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NBA Trade Season Is Here!

Donovan Mitchell Cavaliers
Will Cleveland star Donovan Mitchell remain a Cavalier for much longer? (David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)

NBA Trade Season Is Here!

December 15th marks the beginning of everybody’s favourite part of the NBA calendar: Trade season. That date marks the point where players signed or re-signed in the offseason become trade eligible. Are all of these newly available players sexy names? Frankly, no. In fact, there really isn’t a big name on the list, D’Angelo Russell, aside. Even he’s a bit of a stretch.

That said, many of these players could end up in trades as they represent the sort of talent and salary ballast needed to facilitate bigger moves, and that’s a lovely segue into what we’re focusing on today: Some of the bigger NBA names that could find themselves on the move between Dec. 15 and the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

Jerami Grant – Portland Trailblazers:

Possible landing spots: Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings

Was Grant’s five-year, $160 million contract the final nail in the Damian Lillard era coffin in Portland, or was Lillard already halfway out the door and it simply a matter of unfortunate timing? Either way, Grant is now a symbol of Portland’s hubris in trying to keep Dame appeased and stands out as a player ill-suited for the Blazers rebuild.

What is Grant’s value, though? He’s a very good, multi-positional defender with enough offense to be a fourth or even third option on a contender, yet he’s paid like a centrepiece. That does muddy the waters a little.

Grant would be an ideal fit in Indiana, should they decide to make a move this season. He’s a clear upgrade on Obi Toppin and should start to age out as Jarace Walker begins to emerge. His salary shouldn’t impede the Pacers, either, given so many of their core pieces are on smaller salaries.

Grant would fit beautifully in Sacramento, as well. The “Harrison Barnes at power forward” thing clearly isn’t working. Grant is just about Barnes’ equal as a shooter and is better in literally every other department. If the Kings are serious about becoming a force, the 29-year-old would be a great addition.

Zach LaVine – Chicago Bulls

Possible Landing spots: Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat

LaVine has been perhaps the hottest name on the rumour mill this season. He’s injured – again – at the moment. Will that put off any teams that are keen on the former dunk champ?

LaVine is a gifted, three-level scorer who provides a modicum of playmaking. He is also a pronounced minus on defense and carries a significant cap hit. Realistically, a LaVine trade partner would have to be a team that is veteran-laden, contending and willing to spend. Enter the Lakers and Heat.

Both teams are centred around aging, or in LeBron James’ case already aged, stars who theoretically shouldn’t have much left in the tank. Both teams are undoubtedly amongst the NBA’s elite. Are they willing to take on LaVine’s contract (he’s owed $178 million over the next four seasons) though?

The Lakers, despite their market and prestige, are one of the NBA’s poorest teams when measured by owner wealth. The Heat have traditionally built from within rather than make splashy moves for what is essentially a third option. It’s also worth asking if LaVine is all that much better than current third option Tyler Herro, the man most likely going the other way in a LaVine trade.

Pascal Siakam – Toronto Raptors:

Possible landing spots: Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers, Indiana Pacers

The will they/won’t they trade saga of Siakam continues in Toronto. With Siakam’s contract due to expire at season’s end, it would make sense for the Raptors to move on from their occasional All-NBA forward. Yet these are Masai Ujiri’s Raptors, who for reasons unknown don’t appear to be all that phased about getting such trivial things as ‘assets’ back when their best players leave.

There is also another substantial reason that Siakam may not be moved. Right now, he’s eligible for a four-year, $202 million extension. Should he make an All-NBA side at season’s end, he qualifies for a supermax which would pay him an extra $100 million and add a year to his deal. The key point is that Toronto and only Toronto can make that offer to Siakam.

What if he’s done with Toronto no matter what? In that case, a deal clearly makes sense. Much like Grant, Siakam would give Indiana a defensive presence at forward though Siakam is clearly a far better overall offensive player than Grant. His shooting, however, is spotty and it appears the Pacers are all in on surrounding Tyrese Haliburton with shooters.

Tobias Harris has had a fine bounce-back season in Philadelphia, but he too is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. Again, Siakam isn’t the shooter that Harris is but is better in every other way. Siakam’s lack of shooting might make him a poor fit on paper for the Lakers, but they seem to be doing fairly well without any genuine “lasers” on the team to this point. Why not make the talent play?

Donovan Mitchell – Cleveland Cavaliers:

Possible landing spots: New York Knicks, Orlando Magic

Now we’re getting spicy! For the last few years of Mitchell’s tenure in Utah, all the talk was of him eventually heading home to New York. Whilst the fit in Cleveland hasn’t been quite as clean on the court as it looked on paper, he’s still in a very favourable basketball situation right now. That chatter won’t go away, though.

The Knicks have the assets both in picks, salary matching and young talent – RJ Barrett solves a very clear need for Cleveland – and despite their lack of size, a Mitchell/Jalen Brunson backcourt would not be too much of a defensive liability.

The Orlando Magic are a team on the rise. In the most recent episode of my NBA video series The Point, I examined their ascension. Their defense appears to be legitimate but their offense could use a little bit of a boost. Their frontcourt is loaded but the backcourt remains crowded and jumbled. Acquiring Mitchell solves both of those issues.

The lure of New York remains and there is no guarantee that Mitchell would opt into his 2025-26 player option. That said, Orlando could still use a legitimate first option whilst Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner mature. Two seasons of Mitchell may well be worth it.

Buddy Hield – Indiana Pacers:

Possible landing spots: New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers

A defensive liability who shoots threes better than 99.9 percent of the world’s population, Hield would appear to be a perfect fit for this version of the Indiana Pacers. Yet the 30-year-old is an impending free agent who quietly requested a trade in the offseason. Whilst the trade chatter has died down in the noise around Indiana’s feel-good season, there haven’t been any official reports of Hield rescinding his request.

Hield’s buttery jump shot makes him a hot commodity for any contender that could cover his defensive deficiencies and at $19.3 million, his contract isn’t onerous. Both the Lakers and Knicks, two teams desperate for a marksman to create space for their stars, would suit Buddy’s skill set down to the ground.

Jordan Clarkson – Utah Jazz:

Possible landing spots: Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets

Clarkson isn’t, or at least should not be, for long on a rebuilding Utah team. Whilst he’s solidified his career and rebuilt his reputation in Salt Lake, a 31-year-old gunner isn’t what the Jazz need right now.

Any team that is looking for a sparkplug scorer who can provide a modicum of playmaking should be in the market got Clarkson. It’s unlikely that the Jazz are expecting a whole lot back for him, either. A top-10 or lottery-protected first-rounder should do the trick.

Miami could do with an upgrade on the fossilised remains of Kyle Lowry. Lowry’s defense has eroded to the point that it’s not significantly better than Clarkson’s and the Utah man is the more dynamic option at the other end of the floor. Philly is currently rounding out their guard rotation around Tyrese Maxey with Patrick Beverley, Jaden Springer and Furkan Korkmaz. That’s … not good.

Denver is an interesting case. They clearly have a lot of faith in youngsters Christian Braun and Julian Strawther, and that’s perfectly fine. Reggie Jackson is the swing piece, here. He’s been a pleasant surprise stepping into a regular rotation role this season, after looking washed last season.

Is he reliable enough for the playoffs, though? (In fairness, you could ask the same question of Clarkson) Given Jamal Murray’s injury history, the Nuggets could do with some insurance in their guard stocks. For the price of a first-round pick, they could do a lot worse than Jordan Clarkson.

D’Angelo Russell – Los Angeles Lakers

Possible landing spots: Depends on who the Lakers bring in.

Russell is perhaps the sexiest name amongst those trade-eligible after Dec. 15. Yeah, it’s not exactly a Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar, is it?

Russell, a much-derided player, is frankly a pretty good fit for this Lakers team. He’s a regular season innings eater who takes a little pressure off the Lakers stars. He scores in the mid-to-high teens, does enough playmaking and hits his outside shots at a very solid clip. Defensively he’s a liability who can’t play big minutes in the playoffs, but that’s when you tighten the rotation and hand more minutes to Austin Reaves.

So why trade him? Because his $17.3 million salary is just about perfect for building a salary match in trades for all of the Lakers’ potential targets.

Make no mistake, Russell can put up a consistent 20 or so points and 10 assists if given free rein over the attack. He’s an excellent shooter and creator. Unfortunately, his best path appears to be the new-age Reggie Theus: A talented scorer who is destined to thrive on, at best, mediocre teams.

Malcolm Brogdon – Portland Trailblazers

Possible landing spots: Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz

Brogdon has said on multiple occasions that he’s comfortable in the leadership/mentoring role that he has now in Portland and with prized rookie Scoot Henderson not quite adapting to NBA life as seamlessly as many had hoped, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Brogdon is kept around until the end of this season at least, despite the logjam in Portland’s backcourt now that Anfernee Simons is healthy.

That said he’s a solid two-way guard with size and the ability to thrive on and off ball. He shouldn’t cost more than a mid-first-round pick with perhaps some protections attached, either.

Miami would love to have him instead of the 2023 vintage of Lowry – the fit is obvious. In Los Angeles, Brogdon would be a somewhat lateral move assuming he came in to replace D’Angelo Russell, who himself would have to move to a third team. He is, however, a far superior defender to D’Lo, giving the Lakers another important piece who can’t be played off the floor in high-stakes moments.

Utah might seem a strange fit for Brogdon, but hear me out: If the veteran is content on a team where he gets to play solid minutes whilst mentoring younger guards, then why not the Jazz? If the Jazz shop both Clarkson and Collin Sexto, that leaves a rotation of Talen Horton-Tucker, Ochai Agbaji and rookie Keyonte George. None of those are as ready to play as Simons, Henderson or Shaedon Sharpe, meaning that there should be more minutes available to Brogdon for a longer period.

Davion Mitchell – Sacramento Kings:

Possible landing spots: Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards, San Antonio Spurs

Mitchell was the last of Sacramento’s bizarre fetish for taking point guards in the lottery every single season. Even with Tyrese Haliburton playing elsewhere, Mitchell is stuck behind All NBA calibre guard De’Aaron Fox. He’s good for a low-minute backup, but there simply isn’t room for him to develop in Sacramento. It makes sense for the Kings to move him now whilst another club can still get an 18-month look at what Mitchell can do.

Without a doubt, Mitchell is a devastating player on the defensive end of the floor but his offense has gone backward since coming into the league. It would be worth the gamble for a team on the rebuild like Washington or San Antonio to take a look at him.

Even Toronto, who are starting the always fine but never amazing Dennis Schroder at the moment, might want to see if Mitchell has another gear in him.

The worry, though, is that despite being in just his third NBA season, Mitchell is already 25-years-old.

OG Anunoby – Toronto Raptors:

Possible landing spots: everywhere!

Is OG Anunoby the new John Collins? Always on the block but never to be traded? It seems that OG has been the hot name on every pundit’s lips for years now: If the Lakers/Heat/Sixers /Cavaliers (delete as appropriate) could get their hands on him, they’d be the title favourites!

The 26-year-old is expected to decline his player option and become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. He reportedly wants a larger role in whatever offence he goes to, which might deflate his market amongst the very best teams.

Nonetheless, Anunoby would solve issues in Miami and Philadelphia. He could form the best defensive tandem in the league if paired with Anthony Davis in Lakers gold. A team to watch, though, could be Milwaukee. If they think that Khris Middleton’s knees are done, would they throw whatever assets they have left at Toronto to swap their championship-winning wing for a younger version?

Jordan Poole – Washington Wizards

Possible landing spots: Sydney Kings, Shanghai Sharks

Billion-dollar talent, 10-cent brain.

For your own sake, Washington, be done with him.

***

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