We are closing in on the halfway point of the NBA season, which means most teams have discovered their identity, and know what to expect moving forward. On February 6th, we have the NBA Trade Deadline. This is the last opportunity for teams to make moves with other teams for players and draft picks.
At this point in the season, we are already starting to see which teams have emerged as title contenders, such as the Milwaukee Bucks and both teams in L.A. Then there are the playoff contenders. Followed by the teams that are already realizing their hopes of making the playoffs are out of reach. Sorry Knicks fans.
And then there are teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder are a young team with an arsenal of draft capital after some offseason trades. OKC was expected to be near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, but have instead solidified themselves as a serious playoff team.
Then you look at a team like the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors find themselves at the bottom of the standings. With injuries to their star studded cast early in the season, it has not been the year they were hoping for. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will likely remain sidelined for the remainder of the season. A year that was supposed to be promising quickly turned sour.
A lot of factors go into what these teams will do at the deadline. Typically, their current position in the standings is usually a solid factor to work with. Let’s jump into what I think each team’s focus will be at the deadline.
A young team with promising talent in Trae Young, John Collins, De’Andre Hunter, and Cam Reddish. This team has already been in talks for trading for a center. Two notable names in the mix are Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns and OKC’s Steven Adams. Sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, I don’t see the Hawks jeopardizing their chances of winning the draft lottery and receiving the number one pick. I can definitely see them being sellers at the deadline.
They did ship off Allen Crabbe to Minnesota for Jeff Teague and Treveon Graham. It seems like they may be trying to make a more serious push at acquiring other talents to surround their guys with. Overall, it looks like they are trying to add some depth at the point guard position behind Young. A guy like Evan Turner is a piece I could see them targeting. Not an overly sought-after talent but has an expiring contract that can be used as salary filler in multi-team trades.
The Celtics have been very steady this season, and even after losing both Al Horford and Kyrie Irving to free agency in the offseason, Boston still finds themselves near the top of the Eastern Conference. The new additions in Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter have filled in seamlessly, with Walker playing some of his best basketball in his career (it’s crazy what happens when you surround a guy with an actual decent team!).
Boston has solid depth as well. This team, when healthy, has a legitimate chance at dethroning the Milwaukee Bucks out of the East. I definitely see this team standing pat at the deadline, but wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to add another piece for the second unit.
This season has been an absolute disaster for the Nets. However, the team knew that this wasn’t their season. Next season will be when things start to come into fruition with Kevin Durant expected to be fully healthy. Durant can join forces with fellow acquisition Kyrie Irving in competing in the East. Irving has also suffered from the injury bug this season, and isn’t expected to be back any time soon.
The Nets may try to keep the team intact for as long as possible to keep continuity going into next season. However, guys like sharpshooter Joe Harris could bring in a pretty penny, especially since he’s on an expiring contract. Depending on how the team feels about the luxury tax, he may not return next season at all.
I’ve been harsh on the Hornets for a few seasons now, for they have had quite a few bad contracts. Guys like Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo, etc. have seen solid contracts and failed to live up to them. Without solid young talent surrounding Walker for several years they floated around mediocrity.
Well, now that Walker chose to go to Boston (again, I said they should have traded him so they could have at least gotten SOMETHING for him), this team doesn’t really have an identity. However, they can officially start a rebuild the proper way. Young talent is finally starting to appear with guys like Miles Bridges, Devonte’ Graham, Malik Monk, and P.J. Washington, so there is hope! They could definitely shop guys like Marvin Williams or Michael-Kidd Gilchrist. Both guys are on expiring deals this season and they could try and find more young talent or future draft assets.
I’ll admit, I was very optimistic about this Bulls team heading into this season, but they just haven’t lived up to their potential. I thought adding guys like do-it-all Thaddeus Young and drafting point guard Coby White, along with the expected development of their already young roster could push this team to a playoff berth. But Chicago just hasn’t been able to put it all together.
Zach Lavine has been one of the few bright spots for this team, and could potentially be the lone representative from the host city’s franchise at the All-Star game (fingers crossed for a dunk contest appearance too). Otto Porter has regressed significantly since he arrived in the middle of last season, and his large contact might pose problems in shipping him off. The Bulls need to be sellers at the deadline, but without many enticing pieces, they will likely have to do nothing at the deadline and try to continue to develop their young talent.
The Cavs will likely be one of the focal points of the trade deadline, for they have some pieces that teams will keep Cleveland’s phones ringing. Kevin Love is the main piece here that many teams will kick the tires on. Though his contract is long-term and quite high for a guy on the wrong side of 30, he still poses as a quality piece for any contender and would be an ideal third-best player for any team looking to move up the ranks. Love has been visibly frustrated in Cleveland, and his days in Cleveland could be limited. Watch out for Tristan Thompson to be moved as well, for he is on an expiring contract and would be a great high-motor center off the bench for any playoff team.
The Mavs have been one of the biggest surprises this season, and are seen as a real threat by the rest of the league. Luka Doncic has been absolutely sensational in his second season, and had it not been for being sidelined with an injury that kept him out for a few weeks, he would be a serious candidate for the league MVP (and probably still is).
Does Mark Cuban want to go into a win-now mode and try to add another piece to help bolster this roster? Cuban has never been shy about being aggressive when building his team, but doing so would likely mean creating a package around a future first-round pick. Maybe adding a guy like Love from Cleveland? Or potentially a rim-protecting big? Watch for the Mavs to try and take the next step in getting over the hump.
The Nuggets are continuing their resurgence from last season and playing quite well this year as well. Though their star center Nikola Jokic hasn’t quite played to expectations this season, he’s still playing quite well and has lead his team to the top half of the playoff picture in the West. And remember, Jokic started off slow last season before putting together quite the campaign, and after scoring a career-high 47 points against the Hawk on January 6th, this may be the turning point for his season.
I expect this team to stay relatively the same at the end of the season, so don’t expect Denver to make any major moves at the deadline, especially with the emergence of last year’s first-round pick Michael Porter Jr.
The Pistons have suffered so many injuries this season, which has really derailed any momentum for them to push for the playoffs. Though the eight-seed could be a realistic achievement for this team, what would be the point? Getting knocked out of the first round of the playoffs won’t achieve anything for this team.
Andre Drummond may be one of the biggest names on the market this season, but whether he gets moved is the question. He has a player option on his contract for next year, so there’s no guarantee he will resign next year wherever he’s at next year. So a player of his caliber will likely warrant quite the return, and that may not be worth it for a potential rental.
The Pistons would much rather try and move Blake Griffin, but that’s highly unlikely due to his larger contract and the fact that he just can’t seem to stay healthy. Pistons are in a tricky spot, but look for them to be aggressive in trying to offload some bad contracts and build for the future.
Golden State Warriors
Last year in the championship, we saw the Warriors get decimated by injuries, and just weren’t enough to compete with the Toronto Raptors. This year, after losing Durant to the Nets, the Warriors find themselves plagued by injuries again, but this almost seems like a blessing in disguise. They knew going forward they would likely be without Thompson. With Curry injured as well, they now find themselves at the bottom of the standings. There will be no need to rush either back for the season and they can focus on 2021. The Warriors will now look to add a top draft prospect to the original core of their championship roster.
What they do with D’Angelo Russell is a mystery. Whether they keep him to see how he will gel with the core of Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green or try to trade him for more future assets is up in the air. However, for this deadline, I see them waiting until next season to make their mind up on Russell.
So far, the Russell Westbrook and James Harden combo has worked out well. They find themselves in about the same spot as last year when they had Chris Paul instead of Westbrook, if not better since they were off to such a slow start. The identity is clear for the Rockets; surround Westbrook and Harden with shooters so they can go to work in isolation. The Rockets don’t have a lot of assets, but they could muster up some future draft picks if they want to add a shooter to this roster to try and compete with the L.A. teams in the West.
The Pacers for the second year in a row keep proving to be a resilient team even when their star player goes down. Victor Oladipo looks to return from his injury soon, and even without him, the Pacers have themselves in fighting position for a seed in the top half of the playoffs. However, just because they are in playoff contention, does that make them buyers at the deadline? Personally, I think no. For a while now, there have been talks about moving Myles Turner. He’s not necessarily overpaid at just about $20 million a year, but he just doesn’t quite produce on the offensive end to warrant such money. He is a force on the defensive end, but he just isn’t quite consistent on the offensive end, and his fit with rising star Domantas Sabonis is still in question.
I think the Pacers will try and hold pat, especially with Oladipo returning soon. The Pacers will likely want to see how he plays alongside Malcom Brogdon, who may be one of the better signings of this past offseason.
Los Angeles Clippers
When you watch these Clippers play, you definitely see the potential and all that they are capable of, showcased in their Christmas day win over the Lakers. But then there are days where they are just flat, showcased in their blowout loss to the Grizzlies shortly after. The Clippers haven’t been the healthiest, and are doing their due diligence on Kawhi Leonard, whom they acquired in the offseason alongside Paul George.
The Clippers have definitely been the victims of coasting through the regular season, but that will be okay as long as they can keep healthy for the playoffs. This team has terrific depth in Six Man of the Year candidates in Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. The Clip Show will be just fine, and will likely take it easy at the deadline.
Los Angeles Lakers
Much like the neighbors, when this team is on, they are almost unbeatable. However, their Achilles’ heel this season has been their bench play. The Lakers haven’t been able to get much production from their bench, and even outside of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, their starters haven’t been super-consistent either. The Lakers will definitely look to add another piece or two to this already title-contending roster. But getting those pieces will be tough. Ideally, they would want to add a player on an expiring contract, but doing so will be tough since they don’t really have the contracts to match it, likely meaning they will have to involve a third team.
They could try to move Kyle Kuzma, who would be their biggest trade chip, but again, moving him without any bigger contracts will be tough to accomplish without a third team, making things all the more difficult. To make things even more complicated, the Lakers traded away most of their draft picks to the Pelicans in the blockbuster trade for Davis last summer.
Look for the Lakers to try and add a shooter like Harris or Bogdan Bogdanovic from Sacramento or a savvy veteran like Andre Iguodala to solidify their position at the top of the Western Conference.
For any casual fans of the NBA, please pay attention to the Grizzlies. Something special is brewing in Memphis. Memphis started the season as expected; near the bottom of the standings while trying to develop their young talent. However, Memphis is red hot as of late, and are fighting for a potential playoff spot in the West. Rookie of the Year favorite Ja Morant is one of the most exciting players to watch, and throw in youngsters Jaren Jackson and Brandon Clarke, and you have yourself a nice young core to work with.
Memphis will likely be sellers at the deadline, holding one of the most talked-about names this deadline in Iguodala. He hasn’t played for Memphis yet, who seem adamant on holding him for as a potential trade chip. Look for Memphis to likely flip him for a first-rounder from a desperate contender come deadline.
The Heat are one of the NBA’s biggest surprise stories this season. Not many thought the Heat would be in the position they are now. They have a serious case at that #2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Bam Adebayo has taken a big step forward from last year, putting himself in position to become the NBA’s Most Improved Player award recipient. Jimmy Butler leads a group of sorely overlooked players like Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson, and Derrick Jones to serious playoff contention. But can they make a move at the deadline?
They have a couple of bad contracts on the team that include James Johnson and Dion Waiters, whose contracts don’t expire until after next season. Moving them will be tough. It will be interesting to see what they do with Justise Winslow. He took a promising step forward last season and was seen playing as the point-forward for the team. But he’s been injured for the majority of the season, and who knows how he fits with this team. He may be worth flipping for some other depth or even draft capital seeing as the Heat do not have many future draft picks. I see the Heat making some calls this deadline, but will likely hold tight unless the right offer comes by.
This is the easiest team to predict. The Bucks have been an unstoppable force this season, and look even better than their dominance from last season. The Bucks will likely try to avoid any kind of disruption to their chemistry they have built the last two seasons. The only thing I can really see the Bucks doing would be picking up a free agent or claim a player off waivers if a team buys out the contract of a veteran player.
As noted before, the Timberwolves have already made a move by shipping off their starting point guard in Teague for Crabbe, which looks to be a move to free up some cap space for next year seeing as Crabbe’s contract expires this year. Honestly, this is a puzzling move to me for the T’Wolves. They just got their star center back in Karl-Anthony Towns and could try to make a push for the playoffs. Rumors have been circling Minnesota in regards to their intentions with Towns, and every team could use his talents.
Towns would draw a pretty penny in return, but I could see the Timberwolves waiting till the offseason to see what they want to do with him, much like the Pelicans did with Davis. Just from their move with the Hawks alone, it appears Minnesota is in sell-mode now. I can see them trying to offload some contracts or a guy like Robert Covington, whose three-and-d playstyle is an ideal fit for contenders.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans made the splash of the summer when they traded away Davis for a haul that included Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and a stockpile of future draft picks. This is one of those few trades where it’s a win-win for both teams. The Lakers got their star post player to pair with LeBron. The Pelicans can start a proper rebuild with a great foundation to work with.
New Orleans is off to a bit of a slow start, but they have been without the rookie sensation that is Zion Williamson. The Pelicans know they aren’t supposed to be contenders by any means, so they aren’t going to hit the panic button any time soon. The big question is what will they do with Jrue Holiday. Do the Pelicans feel like he is a part of their future?
I feel like they will wait to see how he pairs with Zion before they make any serious moves with him. They can at least wait until the offseason to make a decision on his future with the franchise.
New York Knicks
What a mess of a franchise. They have been glorified and over-hyped for so long, all because they play in the biggest stage of them all in New York at Madison Square Garden. But for years they have just been mismanaged and can never figure out how to either rebuild or contend.
Mitchell Robinson looks like a star in the making but doesn’t get enough time on the court behind guys like Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, and Bobby Portis. Those veterans aren’t helping them win. All they’re doing is taking minutes away from the young guys who desperately need it. If the Knicks keep striking out in free agency, they need to start committing to younger talent until their team finally appeals to free agents.
They should try to turn some of their veterans like mentioned above and/or Marcus Morris for some draft capital and/or young talent. They aren’t contending anytime soon, so they mind as well tank and go for a top draft pick all while developing their own talent they currently roster.
Oklahoma City Thunder
If the Miami Heat are the NBA’s biggest surprise this season, the Thunder aren’t far behind. After trading away their two best players in George and Russell Westbrook for an arsenal of draft picks, most (myself included) thought this team was going to be near the bottom of the standings and trying to get a top draft pick for next season. Instead, the Thunder currently sit as the 7th seed in the West, and not too far from moving up even further.
Shai-Gilgeous Alexander has taken a massive step forward, and that’s probably large-in-part because he plays aside a savvy veteran in Chris Paul, who was acquired in the Westbrook trade with the Rockets. Paul has been one of the most clutch players in the NBA this year, keeping his new team in the playoff picture. But this complicates things. Now that they are contending, what do they do with their current roster? Danilo Galinari is on an expiring contract, so they could try to flip him for even more draft picks. Adams has been in trade talks with numerous teams as well, including the Atlanta Hawks. It would be hard to flip Paul with his insane contract for a guy who is nearing 35 years old.
If this team would have been near the bottom of the standings, this decision would have been easy. But I think the Thunder will likely stand pat at the deadline. They have loads of draft picks already, so I can see them trying to throw those picks into landing other players down the road, but for now, we will see where this team can take them.
Last year, the Magic were a pleasant surprise by making the playoffs, and even stole a game in the first round in Toronto against the Raptors, but lost four straight after that. They have a solid team, with a good foundation of a star player (Nikola Vucevic) and young talent (Jonathan Isaac, Mo Bamba) to work with. Marekelle Fultz’s career has been revived in Orlando after seeing his career in jeopardy in Philadelphia.
This is a fun team to watch, but there is definitely something missing to propel them to the next level. Aaron Gordon just doesn’t seem like a fit with this team, where Isaac could play at the four alongside Vucevic. Gordon is still quite young and could be flipped for either a veteran and/or some draft picks. However, I don’t think the Magic are ready to give up on him, especially after Isaac went down with an injury that will keep him sidelined for the foreseeable future.
This team on paper was supposed to be one of the better teams in the league and really compete with the Bucks for that top spot in the conference. But it’s been a bit disappointing thus far for the team, and after Joel Embiid went down with an injury, this team just doesn’t look like it was expected to. The team really lacks good shooting from outside, which is exactly what you need when you have a guy like Ben Simmons running the offense, who is known to not be a three-point threat whatsoever.
Philly will likely try to add some depth to this team. A shooter or two would be a perfect addition to this team. Someone that could come off the bench and even finish some games in certain lineups. A guy like Harris from Brooklyn makes a ton of sense here, but his asking price may be too high for Philly. Without a lot of young talent to part ways with, they would likely have to throw in some draft picks if they want to add any sort of veteran pieces.
The Suns started out red hot at the beginning of the year. Suns fans around the world emerged from their caves with hopes of it finally being their year. But alas, Phoenix came back down to Earth and find themselves near the bottom of the standings yet again. But there is hope for this team. For real this time.
Devin Booker is a star, and Phoenix has him locked up for years to come. DeAndre Ayton looks to be a great young center who is improving every game. And Mikal Bridges may be the league’s best-kept secret. Ricky Rubio may not be the long-term answer at the point guard position, but he’s playing just fine for the time being. And as long as Kelly Oubre is on the court, there is a high possibility of someone on the opposing team being put on a poster.
Their real hole is at the power forward position, where guys like Dario Saric (who the Suns traded for during the draft last season in a head-scratching move), Frank Kaminsky and Aron Baynes just haven’t been able to cut it. Cheick Diallo has been nice off the bench, but he’s not quite at the starter status just yet. If the Suns really want to get back into playoff contention, they will have to address that power forward position.
They could kick the tires with a guy like Galinari or even Love, but Galinari may not even be on the market and Love may be too high of an asking price. The move wouldn’t make much sense for a team that’s likely not making the playoffs and would rather develop young talent. I see the Suns holding tight this deadline and maybe try to make some moves in the offseason.
Portland has been a disappointment this year, especially after all the hype from their playoff run and their moves in the offseason. After a thrilling ending to the Thunder series and then knocking off a surging Nuggets team, the Blazers had a lot to look forward to for this season. They then resigned Rodney Hood, and signed guys like Hassan Whiteside and Mario Hezonja to shape out the rest of their roster. But they’ve sputtered to a disappointing start, and are currently on the outside looking in on the playoff picture.
They did add Carmelo Anthony in the middle of the season, and since then have played better. They also traded away Kent Bazemore to avoid the luxury tax which was a smart move. Adding Trevor Ariza from the Kings in that trade may be that depth at the wing that they needed to push for a playoff spot. Even if they can just make the 8th seed, this is a team that no one wants to face. Damian Lilllard could explode for massive points at any given time. This team is running out of assets to trade, so this is likely the roster they will keep as they push for the playoffs.
Sacramento has also been a bit disappointing this season. This team really lacks a true star on this team, but there’s still hope for youngsters like De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley. They did make some questionable moves in the offseason this summer in signing Dewayne Dedmon and Ariza, but neither were seen as guys to take them to the next level and make the playoffs this year. The Kings were able to trade away Ariza for a few second-round picks and an expiring contract in Bazemore, but it will be tough to ship away Dedmon. They may have to pair him with some picks in order to get him to another team, in which case would open up a lot of cap space for them to make a serious move in the offseason for a star.
The most likely to leave town would be Bogdanovic, who is a very capable shooter and could be a valuable asset to a contender. On a friendly longer-term contract, they could even try to pair him up with Dedmon to both clear some cap space and receive draft picks in return.
San Antonio Spurs
For the first time in what seems like a lifetime, the Spurs may not make the playoffs. The end of a truly impressive run may come to an end this year. They have a couple of aging players in LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan who aren’t getting better any time soon. However, DeJounte Murray and Lonnie Walker are taking strides in the right path to bettering themselves, so this team definitely has promise.
If the Spurs are serious about getting back into the playoff picture they’ll have to make a splash at the deadline. They’ve been playing better recently, but will need some pieces to make the leap. They could try to add another veteran that teams are trying to get rid of or even buyout to keep this team’s playoff hopes alive. In need of some wing help, players like Iguodala, Morris, Bogdanovic, or Covington would be solid fits on this team, but the Spurs lack the young talent such teams would like in return, so instead would have to ship off some draft picks.
Coming off of the franchises’ lone NBA Championship, the Raptors have picked up right where they left off. Losing Leonard to free agency isn’t ideal for any team, but this team hasn’t let it affect them too much, and see themselves in contention for a first-round bye. Pascal Siakam has taken another leap forward, and has put himself in All-Star talks and Most Improved Players conversations again. Kyle Lowry has improved in his age 34 season in all stats across the board. This is a team that has championship experience, and will be a force to be reckoned with come playoff time.
There have been talks about the Raptors potentially making Lowry available, along with guys like Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, and Fred VanVleet, all of whom are on expiring contracts aside from Lowry. But this team has the talent and experience to be real contenders here. I don’t see them ruining their chemistry now. They may try and shop their vets for some younger talent if ownership doesn’t believe in the potential. But I’m predicting a quiet deadline from the defending national champs.
As expected, the Jazz have made the leap from playoff team to title contender this season. After a rocky start, they are one of the hottest teams in the NBA. This is a team that doesn’t really rely on star power, but rather focuses on an all-around effort from the team. The only real disappointment from this team has been Mike Conley’s level of play, but he also has suffered from injuries this season, and it can always be tough to adjust to a new team, especially when injured.
This team has plenty of depth, and lack any promising young talent, so I don’t see them making any moves this deadline. Maybe signing/claiming a veteran off of waivers, but that’s probably the extent of it.
This team has been absolutely decimated by injuries this season and just hasn’t had a real chance to see what they are capable of. Their star point guard John Wall is out for the season, and their other star Bradley Beal has also battled injuries all year. There have been some glimpses of promise on this roster, including stretch big men Davis Bertans and Moritz Wagner, as well as rookie Rui Hachimura.
John Wall’s super contract hits next season. They’ll have to take a serious look at what they want to do from there. Can they pay a guy with an injury history like his that type of money? When on the floor, he’s definitely a difference-maker. When Wall and Beal are paired up this team has massive potential. But their window isn’t now, but more down the road. They will likely sell this year, get rid of some expiring contracts like Ian Mahinmi, and try to build for the next seasons to come.
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