for grabs, too, although moving him for actual value will be tougher given his recent shooting slump and the three years and $62.5 million left on his contract. Marvin Bagley III is also on the table, per Amick. No one should bet on Nemanja Bjelica finishing the season in Sacramento.

    Nobody on this roster except De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton should be considered untouchable. But it will be Richaun Holmes who tests the limits of the Kings' appetite to sell.

    He is a reliable finisher around the basket, wields a highly effective push shot and runs the floor well. He's probably Sacramento's second-best player. But he'll hit free agency after the season, and if the Kings aren't prepared to pony up for the 27-year-old big man, they're better off capitalizing on the peak of his value now.

    Coming up with a prospective package benchmark is tough. One middling first-round pick shouldn't get it done. Maybe the Kings can get two firsts from a contender. But are two late firsts worth it? And should anyone be giving up two firsts—or a first and a good prospect—for a non-star about to hit free agency?

    Verdict: Buy the Kings making at least two significant trades. Sell the likelihood that one of them includes moving Holmes.

Philly Is Casting a Wide Net

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Daryl Morey's team is prepared to be hyper-aggressive at the trade deadline. Surprise, surprise.

    "Based on conversations with sources close to the [Philadelphia 76ers], they are not content with their current roster," Bleacher Report's Jason Dumas wrote. "A source tells B/R the team has inquired about the availability of Will Barton, P.J. Tucker, Delon Wright and George Hill."

    Nearly every single one of these names makes some sense for the Sixers. Delon Wright, who's currently on the shelf with a right adductor injury, is the lone exception.

    Wright packs a defensive punch across both guard spots and some wings, and he provides a dose of rim pressure at the other end. However, his 38.4 percent clip from three is an outlier relative to the rest of his career, and it doesn't come on significant volume. Things could get clumpy on offense if Philly tried to play him, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons together.

    P.J. Tucker isn't particularly necessary, either. He can play beside Embiid at the 4 but is most valuable as a small-ball 5. The Sixers can maybe carve out backup center minutes for him in postseason matchups that don't suit Dwight Howard, but he's only appealing if he doesn't cost anything or anyone of substance.

    Will Barton is an ideal fit. He isn't scoring or shooting at the same clip he was last year, but the Denver Nuggets offensive pecking order has never been more crowded. The best version of him drills set threes, generates his own offense off the dribble and offers another layer of table-setting.

    Any Barton acquisition probably needs to include a third team. The Nuggets may not want to carry his $14.7 million player option for next season, but they won't trade him for filler. A straight-up swap is more feasible if they're intrigued by Danny Green's expiring contract, but the Sixers will lose some defensive pizzazz in that scenario—notable in a potential showdown with the Brooklyn Nets.

    George Hill feels like the middle ground. He hasn't played since Jan. 24 after having right thumb surgery, but nobody expects him to finish the year with the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to ESPN's Tim Bontemps. His 38.6 percent clip from deep would be dynamite for Philly, and although he doesn't provide traditional from-scratch scoring, he is hitting 61.5 percent of his looks on drives—a top-four mark among 169 players who have taken at least as many shots in such situations.

    Hashing out a deal with the Thunder could be a cinch. Attaching a late first-rounder to Mike Scott and Vincent Poirier should get the job done. And for those asking: No, the Sixers shouldn't flinch at giving away a bottom-five first for Hill when he comes with a $1 million partial guarantee for next season—affording them the flexibility to keep him or move on depending on how the rest of this year shakes out.

    Verdict: Buy Philly's interest in Barton and Hill. Lightly buy its interest in Tucker. Sell its interest in Wright.

Houston Is Headed for a Fire Sale

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    Bob Levey/Associated Press

    Everyone expects the Houston Rockets to shed talent at the trade deadline. But how much?

    "Houston's gonna burn the house down," one assistant general manager told Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer.

    A full-on fire sale doesn't seem to be in the cards, according to the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen. Loosely translated: Keep your hands off Christian Wood. And probably Jae'Sean Tate, too.

    Expect everyone else to be eminently available. Then go ahead and bet on both Victor Oladipo and P.J. Tucker, at the very least, finding new homes by the deadline.

    Oladipo hasn't played particularly well since coming over from the Indiana Pacers and already rejected a two-year extension, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The latter doesn't mean much if he's prioritizing a longer-term deal. He's as good as gone anyway. Shelling out big-time money for him doesn't jibe with the rebuild Houston has no choice other than to enter.

    Tucker is 35, set to hit free agency himself and wasn't happy when the Rockets failed to sign him to an extension before the start of the season. If they don't trade him, he'll likely hit the buyout market.

    Another name worth monitoring: Danuel House Jr. His three-ball isn't falling (31.2 percent), but that number should climb within an offense feeding him better looks, and he can soak up minutes as a 3, 4 and even small-ball 5.

    Owed only $3.9 million next season, he's worth a few good seconds by himself or could be attached to any Tucker or Oladipo deal as a means to drive up Houston's return.

    Verdict: Sell Houston holding a complete fire sale. Buy the eventual exits of Oladipo, Tucker and House.

Orlando Not Interested in Moving Nikola Vucevic

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Once again, like clockwork, the case for the Orlando Magic to blow it up writes itself. Only this time, in addition to seeming their usual amount of stuck and starved for offense, they're also beset by injuries.

    Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac are out for the season with torn ACLs. Aaron Gordon hasn't played since Jan. 31 because of an ankle sprain. Cole Anthony is recovering from a rib fracture. Evan Fournier (groin) and James Ennis (calf) are both banged up. Michael Carter-Williams missed a chunk of time with a foot injury.

    Cracking any stage of the postseason seems like a reach. The Magic are only four losses out of play-in territory, but reinforcements aren't on the way. They will be overmatched even with a healthy Fournier and Gordon. Now feels like a good time to tear it down and begin anew around Anthony, Fultz, Isaac and Chuma Okeke.

    Or not.

    Orlando is "sending strong signals" it has "no interest in trading" Nikola Vucevic ahead of the deadline, according to the New York Times' Marc Stein. Please try to hide your complete and utter non-surprise.

    This is actually fine. Vucevic is averaging 24.6 points, 11.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists while shooting a career-best 41.2 percent from downtown. He is very much the Magic's offense for long stretches. It only helps their cause to trade him if they're receiving a godfather offer in return, and those don't usually come for non-megastar bigs with two years and $46 million left on their deal after this season.

    To be clear, that isn't an insult to Vooch. The center market is just brutal for those not cut from the mold of Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns.

    Verdict: Buy Orlando holding onto Vooch.

Clippers Don't Want to Trade Lou Williams

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Lou Williams is apparently staying put with the Los Angeles Clippers, according to The Athletic's Sam Amick:

    "Though he was known to be very available in the offseason, after his on-court struggles in the bubble and the Magic City distraction in Atlanta complicated matters for the Clippers during their awful playoff finish, sources say that is not the case now. The combination of Williams’ leadership and much-improved play after his early-season slump have gone a long way toward re-establishing his pivotal place in their program."

    This isn't ridiculous on its face. The Clippers are third in points scored per 100 possessions but don't get to the rim or free-throw line nearly enough. Williams is instrumental to preserving the sanctity of that model.

    He, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are super comfortable knocking down absurdly difficult jumpers. And while his foul-baiting doesn't always hit the right note, he's still second on the Clippers in free throws attempted per 36 minutes.

    Moving Williams also feels counterintuitive when so many are clamoring for Los Angeles to acquire a point guard. He isn't what you would call a traditional floor general, but he's their best playmaking guard. No one on the team is dishing out more assists per 36 minutes.

    At the same time, if the Clippers are going to do anything of consequence at the trade deadline, they'll need to use Williams or Patrick Beverley as salary anchors. They aren't moving George or Leonard, and they don't have the requisite big-man depth to deal Serge Ibaka or Ivica Zubac.

    From-scratch scoring is almost always king, but Williams profiles as slightly more expendable than Beverley given his historically shaky outside shooting in the postseason. He's also easier to reroute on a $8 million expiring contract than Beverley (one year, $14.3 million remaining) or Marcus Morris Sr. (three years, $49.1 million).

    This isn't akin to predicting the Clippers trade Lou Will. They probably won't. But this idea that he's somehow become a fringe untouchable doesn't track.

    Verdict: Sell Lou Will being off the market.

Spurs Confident They Can Trade LaMarcus Aldridge

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    LaMarcus Aldridge has played his last game for the San Antonio Spurs.

    Head coach Gregg Popovich announced Wednesday that the two sides have mutually agreed to part ways. And the Spurs are confident they can hammer out a trade—perhaps even this week, according to's Adrian Wojnarowski.

    You aren't alone if you aren't as certain as San Antonio. Aldridge is 35 and has dealt with some right hip issues this year, and his defense has dropped off considerably. Opposing offenses are shooting 7.5 percentage points better at the rim with him on the court—the fourth-worst swing in the league among players who have logged at least 500 minutes.

    Aldridge can still help the right team, most likely as a reserve big man. His pick-and-pop utility remains, he has room to bump up his three-point volume, and he's an operable option in the post.

    That won't turn this into an effortless search for the Spurs. Expiring contracts can always be moved, but Aldridge's $24 million price point is steep. Matching salaries will be difficult unless San Antonio is amenable to swallowing longer-term and potentially unsavory money.

    Still, the Spurs don't do this. Other teams might approach trade talks more haphazardly. The last midseason deal San Antonio struck was the great Nando de Colo-for-Austin Daye blockbuster...of 2014. This doesn't feel like a development that comes about unless the team has actual traction somewhere.

    Something that would be awesome but won't happen: the Spurs attaching a bunch of sweeteners to LMA's contract as part of a disarming blockbuster buy. As always, keep your fingers crossed for chaos, folks.

    Verdict: Buy Aldridge getting moved before the deadline.


    Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of, Basketball Reference, Stathead or Cleaning the Glass and are accurate entering games on March 10. Salary information via Basketball Insiders and Spotrac.

    Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale), and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by B/R's Adam Fromal.