The Player Every NBA Team Should Shop at the Trade Deadline

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2022

The Player Every NBA Team Should Shop at the Trade Deadline

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    NBA teams have between now and the 3 p.m. ET trade deadline on Feb. 10 to transform themselves for the stretch run or maybe way beyond.

    Sacrifices must be made. What front offices have to figure out is how significant those sacrifices should be.

    To that end, let's walk through each team's roster and find the one player most worth shopping this season. It's important to note there's a difference between shopping a player and actually trading him. That distinction doesn't always matter, but in some cases, it's relevant.

    An obvious trade candidate might not surface here because he wouldn't command the type of return a less obvious (but still realistic) one would. On that same note, not all players listed should be dealt. Rather, the point would be to gauge their market and only execute the deal if a can't-miss offer comes along.    

Atlanta Hawks: John Collins

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    The Atlanta Hawks need a new flight plan to get back on track after plummeting out of the playoff picture following last season's surprise trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. Step one should be finding a legitimate costar for point guard Trae Young, and dangling a package around the productive (and frustrated) John Collins could make that happen.

    He is 24 years old and under contract through at least 2024-25 (with a $26.6 million player option for the following season). He's also one of seven players averaging at least 16 points, seven rebounds, one block and one three-pointer per game, and that could count as a down year based on where his numbers have been in the past.

    His trade value should be significant, particularly if the Hawks packaged him with more. Atlanta's asking price for the forward is "a valuable first-round pick and a starting-caliber player," according to B/R's Jake Fischer.

    If Atlanta cobbles together something with him, Bogdan Bogdanovic (or Kevin Huerter or De'Andre Hunter) and the first-round pick it nabbed in the Cam Reddish deal, it should have the artillery needed to go big-game hunting.   

Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart

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    Marcus Smart is the proverbial heart and soul of the Celtics. He might also be what's holding back their 19th-ranked offense, since he is neither a dynamic playmaker (5.4 assists against 2.1 turnovers per game) nor the most reliable outside shooter (30.3 percent this season).   

    His point-of-attack defense is magnificent, though, and his $13.8 million salary is almost certainly needed to make any major move without splitting apart Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown—a nuclear option not (yet) worth considering for less than a no-brainer offer. The Celtics could shop other players like Dennis Schroder, Al Horford and Aaron Nesmith, but none would net nearly the same return as Smart.

    Would the Shamrocks really split from their emotional leader? In a word: Yes. B/R's Jake Fischer reported that prior to Atlanta's trade of Reddish to the New York Knicks, the Celtics had discussed dealing Smart for Reddish and Kevin Huerter. Boston should keep dangling Smart in search of that elusive third star.

Brooklyn Nets: Nic Claxton

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    The Brooklyn Nets are about as top-heavy as it gets in the Association right now. In most respects, that's a great thing, since being able to play Kevin Durant, James Harden and (in road games) Kyrie Irving together is like enabling a cheat code.

    In terms of the trade market, though, it makes things tricky. Brooklyn (understandably) invested most of its resources into its aforementioned Big Three, so it doesn't have much to throw around. The Nets could field offers for Joe Harris, but they probably won't find something more helpful than his lethal long-range stroke. A trade of Bruce Brown, DeAndre' Bembry or Paul Millsap won't yield anything close to a difference-maker.

    Nic Claxton should intrigue deadline shoppers, though, particularly those of the forward-thinking variety. The 22-year-old has already flashed considerable upside at the defensive end, and there are hints he could do more offensively if he wasn't tasked with supporting three stars.    

Charlotte Hornets: P.J. Washington

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    This feels...obvious? It's a little strange to say, since it's not intended as a slight against P.J. Washington, whose glue-guy skills should interest Elmer's in an endorsement deal.

    But process of elimination quickly strips down the Charlotte Hornets' other options. They have already spent big on Terry Rozier (four years, $96.3 million), will need to do the same with Miles Bridges this summer and should already have the paperwork ready for LaMelo Ball's eventual max offer. Gordon Hayward's salary ($30 million AAV) is too rich for his trade value to surpass his on-court worth, and the players younger than Washington haven't yet had the chance to pop.

    Washington, 23, is extension-eligible this summer, and Charlotte's upcoming cap crunch could price him out of its plans. The Hornets would be wise to get ahead of that and move Washington now, especially if they can sniff out a trade that finally solves their long-standing problems at center.    

Chicago Bulls: Patrick Williams

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    Calm down, Chicago Bulls backers. This isn't a direct call to action. Parting with Patrick Williams and his intoxicating upside only makes sense if it sends an impact player—think, at least Jerami Grant, if not a player from the tier above—to the Windy City.

    If that offer is out there, though, this could be the final puzzle piece the Bulls need to transform their championship dreams into obtainable goals.

    Williams might be special someday. That's part of the equation when sacrificing a 20-year-old with a skyscraper's ceiling at both ends. However, the Bulls shouldn't be thinking about someday. They've loaded up their roster to field a win-now team around Zach LaVine, and now they could go from missing the play-in tournament last season to making the NBA Finals. 

    If the Bulls uncover an offer for Williams that could put the Larry O'Brien Trophy within arm's reach, that's a move they should execute.    

Cleveland Cavaliers: Collin Sexton

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    Much like the Central Division rival Bulls, the Cleveland Cavaliers have sustained their success long enough to prioritize the present over the future. They're more than halfway through the season with the Eastern Conference's third-highest winning percentage (.612) and its best net rating (plus-5.1 points per 100 possessions).

    Even with that success, though, Cleveland needs to cover up a perimeter scoring void. Now, some may point out that a healthy Collin Sexton could do the trick, since he's a career 20 points-per-game scorer. But he's expected to miss the rest of the season with a torn meniscus, and the Cavaliers reportedly made him "very available" last summer, per The Athletic's Jason Lloyd. The 23-year-old guard will be a restricted free agent after this season.

    Maybe the Cavs are cool paying Sexton; maybe they aren't. But they owe it to themselves—and their players—to at least gauge his trade market. If Cleveland can find a perimeter scorer now, preferably one who won't get cooked defensively, that might be worth sacrificing Sexton.    

Dallas Mavericks: Jalen Brunson

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    The Dallas Mavericks are good enough to compete in the Western Conference but probably not powerful enough to escape it, which should theoretically make anyone not named Luka Doncic up for grabs.

    Still, there are two clear trade candidates: Jalen Brunson and Dorian Finney-Smith. Both will be free agents after this season, and each should hold considerable appeal around the Association.

    So, why Brunson over Finney-Smith? It's pretty simple. Finney-Smith's three-and-D game is a better fit with Doncic's skill set than Brunson's scoring and shot creation. Dallas should view every transaction through the lens of how it could impact Doncic, and it's easier to envision a Brunson mini-blockbuster having a greater impact than subtracting Finney-Smith.

Denver Nuggets: Zeke Nnaji

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    Realistically, the Denver Nuggets could sit out trade season and hope for the best when (or if) Jamal Murray (torn ACL) and Michael Porter Jr. (back surgery) return from their injuries. But, perhaps buoyed by another MVP-caliber campaign from all-galaxy center Nikola Jokic, Denver seems uninterested in bypassing the opportunity to upgrade.

    Mike Singer of the Denver Post reported the Nuggets are "actively searching for ways to improve their roster," with a wing atop the wish list and "a true backup center" close behind.

    Denver, of course, would need to give up a player to get one, which is how Zeke Nnaji might shake loose. The Nuggets don't have much youth to trade, and Nnaji, an offensive-minded 21-year-old big with a sweet shooting stroke, might be easier to part with for this Jokic-led squad than Bones Hyland, a perimeter shot-creator.

Detroit Pistons: Jerami Grant

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    There's a universe in which the Detroit Pistons' prospects all leveled up this season and made a rapid rebuild a realistic possibility. Unfortunately, we don't live in that one.

    In our reality, Detroit is a long ways from competing for anything of substance, sitting near the bottom of the East. Assuming the team shares that belief—or, really, faces reality—then it has no business keeping Jerami Grant beyond the deadline. The 27-year-old swingman might have the most value of all realistic trade targets.

    "He's the grand prize of this deadline," a team strategist told B/R's Jake Fischer.

    Grant's two-way appeal should be nearly universal among win-now shoppers. He's also only two seasons removed from being the fourth option on a good Nuggets team. Flipping that type of player for a relatively massive return—sources told Fischer the asking price is "two first-round picks or one first-round pick plus a high-upside young player"—is the no-brainiest of no-brainers.   

Golden State Warriors: James Wiseman

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    Back in December, the well-plugged-in Tim Kawakami of The Athletic penned a column titled "Why the Warriors absolutely, positively are not trading James Wiseman." So, you know, take this suggestion with all the salt grains you can find.

    Still, the reality is that nearly two months after that piece dropped, the Warriors still don't know when Wiseman will be ready. Not ready to contribute, mind you, simply to return from April meniscus surgery and a follow-up procedure in December.

    When he is healthy, his physical tools are through the roof, and if you buy into his flashes of skill, it doesn't take a great leap in logic to picture stardom down the line. But there are a lot of what-ifs to sort through between now and then and, for my money, too many to stomach for a squad in position to contend for the crown, led by the over-30 trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

    The Dubs don't need to deal Wiseman, and given the level of financial creativity needed to add an established piece, it's possible the right trade package isn't out there. But how does Golden State justify not even looking around for an upgrade with so much uncertainty around Wiseman's health and his ability to impact winning right now?       

Houston Rockets: Christian Wood

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    Given the level of high-ceiling youth in Space City, the arrow will eventually point up for the Houston Rockets. But it could be a hot minute before there is anything to celebrate. The Rockets have dropped more than 70 percent of their games while posting the West's worst net rating at minus-8.2 points per 100 possessions.

    The timeline alone should put Christian Wood on the trade block, since the 26-year-old could easily exit his prime before the Rockets ever reach theirs. Not to mention, he needs a new deal between now and 2023, so his days of balling for a budget price are numbered.

    Wood's combination of size (6'10", 214 lbs), length, athleticism and perimeter skill should draw considerable interest on the trade market. While he gives the Rockets plenty of production (17.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.8 threes and 0.9 blocks), he'd give them something even greater in a blockbuster exchange.    

Indiana Pacers: Domantas Sabonis

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    In early December, The Athletic's Shams Charania and Bob Kravitz reported the Indiana Pacers were "moving toward a substantial rebuild and [were] expected to open up trade conversations around some of their veteran stalwarts." Barely a week later, Pacers governor Herb Simon was telling reporters, including Kravitz, "I don't want to see [a rebuild]."

    If Indiana is uninterested in a teardown that would gut the roster and up its count of draft-lottery pingpong balls, a swap involving uber-productive center Domantas Sabonis is unlikely.

    Still, the Pacers have to think about their end game, which is hard to see.

    They're short on star power, and collectively, they aren't really great at anything. Whatever switch was supposed to be flipped by the return of coach Rick Carlisle hasn't budged. The Pacers are in need of wholesale changes, and even if Sabonis isn't the likeliest player to move, his trade should be explored to at least see just how green the grass on the other side is.    

Los Angeles Clippers: Marcus Morris Sr.

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    At full strength, the Los Angeles Clippers could be freakin' juggernauts. Sadly, we haven't seen them in that condition all season and might not until the next campaign.

    "The Clippers are operating under the possibility that [Paul] George may not return this season, sources told B/R," Jake Fischer reported. "And despite the momentum surrounding Kawhi Leonard's rehab from a torn ACL, there remains a healthy dose of skepticism around the league about Leonard retaking the floor in 2021-22 as well."

    L.A. might be forced to shift its focus forward, which could put Marcus Morris Sr. on the trade block. He's not the most obvious candidate—Serge Ibaka takes that distinction, with Nicolas Batum close behind—but Morris is by far the most valuable. It would take the right kind of offer to pry him loose, but a package of assets the Clippers could use to chase a third star (or near-star) sounds more appealing than another go-round with Morris.

Los Angeles Lakers: Talen Horton-Tucker

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    Hoping to see Russell Westbrook listed here, Lakers fans? I get it, but I also couldn't make that argument and keep a straight face. No one is swallowing that salary. A second Westbrook-for-John Wall swap would be objectively hilarious but not for the Lakers if it costs them a future first-rounder.

    So, the answer is Talen Horton-Tucker, even if his actual trade value is up in the air. On the one hand, he's a tools-y 21-year-old, so you'd think a rebuilder would want to send him through its developmental machine and see what he becomes. On the other, his numbers have backtracked this campaign, and he's no longer a bargain baller after inking a three-year, $30.8 million deal this offseason.

    In terms of trade assets, though, he's the best L.A. can do. Packaging his potential with Kendrick Nunn's salary—and, you know, hopefully Nunn at some point—and that (distant) future first should send someone interesting to Hollywood.    

Memphis Grizzlies: Kyle Anderson

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    True story: The Memphis Grizzlies started the season 10-10. Why does that matter? Because Memphis' 23-7 mark is the second-best record ever since, while its plus-8.6 net rating during that stretch leads the league.

    That's a long-winded way of saying that if the franchise wanted to skip trade season, it could easily justify the decision. Then again, maybe this surge up the standings is opportunity's knock. If the Grizzlies wanted to take a huge hack at the trade market in hopes of finding a costar for Ja Morant, they have the picks and prospects to do it.

    That feels like too much boat-rocking for a group that's grooving like this, though. A more realistic option, then, would be dangling impending free agent Kyle Anderson to see what the market offers up. If nothing interesting surfaces, the Grizzlies can snooze through the deadline. But if they sniff out something—say, a complementary scorer with a lethal long-range stroke—they should pounce in hopes of extending their postseason stay.    

Miami Heat: KZ Okpala

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    Does KZ Okapla still qualify as remotely interesting? After two-plus unproductive seasons—in Miami's famed developmental program, no less—maybe not.

    However, his physical tools haven't gone away, and it seems strange to suggest the clock is ever ticking on a 22-year-old. Maybe if he got regular minutes elsewhere, he could become a viable rotation regular?

    More than anything, though, Okpala takes this spot by default. Tyler Herro has played his way out of trade-chip range for the better. Duncan Robinson, now owner of a massive five-year, $90 million pact, has probably done the same—only for the worse. The Heat shouldn't want to swap one of their veterans for someone else's, so Okapla it is.      

Milwaukee Bucks: Donte DiVincenzo

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    Give me Donte DiVincenzo's on-court value down to the non-rookie-scale dollar. You can't, right?

    Well, the Bucks either need to complete that equation between now and this summer—when he enters restricted free agency—or flip him by the deadline and let someone else do the math.

    The fourth-year combo guard has never hinted at stardom, but there have been moments in which he starred in his support role. The problem is those flashes came before the ankle injury that cut short his 2021 playoff run and have wreaked havoc so far in his return from surgery.

    A trade now would entail dealing him at his lowest point, but with few alternatives for trade chips, he's still probably the best the Bucks can offer to chase an upgrade.  

Minnesota Timberwolves: Jaden McDaniels

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    Before the season started, this space would've been reserved for either D'Angelo Russell or Malik Beasley. But with Russell serving as a key cog in Minnesota's resurgence and Beasley struggling to find his form (36.9 percent shooting overall, 34.2 from three), both options are probably off the table.

    It's possible the Wolves similarly consider a Jaden McDaniels swap a non-starter. He is unfairly fluid for a 6'9" forward, offers four-position versatility on defense and drops hints of major potential on offense.

    But if Minnesota hopes to make more of this season than a play-in tournament ticket and maybe a brief first-round cameo, then McDaniels is the logical ticket to an impact addition. His age (21) and upside should give him ample appeal, and if he's the necessary sacrifice to net a player from the Jerami Grant-Harrison Barnes tier, the team might have to make that deal.   

New Orleans Pelicans: Jaxson Hayes

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    Admittedly, I'd love to go with a spicier selection here, since the still Zion Williamson-less New Orleans Pelicans easily rank among this season's biggest bummers. If the franchise valued the future more than the present, that could put anyone from Josh Hart to Jonas Valanciunas to even Brandon Ingram in play.

    However, New Orleans apparently has zero interest in punting this season. In fact, the Big Easy has been "most often linked" to scoring guard CJ McCollum, per B/R's Jake Fischer, which is about as win-now as a pickup can get. He celebrated his 30th birthday in September and makes $30 million-plus for this season and the next two.

    If the Pels really are seeking present upgrades, they may as well dangle Jaxson Hayes in an effort to find them. The eighth pick of the 2019 draft has yet to gain major traction, and his workload is reducing with Valanciunas and Willy Hernangomez chewing up most minutes at the 5. If Hayes' domestic violence charges haven't torpedoed his trade value, this is an obvious path for the Pelicans to take.   

New York Knicks: Obi Toppin

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    Saddled with an underwhelming 23-26 record, the Knicks are in that strange spot where buying, selling or holding all feel like viable options at the deadline. They could theoretically talk themselves into everything from throwing all of their best assets at a star—De'Aaron Fox could be a natural fit—to subtracting 2020-21 All-Star Julius Randle and starting over.

    New York seems most likely to pursue instant gratification, though. Tom Thibodeau coaches to be as competitive as possible, and the front office literally bought in to last season's playoff run, spending a chunk of change on nearly all of the Knicks' incumbent free agents.

    If New York is living in the now, it should know someone out there can help it more than Obi Toppin. That's not a knock on 2020's No. 8 pick, but the reality is he's logging fewer than 16 minutes a night while barricaded behind Randle in the rotation. If New York doesn't have major plans for Toppin in the near-future, it should redirect him to a franchise that will.     

Oklahoma City Thunder: Kenrich Williams

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    Basketball is a business, and the Oklahoma City Thunder need only an entry-level understanding of the stock market to know why trading Kenrich Williams would make all kinds of sense.

    It's all about buying low and selling high. In the case of Williams, OKC's initial investment was next to nothing. The team nabbed him in the four-team trade that sent Steven Adams to New Orleans and Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee, greeting Williams with a three-year, $6 million offer in which only the first season was guaranteed.

    In the year-plus since that exchange, Williams has found the shooting touch needed to complete the highly coveted three-and-D skill set and emerged as a two-way target for every buyer in the market, particularly those of the budget-conscious variety. The Thunder now have an opportunity to flip him for a real asset, with B/R's Jake Fischer reporting the asking price is a first-round pick.

Orlando Magic: Mo Bamba

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    Theoretically, Mo Bamba could have played his way into the Orlando Magic's long-term plans. His fourth NBA season has been his finest to date, featuring a slew of career highs, including 10.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.3 triples per game.

    There's only one catch: The Magic already have their frontcourt filled going forward. They settled on a future center this offseason when they gave Wendell Carter Jr. a four-year, $50 million extension and stamped Bamba's ticket for 2021 restricted free agency. Given their previous commitment to Jonathan Isaac (a $70 million pact that runs through 2025), there isn't anywhere to put Bamba in the starting five.

    So, do they want to pay a premium for Bamba (or Carter Jr. or post-ACL tear Isaac) off the bench? Probably not. Provided someone has something to offer for Bamba—the list of clubs who could use a shot-blocking and floor-spacing big is not short—the Magic should stick to their plan that doesn't include him and get something back before he walks.

Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons

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    The Philadelphia 76ers were talking Ben Simmons trades even before he asked out of Philadelphia last summer. It's been front-page NBA news ever since, and it could remain that way even past the deadline. The Athletic's Shams Charania and Sam Amick recently reported that teams interested in Simmons think the Sixers prefer to keep him around for now and use him to pursue James Harden or a similar star this summer.

    In a vacuum, that's not an unreasonable stance, provided that the caliber of player Philly can fetch for Simmons dramatically improves by waiting. But the 76ers don't exist in a vacuum. Rather, they're in the middle of a championship chase. Or rather, they would reach that place by giving MVP candidate Joel Embiid the kind of support he needs to make that kind of run.

    A deeply discounted deal with Simmons obviously makes no sense, but if getting back 90 cents on the dollar means contending for a title, that's a dime this franchise can spare. Rather than hoping that Harden or a similar player becomes both available and obtainable in a Simmons swap, the Sixers should think long and hard about chasing in this trade season's top asset.

Phoenix Suns: Jalen Smith

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    Another duh.

    Jalen Smith was a curious choice with the 10th overall pick of the 2020 draft, since he didn't offer the cleanest fit with Suns center Deandre Ayton. Smith's spot with the Phoenix Suns only grew more tenuous as the trio of Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder and Cam Johnson devoured nearly all of the available minutes at the forward spots.

    So, Smith has been left out in the cold—those desert nights are no joke, folks—missing both a rotation role and the team option for his third season. Once Phoenix declined, his fate was sealed. He has been an obvious trade candidate for a while now, and maybe a suitor will see more in him than the Suns ever have.

Portland Trail Blazers: CJ McCollum

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    The Portland Trail Blazers are in a tough spot. Their on-court performance has inspired no confidence all season—shockingly, the defense is still broken—and they have caught zero breaks on the injury front. Portland has three different players eyeing facing lengthy absences: Damian Lillard (abdominal), Nassir Little (shoulder) and Cody Zeller (knee).

    This roster needed a shake-up even before this rash of injuries, so the Blazers could be among the league's busiest teams this trade season. B/R's Jake Fischer reported that CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, Jusuf Nurkic and Robert Covington have all been labeled as "potential trade candidates" by rival executives.

    While it makes sense for the Blazers to shop all four, McCollum should be the top priority. First, he might command the biggest return since his powerful scoring punch is the best skill any of the four possess. Second, and maybe most importantly, he's the trickiest to fit with Lillard, as they operate in an undersized, offense-only backcourt.

    If Portland is prepared to give Lillard a two-year, $107 million extension this summer, it has to surround him with players who better complement his game.

Sacramento Kings: Harrison Barnes

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    Last season, Sacramento matched the all-time record for the league's longest playoff drought at a staggering 15 years. This season, the Kings are in danger of having the dubious distinction all to themselves, as they're sitting 13th in the Western Conference standings with the NBA's fifth-worst net rating (minus-7.3).

    As you can probably expect, this club has myriad trade candidates. It's no minor miracle that both Marvin Bagley III and Buddy Hield still reside in Sacramento, but that figures to change sooner rather than later. If the Kings really wanted to shake things up—they're apparently big Ben Simmons fans—they could dangle De'Aaron Fox or Tyrese Haliburton.

    In between the obvious candidates and the dramatic ones sits steady-as-a-rock Harrison Barnes. At 29 years old, he's a little long in the tooth to be trapped on a perennial rebuilder, particularly when his low-maintenance, three-and-D game should pique the interest of all forward-needy contenders.

San Antonio Spurs: Derrick White

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    This is tricky, because if the San Antonio Spurs wanted to go big before the trade buzzer, they could. Dejounte Murray has played his way to the doorstep of stardom. Keldon Johnson grew all the more fascinating by finding his three-point touch (80 triples at a 44.2 percent clip). Jakob Poeltl might be the best big man no one ever talks about.

    Having said that, Murray is looking more and more like a cornerstone keeper, Johnson's age (22) and ability could make him off-limits and Poeltl might be worth more to San Antonio than he would be on the trade market.

    The story is different with Derrick White. He's old for a rebuild (27), a less than ideal fit for Murray with his shaky outside shooting (career-worst is 26.5 percent) and is probably as good as he'll get. Now, giving up White only makes sense if real assets head back to the Alamo City, but that seems doable with his polish and his two-way play sure to attract win-now shoppers.   

Toronto Raptors: Chris Boucher

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    The Toronto Raptors sit in a strange place of half-competing and half-rebuilding, so there might be temptations to buy or sell big. They could flip the market on its head should they decide to put an impact talent like Pascal Siakam or Fred VanVleet up for grabs.

    Still, both scenarios feel too dramatic for Toronto. It's hard to picture a big enough prize to warrant such a heavy premium but would also be tough to sell the merits of a rebuild with the roster looking not far from competitive.   

    A move around the margins seems most likely, and B/R's Jake Fischer previously reported Chris Boucher was "considered available." He needs a new deal after this season, and given his inconsistent play, he wouldn't be the easiest to pay. As a short-term rental, though, he could appeal to frontcourt shoppers who are drawn to his length, shot-blocking and recent hot stretch from deep (45.5 percent over his last eight outings).  

Utah Jazz: Joe Ingles

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    The Utah Jazz reportedly considered trading Joe Ingles, an impending free agent, over the offseason but "couldn't stomach the culture hit," per veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein. As Stein noted, though, new Jazz CEO of basketball operations Danny Ainge is "far less sentimental than most" and "capable of trading pretty much anyone."

    Utah was right to keep culture in mind, as continuity was arguably the club's greatest strength on the heels of three consecutive seasons with a winning percentage north of .600. But the Jazz might be one (defensive-minded) wing away from true title contention, and Ingles' expiring $13 million salary makes him the most likely sacrifice to go find one.

    Since most sellers are inherently looking ahead, the 34-year-old Ingles can't offer them much beyond financial relief. If Utah must add a sweetener or two to the exchange, the front office must decide if the reward is worth the risk. Considering how close the Jazz are to a championship run, though, I'd guess they come down on the affirmative side of that debate.      

Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal

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    It's tempting to go a different direction here, since it sounds like there is zero chance of this happening. The Washington Wizards apparently aren't worried about Bradley Beal's impending free agency, and he doesn't sound eager to ditch the District.

    But what's the path forward for Washington if not a Beal blockbuster? The Wizards are putting everything on the table, but what's the sense in rearranging the furniture inside of a condemned house? Washington, which is four seasons removed from its last playoff series win, is 13-22 since its 10-3 start, with the league's seventh-worst net rating during this stretch (minus-4.6).

    What Beal-less package can the Wizards put together that changes their fate? Spencer Dinwiddie and Montrezl Harrell aren't moving the needle on the trade market. For that matter, neither are Deni Avdija and Corey Kispert.

    Beal will be 29 years old before he puts pen to paper on his next contract. He's not getting any better, and it's hard to see how the Wizards will. There's a reason speculation won't stop with Beal, and it's because divorce seems to be (and has seemed to be) the most sensible step for both parties.


    Statistics are accurate through Thursday's games and courtesy of and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted. Contract information via Spotrac.

    Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.