Every NBA Team's Best Offseason Trade Chip
Twenty-six of the 30 NBA teams are already in offseason mode. Let's go ahead and join them.
This summer figures to be especially hectic on the trade market. Free agency is light on both impact talent and cap space, which should compel teams to exhaustively explore alternative means of talent acquisition. It is with this in mind that we humbly present every franchise's best trade chip ahead of the offseason.
Selections for each squad will take into account overarching directions. The Orlando Magic, for example, should not be actively shopping the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA draft, so that's off the table. It's the same story for players. Cade Cunningham has the most trade value on the Detroit Pistons. He's also their entire timeline. That's a no-go, too.
Choices will predominantly be limited to players. Any draft picks that earn top billing will for the most part be immediately conveyable. We won't try to extrapolate long-term futures and debate the value of 2027, 2028 or 2029 first-rounders unless a team's asset chest is that empty. (Hint: The mother of all exceptions rhymes with "bakers.")
Inclusion in this exercise should not be interpreted as an endorsement. This is merely a look at the player or pick that strikes the right balance of potential availability and value to other teams in hypothetical trade talks.
Atlanta Hawks: John Collins
Settling on the right answer for the Atlanta Hawks is complicated. They are a variable hodgepodge of tantalizing trade chips.
Some of the shine has worn off De'Andre Hunter. Injuries continued to mess with his availability this season, and he hit an offensive wall after flashing a more dynamic package to start 2020-21. His extension eligibility also makes him a more prickly sell to rebuilding squads that don't want to bankroll post-rookie deals right off the bat.
Onyeka Okongwu comes close to earning the nod. Near-positionless defense remains his calling card, and he has a presence around the basket that belies his 6'8" stature. His offensive portfolio, meanwhile, stretches beyond rim-running and lob-catching and includes an operable floater and one-or-two-dribble decision-making.
John Collins is the actual answer, because he has to be. His status in Atlanta has felt uncertain since the arrival of Clint Capela, and if the Hawks are looking for the vaunted consolidatory blockbuster trade, there's no better package headliner than a 24-year-old hovering around the fringes of stardom.
Collins is not perfect. He is simultaneously better defensively and still probably a one-positioner on that end. But his offensive utility is infinitely scalable. He can be the primary screener, float around beyond the three-point line or bust out a situational floor game. That malleability has serious frontcourt value, particularly with a hyper-reasonable three years and $75.4 million left on his deal.
Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart
We really need a "placeholder alert" emoji or something. The Boston Celtics may very well win the 2022 NBA championship, in which case they'd have little reason to explore critical shakeups. That may be their default line no matter how they end this season.
Smaller-scale impact players like Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard get the nod if that's the case. For the time being, Marcus Smart is the natural choice.
Picking Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown doesn't fit the spirit of this exercise. Al Horford could have value as a massive expiring contract, but the Celtics must first guarantee his $26.5 million salary. Derrick White might be more valuable to Boston than any other team. Few squads are built to shell out $15-plus million per year for someone to be their fourth-, fifth- or sixth-best player.
Feel free to roll with Robert Williams III. His extension that kicks in next season is a gosh darn steal (four years, $48 million). But going that route is a cop-out. He isn't any less a part of the core than Smart. Williams may even be more integral given the age of Horford (36 on June 3) and Daniel Theis (30).
Also: Let's not overcomplicate things. The Celtics are either buyers or standstill-ers. And if they're going to buy—like, seriously buy—fleshing out packages around the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and his fresh four-year, $77.1 million extension is the place to start.
Brooklyn Nets: Cam Thomas
Kyrie Irving (player option) and Ben Simmons are the most fitting selections for the Brooklyn Nets at first glance. Dig deeper, and they make little sense.
Simmons just had back surgery and won't have played NBA basketball for over a year by the time next season tips off. Irving is a likely free agent who would need to cooperate with a sign-and-trade, and his checkered injury history plus his penchant for submarining franchise vibes matters. There may be no greater discrepancy right now than the on-court value of Kyrie and Simmons and what teams would actually give up for them.
Pivoting to Joe Harris is awkward when he's coming off season-ending left ankle surgery. Seth Curry registers among the Association's top bargains ($8.5 million), but he is on an expiring contract and will have the heaviest pull among fellow wannabe contenders.
And so, we arrive at Cam Thomas. His shot profile wants for rim pressure, and he does bail out too early on drives. But it's hard to quibble with his selection when he connected on nearly 55 percent of his attempts between 10 and 16 feet and north of 40 percent on his long twos.
Brooklyn cannot use Thomas to broker a serious return on his own. His sub-$2.5 million salary is prohibitive in that regard. But he can be attached to additional money, and the offensive skill set he flashed ensures teams should value him more than a nameless, faceless first-rounder.
Charlotte Hornets: No. 13 Pick
Incumbent players no longer move the trade-chip needle for the Charlotte Hornets.
Miles Bridges is headed for restricted free agency and a near-max payday and hasn't shown enough on defense to solicit the same sign-and-trade interest that figures to define Deandre Ayton's offseason. PJ Washington is plug-and-play on offense and can steal some minutes at the 5, but role-player bigs one year out from restricted free agency aren't fetching pretty premiums.
James Bouknight's value peaked at 2021 summer league. He has more than enough time to reboot it, but not before next season. Kai Jones is a bounce house, but also a mystery. Gordon Hayward (two years, $61.6 million) and Terry Rozier (four years, $96.2 million, with over $94 million guaranteed) will not be primary targets at their current price points.
No one should need to hear this, but just so we cover all the bases: LaMelo Ball isn't going anywhere. That leaves the best of the Hornets' two first-rounders in this June's draft. They aren't flipping No. 13 and salary filler for a shoo-in All-Star, but the ability to include a lower-level lottery pick is an attention-grabber—especially if it's available to teams shopping established centers. (Looking at you, Sacramento. And maybe Indiana.)
Chicago Bulls: Patrick Williams
The calculus behind this entire process changes if Zach LaVine leaves as a free agent and the Chicago Bulls are foisted into an unplanned and unwanted timeline. For now, we must operate under the assumption they'll be among the most aggressive, if not desperate, buyers on the trade market.
Patrick Williams is the only choice within this framing. Ayo Dosunmu may have more immediate value, but neither he nor Coby White has the higher range of long-term outcomes.
A healthy Williams has the size and length to be liberally deployed against superstar wings, giving him an inherent advantage. His career 41.3 percent three-point clip buoys his three-and-D stock even further.
He needs this efficiency to sustain on more volume after attempting fewer than 170 triples during his first two years. And it'd be nice if he was both quicker and more decisive when he does put the ball on the floor. But going on 21, with two years left on his rookie scale, he retains his cornerstone-wing allure—rendering him Chicago's most meaningful trade asset in the months to come.
Cleveland Cavaliers: No. 14 Pick
Merchants of irrationally hot takes might argue for Jarrett Allen. Sure, the multi-big setup worked this year. But couldn't Evan Mobley make Allen expendable? And if so, wouldn't now be the time to move Allen, when he's coming off an All-Star appearance?
Bleck. Yours truly has zero desire to go here. Darius Garland has no place in this discussion, either. Collin Sexton might if he has sign-and-trade suitors in restricted free agency. But "Base Year Compensation" makes such transactions a headache for players exiting rookie scales, and his recovery from a torn left meniscus stands to complicate negotiations.
Kevin Love's expiring deal is fair game. Even after his bounce-back year, though, most teams will be more drawn to the imminent cap relief he'd provide over everything he gives on the court.
Others might choose Caris LeVert. But he was too all over the place after arriving in Cleveland to beat out a lottery pick, and the price point on his next deal will be a factor. Isaac Okoro is the best alternative. His defense holds up against either backcourt slot, and he's been deployed versus some star wings. He's also downing over 35 percent of his corner threes the past two years, so he's not a complete non-shooter.
In the end, the blank slate associated with No. 14 seems most useful—and versatile. The Cavs can use it to broker middle-end returns without technically selling low, or they can bake it into prospective blockbuster proposals.
Dallas Mavericks: Dorian Finney-Smith
Bringing in someone who scores at every level while lightening Luka's load remains a must for the Dallas Mavericks. Defenses remain unafraid to throw the kitchen sink at him, and neither Jalen Brunson nor Spencer Dinwiddie puts a bunch of pressure on the opposition as off-the-dribble jump shooters.
Dallas isn't upgrading No. 2 in the pecking order with cap space. It doesn't have any. It may also lose one of its best current solutions when Brunson enters unrestricted free agency.
Any purposeful acquisition must come via trade (or sign-and-trade). And if the Mavericks go the second-star route, it's tough to picture their getting it done without including Dorian Finney-Smith.
Nothing's a given, but Dallas is wearing thin on assets. The 26th pick in this year's draft or a 2025 first-rounder isn't immensely attractive, and the Mavericks don't have a blue-chip prospect to peddle.
Finney-Smith's value far exceeds that of any non-Luka player under contract. Dallas' books are loaded with mostly mid-end to bloated salaries that are most useful as matching tools. Finney-Smith, however, is an elite three-and-D contributor, with a master's in cutting baseline, who can almost indiscriminately guard the other team's best player. If the Mavs want to swing for the fences, his four-year, $55.6 million extension is their staunchest bargaining tool.
Denver Nuggets: Bones Hyland
Including Jamal Murray or Michael Porter Jr. would be the more business-like approach. And the less plausible one. The Denver Nuggets haven't seen enough of the Murray-MPJ-Nikola Jokic trio to entertain a breakup, and even if they did, the market value of Murray and MPJ will be slumping after they essentially missed the entire season. (MPJ appeared in nine games.)
Pushing for Will Barton or Aaron Gordon doesn't fit what we're doing here. Both are movable, but will either resonate as a centerpiece to sellers? Not even close.
Bones Hyland is a different story. He was better than advertised during his rookie campaign; his shooting may have somehow been undersold. He buried 36.7 percent of his spot-up triples and 36.9 percent of his pull-up treys. Those marks may represent his floor. He swished 47.2 percent of his pull-up threes post-All-Star break.
Select teams will view Hyland as cornerstone material—including the Nuggets. He doesn't provide much rim pressure, but his hesitation handles keep defenses on their toes inside the arc, and he's a capable cutter.
Passing will be his swing skill, the developmental facet that determines whether he's a lead guard. And he might be. He's already shown excellent vision coming downhill and when turning corners. That's a deep enough offensive package for him to be treated as much more than a first-rounder. And with Denver short on pick equity, the Bones-plus-salary package represents its lone path to any splashy moves.
Detroit Pistons: Jerami Grant
Jerami Grant doesn't face much competition for this honor. The Detroit Pistons aren't moving Cade Cunningham or parlaying the No. 5 pick into a veteran. It's open season after that.
Perhaps Saddiq Bey has a case. Or maybe post-All-Star-break Killian Hayes. But neither has Grant's resume. He's been the consummate three-and-D contributor for more than a half-decade, and his time in Detroit allowed him to showcase extra, albeit imperfect, on-ball layers.
Offers for Grant may be restrained given his contract situation. Any team that lands him must effectively sign him to a four-year, $112 million max extension, lest they risk him becoming a rental.
That's not much of a hangup. This year's free-agent market is barren of both cap space and impact wings. The Pistons should have no issue extracting a first-round pick and young player as compensation, without taking back any truly unsavory deals.
Granted, the quality of that trade-package outline is a matter of course. Whimsical Pistons fans have already penciled the Portland Trail Blazers' No. 7 pick into their possession. That's steep. But the idea of getting a lottery pick and then some from another team, perhaps maybe Charlotte or Washington or New York? Not so much.
Golden State Warriors: Jonathan Kuminga
Shout-out to Andrew Wiggins. Seriously. His complementary offense and one-on-one defense have a case to be the Golden State Warriors' best trade chip—not in spite of his $33.6 million price point next year, but partially because of it. (Salary-matching and whatnot.)
Truth be told, this entire debate feels increasingly irrelevant. The Warriors are in the Western Conference Finals, with a viable, if not likely, crack at adding another title under this era's belt. They have already accomplished enough to perpetuate the belief that they can rebuild and contend at the same time, almost entirely freeing them from any obligation of sussing out blockbuster acquisitions over the offseason.
Still, if Golden State wants to maximize the present and the right player becomes available, it has the ammo to enter said to-be-determined sweepstakes. Jonathan Kuminga guarantees it.
Pay no mind to how overwhelmed he's looked during the postseason. He's 19. The playoffs are often unkind—not to mention out of reach—to teenagers.
That Kuminga emerged as a rotation staple by the end of the regular season is more important. He plays with an under-control force that scales to both ends of the floor. His offense has provided glimpses into bulldozing finishes, driving kick-outs, baby jumpers off live dribbles, standstill outside shooting and general ball-moving. He could, at this stage, be anything—including Golden State's star in waiting, or its ticket to landing another one.
Houston Rockets: Christian Wood
Almost every fiber of my being wants to choose Eric Gordon. His blend of rim pressure, outside shooting and girthy defense has the capacity to tip the scales of the championship landscape if he lands with the right team.
I can't bring myself to do it. He will turn 34 next December and isn't exactly a billboard for durability.
Christian Wood is also more of an anomaly at his position, an accessory device and potential self-creator, all rolled into one. And with so many teams trying to play small on offense without actually forfeiting size, he may have more value than ever.
Lackluster attentiveness on defense and extension eligibility may scare away some suitors. It shouldn't. Wood is just 26. Bankrolling his next contract is not some outrageous risk for playoff teams, and he at least promises rebounding at the other end. The rest of his defense leaves much to be desired, but he has the size and mobility to muck up half-court possessions out of drop coverage and rotations around the basket when fully engaged.
Plus, you know, the offense. The only other players averaging more than 20 points per 36 minutes over the past three seasons (minimum 20 games) while shooting as well on twos and triples are John Collins and Michael Porter Jr.
Indiana Pacers: Myles Turner
Call for the Indiana Pacers to shop the No. 6 pick at your own peril. They are not the franchise known for schlepping through long, arduous rebuilds; that's true. They're also not an organization known for brazenly accelerating their timeline by unloading something as valuable as a top-six pick. (Of note: They haven't drafted inside the top 10 since 1989.)
Then again, many didn't think Indiana would have the gall to embrace a midseason tank job. And a Domantas Sabonis trade wasn't on the public's radar. The Pacers zigged and zagged. Maybe they'd consider doing so again.
Team president Kevin Pritchard doesn't sound like someone preparing to flip this pick for an established talent, though. "We've got cap space," he said, per the Indianapolis Star's James Boyd. "We've got a good pick...We liked the fifth pick better, but we like the sixth pick."
Myles Turner instantly becomes the no-brainer choice. At 26, he isn't ancient, so the Pacers needn't get caught up in timeline politics. But he is entering the last year of his deal, and they have to decide whether he's a viable pillar worth offering a raise from his $18 million salary.
Suitors will line up for Turner if he's deemed gettable. He remains among the league's most dominant rim protectors and capably stretches opposing defenses beyond the arc. His lust for more on-ball reps might be concerning, but his defense away from the basket is underrated enough to ignore it and roll the dice.
Los Angeles Clippers: Terance Mann
Pickings are slim for the Los Angeles Clippers. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are non-starters, and the trade-chip pecking order gets hazy after them.
Ivica Zubac would be a more worthwhile choice if he wasn't on an expiring contract. Normal Powell could be the answer, but given how little he cost the Clippers, the four years and $74.5 million remaining on his contract don't seem too in demand.
Terance Mann is the smarter pick in almost every respect. He doesn't turn 25 until October, and his contract is among the league's friendliest for an impact perimeter player. His two-year extension starts in 2023-24, so he's owed $23.9 million over the next three seasons—average annual value south of the non-taxpayer mid-level exception.
This season significantly boosted Mann's stock, as well. It was proof he had staying power beyond the 2021 playoffs. His on-ball defense can be a thing of beauty—feisty, exhaustive, blanketing. No one on the Clippers except Nicolas Batum(!) guarded No. 1 options more often, according to BBall Index.
Serial deference might be Mann's biggest flaw. Teams can work with that. And while the Clippers shouldn't be desperate to move him, Mann is the most attractive asset they'll have in any potential search to upgrade the frontline or, more likely, point guard rotation.
Los Angeles Lakers: 2027 First-Round Pick
Singling out an actual player for the Los Angeles Lakers doesn't sit right. Anthony Davis and LeBron James aren't realistic trade chips, and Russell Westbrook's $47.1 million player option is too steep for his expiring contract to be an asset.
Kendrick Nunn hasn't played basketball in roughly a year. He's out. Talen Horton-Tucker has too many holes in his game. His offense is unpolished, despite flashes of a frisky downhill handle, and he doesn't consistently make his length felt on the defensive end. He is only 21, so there's that. But he's paid like someone who delivers more functional stability (two years, $21.3 million).
Austin Reaves is the most tempting alternative. He hit juuust enough of his spot-up triples for defenses to react (35.6 percent on the season) and knows how to capitalize off-ball on screens and switches. Reaves leverages this movement away from the action and a pleasantly polished pump-and-drive game into floaters and high-quality looks around the hoop. He shot over 65 percent between four and 14 feet.
Short-term cheapness invariably works against him. Teams aren't taking on Westbrook's contract just so they can pay Reaves $1.6 million for a year and then see him enter restricted free agency.
Los Angeles' 2027 first-rounder is more beguiling. What if it's unprotected? Or loosely protected? And what if the Lakers suck by that time? LeBron won't be around forever.
Shorting the Lakers' future is not an outrageous move. But front-office execs seldom have the job security to spin a first-rounder five years away from conveying as primary trade compensation. Besides, the Lakers have a way of stumbling into stars who want to play for him. So while their distant first-rounders aren't worthless, they're not crown jewels, either.
Memphis Grizzlies: Desmond Bane
Let's start this one out with a friendly reminder that the top trade chips are not necessarily available.
Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. are safeguarded against inclusion. Looping anyone else into that bubble is a stretch. To Bane's credit, he comes oh-so-close. The Memphis Grizzlies expanded his offensive role to include more on-ball work, and that extra responsibility looked good on him. His drives per 36 minutes ticked up, and he nearly doubled up his off-the-dribble-three frequency while knocking them down at a 43.1 percent clip.
More credit should be given to his defense. He is the quintessential stick-to-it stopper, someone who always keeps himself in the play, on or off the ball. No perimeter defender other than Dillon Brooks is more important to Memphis.
To that end, Bane was very clearly the Grizzlies' best player through the first round of the playoffs. That's a big, fat, friggin' whoa. He isn't some quaint three-and-D prospect. He's more like a B-plus building block, a foundational player who comes as close to stardom without actually entering it.
And who knows: Maybe he enters it. This sentiment only supports the Grizzlies making him untouchable. But franchise direction dictates everything, and they've played themselves into more ambitious territory. If they want another entrenched star in their program, Bane is the asset who will separate their best packages from others.
Miami Heat: Tyler Herro
Tyler Herro's inclusion is non-negotiable. The Miami Heat don't have legitimate alternatives. Talk of moving Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo will be met with intense laughter, and Kyle Lowry has aged out of consideration.
Cursory thought was given to the Heat's 2023 first-rounder. They amended draft obligations to the Oklahoma City Thunder that allows them to flip it. But Miami isn't scheduled for a downturn in the near future. The ability to move an imminent first amounts to flexibility rather than a primary asset.
Herro easily outpaces the value of that selection, even with his second contract around the corner. His adeptness at taking and making difficult shots has helped keep the Heat's half-court offense afloat on many occasions. He was one of just six players this season to splash in 37.5 percent or more of his pull-up triples on at least three attempts per game, and his mid-range touch covers everything from on-a-dime jumpers to feathery floaters.
Rival teams have openly targeted Herro on defense, often to Miami's detriment. That has to be a factor when weighing the cost of his next contract. But he offsets some of the concern with evolved playmaking. He can get the Heat moving in transition and is more composed working out of the pick-and-roll and throwing pocket passes.
Full-tilt stardom is not outside Herro's realm of career outcomes. That might convince Miami to keep him. Or his ceiling could be the central asset in a bigger package that nets the Heat another marquee name.
Milwaukee Bucks: Brook Lopez
Literally, who else?
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton are clearly outside the scope, and the Milwaukee Bucks don't have a bunch of players under guaranteed contracts beyond them. Grayson Allen, George Hill and Brook Lopez round out that entire list. Thanasis Antetokounmpo might pick up his player option, but Pat Connaughton and Bobby Portis seem destined to decline theirs.
Back issues cost Lopez most of this past season, but he was pretty reliable upon return. He can still stretch defenses beyond the three-point line and capitalize on lurking in the dunker's spot, and his pump-and-drive-into-a-flip-shot game remains effective. Milwaukee doesn't throw it to him on the block in droves, and his outside volume and efficiency plunged during the playoffs, but he can punish smaller mismatches if given the opportunity.
Lopez's value is unlikely to plummet even if teams are worried about the scalability of his offense. His defense out of drop coverage continues to be some of the best in the business. It may come at the cost of contesting stretch bigs, but he can make life hell on opponents around the rim. Lopez's expiring contract also checks in at a tidy $13.9 million—team-friendly money for a starting-quality center.
Milwaukee is so limited in its ability to deepen the roster that shopping Lopez may be taboo. At the same time, partnering his money with other "stuff" is its best hope of upgrading the roster, perhaps with someone who elevates the peak of Giannis-as-the-big arrangements.
Minnesota Timberwolves: D'Angelo Russell
Public perception of D'Angelo Russell long ago veered too far into "Look at how much that dude makes!" territory. Let's agree to relax.
Russell isn't a conventional $30-million-per-year player. We get it. That doesn't mean he sucks. Nor do static scoring numbers and efficiency imply a lack of growth. His 20.4 points per 36 minutes are significantly lower than 2020-21 (24.0), but they came as part of a bigger offensive ecosystem also headlined by Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns.
Surviving within the context of a larger dynamic has value. Russell still doesn't get to the rim a ton, takes too many junky twos and needs to improve his shot selection on the break, but he also just turned in the best passing and defensive seasons of his career. He's never made quicker decisions with the ball, either. His average time of possession and average number of dribbles per touch were the lowest of his career.
Not that Russell has punted on self-creation. More than 55 percent of his baskets still went unassisted, and he remains no stranger to stretches of hero ball, for better and worse.
Potential suitors should appreciate Russell's bandwidth to toggle between offensive existences. He remains wildly imperfect, but an expiring salary ($31.4 million) coupled with a bone-thin free-agency point guard market does wonders for his stock. And with the Minnesota Timberwolves bent on elevating their place within a terrifying Western Conference, he's the natural starting point for any blockbuster trade talks.
New Orleans Pelicans: No. 8 Pick
Trading out of the No. 8 pick would typically be a no-no for a team not on the cusp of championship contention.
But, like, are we sure the New Orleans Pelicans aren't on the cusp of contention?
This year's record doesn't show it, but their progress infers it. The Pelicans rebounded from a 3-16 start; scooped up CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr. at the trade deadline; got a playmaking and defensive jump from Brandon Ingram; did a great job integrating Jonas Valanciunas; and enjoyed impact contributions from rookies Herb Jones, Jose Alvarado and, eventually, Trey Murphy III. They capped off their turnaround by pushing the best-in-the-league Phoenix Suns to the brink during the first round of the playoffs.
Oh, yeah: They did this all without Zion Williamson, a transcendent offensive megastar who should, hopefully, be ready to rock next season.
New Orleans profiles as a dangerous noisemaker in the West as currently constructed—infinitely so if head coach Willie Green's defensive messaging gets through to Zion. The latter's return protects the Pelicans against having to shop this pick.
And yet, they might want to shop it. Adding a floor-spacing rim protector to pair with Zion or proven shooting on the wing would work wonders for their roster makeup. And the Pelicans don't need to pretend they'd be short-circuiting a rebuild. Theirs is a flexible timeline that quickly skews toward win-now.
New York Knicks: RJ Barrett
Sources told NBA reporter Marc Stein at the end of the regular season the New York Knicks would "be open to doing pretty much anything short of trading" RJ Barrett (h/t Yahoo Sports). That's fine. And undoubtedly not true.
To be clear: Stein's reporting is not in question. He's as plugged in as they come. The Knicks just don't have any true untouchables on the roster.
Everything changes if they're retooling from the ground up. You don't trade away a soon-to-be 22-year-old who has outperformed expectations on defense, jacked up his rim pressure midyear and proved to be a capable set three-point shooter with underexplored passing chops if you're rebuilding.
The Knicks are not rebuilding. They're never rebuilding.
History suggests they'll try to join the next Superstar Sweepstakes, whenever it may be, for whomever it may be. And if that time comes over the offseason, Barrett will be their top trade chip, bar none.
This isn't the same as saying "They must move him!" It depends on the star target, and what the opposing team wants in return. New York should do everything in its power to land a star without forking over Barrett. He also can't be a deal-breaker. The Knicks don't have anyone worthy of being a deal-breaker. Their prospect hierarchy is a mess of undefined promise. Barrett sits atop it, comfortably, but not outside it.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Kenrich Williams
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander vultures aren't going to be happy.
Kenrich Williams is likely the only option for the Oklahoma City Thunder, unless you think they're going to cut the cord on Lu Dort in advance of 2023 free agency. With the exception of SGA and Josh Giddey, just about everyone else falls under the "Interesting, Not Coveted" umbrella.
Please don't waste your time imploring them to shop the No. 2 or No. 12 selection. They acquire picks. They don't trade them...unless it's for even more picks.
Williams is the ultimate Mr. Does a Little of Everything. He deftly navigates space away from the ball but has some off-the-dribble jet fuel when given a runway. His 33.9 percent clip from three doesn't accurately reflect the space he provides. Defenses react to his setting up beyond the arc. And when they overreact, he has the north-south savvy to reach the basket. He downed 50 percent of his looks on drives this season.
Put him roughly anywhere on defense. He'll make it work. He spent time guarding all five positions this year and is sneakily among the league's more disruptive off-ball defenders.
Williams has said he wants to retire with the Thunder. That's awesome. But he's a high-level impact player who fits anywhere, on a contract that pays him $2 million and expires after next season, employed by a team in the infancy of a rebuild with scant few roster spots to spare. At a time when contenders are hard-pressed to find solutions in free agency, Williams may be Oklahoma City's ticket to yet another draft pick, additional roster flexibility or both.
Orlando Magic: Terrence Ross
Process of elimination gets us to Terrence Ross for the Orlando Magic.
Shipping out the No. 1 pick isn't in play. End of story. Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner aren't going anywhere, either. Jonathan Isaac has appeared in three games since Jan. 1, 2020. He also gets the boot.
Wendell Carter Jr. comes absurdly close to seizing this spot. His four-year, $50.2 million extension looks like a friggin' steal after last season, in which he showed the full breadth of his scoring and defensive arsenals.
Knowing Orlando will draft another big at No. 1 adds to the temptation. I'll pass...for now. Pairing WCJ with Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren or Jabari Smith shouldn't faze the Magic. All of them are better fits next to him than Mo Bamba, alongside whom Carter played a truckload of minutes.
Markelle Fultz's defensive range, passing cadence and finishing should have sway in a summer nearly absent of quality point guards in free agency. But Orlando's offense continues to need him, even amid backcourt gluttony, until it bags another floor-general option. Chuma Okeke needs to chisel out a more distinct role on offense before enjoying widespread curb appeal, and the Magic shouldn't be foaming at the mouth to move him or Cole Anthony at this stage of the rebuild.
So...Terrence Ross! The Magic probably aren't getting a first-round pick for his services when he's shooting 31.4 percent from deep over the past two seasons, but he has value to teams with better floor balance in the half court. And as an $11.5 million expiring contract, there's virtually zero risk tied to his microwave scoring.
Philadelphia 76ers: Tyrese Maxey
Slotting Tyrese Maxey here would be sacrilegious if the Philadelphia 76ers considered themselves a near-finished product that needn't go star-hunting.
"Philly has dreams and plans as Daryl Morey does and a key factor here is they have Tobias Harris, who would have value in a possible trade, and they have Tyrese Maxey, who would have value in a possible trade, and you would need a player, potentially near the end of his contract, to come and say 'I would like to go play in Philadelphia.' Is that something that could happen? Maybe. We'll see. I know that Philly and Daryl are gonna try to make it happen."
Maxey is the only reasonable option within this context. He has two years left on his rookie-scale deal and displayed all the trappings of a future star as a sophomore thrust into a larger role.
The last player to clear 17 points and four assists per game while shooting 50 percent on twos and 40 percent on threes before their 22nd birthday was...literally no one. Maxey's value is even higher this side of the trade deadline given how well his speed, shooting and improving defense fared alongside two other stars.
Whether the Sixers should move him is a separate matter. Attaching him to additional money is a must if they go that route. That's no problem for Philly. The two years, $76.9 million left on Harris' deal becomes useful salary matching when partnered to Maxey's career trajectory.
Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton (Restricted)
Deandre Ayton entered the playoffs with a roar, on the heels of a career regular season. He then exited them with a whimper, not unlike the rest of the Phoenix Suns.
Make no mistake: Ayton will have suitors in this cash-strapped market. His various vanishing acts during the conference semifinals don't entirely rewrite a regular season in which he looked matchup-proof on defense, even when pulled away from the basket, and honed everything inside his offensive armory, including his mid-range touch, hook shots, screening and finishing through contact.
Flaws continue to permeate his game, the most glaring of which is inconsistent force. You don't always feel him, at either end. There is likewise something to be said about his dependence on other creators, albeit not quite as much as a year ago.
This isn't a matter of "Is Deandre Ayton valuable?" It's an issue of whether the Suns want to pay max or near-max money to their sometimes-third, but-sometimes-fourth, but-also-sometimes-fifth best player when they've already invested heavily in Mikal Bridges, Chris Paul and the extension-eligible Devin Booker.
Exploring sign-and-trade options seems like the best course for both parties, though base-year compensation makes such deals tricky. Ayton's max would count as a $15.25 million outgoing salary for the Suns but a $30.5 million inbound salary for his new team. That's a challenge, but not an impossible one.
Cap-space teams should have interest in Ayton (Detroit, Portland), and the package can always be expanded to make the money work. Regardless, the Suns aren't working with much else if they want to take a blockbuster swing. Ayton, Bridges and Cam Johnson are their trade-chip lifelines. And Ayton, at this stage, feels a touch more expendable after Phoenix was space-balled out of the playoffs.
Portland Trail Blazers: No. 7 Pick
Shopping a top-seven pick after just stripping down the roster a few months ago would be quite the move from the Portland Trail Blazers.
It may also be an obligation.
General manager Joe Cronin apparently plans to reshape the roster around Damian Lillard. Holding onto this pick isn't the best way to maximize his window. Lillard turns 32 in July. He doesn't have the time to sit through an extensive rebuild.
Jettisoning this pick, of course, isn't a small ask. It has to be in the right package. The Blazers aren't eking out contender status by turning No. 7 into Jerami Grant. They need another star, or at least a collection of role players who appreciably deepen a roster that runs dry on proven talent after Anfernee Simons (restricted), Josh Hart and Jusuf Nurkic (unrestricted). They may also need to pepper in other assets and third-party facilitators depending on who they're getting back.
Those caveats change nothing. If the Blazers are serious about sticking with Dame, everything has to be on the table—this year's draft pick included.
Sacramento Kings: No. 4 Pick
The Sacramento Kings already played their best hand when they used Tyrese Haliburton to get Domantas Sabonis. It isn't quite clear what timeline they're on after said deal, but there's an implicit sense of urgency to make a ruckus now after unloading a 22-year-old stud on his rookie scale.
Jumping up to No. 4 in the draft lottery should help the Kings accelerate their retooling around Sabonis and De'Aaron Fox. Tethering that selection to some combination of push-shot extraordinaire and resident bargain Richaun Holmes, Davion Mitchell and other picks is probably good enough to crash the conversation for whatever star(s) might become available.
Sacramento could also look to trade down, since the No. 4-ranked prospect is Jaden Ivey, a guard whose style overlaps with what Fox does best. Or the Kings could try to trade up and select one of Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero or Chet Holmgren.
It turns out moving up the board might be the most likely scenario. At least, that's what TrueHoop's Henry Abbott heard at the draft combine. That seems...odd. Orlando has no business parting with No. 1, and it's hard to see Oklahoma City dropping from No. 2 to the Ivey slot when it already has Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey.
Maybe the Rockets are cool with crawling outside the top three. Regardless of the context, if the Kings do anything of seismic proportions, it'll likely involve the No. 4 pick.
San Antonio Spurs: Keldon Johnson
Pinpointing the San Antonio Spurs' endgame is a frustrating venture. They don't have a concrete one.
Leaning further into this rebuild, as a seller, sounds good in theory. But who are they trading that gets them appreciably worse? Dejounte Murray, who you shouldn't be dealing after his leap into stardom, and...?
Scouring the market for a co-star to plop alongside Murray is more emblematic of the Spurs' situation. They're firmly in the Western Conference's sub-middle, with a bunch of really good-not-great younger players who can appeal to sellers when packaged with one another or future draft picks.
Keldon Johnson feels like the glitziest of the Spurs' youthful incumbents. It might be Devin Vassell, who saw more ball screens and in-between work this season. It could be the wiggly mystery box that is Josh Primo. It might even be the No. 10 pick by virtue of its mystery.
I'm sticking with Johnson. He did a fantastic job broadening his offensive horizons this year, marrying his composed anarchy going downhill with more ancillary play-finishing. His accuracy inside the restricted area increased, from 59.7 percent to 61.8, and he bumped up the share of his shots that came as catch-and-fire treys (21.0 percent to 35.0) and the efficiency at which he hit them (35.1 percent to 42.2).
Functional vagueness still threatens to suppress Johnson's best-case outcome. Does he have reliable self-creation in him? Can he soup up his defense? Is he better off guarding smalls? Or bigs? Age (22), affordability (one more year on his rookie scale) and the offensive diversification he's shown make the unknown less of an issue and more of a could-be-anything proposition.
Toronto Raptors: OG Anunoby
Welp, this feels icky.
OG Anunoby was once touted as the Toronto Raptors' co-heir apparent, someone who would be no worse than the second most important player on the team's next contender. That vision is no longer a given.
People have (finally) come around on Pascal Siakam. Fred VanVleet isn't going anywhere. And the introduction of Scottie Barnes, along with the initiation touches the Raptors are bent on giving him, muddies Anunoby's future in Toronto.
This isn't to say the Raptors must trade him. It's more like a possibility, which is a luxury they didn't have before. Team president Masai Ujiri is the type who floats a fringe contender for only so long. He will invariably angle for a gargantuan move that optimizes the Siakam-VanVleet window without dealing Barnes.
Anunoby is here almost by default when subscribing to that logic. The three years and $55.9 million he's owed are a godsend for what he brings as a shooter, defender and straight-line driver who occasionally dribbles into jumpers. His 2021-22 campaign isn't the loudest endorsement of his offensive bandwidth or overall defense, but injuries consigned him to stop-and-start availability, all amid a fast-evolving ecosystem.
That evolution may soon mutate into a pivot. And if the Raptors are higher on Barnes as another creator, they could decide to test the available-star waters using Anunoby as their primary trade anchor.
Utah Jazz: Royce O'Neale
Rudy Gobert or Donovan Mitchell commandeers this spotlight if the Utah Jazz are 100 percent, unequivocally, beyond a shadow of a doubt dismantling their current core. We don't have such ironclad assurance. A thorough roster-razing is nothing more than an unconfirmed possibility.
Utah must be viewed as a fringe contender in need of supplementary upgrades until it commits to otherwise. That's where Royce O'Neale comes in.
His defense slipped this season, particularly when on-ball. But he's been among the most overworked players on the less glamorous end for years. He can plead "exhausted" and get away with it. And even at his most middling, he's a fighter away from the ball who swishes between 37 and 38 percent of his threes like clockwork.
The degree to which trading O'Neale can actually help the Jazz is unscientific. He remains their best non-Gobert defender. Pairing his deal (two years, $18.7 million, with $11.7 million guaranteed) with distant firsts and other players would need to net Utah an upgrade at his position or the frontline spot beside Gobert.
Feasible? Maybe. More to the point: O'Neale's value translates to just about any team, right down to the cost of his contract. The expenses attached to Bojan Bogdanovic (one year, $19.6 million) and Mike Conley (two years, $47.1 million, with $37 million guaranteed) and the ball-dominant skill set of Jordan Clarkson will appeal to a narrower scope of suitors.
Washington Wizards: Deni Avdija
Please refer all "But what about Bradley Beal sign-and-trade" inquiries to @TedLeonsis. And don't hold back.
Look, the Beal chatter is getting old, mostly because it's manufactured by everyone other than the Washington Wizards and the All-Star himself. Dealing Beal rather than paying him might be the smarter long-term play, but the prevailing assumption should remain that these two sides will stick together until one says otherwise.
Washington has a responsibility to act like a buyer if that's the case, which allows us to weed out alternatives. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma or Kristaps Porzingis could all be included in a show-stopping deal, but none of them profile as the flagship asset in potential blockbusters.
Deni Avdija is it. Spare us any "The No. 10 pick is more valuable!" rebukes. Avdija is just 21 and already one of the team's most reliable defenders.
The Wizards have moved him up and down the positional spectrum and slotted him against some of the toughest matchups, and his value has endured it all. He knows how to navigate screens and complicated half-court actions, has enviable reverse-foot speed and is a sneaky-good shot-blocker on help rotations. Among everyone who tallied as many minutes as him, only Ayo Dosunmu, Dorian Finney-Smith and Davion Mitchell added as much value in BBall Index's on-ball defense and off-ball chaser metrics.
There is more to extract out of Avdija on offense. He needs to drain more threes, but he converted 52.5 percent of his twos this season, including a 49.3 percent clip on drives that highlighted a brew of physicality and speed. Another team (or next year's Wizards) will get him more reps as a facilitator and be better off for it, and the two years remaining on his rookie scale only bump up his trade-market stock.