NBA stars most likely to get dealt by trade deadline

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In the 2016 NBA offseason, four reigning All-Stars changed teams. In 2017, eight did. In 2018, three did. In 2019, eight did.

This offseason, just two reigning NBA All-Stars have changed teams:

Has star movement slowed? Or did the rushed offseason just mean the drama will spill into the season?

Here are the reigning All-Stars most likely to get traded this season. Fair warning: After the first name, the odds of each listed player getting dealt are quite low. But these situations warrant monitoring not because of the likelihood of movement, but because if these players get traded, it could alter the entire NBA landscape.

James Harden (Rockets)

Nobody else could top this list. Harden requested a trade, and it’s getting messy in Houston. Harden reportedly wants to join the Nets, 76ers or another contender. The Rockets justifiably want an elite package for their superstar who’s locked into his contract two more seasons. Houston has projected patience. The big question: How will Harden’s attitude be once joining the team? That could dictate how quickly this inevitable-looking trade happens.

Kyle Lowry (Raptors)

Lowry is the greatest player in Raptors history. But that reportedly means so little to him, he threatened to demand a trade last year unless given a contract extension. And that was coming off a championship! Lowry got a one-year extension, which puts him into 2021 free agency at age 35. Toronto has big plans for next summer, and if all goes well, there will be only so much money left for Lowry. He could re-sign for cheap for one year then get a big raise in 2022-23 through Bird Rights. But the possibility of him walking at least opens the door for a trade this season, especially if the Raptors take a step back after even more attrition from the title team.

Ben Simmons (76ers)

Joel Embiid (76ers)

The 76ers are committed to building around Simmons and Embiid. That mandate has transcended lead executives. It’s an organizational tenet. But Simmons and Embiid have fit issues. If surrounding them with better shooting (Seth Curry, Danny Green and Tobias Harris) and better coaching (Doc Rivers) doesn’t work, then what? New 76ers president Daryl Morey is generally unattached to his players and lacks his predecessors’ history with Simmons and Embiid. Philadelphia has played well with Embiid and Simmons sharing the court. But it’s not difficult to imagine a trade offer that breaks up the pair and makes the 76ers even better.

Rudy Gobert (Jazz)

Gobert is eligible for a contract extension, and it seems slightly more likely than not Utah will extend him. But it’s quite plausible he and the Jazz can’t agree on a price. If that’s the case now, would it be different in 2021 free agency? Utah might prefer to trade Gobert before reaching that point. I believe Gobert and Donovan Mitchell have mostly put their tension behind them, but I’m also not convinced Mitchell – the franchise player – would be broken up about Gobert going elsewhere. Gobert is very good and very underrated. But he’s a 28-year-old center with real limitations. There’s risk in paying him big money for the next stage of his career.

Kemba Walker (Celtics)

Boston trading a small guard with injury issues exacerbated during the playoffs before he declines from his prime… we’ve seen this one before. The big difference between Walker and Isaiah Thomas: Walker already has his huge contract. That makes dealing him more difficult. But the Celtics aim high, and Walker could fit into a blockbuster. Boston reportedly shopped Walker in its Jrue Holiday pursuit.

Domantas Sabonis (Pacers)

Myles Turner has drawn more trade buzz. But if Indiana is ready to move past its two-big identity, Sabonis could be the one moved. He doesn’t fit as cleanly in the modern game as Turner, who shoots 3-pointers and protects the rim. Sabonis probably has more trade value coming off an All-Star appearance. Some teams would really appreciate his interior scoring, screening, passing, rebounding and toughness. The catch: Indiana looks like one of those teams.

Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)

Having signed his long-awaited max contract this offseason, Ingram can’t be traded until March 3. But that allows a window before the proposed trade deadline. New Orleans likes Ingram and probably isn’t looking to move him. But the Pelicans are also in flux after trading Jrue Holiday for primarily draft picks. New Orleans could go many directions in building around Zion Williamson.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)

The Bucks insist they won’t trade Antetokounmpo, even if he declines his super-max extension. I believe them. He’s likely too valuable to Milwaukee and too likely to re-sign to get sufficient return. But if Antetokounmpo declines the extension, the Bucks at least ought to consider offers before he could walk for nothing in 2021 unrestricted free agency. If Antetokounmpo becomes available, other All-Stars who don’t appear on this list would suddenly have their names thrust into trade talks.

Reports: Kyrie Irving demands trade before Feb. 9 deadline

New York Knicks v Brooklyn Nets
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Kyrie Irving‘s agent tried to spark contract extension talks with the Nets recently, but Brooklyn felt no rush to dive into those talks, and the offer they did make — not for a full four years and filled with guarantees for Irving to meet — increased Irving’s frustration with the organization. The Nets, wisely, wanted to see more out of Irving before talking about the future, while Irving has felt everything with Brooklyn has been conditional.

Irving responded with a bombshell, demanding a trade before the Feb. 9 deadline. Shams Charania of The Athletic was first with the news, but Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report have since confirmed it.

 

So much for a quiet trade deadline.

There are so many angles to this bombshell, but the sense of Irving feeling disrespected by Nets management and ownership is not new. Charania added this detail in his story at The Athletic:

The Nets recently offered Irving an extension with guarantee stipulations, according to league sources, an offer which was declined.

Irving wants a four-year, full max extension, no stipulations, Charania reports. That’s also what he wanted when he pushed for a contract extension with the Nets last summer, but after a couple of seasons of disruptions and him missing a lot of games due to his COVID vaccination status, the Nets were not interested in cementing their relationship long-term (Irving did look around for a new home, but that went nowhere).

The disruptions carried over into this season when Irving was suspended for what became eight games due to a Tweet promoting an antisemitic documentary. Through all this, the Nets fired Steve Nash as coach.

Whatever has happened off the court, when Irving has been on the court he has been his elite playmaking self, averaging 27.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. Fans voted him in an All-Star starter, and he has carried the Nets while Kevin Durant has been out.

While the Nets don’t want to give away Irving in a trade, if he’s gone this summer as a free agent they need to find a deal to get something in return (and ideally keep their status as a potential, maybe fringe, contender in the East). The Nets are not wrong that all the places Irving would want to go as a free agent will require a sign-and-trade, which gives Brooklyn some leverage. Irving has some leverage here, too: If Team X comes up with a trade the Nets like but Irving lets it be known he won’t re-sign there as a free agent, it limits what teams will offer.

When checking with league sources,  the first name on everyone’s lips are the Lakers, with a package centered around Russell Westbrook and both of the Lakers’ unprotected future picks (a trade that was discussed last summer). The Lakers likely have to sweeten that pot a little with another young player. Adding Irving to the mix with LeBron James and Anthony Davis does make the Lakers a threat to come out of a West with no dominant team, and Los Angeles might be willing to extend or re-sign Irving to a longer deal, they are all in on winning now.

Other teams that come up in conversations are the Heat (a team looking for point guard help and a spark, but does Irving fit the Miami team culture?), the Mavericks need another star next to Luka Dončić, and the Clippers are always active and aggressive at the trade deadline. Shams Charania of The Athletic reports the Suns are interested. Other teams looking to make the leap up to contender status may try to throw their hat in the ring. Considering Irving’s reputation as a challenge for coaches and front office staff, it will be interesting to see how many teams are interested in Irving’s extensions/contract demands.

Whatever direction this goes expect the Irving trade rumors to fly for the next six days.

 

Damian Lillard reportedly to take part in 3-point contest All-Star weekend

Atlanta Hawks v Portland Trail Blazers
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The All-Star Saturday night 3-point contest has passed the Dunk Contest in watchability because the stars still do it. Look at this year’s Dunk Contest, there are some interesting athletes involved, and maybe it becomes a memorable event. Still, there will be no Ja Morant, Zion Williamson, or Anthony Edwards (the way that Jordan, Kobe, and other greats took part in the contest back in the day).

However, the stars turn out for the 3-point contest. This year, that starts with Damian Lillard, according to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report and TNT.

The coaches selected Lillard as one of the All-Star Game reserves, he was already headed to Salt Lake City. This is Lillard’s third time in the 3-point Shootout.

Over the coming week, expect a lot more big names to jump into the 3-point contest — the best shooters in the game want to do this event (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have each done it multiple times, although whether they will this year is unknown).

All-Star Saturday night: Come for the 3-point Shootout, hang around for the Dunk Contest.

Lakers reportedly exploring Westbrook trade in talks with Jazz

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This feels like a “let’s leak this so our fan base thinks we’re trying” report rather than something that will come close to happening.

The Lakers have re-engaged the Jazz in Russell Westbrook trade talks, reports Chris Haynes at Bleacher Report.

The Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz have had exploratory conversations centered around star guard Russell Westbrook, league sources tell Bleacher Report. However, the Lakers are said to be in communication with most teams to sift through the most reasonable and logical options available.

If the Lakers couldn’t pull off a trade like this over the summer, what has changed now?

The Lakers would be more than happy to move on from Westbrook and bring in more shooting and depth, but this is Danny Ainge they’re dealing with — the price would be both the 2027 and 2029 first-round picks, likely unprotected. The Jazz would send back some combination of Mike Conley, Malik Beasley, Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson and Kelly Olynyk — do any three of those players make the Lakers title contenders this season? Are the Lakers willing to give up those two picks to be a team that could make the second round of the playoffs?

Now, if the Raptors get in the trade game, would the combination of Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. get the Lakers to surrender Westbrook and both picks? John Hollinger at The Athletic says that scenario is floating around, although everyone continues to wait to see if the Raptors are going to jump into the trade market with both feet.

The smart money is on the Lakers making a smaller move close to the trade deadline, likely involving Patrick Beverley and some second-round picks. Something similar in size to the Rui Hachimura trade, although the Lakers want — or at least are going to project they want — to hunt bigger game.

The Lakers continue surveying the market for premium shooting. Detroit Pistons sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanović remains a principal target, but there is league-wide skepticism on whether the Pistons are really willing to unload the nine-year veteran. It’s been reported that it would take at least an unprotected first-round pick to get the Pistons’ attention.

The belief within the Lakers’ organization is that they need to make at least one more move by the Feb. 9 trade deadline to give themselves a legitimate shot at competing for a championship, sources say.

Road wins over the Knicks and Pacers have the Lakers thinking they are a player away from contending? Los Angeles is unquestionably better with Davis back, and there is reason for some level of optimism in a flat Western Conference. But we’re talking “we can make the playoffs” optimism, there is still a chasm between these Lakers and contending — the gap between their second and third-best players (and the rest of the roster) is just too great.

Still, look for some kind of Lakers trade at the deadline. They are one of the more active teams out there. Just don’t expect it to be Westbrook.

Dončić leaves game with heel contusion, could miss games

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Luka Dončić was in control — he scored 21 points in the first quarter — and the Mavericks were cruising to a win.

Then Dončić went for a dunk, Brandon Ingram slid in for the block from behind, and Dončić hit the ground. Hard.

Dončić tried to stay in, but after one more play went back to the locker room and did not return due to what the team called a heel contusion. He could miss a game or two of the upcoming Mavericks’ five-game road trip — which starts with a nationally televised game Saturday in Golden State — according to Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes.

There likely will be more information from the team over the next 24 hours.

How much the Mavericks need Dončić was on display the rest of this game. The Pelicans stormed back and might have had a chance to tie the game with 3.4 seconds left when a blown call by the referees — Ingram blocked an inbounds pass but was ruled out of bounds in doing so, when he wasn’t — robbed them of that opportunity. Larry Nance Jr. took his shot at the officials for that.

With this win, the Mavericks moved into fourth place in the West (ahead of the Clippers, who fell to the Bucks Thursday).