The NBA trade market continues to hum along quietly, with little chatter of substantive deals gaining actual development. There are frameworks being passed around front offices and role players being made available, but this transaction landscape ahead of the Feb. 9 buzzer is desperately lacking significant talent on the block, in the eyes of lead executives, particularly for teams that are searching to add a true All-Star into their respective builds.
That is why someone like Zach LaVine, the Bulls’ two-time All-Star who’s in the first season of a five-year, $215 million maximum contract, would have no shortage of suitors if Chicago decided to move the 27-year-old guard before next Thursday’s deadline — despite some concern about his recovery process from offseason arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. The Lakers, Heat, Knicks and Mavericks have consistently been mentioned by league personnel as holding motivations to land LaVine if the time does arrive. Portland also showed interest in signing LaVine last offseason, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Atlanta loomed as a potential LaVine destination before the Hawks splurged for Dejounte Murray.
For any team holding onto hope for LaVine’s availability, or that Bradley Beal will one day ask out of Washington, or whether Trae Young ever seeks a trade from the Hawks, it might actually be wise for stars to avoid creating a proverbial list of destination teams. Recent NBA history seems to suggest that when such a player expresses his preferences for his next employer, those very teams often come up empty.
James Harden landed in Brooklyn after asking out of Houston, but told reporters upon his 2022 arrival in Philadelphia that he always preferred joining the 76ers. Anthony Davis calling his shot in 2019 — pinpointing the Lakers with LeBron James and then landing in Los Angeles — might be the only clear example in modern memory of an All-Star directly reaching his desired location by trade request.
You have to go back to 2011 to find another, when Carmelo Anthony was traded to New York as he always wanted, and yet the Nuggets nearly sent him to the then-New Jersey Nets instead. Chris Paul punched his ticket to Houston in 2017 not by requesting a trade but by opting into the final year of his contract, which helped facilitate a package of seven players and a first-round pick to the Clippers in return.