The NBA trade deadline is upon us, which means it’s time to set your phone to get push alerts from the respective Twitter feeds of insiders like Adrian Wojnarowski, Shams Charania, Marc Stein and David Aldridge. We’ve already seen a number of deals go down ahead of the deadline. Blake Griffin was shockingly traded to the Detroit Pistons about a week and a half ago, while the disgruntled Eric Bledsoe was shipped to the Bucks back in November. On Wednesday, Willy Hernangomez was sent from the Knicks to the Hornets.
We could be in store for a quiet deadline, but reports indicate that teams are still actively working the phones. We may not see a big name switch teams before the deadline hits, but it’s always a possibility. With that in mind, here are 5 big names that need to be moved by the end of the day.
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies are in a horrible position. The team has been devastated by injuries this season, and they’ve gone from a perennial Western Conference contender to an also-ran. They’re absolutely destined for the lottery this season, and they owe their 2019 first-rounder to the Celtics as a part of the ill-fated Jeff Green trade from a few years ago.
With that in mind, Memphis should be all-in on securing the best possible draft pick this year. It may not be popular with the fanbase, but trading franchise centerpiece Marc Gasol could be helpful. He’s the best player in the team’s short history, but it’s time to move on.
Gasol is now 33, and he underwent a major foot procedure a couple of years ago. He’s also owed about $50 million over the next 2 seasons after this one combined. Getting out from under his cumbersome deal could give Memphis some flexibility.
They are unlikely to be able to attract big-name free agents to Memphis, so the Grizz are likely going to have to build through the draft. Just going belly-up this season with the hopes of landing a potential star like DeAndre Ayton, Luka Doncic or Marvin Bagley is probably the best route the Grizzlies can take to get back to respectability.
Finding a taker for an expensive, declining player wouldn’t be easy, but there are surely suitors out there. A team like Portland, who has reportedly been actively seeking a big man, could have interest in Gasol. The Grizz have reportedly been rebuffing offers for Gasol, which doesn’t make sense. It’s time to embrace the tank in Memphis.
DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers
Speaking of centers, DeAndre Jordan has been the name that has popped up most in trade rumors. Jordan is likely in the final year of his contract (he can opt-in this summer if he so chooses), and by keeping him, the Clips run the risk of losing him after the season for nothing.
LAC just traded its most popular player in Blake Griffin, so this new front office clearly isn’t worried about blowback from fans. The Clippers are reportedly interested in rebuilding without going into a full-on tank, as evidenced by their return haul that included Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley.
The Cavaliers have been the team most commonly linked to a Jordan trade, though it’s unclear how the sides could find a match. The Cavaliers would be wanting LAC to take back the bloated Tristan Thompson deal, which will pay him about $36 million combined over the next couple of seasons. That’s an awful lot for a guy that can barely stay on the floor these days. Cleveland would reportedly be willing to part ways with the coveted 2018 Nets first rounder, but that’s still a tough sell for the Clippers.
If the Clips don’t want to take back Thompson, the teams will likely have to find a third team in order to help facilitate any deal. There won’t be many out there willing to take on the Thompson contract, but it’s possible. Jordan could always re-sign with the Clippers in the summer, but there’s no telling whether he’d be willing to commit long-term to a roster overhaul. We also don’t know if the Clips would even be willing to pay him the big bucks it would take to keep him.
The market is slow for bigs these days. We just saw Phoenix buy-out Greg Monroe after they failed to find a trade partner, and the buyout market is expected to be rife with talent this year. The Hernangomez deal also didn’t net much of a return for the Knicks. Jordan is obviously more useful than either player, but it’ll be fascinating to see if he gets moved ahead of the deadline.
Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
You may hesitate to label Aaron Gordon as a “star,” but the youngster has really come into his own this season for the Magic. He doesn’t get much publicity considering he plays for arguably the league’s most downtrodden franchise, but the 22-year-old is squarely in the running to be the league’s Most Improved Player.
Through 39 games this season, Gordon is averaging a career-high 18.4 points along with 8.3 rebounds per game. He’s also expanded his range considerably, as he’s connected on nearly 35% of his shots from long range. Gordon failed to crack the 30% threshold in each of his first 3 NBA campaigns.
The Magic should probably build around him, but, instead, they have apparently expressed interest in dangling him as trade bait. If true, there should be no shortage of teams lining up in an attempt to get him. Springy 22-year-olds with range don’t come around very often.
There’s no telling what Orlando would be asking in a prospective deal, but it’s safe to say the price won’t be light. The Magic need all the talent they can get at this point, so letting Gordon walk for nothing would be a disaster. He’s one of few real assets they have at this point, so finding the right deal is an absolute necessity.
Teams like the Suns and Nets, who find themselves in similar positions, should be kicking the tires on Gordon. Pairing Gordon with Devin Booker in Phoenix, for example, would do a lot to generate some fan interest in the Suns. It’s unlikely Gordon gets moved before the deadline, but restricted free agency is looming this summer.
CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers are likely to make the playoffs again this season, but it won’t be a surprise when they’re ousted by the Warriors, Rockets, Spurs or Thunder early on. There’s some talent on the roster, but most of the players are grossly overpaid. CJ McCollum isn’t necessarily one of them, but Portland needs to hit the eject button on their current path.
It’s just not working. Having a pair of undersized guards as your primary offensive options isn’t really a formula for success. McCollum and Damian Lillard are fantastic individual players, but they’re a bit redundant playing alongside one another. With Lillard entrenched as the face of the franchise, finding a new home for McCollum makes more sense.
McCollum has an expensive deal, but the fact that he’s locked in for the next several years should be attractive to potential suitors. He’s probably not a No. 1 option on a winning team, but he’s a player that would fit in nicely with a team that already has an established star.
The 76ers emerge immediately as a team that makes a lot of sense. The Sixers are oozing with talent, but they’re still without that lead guard that complements Joel Embiid. The team was hopeful that Markelle Fultz would be that guy, but his rookie year is looking lost at this point. There’s no telling what Fultz will become, so it would make sense for Philly to consider moving him in a deal for a more established player.
McCollum fits the bill. He’s shooting just under 43% from three-point range this season, which is a truly elite mark. He’s capable of playing either guard spot, which means he could theoretically start in the Sixers’ backcourt next to JJ Redick. A package of Fultz, Dario Saric and whatever other salary filler is necessary could be enough to tempt Portland to pull the trigger.
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
Yep. LeBron James needs to be moved. He’s in the final year of his deal, and all indications are that this is his last year in Cleveland. His relationship with owner Dan Gilbert has soured again, and the Cavaliers are mired in a terrible stretch. They just snapped an 8-game losing streak by beating the Timberwolves in overtime, and Kevin Love is out for weeks with an injury.
The Cavs could still rebound and make it to the Finals, but this roster is far more flawed than any of the previous 3 that won the Eastern Conference. Isaiah Thomas is certainly no Kyrie Irving, while Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade look like questionable fits, at best.
LeBron has said that he wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause and accept a deal this year, but it’s worth a try. The Cavs are going nowhere fast, and they should probably be approaching the deadline with a seller’s frame of mind. James is obviously their most attractive trade asset, so testing the waters on what he could bring in return is what would be best for the Cavs moving forward.
They’re not going to trade him, and he’s going to leave them in the cold this summer as a free agent. Everyone already knows this, but LeBron says he’s still dedicated to the Cavs’ cause this season. They’ve capped the team out with poor salaries around James, and they’re going to go right into the tank whenever he bolts for greener pastures.
A LeBron trade is a pipedream, but stranger things have happened.