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1 Trade Target Every NBA Team Should Be Thinking About

Zach Buckley

NBA trade season is about to get busy.

Its unofficial opening will commence on Dec. 15, when players who signed new contracts this summer first become trade-eligible. By that time, teams will have a clearer sense of whether they should buy or sell, too, which will only further grease the wheels of what could be an active exchange market.

Before things really get rolling, though, let's assess where everyone stands and spotlight one target who should already be on each team's radar.

Atlanta Hawks: Jae Crowder

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Crowder has spent this entire season away from the Suns and awaiting his trade out of Phoenix, and it's possible Atlanta will be the club to grant that wish.

The Hawks "have been engaged with the Suns" on Crowder trade talks, per The Athletic's Shams Charania, and Atlanta could feel motivated to place the winning bid. Even with the recent emergence of first-round rookie AJ Griffin, the Hawks could use more three-and-D options on the wing.

Crowder isn't the surest shooter around, but he has twice shot better than 38 percent on high volume from range, so his hot streaks can last a while when he really has it rolling. His bigger appeal, though, is tied to defensive versatility, toughness and experience, the latter highlighted by the 107 playoff games (and 86 postseason starts) under his belt.

Boston Celtics: Bismack Biyombo

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The Celtics, the current leaders in both winning percentage and net rating, are the closest thing the Association has to a weakness-free team. They do almost everything at a respectable-or-better level, and their floor will only rise once defensive anchor Robert Williams III returns from knee injury.

If Boston has a shortcoming, though, it's a lack of reliable depth up front. Granted, Williams would help strengthen that, but even if he stays healthy—which hasn't always been his strong suit—the Shamrocks might seek another big body behind him.

Why not Biyombo? The Suns could deem him expendable since he's third on the depth chart behind Deandre Ayton and Jock Landale, while the Celtics could view Biyombo as a steady source of glass-cleaning, paint protection and high energy.

Brooklyn Nets: Mo Bamba

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The Nets need more help on the interior behind Nic Claxton. In a perfect world, said assistance would come from someone who could clean up mistakes on the defensive end and not spoil the spacing on offense.

Bamba could be up to the task.

For his career, he's averaged 2.7 blocks and 11.5 rebounds per 36 minutes and shot 35.3 percent from three. He should also be available for the right price, since the Magic have reduced his role to clear the runway for the ascending Bol Bol.

Charlotte Hornets: James Wiseman

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Buzz City has barely made a peep this season. Star point guard LaMelo Ball can't get healthy, and this offense—which has plunged from eighth last season to 30th—can't function without him.

You could argue, then, the Hornets would be best suited to sell this trade season and stack up future assets. They should be cautious about sacrificing too much talent, though, because a healthy Ball could get them buzzing again pretty quickly.

The preferred alternative, then, might be selective buying, or ponying up only for players who fit Ball's timeline. The 21-year-old Wiseman, who was drafted one spot ahead of Ball in 2020, could be perfect. Wiseman is really rough around the edges right now, but the Hornets can stomach his growing pains in hopes he'll eventually figure out how to maximize the impact of his size, athleticism and flashes of high-level offensive skill.

Chicago Bulls: Jakob Poeltl

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The Bulls poked around for a Poeltl trade last season, and they should reopen those communication lines.

Poeltl would be a much cleaner fit for this group than incumbent center Nikola Vučević. The latter might be the superior scorer and shooter, but that doesn't matter much when his production gets held back by his place behind DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine on the offensive pecking order.

Poeltl, conversely, shines brightest on defense, where he doubles as an elite paint protector and capable switcher on the perimeter. While Vučević's biggest strengths are masked in Chicago, Poeltl's would shine.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Malik Beasley

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The Cavaliers and Jazz already linked up on a deal once this year and each must be thrilled with the result. Cleveland nabbed an All-Star offensive focal point in Donovan Mitchell, while Utah brought in building blocks like Lauri Markkanen and Collin Sexton, plus several long-term assets.

Cleveland should ring up Salt Lake City and see if it can broker another swap.

Beasley may not have many layers to his game, but his flame-throwing from three-point territory (3.2 makes per night on 38.7 percent shooting since the start of 2020-21) should pique the Cavaliers' interest. They need more support spacers to spread the floor for their stars, and their second unit, which ranks just 25th in offensive efficiency, could use more juice.

Dallas Mavericks: Bogdan Bogdanović

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Luka Dončić could capture MVP honors on the strength of his offensive brilliance alone. So, shouldn't Dallas rank a tad better than 13th on that end, then?

The fact that even Dončić's bag isn't deep enough to prop this attack into the top 10 speaks to the dearth of steady scoring and shot-creation around him. Dallas desperately needs more variety in its Luka-centric system, and Bogdanović could add exactly that—if he can ever find his way back from offseason knee surgery.

The Hawks were fielding calls for the skilled swingman already last season, and it's hard to imagine his time away from the team has done anything other than increase its willingness to do a deal. When healthy, he checks a slew of helpful boxes as a floor-spacer, shot-creator, playmaker and capable defender.

Denver Nuggets: Matisse Thybulle

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To borrow a phrase from late NFL coaching great Dennis Green, the Nuggets are who we thought they were: overpowered on offense and undermanned on defense.

Trading for Thybulle is one way to address that imbalance.

He's a tenacious on-ball defender and a disruptive presence away from it. He's also presumably obtainable since the Sixers' hesitance to play him now (career-low 11.2 minutes per game) could signal an unwillingness to pay him in restricted free agency next summer. Philly has apparently deemed Thybulle's offensive limitations too damaging to overcome, but if anyone could weaponize him as an off-ball slasher, it'd be a visionary passer like Nikola Jokić.

Detroit Pistons: Draft Picks

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Detroit's average game is an 8.6-point loss. The Pistons have the second-worst net rating in the league. They aren't even 25 games into their season yet, and they're already on their fourth losing streak spanning at least three contests.

It's rough in the Motor City now, and it could get even worse, as season-ending surgery remains a possibility for last year's top pick, Cade Cunningham.

Detroit shouldn't overthink this trade season: Every win-now player with not insignificant trade value must go. Scoring foward Bojan Bogdanović should have no trouble attracting suitors, Alec Burks and Cory Joseph figure to generate some interest and even Saddiq Bey, previously presumed to be a long-term building block, has spawned some trade chatter, per Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

Golden State Warriors: Jakob Poeltl

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No one needs to tell the Warriors to put Poeltl on the radar. Rival executives already assume he's on there, per B/R's Eric Pincus.

And why wouldn't that be the case? Golden State has struggled finding stability at center when Kevon Looney or Draymond Green aren't manning the middle. That gig was supposed to belong to James Wiseman, but he's down in the G League—and not exactly lighting the hoops world on fire down there.

Poeltl would be perfect in Golden State. He'd beef up its 22nd-ranked defense, grease the offense with solid screens and slick passes and address this group's rebounding woes. A Poeltl-for-Wiseman (and maybe an extra asset) swap makes too much sense for both sides.

Houston Rockets: R.J. Hampton

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The boring answer—though perhaps the right one—is that Houston should be focused on finding as much as the market is willing to part with for Eric Gordon. How the 33-year-old hasn't been freed from the Rockets rebuild yet is beyond me.

Again, though, that's kind of boring. Let's spice it up a bit with a recommendation for Hampton, who fits the nucleus of this young core, has plenty of growth potential and could soon be squeezed out of a crowded backcourt in Orlando.

Hampton admittedly hasn't done much through his first two-plus seasons in the NBA, but he has good size, great athleticism and intriguing vision for a combo guard. The sample size is small, but he has shown encouraging flashes with his shot this season, hitting 34.8 percent of his threes and a career-high 86.2 percent of his free throws.

Indiana Pacers: Saddiq Bey

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It may not be entirely clear whether the Pacers are sustainably good or just good right now, but this much is certain: Playing winning basketball (9-3 in November) isn't hurting the rebuild. Not when cornerstones like Tyrese Haliburton, Bennedict Mathurin and three-point-dagger-throwing Andrew Nembhard are doing a lot of the heavy lifting.

Indiana, which holds upper-half efficiency rankings on offense and defense, has done enough to justify some degree of buying before the deadline. That player just needs to be on the same calendar as the core of this club, and the 23-year-old Bey certainly qualifies.

Now, he'd be even more appealing if his three-point shooting hadn't plummeted 10-plus percentage points in two seasons (38.0 as a rookie, 27.2 now), but without the skid, he might be untouchable. Get him around a table-setter like Haliburton and offensive gravitational forces like Mathurin and Buddy Hield, and conditions could be perfect for Bey to bounce back and achieve building-block status in the Circle City.

Los Angeles Clippers: P.J. Washington

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You could argue for the Clippers to find a floor general, but with Reggie Jackson rebounding from a rough start and John Wall showing he still has plenty in the tank, they may not need another playmaker. Drop healthy versions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George back onto this roster—a novel concept, I know—and the offensive issues could iron themselves out.

The frontcourt is a different story, though, and L.A. knows it. As Jake Fischer reported for Yahoo Sports, "Clippers head coach Ty Lue and the front office are aligned in searching for frontcourt depth beyond Ivica Zubac."

More specifically, L.A. reportedly seeks a "switchable center," which happens to be one of many hats Washington can wear. The fourth-year (small-ball) big man boasts a well-rounded skill set and the ability to mold it around his team's needs any given night. While his upcoming restricted free agency might keep some suitors away, the deep-pocketed Clippers can afford to take the plunge now and determine whether he's worth paying later.

Los Angeles Lakers: Bradley Beal

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Is Beal to Hollywood a pipe dream? Perhaps, but the Lakers are free to dream as big as they'd like until—or if—they ever part with those two precious future first-rounders that won't convey until long after LeBron James has left town (2027 and 2029, to be precise).

We've heard the Lakers are waiting for a mystery star to surface on the trade market. We've also heard, by way of one Western Conference executive, that Beal "wants to come to California," per SI's Howard Beck (h/t ClutchPoints).

It's a long shot, sure, but there were questions about the logic from both sides on the five-year, $251 million deal Beal inked with the Wizards this summer. Washington has been fine so far, but there's still no evidence of a breakthrough coming at any point of whatever remains of Beal's prime. Maybe by the time he becomes trade eligible in mid-January, both sides will have accepted that.

Should the two parties decide they've taken this relationship as far as it can go, L.A. must be ready to pounce. The Lakers offense badly needs a legitimate three-point threat and more half-court scoring punch, and Beal checks both boxes with ease.

Memphis Grizzlies: Myles Turner

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The Grizzlies have already had repeat run-ins with the injury bug and still found their way to a 12-8 start. It's probably more likely than not they aren't in the market for a major change.

If they wanted to, though, they have the assets to chase a difference-maker. And for as much as they may want to think they don't need that much help, it's worth noting they only rank 13th in net efficiency. They have a chance to be great, sure, but they haven't exactly been great so far.

Switching up at center from the defense-only Steven Adams to the two-way Turner could be huge. Turner can handle all of the interior duties Adams takes on while also adding both an above-the-rim presence and a three-ball that could help widen the attack lanes for Ja Morant and Desmond Bane to probe.

Miami Heat: Jae Crowder

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The Heat have struggled more with injuries than anything, but their decision not to retain or replace P.J. Tucker this offseason remains a head-scratcher. Caleb Martin has done an admirable job of expanding his game to fit a larger role, but this forward group misses Tucker's tenacity, toughness and occasional three-point shooting.

Crowder could help fill that void.

He spent the latter part of the 2019-20 season in South Beach—OK, mostly in the Orlando bubble with the Heat, but you get my drift—and promptly played some of the best basketball of his career. He started all 21 playoff games during Miami's march to the Finals and logged the Heat's fourth-most minutes in that series.

Milwaukee Bucks: Payton Pritchard

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Pritchard can't catch a break. Despite turning a ton of heads as a rookie and mostly matching that production (on a per-minute basis, at least) ever since, his role has been considerably slimmed for the second consecutive season. A fresh start elsewhere could be just what he needs to get back on track, as The Athletic's John Hollinger opined:

"With Marcus Smart, Macolm Brogdon and Derrick White ahead of him in the backcourt pecking order, it's been near-impossible for Pritchard to break through. Pritchard is 25, shoots [41.1] percent career from 3 and has another year left beyond this one on a rookie contract that pays him peanuts. He's valuable! He's just less valuable to Boston right now than almost any other team."

Now, the Celtics may not want to outfit a direct competitor with a valuable contributor, but if the Bucks put the best offer on the table, that can win over any resistance. Pritchard isn't worth breaking the bank or anything, but Milwaukee could give up a decent asset to get him. The Bucks need more shooting and more backcourt scoring in general, and those areas just happen to be Pritchard's specialties.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Josh Richardson

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A 10-11 start may not normally sound any alarms, but considering what this campaign was supposed to be for the Timberwolves, it feels like they're teetering on the brink of disaster. They paid a fortune for Rudy Gobert this offseason in hopes he'd be the final piece to push them over the top, but they've instead went the wrong direction: worse winning percentage (.561 to .476), worse offense (seventh to 17th) and, frustratingly, worse defense (13th to 15th).

How would a trade for Richardson turn things around? To be quite honest, it might not. The Wolves might need more help than he can provide.

Unfortunately, help on that level costs more than Minnesota can afford after splurging on Gobert, so a mid-tier target like Richardson might be as good as this budget can buy. He'd beef up this wing rotation with defense, shot-making and a pinch of ball-handling.

New Orleans Pelicans: Kelly Olynyk

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The Pelicans have very few needs beyond whatever kind of mystic power would help ensure Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram stay upright.

If you pick a few nits, though—given the minuscule margin for error at the top, you absolutely should—an offensive-minded big with a reliable three-ball would be a welcome addition.

Olynyk has used his offensive skills—and torrid shooting (61.8 percent on twos, 47.5 percent on threes)—to help the Jazz get off to a 12-11 start. However, Utah's rebuilding reality might be coming into focus with the club having dropped eight of its last 10 games, which should put veterans like the 31-year-old Olynyk on the chopping block. He's a more comfortable, reliable spacer than Jonas Valančiūnas, and Olynyk's plus passing would be dynamic alongside a lob finisher of Williamson's ilk.

New York Knicks: Robert Covington

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The Knicks need more stoppers. And shooters. And, if they're being greedy, how about a true small-ball option at center, too?

Well, why not check off all three boxes in a single trade for Covington?

He's been mostly squeezed out of the Clippers' rotation, so his trade cost can't be too steep. He's cashed in 38 percent of his long-range attempts since the start of 2020-21, so his three-ball should rank among the more trustworthy on the market. He's also a chaos-creating off-ball defender (career 1.9 steals and 1.2 blocks per 36 minutes), so he could help the Knicks, who rank just 19th in points off turnovers, find more scoring chances in the open court.

Oklahoma City Thunder: John Collins

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At some point in the near future, the Thunder will eventually cobble together some of their long-term assets and convert them into win-now talent. You could argue such a swap should happen sooner than later, since Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is playing at an MVP level and other young players in the rotation are finding their footing.

Should OKC decide to search for a rebuild accelerator before the deadline, Collins could be a perfect fit.

He could take some scoring heat off Gilgeous-Alexander, hammer home lob passes from Josh Giddey and keep the interior open for the eventual return of Chet Holmgren. Collins is also only a year older than Gilgeous-Alexander, so they could peak together and help guide this roster into the future.

Orlando Magic: Moses Moody

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While the Magic have assembled a decent amount of young talent, this roster isn't ready to win yet. So, in-prime players would look out of place in Orlando.

However, another up-and-comer at a position of need should have the full attention of the front office.

Moody, who has fallen out of Golden State's rotation, could be worth a dart throw. His career hasn't started as smoothly as hoped, but all of the makings of a three-and-D role player are there. The Magic could get him at a discount now and develop him into a keeper over time.

Philadelphia 76ers: Eric Gordon

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Whatever wisdom he had to share with the Rockets' young core has surely been communicated by this point. Subjecting the 33-year-old—34 on Christmas—to more of the inevitable growing pains from this top-to-bottom rebuild just feels cruel.

His skill set can really help out a contender. He makes open threes, creates a bit of offense and isn't a traffic cone on defense. Oh, he also formerly teamed with James Harden—and P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr.—in Houston, in case Sixers president Daryl Morey needed more motivation to go get Gordon.

Phoenix Suns: Bogdan Bogdanović

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The Suns went to the Finals in 2021 and subsequently paced the Association in wins last season. That the franchise is still awaiting its first NBA title should've hammered home the message that sometimes being really, really good isn't good enough.

Phoenix should be focused on putting its roster in the best possible position to win. A healthy Bogdanović, who's firmly on the Suns' radar, per The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor, could be an asset for this club and quite possibly a member of its closing lineup.

Bogdanović maybe doesn't have a signature skill, but he does just about everything at an above-average level or better. That's exactly the kind of support piece the Suns should be putting around their stars.

Portland Trail Blazers: Jae Crowder

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As per usual, Portland could use more two-way forwards.

That's not entirely unique to the Blazers—virtually all modern NBA rosters could use more depth in those spots—but it's impacted them more than most due to their overall construction. Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons might be electric on offense, but there are some obvious defensive concerns when playing them together (as there were with Lillard and CJ McCollum). Jusuf Nurkić, meanwhile, boasts impressive offensive ability, but he isn't a major shot-blocker, nor the fleetest of foot.

So Portland needs reliable defenders who aren't total zeros on offense at the wing spots. Jerami Grant surpasses those requirements with ease. Josh Hart usually aces his two-way tests, too, though he doesn't have great size for the wing nor a super-accurate outside shot. Shaedon Sharpe has shown some wildly encouraging flashes, but he's a 19-year-old rookie, so the Blazers will be careful not to ask for too much too quickly from him.

That's why it would make sense for Portland to place the winning bid in the Crowder sweepstakes. He could instantly upgrade the defense and physicality, and if he got on one of his heaters from three, he might see as many minutes as he cares to handle.

Sacramento Kings: Mo Bamba

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The Kings have both a winning record and a top-five offense. Tack on the longest playoff drought in NBA history, and you have more than enough motivation for this front office to buy.

While Sacramento isn't close enough to contention to blow the budget, a reasonably priced need-filler could go a long way.

Bamba would be an excellent addition to this frontcourt. The Kings aren't great on the boards and block fewer shots than anyone, both areas Bamba would dramatically improve upon his arrival. His outside shooting would be a boon, too, since it would better space the floor for De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk to attack.

San Antonio Spurs: Draft Picks

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The Spurs started the season on a 5-2 tear and have gone a miserable 1-13 ever since. Their net rating is an atrocious minus-10 points per 100 possessions.

In other words, the tank job is rolling at full force in the Alamo City.

San Antonio should lean even heavier into this organizational reset and let go of any and all coveted veterans at the trade deadline. Between Jakob Poeltl, Doug McDermott and Josh Richardson, the Spurs should be able to add at least a few helpful draft picks.

Toronto Raptors: Coby White

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Toronto runs about as top-heavy as any team in the NBA, and that's most evident at the point guard position. While starter Fred VanVleet logs a team-high 37.3 minutes per night, backups Malachi Flynn and Dalano Banton keep trying and failing to lock down a full-time gig in this rotation.

It's possible White might suffer the same fate. Then again, it's also clear if he proved himself worthy of significant minutes, he wouldn't have any major obstacles in his path.

The Raptors need to pack a heavier scoring punch on the perimeter, and White could up their potency. He hasn't had a great start to this season, but over the past two campaigns, he was a nightly source of 13.9 points on 42.3 percent shooting (37.1 percent from distance) and 3.9 assists against 1.7 turnovers.

Utah Jazz: Jaxson Hayes

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Maybe Utah's front office feels differently, but the Jazz should do more selling than buying this trade season. All the good vibes from their 10-3 start have been buried amid a recent avalanche of losses. Since that start, Utah is just 2-8 with a minus-4.6 net rating.

The Jazz can still add players, but they shouldn't spend much—or anything—on a veteran. However, a player like Hayes, the No. 8 pick of the 2019 draft who won't turn 23 until after the season, should hold significant appeal for both his ability to contribute now and the chance to grow into so much more than his current form.

Utah doesn't have much bounce in its frontcourt, which helps explain why this isn't a great group in terms of defensive rebounding or shot-blocking. Hayes has the hops to make his presence felt on both fronts, and his increasing willingness to shoot from range coupled with his relatively accurate free-throw stroke (career 72.1 percent) only ups his intrigue going forward.

Washington Wizards: Kevin Durant

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Yes, Wizards fans, we are going back down the old "bring Durant home" road.

No, it hasn't worked before. No, there isn't much reason to believe it will succeed now. And yet, the idea of a Durant deal to somewhere can't be dismissed. Not after he requested a trade this offseason, and certainly not with the Nets looking decidedly mediocre.

As long as the notion of a Durant deal is remotely feasible, Washington should be fully onboard with the pursuit. Washington desperately needs to upgrade its supporting cast around Bradley Beal. While Kristaps Porziņģis and Kyle Kuzma have both impressed through the early going, they aren't near Durant's level.

It would take all of Washington's assets to pry him loose, and even that might not be enough, but the Wizards have little to lose by fully investing in a(nother) pursuit of the District native.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and and accurate through Nov. 29.

Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.


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