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NBA Trade Intel: League Sources on Trade Season Expectations

NBA Trade Intel: League Sources on Trade Season Expectations article feature image
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Adam Pantozzi/Getty Images. Pictured: Russell Westbrook

It’s December 15th, and that means a whole lot more players are available for trade in the NBA because players who signed deals that were agreed to this summer are now eligible to be traded.

Here’s a look around the league at what league executives, scouts, and sources think of the landscape as we head into peak trade season.

ATLANTA HAWKS:  The Hawks have been frustrated with their own performance, but there’s no expectation of major moves. They committed big money over the summer to John Collins, who has a history of frustration with Trae Young, but there’s no sign that the Hawks would be thinking of breaking the pair up so soon after last year’s playoff run.

Lou Williams is on an expiring deal, and Bogdan Bogdanovic has a player option after next season, but any moves the Hawks make will likely be on the margins. Cam Reddish does seem to be a player the Hawks may look to move. His injuries have limited his availability, and the Hawks have already committed enough salary to the core.

BOSTON CELTICS: There’s been a lot of talk in recent days about the Celtics and whether it is “working,” leading to the idea that Jaylen Brown could be moved. Instead, two sources indicated that in recent talks the Celtics are focused on trying to add a third star to play with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

“If you’re trading Brown, you’re still probably trading low on him, that’s the wild part,” one executive said. “That front office doesn’t have a history of trading assets early.”

Their frontcourt remains interesting, however. Robert Williams was given the starting job next to Al Horford, and the returns have been good so far. Grant Williams has been far streakier, but the stretch 4/5 is shooting 45% from 3 this season. Williams has one year left on his contract after this season.

“If there’s a value player they can add in, it’s probably Williams,” one league insider said.

Chicago Bulls: The Bulls are thought of as buyers in the market, predictably, given their hot start. The loss of Patrick Williams has been real, and Chicago has been looking for a wing defender to bring off the bench, multiple sources confirmed.

Denver Nuggets: The Nuggets are limited in their options to upgrade the team in the wake of the rash of injuries they’ve suffered. They’re top-heavy, and their movable contracts don’t have the value or money on them to make them movable.

The bench continues to be a huge issue, but there’s confidence that the return of Jamal Murray expected sometime in February or March will alleviate some of those issues. This will put Monte Morris back with the bench, and allow the Nuggets to stagger more.

Until then, though, the Nuggets are on thin ice.

Detroit Pistons: What started as whispers Jerami Grant might be available have broken into outright discussions. Multiple outlets have reported on Grant’s availability in trade talks with Detroit pivoting to their youth movement.

Grant joined the Pistons in the offseason of 2020 after a breakout playoff run with Denver. The Nuggets offered to match the three years and $60 million that Detroit offered, but Grant chose the Pistons for a) his close relationship with GM Troy Weaver, b) his desire to play for a black GM in Weaver and a black coach in Dwane Casey, and c) the idea that he believed he was a star. He didn’t want to be third fiddle behind Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murry or potentially fourth behind Michael Porter Jr.

Jerami Grant is averaging the 18th-most isolation possessions per game in the league right now and shooting only 29.8% on them.

“(Grant has) helped his team win in both OKC and Denver,” one front office official said last week, “but if I’m trading for him, does he want to be a role guy after leaving Denver? Maybe it’s more about fit for him, but I don’t know if he’s looking to put up numbers to get his next deal.”

Houston Rockets: Come on down to RocketsCo for all your discount New Years shopping!

Need a veteran backup center to round out the rotation? Daniel Theis is ready to rebound and set screens.

Looking for a veteran bench scorer with playoff chops? Eric Gordon is ready to go with only one more full season after this on his deal.

In the market for a backup point guard who can shoot? DJ Augustin’s $7 million contract is non-guaranteed after this season.

The Rockets have a number of veterans whom they can move as they rebuild around their youth movement. One player whom it’s uncertain if Houston will entertain offers for is Christian Wood.

Wood signed with the Rockets as a marquee free agent in the 2020 offseason and should have fit perfectly with James Harden, but alas, we know how that situation went.

Wood’s shown more to his game this season. Not just an empty stats producer, he’s been better defensively than expected. The price would be steep, but Houston would definitely be selling high on his value right now.

Indiana Pacers: There’s belief that pretty much every Pacer is gettable right now outside of Malcolm Brogdon, who can’t be dealt for a year after signing his extension, but here are some things to consider.

Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer reported that Domantas Sabonis wants out of Indiana. That’s what I was told by multiple league sources as well, and that it wasn’t just this season, but instead going back to last year Sabonis was looking for a change of scenery.

However, Scott Agness who covers the Pacers and is plugged in refuted that sentiment. Herb Simon met with reporters this week, a rare instance, and said that the team is not “panicking.”

Pacers owner Herb Simon just finished meeting with a small group of us and answered every question.

"We’re not in a panic mode to make changes,” he said.

Full story coming on @FieldhouseFiles.

— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) December 15, 2021

That doesn’t mean changes aren’t coming, however. Myles Turner spoke about how he sees himself as more than a role player.

There were talks last summer between the Hornets and Pacers for Turner, and sources believe those talks could be resumed before the deadline.

However, the big key here is that the Pacers really aren’t as bad as their record. You can be bad in the clutch and still not hold the 1-8 record the Pacers have in games decided by three points or fewer or the 4-13 record they have in games inside five points in the final five minutes.

The Pacers’ schedule-adjusted numbers are promising; they’re 9th in Adjusted Net Rating per DunksAndThrees.com. There’s a decent-to-good team hidden behind some awful closing performances. I bounced the idea that Indy could try and wait out the storm to someone with knowledge of their thinking.

“That would assume these problems are isolated to this season; they’ve need a change and known it for some time.”

Still, it also needs to be considered that Herb Simons has consistently tried to put together a playoff team and resisted efforts towards a tanking rebuild in a small market that struggles with attendance when the Pacers are good.

While a major trade still remains likely, I don’t expect a teardown like you would see with other franchises.

Los Angeles Lakers: Whoo, boy.

OK, let’s start here. The cat is out of the bag that the Lakers have entertained the idea of trading Russell Westbrook, already, as Bleacher Report reported this week.

There are two competing thoughts around the league regarding the idea.

“Well, Simmons is the obvious name,” one league observer said, “but (Daryl Morey) didn’t really want to trade for Russ the first time (in Houston). Russ is a ‘star’ name, but I don’t know if Morey considers him that.”

Simmons is an obvious answer given Simmons is repped by Klutch Sports, which also represents LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and holds significant sway in Lakers decision making.

“They can want to trade Russ, and OKC, Houston and Washington did it,” a West executive said. “But getting an owner to take on that money midseason and help the Lakers seems like a bridge too far. You’re only trading for him if you want to compete, and the Lakers are only taking pieces to try and compete for him.”

The Lakers, as always, are expected to be buyers at the deadline, in trades or buyouts.

New Orleans Pelicans: The Pelicans are thought to be buyers at the deadline, per Jake Fischer at Bleacher Report.

Interestingly, some executives were surprised at the report as they had gauged more interest in long-term assets from New Orleans.

Josh Hart is thought to be the best asset New Orleans has available.

New York Knicks: There is no interest league-wide in taking on Kemba Walker according to multiple sources. Walker was benched to try and kickstart the Knicks, a move that has failed, but the league consensus is that Walker’s knees represent too much of a risk even if his play with New York and Boston was more about situation.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Hall-of-Famer Marc Stein reported over the weekend that the Sixers were looking for someone in the “Damian Lillard/Shai Gilgeous Alexander” tier.

Needless to say, there’s no expectation that OKC will be parting with SGA for Simmons or any other offer unless it was one that simply could not be refused.

But in more realistic news, the Thunder should be viewed in possible three-way deals for Simmons. Sam Presti and Daryl Morey have worked together on enough deals in the past, and each knows what to expect from the other. If the Sixers need a third-party to facilitate a deal with veteran contracts for more longterm assets, OKC is the most likely first dial.

Orlando Magic: Wendell Carter Jr. is not expected to be involved in trade talks for the rebuilding Magic despite the emergence of Mo Bamba. WCJ’s numbers are actually better than Bamba’s, and his impact numbers are super interesting.

In minutes with WCJ and rookie Franz Wagner together, the Magic are only outscored by 2.2 points per 100 possessions. In minutes without either one, the Magic are outscored by 13.9 points per 100 possessions.

This has renewed speculation that Bamba could be moved, but as of yet, Orlando hasn’t indicated such.

Philadelphia 76ers: Simmons trade talks have been ongoing for weeks leading up to this week when so many more players became available. There have been reports of increased interest from the Blazers, but CJ McCollum and pieces still doesn’t seem to fit what the Sixers consider Simmons’ value to be.

The Pelicans have popped on the radar. The Spurs have been mentioned throughout the ordeal. Sacramento remains a likely destination based on the relationship between Morey and GM Monte McNair. Minnesota seems less likely given the team’s success and D’Angelo Russell thriving this season.

Sacramento Kings: Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield are expected to be on the market. Barnes, in particular, will get a large amount of offers.

However, one executive cautioned on believing they’ll make a move.

“How many years have they been in this spot? How many times has Hield thought he’d be packing? I’ll believe they move those guys when I see it,” the source remarked.

San Antonio Spurs: Thaddeus Young is the Spurs’ best chip to move, a veteran on an affordable contract who isn’t part of the Spurs’ future. Expect teams with championship aspirations to value him for a trade or in a buyout scenario.

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