It’s NBA trade deadline week, which means there will be tons of speculation about teams and players to digest through Thursday at 3 p.m. ET (and probably a bit beyond then).
It’s also prime time for misdirection, conflicting reports and in some cases, outright lies. Sifting through the rumormongering and deciphering where various reports are from can be tough, but that’s exactly what we’re going to try to do here.
Below, you’ll find a handful of the most recent tidbits on trades, as well as predictions for where those tidbits will lead, based on what makes the most sense, what feels like leverage plays and what seems totally outlandish.
Almost a week since Jonathan Kuminga fell on Joel Embiid’s leg in a game, we finally have some definitive news on the injury that caused.
“[Philadelphia] 76ers star Joel Embiid — the reigning MVP — will undergo a procedure this week to repair a left meniscus injury,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski posted. “A recovery timeline is expected after procedure, but expectation is that he will miss an extended period of time.”
Wojnarwoski later wrote that Philadelphia hasn’t ruled out a return for Embiid, but it’s now clear that he’ll be out a while. And that will certainly impact the team’s approach at the trade deadline.
Even without this development, the 76ers could’ve easily justified a cautious approach to the next couple weeks. Embiid and Tyrese Maxey make up one of the league’s best duos, and the current supporting cast complements it well.
But you can’t take potential title windows for granted. A healthy Philadelphia team had one open, and the star-hunting team president, Daryl Morey, may have had the salary and draft assets necessary to turn his star duo into a trio.
Without Embiid, that window may well be closed (at least for the rest of the season). Again, the Sixers aren’t ready to count Embiid out for the year, but it’s also hard to imagine making a move under the assumption he’ll be back by the playoffs.
This campaign should now be about the continued ascension of Maxey and the preservation of assets and cap flexibility for this summer (when Philadelphia is forecast to be one of the teams with cap space).
Amid growing rumors that LeBron James might get traded midseason for the first time in his legendary career, his agent, Rich Paul, told ESPN, “LeBron won’t be traded, and we aren’t asking to be.”
We’ll take Paul at his word on this. The Los Angeles Lakers could probably get a massive, rebuild-ready haul for their superstar, but trading LeBron would be a tough sell to fans, and the Lakers are coming off probably their most impressive back-to-back wins of the season.
Beating the Boston Celtics on the road—without LeBron and Anthony Davis—was genuinely shocking. Following that up with another road win, this time over the red-hot New York Knicks, will hopefully establish a trend. L.A.’s role players are suddenly looking better, and if they can keep that up, maybe another late-season surge like 2022-23’s is on the way.
Hoping for that is probably the more prudent path than spending a first-round pick to marginally improve right now. Of the names seemingly available right now, no one is going to change the Lakers’ world. They already have one of the league’s best duos. And if they wait to reengage the trade market till the summer, they’ll have more draft capital to spend on a star.
Yes, there’s a little risk in LeBron opting out of his contract and leaving in the summer, but the legacy and market of this team was enough to lure him there in the first place. It should be enough to keep him there, too.
“[Kelly] Olynyk, in particular, is highly sought after in the market,” Matt Moore wrote for The Action Network. “He’s a backup center in a market in which everyone wants size help for the playoffs who can also shoot, pass and defend.”
For the second year in a row, the Utah Jazz are better than expected. And for the second year in a row, the better-than-expected Jazz are one of the most interesting potential trade teams.
In 2023, Mike Conley was the veteran who was unloaded. This season, it should (and likely will) be Olynyk.
He’s not a big name. He’s never come close to making an All-Star team. But Olynyk’s unique combination of size (he’s 6’11”), playmaking, rebounding and outside shooting makes the interest in him easy to understand.
He could seamlessly slot in as the second or third big for a bunch of different playoff teams (including the Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks, Oklahoma City Thunder or Miami Heat). His malleability might even lead to a mini bidding war that results in Utah getting a first-rounder for him.
And for a team in Utah’s position, a first for a soon-to-be-33-year-old reserve big would be hard to pass up.
“The [Houston] Rockets have first-round picks galore and so many good young players that—if enough of them hit—there will be no viable way to pay all of them,” Zach Lowe wrote for ESPN. “They want to chase a playoff spot now. This is why Jalen Green’s name has generated some trade buzz, per league sources.”
The math problem referenced by Lowe is indeed on the way, assuming the Rockets stay on their current trajectory and don’t make any consolidation trades.
Green, Alperen Şengün, Jabari Smith Jr., Amen Thompson, Tari Eason and Cam Whitmore are all on rookie, first-round contracts. Given the potential of each, reasonable extensions for all of the above would put Houston, at best, in the neighborhood of the new collective bargaining agreement’s dreaded second apron. At worst, it’d be impossible to field a team around those guys, as Lowe suggests.
With Green’s contract expiring after the 2024-25 season and Şengün (whose contract expires at the same time) playing like an All-Star, it makes sense to at least think about moving Green.
But the Rockets have one more year before they really have to make this choice, and Green has done enough lately to cause some hesitation. Over his past six games, Green is averaging 27.2 points, 3.7 assists and 2.7 threes.
There may still be a bona fide, contributes-to-winning lead scorer to uncover with Green. Houston will give him at least another half season to prove one way or another if that’s what he is.
Dejounte Murray’s name has been one of the most common in this year’s rumor mill, but on The Saturday Stein Line with Marc Stein, Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer wrote, “The only teams I’ve really heard actual offers about have been from the Lakers and from Utah.”
This one’s admittedly a little further out on a limb than some of the previous predictions here. This isn’t just suggesting that Murray will indeed get traded. It’s giving a specific landing spot that isn’t among those listed by Fischer, and some dots have to be connected to get there.
The New York Knicks already made a legitimately game-changing trade in acquiring OG Anunoby, but it cost them an occasionally electrifying scorer and playmaker off the bench in Immanuel Quickley.
In theory, there’s still plenty of depth in the backcourt with Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo and Josh Hart, but those latter two can also play on the wing. Neither is quite the on-ball threat Quickley was.
Murray can replace that, and Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau might be able to help him rediscover the defensive prowess that contributed to him making an All-Star with the San Antonio Spurs.
New York should have enough ammo to pull off a deal too. Evan Fournier’s contract is some of the best salary filler on the market right now (his $19 million for 2024-25 is a team option, so it’s essentially an expiring contract right now). The Knicks have deep trove of draft assets, and Dejounte Murray’s Atlanta Hawks might be interested in Quentin Grimes.
Elsewhere on Stein’s podcast, Fischer mentioned Jerami Grant, Andrew Wiggins, Dorian Finney-Smith and P.J. Washington as potential targets for the Dallas Mavericks.
Dallas needs to do something. Its point differential is barely above zero with Luka Dončić on the floor this season. Kyrie Irving’s lack of availability has been an issue. A playoff spot is far from assured for the currently-in-eighth-place Mavs, and they have a decent number of tradable contracts on the books (though maybe not enough first-round picks to go star-chasing).
Aggregating Tim Hardaway Jr.’s salary ($17.9 million) with Grant Williams ($12.4 million), Richaun Holmes ($12 million), Maxi Kleber ($11 million) or Josh Green (whose outgoing salary for purposes of a trade is around $11 million, thanks to a “poison pill” provision in his upcoming deal) could put Dallas in the market for someone making near $30 million (like Grant or Wiggins).
And while acquiring either (or Washington or DFS, for that matter) would constitute a blockbuster, it would balance the Mavericks’ roster a bit and potentially bring some of the multipositional defense they currently lack.