It’s hard not to feel some sympathy for Bradley Beal at the moment. Washington’s franchise anchor continues to produce at an elite rate, entering Friday averaging 35.4 points per game in his first 13 contests of the season. But Beal’s personal brilliance has been met with, well, complete dysfunction in the nation’s capital.
The Wizards currently sit in the Eastern Conference cellar at 3–11. They appear to be on the wrong side of the John Wall–Russell Westbrook swap, and a wave of COVID-19 absences has continued to hamper the roster. Beal’s frustration at this point is palpable. It’s no guarantee we'll see him in a new uniform by the end of March, but as Washington’s season devolves, such a possibility is becoming increasingly likely.
So where exactly will Beal land if he’s dealt before the trade deadline? Let’s sift through the top landing spots for Beal, Lonzo Ball and a crop of other potential pieces on the move in the coming months.
Bradley Beal, Wizards
Potential fits: Sixers, Warriors, Pelicans, Nuggets
Beal has handled a difficult few years in Washington with relative aplomb, continuing to commit to the franchise even as the Wizards’ playoff prospects began to seriously dim. Perhaps he will never voice a trade request, sticking with the franchise through the final two years of his contract. But who is that really helping? Beal has proved his commitment to Washington. Nearly a decade after he was selected with the No. 3 pick, he deserves to spread his wings and compete for a championship at a new location.
There could be a flurry of suitors should Beal force Washington’s hand with a trade request. Beal probably won’t cost the same pick capital that James Harden did, and moreover, acquiring the Florida product doesn’t necessarily require an organizational pivot. It’s easy to see Beal fitting seamlessly in a number of situations. With a healthy crop of potential landing spots, a Beal trade could come together sooner than later.
Washington could face a similar dilemma as Houston when considering a Beal trade: picks or proven talent. Philadelphia is an obvious trade partner if it deems a Beal–Ben Simmons swap worthwhile. Though perhaps Washington would rather opt to receive a haul of future assets instead of Philadelphia’s dynamic point guard. Simmons and Westbrook isn’t exactly a dazzling offensive backcourt, and even if you take Westbrook out of consideration, is there the talent on hand to support Simmons? Not exactly.
There are other potential options involving greater pick capital. The Pelicans could use part of their Anthony Davis return to acquire Beal, bringing in reliable scoring punch on the wing alongside Brandon Ingram. Golden State could dangle Minnesota’s first-round pick as well as its own. Denver could be the most likely option, using Michael Porter Jr. as the headliner along with a few first-round picks. Harden is a superior player to Beal, but considering Houston’s price and Harden’s singular style, the market was relatively limited. With Beal, we could see a number of teams preparing legitimate offers in the coming months.
Lonzo Ball, Pelicans
Potential fits: Warriors, Clippers
New Orleans is looking to shake up its roster after a 6–10 start, reportedly shopping some of its more veteran backcourt pieces to give more playing time to rookie Kira Lewis and second-year guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker. And with a new core rising in New Orleans, Lonzo Ball could be on the move to his third team in the last three seasons.
It’s been a difficult 2020–21 for Ball. He didn’t come to an extension agreement with the Pelicans before the season began, entering the year seeking a potential nine-figure payday in a sinking 2021 free-agent class. But Ball’s performance has taken a serious dip compared with last season. He’s shooting just 38.8% from the field and just over 30% from three in 2020–21, struggling to make an impact in a crowded guard rotation. The Pelicans’ lack of spacing doesn’t play to Ball’s strengths. Neither does their bottom-10 pace. Ball’s impressive offensive season last year looks more like an outlier than a breakthrough. His contract push isn’t exactly off to the best start.
I’m not ready to punt on Ball as an impact player just yet. He’s an imperfect piece to be sure, but in the right system perhaps he can thrive. The Warriors have been noted as a potential destination for Ball, and sending the UCLA product to Golden State could be a match made in heaven. Ball can be an impact defender alongside Steph Curry in the backcourt, and Golden State’s share-the-ball-ethos would make Ball feel right at home. As the Warriors look to keep pace in the Western Conference, Ball could make a marked difference.
Another Western Conference contender could see a major boost from Ball’s presence. The Clippers are in need of another playmaker in the backcourt, and pairing Ball with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard would make life hell for opposing offenses. Perhaps sending Patrick Beverley with a 2021 first-round pick won't quite move the needle for New Orleans. Though if the Pelicans are motivated to move Ball, expect the Clippers to express some serious interest.
P.J. Tucker, Rockets
Potential fits: Heat, Nets
Tucker’s usual boisterous presence has been a touch muted in Houston this season. He’s haggled with the Rockets regarding a contract extension to no avail, and with Harden now in Brooklyn, Tucker and Eric Gordon are the lone mainstays from Houston’s 2017–18 Western Conference finals team. Harden was Houston’s best player over the last decade, but in many respects, Tucker has been the organization’s heartbeat. Seeing him leave the franchise will mark the true end of an era.
I’m a touch skeptical whether Tucker will actually be dealt before March’s trade deadline. Houston is looking increasingly competitive as its roster returns to full health, sporting the league’s No. 1 defense since dealing Harden. Perhaps competing for a postseason spot with Tucker anchoring the back line remains in Houston’s best interest. Ultimately, the Rockets’ decision could depend on Tucker’s market. General manager Rafael Stone has been near maniacal about recouping first-round picks amid the franchise’s rebuild, and if one is offered for Tucker, Stone may be forced to make a move.
Daryl Morey could make a deal with his former team after bypassing the Harden sweepstakes. Miami could view Tucker as a facsimile to 2019–20 contributor Jae Crowder. Brooklyn stands out as an obvious potential home, though with its pick capital now drained, perhaps a deal would depend on Houston’s interest in Landry Shamet. If Tucker is on the move after all, a slew of contenders should be looking to make a deal.
JJ Redick, Pelicans
Potential fits: Sixers, Mavericks
Redick’s reunion with Stan Van Gundy hasn’t exactly gone according to plan thus far. The 15-year veteran is off to a dismal start to the season, shooting just 29.8 percent from three as he sees his least amount of playing time in more than a decade. Redick’s shooting is destined to improve with a bigger sample. But as the Pelicans sink toward the Western Conference cellar, they’re likely to lean on their youngsters to an even greater degree. Parting with Redick is likely best for both him and the franchise.
It’s unlikely New Orleans can fetch a first rounder for Redick. But even in a dampened market, the Pelicans may still feel it's best to make a move. A return to Philadelphia could make some sense, though Seth Curry’s arrival may make a player like Redick extraneous. Perhaps Curry’s former home is the best spot for Redick. The Mavericks are shooting just 33.2% from three as a team this season, and Luka Dončić has been forced to deal with cramped lanes throughout much of 2020–21. Dallas is likely at least a year away from Finals contention. But that doesn’t mean its roster must stay stagnant. Adding Redick could be the difference between landing in the play-in tournament and potentially snagging the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference.
Lauri Markkanen, Bulls
Potential fits: Warriors, Celtics
Markkanen is in a similar situation as Ball contractually, set to enter free agency this summer after failing to agree to a contract extension with Chicago. I’m less sure Markkanen will be dealt. Chicago is still in evaluating the pieces on hand in the first year of Artūras Karnišovas’ tenure, and with Wendell Carter sidelined for significant time, Markkanen will have plenty of opportunity to seize a sizable chunk of the offense. Markkanen’s skill set is rare for a player of his size, even in the modern era. Punting on his talent doesn’t appear to be the most prudent option.
Finding a potential home for Markkanen isn’t difficult should Chicago opt to make a move. The Warriors could plug Markkanen in as a smooth-shooting big alongside James Wiseman. The Celtics also have a hole in their frontcourt rotation, and they do have a sizable trade exception. Chicago should look to keep Markkanen into its next era. But if he seems destined to walk in free agency, there could be a quality stream of teams looking to pounce before the trade deadline.
Zach LaVine, Bulls
Potential fits: Sixers, Nuggets
LaVine is in a similar position to his teammate Markannen. I doubt the UCLA product will be shipped before March’s trade deadline, though if he is, there could be an intriguing market emerging in the coming months. LaVine is averaging a career-high 27 points per game in 2020–21, and, perhaps more importantly, he’s emerging as a true offensive fulcrum in Chicago. LaVine’s assists numbers continue to trend upward. He’s recognizing double teams with greater urgency and frequency. The turnover numbers are a bit ugly, though they would likely dip with a better supporting cast. LaVine’s growth in 2020–21 is significant.
It’s hard to imagine Philadelphia involving itself in any potential LaVine sweepstakes if Simmons is required in a deal, though perhaps Chicago would be content receiving a war chest of pick capital (as well as one of Matisse Thybulle or Tyrese Maxey) instead. Denver’s egalitarian offense isn’t the best fit at first glance, but like Beal, acquiring LaVine doesn’t require a full franchise overhaul. Perhaps Gary Harris and a slew of picks entices Chicago. A LaVine-for-Porter swap is an interesting parlor game, though I doubt Denver would really pulls the trigger in such a scenario. Regardless, finding an exact home for LaVine isn’t the easiest task, especially considering Chicago’s likely push for a play-in spot. Don’t count on a deal for now.
Aaron Gordon, Magic
Potential fits: Lakers, Nets
It seems as though Orlando is consistently stuck in stasis, unable to break through with its current core while simultaneously unwilling to pivot to a new era. There’s a strong young core in place in theory for Steve Clifford’s squad, with Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac leading the franchise into a new decade. Injuries have wrecked that plan. Orlando currently remains a fringe playoff team led by a host of veterans, seemingly stuck in the mud as it starts a new decade. Perhaps a pre-deadline deal can help shake things up.
It’s unlikely Nikola Vučević will be on the move before the deadline, though frontcourt mate Gordon could be a more palatable loss for Orlando. Gordon has never emerged as the true leading man the Magic have hoped for, pairing his impressive athleticism with frustrating shot selection. Still, there’s no denying Gordon’s physical gifts. He’s both a quality pick-and-roll threat and a passable secondary ballhandler, potentially thriving as a complementary piece on a Finals contender. Gordon has long been rumored as a possible fit with the Lakers. Perhaps a swap involving Kyle Kuzma would make some sense. Brooklyn also has a clear hole at the four, though as we noted before, its pick capital was drained in the Harden deal. Gordon’s market appears to be sagging compared with that of recent years, even as big-market teams show some interest. Unfortunately for Orlando, i window to truly cash in on Gordon’s value may have already passed.