Every NBA Team's 2021 Trade Deadline Target List
NBA whiteboards are already filling up with possible trade targets.
It's still early for the official start of #TradeSZN, but each day brings us a step closer to the unofficial opening of the exchange market.
This year could be a wild one. The championship race feels open enough to spur both legitimate contenders and contending-hopefuls to buy. And since most teams will likely be short on cash next offseason, they might want to pursue their difference-makers, depth pieces and anyone in between right now.
From established elites to draft considerations, let's break down the trade desires of all 30 franchises.
Targets: David Nwaba, Garrett Temple, Trey Burke
If the Hawks hope to match—or exceed—last season's success, they need to address a defensive shortage that existed even before De'Andre Hunter was lost for multiple months to right wrist surgery. Plucking David Nwaba away from the rebuilding Houston Rockets is one option to address it.
Another would be freeing Garrett Temple from the mess down in New Orleans. The fact he can run offense in a pinch and provides some perimeter shooting might up his appeal.
While Trey Burke wouldn't bulk up the defense, he could help prevent the offense from completely collapsing when Trae Young takes a breather. Offseason import Delon Wright has been a non-factor on offense, 35-year-old Lou Williams might finally be showing his age and rookie Sharife Cooper doesn't seem ready for a rotation role just yet.
Targets: Dejounte Murray, Terrence Ross, Kyle Anderson
Boston's reported interest in Ben Simmons, per The Athletic's Shams Charania, highlights a desire to coax more size, distribution and defense out of the point guard position. But if he's going to cost Jaylen Brown, as Charania said he would, that should be a deal-breaker for Boston.
The Shamrocks could instead pivot to Dejounte Murray, who's engineering a breakout season but still may not quite scratch the San Antonio Spurs' itch for a true franchise focal point. If he is up for grabs, he could fill the floor-general role Boston hoped Marcus Smart could handle.
Potential interest in Terrence Ross speaks to this squad's underwhelming scoring options beyond Jayson Tatum and Brown and general lack of spacing. Kyle Anderson, who was reportedly available this offseason, per Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor, could perk up Boston's playmaking and perimeter defense. If his early success from distance holds up, he would offer relief on that front, too.
Targets: Juancho Hernangomez, Mike Muscala, Ben McLemore
Brooklyn's surprisingly sluggish start on offense speaks to a number of issues—insert snarky Kyrie Irving take here—but bigs not named LaMarcus Aldridge have struggled providing any kind of scoring punch.
Is the situation dire enough to make Juancho Hernangomez and Mike Muscala at all appealing? Yes, yes it is. Hernangomez can help when his three-balls are falling, and Muscala has long offered an intriguing size-spacing combo.
Speaking of spacing, the Nets could use more ignitable shooters on the second unit. It's fair to debate whether Ben McLemore offers enough of anything else to see the floor, but his shot might be enough to catch the Nets' attention when they're browsing the clearance rack.
Targets: Myles Turner, Mo Bamba, Jakob Poeltl
Mason Plumlee might be an upgrade at the center spot, but that says more about his predecessor (Cody Zeller) than it does about Plumlee. He is...fine, but the Hornets should aim higher than fine at the 5 spot when the rest of this roster looks ready to make some postseason noise.
Myles Turner, Mo Bamba and Jakob Poeltl would all require the sacrifice of some not insignificant assets, but the Hornets are positioned to splurge with young stars Miles Bridges and LaMelo Ball making rookie-scale money. Bridges' payday is coming next summer, though, so the time to spend is now.
Charlotte should probably rank these players in the above order, as Turner is the most established, Bamba has flashed enough shooting to get people excited about his future and Poeltl's defensive dominance is offset a bit by his offensive limitations.
Targets: Cam Reddish, Josh Hart, Tony Snell
The Bulls have surprisingly few holes for a club that couldn't crack the play-in tournament last season, but that's what a wildly productive offseason can do.
Chicago could stand to solidify its wing depth, though, and that was the case even before Patrick Williams was lost to left wrist surgery. The Bulls' budget is tricky to calculate depending on when (or if) they think Williams can return, and whether they see his future at the 3 or 4 spot.
On the higher end, the Bulls could get good mileage out of Cam Reddish, who was available at last season's deadline and the draft, per HoopsHype's Michael Scotto, or Josh Hart, who could be up for grabs if the New Orleans Pelicans haven't (dramatically) improved by the time he becomes trade eligible in mid-December. Former Bull Tony Snell's shooting stroke could hold some appeal if Chicago restricts itself to bargain shopping.
Targets: Coby White, Terrence Ross, Danuel House Jr.
The Cavaliers need a replacement for Collin Sexton, who is out indefinitely with a torn meniscus in his left knee. Coby White's shooting and quick-strike scoring could make him an interesting candidate, and he could even play his way into keeper territory if Cleveland isn't prepared to pay what Sexton commands on the open market.
Point production is an issue for much of this roster, though, so the Cavs shouldn't limit their scoring search to the backcourt. Terrence Ross can be a walking bucket when he's rolling, and he might make those bucket binges a lot more frequent once he is rescued from the overhauled Orlando Magic.
Wing depth is another possible focus for the front office, which could put Danuel House Jr. on the radar. He may not be doing much for the James Harden-less Houston Rockets, but his three-and-D skills could return in a better setup than he has in Space City.
Targets: Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Jakob Poeltl
The Mavs may not have the trade cache to chase their coveted third star, but a one-way star like Buddy Hield could fit the budget. He would slide into Tim Hardaway Jr.'s spot and upgrade the three-point volume and efficiency.
Staying in Sacramento, how about reuniting with one-time Maverick Harrison Barnes? He can get over his skis when tasked with something near a featured role, but he is pretty close to perfect as a complementary piece. He is flirting with 50/40/90 enshrinement and holding his own on a variety of different defensive assignments, as per usual.
Jakob Poeltl is worth a mention because the Mavs might want to take a swing at a defensive-minded big man, both to ease the burden on Kristaps Porzingis and provide protection when the injury bug inevitably comes knocking. At 26 years old, Poeltl might land just outside of the San Antonio Spurs' long-term strategy if they don't envision a quick fix for their rebuild (as they shouldn't).
Targets: Danuel House Jr., Terrence Ross, Kenrich Williams
The Nuggets should look to lengthen their wing rotation, and that's true regardless of what they think of Michael Porter Jr.'s slow start and ongoing battle with back problems.
They probably don't want to pay a premium to do it, since they have already spent large on much of this roster. Early erratic shooting from Danuel House Jr. and Terrence Ross might drop their trade cost to a reasonable amount if they don't turn it around.
Kenrich Williams' offensive outlook is murky, but he's a scrappy defender who can shift across different assignments. With his 27th birthday coming in December, he might be aging his way out of the Oklahoma City Thunder's plans.
Targets: Miles Bridges, Marvin Bagley III, Draft picks
As the Pistons spin their tires near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, they have two paths in front of them. One is hunting for an immediate upgrade who could help the franchise pursue its (ambitious) plan of relatively righting the ship this season. The other is acknowledging the long rebuilding road ahead of them and chasing long-term assets that could eventually improve the team.
If Detroit opts for the former, then an all-out pursuit of former Michigan State star Miles Bridges could be in the works. He almost assuredly isn't available now, but if the Hornets falter between now and the deadline, they might want to field offers if they're leery of his impending payday. Detroit has the financial flexibility to pay him next summer, and bringing him in sooner than that could help determine how much he is worth.
If the Pistons head the other direction, they should clear out any veterans who could bring back draft capital (yes, including Jerami Grant), then scan the bargain bin for any plateauing prospects. While the light bulb hasn't clicked yet for 2018's No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III, maybe it could ignite in an environment away from the Sacramento Kings.
Golden State Warriors
Targets: Alex Len, Trey Burke, Ben McLemore
While the Warriors have the trade artillery to chase an established star, their scorching start suggests the eventual returns of Klay Thompson and James Wiseman might be all they need to chase the crown.
If big upgrades really aren't needed—setting up the light-years-ahead scenario of contending now and down the road—then Golden State can go on a budget-conscious search for niche role players.
Alex Len would bring size, strength and physicality to the frontcourt. Trey Burke could add creativity and some scoring punch to the second unit. Ben McLemore would add shooting depth on nights when Jordan Poole and Damion Lee don't have the touch. These aren't difference-making players, obviously, but the Warriors might be good on that front.
Targets: Mo Bamba, Aaron Nesmith, Draft picks
Houston, you have a host of problems: with offense, defense, inexperience and just about every other element of basketball. The Rockets are still buried underneath the bearded shadow of James Harden, and it could be years before they see any signs of relief.
That should put Houston firmly in the seller's bracket of deadline participants, provided anyone has draft picks to give for the Rockets' few veterans.
The right kind of purchase could intrigue Houston's front office, though. Young players who fit the timeline and play style of Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. might be worth an investment. If Mo Bamba is available at a discount because of his upcoming restricted free agency or the Celtics start panicking about Aaron Nesmith, the Rockets should be ready to strike.
Targets: Ben Simmons, Jerami Grant, Gordon Hayward
The Pacers are the classic case of the whole failing to measure up to the sum of the individual parts. The pieces all look fine on paper, but they haven't fit together in a meaningful manner.
This roster might need a consolidation deal, and their interest in Ben Simmons suggests they have acknowledged as much. Indy has never inked a player of his ilk in free agency, so landing one in a trade would be the next best thing. His fit is hard to measure without knowing exactly what the Pacers would be giving up, but his defensive versatility, transition attacks and vision would all help him find a fit.
The other option is finally splitting up their combo of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis and filling the 4 spot with a more modern power forward. Jerami Grant and Circle City native Gordon Hayward would both be strong candidates for the gig.
Los Angeles Clippers
Targets: Tomas Satoransky, Jeremy Lamb, Josh Okogie
Considering their Kawhi Leonard-sized hole, the Clippers should be thrilled with their start. They have two things to thank for that: defensive dominance and the MVP-caliber effort of Paul George.
But this offense can be too PG-or-bust. Adding a ball-mover like Tomas Satoransky could help spread the scoring duties around. Jeremy Lamb could take on some of the scoring burden on his own.
If the Clippers aren't thrilled with these possibilities, another option is leaning even harder into their defensive identity by snagging another stopper. Josh Okogie adds next to nothing on offense—exactly why the Minnesota Timberwolves might let him go—but he is a relentless worker on defense.
Los Angeles Lakers
Targets: Jerami Grant, Terence Davis, Ben McLemore
The Lakers probably blocked themselves from making major moves when they dumped their remaining resources into the Russell Westbrook trade, but the one exception would be dealing Talen Horton-Tucker once he is trade eligible in mid-January.
His youth, defensive versatility and flashes of shot-creation could entice a future-focused shopper, and while he couldn't anchor a deal for an elite, combining him with a sweetener or two might be enough for Jerami Grant. The Pistons must decide sooner than later if they want to cover the cost of Grant's 2023 free agency, and if they don't, the Lakers could grab him to up their athleticism, defense and scoring on the wing.
It's far more likely L.A. can only pursue deeply discounted players, so fliers on Terence Davis and Ben McLemore might be the best it can do. Neither is doing much at the moment, but Davis has shown three-and-D chops before, and McLemore has historically shot the three at a decent clip.
Targets: Brandon Ingram, Miles Bridges, Cam Reddish
The Grizzlies know that an impact wing could take this roster to the next level. That's why they traded up to the No. 10 pick to land Ziaire Williams.
"Six-foot-nine wings are nearly impossible to come by with shot-making ability, athleticism and intelligence that Ziaire brings to the table," general manager Zach Kleiman said, per Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
Rather than waiting and hoping Williams becomes that player, why not make an aggressive move for the actualized version of that archetype with Brandon Ingram or Miles Bridges? Ja Morant's superstar turn could make Memphis more eager to start its ascension sooner than later. If those wings are out of the budget, the Grizzlies could turn their attention to Cam Reddish knowing they have Williams waiting in the wings if he doesn't maximize his talents in Memphis.
Targets: D.J. Augustin, Jeremy Lamb, Alex Len
The Heat will have trouble upgrading their roster at the deadline. That's not entirely a tribute to their talent level, but that's part of it. The other, more important side is a lack of usable assets. Tyler Herro might've been an enticing trade chip in the past, but he has either entered the land of the untouchables or purchased his ticket to it.
That limits what kind of moves Miami can make, but luckily the needs aren't extreme: offensive-minded backup point guard, support scoring and shooting and some extra muscle on the interior.
D.J. Augustin could check the first box and increase the volume of the Heat's perimeter attack. Jeremy Lamb would space the floor most nights and score in bunches on at least a few of them. Alex Len could give the Heat an interior presence and another body to throw at the best bigs in the East.
Targets: Garrett Temple, Cory Joseph, Terence Davis
Milwaukee's biggest need might be bubble wrap, as injuries and the health and safety protocols have impacted nearly every key member of this rotation.
As for actual players, Garrett Temple's defense and decent-enough shooting could help him find a role in the backup backcourt. Cory Joseph would help ease some of the point-of-attack defensive duties shouldered by Jrue Holiday. Terence Davis is a three-and-D dart throw that a lot of financially limited contenders could make.
These aren't earth-shattering, landscape-shifting additions, but when you're the defending champs, you aren't usually trying to rock the boat in a big way.
Targets: Ben Simmons, Jerami Grant, Goran Dragic
There are more scenarios in which Minnesota is selling and not buying at the deadline, but it's too early to abandon hope. Karl-Anthony Towns still ranks among the Association's most offensively skilled centers, and stardom seems imminent for last year's top pick, Anthony Edwards.
Those two deserve a chance to show if they can make something happen together. They also deserve an upgrade to their supporting cast to have a legitimate shot. Making a major move for Ben Simmons might be just what they need to find their footing. An alternate option of dealing for Jerami Grant might have the added benefit of perhaps not coming at the expensive of D'Angelo Russell, as a Simmons deal almost certainly would.
But if the Wolves won't sacrifice the pieces needed to snag a star—or learn the players they would give up aren't enough to close the deal—then they could turn their attention toward upping the potency of their second unit. That's where the 35-year-old Goran Dragic could tag in, as he was still good for 18.1 points, 5.9 assists and 2.5 triples per 36 minutes just last season.
New Orleans Pelicans
Targets: Jalen Johnson, Bol Bol, Jalen Smith
The Pelicans are backed into a corner with no easy path to escape. The roster needs attention, but Zion Williamson's absence makes it tough to tell exactly what they need and how much an incoming piece could even help.
New Orleans almost certainly won't be in position to justify trading away significant assets—unless it's a fire sale—but it needs to do something to get better. The Pelicans could pursue veteran rentals for short-term relief, but plucking the right prospect might help a little now and a lot later.
Could the Hawks be talked into letting go of Jalen Johnson? That seems unlikely, but after locking up both John Collins and Clint Capela, they may not have a frontcourt opening for him for quite some time. Bol Bol could be all kinds of fun if his body could handle a regular role, and his shooting-shot-blocking combo could make for a snug fit alongside Williamson. Jalen Smith theoretically could do the same, assuming 2020's No. 10 pick isn't already a lost cause.
New York Knicks
Targets: De'Aaron Fox, CJ McCollum, Terrence Ross
The Knicks don't have to take a big swing this trade season, but they might struggle to match—let alone build off of—last year's success without one. De'Aaron Fox would be a dream get for the 'Bockers.
His pace would put more pep in their step. His vision could elevate the players around him. His shot creation would make them less reliant on Julius Randle. Fox's defensive tools could come to light under Tom Thibodeau's direction. Oh, and it's possible Sacramento might not be as married to Fox as you'd think.
"[Fox's] comfort level in the starting lineup with second-year guard Tyrese Haliburton is, it would seem, fast becoming an early concern," The Athletic's Sam Amick and Shams Charania wrote.
If Fox is too expensive—or simply unavailable—CJ McCollum could be quite the consolation prize. The Knicks don't have a better scoring threat on their roster, and he can make an impact both on or off the ball. Terrence Ross is lower on with the list, but his bounce, range and microwave scoring could be nice to have for the right price.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Targets: Miles Bridges, Obi Toppin, Mo Bamba
At some point, probably sooner than later, the Thunder will leave the pick-collection game and focus on finding players who can complement Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey and whomever else the front office deems a keeper. It's possible OKC makes that shift this trade season, as the roster has already shown more fight than expected.
Miles Bridges would be a massive upgrade on the wing, and the Thunder have the flexibility to pay top dollar for him in free agency. A core of SGA, Giddey, Bridges and Lu Dort could become a two-way wrecking ball if Bridges sustains his early success, Giddey makes good on his potential and Dort keeps adding to his offensive arsenal.
If that proves wishful thinking, then the Thunder could fortify their own frontcourt by snagging a center out of other clubs' crowded interiors. Obi Toppin seems ready for more minutes than the Knicks can give him with Julius Randle blocking his path. The Magic notably did not extend Mo Bamba but did extend Wendell Carter Jr., and they still have a frontcourt spot saved for Jonathan Isaac whenever he's ready to return.
Targets: Aaron Nesmith, KZ Okpala, Draft picks
The standings may not agree, but the Magic are already making progress with their rebuild. Cole Anthony, Mo Bamba and Wendell Carter Jr. all appear to be making a leap, Franz Wagner has hit the ground sprinting and Jalen Suggs has at times reminded everyone why he was this year's No. 5 pick.
That's all encouraging, but the front office's work is far from finished.
The Magic still need to put more up-and-comers in the pipeline, and they should sniff out available draft picks and cheap prospects who could join this core. This would be awfully early for Boston to bail on Aaron Nesmith, but if the Celtics start climbing the ladder, they might seek a more established spacer (cough, Terrence Ross) instead. KZ Okpala might be free if the Magic want to take a spin with his physical tools.
Targets: Damian Lillard, Jaylen Brown, Dejounte Murray
Outsiders might scoff at the notion, but the 76ers seem ready to wait on a Ben Simmons trade until someone meets their price. They reportedly have roughly 30 players they would be willing to accept in a Simmons swap, per The Athletic's Sam Amick, and think a handful or two might become available in the next year or two. Yes, you read that correctly.
"This is like a multiyear thing," a Sixers source told Amick.
That's brutal news for Simmons, but Philly has no obvious reason to deviate from the plan. Simmons has his shortcomings, but he's a brilliant defender, a 6'11" floor general and a punishing finisher in the open floor. He won't turn 26 until next July. The 76ers are right to seek a king's ransom, even if it's unclear who might actually pay it.
Damian Lillard should arguably sit atop the wish list, as he'd be an ideal pick-and-roll dance partner with Joel Embiid. Jaylen Brown won't be far behind, as he massively impacts both ends of the floor. Dejounte Murray is lower on the list, but he plays a similar style to Simmons and would come with more players to help lengthen Philly's rotation.
Targets: Robert Covington, Thaddeus Young, Jeremy Lamb
When Cam Johnson and Jae Crowder are hitting their shots, the Suns have a ferocious trio at forward with those two and Mikal Bridges. But adding one more forward to the mix could be quietly huge, especially if it's someone who can handle small-ball center minutes.
Robert Covington could check that box. His three-ball would keep the floor spread for Devin Booker and Chris Paul to attack, and the on-ball defense of Bridges and Crowder would let Covington work his off-ball magic. Thaddeus Young could check it, too, but in a different way. His gifts to the offense would be his secondary playmaking and close-range finishing, and he can hang with most frontcourt players on defense.
Jeremy Lamb is worth a mention considering Phoenix might aim to up its three-point volume. There could be some overlap with him and Landry Shamet on the same bench unit, but there's no such thing as having too many shooters.
Portland Trail Blazers
Targets: Harrison Barnes, Reggie Bullock, Cam Reddish
Portland probably needs more time to finalize its wish list. The Blazers might help themselves with some internal tweaks, primarily upping the workloads of both Nassir Little and Larry Nance Jr.
But if they feel they're still short at the forward spots—a perpetual problem for this core—they might need to dump even more resources into the position. Harrison Barnes would fit like a tailored suit at both ends of the floor. He could split the third-scorer role with Norman Powell, keep the offensive end properly spaced and give Portland a defensive option to throw at anyone from big wings to small-ball centers.
Reggie Bullock and Cam Reddish land in the three-and-D bucket, which is essentially what Portland wants alongside its star guards. Reddish's shooting form looks better than its results, though, and Bullock can run hot or cold.
Targets: Ben Simmons, Malik Beasley, Obi Toppin
One could argue the Kings should sell—not buy—at this year's trade deadline. But the argument apparently won't be entertained in Sacramento, where the Kings are "determined to break their 15-year playoff drought," per The Athletic's Sam Amick and Shams Charania.
If the Kings want to win, they need more talent. Dealing for Ben Simmons would certainly qualify, and it could finally give this club an identity as an up-tempo, defense-first team. But unless Philadelphia's front office is overloaded with Buddy Hield fans, a Simmons swap would probably cost the Kings either De'Aaron Fox or Tyrese Haliburton, a sacrifice the Kings weren't willing to make in September, per Amick.
If those two remain off-limits, then Sacramento must lower its sights and hope a support piece or two can what pushes it over the edge. The Kings need more shooters, making Malik Beasley an option. They also need to solidify their future at the 4 spot and could give Obi Toppin an opportunity to do just that.
San Antonio Spurs
Targets: Brandon Ingram, Ben Simmons, Christian Wood
The Spurs have a handful of intriguing players at various stages of their development, but they still need that Lebowskian rug to tie everything together.
Turning multiple prospects into an established star like Brandon Ingram or Ben Simmons might work. This offense needs a focal point, and Ingram has the arsenal to serve in that capacity. Simmons has already ascended to heights Dejounte Murray may never reach, so San Antonio could consider that upgrade at the lead guard spot.
Christian Wood might be a half-tier behind the other targets, as his numbers have never come for winning teams—though he has never had the opportunity to prove they can—and his defense can be a little spacey. Still, it's easy to buy his blend of size, skill and athleticism, and his trade cost shouldn't be egregious with 2023 free agency awaiting him.
Targets: Derrick White, Doug McDermott, Derrick Favors
Assuming OG Anunoby doesn't miss too much time with his hip pointer, the Raptors could have incentive to buy at the deadline. Their full-strength starting five doesn't have a weak spot, and there are some interesting pieces on the second unit.
Still, Toronto's ceiling might be capped at a one-round playoff cameo without any external additions. Derrick White could help change that. He isn't a star, but he can be a star role player, and his glue-guy game should offer a seamless transition. He can handle secondary scoring and distributing roles, and there are moments where his scoring really pops.
If the Raptors prefer a lower-cost specialist, then Doug McDermott's outside shot and Derrick Favors' interior muscle would both be worth having.
Targets: Bryn Forbes, Ben McLemore, Trey Burke
It's probably impossible for any modern team to have too many spacers. It almost certainly will never be the case for the Jazz.
They live by the three and usually win by the three (along with awesome defense). A push for more spacers probably always makes sense, but it's particularly true now with Jordan Clarkson fighting a frigid spell and Donovan Mitchell struggling to find his range.
If Bryn Forbes fits the budget, he would be an obvious target as a flamethrower for the second unit. If the Jazz don't want to give up real assets, then Ben McLemore might be worth the (incredibly) low-cost gamble. If Utah just seeks more scoring in general from the bench group, then reuniting with Trey Burke, who started his career in Salt Lake City, could do the trick.
Targets: Cam Reddish, Reggie Bullock, Danuel House Jr.
Last season's Wizards were too top-heavy, so they rectified that by turning Russell Westbrook into a batch of competent role players. This year's deadline could be another opportunity to improve the depth around Bradley Beal.
Adding another two-way forward should be the aim. Atlanta has already discussed the financial complications of having such a deep roster, and since virtually every other key rotation player has been paid, Cam Reddish could be the odd man out. The Wizards would do well to make him the next man in to their locker room.
If not Reddish, then Reggie Bullock and Danuel House Jr. could fill a similar depth role. Both are adequate shooters and relatively versatile wing defenders who shouldn't cost an arm and a leg on the trade market.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.