The NBA season has tipped off and that means, for the near future, at least, teams that closed camp with glaring holes on their rosters — notably, the Celtics, Heat and Lakers — will carry those holes into the early season. The urgency to fix those holes will depend on the extent to which they are exposed in the opening weeks.
It will also depend on which players come available in the first few months of the season—there have been rumors surrounding second-tier stars, but just how available those players is in question. Still, we’re going to speculate here, so we’ll assume that some players, like Charlotte’s P.J. Washington or Toronto’s O.G. Anunoby, will eventually hit the trading block.
We also checked in with an executive from each conference for their thoughts on the respective holes in each team roster, and what the teams are likely to do about them.
Heat, Celtics Try to Trade Their Way to Top of the East
Miami Heat: Power forward
Eastern Conference executive: “They have known they have a hole there and the first option was always, ‘Let’s see if we can fix it from within.’ They’re trying that with (Caleb) Martin, but that might be asking too much of him. Martin could wind up being a key to it because they can’t trade him until January because he just signed but he has some value. They’ve tried to see what’s there for Duncan Robinson but there really is not much of a market unless you get a team willing to play him for a year and try to flip his contract next summer. They tried with Phoenix for Jae Crowder, but Phoenix did not want Robinson.”
Washington: Kyle Kuzma and Taj Gibson for Duncan Robinson and a first-round pick (2027). The Wizards have been loathe to rebuild as long as they have Bradley Beal on the roster, and perhaps that will continue. But should they begin looking to the future, Kuzma would find himself on the block. He is not the bruiser the Heat might like at power forward, but he’d add a scoring dimension to the position that the team lacks.
Charlotte: P.J. Washington and Mason Plumlee for Duncan Robinson, Omer Yurtseven and a first-round pick (2027). Washington and the Hornets did not get very far in extension talks and there has been trade speculation around him for a year. He is a solid young big man, and while Charlotte initially appeared lukewarm on him, perhaps that will change. If it doesn’t, he’ll be a top trade target and the Heat would be wise to do whatever is necessary to bring him to Miami.
Phoenix: Jae Crowder for Caleb Martin and Gabe Vincent (after January 15). The Crowder market has grown quiet, and that increases the chances that the standoff between the Suns and erstwhile forward will last into the winter. The Heat would like to have him back, but at what cost? Martin (27) and Vincent (26) are younger than Crowder (32), and such a deal would signal Miami’s focus on winning now. “They’ve tried to get Crowder but it was not happening with the pieces they have,” the executive said. “But if it drags out, they can make another run.”
Boston Celtics: Two-way wing
Eastern Conference executive: “We’ll see how things work for them with Sam Hauser and (Justin) Jackson but if there is a spot where they want to maybe find someone else, it’s at that wing spot. They have great backcourt defenders and frontcourt defenders when they’re healthy but someone off the bench who can be a wing-stopper would be big for them.”
Toronto: OG Anunoby for Payton Pritchard, Derrick White and two first-round picks (2025 and 2027). There have been rumblings that the Raptors would consider moving Anunoby in light of the rise of Scottie Barnes on the wing. No substantive talks have taken place on that, but if Anunoby should become available, he is potentially the missing piece in what would be a dominant Boston lineup on both sides of the ball. “You never know how a trade discussion is going to go,” the executive said. “But that’s a low offer for Anunoby and Masai (Ujiri) will walk away if he is getting low-balled. Maybe they value picks, maybe they value Pritchard and White. I’d say they’d have to include Rob Williams or Grant Williams or (Marcus) Smart to make it work.”
Lakers, Bulls & Knicks Take Their Swings
Los Angeles Lakers: Frontcourt, shooting
Western Conference executive: “The roster is better than it was last year, it’s younger and more athletic. But there are still a lot of places where things do not make sense. They’re hurting for shooting. We knew that coming into the year, and they did not pay enough attention to that as they were adding people. They don’t have a real answer up front, either. Do you want to play (Anthony) Davis at the 5? Is that the best thing for him? They got some pretty good backup big guys but they did not really get a starter who is worthy of playing there.”
Charlotte: P.J. Washington for Kendrick Nunn and a first-round pick (2029). The Lakers’ unwillingness to move their two tradeable first-rounders has become well-known by now, but in this case, it’s a different scenario. Rather than dealing the pick for a hobbled veteran or two, ship it out for an improving stretch 4/5 who has some defensive ability and fits well with Davis. Oh, and Washington is only 24 with restricted free agency ahead—the Lakers can keep him, probably at a pretty good price. “They might keep P.J. there,” the executive said. “They might use him in a sign-and-trade, see how this season plays out. They have to pick a direction first, with everything that has gone on.”
Philadelphia: Furkan Korkmaz for Kendrick Nunn. Look, Korkmaz is not going to save the Lakers season by any stretch. But the fact is, if the Lakers want to do something to address their shooting woes without coughing up a pick, Nunn is their only chip—and not a particularly valuable one at that. Korkmaz has been up-and-down in his NBA career from the 2-point arc, including only 29.4% on 3s last year, but is a 35.5% shooter in his career. It’s worth a shot, so to speak.
Chicago Bulls: Wing depth, shooting, frontcourt depth
Eastern Conference executive: “They are sort of in limbo until they know what is happening with Lonzo Ball but the season is going and rolling without him whether they like it or not. So they’ve got to address some things. They need help on the wings, the interior, they need to be able to shoot it better. It’s tough because if Lonzo comes back and is good, they don’t want to make many changes. But they have a lot of guards and it might make sense to use that to fill in other holes.”
Toronto: OG Anunoby for Alex Caruso, Coby White and a protected first-round pick (2027). The Bulls might be kicking themselves for the move they made the last time they dealt away first-rounders, in the deal for Nikola Vucevic, but they’ve got a decent group that needs to focus on winning now. Losing Caruso would sting, but Anunoby is a big upgrade for team. “If they decide to move (Caruso), they could get some real value for him,” the executive said. “I don’t know that they will, but they have other pieces who could fill in for him.”
Charlotte: P.J. Washington for Coby White. Would the Hornets go for this? They would probably like a purer point guard to backup LaMelo Ball, but White is a North Carolina guy at a time when the Hornets are reeling and in need of a hometown draw. Washington could fit as an undersize center and a stretch 4, addressing two Bulls shortcomings—again, the extent to which the Hornets will be willing to deal him ahead of his restricted free agency remains a question.
New York Knicks: Wing depth
Western Conference executive: “They’re a little bit of a mess because they’re so heavy on the backcourt and you don’t know how they’re going to settle in with (Julius) Randle’s role and all of that. But they need better defenders on the perimeter, more versatile guys out there. Whatever it is they figure out on offense, they need to have some bigger, better defenders outside.”
San Antonio: Josh Richardson for Cam Reddish and Immanuel Quickley. Richardson would be an ideal fit for the Knicks, a versatile player on both ends of the floor who had an outstanding year as a shooter last season (41.5% from 3-point range). Reddish’s season-opening performance notwithstanding, the Knicks would do well to add some consistency, and Richardson has always been a professional. The Spurs want a first-rounder for Richardson, but adding Quickley is just as good. “Reddish’s value is all over the place,” the executive said. “If he plays well, you can move him no doubt and get something back. But if he plays well, they might decide they should keep him.”
Phoenix: Torrey Craig for Cam Reddish. Craig is 31, and there is concern that he has lost a step after a bummer of a season in Phoenix. Still, there is some hope that he merely had a bad year and can bounce back as a solid 3-and-D option. Giving up Reddish might be too steep a price, if he continues to be productive. But if he reverts to limited minutes and unhappiness, Craig is a good consolation prize.