Ten Players to Watch at the NBA Trade Deadline

Ten Players to Watch at the NBA Trade Deadline

The NBA trade deadline is just over two weeks away. That means we’re full-on into posturing season. Phrases like “We can wait until the summer if we have to” and “It will take a lot to get him” are popular at this time of year.

But two weeks from the deadline is when things start getting serious. Most teams know who the real suitors are and who is just expressing interest. By this point, teams also have a fairly good handle on what realistic value is for the players they are open to trading. Most importantly, teams have a sense of what offers are on the table for their players. Things start to move relatively rapidly when the deadline gets close.

With all that in mind, here are 10 players to keep an eye on as the trade deadline approaches.


Ben Simmons

2021-22 Contract: $33,003,936
Remaining Contract: 3 years, $113,680,224
Interested Teams: Kings, Pacers, Hornets, Trail Blazers, Timberwolves, Cavaliers
Why should the 76ers trade him? It would be disingenuous to start with any other player. Ben Simmons has been on the block since the summer. He doesn’t want to be in Philadelphia anymore and the Sixers don’t seem to be overly upset with that idea. The issue has been finding a team to meet Daryl Morey’s exorbitant asking price. There’s also the fact that Morey doesn’t seem to feel pressure to move Simmons unless that price is met. And, finally, factor in Morey really seems to think he can reunite with James Harden this summer. That all seems to be holding up a Simmons deal, which is also helping to hold up the trade market as a whole.


Harrison Barnes

2021-22 Contract: $20,284,091
Remaining Contract: 1 year, $18,352,273
Interested Teams: Bulls, 76ers, Celtics, Jazz
Why should the Kings trade him? The Kings look like they are open to talking about trading anyone on their roster that isn’t De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. Heck, those two might even be up for grabs, depending on who you believe. That means Harrison Barnes is certainly on the table. Barnes has had another solid season. As one GM put it “He can be your third best player if you need him to be. If you need him to be your sixth best player, he can be that too. No ego. Just wants to play and win.” That’s a guy teams should be lining up to acquire, especially when you consider he’s fairly paid for this year and next.


Jerami Grant

2021-22 Contract: $20,002,500
Remaining Contract: 1 year, $20,955,000
Interested Teams: Bulls, Lakers, Celtics, Jazz, Wizards
Why should the Pistons trade him? Jerami Grant was a major signing for Detroit in the 2020 offseason. He prioritized playing for the Pistons and was seen as a key part of their rebuild. A season-and-a-half later, Grant is on the trade block. Reports are that both Grant and Pistons have an understanding. If they can fetch a nice return, they will send Grant to a contender. Detroit won’t be ready to contend by the time Grant is a free agent again in 2023, so it makes sense for them to explore a trade. The challenge is that Grant wants a four-year extension approaching $30 million per season. That’s a big chunk of change for a player who most teams see as a high-end starter, but not a true star.


Robert Covington

2021-22 Contract: $12,975,471
Remaining Contract: Unrestricted Free Agent in 2022
Interested Teams: Jazz, Bulls, Lakers
Why should the Trail Blazers trade him? Portland is caught in the “Bird Rights Trap” with Robert Covington and the next players on this list, Jusuf Nurkic. The Blazers don’t have the ability to replace either player if they leave as free agents, because Portland is capped out. But signing either one to a long-term, expensive contract could turn sour very quickly. Covington’s shooting has dropped just enough, that it’s probably time for the Trail Blazers to sell as high as they can get a player under contract for at least a couple of seasons to replace him.


Jusuf Nurkic

2021-22 Contract: $12,000,000
Remaining Contract: Unrestricted Free Agent in 2022
Interested Teams: Nets, Hornets, Warriors, Bucks
Why should the Trail Blazers trade him? Like Robert Covington, Portland has to be careful how they handle Jusuf Nurkic’s situation moving forward. Unlike Covington, the Blazers don’t have a built-in replacement already on their roster for Nurkic. But that shouldn’t keep them from exploring moving the big man. The center market can be tricky, because so many teams no longer prioritize the position. The good news for Portland? The handful of teams that need a center, really need a center. And there aren’t very many on the market. That could net the Trail Blazers a nice return for a player that isn’t likely a part of their long-term future.


Dennis Schroder 

2021-22 Contract: $5,890,000
Remaining Contract: Unrestricted Free Agent in 2022
Interested Teams: Cavaliers, Bulls, Mavericks
Why should the Celtics trade him? Dennis Schroder’s availability is a little complicated. If Boston can finally turn things around and bank some wins over the next two weeks, they may not trade him at all. He’s a key rotation player at a position of need for the Celtics. On the flip side, if Boston keeps floundering around .500, a backup scoring point guard is a luxury. And Schroder is likely leaving town at the end of the season anyway. Contenders are always looking for bench scoring and backup guard help. That should net the Celtics at least a small asset in return, while freeing up minutes for a younger player the rest of the season.


Caris LeVert 

2021-22 Contract: $17,500,000
Remaining Contract: 1 year, $18,796,296
Interested Teams: Cavaliers, Lakers, Jazz
Why should the Pacers trade him? This entry could, and would, have featured Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner had they both not suffered injuries recently. While Indiana would still trade them, their health makes their markets uncertain. That leaves Caris LeVert as the Pacers player that is most likely to move. Indiana has done all but hang an “Everything must go!” sign in the window at this point. They aren’t blowing it up, but the Pacers are certainly resetting things. That leaves LeVert as a luxury and someone Indiana should be able to get a decent return for, given a handful of teams need scoring/offense-creation help around the league.


Christian Wood

2021-22 Contract: $13,666,667 Remaining Contract: 1 year, $14,317,459
Interested Teams: Nets, Hornets, Warriors
Why should the Rockets trade him? The answer here is: The Rockets should not trade Christian Wood. He’s young enough, versatile enough and signed to a good enough contract that Houston should be keeping Wood. He fits in nicely with their young building blocks. But if the Rockets are looking a couple years out, when they’re likely be moving towards playoff contention, they may not see Wood as a part of that mix on a new, more expensive contract. If so, now is the time to move him. Because Wood is signed through next season, that’s attractive for a contender. They get the rest of this year, plus a bonus year. If Houston moves Wood, they could snag the biggest non-Simmons-related return of all players moved at the deadline.


Eric Gordon 

2021-22 Contract: $18,218,818
Remaining Contract: 2 years, $40,486,262 (only $19,568,360 in 2022-23 is guaranteed)
Interested Teams: Nets, Lakers, Bulls, Jazz
Why should the Rockets trade him? Unlike with Christian Wood, Houston should be looking to move Eric Gordon. He overlaps positionally with some of the Rockets best young players and by the time Houston is ready to push for the playoffs, Gordon will likely have aged out. Because of the additional years, the Rockets can’t expect a massive return. But getting off that money would help free up some flexibility for the 2022 offseason


Terrence Ross

2021-22 Contract: $12,500,000
Remaining Contract: 1 year, $11,500,000
Interested Teams: Lakers, Bulls, Jazz, Celtics, Cavaliers, Wizards
Why should the Magic trade him? Terrence Ross was the last man standing when Orlando tore down their roster last trade deadline. This season, he’ll probably be the next one moved. The Magic have a ton of young players who can play the two and three, so they don’t have a need for Ross. Contenders are always looking for bench scoring and shooting, so Orlando should get a decent return. It might not be the first-round pick they want, but two good second-rounds seems likely. Bonus: Look for the Magic to also move Gary Harris. If they’re willing to take back a little questionable salary into 2022-23 and beyond, Orlando might even get a first-round pick in a Harris trade.


Notable Links:

NBA Trade Tracker

NBA Transaction Wire