Buyers and Sellers at the trade deadline: Who stays and who goes
The NBA trade deadline is fast approaching and we have already seen significant action in the first half of the season. The have and have nots have really started to become apparent and teams are either a)stocking up for a deep postseason run b)getting cap flexibility to be a major player in the next year’s free agency c) acquiring assets and salary since they no longer harbor any playoff aspirations.
NBA rosters have been curated to be fluid depending on the direction a team wants to go and nearly every team in the league needs to be able to pivot and divest of acquire assets at the behest of the front office, owner and sometimes the players themselves. Let’s take a look at what direction most teams in the league should be taking before the February 7th trade deadline.
New Orleans Pelicans
By now everyone has heard about Anthony Davis’ long overdue declaration that he will not be resigning with the Pelicans and has asked for a trade. This sort of player request is the new norm and almost always ends up with the player getting his wish. The Pelicans front office has shown an inability to surround AD with the necessary pieces to contend nor have they gotten any proper return in their investments, preferring to let their actually valuable role players leave in free agency. Their cupboard is bare outside of Jrue Holiday as the rest of their key contributors including Nikola Mirotic and Julius Randle can and most likely leave in the offseason.
Years of mismanagement can be erased simply by trading away Anthony Davis. The Pelicans have drafted terribly outside of Buddy Hield and Anthony Davis was a can’t miss prospect at Number 1.
As such they should not pin their hopes of retooling through the draft and should instead focus on building through up coaching young players. Simply put, the Anthony Davis stay in New Orleans has never translated into sustained playoff success and holding on to a depreciating asset is fool-hardy.
Possible trade package
New Orleans receives: Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac and 2019 unprotected 1st round pick
LA Lakers receive: Anthony Davis, Frank Jackson
This is probably the best package the Pelicans can receive right now and they would be able to organically develop in Alvin Gentry’s fast paced offense. The Lakers should not hesitate to include everyone in this trade as with the exception of Kyle Kuzma’s contract it helps immensely in opening up cap space for a free agent All-Star(Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker or Kawhi Leonard). While there has been noise about the Celtics having the best trade assets, Danny Ainge has always been loath to include young players and he would need to start the trade conversation with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart before including draft picks. As a reminder, the Celtics cannot trade for AD this season due to the Derrick Rose rule and there is no guarantee that he would sign a contract extension with them.
New York Knicks
The Knicks are desperate to clear cap space to make a run of some of the marquee free agents in the next year’s free agency. There have been loud rumors about Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving contemplating a move to the Big Apple. At the same time, the Knicks have done well to actually increase the value of other team’s lottery picks who are scheduled to become free agents such as Emmanuel Mudiay and Noah Vonleh. They also have a few player who would slot in seamlessly for team hoping to make a deep playoff run.
Their goal for the remainder of the season should be to clear as much cap space as possible and also to ensure that Kristaps Porzingis actually has a nice young nucleus to showcase at least some semblance of rapport in order to entice the aforementioned free agents. The only players who should be untradeable at this point are Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson.
Possible trade package
New York Knicks receive: Ricky Rubio, Cory Joseph and Thaddeus Young
Indiana Pacers receive: Tim Hardaway Jr. and Noah Vonleh
Utah Jazz receive: Courtney Lee and Emmanuel Mudiay
The Knicks are able to clear $38 Million in cap space with this trade and also get test run in Rubio and Young who they can decide to resign if they whiff on major free agents as they have been consummate professionals and contributors throughout their NBA careers.
The Pacers receive Tim Hardaway Jr who should be able to provide all of the scoring that went with the unfortunate season ending injury to Victor Oladipo and Noah Vonleh would slot seamlessly into the PF position and would be inclined to resign into the Pacer’s cap space(they would not get his Bird rights) since he went to college at Indiana University.
The Jazz receive Courtney Lee and Mudiay to help sustain their playoff push as they cannot rely on Ricky Rubio’s health anymore and both players have the ability to play on or off the ball next to Donovan Mitchell.
The Grit and Grind era is officially done as the Grizzlies have officially started to entertain trade offers for both Mike Conley and Mark Gasol and they would undoubtedly like to get away from Chandler Parson’s burdensome contract. They have decided to build the team around 4th overall pick in this year’s NBA draft, Jaren Jackson Jr. who possesses inside out skills on both ends of the floor from either the PF or C position.
The Gasol, Conley and Parson’s contracts are difficult to get rid of while netting a fair return and the focus on rebuilding is further complicated by the fact that their 1st round is owed to the Boston Celtics (top 8 protected this year, top 6 protected next year and unprotected in 2021). They seem to be locked into the 5th pick of this year’s draft which is top heavy and considered to very weak after the first 3 picks. They should really treat the pick as a sunk cost and devote their efforts into taking on salary for younger players more suited for today’s NBA. The only teams that would entertain trading for Conley and Gasol who either be doing so to solidify a playoff push or to mentor younger players. While their skills have diminished, they would be better suited to no longer being the first or second option on offense.
Possible trade package
Memphis Grizzlies receive: Ryan Anderson, Kosta Koufos, Zach Randolph, Dragan Bender and Yogi Ferrell
Phoenix Suns receive: Mike Conley
Sacramento Kings: Marc Gasol
The Grizzlies receive the expiring contracts of Ryan Anderson ($5.3 Million buyout next year), Koufos, Randolph in a return to Memphis to appease fans and Bender and Ferrell as young player to audit for the future. They may entertain resigning Koufos and Bender if they can prove their value to the front office. Ryan Anderson could be a buyout candidate or he could return to his role as a shooting specialist. Bothe Anderson and Randolph could mentor Jackson Jr for the rest of the season.
The Suns finally solve their point guard issue and would not be worried about carrying Conley’s contract for the next two season as they have a lot of cap space and they are a very young team in need of leadership. Conley would be able to give all of the Suns players, especially Booker and Ayton the ball when and where they want it. This would be vital for the Suns to make the leap to playoff contenders.
The Kings receive Marc Gasol who should be able to provide experience as the Kings aim to break the longest playoff drought in the NBA. While the Kings don’t have a pressing need for a center, Gasol would be a better option and a three point threat that Randolph and Koufos who are warming the bench in Sactown. The Kings have the cap space to burn and Gasol also has a player option at the end of the season so this would be a flyer for them.
The Heat have the highest salary commitment in the league this season and all it has gotten them so far in the season is the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. They have an ugly mix of overpaid and redundant players. Their biggest issue this season has been the health of their players which has allowed for players such as Justise Winslow and Rodney McGruder to make other player’s expendable. The imminent retirement of Dwyane Wade also increases the need for the Heat to do an image makeover as they are currently one of the least exciting teams to watch.
Eric Spoelstra remains one of the best coaches in the league and they will likely never bottom out enough to snag a top 5 pick so it behooves them to tinker with their roster to get undervalued players from other teams who should fit better into their core of Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk. The contracts of Hassan Whiteside may prove to cumbersome to get rid of and Goran Dragic’s health makes him untradeable.
Possible trade package
Miami Heat receive: Carmelo Anthony, Jabari Parker and Robin Lopez
Chicago Bulls receive: James Johnson, Tyler Johnson and Rodney McGruder
The Heat get $35 Million in expiring contracts in Carmelo, Jabari(Player Option) and Lopez. Robin Lopez would probably get bought out in this scenario and join the Golden State Warriors as he desires. Carmelo and Jabari get to express their individual scoring ability without having to worry about defensive playing alongside Whiteside, Richardson, Winslow and Adebayo. If Coach Spoelstra is not able to turn them into useful rotation players, they can be jettisoned at the end of the season.
The Bulls get veteran contributors in both Johnsons and McGruder. This trio would not have any issues deferring to stars Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkenen and would increase both the ball handling and defensive capabilities of the team. As an added bonus, the contracts of Tyler and James Johnson can be packaged as expiring contracts in the next two trade deadlines to net future assets.
The Celtics have had a slow start to the season and have not been as cohesive as a Brad Stevens led team should. I said prior to the season that their biggest issues would be health and lack of size and so far their lack of size and/or cover behind Al Horford has prevented them from fully realizing their potential. Aron Baynes has provided more fouls than defense and Robert Williams is simply not ready to handle major minutes in the playoffs. The rest of their big men off the bench are ground bound and are replacement level players at this stage in their careers.
All of the teams above the Celtics in the standings in the Eastern Conference boast a starting center who has a back to the basket game and range (Joel Embiid, Brook Lopez, Jonas Valanciunas and Myles Turner). While Al Horford has the ability to defend them one on one, he no longer has the legs to play a full game and is also an injury risk.
Possible trade package:
Boston receives: Markeiff Morris and Thomas Bryant
Washington receives: Aron Baynes, Gershon Yabusele and Jabari Bird
The Morris twins would be reunited and the Celtics can either have them solely man the PF spot for all 48 minutes or Markeiff play a small ball center. Thomas Bryant has shown good promise as a fill in starter for the Wizards with Dwight Howard’s injury and they do not have his bird rights so getting some return before he hits free agency is essential. Bryant can spell Horford and be a spot starter when he needs a game off. Both players are impending free agents and the Celtics will need the cap space to resign Kyrie Irving and/or Terry Rozier.
The Wizards receives some low wattage role players with correspondingly manageable contracts. Aron Baynes will most likely leave at the end of the season so it’s up to coach Brooks to see how he can develop Yabusele and Bird into regular contributors while they are on their rookie contracts.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder are in a unique position in the league in that they might have too many defensive players in a league that especially favors shooters. This has been magnified with Russell Westbrook having the most inefficient shooting season of his career. This has not hindered them in moving up the standings in the Western Conference. Paul George is having a MVP level season and Steven Adams has finally learned to use his massive size to score and grab rebounds. This team is confident that they can knock off the Warriors and they have a huge chip on their shoulder.
They will have trouble advancing deep in the playoffs unless they acquire a capable high volume shooter to play between PG13 and Westbrook. Their young swingmen in Terrence Ferguson, Hamadou Diallo and Timothy Luwawu-Cabarot have the potential to develop into 3 and D players but they are not ready this year.
Possible trade package:
Oklahoma City Thunder receives: Joe Harris, Dion Waiters and Wayne Ellington
Brooklyn Nets receives: Andre Robertson
Miami Heat receives: Dennis Schroder and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
OKC ends up flipping injured defender Andre Roberson who has become expendable this year and Dennis Schroder who has done an admirable job backing up Westbrook for high volume, quick release shooters in Joe Harris and Wayne Ellington., neither of whom need the ball in their hands to be effective. Dion Waiters brings the ability to handle the ball and create his own shot in either backcourt position and would fit as the primary scorer off the bench.
The Nets receives Andre Roberson who would immediately become their best defender and starting SF. The Nets are full of wing scorers who need the ball on offense and who benefit from having an unselfish defender from whom they can learn from.
The Heat receive Dennis Schroder and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to bring more speed and pace to their aging roster. Hollis-Jefferson would most likely be auditioning for his future in the league as he is solely and undersized PF who cannot shoot. Schroder would provide more stability in the backcourt until Goran Dragic returns from his long term injury.
The LA Clippers
The Clippers have done an admirable job thus far straddling the line of being competitive and carving out cap space to sign two max level free agents. They have two twenty point scorers in Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari, and excellent role players. They have recently regressed to the mean and any injuries to Harris or Gallinari can see them slip right out of playoff contention. They’re currently the 8th seed and we can assume the Lakers, who are currently in ninth, will make a push once LeBron James returns later this week.
The Clippers are stuck with too many redundant players on the wing with both their lottery picks Jerome Robinson and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are competing with Avery Bradley, Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley and Milos Teodosic for minutes. They would be better off consolidating some of their role players and making a renewed push towards getting a top 5 seed in the playoffs as that could prove the difference in attracting free agents (Kawhi Leonard, DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Durant) who would be more inclined to join a team that made a deep run in the playoffs.
Possible trade package:
LA Clippers receive: Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross and Jerian Grant.
Orlando Magic receive: Lou Williams, Patrick Beverly and Avery Bradley.
The Clippers receive Nikola Vucevic, who is having his best season and will most likely be making his first All-Star game and his 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. He’s also a free agent at the end of the season and would be a great fall back option if they fail to sign their first options and he also played college basketball at USC. Terrence Ross brings better size and shooting ability while Jerian Grant is a throw to provide defensive presence of the bench.
The Magic receive 6th man scoring icon Lou Williams to help their anemic offense and Patrick Beverly and Avery Bradley bring their defensive chops to either backcourt position. What the Magic lose in scoring from Vucevic is made up by the points they will prevent by having plus defenders at the top of the key and it open up more frontcourt minutes for Mo Bamba at C.