Tracking NBA Trade Deadline Rumors and Fallout from the Harden, Simmons Trade

Bleacher Report NBA StaffFeatured ColumnistFebruary 9, 2022

Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden (13) looks to pass against the Phoenix Suns during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Matt York/Associated Press

The NBA's annual trade deadline arrives Thursday at 3 p.m. ET. Teams were active in the week leading up to this day with blockbuster deals for big-name players such as Domantas Sabonis and CJ McCollum.

What else does the deadline have in store? Check here regularly throughout the day for the latest rumors.


76ers, Nets Break the Internet with Simmons-for-Harden Swap

Remember those old NBA “Where Amazing Happens” commercials?

Well, amazing just happened.

After months of speculation, whispers, tea-leaf readings, sourced rumors and public posturing from both sides, the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers actually got together and made this long-awaited blockbuster happen.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski filled in the particulars:

Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

The Brooklyn Nets are trading James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round picks, sources tell ESPN.

In separate tweets, Wojnarowski added the Sixers are also getting Paul Millsap in the exchange, with Brooklyn getting an unprotected first-round pick this year and a protected first-rounder in 2027.

The championship race is permanently changed.

The Nets have their dynamic defender and prolific playmaker in Simmons to pair with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, not to mention extra shot-making from Seth Curry and an interior presence in Andre Drummond. Brooklyn has also draft assets to play with now should it want to continue adding pieces over the next 90 minutes.

Simmons hasn't played since raising his trade request last summer, and Brooklyn plans to "take its time getting him acclimated," per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. But Simmons "welcomes a change of scenery, has already had conversations with Kevin Durant and they're all on the same page."

Philly, meanwhile, gets the elite perimeter shot-creator in Harden to pair with Joel Embiid, presumably forming basketball's next great twosome. It also managed to keep both Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle out of the deal, so the rotation has sufficient depth (or, Daryl Morey has an extra trade chip or two to fire off before the buzzer).

The question now is what's next? Will either side pursue another impact trade in their all-in title pursuit? On that note, Wojnarowski reported the Nets are "still working to be aggressive in more deal-making today" with their two new first-round picks.

Will fellow championship hopefuls see this as a call to action to improve their roster and sacrifice assets they were hesitant to give up? Everything is on the table and will be decided by 3 p.m. ET. Fascinating times, folks.

—Zach Buckley


Jerami Grant Is Still a Piston

One of the most talked-about names on this year's trade market was Jerami Grant. He's missed much of this season with injuries, but Grant has averaged 21.2 points, 2.0 threes and 1.1 blocks per game since the start of 2020-21. And his multipositional defense could've moved the needle for a number of teams.

Back in January, though, B/R's Jake Fischer reported that Grant had "little interest in joining a new situation where he doesn't feature as a primary offensive option."

For contenders around the league, that sentiment may have been difficult to overcome. Averaging 20-plus points is nothing to sneeze at, but well-below-average scoring efficiency suggests Grant may be better suited for an ancillary role.

That's exactly what he would've filled had he gone to a contender that already had two or three high-end scorers. Having to sell Grant on fewer shots, in combination with whatever Detroit's asking price might have been, probably scared suitors off.

—Andy Bailey


#THERETURN of Daniel Theis

The Boston Celtics sneaked in right before the trade-deadline buzzer with a deal to bring back Daniel Theis, who played there for three-plus seasons.

“[The Houston Rockets are] trading Daniel Theis to the Celtics,” ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted. “Boston is sending guard Dennis Schroder to the Rockets in the deal…”

Wojnarowski later added, “Houston gets Enes Freedom and Bruno Fernando in the deal too…”

On the heels of Boston's acquisition of Derrick White, who should be able to assume Schroder's old role, losing the backup point guard shouldn't hurt. Adding Theis to an already-crowded center rotation is a bit of a head-scratcher, though. Especially since Theis makes more than Schroder and is under contract through 2024-25.

On the other hand, there's familiarity between Theis and the organization. If he's a long-term answer as a backup 5, his salary is reasonable.

For the Rockets, this gets them out of that Theis deal. Schroder's contract expires after this season and will cost Houston around $30 million less.

They also intend to waive Enes Freedom, according to Wojnarowski, who now enters the buyout market as a potential heat-check big off the bench.

—Andy Bailey


The Lakers and Knicks Stand Pat

The Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks play in the league's two biggest media markets. Both are below .500 and dealing with varying levels of dysfunction in their franchises.

Most recently, Russell Westbrook expressed frustration with his minutes in L.A. And in New York, coach Tom Thibodeau is under fire for having RJ Barrett in at the end of a blowout in which he hurt his ankle.

The trade deadline offered an opportunity for both organizations to shake their rosters up in some way, but ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski has reported neither will make any deals.

Regarding the Lakers, Wojnarowski wrote, “[They'll] focus on the buyout market.”

—Andy Bailey


The Kristaps Porzingis Era Is Over in Dallas

PORTLAND, OREGON - JANUARY 26: Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts during the third quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center on January 26, 2022 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees th
Steph Chambers/Getty Images


Just when you thought the deadline was cruising to the finish line, here comes a curveball out of Dallas.

Per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, the Dallas Mavericks are sending Kristaps Porzingis to the Washington Wizards and getting back Spencer Dinwiddie. The Mavericks are also getting Davis Bertans and sending out a second-round pick, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

In my book, this qualifies as a stunner. Even if Porzingis used to be a regular on the trade-machine circuit, Dinwiddie never found his footing in Washington and Bertans looked overpaid before the ink dried on the five-year, $80 million deal he signed in Nov. 2020.

Does Washington think a Porzingis-Bradley Beal combo can make noise sooner than later? If so, maybe the Wizards flip a prospect or two before the deadline to find more established players to plug into support roles around that tandem.

As for Dallas, it feels as if the Mavs concluded they had taken the Porzingis experiment as far as they could and just wanted it over with. They needed a shot-creator, and Dinwiddie sort of fits that role, but does this squeeze out impending free agent Jalen Brunson? Dallas should decide that fast, because it could get a decent haul for him before the final buzzer sounds.



Second Jalen Smith Swap Coming?

Don't pack your bags yet, Jalen Smith. Well, pack them, but maybe don't put them on a flight to the Circle City.

According to B/R's Jake Fischer, Smith, who was traded from the Phoenix Suns to the Indiana Pacers earlier Thursday, is "unlikely to remain in Indiana," as the Pacers "are receiving significant interest" in him.

Smith is only 21 year old and less than two years removed from being the No. 10 pick in the 2020 draft, so it makes sense someone might want to take a chance on him. He hasn't produced much to this point, though, and since the Suns previously declined his third-year option, he has unrestricted free agency awaiting him this summer.



Suns Add Some Offensive Punch to Second Unit

The Phoenix Suns aren't taking their position atop the NBA standings for granted.

After previously dealing for perimeter stopper Torrey Craig, they picked up Aaron Holiday from the Washington Wizards, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

Dario Saric is still sitting in the Suns' back pocket. Does Phoenix general manager James Jones have one more deal in him?



Hornets Add a Center, But Was It the Right One?

The Charlotte Hornets just filled their long-standing hole at center. Sort of.

As ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported, the Hornets landed Montrezl Harrel from the Washington Wizards for Vernon Carey and Ish Smith.

Harrell, a North Carolina native, has been on Buzz City's radar before, so they clearly like his game. But is he the right center to plug the leaks of their 24th-ranked defense? Color me skeptical.



Nets Not Done Yet?

The Nets made one of this deadline's top power plays by flipping James Harden for Ben Simmons and more. That does not necessarily mean Brooklyn is done dealing, though.

Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News reported the Nets are shopping third-year big man Nic Claxton. Package him with one (or both) of the picks received in the Simmons trade, and Brooklyn might be able to land someone significant.

As Winfield noted, the acquisition of Andre Drummond and impending return of LaMarcus Aldridge have seemingly made Claxton expendable.



Suns Add Familiar Face for More Defensive Resistance

Torrey Craig ended last season with the Phoenix Suns. He is set to do the same this time around, despite signing with the Indiana Pacers last summer.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the two sides got together on a deal Thursday sending Craig back to the desert for Jalen Smith, the No. 10 pick in 2020, and a future second-round pick.

Phoenix, the league-leader in winning percentage at .815, is leaving as little to chance as possible in hopes of securing the franchise's first NBA title. The Suns still have another trade chip to cash in with Dario Saric if they sniff out the right deal.

The Pacers, meanwhile, are rightfully looking down the road. They have downplayed the possibility of a rebuild, but if Indy seeks additional assets, it has more movable vets to shop around in the next 40 minutes.



Boston Beefs Up Backcourt, Spurs Continue Adding Assets

The Boston Celtics gained some roster flexibility via a trade with the Orlando Magic shortly after noon ET on Thursday.

Less than two hours later, they put that flexibility to use by plucking two-way combo guard Derrick White away from the San Antonio Spurs. Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium was first to report it, while Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe filled in the particulars:

Adam Himmelsbach @AdamHimmelsbach

Full trade, according to a league source: Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, 2022 first-round pick protected 1-4, for Derrick White.

The Spurs, who almost never make in-season trades, have now completed two today, each bringing a first-round pick to the Alamo City. Win-now teams should continue mining San Antonio's roster for instant upgrades, as the Spurs are clearly (and smartly) taking the long view with their roster.

The Celtics, meanwhile, are taking the opposite approach by turning long-term assets into immediate assistance, and they may not be done yet. Celtics Blog's Keith Smith reported the Shamrocks "have other deals they are considering before the deadline, including different iterations of Dennis Schroder deals."



Hornets Homing in on Potential Fix to Center Problem?

Eric Gay/Associated Press

The Charlotte Hornets haven't had an impact center since Al Jefferson was manning the middle.

Buzz City might have its big man soon, but it will cost them.

The Hornets and San Antonio Spurs have discussed a deal sending Jakob Poeltl to Charlotte in exchange for P.J. Washington, rookie first-rounder Kai Jones and a first-round pick, per HoopsHype's Michael Scotto.

Poeltl is a brilliant defender, which surely interests a Charlotte team sitting 24th in defensive efficiency. He's also a clever passer and a capable finisher around the rim. Is he worth Washington, Jones and a first-round pick, though? That feels a bit rich, unless the Hornets are 1,000 percent certain Poeltl is the right player to plug their hole on the interior.



Celtics Cut Costs, Gain Flexibility

The Boston Celtics' primary motivation for this trade season seemed to be ducking under the luxury tax.

They did that and then some by shedding two players to the Orlando Magic and bringing back only a future second-rounder in return, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowksi:

Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

The Celtics are trading PJ Dozier and Bol Bol, a future second and cash to the Magic for a future second-round pick, sources tell ESPN. Dozier and Bol are both out for the season. Cost-savings for Boston.

This allows Boston to not only duck the tax, but also to potentially go buyout shopping with open roster spots to fill.



Could Kristaps Porzingis Be On His Way Out?

It has been a little while since Kristaps Porzingis was a fixture on the trade-machine circuit, but he has apparently been caught up in real-life discussions.

B/R's Jake Fischer has the latest:

Jake Fischer @JakeLFischer

Word first started making the rounds last night, and discussion of a framework where Kristaps Porzingis potentially heads to Toronto has since circulated around NBA front offices. There's of course mutual interest in bringing Goran Dragic to Dallas. Unclear how serious talks are.

Goran Dragic has since been traded to the San Antonio Spurs for Thaddeus Young, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, so Toronto might be out as a landing spot for Porzingis.

But maybe the fact that Porzingis' name was mentioned in any rumor means he isn't tied down in Dallas. He offers the Mavericks their cleanest path to adding someone with a sizable salary, and he hasn't always appeared to be the ideal co-star for Luka Doncic. Still, trading a player with his size, stats and stature might be too dramatic for Dallas to undertake at the last second.



Goran Dragic, Thaddeus Young on the Move

Goran Dragic is heading to Texas—just not the city most had in mind. (Not right away, at least.)

It wasn't the Dallas Mavericks who landed the Dragon (a native Slovenian, like Luka Doncic), but rather the San Antonio Spurs, who sent Thaddeus Young to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Dragic and, more importantly, a lottery-protected first-round pick, as Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported:

Shams Charania @ShamsCharania

Sources: Full Spurs-Raptors deal: Raptors: Thad Young, Drew Eubanks, 2022 Pistons second-rounder Spurs: Goran Dragic, Toronto 2022 first-rounder (protected 1-14, protected 1-13 in 2023, turning into future seconds)

With Young headed north of the border, could that mean Chris Boucher will travel the opposite direction? Both fill similar combo-big roles, although even with Boucher, Toronto needed more frontcourt reinforcements, so the pair could co-exist on the second unit.

Dragic is expected to reach a buyout agreement with the Spurs, and once that happens, the Mavs "will be the favorites" to sign him, per Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes. Dallas' patience could be rewarded in a big way.



Four-Team Deal Gets Done

The Marvin Bagley III era is over in Sacramento. Somewhat surprisingly, so is the Donte DiVincenzo era in Milwaukee.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski shared the details on this four-team, seven-player swap:

Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

ESPN Sources: Full trade participants: Kings: Donte DiVincenzo, Trey Lyles and Josh Jackson. Bucks: Serge Ibaka, two future second-round picks, cash. Clippers: Rodney Hood, Semi Ojele. Pistons: Marvin Bagley Jr.

The Kings might be done pushing their chips to the center of the table, as Bagley was one of the last realistic trade cards in their hand. The Bucks had little to move beyond DiVincenzo, so a minor move or two aside, this might be it for Milwaukee, at least until the buyout market opens, since they're poised to have at least one open roster spot to work with.

Detroit is the team to watch here. Does the addition of Bagley signal a closer focus on the future, which could put further veterans like Jerami Grant, Cory Joseph and Kelly Olynyk on the chopping block? Or did the Pistons merely see this as an opportunity to expand their young core with a recent lottery pick (No. 2 in 2018) on the cheap? Stay tuned.



Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma Only Two Unavailable Wizards

The Washington Wizards are open for business.

No, this doesn't mean they are reversing course on keeping Bradley Beal, but they have made everyone other than Beal and swingman Kyle Kuzma available, per Action Network's Matt Moore.

Given Washington's failure to launch this season, this might be where you insert a slick comment about what else the Wizards even have to offer. However, they have several plug-and-play veterans to offer contenders (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell come immediately to mind), and this also puts a few intriguing prospects up for grabs, too (Deni Avdija, Rui Hachimura and Corey Kispert chief among them).

With established talent and up-and-comers to sell, it will be interesting to see which direction the Wizards take here. Do they cash out the veterans for long-term assets or flip their youth for players who can help Beal next season? Either option (or both) might be on the table, but I'd lean toward the latter, since the Wizards will want to win sooner than later if they max out Beal this summer.



Mavericks Looking to Buy, But Only with Certain Trade Chips

MEMPHIS, TN - JANUARY 14: Dorian Finney-Smith #10 hi-fives Jalen Brunson #13 of the Dallas Mavericks during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies on January 14, 2022 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agree
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks are in the market for upgrades, which makes sense given their position in the Western Conference standings (fifth) and the fact they have an All-Galaxy talent on the roster (Luka Doncic).

But Dallas could have a tough time really shaking things up, as the Action Network's Matt Moore reported both Jalen Brunson and Dorian Finney-Smith "are not available." Dwight Powell is reportedly up for grabs. Also available is injured scoring guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (stress fracture in foot), who the Mavs are "aggressively" shopping, garnering the interest of the Los Angeles Clippers and Indiana Pacers.

Hardaway's trade value is tough to gauge in light of his injury, though he is signed through 2024-25 (at a decreasing salary to boot!), so the right shopper might want to add him now with eyes on his future contributions.

Dallas could use both a backup big and an extra shot-creator, but its realistic target list will only stretch as far as its budget. If the Mavs won't part with a prime asset, they won't get better than rotational role players.



Harrison Barnes Trade Unlikely With Kings Pushing for Play-In Tournament

If the Sacramento Kings wanted to dangle Harrison Barnes ahead of the deadline, they could seek a—no pun intended—king's ransom in return. He offers everything from championship experience and locker-room leadership to three-level scoring and defensive versatility, so the market for him would be substantial.

But Sacramento, hoping beyond hope to snap its record-tying 15-year playoff drought, might want Barnes' many win-now attributes for itself.

SACRAMENTO, CA - FEBRUARY 5: Harrison Barnes #40 of the Sacramento Kings drives to the basket during the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 5, 2022 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

"If the Kings are going to make a push for the play-in tournament—and that is definitely their plan—then sources say they have no interest in losing the 29-year-old in a deal that only nets them future assets (prospects/picks)," The Athletic's Sam Amick reported. "They want an impact player in return."

Declining long-term assets for the hope of a play-in invite might technically be bad business, but it's hard to knock Sacramento for running short on patience. If they want to give their fanbase some immediate gratification, more power to them.

But they have to know an "impact player" isn't coming in a Barnes deal, right? First, that might go beyond the limits of his trade value. Second, teams with interest in Barnes don't have an impact player to sacrifice.



Knicks Still Pursuing Myles Turner, Foot Injury and All

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JANUARY 31: Myles Turner #33 of the Indiana Pacers looks on before the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on January 31, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agree
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

With mere hours left before the trade cut-off, it still isn't clear whether the New York Knicks are buying or selling.

Should the 'Bockers opt for the former, they are "still pursuing" injured Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner, per Marc Berman of the New York Post.

Turner, who hasn't played since mid-January because of a stress reaction in his foot, would be an impactful two-way addition if he can get healthy. His unicorn combination of shot-blocking and perimeter shot-making means he could up the potency of New York's 24th-ranked offense while also strengthening its 15th-ranked defense.

It's unclear who the Knicks would part with here, though a source told Berman the team is "most vigorously" shopping Kemba Walker, Alec Burks and Mitchell Robinson. It's also uncertain if the Pacers would entertain Turner trade talks after letting go of Domantas Sabonis.



Wish Lists Revealed for Potential Harden-Simmons Swap

If a James Harden-for-Ben Simmons blockbuster is brokered by the 3 p.m. ET buzzer, it will be the deal that defines this trade deadline.

So, how could it all shape up? Thanks to B/R's Jason Dumas, we now have a look at the trade as each team hopes it goes down:

Jason Dumas @JDumasReports

This likely comes down to the 3p deadline. Sixers hopeful for a package of James Harden, Patty Mills, and Bruce Brown. Nets are hopeful for a package of Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Matisse Thybulle, and Andre Drummond.

Philly would get the perimeter shot-creator it seeks in Harden, a three-point sniper in Patty Mills and an all-purpose defender in Bruce Brown to lessen the blow dealt by the departure of Simmons (and possibly Matisse Thybulle).

Brooklyn, meanwhile, would add an elite playmaker and stopper in Simmons to complement the Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving duo, plus a perimeter bomber in Seth Curry, a pesky, versatile defender in Thybulle and some interior oomph in the form of Andre Drummond.

This feels…pretty fair for both sides, honestly. The Sixers might gripe over the inclusion of Thybulle since a perimeter defense without him or Simmons will have some holes, but if they see Harden as the missing piece of their championship puzzle, that seems like a sacrifice they will begrudgingly make.



Magic Want First-Round Pick for Terrence Ross, Might Be Hard To Get

Terrence Ross has appeared out of place since being the lone veteran left behind during the Orlando Magic's fire sale at last year's trade deadline. His tenure with the team could be coming to a close Thursday, though that depends on either suitors upping their offers or the Magic lessening their demands.

Orlando's current ask, per Celtics Blog's Keith Smith, is a first-round pick, but win-now wing shoppers "are hoping as the day goes along, that price [will] come down to two second-round picks."

There have been seasons in which Ross' output might have been worth a first-round pick, but this has not been one of them. His 10.9 points per game are his fewest in four seasons, his 30.8 three-point percentage is the worst of his career and his .020 win shares per 48 minutes are the least he has ever provided.

If the asking price doesn't change between now and 3 p.m., chances are Ross' address won't, either.



James Harden Wants Out, Will Nets Grant His Wish?

Sound the alarm, folks. The James Harden trade hype is officially entering overdrive.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Thursday that Harden is, in fact, seeking a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers, though he is hesitant to demand a deal "out of fear of the public backlash that would come with asking out of a second franchise in consecutive seasons."

Maybe I'm hung up on semantics here, but is this report any different than a formal request? I digress.

The Sixers and Brooklyn Nets "have yet to become engaged in serious dialogue on a deal," though they are expected to keep communication open on Thursday. Wojnarowski added this could come down to Philly's willingness to part with additional pieces beyond Ben Simmons to get Harden, as opposed to waiting and trying to sign (or trade for) The Beard this summer.

The Nets, losers of nine straight, might not want to keep an unhappy Harden around and risk spoiling the chemistry needed to make a championship run. Considering the cost of acquiring Harden last season, the disaster scenario of losing him for nothing this summer surely looms over the organization.

This feels like it could go either way, and it is not hyperbolic to say this trade (or non-trade) will have direct implications on the championship chase.



Westbrook Likely to Stay in LA, Unless LeBron Abandons Brodie

Ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers' disastrous loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday, sources told B/R that L.A. was unlikely to trade Russell Westbrook at the deadline. The caveat: If LeBron James decides that fellow Klutch Sports client John Wall could be a better fit and is willing to push extremely hard for Westbrook's exit, the Lakers might consider a deal with the Houston Rockets.

The Lakers are slogging through a disappointing season. Injuries have hurt the cause, but fundamentally, the addition of Westbrook to James and Anthony Davis hasn't worked. The team doesn't have the right combination of shooters who can defend or defenders who can shoot. L.A. is older, its depth gone. Most went out in the Westbrook trade with the Washington Wizards: Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and the No. 22 pick (Isaiah Jackson, routed to the Indiana Pacers). The Lakers also chose not to re-sign defensive stalwart Alex Caruso.

The biggest roadblock is Westbrook's $44.2 million salary this season and $47.1 million player option for next. The market is dry, with Westbrook widely expected to opt in. Wall represents the one obvious escape route for the Lakers, with an almost identical contract of $44.3 million and a $47.4 million player option.

The Rockets are open to making a deal, but only if the Lakers are willing to pay to play. But top Lakers executive Rob Pelinka may be hesitant to acknowledge the Westbrook move was a failure, let alone give up the team's sparse assets to make him go away.

Houston could be open to a trade if the Lakers also took on Daniel Theis' multiyear deal, but that's not attractive for Los Angeles given the boost in luxury tax and the team's desire to keep the books relatively clean for the 2023 offseason (when James' contract expires).

At this point, Westbrook-for-Wall seems unlikely. But if James, who still wields considerable influence around the league and on the Lakers front office, is willing to throw Westbrook under the bus in favor of Wall? Perhaps Pelinka will relent.

Prediction: The Lakers ride out the storm with Westbrook. They come together to earn a playoff spot via the play-in tournament or have a very long offseason. Westbrook may be easier to trade as an expiring contract, but the Lakers may still find Wall the only viable option this summer. At the deadline, look for Pelinka to find a minor money deal to send out a player such as DeAndre Jordan or Kent Bazemore to trim the luxury-tax bill and open a roster spot for a buyout candidate like Tristan Thompson.

—Eric Pincus


Vultures Circling Portland in Hopes of Dame Megadeal

Disheartened by four first-round exits in five years, Damian Lillard pressed Portland's front office during the offseason to act with "urgency" in getting this roster to a contending level. The Blazers have since responded by trading away—clears throat—CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, Robert Covington and Larry Nance Jr. for future assets and flexibility.

PORTLAND, OREGON - FEBRUARY 08: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers warms up before the game against the Orlando Magic at Moda Center on February 08, 2022 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downl
Steph Chambers/Getty Images

It's all part of a plan, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, to "fully reshape [the] roster" around Lillard and "pursue high-end talent." But, as veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein shared, Dame dreamers are hoping to alter that strategy:

"In the wake of Portland's steady purge of veterans over the past few days, multiple teams have called the Trail Blazers to try to engage them in Damian Lillard trade talks before Thursday's 3 p.m. ET trade buzzer, league sources say. Interested Dame suitors have clearly been emboldened by the Blazers' reset to test their resolve on Lillard."

It's logical for clubs to make those phone calls, since this roster currently looks years away from contending. But that doesn't mean the Blazers have to actually consider the nuclear option, and all arrows point to them doing the opposite.



Three-Team Trade Brewing Between Lakers, Knicks and Raptors?

The Lakers might be on the cusp of cashing in one of their top trade chips in a deal that could involve the New York Knicks and the Toronto Raptors.

HoopsHype's Michael Scotto shared the details on this potential three-team deal:

Michael Scotto @MikeAScotto

Sources: The Lakers, Knicks and Raptors have discussed a 3-team trade. Lakers get Cam Reddish and Alec Burks. Knicks get Goran Dragic and draft picks. Raptors get Talen Horton-Tucker and Nerlens Noel. There’s also a chance Kendrick Nunn is added to the trade as talks continue

Depending on if (or how many of) those "draft picks" are coming from the Lakers, this could be a healthy return given Talen Horton-Tucker's struggles in the first season of his three-year, $30.8 million contract. Alec Burks is a plug-and-play wing who adds moderate value at both ends, while Cam Reddish, the No. 10 pick in 2019, has shown flashes of being an elevated version of that archetype.

This feels early for the Knicks to bail on Reddish, but if coach Tom Thibodeau isn't going to play him—he's logged just 50 total minutes since his Jan. 13 trade to the Empire State—then that's kind of a moot point. It's also hard to gauge this deal without knowing the specific draft compensation, but Goran Dragic was decent last season and offers financial relief with his expiring $19.4 million salary.

From Toronto's end, this could be a cheap way to add another building block if a trade gets Horton-Tucker back on track, and the addition of Nerlens Noel gives Toronto more protection in the paint. This swap could also mean Mitchell Robinson is off the trade block, while Chris Boucher is very much on it.



Jerami Grant a Possibility in Portland?

The Portland Trail Blazers have been one of the busiest teams ahead of the trade deadline, with three executed deals (with the Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans and a three-way trade with the Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs).

Do they have another move in them? Some recent buzz around the NBA has the Blazers as one of the teams looking closely at Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant. Portland has sought a long, rangy forward who can defend and score to complement Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum for the longest time.

Now McCollum is gone, along with several others, including Norman Powell, Larry Nance Jr. and Robert Covington. The goal was to get under the luxury-tax threshold ($136.6 million) and restructure a roster that had likely peaked.

But interest in that player archetype has not shifted. The buzz suggests the Blazers will look to re-sign Lillard to a two-year extension and may think Grant is an ideal forward in the long term.

Grant will earn $20 million this season, with another $21 million due for 2022-23. NBA sources say the 27-year-old is seeking an extension that will pay him into his early 30s.

Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

Fortunately for the Blazers, the team created a $20.9 million trade exception with the McCollum swap. That's enough to take in Grant without needing to match player contracts. But Portland would want to send out enough salary to stay under the salary cap.

The Pistons may be interested in center Jusuf Nurkic, a free agent in the summer. Portland also has a first-rounder from the Pelicans that would convey in the Nos. 5-14 range; otherwise, it converts to a Milwaukee Bucks first-rounder in 2025 (top-four-protected).

It's unclear what would work for both franchises, but that may depend on who else is pursuing Grant. The Washington Wizards were believed to be a top suitor, but it's unclear if that's still the case after Bradley Beal was lost for the season with a wrist injury.

Meanwhile, Henry Abbott of TrueHoop questioned if the Blazers are really building around Lillard or doing a stealth rebuild. If the team lands Grant by the deadline, then expect Lillard to stay with Portland for the foreseeable future.

Prediction: The buzz on Grant-to-Portland has settled down on deadline eve. Pencil this one as a very, very soft "no." The Pistons hold on to Grant to find a better deal around the draft.



Will Morey's Season-Long Patience Land Harden in Philadelphia?

The Philadelphia 76ers are actively discussing a Ben Simmons-James Harden swap with the Brooklyn Nets, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst. The Nets want two or three additional assets from the Sixers. President of basketball operations Daryl Morey is looking to make further moves to clear roster space, including offering teams Tobias Harris.

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.@WindhorstESPN says Ben Simmons-James Harden trade discussions are absolutely happening 👀 "The teams are absolutely engaged in trade discussions. ... As far as I can tell, we're in the deal zone between Harden and Simmons." https://t.co/gvZfNTfCFk

Information leaks in the NBA. It's part of the culture. If the Sixers are calling other franchises to help facilitate a deal that could bring in Harden, that intel will buzz.

Blockbuster trades often need to grow into multiteam swaps. Getting Harden to the Nets from the Houston Rockets took four teams, including the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers.

The bigger picture is that Harden can opt out of his contract after the season. If he's going to leave the Nets, period, as an unrestricted free agent, then Brooklyn should try to recoup what it invested in its trade with Houston via Philadelphia. The Sixers should want to add Harden as early as possible to capitalize on a wide-open Eastern Conference and an MVP-caliber season from Joel Embiid.

The Nets might deny that they're considering moving Harden. Still, if they can get Simmons and additional assets (the price the Sixers have to pay to get Harden ahead of the summer—which may require Brooklyn's assistance come June or July), then perhaps there's a deal to get done.

Prediction: The Sixers know they will land Harden sooner or later, which is why they haven't dealt Simmons for anyone they feel is a lesser player. The Nets know what's coming. The Sixers won't part with Tyrese Maxey or Matisse Thybulle, but they'll find a compromise. These teams will work to make a deal before the deadline.



Knicks Getting Calls for Randle

The New York Knicks are receiving calls for Julius Randle. Per SNY's Ian Begley, the Sacramento Kings were one of the potential suitors but are likely out after acquiring Domantas Sabonis from the Indiana Pacers.

The Knicks were one of last year's surprise franchises, finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference for the team's first playoff berth since 2013. The run ended in five games against the Atlanta Hawks. Randle in August signed a four-year extension worth up to $117.1 million, but the team has struggled to duplicate last year's success.

At 24-31, the Knicks have to reconsider some of their decisions. Was paying Randle a mistake? Did the team do enough to improve over the offseason, or were the offense-heavy additions of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier counterproductive?

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

According to Begley, "some members of the organization" are still confident that the team "can be effective if Randle continues to run the floor and play with energy."

Prediction: The Knicks will get some last-minute, rushed offers for Randle but will wait until the offseason before making that kind of move. Randle's extension isn't necessarily egregious, but he's certainly not inexpensive. If the team does move on, it should wait until around the draft or the July free-agency period.