It’s the time of year! It’s trade season and we’re setting up for a very interesting trade deadline. A ton of teams are still needing pieces and other teams need to blow things up and start over. I’ve gathered a few of our scribes to talk about what they expect to see at the trade deadline this Thursday.
Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Who should be the most aggressive buyers before the deadline?
Zach: Denver Nuggets
I don’t think it will happen, but the Nuggets still need a few pieces. They have so much depth and so few minutes to use on them. Among other things, they still don’t have a reliable shooter. Jamal Murray is still not consistent enough for what the team needs. Malik Beasley hasn’t been as effective off the bench. Juan Hernangomez has struggled to find his shot. If they could add a guy like J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, or Davis Bertans as reliable shooters, this team could really go far.
Mike: LA Lakers
The Lakers have been one of the best teams this season. LeBron James looks refreshed, and the Anthony Davis addition has worked out great. However, with Kyle Kuzma’s struggles, the Lakers need someone who can consistently get their own shot when LeBron and AD are on the bench. They also need to look for a wing defender for when they face the Clippers (likely in the Western Conference Finals). While they don’t have a tradeable first-round pick for a while, they have several expiring contracts and can build a package around Kuzma for a veteran scorer or wing defender. They should also be very active in the buyout market as well.
Josh: LA Clippers.
They are a title contender, and for a good reason, but the problems become apparent when you see that they are just as close to the seventh-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder as they are to their rival Lakers. They rely too much on free throws – which will be harder to come by in the playoffs, their efficiency aside from drawing fouls is far from spectacular with just the 17th-best eFG% in the league, and they commit turnovers at a higher-than-average rate. They’re a very good team, but not a great one and Montrezl Harrell agrees. There won’t be many teams this window looking for stars, but if there’s one team that needs to shore things up and take advantage of any potential role player additions to strengthen their weaknesses in preparation for a title push, it’s the Clippers.
Who should blow it up at the deadline?
Zach: Philadelphia 76ers
As they have been for years, the Philadelphia 76ers are still in desperate need of shooting, and they still don’t have any. Ben Simmons finally made his first three-pointer, but still shows he’s completely unwilling to shoot from the perimeter. As long as Simmons is unwilling to shoot and Joel Embiid is on the roster, they have a spacing mess. Neither has proven to be the alpha dog on the roster either. They have good complementary pieces like Mike Scott and Matisse Thybulle, but options 1a and 1b aren’t the guys to have the ball at the end of the game and get them over the hump.
Losing Jimmy Butler was a huge loss. They can’t win on the road, and they won’t have home-court advantage this year. It looks like this is their ceiling with the team as constructed. Don’t need to go for a complete rebuild, but you need to pick Embiid or Simmons and move on from the other. It may set them back a year or two, but it’s necessary.
Mike: Cleveland Cavaliers
This isn’t really a “blow it up” team, but they have an aging star in Kevin Love going to waste in the dumpster fire known as Cleveland. The best time to trade Love would have been the last offseason but better late than never. The Cavaliers need to figure out who their “focal point” piece is, who they are going to build around. Is it Collin Sexton or Darius Garland? This team needs to figure out its future, and clearly, Love won’t be part of it. The time to move him is now!
Josh: Detroit Pistons
They’re going nowhere and going nowhere fast. As they find themselves just outside the playoffs, Detroit is without their supposed marquee player in Blake Griffin for the rest of the season, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson are potentially both free agents this summer depending on Drummond’s opt-out clause, and every other member of their rotation has been seriously discussed as trade targets for teams with less depressing immediate futures. Fun fact: Josh Smith is still the seventh-highest paid player on this team.
Which contending team needs to make the most changes?
Zach: LA Clippers
The Clippers are an excellent team. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are an outstanding tandem. They have a ton of really good pieces. It seems they still need one or two more, and they need to be aggressive in doing so. They still need height. Their starting center, Harrell, is a very good player and exciting to watch. Still, with guys like Rudy Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Nikola Jokic in the conference, they need a more significant body to defend them. As with any team, they always need extra shooters. They have one guy that shoots over 40%; they could use one more guy to help put them over the top.
Mike: Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks shouldn’t do anything crazy at the deadline, but they need to find out what Giannis Antetokounmpo plans are. If he is committing to staying long term and signing a supermax contract when his current deal is up, then they should burn future assets to add win-now players. However, the Bucks don’t want to find themselves in the same “up (bleep)’s creek without a paddle” as the Cavaliers were when LeBron left. Trading away young players and picks for veterans makes sense if they are going to contend, but if they are going to lose Antetokounmpo, they should start the rebuilding project early.
Josh: Philadelphia 76ers
Since I already wasted my answer to this question earlier, I’ll go with a more long-term outlook and choose the 76ers. I am not of the opinion like many seem to be, that Simmons’ talents are completely wasted by the fact that he is largely unwilling to shoot the basketball from further than 10 feet out. Magic Johnson led the Showtime Lakers without much of a shot, and he even had a fellow ball-dominant perimeter player in Jamaal Wilkes along with the ride for two of their championships – Wilkes was an even worse shooter!
But it is also true that the NBA has changed massively since then. It’s not impossible to make a Simmons-led team a champion, but it is very hard, and he would need to be surrounded by players that fit his strengths and weaknesses. The current 76ers do not do that. There’s a decent chance that at some point they’ll need to trade either him or everyone but him.
Which team is most likely to make an ill-fated panic buy?
Zach: New Orleans Pelicans
Despite not having a great record, the Pelicans are still in it. Zion Williamson is playing well right now. He’s averaging just under 20 points per game and showing what made him be the most polarizing prospect since LeBron. It’s only equated to a .500 record in his six games back. It takes a minute to build chemistry and insert a new guy into the rotation, especially when he missed half the year and is going to be a focal point of the offense. I fear they’re going to try and make a move that would sacrifice depth and guys like Redick, Jrue Holiday, or Lonzo Ball. They’re down but not out, and the roster they have can make it to the playoffs. They don’t need to make any moves.
Mike: Memphis Grizzlies
Many thought this team would finish last in the Western Conference this season. However, behind likely rookie of the year Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., the Grizzlies are in the mix for the eighth seed in the playoffs. Memphis shouldn’t tank since their first-round pick likely will end up with Boston at this point due to a past trade. However, they shouldn’t be buyers at the deadline, either. I fear the possibility of making the playoffs for a team that was expected to struggle will persuade the front office to make a foolish move at the deadline.
Josh: Portland Trail Blazers
We’ve heard all the rumors throughout the season of Portland potentially dealing for Love, Griffin, Danilo Gallinari, Andrew Wiggins, etc. With the expiring contracts of Hassan Whiteside and Kent Bazemore having been on the books, rumors of a big move like that were only natural. Now that Bazemore has made his move to Sacramento, the deal comes across as partially designed to help facilitate a movement of that magnitude involving Whiteside potentially. Unfortunately, none of those players would be great fits for Portland’s roster.
Griffin will be coming off of knee surgery next time we see him, Gallinari would only add to Portland’s defensive woes – not to mention he’s an expiring contract who’d be unlikely to re-sign, Wiggins needs the ball in his hands to be effective and wouldn’t get that luxury next to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Love doesn’t fit the roster or playstyle at all and has to reason to be mentioned as a target aside from him being from Lake Oswego, Oregon. They’ll probably make one of these moves, which is better than not doing anything at all, but don’t expect it to pan out and launch them back to the Conference Finals next year. They’re in a lose-lose situation this deadline.
Who will have the greatest impact on the buyout market?
Zach: Boston Celtics
Both Los Angeles teams are going to be active in the buyout market. The Lakers and Clippers appear to be ready to fight for Darren Collison. The Celtics are overperforming their expectations right now, and Kemba Walker has been sensational in place of Kyrie Irving. I’m worried that they’re going to start to fizzle at the end of the season. Their most significant need is in the frontcourt. Enes Kanter and Daniel Theis are good players, but Kanter does not play defense while Theis is just 6’8”. With big centers like Embiid in the conference, Theis is just too small for the big physical types like Embiid.
Mike: LA Lakers and LA Clippers
There could be several veterans on the buyout market this season as a big percentage of the league is on an expiring contract. The big-name to keep an eye on is Andre Iguodala. The Grizzlies haven’t released him yet despite not playing a game for them in hopes of trading him at the deadline. If they are unable to, they probably will come to a buy out agreement, and Iggy will be free to sign where he wants. Expect the Lakers and Clippers to compete for his services as Iggy has been one of the best wing defenders during his time in the league.
Josh: LA Clippers, LA Lakers, or Boston Celtics
There are certainly plenty of guys that could help teams out that will find themselves on the buyout market in a couple weeks. We already know Kenneth Faried is available, and Collison is a free agent who would be heavily valued by either of the L.A. teams if he decides to come out of retirement. Iguodala is a name that has been floated around as a buyout candidate ever since he was traded to Memphis and refused to report to the team. They’re looking for value in exchange for him first and foremost but never say never.
Marvin Williams, Langston Galloway, and Allen Crabbe seem to be likely buyout candidates, and if the Lakers are active on deadline day, someone like Rajon Rondo could end up joining them on that list. The only things that seem set in stone at this point, though, are that if Collison returns, it will be to L.A. and that the Celtics will be raiding the buyout market for big man help.
We’re at the point in the season where we know which teams are in contention and which teams will play for draft picks. Whether or not the teams recognize it and make moves accordingly will be a different subject. There are some potentially high-profile names that could be on the move and change the fate of teams. The deadline is an interesting time and we’re excited to see how it turns out. Be sure to be on the lookout for part two of our NBA trade deadline roundtable special tomorrow!
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