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With most forecasts calling for a quiet NBA trade deadline, teams should probably prepare for the opposite ahead of Thursday’s cutoff.
Even with several trends pointing in that direction—a light free-agent crop, a less-than-stellar draft class, an abundance of teams with a playoff pulse—this time of year has a tendency to be unpredictable.
At the very least, clubs should be prepared in case a trading frenzy takes place. Part of that process is knowing which players teams can live without and which can fetch an asset that’s too valuable to pass up.
It might be a fading prospect, an overpaid veteran or an out-of-place contributor (a prospect struggling to find minutes on a contender or an elder statesman stalling the development of a rebuilder’s youngsters). But sometimes, the distinction isn’t as cut and dry. Teams might not want to trade some of the players listed here, but they should still gauge the market to see exactly what’s behind Door No. 2.
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Opportunity knocked in mid-January, and the Atlanta Hawks answered it by shedding Allen Crabbe’s contract and scratching their itch for a backup point guard in the same swap. But with their season going nowhere and 31-year-old Jeff Teague needing a new deal this summer, the Hawks must be open to shopping the vet for an asset, even if it worsens the on-court product.
Atlanta could get a head start on free agency by bringing in a potential target early and using the campaign’s final two months to determine if he’s worth a big deal. Andre Drummond was reportedly on the radar, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, although that pursuit has since stalled, per Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes.
Still, if a big-ticket item appeals to Atlanta, it makes sense to get a firsthand glimpse before making a nine-figure investment.
Option No. 2 involves punting any win-now plans into a later date. Since this isn’t a great free-agent class and the Hawks clearly require major work with this roster (or, at the very least, plenty of patience with the young core), they could use their financial flexibility to take a burdensome contract off someone else’s hands in exchange for an asset.
Either way, if the Hawks make a major move, expect Teague to be involved. His $19 million salary is a mega-money matcher, and his pick-and-roll polish could perk up any contender’s second team.
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The Boston Celtics’ center-by-committee design has outperformed expectations, but there’s still an Al Horford-sized hole in this frontcourt. The Shamrocks can’t fill that void without moving a key contributor, which Wojnarowski reports they won’t do, but they could shop for a budget rim protector, especially with above-the-rim anchor Robert Williams III struggling to shake a hip injury.
Excluding the aforementioned core players, Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter are Boston’s only trade chips with salaries north of $4 million. If the C’s are choosing between the two, Theis’ ability to defend in space matters more than Kanter’s interior scoring.
Kanter could still appeal to an offense-starved contender, as the 27-year-old owns a career average of 19.3 points per 36 minutes. But the Celtics, who sit fifth in offensive efficiency and have five players averaging more points than Kanter’s 9.5, can make do without him.
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The Brooklyn Nets took a rain check on this season as soon as they signed Kevin Durant, knowing he’d likely miss all of it while recovering from a torn Achilles. That almost certainly prevents any major shakeups before Durant gets run with this group, even if Kyrie Irving swears there are “transparent” and “glaring” needs.
But Brooklyn must make a decision on Joe Harris’ future before Durant’s likely debut. The sharpshooter needs a new deal this summer, and there are rumblings he could “at least double his money” on the open market, per ESPN’s Zach Lowe (via HoopsHype Bryan Kalbrosky). Harris, who makes $7.7 million now, could launch the Nets deep into the luxury tax if that happens.
Can the Nets commit that kind of coin to someone who isn’t guaranteed a spot in their full-strength closing lineup? Is it worth risking him leaving for nothing when he should command a first-rounder on the trade market? Sure, his exit would hurt this season’s group, but that hasn’t been Brooklyn’s focus since last summer.
Everyone needs more shooting, and Harris offers an abundance. He’s had better sniping seasons, but he’s still splashing 2.4 triples per night at a 40.5 percent clip. He’s worth having, but the Nets might get more mileage out of the draft pick since they’ll need cheap labor to support this costly core.
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The Charlotte Hornets should be open for business as they have several veterans they could reroute to clubs with more at stake this season. But a lot of their proven commodities lack mass appeal.
Marvin Williams could be the exception, though. The 33-year-old offers a blend of experience, floor-spacing and defensive versatility any win-now buyer could want. His 59.3 true shooting percentage is the second-best of his career, and he’s been a flamethrower from the corners (47.5 percent). If any locker room needs a lift, he can check that box, too.
“When you think of the perfect teammate, you think of Marvin,” DeMarre Carroll told Hornets.com’s Sam Perley. “True professional, always came in and worked. … In the league, when you’re looking for a high-character guy who can also play, it’s Marvin.”
Williams is unsigned beyond this season—and uncertain to continue playing—so teams don’t have to worry about future financial commitments. Instead, they can add him for frontcourt depth and leadership, a package that should convince someone to send a second-rounder to Buzz City.
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The Chicago Bulls tabbed Thaddeus Young to be one of their accelerators, but this young roster isn’t ready to hit the fast-forward button. So, he’s spent this season as a fish out of water, a savvy 30-something who could help a contender but instead finds himself trapped on a team going nowhere.
While not cheap, his $12.9 million salary is by no means outlandish given his ability to impact the game in multiple facets. He can defend along the frontcourt, chip in on the glass and either scoot around slower defenders or power through taller ones.
“Young is the type of plug-and-play veteran that fits on any team making a playoff run,” NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson wrote.
The Bulls don’t need Young. They aren’t close enough to being competitive to make use of his well-rounded skills, and they’re better off investing their frontcourt minutes in the development of (when healthy) Lauri Markkanen, Chandler Hutchison, Wendell Carter Jr. and Daniel Gafford. Young, then, should be made available to the highest bidder and could bring back decent draft considerations.
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Can the basketball gods rip this Band-Aid off already? Kevin Love has needed a ticket out of town since before the ink dried on his four-year, $120 million extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but no one is nudging him toward the exit.
He swears he’s happy to stick around, and Cleveland’s reported asking price is so out of touch with reality that you wonder if the franchise has any desire to deal him.
“The Cavs aren’t simply looking for a salary dump,” Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor reported. “They unsurprisingly want something—a young player, first-round pick, both—in return. … Teams interested in trading for Love have that same stance, believing they’d be doing the Cavs a favor by taking his massive salary.”
Cleveland can’t keep Love on the payroll. He’s already entering his twilight, and this franchise is nowhere near its ascent. His minutes (31.1) and touches (12.9 shots, 2.9 assists) should instead be spent on grooming the Cavs’ top ballers of tomorrow. If a salary dump is the best they can do, they must give it major consideration.
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The Dallas Mavericks have one of the rarest gifts in basketball: an NBA MVP candidate making rookie-scale money. With Luka Doncic rising to elite status and taking the Mavs with him, this front office should aggressively scour the trade market for upgrades.
Whenever they settle on a target—Robert Covington? Bogdan Bogdanovic? Andre Iguodala?—they’ll need to have a package at the ready to broker a big deal. Courtney Lee will almost certainly be a key figure in the exchange.
Now, that might seem a strange label for someone who has suited up just 10 times all season and only topped six points once. But he was a solid three-and-D option in the not-so-distant past. More importantly, he was a free agent during the spending frenzy of 2016 when he scored a four-year, $50 million contract from the New York Knicks.
Lee is down to the final season of that deal, making his expiring $12.8 million salary an essential piece of any notable exchange. Pair him with a draft pick (like the Golden State Warriors’ second-rounder) and Dallas should have enough for an impact addition.
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David Zalubowski/Associated Press
The Denver Nuggets are close enough to the mountaintop that it wouldn’t be shocking to see them greenlight a blockbuster. Put Gary Harris alongside a few youngsters (anyone but Michael Porter Jr.) and the Nuggets might have enough to win the Jrue Holiday sweepstakes (assuming there is one, of course).
But chances are good that Denver, third-seeded in the Western Conference, opts for a less dramatic deadline. In that case, a move around the margins makes the most sense, and getting out in front of Malik Beasley’s restricted free agency is the obvious starting point.
The 6’4″ swingman can be both a splasher from distance and an aerial artist at the rim. He needs to grow as a shot-creator and defender, but there’s enough potential for both that shrewd shoppers might sense some heist potential in a move for Beasley.
The Nuggets have already committed to Harris and Will Barton. Porter could spend a decade-plus in Denver. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are only getting more expensive. Plus, Denver either needs to give Paul Millsap a new deal or prepare to pay his replacement. It’s hard to see enough funds left over for Beasley, so the prudent move is seeing what the market will bear.
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The Detroit Pistons aren’t at the “Everything Must Go!” liquidation phase, but they’re close enough that no one should feel comfortable in the Motor City. There are a handful of 25-and-under keepers who should be safe—starting with Sekou Doumbouya and presumably Luke Kennard—but all the vets should already have price tags on their jerseys.
That starts with the 6’10”, 279-pound penguin in the middle, Andre Drummond.
He has a historic gift for cleaning the glass, and his offense keeps improving, but he’s a complementary piece who’s paid like a superstar. He holds a massive $28.8 million player option for next season, and with his trade market not moving, the threat of him exercising that option increases.
That’s akin to a doomsday scenario for Detroit, which already has the doomsday reality of Blake Griffin becoming colossally expensive damaged goods. The Pistons would surely love to unload Reggie Jackson, too, but the market isn’t exactly booming for an $18.1 million point guard playing 22.1 minutes per night.
The Pistons need a reset in the worst kind of way. Shedding Drummond would help, but it’s hard to tell what he might bring back. With that in mind, it’d be foolish for the franchise to not also shop Derrick Rose, Markieff Morris and Langston Galloway since they’re plug-and-play veterans who could actually command draft picks, prospects or both.
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At one point, the Golden State Warriors thought they’d have a championship run to support, so they crossed their fingers and inked vets like Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III to veteran’s minimum deals. With the Dubs fully out of the title chase (for this season), those same vets can now play a supporting role in someone else’s championship dreams.
Either should appeal to win-now shoppers, but Burks might have a slightly bigger market. He’s more proven as a shooter and shot-creator, and he could be easily plugged into almost any bench unit.
“Several teams in recent weeks have expressed interest in Burks, according to league sources, and some have gone so far to scout him,” NBC Sports Bay Area’s Monte Poole reported. “That’s not likely to change. There is demand for veteran, low-maintenance wings unbothered by circumstances and capable of creating offense for both themselves and teammates.”
If anyone comes calling with an early second for Burks or Robinson, that should be a no-brainer for Golden State. While the franchise can also field calls for D’Angelo Russell, the scoring guard might have maximum trade value this summer as he can be attached to a specific (and early) draft pick to bring back a massive return.
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The Houston Rockets are expected to be active at the trade deadline. In related news, grass is green and the sky is blue.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is perpetually hunting for upgrades, but he’ll need to be at his most creative to sniff them out this season. Unless Houston wildly rocks the boat with a Russell Westbrook, Clint Capela or P.J. Tucker deal—it shouldn’t—the Rockets have a first-round pick to flip and…not much else.
Eric Gordon and Chris Clemons can’t be traded. Gerald Green and Austin Rivers can’t be traded without their consent. Ben McLemore and Danuel House Jr. are key pieces of a thin wing rotation. Thabo Sefolosha, Tyson Chandler and Isaiah Hartenstein might all be useful in the right matchup.
But Nene is overdue for a scenery change. He’s been away from the team all season with a hip injury, and his contract was structured to facilitate a trade. Pair his cap-friendly deal with Houston’s upcoming first-rounder and the Rockets might have enough to fortify the wing collection or add a small-ball big to spell Tucker.
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It’s time for the Indiana Pacers to start getting real about their roster congestion. But no, we’re not here to recommend the demolition of the Myles Turner-Domantas Sabonis frontcourt. That time will probably come, just not at the midpoint of a season in which the Pacers can do something special and at a deadline with few (if any) star-level trade targets.
Rather, the Circle City could reshuffle its backcourt rotation now that Victor Oladipo is back. He came off the bench during his first game back from knee surgery, with Malcolm Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb holding down the starting backcourt spots. T.J. McConnell joined Oladipo on the second team, which bumped 2018 first-round pick Aaron Holiday out of the rotation.
“You just can’t play all those guys,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan told reporters afterward. “… These two point guards [McConnell and Holiday], we just can’t play both of them.”
Holiday is too talented to sit. His career averages include 16.1 points, 5.2 assists and 2.4 triples per 36 minutes. McConnell is too talented to sit. He understands his limitations, so he doesn’t force shots (career 49.1 field-goal percentage) or give the ball away (5.4 assists against 1.4 turnovers this season).
The Pacers should settle on one as a keeper and flip the other for someone who can be a nightly contributor.
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The Los Angeles Clippers don’t need to make a move at the deadline. They have top-six marks in winning percentage and net rating, plus a 2-0 record against the Los Angeles Lakers, their biggest obstacle in the Western Conference.
But are the Clippers sure they have everything needed to make a title run? Because they may not get as many cracks at this as you’d think.
Both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can wiggle out of their contracts in 2021, meaning the clock is already ticking on this core. Montrezl Harrell hits the open market this summer, and Lou Williams will get there the next. While L.A. can deal its upcoming first-rounder, it can’t deal another one until after the 2021 draft.
If the Clippers deem a deal necessary, Maurice Harkless almost certainly has to go. His expiring $11 million salary increases L.A.’s buying power, and his defensive versatility would make him valuable wherever he lands. Again, the Clips can keep him and get mileage out of him, but an ideal deadline probably brings back more of a three-and-D option than the career 32.4 percent long-range shooter.
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The way LeBron James sees it, the Lakers “have enough right now” to contend for the crown, per Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times. He might be right. L.A. holds the top spot in the Western Conference standings and ranks third overall in net rating.
But this roster isn’t perfect.
It could use another playmaker to curb the cratering that happens when the King takes a seat. A sturdy wing defender would be nice for what feels like an inevitable playoff meeting with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. More spacing would help, too, particularly a dead-eye sniper with more well-rounded skills than Quinn Cook and Troy Daniels offer.
If the Lakers deem it necessary to upgrade, then Kyle Kuzma will almost certainly be involved. The Lakers don’t have a first-rounder to deal, and Kuzma is the only player on the active roster under the age of 25. He also isn’t the ideal third wheel to complement James and Anthony Davis since he can be a ball-stopper on offense and not so much one on defense.
Finding equal value for Kuzma won’t be easy. The Sacramento Kings offered Nemanja Bjelica and a draft pick, per The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, while the Lakers countered by requesting Bogdan Bogdanovic. The talks went nowhere. Since Kuzma is collecting rookie-scale money, matching salaries won’t be easy, either. Still, he could be key in opening a path to someone like Derrick Rose or Marcus Morris Sr.
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It’s February, and you still can’t find a picture of Andre Iguodala in a Memphis Grizzlies jersey since the offseason addition hasn’t yet reported to the Beale Street ballers. The 36-year-old keeps awaiting his move to a win-now contender, and it’s getting late enough in the process to wonder if the Grizzlies are asking too much.
They want a first-round pick for the Swiss Army knife stopper, per Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney, but if the market hasn’t delivered one yet, maybe it never will. Memphis might have a backup plan in place if that happens.
“Some executives around the league suspect that Memphis’ fallback option is a Mavericks offer of Courtney Lee and the Warriors’ surprisingly high second-rounder, though Dallas sources have done their best to refute that,” ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reported.
Memphis must get something in exchange for Iguodala. Every contender could use another wing defender, and even at his age, he’s still one of the best due to his impeccable instincts, strength and hand movements so quick and precise that he must’ve been a world-class pianist in a past life. He’s a coveted commodity, and the Grizzlies need to convert that interest into rebuilding assets.
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The Miami Heat are closer to contending than even they may have expected, but they’re still missing one major piece. If they could find an offensive costar for Jimmy Butler—someone who can create for himself and his teammates but also add value as an off-ball shooter—this roster might make the leap from good to great.
There’s no guarantee a player of that caliber (cough, Jrue Holiday) is even available, but if he is, Miami should pounce. This is Butler’s age-30 season, so if he’s ever going to lead a deep postseason run, the time is now.
The Heat are limited in trade chips since they don’t have a draft pick to move and (correctly) already labeled Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro as untouchable. With Justise Winslow battling back problems and still nowhere near a return, his value is nonexistent. Derrick Jones Jr. might help sweeten a trade offer, but he isn’t anchoring a blockbuster on his own.
For the Heat to make a major splash, they’ll need to part with (at least) one of Kendrick Nunn or Duncan Robinson. Nunn is a good scorer (19.0 points per 36 minutes), but Robinson is an elite shooter (3.4 threes at a 43.8 percent clip). Robinson is more valuable now, and he’d be harder (or impossible) to replace in-house.
If Miami can add a difference-maker, Nunn is the logical sacrifice.
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Trade deadline shopping for the Milwaukee Bucks is like finding a present for the person who has everything. If you think long and hard enough, you can probably come up with something (another shot-creator, perhaps), but you wouldn’t call it a need.
The Bucks are on pace for 70-plus wins. If the curtain dropped today, they’d have the second-highest margin of victory ever. They need roster reinforcements like your rich neighbor needs another luxury vehicle.
That means their most likely deadline scenario is sitting out the proceedings. If a Bogdan Bogdanovic sweepstakes takes place, they might get involved with Donte DiVincenzo potentially highlighting their offer, but that feels far-fetched for a lot of reasons. Sacramento may not move Bogdanovic, and if it does, it might want more than DiVincenzo. Milwaukee may prefer to keep and develop the rising sophomore anyway.
A more realistic option might be dumping D.J. Wilson to someone who either is willing to absorb his contract for a fee (maybe a second-rounder) or still believes the 17th pick from the 2017 draft has untapped potential. Milwaukee shouldn’t feel desperate to move him, but since he clearly doesn’t factor into its plans, it probably doesn’t want to pay him $4.5 million to watch from the sideline next season.
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The Minnesota Timberwolves are objectively awful. Maybe they entertained playoff hopes at one time, but any of those discussions now sound delusional. Dating back to Dec. 1, the Wolves are dead last in winning percentage (.167—that’s a 14-win pace!) and 24th in net rating (minus-5.5 points per 100 possessions).
As badly as they want to build a winner around Karl-Anthony Towns, it isn’t happening. So, they should shift their focus to asset accumulation—they need ammo for the eventual D’Angelo Russell deal, right?—and take advantage of the fact they have one of the most sought-after trade targets in three-and-D ace Robert Covington.
As Ben Cohen reported for the Wall Street Journal, the Lakers, Clippers, Mavericks, Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers are “among the teams” that have an eye on Covington. This is the best-case scenario for a bidding war. Not only is it heavily populated, but every team involved likely feels close enough to contention to make an all-in move.
Covington is an excellent role player. He can dazzle with three-point volume or efficiency (sometimes both), he can defend multiple positions, and he causes havoc as an off-ball roamer with steals and blocks. He’s also signed to a reasonable contract for two more seasons, so he’s not just a rental.
If the Wolves had any shot at winning, they might keep Covington far removed from the trade market. Since they don’t, they should cash in this lottery ticket and find ways to better support Towns in the future.
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Turbo-boosted by Zion Williamson’s return, the New Orleans Pelicans could become deadline buyers in preparation for a furious playoff push. They might be 12th in the standings, but FiveThirtyEight gives them the second-highest chance of capturing the eighth seed (36 percent).
Still, the front office shouldn’t get carried away pursuing what would almost surely be a first-round exit. Instead, this deadline should be about openness and opportunity. If the Pelicans can make a sneaky-smart purchase, that’s fine. But if someone wants to knock their socks off with a blockbuster offer for Jrue Holiday, that’s worth exploring, too.
Hanging on to the 29-year-old is more than fine, but it’s possible this market inflates his value to the point a trade becomes too good to refuse. He might be the best player who’s feasibly available. His $26.2 million salary is reasonable given his massive two-way impact. His abilities to play on or off the ball and defend either backcourt spot would make him an easy addition for anyone.
The Pelicans don’t need to actively shop Holiday, but hearing overtures is a must. He’s a fine fit for now, but given his age and theirs, he’ll probably be declining once New Orleans’ young core hits its stride. That’s reason enough to see if any win-now buyers want to pay the moon and stars for his services.
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The New York Knicks can’t be serious, can they? Sure, they’re the league’s most—how do we put this gently—unpredictable franchise, but even they know better than to overvalue a 30-year-old impending free agent during a lottery-bound season, right?
“Multiple contenders continue to monitor the Marcus Morris situation with the hope that New York considers moving the veteran,” Ian Begley wrote for SNY. “As SNY previously reported, there are people in the Knick organization who see Morris as an important part of the club’s future and would like to re-sign him.”
Why would the Knicks keep Morris and re-sign him? There’s almost no chance he’s still good the next time they are. Big-name free agents are flocking elsewhere, and there aren’t elite options available this summer. Their savior could be years away from arriving, so why treat a 30-year-old role player as untouchable?
He’s significantly appealing to most every contender as he can supply toughness, shot-making and two-way versatility. If the Knicks can turn his one-year commitment into a first-round pick, that’s a substantial win for the front office. The ‘Bockers should be willing to talk shop about anyone not named RJ Barrett or Mitchell Robinson, but Morris is the most valuable of the lot, and they can’t afford to miss this opportunity.
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Despite losing both Russell Westbrook and Paul George over the offseason, the Oklahoma City Thunder have a better winning percentage than last season (.600 now, .598 then). That might trick some into thinking this franchise isn’t rebuilding, but actually reloading.
Clearly, OKC has more artillery than most expected, but this franchise remains in the middle of a reset. Credit head coach Billy Donovan for connecting the dots so far, but nothing can change the wide age gap between 30-somethings Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari and 21-year-old centerpiece Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
The Thunder have some deadline leverage. They have a handful of veterans they can move—B/R’s Eric Pincus reported they are “still interested in hearing what teams are willing to offer”—but they can also stand pat and push for the postseason if they choose. If someone wants to pay a premium for Chris Paul, Dennis Schroder or even Steven Adams, OKC should consider it.
There isn’t as much flexibility with Danilo Gallinari, though. The 31-year-old scoring forward doesn’t fit the timeline and needs a new contract this summer. He should have universal appeal to contenders capable of matching his $22.6 million salary. He has size, a lethal shooting stroke and the ability to steer second-team offenses, and most win-now shoppers want at least two of the three.
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Every now and then, the Orlando Magic catch encouraging glimpses of their future. Before a knee injury knocked out Jonathan Isaac, he looked like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in training. Markelle Fultz still struggles as a shooter, but his first year as a full-time NBA rotation member has been a fun mix of creativity, finishing and floor general-ing.
But the present includes some of the same issues of the recent past: namely, frontcourt overcrowding and (on a related note) Aaron Gordon’s failure to launch. The fourth overall pick in 2014, his shooting rates are plummeting, and his efficiency is as low as it’s been since his rookie season. From the outside looking in, he seems in dire need of a scenery change.
“Maybe Gordon just isn’t as good as expected, but I’d bet there’s more to his game that the Magic haven’t been able to get out,” The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor wrote.
This might be selling low on Gordon, but the Magic are mostly locked into this roster, so it’s tough to say when (or if) he could turn things around. Besides, his athleticism, defensive versatility and playmaking potential should all interest deadline shoppers. This might be Orlando’s best shot at balancing the roster by addressing the perimeter-scoring and shot-creating voids.
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Apologies for spinning this broken record, but the Philadelphia 76ers again have a wealth of talent that imperfectly fits together. Maybe that will always be the case as long as Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons occupy the same roster, but this year’s group feels especially choppy. The Sixers arguably have as much individual skill as any team, yet they sit sixth in the East standings and 20th in offensive efficiency.
Only Philly knows how deep it feels these flaws run. Forget about a trade of Embiid or Simmons now—maybe the idea is broached this summer if the Sixers are ousted early?—but could Philly feel buyer’s remorse and try separating from Tobias Harris or Al Horford? It’s possible, but it’s not probable.
More likely, the Sixers focus on upgrading the supporting cast. That isn’t easy with minimal money to move—excluding the starters, the top earners are Mike Scott ($4.8 million) and Zhaire Smith ($3.1 million)—although they can sweeten the pot with current or future draft picks. That won’t net a star, but maybe it fetches another playmaker, a perimeter marksman or a stretch big.
While Scott and Smith are likely to be involved in any notable exchange, the latter is the one to shop since he theoretically will interest more sellers. Scott is a 31-year-old shooter hitting fewer than 33 percent of his threes. Smith is an athletic 20-year-old with 10 NBA outings under his belt. Neither is particularly appealing, but rebuilders might like the mystery-box appeal of Smith.
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Before the Phoenix Suns’ season veered off the rails, Aron Baynes was one of the biggest reasons to believe this year might finally be different. He gave this team a discernible toughness on the interior and a surprising amount of offensive spacing.
The 33-year-old has glue-guy game. That doesn’t mean much to a young team veering toward a 10th consecutive lottery finish, but it could prove critical for a contender needing extra oomph underneath. The Clippers, for instance, could use Baynes’ muscle on the low block, and Pincus reported the big fella “is believed to be a prime target” of theirs.
While the Suns are one of several teams scrapping for the No. 8 seed, they shouldn’t chase a playoff berth at all costs. Not if Baynes can bring back something of substance.
Considering how many win-now clubs could use more size—the Clippers, Celtics and Heat immediately come to mind—Phoenix should find something more valuable than ironing out a new pact with Baynes ahead of his age-34 season.
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The Portland Trail Blazers have received everything they could’ve wanted from Hassan Whiteside. His individual numbers are brilliant (16.0 points, 14.1 rebounds and a league-best 3.1 blocks), and his minutes matter in a good way. Even if he’s not always a solid screen-setter and can get a little jumpy on defense, the Blazers are still 9.5 points better per 100 possessions with him than without.
So, why is he on this list? Because his $27.1 million salary is a necessary part of any needle-moving deal. And the Blazers are finally showing progress on the injury front with Jusuf Nurkic returning to the practice floor and Zach Collins perhaps hitting the hardwood in early March.
Whiteside was always a placeholder. He’s done an admirable job filling in for Nurkic, but the big-man hierarchy hasn’t changed. Nurkic does better with the little things: dislodging defenders with screens, keeping the ball moving, getting to the right spots defensively. The numbers may not be much different, but the eye test says the gap in impact is.
Is anyone available with a contract that lines up to Whiteside’s? Kevin Love is the easiest link to this team, but Danilo Gallinari or even LaMarcus Aldridge feel like better fits. Pair Whiteside with a pick, prospect or maybe both and the Blazers might find the deadline addition who not only gets them to the playoffs but also makes them a brutal matchup for their first-round opponent.
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The Sacramento Kings aren’t who they thought they were. They had breakout potential, but they’ve been more of a bust, undone by everything from choppy offense to leaky defense and a laundry list of injuries.
Dewayne Dedmon looms as one of the season’s many disappointments. Signed to a three-year, $40 million contract this summer, the veteran center has seen his shooting spiral and his playing time evaporate. He was a starter on opening night, and by December, he was out of head coach Luke Walton’s rotation. A public trade request came shortly thereafter, with a $50,000 fine right on its heels.
He has since returned to the rotation and even rejoined the starting lineup, but it seems both parties might be best served with a split. The Kings have other bigs to develop, and for one reason or another, Dedmon just can’t rev up his offense in NorCal.
Should Sacramento opt for a more dramatic deadline, it could ship out Bogdan Bogdanovic ahead of his restricted free agency—or even clear the money to sign him by moving Buddy Hield. But unless the Kings are floored by an offer, it’s probably worth delaying that decision to the offseason. Once Sacramento sees how the market values Bogdanovic, it will be easier to choose a wing or gauge the difficulty of keeping both.
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Eric Gay/Associated Press
The San Antonio Spurs have put together an incredible two-plus decades of consistent excellence. But everything has an ending point, and this might finally be the right time for the Alamo City’s reset.
Really, it’s been unavoidable since Kawhi Leonard forced his way out, though the Spurs opted against immediate demolition and for a present-focused package headlined by DeMar DeRozan. But this team isn’t built to compete at a high level. It was bounced from the opening round last year and might not even make the playoffs in this one. Oh yeah, it also counts four 30-somethings among its top six scorers.
That’s not a sustainable roster model. The Spurs should embrace change and focus on making their team younger and more economic. Step one of that process should be dealing DeRozan, who makes $27.7 million and could again next season if he picks up his player option.
He won’t have a massive market. He’s an offensive specialist who doesn’t shoot threes, and his defensive effort could be abysmal. But teams with good defenses and punchless offenses should have interest (looking at you, Orlando), and as long as the offer isn’t insulting, the Spurs should probably take what they can get.
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Who needs Kawhi Leonard?
OK, that’s mostly tongue-in-cheek. But sheesh, these guys are good. If the campaign closed today, the Toronto Raptors would have a higher winning percentage than last season. (All hail, Nick Nurse.) That has all but silenced any talk of a fire sale, and it should move them into the buyer’s market.
Toronto doesn’t have any glaring needs, but its perimeter depth will be tested with the loss of Norman Powell, who’s out indefinitely with a fractured hand. Without doing something major, the Raptors can’t acquire a Powell replacement, as the 26-year-old was busy breaking out before going down. So, they’ll need as many options as possible to work out a replacement by committee.
That leaves no room for empty roster spots, which sadly is what Stanley Johnson, the eighth overall pick in 2015, has become. He looked like a potentially interesting reclamation project when Toronto inked him to a two-year, $7.5 million contract, but he has struggled to find minutes and has looked awful when he has (28.6 percent shooting, 16.7 percent from three).
Now, Johnson’s $3.8 million player option appears an unnecessary burden on next year’s books. Ideally, the Raptors identify a rebuilder so light on young talent it’s willing to take a chance. But even dumping him would have value to shed that pesky player option and create flexibility for the buyout market.
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Matt Slocum/Associated Press
The Utah Jazz have a chance to correct what seemed like a brilliant offseason move that just has not come together. You don’t think we’re talking about Mike Conley, do you?
If Conley keeps proving a poor fit in Salt Lake City, the Jazz may have to rethink that acquisition at some point, but we’re nowhere near the reconsideration phase. It is, however, already time to start searching for alternatives to Ed Davis.
A rock-solid reserve for nearly the last decade, Davis started slow with the Jazz and never recovered. At this point, he’s losing playing time to previous afterthought Tony Bradley. It doesn’t much matter who backs up Rudy Gobert since the Jazz get smoked whenever their starting center leaves the floor (plus-9.9 with him, minus-6.3 without).
Ideally, Utah can find someone at the deadline who can play behind and alongside Gobert, preferably a stretchy big who doesn’t destroy this team on defense. Someone like former Jazz forward Marvin Williams could make a lot of sense. If the Jazz can find a worthwhile upgrade between now and Thursday, expect Davis and his $4.8 million salary to be sent elsewhere in the swap.
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The Washington Wizards knew they were getting a knockdown shooter in Davis Bertans, but even they couldn’t have seen this coming. After never averaging 2.0 triples per night, the 6’10” sniper is now knocking down 3.6 per game at a 42.2 percent clip.
In other words, the Wizards have an elite sharpshooter on their hands, which theoretically gives them something to think about. They could keep the 27-year-old and prepare to hand him a huge check in free agency, which they sound ready to do. Or they could flip a role player—a really good one, but still a role player—for a prime asset, which seems like a no-brainer for a rebuilder.
Everyone needs shooting, which means everyone needs Bertans.
The Wizards would almost certainly get a good pick out of this if they let him go. If for whatever reason, the market is lighter than expected, they can always keep him around and see what happens in free agency. But if buyers come calling at (or above) the reasonably expected price, Washington should recognize its need for assets and pounce accordingly.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.