The NBA's trade market is starting to crystalize.
With the deadline less than a month away, the menu of possibilities appears more or less set. The Philadelphia 76ers have a Ben Simmons problem, while the Detroit Pistons are looking to get value in return for Jerami Grant. The Indiana Pacers are open to trading several players, including Myles Turner.
Is Turner Healthy?
Of course, the NBA is predictably unpredictable. The Pacers tweeted an update on Sunday that Turner won't play on Monday against the Los Angeles Clippers with a sore left foot. And Turner will get a second opinion on that foot (which is rarely what you do when the first opinion is something like, "looks great").
Given Turner may be the most likely player to be dealt before the February 10 deadline, an injury could have a ripple effect on the market. He's still young (almost 25) and has a reasonable contract at $36 million through 2022-23 (with up to $2 million in unlikely incentives each season).
The Pacers are seemingly out of the playoff picture, and sources indicate the team is looking to add shooting—but more importantly, pieces that fit coach Rick Carlisle's system. That could give the Dallas Mavericks an edge, as Carlisle (and in turn the Pacers) may view his former team's players higher than other franchises might.
Several competing executives (assuming Turner's injury isn't severe) believe the Mavericks are the favorite for Turner with Dwight Powell and one of Dorian Finney-Smith or Jalen Brunson. Dallas' willingness to part with Finney-Smith or Brunson may come down to each player's free-agent expectations.
Given few teams will have serious spending power this summer (primarily the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic and San Antonio Spurs), neither player is reaching free agency at an ideal time. Finney-Smith doesn't project to earn more than a team's non-taxpayer mid-level exception (roughly $10.1 million) on the open market. The Mavericks can easily beat that price with Finney-Smith's rights.
Brunson faces a similar market, but the guard is believed by many to be seeking near a four-year, $80 million contract. That is a large number, especially for a player that several competing executives think is too big of a target defensively in the playoffs.
The Pacers might view negotiations with Finney-Smith as a safer gamble, and the Mavericks may need to find a compromise with Brunson, given how important he is to the team's offense.
But Dallas isn't the only team pursuing Turner. The Pacers almost acquired Gordon Hayward via sign-and-trade before the 2020-21 season from the Boston Celtics. Instead, the Charlotte Hornets landed the veteran forward with a lucrative offer.
Now that the Hornets have begun to emerge as a competitive team in the East with young players like LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges, Hayward (the former Butler Bulldog) could be an expendable piece to land a needed upgrade at center. Turner would be ideal, provided he's not seriously injured.
Meanwhile, if the Mavericks lose out on Turner, the team could turn to the Atlanta Hawks for John Collins.
Hawks, Simmons and Reddish
Atlanta is one of the teams chasing Simmons, but the Sixers haven't prioritized Collins and weren't interested in Cam Reddish.
The Hawks recently moved Solomon Hill with Reddish, dealing him to the New York Knicks for Kevin Knox and a first-round selection (via the Hornets). The pick may not convey this year (top-18 protected), but some competing executives believe Atlanta got the first to try to sweeten a play for Simmons.
If Philadelphia doesn't get some of its top targets (including Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander), getting off of Tobias Harris' contract could make second-tier choices more palatable. Simmons ($33 million this season) and Harris ($36 million) are expensive players on multi-year deals. How many teams even have the means to take on nearly $70 million of incoming salary?
The Hawks have several players that could reach enough outgoing salary like Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Delon Wright, Lou Williams and Collins. Atlanta also has all of its own first-round picks, a fake Oklahoma City Thunder 2022 first (with lottery protections likely to make it a pair of seconds instead) and the recently-acquired Charlotte selection.
Even then, the Sixers may not have the appetite to take on the entire $125 million contract Collins signed in August. The Mavericks could make a play for Collins to help facilitate a multi-team trade or work a two-team deal with the Hawks.
The challenge remains to find enough value for Philadelphia to make that leap. Dallas cannot easily move a first-round pick until 2027 with a protected 2023 obligation to the Knicks for Kristaps Porzingis.
One wildcard in the mix for Collins or Turner could be the Toronto Raptors, although it's unclear if there's enough market for Pascal Siakam, whose contract ($106.4 million through 2023-24) is a bit rich for a lot of teams despite his 21.1 points a game this season. The Mavericks have been long-linked to Goran Dragic, but that may be via buyout, even if Dragic is initially traded elsewhere.
The Simmons saga has a lot of moving pieces. The Sixers may still wait until the offseason. The Sacramento Kings are another franchise potentially willing to take Harris, with nearly everyone on the roster available except perhaps Tyrese Haliburton.
While the Cleveland Cavaliers were initially thinking extension with Ricky Rubio, his recent knee injury may set the two down a different course. Rubio's expiring $17.8 million contract, along with the rights to Collin Sexton, could prove valuable to a team that hopes to re-sign the young guard to a value deal.
Sexton will be a restricted free agent, but the injury will drop his qualifying offer from $8.6 million to $7.2 million (because he won't reach the NBA's starter criteria). While he might have been looking for a $20 million a season deal, the projected shortage of cap space may drop any offers to below $15 million. Sexton may be more willing to sign for $50-60 million over four years than a one-year deal at the qualifying offer.
The Pacers are shopping Caris LeVert, who could help the Cavaliers as a scoring wing and secondary ball-handler. But does Sexton make sense for Indiana under Carlisle?
Competing teams get the sense that Isaac Okoro and Kevin Love aren't readily available, a notable shift on Love in recent years.
Look for the Portland Trail Blazers to make moves to get under the NBA's $136.6 million luxury tax threshold. The team is currently near $140 million in salary.
Players potentially on the move could include Robert Covington, Jusuf Nurkic and Larry Nance Jr. Given the team gave up a first-rounder (to the Chicago Bulls in a three-team deal with the Cavaliers) to get Nance, the team is naturally looking for greater compensation. Several teams have large enough trade exceptions to absorb Covington's salary outright, including the New Orleans Pelicans and Boston Celtics.
Despite their 16-27 start, the Pelicans are believed to be buyers at the deadline, interested in using their $17.1 million trade exception (from the Steven Adams trade). The team also has several potential assets like Tomas Satoransky's expiring contract and young players like Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes. One possible target for the Pelicans is believed to be Detroit's Grant.
The Washington Wizards face a roster crunch, with Thomas Bryant (knee) and Rui Hachimura (personal) rejoining the team. Grant is also believed to be a target. Several teams covet second-year player Deni Avdija.
While the Los Angeles Lakers have designs on Simmons, Turner and Grant, the franchise may not have enough to get a deal done. Westbrook's contract is all but unmovable. Talen Horton-Tucker hasn't taken a step forward in his third season. A more likely market for the Lakers might be Terrence Ross of the Orlando Magic or Eric Gordon of the Rockets, provided either team wants to take a flyer on Horton-Tucker as a prospect.
The Lakers are hoping Kendrick Nunn (knee) will make his season debut ahead of the deadline. Most deals with Horton-Tucker require Nunn's salary as ballast, but the team may be able to creatively get something done with several minimum players instead like DeAndre Jordan, Kent Bazemore, Wayne Ellington and possibly even Dwight Howard (provided they have a path to a replacement at center).
As always, look for the Oklahoma City Thunder to be involved as the facilitator in any complex deals that need a third party to take on salary. The team is significantly under the NBA's minimum team salary of $101.2 million. Naturally, the Thunder will require the penance of additional draft picks for any assist.
Finally, none of the sources believe the Golden State Warriors will come off their stance for a player like Turner or Grant. Young players like Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman and Moses Moody aren't expected to be made available.
But could that change if Draymond Green's calf/back issue becomes a more serious issue?
Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter, @EricPincus.