It's never too early to plan for NBA trades.
And that's true for teams searching for the highest level difference-makers or end-of-the-rotation specialists.
Executives don't want to wind up on the least prepared side of the negotiating table. They need to have a firm idea of who (or what) they want, how badly they need him and what their walk-away trade cost is.
To help get the process moving, we're spotlighting one trade target who should already be on the radar of each NBA team.
Atlanta Hawks: David Nwaba
The Hawks are better than their 4-8 start suggests. Last season's run to the Eastern Conference Finals with largely the same personnel makes that pretty obvious.
However, while patience could cure a lot of this club's early ills, the same may not be true of its 27th-ranked defense. That's worse than expected, but it's not like this was some defensive juggernaut last season (18th).
Atlanta must improve its point-of-attack defense and stop giving opponents free passes to penetrate. If that's still an issue in mid-January when David Nwaba becomes trade-eligible, he'd be worth a phone call to the Houston Rockets. He doesn't fit their timeline at all, and his hustle and relentless on-ball defense could help him carve out a niche in Atlanta.
Boston Celtics: Dejounte Murray
The Celtics had eyes on Ben Simmons for a reason. Not a good enough reason to sacrifice Jaylen Brown, obviously, but they could get plenty of mileage from upping their size, distributing and defense in the backcourt.
Maybe Dejounte Murray could scratch those itches for a more reasonable price.
He was reportedly "gettable" around the draft, per The Athletic's Zach Harper, and while Murray has been good out of the gate, the rebuilding San Antonio Spurs might not be in a position to treat the 25-year-old as a centerpiece. Having him push the tempo, attack the basket and balance touches between Jayson Tatum and Brown might be the move that gets the Celtics to contending status.
Brooklyn Nets: Mike Muscala
It's fun to see LaMarcus Aldridge hooping again after what he went through last season. However, it's unsettling to see how much better he has been than the rest of Brooklyn's bigs.
Blake Griffin and Paul Millsap look like they aged in dog years this offseason. Nicolas Claxton was up and down before an illness forced him off the floor. James Johnson should be kept behind emergency glass. Rookie Day'Ron Sharpe is too raw to contribute.
The Nets need to address their frontcourt between now and the deadline. Their dream get might be Derrick Favors, who they once drafted third overall in 2010, but his $9.7 million salary doesn't fit the budget. Brooklyn could instead target his Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Mike Muscala, whose rebounding and outside shooting would be helpful to have.
Charlotte Hornets: Myles Turner
Charlotte's summer switch at center from Cody Zeller to Mason Plumlee was a step in the right direction, but the Hornets can and should go a step further.
Plumlee is fine, but Charlotte should aim higher than fine with LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges doing everything they can to raise the ceiling. Giving this nucleus an impact 5 like Myles Turner, who, at 25 years old, might be the perfect age to both help lead and grow with this core, could allow Buzz City believers to let their imaginations run wild.
Turner, the Association's top shot-blocker for the third time in four seasons, could give the Hornets' 28th-ranked defense the backbone it lacks. The fact that he also happens to be a fire-baller from three (28 splashes at a 44.4 percent clip so far) means he could help keep the runways cleared for Ball and Bridges to take flight.
Chicago Bulls: Cam Reddish
Chicago's wing depth didn't look great even before Patrick Williams suffered potentially season-ending torn ligaments in his left wrist. Javonte Green might be exceeding expectations, but Troy Brown Jr. has fallen short of his, so consider that a wash.
The Bulls need more wings. And if they share the belief of some that Williams' ultimate NBA home will be the 4 spot, they might want to focus on finding someone who can stick on the wings now and moving forward.
Someone like Cam Reddish. The 22-year-old swingman was reportedly available "at the trade deadline and around the draft," executives told HoopsHype's Michael Scotto. Reddish might offer more potential than production, but that—plus his extension eligibility in 2022—could keep his trade cost under control. If he maxes out his natural ability, you're talking about multipositional defense, smooth outside shooting and shot-creation for himself and his teammates.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Terrence Ross
Collin Sexton's season wasn't going great before it was sidetracked by a meniscus tear in his left knee. His points and three-point percentage were both personal worsts, and his field-goal shooting was down to a three-year low.
But guess what? He was—and still is—Cleveland's high scorer: with 16.0 points per game. For everything the Cavs have gotten right so far, bucket-getting isn't one of them.
Enter Terrence Ross. The lone veteran left behind on the overhauled Orlando Magic, Ross has a fiery three-ball and explosive athleticism to offer whichever win-now shopper rescues him. Cleveland could really use his ignitable scoring, not to mention the depth he'd provide on the wing.
Dallas Mavericks: Mitchell Robinson
It's tempting to go with a second shot-creator here, since that might help bring the best out of Luka Doncic. However, finding and acquiring a substantial upgrade over what they have—Jalen Brunson is averaging 14.7 points on 49.6 percent shooting with 4.7 assists and only 1.5 turnovers—might totally tank the team's asset collection. And even that's assuming the Mavs could actually afford such a splurge.
So, Dallas instead might want to target a defensive-minded big man who can both ease the burden on Kristaps Porzingis and ease the impact of his many trips to the injury report.
Mitchell Robinson is an audacious aim as the starting center of a New York Knicks team trying for consecutive playoff trips. However, the Knicks learned they could live without him last season, and they know life with him will get pricey in the near future since he needs a new deal by next offseason. If New York stagnates or simply doesn't want to pay Robinson, Dallas should be ready to pounce.
Denver Nuggets: Danuel House Jr.
The Nuggets are theoretically fascinating on the big-fish front. Since Nikola Jokic looks ready to lead a championship run, and his supporting cast might be a half-step behind him, this front office has surely weighed the merits of moving all-in now or waiting for a few more developmental breaks. You could kill an entire afternoon mentally exercising your way through a Damian Lillard-for-Jamal Murray blockbuster.
Still, every sign out of Denver—namely, the wave of extensions that has showered over the roster—says all of its major maneuvers are in the books, and that further activity will only be made on the margins. There, the Nuggets could help themselves by finding a defensive-minded wing who isn't a zero on offense.
Danuel House Jr. fits that job description. He's a career 36.5 percent shooter from distance, and this is the second time in four seasons that he's converting better than 40 percent of his long-range looks. He also has the physical tools to hang with most guards and forwards defensively.
Detroit Pistons: Draft Picks
Rebuilding projects feel like they're taking forever in the moment, but the Pistons should remind themselves how new they are to the process. Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose aren't even a calendar year removed from this roster. It should be full speed ahead toward whichever draft picks are up for grabs this trade season.
The Pistons aren't as young as you think. There are really only four rotation players who have less than three full seasons under their belt: rookie Cade Cunningham and sophomores Saddiq Bey, Killian Hayes and Isaiah Stewart. Even if all four are keepers—fingers crossed for Hayes, but it's not super encouraging so far—the long-term nucleus still needs expanding.
Detroit faithful might disagree, but the front office should arguably take calls on anyone else. Yes, that includes Jerami Grant, who has mostly dazzled in the Motor City but isn't the cleanest timeline fit as a 27-year-old and is only signed through next season.
Golden State Warriors: Karl-Anthony Towns
Karl-Anthony Towns may not publicly endorse the idea, but we will: #FreeKAT. This is his seventh season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and if their current six-game losing streak is any indication, it will be his sixth without a playoff trip.
"Just want to win. I can't elaborate too much on that," a dejected Towns said after Wednesday's 13-point loss in Golden State, per Chris Hine of the Star Tribune. "I just want to win."
The Warriors could make that happen, provided that putting Towns in the same offense as Stephen Curry and a (hopefully) healthy Klay Thompson wouldn't open up some sort of black hole in the basketball universe. Golden State would instantly have super-spacing, even if it filled out its closing five with Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala.
Some might argue that Golden State, the league leader with a 10-1 record, doesn't need to swing this big, but doing anything other than fully investing in the remainder of Curry's career would be a missed opportunity.