Six teams that could define this season’s NBA trade market

Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (0) dribbles against the Washington Wizards during the first half of an NBA basketball game. (Jess Rapfogel/AP)

Nearly two months into the NBA season and — like most years — it’s been quiet on the trade front since the end of September. However, this Thursday (Dec. 15) will be the unofficial opening of the trade season. On that day, 74 players will become eligible to be traded after having signed contracts as free agents this past summer.

At this point of the season, a few teams have separated themselves from the pack in the standings: the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks top that list. Any teams hoping to catch them and compete at that level may have to look to the trade market.

For others — like the Orlando Magic or Houston Rockets — their fates have already been decided. And that makes their role in the trade market clear: whatever pieces don’t fit their long-term timeline or agenda will likely be dealt in favour of draft picks or prospects that can help them in future.

The middling squads, on the other hand, have decisions to make in the coming months: are they in or out? Can they position themselves to challenge teams like the Celtics or Bucks, or should they fold their hand and see what they can pick up in the NBA Draft or free agency?

Here’s a look at six teams whose roster decisions could have the biggest impact on this year’s NBA trade market.

(Note: Contract numbers are listed as annual average salary according to


Why they need to be active: Luka Doncic is in the first year of his five-year contract extension so, on paper, the Mavericks have plenty of time to contend with perhaps the brightest star in the NBA today.

The front office has been collecting an assortment of perimeter players to fit the five-out scheme they run around Doncic. That strategy has brought them the same record they had at this point last year, despite Luka Magic being at an all-time high.

In the first 21 games the Slovenian played last season, he averaged 25.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 8.5 assists. So far this year, he’s sitting at 32.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.8 assists. He’s putting up better numbers this season but that hasn’t translated to more wins for the team.

Mavericks coach Jason Kidd acknowledged that Doncic’s workload is too much. He led the league in usage rate last year at 37.4 and is second this year at 37.7.

As it stands right now, the Mavericks score in two ways: Luka posts up and scores on a turnaround, or he kicks it out from the post to find the open shooter on the perimeter. Outside of that, shot creation remains at a minimum. Additionally, the Mavericks grab the least rebounds in the league.

The good news for the Mavericks is they do have flexibility in the contracts they can move to change the surrounding pieces on the squad. They also still have their first-round draft picks from 2025 onwards.

Team needs: On-ball creator/scorer from the wing, pick-and-roll finisher, absolutely any help on the glass.

Moveable players: Christian Wood (1 year/$14M), Dwight Powell (1 year/$11M), Davis Bertans (3 years/16.5M), Reggie Bullock (2 years/$10M), Dorian Finney-Smith (3 years/$12M + player option).

Possible targets: Bojan Bogdanovic (Detroit Pistons), Saddiq Bey (Detroit Pistons), Buddy Hield (Indiana Pacers), Nikola Vucevic (Chicago Bulls), Lauri Markkanen (Utah Jazz).

Potential trades to explore:

Mavericks acquire Bojan Bogdanovic (1 year/$19.5M) and Cory Joseph (1 year/$5M) from the Detroit Pistons for Dwight Powell (1 year/$11M), Reggie Bullock (2-year/$10M), 2025 second-round pick, 2027 second-round pick.

Mavericks acquire Kyle Kuzma (1 year/$13M + player option) from the Washington Wizards for Dorian Finney-Smith (3 years/$12M + player option) and 2026 first-round pick (top-5 protected).


Utah Jazz’s Lauri Markkanen (23) celebrates with Jordan Clarkson. (Rick Bowmer/AP)

Why they need to be active: The Utah Jazz began this season as the surprise of the NBA by exceeding every expectation that was set for them. On Nov. 21, the Jazz sat atop the Western Conference with a 12-7 record. Now, after losing seven of their last 10, they sit in a play-in spot at 15-14.

Having come back down to Earth, what seemed like a dark-horse team is now just another squad in the middle of the pack facing questions about the direction to take going forward.

After trading both Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert over the off-season for a bevy of picks and prospects, it was expected that the Jazz would firmly entrench themselves in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes. It might be too late for that now after their strong opening month.

On the bright side, the value of some of the tradeable assets on this team has likely risen.

Players like Lauri Markkanen, Kelly Olynyk, Malik Beasley and Jordan Clarkson have more value now than they had prior to the season. The Jazz already have 14 first-round selections in the next seven years at their disposal and now have the option of increasing their draft capital in the coming years. But will they?

Team needs: More draft picks, developmental projects, prospects.

Moveable players: Mike Conley (2 years/$23M), Lauri Markkanen (3 years/$17M), Malik Beasley (1 year/$15.5M + team option), Jordan Clarkson (1 year/$13.5M + player option), Kelly Olynyk (2 years/$12.5M).

Possible targets: James Wiseman (Golden State Warriors), Jonathan Kuminga (Golden State Warriors), Nikola Jovic (Miami Heat) … but draft picks are what really matters here!

Potential trades to explore:

Jazz acquire Kyle Lowry (2 years/$29M), Nikola Jovic (2 years/$2M + 2-year team option), a 2023 first-round pick and a 2026 second-round pick (via OKC) from the Miami Heat for Jordan Clarkson (1 year/$13.5M + player option) and Kelly Olynyk (2 years/$12.5M).

Jazz acquire Russell Westbrook (1 year/$47M), the 2027 and the 2029 first-round picks from the Los Angeles Lakers for Mike Conley (2 years/$23M), Malik Beasley (1 year/$15.5M + team option), and Kelly Olynyk (2 years/$12.5M).


Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan. (David Zalubowski/AP)

Why they need to be active: The Bulls re-signed Zach LaVine this past off-season to a five-year max contract, but didn’t do much else beyond that. They got off to a hot start last season but sputtered when it mattered, crashing out in the first round against the Bucks in five games.

The Bulls currently sit outside of the play-in picture as the 11th seed in the Eastern Conference. With Lonzo Ball unable to stay on the floor, LaVine taking a step back and Nikola Vucevic unable to recapture his form from the Magic, it seems as though the Bulls have hit their ceiling with their current core.

Most teams in that situation might make the decision to throw in the towel and head toward a rebuild. However, the Bulls have only recently progressed out of a rebuild of their own.

After five years of a .500 or worse record, they went all-in on competing in the East when they acquired Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan in recent years. The team undergoing a rebuild once more and tanking for a high pick, regardless of the talent in this upcoming draft class, probably isn’t a route they want to take.

Instead, it’s more likely they try to move younger pieces or expiring contracts to bring in an additional piece to attempt to make another run at the playoffs this season. Vucevic’s $22-million contract is an albatross on this team and could likely be sent elsewhere to bring in pieces and revitalize a team that seems to have lost its mojo.

If they do choose to blow it up though, players like DeRozan and Alex Caruso — or role players like Goran Dragic and Javonte Green — could be in high-demand amongst contenders. They don’t, however, have their first-round draft pick for this year.

Team needs: Wing depth, three-point shooters, or draft picks if they choose to tank.

Moveable players: Nikola Vucevic (1 year/$22M), Alex Caruso (3 years/$9.5M), Coby White (1 year/$7.5M), Patrick Williams (2 years/$8.5M), DeMar DeRozan (2 years/$28M).

Possible targets: Kyle Kuzma (Washington Wizards), Deni Avdija (Washington Wizards), Jae Crowder (Phoenix Suns), John Collins (Atlanta Hawks), Kelly Oubre (Charlotte Hornets).

Potential trades to explore:

Bulls acquire Kyle Kuzma (1 year/$13M + player option) from the Washington Wizards for Alex Caruso (3 years/$9.5M), Dalen Terry (2 years/$3.5M + two-year team option), and 2024 first-round pick.

Bulls acquire Russell Westbrook (1 year/$47M), and then 2027 and 2029 first-round picks from the Los Angeles Lakers for DeMar DeRozan (2 years/$28M) and Nikola Vucevic (1 year/$22M).


Why they need to be active: The Raptors have hovered around .500 all season long, never moving more than two games above or below that mark. As of now, they are an average squad. They’ve managed emphatic wins against teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat only to lose back-to-back games against the tanking Orlando Magic.

Putting your finger on exactly where the Raptors see themselves at this point in the season is a tough task, but what’s clear is that the team has holes that need to be filled if they expect to contend in the Eastern Conference.

Pascal is putting in a performance worthy of a second consecutive All-NBA selection, and O.G. Anunoby has taken that next step to becoming a potential DPOY candidate. However, the pieces on the peripheries haven’t given nearly enough to support them.

Scottie Barnes, Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. haven’t contributed to the extent they were expected to coming into this season. It also brings into question how the Raptors will approach this off-season, as the latter two players are up for extensions if they choose to decline their player options.

The Raptors are the worst half-court offence in the league, per Cleaning The Glass. If VanVleet, Barnes and Trent Jr. don’t make it out of their funk soon, it will be difficult for the Raptors to elevate their game and separate themselves from the middle of the pack.

Team needs: Half-court offensive creation, three-point shooting, lob-finishing big.

Moveable players: Gary Trent Jr. (1 year/$17.5M + player option), Chris Boucher (3 years/$11.5M – eligible to be traded Jan. 15), Khem Birch (2 years/$6.7M), Malachi Flynn (2 years/$3M).

Possible targets: Jakob Poeltl (San Antonio Spurs), Malik Beasley (Utah Jazz), Jordan Clarkson (Utah Jazz), Grayson Allen (Milwaukee Bucks), Monte Morris (Washington Wizards), Eric Gordon (Houston Rockets).

Potential trades to explore:

Raptors acquire Jakob Poeltl (1 year/$9.4M) from the San Antonio Spurs for Khem Birch (2 years/$6.7M), Malachi Flynn (2 years/$3M), 2024 first-round pick and 2023 second-round pick.

Raptors acquire Malik Beasley (1 year/$15.5M + team option) and Kelly Olynyk (2 years/$12.5M) from the Utah Jazz for Gary Trent Jr. (1 year/$17.5M + player option), Khem Birch (2 years/$6.5M) and a 2025 first-round pick.


Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, left, is congratulated by forward LeBron James. (Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo)

Why they need to be active: The Lakers were a comedy of errors in the early part of the NBA season, losing 10 of their first 12 games. They followed that up by winning eight of their next 10 games to bring them within two games of .500 and looking like a legitimate threat with Anthony Davis and LeBron James playing as well as they ever have.

As soon as the Lakers became exciting again, they lost three straight games.

Where this team should go from here is still up for debate. Earlier in the season, it was rumoured that Davis could be dealt for a king’s ransom, and Russell Westbrook has remained a constant in trade speculation. They could also choose to augment their team on the peripheries, making smaller moves to add depth to a positionally starved team.

The Lakers also remain the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA. Historically, James finds most of his success surrounded by shooters for him to kick out to.

Davis likely won’t be moved considering how well he’s been playing as of late, so if the Lake Show do see themselves as contenders, moving Westbrook as well as their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks might be the only option in the cards.

Do they do all they can to win now with an aging James, or do they fold on the season and wait for Westbrook’s contract to expire this offseason, hoping for free agents to come their way with all that money off their books?

Team needs: Three-point shooting, wing depth, stretch big.

Moveable Players: Russell Westbrook (1 year/$47M), Patrick Beverly (1 year/$13M), Kendrick Nunn (1 year/$5M), Damian Jones (1 year/$2.3M + player option).

Possible targets: Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers), Buddy Hield (Indiana Pacers), Gary Harris (Orlando Magic), Terrence Ross (Orlando Magic), Kyle Kuzma (Washington Wizards), DeMar DeRozan (Chicago Bulls), Mike Conley (Utah Jazz), Malik Beasley (Utah Jazz) and Kelly Olynyk (Utah Jazz).

Potential trades to explore:

Lakers acquire Gary Harris (2 years/$13M) and Terrence Ross (1 year/$11.5M) from the Orlando Magic for Patrick Beverley (1 year/$13M), Kendrick Nunn (1 year/$5M), Damian Jones (1 year/$2.3M + player option) and a 2027 first-round pick.

Lakers acquire Myles Turner (1 year/$18M) and Buddy Hield (2 years/$20M) for Russell Westbrook (1 year/$47M), the 2027 and the 2029 first-round picks.


Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry reacts after being fouled during the first half of an NBA basketball game. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)

Why they need to be active: The defending NBA champions haven’t gotten off to the start many expected them to coming into this season. The Warriors are currently only one game above .500 (14-13 record), good enough for eighth in the West.

Nothing has changed in the starting five for this squad, but the bench — a unit that was key to the Warriors’ defensive impact last season — has been significantly less productive. On paper, losing Gary Payton III and Otto Porter Jr. shouldn’t have been a huge drop-off. The young players on the roster — James Wiseman, Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga — were expected to take the next step and plug the holes left behind.

That hasn’t been the case so far. The three youngsters have combined for 18.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. They also have a combined plus-minus of minus-198. Wiseman, the second-overall pick in 2020, has been bouncing between Golden State and their G-League affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors.

In Golden State’s win over Boston this past weekend, the Warriors made it clear that they can still beat even the toughest opponents on any given night, but the team has struggled mightily on the road (2-11 away from home). It could be time for the Warriors to move on from the potential upside the young players might bring down the line, and instead focus on how they can complement a core built around one of the best players of all time. Adding an additional player that can truly contribute to the rotation would give this Warriors team a more realistic shot at repeating.

Team Needs: Point-of-attack defender, versatile stretch-four, defensive big.

Moveable players: James Wiseman (2 years/$11.5M), Jonathan Kuminga (2 years/$6M + team option), Donte DiVincenzo (1 year/4.5M + player option), Moses Moody (2 years/$3.8M + team option).

Possible targets: Kelly Olynyk (Utah Jazz), Alex Caruso (Chicago Bulls), Javonte Green (Chicago Bulls), Jakob Poeltl (San Antonio Spurs), Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers).

Potential trades to explore:

Warriors acquire Kelly Olynyk (2 years/$12.5M) from the Utah Jazz for James Wiseman (2 years/$11.5M), JaMychal Green (1 year/$1.8M) and Charlotte’s 2025 second-round pick.

Warriors acquire Alex Caruso (3 years/$9.5M) and Javonte Green (1 year/$1.8M) for James Wiseman (2 years/$11.5M), and Charlotte’s 2025 second-round pick.

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