The stretch between last Thursday’s NBA draft and the start of free agency this Friday night promises to bring trade activity. The Utah Jazz and Atlanta Hawks have reached an agreement to bring John Collins to Salt Lake City, league sources told Yahoo Sports, ending nearly a year’s worth of talks between the two front offices centered on Collins trade scenarios. More movement seems to be on the horizon. The Hawks are also active in talks about trade opportunities for De’Andre Hunter, while other deals like the Minnesota Timberwolves extending Naz Reid’s three-year, $42 million extension will continue to have ripple effects on the offseason landscape.
Collins’ trade to Utah is the latest in a string of cost-conscious deals around the NBA. Perhaps the most notable deal of draft day was the Warriors’ trade of Jordan Poole for Chris Paul, while the Mavericks and Kings landed Davis Bertans and Richaun Holmes, respectively. Atlanta is trying various ways to move three seasons of Collins’ five-year, $125 million contract throughout the predraft process, sources said. It once seemed like the Mavericks and Hawks would be perfect trade partners, but the two teams couldn’t come to an agreement — including a strike on Clint Capela’s comments, sources said — that would change hands in various outcomes. .
Atlanta’s talks with Utah are well known around the league. The Hawks and Jazz Collins have discussed trades since the fallout from Utah of Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, and the Jazz have offered other logical options to the Hawks, who hold picks 9 and 16. However, Atlanta was unable to use Collins to move up in the draft. Such is the nature of the NBA’s market under the new collective bargaining agreement that players’ salaries will continue to rise following the league’s next television deal in 2025. The Hawks and Jazz both have an understanding until draft night, league sources told Yahoo Sports, and the Collins deal could still be in place before free agency begins. Rudy Kay picked up his $6.4 million player option on Monday to complete the transaction, but Collins is the last remaining member of the Jazz. We’ll see if Atlanta’s other loose trade talks, like the Hawks’ draft week talks with the Pistons and Pacers regarding Hunter, can regain momentum.
How the rest of this offseason plays out is always something of a trickle-down effect. Utah, for example, plans to target a forward on the market, sources say, and acquiring Collins would get a spot off the board for someone like Kyle Kuzma — one of the top free agents reportedly seeking upside. Average annual salary is $30 million. After Utah passed up a chance to sign a top target in free agency, the Jazz were the only ones to land Collins. As Mark Stein first reported on Substock, the Jazz were expected to become high-priced bidders for Kristaps Porcisas until the Wizards pulled off a three-team trade with the Celtics and Grizzlies that sent Porcisas to Boston. Grant Williams’ status in Boston was further questioned.
Williams is another force linked to Utah before reaching restricted free agency, and illustrates how the web of offseason sightings is interconnected. Utah could still make more than $28 million in room this summer, but that would require letting veteran scorer Jordan Clarkson walk, and the Jazz mainstay has long been considered a favorite of Utah owner Ryan Smith. While the Jazz have ample cap space, it’s hard to foresee another frontman joining Utah’s already jammed rotation with All-Star Larry Markkanen, second-year center Walker Kessler, Collins and Taylor’s No. 9 pick. Hendrix. That money might still be enough to scare the Lakers away with a big offer sheet for Austin Reaves.
Reaves still appears to be an option for the Rockets, though league sources are only concerned about Houston’s chances of pursuing veteran point guard Fred VanVleet from Toronto. Staying with the Raptors still appears to be on the table for both sides, with Houston willing to offer VanVleet a very competitive contract, while all the rumors of a James Harden return have died down significantly in recent weeks. The Rockets are considering short-term, high-salary deals to land top-target free agents with their $61 million in cap space, sources said. Sources said luring VanVleet away from Toronto would require a max contract, which is two years and $80 million. Aside from Brook Lopez as Houston’s primary big man option, Dillon Brooks continues to be mentioned by league personnel as the primary piece on the Rockets’ radar. Keep an eye on the Rockets trading forward KJ Martin to create more financial flexibility. The Rockets have made a number of trade calls with multiple teams since the NBA draft with Martin, sources told Yahoo Sports. Atlanta, Phoenix and Brooklyn were mentioned as Martin suitors before the February trade deadline.
The other major forward spots in free agency are Indiana and Detroit, both of which could disappear depending on what happens with the aforementioned Hunter trade. The Pacers are a strong contender to sign Harrison Barnes from the Sacramento Kings. Barnes had a close relationship with All-Star guard Tyreese Halliburton during their time together in Northern California, and Barnes has received more support from Indiana head coach Rick Carlisle during their shared days with the Mavericks. Sources say the Barnes signing could hurt other top Indiana targets, such as Williams and Heat swingman Max Struss, both of whom could play for Orlando and Detroit depending on what the Pistons accomplish. Detroit and former Suns coach Monty Williams threw a massive offer sheet at Nets sharpshooter Cam Johnson, whose stewardship of Williams reaching the 2021 NBA Finals has certainly gained steam around the league. The Nets are expected to match any practical offer for Johnson, and rival executives are open to Brooklyn looking at more cost-saving trades after a potentially expensive new contract for Johnson.
The possibility of Barnes leaving Sacramento and the Kings creating about $35 million in cap space following Holmes’ draft night trade would give Dallas the no. With the 24th pick, competitive front offices are wondering what big swing the Kings are planning in free agency. Even in this economy, selling a first-round pick outright for savings has left many league insiders in mind that Sacramento has a specific move up its sleeve — not just re-extending All-NBA center Domantas Sabonis. Four years in the ballpark, $120 million, sources said.
The Bucks’ pursuit of All-Star guard Khris Middleton has been a popular theory by Sacramento League figures, but after Middleton declined his 2023-24 player option last week, all signs point to Milwaukee and Middleton finalizing a new deal once free agency begins Friday. Stealing Draymond Green from the Warriors will be quite the story for the Kings and head coach Mike Brown, sources said, while Portland and Detroit are expected to make plays for Green. He won four championships even though all signs continued to point to Green returning to the franchise.
The name gaining the most momentum as a potential Sacramento target is Kuzma, who once thrived on the road in Los Angeles and was dealt to the Kings in 2021, in exchange for the Lakers trading Kuzma to the Wizards and acquiring Russell Westbrook. Even with a new deal for Sabonis and the Kings expected to bring back versatile forward Dre Lyles, sources say Sacramento could have more than $25 million to play with in cap room, according to salary projections provided to Yahoo Sports.
A Sabonis extension would remove one of the big men from next summer’s free agent class a year early. As Reid, a key centerpiece in this summer’s market, returns to Minnesota, opposing executives are waiting to see if the Timberwolves will waive veteran wing Darion Prince and his non-guaranteed $7.5 million salary, which would enable Minnesota to gain access to the full in-between exception. A number of names have already been linked to the Wolves at that salary, and they’re all playmakers, big combo guards like Bruce Brown and Donte DiVincenzo. Both players are expected to have multiple options in that contract range, where there is growing buzz among league personnel about DiVincenzo joining former Villanova teammates Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart in New York.
San Antonio is understood to be waiting with a short-term deal in hopes of pairing him with Reid and Victor Wembayama, sources said. With New Orleans and San Antonio recently trading to unload Devonte’ Graham’s contract, Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas will now have to turn to other targets. Highly mobile, rim-protecting big men. New Orleans made a call, sources told Cleveland, about getting Jared Allen. Another team that wanted to be in Reed’s mix was Allen’s Cavaliers, sources said. Cleveland will need a sign and a trade route to acquire the talented big man. It remains to be seen if the Cavs will continue to look for other frontcourt reserve options behind Allen and Evan Mobley, or if the front office values Reid too much.
The last major trade situation at this point is in Washington, where the Guides are seeking draft compensation for both veteran guards Monte Morris and Delon Wright, sources said. With Washington currently holding 16 players under guaranteed contracts, the Wizards are expected to reach a buyout deal with Danilo Gallinari, acquired in the Porcisis trade. Clippers guard Norman Powell is also considered available for trade around the league, with his name first mentioned in Los Angeles’ early attempts to acquire Paul from the Wizards.