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NBA Trade Value List: Summer 2022 Edition

It’s back! As summer league winds down and the NBA finally hits its true offseason, Bill Simmons takes stock of the league, breaking down the 64 most valuable trade assets heading into 2022-23.

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You may have heard me mention my secretive 2022 NBA Trade Value list on various podcasts, eventually causing Chris Ryan to compare the list to Avatar 2. I think that was an insult. Did I spend the last two months messing around with a top 50, then a top 60, then a top 64 while soliciting feedback from friends and coworkers? Maybe. On Sunday night’s BS Podcast, I workshopped my final list with Ryen Russillo once and for all. Definitely listen to that episode …

… just so you can hear Russillo talking me out of Herb Jones as a top-50 trade value guy in real time (God, I love Herb Jones) or me bumping my Anthony Edwards ranking just by leveraging our mutual affection for him. Who needs advanced stats when someone can just argue, “Wait, we love this guy!!!” and it actually works? Russillo and I debating Anthony Edwards’s ceiling would be the worst First Take episode ever. Or the best. You know what? It would be the best.

Reminder: THIS IS NOT A PLAYER RANKING LIST. We ranked these 64 players as trade assets only. For instance, LeBron came in 35th. That doesn’t mean LeBron is the NBA’s 35th-best player, just that he’s a 37-year-old star on an expiring contract who’s already played more minutes than anyone except Kareem and the Mailman. Would Miami trade Bam Adebayo to rent LeBron’s 20th season? No. Would Toronto sacrifice Pascal Siakam for him? Probably not. Would Phoenix flip Mikal Bridges for a year of LeBron and hope he re-signs? Now that’s a juicy argument! For 22 years and counting, that’s been the point of the trade value list. Again, THIS IS NOT A PLAYER RANKING LIST.

I relied on these six set-in-stone rules to light the way for this summer’s list.

Rule no. 1: Salaries matter

Would you rather pay Bradley Beal $50 million a year or Jaylen Brown half as much? Would you rather pay Trae Young as a max player or Evan Mobley on a rookie deal? Would you rather pay Kyrie Irving $36.5 million or try to set your eyebrows on fire?

Rule no. 2: Age matters

Would you rather have Chris Paul for two more seasons or Darius Garland for the next 15? Would you rather have Giannis at age 27 or Steph at 34? Would you rather have me writing this trade value intro at age 35 or 52?

Rule no. 3: Contract length matters, just not nearly as much

Remember the good old days, when Raef Lafrentz’s ill-fated seven-year max extension started getting passed around the league like VD? Or when the Wizards amnesty’ed Andray Blatche’s contract extension right as it was kicking in? Dumb contracts aren’t nearly as long or intimidating anymore with the new CBA. You can usually get out of them. Well, unless they’re for Russell Westbrook.

For trade value purposes in 2022, contract length can be a positive (any quality player who’s locked up for two years or more), a question mark (any expiring deal, like LeBron’s heading into next summer), or a massive, jaw-dropping, “Wait, is Spotrac broken or are those the real numbers?” extension (like Portland paying Dame Lillard $121.7 million guaranteed just in 2025-26 and 2026-27). But it’s rarely an aggressive deterrent.

Rule no. 4: Happiness matters more than ever

In 2022, a.k.a. in the Player Empowerment Era, franchises are more leery of trading for a potentially unhappy guy. You could blame a bunch of people for this, but let’s just blame James Harden—he made history by unabashedly quitting on two teams in 15 months, then got dealt for Ben Simmons (sitting out that season in Philly with a bruised ego). Basically, there’s PHS (Pre–Harden-Simmons) and AHS (After Harden-Simmons).

In Year 72 PHS, Toronto rolled the dice on an unhappy, possibly hobbled Kawhi Leonard and stole the 2019 title. Would any team behave that audaciously in Year 1 AHS? How high is Kawhi’s trade value when 29 other teams know he’s coming off a torn ACL, making big money, and loving Southern California? Does that sound like an enticing risk for, say, Detroit? Didn’t think so. Nobody wants a potentially unhappy star. This is why Kyrie’s sign-and-trade list was greeted about as excitedly as a Twitter all-hands meeting with Elon Musk. We almost need an accompanying Happy Value list.

Rule no. 5: Bizarre real-life trades SHOULD affect the list

The Timberwolves just paid 225 cents on the dollar for Rudy Gobert (last six playoff series: 1-5), then hilariously bragged about how they held onto Jaden McDaniels afterward. If the Celtics made a trade like that, you’d find me in the fetal position in the middle of the “Pine Barrens” forest 80 hours later. I had Gobert in the mid-40s before that bathsaltsian trade. Today? He’s gotta crack the top 30, right? How could Minnesota trade him now? And how could Brooklyn trade KD for anything less? Even KD straight-up for Jaden McDaniels wouldn’t be enough.

Rule no. 6: Concentrate on degrees

Pretend the league passed the following rule: For 24 hours, any player can be traded without cap ramifications, but with luxury-tax and next-day-cap ramifications. If Team A tells Team B, “We’ll trade you Player X for Player Y,” would Team B make the deal? For instance, a Trae Young–Jrue Holiday trade wouldn’t happen, but the Bucks would at least say, “Wow, Trae is available?” while the Hawks would say, “Why would we do that?” That matters. So does Trae’s inevitable snarky tweet when someone screenshots this paragraph completely out of context and sticks it in his Twitter replies. What’s up, Trae?

Like always, the 2022 Trade Value list runs in reverse order. That means if Brandon Ingram is no. 21, then players nos. 1 through 20 are all guys about whom New Orleans’s brain trust would either say, “We hate giving up Brandon, but let’s have a meeting ASAP,” or, “Done! Call this deal in!” And the Pelicans definitely wouldn’t deal him straight up for any player listed between nos. 22 and 64.

Last note: I apologize for not blowing this out into a 7,000-word column. My fingers barely work. Even typing these 15 paragraphs took me two months and 129 drafts. But this also isn’t my FINAL list for 2022, just a snapshot of how we look heading into the dog days of summer. Could that mean an actual column is coming later this year? Who the hell knows? If a 58-year-old Pete Mitchell can take down the country of Urania, then anything’s possible.

For now, here’s the list of 64 names from Sunday’s podcast, in descending order, separated into 12 groups.

Honorable Mention

Kyle Kuzma
Jaden McDaniels
Alex Caruso
Nikola Vucevic
Gary Trent Jr.
John Collins
CJ McCollum
Ben Mathurin
Wendell Carter Jr.
Robert Williams III
Seth Curry
Anfernee Simons
Dillon Brooks
Lu Dort
De’Aaron Fox
Jonathan Kuminga
Keegan Murray

Dishonorable Mention

Kyrie Irving
Ben Simmons
James Harden

The Top 64

Group L: Quality Starters

64. Draymond Green
63. OG Anunoby
62. Deandre Ayton
61. Jarrett Allen
60. Fred VanVleet
59. DeMar DeRozan
58. Domantas Sabonis

Group K: The Upside Gang

57. Tyrese Haliburton
56. Tyrese Maxey
55. Herb Jones
54. Jaren Jackson Jr.
53. RJ Barrett
52. Franz Wagner
51. Josh Giddey

Group J: The Ginobilis (Playoff Guys)

50. Tyler Herro
49. Jordan Poole
48. Desmond Bane
47. Marcus Smart
46. Jalen Brunson
45. Andrew Wiggins
44. Mikal Bridges

Group I: The Westbrooks (Regular-Season Guys)

43. Bradley Beal
42. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
41. Jaden Ivey
40. Dejounte Murray

Group H: “Sorry, He’s Worth More to Us Than to You”

39. Chris Paul
38. Damian Lillard
37. Khris Middleton
36. Jamal Murray
35. LeBron James
34. Donovan Mitchell

Group G: “Too Young, Too Cheap, Too Good … Please Stop Calling Us”

33. LaMelo Ball
32. Jabari Smith Jr.
31. Jalen Green
30. Darius Garland
29. Chet Holmgren
28. Paolo Banchero

Group F: “If You Tell Woj, I’ll Deny It to the Death … but I’m Listening”

27. Zach LaVine
26. Pascal Siakam
25. Rudy Gobert
24. Karl-Anthony Towns
23. Kawhi Leonard
22. Zion Williamson

Group E: “Lemme Save You Some Time: N-O”

21. Brandon Ingram
20. Jrue Holiday
19. Jaylen Brown
18. Bam Adebayo

Group D: True Franchise Guys

17. Trae Young
16. Scottie Barnes
15. Cade Cunningham
14. Paul George
13. Jimmy Butler
12. Anthony Davis
11. Devin Booker

Group C: “We’re Not Trading Him (but Make Us an Offer)”

10. Kevin Durant

Group B: The Untouchables

9. Evan Mobley
8. Anthony Edwards
7. Jayson Tatum
6. Joel Embiid
5. Ja Morant

Group A: Completely and Utterly Untouchable

4. Steph Curry
3. Nikola Jokic
2. Luka Doncic
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo