With the 2020-21 NBA season over for the majority of the Association’s franchises, trade scuttle is already heating back up ahead of what should be a more exciting offseason on the trade market than for free agency.
In just our first edition back of the Trade Rumor Rankings series, which ranks the five players who have appeared most on our Trade Rumors Page over the previous seven days, we already have two of the biggest names in basketball earning spots on the list.
Below, check out our first installment of the Trade Rumor Rankings series for the 2021 offseason.
Damian Lillard (Portland)
Another year, another disappointing exit from the postseason for Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.
Except this season was slightly different in that Lillard, usually a beacon of positivity, posted a cryptic message on Instagram quoting rapper Nipsey Hussle, asking how long he should stay dedicated:
Now, that on its own could mean nothing, but it’s noteworthy nonetheless that those were the lyrics he chose to quote immediately after what had to be a painful defeat at the hands of the Denver Nuggets, in which Lillard did all he could to lead Portland to victory only to see his teammates fail to match his level of form.
There were also multiple reports from major outlets indicating that teams are keeping their eye on the Lillard situation that could be brewing in Portland.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith revealed on Friday that six to seven teams have called the Blazers to ask about Lillard’s availability, a report that was backed up by The Athletic, who reported today that “several NBA teams” are closely monitoring the situation between Lillard and the Blazers.
It will undoubtedly be an offseason of upheaval in Portland – head coach Terry Stotts was already fired and Lillard flexed his muscle Friday by telling multiple reporters that he wanted Jason Kidd or Chauncey Billups to be the Blazers’ next coach after a report from Adrian Wojnarowski didn’t name either former player as a candidate for the job… And that could extend to player movement.
Will that potential player movement include Lillard?
Only time will tell, but this will be one of the most interesting subplots of the upcoming NBA offseason.
For the latest Damian Lillard trade rumors, click here.
Marcus Smart (Boston)
Boston Celtics guard is coming off his best statistical postseason run, putting up 17.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.0 steal over five games against the Brooklyn Nets.
Even so, when talking to league execs about what Boston might do this offseason to bounce back after a brutal 2020-21 campaign, one source told our own Michael Scotto that they could see the Celtics trade the seven-year NBA veteran:
“I think they’ll trade Smart this summer if I had to guess,” an NBA executive told HoopsHype. “Retool around Tatum and Brown if they can get real value for Smart, but a lot up in the air there.”
Smart, an intense two-way player who particularly thrives on the defensive end of the floor, is about to enter his contract year next season and will be owed $13.8 million (he’s not even a Top 90 player next campaign, salary-wise), which could make him a very valuable trade chip.
According to the Massachusetts Live, however, one league source believes a late first-rounder is all Boston might be able to nab for Smart due to the fact that he isn’t signed to a longer-term contract.
That’s possible, but getting Smart at a fantastic team-friendly price for 2021-22 and receiving his Bird Rights in the process would likely make the Oklahoma State product valuable on the trade market regardless.
Either way, the Celtics are another team set to have a fascinating offseason, one that has already kicked off with a bang with Danny Ainge stepping down and Brad Stevens leaving his post as head coach to replace him.
A trade or two coming out of Boston over the summer would not be surprising at all.
For the latest Marcus Smart trade rumors, click here.
Collin Sexton (Cleveland)
Statistically speaking, it was a great season for third-year Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton, who put up a career-high 24.3 points per game while chipping in 3.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists nightly.
Regardless, it seemingly still didn’t do enough to prove to the Cavs that he should be a franchise cornerstone for Cleveland, who have a decision to make this summer on whether or not to extend him this offseason or let him hit restricted free agency in 2022.
Part of that may be because, according to The Athletic’s Joe Vardon one month ago, Sexton’s teammates still get frustrated with the point guard’s tendency to get tunnel vision and stop passing the ball for long stretches:
Various Cavs players still grow frustrated by the way Sexton dominates the ball, and opponents taunt them by saying during games, “you know he’s not going to pass you the ball.”
Veteran Cleveland sports reporter Terry Pluto also recently mentioned that more than one person he considers trustworthy suggested the Cavs should consider trading Sexton this summer (via the Cleveland Plain Dealer):
Two NBA people I respect suggest the Cavs trade Sexton. One likes him a lot, one is lukewarm. But their point is the team should only sign Allen (a restricted free agent) to a $100 million deal. Because of the Love contract, the Cavs can’t pay Allen and Sexton tons of cash without crushing the salary cap.
The logic there is sound. Allen has proven that he’s worthy of a big-time contract with his play and professionalism throughout his career.
Sexton? Not quite as much, especially if he continues to play with blinders on.
The likeliest outcome might be the Cavaliers and Sexton agree to wait until next offseason to discuss his next contract, although general manager Koby Altman did say at the team’s end-of-year press conference that he’d like Sexton to be a Cavalier for the long-term.
Either way, Cleveland giving up on Sexton and trading him this offseason seems unlikely. For now.
For the latest Collin Sexton trade rumors, click here.
Kemba Walker (Boston)
According to Box Plus/Minus, Kemba Walker just had his worst season since 2013-14, though we probably could have just used the eye test to figure that out.
Walker was in and out of the lineup all season long due to lingering knee troubles (when he did play, he didn’t look anywhere near as dynamic as he has over the last few years) and although the quick turnaround from last campaign to this one could be partly to blame, the now 31-year-old struggled enough to cause some worry about what his future as a top-level NBA player may look like.
Naturally, that has led to a string of trade rumors surrounding the four-time All-Star since the meek ending to Boston’s season, though none of them were all too flattering to Walker.
Both ESPN and The Athletic referred to Walker as a negative trade asset this week, meaning an asset that the Celtics would need to attach sweetener to if they did want to deal him elsewhere, while Brian Robb of Massachusetts Live, was even more brutal, calling Walker “one of the most overpaid players in the NBA.”
Unfortunately for Walker and the Celtics, that last statement doesn’t appear too far from the truth, not with Walker being owed nearly $74 million over the next two seasons (he’ll be the 13th highest-paid player next year, according to our database).
So if Stevens and Co. do decide they want to move on from Walker this offseason, it likely won’t come cheap for them to do so, with other teams likely seeking a high draft pick or a promising player on a rookie deal to take on Walker’s salary.
For the latest Kemba Walker trade rumors, click here.
Bradley Beal (Washington)
We must admit, the trade scuttle surrounding Bradley Beal should be more interesting now than it was all season long, when it was clear the Washington Wizards were not going to deal him, no matter the offer.
Now, however, with Beal having just one guaranteed year left on his contract (he has a player option for 2022-23) and Washington looking no closer to contention than any other middle-of-the-pack Eastern Conference club, the situation could be about to get spicy in DC.
Immediately after seeing his Wizards be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in five games by the Philadelphia 76ers, Beal was non-committal about his future with the franchise, telling collected media (via ESPN):
“I haven’t even … we’re not gonna think about that, or even talk about it, right now,” Beal said after collecting 32 points, seven rebounds and five assists in Washington’s 129-112 loss. “I haven’t thought about none of that, as of yet.” “Ultimately, I’m in control,” Beal said. “I think that’s my biggest thing. People are going to report whatever they want, but I know where my mind is and I know if it’s not coming from the horse’s mouth, then it’s going to be rumors. I expect them. S—, they’re starting now. “So it doesn’t change anything. I guess it’s going to increase a lot more this year with me going into the last year of my deal, but for me, I’m just relaxing, resting my body and we’ll evaluate all that when summer comes.”
He didn’t exactly demand a trade then and there, but regardless, the fact Beal didn’t give the Wizards a full vote of confidence as far as their future together is enough to be considered noteworthy, at least.
Plus, there was also a report this week from the Washington Post stating that Beal made it clear to Washington he wanted them to prove to him they could be a winning organization:
Beal, 27, becomes a free agent a year from now when his two-year, $72 million extension from 2019 runs out, but he could ask for a trade before then. Although the all-star guard expressed no interest in leaving the team throughout the season, according to multiple people with knowledge of Beal’s situation, he made it clear at the start of the year that he wanted the Wizards to prove they could be a winning organization.
So even despite the solid second half of 2020-21 for Washington, did they undoubtedly do enough to prove to their superstar 2-guard they’ll be competing for serious hardware any time soon?
That’s a question for Beal to answer, but from our perspective… not quite.
For the latest Bradley Beal trade rumors, click here.