This story originally appeared in Sunday Basketball Notes. Read it all here.
By this time next week, the NBA trade deadline will be over.
The players who are the most viable trade candidates are those on expiring contracts, or with player options who are likely to opt out of those contracts.
These players with options, which are rare for players to exercise, make the deadline most intriguing. Here’s a list of 11 players who could be moved:
Fred VanVleet, Raptors
VanVleet is considered a cornerstone in Toronto, an undrafted player who has turned himself into an All-Star-caliber point guard.
So why would the Raptors trade their most popular player? Because he has a player option for next summer and interested teams could sign VanVleet to a potential max deal this summer with no compensation for Toronto.
The Raptors have offered VanVleet an extension that he rejected, meaning he is looking for a considerable pay raise, and there are clubs who are seeking a franchise point guard, such as the Suns and Magic.
The Raptors don’t want to trade VanVleet, but they’re not winning this season with him and they don’t want to see him walk for free.
OG Anunoby, Raptors
The Raptors looked as if they would bounce back from Kawhi Leonard leaving for the Clippers without a glitch. They reached the Eastern Conference semifinals the next season and then, after drafting Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes with the fourth overall pick, lost in a hotly contested first-round series to the 76ers in 2022. But the Raptors have stumbled this season and Anunoby is their most attractive asset besides Barnes.
Anunoby is a physical defender and solid perimeter shooter. Like VanVleet, the Raptors don’t want to move Anunoby, but he has one more year on his contract at a bargain $19 million before a player option for the 2024-25 season. Since he has an additional year on his contract, Anunoby is more marketable, but Toronto’s price will be higher.
He’s a homegrown player who has turned into one of the league’s better defenders. Those types don’t come around often.
Jakob Poeltl, Spurs
He came to the Spurs in the DeMar DeRozan deal and he’s turned himself into a solid defensive player and rebounder. He doesn’t bring a lot of sizzle, but he could be a real asset on a playoff-caliber team. The only issue is that his contract is expiring and he is expected to pursue free agency this summer.
How much will the Spurs ask for in return? They already have offered Poeltl a contract extension, but his price is rising. The Celtics would not only have to match Poeltl’s $11 million salary but also add a first-round pick in order to facilitate a trade. The Spurs need young assets because they’re in a total rebuild.
D’Angelo Russell, Timberwolves
Russell will be a free agent this summer and he hasn’t necessarily added to Minnesota’s success on the floor. Many observers consider Russell a selfish player who doesn’t always play hard and is consumed with his numbers. But he has enough talent to help a team making a playoff push.
Russell may be difficult to trade because he’s earning $31 million is the final year of that deal he signed with the Nets, and he most likely will not earn that money in free agency this summer. But there have been murmurs that the Timberwolves will be in search of an upgrade at point guard, so they could be open to a deal, although the players in return would have to help Minnesota’s quest in the Western Conference this season.
P.J. Washington, Hornets
Why would the Hornets trade Washington, a former No. 12 overall pick? Because they’ll have to make a decision on other players and Washington could be left out.
The development of Jalen McDaniels has made Washington expendable and McDaniels will be up for an extension this summer. The Hornets will also have to save money for a potential max extension for point guard LaMelo Ball this summer. The potential five-year, $200 million deal is quite a commitment for usually prudent owner Michael Jordan, and Washington will be a restricted free agent this summer.
The Hornets would have the option to match any offer for Washington, but if they aren’t going to, why not trade him now and get compensation? His $5.8 million salary could match the Celtics’ Dennis Schröder trade exception and other teams would be interested, though they’ll probably have to attach at least a first-round pick, as well as a young player.
Jarred Vanderbilt, Jazz
Vanderbilt is a versatile wing defender and an improving player who was thrown into the Timberwolves-Jazz deal to make the salaries match. The Jazz are looking to trade Vanderbilt, who like the others, will be a free agent this summer and could cash in on an eight-figure contract.
Danny Ainge loves amassing first-round draft picks, as Celtics fans know, so that’s likely what it would take to acquire Vanderbilt. He will make a marketable free agent this summer looking for a payday after being a second-round pick in 2018.
The Celtics could be an interested party and could use the trade exception to fit him into their salary cap without any damage, but Ainge is likely to ask for more than that because the Jazz aren’t pressed into making a trade because they have so many draft assets.
Kelly Olynyk, Jazz
The former Celtic has become a useful player but probably isn’t part of their long-term plans. His $12 million salary with $3 million guaranteed next season makes him attractive to clubs looking for a veteran stretch-4 who could also play center. Again, the question is what exactly would Ainge request for Olynyk? Is he worth a first-round pick? Or would it require just an expiring contract?
Eric Gordon, Rockets
Gordon has been languishing in Houston for years, an ill-fitting piece in the Rockets’ rebuilding plan. But he had too many years on his contract to actually become a viable trade piece. He’s getting close to being tradeable with a non-guaranteed year in 2023-24. Gordon’s $19 million this season is still a hefty sum for a 34-year-old shooting guard, so the suitors won’t be plentiful, but he could help a championship-contending team with his shooting ability and experience.
Russell Westbrook, Lakers
He’s in the final year of a contract that pays him $47 million this season, so the parties interested in 25 games of Westbrook will be minimal. But the Lakers will be trying to offer Westbrook for a player who can help a championship run this season. A rebuilding team would take on Westbrook’s salary because of the cap relief this summer. His improved play of the past few weeks has slightly boosted his value around the league, but the question is whether Westbrook would be an asset to a contending team.
Will Barton, Wizards
Barton played good basketball for many years in Denver and he was supposed to help the Wizards a lot more than he has. He’s on an expiring contract, and at age 32, his most productive days may be over. But Barton is an intriguing player in a winning situation where he could score and defend off the bench. Barton is still shooting nearly 38 percent from the 3-point line and his $14 million salary could turn him into a tradeable piece for a Wizards team just looking for second-round picks and salary-cap relief.
Cam Reddish, Knicks
He’s been benched in two locations now, but a team looking to develop young players could see the potential in Reddish, a 2019 first-round pick of the Hawks. Reddish is a ball-dominant forward who is a below-average 3-point shooter. That doesn’t make him marketable, especially since he couldn’t crack the rotation of two teams. But a rebuilding team looking to replace an aging player with a prospect could offer the Knicks a deal and give Reddish yet another chance.