Every NBA Team's Player Most Likely to Be Traded This Summer

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 18, 2021

Every NBA Team's Player Most Likely to Be Traded This Summer

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    From the blindingly obvious trade candidacy of the Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons to the by-default status enjoyed by the Golden State Warriors' Andrew Wiggins, every NBA team has a player it's more likely to trade than anyone else on its roster.

    In some cases, finding that player will require mental gymnastics. We'll stretch, make some logical leaps, lean on the process of elimination and even throw our hands up in confusion a couple of times. But don't worry, every team is getting an entry here.

    It's not necessarily true that all of these players should be on the move—except Simmons; we all know it's best for everyone if he changes teams. Instead, we've compiled one player from every organization who could be first on the block if his team wants to swing a deal to clean up its books or alter its roster.

    If someone has gotta go from every team, these are the guys.

Atlanta Hawks: John Collins

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The Atlanta Hawks should still be riding high after reaching the conference finals, despite several key players—De'Andre Hunter chief among them—preventing them from playing at full strength. Few teams have greater incentive to keep the whole gang together, plan on organic growth and, hopefully, advance even deeper into the playoffs next season.

    The Hawks shouldn't be looking to move anyone, but external factors could force their hand on John Collins.

    Collins focused on the dirty-work aspects of the game in Atlanta's playoff run, reducing his box-score numbers while increasing his market value. He defended, he scrapped, he moved the ball and he attacked the offensive glass relentlessly.

    If teams needed to see him embrace a high-energy, "do the little things" role, Collins showed it to them.

    Because he's a restricted free agent, the Hawks can match any offer sheet to keep Collins. So the only way he might get loose is if Atlanta's hard line on what it's willing to pay him is below that of another team. In that scenario, though, the Hawks could engineer a sign-and-trade agreement involving Collins—something that could also help him get to a team he likes that doesn't have the cap space to ink him outright.

    That's an unlikely scenario, but it may be the only one in which the Hawks will make a trade this offseason.

Boston Celtics: Grant Williams

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    With Al Horford's return in the Kemba Walker trade, Robert Williams III's need for more minutes (if he could ever stay healthy) and Tristan Thompson's superior experience, Grant Williams' role on the 2021-22 Boston Celtics is set to shrink.

    Even the small-ball looks that suit him best figure to function at least as well with Horford in the middle.

    Williams is still just 22, and he upped his three-point accuracy rate to 37.2 percent last season. Intelligent, craftier than most players his age and a good passer, he should have decent trade value on a rookie-scale deal that'll only pay him $2.6 million in 2021-22.

    Boston could finally go further than toying with the idea of moving Marcus Smart, or it could try to find a taker for Thompson's above-market $9.7 million expiring salary. But because Williams is in line to lose minutes, which could depress his value, there's a good argument that it'd be better to move him sooner than later.

Brooklyn Nets: DeAndre Jordan

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    The presence of three superstars affords the Brooklyn Nets several luxuries.

    They can get away with lineups that include limited specialists like Bruce Brown Jr. and castoffs like Blake Griffin. Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving can make almost any teammates look good—so long as said teammates have at least something to offer on the floor.

    DeAndre Jordan's zero postseason minutes illustrate the limits of Brooklyn's roster-building privilege. His immobility and lack of offensive stretch rendered him unusable in the 2021 postseason—no shock after he posted, by far, the worst on-off splits of any Nets rotation player during the year.

    For a title-hunting Nets team that should only care about its playoff makeup, paying $9.8 million for an unplayable center (with gobs of additional luxury-tax penalties piled on top) doesn't make sense.

    Spencer Dinwiddie is a sign-and-trade candidate, and the Nets could shuffle up the back end of their rotation by moving lower-salaried players. But Jordan, despite his close relationship with Durant and Irving, is the guy Brooklyn has to look hardest at moving.

Charlotte Hornets: Devonte' Graham

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    It feels risky to go with another sign-and-trade here, this time involving Devonte' Graham, because such deals are historically uncommon. That said, Jerami Grant, Gordon Hayward and Danilo Gallinari were all involved in that kind of transaction last offseason. None of those players were restricted free agents like Graham, but maybe the sign-and-trade is coming back into style across the board.

    The Charlotte Hornets, specifically, are set up to take advantage of that option.

    LaMelo Ball will be their primary playmaker for years to come, and Terry Rozier is fresh off the best season of his career. Graham's inability to score efficiently inside the arc (career 39.5 percent on two-point shots) is a conspicuous problem, but it's still been fair to label him a quality starter over the last two seasons.

    In Charlotte, he'd be confined to a backup role.

    Many teams could improve themselves by making Graham their starting point guard, but relatively few have the cap space to make him an offer in the range of $15 million per year. That's where a sign-and-trade comes in. If a team without cap space is willing to give up an asset and/or a matching salary for the 26-year-old, Charlotte could help Graham get to a destination he prefers while also balancing out its own roster.

Chicago Bulls: Al-Farouq Aminu

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic aren't going anywhere. Ditto for Patrick Williams, Coby White and Thaddeus Young, whom LaVine called the Chicago Bulls' MVP in February.

    Restricted free agent Lauri Markkanen doesn't seem to have a future with the team after being demoted to the bench partway through the year, but a potential sign-and-trade with him would be complicated by the arcane base-year compensation rules. The better bet is for the No. 7 pick in the 2017 draft to simply sign an offer sheet elsewhere and bounce.

    That leaves Al-Farouq Aminu atop a list of mostly unlikely options. He played a grand total of six games after coming aboard as part of the Vucevic deal and hasn't been a regular rotation option since 2018-19. On a $10.2 million expiring salary, he makes more sense as a trade chip than an on-court contributor in Chicago. Though the Bulls don't have a first-rounder available to trade until 2026, they could toss in a second-rounder to sweeten the pot if Aminu isn't viewed as a positive asset at his current pay rate.

    Then again, perhaps there's a contender out there that believes the veteran wing can move past the knee injuries he's faced over the last couple of years and return to the valuable three-and-D form he showed during his best seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers. That expiring deal also limits the downside risk to any team acquiring the 30-year-old.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Collin Sexton

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Collin Sexton is one of three players to average at least 20.0 points per game while shooting over 38.0 percent from long range in the first three years of his career. Whatever the concerns about his tunnel vision and suboptimal fit alongside fellow smallish guard Darius Garland, Sexton's presence in an exclusive group that only includes Karl-Anthony Towns and Vince Carter means something.

    He's going to be a very productive NBA player...wherever he goes next.

    The New York Knicks have been most aggressive in their pursuit of the 22-year-old, per Shams Charania of The Athletic, and Jason Lloyd reported Sexton is "very available."

    The Cavs pick third in a 2021 draft featuring several high-end guards and wings, one of whom could easily replace Sexton in the team's long-term plans. Though Cleveland would surely prefer to deal Kevin Love and his onerous contract, Sexton's obvious availability and the Cavs' potential to upgrade his spot on the roster make him the top trade candidate.

    Sexland, we hardly knew ye.

Dallas Mavericks: Josh Richardson

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Josh Richardson disappointed in his first season with the Dallas Mavericks, shooting just 33.0 percent from deep as a regular-season starter and falling way down the depth chart in the playoffs.

    The defense-first wing could take himself out of trade discussions by declining his $11.6 million player option for 2021-22, but with his earning power diminished by a down season, there's a chance he returns to Dallas in hopes of rehabilitating his value ahead of 2022 free agency.

    This most-likely-to-be-traded nomination, then, depends on Dallas dispassionately dealing a guy immediately after he elects to return. If the Mavs were clear about those intentions, Richardson could decide to test the market rather than pick up his option. It might be worth the possible pay cut if he, and not his team, got to choose his destination.

    The Mavs may look to move Kristaps Porzingis. Dwight Powell, despite his locker room leadership, should also be a candidate. Everyone else of consequence is either on a team-friendly contract (Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith, Jalen Brunson) or off the table completely (Luka Doncic).

    Ultimately, Richardson seems likeliest because he's the type of player suitors talk themselves into. His breakout 2018-19 with the Miami Heat, which he's never repeated, convinced the Philadelphia 76ers to trade for him. The Mavericks did the same thing a year later.

    If he opts in, Richardson will likely garner outside interest again. Maybe the third trade will be the charm, and he'll rediscover that 2018-19 form on his fourth team.

Denver Nuggets: 2021 First-Round Pick

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    We're cheating and not naming a player for the Denver Nuggets. Don't worry, this will be the only time we cop out like this.

    Denver just isn't in position to deal anyone this summer. Monte Morris would have value, but he's going to move from the bench into the first unit while Jamal Murray recovers from his torn ACL. Will Barton (assuming he picks up his player option) and P.J. Dozier are just about all the Nuggets have at the 2. With Paul Millsap and JaVale McGee hitting unrestricted free agency, JaMychal Green (who also has a player option) is suddenly more important to the frontcourt rotation than ever.

    When you go down the list, no feasible candidate emerges.

    The Nuggets do, however, like to make draft-night moves. Two years ago, they dealt for Bol Bol, and last season, they traded for RJ Hampton. Due to several outgoing future pick obligations, the only first-rounder the Nuggets can trade at the moment is their 2021 selection. Denver could easily justify moving that No. 26 pick to either replenish its draft assets with future selections coming back or in a win-now effort to fill one of its rotational holes.

Detroit Pistons: Sekou Doumbouya

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    "Look at us!" the Detroit Pistons must be saying. Out here with no bad contracts and primed to add the top pick in the 2021 draft. Who would have thought?

    Detroit's improved fortunes owe largely to general manager Troy Weaver, who's only been in that position for a little over a year, and who's totally revamped the roster in that time.

    Well, almost totally.

    Sekou Doumbouya is the only Pistons player who wasn't acquired on Weaver's watch. GMs are human, and it's natural for them to feel more invested in the players they signed, drafted or traded for than holdovers from the previous regime. That element, combined with Doumbouya's regression in his second season, plus Detroit's relative depth at forward, means the 20-year-old has the best chance of anyone to be moved.

    Jerami Grant, Saddiq Bey, Josh Jackson and (probably) Cade Cunningham will all warrant playing time ahead of Doumbouya, who is obviously young enough to start fresh someplace else.

Golden State Warriors: Andrew Wiggins

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    If the Golden State Warriors are going to land a superstar to support Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson in their quest to regain contender status, Andrew Wiggins almost certainly has to be involved in that hypothetical trade.

    Nobody's saying the Dubs are a lock to pull off such a move, but Wiggins' bloated contract ($31.6 million next year, $33.6 million in 2022-23) would be necessary to match the incoming superstar salary.

    If Golden State is going to move the 26-year-old wing, now might be the best time. Wiggins just completed a season in which he defended at elite levels and posted the highest true shooting percentage of his career. He's a top-end role-player, which is immensely valuable. It's just that Wiggins is paid like a cornerstone, which he's never been and doesn't figure to be. At $15 million per year, he'd be a real asset. At more than twice that rate...not so much.

    James Wiseman and the Warriors' two lottery picks get tossed around in trade rumors often enough. But practically speaking, if the Dubs are going to pursue a serious deal, including Wiggins' salary is a must.

Houston Rockets: Eric Gordon

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Maybe it'll be the Indiana Pacers who swoop in to relieve the Houston Rockets of Eric Gordon's contract ($37.8 million fully guaranteed through 2022-23) for the No. 13 pick in the 2021 draft. Or maybe Gordon will feature in a trade that moves the Rockets up to No. 1 so they can grab Cade Cunningham.

    That we have more than one reported option for a Gordon deal underscores what should be obvious: The veteran guard doesn't figure into Houston's rebuilding plans.

    Had he not injured his groin near the 2021 trade deadline, Gordon might already be gone.

    Houston may be stuck with John Wall's contract, making Gordon's the most obvious ill-fitting deal on the books. If the Rockets can move him to a win-now team in exchange for future picks or young players, they'll surely do it.

Indiana Pacers: Myles Turner

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    If you have to be in either the "Trade Myles Turner" or the "Trade Domantas Sabonis" camp, put me in the latter. That may be the less popular position, and it presupposes the Indiana Pacers have to move either of their big men, but it feels like the smartest move.

    Sabonis feels like an upgraded version of Nikola Vucevic, which, based on the haul the Orlando Magic got for trading Vooch, means the Pacers could expect a huge return. We're talking multiple first-rounders and some young, inexpensive talent.

    That's a lot for the type of center who doesn't look capable of holding up on D in the playoffs.

    Turner, whose rim defense and floor-stretching offense make him a fit anywhere, has featured far more prominently in trade chatter over the last several seasons. And stepping back for some perspective, it's a lot easier for Indy to justify moving a guy who was seventh on the team in scoring than a two-time All-Star who just racked up averages of 20.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists.

    Whatever you think about whether Turner or Sabonis should go in a roster-altering trade, it seems likeliest Turner will be the one to depart. If a breakup of Indy's frontcourt tandem is finally imminent, the guy with the less gaudy box-score stats is the better bet to be moved.

Los Angeles Clippers: Rajon Rondo

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Clippers' offseason focus should be on free agency. They've got to decide what to offer Kawhi Leonard, assuming he declines his player option ahead of a season he may spend—partially or entirely—rehabbing a torn ACL. After that, they've got Reggie Jackson and Nicolas Batum's unrestricted status to fret over. Both will command raises above last year's rates.

    If L.A. manages those concerns, it can turn its attention to a trade.

    Marcus Morris Sr. ($15.6 million), Patrick Beverley ($14.3), Luke Kennard ($12.7), Serge Ibaka ($9.7 million player option) and Rajon Rondo ($8.3 million) could all be part of a deal to add a starrier name. Combine a couple of those salaries, and the Clips would have the matching cash to target a difference-maker—with their 2021 first-round pick* involved as a sweetener.

    Of that group, Rondo seems most dispensable. Jackson shone in the playoffs, and if he and Beverley are both back, Rondo is a costly third point guard who'll be playing his age-35 season. Worse than Jackson offensively and Beverley defensively, Rondo may not play enough to justify his salary. Kennard is a capable facilitator as well, which only further marginalizes Rondo's on-court value.

    The Clips may not trade anyone at all, but of their options, Rondo makes the most sense.

    *Los Angeles would have to select a player and trade him; the Stepien rule prevents the team from dealing the pick itself.

Los Angeles Lakers: Kyle Kuzma

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    First of all, the trade-candidate pickings are slim for the Los Angeles Lakers. Remove Anthony Davis and LeBron James from consideration, and they only have three players—Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marc Gasol—under team control on guaranteed contracts for next year.

    Kuzma rates as the likeliest mover of those three, both because he's the youngest (and therefore attractive to winning teams and rebuilders alike), and because he's got the potential to be more than a support piece. At the very least, he thinks that's the case.

    Caldwell-Pope derives some measure of security through his Klutch representation and only appeals to winners in need of role players. Gasol, 36, averaged 5.0 points per game last year and appears near the end of the road.

    If the Lakers are going to add talent via trade, they'll have to do it by moving their combo forward ahead of his age-26 season.

Memphis Grizzlies: Kyle Anderson

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    It's rare to find a team that doesn't have a single player on the roster who's overpaid to a damaging degree. That's what we've got with the Memphis Grizzlies, who have just three players set to make more than $10 million next season, with Jonas Valanciunas topping the list at $14 million.

    Maybe Justise Winslow comes closest to having a negative-value contract, but Memphis is in control of that situation via a club option for $13 million in 2021-22. Winslow has struggled mightily to stay healthy, but he's only 25 and could easily outperform that number if he gets back to being the point forward who averaged 12.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists for the Miami Heat in 2018-19.

    Winslow's potential and Jaren Jackson Jr.'s centrality to Memphis' long-term plans put Kyle Anderson in a tough spot. The plodding forward was his best self in 2020-21, posting 12.6 points per game and playing sharp, intelligent defense. Anderson is 27, though, which is a touch older than Memphis' core. He'll be coveted by many teams who'll justifiably see him as a quality starter making just $9.9 million in the last year of his deal.

    If the Grizzlies have to make a move, and if they're fully committed to letting Winslow and Jackson prove they're the 3-4 combo of the future, Anderson could bring back a significant return.

Miami Heat: Tyler Herro

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    With only seven players on guaranteed contracts for 2021-22, the Miami Heat are short on trade candidates. With two of them—Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo—being untouchable and two more—Goran Dragic and Andre Iguodala—subject to team options, we're down to considering three players on rookie-scale contracts.

    Of the group composed of Tyler Herro, Precious Achiuwa and KZ Okpala, Herro emerges as the most likely to be dealt.

    The other two have shown flashes in their brief careers, but Herro is the one with the 2020 Finals breakout on his resume and name recognition to anchor a high-profile trade. And if we know anything about the ambitious Heat, it's that they tend to favor trades of that ilk.

    The concerns about Herro's off-court habits could factor into the Heat's willingness to deal as well.

Milwaukee Bucks: Donte DiVincenzo

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    The Milwaukee Bucks shouldn't be looking to trade anybody, but if they have to pull the trigger, and if they want to do so in a way that actually makes a difference, they have to involve Donte DiVincenzo in the deal.

    Rational thinking and the process of elimination rules out Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. That core is not getting broken up. Brook Lopez is the only other player likely to bring back substantial value, but he's properly paid at $13.3 million next season and remains integral to the Bucks' identity on both ends.

    DiVincenzo's absence has been conspicuous in the playoffs. Milwaukee has clearly missed its combo guard since losing him to ankle surgery. But the Bucks must also be wary of the raise he'll surely get when he hits restricted free agency in 2022. That's a year away, but Milwaukee is throwing mountains of cash at its top three players and has no choice but to be cost-conscious with the rest of the roster.

    DiVincenzo is a value now with $4.7 million coming his way in 2021-22, but will that be true if he triples or quadruples that annual rate on his next deal?

Minnesota Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    If the Minnesota Timberwolves are going to make meaningful changes to their roster via trade this offseason, they'll need a sizable matching salary that they can afford to lose.

    Ricky Rubio is the only player who ticks both boxes.

    The veteran point guard averaged a career-worst 8.6 points per game on galling 51.6 percent true shooting in 2020-21. He was not part of the starting lineup, when healthy, 17 different times. This, after coming off the bench just once since 2013. Rubio's passing, defense and veteran leadership give him value, but the Wolves wouldn't have a hard time replacing his statistical production.

    An expiring $17.8 million salary should have appeal to clubs looking to cut salary, and Rubio could easily have a better shooting year that puts him back in the "quality starter" realm.

New Orleans Pelicans: Lonzo Ball

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    The New Orleans Pelicans should be motivated to move on from Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe, two pricey veterans whose experience, while valuable to a young team, isn't enough to justify their cost. And really, after a season as collectively disappointing as 2020-21, just about every Pelicans player aside from Zion Williamson should be fair game in trade discussions.

    Lonzo Ball is chief among them.

    "New Orleans is unlikely to match a significant offer sheet on Ball," sources told The Athletic's Shams Charania, which means a sign-and-trade involving the 23-year-old restricted free agent is increasingly plausible.

    The alternative is losing Ball to an offer sheet and getting nothing in return. Allowing Ball to depart might send the wrong message to Williamson about the franchise's commitment to competing, and letting Ball walk for nothing would be an especially clear communication of surrender. New Orleans is within its rights to set a ceiling on its valuation of Ball, who isn't a star. But if it lets the chance to get something of value for him pass, it could cause further frustration in Zion's camp.

    The Pels can't have that, so a sign-and-trade deal involving Ball has to be a top priority.

New York Knicks: Kevin Knox

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The New York Knicks have the cleanest books in the league and will top every other team in the spending-power department this offseason. Whatever big moves they make will almost certainly come in free agency.

    If the Knicks swing a trade, though, Kevin Knox profiles as a great candidate to be sent packing.

    Picked ninth in 2018, Knox has had three years to validate his physical tools and draft pedigree. But the combo forward, despite ample opportunity afforded by the lack of quality options ahead of him on the depth chart, has regressed. A 39.3 percent conversion rate on three-pointers this past season is really the only positive sign for a player who's seen his minutes per game go from 28.8 as a rookie to 17.9 as a sophomore to just 11.0 this past year.

    The Knicks have drafted other frontcourt players in the lottery since taking Knox, and two of them, RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin, have shown far more potential. Knox may have some appeal as a "second draft" prospect for another team, and a change of scenery might be best for everyone involved.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Kemba Walker

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    If the Oklahoma City Thunder trade Kemba Walker before the veteran point guard even plays a game with the franchise, it'd diverge from their recent M.O.

    With Al Horford and Chris Paul before him as the latest examples, OKC prefers to take on distressed assets, position them to succeed and then flip them for value. Few teams have mastered the art of serving as a waystation for unwanted commodities like the Thunder over the last couple of years.

    Walker has a great chance to improve on what he did with the Boston Celtics last season—partly because the bar is low, but also because the stakes might be even lower. The Thunder, still very early in their rebuild, don't exactly get the opponent's best punch every night. If healthy, the four-time All-Star could rehab his rep by tearing it up against checked-out defenses.

    This is about who'll get dealt this summer, though. It's admittedly more likely Walker will be moved either during the 2021-22 season or after it.

    Still, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is too good and too inexpensive to move, and the rest of OKC's roster is populated by little-known, unproven names on rookie-scale or minimum deals. Most of them are new enough to the league that their value in trade isn't even established yet.

    Walker is not going to be a fixture in Oklahoma City. That seems certain. So he's still the "winner" here.

Orlando Magic: Terrence Ross

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    The fact that Terrence Ross is the only player over the age of 30 on the Orlando Magic's books for next year is enough to make him the most obvious trade candidate on its own.

    Orlando is starting all the way over after dealing three veteran starters last year, and first-phase rebuilders (complete with brand-new head coaches) generally don't have much use for veteran gunners. Many other teams do, though, and Ross profiles as a fit on any squad that needs buckets in a hurry off the bench.

    Ross is a quintessential scoring sixth man, capable of producing double-digit points in short stints at efficiency rates just below the league average. That might not seem like a ringing endorsement, but his skill set is valuable in a limited role. With Orlando, where he'd be the most established weapon and possibly even the top scoring option, Ross' game is worth much less.

    His career averages of 11.4 points on 36.7 percent three-point shooting will travel well.

Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Head coach Doc Rivers and franchise player Joel Embiid essentially gave votes of no confidence to Ben Simmons following the Philadelphia 76ers' Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the East semifinals.

    Though he's since backtracked, Rivers, in the raw moments following defeat, expressed uncertainty about Simmons' big-game capabilities. Embiid indirectly pointed to his teammate's hesitancy as the moment the Sixers lost the series. The MVP runner-up's on-court reaction was less diplomatic.

    So the following report cannot come as a surprise.

    "The 76ers have opened up trade conversations surrounding Simmons and have engaged with teams," sources told The Athletic's Shams Charania.

    The Sixers have been waiting for a different, more complete version of Simmons to develop for a half-decade. Their patience seems to have finally run out.

Phoenix Suns: Jalen Smith

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    This really comes down to just two players: Jalen Smith and Jevon Carter.

    The Phoenix Suns have no reason to move anyone else under contract for the 2021-22 season. The starting five of Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder and Deandre Ayton fit together perfectly. Cameron Johnson is a star in his role and far too valuable to trade on his rookie deal, while Dario Saric's torn ACL means his value is nil until he returns to health.

    Smith, picked 10th in the 2020 draft, barely played during his rookie season. Exceptionally thin, not quite ready to help his team win meaningful games and buried behind quality veterans, he never got the opportunity to show what he could do. Maybe what he could do would have been "nothing," but nobody can be sure.

    There's some level of mystery to him, which might grease the skids for a trade.

    Carter is the known option, a rugged defender who has yet to play 1,000 minutes in a season. The third-string point guard might see his role expand if Cameron Payne prices himself out of Phoenix's comfort zone in free agency, though. The Suns might need him around.

    Ultimately, Smith probably has greater value on the market—even if it's tied much more to his draft pedigree than his production to this point. If the Suns are looking to upgrade the roster, he makes for a better trade option than Carter.

Portland Trail Blazers: CJ McCollum

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Every team, with the Philadelphia 76ers being the latest example, according to Marc Stein, would prefer to trade for Damian Lillard over CJ McCollum if given the choice. But fringe MVP candidates come at a far higher cost than high-end starters. And the elite players in Lillard's class also have more say over whether they'll be dealt at all.

    Lillard is the rare player with the clout to get himself moved to a place of his choosing. Portland is basically obligated to do right by him. McCollum is a very good NBA player, one of the best pure shooters in the league and a 20-point scorer in each of the last six seasons. But the Blazers could move him unilaterally without causing an uprising among their fans.

    That's why McCollum has to rate as the likelier trade candidate than his Blazers teammate. The number of teams that could theoretically put together a package to get him is much higher than the number capable of meeting the asking price on Lillard—who simply won't be traded unless he specifically asks to be.

    If Portland is going to shake things up—but not all the way up—McCollum will be the guy to go.

Sacramento Kings: Buddy Hield

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Harrison Barnes is a universal fit—a combo forward who can hit a triple, defend both 3s and 4s, lead in the locker room and basically plug holes wherever they appear. At $20.2 million in 2021-22 and $18.3 million in 2022-23, he's also on a palatable contract.

    That explains why the Sacramento Kings could easily trade him for value, but it also reads like a list of reasons why they shouldn't deal him at all.

    Buddy Hield's shooting makes him similarly attractive to any team; Stephen Curry, James Harden and Damian Lillard are the only players to hit more total threes since he entered the league in 2016-17. And Curry (42.0) is the only one in that quartet with a better hit rate than Hield's 40.6 percent.

    That said, Hield's defense and, well, everything other than his lights-out shooting, leaves a lot to be desired. The Kings' issues in recent seasons have mostly been on D (check out that No. 30 ranking this past season!), and Tyrese Haliburton looks like a cheaper and more complete option as De'Aaron Fox's backcourt partner.

    Sacramento also has Delon Wright on board as a solid third guard, whereas the depth chart is sketchy at forward behind Barnes. All things being equal, Barnes is simply the more helpful and balanced player. Add to that Hield's longer and more costly contract ($63.6 million guaranteed through 2023-24), and the Kings would be better off moving him than Barnes.

San Antonio Spurs: Dejounte Murray

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    The Athletic's Zach Harper reported Dejounte Murray and Derrick White "could both be gettable" in trade around draft time, which isn't a lot to go on. Theoretically, almost everyone is gettable for the right offer, but at least we've got something to spark discussion on the trade front.

    If Murray, specifically, is available, the San Antonio Spurs could expect a hefty package in return.

    The rangy and defensively impactful point guard has steadily improved his offensive game over the years, culminating with last season's 15.7 points per game and career-best shooting inside the arc. He's a trustworthy three-point shot away from being a complete lead guard on both ends.

    If the Spurs are serious about moving up in the draft or simply want to transact in a roster-altering way as they lean into their youth movement, Murray certainly stands out as the piece who could best help them achieve either goal.

    If I'm San Antonio, I'm more open to moving White. But then, that's because Murray's youth and remaining upside make him more valuable. Which is exactly why there would be more intriguing offers for him.

    We're going in circles now. Let's move on.

Toronto Raptors: Pascal Siakam

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    In cases like this one, where the Toronto Raptors don't have an obvious name separating itself as the most likely to be traded, all it takes is a kernel of news or sourced speculation to make the difference.

    We've got that with Pascal Siakam, whom The Athletic's John Hollinger tabbed as a name to watch in the Golden State Warriors' search for immediate help.

    Siakam was an All-NBA second-teamer in 2019-20, and he quietly improved in several areas this past season. A decline in three-point shooting fuels the narrative that his play was disappointing, but a closer look shows Siakam got to the foul line more often, shot better from two-point range and upped his assist rate. Siakam's stardom is undeniable when a "down year" involved averages of 21.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists.

    No wonder teams like the Warriors are targeting him.

    The Raptors are at a crossroads, though. Do they bring back Kyle Lowry and make another run? Or do they trim off their older, costlier assets to rebuild around Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and the No. 4 pick in the draft?

    If they choose the second option, Siakam and the $106.3 million he's owed through 2023-24 could be on the move.

Utah Jazz: Derrick Favors

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    John Amis/Associated Press

    Assuming the Utah Jazz re-sign Mike Conley to a market-rate contract which we'll imprecisely predict to be in the range of $25-30 million annually, the penalty will be painful. Remember, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell already have their maxes; a third massive salary for Conley would send Utah deep into the luxury tax.

    One way to diminish some of that spending would be to trim cash elsewhere. Of the tax-relieving contracts Utah could realistically move, Derrick Favors' $9.7 million salary seems the better choice than either Joe Ingles' ($13 million) or Jordan Clarkson's ($12.4 million).

    After falling to the downsized Los Angeles Clippers in the playoffs, the Jazz should know more certainly than ever that conventional bigs aren't always set up to succeed in the postseason. Rudy Gobert is a keeper no matter what, and he wasn't totally to blame for breakdowns triggered by poor perimeter defense against L.A., but Utah should now find it tough to justify paying a second old-school center as a backup.

    Favors is simply more dispensable than either Ingles or Clarkson. So if the Jazz want to save a little money and/or balance out their roster so it's more playoff-ready, he's the one to move.

Washington Wizards: Davis Bertans

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Bradley Beal trade speculation has barely waned in the face of repeated signals that both team and player want to stay together. Even if history says stars and middling teams part ways eventually, we're going to trust the weight of recent evidence and not make Beal the pick here.

    If Beal is sticking around, the Washington Wizards need to put their trade focus on short-term improvements.

    Davis Bertans will make an average of $16.3 million over the next three seasons, a number that would allow the Wizards to trade for a slightly pricier contract. The sharpshooter didn't perform at the same 2019-20 levels that earned him the deal he's currently on, but 39.5 percent from deep on high volume is still a marketable commodity.

    The Wizards could flip one of their recent first-rounders—Rui Hachimura or Deni Avdija—instead of Bertans, but they won't be able to add a high-salaried player that way. If they intend to get better in a hurry, building off their appearance in the 2021 play-in round, Bertans' salary is the best trade tool available.


    Stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference and Cleaning the Glass. Salary info via Spotrac.


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