The 2021-22 NBA season tips off Tuesday, Oct. 19, when the odds-on favorites Brooklyn Nets meet the defending champions Milwaukee Bucks. As much as any season is about the teams contending for a title, it’s also about organizations trying to show progress towards reaching championship status. For some, that means making big trades to reach their goals.
Trades can be made to push the team to the next level on the court, increase financial flexibility for free agency or acquire key assets as part of a rebuilding effort. Here are the players likely to be in trade rumors a lot during the upcoming season.
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Beal is the biggest name in trade rumors and for good reason. He’s a bona fide All-Star and one of the best scorers in the league. At 28, he’s in his prime and hasn’t won much in Washington. The Wizards just acquired a bevy of rotation players in the Russell Westbrook trade and got Spencer Dinwiddie to pair with Beal in the backcourt, so Washington is making an effort to please the guard. There’s no indication Beal wants to leave but he’s also an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2022. The Wizards need to know he’s staying for sure to avoid losing him for nothing.
Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets
For much of the summer, putting Irving’s name in trade rumors would be highly illogical. The star guard aligned himself with Kevin Durant to make the Nets title contenders, with James Harden coming on board to solidify the team as the favorite to win a title. Injuries hurt them but they would be more cohesive this season. So much for that.
Irving’s refusal to abide by New York City’s vaccination mandate coupled with Brooklyn’s refusal to accommodate Irving as a part-time player means something eventually has to give. Irving has shown no indication he’s going to get vaccinated. Durant and Harden are supporting him publicly but at some point, they’re going to wonder whether he’s truly committed to winning a championship.
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
All’s well in Philadelphia for now, with Simmons reporting to the team and set to go for the start of the season. There was a lot of postulating and pandering during the offseason regarding his future but one thing was certain; Simmons did not deliver in big moments for the Sixers during the postseason. He’ll have to raise his value on the court with his play. The 76ers are going to be competitive with him in the fold, so winning might cure what has become an awkward situation over the last few months.
Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors
This is a bit tricky, because Wiggins eventually did fulfill his vaccination requirements under the San Francisco mandate to rejoin the team. There’s got to be some goodwill there. Ultimately the small forward carries a huge salary number, which is useful if the Warriors do feel they need that fourth star for a championship team. Otto Porter Jr. can take over for Wiggins in the rotation as a superior three-point shooter, so there’s always a chance Golden State deals the forward in an effort to land another star.
Goran Dragic, Toronto Raptors
Dragic was part of the sign-and-trade deal to send Kyle Lowry to Miami, and the Raptors have been trying to deal Dragic ever since. The guard is going to be professional, although he has expressed his desire to play for another team. There will be playoff contenders looking for an additional ball-handler and Dragic provides that. The veteran’s cap number is a problem but he’ll have interest near the deadline.
Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans Pelicans
Valancuinas went to New Orleans in an offseason trade and his fit there is questionable for what the Pelicans. The back-to-the-basket big man averaged 17.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game last season and will help New Orleans in halfcourt sets but is not going to be flying up and down the floor in a fast-paced offense. As an expiring contract, he’s going to draw interest from contenders and mid-tier teams as the deadline nears.
Names to watch
- The Portland Trail Blazers will want to give their backcourt an opportunity to mesh before making big moves. CJ McCollum will be a player to watch under new head coach Chauncey Billups. If Portland struggles out of the game, the shooting guard could be on the block.
- If the Chicago Bulls struggle out of the gate with their new-look roster, Zach LaVine’s contract situation is worth looking at. The organization wants LaVine to stay with the team on a long-term deal, so there’s no trade talks at the moment. If the team experiences some bumpy stretches, that could change.
- Jerami Grant averaged 22.3 points per game last season and has a fairly manageable salary number at $20 million. The Pistons are in a rebuild at the moment and want to play their young guys together. If Detroit gets a big offer for Grant, expect the Pistons to take it. The versatile forward could be a key piece on a contending team.