Here’s what I’m hearing from around the NBA ahead of the trade deadline on March 25 at noon PT:
The Heat are taking swings.
League sources say the Heat are pursuing a deal for Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry harder than anyone, though the Clippers and Sixers retain interest.
Lowry recently said he wants to retire with the Raptors even if he needs to sign a one-day contract. But if he gets dealt, league sources say his preferred destination is Miami because of his close friendship with Jimmy Butler.
The Heat are also considered by front-office executives as one of the favorites to land LaMarcus Aldridge if the Spurs buy out the veteran big. The Trail Blazers are also a threat to acquire Aldridge, sources say.
Both Lowry and Aldridge would bolster the championship odds of a Miami team finally finding its groove. Since February 18, the Heat have won 11 of 15 games and have the NBA’s third-ranked defensive rating. But Miami has a sputtering offense, ranking 22nd over that same stretch and 25th for the full season.
Aldridge, 35, could add a scoring boost in the frontcourt. Lowry, who turns 35 on trade deadline day, is a dynamic pick-and-roll playmaker and a knockdown shooter off the ball. Lowry’s fit with Bam Adebayo would be perfect: They could hook up for pick-and-rolls or Lowry could be utilized as a weapon in Bam’s handoff actions.
The Raptors would require at least Tyler Herro or Duncan Robinson from Miami in any potential deal, sources added. And since Lowry makes $30 million, the Heat would need to give about $24 million in total salary. Goran Dragic, who makes $18 million and has a team option for next season, would likely need to be included (or Kelly Olynyk, who makes $12.6 million). If draft pick compensation were required, the Heat can trade only first-round picks in 2025 and 2027 if the protections on the 2023 pick owed to the Thunder are lifted in a separate deal.
Robinson is a reasonable centerpiece of a trade package, especially considering he’ll be a restricted free agent this offseason. The last knockdown shooter who hit the market—Brooklyn’s Joe Harris—landed a four-year, $72 million contract. But Herro, who’s in only the second season of his four-year rookie deal, would be a steep price to pay for Lowry, who the Heat could just pursue this offseason when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Waiting on Lowry or on another player who might (or might not) become available would mean passing on an opportunity to maximize this year’s titles hopes, though. Pat Riley had hoped to pursue a big fish like Giannis Antetokounmpo, but that ship sailed when he re-signed in Milwaukee. And Bradley Beal, another target, has yet to express a desire to leave Washington. Lowry is older, but he could be Riley’s best option to bolster the Butler-Adebayo core.
Will the Pelicans play Ball with Lonzo?
There’s skepticism around the league that the Pelicans will move Lonzo Ball ahead of the deadline, but that won’t stop teams from trying. League sources say the Bulls and Hawks are both in pursuit. Chicago has offered Tomas Satoransky and second-round picks, but New Orleans is asking for at least one good first-round pick or a young player. Talks with Atlanta have revolved around Cam Reddish.
New Orleans’s leverage is dinged by the fact both Chicago and Atlanta will have cap space to make an expensive offer to Ball this offseason. If the Pelicans wait, they might be able to sign-and-trade Ball to a wider list of teams during the offseason. But they’d also be at risk of losing him for nothing or be forced to match a contract more pricey than they’d like.
Ball would be an excellent fit in Chicago or Atlanta alongside either team’s one-time All-Star guard, Zach LaVine or Trae Young. Ball is a low-usage playmaker who makes quick decisions and could better balance each offense with his ability to facilitate or play off the ball. This season, Ball is averaging 14.2 points on 38.5 percent shooting from 3 with 5.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds. He’s also playing the most consistent defense on a New Orleans team that can’t get regular stops.
The fact the Pelicans are even exploring trades involving Ball, who’s only 23 years old, speaks to the odd position the franchise is in. On paper, it makes sense to keep Ball’s adaptable skill set. But it’s hard to rationalize locking him into a large contract alongside Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram when this core is losing so many games.
Would the Hawks deal Collins and Bogie?
League sources say Atlanta is receiving significant trade interest for John Collins from the Celtics, Kings, Mavericks, Pistons, and Timberwolves. The Hawks want one young player and a first-round draft pick to make a deal, or a package of similar value such as multiple first-round picks. For example, league sources say Atlanta wanted Malik Beasley and a first from Minnesota, but the Wolves declined.
Collins will be a restricted free agent this offseason, so some teams with potential cap space such as Dallas could wait until the offseason to pursue him. But teams like the Celtics would likely need to move now.
Boston’s pursuit of Collins also involves another key Hawks rotation player, according to league sources: Bogdan Bogdanovic, whom the Celtics had some trade discussions about while he was in Sacramento. If the Hawks were to acquire Ball, maybe moving Bogdanovic would make some sense. Both Collins, 23, and Bogdanovic, 28, fit the timeline of All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who are 23 and 24, yet are good enough to compete now.
Atlanta has a tough choice to make with Collins. The team has won eight consecutive games and is under pressure to make the playoffs. Collins is averaging 18.2 points while scoring from all over the court. He can pick-and-pop for 3, or roll down the lane to throw down thunderous dunks. He’s even flashed the ability to put the ball on the floor to get into a jumper or go all the way to the rim. But much like Ball and New Orleans, re-signing him to a contract possibly worth more than $20 million annually could lead to salary cap challenges in the near future. The Hawks are trying to win now but can’t lose sight of the years to come.
The Clippers are under pressure.
Though the Clippers have interest in big-name point guards like Ball and Lowry, their more realistic trade targets would grab fewer headlines. League sources say the Clippers have had trade talks with Oklahoma City for George Hill and with Minnesota for Ricky Rubio. Los Angeles likely doesn’t have the assets necessary to acquire Ball or Lowry, but the team’s interest in both certainly speaks to the need for a playmaking presence who can stop the offense from running stagnant in fourth quarters.
Too often this season, the Clippers have felt like a new team making the same old mistakes. They blew a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets last postseason because their offense too often fell in love with isolations and relied too much on jumpers. Same story this season, as the Clippers too frequently have nauseating scoring droughts late in games.
Patrick Beverley is more of a defensive-oriented player. Lou Williams and Reggie Jackson are score-first guards. Hill or Rubio could give the Clippers the type of stabilizing presence they lack. Rubio is more of a classic orchestrator, while Hill would bring a bit more of a scoring edge. But either of them could help. They’re also far better defenders than Williams, who has been increasingly targeted on that end. The Clippers’ defensive rating has regressed from fifth last season to 15th this season. Hill or Rubio would offer better point-of-attack defense.
Maybe the Clippers have something bigger cooking that we don’t know about; perhaps they will come out of nowhere and surprisingly land Ball or Lowry. Executives around the league aren’t expecting much from the Clippers, but they are expecting something.
Everybody loves Aaron Gordon.
The Rockets, Warriors, Celtics, Timberwolves, and Trail Blazers have all had talks with the Magic for Gordon, league sources say.
Portland is an ideal fit for Gordon. The former no. 4 overall pick has proved to be an effective and versatile defender when he’s locked in (like he was during Orlando’s push for the playoffs in 2019). He’d allow the Blazers to utilize small-ball lineups wherein he could focus on screening for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. This could unleash a new dimension to his game—as a bouncy version of Draymond Green, thriving on the roll as a finisher or as a playmaker.
Golden State could use Gordon in Draymond’s actual role. Minnesota could utilize him similarly when D’Angelo Russell returns and as Anthony Edwards develops. Gordon has the versatility to fit in the frontcourt next to Karl-Anthony Towns or Christian Wood in Houston.
The Magic have never had the right personnel to optimize Gordon. The 25-year-old is having one of the best seasons of his career, but he will become an unrestricted free agent in 2022. Orlando is seeking a mix of young players and first-round picks for Gordon, and someone might be willing to bite.
Houston is getting creative.
League sources say the deal Houston and Orlando discussed would involve Gordon landing with the Rockets and Victor Oladipo going back to the Magic, the team that drafted him second overall in 2013, or to a third team. Oladipo would have no future in Orlando, league sources say, so finding a third team might be necessary.
The Houston-Orlando talks are interesting because they show the Rockets are trying to get creative with Oladipo deals. Originally, the expectation around the league was that Houston would seek a first-round pick for Oladipo. But he still hasn’t returned to his All-Star form and will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, so teams have been reluctant to give up much value. If Oladipo were dealt for Gordon, the Rockets would add more in the deal, possibly in the form of a first-round draft pick and more assets.
Giving more with Oladipo would open more possibilities for the Rockets. Using that same structure, Houston could, for example, make a run at Pistons forward Jerami Grant, who the Celtics have also pursued.
In the days ahead, don’t be shocked by anything involving Oladipo. Playoff teams are reluctant to trade for him. Rebuilding teams don’t want him long term. No matter where he ends up, Oladipo still clearly has something to prove.
- The Cavaliers have had trade talks with the Mavericks involving Andre Drummond. Toronto also retains interest in Drummond, while the Lakers and Nets will be potential destinations if he gets bought out. Cleveland is seeking a second-round pick, or more if a long-term salary is included.
- Cleveland’s JaVale McGee and Cedi Osman have also received interest around the league. Golden State recently inquired about Osman, though talks stalled.
- The Warriors are shopping Kelly Oubre Jr., who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
- Grizzlies center Gorgui Dieng could get bought out if Memphis is unable to move him via trade.
- Brooklyn point guard Spencer Dinwiddie is sidelined with a torn ACL, but the Nets have explored deals for a defensive-oriented wing player. They had previously chased P.J. Tucker before the Bucks won the bidding war.