If you’re a fan of chaos, this NBA trade deadline will be for you.
As the season nears its halfway point, rumors are already flying about some of the game’s best players being on the trading block. From superstars like Ben Simmons and Russell Westbrook to solid players like Jerami Grant and Robert Covington, it’s possible we see a multitude of movement between now and February 10. But there’s a specific reason why we could see more moves than usual, according to an anonymous executive.
There will be plenty of rumors leading up to the NBA trade deadline
It wouldn’t be an NBA trade deadline without a barrage of rumors clogging fans’ newsfeeds. Though many won’t end up coming to fruition, several will become reality.
Take Simmons, for example. The Philadelphia 76ers guard is still sitting out months after requesting a trade. With no end to the holdout in sight, it’s no surprise Philly is aggressively moving to trade him. But it will take the right mix of players, along with willing teams, to make a deal happen.
There are other players who serve as logical options to switch teams. Westbrook hasn’t panned out quite like the Los Angeles Lakers had hoped after last summer’s trade. Now, reports have emerged about LA seeking an end to the Russ saga. The same is true for John Wall, who like Simmons has yet to play all season for the Houston Rockets. Though with Wall, his market purely comes down to a team willing to accept his egregious $44 million cap hit this season as well as the potential $47 million hit for 2022-23.
Beyond individual players, some specific teams are going to be active. We could hear a lot about the Detroit Pistons and their desire to trade veterans like Grant. The Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers are two directionless teams with All-Star-caliber players worth a decent return. Then there are title-contending clubs like the Phoenix Suns and Chicago Bulls who could scour the market in search of “the missing piece.”
A lack of future cap space will impact this year’s deadline
It’s clear there are a number of buyers and sellers leading up to the deadline. That’s basically the case every year. Yet the 2022 trade deadline will potentially see even greater movement due to the upcoming offseason.
As The Athletic detailed in November, only four teams are expected to have significant cap space going into the offseason: the Pistons, Orlando Magic, San Antonio Spurs, and Memphis Grizzlies. Beyond those four, every other team is expected to be over the $119 million salary cap, forcing them to scrape the bottom of the free-agent barrel.
With little money in the budget to improve via free agency, that leaves only two options for a cash-strapped club. One, they could hope to strike it rich in the draft, something very few win-now clubs are in a position to do. The second, and more logical option, is to make a trade.
“That’s why we saw so many extensions this year. No one has any money [in July],” the anonymous executive told Bleacher Report. “Teams are going to have to trade to get better. I think we’ll have a busy deadline.”
The first domino has yet to fall
Unless you count the blockbuster deal that saw Rajon Rondo flipped to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the NBA trade market has largely been nonexistent. Of course, that can change at any moment.
With teams realizing cap space will be hard to come by, the pressure is on for teams to make a deal. That means the Rockets will have to aggressively find a taker for Wall, as his deal will keep them hamstrung for another year. The same can be said for the Lakers with Westbrook and especially the Sixers with Simmons.
A team like the Pacers has veterans Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, and Caris LeVert all available for trade. Any one of those players getting moved could set off a chain reaction across the league.
Regardless of what the first deal or last deal is, the unnamed exec gives a fair explanation for why this year’s trade deadline should be quite eventful.
All contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.