NBA Draft

Most Intriguing Landing Spots for NBA’s Top Trade Targets | Bleacher Report

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    Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

    The deafening lull that cast a pall over the beginning of NBA trade season has finally subsided.

    Trade winds are blowing once more. Cam Reddish is even a member of the New York Knicks. (Bol Bol, however, is not in Detroit.) Stuff is happening. Or flirting with the idea of happening. Which means it’s on us to suss out some fresh and intriguing destinations for the top targets ahead of the Feb. 10 deadline.

    Completely original landing spots are difficult to dredge up for everyone. Too many of the same faces have dominated the rumor mill to pull sensible suitors out of unexplored air. This exercise will instead offer tantalizing fits that don’t register as the first or second front-runner.

    Trade candidates under our microscope will be limited to the most impactful players we’ll relentlessly hear about in the coming weeks. This is not the space for marginal-to-solid guys on expiring contracts (Kyle Anderson, Robert Covington, Thaddeus Young) or trendy hypothetical-blockbuster targets who don’t appear readily available (Jaylen Brown, John Collins, Damian Lillard).

    Dark-horse trade possibilities who aren’t untouchable but haven’t fomented a bunch of buzz or discourse will also be excluded (Norman Powell, Kenrich Williams). Suggested landing spots will seek to strike a balance between the quality of fit and having the assets necessary to talk shop with prospective sellers.

    Basically, we want to pluck out the biggest names with the best chance of being moved and find them new, awesome-af, not-necessarily-obvious homes. Let’s hop to it.

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    Craig Lassig/Associated Press

    Though the Minnesota Timberwolves remain one of the “most consistent” Ben Simmons suitors, according to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, they need to have contingencies on deck. Their most competitive packages probably still need a third, and perhaps fourth, party to grease the wheels of a deal.

    Juicing up the frontcourt rotation beside Karl-Anthony Towns is clearly the focus. Jarred Vanderbilt has spent most of the year making romantic advances toward second-team All-Defense, and Jaden McDaniels is so flinging-flanging quick on the less glamorous end it makes me say words like “flinging-flanging.” But Minnesota has ample room to upgrade—particularly on offense, where it ranks 17th in points scored per possession and 24th in efficiency on wide-open jumpers outside 10 feet.

    Harrison Barnes looms as an incredibly effortless fit. He can spend a majority of the time knocking down threes within the flow of the offense but offers supplementary self-creation when gifted enough space.

    Slotting him at the 4 shouldn’t nuke the defense. Vanderbilt is more active, but Barnes provides more rebounding than McDaniels, Jake Layman or, these days, Taurean Prince. Minnesota can toil with bringing him off the bench if it’s (understandably) scared to bust up a starting unit making mincemeat out of opponents.

    Cobbling together viable offers shouldn’t be too strenuous, either. The Timberwolves have enough mid-end salaries to pair with some combo of McDaniels, Naz Reid and picks, and generally speaking, Barnes shouldn’t fetch as much as Simmons.

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    José Luis Villegas/Associated Press

    Targeting De’Aaron Fox fits the theme of an Indiana Pacers organization angling to pivot without tanking. They feel bound to do something, anything, substantial to untether themselves from a core at once underachieving, never available in full (T.J. Warren, anyone?) and growing stale at the point of attack.

    For all his struggles, Fox qualifies as a stark upgrade. He’s still inside the 92nd percentile of BBall Index’s overall finishing at the rim rating, which takes into account volume, efficiency and degree of difficulty.

    It just so happens he might be available, too—at least that’s what rival teams believe, per Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes. This tracks with the Sacramento Kings’ aimlessness. Whether they’re buying or selling, just about everyone should be up for grabs.

    At just 24, with four years under team control left on his deal (worth $134.9 million), Fox promises indefinite oomph. And the Pacers have the assets to flesh out proposals. Domantas Sabonis should intrigue the Kings if they’re losing Fox. If he’s a non-starter for Indiana, multiteam scenarios featuring Myles Turner, Caris LeVert and hashtag, stuff should be on the table.

    Partnering Fox with Sabonis could be wonky, and the Pacers will suffer defensively if (read: when) Turner is included in potential packages. That’s not the end of the world. Fox can fly around the floor when Sabonis has the ball, and more than it needs to preserve a bottom-10ish defense, Indiana should be seeking an infusion of material, at-large change.

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    Sentimentalists won’t want the Memphis Grizzlies to aggressively buy at the trade deadline. They are blissfully ahead of schedule, a honeymoon pace that enables them to do…absolutely nothing.

    Still, the NBA’s competitive landscape is on perpetual tilt, and the Grizzlies currently rank among the best constants. They are 21-4 over their past 25 games, with a league-best defense and top-three offense, and only the Phoenix Suns have a better record against opponents above .500.

    This team isn’t a fluke, Ja Morant’s burgeoning top-five MVP case and all. They have the license to buy.

    Jerami Grant represents a nice middle ground if the Grizzlies can’t—or won’t—go more nuclear. He can play the 3 or the 4, and plumbing the depths of his offensive bag in Detroit will serve him well when he becomes the No. 3ish option for Memphis.

    Ideally, the Grizzlies would target someone with even better ball skills and more dependable finishing around the rim. But their offense is getting by with hyper-focus on transition, second-chance opportunism, floater-range extravagance and a modest turnover rate. More to the point, Grant won’t cost Desmond Bane, who now joins Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. as part of the core infrastructure.

    This is not to say the Grizzlies must hope the Pistons accept pennies on the dollar. Memphis has additional first-round picks on top of its own, Ziaire Williams, Brandon Clarke, Dillon Brooks and a compilation of short-term mid-end salaries (Kyle Anderson, De’Anthony Melton, Tyus Jones) around which to build packages.

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    Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images

    Small-ball 5s are more popular targets for the Suns given that Dario Saric is recovering from a torn right ACL and must be included to match salaries in any significant deal. That line of thinking isn’t incorrect, but Deandre Ayton is essentially matchup-proof, and it wasn’t a lack of microball that did in Phoenix during the 2021 NBA Finals.

    Diversifying the offense is more important. The Suns need a third ball-handler who can ferry more volume than Mikal Bridges or Cam Johnson, who reaches the rim at a higher clip than Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet, and whose name isn’t Elfrid Payton.

    Hello, Eric Gordon.

    Around 37 percent of his shots are coming at the rim, a share that would just about lead all of Phoenix’s non-bigs. He is on the smaller end (6’4″) but has played a ton of wing minutes over the years and can camp out beyond the arc in souped-up lineups beside Devin Booker and Chris Paul.

    Price will be an issue. Saric plus Jalen Smith and picks won’t bring back Gordon’s salary even with the Suns beneath the tax. They’d need to include a third player or warm up to moving Payne.

    It’s also unclear what the Houston Rockets will accept. The Suns cannot deal a first until 2024—a tall order for a fairly injury-prone 33-year-old owed $19.6 million next season. But expanding the parameters to include other players and teams allows for more creativity and possibilities, as outlined here.

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    Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

    Few teams are more thoroughly disappointing than the 2021-22 Boston Celtics (shoutout, Atlanta!). Their offense is so often out of sorts, an uninspiring operation desperate for a truer floor general and lights-out shooting.

    Buddy Hield takes care of the latter. He attempts more than nine threes per game and knocks them down at a 38 percent clip, a marriage of volume and efficiency that takes many forms—off the dribble, around screens, in transition, at standstills, the whole nine.

    The Celtics, meanwhile, rank 22nd in points scored per possession, 18th in half-court efficiency and 24th in three-point accuracy. To say they’d welcome Hield’s flame-throwing and gravity would be the mother of all understatements.

    Figuring out how to land him will be a challenge. There is a “rising belief” the Kings intend to trade Hield (and Harrison Barnes), according to NBA reporter Marc Stein, but his $23.1 million salary may prove prohibitive. Josh Richardson plus Juan Hernangomez’s expiring deal and picks (or prospects) profiles as a possible framework. It also adds to the Celtics’ tax bill at a time when they’re likely trying to cut costs.

    Maybe Boston can expand any deal to include more teams or pull off separate trades to skirt under the tax. Regardless, Hield is worth the cost of admission to an organization that should be trying to amplify its immediate ceiling without breaking up the Jaylen Brown-Jayson Tatum partnership.

    (Aside: If the Celtics can swing a De’Aaron Fox trade while retaining Brown, they should absolutely investigate it.)

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Caris LeVert won’t fall under everyone’s “Coveted Target” umbrella.

    Iffy shooting and availability are accompanied by next year’s $18.8 million salary and the prospect of bankrolling another deal thereafter when he’s 29. But he’s also shown glimpses of offensive brilliance—including recently.

    LeVert is averaging 19.9 and 4.6 assists per game since Thanksgiving while shooting 37.4 percent from deep, including 36.4 percent on pull-up triples. His off-ball game doesn’t inspire, but he is crafty from the point of attack and puts consistent pressure on set defenses.

    Teams shopping for stopgap creation or immediate offensive pluck that doesn’t break the asset bank should be interested. That now includes the Toronto Raptors.

    They are a feistier team getting healthier. They live in transition, capitalize on second-chance and broken plays in the half court and are tightening the defense. Title contention is out of reach without a starry addition, but they look and feel like one spark plug off the bench away from earnestly upending the East’s hierarchy.

    The ease with which OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet work off-ball allows the Raptors to take a look at someone like LeVert. Whether team president Masai Ujiri actually will is a different story.

    He should. LeVert’s lofty salary increases his accessibility if the Pacers are remotely serious about shaking things up. He won’t cost Anunoby or Scottie Barnes. You dangle Goran Dragic’s expiring salary and some combination of protected picks, Malachi Flynn, Dalano Banton and Yuta Watanabe, and then negotiate from there.

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    David Dow/Getty Images

    No team appears desperate enough to meet the Philadelphia 76ers’ demands for Ben Simmons, and none of these nothing-new-to-see-here reports hint at Daryl Morey and Co. meaningfully lowering their demands. There doesn’t even seem to be a scenario in which a deal gets done without third and fourth teams.

    Perhaps the Atlanta Hawks are an exception. The Athletic’s Shams Charania recently inserted them into the “Hey, maybe it’s possible?” fray, but they’ve otherwise been scantly mentioned as Simmons suitors. (Props to Basketball News’ Nekias Duncan for pre-boarding this train.)

    Dire times call for drastic measures. The Hawks are there. They need defensive lifeblood beyond Clint Capela and De’Andre “Will he stay healthy?” Hunter. Simmons is among the league’s most versatile stoppers, someone who can effectively guard nearly every other team’s top option.

    Playing him alongside Trae Young could get messy. He needs the ball. That’s not unworkable. The Hawks can try having him screen when he and Young are on the floor without Capela, and he’s a playmaking engine for Trae-less lineups. Moving Young off the ball within certain possessions is also worth exploring.

    John Collins has to headline any package. That’s not a bad baseline haul for Philly. Collins has proved himself universally scalable on offense; he stretches defenses, sets picks, can pop or dive, catches lobs and even has a little floor game. The Sixers can build a dynamite offense around him and Joel Embiid.

    Additional compensation gets tricky. Does Philly demand Hunter? Would Atlanta balk? The Hawks could use Bogdan Bogdanovic or Danilo Gallinari to take back Tobias Harris’ salary. That plus picks and swaps (if necessary) makes for an intriguing framework.

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    Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

    Anything the Pacers do at the deadline should include disentangling Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. Finally. It isn’t because they can’t play together. They can. But they can’t be optimized together, and it shows—particularly when head coach Rick Carlisle rolls with one or the other (usually Sabonis) in crunch time.

    Turner is the more likely goner. His contract is up after next season, he’s less central than Sabonis to the offense, and interested teams will generally have an easier time integrating three-and-D bigs than on-ball hubs.

    All the usual suspects will be linked to the 6’11”, floor-spacing, shot-inhaling center. The Portland Trail Blazers, while in desperate need of Turner, are less obvious. Most believe they’ll sell with their season slipping away. But as Fischer noted, the front office initially planned to beef up the core around Damian Lillard, who’s now out indefinitely after having surgery to repair an abdominal injury.

    These needn’t be mutually exclusive approaches. It will take some variation of the Blazers’ best assets—Norman Powell, Anfernee Simons, CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., Jusuf Nurkic, Robert Covington, Nassir Little—to enter Turner discussions. Portland, in theory, could unload whatever it takes to land him, shop anyone left over who doesn’t fit the bigger picture, let this year’s lottery-protected pick stay put and regroup for next year.

    Maybe that sounds absurd. It shouldn’t. This Blazers season is lost. So long as they plan on keeping Dame, though, they must operate as if the next one is not.


    Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of, Basketball Reference, Stathead or Cleaning the Glass and accurate entering Friday’s games. Salary information via Spotrac.

    Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale), and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by NBA Math’s Adam Fromal.

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