10 Realistic Predictions for 2022 NBA Trade Deadline
The 2021-2022 NBA season is still in its infancy, but that doesn't mean we're not already getting some vibes about how the trade deadline is going to shake out.
From players in uncomfortable situations to teams who are already starting to look like buyers (or sellers), it's safe to dust off the crystal ball and make some deadline predictions.
Will Deandre Ayton not getting a max extension put him on the trade block in Phoenix? Will Kyrie Irving eventually get traded for someone who can actually play in home games for the Nets? Which big free-agent signing will already give his team buyer's remorse and wind up on the market?
Here are 10 realistic predictions for the 2022 deadline.
Derrick Favors Gets Bought out by Thunder (if He's Not Traded First)
The Utah Jazz traded Favors to the Thunder right before the start of free agency, including a top-10 protected first-round pick in 2024 in exchange for a 2027 second-round pick and cash considerations.
While Oklahoma City can certainly use the veteran center, the deal was primarily done to pick up another first-round pick, this time from a Utah team that needed to shed salary.
Going from one of the best teams in the NBA to one of the worst can be a culture shock, although we shouldn't expect Favors to be in Oklahoma City for long. For now, the 30-year-old center is being a good sport while also acknowledging that this may not be a long-term relationship.
"I just want to help them out as much as I can, for however long I'm here," Favors said, via Justin Martinez of the Oklahoman. "I just want to help those guys out as much as I can and be that leader, that voice for them that they need whenever they need to ask questions or (are) going through a long season."
The Thunder went through a similar situation the year before, taking on Al Horford in a salary-dump move by the Philadelphia 76ers that also netted them a first-round pick. Horford ended up playing 28 games for OKC before being shut down after the trade deadline to create more playing time for the young talent on the roster. He was later traded to the Boston Celtics this offseason in a deal for Kemba Walker, another salary dump who would eventually be bought out.
See the pattern here?
Favors will be far easier to trade than Horford given his smaller contract (two years, $19.9 million), although he's not as impactful as a player overall.
If the Thunder can't find a trade partner for Favors, look for them to buy the veteran out (a la Walker) and let him find a new home.
Teams Try to Pry Brandon Ingram from Pelicans
Things aren't going great for the Zion Williamson-less Pelicans.
While the star power forward works his way back to the court following foot surgery, New Orleans has begun the season 0-3 with a net rating of minus-13.6.
Rookie second-round pick Herbert Jones has already had to start two games with Williamson out, exposing the lack of depth the Pelicans have in their frontcourt.
Ingram has done everything he can to try and carry New Orleans with averages of 27.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists and a 46.2 percent mark from three after his first three games, looking well on his way to a second All-Star appearance now at age 24.
If Williamson is out for an extended period of time and Ingram continues to put up huge numbers for a miserable Pelicans team, the 29 other general managers will smell blood in the water.
Of course, New Orleans VP of Basketball Operations David Griffin would be foolish to part with Ingram, who still has four years left on his contract and can't become a free agent until 2025.
Hopefully, Williamson can make a full recovery soon and get back to bullying opponents in the paint. If not, expect there to be plenty of teams checking on Ingram's availability around the deadline.
Cavaliers Already Begin Shopping Lauri Markkanen
The Cavs gave Markkanen a four-year, $67.5 million deal in a three-way sign-and-trade deal with the Chicago Bulls and Portland Trail Blazers, a move that also cost them one of their most versatile defenders and best overall players in Larry Nance Jr.
While the idea was to add shooting to a roster that finished near the bottom in nearly every three-point category last year, this was a wild overpay for a player who does little else.
Furthermore, Cleveland is so big-man rich with Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen, Markkanen, Kevin Love and Tacko Fall that Markkanen has started all three of his games thus far at small forward, a position he's an odd fit at with a 6'11", 240-pound frame.
Of course, all of this works if Markkanen shoots the lights out of the ball.
Unfortunately, the 24-year-old has gotten off to a cold start, making just 12 of his first 40 shot attempts (30.0 percent), including 5-of-18 from three (27.8 percent).
Giving nearly $70 million to a power forward to shoot, only to play him on the wing and miss shots will have the Cavaliers looking for teams to take on his contract by the trade deadline, if not sooner.
Grizzlies Become Surprise Buyers
After making the West playoffs as the eighth seed last season, Memphis looked like it willingly took a step back this summer by trading starting center Jonas Valanciunas in a deal that landed it Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe and a 2022 first-round pick (via the Los Angeles Lakers) among other moving parts from the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Grizzlies are still quite young, of course, with Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane, Brandon Clarke, Xavier Tillman Sr., Jarrett Culver and Ziaire Williams all still on rookie deals.
While trading Valanciunas made it seem like this franchise is willing to be patient, all that could change with a hot start to the 2021-22 season.
Memphis has won two of its first three games of the season even without Dillon Brooks, who's recovering from a broken hand suffered in an offseason practice. His scoring (17.2 points per game) ranked second on the team behind Morant last year.
Players like Morant and Jackson will be untouchable during trade talks, but Memphis has a lot of other young talent and three first-round picks in 2022 (their own, the Lakers' and one from the Utah Jazz acquired in the Mike Conley Jr. trade) to offer up in deals to land win-now help.
Don't be surprised if the Grizzlies stay in the West playoff picture and become buyers at the deadline.
Raptors Can't Overcome Slow Start, Become Sellers at Deadline
Even after a 27-45 finish a year ago and losing Kyle Lowry in the offseason, the Raptors have chosen not to rebuild while hanging on to veterans such as Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. Toronto even added veteran point guard Goran Dragic in a sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat for Lowry, further proving its willingness to compete for a playoff spot in the East.
A 1-2 start to the season has shown how much the Raptors miss Siakam, however, who's likely out for a few more weeks while recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Rookie Scottie Barnes is leading the team in scoring (18.0 points), not a good sign for the team's overall success.
A poor start to the year isn't nearly as forgivable in the East as it has been in recent years, with teams like the Chicago Bulls, Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards improving this offseason. Toronto could already find itself in a significant hole by the time Siakam returns.
Vice chairman/president of the Raptors, Masai Ujiri, is perhaps the most comfortable front office leader in basketball after agreeing to a massive new deal in August to remain in Toronto. He won't have any problems with job security if entering a rebuild, one that could be led by Barnes, OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr. and Precious Achiuwa.
If the Raptors stumble out of the gate, players such as Siakam, VanVleet, Dragic, Khem Birch, Chris Boucher and others could all become available.
Terrence Ross Asks out of Orlando, Gets His Wish Granted
The Magic are in full rebuild mode after trading Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier at the March deadline last season, with Ross serving as one of the few veterans remaining on the team.
Despite this, the 30-year-old still finds himself in a sixth-man role for the 1-2 Magic, a team widely projected to be near the bottom of the standings.
If he hasn't already privately, Ross should be asking for a trade, one opposing teams believe he'll get.
"He'll be moved," one NBA executive told HoopsHype's Michael Scotto. "They were trying to move him at the draft. They wanted to put him in a place where he could win. I think he's worth a couple of second-round picks."
Ross is averaging 16.3 points over three games and has a reasonable two years and $24 million remaining on his contract.
For teams looking for a scoring punch either in their starting lineup or off the bench, Ross is an ideal option who won't make it past the deadline in Orlando.
Phoenix Takes Calls on Deandre Ayton but Ultimately Keeps Him
Ayton and the Suns couldn't agree on a contract extension this offseason, meaning the 2018 No. 1 overall pick will become a restricted free agent next summer.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Ayton was only willing to accept a max five-year, $172.5 million deal, one the Suns refused to give him.
"One thing about me, throughout my whole life, I've always learned to control what I can control," Ayton said per Duane Rankin of Arizona Republic. "At the same time, obviously I'm disappointed, but I'm still trying to get us back to the finals. I've still got to represent the team and myself as well. I'm just a competitor, man. Just like to compete to the best and every time I'm in between those lines, that's what you're going to see out of me. Nothing else."
A similar situation played out last year between the Atlanta Hawks and power forward John Collins. While Collins wasn't asking for the max, the two sides still couldn't agree on his value heading into the season, causing him to pop up in trade rumors.
However, Atlanta gave Collins a five-year, $125 million deal this offseason, with both parties moving on after previously navigating through murky waters.
This will be the same for Ayton. Opposing teams will have interest in the 23-year-old center and call to check on his availability. Phoenix general manager James Jones will likely do his job and listen, even if he doesn't make any outgoing calls himself.
At the end, Ayton will stay in a Suns uniform past the deadline and sign a new deal with the team next summer.
Kings Keep Their Guards, Shuffle Rest of the Roster
Sacramento has its franchise player in De'Aaron Fox, a do-it-all shooting guard next to him in Tyrese Haliburton and now a defensive menace to complete the three-headed monster in Davion Mitchell.
The rest of the roster, however, is still a work in progress.
A Twitter complaint from his agent at least got Marvin Bagley III back in the Kings' rotation, but he's still a near lock to be traded before hitting free agency this offseason. Buddy Hield has been benched in favor of Haliburton (and even Terence Davis), a role he hasn't liked in the past. Even Harrison Barnes (28.3 points, 10.3 rebounds) should be a hot name at the trade deadline.
Sacramento's backcourt is set. The wing and center position (outside Barnes and Richaun Holmes) needs upgrading, with movement coming.
Bagley will be gone by the deadline. Hield is likely out the door as well. Barnes, Tristan Thompson and Maurice Harkless aren't guaranteed to stay purple, black and slate grey, either.
The Kings will be one of the most active teams at the deadline, although consider the three young guards off limits.
Zach LaVine Stays out of Trade Talks
Zach LaVine should hypothetically pop up in some trade rumors before the deadline, given the 26-year-old All-Star is heading to unrestricted free agency next summer.
However, expect nothing but crickets regarding LaVine changing teams.
The Bulls have done everything in their power to ensure LaVine is happy before he has a chance to walk, trading unproven young talent like Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen (along with three first-round picks) over the past year for win-now help.
So far so good as Chicago is 3-0 to start the season behind the strong play of LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso.
As long as the Bulls can stay relatively healthy and in the playoff picture, there's no reason for LaVine to ask out, which would be the only reason for Chicago to even entertain any trade proposals.
While opposing teams may still call on LaVine's status, executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas will quickly hang up.
Kyrie, Nets Agree to a Trade to Team Outside New York, San Francisco
With Kyrie Irving ineligible to play in home games because of New York's COVID-19 vaccine mandate, and the Brooklyn Nets not permitting him to be a member of the team at all until he can do so on a full-time basis, there doesn't appear to be a happy ending in sight between the two sides.
The Nets are 1-2 to begin the year and have tried three different starting point guards (Patty Mills, James Harden and Jevon Carter) with Irving out.
A trade may be best for both sides.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Friday that Brooklyn "has taken incoming calls" about Irving but that it was yet to make any itself. Any deal involving Irving would need his cooperation as well, given his new franchise would require a guarantee that he'd play.
The New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors are out of the question as they face the same mandates as Brooklyn. Los Angeles has adopted a similar vaccine mandate, although Staples Center is exempt, meaning Irving could play for the Clippers or Lakers (although salary-matching would be impossible).
With Kevin Durant, James Harden and the rest of the Nets trying to win a title, Irving has become more of a hindrance than a help, and he will be traded before the deadline.