NBA Youngsters Who Could Be Traded for a Star This Offseason

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 5, 2022

NBA Youngsters Who Could Be Traded for a Star This Offseason

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    Mike Stobe/Associated Press

    The next NBA blockbuster trade is already in the works.

    We just don't know it yet.

    Somewhere in the basketball galaxy, a star grows disgruntled, a team trudges toward an inevitable rebuild or some other force moves us all closer to a landscape-altering transaction.

    Whenever the next star becomes available, trade offers will quickly surface. A few teams can force their way to the front of the line if they put these up-and-comers up for grabs.

    Players are listed in alphabetical order by last name.

Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Ayton has helped fuel Phoenix's rise as a heavyweight contender, but the Suns have yet to commit to him as a franchise fixture. That makes this summer fascinating to watch, as someone will need to make 2018's top pick a major commitment in restricted free agency.

    The Suns could certainly be the ones signing his checks, but it's worth noting they've already explored alternatives. Before the deadline, they inquired about Domantas Sabonis in a possible summer swap as part of an Ayton sign-and-trade, per B/R's Jake Fischer.

    That's presumably off the table with Sabonis now in Sacramento, but something similar could still send Ayton out of Phoenix and deliver a different star to the desert.

    Interest in Ayton should be immense on the open market. He can offer proven production to win-now shoppers (career 16.2 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game) or growth potential to long-term rebuilders. Get him into an offense where he's a focal point and not sharing shots with Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Mikal Bridges, and Ayton's already-impressive numbers could really take off.

    Ayton's trade value could be astronomic. If the Suns see a better return from an Ayton sign-and-trade than a new agreement with their starting center, the Western Conference could see a massive shake-up at the top.

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    Barrett has flashed moments of brilliance ever since the 'Bockers snatched him up with the No. 3 selection in the 2019 draft.

    He debuted with 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting, and he has shown that same effortless bucket-getting several times over. He's cleared 30 points 11 times just this season, including the career-best 46 he dropped on the Miami Heat and their fourth-ranked defense. If you wanted to argue New York's best path to a star was waiting out the rest of Barrett's development, your argument wouldn't be light on logic.

    Then again, there's no telling when—or, honestly, if—Barrett will uncover the key to consistent stardom. If the Knicks want a surefire star sooner than later, they'll have to pool together their best assets and trade for one. Barrett, the most coveted part of that collection, must be sacrificed to seal the deal.

    "He's their most valuable trade piece," Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News said on the HoopsHype Podcast. "If they are going to go after Donovan Mitchell or whoever, he would be their most enticing piece."

    Rather than replay the misery of their lost 2021-22, the Knicks might want to find the fast-forward option that greatly improves their 2022-23 outlook. If an accelerator is out there, Barrett is the key to getting that player to Gotham.

Tyler Herro, Miami Heat

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    Jeff Haynes/Getty Images

    The Heat have already climbed atop the Eastern Conference, so maybe they won't feel the need to budge this summer.

    But with president of basketball operations Pat Riley calling the shots, South Beach's next big-whale hunt is never too far away. The Heat have already been labeled a "legitimate suitor" for Bradley Beal, per The Athletic's Shams Charania, and Beal's powerful scoring punch could be exactly what Miami needs to bring its 12th-ranked offense up to a championship level.

    If Miami snags a top-shelf scorer like Beal, that could squeeze spark plug sixth man Tyler Herro out of the equation. That'd be just as well, though, since the Heat would need to incentivize the Washington Wizards to broker a sign-and-trade swap, anyway.

    Herro's offensive upside is enormous. He paces all regular reserves (by a mile) and ranks among the top 35 overall with 20.6 points per game. His 44.3 field-goal percentage and 39.3 three-point splash rate are both career-highs. Same goes for his 3.9 assists and 2.8 free-throws.

    Tack on his age (22), and his future is fascinating. But Miami might be more interested in a present upgrade, since it already has a championship-ready nucleus with Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry.

Jonathan Kuminga, Golden State Warriors

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    The Warriors are trapped between two time frames. Just don't expect them to actually admit that.

    The way they see it, they're knee-deep in a dynasty construction with a championship core built for today while also assembling another for tomorrow. If they successfully balance the present and future, they really will be light-years ahead of everyone.

    But their late-season swoon might force them to rethink things. If they have too many developmental projects and not enough actual on-court contributors, they risk wasting the remainder of Stephen Curry's prime. All-time greats don't come along often, so Golden State should want to maximize the impact of the one it has.

    That doesn't mean the Dubs should rush to move Kuminga, of course. He quickly vaulted atop their prospect collection by flashing both present ability and long-term, sky-high potential. He has dropped some loud hints that two-way stardom could be in his future.

    Again, though, Golden State might need to think more about its present for Curry's sake. If that's the case, and if the right star shakes loose over the summer, then—and only then—it might make sense to at least take calls on Kuminga.

    He can unlock a trade-target tier that James Wiseman and Moses Moody can't access. Kuminga is on a different level, and if the right trade offer reflects that, the Warriors owe it to themselves (and to Curry) to consider it.

Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls

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    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    The Bulls are playing the long game with Williams, rostering him past the trade deadline despite the fact he offered "a mountain of trade value," per B/R's Jake Fischer.

    In a vacuum, that's a perfectly sensible stance. Williams was a project pick when Chicago took him fourth in the 2020 draft, and he hasn't had nearly enough time to add the requisite polish. He averaged fewer than 28 minutes as a freshman and had nearly his entire sophomore season erased by wrist surgery. The 20-year-old's best basketball could be way off into the future.

    But that's kind of the rub here. The Bulls really aren't playing the long game with anyone else.

    Assuming they lock up 27-year-old Zach LaVine on a long-term, max-money deal this summer, their nucleus will be him and 30-somethings DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic. Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso, both of whom are wrapping their fifth NBA campaigns, fill prominent support roles. Even rookie Ayo Dosunmu shined brightest for his instant-impact potential.

    If the Bulls want to chase a championship next season, it's hard to think Williams would help that effort more than an established, top-level talent he could help bring back in a trade.