When NBA teams are allowed to start trading again, there will likely be a flurry of moves to make up for lost offseason time before the next NBA season starts. Here we’ll be analyzing which players on each team would, in theory, bring back the most value in a trade, no matter how likely they are to be traded. To make things more realistic, we’ll also be looking at the best, most realistic players that could be traded.
In theory: Trae Young
Realistically: John Collins
The Hawks are not trading Trae Young, who is one of the biggest young stars in the game and a future face of the NBA. However, a John Collins trade is not out of the question. If Atlanta chooses to cut the rebuild short and trade for another star, expect Collins to be part of that trade.
In theory: Jayson Tatum
Realistically: Jaylen Brown
Jayson Tatum is in the running for the best player in the league in the next five years. Boston would be crazy to trade him. It would also take a lot to trade Jaylen Brown, probably a lot more than they will be offered, but Danny Ainge isn’t afraid of making bold moves. And while Brown is a future all-star, he isn’t untouchable like Tatum is.
In theory: Kevin Durant
Realistically: Jarrett Allen
KD is a top-three player in the world and can single-handedly make anyone a championship contender. He’ll probably never be traded. Jarrett Allen is a great young backup center, but the Nets value DeAndre Jordan more and they probably wouldn’t hesitate to trade their backup for an upgrade somewhere in the starting lineup.
In theory: Devonte’ Graham
Realistically: Terry Rozier
Graham is a candidate for the Most Improved Player award and has become an excellent three-point shooter. Charlotte needs to truly commit to a rebuild, and trading Rozier would allow their younger guards to play more and it would clear some cap space.
In theory: Zach LaVine
Realistically: Zach LaVine
The best of the Bulls’ young core, LaVine seems to be unhappy in Chicago or at least playing for Jim Boylen. A trade could be in the interest of both parties as Chicago would be able to add more pieces to its young core and unload LaVine’s contract while LaVine would have the chance to play for a contender and a competent coach.
In theory: Kevin Love
Realistically: Kevin Love
Love can still be a key piece on a championship team, which Cleveland is not. Love’s name has been in trade rumors for a while now and the Cavs are starting to realize that a late 1st round pick or a young player would be more helpful than Love to their long-term success.
In theory: Luka Doncic
Realistically: Tim Hardaway Jr.
There might not be any player in the league less likely to be traded than Luka Doncic. It is completely out of the question for Dallas. Hardaway, though, is inefficient and expensive enough for the Mavericks to want to trade, but a good enough scorer for another team to want to trade for.
In theory: Nikola Jokic
Realistically: Gary Harris
Considering the fact that the entire team is built solely around Jokic, it’s reasonable to think that he won’t be traded. Gary Harris, on the other hand, is more replaceable. He’s a very good player and he contributes a lot, which is why Denver might have to include him in a package for another star player.
In theory: Christain Wood
Realistically: Derrick Rose
Wood has made it all the way up to a starter with Detroit and is quite possibly the most valuable player on the team. Rose challenges him for that title, but he is also much more tradeable due to his age. Rose can be the starting point guard or sixth man on a championship team, and Detroit knows that. He can bring back a lot of value.
Golden State Warriors
In theory: Steph Curry
Realistically: Andrew Wiggins
Curry is still probably the best point guard in the league and the Warriors plan to be contenders next season. This makes Curry pretty untouchable. Wiggins, whom they acquired in the D’Angelo Russell trade, can be part of a trade package for another star if the Warriors are looking to fill some of the holes that KD left.
In theory: James Harden
Realistically: Russell Westbrook
Would Daryl Morey move on from Russ that quickly? Probably not, but it’s definitely possible.
The revolving door of Harden’s backcourt partners might continue to revolve if the Westbrook experiment doesn’t get them a title.
In theory: Domantas Sabonis
Realistically: Myles Turner
Sabonis has emerged as an all-star for the Pacers who figure to be contenders for the next few years. Turner, however, hasn’t taken that next step that Indiana was hoping for. He’s still a very solid player on a championship contender, but a trade might allow the Pacers to build more around Sabonis and Victor Oladipo.
Los Angeles Clippers
In theory: Kawhi Leonard
Realistically: Landry Shamet
Leonard is one of the best players in the game and the Clippers put way too much effort last offseason into acquiring Leonard to even think about trading him. Young sharpshooter Shamet, though, is tradeable. The Clipper will do whatever they need to do to win right now, including potentially moving on from Shamet.
Los Angeles Lakers
In theory: Lebron James
Realistically: Kyle Kuzma
Lebron James will never be traded. Ever. When the Lakers traded half of their team for Anthony Davis, they refused to give up Kuzma because his first two seasons showed amazing promise. Kuzma’s slow adaptation to playing with Lebron and AD, unfortunately, is not what the Lakers had hoped for. Winning a title now is more important to the Lakers than waiting for Kuz to develop into the star they were hoping for.
In theory: Ja Morant
Realistically: Dillon Brooks
Morant is considered to be the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year and will be the key to getting the Grizzlies back to title contention. Brooks is another important piece of their young core, but their rebuild is way ahead of schedule. If Memphis decides they want to trade for someone who can help them win now, Brooks might be one to go.
In theory: Bam Adebayo
Realistically: Goran Dragic
The Heat are living the best of both worlds. They have a great young core that are contributing to winning right now in addition to long-term success. Miami can keep the kids around because they are keeping them in the title hunt this season. Dragic, a former all-star, is having another solid year. We only mention him because he was nearly traded this season.
In theory: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Realistically: Donte DiVincenzo
Assuming Giannis signs a max extension with the Bucks this season, there is absolutely no way they will trade him. DiVincenzo is having a solid second year in the league and has a bright future. In order to keep Giannis happy, though, they might have to trade the 23-year-old to get another piece to contribute towards a championship.
In theory: Karl-Anthony Towns
Realistically: Jarrett Culver
The Timberwolves feel like they’re finally ready to contend again after replacing Andrew Wiggins with D’Angelo Russell. There are plenty of young players they can trade to win now, but Culver would probably bring back the most value, being the 6th overall pick in last year’s draft.
New Orleans Pelicans
In theory: Zion Williamson
Realistically: Lonzo Ball
The Pelicans would have to be insane to trade Zion. It’s simply not going to happen. Lonzo is full of potential. Unfortunately, that potential hasn’t translated to actual production. And for a Pelicans team that’s ready to contend, they’d rather have production than potential. Considering Lonzo will be a restricted free agent next year, they wouldn’t be wrong to trade him while he still has all of that potential.
New York Knicks
In theory: Mitchell Robinson
Realistically: Frank Ntilikina
The Knicks could do just about anything without people being surprised. But trading either Mitchell or RJ Barrett, unless it’s a great deal, wouldn’t sit well with Knicks fans. Because the Knicks have been linked to point guard prospects in the upcoming draft, it only makes sense to trade one or more of the current point guards. Ntilikina has shown enough to probably get the best value of any Knick point guard.
Oklahoma City Thunder
In theory: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Realistically: Dennis Schroder
Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the best young guards in the league and will be a key piece of the Thunder for a very long time. Schroder is a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year candidate, but with Danilo Gallinari being an unrestricted free agent this summer and Chris Paul on a max contract, Schroder is next in line for most likely to be traded.
In theory: Jonathan Isaac
Realistically: Aaron Gordon
Isaac has established himself as an excellent young defender for an average Magic team. Gordon is one of the most athletic and exciting players in the game, but there are questions about how his game impacts actual winning. If that’s what Orlando is serious about- winning- they might consider flipping Gordon for picks or young players and starting an inevitable rebuild.
In theory: Joel Embiid
Realistically: Ben Simmons
It seems that management and the coaching staff are trying to make it work for Simmons and Embiid. Despite their efforts, there are skeptics that say they can’t play together. And every season that they don’t make it to the finals is another season closer to Philly having to choose between Embiid and Simmons.
In theory: Devin Booker
Realistically: Ricky Rubio
Despite their hot start to the season, this roster is not going to be able to get it done for Phoenix. Rubio is doing what he has always done, which would be most serviceable on a contending team. Booker, DeAndre Ayton, and Kelly Oubre make up a solid core, and trading Rubio might help Phoenix build around it.
In theory: Damian Lillard
Realistically: Rodney Hood
Lillard is probably a top three-point guard in the league and isn’t going anywhere unless he demands a trade. Hood will be coming off a season-ending achilles tear, so Portland won’t know what kind of production they’ll be getting from him. They might try to flip Hood for some depth and the center position since Hassan Whiteside will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.
In theory: De’Aaron Fox
Realistically: Buddy Hield
Fox has shown flashes of a great future point guard and the ability to lead the Kings to the playoffs. Hield has been one of the best three-point shooters in the league recently, and he plays a very important role in Sacramento, even if he doesn’t start. Whether or not he wants to be on the Kings seems to change every so often, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that a trade would be in both of their best interests.
San Antonio Spurs
In theory: Dejounte Murray
Realistically: DeMar DeRozan
Murray has shown a lot of potential as a long-term starter for the Spurs. DeRozan is still putting up all-star numbers, just not on a great team. It’s understandable that Gregg Popovich wants to keep the team in contention because his coaching days are probably limited, but the Spurs would be in the best position in a few years by trading DeRozan and starting anew. This, of course, is assuming that DeRozan opts into the final year of his contract.
In theory: Pascal Siakam
Realistically: Kyle Lowry
Toronto is one of the NBA’s biggest surprises this year, mostly thanks to Siakam and Lowry, as well as coach Nick Nurse. While Siakam is young and looks like a perennial all-star, Lowry is 34 years old and it’s uncertain how much he has left in the tank. Toronto can get good value for Lowry if they decide to trade him, which is unlikely.
In theory: Donovan Mitchell
Realistically: Donovan Mitchell
Mitchell’s relationship with Rudy Gobert is complicated. The two all-stars are leading the Jazz to another great season, though, and one can’t do it without the other. If the success of the Jazz starts to dwindle, however, nobody knows how Mitchell and Gobert will respond or what actions the organization will take. A trade for one of them is definitely not out of the question.
In theory: Bradley Beal
Realistically: Bradley Beal
Many teams have reportedly been in contact with the Wizards about a blockbuster trade for Beal. Washington isn’t really a contender with Beal, but they have a solid young core that could potentially receive a huge boost with the multiple picks and players that the Wizards would surely get in return for him. Of course, a healthy John Wall might make them contenders, in which case Washington would rather keep Beal.