Who will be the next NBA star on the trade block?
(An aside: when was the last time Harden was, umm, gruntled?)
But is it ever actually peaceful on the NBA trade market? Is each détente just a chance to prepare for the next major battle? There is always another star ready to see if that grass is indeed greener; a club deciding to pull the pin on a project that spins its wheels; a team that thinks it’s just one big move away from contention.
There are some NBA headliners that make regular appearances on pieces like these. However the hot starts by Philadelphia, Minnesota and Dallas likely rule Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns and Luka Doncic out of trade chatter. Even Trae Young’s Atlanta Hawks are showing signs of progress under head coach Quin Snyder.
Nonetheless, there is always another trade drama just down the road. Let’s take a look at who might be the next big-name NBA player to find their head on the trade block.
Pascal Siakam – Toronto Raptors
This writer is as guilty as anyone of completely buying into the legend of Masai Ujiri. The man did make major swings to bring a title to unfashionable Toronto, after all. Since then, though? It hasn’t exactly gone to plan.
Of the eight main rotation players who led the Raptors to their 2019 title, five eventually left the team via free agency. A sixth, Kyle Lowry, was traded for a half-eaten donut and a 6-pack of Dr Pepper. Oh, and something called a “Precious Achiuwa.” Nope, me neither.
Norman Powell is the 7th member of that group. He was traded to Portland for the sharpshooting Gary Trent Jr. … who is now a pending free agent, unlikely to re-sign with the Raps. The final man on that list? Pascal Siakam.
Ujiri is reportedly yet to open extension negotiations with his 29-year-old All-NBA forward. This after calling out his team – and by extension his star – selfish over the off-season. If the intention was to fire his chargers onto bigger and better things, then Ujiri’s missive has failed as the Raptors continue to play .500 ball.
The net result could be that Siakam feels alienated and, as a result, doesn’t entertain a return to “The North.” In that case, will Ujiri let yet another of his top players leave for nothing? It seems unlikely, though the notoriously hard-bargaining general manager would need to be prepared to make a fair deal, rather than holding out for a mother lode that may never arrive.
O.G. Anunoby – Toronto Raptors
Well, looky here! It’s another Raptor.
Anunoby is and has been the hot name on people’s lips when it comes to the elusive “missing piece” on a title contender. On paper, it makes sense. The London-born wing is amongst the very best defenders on the planet, combining both positional versatility with the ability to outright lock a man down.
On the other side of the ball, Anunoby is a quick and powerful player who is an excellent shooter (41.7% from three on the season so far) and can bully his way to the hoop, though his craft with the ball is often brutal and his vision closer to the ‘tunnel’ variety than to Chris Paul’s.
The 26-year-old holds a $19.9M player option for next season and has been hinting at wanting an increased role in the offense for the past few seasons–therein lies the issue with trading for Anunoby. He’s the perfect 3rd or 4th wheel on a championship contender, though will he chaff in that role? Does he prefer to be the main man in a middling outfit?
This could come down to an either/or scenario. If Siakam gets moved, Anunoby might be tempted to stay for the greater opportunities he’ll be afforded. If Siakam re-signs, expect O.G. to ask O-U-T.
Clint Capela – Atlanta Hawks
It may feel as though he’s been around forever, though Capela won’t turn 30-years-old until the playoffs are well underway. Yes, he’s lost a little bit of the speed and bounce of his younger days, but he’s still an excellent rim-running centre and defensive deterrent.
His counting stats have dropped in recent seasons, though his per-36-minute numbers remain right around the 15-point, 15 rebound and 2.5 “stocks” level that they’ve been at for years. The primary reason people believe that Capela is a player on the wane is the existence of Onyeka Okongwu.
Capela is effectively in a platoon with Okongwu these days. With the latter having extended his contract just prior to the commencement of the season, it appears the Hawks are very close to handing over the centre spot to the younger man.
Capela, then, obviously becomes the odd man out. The Hawks seem to have acknowledged that, as well. There were rumours of an off-season trade to Dallas, though the Mavs are likely very happy with rookie Derrick Lively II right now.
The Swiss will have some trade value both due to his production and the fact that he’s not an expiring deal (his contract runs through to the end of the 2025 campaign).
DeMar DeRozan – Chicago Bulls
We could just as easily finger DeRozan’s running mates Nikola Vucevic or Zach LaVine, here. All three need to get the hell out of ChiTown, though the veteran forward deserves a move a little more than most.
DeRozan stated not long ago that he wants to retire a Bull. Honourable intentions, to be sure. The Bulls would likely let him stay, as long as they’re qualifying for the play-in tournament year in, year out. How long, though, will the 34-year-old mid-range maven be happy winning just half of his games, watching Vooch calcify before his eyes, LaVine play every season with the ‘me, me, me’ mindset of a contract year, and Patrick Williams ‘develop’?
The Bulls are a notoriously thrifty organisation and re-signing DeRozan and Williams, aligned with over $130 million of money already committed to next season, would push the club into the luxury tax; a penalty Chicago has only paid twice in the past 20 years.
Whilst Chicago paying overs for a team that plays unders is an extremely Bulls thing to do, it’s more likely that they attempt to avoid the punitive measures that have been adopted in the new CBA. That means that at least one of Chicago’s slightly-above-average-three will go. DeRozan is the most likely.
Buddy Hield – Indiana Pacers
This version of the Indiana Pacer should be a wet dream for Buddy Hield. All offense, racing up and down the floor, firing threes with an almost reckless abandon and (importantly) a seemingly indifferent attitude to actually stopping the opposition. This is everything that Hield stands for as a baller, right? Right?
Yet, thanks to the Pacers’ sudden newfound young depth and his own relatively poor shooting (to be clear, Hield shooting badly is better than 95 percent of the NBA shooting to expectation. He is averaging numbers, that, outside of his rookie campaign, would be career lows. Combined with an expiring deal, it seems certain that Buddy Love will get moved at some point this season.
What is certain is that Hield will have a market. He is precisely the type of movement shooter who can thrive playing off of an elite playmaker. He’s an upgrade on (deep breath) Malik Beasley, Gary Trent, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, Grayson Allen, Moses Moody, Malik Monk or Norman Powell. He’s a better fit around Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner than literally every guard on Orlando’s roster.
Malcolm Brogdon – Portland Trailblazers
The only mitigating factor for the Blazers to keep hold of Malcolm Brogdon – a man who clearly would rather be anywhere else – is the early struggles of prized rookie Scoot Henderson.
With Henderson, Anfernee Simons and the ascendant Shaedon Sharpe already on roster, there is really no need – babysitting aside – to hold onto a veteran player who does everything to a minimum B+ level and takes nothing off the table.
The soon-to-be 31-year-old is far, far too good to be a 4th guard, yet that’s the extent of his role in Portland. That is, however, until a contender snatches him away before the deadline.
Donovan Mitchell – Cleveland Cavaliers
Despite not moving quite as far east from Utah as he might have liked, Donovan Mitchell put forward a spectacular campaign in his first season as a Cavalier: A career-high 28.7 points (on 48/39/87 shooting splits), 4.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.5 steals.
Despite an embarrassing opening-round playoff flame out to Mitchell’s beloved New York Knicks, he’s only gone and bettered those numbers in the early stages of this season: 30.7 points. 4.9 boards, 5.6 assists and 2.3 steals would all be career highs should they hold.
That outstanding level of production hasn’t quelled the rumours that Mitchell is simply playing out the string, pining for an eventual return to his hometown Knicks. The 27-year-old has two seasons left to run on his current deal, signed when still a member of the Jazz, with a player option should he so desire.
Despite loading up with shooters to help space the floor, the injured-affected Cavs have started the season with a concerning 3-5 record. It can be reasonably safely assumed that they’ll improve upon that once they get their entire team on the floor, though should the Cavs continue to struggle expect the jungle drums from Manhattan to be beating louder than ever.
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