Bold Predictions for NBA's Top 5 Trade Targets Right Now
With the NBA draft completed and almost all of the top free agents signed, the trade market should represent the last avenue for notable moves before the 2021-22 regular season begins.
While all of them may not officially be available, there are five names that jump out when looking for stars who could be changing teams soon. Ben Simmons is clearly up for grabs, Damian Lillard seems restless in Portland (which means CJ McCollum shouldn't feel safe), the Raptors were listening to offers for Pascal Siakam—though team president Masai Ujiri recently said "Pascal is a Raptor" and he'll play for them this year—and Bradley Beal (on the last year of his deal) will continue to be monitored by the rest of the league.
Predicting the future for all five is tricky, and in this case, a little bold.
Here's where Simmons, Lillard, McCollum, Siakam and Beal could all end up in the next year, with one finding a new home even before the regular season begins.
Bradley Beal Asks to Stay, Signs Biggest Contract in NBA History Next Summer
Beal seems like someone who should want out of his current situation. The Wizards have yet to make it out of the second round since he was drafted nine years ago, the second-best player on the team was traded for rotation pieces and Washington just hired a head coach with zero previous experience as the leading man.
The Wizards should have their reasons for trading Beal as well.
The 28-year-old is in the prime of his career after averaging over 30 points per game each of the past two seasons, but will be going into unrestricted free agency next summer. Washington, a mixture of young players and borderline starting vets, simply doesn't have a roster that's anywhere close to championship ready.
So why stay together if there's a reason for both sides to split?
Beal has remained fiercely loyal to the Wizards, and the roster has a lot more flexibility now with Russell Westbrook's contract off the books. Spencer Dinwiddie was a nice addition to the backcourt beside him, and Washington has the young talent (Daniel Gafford, Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija and Corey Kispert) to use as trade bait for a third star if one becomes available.
Beal can also play out this year, collect his 10 years of service, and re-sign with the Wizards on a five-year contract worth an estimated $235 million, a deal that would surpass Giannis Antetokounmpo (five years, $228 million) as the largest in NBA history. Other teams would only be able to offer four years and significantly less money.
While teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Pelicans can all make generous offers for Beal, don't be surprised if he remains loyal to Washington and is rewarded handsomely next offseason.
Pascal Siakam Traded to Warriors, Goran Dragic Joins Him
The Raptors are in a bit of an awkward spot, featuring a roster of some in-their-prime vets (Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Chris Boucher) and developing young talent (Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr., Precious Achiuwa) that's too good to tank, yet with no Kyle Lowry, will struggle to even make the playoffs in an improved East.
Selling high on Siakam, who has three years left on his deal, would help restock the young talent now and open up the starting power forward job for Barnes, the No. 4 pick in the 2021 draft.
The Warriors can choose to hold onto players like Jonathan Kuminga and James Wiseman, but this is a team that needs to win now behind a 33-year-old Stephen Curry. Even Klay Thompson, the team's key to reaching the playoffs and beyond once again, is targeting a return on Christmas Day, per ESPN's Ramona Shelburne. That could mean missing the first 32 games of the season, a hole Golden State may not be able to climb out of, especially with so many young pieces who won't contribute to winning right away.
Golden State should make a big offer for Siakam before the start of the season. Additionally, the Warriors should try to get the Raptors to include Goran Dragic in the deal, too.
A package of Andrew Wiggins, Wiseman, Kuminga and Kevon Looney would make the money work, and the Warriors have wing depth behind Wiggins following the signings of Otto Porter Jr. and Andre Iguodala.
The Warriors could start the season with a lineup of Dragic, Curry, Porter, Draymond Green and Siakam before moving Dragic into the sixth-man role when Thompson returns.
Both sides would have to wait briefly on a deal (September 2, 30 days from when Kuminga signed his rookie contract), but could bypass Dragic's two-month aggregated trade restriction by breaking the trade into two separate parts (Siakam for Wiggins and Dragic for Wiseman, Kuminga and Looney).
Toronto would be taking a step back this season, but would have one of the best young talent bases in the NBA with Wiseman, Kuminga, Barnes and Anunoby.
Golden State adds a 27-year-old All-Star to its frontcourt while keeping rookie Moses Moody and all future draft picks.
Sixers Can't Get Asking Price for Simmons, Keep Him to Rehab Trade Value
While Simmons looks like the star most likely to be moved this offseason, it would mean selling at his lowest possible value for Philly.
The 76ers aren't ever going to find a James Harden-like haul for Simmons, and even the package they asked for from the Toronto Raptors (OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet and the No. 4 overall pick, via Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer) is laughable now as well.
Even if it's awkward for everyone, the best path may be for Simmons to come to training camp and begin the season in Philadelphia while reminding the league who he is and still has the potential to become.
Imagine if the 25-year-old, three-time All-Star and two-time All-Defense team member actually showed up and willingly started shooting threes, even at an average clip. Just turning into a threat to shoot from deep and forcing defenses to go over screens would add a ton of value to Simmons' game—and his trade value.
There's still a chance Simmons fits the roster as a playmaker and defender, even if his own offensive game never evolves into that of a 20-point-per game scorer. With Tyrese Maxey and Shake Milton serving as potential third-option scorers behind Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris (and with Danny Green and Seth Curry returning), Simmons may fit the team better than ever.
While it may be too bold to predict the Sixers won't trade Simmons at all this season, simply letting him rehab his value, possibly show off a three-point shot and look like a big piece of the team again should help improve other teams' offers.
Selling low now helps avoid any discomfort in Philadelphia this fall, but it also means the Sixers wouldn't be getting max value for the 2016 No. 1 pick.
Damian Lillard Starts Season with Blazers, Traded to Celtics Before Christmas
With no official trade request to date, Damian Lillard and his four-year, $196 million contract are still in Portland, for now.
With teammate CJ McCollum claiming that Lillard is "all-in" via ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and The Woj Pod, we can expect the pair to at least begin the season with the Blazers and give new head coach Chauncey Billups a chance.
At some point, however, Lillard is going to realize that the talent around him is just not good enough to win a title.
Even though Lillard should begin the season with Portland, a trade to the Boston Celtics won't take long. Much like James Harden playing just eight games with the Houston Rockets last season before being dealt to the Brooklyn Nets, Lillard to Boston will be the next early-season blockbuster.
With Jayson Tatum off limits, the Celtics can offer Portland a package based around Jaylen Brown, with other young talent (Aaron Nesmith, Romeo Langford, Grant Williams, Payton Pritchard) available to sweeten a deal as well. Boston owns all of its future first-round picks in the likely event the Blazers seek draft compensation. If newly-signed point guard Dennis Schroder is included in the deal, it would have to occur after Nov. 11 (three months from his signing with Boston).
A core of Lillard, Tatum, Marcus Smart, Al Horford and whoever is left over from the trade should once again be one of the top teams in the East, while Portland begins its rebuild around Brown.
After a decade of Danny Ainge failing to acquire star players via trade, Brad Stevens lands one of the best players in the NBA in his first season as president of basketball operations.
CJ McCollum Becomes Prize of the Trade Deadline as Portland Rebuilds
With Damian Lillard gone and a rebuild underway, there's no reason for Portland to keep McCollum, the eight-year vet who will turn 30 before the start of the season.
A trade shouldn't happen right away, however, as an increase in shots and overall touches with Lillard gone should only help drive up McCollum's value before the deadline. After averaging 23.1 points and 4.7 assists while sharing the floor with Lillard this past season, McCollum could be one of the NBA's leading scorers if given the primary ball-handling duties.
Assuming the Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls keep Bradley Beal and Zach LaVine out of trade talks, McCollum could then represent the best player available at the deadline. Playoff-hungry teams in need of backcourt scoring (New Orleans Pelicans, Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets depending on Jamal Murray's recovery) would all have a need for McCollum, who is firmly in his prime with three years remaining on his contract.
A frequently proposed McCollum-Ben Simmons base deal could once again be on the table, with Portland now needing a point guard and the Sixers looking for more firepower to counter the Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets and now Lillard's Boston Celtics.
With the current Blazers choosing to keep Lillard's backcourt partner, eventually moving the franchise star will make the decision to trade McCollum an easy one.