Trade deadline predictions? In September??
Yep, we're going there.
With NBA rosters mostly settled now just weeks before training camp, it's unlikely we see any major shakeups (save for a Ben Simmons trade) before the start of the 2021-22 season.
However, it doesn't mean we can't read the tea leaves and get an idea of deals that may come to fruition during the year. Some possible trades could be the result of rosters left in disarray following a major trade or players thought to be on the move in transactions that later fell apart.
Look for these five scenarios to play out sometime before the 2022 NBA trade deadline.
Celtics Go Shopping with Massive Trade Exception, Again
When the Celtics knew they were going to lose Gordon Hayward to the Charlotte Hornets in free agency in 2020, they wisely turned his departure into an asset by creating the NBA's largest trade exception ($28.5 million) in a sign-and-trade.
Boston used most of this exception to acquire Evan Fournier from the Orlando Magic at the 2021 deadline, yet lost the veteran swingman in free agency this summer to the New York Knicks. Like with Hayward, the Celtics were smart to turn losing Fournier into a sign-and-trade to collect yet another sizable exception, this one valued at $17.1 million.
A trade exception, of course, means Boston doesn't need to send any salary back in return, and can absorb a player or multiple players' salaries that add up to $17.1 million or less. Exceptions are good for one calendar year, meaning the Celtics have until July 17, 2022 to use it or lose it.
Players that would fit into this new exception and could be available include Memphis Grizzlies center Steven Adams ($17.1 million), Orlando Magic point guard Markelle Fultz ($16.5 million) and Washington Wizards forwards Davis Bertans ($16 million) and Kyle Kuzma ($13 million).
If Celtics ownership is comfortable going further into the luxury tax, new president of basketball operations Brad Stevens could acquire a nice rotation piece without having to send out any of his own players.
Cavs Try to Trade Kevin Love for Final Time, Buy Him out Before Deadline
The Cleveland Cavaliers have made it clear that Kevin Love is no longer in their plans moving forward.
The Cavs selected USC big man Evan Mobley with the No. 3 pick in the 2021 draft and gave center Jarrett Allen a five-year, $100 million deal, cementing Mobley's spot at power forward. General manager Koby Altman then landed former Chicago Bulls 7-footer Lauri Markkanen on a four-year, $67 million contract in a three-team sign-and-trade.
With Mobley and Markkanen now first and second on the Cavaliers depth chart at power forward, Love simply doesn't have a spot in the rotation.
While Love has wanted a trade off a rebuilding Cavs team for years now, the almost 33-year-old is refusing to give back any money from his remaining two-year, $60.2 million contract.
"There have been no talks with Cleveland on a buyout, nor is there any interest from Kevin in doing a buyout," Love's agent Jeff Schwartz told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Another Schwartz client, Andre Drummond, worked together with the Cavs on a buyout last season before the veteran center signed with the Los Angeles Lakers.
If Love isn't going to agree to a buyout, the Cavaliers could just hold him out of games while they continue to seek a trade, much like they did with Drummond last year.
Blake Griffin recently gave back $13.3 million of his $75 million to leave the Detroit Pistons, while Kemba Walker agreed to surrender $20 million of his $73.7 million to depart the Oklahoma City Thunder for the New York Knicks. A similar deal for Love would mean giving back between $10.7 million (17.7 percent of his remaining contract, like Griffin) and $16.2 million (27 percent, like Walker) of his $60.2 million, something Love clearly won't do yet.
The Cavs can try to explore trades while letting Love's contract slowly shrink, but unless they're willing to attach draft picks to dump him on a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder or find a contract that's even worse (hello, John Wall), nothing will come to fruition.
Look for the Love drama to drag into the regular season, with a buyout inevitably coming around the deadline if they exhaust all their options and can't find a trade partner.