Way-Too-Soon 2022 NBA Trade Deadline Predictions
Trade deadline predictions? In September??
Yep, we're going there.
With NBA rosters mostly settled now just weeks before training camp, it's unlikely we see any major shakeups (save for a Ben Simmons trade) before the start of the 2021-22 season.
However, it doesn't mean we can't read the tea leaves and get an idea of deals that may come to fruition during the year. Some possible trades could be the result of rosters left in disarray following a major trade or players thought to be on the move in transactions that later fell apart.
Look for these five scenarios to play out sometime before the 2022 NBA trade deadline.
Celtics Go Shopping with Massive Trade Exception, Again
When the Celtics knew they were going to lose Gordon Hayward to the Charlotte Hornets in free agency in 2020, they wisely turned his departure into an asset by creating the NBA's largest trade exception ($28.5 million) in a sign-and-trade.
Boston used most of this exception to acquire Evan Fournier from the Orlando Magic at the 2021 deadline, yet lost the veteran swingman in free agency this summer to the New York Knicks. Like with Hayward, the Celtics were smart to turn losing Fournier into a sign-and-trade to collect yet another sizable exception, this one valued at $17.1 million.
A trade exception, of course, means Boston doesn't need to send any salary back in return, and can absorb a player or multiple players' salaries that add up to $17.1 million or less. Exceptions are good for one calendar year, meaning the Celtics have until July 17, 2022 to use it or lose it.
Players that would fit into this new exception and could be available include Memphis Grizzlies center Steven Adams ($17.1 million), Orlando Magic point guard Markelle Fultz ($16.5 million) and Washington Wizards forwards Davis Bertans ($16 million) and Kyle Kuzma ($13 million).
If Celtics ownership is comfortable going further into the luxury tax, new president of basketball operations Brad Stevens could acquire a nice rotation piece without having to send out any of his own players.
Cavs Try to Trade Kevin Love for Final Time, Buy Him out Before Deadline
The Cleveland Cavaliers have made it clear that Kevin Love is no longer in their plans moving forward.
The Cavs selected USC big man Evan Mobley with the No. 3 pick in the 2021 draft and gave center Jarrett Allen a five-year, $100 million deal, cementing Mobley's spot at power forward. General manager Koby Altman then landed former Chicago Bulls 7-footer Lauri Markkanen on a four-year, $67 million contract in a three-team sign-and-trade.
With Mobley and Markkanen now first and second on the Cavaliers depth chart at power forward, Love simply doesn't have a spot in the rotation.
While Love has wanted a trade off a rebuilding Cavs team for years now, the almost 33-year-old is refusing to give back any money from his remaining two-year, $60.2 million contract.
"There have been no talks with Cleveland on a buyout, nor is there any interest from Kevin in doing a buyout," Love's agent Jeff Schwartz told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Another Schwartz client, Andre Drummond, worked together with the Cavs on a buyout last season before the veteran center signed with the Los Angeles Lakers.
If Love isn't going to agree to a buyout, the Cavaliers could just hold him out of games while they continue to seek a trade, much like they did with Drummond last year.
Blake Griffin recently gave back $13.3 million of his $75 million to leave the Detroit Pistons, while Kemba Walker agreed to surrender $20 million of his $73.7 million to depart the Oklahoma City Thunder for the New York Knicks. A similar deal for Love would mean giving back between $10.7 million (17.7 percent of his remaining contract, like Griffin) and $16.2 million (27 percent, like Walker) of his $60.2 million, something Love clearly won't do yet.
The Cavs can try to explore trades while letting Love's contract slowly shrink, but unless they're willing to attach draft picks to dump him on a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder or find a contract that's even worse (hello, John Wall), nothing will come to fruition.
Look for the Love drama to drag into the regular season, with a buyout inevitably coming around the deadline if they exhaust all their options and can't find a trade partner.
Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley III Find New Homes
While the Sacramento Kings may have finished last in defense last season, they lead the NBA in players passive-aggressively asking to be traded.
Both Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III have been "caught" seemingly showing their displeasure with their current situations on social media, with the Kings already coming close to at least making one of their wishes come true.
Hield looked like he was on his way to the Los Angeles Lakers in a deal for Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell, and even expected the move to happen, per Jason Jones of The Athletic. Of course, the Lakers pulled out of the deal in favor of acquiring Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards instead.
After signing an extension with Sacramento in 2019, Hield has been benched, refused to take offseason phone calls from head coach Luke Walton and now been a part of a trade that fell apart at the goal line. Bagley has battled injuries since being selected No. 2 in the 2018 draft, but he's also shown little improvement during his time on the court. A restricted free agent next summer, there's no reason for the Kings to want to reward him with a new deal.
For a Sacramento team that's become guard heavy over the past two drafts, this roster is screaming for a trade.
Shooting is something every team in the NBA needs, and only Stephen Curry made more total threes than Hield's 282 last year (on 39.1 percent). Bagley, if healthy, could thrive in a new role and system, with rebuilding teams in need of frontcourt help likely making a call to Sacramento.
With the Kings' future in the hands of De'Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell, look for Hield and Bagley to be moved.
Wizards Are Most Active Team at Deadline
Washington did the right thing by flipping Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason, a transaction that ended up involving five teams while landing the Wizards Spencer Dinwiddie, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and Aaron Holiday.
The move gave Washington a ton of flexibility moving forward by dumping Westbrook's remaining two years and $91.3 million, but left the current roster extremely unsettled.
Do the Wizards lean on their veterans with Bradley Beal headed toward unrestricted free agency, or do they prioritize playing time for young players like rookie Corey Kispert and former lottery picks Deni Avdija and Rui Hachimura? Does the arrival of Harrell mean either Daniel Gafford or Thomas Bryant (when he returns from a torn ACL) gets bumped from the rotation?
No matter which direction Washington chooses, this is a roster that doesn't yet make sense.
Trying to win now while also prioritizing growth means simply spinning their wheels. The Wizards seem destined for a play-in spot in the East—not good enough to be a serious playoff threat and not bad enough to land a top draft pick.
For this reason, expect Washington to be extremely active at the deadline.
Whether this means dumping the veterans (and possibly even Beal) for picks and young players and committing to guys like Hachimura, Avdija, Gafford and Kispert or packaging the future to get Beal some more star-quality help, Washington's worst option would be to simply do nothing.
Warriors Flip the Kids for Win-Now Help
The Warriors feature one of the most intriguing young cores in the league with James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, which would be more exciting if the team was rebuilding instead of trying to win the 2022 NBA title.
Stephen Curry, 33, is coming off the highest usage rating of his 12-year career. Klay Thompson, 31, is still rehabbing from two of the worst injuries a basketball player can suffer (Achilles and ACL). Draymond Green, 31, has become a borderline offensive liability when doing anything outside of passing.
This just isn't the same trio that helped carry Golden State to three championships and five NBA Finals appearances from 2015-2019. They'll need help.
While Wiseman and Kuminga could be All-Stars one day, the current Warriors stars want some immediate contributors, per The Athletic's Marcus Thompson II:
"The Warriors' trio of stars—Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson—have made it clear to management they want the franchise to focus on the pursuit of a championship, even to consider using their two lottery picks to get someone who can help immediately, sources confirmed."
With Wiseman, the No. 2 pick in 2020, on the court last season, the Warriors were outscored by a whopping 16.9 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass. That figure ranked in the first percentile, making it one of the very worst in the NBA.
Rookies rarely help winning teams, as even the Charlotte Hornets were statistically worse with 2020-21 Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball on the floor last season (minus-0.6 points per 100 possessions, 48th percentile).
With Thompson not expected back until Christmas and Golden State's young players destined to go through growing pains, expect the Warriors to eventually run out of patience and look to flip guys like Wiseman, Kuminga and Moody for any star that becomes available.