*FG% = Field-goal percentage, FG3% = Three-point field-goal percentage, FT% = Free-throw percentage
AS A RESULT of the return of parity to the NBA, many teams need one or two high-level players to gain an advantage over their competitors. Some names have been thrown around for months due to their strong level of play, while other players have been placed on the trading block for their poor performance in 2019–2020.
This year’s trade deadline came and went with only D’Angelo Russell being a recent All-Star that was moved — which was foreshadowed for months — but this summer could see a variety of unpredictable moves.
There are other factors to take into consideration, including the new financial stress that small-market teams will be feeling as they are forced to pay older players on their roster. And all of this overlooks the unspoken reality of “tampering” and player recruiting which has defined the free agent and offseason landscape since LeBron James made “The Decision in 2010.”
Below are five NBA “stars” who could be traded in the near future, with some potential suitors listed, as well.
Bradley Beal, G, Washington Wizards
30.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 6.1 assists; 45.5 FG%, 35.3 FG3%, 84.2 FT%
Ever since John Wall’s near MVP-level 2016–2017 campaign, Bradley Beal has taken the reigns of the Wizards as their best player and the face of the franchise. He went from an off-ball scorer who was dependent on others to a player, who, all by himself, carried Washington to being an above-average offense.
He makes plays for others, gets to the free-throw line at an elite rate, and is a feared three-point shooter, even if his percentages fluctuated as his volume increased (a career-high 8.4 attempts per game this season).
Beal’s rise to an All-NBA level of play (outside of his team winning games) makes him the most attractive trade piece in the NBA. However, despite the dysfunction and poor roster that surrounds him, Beal has shown little interest in demanding out of Washington. Therefore, it will be imperative for teams to throw massive offers at the Wizards’ guard, who is 26 and signed to his contract for at least two more seasons.
The first suitor for Beal is the team that threw its name into trade rumors as soon as the season came to a close: the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets would have to potentially give all of its talented young pieces, including but not limited to Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Jarrett Allen, plus draft compensation. Acquiring Beal would kill the depth of Brooklyn, but, in return, the Nets would have three of the best scorers in the league and arguably the most talented three offensive players to take the court on the same team ever. Seriously, teams game-plan exhaustively for Beal, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving as individuals — so adding the three of them together makes game-planning for the Nets a major conundrum.
Denver has been long linked to Beal, even before his performance reached new heights this season, and he could be a strong complement to Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. There are positives and benefits to be had. Firstly, Beal is exponentially better on offense than Gary Harris, whose performance dramatically declined over the past two seasons. Secondly, Beal’s off-ball abilities make him a good fit in Denver’s offensive scheme. However, the Nuggets’ defense would take a major hit if they lost Harris, and Denver already committed to paying Jamal Murray at the same rate as perennial All-NBA performers — so, if anything, they should focus on developing Murray more so than trying to trade for the player they hope Murray can become (which is Beal).
Lastly, if the Miami Heat end their pursuit of Giannis Antetokounmpo, then Beal instantly would become their most attractive trade candidate. He replaces the shooting and shot-creation of the young pieces Miami would send to Washington, and he gives Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo another star-level shot-creator and playmaker. This move could easily push Miami from competing with Philadelphia and Indiana to fighting for the #2 seed with Boston and Toronto by next season.
Overall, with Beal giving little indication of his unhappiness in D.C. — despite his names consistently being put in trade rumors — it is clear that teams will have to give up a major trove of assets and young pieces for the Wizards to build around if they want to acquire the All-Star guard.
- Brooklyn Nets for Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, and Draft Picks
- Denver Nuggets for Michael Porter Jr., Gary Harris, Will Barton, and Torrey Craig + Draft Picks
- Miami Heat for Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn, KZ Okpala, and Derrick Jones Jr. (sign and trade)
Al Horford, C, Philadelphia 76ers
12.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists; 44.2 FG%, 33.7 FG3%, 75.3 FT%
Is there any NBA player whose stock has dropped as much as Al Horford in the past year?
It wasn’t long ago when Horford appeared to be a perfect complementary star for contending rosters and a center whose game would age well — which isn’t something most 34-year old centers can boast. In Boston, he was an efficient scorer from all areas of the floor, having successfully transitioned his mid-range game to the three-point line.
So it was disappointing that, in Philadelphia, his scoring efficiency suddenly plummeted. While many fans and pundits mock Elton Brand’s signing of the aging 33-year old center — and rightfully so, as the Sixers have mightily underperformed this season — it was just one season ago when Brad Stevens started Horford alongside Aron Baynes in multiple playoff games.
A combination of age, Philadelphia’s roster construction, and nagging injuries have all contributed to Horford’s struggles. The issue isn’t so much Horford playing power forward; it is Horford playing power forward with a non-shooter in Ben Simmons, inconsistent shooters in Josh Richardson and Joel Embiid, and Tobias Harris having a down season from three-point range.
So does Horford have any value? The simple answer is yes. He posted a positive offensive and defensive box plus/minus for the 12th time in his career, despite transitioning to guarding quicker players. Additionally, in lineups where Horford played with three shooters (like Furkan Korkmaz, Tobias Harris, and Matisse Thybulle) alongside Ben Simmons, he posted an overwhelmingly positive impact.
Teams that trade for Horford, therefore, will need to have shooting and athleticism around him, and if they do, then the evidence points at Horford still being a productive player. With a long rest during this season, perhaps the best of Horford will come out in the 2020 Playoffs. Elton Brand traded for Horford primarily to contain Giannis Antetokounmpo, a task he has been fairly successful at in the past — but it remains to be seen if Philly will make it that far in the first place.
At his salary, trading for Horford is a major investment — but certainly, he is a much better player than Philadelphia fans or national coverage suggests; he just needs a team that is suited to his strengths. Add in the fact that Philadelphia would likely be forced to sweeten a deal for Horford with a combination of Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, or Furkan Korkmaz (three promising young players) and/or future draft picks, and the poison pill that is Horford’s contract suddenly seems much more bearable.
In Sacramento, Horford could offer floor spacing, defense, and mentorship for Marvin Bagley, who isn’t capable of commanding a defense yet — while also either shedding the massive salary of Harrison Barnes (another terrible contract) or being swapped for Buddy Hield, a disgruntled star (more on that later). Though Richaun Holmes performed admirably as a starter for the Kings this season, he doesn’t fit nearly as well as Horford does next to Bagley — an issue considering Bagley’s status as a #2 overall pick.
The Pelicans will potentially need to replace Derrick Favors this offseason, who was very successful next to Zion Williamson, and Horford brings the same veteran savvy on defense while being a better fit next to Williamson on offense. All indications point to Jaxson Hayes, the #8 overall selection, being a terrible fit next to Zion on offense, so Horford might be a strong addition for an ambitious Pelicans team.
Sports Illustrated reported that Detroit was a suitor for Horford after the season, and they could shed Blake Griffin’s equally inflated contract in exchange for Horford, which could open up room for Christian Wood to take the reigns as Detroit’s building block at the power forward position. Also, this trade is the only scenario where Philadelphia could gain assets, as Griffin’s salary and injury history make him arguably the worst contract in the league.
The appeal of Horford, aside from a career-long track record of two-way play, is that he can exist on veteran-laden, contending rosters, as well as teams with younger talent. He is a proven professional, and his shooting ability allows other young stars to have room to operate on offense.
- Sacramento Kings for either Buddy Hield or Harrison Barnes (and giving up assets)
- New Orleans Pelicans for Jrue Holiday (and giving up assets)
- Detroit Pistons (reported interest) for Blake Griffin + Minor Assets
Chris Paul, G, Oklahoma City Thunder
17.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 6.8 assists; 48.9 FG%, 36.2 FG3%, 90.0 FT%
Before this season, the narratives surrounding Chris Paul reached an all-time low. Supposedly, he had the worst contract in the league, he was an injury-prone playoff disappointment, and no contender would possibly consider trading for him unless he renounced the final $44,211,146 on his deal.
But by the postponement of the 2020 season, Paul had a “renaissance” as the league’s best player in “clutch” situations all-season long (defined as the final 5 minutes of games within 5 points), while carrying a Thunder team to heights that not even the most optimistic of Thunder fans could have expected.
He took the spare parts of the disappointing era of Russell Westbrook and Paul George, and, along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari from the L.A. Clippers, rejuvenated the Thunder.
Despite playing the second-least amount of minutes in his career, Paul outperformed his play from his last season in Houston, while raising his field-goal percentage by 8% and his three-point percentage by 0.4%. With the freedom to get back to his controlled, measured style of play, Paul shot 86.0% at the basket, 50.5% from 3–10 feet, 52.6% from 10–16 feet, and 52.0% from 16 feet to the 3PT-line, proving why he is the best efficient mid-range shooter of this generation.
Reportedly, the Knicks are interested in Paul for reasons which aren’t immediately clear. Perhaps they plan to use Paul as a magnet for other stars to join their team, but there is no indication that Paul would prefer to go to New York instead of staying in Oklahoma City. Ultimately, this deal comes down to whether or not Sam Presti values the remainder of Paul’s salary more than the untapped potential of Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr., and/or Kevin Knox (unless NY somehow includes R.J. Barrett in a trade).
Miami was a reported destination for Paul when he was being shopped by Houston, and the fit remains clear. The fears of Paul and Jimmy Butler butting heads seem silly now that Butler has led the Heat to an upstart, surprising season. However, gaining Paul would mean Miami would lose many of the young players that they worked hard to develop, but more importantly, unless Paul opted-out of his current deal, Miami would lose their chance at Giannis Antetokounmpo. Because Giannis will likely sign an extension with the Bucks, however, acquiring Paul could be in the works for Miami this summer.
Dallas could try and take advantage of the rest of Paul’s productivity by flipping him for Tim Hardaway Jr., Jalen Brunson, Maxi Kleber, and draft assets. This trade only works if OKC wants to remain competitive in the short term with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder — which seems likely given Sam Presti’s track record. For Dallas, Paul could be everything they need: another ball-handler to lessen the load off of Doncic, a shot-creator who is proven in the playoffs, and a playmaker to set up Kristaps Porzingis.
The only concerns with Paul are his injury history and his now recent history of not functioning well as an off-ball player, which may detract Dallas from trying to pull off a trade for him. For the right price, however, Paul could be the piece that swings the 2021 championship.
- New York Knicks (reported interest) for a combination of Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr., and/or Kevin Knox, a salary filler (Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, and/or Taj Gibson), and draft picks
- Miami Heat for Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, Andre Iguodala, and Derrick Jones Jr. (sign-and-trade)
- Dallas Mavericks for Tim Hardaway Jr. (if he opts-into his contract), Maxi Kleber, Jalen Brunson, and Draft Picks
Buddy Hield, G, Sacramento Kings
19.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists; 42.9 FG%, 39.5 FG3%, 85.5 FT%
Dating back to the training camp of this season, Buddy Hield’s relationship with coach Luke Walton, GM Vlade Divac, and owner Vivek Ranadive has been anything but amicable.
Even after signing a four-year, $86 million extension with up to $20 million in incentives, Hield was tense with the Kings — never clicking with Walton’s coaching and openly combatting with Divac while negotiating his contract extension.
So when Walton benched Hield in favor of Bogdan Bogdanović in January, the last straw might have been pulled in Hield’s tenure in Sacramento. Despite posting comparable stats on incredible efficiency (46.5/47.6/97.0 splits as a reserve) and the Kings playing better as a team since the lineup change, there has been no shortage of rumors of Hield’s displeasure.
Now, the Kings are in the position to renegotiate a contract with Bogdanović this offseason, and with the Kings’ struggles to win when Hield, Bogdanović, and De’Aaron Fox share the court, Hield may be the odd one out in Sacramento.
An intriguing destination for Hield is Atlanta, who need to surround Trae Young with offensive weapons and shooters. The off-ball scoring of Hield would fit right in with the Hawks’ system, and when Young is off the court, Hield could help carry the load offensively. There isn’t too much to lose here for Atlanta; if they feel they can compete for a playoff spot, then losing Kevin Huerter and DeAndre Hunter is not a major loss in exchange for Hield — particularly because the Hawks will have a strong draft selection for at least this season.
In Philadelphia, Hield could fix all of the Sixers’ woes on offense if he were traded there. Playing off of Ben Simmons would be very similar to playing off of De’Aaron Fox, and Joel Embiid’s screening ability and gravity would open up the floor more than ever for Hield and Tobias Harris. Philly would have to give up a lot of assets — but that is the price they pay for mismanaging their roster construction.
Denver is a suitor only if they become desperate after the 2020 Playoffs. While there is no doubt that Hield would thrive in the system of cutting and ball movement around Nikola Jokic, the loss of Will Barton and/or Gary Harris would hurt Denver’s perimeter defense. If Michael Malone started a lineup of Jamal Murray, Hield, Michael Porter Jr., Jerami Grant, and Jokic, he’d only have one above average, athletic defender in Grant — which is a recipe for disaster in the Western Conference.
Overall, Hield is an intriguing trade piece as one of the league’s premier shooters. His work ethic is almost folklore in Sacramento, and he has been a key part of successful stretches in Sacramento. The only concerns surrounding him are his average defense and his sour mood throughout the preseason this year — which created a media firestorm for the Kings.
- Atlanta Hawks for a combination of Kevin Huerter, DeAndre Hunter, or Cam Reddish + Extra salary
- Philadelphia 76ers for Al Horford + Josh Richardson+ Thybulle / Milton / Korkmaz
- Denver Nuggets for Gary Harris + Monte Morris/Will Barton + Minor Draft Picks
Myles Turner, F/C, Indiana Pacers
11.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists; 45.1 FG%, 33.6 FG3%, 75.0 FT%
Myles Turner struggled mightily this year as Domantis Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, and T.J. Warren took the reigns of the Pacers strong 2020 season. It’s still early, and Turner is only 23, but he has very quietly been one of the most disappointing young players in the league.
He lacks go-to moves on offense, remains more streaky than consistent when shooting threes, and he isn’t worth the $18 million salary that Indiana resigned him for.
There are positives in his game, namely, the fact that he shoots well at the basket and from mid-range, while also being an elite rim protector — but the downsides of his game are troubling, particularly as it relates to the Indiana Pacers.
Indiana needs to move him because it is clear from almost a season’s worth of evidence that Turner does not fit well with Sabonis, and the Pacers would be well suited to try and acquire a more skilled forward that could unlock their offense.
The first suitor that has a clear need at center is the Golden State Warriors, who will likely start a combination of Marquese Chriss and Kevon Looney in 2021. Adding Turner boosts their rim-protection and adds another floor-spacer, allowing Steve Kerr to potentially run a deadly “five-out” set (meaning five three-point shooters on the floor). Meanwhile, Draymond Green would be a better fit on defense and offense for the Pacers — particularly if his three-point shot ever comes back. If not, then Wiggins would be a decent consolation prize, as Indiana would be yet another team trying to unlock his potential on both sides of the court.
Boston is the least likely of the three suitors to pursue a trade, but if they need a better defensive center badly during the playoffs, then Turner would be a strong solution. Here, Celtics’ GM Danny Ainge would have to choose between giving up Gordon Hayward or Marcus Smart and a young, cheap contract. Both were good this season, albeit a bit inconsistent, so the choice isn’t easy. If Indiana managed to acquire Hayward, however, they would become a strong contender in the East.
Houston is perhaps the best fit for Turner, as his rim-protection and three-point shooting would fulfill Houston’s biggest need and boost their greatest strength. Unless James Harden miraculously carries the Rockets int he 2020 Playoffs, the ultra-small-ball lineup they currently use will likely be scrapped. Acquiring two wings in Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker would be a decent replacement for Turner, as both space the floor and defend well individually. Meanwhile, Ben McLemore gives Indiana another shooter off of the bench.
Turner is a worthwhile gamble for teams that can unlock his potential as an athletic, two-way, floor-spacing center. But giving up too much for a center who’s never come close to an All-Star appearance and has struggled with inconsistency could prove to be a death-knell for interested suitors.
- Golden State Warriors for Andrew Wiggins (in which case an extra $10 million would need to be included from Indiana) or Draymond Green
- Boston Celtics for either Gordon Hayward (sign and trade) or Marcus Smart + Romeo Langford
- Houston Rockets for Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, and Ben McLemore
All stats via Basketball Reference, per usual