With the NBA Trade Deadline just over a week away, it’s the right time to take a look at which players are likely on the move. A potentially bland 2022 free-agent class is on the horizon, which means that yet another active trade deadline could be on the way. Last year saw 16 deadline-day deals and in the three years before that, at least 30 players were traded. Without further ado, let’s look at some likely candidates for trades at this year’s deadline.
2022 NBA Trade Deadline Preview
Dennis Schröder, Boston Celtics
The Celtics got lucky that Schröder, an elite role player, was the victim of a saturated free-agent market in August that saw the former Sixth Man of the Year contender settle for a one-year, $5.89 million deal. Because the Celtics are strapped for cash, they can only offer him a 20% raise using his Non-Bird Rights. Seeing as he’s averaging 14.6 points per game on the season, it seems as though he has priced himself out of Boston’s price range this offseason.
Schröder is almost certainly going to be on the move for a middling Celtics team that will be looking to make moves that complement their All-Star duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and escape the despair of the Play-In Tournament.
One potential NBA Trade Deadline destination is the Chicago Bulls as a rental. The Bulls are without Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball for an extended period of time and will be looking for backcourt help on the market, as to not miss a step in the air-tight Eastern Conference playoff race. One potential trade could see Troy Brown Jr. sent to the Celtics ahead of his restricted free agency and Schröder moving to the Bulls.
Thaddeus Young, San Antonio Spurs
Young seems like the kind of player that is destined for a trade or to be bought out this season. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has gone on the record in saying that Young has been a professional in an unideal situation, and Young has publicly expressed his desire to be on the move.
The deal that makes the most amount of sense for both teams is for the Spurs to call up the Phoenix Suns and inquire about Jalen Smith. That deal has been rumored for some time, especially since the Suns declined Smith’s third-year option, a rare occurrence in the league. Smith has made that decision seem foolish with his recent play, but the Suns (and whatever team potentially acquires him via trade) are only able to offer him $4.67 million in free agency.
While that price point is the one that every team that plans to acquire him would have to battle, it seems as though Smith is destined for a new team come this summer. In comes Young, with the Suns still looking for some help at the four with Dario Šarić set to miss the season. A Šarić/Smith package for Young makes too much sense for both teams. In that scenario, the Spurs get a promising young player in Smith and get to try and convince him to stay in the summer, along with Šarić, a piece that is extremely helpful when healthy and one the team could rehab and ship out next season when he has a $9 million expiring deal.
As for the Suns, while they have a stacked frontcourt, the move would open a roster space to monitor the buyout market and is a cheap price to pay for Young. When he was playing consistent minutes last season, Young averaged 12.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game, the ultimate role player.
These two players might not get traded for one another, but Young seems more likely than not to be on the move at the deadline, regardless of where he winds up.
Goran Dragić, Toronto Raptors
When Goran Dragić was acquired by the Raptors in the Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade, it was pretty evident that Dragić was unlikely to suit up many, if any, times for the Raptors. Dragić went on to average 8 points in five games with the Raptors before sitting out with a personal matter. While Dragić may not be traded, he is likely to be in a new location after the deadline, with a buyout being the most likely option.
But one intriguing option is the fact that the Raptors are interested in reacquiring Jakob Poeltl. It is unclear if Dragić could play into such a deal, but it seems as though Precious Achiuwa and/or Malachi Flynn could be had in a deal for Poeltl or elsewhere. The Spurs may not be inclined to move Poeltl, but Dragić, along with Achiuwa and Flynn, are names to monitor out of Toronto.
Caris LeVert, Indiana Pacers
On his Game Theory podcast, The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie and Jared Weiss stated that the Pacers tandem of LeVert, Turner and Sabonis is one that may dictate the activity of the NBA Trade Deadline. Recent injuries to Turner and Sabonis may have made it hard to envision a situation in which any of them are on the move, but LeVert is an interesting piece and one that may be targeted by as many as half the teams in the league.
One of the most obvious choices, and one that Vecenie mentioned and something that has been rumored for quite some time, is a potential move to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs are looking for more guard and wing help, and LeVert fits the bill. While Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio are valuable, both are out for the season and will hit some form of free agency next season.
While the Cavaliers won’t win it all this year, some combination of Sexton, Rubio, picks or another young player, would make plenty of sense for both sides as Cleveland looks to get into the playoffs. LeVert provides exactly what Cleveland is looking for and Sexton and Rubio would be valuable pieces to have bird/restricted free-agent rights to for the Pacers.