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NBA Trade Deadline Preview: Predicting Landing Spots for the League’s Biggest Trade Targets

Jeff Pratt breaks down potential landing spots, return packages and more for the top NBA players on the trade block ahead of Thursday’s deadline.

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Brooklyn Nets v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

NBA trade season is officially upon us!

The party started a little early thanks to Kyrie Irving, who is headed to Dallas. While Irving was admittedly the biggest name being floated in conversations around the league, there are still plenty of other valuable trade candidates who could be moved prior to Thursday’s deadline.

In this article I will break down the top 11 players who are on the block, diving into landing spots, potential return packages, and final predictions.

No. 11: Bones Hyland

Potential Landing Spots: Minnesota Timberwolves, Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets

We’re kicking off this list with a very interesting situation. On January 27, Jake Fischer stunned the NBA community by reporting that Denver was going to explore the trade market for Hyland.

At 22 years old, Bones is in the midst of a productive sophomore campaign, averaging 12.1 points and 3.0 assists in just 19.5 minutes per game. However, the VCU product apparently is butting heads with Michael Malone consistently, and has racked up the DNPs lately.

Denver is in prime position to contend for a spot in the NBA Finals this year, and Hyland simply doesn’t fit their timeline. The Nuggets will likely be looking for defensive upgrades, specifically in the frontcourt behind Nikola Jokic.

Any trade involving Hyland should land the Nuggets another young, talented player on a cheap deal. There are said to be numerous suitors for the explosive scorer, and I expect him to be moved ahead of Thursday’s deadline.

Final Verdict: Hyland is traded to the Timberwolves for Naz Reid and a 2023 Round 2 pick (from NYK)

No. 10: Jarred Vanderbilt

Potential Landing Spots: Portland Trail Blazers, Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics

Dallas Mavericks v Utah Jazz Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Don’t be fooled by Vanderbilt’s somewhat-underwhelming stats, the versatile big man will be one of the most desired players on the trade block this week.

This isn’t a situation where Vanderbilt has to be dealt before Thursday’s deadline. Danny Ainge apparently has a desired return in mind (a first-round pick or its equivalent), and if he is unable to get that for the 23-year-old he’ll gladly hang onto him.

Vanderbilt is under contract for the rest of this year and the entire 2023-24 NBA season for less than $5 million annually. That makes him an enticing prospect for contenders looking to bolster their frontcourt depth.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported a few days ago that Portland is very interested in Vanderbilt. The problem with a potential deal there is that the Blazers would have to adjust the protections on their 2023 first-rounder — which is currently owed to Chicago — in order to trade their 2024 first-round pick. That process is relatively complicated, and I think Ainge will opt for a more straightforward deal with an established contender when it’s all said and done.

Final Verdict: Vanderbilt is traded to the 76ers for Matisse Thybulle and a 2026 Round 1 pick (from PHI)

No. 9: Josh Hart

Potential Landing Spots: Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks

Portland Trail Blazers v Washington Wizards Photo by Kenny Giarla/NBAE via Getty Images

Hart put up career-best numbers after landing in Portland at last year’s trade deadline, averaging 19.9 points per game. The Blazers acquired Jerami Grant this offseason, and his presence along with a healthy Damian Lillard has pushed Hart down the list of offensive options.

As a result, he’s now scoring fewer than 10 points on a nightly basis. However, we all know his abilities are still there in that department, and he has taken a significant step forward on the boards, averaging 8.2 rebounds per game.

Cleveland is one team with documented interest in Hart, and that’s where I think he’ll end up if traded. The Cavs are looking for a more reliable two-way wing, and have the players and picks to make a deal work.

Final Verdict: Hart and Keon Johnson are traded to the Cavaliers for Caris LeVert and a 2025 Round 2 pick (from CLE)

No. 8: Bojan Bogdanovic

Potential Landing Spots: Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks

Charlotte Hornets v Detroit Pistons Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

Bogdanovic has been a revelation for the Pistons, averaging 21.4 points per game while shooting just under 42% from three. When Detroit acquired Bogdanovic this offseason, many assumed it would be short stay for him.

While fringe teams like the Lakers and Knicks will certainly be interested, it sounds like Troy Weaver is actually strongly leaning towards keeping Bogdanovic. Weaver recently extended him through the 2024-25 season, although that final year is only partially guaranteed.

The Pistons like Bogdanovic’s steady production and the leadership he provides for the younger guys. It makes sense for them to hold onto him until at least this offseason, when they’ll have more flexibility in trade talks.

Final Verdict: Bogdanovic remains in Detroit

No. 7: Jakob Poeltl

Potential Landing Spots: Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors

Sacramento Kings v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Poeltl is another interesting case. He’s set to become a free agent this offseason, and will likely command $17-20 million annually on the open market. The Spurs have been adamant that they would like to keep him but if the right deal comes around, they’re open to moving on.

Boston feels like the only team with real potential to acquire Poeltl as of now, and “significant interest” has been registered on their end. It all comes down to Brad Stevens’ willingness to part with Grant Williams, who is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason and could command a salary similar to Poeltl.

Williams and Poeltl are both big men, but they bring two entirely different skillsets to the table. Williams is undersized at 6’6, but has demonstrated an elite ability to shoot the three. Poeltl, on the other hand, is a legitimate paint-dweller, averaging 12 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.

With Al Horford resting on the second night of back-to-backs and Rob Williams’ injury history, Boston would certainly like to add another starting caliber center to the mix as insurance. If Stevens determines that Poeltl gives his team a better chance to win it all this year AND he would rather pay the 7-footer over Williams, he won’t hesitate to pull the trigger on this deal.

Final Verdict: Poeltl and a future Round 1 pick are traded to the Celtics for Grant Williams, Luke Kornet, Justin Jackson and 2023 Round 2 pick (from ORL)

No. 6: Kyle Kuzma

Potential Landing Spots: Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Atlanta Hawks

Washington Wizards v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Kuzma had to be included in this article simply because he’s one of the biggest names who technically COULD be traded, but it’s almost certain that he’s staying in Washington.

The Wizards have apparently even told teams that he’s unavailable. Obviously, an offer could come on the table that forces Washington’s hand, but that seems unlikely.

Kuzma has been fantastic for the Wizards, averaging a career-high 21.3 points per game this year along with 7.6 rebounds. There’s a scenario in which he tells Washington that he won’t re-sign with them this offseason and the team is forced to deal him, but I would be surprised if he’s wearing a different jersey on Friday.

Final Verdict: Kuzma remains in Washington

No. 5: D’Angelo Russell

Potential Landing Spots: Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat

Denver Nuggets v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

This is a tricky situation. Russell and the Timberwolves appeared to be heading for a divorce just a few weeks ago. His level of play wasn’t consistent, and he expressed public frustration about his relationship with Minnesota’s front office.

Russell is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and some insiders believed that the Timberwolves would look to recoup some assets for him instead of letting him walk.

However, the 26-year-old has since picked up his level of play, and Minnesota is now back in the playoff race partially thanks to him. While the Clippers are one team I could see making a push for Russell, in the end he should remain in Minnesota until at least the end of the year.

Final Verdict: Russell remains in Minnesota

No. 4: John Collins

Potential Landing Spots: Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers

Atlanta Hawks v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

It feels like Collins has been on the trade block for his entire career, and this could finally be the season Atlanta moves him.

For years, the Hawks’ desire to trade Collins was somewhat dumbfounding. He has had issues with Trae Young, but he’s still very talented and is under contract on a reasonable deal until 2025.

That being said, he definitely hasn’t played up to his potential this year, averaging just 13.2 points per game while shooting a career-low 25.3% from three. That dip in production isn’t entirely his fault, as the Hawks have a bunch of talented mouths to feed on offense.

With Onyeka Okongwu in the midst of a career-best campaign, Atlanta could theoretically move on from Collins and still have enough frontcourt depth. The return wouldn’t be great, but a trade would free up more lineup flexibility and cap space down the line.

Final Verdict: Collins is traded to the Rockets for Eric Gordon, Jae’Sean Tate and a 2025 protected Round 1 pick (from HOU)

No. 3: Fred VanVleet

Potential Landing Spots: Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat

Toronto Raptors v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

It feels like at least one of VanVleet and D’Angelo Russell will be traded, and FVV is the more likely option.

The same couple teams are surveying the point guard market, and VanVleet is a prime candidate to target. He’s still in his prime at 28 years old, averaging 19.7 points, 6.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game.

VanVleet is heading towards unrestricted free agency this offseason, and his contract ($21.5 million) isn’t too inflated to scare off potential trade partners. In the end, Miami will likely offer a package of Kyle Lowry and protected picks, but the Clippers should be willing to part with more given their desperate win-now situation.

Final Verdict: VanVleet is traded to the Clippers for Luke Kennard, John Wall, Terance Mann and a protected 2028 Round 1 pick (from LAC)

No. 2: O.G. Anunoby

Potential Landing Spots: New York Knicks, New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies

Toronto Raptors v Golden State Warriors Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Will the Raptors’ fire sale continue? It seems like VanVleet is much more likely to be traded than Anunoby, who is under contract until 2025 with a player option in 2024. That being said, if a team approaches Toronto with a fantastic offer, they should be open to moving him.

As it currently stands, there are at least two teams who can give Toronto what they want without decimating their treasure chests of assets. They would be New Orleans and Memphis, with the Knicks also likely involved.

It certainly seems like this could end up being a race between the Grizzlies and Pelicans, which the Raptors should take advantage of. The West is wide open, and neither Memphis nor New Orleans wants to let one of their biggest rivals acquire a young star like Anunoby.

In the end, the Pelicans have more to offer Toronto in terms of young talent and draft picks, so I think they’ll land O.G. if they truly want him.

Final Verdict: Anunoby and Malachi Flynn are traded to the Pelicans for Dyson Daniels, Trey Murphy, Devonte’ Graham, a 2024 Round 1 pick (from NO) and a 2024 Round 2 pick (from NO)

No. 1: Kevin Durant

Potential Landing Spots: Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns

Brooklyn Nets v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

This is the big one.

I didn’t even want to include Durant in this article at first, because I would be floored if Brooklyn deals him before Thursday’s deadline.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski confirmed those sentiments on Tuesday:

That being said, the possibility of KD being traded hasn’t been completely ruled out, so we’ll address it.

After Kyrie Irving’s shocking trade request and Brooklyn’s quick turnaround to deal him to Dallas, the Nets’ future is in a state of flux. It sounds like Joseph Tsai and the front office are considering all options, and Durant is a part of those conversations.

As of now, only two teams appear to be legitimate trade candidates with the Nets — Boston and Phoenix.

The Suns have made it very clear that they’ll trade Deandre Ayton, but the extent of what they are wiling to add to that deal is unclear. I would expect them to make a push for him prior to the trade deadline, but their package likely won’t meet Brooklyn’s needs.

Boston, on the other hand, clearly has the necessary pieces to make a trade for Durant work. Jaylen Brown is the best realistic centerpiece in a deal for KD, and the Celtics have other valuable assets to work with.

That being said, why would Boston make that trade in the middle of the season when they currently boast the best record in basketball? Now, if the Celtics stumble in the playoffs, I could certainly see them revisiting this deal in the summer. The logic behind an in-season trade of that magnitude just doesn’t add up, and moving on from Durant this quickly wouldn’t be a smart decision on Brooklyn’s end either.

Final Verdict: Durant remains in Brooklyn