Who’s next: Five NBA stars most likely to be traded this season

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This summer, it was Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, but not Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving. There are always NBA trades to talk about — even if some never come to fruition.

So who is next?

The only sure things this NBA season are Luka Doncic will excessively whine to referees and a star player’s name will come up in trade rumors. But which stars? Who could be on the block next? Here are five names to look out for.

Draymond Green (Warriors)

Green’s name would not have made this list a couple of weeks ago. He probably still doesn’t get moved — several league sources told NBC Sports not to expect a trade, they think the Warriors will work it out — but nothing is off the table after the video of Green punching Jordan Poole in practice went viral.

Green is away from the Warriors right now by mutual decision. Kevon Looney was honest after the Warriors exhibition game Sunday saying Green has work to do to earn back the trust of the Golden State locker room.

If that trust cannot be repaired, and if the Warriors are serious about not extending his contract at the price he wants (instead inking Poole and Andrew Wiggins to new deals), they may have to consider this season as the chance to trade him. On the Lowe Post podcast, Bill Simmons threw out a three-way trade that sent Green to the Lakers and brought Myles Turner to the Warriors, which turned a few heads.

Green, however, may not have the market value people think. His ability to guard 1-5 and quarterback a defense is insanely valuable in the Warriors switching scheme, but it doesn’t fit with every team’s system. Plus, Green’s 3-point shooting has fallen way off, limiting his scoring largely to in the paint (he still makes great reads and passes). Green is a perfect fit and thrives in the Warriors eco-system, would he thrive the same way elsewhere? A lot of scouts and executives aren’t so sure.

Still, suddenly the idea of a Green trade is not crazy. It’s something to watch.

Russell Westbrook (Lakers)

An obvious addition to the list as Lakers GM Rob Pelinka spent all summer trying to find a deal for Westbrook they found acceptable.

Throughout training camp, Westbrook has said and done all the right things: playing defense, setting picks, being in the corner to shoot 3s on some sets, and being a team player. Let’s say people — and by people, we mean both league officials and Lakers fans — are skeptical about how long this will continue. If things start to go sideways with the Lakers, a Westbrook trade will be back on the table (and we will be back to discussing what it would take to get just-extended Rob Pelinka to send out both Lakers first-round picks he can trade (2027 and 2029).

Myles Turner (Pacers)

Another rumor that inevitably will come true, the only question is where Turner lands.

Turner has never been an All-Star and is underrated by fans, but he fits what teams are seeking in a modern big man — he is an elite shot blocker (2.8 per game last season, 3.4 per game two seasons ago), who is mobile enough to do a little switching. On offense, he shot 33.3% on four 3-pointers a game last season in Indiana. He is a stretch five that is easy to picture next to Anthony Davis in Los Angeles (the Lakers don’t want to give up two first-round picks for Turner and Buddy Hield), but also would fit next to any four who wants to score inside (Julius Randle, Zion Williamson, etc.). The Pacers are waiting for the right deal, but they also don’t want to start winning a lot of games in a rebuilding year and mess up their lottery odds, so there is pressure to find the right trade sooner rather than later.

John Collins (Hawks)

He is another player who has been on the trade block for more than a year, but the Hawks haven’t found a deal they like so he is still in Atlanta. At Media Day both Collins and Atlanta GM Landry Fields talked about putting those rumors in the past and working on winning a lot of games, but as the trade deadline nears expect those rumors to pop up again (especially if the Hawks don’t live up to expectations).

Collins is a bouncy four who averaged 16.2 points and 7.8 rebounds a game last season — he could help a lot of teams. Expect those teams to call again as we move closer to the NBA trade deadline.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Thunder)

The Thunder are young and don’t want to win many games this season as they continue to stockpile young talent during their rebuild (put bluntly, they want to be in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes). Gilgeous-Alexander is an outstanding player and wins games. The Thunder will keep him around to start the season (even with him they are not going to win much) but it wouldn’t be a shock to see him sat down deeper into the season as the Thunder want to tank player their young guys. A team that needs a point guard and floor general could come calling, and if that team will surrender picks or young players the Thunder will listen.

Other names to watch on the ride market: Buddy Hield (Pacers), Mike Conley (Jazz), Lauri Markkanen (Jazz), Bojan Bogdanovic (Pistons), Alec Burks (Pistons), Julius Randle (Knicks).

(Note: Bradley Beal was listed in the original article, but because he signed a supermax deal he cannot be traded this year. In addition, he has a no-trade clause beyond that so Beal could control when and where he gets traded, if it ever comes to that.)

76ers blow 9-point lead in final :34 seconds, then hang on to beat Lakers in OT

Los Angeles Lakers v Philadelphia 76ers
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images
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It was almost a legendary comeback win for the Lakers — and a legendary blown lead for the 76ers.

Philadelphia had the game in hand, up 18 in the fourth quarter, and while Los Angeles staged a comeback the 76ers were still up by nine inside :45 seconds. And yet…

The 76ers took care of business in overtime — aided by the Lakers settling too much and going 0-of-5 outside the paint but also 1-of-5 in the paint in OT — and picked up the 133-122 win.

In a battle of two teams that have been inconsistent all season, they lived up to that billing – both teams had huge lapses and stretches of impressive play. It led to streaks, including the wild final minutes.

Joel Embiid started out hot scoring 13 of the Sixers’ first 15 points and finishing the night with 38 points on 14-for-19 shooting and 12 rebounds.

James Harden looked better than his first game back and finished with 28 points and 12 assists.

However, Philly’s breakout star of the night was DeAnthony Melton, who grew up a Clippers fan and said he wanted to take it to the Lakers — he scored 33 points with eight made 3-pointers.

Anthony Davis finished with 31 points and 12 rebounds for the night. Austin Reaves came off the bench and hit 4-of-6 from 3 on his way to 25 points, while LeBron James had 23 points on 9-of-22 shooting.

NBA owners, players union reportedly agree to push back CBA opt-out date

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NBA owners and players are both making too much money to risk screwing things up with a labor stoppage, right? RIGHT?

Don’t be so sure.

In a sign the two sides have a lot of work to do to reach terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement — primarily because of an internal dispute among the owners — the NBA (representing the owners) and the players union have agreed to push back the opt-out date for the CBA from Dec. 15 (this would end the current CBA on July 1, 2023). Marc Stein reported this earlier in the week (covered here) and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski added details today.

Talks on a new CBA are ongoing, and a formal ratification of an extension — likely into February — is expected to come at a virtual board of governors meeting Wednesday, sources said.

What’s the stumbling block? A group of owners — bothered by the massive spending into the luxury tax of the Warriors, Clippers, and Nets  — is pushing for an “Upper Spending Limit” for teams. Call it whatever they want, that’s a hard cap and there is no chance the players will sign off on any form of a hard cap. 

The NBA has used a punitive and progressively intense luxury tax to rein in the spending of some owners. However, some owners — how many is unclear, but enough that the NBA has put the issue on the table — feel the tax isn’t doing its job in the wake of new, even wealthier owners. 

Unquestionably some owners are unbothered by the tax. To use the example I have used before, Steve Ballmer’s Clippers are on track to pay $191.9 million in payroll this season, which will result in a $144.7 million luxury tax bill (leading to a payroll and tax total of $336.6 million). The Warriors and Nets will be in the same ballpark. The Clippers will pay more in tax alone than 11 teams will spend on total payroll. Two-thirds of NBA teams will pay around $150 million in payroll or less, not much more than the Clippers’ tax bill.

Recently, the same NBA owners approved a rule change that would allow a sovereign wealth fund — the financial arms of generally oil-rich countries such as Qatar or Saudi Arabia — to buy up to 20% of an NBA team as a silent partner. That has not happened yet, but the door is open. It’s part of a pattern of wealthier owners — including hedge fund managers and the like — entering the playing field for the NBA.

All that has some of the more established, older owners feeling squeezed by this new group’s willingness to spend. That has the older owners pushing for a hard cap to stop what they see as an increased willingness to spend.

Again, there is no chance the players approve a hard cap. The owners know this, but some seem willing to play brinksmanship with a lucrative, growing business (particularly internationally) to protect their bottom lines.

If you read all that and thought, “this isn’t about the players really, it’s an owner vs. owner issue,” you’re spot on. The league and players are giving the owners more time to work out their internal issues.

Are struggling Mavericks on the clock with Luka Doncic?

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Luka Doncic is in the first year of a five-year, $215.2 million contract. More than that, when asked recently if Mavericks fans should be worried about him wanting out as the team has stumbled at points to start this season, Doncic didn’t sound like a guy looking to bolt:

“I don’t think they’re worried about it right now. I got what, five years left here, so I don’t think they should be worried about it.”

The Mavericks’ front office should be worried about it — teams are always on the clock with a superstar.

The Mavericks let Jalen Brunson get away in the offseason, then brought in Christian Wood (whose defense is an issue and he is coming off the bench). This remains a team a player or two away from contending despite having a potential MVP in Doncic carrying a historic offensive load.

That doesn’t mean Doncic will ask out at the deadline or this summer (he won’t), but if his frustration grows over the next couple of years… who knows. Tim MacMahon of ESPN put it well on the Hoop Collective podcast (hat tip Real GM):

“I think they have a two-year window. This season and next season going into that summer [2024]. I think they have a two-year window where, you know, like Milwaukee did with Giannis [Antetokounmpo], I think in that window they really need to convince Luka that he has a chance to contend year in and year out right here in Dallas. If they can’t get it done in that two-year window, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that he’s going to force a trade or ask for a trade. I’m just saying at that point if he’s not happy, he has all the leverage in the world if he would be looking to leave..

“I don’t think Luka will look for reasons to leave. I think he’d be perfectly happy spending his entire career in Dallas. But if he doesn’t have to look for reasons and they’re slamming him in the face, then that’s a problem. He’s also a guy who is a ruthless competitor, which means he loves winning. He’s used to winning. He won championships with Real Madrid. He won a EuroBasket championship with the Slovenian national team. He also detests losing. Like can’t handle it.”

The Mavericks made the Western Conference Finals last season, knocking off the 64-win Suns in the process — this team is not that far away. Not with Doncic handling the ball. But it feels like a team that has taken a step back from those lofty levels this season. There are many more questions than answers, and it’s impossible to guess how Doncic will feel after this season’s playoffs, let alone the ones ending in the summer of 2024.

But the Mavericks stumbles this season have to put the Dallas front office on notice — this team is not good enough. And if we know it, you can be sure Doncic knows it.

Curry thinking retirement? ‘I don’t see myself slowing down any time soon’

2022 Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Awards Presented by Chase
Kimberly White/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated
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Stephen Curry is playing at an MVP level this season: 30 points a game, hitting 43.2% from 3 with a 66.4 true shooting percentage, plus pitching in seven assists and 6.6 rebounds a game. He remains one of the best-conditioned athletes in the sport.

In the face of that, even though he is 34, asking him a retirement question seemed an odd choice, yet a reporter at the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award ceremony — Curry won the award, if you didn’t know — asked Curry about it seems he’s not interested.

Curry should not be thinking of retirement, but there is a sense around these Warriors that this era, this run is coming to an end in the next few years. Curry may be defying father time, but Draymond Green and Klay Thompson (especially post injuries) are not. There is a decline in their games (and this season, the role players have not stepped up around them the same way). With that comes a certain pressure to take advantage of the opportunities, there aren’t going to be as many.

Which is why the Warriors are a team to watch at the trade deadline (and will they sell low on James Wiseman to a team that still sees the potential in him?).

As for Curry, he will still be around and producing for a few more years. Nobody is ready to think about his retirement. Including Curry himself.