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Which top targets could push contenders over the top to a championship?


NBA trade season is upon us once again.

The trade deadline is fast approaching on Feb. 10, leaving teams just a couple short weeks to solidify their playoff prospects and championship hopes. There have been small deals in recent weeks — Cam Reddish to the Knicks and Bryn Forbes to the Nuggets — but the rumor mill is really starting to pick up steam in the homestretch ahead of the deadline.

This year could see as much trade activity as any. The championship race is wide open. A dominant favorite has not emerged, and many contenders have injury concerns or other roster issues. More teams could try to capitalize on the uncertainty by making a big move to get into the title picture.

To prepare for a potentially wild trade season, here are the top players who could be dealt at this year’s deadline:

Nothing has really changed in the situation since Simmons first demanded a trade in the offseason. He desperately wants out of Philadelphia. Daryl Morey and the Sixers front office remain patient, waiting for just the right deal. What is the right deal, however, is the key question.

Despite his on-court limitations, Simmons is still the biggest potential target on the trade market for any team willing to give up the bounty Philadelphia is seeking. Morey has softened his stance recently on what the Sixers are willing to get back in return, but he also thinks a trade is unlikely by the deadline and has said he’s willing to wait years to make the right deal if necessary. With Joel Embiid in dominant form, though, the Sixers have a chance to compete for the title this season. Urgency may force Morey to lower his asking price to acquire players who can help Philadelphia win now.

One wrinkle in this ordeal is Brooklyn star James Harden‘s potential free agency. When Harden didn’t sign an extension with the Nets before the season, it opened the door that Harden may explore other opportunities. Harden has a relationship with Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey from their Houston days, and Harden has a growing relationship with Sixers star Joel Embiid and part-owner Michael Rubin. If Morey is waiting, it’s maybe because he believes he can strike a deal with Harden in a trade that sends Simmons to Brooklyn after the season.

Grant isn’t the marquee name that Simmons is, but he might be just as highly coveted. He’s currently out following thumb surgery on Dec. 16 and should return this week, when he’ll likely have numerous suitors among contending teams thanks to his all-around game and defensive versatility.

His shooting percentages are down in his second season with the Pistons, but Grant has shown he can consistently score 15-20 points per game while guarding multiple positions on the perimeter and in the post. And at 27 (he turns 28 in March), Grant doesn’t fit the same timeline as the rebuilding Pistons’ young core.

We’ve wondered for years if the Pacers would ever split up the Turner-Sabonis big man duo. It appeared Indiana might finally make a move, but recent injuries could make it more difficult. Turner (stress reaction in left foot) and Sabonis (left ankle sprain) are currently out, and LeVert (sore right calf) has missed time recently as well.

Indiana could still be busy at the deadline. None of the injuries is thought be serious, and all three players could be attractive targets. Turner is one of the league’s best interior defenders around the rim, who can also space the floor on offense out to the 3-point line. Sabonis doesn’t have the same range as Turner, but he makes up it with his passing and playmaking. Word is, the Pacers prefer to keep Sabonis.

He’s a nightly triple-double threat who can orchestrate offense out of the high post. LeVert adds size and versatility to the backcourt at 6-6 and can bring scoring and playmaking to either guard spot and has emerged as the Pacers most likely to get traded.

Could this finally be the year the Pacers split up their center tandem of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner?

Could this finally be the year the Pacers split up their center tandem of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner?

Teams are always looking to add more shooting, and Gordon is one of the best shooters available. The former Sixth Man of the Year has great range spotting up beyond the 3-point arc and could be an instant-offense scorer off the bench for a contender. At his best, Gordon, 33, can also add secondary ballhandling and playmaking. One of only three Rockets over age 30, Gordon is another veteran who likely doesn’t have a place in his rebuilding team’s future plans.

The Rockets aren’t tied to any one player except guard Jalen Green, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 draft. If the Rockets could somehow swing a deal for John Wall, they’d love to do that. Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers had preliminary talks about a John Wall deal. Wall hasn’t played this season as he’s not part of Houston’s plans and would welcome a trade.

Kings: De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes

With several potential trade targets and numerous directions to go, the Kings could be one of the most active teams at the deadline. For weeks, they’ve been a rumored landing spot for Simmons. Fox would likely have to be one of the main pieces in such a trade, but the Kings still view him as their centerpiece to build around and reportedly don’t want to part with a 24-year-old in the first year of a max extension. If they did move on from Fox, they have two other promising young guards in Tyrese Hailburton and Davion Mitchell behind him.

Barnes and Hield are more likely to be traded. Barnes is a solid defender on the wing who has the size to also match up with big forwards down low. He’s a reliable 3-point shooter (41.8% this season, 38% career) with championship experience.

Hield hasn’t been happy with his role for a few years and was nearly traded to the Lakers in the offseason. A career 40.2% shooter from 3-point range, he’s still very much available for any team looking to add one of the league’s top marksmen. The Kings have taken calls about Hield’s availability.

John Collins, Hawks

Atlanta has been one of the NBA’s biggest disappointments this season. After trading Reddish earlier this month, the Hawks might not be done. Collins has been linked to a potential deal with Philadelphia for Simmons, but Atlanta could have a number of additional suitors for a 24-year-old lob threat who can also shoot 3s and play credible defense. Collins signed a five-year extension in the summer, making him an enticing option for teams looking to win now while keeping an eye on the future.

Talen Horton-Tucker, Lakers

The Lakers surely need to do something — anything — to revamp a flawed roster if they hope to compete for the championship this season. The big issue, of course, is the difficulty in doing that given their lack of draft capital and roster flexibility. If the Lakers do find a deal, they may have to part with Horton-Tucker. Still just 21 and with two years left on his contract at a reasonable figure ($21.3 million combined), Horton-Tucker is the Lakers’ best young player and likely the most desirable for potential trade suitors.

Goran Dragic, Raptors

Acquired from Miami in the Kyle Lowry trade, Dragic has only appeared in five games for Toronto, falling out of the rotation completely before leaving the team for a personal matter in late November. He’s been working out away from the team in preparation for a return, and the Raptors would love to find a trade partner. Dragic has been linked to the Mavericks given his friendship with Slovenian countryman Luka Doncic, but he could be an option for any team seeking veteran point guard help on an expiring contract. A buyout is always a possibility but it’s also possible Dragic finishes the season as a Raptor and looks to jumpstart his career by finding a new team in free agency.

Terrence Ross, Gary Harris, Magic

Ross has established himself as one of the league’s more reliable bench scorers during his time in Orlando, and he’s a lower-cost option to fill that role on a tier below the likes of Gordon. Ross isn’t a terribly efficient shooter, but he’s a respectable 36.4% from 3-point range for his career who can get hot and score in bunches. Ross could be a match for teams looking to add scoring depth without giving up much in return.

Harris went through an extended shooting slump, starting with his final months with Denver and continuing with Orlando. However, this season, Harris is shooting 44.1% from the field and 35.6% on 3s. He averages 11.6 points with a modest usage rating. Don’t forget, he was a 17-point-a-game scorer not long ago with Denver. He could help a playoff team.

Thaddeus Young, Spurs

Young has fallen out of the Spurs rotation but played well enough when he got consistent minutes during a short stretch early in the season. San Antonio had hoped Young could fill Rudy Gay’s role as a veteran backup with the size and versatility to play across all three frontcourt positions. He could still fill that role for a contender in limited minutes, and his expiring contract would make his acquisition more palatable for teams concerned about taking on salary beyond this season.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA rumors: Could trading for Jerami Grant, Myles Turner mean a title?


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