The 2023-24 NBA season is approaching and while most teams have their rosters set for the new campaign, there are still some big potential moves on the horizon. What follows is a look at the five players most likely to be traded before the season begins.
There are two obvious names at the top of this list. We'll start with James Harden. The former MVP wants out of Philadelphia and the 76ers would probably love to trade him. Finding equal value is the only issue here. As the season approaches and Harden threatens to hold out, the urgency to move him will grow. He's actually really affordable for a 34-year-old guard who can get buckets. He's owed $35.6 million for the 2023-24 season before hitting free agency. A team that feels it's one piece away could make the move for him.
The other obvious name on the list, Damian Lillard wants the Portland Trail Blazers to trade him to the Miami Heat. The problem? Portland doesn't seem to like any of the packages Miami has put together. As of now this looks like a game of chicken with Lillard squarely in the middle. One issue is Lillard's contract. He's owed $94 million over the next two years, then he's due $58.5 million for the 2025-26 season and holds a player option of $63.2 million for the 2026-27 campaign. That's a lot of dough for a 33-year-old.
The Phoenix Suns have a good player in Deandre Ayton. He averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds per game while shooting 58.8 percent from the field last season. But with Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal now forming a deadly perimeter threesome for the Suns, Ayton doesn't fit with the roster. While Phoenix continues to insist Ayton is a big part of the team's future, no one believes that. He's due $102 million over the next three seasons and is still only 25 years-old. He'll be valuable to someone.
It feels like the Indiana Pacers have been trying to unload Buddy Hield since last summer, but have yet to find an equitable deal. Luckily for the Pacers, Hield is coming off an excellent season. He averaged 16.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game while shooting 42.5 percent from 3-point range. But the Pacers are a young team and could move on from a 30-year-old wing due to make $18.5 million this season. The Los Angeles Lakers have been chasing Hield for two years and could make a move.
DeMar DeRozan can still get buckets and fill up the stat sheet, but he's 34 and the Chicago Bulls need to shake things up after missing the playoffs last season. The durable DeRozan played in 74 games and averaged 24.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 36.2 minutes per game during the 2022-23 campaign. He's set to make $28.6 million this season, which is affordable for most contenders looking to upgrade.