Analysis: Trade possibilities before the NBA deadline

Ben Simmons and James Harden’s names are once again being floated in trade talks

By Will Pembroke, Debate & Discussion/Inside Xavier Sports Show Manager

One could argue the NBA has never had more parity than it does right now. 

In the Eastern Conference, just two games separate the No. 1 seed Miami Heat from the No. 6 seed Philadelphia 76ers. The Western Conference features four teams with 30 wins or more despite all of them having played fewer than 50 games. 

With the trade deadline less than 15 days away, now is an opportune time to examine a few of the league’s hottest commodities and where they might be headed as the race to the postseason kicks into overdrive.

Ben Simmons

The former No. 1 overall pick and Philadelphia 76ers point-forward has been at the forefront of NBA trade talks for what feels like an eternity. 

Following a rather ugly exit from the playoffs in which he shot 34.2% from the free throw line, Simmons requested a trade from the 76ers, even going so far as to not show up to training camp to prove his point. 

Unfortunately for Simmons, time continues to pass and 76ers General Manager Daryl Morey seems to be no closer to making a trade .However, circulating rumors say that Simmons could be moved for another star player on this list: James Harden.

James Harden

After forcing his way out of a rebuilding situation in Houston last season via a midseason three-team trade, Harden found himself on a championship contending Brooklyn Nets squad. 

Sadly, Harden and his fellow star teammates Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant have missed games, defining what has been a disappointing Nets team now over a year into the tenure of their big three. 

Early last week, reports came out on social media that Harden could be looking elsewhere to contend for a title, perhaps in a trade to Philadelphia swapping him for Simmons.

Damian Lillard

Portland Trail Blazers star point guard Damian Lillard has been in trade rumors stemming back to last summer. Year after year of first and second-round playoffs exits for the Blazers are likely the impetus for Lillard’s presumed unhappiness. 

Portland has featured basically the same roster of players for some time now, with many believing a rebuild is imminent given the squad’s current record of 20-27. 

Although they are in position to make the NBA’s play-in tournament, do not be surprised if much of the Blazers’ current roster is moved at this year’s trade deadline, including its best player in Lillard.

Russell Westbrook

I would argue that there has been no hotter topic of conversation over the course of this young NBA season than Westbrooks’s role playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the Los Angeles Lakers. 

The league’s former MVP is averaging a 12-year low in points (18.5) and has seen a significant decline in several other statistical categories. 

The eye test has backed up what the stats are saying, with Westbrook struggling to fit in with this Lakers squad. Rumor has it LA has already started shopping Westbrook, so expect to see his name continue to come up in trade conversation.

Domantas Sabonis

Likely not yet a household name, forward Domantas Sabonis of the Indiana Pacers has proven he can make a big impact at the NBA level at the age of 25. 

Sabonis is averaging nearly 20 points, 12 rebounds and five assists this season on an injury-marred Pacers team that has underwhelmed, currently holding the third- worst record in the Eastern Conference. 

Chances are high that Sabonis and several other players on the Pacers roster will be moved in the next two weeks.