Kyrie Irving was the first domino.
What could’ve passed by as a mellow trade deadline may now be a tad bit more enticing.
Irving’s looming trade to the Dallas Mavericks probably won’t send rippling effects across the league, but it does make one player’s future a riveting storyline going into the final few days ahead of the deadline.
Let’s look at 10 names who could be donning new jerseys in just a matter of days:
*Note: All contract data via Spotrac
Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
The only marquee name grabbing headlines at the moment is the former co-star of Irving. With the Nets not wanting to deal Irving within the Eastern Conference, it’s entirely plausible that Durant, who hasn’t been a concrete trade candidate just yet, could follow suit to the West should he be traded.
It’s difficult envisioning Durant happy at his chances of a title considering who Brooklyn received in exchange for Irving, as the team’s level just downgraded a few tiers. He won’t come cheap, of course, as he’ll earn an excess of $53 million when he’s 37 in 2025-26. But it’s a deal you do if you believe you’re one addition away from a legit title-contending opportunity.
Someone from the Chicago Bulls
The Bulls are massively underperforming this year. It’s not exactly surprising since the signs hinted at it last season. They overperformed thanks to DeMar DeRozan’s heroic performances and hit a clear ceiling, but didn’t upgrade the roster to improve upon last season’s positioning and are now paying the price.
Zach LaVine, Alex Caruso and Nikola Vucevic are all names to watch, with the latter being on an expiring contract. DeRozan could be the blockbuster name if we want to go there. But considering the Bulls’ lack of draft assets, emerging young talents and lacking the ability to compete with this squad in the long term, departing from key players to reload might be the best-case scenario.
O.G. Anunoby, Toronto Raptors
You could probably lead this with “Someone from the Toronto Raptors” since they’re in the same boat as the Bulls: an underperforming Eastern Conference team that peaked last season.
The Raptors added some pieces to their wing-heavy system from last year, but it hasn’t quite jelled as hoped. That has speculated the potential departure of some players, ranging from O.G. Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr. or others.
Anunoby, 25, is the name that grabs the headline here, though, because he’s the biggest difference maker of the bunch. He’s on a reasonable contract making an average of $18 million a year until 2025 and is a quality 3-and-D forward who could still develop his game.
Grant Williams, Boston Celtics
The Celtics may have a decision to make. Big man Grant Williams reportedly has had teams poking around on his availability, and for reasons beyond his production.
He’s headed into restricted free agency this summer and could command a long-term extension with a significant salary raise, which puts Boston in the situation of either matching a potential offer sheet or letting him walk for nothing if it can’t agree terms.
Williams, 24, is as solid as it comes for a 3-and-D forward who doesn’t need the ball to be effective and is a crucial rotational piece come playoff time. But with the C’s also linked to other big men like Jakob Poeltl, maybe it’s a sign of things to come, even if the two could theoretically co-exist.
Jakob Poeltl, San Antonio Spurs
That’s a perfect segue into the next player. Poeltl is one of the few big men on a tanking Spurs team and could definitely plug a gap for contenders in need of more depth.
Poeltl, the No. 9 overall pick in 2016, is on an expiring contract worth just over $9 million and is averaging 12.0 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.1 blocks in 25.9 minutes per game. San Antonio should be able to collect assets – most likely draft picks – in a potential trade, which would make sense for all parties.
Bojan Bogdanovic, Detroit Pistons
The Pistons’ offseason acquisition of Bojan Bogdanovic was a bit perplexing from the start. Detroit had been stockpiling on young talent for the future, but acquired Bogdanovic via trade from the Utah Jazz.
Bogdanovic, 33, is on an expiring deal worth just over $19 million and, as a pure sharpshooter, is averaging 21.4 points in 31.7 minutes on a 49/42/88 shooting split on high volume. Any contender hoping to add a scorer like him for a playoff push should be all in, and Detroit would wisely receive assets for a short-term player.
Jae Crowder, Phoenix Suns
Remember Jae Crowder? The 10-year veteran has yet to play in 2022-23 due to wanting a trade away from Phoenix, but such a deal hasn’t materialized.
The 32-year-old versatile forward is on an expiring deal worth $10 million, and the Suns would be bright to find a way to move on from him as soon as possible. Of course, he’d greatly help their depth as it currently is devoid of quality, but that doesn’t appear likely. His 3-point shot can be wayward most times, but he’s a solid 3-and-D veteran who has NBA Finals experience under his belt.
Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets
The Rockets are like the Pistons in the sense that they’re loading up on young talents and building for the future, which is evident based on each team’s records this season. Gordon differs from Bogdanovic in the sense that he’s been around the franchise for a long time, but now is best to embark on separate ways.
Gordon, 34, will be on a non-guaranteed expiring contract next season. It’ll be fully guaranteed should he make the All-Star team or play 500 minutes in the regular season/750 in the playoffs should Houston win the title. Safe to say, his contract will be non-guaranteed.
That makes it easier for teams to absorb his contract in the financial books, and he’s a veteran two-guard who can also initiate an offense. His shooting numbers are down this year, but on a smaller role for a contending team, he’d provide a better impact.
Kelly Olynyk, Utah Jazz
Back to big men, Olynyk is one of the more underrated names around. The 31-year-old stretch big is averaging 11.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists on a 49/40/83 shooting split in 28 minutes with the Jazz.
Next season is his final under contract, which is also non-guaranteed. Only $3 million of the $12 million is guaranteed, but he’d be owed the full amount on June 6, 2023 or three days before the 2023-24 season begins.
Again, if a team wants to absorb some money in the short term, Olynyk could definitely bolster an offense with his versatility. The $12 million fully guaranteed price tag could end up a bargain if it pans out.
Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia 76ers
Like Williams in Boston, the 76ers are in a similar position with Thybulle, the No. 20 overall pick in 2019. He’s set to enter restricted free agency, but does Philadelphia want to be the team that pays him good money despite not developing on offense as it hoped?
Instead, the Sixers could collect assets and use that money elsewhere. The Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings have been linked in rumors, so the buzz is already hovering.
The 25-year-old may never develop a consistent offensive game, but he brings elite on and off-ball defense to the court, something the aforementioned teams could certainly benefit from.
Cam Reddish, New York Knicks – New York used a first-round pick to land Reddish from Atlanta last year, then proceeded to rarely use the 2019 No. 10 overall pick. Little has changed this season, so it’s entirely possible the Knicks move on from the 23-year-old with him also set for restricted free agency in the summer.
Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers – The 34-year-old big man has been dropped from Cleveland’s rotation and is on an expiring contract worth $28 million. He may not be traded, but he seems like a prime buyout candidate for after the deadline. In a limited catch-and-shoot and rebounding role, another contender may see treasure in another team’s trash. He’s also a Los Angeles, Calif., native, if you want to make the connection.
Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Lakers – Westbrook slots in here because the Lakers haven’t been able to pull the trigger on a big move yet. Even though Westbrook is on an expiring contract worth over $40 million, who knows what team would be willing to squeeze that contract while helping the Lakers by potentially sending back better squad fits.