20 best NBA players who are available for trade right now

On January 15, players who re-signed in the offseason officially become trade-eligible, and unofficially NBA trade season begins. These are the 20 best players available for trade right now.

Chicago Bulls v Toronto Raptors
Chicago Bulls v Toronto Raptors / Andrew Lahodynskyj/GettyImages
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The NBA season is almost half over, but that doesn’t mean teams are set in stone. The New York Knicks and the Toronto Raptors kicked off trade season with their swap of OG Anunoby for Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett. With three wins separating the third seed and eighth seed in the East and four wins separating the fourth seed from the ninth seed in the West, teams all across the association will be fighting for upgrades. 

Significant mid-season trades used to be a rarity, but they’ve become far more commonplace in recent years. Just last season, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving left the Brooklyn Nets, and James Harden has changed teams in-season three times in the past four seasons. This season, impact stars, high-end role players, and the finishing touch to a rotation will all be available, but which ones are the best? 

Determining the 20 best players available now

Three factors were used to determine these rankings. The first is recent production, the next is current salary, and the final is future salary. Production reigns supreme in the NBA, and teams are always willing to part with future assets to upgrade for the stretch run. 

A player’s current salary is the next most important factor. Players tend to be paid according to their abilities, and because so few teams have cap space to trade into, how much a player makes is how much salary a team needs to send out. Trading for a $30 million player means you have to send $30 million out, and sometimes adding a better player to lose two or three just doesn’t add up. 

The final component is future salary. Teams could be wary of adding significant future salary with a new CBA kicking in this offseason. While this has more to do with pure trade value, it is an important note to consider. Zach LaVine might be better than Kelly Olynyk, but is he so much better to be worth the significant cost of outgoing talent and the future financial constraints?

With these three factors in mind, I ranked the players thought to be available ahead of the trade deadline. The majority are on teams outside of the playoff picture. These are the 20 best players available right now. 

20. Landry Shamet, Washington Wizards

Landry Shamet is a solid floor-spacing shooting guard and could fit into the back of most playoff teams' rotation. He’s shooting 37.2 percent from 3 this season and is a career 38.8 percent 3-point shooter. His defense is poor, but he’s the type of player that helps get you to the playoffs and then has a short leash once you’re there. 

Shamet’s big selling point is the three years, $33 million left on his deal. He owed $10 million this season, meaning you can add him without giving up much useful talent. Shamet is a low-upside cost-controlled option for a team that needs a bit of bench help.  

19. Gordon Hayward, Charlotte Hornets

Gordon Hayward is a better player than this ranking, but his injury history and contract push him almost to the bottom. In the final year of his deal, he is owed $31.5 million and simply isn’t worth the exodus of talent it would take to land him. He could still help a contender in a prominent rotation role or as a glue-guy starter, but that’s not worth the $30 million in current salary a team would have to trade away. 

Hayward is a likely buyout candidate, and should the Hornets and him go that route, he’ll be a highly sought-after player. Right now, the only playoff teams that will be targeting Hayward will want to exchange his expiring contract for onerous future salaries. 

18. Talen Horton-Tucker, Utah Jazz

The Utah Jazz have been scorching hot, 14-4 over their past 18 games, and may decide to add ahead of the trade deadline to fortify their playoff chances, but that doesn’t mean they won’t move Talen Horton-Tucker. He’s averaging 22 minutes per game and has fallen out of the rotation during their mid-winter surge. 

Horton-Tucker is in the final year of his deal worth $11.02 million and could be a useful bench player for a team that wants an additional ball handler and size in their backcourt. Still only 23 years old, he offers a modicum of upside that a few teams may find intriguing. 

17. Dennis Smith Jr., Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets are 16-22 with only a game advantage over the Atlanta Hawks for the 10th seed. With little hope of getting out of the play-in and coin-flip odds of even staying in it, the Nets should look to move players in the final year of their deal.

Dennis Smith Jr. reinvented himself last season in Charlotte and is now one of the best defensive point guards in the league. His lack of size prevents him from being a multi-positional beast, but any team looking for upgraded point guard defense could use him in a reserve role. He is a poor shooter but can set up an offense and still has highlight reel-level burst. 

His $2.02 million salary makes him incredibly attainable. Any team up against the cap and in need of perimeter defense should be seeing just how many second-round picks it’ll take to pry him away. While he is a great bargain, this isn’t a player who’ll swing your title odds. 

16. De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta Hawks

Every player not named Trae Young and Jalen Johnson on the Hawks roster is allegedly available, and the best place to start their remodeling would be De’Andre Hunter. Hunter is a wing that is a league-average career 3-point shooter and plays average-ish enough defense to not be called a liability. He is the blandest of bland 3-and-D wings. 

Hunter, as a league-average wing, should be a hot commodity, but he is owed $90 million over the next four years. That isn’t a horrible deal, but committing that much to an average player with availability concerns won’t get teams to throw you a compelling offer. Hunter isn’t abysmal, but he isn’t great at anything either, and you’ll have to have him for three more seasons after this.