Buy or Sell Latest NBA Trade Rumors: A Favorite to Land Ben Simmons Emerges

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2022

Buy or Sell Latest NBA Trade Rumors: A Favorite to Land Ben Simmons Emerges

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    Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

    Remember this moment. Tattoo it to memory. Because when we look back after the 2022 NBA trade deadline, this may be the snapshot in time that marked an actual, concrete, unambiguous resolution to the slog of a saga between Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers.

    Speaking with colleagues David Aldridge and John Hollinger, The Athletic's Sam Amick brings word that the Sacramento Kings are desperate for change and have considered acquiring both Simmons and Tobias Harris as part of what now feels like an inevitable shake-up:

    "While I’m fairly confident that Atlanta has zero interest in taking on both Simmons and Harris in a John Collins-centric deal, the Kings appear to be considering the idea more seriously. With that being the case, it’s then a matter of figuring out what the Sixers think of Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox and the various other pieces that could help them match those massive salaries ($67.5 million combined this season between Simmons and Harris). The deal could be done by adding sharpshooter Buddy Hield ($22.7 million) and veteran wingman Harrison Barnes ($20.2 million), but Philly would surely push for more."

    Do we finally, at long last, have a front-runner in this sweepstakes?

    Outside the "Where will Simmons be traded, if anywhere?" bubble, the Boston Celtics are apparently moving just about anyone other than Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. The Indiana Pacers, meanwhile, have an asking price in mind should they move Domantas Sabonis.

    Other stuff is happening, too. Business is booming in the rumor-mill industry this time of year. Let's go ahead and make sense of all the latest using our handy-dandy buy-or-sell meter.

Should the Kings Go All-In on a Ben Simmons Trade?

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    In the absence of bagging an entrenched star for Ben Simmons, the Sixers have expanded their wish list to include unloading Tobias Harris' contract as part of any deal. And as Amick told Aldridge and Hollinger, they may have a willing partner in Sacramento.

    This is not unforgivable logic for the Kings. Harris has become emblematic of the Sixers' limitations and is mired in a seemingly unending rut, but he's not functional dreck. Simmons' absence has bumped almost everyone up a peg or two in the pecking order. More than anything, Harris is miscast, though he could certainly stand to make quicker, more deliberate decisions with the ball.

    Plopping him into a Sacramento ecosystem that would include Simmons and Tyrese Haliburton gives him the opportunity to settle into a third- or fourth-wheel role, on a team still built to operate at faster than a sloth's pace. The Kings can talk themselves into his replacing most of Harrison Barnes' offense, and the defensive upgrade they get in Simmons exceeds the concession they make subbing in Harris for Harry B.

    Giving up De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield in addition is still a mega-tall order. Fox has become an unfair scapegoat for the Kings' organizational aimlessness. He's laboring through a down year but remains a lethal finisher and fully capable of coexisting alongside Haliburton. Most players would kill to put up 20 points and five assists per game while hitting 50-plus percent of their twos.

    Losing Hield's operable shooting would sting. His flamethrowing scales to quick looks off movement and in transition. The floor will shrink in the half-court going from Fox to Simmons, rendering Hield's absence that much more noticeable.

    The Kings may not care. They are itching, apparently, to do something seismic. Domantas Sabonis is on their radar, per the Sacramento Bee's Jason Anderson. (More on this in a sec.) And truth be told, Sacramento could do worse than flip Barnes, Fox and Hield for Harris and Simmons.

    Neither Fox (four years, $134.9) nor Hield (two years, $40.5 million) is on an especially team-friendly contract, and the former's on-court value has taken a deserved hit for spotty decision-making. It's the potential for adding other stuff that proves worrisome. If the Kings have to back up the future-picks truck on top of surrendering Fox and taking on Harris, they must have the sensibility to walk—all right, fine, run-like-hell—away.

    Verdict: Buy the Kings as favorites to land Simmons if he's moved this season.

Indiana Seeking All-Star in Return for Domantas Sabonis

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    Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

    Myles Turner has long loomed as the Pacers big man most likely to be shipped out before the trade deadline. His left foot injury doesn't necessarily change that. Counterpoint: It also might.

    The injury to Turner will at the least convince more teams to ask about Domantas Sabonis. They just need to send back an All-Star to get him, according to The Athletic's Jared Weiss.

    Such a lofty ask is another way of saying Indiana won't move Sabonis. If All-Stars were so readily available, the Sixers probably would've jettisoned Ben Simmons by now. But the idea of trading Sabonis at all isn't egregious.

    He is more central than Turner to the Pacers offense and has an extra year left on his deal. That better jibes with a team not looking to embrace a full-scale rebuild. But Indiana faces a lost season anyway. It could reasonably punt on the rest of this year, grab a bunch of assets for Sabonis and regroup with Turner in 2022-23.

    This, of course, presumes the Pacers get an offer for Sabonis worth taking. They might have a match with the Kings. A source told Anderson they have "stepped up their pursuit" of Indiana's best player.

    Sacramento's chase gets a helluva lot more interesting if De'Aaron Fox is on the table. The Pacers need a higher-end option at the point of attack. For all his shortcomings, Fox would provide one. He remains a bankable finisher despite an iffy quality of looks, continues to wield a functional mid-range game despite an even iffier shot selection on the perimeter and will have plenty of space to attack in both the open floor and half-court if Turner is the primary big.

    Whether the Kings should be willing to move Fox for Sabonis is debatable. Adding another big man to the fold would be an odd match for a frontcourt headlined by the ultra-talented Richaun Holmes. The two can play together, but the fit will be tighter than Sabonis' partnership with Turner. And failing a godfather offer from the Kings, it's hard to envision any other team sending Indy a fringe-star-or-better asset for its big man.

    Verdict: Buy Sabonis being available. Sell the Pacers actually trading him.

Al Horford Is on the Chopping Block in Boston

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    The Celtics aren't done making moves after acquiring P.J. Dozier and Bol Bol in a three-team trade with the Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs. They're a few million bucks away from ducking the luxury tax and are widely expected to shed more salary to get all the way below it.

    But Boston may be open for bigger business, too. Al Horford has joined Dennis Schroder and Josh Richardson on the up-for-grabs block, per Weiss. This comes on the heels of ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski noting the team isn't open to flipping Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum or Robert Williams III (poison pill) but would listen to offers for Marcus Smart.

    Exploring Horford's market is a natural progression of the Celtics' situation. They are neither a lost cause nor knocking at the door of contention. They find themselves in the middle of the middle, with an offense that desperately needs upgrades in playmaking stewardship, rim pressure and outside shooting. Everyone who isn't obviously part of the long-term core needn't be bolted down to the floor.

    Horford's availability is interesting given what it says about Boston's appetite for larger-scale transactions. He is on the books for $27 million this season and guaranteed $14.5 million of his $26.5 million salary in 2022-23. The Celtics will have to take back sizable contracts to reroute him.

    Are they planning to use Horford's deal to swallow unwanted money from another team as they skirt the tax this year? Or are they hoping his current price point attached to future first-round picks can anchor an aggressive buy-now play that fortifies their standing inside the Eastern Conference?

    That remains to be seen. It also doesn't matter. Prospective suitors for Horford are hard to come by, and the Celtics are light on supplementary prospects unless trade partners are in love with Aaron Nesmith, Romeo Langford or Payton Pritchard. Their deadline activity will probably be limited to bookkeeping.

    Verdict: Buy the Celtics shopping Horford. Sell the chances of his being traded before the deadline.

Are the Blazers Stealth Buyers?

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    Your favorite NBA buyer's second-favorite trade-deadline seller might actually be a buyer.

    Though the Blazers' season went on life support long before Damian Lillard had surgery to address an abdominal injury, they're not solely focused on auctioning off their best assets. On the contrary, they want to upgrade the core, presumably in hopes of appealing to Lillard long-term. Sources told Amick that Portland has eyes for Jerami Grant, Jaylen Brown and Myles Turner.

    Scouring the market for another star or fringe star is hilarious on its face. And it remains hysterical when talking about Brown. The Celtics have given zero indications he's available, and the Blazers don't boast the collection of non-Dame assets necessary to change Boston's mind.

    Lower-end, opportunistic buying isn't as much of a farce. Remove your feelings about what Portland should do with Lillard from the equation. It seems like the Blazers plan to roll on with him unless he asks out. And so long as that's the plan, they have an obligation to act like more than another lottery-bound also-ran.

    Turner registers as the ideal target on this scale. He shouldn't cost so much if the Pacers move him while he's sidelined with a left foot injury, and his absence tidily aligns with what should be a one-year tank from Portland.

    Various other teams can beat the Blazers' most logical offers. But will they? Giving up a ton of value for someone who probably won't return until post-All-Star break isn't for everyone. It might be right up Portland's alley.

    Verdict: Buy the Blazers as stealth buyers.

Lakers Shopping Talen Horton-Tucker

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    BREAKING: The Los Angeles Lakers are doing exactly what everyone knew they were going to do. Sources told the Los Angeles Times' Dan Woike and Broderick Turner the Lakers have made Talen Horton-Tucker available in trade talks. They have no choice. Their books are devoid of any other middle-rung salaries.

    Anthony Davis, LeBron James and, in all likelihood, Russell Westbrook aren't going anywhere. Horton-Tucker is the Lakers' highest-paid player after them, at $9.5 million. And their fifth-largest salary belongs to Kendrick Nunn, who makes just $5 million and has yet to play this season.

    Good luck to general manager Rob Pelinka and friends in negotiations. They need it. Los Angeles can bring back a player earning a little over $18.2 million if it sends out both Nunn and THT, but this presupposes any team out there likes or is willing to stomach that package. Neither is an unequivocally net-positive asset.

    Nunn's $5.3 million player option for next season will deter select teams after he just suffered a setback in his recovery from a right knee injury. THT is more idea than actuality. He is only 21, super long and prone to atypical-looking-yet-effective flashes off the dribble but hasn't made any strides this season. His finishing at the rim is static compared to last year, and he's posting a sub-35 effective field-goal percentage on jumpers.

    Perhaps the Lakers can sweeten their THT-plus-Nunn package enough to enter meaningful discussion. But, like, with what? They cannot convey a first-rounder before 2027, and that alone won't be enough to bag Myles Turner or Jerami Grant. Is it worth giving up a first-rounder for a 33-year-old Eric Gordon? Los Angeles is in a tough spot—entirely of its own design.

    Verdict: Sell the Lakers making a meaningful acquisition at the deadline.

Should the Wizards Be Shopping Bradley Beal?

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    Bradley Beal's impending free agency (player option) coupled with the Washington Wizards' slide down the standings after a hot start surely means the team will poke around his trade market before Feb. 10.

    Or maybe not. As ESPN's Brian Windhorst wrote:

    "Washington is relying on that bond as it evaluates its options for the Feb. 10 trade deadline before what likely will be Beal's first foray into unrestricted free agency. Beal has made it clear he doesn't plan to sign an extension and likely will skip his player option. That would make some teams nervous, but to this point there has been no real discussion of Beal on the trade market, league executives said. The Wizards are preparing to roll the dice with the belief that Beal will re-sign."

    Condolences to Sixers fans.

    Many will posit the Wizards are making a mistake. Who cares if Beal wants to stay? Signing him to a five-year, $241 million deal over the summer threatens to fast track them toward another extended stay in mediocrity without another marquee splash. Why not trade him now, recoup assets and rebuild?

    Because, frankly, that ship has sailed.

    Washington should've moved Beal over the offseason or in advance of last year's trade deadline if it was going to ship him out at all. Teams won't pony up as many assets for him now, when he's mere months from hitting the open market and also shooting a career-low 29.8 percent from downtown.

    The Wizards are better off waiting to explore sign-and-trade possibilities in free agency. The Memphis Grizzlies are currently the only might-be contender projected to have cap space, and they'll fall well short of max money without trimming more salary from the bottom line. Washington will have leverage even if Beal actively looks to leave.

    Re-signing him also doesn't preclude the Wizards from re-evaluating his future at a later date. Beal won't turn 29 until after this season. A five-year deal should age relatively nicely, and potential admirers may even fork over more knowing he's under contract through 2026-27 or 2027-28.

    Verdict: Buy the Wizards holding onto Beal.

Utah in the Market for a Wing

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    Sources told Windhorst the Utah Jazz are "poking around the market for wing defenders." Props to them for recognizing their greatest possible postseason pitfall.

    Sussing out the right target and deal figures to be a challenge. The Jazz cannot convey a first-round pick before 2026, and Jared Butler is their most tantalizing prospect. They also need to settle on who will be the primary outgoing salary. Joe Ingles' expiring contract? Bojan Bogdanovic (one year, $19.6 million)? Jordan Clarkson (two years, $27.6 million)?

    Utah's offense is good enough to withstand dealing any one of these three, backup point guard issues and all. I made the case for moving Clarkson, but it depends on the context of the trade. Certain teams will prefer immediate cap relief. Others hoping to make a lateral move or roster upgrade will ask for Bogdanovc.

    There is no singular answer. The Jazz should be open to just about anything that nets them someone who can be part of an eight- or nine-man playoff rotation.

    And really, that's the gist of all this: Utah's time for minor moves is behind it. The next transaction needs to be significant, a genuine needle-nudger even if a fair amount of risk is involved. And while the Jazz may not have the asset firepower to compete for Harrison Barnes or Jerami Grant, they sure as hell need to be, at minimum, pursuing the equivalent middle ground. (Josh Richardson?)

    Verdict: Buy the Jazz making an aggressive swing at the deadline.


    Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.comBasketball ReferenceStathead or Cleaning the Glass and accurate entering Wednesday's games. Salary information via Spotrac.

    Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale), and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by NBA Math's Adam Fromal.