Latest NBA Trade Intel: How Will Dame Lillard Surgery Impact Ben Simmons Market?
With less than a month before the NBA's trade deadline, teams have shifted focus to trade discussions after the distractions caused by the COVID-19 omicron variant.
Like many of the league's trade windows and offseason transaction cycles, the leading teams and players to watch ahead of the Feb. 10 buzzer all seem to be interconnected.
Can Lillard's Status Change Everything?
Teams have been waiting on the looming uncertainty regarding Damian Lillard's health in Portland. There remains a strong possibility that Lillard's upcoming abdominal surgery is season-ending, sources told B/R, after Lillard first contemplated going under the knife this past offseason following the Tokyo Olympics.
Lillard has struggled playing through abdominal tendinopathy that has plagued him for several seasons. If Lillard were to be ruled out for the remainder of the year, rival executives are hoping it would force Daryl Morey and the Philadelphia 76ers to lower their asking price on Ben Simmons.
And without Lillard, the Blazers' lottery-protected first-round pick likely won't convey to the top-seeded Bulls, dampening that asset for Chicago should it look to trade the pick and further push into Eastern Conference contention. Lottery-protected through 2028, that pick has one of the more curious valuations of any draft asset on the board considering Lillard's uncertain future. The Bulls would need to find a trade partner who's not searching for immediate draft reinforcements in return for veteran talent.
Simmons and Philly
Philadelphia's market for Simmons remains static. And for those teams hopeful Lillard's surgery will impact the Sixers' trade strategy, Philadelphia officials maintain their major stakeholders—from ownership and Morey's front office to Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid—are aligned in waiting for someone on par with Lillard, James Harden, Bradley Beal or Jaylen Brown to become available either before this deadline or later this summer.
Rivals didn't consider John Collins a viable trade candidate in Atlanta, for example, until his recent frustrations there bubbled to the surface. Yes, the Hawks have entered the field of teams interested in Simmons, but Collins is a wonky fit as the centerpiece for him in a direct two-team deal.
The Sixers have similarly continued to discuss three-team trade packages with Sacramento, Indiana and Minnesota, the three most consistent suitors mentioned for Simmons dating back to the offseason. In those frameworks, Philadelphia is still requesting a team to reroute one of the Sixers' coveted All-Star-caliber partners for Joel Embiid.
Tobias Harris' name has indeed circulated in those trade conversations, sources told B/R. The Sixers insist they're not actively searching to offload the final two years and roughly $80 million remaining on Harris' contract. But Philadelphia's only player considered untouchable is Embiid and Embiid alone.
The Sixers have broached the idea of sending out Harris in various three-team packages, in the event that a Simmons trade brings back another highly compensated player such as Collins who's best positioned at power forward just like Harris. Another example in that concept: Harrison Barnes could be part of any potential Sacramento package.
Finding any deal that includes Harris, though, would take quite a bit of cap gymnastics. As the Lakers have found with Russell Westbrook, there aren't many players in the NBA who make north of $30 million and are available for trade.
John Wall seems entrenched in Houston with zero inclination to accept any type of buyout, sources said. And while Kevin Love entered this season open to trade scenarios, the veteran has played an integral reserve role during Cleveland's surprise season and has enjoyed the Cavaliers' new playoff-chasing environment, one source familiar with Love told B/R.
A team could stack contracts to match Harris' lofty number, but the more likely scenario has Simmons staying in Philadelphia past the deadline, short of a new trade candidate emerging. The 76ers do not view holding onto Simmons as punting on a season of Embiid's prime, a common criticism made by rival front offices. Philadelphia brass, sources told B/R, is still optimistic that Simmons may even be willing to return to game action in that event, although league personnel familiar with Simmons' side believe he has no interest in ever wearing a Sixers uniform again.
Lillard's absence should also introduce another seller into a trade market otherwise overcrowded with buyers. It seems Blazers personnel had originally planned to improve their roster around Lillard rather than bottom out for a top draft pick.
Portland and Indiana seemed to be natural trade partners, two small-market teams underperforming based on preseason expectations but with a current shared goal of contending for the postseason. The Blazers had been frequently mentioned by league sources as a strong Myles Turner destination, while Detroit's Jerami Grant also emerged as a potential Portland target. But if Lillard is indefinitely sidelined, that would seem to further increase the likelihood of Jusuf Nurkic and Robert Covington heading elsewhere.
Anfernee Simons' recent explosion also has league executives chattering about the future of CJ McCollum in Portland, and to a lesser extent that of Norman Powell. Simons is headed for a lucrative restricted free agency this summer, and Portland is already trying to evade paying the luxury tax.
Assessing the interest for McCollum is somewhat difficult given his recent collapsed lung and a decline in production at the age of 30. But former GM Neil Olshey's regime valued McCollum quite highly, and there's a sense among some rival executives that McCollum would have a sizable market at a lower evaluation than Olshey may have held.
Norman Powell's Feelings About Portland
Roughly a dozen teams pursued Powell ahead of last season's deadline, when Portland acquired him from Toronto. The 28-year-old's five-year, $90 million contract is considered relatively valuable among several league personnel polled by B/R.
There's some belief that Powell would be open to a new destination. Negotiations over his five-year deal to re-sign in Portland this summer hit several snags, according to league sources, and Powell certainly eyed other destinations, such as New Orleans. The Pelicans do happen to be searching for significant upgrades in their quest to rebound into the play-in tournament, sources said, although McCollum would seem to make more sense as a target for New Orleans.
Myles Turner appears the likeliest Indiana player to be traded before the deadline, with a list of suitors that includes Dallas, Minnesota, New York, Sacramento, Charlotte and Portland. Toronto was also mentioned by several league personnel as a team to keep an eye on for Turner's services. The Pacers' asking price is said to include multiple first-round picks.
Caris LeVert has known suitors in Cleveland and New York, but so far Indiana has requested multiple first-round picks for the 27-year-old guard as well, sources said. The Pacers have also placed calls assessing the value of Justin Holiday, Jeremy Lamb and Torrey Craig.
Cavs Dealing Rubio?
The Cavaliers don't project to be very aggressive in the coming weeks, but they will explore avenues to move Ricky Rubio and a protected first-rounder in an effort to net backcourt reinforcements, such as Eric Gordon, following Rubio and Collin Sexton's season-ending injuries.
Hawks Open for Business
Now that the Cam Reddish situation has been resolved, thanks to a trade to the Knicks, will Atlanta's front office continue to look for upgrade opportunities? “Everyone but Trae Young and Clint Capela are available,” one assistant general manager told B/R earlier this week before the Reddish trade. The Hawks had been looking to move Solomon Hill, out for the season with a hamstring tear, in order to open a roster spot.
There was also belief among rival front offices that the Hawks would be willing to part with De'Andre Hunter to bring a significant veteran contributor to Atlanta.
Collins has a lot of fans around the league. San Antonio and Dallas have frequently been linked as suitors for some time. In a recent interview with Chris Kirschner of The Athletic, Collins said: "Since I started conversations to get my contract last season, the trade conversations have been a thing that I've gotten used to. I pledged my allegiance to the city of Atlanta. I've never come in here once and pledged my allegiances elsewhere."
That's far from a trade request, but the comment about Collins' contract extension discussions is important context. Those negotiations were never close, and there was a window prior to the 2020-21 season where Collins' representatives suggested Atlanta trade the 24-year-old forward to a team that would pay him the maximum salary Collins desired. Then, the Hawks soared to the Eastern Conference finals, and Collins netted a five-year, $125 million contract. The deal was still far off from the four-year, roughly $120 million the young forward previously sought.
The Young-Capela pick-and-roll is expected to be the foundation of the Hawks' attack for some time, so it's unlikely Collins will ever inherit the bigger offensive role he desires unless he gets a new home. If Atlanta can find a suitable deal, that outcome seems quite possible. “Travis is not going to be afraid to shake it up,” one general manager said.
Danilo Gallinari's name also started to circulate among league executives on Monday. His $20 million salary could serve as cap filler for a larger impact veteran. Only $5 million of Gallinari's salary is guaranteed for next season, the final of his three-year deal. Meanwhile, Solomon Hill, out for the season with a hamstring tear, is a strong trade candidate in order to open a roster spot.
Lakers Working the Phone
The Lakers have little trade flexibility, but that hasn't stopped Los Angeles from exploring various potential deals. Rob Pelinka's front office has only Talen Horton-Tucker and Kendrick Nunn as non-minimum players with tangible trade value, and that combination won't be nearly enough to land Grant or Turner. But the Lakers have called rival teams to assess the trade value of DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard and Kent Bazemore, sources said.
Are Kings Buyers or Sellers?
As Sam Amick first reported at The Athletic, the notion that Sacramento is open to discussing De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton has indeed circulated around rival front offices. "There's nobody off the table, but it would take a lot to get those guys," one Eastern Conference official said. Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley III, Harrison Barnes and Tristan Thompson seem like more reasonable trade candidates.
Sacramento fielded strong offers for Barnes at last season's deadline, but there's optimism among rival front offices the Kings will move him this go around.
Celtics Dishing Schroder?
There's a strong possibility Dennis Schroder is traded ahead of the deadline. Boston is expected to avoid the tax and therefore likely won't be able to afford the point guard this offseason, which was also why the Celtics moved Daniel Theis to the Bulls last season. New York, Cleveland and Dallas have been mentioned as potential destinations for Schroder.
Phoenix Suns big man Jalen Smith has been a recent trade target of Boston, according to league sources. There is a widespread belief the Celtics will be very active in efforts to bolster their roster around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in the coming weeks.
Are the Raptors Buyers?
The Raptors' recent win streak has ended rivals' speculation Toronto could once again consider opting for a rebuild, as it did prior to the 2021 draft. Chris Boucher, in the final year of his contract, is considered available for a trade, however.
The Nets are said to be exploring trade options for reserve point guard Jevon Carter. Brooklyn has $6.7 million and $11.5 million trade exceptions to play with.
Teams are circling Dorian Finney-Smith as a strong trade candidate in Dallas. Both Finney-Smith and Jalen Brunson will enter unrestricted free agency this summer, and the financial squeeze on the Mavericks will likely be too significant to retain both.
Rick Carlisle was known as Finney-Smith's biggest advocate in Dallas, sources said, and Indiana has been mentioned as a potential destination. League personnel are also monitoring the possibility Dallas waives Willie Cauley-Stein to create a roster spot for Marquese Chriss, who is on his third 10-day deal with the team.
Hornets Are Looking to Move Washington
The Hornets are facing a similar roster crunch this summer, and it appears P.J. Washington is a trade possibility for Charlotte. The Hornets, whose books are quickly approaching the tax, have some cap maneuvering ahead of them with Miles Bridges and Cody Martin's expiring contracts.
While still entrenched in Ben Simmons conversations, the Timberwolves remain in the market for a frontcourt partner for Karl-Anthony Towns, despite his successful pairing with Jarred Vanderbilt. It's believed Minnesota is willing to part with Malik Beasley in such a deal.
Orlando is said to be asking for first-round picks in return for each of Terrence Ross, Gary Harris and Mo Bamba. Rival teams are optimistic those prices may drop to two second-rounders, as the Magic ultimately accepted for Evan Fournier last deadline.
The Bulls' Move to Watch...
In Chicago, Coby White is believed to be available ahead of his impending rookie extension conversations this offseason. Drafted No. 7 in 2019, White is a holdover from the Bulls' previous front office regime.