With just four teams remaining in the hunt for the 2020-21 NBA championship, we are getting ever nearer to the offseason, where the real action, at least for transaction nerds like us, will begin.
And due to the high-profile failures of various top teams and players this very postseason, we could see some fascinating moves be made in the 2021 offseason.
Below, check out the latest 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.
Kyle Anderson (Memphis)
Memphis Grizzlies swingman Kyle Anderson is coming off the best season of his career, one where he averaged a career-high 12.4 points to go with 5.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Anderson even shot it better than ever, sinking 36.0 percent of his outside looks in 2020-21.
Naturally, that has led to attention from around the league, but reportedly from one team in particular, the Boston Celtics.
According to MassLive’s Brian Robb, Boston has had their eye on Anderson for a while now:
The Celtics have had their eye on Anderson for quite some time according to league sources. With Memphis having plenty of younger talent on the wing, they may opt to simply add some more assets for the 27-year-old wing entering a contract year. Anderson’s improvement as a 3-point shooter last season, along with his passing, would provide the skillset that makes him a nice fit for Boston.
Anderson would prove a great fit on any contending club, not just Boston, thanks to his high IQ game, positional versatility on both ends of the floor and playmaking prowess.
It seems unlikely the Grizzlies, coming off such a solid season where they made the playoffs when many didn’t expect them to, would opt to ship out the veteran forward, but far stranger things have happened, so an Anderson trade can’t be ruled out entirely.
For the latest Kyle Anderson trade rumors, click here.
Kristaps Porzingis (Dallas)
Things have been relatively quiet on the Kristaps Porzingis front since the Dallas Mavericks’ elimination over a week ago, but they haven’t been entirely silent.
ESPN’s Tim MacMahon recently shared the following on Porzingis’ future in Dallas on a podcast:
At this point, the sense that I get is that Kristaps Porzingis would not mind a fresh start. But his approach going into the offseason is, okay, I’ve got a healthy offseason, which has been rare for him. He needs to work on his body, he needs to work on his game. And that he is determined to to come back and prove that he is a star-caliber player. Whether he’s coming back to another franchise or not, that’s not within his power. But my understanding is he had very productive conversations with Mavericks player development staff.
The Mavericks’ best bet might be to just try and make things work with Porzingis, perhaps by finding a way to get him more involved alongside the supremely talented but very ball-dominant Luka Doncic.
Things haven’t been all bad in the Doncic-Porzingis era, either, as the team did set the record for highest offensive rating in league history back in 2019-20 at 115.9 points per 100 possessions. (That record was since broken by seven teams this season because scoring has become entirely way too easy in the NBA, but that’s a topic for another article.)
Regardless, trading Porzingis now when his stock has arguably never been lower, outside of when he suffered his initial season-ending knee injury, when he’s viewed as a negative asset league-wide by many would be a fool’s errand for Dallas.
There’s simply no way giving up assets just to move Porzingis’ enormous salary would help the Mavericks build their next contender in 2021-22.
For the latest Kristaps Porzingis trade rumors, click here.
Kyle Kuzma (LA Lakers)
Improved defense aside, Kyle Kuzma is coming off a brutal playoff run with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he averaged 6.3 points and shot 29.2 percent from the floor, and one that came after a pretty poor regular season, too.
That has naturally led to a lot of speculation about Kuzma’s future with the Lakers, as LeBron James-led teams historically haven’t hesitated to make major moves around their superstar in order to improve in the short term.
The latest we have on the matter of Kuzma’s trade prospects came courtesy of The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears, who recently speculated the following:
According to NBA insider Marc J. Spears, the 31-year-old point guard will most likely be moved by the Thunder. He thinks that the Los Angeles Lakers should try to get him. Spears also revealed that Kyle Kuzma appears to be leaving the 2020 NBA champions. “Man, I can’t see Kemba playing there. If I’m the Lakers, man, why not try to go after Kemba. To me it makes a lot of sense. Kuzma already looks like he’s on his way out,” Spears said on ESPN’s The Jump.
We call that speculation because, just for starters, Kuzma is set to be paid $13.0 million in 2021-22 while new Oklahoma City Thunder (for now) point guard Kemba Walker will be owed almost three times that amount next season at $36.0 million, making the salary swap there impossible without Los Angeles having to add a lot more salary to make it work.
Nevertheless, Kuzma did add fuel to the fire by removing mention of the Lakers from his Instagram bio, though historically that has meant next to nothing when it comes to player movement.
That’s all to say: Kuzma could be on the move this offseason, there’s just nothing to indicate that a move is imminent at the moment.
For the latest Kyle Kuzma trade rumors, click here.
Damian Lillard (Portland)
Despite how hard New York media has been pushing the idea of a Damian Lillard trade to the Knicks being a possibility this offseason, there hasn’t been much news on that front since the Portland Trail Blazers were eliminated in the first round of this year’s playoffs.
Of course, things being quiet around Portland doesn’t mean much; all it would take is one trade demand through a Woj or Shams bomb to turn the league on its head in the coming weeks.
Nonetheless, Lillard’s teammate last season, Enes Kanter, went on the radio recently to talk about the superstar floor general’s loyalty to the Blazers:
Kanter doesn’t think Lillard wants out despite indications of his displeasure with the Blazers not getting out of the first round this season. The Knicks are monitoring Lillard’s situation with hopes he’ll land on the trade block. “You know one thing he doesn’t care about big markets, small markets,’’ Kanter said Monday on SiriusXM Radio. “He wants to win it all in Portland. I’m saying this every time I talk about him, but he’s definitely one of the most loyal and maybe the most loyal player in the league. People always talk about how good of a player he is, but he’s actually one of the best teammates that I’ve played with.”
Lillard could be waiting to see what happens with the Blazers’ coaching search before making any firm decisions, but he’s under contract with Portland through 2024-25, so even if he does request a trade, the Blazers are under zero obligation to fulfill it.
For the latest Damian Lillard trade rumors, click here.
Ben Simmons (Philadelphia)
By far the most bandied-about name this week in the fictitious trade world belongs to Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons, who is coming off the worst stretch of his career.
In the Round 2 matchup against the Atlanta Hawks, the one that saw Philadelphia get eliminated in seven games after dropping Games 2, 5 and 7, all at home, Simmons was simply brutal, averaging 9.9 points and refusing to shoot the ball at all in pivotal fourth quarters.
From Games 4 to 7, Simmons had a grand total of zero field-goal attempts, with many believing that lack of aggression to be because of the Australian guard being afraid to get fouled and have to shoot free throws at an important moment. Simmons made just 34.2 percent of his free throws in the playoffs, so that theory holds weight.
So what do Daryl Morey, Doc Rivers and the Sixers do now?
Surely they can’t be thinking of trading Simmons now, with his value absolutely cratered and people around the NBA questioning his future, can they?
Our own Michael Scotto talked to league executives about Simmons recently, and they did not hold back:
“I’d give him one more year and work hard on his free throw shooting and offensive game over the summer,” one NBA executive told HopsHype. “A pull-up mid-range jumper. His three-point shooting is a few years away if he ever gets it. You can’t rush things with him, he’s a mental [mess] right now with his shooting confidence.”
Another one had the following to add:
“He’s not the perfect fit with Embiid,” the second NBA executive told HoopsHype. “Other players could complement Embiid better. Simmons is difficult to build a team around and is not good enough to be the central figure. I think the lack of free-throw shooting does hurt his value. I’d explore a trade. Guys like Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal are two levels better than Simmons.”
ESPN’s Zach Lowe likewise shared the sentiment by many around the Association who are no longer as high on Simmons as they once were:
Lowe and Sixers analyst Spike Eskin discussed Simmons’ plummeting trade value on this week’s edition of The Lowe Post. His lack of shooting and floor spacing during the playoffs might be impacting his utility and the price he could draw on the NBA market. “I have news for Philly fans, the GMs of the other teams watch the playoffs very very closely. And there are definitely teams that I have talked to in the last 48 hours who were once in on Simmons, who say, at lease to me, it could be posturing, “eh, we’re a little less in than we used to be.”
Morey and Rivers’ first job in 2021-22 has to be to improve Simmons’ stock and trade value next season, even if they don’t believe he’s a long-term answer for the club’s future.
That could entail getting Simmons confident enough to not pass out of wide-open dunks late in a Game 7 situation for starters, and then progressing to something more tangible like improved marks from the foul line or from the short midrange, an area Simmons used to use regularly very early on in his career:
Ben Simmons back in the Summer League
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) June 20, 2021
Even just regularly hitting jumpers from that zone would be enormous for the Sixers offense and Simmons’ half-court impact on offense.
Both Morey and Rivers, when talking to reporters after the embarrassing Game 7 home defeat, spoke highly of Simmons, though did admit he has a lot of work to do this offseason. Rivers did tell reporters he wasn’t sure if Philadelphia could win a championship with Simmons as their point guard.
Time will tell whether or not the 76ers move on from Simmons this offseason, but doing so now would mean trading him for cents on the dollar and perhaps even needing to attach assets to get rid of him considering Simmons’ preposterously large salary, which is locked in through 2024-25, when the Australian ball-handler will be paid north of $40.0 million.
Simply put, the Sixers are in a very tricky spot right now, and it’s going to take some expert maneuvering by Morey or a vast year-to-year improvement out of Simmons by 2021-22 to get out of it.
For the latest Ben Simmons trade rumors, click here.