With the trade deadline right around the corner, NBA teams are scrambling looking to make that next move to improve their team. Whether it’s to bolster an already title-contending roster, adding another piece to get them over the hump, or to dump players for draft compensation, there are moves each team could ideally make this deadline. The Pistons and Clippers have already turned the NBA world upside down with their deal featuring Blake Griffin, so will this be just the start of a busy deadline for teams, or will it stay quiet? Here I talk about exactly what each team should do in the coming days before the deadline.
Atlanta Hawks: Sell
The Hawks are at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, and should look to trade away players for future draft picks. Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova are both on expiring contracts, making them very enticing to fringe playoff teams. Kent Bazemore is another name that has been tossed around, being linked to Cleveland. His contract is a bit scary, but he is still having a solid year and would be a great two-way player on the Cavs roster if they are looking to go all in this season.
Boston Celtics (ft. Chris Porter): Stay put
As an avid fan of the Boston Celtics, I think it is best for this team to stay put and not make any big decisions this trade deadline. Many are calling for a trade for Rodney Hood or Lou Williams, but these would be useless trades, as both would most likely be gone after this season. Next year, the Celtics will feature a roster of pretty much the exact same players, because only Marcus Smart, Aron Baynes, and Shane Larkin have expiring contracts. However, Gordon Hayward will 100% be back next season, as well as the potential for a 2-5 draft pick, if the Lakers’ pick conveys in this year’s NBA Draft. Adding a scorer off the bench would help the Celtics in the short term, but this is not the year to be thinking ‘championship or bust.’ Look for the Celtics to potentially make moves before next year’s trade deadline to secure the roster that will bring home banner 18.
Brooklyn Nets: Sell
The Nets do not own their own pick this year, but that shouldn’t deter them from selling this deadline. It will be tough to drop some of their veteran players, for most of them have unappealing contracts (Crabbe, Carroll, and Mozgov are all making over $14 million this year). However, they should still throw those names on the block to see if anyone bites. Guys like Joe Harris that aren’t really a part of Brooklyn’s future are the Nets best bet to get any kind of compensation worthwhile.
Charlotte Hornets: Unload
Charlotte is in a tricky spot, and has been for the last few seasons now. They are stuck at mediocrity, where they either barely make the playoffs and get bounced early, or barely miss and miss out on a high draft pick. They have multiple players that seem to be getting over paid (Batum, Howard, Kidd-Gilchrist, Williams), and depending on who you ask, their star Kemba Walker seems to be on and off the trade block. I think they should just clean house. They need to commit to either win now or tank, and they just aren’t in the position to make a move to contend this year. Walker has been linked to both the Pacers and the 76ers, and if they drop him, they should try to pair a player with a bad contract with him in hopes of getting a high draft pick for this year.
Chicago Bulls: Use that Cap Space
The Bulls are in the early stages of a rebuild, and they already have a nice core of young players. Guys like Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen have played well this year. They don’t have any bad contracts, so the Bulls have some questions to be answered. They did just trade Mirotic to the Pelicans for basically a draft pick. But with so much cap space, they could take on some bad contracts in other potential trades with draft picks attached. Their main focus is resigning Zach LaVine this offseason, and they have plenty of cap space to do so.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Figure out their Near Future
The Cavaliers have faced problems all year, from defensive woes to personal issues. Just when they thought they had everything figured out while riding a 13-game win streak, they now find themselves third in the Eastern Conference, having lost six of their last ten. They thought the arrival of Isaiah Thomas would answer all of their problems, but he just hasn’t gelled like they thought he would. The Cavs need to figure out what is their priority. Do they want to go all in this season, or start thinking about the future with LeBron’s free agency looming? If they want to try and compete this season, they need to get a player (or two) who can perform at both ends of the floor. They have been linked to Atlanta guard Kent Bazemore, Sacramento’s George Hill, as well as Clippers’ trade chips Lou Williams and Deandre Jordan. Bazemore or Hill would probably be cheap options for the Cavs, but may not be the sole solution to their problem, while Jordan and/or Williams would both be key additions, but may cost a pretty penny (Brooklyn’s 1st-round pick). Guys like J.R. Smith, Channing Frye, and Tristan Thompson have all been on the trade block, with Kevin Love even in on some of the trade conversation with recent discrepancies. So it all depends on what direction the franchise wants to go.
Dallas Mavericks: Utilize Cap Space
Much like the Chicago Bulls, the Mavs have some wiggle room with their cap space, and since they aren’t really competing for a playoff spot this year, they should take on some bigger contracts for draft picks. Nerlens Noel is talented big who isn’t in the picture for their future. Playoff teams could use a big man like him to get themselves over the hump, so look for Dallas to dangle his name in trade talks. Wesley Matthews is another talented wing player, who fits in today’s NBA’s “Three-and-D” mold. His contract is a little high, but a team like the Cavaliers may come knocking if they miss out on other targets.
Denver Nuggets: Find their Point Guard
As of right now, the Nuggets sit in the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and that’s without their star acquisition Paul Millsap. They have a few young pieces, such as Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Nikola Jokic, but are still just a point guard away from being in serious contention talks. They’ve played Murray at the one, but he’s better off the ball, and the Emmanuel Mudiay project just hasn’t quite worked out as planned. Will Barton is set to hit free agency next season, and is expected to earn a solid contract after a career year he’s having. Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried have been on the trade block for what seems like five years straight now. A package of any two of those four players for a point guard might be what the Nuggets need to get over the hump. Kemba Walker is reportedly on the market, but the Nuggets might have to include draft compensation for him, or a cheaper option could be Utah’s Ricky Rubio. If the Nuggets are content with developing their young roster, then I’m all for it, but moving Faried and Chandler for draft picks should be in their consideration.
Detroit Pistons: Figure out what they have
The Pistons already made the biggest splash of the trade season, with their blockbuster with the Clippers, in acquiring Blake Griffin for Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, and a protected first round pick. The Pistons might have received the best player in the trade, but did they give up too much for it? It’s hard to tell now, and so the Pistons should hang tight and see what they have in front of them for the remaining half of the season. They need to see how Griffin and Andre Drummond play together, if Reggie Jackson can remain a starting caliber point guard for them, and how players like Luke Kennard, Stanley Johnson, and Reggie Bullock will play when given more minutes. It’s best for the Pistons to just hang tight for the remainder of the year, see how their team plays, then make moves if needed in the offseason. One blockbuster is enough.
Golden State Warriors: Blow everything up
Okay, all kidding aside, it’s not even fair at this point. The Warriors are in the best position in the league, as it has been for the last three years now. Every team is on the outside looking in, except for them. The Warriors don’t have to make any moves at the deadline, nor should they. No need to break up any kind of chemistry they’ve had established already. The only moves I can see the Warriors making will be picking up a veteran for the veteran’s minimum after they’ve been waived and cleared the waiver wire, which will seem even more unfair.
Houston Rockets: Keep Chemistry Intact
With recent struggles with the Cavs, aside from maybe Boston, the Rockets are maybe the one team that has a serious shot at competing with the Warriors. When Chris Paul, James Harden, and Clint Capela all play, they have been nearly unstoppable, having lost only one game. Why ruin that kind of chemistry with any kind of trade at the deadline, even if it’s a minor one? I see them in a similar boat as the Warriors; just wait till after the deadline, and maybe pick up a veteran after they’ve been waived. Other than that, they need to sit tight and most importantly stay healthy.
Indiana Pacers: Develop their Young Trio
After dealing their star Paul George last offseason, no one expected the Pacers to be in playoff contention. But here they are, shocking all doubters. Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, who were both packaged in the George deal with Oklahoma City, have played brilliantly, with the former being named to his first All-Star game. When Myles Turner has been healthy, he’s been productive too. However, Indiana playing at such a high level this early in what was supposed to be their first season of a rebuild has put them in a tricky spot. As their roster stands right now, they won’t be able to beat the top-tier teams, like Boston, Cleveland, Houston and Golden State. Will a big trade really propel them to a top tier-team? Unless they sacrifice one of their young pieces, then no. While they have been linked to star point guard Kemba Walker, I think the Pacers should hold on to their three youngsters and let them develop. They have a lot of non-guaranteed contracts for next season, so they could potentially make that impactful move in the offseason by signing a top free agent. The Pacers do have a little cap space room, so they could be involved in a three-team deal that could land them a bigger contract and some draft compensation if they feel like keeping their talent without aiming for a big acquisition in free agency next year.
Los Angeles Clippers: Continue the Fire Sale
As mentioned before, the Clippers and Pistons have already made the trade of the year by sending away “Clipper for life” Griffin. The way their roster stands now, they are going to still be competitive. If they want to do this rebuild right, they need to clean house. Williams and Jordan have already been on the trade block, and they should keep them there. Williams has had an incredible season, but is on the wrong side of thirty and on an expiring contract, so resigning him may not be ideal. His stock is at an all-time high right now, so sell while the return may be valuable. Teams such as Washington, Cleveland, and Milwaukee have already inquired about Jordan, but a player option next year on his contract make moving him tough, and the Clippers may only get pennies on the dollar for him. They already showed that they are moving towards a rebuild by trading away their franchise player Griffin, so they should continue their process of a rebuild by moving these two players.
Los Angeles Lakers: It’s all about Next Year
Much like their L.A. counterparts, the Lakers are in sell mode. Right now, Magic Johnson and the team have their eyes set on free agency next year, where guys like Lebron James, Paul George, and DeMarcus Cousins are set to hit the market, and Magic hopes to land at least two of those stars. George has been linked to L.A. for a while now, and Indy even traded him away in fear of his potential departure, but his chemistry with Russell Westbrook may make him change his mind. Boogie is set to get a big payday of his own, but before he went down with a season-ending injury, he and fellow big man Anthony Davis were having career years, potentially making him rethink his decision. And no ever knows where LeBron might head when he hits free agency. So the risk is very high for the Lakers to bank on them landing even one of those stars. But Lakers still need to sell. They need to clear some contracts off the books, such as Luol Deng and Jordan Clarkson. Julius Randle has been linked to trade talks as well, whose contract expires after this season. With young, promising stars like Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Brandon Ingram, even landing one big name next offseason will put L.A. in a good position to compete for years to come.
Memphis Grizzlies: Trade Tyreke Evans
After losing starting point guard Mike Conley, Memphis needs to look towards their future. Marc Gasol is only getting older, and his play has already declined. Signing Chandler Parsons to a max deal a few seasons ago has turned into a big mistake. The lone bright spot for the Grizzlies has been Tyreke Evans, who is showing what he can do when he finally has a healthy season. So it only makes sense for Memphis to trade him, right? In all seriousness, Evans is set to hit free agency as an unrestricted free agent, and he will be set to get paid big time. If Evans wants to play on a title contending team, then there are far better teams than Memphis to sign for. While his stock is high, Memphis should trade him and look for a draft pick or two in return. And they should keep their ears open on potential deals for Gasol as well. If the right deal comes up, it might be time to part ways with the Spaniard.
Miami Heat: Listen to Potential Whiteside Deals
Miami is sitting in a pretty good spot right now. Some say they might be overachieving as they sit as the fourth seed right now in the East, but other Eastern conference teams are struggling or have been cursed by the injury bug, or both. Though Hassan Whiteside signed a max contract and had a career year last year, his play has regressed and Miami has elected to play small late game with Kelly Olynyk. Bam Adebayo has shown flashes of solid play, and should only continue to improve with more playing time. So what should Miami do? I don’t think they should necessarily trade away Whiteside, but I’m sure there are teams that would be happy to have his talents, such as Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Portland. It’s tough to gauge exactly what Whiteside’s worth is on the trade market, but Miami should at least listen to what teams would offer for the perennial big.
Milwaukee Bucks: Avoid the Blockbuster
The Bucks have been linked to a lot of potential trades; most of them involve landing a rim protector. After trading for Eric Bledsoe earlier in the year, falling in the standings after a hot start to the season, and recently firing head coach Jason Kidd, Milwaukee’s season can easily be described as a roller coaster ride. The last thing the Bucks need to do is make a huge blockbuster deal that may shake up their roster even more. They still have a bright future, especially as long as they have the Greek Freak on their team. The most coveted piece the Bucks possess is Jabari Parker, who has had two ACL injuries in his short career, but has played brilliantly when healthy. I don’t think they should give up on him just yet, who is supposed to make his return in the coming days. Though he is set to hit free agency this offseason, he will be a restricted free agent, so Milwaukee will have the ability to match any offer. They need to keep the team intact, and see how dangerous this team can really be when fully healthy.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Bolster the Bench
Minnesota has played very well all year long, as expected, and is set to make the playoffs and end the longest drought in the NBA. However, how fresh will the starters be come playoff time? Head coach Tom Thibodeau has played his starters more minutes than any other team in the NBA, and has been reluctant to trust his bench. The Timberwolves should look improve their bench by adding a piece or two this deadline. Minnesota should be kicking the tires with almost every team and their players on the trade block. They don’t need to make a huge trade that shakes up the starting lineup, but adding a role player or two could be just what Minnesota needs to compete with the likes of Houston and Golden State.
New Orleans Pelicans: Focus on Boogie
In the first full season with the duo of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, the Pelicans were looking great, featuring the best front-court in the league. But Cousins went down with a season-ending injury, and it doesn’t look like Davis and Jrue Holiday will be able to carry the team to the playoffs, and even if they do make it, they won’t be able to make a deep run. Their focus now should be on bringing back Boogie. Whatever they have to do…do it. Whether they need to trade away a few role players or bring in some talent, they need to make it clear that they want Cousins apart of their future and keep the two Kentucky products together for years to come.
New York Knicks: Sell
Remember when all the Knicks fans were booing the selection of Kristaps Porzingis? Yeah, so does everyone else. The pick isn’t looking too bad anymore, with the Unicorn making his first all-star selection this season. Though he’s been great and improved every year since his arrival from Europe, he’s been about the only bright spot on the team. Enes Kanter stats are impressive, but the team is being outscored drastically more when he’s on the floor than when he’s off. The Knicks need to trade away some expiring contracts and other players that are not part of their immediate future. Kanter, along with Joakim Noah, Willy Hernangomez, and Kyle O’Quinn have all been linked to trade talks, with Noah being the most unlikely to be dealt considering his contract that may be one of the most unappealing in the league. O’Quinn has played excellent in the limited minutes he’s been on the floor, so teams like the Thunder who lack depth at the five spot could use his talents. Courtney Lee also has two years left on his contract, so getting rid of him won’t be easy, but teams could use his three-and-D talents, and Knicks should be willing to part ways with him.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Keeping Paul George
George has already said that his relationship with Westbrook was making his future decision easier, which is great news for the Thunder. Though the start was rocky to say the least, OKC is right back into the thick of things, and were on an eight-game win streak until their loss to Washington. Losing Andre Roberson to injury for the year definitely hurts, for his defensive prowess will be missed. But the season is not over for the Thunder. The goal should be to compete now, even if it doesn’t end in a championship, to make George realize the team is serious about winning, and hopefully ends in resigning with them. Grabbing a guy like Belinelli or O’Quinn to fill in holes on the bench should keep OKC in title contention and keep George’s interest to return for years to come.
Orlando Magic: Sell
Orlando was off to a hot start at the beginning of the year, but returned to Earth shortly after and is now near the bottom of the standings in the East. It seems like almost every player on the roster is on the trade block, and rightfully so. Outside of Aaron Gordon, they just don’t seem to have a player worth keeping for future success. They have a lot of nice complimentary pieces, but no star to carry them to contention. The Magic should try to clear the books, get rid of bad contracts, get pile up draft picks, and focus on rebuilding through the draft and free agency.
Philadelphia 76ers: Don’t Ruin the Bright Future
Trust the process! The 76ers are on the cusp of making the playoffs, with some bright talent that should only keep improving over the years. Joel Embiid has played like one of the best centers in the league, and Ben Simmons is the favorite to win rookie of the year. Markelle Fultz, former number one pick in this year’s draft, hasn’t played much at all this season, and when he did, played hurt. The future looks bright for Philly, but they won’t be in title contention this year. Management shouldn’t try to speed up the process by sacrificing young talent for rental pieces that will bring them success now. Philly has been linked to guards Tyreke Evans and Lou Williams, and they would be great additions to the team, but adding them won’t get them into title contentions this year, and will demand big contracts in the offseason. Giving up some of the millions of draft picks they’ve collected over the years won’t be such a bad idea if they want to go for guys like Williams or Evans, but keep this team intact, continue to develop the young talent, and try to go for a star in free agency next year.
Phoenix Suns: Get Rid of the Veterans
Phoenix just hasn’t been able to find a winning formula ever since the Nash and Stoudemire years, but their future still looks bright. Their lineup features one of the top shooting guards in the league in Devin Booker, while Marquese Chriss has shown glimpses of what he’s capable of. The Suns should try to trade away players like Tyson Chandler and Jared Dudley, who are only taking away minutes from younger talent on this team. The top of this year’s draft looks very promising, and Phoenix has a lot of needs. If they can pry away a pick or two in return for those guys, along with their top pick, they should be able to grab even more young talent. Though they have failed to attract any big free agents in recent years, grabbing a few veterans to help develop some of the younger talent should help their future. Alex Len is another player they should dangle in trade talks in hopes of draft compensation, for his contract is up after this year too.
Portland Trail Blazers: Getting out of their Financial Jam
Portland is in a tricky spot, and unlike Indiana’s tricky spot, this one is not a good one. They are set to have $111 million in guaranteed contracts next year, and though their lineup features stars Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, there isn’t much else there to help them compete. However, with injuries to Roberson and Cousins as well as the departure of Griffin from the West, the Trail Blazers could look at this as an opportunity to move up the standings. If Portland can dump a bad contract from their squad, say Evan Turner, Moe Harkless, or Meyers Leonard, along with some draft picks for a starter, that could help Portland move up the standings and compete now.
Sacramento Kings: Dump the Veterans
Much like the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento should look to dump some of their veterans. The signings of Zach Randolph, George Hill, and Vince Carter were head-scratchers at the beginning of the season. The idea was to use them to help develop their younger talent, but Hill and Carter are both on multi-year contracts. Hill has drawn a lot of interest lately from other teams, so if Sacramento can pry away a first-round pick for him, than the signing may turn out to be a big win. Carter may not draw a lot of interest from teams, but his veteran leadership could be used on younger playoff teams.
San Antonio Spurs: Maintain Health
I’m fairly certain Gregg Popovich could work with any lineup given to him and get them to the playoffs. Okay, maybe not really, but look at what he’s done this year. LaMarcus Aldridge is having a career year. Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker are almost as old as Popovich at this point and are still performing well. In a loaded West, Popovich still holds the three seed, and just like every year, is quietly having a great season. Oh, and did I mention Kawhi Leonard has been hurt all year? Leonard has been linked to being traded after some disagreements with management, and trading him would be the worst thing possible. Kawhi is a top-three player in the league, and any trade involving him would be a loss for the Spurs. What the Spurs need to do is keep their team healthy and fresh. Limit minutes between Kawhi and Rudy Gay after their injuries, rest players during games as Popovich is notorious for, and be fully healthy and ready to go come playoff time. The Spurs were on the cusp of dethroning the Warriors last year until Kawhi fell to injury. Can this team actually dethrone them this year? Only time will tell.
Toronto Raptors: Avoid the Blockbuster
The Raptors are quietly having a good season, and Demar DeRozan is having his best season yet. Masai Ujiri has been known to stay busy during deadline season, but he should avoid making a big splash this year. He has the stars to compete in DeRozan and Lowry, along with some complementary pieces in Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas, but might be one or two other players away from being the team to beat in the East. It will be tough to make a big move anyways without a first-round pick in this year’s draft, but could use some of their younger talent and/or expiring contracts to get a bench piece that could propel them into title contending consideration.
Utah Jazz: Find a New Identity
The Jazz have already been linked in a lot of trade talks, especially regarding Rodney Hood and Derrick Favors. Both are set to hit free agency this year, while Favors will be an unrestricted free agent and Hood will be restricted. Both are still young and have a lot to offer, but don’t look to be part of Utah’s future, with Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles already tied up to multi-year contracts in their respective positions. Getting Alec Burks off the books would be ideal too, but his contract and injury history will make it difficult to get rid of him. The Ricky Rubio experiment just hasn’t seemed to work, with his lack of floor-spacing not really fitting today’s NBA scheme. Rubio is also on a multi-year contract, but teams are always looking for a point guard, so he could draw some interest. Right now the future lies in the hands of Gobert and youngster Donovan Mitchell, so taking a year to rebuild and trying to improve via the draft and free agency doesn’t look like such a bad idea for the Jazz.
Washington Wizards: Win Now Mentality
John Wall just went down with an injury, and should be out for the coming weeks. However, this could be a blessing in disguise for the Wizards. Otto Porter just hasn’t played up to expectations since signing his big contract this offseason, and with Wall now down with injury, he will be expected to carry some of the offensive load. Hopefully this will increase his confidence, and should open up better looks for Wall when he returns. The trio of Porter, Wall, and Bradley Beal are one of the best in the league, but they are still missing that one piece. Wizards have been linked to Deandre Jordan, and he could be the rim-protecting big the Wizards need to contend. Imagine pick-and-rolls with Wall and Jordan with Beal and Porter ready to catch and shoot the three. That could be enough to get them through the East. A package featuring Marcin Gortat and Kelly Oubre along with a draft pick may be needed to get Jordan in Washington.
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