Trade rumor rankings: Chris Paul, LeBron James and more

It’s been a busy week for NBA trade rumors featuring some of the biggest names the NBA has to offer, so we decided to return with one more pre-offseason edition of our trade rumors rankings series, in which we rank the five players who have appeared most often over the previous week on our trade rumors page.

This week’s list has multiple future Hall-of-Famers on it, two former No. 1 overall picks. All five players on it would qualify as blockbuster moves if they were to be traded.

Jaylen Brown (Boston)

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

After the Boston Celtics’ surprising seven-game elimination in the Eastern Conference Finals at the hands of the eighth-seeded Miami Heat, a lot of speculation has risen about the future of star forward Jaylen Brown as it pertains to remaining in Boston.

Brown’s disappointing play in the setback – he averaged 19.0 points on 41.8 percent shooting in the series, shot 16.3 percent from three and had 24 assists to 25 turnovers – came at an inopportune time for the former Cal standout, too, as Brown is eligible for a supermax extension this summer, one worth nearly $300 million.

For what it’s worth, Celtics decision-maker Brad Stevens came out after Boston’s elimination and said the team wants Brown to be part of its future:

I can say without a doubt that we want Jaylen Brown to be here. And he’s a big part of us. And we believe in him and I’m thankful for him. … I’ve had nothing but great conversations with Jaylen. Won’t comment on contracts until July. We want Jaylen to be here…we believe in him. I’m thankful for him. I’m really thankful for when those guys have success, they come back and work.

But one former NBA superstar thinks Boston would be wise to split up the Brown-Jayson Tatum duo to try and form a better-fitting team that can contend for a championship:

NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal believes the Boston Celtics need to split up Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. “I don’t want five stars on my team. I want a guy that I can go to every night, I want a guy that’s going to lead, and I want three dogs, three others. I would prefer if they were specialists: one to be a shooter, one to be a rebounder, and one to be a fighter,” O’Neal said on The Big Three Podcast. “I would, business-wise, break [Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown] up and use one of them to get the pieces I want. I will say Tatum is the number one, use Brown to bring in a Brown-type player, and then just do it like that.”

Meanwhile, anonymous NBA executives told Heavy they believe Boston will extend Brown in order to have a potential trade chip down the line if things continue not to work out:

“But the main reason why everyone out here knows they have to get something done with him is that you can never afford to lose an asset like that. … Even if you sign him and things don’t work out with your team down the line, you have a player of value. All-Star players can attract free agents who want to play with them, or you can use your player as an asset in a trade.”

At the end of the day, sure, the way the Celtics’ season came to a conclusion was disappointing. But at the same time, it’s extremely difficult to have two All-NBA-level performers on one team, especially two as young as Brown (26) and Tatum (25) still are.

Trading Brown when his value has just taken a hit would just not be savvy if you are in Boston’s shoes.

Even so, far stranger things have happened in the NBA so this remains a situation to keep an eye on.

For the latest Jaylen Brown trade rumors, click here.

Deandre Ayton (Phoenix)

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Although most of the hype this week surrounding the Phoenix Suns and a potential big-name trade, former No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton was also mentioned in passing as a potential trade candidate by ESPN:

Phoenix plans to explore trade opportunities including Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton that could alter the franchise’s roster landscape ahead of a final decision on Paul’s partially guaranteed contract, sources said.

Adrian Wojnarowski wasn’t the only ESPN reporter to mention the possibility of an Ayton trade this summer, as Tim MacMahon mentioned similarly recently:

According to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, it is highly probable that Deandre Ayton will be traded by the Suns in the upcoming offseason. MacMahon made the comment during an episode of The Hoop Collective podcast, stating that even with head coach Monty Williams’ departure, Ayton’s departure from Phoenix is still very likely. “By no stretch do I believe that Monty Williams departure makes it much more likely for Deandre Ayton to still be in Phoenix next season. I still am pretty sure Deandre Ayton will be traded this summer,” he said

Still, newly named Suns head coach Frank Vogel sounded like he had big plans for Ayton during his introductory press conference:

We’ll see how this one pans out but with three years and over $102 million left on his contract, moving Ayton right now likely won’t net Phoenix equal value in return, not with his stock taking a hit following his 2023 playoff performance.

For the latest Deandre Ayton trade rumors, click here.

Damian Lillard (Portland)

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Yet another period of player movement in the NBA is upon us with the offseason so close, meaning it’s time for another round of Portland Blazers superstar Damian Lillard talking to the media like he might consider leaving Portland if he can’t contend for a title before reaffirming his commitment to the Blazers.

Sarcasm aside, there does seem to be a bit more smoke this time around, with Lillard himself saying if Portland can’t build a competitive team, it might be time for him to have a different type of conversation with Blazers management:

Lillard went so far as to say, among mentioned potential suitors, that the Miami Heat would be his preferred landing spot over the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets because of his relationship with Heat star Bam Adebayo.

His former teammate CJ McCollum also predicted on First Take we may have seen the last of Lillard in a Blazers uniform:

Of course, none of this means anything and we have heard Lillard talk like this before. So until reports start to leak that the seven-time All-Star has actually asked out of the Pacific Northwest, we should take all of this with a grain of salt.

For the latest Damian Lillard trade rumors, click here.

LeBron James (LA Lakers)

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In this week’s edition of Kyrie did what now?, by far the most audacious trade rumor of the week came courtesy of none other than Dallas Mavericks point guard Kyrie Irving, who many believe might be interested in teaming up with four-time MVP LeBron James again. The thing is, most would expect that to take place in Los Angeles as members of the Lakers.

Instead, Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports reported this week that Irving wants Dallas to try and form a Big 3 featuring himself, James and Luka Doncic:

A new twist has emerged in the LeBron James-Kyrie Irving reunion plot, as league sources have told Bleacher Report Irving wants the Dallas Mavericks to explore trading for LeBron James this offseason to create a Big 3 alongside himself and Luka Doncic. … The Mavericks were preparing to make an offer for James last season when the Lakers were spiraling, sources say, despite James being ineligible for a trade last season due to the date of his extension. But the Lakers made a string of trades near the deadline that changed the trajectory of their season.

Veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein also discussed the possibility this week, reporting that the Mavericks would interest James as a potential landing spot if he were to ever leave the Lakers:

What can be bankably confirmed about any LeBron connection to the Mavericks: Dallas is certainly a team, league sources say, that would intrigue the 38-year-old as a potential landing spot if James ever reached the point of searching for a new place to play.

Regardless, as our own Yossi Gozlan broke down this week, it’s quite unrealistic to believe the Mavericks could muster up a trade package for James that the Lakers would find enticing without Luka Doncic himself being involved:

Unless LeBron James were to seriously press a trade with the threat of retirement, the Mavericks don’t have a reasonable offer that would satisfy the Lakers. Assuming the goal is to pair James with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, the best offer they could reasonably make includes prospects Josh Green and Jaden Hardy, and a maximum of two first-round picks. Because they still owe the Knicks a Top 10 protected first-round pick in 2024, and they traded their 2029 pick to Brooklyn, they are limited to moving the 10th overall selection in this year’s draft, and their 2027 first-round pick.

And that without a doubt is not happening.

So if Irving does so badly want to reunite with James and is set to it happening this summer (for what it’s worth, Stein also reported that the former Duke standout is not angling to join the Lakers), it would have to happen with both rocking the purple and gold.

Because the odds of the Lakers trading James anywhere without a full-on demand for it from the potential GOAT are essentially zero.

For the latest LeBron James trade rumors, click here.

Chris Paul (Phoenix)

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Now for a report with some actual substance, there’s a chance future Hall-of-Famer Chris Paul’s days in Phoenix could be numbered.

First word we got on the matter came from Haynes, who reported the Suns had actually already informed Paul he would be waived prior to the June 28 guarantee date on his contract for 2023-24.

That was then somewhat rebuked by both Wojnarowski and Shams Charania, who each reported the Suns were still working through their various options, including Phoenix waiving Paul or trading him this offseason (via The Athletic and ESPN.)

In addition, even if the Suns do waive Paul, it could be an NFL-type maneuver in which they stretch and waive the guaranteed money left on his deal only to re-sign him once he clears waivers, which he very likely will, as it’s hard to see a team with the cap space and willingness to pick up the two years and $61.6 million left on his contract.

NBA legend Isiah Thomas, who some around the league believe might quietly be advising new Suns owner Mat Ishbia, went on NBA TV before Game 3 of the 2023 NBA Finals to tell viewers not to rule out the possibility of Phoenix waiving Paul only to re-sign him.

If Paul does get waived, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst mentioned his likeliest landing spots are in Los Angeles, with either the Clippers or Lakers, or back with Phoenix:

Windhorst: I think Chris Paul’s future is in one of two places. One is Los Angeles, be it the Lakers or the Clippers. Both teams potentially need a point guard, their point guards on both teams are free agents, Russell Westbrook and D’Angelo Russell. And it’s not out of the realm of possibility, I think it’s worth pointing out, that the Suns could bring him back. It would be an NFL-style restructuring where his contract is paid out of its partial guarantee and they bring him back for a lesser salary. So I would bet on L.A. or Phoenix is his contract is bought out.

Wojnarowski said the same during a TV hit of his own prior to Game 3 of the Finals:

Adrian Wojnarowski: Now, Chris Paul wants to remain with the Suns. He wants to be back with Devin Booker, with Kevin Durant. But right now, for the Suns, they want to look at a lot of alternatives. Some options between now and the 28th, including trade possibilities. They’re going to have talks about Deandre Ayton. Can they move money around that can allow them to keep Chris Paul on that roster? Or find a trade so they can build out their depth. But I’m told Chris Paul and his reps want an answer sooner than that June 28 deadline. They want to know if they’re headed into free agency, where he would be certainly very coveted, especially with the two Los Angeles teams, the Clippers and the Lakers, where he still keeps his offseason home.

Nevertheless, Paul remains one of the best playmakers in the game despite his advanced age, so if he does get waived, it’ll be fascinating to see where he might end up, be it back with Phoenix or elsewhere.

As mentioned by Wojnarowski, Paul wants to remain with the Suns to try and make a run with Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, so this situation could truly go in a multitude of different directions.

For the latest Chris Paul trade rumors, click here.

Story originally appeared on HoopsHype