Just because free agency and sign-and-trade season are over with the preseason kicking off on October 3rd that doesn’t mean NBA player movement season is done. Through trades, and buyouts, in many ways this is the calm before the storm. For NBA fans, it’s the gift that keeps on giving! With the Warriors releasing their vice grip on the league following Kevin Durant’s passage east, the NBA throne is up for grabs. A legitimate 6 teams will start this season with realistic championship ambitions. This open landscape will lead to a robust trade market as contenders posture to bolster their rosters.
Can you think of players who fit into the following categories? Who might be close to demanding a trade? Who needs a liferaft to be saved? Who’s got a deadweight contract? Who is the old guard on a rebuilding team? Who just doesn’t fit with the other players on their roster?
While Kevin Love is the answer to almost all of those questions, there are many others—21 in fact that I’ll name for you right now.
Here are the top 21 players most likely to be traded in ‘21-’22.
1. Ben Simmons Is there a more obvious choice? This entire article was inspired by trying to find players who might be realistic targets in a Ben Simmons trade. I’m of the opinion Simmons should have his own team. But after going through each NBA roster and salary, it is difficult to determine who Philly would want from the list of potentially available players.
There’s a lot of non-floor spacers, who have the same offensive issues paired with Embiid that Simmons does. Simmons has stated he wants to go to California. Good luck, I think DeAaron Fox would be a good get for Philly and Sacramento has enough guards (Davion Mitchell, Tyrese Haliburton, Terrence Davis) to take the reins if Fox can net them a bigger star.
This rules out Siakam as a trade target for Philly, I would think. Does Daryl Morrey want to take back a young, potential star to pair with Embiid even if their age puts them on a different timeline? This would be the case for the Kuminga/Moody/Wiggins contract from Golden State, or a potential trade with Memphis centered around Jaren Jackson Jr. (While awkward at face value, I do think Ben Simmons and Draymond Green can play together and would be a good culture and mentorship for Simmons to get over the mental hurdles he has in front of him.).
If you’re the Cavs, would you consider trading Evan Mobley with Kevin Love to secure Ben Simmons and let Klutch continue to run Cleveland for another decade? What is stopping the Sixers from waiting it out to see if Bradley Beal or Damian Lillard finally demand a trade?
2. John Wall Wall has officially asked for a trade, and the Rockets are welcome to see how they can offload him and turn the keys over to Jalen Green, Christian Wood, and Kevin Porter Jr, so this one is inevitable. But what can they get for Wall? I would think on a good day they could potentially get off of both John Wall and Eric Gordon’s contract for both Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris—but only if Philly is looking at their other options a tier below the Brad Beals and Dame Lillard’s of the world.
Houston might need to throw in Usman Garuba and Danuel House as well. There are a lot of non-shooters Philly could take back for Simmons, and I see Gordon and Wall as win-now partners for Embiid to help him get over the hump—not to mention their shorter contracts allowing for future flexibility.
If you’re thinking to yourself “who would even want John Wall?” Well, you have a point. Rebuilding teams will be threatened that he would take the ball away from their young prospects (like Green in Houston), and unless Dallas can convince Houston to take Porzingis, or Golden State still wants unload Andrew Wiggins, most veteran teams who might want him currently don’t have the big contracts to match for him that they’d want to part with.
Doesn’t this make the Ben Simmons/Tobias Harris idea a bit less crazy? I think so, and if he has a bit left in the tank—similar to a Russell Westbrook—and with the same durability concerns. In a comeback season, Wall averaged 20 and 7 assists last season and while he’s not the old John Wall, he showed he can still attack the rim with intensity and score.
If you need someone to be able to take over games for short bursts, but not be the face of the franchise, John Wall is option #1. Is he mature enough entering his age-31 season and humble enough to sacrifice for a winning franchise?
3. Pascal Siakam The disgruntled star did go public last year with his discontent with the team and his behavior got him suspended. He never officially asked for a trade, but I think his declining three-point shooting over the last few seasons (37% in 2018, 36% in 2019 to 30% last year) and the team’s failure to sustain success means it’s only a matter of time before he wants out.
The Raptors are potentially on the outside of the playoffs looking in as the Eastern Conference looks like it’s now 11 teams deep. I think the 27-year-old Siakam will actually do well in a change of scenery and could net them another All-Star level player as they rebuild around Van Vleet and Scottie Barnes.
4. Bradley Beal Has it been two years or three years that we’ve been waiting for this shoe to drop? And it still hasn’t happened. Will Beal resign with the Wizards in the offseason? I doubt it, but he’s been so relaxed about the team not winning for so long that I now won’t be surprised by anything.
Everyone in Boston thinks he’s going to join his fellow St. Louis native Jayson Tatum. That doesn’t feel like a lock to me. I could see Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard thinking he doesn’t need to move Beal and then dealing him at the deadline to try to get something in return.
However, with sign-and-trades becoming way more likely for Free Agents in the past 2-3 years, I could also see all involved feeling like there isn’t any pressure to do anything this year at all. It’s likely that signing the bigger contract with Washington and then trading him this offseason is plan B if Beal finally says he’s not interested in staying in the nation’s capital.
5. Damian Lillard I put him on this list because he made comments threatening that he would eventually ask for a trade this past offseason if the Blazers don’t find help soon, but I actually don’t see this as being as likely as some might think. They don’t really have the assets to broker a deal to get him star help on his timeline, so this won’t happen—unless they are going to trade his buddy CJ McCollum, which I don’t see happening.
However, Lillard is so beloved in Portland that I can see him staying there and remaining loyal, but putting pressure on ownership to fire Neil Olshey as GM instead of leaving himself.
6. Kristaps Porziņģis This one might seem unlikely, given that Porziņģis still feels like a recent addition to the Dallas roster, and may be a good fit in the locker room next to Luka. However, I think Mark Cuban is the type of owner that is too competitive to sit by and not fix the mistake he made two years ago.
Porziņģis and Tim Hardaway Jr. feel like place-holders for the sidekicks Luka deserves to take this team into the championship conversation. Porzingis’ mammoth contract at 32M next year with 2-years remaining after that is daunting, but we see similarly hard-to-move contracts get dealt year-after-year—including John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, and Andrew Wiggins. As unrealistic and debilitating as it seems, moving a contract like this can be done.
7. Myles Turner Here’s another example of a player who’s been in trade rumors for three years. Will this finally be the year? I think as Sabonis continues to outplay Turner, you will see Indiana come to their senses. After trading key locker room guy, and fan-favorite Aaron Holiday, for the rights to draft Isaiah Jackson, they now have a young big man to replace Turner’s shot-blocking. Jackson has the tools to back up Sabonis this season. This one seems inevitable. Now we just need to find a team that doesn’t think Myles Turner is soft.
8. Eric Gordon After Harden was finally traded last year, PJ Tucker expressed his discontent and was an uncommon example of a role player demanding a trade like we’ve become accustomed to star players doing. The veterans’ wish was granted and Tucker now has a ring to show for his self-advocacy.
Why didn’t Eric Gordon do the same? What does Gordon have to lose (besides the personal upheaval of moving his family, which would be understandable)? I feel bad for Gordon and think as he enters his age 33 season, he deserves to spend the last couple years of his prime helping a team win in the playoffs. His contract is not too terrible either, at only $18-20 million per year until 2024.
9. Buddy Hield Why the Kings chose to let Bogdanovic walk instead of moving Hield is beyond me. I love his shooting, but his defense, conditioning, and overall effort are shoddy at best. There is a log-jam at the guard position in Sacramento, as they now have Fox, Haliburton, Davion Mitchell, and Terrence Davis. Either Hield or DeAaron Fox are expendable. Obviously, they would rather move on from Hield, and any team looking to add shooting would be smart to take a flyer if the price is right.
10. DeAaron Fox Fox, if Sacramento believes a change is in order (since they haven’t won anything with Fox leading the way anyway) could bring back a nice haul of draft picks and young players, or a similarly ranked potential star or third tier all-star. I think this is a situation to watch in Sacramento.
11. Jaren Jackson Jr. JJJ hasn’t lived up to his potential and has had a hard time staying on the court—playing in just 117 games in three years (only 11 last year). Last August he was shelved for the season due to a meniscus tear. I’ll just leave it at “this was not his first knee injury.” Ja Morant needs a legitimate partner in crime. I do believe Jackson is that guy, but know how other small market GMs value former lottery picks that haven’t reached their ceiling. Jackson just turned 22-years-old. I think there’s still a deal out there where Jackson could be paired with Dillon Brooks and Kyle Anderson to bring back a max player. This is especially true if Jackson Jr. shows just a little more promise before the All-Star Break this year.
12. Kevin Love and Collin Sexton Kevin Love still has another year on his deal after this one and while it seems Sexton hasn’t incentivized other teams enough to take on Love’s money just yet, I wonder how long that will take, and could see a team desperate for an infusion of talent (like the Spurs, Magic or Thunder) being willing to fold? I also see Sexton and Garland not being a fit Klutch wants to see remain together for much longer. Something’s got to give here.
13. Andrew Wiggins along with James Wiseman or Johnathan Kuminga Much like Kevin Love and Porzingis before him, Andrew Wiggins’ contract alone could net a max player. However, unlike Cleveland and Dallas, the Warriors have three young players they can add to Wiggins to make other teams take notice. Wiseman and Kuminga have obvious upside and talent (and I like Moses Moody better than both), and while they can help the Warriors rebuild as they continue to compete, I believe they would be a better fit on another team, especially if they can bring back a player of value that’s more on the Draymond Green, Splash Bro’s timeline.
Similar to Ben Simmons, I think GM Bob Meyers is closely monitoring the Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal situation in Portland and Washington, as the Warriors’ young pieces would be ideal building blocks for those teams if they go full rebuild.
14. Dejounte Murray Dejounte Murray has turned into a player who last year threw up 16 points, seven rebounds and upped his assist average to 5.4 per game to go along with stout defense. He still can’t shoot, but with the other attributes, he’s quietly turned into a building block for the Spurs. He’s now clearly their best player and is ready for a jump in production yet again. But, if you think he’s going to stay quiet in San Antonio as the ship continues to sink, and as his confidence continues to grow, you’ve got another thing coming. He’s also the only trade chip that this team has to get something back of value to pair with Keldon Johnson. He has a pretty reasonable contract at $15-17M through 2024.
15. Jerami Grant I like what the Pistons have done pairing three big wings together in Saddiq Bey and Cade Cunningham to go along with surprise go-to-guy in Jerami Grant. However I wonder if the right deal comes along, would Detroit pass it up? Could Jerami Grant, Kelly Olynyk, and next year’s first-round pick net you Ben Simmons if his value continues to decline?
16. Brandon Ingram The fit with Zion Williamson has been somewhat strange, just like it was with Zion and RJ Barrett in college and with BI and LeBron in LA. I could see GM David Griffin sticking this one out because both players are getting better at such a rapid rate, but something inside me also feels like this pairing won’t last forever.
More likely than not, I see both still on the roster at the end of the year and Ingram being put on the block next year or the year after, once it is more clear what they need next to Zion, but for now, consider this a long-range situation to monitor.
17. Paul George How long will it take for Kawhi Leonard to ask for Paul George to be traded after Kawhi just signed a long-term deal? How long will 31-year-old PG be valuable enough to bring back major pieces in a trade? If they want to extend 30-year-old Kawhi’s prime, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Clippers brass do everything in their power to keep Leonard happy, including dealing Paul George for someone else on this list. Anyone who thinks Paul George is going to be a Clipper 3 years from now probably also thinks the same of Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn.
The Nets are just beginning to dominate, right? If Brooklyn fails to win big again this year, don’t bet against them wanting to part ways with one of their big-name guys. And don’t think for a second they’re going to choose Harden over Kyrie when that time comes. Who would be available that would be a nice sidekick two-way player for KD and Harden? I see PG being an option here. I wonder if Kawhi would also want the Kyrie Irving media machine in town next to him so that he can do what he does best – win big games and hide from the media.
18. Anthony Edwards If the Timberwolves want to make an upgrade, and if Karl-Anthony Towns won’t let them trade his best friend DeAngelo Russell (and KAT doesn’t ask for a trade himself), I could actually see them moving on from Anthony Edwards if he brings back a star (like a Brandon Ingram or Pascal Siakam) in a package along with Pat Beverley and Taurean Prince. This would surprise most, but I wonder if the Wolves (or Towns himself) will get tired of wasting KAT’s prime. The fit here just doesn’t seem long-lasting.
19. CJ McCollum If things collapse in Portland and Dame asks for a trade, I could see two options: building around CJ instead (as many teams like to do to save face with their fans when losing the face of the franchise), or CJ wanting out as well. If this were the case he could fetch a lofty price and would be a huge get for any other playoff team. This is a “break glass in case of emergency” option.
20. Michael Porter Jr. If Denver decides they are tired of how MPJ’s lack of maturity is affecting Nikola Jokic’s timeline, I could see them exploring trades for other young upside pieces. Would they contemplate a swap for JJJ or Anthony Edwards? Would MPJ be enough (along with Will Barton and Monte Morris for Cap Filler) to pry Ben Simmons from Philly? This one feels like a long shot, but it’s one of the few options Philly has to add a shooter with size to their roster to compliment Harris and all the guards they have. Even if they give Porter an extension, and even if it’s max money, I don’t see Porter still in Denver two years from now.
21. Tobias Harris As I research Ben Simmons trades, I can’t help but think that the ideal situation for Philadelphia to package both maligned stars. Tobias Harris, who seems to shrink in big moments, could be upgraded to someone like Pascal Siakam. One reason the Ben Simmons trade options are so limited is that several of the types of players Philly could bring in are redundant to Tobias if they also can’t shoot the three well.
If you remove Harris from the equation, you not only upgrade that spot on the roster, but you get off his hefty contract that was an overpay from the start and has 3 years left on it. The Ben Simmons trade demand isn’t the only crippling situation in Philly. I know this sounds crazy, but if you’re Philly, would you consider trading Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris right now to Houston for John Wall (one year left after this season), Eric Gordon, Usman Garuba, and Danuel House? As the season approaches, scenarios like this may become more appetizing.