With the NBA offseason nearly at an end, it’s time for another edition of our NBA trade rumor rankings series in which we rank the five players who have appeared most often in trade rumors over the previous week, as judged by appearances on our Trade page.
Atop this list, we have two superstar players – one who has had a trade request in back since the start of free agency and another who has consistently made concerning comments about his future with his current team.
Malcolm Brogdon (Boston)
Buddy Hield (Indiana)
The surprise of the week came from The Athletic reporting that the Indiana Pacers, after failed extension talks with sharpshooter Buddy Hield, had decided to put him on the trade block:
After contract extension negotiations stalled out, Buddy Hield and the Indiana Pacers have started a dialogue to work on finding a potential trade with another team, league sources say. Hield is open to a trade elsewhere, according to rival team sources, but no deal is imminent and there aren’t any current substantive talks with any other team. The Pacers did offer Hield an extension in recent weeks, but it’s believed their proposal did not make the seven-year guard feel desired, league sources said.
Three teams already mentioned as having an interest in Hield are the Dallas Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks, though the 30-year-old out of Oklahoma would be a great fit just about anywhere thanks to his great outside shooting and off-the-dribble scoring.
Hield is heading into a contract year, meaning that whatever team he does play for in 2023-24 will owe him $19.3 million, a reasonable price for a player with his production and skill set. It’ll be interesting to see where he ends up if Indiana can’t figure out a resolution with regard to the future of his contract.
For more on the Buddy Hield trade front, click here.
Deandre Ayton (Phoenix)
There was some smoke late this week around Phoenix Suns big man Deandre Ayton and his future with the team. According to a Phoenix-based radio host, the Suns would be interested in flipping Ayton for a more defensive-minded center, specifically Jusuf Nurkic from the Portland Trail Blazers:
argument could be made that is an upgrade for Phx. This would be contingent on Dame being moved. Portland has previously shown no interest in DA but that was with Dame staying. If they do not have Dame on the roster they could very well want a young 25-year old to build around
— John Gambadoro (@Gambo987) September 21, 2023
That was backed up by PHNX, which later reportedly similarly, though not about Nurkic:
Outside Phoenix, Ayton is viewed as an enticing piece who could help facilitate a Lillard trade. Sources in Portland confirmed that Deandre Ayton’s name has come up multiple times over the last few weeks, and PHNX Sports reported last year that the Blazers had interest in the Suns big man. DA only turned 25 years old over the summer, and Portland believes he’d be sellable to the fanbase as a young, former first overall pick with room to grow in the right change of scenery. The Suns have not been actively shopping Ayton in any way, shape or form, but they have listened to offers to do their due diligence.
Fair or not, Ayton has often been the scapegoat for Phoenix’s recent playoff failures, and it’s not totally clear whether or not the No. 1 pick will be around for the Suns’ 2023-24 championship push. It would be surprising to see him get flipped now, though, before new head coach Frank Vogel at least gets a chance to coach him for a bit.
If Ayton continues to struggle to make an elite impact early next campaign, maybe at the trade deadline, this situation will be revisited but for now, we expect Ayton to stay put, barring some other blockbuster trade going down soon.
For more on the Deandre Ayton trade front, click here.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee)
Two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo made waves this week by openly opining about his future with the Milwaukee Bucks, saying on a podcast that if there’s a team that gives him a better chance to win a championship in the future, he has to take that situation:
"I'm a Milwaukee Buck, but most importantly I'm a winner. … If there is a better situation for me to win the Larry O'Brien I have to take that better situation."
Giannis on his future with the Bucks. pic.twitter.com/XzucRXtmOv
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) September 13, 2023
Despite the reaction on social media to Antetokounmpo’s comments, Bucks teammate Khris Middleton didn’t seem fazed, saying that Antetokounmpo always makes these types of comments when he’s up for an extension:
“I think it’s kind of business as usual either way,” Middleton told ESPN in a phone interview. “It doesn’t affect me personally. I don’t think it affects us as a team. I think this is something he said almost every year he’s come up in contract extension talks.” “We always want him back for sure. Let’s be for sure and let everyone know that. We want this guy to come back because he’s one of the best players in the world. He’s one of the best players in franchise history. So when he says things like that, I think he just wants to challenge the team, the organization, to keep putting us in position to win championships.”
ESPN reporter Brian Windhorst, meanwhile, said it’s ’50/50′ whether Antetokounmpo will remain a Buck for the long term:
Brian Windhorst on how likely it is that Giannis Antetokounmpo is a member of the Bucks after his contract expires: I would say right now it’s 50/50 at best and I don’t think that’s new information, I think the Bucks knew that already. They knew that even before they got knocked out out of the playoffs last year. If you look at the Bucks’ roster, which is primarily in its 30s, if you look at their asset base, which is depleted, and you look at Giannis, who’s 28 years old, these are on different tracks. It’s not impossible they could pull some sort of maneuver – and I don’t think any of this comes as a surprise to the Bucks. I think it’s uncomfortable that he’s being so public about it, I think this is the way it is.
And ESPN’s Zach Lowe said that Antetokounmpo’s comments raised eyebrows around the league and could lead to teams planning their future a little more carefully with the possibility of Antetokounmpo being open to a move elsewhere:
While Wojnarowski didn’t name any specific players, his ESPN colleague Zach Lowe followed up on Woj’s point by directly mentioning Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and obliquely referencing Sixers center Joel Embiid as well. “Look, not to put it too baldly, but Giannis’ recent comments have changed the landscape of the league, at least a little bit, and have had teams at least have the meeting of, ‘Wait a second, do we need to keep our powder dry if we think we have a one percent, two percent, five percent (chance to acquire him)?’” Lowe said. “And by the way, the Bucks may not to have trade Giannis at all. They may win the title this year, everything’s fine, he signs an extension. But those comments, along with everything going on in Philly, have at least forced you to have the meeting of, ‘Do we need to keep our powder dry?’”
A potential Antetokounmpo trade is far down the line and – in reality – quite unlikely; the Bucks would probably just let him hit free agency and try to convince him to re-sign rather than ever trade arguably the best player in their franchise’s history.
But it’s a story to monitor nonetheless.
For more on the Giannis Antetokounmpo trade front, click here.
Damian Lillard (Portland)
The longer this story goes, the more smoke there is that Blazers superstar Damian Lillard gets traded – though perhaps not to the team he originally asked to go to, the Miami Heat.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski and Windhorst, Miami isn’t acting like a team desperate to land Lillard, using a take-our-offer-or-leave-it approach with the Blazers:
Additionally, Brian Windhorst affirmed Wojnarowski’s report and noted that Miami doesn’t seem to be behaving like a team fully committed to making an all-out effort to acquire Lillard. “I Miami isn’t acting like a team desperate to land Lillard. “They were in the Finals last year. They have young players that are getting better. They have assets that they can trade for other deals. And as we talked about earlier on the show, Dame Lillard isn’t potentially the only star player that could be on the market. Maybe not today, but certainly in the next six-to-12-to-18 months.
Whether or not the Blazers call Miami’s bluff and ship Lillard elsewhere remains to be seen, but it’s definitely a risky play by the Heat, who could use a player of Lillard’s caliber to get over the hump and finally win a championship. In reality, though, the Heat might just not have the assets to pull off the move.
Either way, that has opened the door for other teams to jump into the Lillard sweepstakes, as Yahoo! Sports’ Jake Fischer mentioned the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls as potential landing spots while PHLY reporter Kyle Neubeck said that the Philadelphia 76ers are being underreported as a Lillard landing spot.
Lillard landing with the 76ers would be particularly disastrous for a Miami team that directly competes with Philadelphia in the East. It’s hard to fault the Heat for that, however, as Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes said on a podcast recently that the Blazers are outright refusing to talk to the Heat with regard to Lillard:
"Portland is refusing to talk to Miami. Miami understands that they don’t have the assets. But they wanna know, 'Hey Portland, we’ll involve a 3rd or 4th team. But communicate w/ us & let us know what you are looking for.'"
Chris Hayes on Damian Lillard.pic.twitter.com/pC10n4NITL
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) September 22, 2023
Are the Blazers really about to go against their greatest player ever’s wishes and trade him somewhere he doesn’t want to go? Thankfully, with Wojnarowski reporting that Portland is working like a team trying to solve this saga before training camp opens on Sept. 27, we won’t have to wait much longer to find out.
For more on the Damian Lillard trade front, click here.