The NBA trade deadline is still more than a month out, as teams have until March 25 to make deals this season, but with the midseason break approaching in early March, the expectation is for discussions and rumors to pick up once the entire league has a week off for front offices to really dive into talks.
There are already some rumors floating around out there, as teams are recognizing the reality of their situation this season. For some, that means being in better position for a playoff position than maybe expected, while others are realizing they should be sellers and shift attention to the future. Some of those seem fully open for business, as a team like Cleveland seems open to dealing just about any veteran on the roster not named Larry Nance Jr. — although some of those, like Andre Drummond, are going to be tough to move no matter how badly they want to find them a new home.
In this space, we’ll look at five players that figure to be hotly targeted and could be swing players in playoff races. All of these names have come up in rumors of some kind, but figure to command a legitimately quality haul in return and should have a number of teams interested in their services. We’ll start with a pair of soon-to-be restricted free agents who could be on the move as their respective teams seem to have made their decision this past fall that they won’t be all that interested in matching a big offer and might just want to move on rather than let them walk for nothing.
The Hawks couldn’t come to an agreement on an extension this offseason and with the way they spent this offseason it would stand to reason that if Collins — who is having another terrific season — were to get a big offer sheet they would not want to match it. As such, Collins might not be actively being shopped, but he is available for the right price. Shams Charania reported on Monday that the Hawks are seeking a lottery pick in a deal for Collins, which isn’t exactly a stunning revelation, but it seems it’ll take a quality player and a pick to land the very talented big man.
Collins is averaging 18.1 points and 7.8 rebounds this season on solid efficiency, shooting 54.3 percent from the field and a stout 39.1 percent from three-point range. He’s a player that most any up-and-coming young team would and should have interest in, as he’s improved as a defender and has become a terrific pick-and-roll/pop player offensively because of his bounce at the rim and shooting ability from deep. The Hawks will want a lot in return, but if a team is interested in him as a near-max player, trading for him now would lock him up for the next 4-5 years.
Where there’s a world in which the Hawks keep Collins and sign him this coming summer, that ship appears to have sailed in New Orleans with the eldest Ball brother. Lonzo is having a solid season, but the Pelicans appear ready to completely shuffle their backcourt, as there have been rumors that Ball, Eric Bledsoe, and J.J. Redick all could be on the move. Bledsoe’s postseason woes make him a fascinating case study in terms of seeing what, if any, contenders believe they can get the most out of him. Ball, meanwhile, will have an interesting market because there could be contenders that talk themselves into him being a helpful role player, while a younger team might think he can still be a core piece.
There are rumblings that Chicago has interest and they won’t be alone, the question is simply what New Orleans is looking to get in return and who can meet that. Ball has settled into being a quality two-way player that, while maybe not possessing the star-level upside some thought he’d have coming into the league, is very useful to have on your roster.
The Magic have had a brutal 2020-21 season already and it seems likely they’ll at least have some interest in being sellers at the deadline. The player on their roster that is most intriguing is Aaron Gordon, who, like so many on the Orlando roster, is currently out with a severe ankle sprain. The timeline on his return was 4-6 weeks from February 1, which would bring him back just ahead of the trade deadline, and the swingman who has perennially been in trade rumors might just find himself on the move this year. Gordon would fit the bill for plenty of contenders looking to add some more athleticism and play-making to the wing, as he’s out of necessity become a better ball-handler and shooter in recent years due to the Magic’s crowded frontcourt situation.
Gordon is the biggest contract on this list, but his $18.1 million deal is very movable and there are plenty of teams that would have to consider giving him a look. The Blazers are seemingly always considered a potential landing spot for frontcourt talent, but other contenders like the Nuggets or Warriors could be interesting landing spots for Gordon.
Tucker’s desire to leave Houston has been well-reported on, and his talents as a defender and reputation as a corner three specialist figure to make him a very intriguing target for contenders. He’s not shot the ball well this season, but teams will be banking on him regaining that form on a better team with a little more space to operate like he had with James Harden. You could pretty much throw out the name of most any contending team as a potential destination for Tucker, it’s just a matter of who is willing to meet Houston’s price.
You probably haven’t thought about George Hill much this season. He’s only played in 14 games for the Thunder and had a procedure on his thumb two weeks ago that will keep him out for the month of February. However, he will surely garner interest from contenders in need of point guard depth as he’s a steady hand and an excellent spot-up shooter. Expect teams like Philly, Denver, Boston, LAC, Phoenix, and even Miami to be at least intrigued by the potential of adding another veteran guard to their roster and for Hill to be out of OKC by the deadline.