In a normal NBA calendar, we’d be in the midst of the frenzy that is the days preceding the trade deadline. In this NBA calendar we’re still a good six weeks away from said deadline. We’re instead right at the beginning of the NBA trade season, which has officially kicked off with Derrick Rose and Tom Thibodeau reuniting. Again.
So let’s do what we would usually do in mid-December: examine which big name players could be on the trade block and where they could end up.
Bradley Beal – Washington Wizards
New digs? Philadelphia; Denver; New Orleans; Golden State.
Whilst he is not – for the moment, at least – officially on the trade market, the combination of a 27 year old, elite scoring superstar and a moribund franchise with no immediate hope of playoff basketball, let alone championship contention, makes the trade chatter surrounding Beal feel inevitable.
There should be a whole raft of landing spots for the star shooting guard. The field could be narrowed depending on the path the Wizards choose to take: talent vs draft picks.
If Washington choose the former, a trade for a package based around Sixers star Ben Simmons (more on him below) make the most sense. Would the Nuggets give up Michael Porter Jr and Gary Harris with some pick sweeteners?
If it’s draft picks that the Wiz are after, then the Pelicans, desperate to make the playoffs, would surely look to package some of their Anthony Davis bounty with whatever matching salary is required to make the math work.
An uncomfortable middle ground (for Beal’s destination team, at least) would see Beal ending up in San Francisco for something involving the Minnesota pick owed to the Warriors, rookie James Wiesman and (sound the We’re About To Shoot Bambi alarm) injured star Klay Thompson.
Ben Simmons – Philadelphia 76ers
New digs? Washington; Chicago.
As well as being the centrepiece of a Beal trade, where else could the uniquely talented but flawed Australian star land? With his undoubted potential to be the star of a team that is properly constructed to benefit his particular skill set, a lowly team with delusions of grandeur would likely kick the tyres on Simmons. Those sounds you hear in the distance are half the New York Knicks fans crying ‘NOOOOOO!!!!!’ whilst the other half simultaneously scream ‘YESSSS!!!!!’. Whilst you never count out the Knicks, it’s unlikely to happen.
It’s generally accepted that Chicago, with a new coach and front office, are in a year of assessment. What if that assessment has already lead the Bulls brass to decide that they have enough one dimensional scorers and need a player that can knit the offense together as well as giving them some defensive backbone? Would a package centred on Zach LaVine for Simmons be discussed?
Zach Lavine – Chicago Bulls
New digs? Philadelphia; Denver; Miami.
If LaVine is dealt and doesn’t arrive in Pennsylvannia, then where else could he go? As a player, LaVine is somewhat of an opp-shop Beal: an excellent scorer/shooter combined with solid play making and abysmal defense (though in Beal’s case his defense is pretty good when he actually tries). In the trade market, he is to Beal what Beal is to James Harden: the consolation prize. Expect all of the teams that couldn’t get a Harden deal over the line to enquire about Beal. In turn, expect the teams that can’t get it done with Washington to ask about LaVine’s availability.
Would Denver deal Michael Porter Jr straight up? Would they deal Harris and draft capital? Miami – always on the prowl – might baulk at Lavine given their championship aspirations, but they may also fancy themselves as the team to finally harness Lavine’s immense potential.
Lonzo Ball – New Orleans Pelicans
New digs? Golden State; LA Clippers.
The eldest Ball brother is a polarising figure. He’s at once brilliant and frustrating. Game changing and limited. For every flash of progress there is an equal and opposite regression. According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Pellies view Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kira Lewis as their long term back court, which makes Lonzo and his expiring contract very much tradable.
The problem with trading for Ball is that your team needs a very specific ecosystem to suit his talents. Golden State have such an environment. The famously pass happy Warriors should suit Lonzo’s game down to the ground, and he would only add to his burgeoning defensive reputation playing alongside Draymond Green.
An unconventional destination could be the Clippers. As much as his shooting deficiencies could be highlighted in an offense where Kawhi Leonard and Paul George tend to dominate the basketball, he would offer a different dimension to an offense that can become stagnant. Defensively he would be a huge upgrade over the ageing Patrick Beverley, who is as dogged as ever but has turned into a foul machine at this late stage of his career.
JJ Redick – New Orleans Pelicans
New digs? Dallas; Philadelphia.
At age 36 and with 15 professional seasons under his belt, JJ Redick was always bound to slow down somewhat this season. Nobody quite saw this coming. After a horrible slump to start the campaign, Redick has recovered somewhat to shoot 34% from behind the arc, though that is still by far a career worst. Like his teammate Ball, Redick is on an expiring deal. Expect him to finish the season elsewhere.
The Mavericks – mired in a team wide shooting funk – would love to add a renowned sniper like Redick into the mix, if for no other reason than to replace Seth Curry’s contributions from seasons past. Speaking of Curry, if his current team decide that there can never be enough shooting around Joel Embiid and – if they decide to keep him – Ben Simmons, could a return to Philly be on the cards?
PJ Tucker – Houston Rockets
New digs? The contenders: every single one of them.
The veteran cinder block was effectively on the trade block the moment James Harden departed for the East coast. As surprisingly fun as Houston have been in their post Harden days, Tucker surely isn’t in their plans. He should, however, be in the plans of a plethora of contenders, though.
He would obviously fit hand-in-glove alongside Harden in Brooklyn, though he would fit equally as well in Philadelphia with either of the Los Angeles teams. Tucker and Draymond Green in the same front court? Inject that straight into my veins. He would also add to Utah’s cadre of three point marksmen, potentially giving them a viable 5-out lineup. Think of what he could do in Milwaukee as the power forward in their Giannis-at-point-centre look.
Aaron Gordon – Orlando Magic
New digs? Golden State; LA Clippers; LA Lakers; Brooklyn; Boston.
The more COVID effects things, the more they stay the same? Not really, but where Aaron Gordon is concerned they certainly do. For what feels like the 15th straight year the athletic but frustrating forward is the subject of trade talk. Still only 25 years old, Gordon has gone beyond plateauing and has been actively regressing for the past few seasons. It makes sense for both parties to move on.
Gordon will never become the star the Magic hoped, but he can still do a job for plenty of teams across the NBA. Ideally he would end up with a team where he can be a featured role player without taking on too much play making responsibility. A long discussed trade to Golden State would be ideal, though he would fit well in Los Angeles as an upgrade over either Marcus Morris or Kyle Kuzma. Brooklyn could use another small ball centre to spell the ageing Jeff Green. Is he an upgrade on either of Boston’s smaller centres?
DeMar DeRozan – San Antonio Spurs
New digs? Miami; Dallas; Toronto.
Of the Spurs remaining veteran core, DeRozan seems more likely to depart than LaMarcus Aldridge or Rudy Gay (who might not have a market given their age and performance) or Patty Mills (still very much a part of the Spurs plans).
Despite his well known lack of deep shooting, DeRozan is still an excellent offensive talent, capable of carving the opposition up from the midrange. The four time All-Star can still get to the bucket when the mood takes him and he’s also turned himself in to an excellent facilitator. He is somewhat of a Jimmy Butler type at that end of the floor. Where the Butler comparison stops is on defense, where DeRozan remains awful.
Any team that is looking for a boost to it’s sputtering offense should take a look at DeRozan. The Heat and Mavericks might not have the pieces needed to make a trade but will certainly kick the tyres on a trade. He’d fit well in Chicago but doesn’t fit into the age profile of the rest of the core which makes a trade to the Bulls most unlikely. Another team that needs an offensive boost? The Toronto Raptors. With the Raps slipping out of contention for the first time in years, why not corner the feelgood market?
Andre Drummond – Cleveland Cavaliers
New digs? San Antonio; LA Clippers; Brooklyn.
After regressing late in his Detroit tenure, Drummond looks back to his best in his first full campaign in Ohio. The stats – including a league leading 15.1 rebounds per contest – are similar, but he’s impacting winning in a way that he hasn’t for years. Armed with an expiring deal, and with the younger Jarrett Allen waiting in the wings, the Cavs would surely look to cash in on Drummond while they can (of course, we said the same about Tristan Thompson last season).
Any team that is looking for a giant, rebound inhaling big with great hands and possibly still untapped potential as a roll man should be in the market for Dre. The issue is this: in the modern NBA, there are a limited number of clubs looking for that sort of player.
The Spurs could use an upgrade on Aldridge. The Clippers may decide to go all in and use Drummond as their dreadnought in place of Ivica Zubac. The most obvious landing spot? Belatedly replacing Allen in Brooklyn, in turn moving DeAndre Jordan back to his rightful place as a backup.
(A Cavalier who doesn’t quite deserve his own segment is Kevin Love. There’s not too much left to say about the Love trade situation. As an overpriced, oft injured, fading though still very good offensive big who can’t guard his own shadow, it’s tough to envision where Love would go, should he be traded.)
Marvin Bagley – Sacramento Kings
New digs? A cellar dweller looking for cheap talent.
Poor Marvin Bagley. He didn’t ask to be drafted ahead of Luka Doncic. Or Trae Young. Or Jaren Jackson Jr, Collin Sexton, Shai-Gilgeaous Alexander….i could go on. And I will: Lonnie Walker, Kevin Huerter, Michael Porter Jr, Miles Bridges, Mikal Bridges…..that’s a lot of talent passed over to take Baggerz with the 2nd pick.
Nonetheless, by dint of his draft position Bagley was expected to be a key piece in the Kings seemingly never ending rebuild. To be blunt, Bagley is below average on offense and worse on defense. Injuries haven’t helped, but it’s clear at this point that Bagley just isn’t that good. If it’s ever going to happen for Bagley, it’s not going to be in Sacramento.
Any team that is bottoming out and looking to take on unfulfilled talent should enquire on Bagley. Maybe they can be the team to unlock whatever Bagley’s Chris Bosh-esque combination of height, speed and explosiveness can deliver. As for destinations, Bagley could form an overwhelmingly athletic front court with Jerami Grant in Detroit. He could be the answer to Minnesota’s long term question at the four. Would Orlando consider a challenge trade for Aaron Gordon?
There is a fair chance that Bagley never develops beyond solid journeyman level, but there is still enough intrigue there for someone, somewhere to take a flyer.