Friday, May 27, 2022

2022 NBA trade deadline: Lakers, 76ers among five most interesting teams to watch ahead of Feb. 10

We’re just a little over two weeks away from the 2022 NBA trade deadline, and there’s been no shortage of rumors to keep us occupied until deals actually start happening. With the race to the NBA Finals as open as ever this season, there could be a big portion of the league looking to improve their roster with a trade. Even teams like the Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns, who currently sit atop the rankings in both conferences, could look to make minor tweaks to best position themselves before the playoffs start. 

So many teams could be active either as buyers looking to improve, or sellers wanting to stockpile young players and draft picks for the future. With that in mind, here are five of the most interesting teams ahead of the Feb. 10 trade deadline.

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Los Angeles Lakers

This season certainly hasn’t gone the way the Lakers were expecting after a busy offseason that saw them add a wealth of veteran talent highlighted by the trade to bring in former league MVP Russell Westbrook. However, Westbrook’s fit in L.A. has been rather messy, as his ball-dominant style and inefficient shooting is harming the Lakers on offense.

But that isn’t the lone issue with the Lakers this season. There’s the injury to Anthony Davis, who is just returning from a 17-game absence due to a sprained MCL, that’s held L.A. back. The depth for the Lakers hasn’t been great, which isn’t surprising given they traded most of it away in the deal for Westbrook. You add all that up, and the Lakers project to be one of the most interesting teams ahead of the deadline. 

There’s been rumors of a John Wall-for-Westbrook swap, something that would come at a hefty price on the Lakers’ end. L.A. is also reportedly open to shopping Talen Horton-Tucker, which is ironic given the Lakers refused to trade him in order to acquire veteran guard Kyle Lowry at last season’s trade deadline. Lowry ultimately signed with the Heat this past summer, where he’s helped them climb to the top of the East standings.  

Right now Horton-Tucker remains the only valuable trade asset the Lakers possess, but a potential trade to move Westbrook is the main attraction ahead of the deadline. L.A. isn’t operating from a position of power, so it’ll take some smart maneuvering to get a favorable deal done, but everyone will certainly be watching to see what it does. 

Philadelphia 76ers

If you were waiting for a Ben Simmons bombshell trade before the deadline, that’s not likely to happen as the 76ers prefer to wait until the summer when there are bigger stars to chase — like James Harden — as a potential target. A recent report indicated that Harden wants to enter unrestricted free agency this summer, and that he potentially may be looking at other places outside of Brooklyn, with Philadelphia being a potential target.

While a move of that size may not come until the offseason, that doesn’t mean Philadelphia won’t be active to improve its roster right now. The one player everyone is looking at is Tobias Harris, who has been brought up as a trade target the past few weeks. Harris has underwhelmed this season, and with Joel Embiid in the midst of another MVP-caliber year, it seems wrong for Philadelphia to not try everything in its power to improve the roster right now for a deep playoff run. 

Perhaps the Sixers explore the trade option suggested by our own Michael Klaskey-Blomain: swapping Harris for Portland Trail Blazers’ CJ McCollum. That would be a huge shakeup for a Portland team in desperate need of one, and it would surround Embiid with yet another perimeter scorer who could also create for himself when needed. Unlike a deal surrounding Simmons, trading away Harris may be easier right now as there will likely be several suitors who could use a No. 2 or No. 3 scoring option who can also defend. It’s just a matter of what Philadelphia wants in return for Harris, and what team will be willing to take on the remaining $76.8 million owed to him over the next two years. 

Atlanta Hawks

When it comes to the playoff race, the Hawks are currently on the outside looking in. They sit 12th in the Eastern Conference, with 1 1/2 games separating them and the last spot in the play-in tournament. This certainly isn’t a place anyone expected an Atlanta team fresh off a run to the Eastern Conference finals, but here we are. Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk wants to “make improvements” to the roster ahead of the deadline, and given the slow start to the season, it’s easy to see why. 

The Hawks already made a trade recently when they shipped off Cam Reddish, Solomon Hill and a 2025 second-round pick to the New York Knicks in exchange for Kevin Knox and a 2022 first-round pick. But this trade was seen more as a set-up piece for something bigger Atlanta might have planned down the line. What that move will be remains to be seen, but the Hawks have been linked to Ben Simmons — despite the Sixers’ reluctance to trading him right now and Atlanta’s unwillingness to take on Harris in the deal as well. Perhaps the Hawks save their ammo for the summer when more players will be eligible to be traded, but one name that’s been mentioned ahead of the Feb. 10 deadline is John Collins

Over the past two years, Collins has butted heads with franchise star Trae Young, taking issue with the style of basketball the Hawks play, and has seen a decrease in shot attempts since his third year in the league. Atlanta still opted to sign him to a new deal this past summer, but there have been several reports of teams being interested in trading for the athletic forward. One reported deal that’s surfaced is a swap of Collins for Pistons forward Jerami Grant, who is seen as one of the trade deadline’s prized targets. Financially the deal would work, but the Hawks are far from the only team interested in Grant. Whatever the trade is, it’s clear the Hawks plan on being active leading up to the deadline, and given their current standing in the East, it seems necessary.

Indiana Pacers

It’s going to be interesting to see what the Pacers do with Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner and Caris LeVert. It was reported earlier in the season that Indiana was open to trade talks around those three players, but that plan recently hit a snag in regards to Turner and Sabonis, both of whom suffered injuries that could require them to miss significant time. 

Injuries aside, though, it makes sense that Indiana wants to move toward breaking up its core after minimal success over the past few years. With a 17-31 record, and sitting six games out of a play-in spot, it seems like an ideal time for the Pacers to make some roster adjustments with the hopes of focusing on some of their younger players like rookie Chris Duarte, who is having a standout season.

Sabonis and Turner being hurt currently changes the plans Indiana likely had for the deadline, but LeVert is still a possible trade candidate, and he’s reportedly garnered interest from the Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks, per Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer. Indiana reportedly wants draft compensation in return for LeVert, and given he’s averaging 18.5 points, 4.2 assists and 3.7 rebounds this season there will surely be a team willing to pay the price to get his offensive production on their team.  

There’s also still the possibility that a team takes a chance on Turner and/or Sabonis despite both being injured right now. Prior to his injury, Turner had interest from a slew of teams including the Mavericks, Knicks, Hornets, Kings and Trail Blazers. Sabonis would garner even greater attention as a trade target, and would net the biggest return for the Pacers as a two-time All-Star. The bottom line is there’s a lot that could happen for the Pacers before the trade deadline; it’s just a matter of which domino is the first to fall to initiate their rebuild plan.  

Sacramento Kings

There’s been some competing intel on what the Kings’ plan is heading toward the trade deadline. At first there were reports that Sacramento and Philadelphia had “exploratory talks” regarding De’Aaron Fox, which signaled that the star guard was available. More recently it’s been reported that Sacramento plans on keeping Fox to build around him and second-year guard Tyrese Haliburton.  

But there’s still a few players on Sacramento’s roster that could be wearing different jerseys after the trade deadline, namely Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield. Barnes has been a productive veteran for the past four years in Sacramento, but if the Kings (18-31) are focusing on building around Fox and Haliburton, Barnes doesn’t fit that timeline. He’s averaging 16.3 points, six rebounds and 2.4 assists this season, while shooting over 40 percent from deep which will surely entice several contending teams to take a look at him. He’s still just 29 years old and could be a steal for a team this season as he has only one year remaining on his contract ($18.3 million next year) before becoming a free agent. 

There’s also Hield, who has been brought up in trade discussions for the past few years. Hield has been moved to a bench role this season, but is still putting up efficient numbers (15.1 points, 38 percent from deep). Any contending team looking for scoring off the bench will be interested in Hield’s production, and the Kings are reportedly entertaining the idea of packaging Hield and Marvin Bagley together for a sizable return. We’ll just have to wait and see if the Kings get the returns they’re asking for on all these players. 

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