The NBA feels like it’s stuck in the calm before the storm in the week leading up to the 2024 trade deadline. There have been plenty of big trades in the league over the past six months — Damian Lillard to the Bucks, James Harden to the Clippers, OG Anunoby to the Knicks, and Pascal Siakam to the Pacers — but it feels like we could be in for a quiet deadline for a few different reasons.
At the moment, it seems like there are more potential buyers than potential sellers in the NBA landscape. The lack of available first-round picks after so many trades in recent years has left would-be buyers without the required ammo to land help. The new CBA agreement with more punitive luxury tax thresholds has also provided a hit to slop season.
Things can change quickly, of course. Last year, I wrote a trade deadline predictions piece that tabbed Fred VanVleet as the best player to change teams. Less than 48 hours later, Kevin Durant was traded to the Suns. VanVleet wouldn’t change teams until the summer, when he left the Raptors to sign as a free agent with the Rockets.
Here are our biggest predictions for the 2024 NBA trade deadline.
The Sixers make the NBA’s biggest move
No team is better equipped to make a big splash at the trade deadline than the Sixers. Philly has tons of expiring contracts, a surplus of first round picks after the Harden trade earlier this season, and the belief that the right move can put them over the top in the Eastern Conference. While Joel Embiid’s knee surgery unquestionably complicates the process, Philly still has every reason to make an all-in push if they believe Embiid can get back on the court close to 100 percent ahead of the playoffs.
The Sixers could use a third scorer to alleviate pressure from Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. It could use shooting, and another impact defender. While Dejounte Murray is a popular name out there, another Hawks guard might be a better option for Philly: Bogdan Bogdanovic. The 31-year-old is locked in to a reasonable deal for the next two seasons, then has a player option. He’d give the Sixers another shooter who can be a takeover scorer in the right situation. He’d be boost to lineups with Embiid on the floor, or on the bench.
Ideally, the Sixers could also land Alex Caruso from Chicago. Caruso is the most impactful per-minute defender in the sport, and he’s been having a career-year offensively with a 40.4 percent mark from three-point range on 4.4 attempts per game. It won’t be easy to pull off either of these moves, but Morey has the ammo to do it.
The Bulls keep Alex Caruso, and that’s a mistake
The Bulls are perpetually stuck in the dreaded NBA no-man’s land: not good enough to earn a playoff berth outright, but not bad enough to have a shot at a franchise player in the draft. Chicago wants to make the playoffs every year, but since Lonzo Ball went down with a knee injury more than two calendar years ago, the best they can do is the play-in tournament. The Bulls would be wise to commit to a full rebuild and sell off some of their more talented veterans, and that starts with Caruso, who reportedly has significant interest around the league.
There’s only one problem: the Bulls are still hoping to win two play-in games to make the playoffs, and they believe keeping Caruso gives them the best chance at that. What a sad line of thinking. While Chicago missed its window to sell high on DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine last year, Caruso is currently at the high-point of his own value. Will the Bulls make the same mistake again? Probably, because VP Arturas Karnisovas is famously inactive during transaction periods. The Bulls have made just one trade since 2021 — the fewest in the NBA — and it was to trade up for a second round pick at the last draft.
The Bulls must stop thinking “continuity” will solve their problems. It won’t. They need to readjust their goals, because just making the playoffs in a league where more than half the teams do so every year is failing to aim high enough for such a legendary franchise. The Bulls need real action, and that starts with trading Caruso for a big haul of assets.
If a star gets traded, it will be Mikal Bridges
A year ago, the Brooklyn Nets had Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the roster until both were traded at the 2023 trade deadline. Brooklyn’s big piece back in the KD trade was Mikal Bridges, who suddenly assumed the mantle as the Nets new franchise player. Unfortunately for Brooklyn, the team has been pretty terrible with Bridges as their primary option, and it’s made him an intriguing name in trade rumors this season.
The Nets currently sit at 20-30 overall, but the team can’t even tank because the Houston Rockets own their first round pick from the James Harden trade. That’s why a trade sending Bridges to Houston makes sense for both sides: Brooklyn can get back its own picks to give them more flexibility in a rebuild, while Houston can add a great wing in the prime of his career to take their own rebuild to the next level.
Rockets coach Ime Udoka would love Bridges, who is the type of perimeter defender and floor spacer the team needs to really compete in the West. For Brooklyn, this would amount to a get out of jail card, and a rare opportunity to undo a disastrous trade for Harden several seasons ago. There’s an argument to be made that Houston should be more patient than this, but Bridges is locked into a cheap deal and would be a nice fit alongside the team’s young core. A Bridges to Houston trade makes too much sense if either side has the courage to go for it.