NBA trade deadline 2024: Low-key day improves odds for summer blockbusters

This course is complete. The 2024 NBA trade deadline has come and gone. When it comes to the menu of options in the NBA’s marketplace, we’ll continue writing about how the previous meal’s leftovers always offer the strongest forecast of league moves that can, and will, come next time teams gather to conduct business.

That’s because the upcoming transaction cycle always impacts the one you’re currently sitting in. Today’s NBA front offices aren’t ordering an entree without considering how it will later pair with dessert. Whether that be the Houston Rockets acquiring injured center Steven Adams for next season, or the Los Angeles Lakers holding firm before Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET buzzer.

The Lakers surely entered this NBA trade window looking to upgrade their roster around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, with a clear goal of keeping Austin Reaves at any cost short of a perennial All-Star in return, league sources told Yahoo Sports. It seemed Los Angeles always had the idea of using D’Angelo Russell’s two-year, $36 million contract as the significant salary piece of any major trade. And while there were several teams open to acquiring Russell at the deadline — either from the Lakers directly or by way of a three-team deal, according to league sources — his $18.6 million player option for the 2024-25 season did carry negative value for many front offices. That, coupled with Russell’s strong play over the past few weeks, all factored into Los Angeles’ decision-making to hold firm before the deadline, sources said. But the Lakers’ option to acquire true premium talent this summer, when Los Angeles will have access to three first-round picks, seems to be the undercurrent for the Lakers’ inactivity. The offseason, when teams can carry upward of 20 players, is generally considered a more amenable window for major deals.

That is also the calculus in Atlanta, sources said, where the Hawks have messaged since the beginning of this trade period that the front office was not absolutely resigned to trading guard Dejounte Murray. The 27-year-old former All-Star has yet to begin the four-year, $114 million extension he signed this past offseason, and the Hawks will enter June and July with a very clear understanding of several teams’ valuations of Murray. League personnel expect Los Angeles, of course, to re-engage Atlanta over Murray, and New Orleans will have the opportunity to resume conversations the Pelicans held with the Hawks this week. Along with Murray, New Orleans expressed interest in both Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu, according to league sources, and the Hawks are known to value several players on New Orleans’ roster — including Naji Marshall, who will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The Lakers certainly won’t limit their thinking to Murray. There are several front offices that listened to Atlanta’s pre-deadline chatter and came away from conversations with the Hawks of the belief Trae Young could become available for trade this summer — depending on Atlanta’s outcome for the remainder of this campaign. That could very well prove to be wishful thinking from rival teams, just like league personnel will hope and pray that Joel Embiid becomes available in Philadelphia, or Giannis Antetokounmpo becomes available in Milwaukee, and so on. But for now, one spot other than Los Angeles that’s repeatedly been mentioned by NBA figures as a potential home for Young — if Atlanta were to ever consider parting with its franchise face and All-Star lead ball-handler — is San Antonio. The Spurs do lack a clear-cut pick-and-roll partner for rookie sensation Victor Wembanyama.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 21:  Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks reacts after hitting a three-point basket against the Boston Celtics with Dejounte Murray #5 during the fourth quarter of Game Three of the Eastern Conference First Round Playoffs at State Farm Arena on April 21, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Conversations for Trae Young and Dejounte Murray could resume this summer. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Toronto’s next steps

Could Bruce Brown still represent an option for the Lakers this summer? The Raptors told multiple teams that Toronto wanted a first-round pick for Brown before the deadline, and Brown was certainly prepared to be traded himself, league sources told Yahoo Sports, before Toronto ultimately held on to the versatile guard. Los Angeles and New York were two teams who’d shown interest in Brown this past offseason at smaller dollar figures than Brown’s two-year, $45 million offer from Indiana. New York would certainly seem out of this equation after its Thursday work.

The fact Toronto holds a team option for Brown’s $23 million salary for 2024-25 will still afford the Raptors plenty of options, as soon as the NBA Draft on June 26, for other teams that would like to acquire Brown. There will be plenty of cap minutiae there, as the Raptors would have to pick up Brown's option in order to facilitate a trade. For as long as Brown’s future remains uncertain, league personnel have always advised to keep an eye on Denver considering avenues to bring the former Nugget back to the franchise he helped capture the 2023 NBA title.

The Raptors do have plans to keep Kelly Olynyk beyond this season, sources said. Olynyk is on an expiring contract and arrived in Toronto alongside Ochai Agbaji for a first-round pick. It’s now clear Utah never had serious interest in returning Brown in that deal framework. For all the chatter about the Jazz flirting with becoming a buyer at this deadline, the Jazz are left very well positioned to renegotiate and extend All-Star forward Lauri Markkanen this summer.

Knicks find their middle ground for present and summer

New York’s plan to improve this February, according to league sources, long held an underlying goal of maintaining future flexibility to pair Jalen Brunson with a top-flight All-Star this offseason. And for the Knicks to acquire both Bojan Bogdanović and Alec Burks — plus OG Anunoby before them — without sacrificing any first-round draft capital has drawn early feedback from league figures as an objective victory for New York’s front office.

Bogdanović only has $2 million guaranteed for 2024-25, which provides the Knicks similar flexibility to what Toronto holds with Brown, in addition to the fact Bogdanović’s full $19 million salary can be utilized for a win-now trade — just like Evan Fournier’s money, which left Madison Square Garden to complete the very deal that brought the two Pistons to New York. Of course, the Knicks will have loftier visions this summer and beyond. They will be connected to Donovan Mitchell until he either re-signs in Cleveland or ultimately heads elsewhere, because once a star-level rumor is out of the box that link will always be there for the NBA’s echochamber. The Cavaliers, though, had no reason to consider deals for Mitchell or starting center Jarrett Allen this trade deadline, and Cleveland felt very comfortable holding firm without adding any pieces either, sources said. The Cavaliers are second in the East as of Thursday.

Philadelphia’s forecast

The Knicks will also loom around the periphery of Embiid’s future so long as his former agent, Leon Rose, presides over the front office. Word from around the league about New York’s interest in Embiid has surely reached Sixers leadership, but Philadelphia has always operated with a confidence the franchise can fortify Embiid with the right supporting cast that can help the reigning MVP compete for the championship he so craves. Philadelphia’s biggest step forward on Thursday was acquiring Buddy Hield from Indiana for three second-round picks.

Hield was on an expiring contract with the Pacers after rejecting a significant extension from Indiana this past fall, league sources told Yahoo Sports. And with the incoming cost of Pascal Siakam’s next deal, the ability to pay Hield became an even greater question mark for the Pacers’ build, sources said. Now Philadelphia will get the chance to retain Hield with the mountain of cap space the Sixers will have at their disposal this summer. If that marriage goes as planned, that would potentially eliminate a potential suitor for Nuggets swingman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, whom league personnel had pegged as a possible target for Philadelphia once his contract expires in Denver after this campaign.

The Sixers have loftier goals as well, just like New York. As the weeks have passed since Kawhi Leonard’s extension in Los Angeles, where the Clippers’ All-Star told reporters he was of the mind Paul George’s next deal was coming next — before Harden’s this offseason — there have been growing whispers not only of Philadelphia’s eye toward George, but also George’s own intrigue by returning to Indiana and becoming the latest running mate for Tyrese Haliburton alongside Siakam.

A large portion of the Sixers’ flexibility will come from Tobias Harris’ five-year, $180 million contract coming to a close at season’s end. While it’s unclear how Philadelphia views Harris in the long term, the Sixers were not willing to trade Harris to Detroit, league sources told Yahoo Sports, in Philadelphia’s own talks with the Pistons that would have yielded Bogdanović and Burks with the Sixers instead of the Knicks.

Can the Pistons be players in free agency?

Detroit will have the most cap space of any team come June 30, so perhaps Harris is a name to keep in mind for the Pistons. Another player expected to be on the radar in Detroit is Hornets forward Miles Bridges — although Charlotte opted to keep Bridges as the trade deadline passed, sources said, with a goal of re-signing the 25-year-old forward.

What to monitor in Oklahoma City

The outcome of one of the Hornets’ actual moves, dealing Gordon Hayward to Oklahoma City, could prove to be a fascinating wrinkle in the Thunder’s current build. For all the league-wide conversation about the merits of OKC chasing a massive addition this February, while the young Thunder have swiftly risen to the top echelon of the West, OKC sent strong signals to rival teams that the Thunder weren’t truly chasing any seismic moves this cycle, sources said. Hayward is still a very nice addition. Bringing in the veteran could prove to be a real value play for OKC’s depth amid an expected postseason run. And trading for him also maintains Hayward’s Bird rights, something the veteran forward preferred to keep, sources said, as opposed to agreeing to a contract buyout in Charlotte.

Hayward is another player who, when healthy, has plenty of experience and chops running late-game pick-and-rolls. It will be interesting to see how much time and how big of a role Hayward can assume in OKC’s critical moments down the stretch. Former lottery pick Josh Giddey has already quietly begun to fade from some of the Thunder’s closing lineups in his last season before he becomes extension eligible this summer.

Buyout options

There will be a competitive landscape for veteran guard Spencer Dinwiddie as well as Kyle Lowry, if the latter can come to terms on a buyout with Charlotte. Joe Harris will offer shooting after he was waived from Detroit. Thaddeus Young, Otto Porter and Marcus Morris can bring valuable wing help with respective postseason experience. Bismack Biyombo is still expected to draw interest from teams after a strong showing in Memphis this season. Veterans Danny Green and Rudy Gay are also serviceable players on the market looking for homes with teams in the playoff picture.