The 2023-24 NBA season is coming up quickly. Training camps will start across the league in less than a month.
Some trade questions (like what to do with Damian Lillard and James Harden) still need to be answered, and some things going on around the league could also lead to more changes.
The new collective bargaining deal will surely affect this year’s trade talks. Some of the new rules have already started to take effect, and next offseason, there will be even more limits.
You can expect the following to happen between now and Feb. 8, 2024, the last day to sell.
Before the season starts, Damian Lillard will be traded
Damian Lillard has asked to move out of Portland for over two months. But it looks like we’re still far from a deal being made.
In mid-August, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald wrote that the Trail Blazers were “still not interested in making a deal” with Lillard’s favorite team, the Miami Heat. The main problem is money, but not having a clear limit probably hasn’t helped either.
When the normal season starts, that will change.
The Blazers have every right to try to get the most for their great guard. But it’s also important to do the right thing by Lillard and trade him before the season starts to give him and his family time to get settled.
The Trail Blazers wouldn’t help themselves by bringing a frustrated Lillard to training camp and making their young core deal with another problem.
The two teams should still be friendly enough to agree before training camps start, whether it’s a trade to the Heat or somewhere else.
The James Harden story will go on for a long time
Even though the story of Lillard and the Trail Blazers could still have a happy finish, it looks like something other than James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers will have one. Calling your boss a liar over and over in front of everyone will do that.
During the Ben Simmons deal saga two years ago, Sixers president Daryl Morey showed he doesn’t mind being in a tough spot. The Sixers also have enough talent without Harden (Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, P.J. Tucker, De’Anthony Melton, etc.) to keep going until they find a good trade deal for him.
Morey isn’t going to take a deal that isn’t the best. If the Los Angeles Clippers have a rough start, it could make them more ready to make a deal. If a key player on another team gets hurt, it could lead to an unexpected deal partner.
Morey and Harden are used to getting what they want, for better or worse. Because of this, this trade story may have just begun.
If Morey gets the big offer he wants, there will be a deal before the season starts.
There will be a lot of last-minute deals for Apron Teams because of the new CBA trade rules
After the 2023–24 season, NBA teams in the first or second salary cap tier will have to follow strict new deal rules. That should make a lot of people want to make deals before these changes happen.
Due to the following restrictions, it will be very hard for teams that cross the second apron to make trades:
- Before, you could match 125 percent of your salary plus $100,000. Now, you can only match 100 percent.
- You can’t get a player back in a sign-and-trade deal for one going out.
- Will not be able to send money in trades.
- You can’t add contracts together in trades.
- You can’t trade a first-round pick that is seven years away.
Because of these new rules, teams that spend a lot, like the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns, and Milwaukee Bucks, are likely to make their moves at the deadline before the limits take effect.
Eric Pincus of B/R put together a full list of the new rules, which you can find here.
Hornets, Wizards, and Blazers Hold a Fire Sale
Even though there weren’t many buyers at the trade deadline in 2023, there could be a number of teams that make major changes in 2024.
Start with the Portland Trail Blazers and the Washington Wizards.
When the Blazers move Damian Lillard, they will still have veterans like Jerami Grant and Jusuf Nurki to trade in order to get the No. 1 overall pick. Washington has already traded Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis this summer, and they will have Kyle Kuzma, Tyus Jones, Danilo Gallinari, Delon Wright, and other players to offer to contenders.
With a healthy LaMelo Ball and the return of Miles Bridges, the Charlotte Hornets will start the season with the goal of competing. However, this team still has a lot of holes and is trying to balance two different schedules. The Hornets give the San Antonio Spurs their lottery-protected first-round pick in 2024, so if they are out of the playoff picture late in the season, they will have a reason to lose.
You can expect the Hornets to finally trade away veterans like Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, and maybe even Bridges, who will be a free agent in 2024. They will then rely heavily on young players like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Miller, and Mark Williams.
The most changes could happen to these three teams by the end of the year.
The core of a Raptor stays together
The Toronto Raptors could be doing better right now. Even though they didn’t make the playoffs last year and lost their top point guard in free agency, they might have to pay the luxury tax.
Pascal Siakam and O.G. Anunoby can become unrestricted free agents in 2024, which could hurt the Raptors even more. Even so, Toronto has yet to show signs that it will trade either player.
Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report said that Siakam wants to stay with the Raptors and that the “growing sentiment” is that he won’t re-sign with any team that moves for him. Siakam could sign an extension with Toronto now (four years and around $190 million), but if he makes an All-NBA team this coming season, the 29-year-old would be available for a five-year supermax deal worth more than $300 million.
Anunoby is a great defensive player in the NBA. He could spark a big bidding war at the trade deadline among teams that want long, two-way wings.
Zach Lowe of ESPN said before that both the Memphis Grizzlies and the Indiana Pacers offered three first-round picks for Anunoby at the trade deadline in 2023. If the Raptors turned down that kind of draft capital, it must be because they want to keep the 26-year-old and re-sign him.
The plan for Toronto is to keep this group together, along with Scottie Barnes and Jakob Poeltl.
DeMar DeRozan Joins a Team That Could Win the Championship
Heading into his 15th NBA season, DeMar DeRozan continues to impress with no indication of slowing down. Over the last two seasons with the Chicago Bulls, he has maintained an average of 26.2 points per game, earned two All-Star selections, and only missed 14 games.
But his future with the Bulls is far from set as he begins the last year of his contract.
This summer, the Bulls kept Nikola Vuevi and brought in Jevon Carter and Torrey Craig, which shows they are still trying to win. But they look pretty much the same as the team that finished last season with a record of 40-42.
DeRozan should start the year with the Bulls, but if Chicago has another slow start, he’ll be one of the most sought-after deal pieces. His $28.6 million salary is one of the easiest All-Star contracts to trade for. Possible landing places for players include the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Philadelphia 76ers.
The Bulls should try to get something for DeRozan instead of letting him leave for nothing next summer when he can sign with any team. So, they will trade him to a team that wants to win the title before the deadline.
The Suns have to sell Deandre Ayton for a low price
The Phoenix Suns decided to keep Deandre Ayton this summer. This may have been because they didn’t get a good offer for him rather than because they thought he would be a good fourth choice.
There would be a lot to gain from trading Ayton before next summer since the Suns became a second-tier team by trade for Bradley Beal.
As of right now, Phoenix can still trade Ayton and get back 110% of his pay from one or more players. Next summer, that number will go down to 100 percent, and the Suns will no longer be able to trade cash or multiple contracts.
Even with Chris Paul, it’s likely that Ayton will be at his best when he plays with Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal. Last season, Paul threw 30.1 percent of all the passes to Ayton, while Booker was a far second with 12.6 percent.
Ayton’s raw stats will go down, and he will eventually be moved for parts. Phoenix wants a rim-protecting center, a wing defender, and a pass-first point guard.
Pacers Are Surprising Deadline Buyers
The Indiana Pacers were 35-47 last year and didn’t make the play-in playoffs. This year, they should be much better.
Tyrese Haliburton is already one of the best point guards in the NBA, and playing on Team USA this summer will only help him improve. Myles Turner just had his best season ever, Bruce Brown has won a title with the Denver Nuggets, and Bennedict Mathurin should take a big step forward in his second season.
This team is also sneakily deep. In trade, they got Jarace Walker in the draft and Obi Toppin from the New York Knicks, which solidified a weak position at power forward.
Herb Simon, the team’s governor, will turn 89 next month, so the Pacers are likely to stay around 500 for the first few months of the season before making some moves to improve their chances of winning at the trade deadline.
Rockets Shop Dillon Brooks
I’ve already told you why the Houston Rockets might come to rue signing Dillon Brooks this summer, even though they needed a defensive-minded wing with playoff experience.
The Rockets will understand they made a mistake at some point.
Brooks’ four-year, $86 million deal looks bad, but it will be even worse when Houston’s young core players get out of their rookie contracts. In 2024, Jalen Green and Alperen Engün will be able to sign new contracts; in 2025, Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason will do the same.
Brooks’s self-given green light is going to get old for the team’s new head coach, Ime Udoka, especially since there are so many young mouths to feed on this team.
The Rockets have a lot of young talent, so it was smart of them to get Fred VanVleet, an experienced point guard, to bring out the best in them. But it will be okay if they try to get out of their deal with Brooks as soon as this year.
Mavs Will Give Everything to Get a Third Star
The Dallas Mavericks should be better this year because Kyrie Irving will be there for the whole training camp, and Grant Williams was brought in before the season started. Still, this team drops off a lot after Irving and Luka Doncic.
Dallas finally has a group of young players with interesting skills, but Josh Green might be the only one who can play important minutes in the playoffs right now.
Instead, the always-aggressive Mavericks are likely to go after a third star using Jaden Hardy, their first-round pick in 2027, and other assets.
Karl-Anthony Towns would be a good target because he can spread the floor, grab rebounds, and pass the ball. The teams of the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls are also worth watching if their seasons start to go bad.
Doncic’s happiness will always be the most important thing in Dallas. This team needs to be better to win a title right now. Most likely, the Mavericks need a third star to get to the top of the West.
You can count on the Mavs to go after a good player who is unhappy.