As we get closer and closer to crowning the 2020-21 NBA champion, a bunch of teams are already preparing to set themselves up to make a run at the trophy next season through the trade market.
Various teams are also getting ready for the future, but the more distant one, in that their interest in the trade market is related to unloading big contracts and preparing to rebuild.
As such, the trade rumors in the NBA have been hot and heavy recently even though the season isn’t even over yet.
Below, check out the new installment of our Trade Rumor Rankings series, which ranks the five players who have appeared most on our Trade Rumors Page over the previous seven days.
CJ McCollum (Portland)
With the Portland Trail Blazers’ most recent disappointing playoff exit, it’s only natural that speculation about the team’s immediate future would be almost instant. And that’s exactly what happened, as just in the past week, there’s been a lot of talk about standout 2-guard CJ McCollum, including a rumor from CNBC reporter Jabari Youngconnecting McCollum with the San Antonio Spurs, who reportedly are a potential destination for the 29-year-old. McCollum himself chose not to address the upcoming trade speculation he knew was bound to happen after Portland’s 4-2 defeat to the Denver Nuggets (via ESPN):
Asked about his future, McCollum politely declined to engage the question. “My job is to get better. Work on my game to improve so that I can help the team,” he said. “My job isn’t to worry about those things.”
Regardless, considering the Blazers’ issues over recent years – they lack difference-makers on the wing and defenders in the backcourt – it would not come as a shock at all to see Portland shop McCollum this offseason and see what kind of return they may be able to nab for him. There’s no doubt the Lehigh product is the team’s best trade chip at the moment, and if they truly do want to make a big move this summer to try and improve the team, it may require dealing McCollum to do so. For the latest CJ McCollum trade rumors, click here.
Kevin Love (Cleveland)
As has very obviously been the case for the past couple of seasons, Kevin Love is a poor fit for the Cleveland Cavaliers and has been since the departures of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving as a veteran 32-year-old with championship experience on a team full of young pups in the early stages of a complete rebuild. The thing is, due to the enormity of Love’s contract, his injury history and inconsistent play in the recent past, Cleveland actually shipping for the five-time All-Star might be easier said than done. Love still has two years left on his contract, too, both of which will pay him handsomely (the former UCLA standout will be paid like a Top 30 player in 2021-22), so trading the floor-spacing big man might be more feasible next offseason when he’s on the final year of that massive deal. According to a recent report from Cleveland Plain Dealer, opposing teams want the Cavs to give up “at least a draft pick or a young player in a Love swap,” which doesn’t seem too palatable from the Cavaliers’ perspective, but who knows? If Love has more temper-related on-court outbursts, Cleveland might get more desperate to get him out of there, be it through trade or buyout, the latter means of which the team is reportedly currently opposed to entertaining. Or perhaps a contender sees how much more effective and impactful a guy who was in a similar situation to Love, Blake Griffin, has been now that he’s no longer on a tanking team and gains interest in the Cavs big man. Either way, for now, it looks like Love will be staying put this offseason. For the latest Kevin Love trade rumors, click here.
Kristaps Porzingis (Dallas)
Like McCollum, another player who it was obvious would immediately have to deal with trade speculation after his team’s premature playoff departure was Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis just hasn’t been impactful enough in his role with the Dallas Mavericks as Luka Doncic’s sidekick, and one might even argue the Latvian big man actually regressed to being the team’s No. 3 option on offense this season behind Tim Hardaway Jr. The problem is, Porzingis’ contract – he’s owed north of $101 million over the next three seasons, with the final year of the deal having a player option on it for good measure – is even scarier than Love’s, and while Love has the benefit of having been part of a championship team in his personal history, Porzingis hasn’t looked like a title-winning No. 2-caliber player with Dallas. And that’s without even mentioning Porzingis’ troublesome injury history. So which franchise would reasonably take on that money without asking the Mavericks for sweetener – and a good amount of it – to do so? Reports from ESPN and The Ringer both stated as much this week, with the former reporting the following:
Those injuries – and the resulting diminished mobility – made him a defensive liability, and they are among the reasons it would be difficult for Dallas to get value for Porzingis in a trade. He is owed $101.5 million over the next three seasons, a contract that executives and scouts around the league view as an albatross.
And the latter stating what follows:
The trouble here is that the Dallas Mavericks are facing a challenge to make massive changes to the roster. Porzingis has two seasons left plus a player option for a third year left on his contract, and teams don’t want him if they try to trade him. Mark Cuban denied previous reports that the Mavericks shopped Porzingis but at the least league sources have told me interest in Porzingis is ‘minimal’. Teams are scared off by the money, the health, and possibly his diminishing production.
Dallas’ best bet might be to rework the offense a bit this offseason in hopes of getting Porzingis more involved and looking more like his former All-Star self, a tough ask considering just how dominant the maestro Luka Doncic has been with the ball in his hands since joining the franchise. For the latest Kristaps Porzingis trade rumors, click here.
Kemba Walker (Boston)
For the second straight week, Kemba Walker made his way onto these rankings, as scuttle about the point guard’s future with the Boston Celtics has continued to run rampant. This week, a report from Bleacher Report stated that the Walker-Celtics partnership would likely end this offseason after mutual agreement between both parties that the relationship had run its course:
The Kemba Walker experiment in Boston seems to be coming to an end. Sources said the Boston Celtics and Walker are likely to move forward from their relationship this offseason in a mutual agreement between the parties. Brad Stevens stepped down as head coach, and Danny Ainge stepped down as president of basketball operations. Sources said the team will keep Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but Walker will be a part of the shakeup. And the feeling is mutual between Walker and the organization.
And although the team seemed to emphatically shut down that report via a Boston news station…
According to Bleacher Report, Kemba Walker and the Celtics have mutually agreed to part ways this offseason. SportsCenter 5’s sources, however, are saying the split rumors are premature. A Celtics team source denied the reported breakup and vehemently denied that the team was looking to trade Walker and pursue free agent Jrue Holiday last offseason, calling the latter rumor “total garbage.”
…there might still be some level of truth in the original report in that the Celtics likely would like to move on from the aging, less effective Walker this summer if they could do so without having to give anything of value up. Either way, Boston and Walker are a situation to watch this offseason. For the latest Kemba Walker trade rumors, click here.
Damian Lillard (Portland)
Nothing completely concrete this week on the Damian Lillard trade front, though the latest gambling odds indicate that the New York Knicks could be the favorites to land the superstar floor general if the Blazers do deal him: https://twitter.com/hoopshype/status/1402314331258245124 Lillard himself also offered a hard “no comment” when asked by The Athletic various questions pertaining to his future with the club:
So on Monday, I reached out to Lillard via text message and asked him a series of questions: Where his head was at with the Blazers? Where he stood with Neil Olshey, the Blazers’ top executive? And where his mind was long-term in relation to Portland? I also asked: Was he still whole-heartedly on board here, or was he starting to waver? Lillard’s two-sentence response was polite, and he finished by writing: “I have no comments about anything.”
CNBC reported recently that there’s no indication Neil Olshey and Co. have any plans to deal Lillard, but that could change quickly, especially if the six-time All-Star actually does come out and demands a trade from the team that drafted him. It’s hard to see that happening right now, but who could have foreseen James Harden doing just that this time last year? Players these days rightfully hold the majority of the power, and if Lillard believes Portland won’t be able to do enough to build a legitimate contender around him as soon as 2021-22, maybe he does decide to ask out. If that were to happen, contenders would trip over themselves lining up their finest trade packages, just like they did with Harden early in 2020-21. For the latest Damian Lillard trade rumors, click here.