Rumors are heating up with the NBA trade deadline less than a week away.
The clock is officially ticking down until the NBA trade deadline passes. In less than a week, there will be a handful of teams around the league making moves to not only put themselves in a better position to contend in the postseason but continue building for future success as well. Although this year’s trade deadline may wind up being less chaotic than those in years past, there has still been a lot of discussion surrounding key secondary talents. One team that had been involved in many trade talks over the last week was the Houston Rockets, who pulled off a trade for Steven Adams from the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for draft assets and veteran guard Victor Oladipo on Thursday night.
It had become clear in recent weeks that the Rockets were looking for a way to utilize Oladipo’s expiring contract and add frontcourt depth alongside Alperen Sengun. While Adams remains out for the year after undergoing right knee surgery in October, his veteran presence and leadership will prove to be essential in the growth of young center Alperen Sengun, who the Rockets believe was only left off of this year’s All-Star roster because the team is currently outside of the play-in tournament picture. Sengun has had a career year and should be in the running for Most Improved Player, averaging 21.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Adams gives this team stability in the frontcourt moving forward.
An eagerness to win has presented itself from ownership in Houston. The Rockets are still gauging the trade market ahead of the deadline for another experienced scorer, one who could be the difference in this team having a real shot at making the playoffs. Although they would prefer to keep their young core together, the idea of moving on from one of their recent first-round picks, Sengun not included, has been discussed internally in recent days, league sources told ClutchPoints. Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr., Amen Thompson, Tari Eason, and Cam Whitmore are all part of this young core that management has been hesitant to discuss.
As the Rockets continue to search for ways to improve their outlook and get back into the fold via the play-in tournament, many other teams around the league continue to do the same. The Dallas Mavericks, a team with two stars in Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, are very much looking to operate as buyers ahead of the trade deadline. Outside of Doncic, Irving, and rookie Dereck Lively II, all options are on the table for the Mavs as they look to rise out of the play-in tournament picture and claim an actual playoff spot in the Western Conference. Dallas has been in contact with the Brooklyn Nets in attempts to bring two-way forward Dorian Finney-Smith back, sources said. A coveted wing on the trade block, the Mavs are willing to give up multiple draft assets for the veteran.
The Utah Jazz are another team in the West that finds themselves keeping their playoff hopes alive at the moment. A recent surge in the month of January resulted in the Jazz becoming relevant again in the play-in conversation, leading to questions about whether they would operate as sellers or buyers at the trade deadline. The fact of the matter is that the Jazz are interested in both adding and dealing talent ahead of next week’s deadline. All-Star forward Lauri Markkanen is off limits, and the team will not be dealing him, even for numerous unprotected first-round picks. However, the same cannot be said about veterans Jordan Clarkson and Kelly Olynyk.
There are a few playoff-contending teams that have discussed the possibility of a trade centered around Olynyk with Utah, sources said. It appears unlikely that the Jazz would receive a first-round pick for the veteran big man. For Clarkson, there are teams willing to offer a first-round pick and some second-round value for his services. The Jazz currently have a logjam of talent in their backcourt with Clarkson, Collin Sexton, Kris Dunn, and rookie Keyonte George. Always known for his scoring abilities, Clarkson would be an immediate upgrade to any team’s bench unit.
More competitiveness and balance have been created across the league in recent years as a result of the play-in tournament. The impact these extra “postseason” spots have created directly plays a role in how the trade deadline inevitably plays out. For the Rockets and Grizzlies, this trade involving Adams sets the stage for many possibilities.
Grizzlies open up flexibility after trade deadline
For the Grizzlies, moving on from Adams was inevitable given the concerns surrounding possible regression from his knee injury. Despite being one of the veteran voices on this team through the years, the time to move Adams presented itself this season for the Grizzlies, in large part because of their vast injury report. Currently 18-30 and seeing many of their top players in Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, and Marcus Smart watch from the sidelines, Memphis understands that their hopes of once again competing in the Western Conference have diminished this season. Now, the time to build and prepare for the 2024-25 season has begun.
Along with Jaren Jackson Jr. stepping into more of a role at the center position, the Grizzlies have also remained high on Brandon Clarke’s abilities and potential. Clarke is currently working his way back from an Achilles injury suffered near the end of the 2022-23 season. Xavier Tillman Sr., who is set to become a restricted free agent in the offseason, has also played well since seeing his minutes increase this year.
The 25-year-old big man now figures to be a player the Grizzlies will keep around unless they can receive significant value for him at the trade deadline. General manager Zach Kleiman is always gauging the market to get a sense of his player’s worth, and there are several teams who would be interested in a strong big man on a smaller contract like Tillman. As of now, Memphis has not discussed Tillman in any trades, sources said.
Adams had become expendable to this team, and moving on from his contract provides the Grizzlies with a sense of flexibility heading into what will be a very important offseason. Oladipo is making $9.4 million this season before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the summer. By moving on from Adams, the Grizzlies go from being roughly $20 million over the tax line to possibly having a chance to dive below the first tax line at the conclusion of the 2023-24 season. This trade also created a traded-player exception worth just under $13 million for themselves that could be utilized at any time.
Kleiman and the Grizzlies front office have movable contracts, they now have even more draft assets, and there is a very strong possibility of them having a valuable lottery pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. The Grizzlies are going to be in a position where they can quickly retool this roster, putting themselves in a position to once again be a threat come playoff time. It is certainly a possibility that the Grizzlies could discuss Luke Kennard’s future in order to potentially shed more salary while adding draft value.
The Grizzlies find themselves in a favorable position. Morant, Jackson, and Bane are all under contract long-term, Marcus Smart will not be going anywhere, and Memphis still has many youthful talents who are receiving key developmental minutes this season. While they entered the season with high playoff aspirations, taking a slight step backward has presented this organization with the ability to truly evaluate what they have. All of these injuries may just wind up being a blessing in disguise several years from now.
Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray continues to be listed as the best player available at the trade deadline this season. Murray, who is always known for his quickness with the ball in his hands, has proven to be an effective guard who can play alongside another star. In 46 games this season, the former All-Star has shot 38.3 percent from three-point range, his highest shooting percentage since his rookie year with the San Antonio Spurs.
Under contract through the 2027-28 season and with a four-year extension about to begin, the 27-year-old guard can present a lot of value to any team searching for two-way play in their backcourt. Many teams have been linked to Murray, sources said, yet four teams really stand out as the most interested in his services: the Lakers, Nets, Bucks, and Pistons.
The most noise surrounding Murray has been made by the Lakers, who have been actively searching for ways to improve their playoff potential, not knowing how many years LeBron James has left in the tank. Murray has remained Los Angeles’ focal point leading up to the trade deadline. But a sense of hesitation has been created due to D’Angelo Russell’s recent stretch of games. Russell, who the Lakers originally wanted to make the key player in a package for the Hawks guard, has been one of his team’s most important players in recent weeks. Over his last nine games, Russell has averaged 23.9 points and 6.8 assists per game while shooting 49.4 percent from three-point range. However, the Lakers have gone 5-4 in this stretch.
Murray is the premier guard on the trade market this season. The Hawks have held a firm asking price of two first-round picks and a key talent who can fit alongside Trae Young for him, sources said. So far, this asking price has not been met in any discussions. The Lakers, who are not willing to trade or discuss Austin Reaves whatsoever, were in talks with the Hawks a couple of weeks ago regarding Russell, rookie Jalen Hood-Schifino, and draft compensation. Atlanta showed no interest in Russell and made it clear another team would need to be involved in said discussions. No real momentum happened from there for either organization.
There remains a strong chance that Murray will remain with the Hawks past the trade deadline and the franchise re-evaluates their position in the offseason. Head coach Quin Snyder and his staff are fond of Murray’s abilities, leading to the notion that there is no rush to make a trade. With this said, the Hawks are still operating as sellers at the deadline, looking to cut costs and acquire future value in the process. Veteran center Clint Capela remains on the trade block as a result.
Remaining in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors are another team gaining a lot of attention around the league. Masai Ujiri and the Raptors front office pulled up this season’s biggest move when they dealt two-time All-Star Pascal Siakam to the Indiana Pacers for a package revolving around Bruce Brown. Prior to this deal, Toronto also traded away OG Anunoby to the New York Knicks in exchange for RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley, two players that immediately formed this team’s new identity alongside Scottie Barnes.
Brown is the center point of trade talks for the Raptors right now, as there are several teams that have expressed a willingness to trade a first-round pick in a package for him, sources said. A key part of the Denver Nuggets’ championship run last season, Brown is a player who can wear many different hats on the wing for a playoff-contending team. His contract and $23 million team option also provide flexibility for possible future moves to be made.
The Raptors and Ujiri are actively fielding offers for Brown in a scenario that could very well come down to the last minute before the deadline. Toronto does like Brown’s skillset, sources said, and the 27-year-old has fans within the organization. It remains a possibility for Brown to remain with the Raptors through the end of the 2023-24 season.
The question marks surrounding the Raptors appear to be linked to Gary Trent Jr. While it is assumed the team would be willing to discuss him in terms of trade opportunities ahead of next week’s deadline, Toronto has been very cryptic regarding what exactly they would want for him, league sources said. Trent, who is in the final year of his contract, is viewed as a 3-and-D player who could instantly upgrade a team’s bench production ahead of the playoffs. Since joining the Raptors during the 2020-21 season, Trent has shot 38.3 percent from three-point range.
Whatever the case may be regarding moves the Raptors do and do not make ahead of the trade deadline next Thursday, Ujiri and this front office will be aggressive over the summer in terms of making this roster one that can compete for a playoff spot next season.
A lot of noise has been made with regards to what the Washington Wizards are planning on doing at the trade deadline. Kyle Kuzma and Tyus Jones remain the team’s two best trade assets. At the start of January, league sources told ClutchPoints that the Wizards were open to discussing scenarios involving Kuzma. His price tag was set at multiple first-round picks, and the team is still operating as if he is a long-term option for them.
For Jones, his value in terms of what the Wizards would want is slightly less. Various outlets have reported that Washington is looking for at least one first-round pick in discussions for the veteran point guard. It is worth noting that Jones has thrived in his starter role with the Wizards and has received a chance to prove that he can be a starting point guard in this league moving forward. Set to become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, Jones is a player the Wizards have shown interest in re-signing, according to HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto.
There is more interest in Jones than Kuzma, for obvious reasons, yet the Mavericks and Sacramento Kings continue to be the two teams linked to the 28-year-old forward. NBA insider Marc Stein recently reported that the Mavs have an interest in Kuzma, as well as having made runs at Deni Avdija and Daniel Gafford in the past. Gafford has been linked to a variety of playoff-contending teams in recent weeks. Still, the Wizards do not feel pressure to trade the big man at this point, especially given the one-two punch he and Marvin Bagley III have created since Bagley’s arrival.
The Kings are an interesting team to discuss ahead of the trade deadline. After ending their 16-season playoff drought last season, the Kings are looking to prove that their recent success was not a fluke. As a result, general manager Monte McNair has once again taken a look at Kuzma, a player he has shown interest in before. Sacramento would much rather discuss trade opportunities centered around Kevin Huerter and Davion Mitchell than Harrison Barnes at this point, sources said. The Kings are said to be searching for a defensive-minded wing.
A dream scenario for this team, although it doesn’t include said defensive-minded wing, would be pulling off a trade for Kuzma and Jones at the deadline. Both players would provide Sacramento with the secondary stability that they have been lacking around De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis. The $37.7 million combined salaries of Barnes, Huerter, and Mitchell would almost equal the $39.5 million of Kuzma and Jones combined. The Kings would not be able to trade an outright first-round pick until 2026.
Apart from Kuzma, Jones, and Gafford drawing the most attention for the Wizards, Delon Wright could wind up being a gem for a contending team at the trade deadline. The veteran guard’s value is very low right now. It is expected that he would be moved for a similar contract and a second-round pick in the final year of his contract. Wright has always been regarded as a strong on-ball defender who is oftentimes very poised as a facilitator on offense.
One team that would make a lot of sense as a suitor for Wright is the Milwaukee Bucks, a scenario recently outlined by The Athletic. This trade would make perfect sense for the Bucks, especially since they lack talent behind Damian Lillard in their backcourt. Milwaukee has actively been shopping and leveraging Pat Connaughton and Cam Payne ahead of the trade deadline. It is said that the Bucks would prefer to keep Bobby Portis unless a path to one of the top players on the market presents itself due to insufficient frontcourt depth.
If the Bucks were to approach the Wizards with an offer involving Pat Connaughton for Wright, the logistics of this trade would be very simple. Connaughton and his $9.4 million salary would be absorbed by Washington’s $9.8 million exception in a deal that seems like the perfect match. The Bucks get a proven backup point guard, while the Wizards add a player who could easily be flipped for future assets at a later time.
Aside from the Bucks, other teams that could view Wright as an asset on an expiring deal include the Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Phoenix Suns. All four of these teams have been rumored to be interested in seeking backcourt help and depth this season.
Other notes and rumors around the NBA
As a whole, the belief around the NBA is that there is a lot of smoke surrounding this trade deadline. While notable players will likely be moved, the chances of All-Star value being traded look more likely to happen in the offseason when teams review their financials and their positions versus the second tax apron. There is always a level of uncertainty pertaining to the future of the league, but there is a very real possibility that several teams look to move off of and possibly swap max-level contracts in the summer. This is just a note to keep in the back of your mind heading into the trade deadline and the end of the 2023-24 season.
Boston Celtics – Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics continue to gauge the trade market for secondary value, primarily in their frontcourt. Outside of having interest in big men such as Isaiah Stewart, Nick Richards, and Chris Boucher, Rockets forward Jae’Sean Tate remains an intriguing option on a movable contract for Boston to consider.
Golden State Warriors – The talk surrounding the Golden State Warriors is that the players and coaches don’t feel the need to make a significant roster change. Instead, they simply want and need everyone to be healthy again. With Klay Thompson on an expiring contract and Jontahn Kuminga’s value on a possible extension increasing, the Warriors have not shown a whole lot of interest in acquiring a player with long-term money attached, sources said.
While they were interested in Pascal Siakam and the notion of possibly extending him in the offseason, no other player on the market has drawn the same level of appeal from the Warriors. Still, there are a few teams that have talked with the Warriors about a trade surrounding Andrew Wiggins. Golden State feels like teams have been lowballing Wiggins’ overall value due to his drop in production this season, which has led to a level of reluctance to actually deal the former All-Star.
Philadelphia 76ers – Daryl Morey and the Philadelphia 76ers do not want to give up a first-round pick ahead of the trade deadline, but would be willing to do so for a player like DeMar DeRozan if the Chicago Bulls were willing to deal the star, sources said. DeRozan, who is in the final year of his contract, is not expected to be on the move. Philadelphia is certainly operating as a team that is trying to maximize its championship outlook while also maintaining a level of stability and flexibility entering the offseason.
The Sixers are willing to pursue any player they believe will help them capitalize on Joel Embiid’s best years. Morey is not one to sit around and let other executives dictate the moves his franchise can make.
Portland Trail Blazers – Malcolm Brogdon has heard his name come up a lot in trade rumors over the last few weeks. However, the Portland Trail Blazers have not shown an eagerness to trade the veteran guard, sources said. Any team that wants Brogdon is going to have to pay a pretty penny. As for Jerami Grant, many teams have expressed interest in the veteran forward, yet the Blazers want to keep him around. Grant himself is very comfortable remaining in Portland as one of the focal points of their rebuild. Portland has received calls from teams willing to offer multiple first-round picks for Grant.
San Antonio Spurs – The San Antonio Spurs continue to make calls regarding Doug McDermott, Cedi Osman, and Devonte’ Graham, sources said. McDermott has always been a steady three-point shooter that could wind up being a sneaky buy for any contending team at the deadline. Keep tabs on the Timberwolves, Rockets, 76ers, and Magic as teams who could benefit from adding a shooter off the ball. Should they not want to pull off another big move ahead of the deadline, the Knicks have the capability of pursuing McDermott as a sneaky offensive option for their bench. However, it is much more likely that they would save their assets, such as Evan Fournier’s contract, for a potentially bigger deal at the trade deadline or in the offseason.