2022 NBA trade deadline: Five biggest questions, including interest in Ben Simmons and next possible fire sale

The NBA trade deadline is almost here. Everything has to happen by Feb. 10 at 3 p.m. ET, which means there’s still time for a bit more speculation and rumor-mongering. To go with our list of 65 players who might be traded, here is a primer with the big questions heading into the deadline.

Five of them, to be exact: 

 

1. Does anybody really want Simmons?

Ben Simmons wants the Philadelphia 76ers to trade him. He has sacrificed a reported $19 million in fines to avoid playing for them this season. Provided that they get the kind of return that justifies letting go of a 25-year-old perennial All-Star, the Sixers want to trade Simmons. They are trying to compete for a championship, and team president Daryl Morey is not spending his days turning down trade offers that would give them a decent chance, laughing maniacally because he just wants to watch the world burn.

The problem is that Simmons and Morey need somebody else to be equally motivated to make a trade work. They need a lead decision-maker in an NBA front office to really want Simmons, not just to be interested in buying low on him. 

Simmons is divisive, as far as star players go, and this is no less true among executives than it is among fans and writers. If you’re looking for reasons not to trade one of your best players and multiple first-round picks for him, you’ll find all sorts of them: his stubbornness about shooting, his free-throw yips in the playoffs, his desire to be known as a point guard. Trading for Simmons is not like trading for, say, Jae Crowder, because his presence will immediately change the way you approach building your roster. If the Atlanta Hawks get him, what would that mean for Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu?

Is there a team out there for whom Simmons’ talent far outweighs all those concerns? Is there a team president or general manager who loves Simmons’ game but is waiting until the final 24 hours to get serious? One who has watched so much tape from Simmons’ rookie season that he can tell you his top three Simmons-to-Ersan Ilyasova assists? One who will argue with conviction that Simmons’ halfcourt limitations on offense are no more harmful than other All-NBA players’ limitations on defense? Everybody knows what Simmons’ strengths and weaknesses are, but I have no idea if anyone will be bold — and secure — enough to propose the kind of trade that screams, “I want to build around him.” 

Are the Sacramento Kings really going to sit this out? Are the Washington Wizards sure that it’s not time to trade Bradley Beal? Has Jarrod Vanderbilt’s emergence given the Minnesota Timberwolves confidence that they can integrate a non-shooter, or has it removed all urgency to shake things up? These are the kind of questions in the background of the Simmons story, not, “Is Philadelphia willing to let this drag out even longer?” On that subject, Morey has been clear and consistent: Absolutely, if the alternative is making a bad trade. 

Even minor in-season trades are inherently difficult to execute, and countless negotiations break down because of the invisible force constantly pushing front offices toward the status quo. A blockbuster in-season trade involving an oddball star in self-imposed exile signed to a max contract that runs for three seasons after this one? That’s much harder, but when there’s a will there’s a way. 

 

2. Who is this year’s Orlando Magic?

Leading up to last year’s trade deadline, there were rumors that the Orlando Magic might burn it all down. Aaron Gordon had been a trade candidate for several straight seasons, though, and it wasn’t the first time that Nikola Vucevic or Evan Fournier were viewed as trade candidates, either. When Orlando finally traded all of them, it was a mild surprise.

This year, will anybody have a fire sale? There are some possibilities: 

  • The Indiana Pacers have reportedly made centers Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner available. The stress reaction in Turner’s foot makes him a tricky acquisition for win-now teams, but there aren’t many floor-spacing rim protectors on this planet. Beyond the bigs, don’t be surprised if Caris LeVert, Justin Holiday and Jeremy Lamb are moved. 
  • Even if the Sacramento Kings are telling the truth about building around De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton, they’re surely open to trading just about everybody else. Harrison Barnes, Richaun Holmes, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III are the most interesting names here, and Tristan Thompson hasn’t played in weeks. 
Author: Lucy Green