Every year, December 15 creates quite a stir as it is considered the unofficial start of the NBA trading season: As of today, 74 players who signed new contracts this summer are eligible to be traded. It’s a day when hope is awakened, and then…
The pressure of a deadline is needed for NBA trades to materialize, expect fireworks closer to the Feb. 9 trade deadline. December deals are rare. What happened on Thursday is that players like Patty Mills, John Wall, Collin Sexton, Donte DiVincenzo, and pretty much every Lakers role player were eligible to be included in a trade. It opens the market to new possibilities.
Which players are most likely to be traded? Here are 10 names to keep an eye on.
1) Eric Gordon
If it feels like Gordon has been available for a trade since the Obama administration, that’s about right. The Rockets have been open to moving him for some time now and the price right now is a first-round pick plus players who earn enough to match his $19.6 million salary — and don’t expect Houston to off that number, if they would. Gordon would have already been traded. With Gordon’s $20.9 million not guaranteed for next season, this is now essentially an expiring contract and a team will jump. Gordon is a wing veteran who averages 12.1 points per game and shoots 34.7% from 3 – he could step into a contender’s rotation and provide stability.
2) John Collins
Another player who has been available for a trade for some time – over a year – but with his role in Atlanta shrinking due to the backcourt of Dejounte Murray and Trae Young, now feels like the right time. Collins is in the second year of a five-year, $125 million contract (there are two fully guaranteed seasons after this season, followed by a player option), a fair price for his services given the rising cap. Last season, the athletic forward averaged 16.2 points on 52.6% shooting and grabbed 7.8 rebounds per night. He has been linked with Utah, Indiana, Dallas and Phoenix, but more teams are likely to get into the mix.
3) Kyle Kuzma
Kuzma is having a breakout season in Washington at just the right time – he averages 21.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, can shoot the 3 (34.9% this season) and is a solid defender.
Kuzma knocked this one out of Ben’s Chili Bowl 😱 pic.twitter.com/m0QAIFFD8d
— NBC Sports Wizards (@NBCSWizards) December 13, 2022
Kuzma has a $13 million player option for next season that he will no doubt waive, making him a free agent looking to sign the Jalen Brunson series (four years, $110 million). Are the Wizards willing to pay market price to keep him alongside Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis? Even if Ted Leonsis is willing to open his wallet, will Kuzma want to stay? If the wizards think they can’t contract him again, they must trade him and get something in return. Sure, there have been rumors of a reunion with LeBron James and the Lakers, but the Suns, Hawks and Kings have all expressed interest as well and may be able to collect offers that Washington likes better. Anyone who trades for Kuzma must be able and willing to sign him again this summer.
4) Jae Crowder
The most talked about player in the trading market, everyone thought Crowder would be trading now. Crowder couldn’t get a contract extension with the Suns this summer — in fact, the Suns gave his starting spot to Cameron Johnson — so he didn’t show up at training camp as both sides were looking for a deal. Nothing. A three-team trade with Crowder on the Bucks was discussed, and while that version of the deal fell through, the Bucks are still interested. There have been rumors about the Miami Heat (they can’t really match the salaries until January 15, when Victor Oladipo and Dewayne Dedmon are eligible to trade). Crowder steps in as an underpowered two-way four who can hit and defend the three – PJ Tucker lite – which also interested the Lakers. If I were to bet on one man being traded, it would be Crowder.
5) Boyan Bogdanovic
Do the Pistons want to trade Bojan Bogdanovic? According to reports from Detroit, the Pistons are saying, “No, we just extended it because we want to keep it.” That also sounds a lot like a negotiation tactic. With Cade Cunningham out this season, the Pistons are already looking to trade Nerlen’s Noel and are heeding offers from Saddiq Bey, Bogdanovic would fit in. Bogdanovic averages 21.1 points per game, shoots 43.2% on 3-pointers and is a solid defender. The Lakers targeted him, but offered a “heavily protected” 2027 first-round pick and the Pistons told them it had to be unprotected. Bogdanovic could help any contender and the Pistons know suitors will come knocking, they can keep their price high. If no one complies, they keep it.
6) Nikola Vucević
The Bulls are 11-16 and are even out of the play-in in the East with a roster of Island of Misfit Toys missing Lonzo Ball’s glue as he recovers from another knee surgery. Other front offices expect the Bulls to be sellers at the trade deadline — even if the Bulls themselves aren’t there yet — and hope Zach LaVine becomes available, though league sources told NBC Sports it’s doubtful he’ll be traded. The Lakers are interested in DeMar DeRozan, but the asking price for the 33-year-old guard will be high. The most likely bull to be traded is Vucevic, the veteran, offensive-minded center who averages 16.3 points and 10.6 rebounds per game who can make the difference from 3 (36.1%). The Lakers have tried to talk Russell Westbrook and pick DeRozan and Vucevic, but to no avail so far. Teams from New York to Dallas are rumored to be interested in Vucevic, we expect those rumors to increase as we get closer to the deadline.
7) Myles Turner
When the Pacers traded Domantas Saboni’s final deadline, the league expected Buddy Hield and Myles Turner to follow him out the door this summer as Indiana focused on a rebuild. However, ownership there has never been in the idea of disassembly and Turner is not only still in Indy but is having a breakout season – 17.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, shooting 43.2% of 3 while hitting 2, Blocks 3 shots per game. He fits fantastically as a five in the modern game.
Turner is a free agent this offseason and the Pacers need to answer some questions: Do they want to keep him and keep him with their promising young backcourt of Tyrese Haliburton and Bennedict Mathurin (Turner is only 26)? Are the Pacers good at paying the market rate for his services? Does Turner stay in Indiana or does he want to get out? Turner just moved from agent to CAA and the buzz is that he’s open to staying in Indy if they’re willing to pay. If Indy thinks they can’t keep him for whatever reason, they have to trade him. The Warriors and Lakers are among the teams with rumored interest.
8) Patrick Beverley/Kendrick Nunn
The Lakers are the most likely team to make a trade at deadline, trying to upgrade a roster that should be a win-now around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but is instead 11-16. Russell Westbrook’s trades are drawing attention, but his $47.1 million contract – and the fact that he plays solidly as the sixth man in Los Angeles – make that unlikely. The more likely trade is a combination (or all) of Patrick Beverley, Kendrick Nunn and a first round pick. That combination would match the salaries of players the Lakers covet, like Bojan Bogdanovic or Kyle Kuzma. Beverley averages 4.6 points per game of 3 and shoots 30.3% overall, not the number the Lakers expected, which is why they’re willing to go further (but also why they have to make a choice to become a trading partner to find). It would be a shock if both players were Lakers after the trade deadline.
9) Jakob Poeltl
Quietly, Jakob Poeltl has become a quality NBA center, one coveted by other teams in the NBA. Poeltl averages 12.9 points and 9.9 rebounds per game in San Antonio, and while he doesn’t have much room on the floor, he’s a solid fit and a good defender. Poeltl will make $9.4 million this season in the last year of his contract – trade for him and a team will have to re-sign him (and his price will go up). The Raptors, Warriors and Celtics are all coming up in trade rumors, but they’ll have to send picks back to the rebuilding Spurs to get a deal done. The most likely outcome may be no trade and Poeltl will re-sign with the Spurs next summer.
10) Mo Bamba
By law, any potential trading list must include the Magic’s Terrence Ross, who is the grandfather of the “he is being shopped” list. And it’s possible that the rebuilding magic will move further from the veteran wing this time, or possibly trade Gary Harris. But the name that sparks interest is Mo Bamba, who got a chance this season and came out as a solid big averaging 8.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.
Bamba is making $10.3 million this season with an unguaranteed $10.3 million on the books for next season. The Raptors, Clippers, Lakers and Kings have all been cited as having interesting Bamba, but whether any team is actually willing to match that salary and send a second round to the Magic to ease the deal remains to be seen. That said, expect the Magic to make some moves around the deadline as they focus on their future around Paolo Banchero.