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Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press
NBA trade winds are picking up force ahead of the March 25 trade deadline.
As tempting as it is to sit back and enjoy the breeze, it’s not that simple. Not for us, at least.
Not when all of you are asking—if not demanding—that we first run all these rumors through the smell test so we can report back on the results.
Which rumors have a chance to yield actual transactions, and which might be floating for different reasons, like creating leverage in the market or setting expectations within the fanbase? We’ll buy or sell our way to those answers.
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Eric Gay/Associated Press
Technically, Houston Rockets general manager Rafael Stone will be calling the shots for Space City. But really, Houston’s deadline message might be delivered by a sign-spinner: “Vets for sale.”
That’s all the Rockets apparently need to pique contenders’ interest.
“In addition to P.J. Tucker, Ben McLemore drawing interest from a number of contenders,” Kelly Iko reported for The Athletic.
Interest is only relevant, of course, if it’s attached to players who could be on the move. On that note…
“Houston’s gonna burn the house down,” an assistant general manager told B/R’s Jake Fischer.
Yeah, that is about as clear as it gets in the often murky world of NBA trading.
The Rockets have a ton of leftover win-now parts from when they were chasing world titles with James Harden. When he left and took those championship hopes with him, they were stuck with almost a roster full of win-now talent and zero hopes of winning now. (They entered Sunday amid a 15-game losing streak in which all but three defeats came by double figures.)
Tucker and McLemore are absolutely up for grabs. The same goes for Victor Oladipo, Eric Gordon and everyone else not named Christian Wood or Kevin Porter Jr. (or maybe Jae’Sean Tate).
Verdict: Buy strong(ish) interest in both, and buy both being out of Houston by the deadline.
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Jim Mone/Associated Press
Minnesota might be making progress with its redesign around franchise centerpiece Karl-Anthony Towns.
Evidence of that advancement is admittedly tricky to spot. After all, Towns is already 25, so this team needs to win sooner than later. And when it’s buried at dead last in winning percentage and 29th in net rating, any level of consistent success seems nowhere near the horizon.
Saying that, you can see the blueprint of what the Wolves are building. Malik Beasley and D’Angelo Russell are already fiery scoring threats, and Anthony Edwards looks the part on the right nights with advanced shot-making and elite explosion. The point-producing potential is massive, and there’s just enough athleticism to hope this quartet would offer more resistance than a wet paper bag.
Absent from the equation, though, is the power forward to complete the lineup. Unless the Wolves are big believers in Jarred Vanderbilt or Jaden McDaniels, they’ll need to look outside the organization to scratch this itch. That process is reportedly already underway, and it involves Minnesota eyeing John Collins the way kids look at the impulse-purchase toys around a cash register.
“Minnesota is dying to have him,” ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan said on the Bill Simmons Podcast (h/t Kurt Helin of NBC Sports). “Minnesota wants him bad. What will they offer? I don’t know. They really want him. I think there are other teams, too, but Minnesota particularly.”
Collins is 23 years old and already produces like an All-Star. He essentially averaged 20 points and 10 boards the past two seasons, and he’s been a 38.7 percent three-point shooter since the start of 2019-20. He’s also approaching restricted free agency, which is a reason for the Atlanta Hawks to gauge his trade value.
But how many trades would net the Hawks a better player than Collins? Converting him into multiple long-term assets would run counter to Atlanta’s playoff pursuit.
Maybe there’s a sign-and-trade to iron out this offseason. But for now, it seems unlikely Collins is coming to Minnesota.
Verdict: Buy the Timberwolves’ interest. Sell them winning a Collins sweepstakes that probably won’t even take place.
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Michael Dwyer/Associated Press
The Boston Celtics entered this season with realistic championship hopes. After advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals in three of the past four seasons, they had reasons to like their chances of making another lengthy playoff run even if Gordon Hayward’s absence was always bound to sting.
Boston looks worlds removed from championship contention—13th in net rating, 19th on defense—and it doesn’t seem to trust that internal improvements will be enough to right the ship. The Celtics sound aggressive in their search for an external lift, and Jerami Grant, a rising star with the Detroit Pistons, reportedly has their full attention.
“I believe the Celtics have offered multiple firsts for him,” The Athletic’s James L. Edwards III said on the A-List Podcast (via John Zannis of CLNS Media). “I don’t know what multiple means. It could be two; it could be three. … Boston seems like a team that is very, very, very desperate to get him.”
Grant is worth the attention.
The 27-year-old has blossomed in his first season of a three-year, $60 million pact with the Pistons, pairing his typical top-shelf defensive versatility with newfound offensive oomph in the form of 23.6 points, 2.9 assists and 2.4 threes per game. For a Celtics attack looking to expand its options around Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker, he has undeniable appeal.
But Boston, which owns all of its first-round picks and the richest trade exception in NBA history, has enough trade options that it shouldn’t be desperate in pursuit of any of them. As good as Grant is, it’s hard to say he’d be obviously (or at all) preferable to Nikola Vucevic, Harrison Barnes, Victor Oladipo or Thaddeus Young.
If the Celtics aren’t desperate, then they wouldn’t make a Godfather offer to the Pistons, who shouldn’t move Grant for less. Both parties should be interested in keeping this relationship going, and Edwards predicted the pairing would make it through the deadline.
Verdict: Buy Boston’s interest in Grant. Sell the notion the Celtics are desperate to get him. Strongly sell the Pistons letting him go.
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Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press
Is Kristaps Porzingis a star? Is he for sure worth $65.5 million over the next two seasons and perhaps a $36 million player option for 2023-24?
Most importantly, is he the right co-star to help Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks chase an NBA championship?
It’s hard to answer any of those questions with 100 percent certainty, which could be reason to wonder if Porzingis might be up for grabs this trade season. Several of basketball’s movers and shakers already think they know.
“Although Mavs owner Mark Cuban and coach Rick Carlisle publicly declared that the team had not engaged in trade discussions regarding Porzingis, the perception among executives around the league is that he is available,” ESPN’s Tim MacMahon wrote.
It’s a safe assumption, though context is key.
“Available” could mean a lot of different things. It might mean the Mavs are legitimately interested in moving him. It could mean they’re open to the possibility of being blown away by a trade offer. Or it might be as simple as the 7’3″ unicorn being “available” in the way all but the Association’s five or 10 true untouchables are.
We’d go with Door No. 2.
It’s hard to think Dallas would be in a hurry to trade away a shot-blocker and three-point splasher, but Porzingis’ injury history alone is reason enough to consider getting out of that contract at the right price. Doing it in-season seems risky in terms of potentially frustrating Doncic, though, and it’s hard to find a franchise that would pay a small fortune for Porzingis, anyway.
Something could be done before his contract is finished, but the timing seems off for now.
Verdict: Buy Porzingis being available for the right price. Sell anyone actually paying it.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.