As we head into the All-Star break, the NBA and its fans are readying themselves to witness the first ever iteration of their marquee showcase event held outside of the United States. It’s a time of excitement for the fans and a long awaited (and often much needed) period of rest for the players, but not everyone gets to kick back and enjoy the festivities. With just under one week left until the NBA’s February 18th trade deadline, the GM’s who have worked tirelessly to construct their rosters are busy preparing for their last opportunity to either bolster lineups for a playoff run or jettison some talent to prepare for future years.
While deadline deals can be difficult to predict, it’s usually fairly easy for even the casual fan to determine which teams will be buyers and which will be sellers. Last season saw a total of 30 players, a record number, change teams including some impact names like Goran Dragic, Reggie Jackson and Brandon Knight.
However, as Thursday draws closer there’s a familiar feeling of optimism among fan bases league wide with some big names rumored to be available. Where there’s smoke, there’s not always fire, but it’s worth exploring some of the teams who may be involved in this year’s deadline and what we can possibly expect from them.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Skinny: In a year that was supposed to finally see the Pelicans push for a playoff spot in a very competitive Western Conference, injuries to key players exposed their lack of depth and, consequently, they’ve posted one of the worst records in the conference. They will be looking to deal their vets for young foundation pieces or draft picks to help build a sustainable winner around their superstar power forward.
The Assets: Take your pick. So long as a GM isn’t calling Dell Demps to ask about Anthony Davis, it’s safe to assume almost any player on this team is fair game. Ryan Anderson is likely the most coveted piece on this roster. With an expiring contract, he’s the ideal stretch 4 for today’s NBA as a career 38% shooter from deep who can contribute on the glass. In addition to Ryno, New Orleans has a trio of guards coming off the books in Eric Gordon, Norris Cole, and Toney Douglas. While all 3 won’t be moved, Gordon could fit well on a contender as 6th man or a secondary scorer and Cole has shown promise as a lead guard in the last few weeks. Jrue Holiday could probably be had for the right price too, but his injury history is shaky and might scare teams off. Hey, does anyone want Omer Asik and his remaining 43.8 million contract? Anyone…? Well, it was worth a shot.
The Skinny: Phoenix was ready to commit to a rebuild last year until a strange thing happened; they started winning. After challenging for a playoff spot, they faded down the stretch, but still fancied themselves pseudo-contenders for 2016. Well, needless to say, things didn’t go as planned this year as Phoenix finds themselves near the cellar in the West. They still possess a group of decent young talent that can be dangled to contenders.
The Assets: The most obvious trade candidate is Markieff Morris, a viable Most Improved Player candidate last year who has seen his value crumble this year due to ineffective play and a bad attitude. Phoenix has made an effort to showcase the mercurial forward, since his ceiling remains high and his contract could prove to be a great bargain (8 mil AAV). PJ Tucker will likely find a home on a playoff team as a defensive specialist and even Mirza Teletovic could be moved as a bench scorer (10.0 PPG, 40.0 3P%). I’m sure they would listen on some of their high priced talent as well. Brandon Knight appears to be superfluous with Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker as franchise cornerstones and Tyson Chandler could certainly be had, but his contract will likely be too onerous to complete a deal.
The Skinny: After Jason Kidd and a young Bucks squad made a surprising playoff appearance last season, they looked primed to take a step forward. They signed a marquee free agent in Greg Monroe and got the highly regarded Jabari Parker back from a year lost to a knee injury. It hasn’t worked out as planned though, as Milwaukee’s offense has struggled greatly, ranking 6th worst league wide in Points Per Game, Turnovers, and Point Differential.
The Assets: It’s not quite the fire sale the previous teams will be having, but the Bucks front office has made it clear that two of their big name players are available. Greg Monroe seems to be on the block after signing a 51 million dollar deal. His scoring and rebounding (16 and 10 respectively) would appeal to most teams, but a lack of defensive chops and shooting range seems to have caused the front office to sour on him. Michael-Carter Williams has a decent triple slash line, but his 3.8 TPG and 29.4 3P% are among the league’s worst marks at the position. The Bucks also have a group of expiring deals in Greivis Vasquez, Jerryd Bayless, John Henson, and OJ Mayo that they would consider moving at the right price.
The Skinny: After a dominant run in the late 2000’s Boston had to hit the reset button and they currently find themselves in an enviable position compared to their peers. They sit in 3rd place in the East and have almost all the key ingredients to start another run. A collection of high ceiling, young talent? Check. Cap Flexibility? Check. A bevvy of upcoming draft picks? Check. All they lack is a true superstar, but with all the assets they have at their disposal, now is the time to strike.
The Targets: Boston has been linked to just about every big name free agent on the market. With a solid backcourt trio of Thomas, Smart and Bradley, and an MIP candidate in Jae Crowder, Boston’s clear need is in the front court. The obvious targets would be Dwight Howard and Al Horford, whose names keeps popping up in trade rumors. Whether or not Danny Ainge would pay up for an impending free agent remains to be seen though. If a long term asset is the goal, the C’s would be wise to put together a package appealing enough to acquire DeMarcus Cousins from Sacramento. Although a bit of a loose cannon, his dominance on the court is indisputable. Any discussion for Boogie would require a king’s ransom and would certainly need to include the Nets 1st in the upcoming draft. If they strike out on all 3, they could set their sights on Brook Lopez to help the Nets begin their arduous rebuild.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Skinny: After a disappointing year that saw the Thunder lose Kevin Durant to injury and miss the playoffs, they are back in top form with KD and Westbrook playing some of the best ball of their careers. As good as OKC has been, they have a clear need to upgrade the shooting guard position with a 3-and-D type player if they want to compete with the Warriors and Spurs for a title.
The Targets: The unfortunate reality for the Thunder is that they’re limited as far as outgoing assets are concerned. They can’t move a 1st round pick until 2020’s draft and of their roster players, they could probably get some interest in Mitch McGary and Cameron Payne but there isn’t much else. With a shortage of quality 2 guards available around the league the Thunder’s options are limited. The most natural fit would have been Courtney Lee, but with him off the market they will need to consider alternate solutions. With Lee off the market, the Thunder could set their sights on Joe Johnson, who’s shooting and playoff experience would be a boon to a team with championship aspirations. He may be a more likely buyout candidate due to the salary complications, but I’m confident he is on OKC’s radar. Depending on the direction some wildcard teams go, other potential targets could include established wing players such as Kent Bazemore, Corey Brewer or Allen Crabbe.
The Skinny: After a 3-year playoff drought, the Utah Jazz have done things the right way and built through the draft while avoiding big free agent contracts. As a result, their team payroll is currently the second lowest in the NBA and sits below the league salary floor. Throw in the fact that they own a staggering 12 draft picks over the next 3 years (five 1st and seven 2nd round picks) and Utah seems primed to potentially add an impact player.
The Targets: Utah is set at all of their frontcourt spots as Hayward, Gobert and Favors form the foundation of this team. While Dante Exum offers tantalizing potential, he is more upside than production for a team that is ready to take the leap now, so adding an established point guard would certainly be a priority. Jeff Teague continues to be connected to the Jazz, but the asking price appears to be high. Lesser options like Brandon Jennings and Ty Lawson could be made available and could serve as useful veteran stopgaps until Exum can take the reins. While the Kings have made no indication he is available, the Jazz would be remiss to not check in on Rajon Rondo’s availability. The Bucks could be a good fit as well as they have a trio of veteran point guards that would all be dealt for the right price.
The Skinny: The general consensus is that they need an upgrade at the 4 spot in the midst of a down year from Patrick Patterson. However, outside of the 1st round pick (coming via either Denver or New York) there aren’t many assets to facilitate such a deal. Wing depth has been tested with injuries to DeMarre Carrol and James Johnson, so finding a replacement might be a point of interest. Chemistry appears to be at an all-time high though, so it remains to be seen if adding anything less than an impact talent is worth tinkering with the success this team has found.
The Skinny: Houston has easily been the league’s most disappointing team this season. A championship contender on paper that is limping into the break as the 9th seed in the West. Rumors continue to swirl around Dwight Howard and I’m sure Houston would love to rid themselves of Ty Lawson and his off-court issues. It wouldn’t be surprising to see them listen on Trevor Ariza or Corey Brewer, who have similar skill sets and contracts that run through the 2018 season. Whether Houston are buyers or sellers remains to be seen, but it’s safe to say that Daryl Morey and Co. will do something to jump start this team.
The Skinny: After a franchise best 60-win season, the Hawks have seen a sharp regression this year. With Al Horford likely to earn a max deal in free agency, experts wonder whether they should consider making a deal or two with an eye on the future. As mentioned earlier, Jeff Teague continues to pop up in rumors since both he and Dennis Schroeder are capable of running the point. All 5 of their starters would be coveted by other teams, but whether or not they lower their asking price enough to facilitate a deal is anyone’s guess. A full scale rebuild might be an overreaction, but a re-tool might be in their long term interests.