Every year, select NBA players enter the regular season as the focus of other teams' affections.
Let's go ahead and check in on those guys, shall we?
Putting together this list demands some semblance of restraint. We can't just indulge the vulturine whimsy of prospective buyers.
Pointing out that 29 other teams are probably monitoring Shai Gilgeous-Alexander might be good for a few extra clicks, but there's zero evidence suggesting he's available. Should we also wonder when Stephen Curry will get sick of the Golden State Warriors failing to juggle 13 timelines at once and request a trade?
Anyone included here must have been previously, if not be currently, available for the taking. They also can't have entered the season at the nadir of their value (i.e. Jae Crowder) or as an afterthought or salary-filling inclusion (i.e. Buddy Hield, even though he's playing well).
This space is reserved exclusively for the realistically available players who were generating the most buzz, for whatever reason, over the offseason. And though we'll get into the likelihood they get dealt, we're not here to predict. We're here to see how their performances so far have impacted their hypothetical—or actual—trade stock.
John Collins, Atlanta
John Collins reportedly wasn't happy with his role on the Atlanta Hawks last year. We can only assume he's less than thrilled with it this season.
Adding another ball-dominant guard to the equation, in Dejounte Murray, has further obfuscated Collins' place inside the offense. Playing next to Clint Capela already inherently capped his screen-setting responsibilities. Now, his touches and usage have taken another hit:
Collins in 2021-22: 33.3 frontcourt touches per 36 minutes, 20.5 usage rate
Collins in 2022-23: 22.6 frontcourt touches per 36 minutes, 16.0 usage rate
Sheesh. Collins' counting stats are, not surprisingly, down across the board. Head coach Nate McMillan could be more creative in the non-starting lineup combinations he runs out, but Atlanta's pecking order is no longer conducive to prominently spotlighting Collins.
Maybe the Hawks win so much it doesn't matter. They have a top-five defense with room to grow on offense. They have also looked unsettlingly formless for a team so comfortably above .500, and the defense is at least somewhat benefiting from arctic-cold opponent three-point shooting.
Plenty of other teams can guarantee Collins more responsibility at the offensive end. His declining numbers are not proof of regression. They're situational.
Whether Atlanta wants to move him is a separate matter. Collins entered the 2022 NBA draft as one of the most obviously available players in the league, but his output doesn't help his value in talks, and the Hawks aren't in a position to accept draft compensation as a primary return. Atlanta's chief need is also wing depth, and big-for-wing swaps aren't especially common.
Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Yes, Kevin Durant belongs here. He may have rescinded his offseason trade request, but, uh, the fact he requested a trade at all—and pushed for the exits of general manager Sean Marks and now-former head coach Steve Nash—is alarming.
Giving the Brooklyn Nets' situation the benefit of the doubt never made sense. It makes even less now. Nash was already canned, and Kyrie Irving remains suspended after he promoted a documentary rife with anti-semitic sentiments across social media and proceeded to quadruple-down on his decision to do so before eventually apologizing.
Durant, of course, has been hooping since Kyrie left the team. He's averaging 28.0 points, 6.5 assists and 1.8 blocks on 63.1 true shooting while, for the most part, playing truly spirited defense. Opponents are hitting just 34.6(!) percent of their looks at the rim against him during this span.
Yet, entering "Are the Nets better off without the star who's supposed to be their second-best player?" territory is hardly a silver-lining. And Brooklyn has not suddenly vaulted back into the championship discussion during his absence. It has gone from spiritedly shutting down opponents to getting spanked by the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings.
Turbulence remains the Nets stasis. It feels like only a matter of time before an age-34 Durant revisits his summer trade request. Perhaps it's an issue both he and Brooklyn address over the summer. But KD's future will remain in doubt so long as the Nets sit miles away from contention. And really, what's the point in delaying the inevitable? Don't be surprised if he's suddenly, albeit not at all shockingly, available closer to the February trade deadline.