5 Young NBA Players Who Need a Trade by the 2022 Deadline
Talent doesn't guarantee success in the NBA.
Every year, multiple high-level prospects are taken in the lottery and simply don't fit with the organization that drafted them.
It could be conflicts with coaches or management. There might be a redundancy at their position. Whatever the reason, things just don't work out sometimes.
Fit is often every bit as important as talent. And for the five players below, the fit just hasn't been there.
For the purposes of this article, we'll consider anyone under 26 as "young," which qualifies Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons. He's the obvious subject, but there has been a bit of smoke around some other names for much of the season.
For their sakes, let's hope there's some fire before the Feb. 10 trade deadline.
Marvin Bagley III
Marvin Bagley III is in the final year of his rookie contract with the Sacramento Kings, and it feels like he's been in and out of trade rumors for the duration of it.
As recently as December, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee reported that the "Kings are still shopping a package including Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III in hopes of getting a good player in return."
Obviously, nothing has happened yet, but it does seem like Bagley will have to be included in a deal that is centered around a more productive player.
Trading him by himself might be tricky. Since he's on an expiring contract and on the verge of restricted free agency, any suitor might be wary of an actual breakout. If you acquire him and he's good, suddenly you might feel obligated to match an offer sheet he signs this summer.
Essentially, a team would be trading for someone it might have to give a raise to in six months, and that's not much of an evaluation period.
Still, if the cost is something like a protected future second-round pick, and Sacramento simply wants to get Bagley off the books, he's worth a flier.
The 22-year-old has floundered with the Kings, as evidenced by a box plus/minus that has trended downward during his career. And he's averaging a career-low 20.9 minutes per game this season. But his raw numbers, when adjusted for pace and playing time, suggest there might at least be a heat-check-off-the-bench guy there.
Since he was drafted in 2018, Bagley has averaged 19.3 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per 75 possessions. And this season, Sacramento's point differential has been better when he's been on the floor.
On a team that's able to give him some time to play through mistakes while also covering for some of his defensive shortcomings (very specific, I know), his talent could shine through.
Another King who might be in need of a new situation is point guard De'Aaron Fox, who's seemingly taken a step back in the first season of his five-year, $163 million contract.
After posting comfortably above-average marks in box plus/minus in each of the previous three seasons, he's down to minus-1.2 in 2021-22. His true shooting percentage and assist percentage have also fallen off a cliff.
And as Sacramento struggles to remain in the hunt for a spot in the play-in tournament, it sounds like the team might be interested in breaking up the Fox-Tyrese Haliburton backcourt.
According to Kyle Neubeck of the Philly Voice, "Sacramento is now reportedly open to making De'Aaron Fox and/or Tyrese Haliburton available in the right deals."
If it becomes an either-or proposition, it seems likely the Kings would go with the 21-year-old Haliburton. He's younger, on his rookie deal, a better shooter, two inches taller and less ball-dominant.
Since December 1, Haliburton has averaged 16.1 points, 8.5 assists and 2.6 threes per game and shot 47.8 percent from three.
That doesn't necessarily make the 24-year-old Fox expendable. With both under contract and the Kings going nowhere fast, they could justify giving them more time to figure out how to play together. But in a different situation, Fox could bounce back to the levels of productivity he showed before this season.
Fox is among the game's most explosive guards, with a first step and top-end speed that allow him to get to the rim seemingly at will. And even after a cold start around the rim this season, his finishing numbers have rebounded to around his career norms.
And those career norms are quite good. Over the course of his career, Fox has hit 68.3 percent of his field-goal attempts that have come within three feet of the rim. Eric Bledsoe and Ben Simmons are the only guards above him over that time frame.
If he were surrounded by more shooting (Sacramento's in the bottom half of the league in three-point percentage and threes per 100 possessions), that ability to get to the paint would create drive-and-kick opportunities that could do a lot for his advanced numbers.
It feels too early to give up on Cam Reddish. His career box plus/minus is way below replacement level, but he's just 22 years old, is shooting a career high 37.9 percent from three and has eclipsed 30 points in two games this season.
And yet, it sounds like the Atlanta Hawks may be willing to move the 6'8" wing.
"I just think there's a belief out there that maybe they're not right now committed to giving Cam Reddish the type of contract he's looking for," ESPN's Brian Windhorst said on The Hoop Collective. "And so he potentially could be on the move."
Of course, Atlanta's reluctance to pay Reddish's next deal may be something teams around the league have in common. As with Bagley, any team acquiring Reddish would need to be fairly confident that it both wants him long term and is willing to pay what it might cost to secure that.
For some of the league's rebuilding franchises, those boxes should be checkable.
The Hawks' point differential has fallen off a cliff with Reddish on the floor this season, but he's averaging 18.8 points and 2.7 threes per 75 possessions. He's young, big enough to play multiple positions and athletic enough to become a plus defender.
And on a team where he might get to spend more time with starters, he could have an easier time positively influencing plus-minus.
Again, this one was obvious. A Simmons trade has felt imminent since the postgame press conferences after his infamous drop-off pass against the Hawks in the playoffs.
Several months later, he's still a Philadelphia 76er and team president Daryl Morey's asking price remains high.
The Athletic and Stadium's Shams Charania reported that there are "...suitors in the Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Indiana Pacers, among others," but he also added, "...the 76ers don't appear any closer to a trade than they were in the offseason and prior to training camp."
For their part, there is a 27-year-old center with a concerning injury history on the roster who's playing at an MVP level. Assuming it's open at all, Joel Embiid's title window could shut in a moment. And having a max contract on the books who will not play for the team is obviously impacting Philly's chances to win now and in the postseason.
At the deadline, when push comes to shove, Morey may have to take a deal that gets him a little less than he's asking for right now. Sure, a star and multiple draft picks would be great. But two difference-makers would do more for Embiid than Simmons is.
As for Simmons, it sure feels like there's no turning back. Even if the organization might want him to.
"Convincing Simmons to rejoin the team and play as much of the remaining schedule as possible, according to one source familiar with Philadelphia's thinking, is the club's 'goal No. 1' when it comes to the wayward playmaker," NBA reporter Marc Stein wrote Friday.
Given everything that has transpired since this summer, that goal probably won't be reached. And though he isn't likely to play with anyone as talented as Embiid this season (there's a small handful of those guys in the league), just about any other situation would suit Simmons' individual off-court needs better.
We're in the third season of "the Indiana Pacers need to split up Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis" chatter, and it's probably hit its peak volume recently.
In December, The Athletic's Charania and Bob Kravitz reported that Turner, Sabonis and Caris LeVert might all be available in trades. Less than a week later, Turner added fuel to that fire, per The Athletic's Jared Weiss:
"It's clear that I'm not valued as anything more than a glorified role player here, and I want something more, more opportunity. I'm trying really hard to make the role that I'm given here work and find a way to maximize it. I've been trying to the past two, three seasons. But it's clear to me that, just numbers-wise, I'm not valued as more than a rotational role player, and I hold myself in a higher regard than that."
Whether anyone else holds the 25-year-old in higher regard is unclear, but a number of teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Charlotte Hornets, have been connected to the three-and-D center since those reports, per Charania.
He'd make sense on those teams and plenty of others. Though he's expressed an interest for more involvement, he's also shown an ability to impact winning without dominating a ton of possessions. Over the last four seasons, he's hit 35.3 percent of his three-point attempts and led the league in blocks per game three times.
And while those contributions would seem to have plug-and-play potential around the NBA, they haven't quite fit with Sabonis.
Advanced statistics via Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.