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2024 NBA Trade Deadline Surprises That Could Actually Happen

Zach Buckley

NBA trade season seemingly always serves up some surprises.

You could argue the 2023-24 version already has.

While it wasn't necessarily shocking to see the Toronto Raptors trade away both OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam, who saw both of those deals getting done by mid-January? Or how about the fact they didn't get a single first-round pick in the Anunoby deal but wound up with three of them in the Siakam swap?

Maybe those are more eyebrow-raisers than jaw-droppers, but they are surprises nonetheless.

It's possible the basketball gods keep delivering unexpected twists and turns ahead of the Feb. 8 trade deadline, including the following five feasible moves.

The Magic Make an Aggressive Move for Anfernee Simons

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The Orlando Magic don't have a major motivation to reach for the fast-forward button. Their top two players are 22 and under—Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner—and have time remaining on their rookie-scale contracts. Their front office could conclude this roster isn't ready for an all-in type of transaction, especially with the way things have stalled of late (6-12 since their 16-7 sprint out of the starting gate).

Then again, Orlando's third-ranked defense certainly appears playoff-ready. Its 24th-ranked offense obviously isn't there, but that might be something this club can correct on the trade market. After all, this club has everything needed to broker a blockbuster with more draft picks than they can use, more prospects than they can develop and enough mid-sized salaries to make the money work in almost any kind of deal.

Why not try accelerating the rebuild with Anfernee Simons? He is young enough to grow with Orlando's core but might have too much overlap to coexist with Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe in Portland. The Trail Blazers have barely started their post-Damian Lillard rebuild, and it might be easier to navigate without owing the 24-year-old Simons $77.7 million for this season and the next two.

The Blazers may not see Simons as expendable, per se, but he hardly feels untouchable. If he is up for grabs, the Magic might put a massive offer on the table. He is the high-volume perimeter shot-creator they desperately need, and his ability to play off the ball (43.6 catch-and-shoot three-point percentage on the league's least productive passing offense) means he wouldn't block the on-ball developmental paths of Banchero and Wagner.

Simons' shooting, shot-making and secondary creation would all fill needs in Orlando and perhaps position the Magic to cement a top-six seed and give this young core its first taste of playoff basketball. Plus, they could keep him around for at least two more seasons, ideally continuing to climb the Eastern Conference ladder as he and they improve.

The Lakers Don't Land Dejounte Murray, but Do Add Two Starters

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The Los Angeles Lakers head toward this season's trade deadline much in the same manner as they did the last one: underperforming expectations to such a substantial degree that major roster reshuffling could be required.

The biggest detriment to their current success is a malfunctioning, space-constricted offense that ranks among the league's 10 worst. They can't shoot, don't have enough downhill threats in their backcourt and have a general need for more consistent support scoring.

That's why they've so often found themselves linked to the top point-producers on the market. A deal for Zach LaVine is seemingly off the table, but his teammate, DeMar DeRozan, could be a possible target. And while trade talks around Dejounte Murray have reportedly "stalled," per The Athletic's Jovan Buha, they are "expected to pick back up closer to the deadline."

Murray seems gettable, but maybe only if L.A. is open to giving up Austin Reaves. It doesn't seem like that is in the cards. Per Buha, the Lakers would only move Reaves for "either a clear-cut All-Star—someone better than Murray or LaVine, for example—or multiple rotation upgrades."

Don't look for the Lakers to land a star. They don't have enough assets to acquire one, particularly if Reaves is off the table.

Instead, look for L.A. to wind up doing something similar to last season, when multiple trades brought back several additions to the rotation, including Rui Hachimura, D'Angelo Russell and Jarred Vanderbilt.

Who could head to Hollywood this time around? It's too soon to say for certain, but Buha mentioned Bruce Brown, Jerami Grant, Terry Rozier, Gary Trent Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O'Neale as possible targets. Most would help address the club's shooting shortage, and some would improve their perimeter defense, off-the-dribble attacking and shot-creation.

A double-dip into the trade market to add a guard who packs a scoring punch and a forward who contributes something on both ends could be the surprise ending to the franchise's latest star-search.

The Bulls Do Nothing...Again

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All members of the Chicago Bulls fanbase might be eager for an active trade season, from glass-overflowing optimists awaiting win-now pieces for a hopeful playoff run to glass-bone-dry pessimists eagerly awaiting a top-to-bottom tear-down of this non-contending roster.

The front office seemingly wants to make things happen, too, though its deadline plans sort of run in opposite directions. The Bulls are reportedly "focused" on moving on from Zach LaVine, per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, but they're also aiming to "reload this roster on the fly."

Finding any trade for LaVine—whose trade market was dormant before he rolled his ankle Thursday night—is hard enough. But uncovering a trade for the high-paid, oft-injured guard that makes this club more competitive might be impossible. It might take an asset or two just to unload him.

So, how can the front office find a way for this club to step forward? Surely, a club with a sub-.500 record and some unpaid draft debts can't possibly part with more picks to chase a play-in tournament invitation, right? But how else can Chicago sweeten the pot for a win-now pickup?

Coby White is a clear keeper. Patrick Williams is a rotation regular with a 41.4 percent connection rate from three and defensive versatility. Ayo Dosunmu is subtly helpful in a lot of different ways, but subtlety isn't a splashy trait on the trade market. Dalen Terry has been a massive disappointment and as such holds no discernible trade value.

Outside looking in, the Bulls sure appear crammed into that proverbial crevice between a rock and a hard place. Blowing up this roster feels like their only way out, but if that's off the table, Chicago could wind up doing exactly what it did at the past two trade deadlines: Absolutely nothing.

Golden State Gives Up Jonathan Kuminga

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There is an argument to be made—perhaps a convincing one—that this season is past the point of salvaging for the Golden State Warriors.

Klay Thompson hasn't been the same since losing consecutive seasons to injuries and won't be again. Draymond Green has become completely unreliable. Andrew Wiggins looks lost on both ends. Even Stephen Curry appears to be running on fumes (38.1/32.7/89.1 shooting slash over his past 10 outings).

Normally, this would read like the recipe for a total tear-down. Don't expect to see any white-flag waving from this group, though. Not when Curry, a once-in-a-lifetime talent, remains both on the roster and in such close proximity to his prime (just last season, he was a near-30-point scorer and a 49.3/42.7/91.5 shooter).

They'll keep looking for ways to give Curry another crack at the crown, long-shot hopes though they may be.

If the Dubs can trade their way out of this disaster, they need to find a legitimate difference-maker (if not a miracle-worker). The only way their limited trade budget will allow that is by letting go of uber-promising (but occasionally erratic) swingman Jonathan Kuminga. He is the only trade chip that gets Golden State into the running for the best this trade market has to offer.

The Warriors are, understandably, hesitant to let him go. They've "shown little indication" they'd give up either Kuminga or Moses Moody this trade season, per Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, which sort of makes sense given their ages (both 21) and upsides. Kuminga, in particular, has dropped hints of becoming both a featured scoring option and an all-purpose stopper.

When thinking of what his future may hold, one's imagination runs wild. The Warriors, though, will remain focused on the present—grim as it appears—as long as Curry is around. Unless they are outright punting on this season, they'll have to part with their top trade chips in hopes of finding a fortune-changer.

The Nets Trade Mikal Bridges for a Pile of Draft Picks

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The Brooklyn Nets have shown zero indication of being remotely interested in making a Mikal Bridges trade. In fact, earlier this month, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski relayed that "Brooklyn's intent remains to build and add talent around" the two-way swingman.

That's important and obviously relevant to this discussion. Know what might matter more, though? A few things, actually.

How about the fact that 14 of this team's past 17 trips to the hardwood—including a pair of tussles with the rebuilding Trail Blazers—have ended in defeat? Or that Brooklyn has posted the league's fourth-worst net rating (minus-8.3) over this stretch? Or what about the most damning thing of all: that Brooklyn's window to win big with Bridges, a 27-year-old in his sixth NBA season, is ostensibly right now?

When is the big turnaround coming, and how exactly is it supposed to happen? The Nets are seemingly looking to buy, but is their ceiling high enough to cover the cost of whatever it would take to bring in a Dejounte Murray or a Kyle Kuzma? Would either of those players dramatically change this team's trajectory?

The Nets need assets, and trading Bridges in this sellers' market is their best bet for finding them. While Brooklyn wouldn't get all the normal perks of a teardown, since its first-round picks are controlled by the Houston Rockets for the foreseeable future, those selections and swaps are gone regardless of what the Nets do. Chasing a play-in spot to make those draft assets slightly less valuable ultimately accomplishes nothing beyond slightly hurting Houston's return in a deal it already won in convincing fashion.

Turning Bridges into a treasure trove of rebuilding tools would at least give this organization some direction. And make no mistake, the two-way wing would command a small fortune. The Nets could have landed four first-round picks for him at the last deadline, and there might be more aggressive buyers and fewer willing sellers this time around.

Who might make such a significant offer now? Any win-now team in control of its picks is a candidate, honestly. The Sacramento Kings, Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz all seem like obvious suitors, but there'd be more teams in the hunt. So, while the Nets may not want to trade Bridges, they could certainly reach the conclusion that it's in the franchise's best long-term interests.

Stats used courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball Reference and are accurate entering games played on Friday, Jan. 19.


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