Which players are the hottest targets at the NBA trade deadline?

Keith Smith
·8-min read

With the NBA trade deadline about a week away, buzz is starting to pick up on who might be traded.

We’ve compiled a list of the most-talked about players on the trade market. This group also includes some players who may be more likely to find themselves elsewhere via a buyout than a trade due to contractual reasons.

As it often happens, because teams end up sellers, there are some groupings of players here. The rough order is players, or some of a group of players, you can feel relatively confident will have a new team in a week or so.

Oklahoma City Thunder veteran trio

George Hill, Al Horford and Darius Miller

Hill is high on this list because he fills a need as a combo guard off the bench for any number of contenders. His contract is also very tradable at $9.6 million this season and only $1.3 million guaranteed for 2021-22. Horford will be harder to move because he’s owed substantial money, but there are several teams interesting in the rejuvenated big man. Miller is mostly here because Sam Presti could use his $7 million expiring contract to take on bad money from another team in exchange for yet another draft pick.

San Antonio Spurs veteran quartet

LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills

We already know Aldridge won’t finish the season in San Antonio. If the Spurs can find a team that can match salary for his $24 million, he’ll be traded. If not, Aldridge will be bought out. DeRozan is in an interesting spot. He’s found new life as a playmaking “power” forward in the Spurs' small-ball lineups. He may not end up going anywhere. Gay is high on the list of several contenders looking for a scoring forward off the bench. Same for Mills, but as a scoring guard. The challenge with moving DeRozan or either bench vet is that the Spurs are still competing for a playoff spot this season. They may not want to do a full fire sale.

Victor Oladipo with the ball in one hand during a game.
Victor Oladipo was never long for Houston, and the Rockets will get what they can for him at the trade deadline. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Houston Rockets expiring duo

Victor Oladipo and P.J. Tucker

Oladipo turned down an extension that was roughly worth his market value. That’s a sign he has no intention of staying in Houston past this season. The Rockets will get what they can for him in trade. Tucker, like Aldridge, has been benched while Houston searches for a trade. Given his role as a 3-and-D big, and his tradable contract, expect Tucker to be moved fairly easily. Eric Gordon and Danuel House would join their two teammates if not for current injury concerns.

Sacramento Kings trio of bigs

Harrison Barnes, Nemanja Bjelica and Hassan Whiteside

Barnes is at or near the top of the list for several contenders. If the Kings want to move him, they should be able to get a nice combination of young talent and draft picks in return. It’s all about Sacramento finding what it feels is a fair return for Barnes. Bjelica isn’t going to return the package Barnes will, but he can fill the role of a stretch big for a contender. That’s worth a second-round pick and maybe a flyer on a younger player. Whiteside is eminently tradable because he’s on a minimum deal. He’s been linked to the Los Angeles Lakers for a month or so. Expect him to land there, or with another contender, via trade or buyout.

New Orleans Pelicans guard trio

Lonzo Ball, Eric Bledsoe and JJ Redick

The Pelicans have been shopping these three for a while now. Ball has started to play better over the last month or so, making it less likely New Orleans moves him. His pending restricted free agency remains a complicating factor, both for the Pels and any team that could trade for him. New Orleans will move Bledsoe if it can find a taker, which seems less likely by the day. Dealing Bledsoe feels like more of an offseason move. Redick is highly unlikely to finish the season with the Pelicans. He’ll either get traded to a contender looking for a bench shooter, or he’ll be bought out to finish the season (and maybe his career) with the team of his choosing.

Orlando Magic mystery box

Khem Birch, James Ennis, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Terrence Ross, Nikola Vucevic

The players are listed in alphabetical order, but that may also be the order of likelihood each is traded. No one is getting overly excited about Birch or Ennis, but they have small contracts and can help as bench players for any good team. Fournier will have a bigger role, has a fairly tradable contract and it’s unknown if he’s going to stay in Orlando past this season. If the Magic can get something decent for him, it would be best to move now vs. risking losing Fournier for nothing in the summer.

Gordon, Ross and Vucevic are highly sought after. So far, Orlando has shut down every caller for any of the three vets. It’s not that they are untouchable per se, but the Magic have put a high price on all three. It’s going to take a big offer to get Gordon or Ross and a monster package to land Vucevic.

Cleveland Cavaliers buyout bigs

Andre Drummond and JaVale McGee

Drummond is sitting and patiently waiting for a new home. It’s probably not coming via trade. The Cavs are trying, but they don’t want to take back bad money. No team is surrendering three to four players in salary-matching to bring in Drummond. That one seems headed to a definite buyout. McGee says he’s not interested in a buyout, but things often change post-deadline. He’s been on title contenders for a while now. If McGee is facing playing out the string on a bad team, he may change his mind to chase another ring.

Andre Drummond with the ball in one hand during a game.
Andre Drummond has been sitting out while he awaits a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Portland Trail Blazers oft-injured duo

Zach Collins and Rodney Hood

Collins hasn’t played at all this season after playing in only 11 games in 2019-20. Hood has made a return from a torn Achilles, but his contract was always set up as a tradable one. Combined, Collins and Hood are over $15 million in matching salary in a trade. The Blazers are just behind the true contenders in the Western Conference. If there is a trade to push them up to the level of Finals contender, Collins and Hood are the ones who will go.

Memphis Grizzlies expiring big

Gorgui Dieng

This one is simple: Dieng is out of the rotation and has a $17 million expiring contract. If Memphis can move him and bolster a run to the Play-In Tournament and maybe the playoffs after, it will. If the Grizzlies can acquire someone under contract for a couple of years, that makes it especially likely Dieng is traded.

Atlanta Hawks max big man

John Collins

The Hawks are in a tricky spot with John Collins. He’s very good, but they balked at giving him a max extension in the offseason. This summer, because there aren’t many good free agents but several teams have cap space, Collins is likely to get a max offer. If the Hawks aren’t 100% committed to matching a max offer sheet for Collins, they should trade him for long-term fits alongside Trae Young. If matching a max deal for Collins, or giving him one outright, isn’t an issue, then Collins stays right where he is.

Detroit Pistons ever-available shooter

Wayne Ellington

Ellington’s destiny is to be on a one-year contract that is tradable at every deadline for the next half-decade or so. He’s the most plug-and-play guy on this list. Trade for Ellington and let him shoot in 20 minutes off your bench. That has value for good teams, so Detroit should find a taker for a second-round pick or two.

Two vets who aren’t moving

Bradley Beal and Kyle Lowry

Beal doesn’t want a trade. The Washington Wizards don’t want to trade Beal. This comes up because he’s an All-NBA player on a bad team, but it’s not quite that simple. Maybe in the summer or at next year’s deadline, if Washington is still bad, this will be a thing. Lowry is mentioned because he’s a very good veteran on an expiring contract on a middling team. The challenge is finding matching salary for his $30.5 million contract. Philadelphia would love to have Lowry, but to get him would cost the 76ers at least three to four players and a significant amount of their depth. It’s unlikely anything happens with the veteran point guard at the deadline.

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