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Nick Wass/Associated Press
You know the names because we’ve been talking about them for months: Ben Simmons, Myles Turner, Bradley Beal and all the rest of the hottest trade-block commodities.
You’ve probably also seen 50 made-up trade packages for each by now, with more to come as the Feb. 10 deadline inches closer. The thirst for transactional speculation is at least as great as the hunger for coverage of, you know, the actual games in which these trade-block names participate.
We spend plenty of time on how the teams employing trade candidates could move them. This is about whether those franchises should pull the trigger. Can they get enough value? Are there enough suitors to create a bidding war? Based on where the organization is in its competitive arc, does it even make sense to deal?
We talk about trades ad nauseam, which creates the fiction that all of these teams must make a move. Here, we’ll lay out which of them are best served by swinging a deal and which ought to hold fast.
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Nick Wass/Associated Press
Honest questions: Do you think you’re smarter than Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey—at least from the standpoint of running a franchise?
Do you think you’ve spent more time, energy and resources on the pivotal issue that defines the organization’s present and future—whether to trade Ben Simmons or not?
I’ll answer for you. You’re not, and you haven’t.
That’s not to say Morey’s infallible, but it should serve as assurance that if there were a positive-value exchange available for Simmons, Morey probably would have moved his holdout three-time All-Star by now.
Morey and the Sixers deserve the benefit of the doubt. They know the length of Simmons’ contract, which runs through 2024-25, gives them leverage. Nobody wants to pay a bunch of money to a star who won’t suit up, and it’s terrifying to think the Sixers are wasting a season of Joel Embiid’s prime, but Philly is positioned to play the long game and wait for an offer it finds acceptable.
And that’s what Morey and his staff have done.
The Golden State Warriors aren’t trading everyone under 23, Andrew Wiggins and future picks; Damian Lillard is having a rotten year and is sidelined by those persistent abdominal issues; Bradley Beal’s play has disappointed.
So where’s the no-brainer offer the Sixers absolutely have to accept?
At the moment, it’s not out there. That’s why, as risky as it seems, Philadelphia’s best bet is to hold on to Simmons until more trade options present themselves in the offseason. The Sixers have stuck to their guns this long. They can’t give in and move Simmons for less than he’s worth now.
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Ashley Landis/Associated Press
The Los Angeles Lakers’ acquisition of Russell Westbrook never made sense in theory, and now we’re seeing it fail in practice.
Those minutes in which Westbrook was supposed to keep the Lakers afloat without LeBron James on the floor, sparing the 19-year vet from the wear and tear of the regular season, have been disastrous. The Lakers are getting walloped when Russ plays without James, posting a minus-5.6 net rating. As a result, James is logging more minutes per game (36.8) than in any season since 2017-18, when he led the league.
Westbrook’s 50.9 true shooting percentage ranks 10th among the 11 players who’ve taken at least 650 shots this year. Combine that with his league-leading turnover total, and the sheer volume of the damage he’s doing is staggering.
As you’d expect, and as Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times relayed, nobody’s kicking down the door to acquire Westbrook: “The Athletic’s Sam Amick reported this week that the Lakers have had internal discussions about possibly trading Russell Westbrook, but according to my sources around the NBA, the appetite for that player making $44 million this season and $47 million the next is very low.”
Russ’ performance and salary make him almost impossible to trade, but there’s little reason to believe he’s going to rehabilitate his value as he moves deeper into his 30s and loses even more of his explosive bounce.
If the Lakers could get a do-over and send Westbrook back to the Washington Wizards for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell, they’d pull the trigger in a heartbeat—even if they might need to hire a conflict manager to keep everything chill.
Now, simply getting him off the roster for a handful of league-average three-point shooters would count as a win. Good luck realizing even that modest goal.
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Scott Audette/Associated Press
The Washington Wizards can pay Bradley Beal more money over more years than anyone else if the three-time All-Star opts out and explores free agency this summer…which seems to be his plan.
Assuming a $119 million cap, Beal could opt out and sign a five-year contract worth $241.6 million with Washington, or a four-year deal worth $179.1 million elsewhere. That’s a massive difference, and with just four teams reasonably likely to have the space necessary to sign him, the Wizards shouldn’t be too worried about losing their top talent for nothing. Even if Beal wants to play for a team without cap space, the Wizards can easily ink him to a new deal and send him out as part of an asset-rich sign-and-trade.
That’s all to say Washington has little reason to prioritize moving Beal at the deadline.
Talk of leverage and financial incentives aside, Beal is also posting his lowest scoring average since 2017-18 and his worst true shooting percentage since his age-21 season in 2014-15. If he were operating at last year’s All-NBA level, maybe the calculus would be different. But moving Beal now, when his value is relatively low (remember, his acquiring team would face the same risk of his opting out and leaving), doesn’t make a ton of sense.
The Wizards have cooled since their hot start, but they’re still in the playoff mix and have room to climb the standings if Beal’s game comes around. A strong second half could convince him to stay on a new max deal—one Washington would happily offer.
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Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
With floor-stretching shooting and league-leading block numbers, Myles Turner’s game fits anywhere. Add to that a modest cap hit ($18 million this year and next), his desire to expand his role for a team other than the Indiana Pacers and the organization’s reported intent to rebuild, and you’ve got perhaps the most tradable player in the league.
Even if the tanking-averse Pacers’ off-brand talk about paring down the roster is only designed to gin up trade offers, well…it’s working. Half the league seems to be interested in Turner.
More than anything, Turner and the Pacers feel destined for a breakup. His fit alongside Domantas Sabonis has been a question from day one, and it seems as if Turner has been part of trade speculation from the moment he signed his current deal in 2018.
Indiana has never fully committed to Turner, and the big man’s frustration may have passed the point of no return. For all parties involved, trading him is best.
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John McCoy/Associated Press
Like Beal, Damian Lillard is having a down season. Unlike Beal, Lillard’s free agency is a long way off, with the Portland Trail Blazers star inked through at least 2023-24. He also has a $48.8 million player option in 2024-25.
The remaining years and dollars on Lillard’s deal aren’t as scary as they might seem, and the idea that Portland might want to “get off” Dame’s contract because of his age doesn’t compute.
The six-time All-Star is only 31, and he’ll be 34 by the time this contract is up. Chris Paul is still killing it at 36, Mike Conley is as good as ever at 34 and Stephen Curry has spent most of his age-33 season on the short list of MVP candidates. These days, high-end point guards last a long time.
Lillard’s abdominal issues have hampered him this season, and maybe they should affect forecasts of his performance. But this has been Dame’s worst season since he was a rookie, and he’s still putting up a positive estimated plus/minus and adding 4.9 points per 100 possessions to the Blazers offense when he’s on the floor.
If Portland were to trade Lillard now, it would be transacting at a trough in the point guard’s value. Better to trust that Lillard will get healthy and age as gracefully as his peers. Cynically, that would improve the Blazers’ return if they decided to make a move down the road.
Lillard has been unflinchingly loyal, so sentiment also dictates that his team return the favor. A trade demand would change the landscape, but none seems forthcoming. Portland would be better served keeping Dame, retooling around him and hoping he becomes one of the NBA’s rapidly disappearing one-team, one-career icons.
Stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference and Cleaning the Glass. Accurate through Jan. 11. Salary info via Spotrac.