With much of the playoff race still open, there are going to be some major moves on the horizon. For many of these teams, they would love to spend money before Christmas and get some of these lovely gifts on the market, but we will likely see most deals go down once the calendar shifts into 2022. That means that once you shout “happy New Year,” you might be happy with a new team depth chart as well.
The Celtics and the Knicks are two teams that are underperforming and could take a risk to get back into contention. Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers could pull the plug on their point guard of the future, while the Bulls and Warriors could go all-in on trying to win a championship. Only one team gets crowned victorious by the end of the year, so some teams are going to need to get a little risky by living in the present.
It’s all going to come down to who is healthy at the end of the year, but that depends on the player that needs to stay healthy. These five players should be on the market as we approach the NBA Trade Deadline and we could see these five blockbusters very soon.
Jerami Grant Traded To The Boston Celtics
Trade Package: Marcus Smart, Aaron Nesmith, Romeo Langford, 2022 First-Round Pick
The Pistons are fighting the Magic for the worst record in the NBA as we speak. Naturally, no team wants to be in this position, but the Pistons have accepted that this is going to be a long rebuild after No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham fell into their lap this past summer. With one true NBA caliber star on the team, Jerami Grant should be looked at as a prize as we approach February.
The problem with Grant is that he suffered torn ligaments in his thumb, which required surgery. This surgery could require six weeks in recovery time, or at least that is when he will be reevaluated next. With Grant potentially out for a while, it could cause his draft to drop, but make no mistake that Grant is still a first-round pick. Before he got hurt, Grant was averaging 20.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.1 blocks in 24 games. To Boston, it might be worth the risk because the fit of Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Grant are really good.
Marcus Smart has three more years on his contract at an affordable rate but would need to be packaged to help cover the cost of the $20 million that Grant is making this year and next. However, the Pistons could flip Smart to another team to get even more draft capital or salary clap clearance. At the bare minimum, getting Romeo Langford, a 22-year old with true rotation potential, as well as a first-round pick would be enough for the Pistons to bite.
De’Aaron Fox Traded To The New York Knicks
Traded Package: Obi Toppin, Kemba Walker, Alec Burks, 2022 First-Round Pick, 2023 First-Round Pick
The Knicks need a point guard. Before the last offseason, there was speculation that the team was interested in Russell Westbrook, but that fell flat on their face. Then, Ben Simmons came available and nothing happened. Instead, the team signed Kemba Walker to a low-risk high reward with very little reward these days. The Knicks are going to be looking for teams to take Walker in a trade, so why not try and fully package him and other assets to address the situation they should have addressed during the offseason.
The Kings fired their coach, Luke Walton, earlier in the year because he was unable to find a way to get this core to work together. If there was any time for Kings to look at rebuilding their core, now would be the time. Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes could also be on the move, while the Marvin Bagley experiment can officially end after this year. The player that will get the team the most in a return is Fox.
With four more years and about $35 million annually, Fox is going to own a hefty price tag. Either way, the Knicks could offer Walker and Alec Burks to help hold down the position for the rest of this year and next season before the end of their contract. Obi Toppin, the former No. 4 pick in 2020, is already having just as good of a season as Bagley. As for the draft capital, two first-round picks could help the Kings set the ship in the right direction.
Domantas Sabonis Traded To The Chicago Bulls
Trade Package: Coby White, Derrick Jones Jr., 2022 First-Round Pick (From Portland)
The Bulls have options if they want to throw all of their eggs in the pot to try and win the championship. On the outside looking in, this would be the time to do it if you were Chicago. There is no guarantee that Zach LaVine is coming back as he is playing in a contract year. Both him and DeMar DeRozan are playing at All-NBA level, while Nikola Vucevic is finally starting to find his way into this rotation. With the Nets looking incomplete with Kyrie Irving playing as a part-time player, the Eastern Conference is wide open.
The Indiana Pacers are about ready to start entering a full rebuild, so pieces like Malcolm Brogdon, Caris LeVert, Myles Turner, and Sabonis could all be out the door soon. The player with the best fit in Chicago should be the All-Star in Sabonis, who would give Chicago the best passing frontcourt in the NBA. Imagine having Sabonis, a player who averaged 6.7 assists, and Vucevic, currently averaging 3.5 assists and a 35% three-point shooting percentage on the court together.
Realistically, this would give the Bulls a two-and-a-half-year window to win now. The first-round pick that the Bulls got in the Lauri Markkanen trade would hurt given what they paid for Vucevic, but that’s the price you have to pay sometimes. Jones’s contract is up after this season, while White would be the first piece in the Pacers’ rebuild moving forward. White, who averaged 15.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.8 assists are only 21 years old and could be in the backcourt of the future in Indiana.
Ben Simmons Traded To The Portland Trail Blazers
Trade Package: CJ McCollum, Nassir Little, 2023 First-Round Pick Swap, 2024 First-Round Pick
Eventually, Ben Simmons is going to play this season, right? The trade that has been made all year long has been Simmons going to Portland. The team can use Damian Lillard as a pure shooting guard and have less pressure on him each night. Lillard does just about everything in Portland and the NBA has proven that you can’t be a one-man show. Simmons can do all of those extra things Lillard does, attack the basket, and allow Lillard to have open shot opportunities.
The idea of Lillard and McCollum was a great idea on paper because McCollum is a great pure shooter. He is going to go down as one of the best outside shooters in team history, but his overall resume as a player is lackluster. McCollum has never made an All-Star appearance, while Simmons is a three-time selection, the league’s potential best rebounding point guard, and a former Defensive Player of the Year runner-up.
Portland can work with that, but Philly can work with the offense McCollum brings to the team. A trio of McCollum, Joel Embiid, and Tobias Harris might be enough to get the 76ers back into contention for the Eastern Conference Finals. Right now, it’s clear a duo of Embiid and Harris isn’t enough as the 76ers sit with a 16-15 record through their first 31 games of the season. If Portland were to offer this trade, it should be a no-brainer.
Karl-Anthony Towns Traded To The Golden State Warriors
Trade Package: Jordan Poole, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, James Wiseman, Nemanja Bejelica, Kevon Looney, 2022 First-Round Pick, 2022 Second-Round Pick (TOR)
How much do you value the future if you are in the Golden State? Steph Curry recently signed a five-year supermax contract to stay with the Warriors for five more seasons, but he turns 34 years old in March. Klay Thompson is 31 years old and we truly do not know what his production is going to be when he is fully participating, while Draymond Green is having a primetime season.
With Steph Curry playing like the league MVP, Green looking like the potential Defensive Player of the Year, and Thompson potentially looking like a contributor at best, the Warriors could be even better than their 25-6 record and that is a scary thought. The player that could vault Golden State back to their dynasty level is Karl-Anthony Towns. The Warriors needed Kevin Durant to win titles in 2017 and 2018 and it’s clear that with the current makeshift of the league, that the Warriors need a third superstar given Thompson’s potential limitations.
Even if Thompson wasn’t limited, the Durant years needed four big-time players, so there's a case for that this year too. Towns are having a potential All-Star season with 24.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, a career-high 42.6% shooting clip from three-point range. As for the return, James Wiseman hasn’t played this year due to injury but would give Minnesota their center for the future to play with Anthony Edwards. Jordan Poole is averaging 17.9 points and is 22 years old, so there is another building block. Both Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga have huge upsides. Combined with the draft capital, it could be worth the Warriors taking a chance to bring home a fourth championship during the Curry era.