Ten players most likely to be on the move as NBA trade season heats up


Every year, Dec. 15 generates a lot of buzz because it is considered the unofficial start of the NBA trade season: As of today, 74 players who signed new contracts this summer become eligible to be traded. It’s a day that gets hopes up, and then…


It takes the pressure of a deadline to get NBA trades made, expect the fireworks closer to the Feb. 9 trade deadline. December deals are rare. What happened Thursday is that players such as Patty Mills, John Wall, Collin Sexton, Donte DiVincenzo, and pretty much every Lakers role player became eligible to be included in a trade. It opens up the market to new possibilities.

What players are most likely to get traded? Here are 10 names to watch.

1) Eric Gordon

If it feels like Gordon has been available for a trade since the Obama administration, that’s about right. The Rockets have been open to moving him for a while and the price right now is a first-round pick plus players making enough to match his $19.6 million salary — and don’t expect Houston to come off that number, if they were going to Gordon would have been traded already. With Gordon’s $20.9 million for next season non-guaranteed, this is essentially an expiring contract now and some team will jump. Gordon is a veteran wing averaging 12.1 points a game and shooting 34.7% from 3 — he could step into a contender’s rotation and provide stability.

2) John Collins

Another player who has been available for a trade for a while — more than a year — but with his role in Atlanta shrinking due to the backcourt of Dejounte Murray and Trae Young, this feels like the time. Collins is in the second year of a five-year, $125 million contract (there are two fully guaranteed seasons after this one, followed by a player option), a fair price for his services considering the rising cap. Last season, the athletic forward averaged 16.2 points on 52.6% shooting and grabbed 7.8 rebounds a night. He has been linked to Utah, Indiana, Dallas and Phoenix, but more teams are likely to get in the mix.

3) Kyle Kuzma

Kuzma is having a breakout season in Washington at just the right time — he’s averaging 21.4 points and 7.5 rebounds a game, he can shoot the 3 (34.9% this season) and is a solid defender.

Kuzma has a player option for next season for $13 million that he will unquestionably opt out of, making him a free agent seeking a contract in the Jalen Brunson range (four years, $110 million). Are the Wizards willing to pay the market rate to keep him next to Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis? Even if Ted Leonsis is willing to open up his wallet, does Kuzma want to stay? If the Wizards don’t think they can re-sign him, they have to trade him and get something back in return. Of course, there have been rumors of a reunion with LeBron James and the Lakers, but the Suns, Hawks, and Kings have all expressed interest as well and may be able to assemble offers that Washington likes better. Whoever trades for Kuzma has to be willing and able to re-sign him this summer.

4) Jae Crowder

The most discussed player on the trade market, everyone thought Crowder would be traded by now. Crowder couldn’t get a contract extension with the Suns this summer — in fact, the Suns were giving his starting spot to Cameron Johnson — so he didn’t show up to training camp as both sides looked for a deal. Nothing. A three-team trade that had Crowder on the Bucks was discussed, and while that version of the deal fell through the Bucks are still interested. There have been Miami Heat rumors (they can’t really match salaries until Jan. 15 when Victor Oladipo and Dewayne Dedmon become trade eligible). Crowder steps in as an undersized two-way four who can hit the three and defend — P.J Tucker lite — which has interested the Lakers as well. If I were to bet on one guy being traded, it would be Crowder.

5) Bojan Bogdanovic

Do the Pistons want to trade Bojan Bogdanovic? Reports out of Detroit have the Pistons saying, “no, we just extended him because we want to keep him.” That also sounds a lot like a negotiation tactic. With Cade Cunningham out for the season the Pistons are already looking to trade Nerlens Noel and are listening to Saddiq Bey offers, Bogdanovic would fit into that. Bogdanovic is averaging 21.1 points per game, shooting 43.2% on 3-pointers, and is a solid defender. The Lakers have targeted him, but offered a “heavily protected” 2027 first-round pick and the Pistons told them it needs to be unprotected. Bogdanovic could help any contender and the Pistons know suitors will come knocking, they can keep their price high. If nobody meets it, they keep him.

6) Nikola Vucevic

The Bulls are 11-16, sitting outside even the play-in in the East with an Island of Misfit Toys roster that lacks the glue of Lonzo Ball as he recovers from another knee surgery. Other front offices expect the Bulls to be sellers at the trade deadline — even if the Bulls themselves aren’t there yet — and hope that Zach LaVine becomes available, although league sources told NBC Sports it’s doubtful he gets traded. The Lakers have interest in DeMar DeRozan but the asking price for the 33-year-old guard will be high. The most likely Bull to be traded is Vucevic, the veteran, offensive-minded center averaging 16.3 points and 10.6 rebounds a game who can space the floor from 3 (36.1%). The Lakers have tried to talk Russell Westbrook plus a pick for DeRozan and Vucevic, but so far that has gotten nowhere. Teams from New York to Dallas have been rumored to have interest in Vucevic, expect those rumors to ramp up as we get closer to the deadline.

7) Myles Turner

When the Pacers traded Domantas Sabonis last deadline, the league expected Buddy Hield and Myles Turner to follow him out the door over the summer as Indiana focused on a rebuild. However, ownership there has never been into the teardown idea and Turner is not only still in Indy but having a breakout season — 17.6 points and 7.7 rebounds a game, shooting 43.2% from 3 while blocking 2.3 shots a game. He is a fantastic fit as a five in the modern game.

Turner is a free agent this offseason and the Pacers need to answer some questions: Do they want to retain him and keep him with their promising young backcourt of Tyrese Haliburton and Bennedict Mathurin (Turner is just 26)? Are the Pacers good with paying the market rate for his services? Will Turner stay in Indiana or does he want out? Turner just switched agents to CAA and the buzz is he’s open to staying in Indy if they are willing to pay up. If Indy doesn’t think they can keep him for whatever reason, they need to trade him. The Warriors and Lakers are among the teams with rumored interest.

8) Patrick Beverley/Kendrick Nunn

The Lakers are the most likely team to make a trade at the deadline, trying to upgrade a roster that is supposed to be win-now around LeBron James and Anthony Davis but is instead 11-16. Russell Westbrook trades draw the attention, but his $47.1 million contract — and the fact he’s playing solidly as the sixth man in Los Angeles — make that unlikely. The more probable trade is some combination (or all) of Patrick Beverley, Kendrick Nunn and a first-round pick. That combination would match the salaries of players the Lakers covet such as Bojan Bogdanovic or Kyle Kuzma. Beverley is averaging 4.6 points a game from 3 and shooting 30.3% overall, not numbers the Lakers expected, which is why they are willing to move on (but also why they have to attach a pick to find a trade partner). It would be a shock if both of these players were Lakers after the trade deadline.

9) Jakob Poeltl

Quietly, Jakob Poeltl has grown into a quality NBA center, one coveted by other teams around the NBA. Poeltl is averaging 12.9 points and 9.9 rebounds a game in San Antonio, and while he doesn’t space the floor he is solid in the paint and a good defender. Poeltl is making $9.4 million this season in the final year of his contract — trade for him and a team will have to re-sign him (and his price is going up). The Raptors, Warriors and Celtics have all come up in trade rumors, but they will have to send picks back to the rebuilding Spurs to get a deal done. The most likely outcome may be no trade and Poeltl re-signs with the Spurs next summer.

10) Mo Bamba

Any potential trade list must, by law, include the Magic’s Terrence Ross, who is the grandfather of the “he’s being shopped” list. And it’s possible the rebuilding Magic will move on from the veteran wing this time around, or potentially trade Gary Harris. But the name piquing interest is Mo Bamba, who got a chance this season and broke out as a solid big averaging 8.5 points and 5.2 rebounds a game.

Bamba is making $10.3 million this season with a non-guaranteed $10.3 million on the books for next season. The Raptors, Clippers, Lakers and Kings have all been mentioned as having interesting Bamba, but whether a team is really willing to match that salary and send a second-round to the Magic to facilitate the deal remains to be seen. That said, expect the Magic to make some moves around the deadline as they focus on their future around Paolo Banchero.

Watch Victor Wembanyama highlights from French league playoffs


Give Victor Wembanyama and his handlers credit — they have got him out there playing. The management teams for a lot of future No. 1 picks would have their guy in bubble wrap by now, not doing anything but solo workouts in a gym, not wanting to risk any injury or risking his draft status.

Wembanyama — the 7’4″ prodigy on both ends of the floor — is on the court in the semi-finals of the French LNB league (the highest level of play in France). His team, Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92, is one win away from the LNB Finals. While they lost on Friday to Lyon-Villeurbanne (the best-of-five series is now 2-1 Boulogne-Levallois), Wembanyama put up some highlights worth watching.

The San Antonio Spurs will select Wembanyama with the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft (June 22). San Antonio — and possibly Wembanyama — will make their Summer League debut at the California Classic Summer League in Sacramento in early July, before heading on to Las Vegas for the larger, official Summer League. While Wembanyama is playing for his French team in the playoffs, how much the Spurs will play him in the summer leagues — if at all — remains to be seen (top players have been on the court less and less at Summer League in recent years).

Spoestra’s biggest Heat adjustment for Game 2? Play with more ‘toughness and resolve’


DENVER — The days between NBA Finals are filled with talk of adjustments. After an ugly Game 1, much of that falls on the Heat — what can Erik Spoelstra draw up to get Jimmy Butler better lanes to attack? How must the Heat adjust their defense on Nikola Jokick?

Spoelstra sees it a little differently.

“Scheme is not going to save us,” he said.

His point is straightforward, the team’s best adjustment is simply to play better. More effort, more resolve. The trio of Max Strus, Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson must do better than 2-of-23 from 3. The Heat can’t settle for jumpers like they did in Game 1, they have to attack the rim and draw some fouls, getting to the line (the Heat had just two free throws in Game 1). Their halfcourt defensive decisions have to be sharper. Those are not scheme-related things.

The Heat saw some of that in the second half, but Spoelstra made it clear the better last 24 minutes (particularly the last 12) was more about effort than the adjustments they made (such as playing more Haywood Highsmith and putting him on Jokić for a while).

“I never point to the scheme. Scheme is not going to save us,” Spoelstra said. “It’s going to be the toughness and resolve, collective resolve. That’s us at our finest, when we rally around each other and commit to doing incredibly tough things. That’s what our group loves to do more than anything, to compete, to get out there and do things that people think can’t be done.

“The efforts made that work in the second half, but we’re proving that we can do that with our man defense, too.”

Among the things many people don’t think can be done is the Heat coming back in this series. But Spoelstra is right, proving people wrong is what the Heat have done all playoffs.


Phoenix Suns reportedly to hire Frank Vogel as new head coach


Frank Vogel won a title coaching two stars — LeBron James and Anthony Davis — in Los Angeles.

Now he will get the chance to coach two more stars with title aspirations, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker in Phoenix. The Suns are finalizing a deal to make Vogel their new head coach, according to multiple reports. This is reportedly a five-year, $31 million deal.

New Suns owner Mat Ishbia — who took over in early February and immediately pushed for the Durant trade — reportedly has been the man at the helm of basketball operations since his arrival, making this primarily his choice. Doc Rivers and Suns assistant Kevin Young also were in the mix for the job.

Vogel may not be the sexiest hire on the board — and it’s fair to ask how much of an upgrade he is over Monty Williams — but it is a solid one. The Suns can win with.

Vogel is a defense-first coach who has had success in both Indiana — where he led the Paul George Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals twice — as well as with LeBron’s Lakers (Vogel struggled in Orlando, but that was more about the roster than coaching).

Vogel is a good coach for superstars because he is relatively egoless, low-key, and a strong communicator — this is not a big personality with a hard-line attitude. Instead, he works to get buy-in from his guys and gives his stars plenty of freedom on the offensive end. Durant and Booker will have their say in what the offense looks like, but Vogel will demand defensive accountability.

There is a “good chance” Kevin Young — the top assistant under Monty Williams who had the endorsement of Devin Booker for the head coaching job — will stay on as Vogel’s lead assistant, reports John Gambadoro, the well-connected host on 98.7 FM radio in Phoenix. If true, that be a coup for the Suns, who would keep a player favorite coach to be more of an offensive coordinator. It is also possible that Young and other assistant coaches (such as Jarrett Jack) will follow Williams to Detroit, where he was just hired (on a massive deal).

Nick Nurse doesn’t ‘vibrate on the frequency of the past,’ talks winning with 76ers, Harden


In his first day on the job, Nick Nurse didn’t shy away from the hard topics and high expectations — he embraced them.

Nurse is the new 76ers head coach — and Doc Rivers is out — because the team was bounced in the second round. Again. Nurse said at his introductory press conference that he doesn’t see the way past this is to ignore the problem (from NBC Sports Philadelphia).

“We’re going to hit that head-on,” he said… “We know we’re judged on how we play in the playoffs. It was the same in Toronto. We hadn’t played that well (in the playoffs) and certain players hadn’t played that well, and all those kinds of things. So the reality is that’s the truth. I would imagine that from Day 1, we’re going to talk about that and we’re going to try to attack that. We’re going to have to face it and we’re going to have to rise to it.”

Nurse stuck with that theme through multiple questions about the past and what he will do differently. Nurse talked about the players being open-minded to trying new things, some of which may not work, but the goal is to get a lot of different things on the table.

He also talked about this 76ers team being championship-level and not getting hung up on that past.

“My first thought on that is this team could be playing tonight (in the Finals), along with some others in the Eastern Conference that wish they were getting ready to throw the ball up tonight… And as far as the rest of it, I look at it this way: I don’t really vibrate on the frequency of the past. To me, when we get a chance to start and dig into this thing a little bit, it’s going to be only focused on what we’re trying to do going forward. … Whatever’s happened for the last however many years doesn’t matter to me.”

The other big question in the room is the future of potential free agent James Harden.

Harden has a $35.6 million player option for next season he is widely expected to opt out of, making him a free agent. While rumors of a Harden reunion in Houston run rampant across the league, the 76ers want to bring him back and Nurse said his sales pitch is winning.

“Listen, I think that winning is always the sell,” he said. “Can we be good enough to win it all? That’s got to be a goal of his. And if it is, then he should stay here and play for us, because I think there’s a possibility of that.”

Whatever the roster looks like around MVP Joel Embiid, the 76ers should be title contenders. Nurse has to start laying the groundwork this summer, but his ultimate tests will come next May, not before.