While the NBA regular season is up and running, the trade deadline isn’t until February.
Most of the movement doesn’t really pick up again until mid-December, when most of the players who signed in free agency last summer are eligible for a trade. Of course, that doesn’t stop us from speculating on what the future potentially holds. Here’s a look at five candidates for a trade in the coming months, with teams already itching to change less than two weeks into the season.
Crowder sat out of training camp with the Phoenix Suns having been told that he was going to be starting on the bench this season. He didn’t hide is displeasure with the move and it was eventually confirmed that he and the Suns had agreed that a trade was the best option.
Crowder is on an expiring deal, so whoever takes him on this season risks losing him for nothing in the summer. However, he brings energy, defensive nous and a decent three-point shot to a team, having made the NBA finals in both 2020 and 2021. There have already been a flurry of interested parties, with the Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks all linked.
While he’s not the cause of the problems at the Lakers, Westbrook has become the focal point for fan dissent. His switch from the Washington Wizards last year has never looked great, especially given the players that LA had to shed to afford him. The best option for the Lakers is probably to sit tight, let his contract expire and look to move for Kyrie Irving in free agency.
However, their 0-5 start has seen the Lakers drift out to +3300 for the title, so a panic move might happen. The best option out there for the Lakers seems to be strapping picks to Westbrook and moving him to Indiana for Miles Turner and Buddy Hield. While they aren’t star-quality additions, they pad out the Lakers’ roster and could allow Anthony Davis to switch back to his favoured position at the four.
The second Suns player on our list feeds into the bizarre situation in Phoenix. They were the league’s top side last season, but things weren’t always positive. Ayton was frustrated last summer when his fellow 2018 draftees got huge deals, while the Suns refused to extend their number one pick from that draft.
Ayton became a restricted free agent last summer and agreed a move to a terrible Pacers side, but the Suns matched the offer and therefore kept him. Now Ayton is stuck in Phoenix until mid-January, but his appearance at media day doesn’t suggest he’s happy about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he requested a trade as soon as he’s available.
The Toronto Raptors have made a solid start to the season and Gary Trent Jr has chipped in with 19.2 points per game while continuing to block and steal at an effective rate. His three-point percentage this term is a shade under 40%, so the Raptors aren’t exactly unhappy with him.
However, Trent Jr is expected to decline this summer’s $18million player option. He’s at most the fifth-best player in Toronto, so topping $20m seems beyond the Raptors this summer. That could put Trent Jr on the trade block and the Raptors don’t tend to do bad deals. If they move him it won’t be for picks and a bad asset, expect them to get a solid piece or two in return.
After rocking the league with a trade request last summer, he withdrew it following a protracted spell with no clear suitor. The Nets have shortened to +500 to win the East this season with KD on board, but their 1-4 start isn’t what was expected when KD agreed to stay. The prospect of him and Kyrie Irving together with Ben Simmons locking down the opposition seems great on paper.
However, the Nets have been excellent on paper for the last three years and they’ve had nothing to show for it. The Nets don’t own their own draft picks so tanking isn’t an option. If they continue to struggle it’s easy to see both the team and the player looking to move on.
With the Suns featuring twice on this list, packaging together Crowder, Ayton, a few picks and another contract could see Phoenix add KD and cut salary. After all, they were named as his preferred destination in the summer.