The NBA season has yet to even begin, but the trade market is already narrowing. On Thursday, Bradley Beal re-signed with the Wizards for two additional years, halting talk of him being dealt … for now. There are still a number of quality veterans—and a couple of stars—who seem destined to find a new home this season, though, whether that happens before Tuesday’s tipoff or well into the season. Here are the five biggest players still in the trade market.
Paul will make his money, and for that, no one can ever blame him. The Rockets signed the 34-year-old point guard to a four-year, $160 million contract in 2018; one year later, Houston dealt him to Oklahoma City. Including 2019-20, Paul has three years left on that contract. You’ve heard the figures before, but this one is always eye-popping: He’ll be making $44.2 million at 37 years old.
Leaving the league a wealthy man is wonderful, and I’m happy for CP, but he’s wearing golden handcuffs. The giant checks he’s cashing are also prohibiting Paul—who is still very much a capable, high-level athlete—from playing with a competitor. Few teams can afford to take on his contract.
Miami is by far the most interesting potential landing spot. The Heat need a better floor general than Goran Dragic, and Paul fits Jimmy Butler’s timeline. The franchise reportedly has expressed “a level of interest” in Paul, and has a collection of salaries it could dump to make the financials work. (So far, the Thunder aren’t biting unless the Heat offer “multiple young, valuable assets.”) Though a few other teams could feasibly offer matching packages, their circumstances don’t align as well. The Bucks or the Wolves, for example, would be taking an enormous risk absorbing Paul’s contract with such young teams.
I really just want Love to be happy. He made it through years of Dan Gilbert’s antics and LeBron James’s subtweets to become an NBA champion and sign another max contract. He’s still dealing with Gilbert, but is now also a world traveler and a doggo owner. So it evens out.
Love is on the first year of his four-year, $120 million contract. (The “max” descriptor technically applies to only the first two seasons; in 2021-22, he’ll make the same $31 million he did the year before, and in 2022-23, he’ll earn $2.3 million less.) Cleveland is in the early stages of a rebuild and would benefit from offloading the 31-year-old forward for some long-term pieces. But before any team bites, Love will have to prove post-injury how helpful he can be to an offense. He injured his toe during the Cavs’ first preseason game in 2018-19 and returned for the first four games of the regular season before sitting the next 50 following surgery.
In late June, a league executive told The Athletic’s Joe Vardon that “one of the big-market teams that [fails] to land a big fish [is] going to make an offer for Kevin.” A team like Portland fits this description perfectly; adding Love would finally give its backcourt tandem a third star. It’d be easier to convince a young team like Cleveland to take on salary dumps, too, but not without giving up future draft picks; the Blazers currently own all of their first-rounders going forward and four of their seven second-rounders through 2026. (And perhaps five: In 2020, if the second-rounder lands between picks 31 and 55, it’ll return to the Blazers from the Nets.)
Iguodala can help a team with championship aspirations and would likely want to finish his career doing that, rather than watching the Grizzlies figure out their vision. In a perfect world, the Grizzlies would buy out Iguodala’s expiring, $17 million contract, a blessing teams often grant to older veterans, so he could sign with a competitive team. That seemed to be a possibility earlier this summer; had it happened, teams like the Nuggets and Lakers could have approached Iguodala on the open market. But though Iguodala is 35, he’s still too valuable for the Grizzlies to let go for free. It’s hard to believe he will finish the season in Memphis, but if he leaves it will have to be via a trade. (ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said there could eventually be a buyout if the Grizzlies can’t find a partner and give up.)
The 2018-19 Toronto season will be remembered as the year Kawhi Leonard came, saw, and conquered; if all goes as it should, it’ll also be the first of many seasons of growth for Pascal Siakam. He is the forward whom the Raptors should build around going forward. Masai Ujiri spent the summer insisting that Ibaka, Kyle Lowry, and Marc Gasol would not be available for trades, that there is no immediate stress on rebuilding. In Lowry’s case, that’s believable: The point guard signed a one-year extension with the Raptors to keep him in Toronto through 2020-21. With Siakam expected to sign an extension of his own by Monday, Ibaka’s future on the roster seems to have a visible expiration date.
Ibaka had his best scoring numbers in five years last season. He averaged a near-career-high 15 points on 52.9 percent shooting and has sharpened a couple of skills that will help him age his game better—passing and kicking out to the perimeter, for example. Ibaka is an intriguing option for any team wanting to refresh its frontcourt for a short-term experiment. (Maybe the Celtics will miss Al Horford more than they realize.)
Dragic’s time in Miami hasn’t been easy (except for the part where he gets to play basketball in Miami). When it’s not injuries that have restrained him, it’s teammates: the Hassan Whiteside controversies, the Dion Waiters signing, the Dwyane Wade retirement tour. Though Dragic’s endured a lot, even when he’s healthy it sadly hasn’t been enough to make the team any better than mediocre. That said, for the first time in years, the Heat have multiple players to be excited about. Justise Winslow has emerged as a multipositional player; Jimmy Butler has arrived. It could be enough to wake Pat Riley from his newfound “let’s grow organically” outlook and make one of those savvy trades he’s known for.
Dragic’s most appealing feature, for the time being, is his contract. (He played 36 games last season due to injury; his most helpful contribution was creating an opening for Point Justise to emerge.) It’ll expire at the end of this season, making Dragic a good fit for a franchise like the Raptors that needs a bit of a fresh start—though, as aforementioned, they’re not looking to trade Lowry, or so they say. If a deal involving Lowry and Dragic did happen, though, the Heat would have a next-level point guard in Lowry to pair with Butler.