Ben Simmons and the 5 Names to Watch Ahead of the 2022 NBA Trade Deadline
Every year, there are NBA players whose names are brought up in trade rumors more often than others. They could be disgruntled stars wanting out of their current situation, players stuck on teams that are ready for a reset, or guys who are just months away from free agency. These are the players typically worth keeping an eye on ahead of the trade deadline.
Between now and February 10, there are five players in particular worth monitoring. The possibility of all of them getting traded is admittedly slim. But there is at least enough substance around each to warrant further examination.
5. John Wall, Houston Rockets
Before the season started, John Wall and the Houston Rockets reached a mutual understanding. The veteran point guard wouldn’t play for the rebuilding club, while the Rockets aimed to trade the five-time All-Star and the remainder of his four-year, $171 million contract. Yet with New Year’s Day around the corner, Wall is still in H-Town.
Wall, 31, hasn’t played a lot of basketball in the last several years. Since 2017-18, the 2010 first overall pick has played in 41, 32, 0, 40, and 0 games. But when he is on the court, the former Kentucky Wildcat is an effective player. Even last season, Wall came out of a lost 2019-20 campaign to average 20.6 points and 6.9 assists for a bad Houston team.
Considering the Rockets’ youth movement, keeping Wall makes no sense for them. But his value, mostly due to his bloated contract, isn’t as high as what they want it to be. If he is traded, it would either be to a team with tons of cap room or to a team with another bad contract it wants to part with.
4. Jerami Grant, Detroit Pistons
At 5-27, the Detroit Pistons are bad. As in worst-in-the-league bad. But that’s always been the plan, as the Pistons undergo a rebuild to bring the franchise back to relevance. But that could soon require parting with veteran forward Jerami Grant.
After signing a three-year, $60 million pact with Detroit ahead of the 2020-21 season, Grant has become one of the game’s most underrated players. He has averaged 20 or more points in back-to-back seasons, well surpassing his previous career-high of 13.6. On a young Pistons team, the 27-year-old has been a steady source of production for the last year or so.
Much like Houston’s situation with Wall, the Pistons benefit very little in the long run by holding onto Grant. While there should be no shortage of suitors, the eight-year vet is currently recovering from torn ligaments in his thumb. It’s too soon to tell, but it’s possible Grant doesn’t take the court again until after the deadline.
3. Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers are going to be a well-discussed team over the next several weeks. After missing the playoffs last season and starting off the 2021-22 campaign with an inauspicious 14-20 record, the Pacers are reportedly willing to engage in trade conversations for many of their players. The most notable player who could leave Indy is Domantas Sabonis.
Through five-and-a-half seasons, Sabonis has quietly become one of the best power forwards in basketball. The 25-year-old averaged a career-high 20.3 points to go with 12.0 rebounds last season en route to his second consecutive All-Star appearance. This year, Sabonis is having another solid season for the struggling Pacers, averaging 18.0 points and 11.7 rebounds.
Indiana can get a lot for a young All-Star like Sabonis. Especially since he still has two years and just under $38 million left after this season. Several teams should show plenty of interest in the budding star.
2. Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Lakers
Of all of the players on this list, Russell Westbrook being in a trade deadline deal would be the most shocking. But there’s little denying that the All-Star’s debut season with the Los Angeles Lakers has left a lot to be desired.
Westbrook’s 19.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 8.2 assists per game are more than solid numbers. But coupled with his near-triple-double stat line is close to five turnovers per game and a 31.5% clip from three. As a result, the Lakers are just 17-18 since the “Jekyll and Hyde” Westbrook joined the team.
The 2016-17 MVP has a player option for $47 million next season, severely limiting the number of teams interested in the enigmatic star. But with reports floating around about the Lakers’ willingness to shop Westbrook, it’s not impossible that his time with the Purple and Gold could be over less than one season in.
1. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
As if there could be anyone else in the number one spot. Since last summer, fans have waited for the Philadelphia 76ers to cut their losses and part with franchise point guard Ben Simmons. Yet Simmons, who has yet to play a game this season, is sitting idly by as the Sixers are 18-16 in a tough Eastern Conference.
When he’s at his best, there are few players like Simmons. The 25-year-old is a three-time All-Star and two-time All-Defense honoree through four full seasons. In addition, the 6-foot-11 guard serves as one of the game’s top facilitators. That being said, his shooting deficiencies were on full display during Philadelphia’s most recent postseason run.
Any team acquiring Simmons is getting a young guard capable of elite playmaking and defense on a nightly basis. But it would also receive a guard with no outside shooting and a tendency to fade into the shadows in big moments. Not to mention, the Australian is two years into a five-year, $177 million max extension.
Teams will have to decide whether Simmons is worth the risk. Meanwhile, the 76ers must decide if they want to hold out for the perfect offer or just accept the best offer available. These decisions easily make Simmons the most intriguing name to watch ahead of the NBA trade deadline.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.