The Feb. 8 NBA trade deadline is officially less than a week away. With that in mind, let’s bounce around the latest smoke from the hot stove that a couple of the NBA’s biggest insiders cooked up on Friday.
Zach LaVine to the Pistons?
Noise first burbled last week that the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls had touched base about a possible Zach LaVine trade as the latter continues to shop their disgruntled and frequently injured All-Star guard (he’s expected to miss at least another week with his latest foot injury). Veteran NBA insider Marc Stein went so far as to write an article on his Substack about those whispers titled “The next big NBA trade?”
A dalliance between a star who seemingly no one wants and a team that might end up posting the worst record in NBA history has to make this one of the saddest trade sagas ever, but nevertheless, the latest update on it came when — around 23 minutes into the latest episode of his eponymous “The Lowe Post” podcast — Zach Lowe of ESPN said the following:
“I think the Detroit/Zach LaVine noise is real, and that if they do that, Bulls fans need to be prepared for a return that will underwhelm them, but we’ll see.”
Given that the original report that kicked this noise off, from James Edwards III of The Athletic, was him writing the following…
The Chicago Bulls and Pistons have had conversations involving Zach LaVine, league sources say. Chicago appears to be locked in on a package involving Bojan Bogdanović and one of Detroit’s blue-chippers for LaVine and his hefty contract. Once again, the Pistons have shown no interest in parting with any of Cunningham, Ivey, Duren or Thompson.
… as well as all the reporting about how “barren” LaVine’s trade market is, it’s hard to imagine how any return could really disappoint Bulls fans at this point, but buckle up I guess.
Mavericks, Kings chasing Kyle Kuzma
In less sad trade rumblings, both the Dallas Mavericks and Sacramento Kings are chasing a forward upgrade, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, with Kyle Kuzma being the most notable potential (and mutual) target:
Dallas and Sacramento remain the two teams connected by league figures to Washington forward Kyle Kuzma. The Mavericks appear to be pursuing a much wider range of players than the Kings. Sacramento and Dallas both registered interest in Siakam and Grant, league sources told Yahoo Sports. But aside from the Kuzma connection — the Kings have pursued Kuzma dating back to his Lakers days — Sacramento isn’t currently known to be pursuing other roster upgrades that would require parting with Harrison Barnes, sources said, and he could very well stick in Sacramento beyond the deadline. The Mavericks, meanwhile, continue to be connected to other forwards such as Washington, Dorian Finney-Smith and Andrew Wiggins.
Kuzma has been a mainstay in trade rumors since last season, but according to the latest update from the Wizards’ side of things, they didn’t sound that motivated to move him, as Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that they were taking calls on Kuzma but not presenting counter-offers, and Fischer himself reported that Washington wants multiple first-rounders for him last month.
Still, the Mavericks have their own 2026, 2027 and 2028 picks, while the Kings own all their own first-rounders starting next year, so either team could decide to make a splash if Washington does ultimately make Kuzma a bit more touchable closer to the deadline.
Are the Rockets shopping Jalen Green?
The Rockets may not be a contender just yet, but after multiple years of being an embarrassment, they (understandably) appear to be feeling pretty good about themselves now that they’re firmly in the play-in hunt at 22-25.
That record won’t make any of the teams above them quiver in fear, but they are competent enough now that it’s at least possible they could get frisky and try to make some real noise at the deadline. They already traded three second-rounders to increase their center depth for next year by acquiring Steven Adams, and Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reported earlier in the week that they tried to submit a bid for Mikal Bridges that the Nets shot down, so it’s clear they want to get better right now.
It’s unknown if Jalen Green would have been part of the salary ballast/overall trade package in that deal, but according to Lowe’s latest column for ESPN, it doesn’t sound like the former No. 2 overall pick is off the table by any means:
The Rockets have first-round picks galore and so many good young players that — if enough of them hit — there will be no viable way to pay all of them. They want to chase a playoff spot now. This is why Jalen Green’s name has generated some trade buzz, per league sources.
As my colleague James Piercey of The Dream Shake noted in this December column, the Rockets have been better with Green off the court this season than on this season. They are currently outscoring teams by six points per 100 possessions when he’s on the bench — the highest mark on the team — and getting outscored by 1.6 points per 100 when he’s on the floor (the worst mark of any of their starters). He’s frequently benched down the stretch of games, and if the Rockets do indeed want to get out of his next contract in exchange for win-now help, he could make sense for a team looking to buy-low on a high-pedigree scorer who has flashed potential at times but been unable to put it all together for an extended stretch.
Lauri Markannen, Mikal Bridges, Jarrett Allen and Karl-Anthony Towns unavailable
File this under “no duh” — although it’s still worth noting because of how much speculation (and in the case of Markannen, actual reporting) there was about the trade availability of these players — but Fischer is reporting that all four of the above December-January Trade Machine Hall of Famers are not being made available by their current teams as the deadline nears:
But the early rumbles of Utah listening to offers for Lauri Markkanen ended very quickly. The Brooklyn Nets, league sources told Yahoo Sports, continue to shut down any inquiry for Mikal Bridges, as HoopsHype reported earlier this week. The same goes for Jarrett Allen in Cleveland, where the Cavaliers have rebuffed any interest in their All-Star center, sources said, not to mention the team’s strong stance they’re holding onto Donovan Mitchell. Karl-Anthony Towns isn’t up for grabs in Minnesota, either, according to league personnel.
Markannen seemed unlikely to move as soon as the Jazz started playing better, while the Nets, Cavaliers and Timberwolves all seemed like improbable candidates to make trades that massive while in-season. In the summer maybe these names resurface, but it sounds like we should stop photoshopping them into opposing jerseys… for now.
Playoff teams still pursuing Alex Caruso, but Bulls probably won’t move him
LaVine may be the only guard out the door for the Bulls at the deadline, because while Lowe wrote in the same ESPN column cited above that “several playoff teams have expressed strong interest in” Caruso and that “it wouldn’t shock” him if the Bulls could get two (protected) first-rounders for the perennial All-Defense candidate, he added on his Friday podcast that Chicago still seems uneager to move on from the 2020 NBA champion:
“I just keep hearing from teams all over the league, ‘Everybody wants Caruso, so many teams want to engage the Bulls on Caruso,’” Lowe said. “They keep telling me the Bulls aren’t trading Caruso. They want to stay in the play-in race. They want to stay where they are. They’re telling us they don’t want to trade Caruso.”
Is that posturing to gin up a bidding war? It’s possible, but it also may be the Bulls’ real stance because they are not that smart or well-run a franchise, and may just want to keep chasing the play-in. I mean, this is a regime that has reportedly not wanted to trade Caruso because he is “arguably this regime’s greatest success story and he is the perfect embodiment of the culture the franchise wants to project.”
I mean, as someone who wrote the Lakers blew it by letting Caruso walk the night he left, I don’t disagree he’s a great player and culture guy. But if signing him is your regime’s biggest win and a reason to make him untouchable… that’s probably like, not a great sign of a) the quality of their other moves or b) the overall process and reasoning that goes into said decision-making.
The Lakers are (officially) shopping Gabe Vincent
Finally, while the Lakers have been a mainstay in the rumor mill all season, most of the noise has been around if anyone actually wants D’Angelo Russell (seemingly no) or how untouchable Austin Reaves is (seemingly very).
One name that hasn’t come up much — mostly because he has only appeared in five games amidst a knee injury that required surgery — is Gabe Vincent, who has made just two of his 17 threes in the 127 minutes he has played.
And in a less-than-shocking signal that they probably don’t think they can count on him to provide reinforcements, it sounds like the Lakers are shopping him, per Fischer:
Let it be known that Los Angeles has also been including injured point guard Gabe Vincent, who’s played just five games due to a knee injury, in various trade talks, sources said.
Our latest trade notebook for @YahooSports features several names teams are no longer being considered available, plus a bunch of notes out of Los Angeles, Charlotte, Washington, Minnesota, Memphis and more: https://t.co/XX8mJMeryP
— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) February 2, 2024
I’m sure the Lakers have had to beat teams off with a stick to avoid them tripping over each other to take that sweet offer.
But in seriousness, Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times surveyed the league last week to get a consensus valuation of the Lakers’ tradeable assets, and Vincent’s contract ranked… last. Behind a couple of Clippers second-round picks that project to be towards the back of the draft.
So… yeah. Not exactly imagining teams are crashing the Lakers’ phone lines trying to acquire the injured guard.
And while Vincent’s $10ish million a year contract would hardly project to be unmovable with draft picks attached, the Lakers don’t have a whole lot of those that are tradeable at this deadline (as far as first-rounders, they can only move their 2029 first or swaps). So while the team is right to do their due diligence to see if they can move him for an impact player — and now we officially know they are — I wouldn’t really expect him to generate much interest even as a human trade exception, given that his contract has two fully guaranteed years worth approximately $11 million each after this one.
So despite this news, if the Lakers are going to make a trade before next week, Russell still seems to be by far the likeliest candidate.