NBA trade deadline preview: A look at the Lakers, Celtics, Bulls, Hawks and more

·12 min read

HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto and Yossi Gozlan previewed the NBA trade deadline a month away, including potential trades for the Lakers, Celtics, Bulls, Hawks, Rockets, Clippers, Thunder, and Mavericks on the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast.

For more interviews with players, coaches, and media members, be sure to like and subscribe to the HoopsHype podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and anywhere else you listen to podcasts. Listen to the podcast above or check out some snippets of the conversation in a transcribed version below.

:39 Lakers

Scotto: The Los Angeles Lakers have been doing their due diligence around the league, and expressed interest in Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr., according to league sources. One of several players they’ve checked in on. However, I don’t see a deal happening between those teams at this time since it would likely have to involve Talen Horton-Tucker and Kendrick Nunn from a salaries perspective.

Gozlan: The most likely package would involve Horton-Tucker to match salaries. There was speculation that the Raptors had an interest in him when Kyle Lowry was available at last year’s trade deadline, but I’m sure that changed as soon as they got Trent.

Scotto: If anything, I think they’re going to look to make some roster spots on the back end. Kent Bazemore and DeAndre Jordan are available as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst mentioned, but the Lakers aren’t trying to attach a pick to get off either guy from what I’ve heard. It would have to be similar to the Rajon Rondo (trade) situation.

Gozlan: I get the feeling the Lakers won’t need to part with any picks to get off either player. The Lakers paid $1.1 million to the Knicks to take on Denzel Valentine’s partial guarantee. They still have $4.4 million left in cash to trade, which should be more than enough to get off Jordan and Bazemore. Maybe they don’t even need to spend money to get off Bazemore. He was pretty good last year. Maybe there’s a team that feels he could give them something. Getting off either player saves the Lakers $7 million each in tax and payroll combined. They’ll replace them with players on prorated minimum salaries.

3:25 Clippers

Scotto: The Clippers are focused on remaining highly competitive when both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard return healthy. Some in the organization believe it’s unlikely Kawhi Leonard will return this season, I’m told. We’ve seen in the past it can take 12-18 months for a player to recover from an ACL tear and then another 6-12 months for the player to be in elite basketball condition. With that in mind, a couple of names teams have called on are Serge Ibaka, who’s on an expiring $9.7 million deal, and Justise Winslow, who’s signed through next season when he’s owed $4.1 million.

Gozlan: The Clippers are in a weird spot right now. Their roster is so expensive, but they’ve been playing like a .500 team. To add to that, both Leonard and George’s statuses are very uncertain… The other problem is that with their uncertain statuses is they’d want to tank, but they can’t tank. They don’t have their pick this year. It goes to OKC. They don’t have an incentive to tank, but at the same time injuries may not allow them to compete at the highest levels. I think they’ll do their best to be as competitive as possible, and hopefully, Leonard and George come back, but they could also be proactive and take somewhat of a step back to build towards next season while saving some money.

You mentioned Winslow and Ibaka as players they could move. The Clippers currently have a $93 million tax payment and a $262 million roster. I know money isn’t an issue for the Clippers, but on a practical level, you don’t need to be spending that much if you’re not a contender. Getting off Winslow would save them close to $22 million. If they were to get off Ibaka, that would save them close to $41 million, and getting off both would save close to $80 million. There’s a lot of money to be saved and there’s an incentive to move off these guys or anyone not in the rotation. If I were them, I’d also see if there’s a deal with OKC to get off of Eric Bledsoe. If they can get off all three players, they might get under the luxury tax, but getting off all three is probably unrealistic.

6:45 Celtics

Scotto: The Boston Celtics have expressed interest in re-acquiring forward Jeff Green, league sources told HoopsHype. Green was coached by Brad Stevens in Boston. I’ve also heard former lottery pick Aaron Nesmith and guard Dennis Schroeder are also available in Boston. They’ve made several calls doing due diligence, including to Phoenix regarding Jalen Smith’s availability.

Gozlan: As we’ve discussed before on this podcast, the Celtics making Schroeder available makes a ton of sense since they’ll have limitations re-signing him this offseason… The possibility that Nesmith might be available has to be a little concerning. He hasn’t progressed from last season and doesn’t have a firm role in the rotation. He hasn’t played since returning from health and safety protocols, so maybe he’s another guy the Celtics look to move to help get below the luxury tax.

Smith is a guy who made some much-needed progress. He’s made the most of his big minutes in the last few weeks and might be making the Suns regret declining his team option. Smith potentially being a good player now might mean they’re stuck with him through the trade deadline. Since they declined his team option, they’re not allowed to re-sign him to a salary next season that’s more than the amount he was supposed to get on his rookie-scale deal. That would apply to any team that trades for him, so if you’re a team that likes Smith, why would you trade for him? You’d be putting yourself at risk of losing him this offseason if another team offers him more than $4.7 million.

The most recent case of declined rookie option remorse was when Mario Hezonja played well after the Magic declined him, and the Knicks gave him more than Orlando could offer. If you’re trading for Smith, you’re either taking him purely as salary filler as part of a bigger deal, or you’re betting that his market won’t exceed what you’re allowed to offer him.

Scotto: The Phoenix Suns are so loaded now at center. I haven’t seen a team have this many centers since Vlade Divac was running the Sacramento Kings.

MORE: NBA trade candidates who could be moved after Dec. 15

10:24 Bulls

Scotto: Chicago is open to upgrading their roster but doesn’t want to part with Patrick Williams. However, Coby White is available for the right upgrade, according to rival executives.

To me, I’d go all in if I’m Chicago. DeMar DeRozan is playing at an MVP-caliber level, and with Kyrie Irving unable to currently play in road games, and Brook Lopez dealing with a major back injury for the Bucks, this could be their window to come out of the East. If I’m Chicago and I think Jerami Grant, for example, is that x-factor to get the team over the hump and also retain him next season, I’d strongly consider moving Williams to do it.

Gozlan: A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Grant and trade destinations that make the most sense to me. Chicago was one of them. I’ve seen a lot of fake trades, including Williams for Grant, but I wouldn’t do that if I’m the Bulls. I don’t think they’ll do that either… I can see them offering White, salary filler, a first-round pick such as the Blazers’ lottery protected first for a guy like Grant or Harrison Barnes. Another reason why I wouldn’t trade Williams for a player like Grant is that the Bulls are going to get extremely expensive with Lonzo Ball, DeMar, and Nikola Vucevic all making $20-30 million each, and now LaVine is up for a max contract that would pay him around $40 million per year. They’re probably going to be in the luxury tax, and Grant will become eligible for $112 million over four years this offseason. I don’t think he’ll get that full amount, but a raise on what he’s currently making will be a lot for the Bulls to add on top of these other expenses.

MORE: KC Johnson on Zach LaVine’s Bulls future: ‘This is a match made to move forward together’

13:46 Hawks

Scotto: Danilo Gallinari is available for a first-round pick on the trade market or could be packaged in a bigger trade, according to rival executives. It’ll be interesting to see if Gallinari is packaged with John Collins as part of a potential Ben Simmons trade package. There’s also a sense from rival executives Cam Reddish is more than likely going to be traded before the deadline. In my opinion, one interesting trade scenario would be if Reddish goes to Detroit as part of a package for Jerami Grant.

Gozlan: A consolidation trade has been the hot topic for the Hawks recently, but if I’m the Hawks, I’d be careful who I trade for since they’re set to have a very expensive team going forward. I’m not a fan of Grant to Atlanta for the same reasons Chicago would have as far as the expenses for him long term. With Trae Young, Collins, Clint Capela, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Kevin Huerter all getting paid, and De’Andre Hunter being up next, adding Grant on top of that with his extension looming for most likely a bench role doesn’t make sense to me.

Atlanta’s potential interest for Simmons is a little more interesting. I’m also not a fan of trading Collins for Simmons, mainly because I wouldn’t want to pair Simmons with Capela. Now, if they can flip Bogdanovic or Gallinari and picks in a deal that gets them Myles Turner back, a defensive-minded big who can shoot and stretch the floor, then I’d be more interested in getting Simmons. A Simmons-Turner frontcourt, in addition to the return of Hunter, could help turn their terrible defense around.

16:24 Mavericks

Scotto: One guy that is a hot name who’s drawing significant interest on the trade market is Dorian Finney-Smith. He’s a movable salary at $4 million, he’s got the size to play both forward spots, and his defense and ability to shoot the three-ball intrigue rival teams. He’s in his prime at 28, and since last season, he’s shooting 39 percent from beyond the arc. He plays a coveted position, and those types of attributes are exactly what pretty much every team in the league is looking for. Rival executives think there could be an opportunity to pounce here with Finney-Smith and Jalen Brunson set to hit free agency. Keeping both players could push them into the luxury tax.

Gozlan: Dallas is set to be treading around the luxury tax next season largely thanks to Luka Doncic’s max extension in addition to Kristaps Porzingis making almost as much. Both Brunson and Finney-Smith are set to become unrestricted free agents this summer. They’re currently eligible for extensions right now of up to four years and $56 million. I could see Finney-Smith getting a substantial part of that amount, while I think Brunson may have played himself into earning that full amount. I think he’s proven himself to be a starting point guard in the league. I could see him getting offers in that four-year, $56 million range, which would be slightly more than what Devonte Graham got last offseason. I think if Dallas is going to keep one of these guys, there will likely be a move in the future to keep them below next year’s luxury tax, which could include moving off Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., or Dwight Powell.

As for this season, Dallas has an $11 million trade exception, and they’re roughly $16 million below the luxury tax this season.

19:13 Rockets

Scotto: Some playoff-caliber teams are monitoring Eric Gordon and Daniel Theis with the Houston Rockets, given where they are in the standings as guys they could potentially sell.

Gordon, when healthy, has still shown an ability to score and shoot the ball. Theis, what he brings to a team are the intangibles with things like screen assists, doing the dirty work like boxing out, etc. He’s a winner and showed that in Boston. There are playoff-caliber teams that would like to acquire both of these guys.

Gozlan: Despite how Theis’ experience in Houston hasn’t worked out, I still think he’s on a good deal, and there should be other teams that should have interest in him. Same with Gordon. He only has one more guaranteed year left on his deal and has remained good and more efficient on less volume shooting.

20:45 Thunder

Scotto: Another guy playoff-caliber teams are monitoring is Kenrich Williams with the Thunder. With OKC being $23 million below the salary floor, as Yossi wrote on HoopsHype recently, the Thunder are going to be an interesting team to monitor. I’d certainly look for them as a team that could take on a guy like Juancho Hernangomez, who has barely played for the Celtics all season and other salary dumps around the league. Also, Aaron Wiggins is a candidate to have his two-way contract converted to a standard deal, according to league sources.

Gozlan: I would be surprised if the Thunder didn’t at least get above the salary floor. They made sure to get above it last year towards the end of the season, even though they didn’t have to. They’ve got an open roster spot now after waiving Gabriel Deck and Miye Oni. I think they will eventually use it on Wiggins. In the meantime, they’ll probably keep that spot open through the trade deadline so they can acquire players with unwanted salaries.

You can follow Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) and Yossi Gozlan (@YossiGozlan) on Twitter.

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