8 Teams To Watch For At The Trade Deadline

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NBA Trade Deadline

Remember the whirlwind we had around the trade deadline last season? It was all over the place. Some of the highlights included: J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov landing in Cleveland, Goran Dragic to Miami, Reggie Jackson to Detroit, Kevin Garnett going back to Minnesota, and Oklahoma City acquiring nearly an entire second unit.

The trade deadline falls on Feb. 18 at 3 p.m. EST this season, and the way I see it, we’re probably in store for at least one big shake up. Teams looking to make trades are generally looking to accomplish one of two things — either trying to make upgrades for the latter part of the season or unload assets for future endeavors. Here are seven teams I’m looking at that either have the means or the incentive to be active as the trade deadline approaches.

Chicago Bulls

This team has had just enough drama in Fred Hoiberg’s first season as head coach to anticipate some sort of trade going down. Not only that, but they have the assets. The Bulls were recently reported to be taking trade calls for Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah in hopes of adding another wing player, via Yahoo! Sports. The Bulls might also have to consider packaging Nikola Mirotic, owed just over $5.3 million this season, who could be deemed trade-worthy given his versatility at forward where the Bulls are visibly log-jammed. 

The elephant in the room is Derrick Rose. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported in November that the breakup between Rose and the Bulls was imminent. This speculating rift between Rose and rapidly emerging star shooting guard Jimmy Butler gives that theory momentum, but also the fact that Hoiberg’s offense is ideally suited for a three-point shooting point guard, which Rose has never been. Rose’s health will be a pressing note for the rest of his career, but he’s only missed five games so far this season and has shown just enough aggression and confidence to have reasonable trade stock. The team would have to be able to take on the last two years and $40+ million of his contract, but I expect the Bulls to at least play the field with Rose (keep reading for a possible scenario).

Rick Carlisle, Devin Harris, and J.J. Barea
(Photo: Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports)

Dallas Mavericks

Currently sitting at fifth in the Western Conference with a 21-15 record is a testament to Rick Carlisle’s coaching and a total team effort in Dallas, not unlike the kind of culture and style of play they won a title with in 2011. The Mavs have five players averaging double figures, not including Chandler Parsons, who is searching for his rhythm following knee surgery. Still, this team is on the cusp of mediocrity. 

The Mavericks are somehow still grounded by Dirk Nowitzki, but are also getting the most out of supporting cast members. Even though Carlisle has had success with his three-guard lineups, I can’t see why the Mavs would continue to operate with so many point guards on tap — Deron Williams, J.J. Barea, Devin Harris, and Raymond Felton. All four guards play at least 20 minutes per game and have all been playing good basketball. While these aren’t the caliber of players to inspire a major return (I think they should all be expendable besides D-Will) the Mavs could still look to make a subtle and needed front court addition by dumping one of their several productive guards. I did hear one trade scenario from The Smoking Cuban Podcast that would send Hassan Whiteside to Dallas.

Boston Celtics

This team is loaded with player assets. The Celtics do it by committee with shot distribution, assisting, and defense. Their only scoring shark is Isaiah Thomas, but everyone contributes. Some upper or mid-tier teams should be looking at the Celtics for role player additions, and in return, Boston should be fishing for a deal that might land them a marquee asset via trade.

Chris Forsberg of ESPN discussed the grand possibility of the Celtics trading for DeMarcus Cousins back in November, a deal that would likely need to include Boston’s 2016 unprotected first-round draft pick from the Nets. The goal for Boston is obviously to land another go-to option outside of Thomas, but the potential risk of pursuing Cousins is surely known to GM Danny Ainge, who has established a very specific culture with head coach Brad Stevens. Concrete interest hasn’t been confirmed by either side up to this point.

I don’t think Boston will look to make just any move. They could just as easily be content with riding out who they have, continuing to compete, and looking to attract assets in the draft and free agency this summer. But with guys like Jared Sullinger, Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk, Evan Turner, Tyler Zeller, and David Lee, they’re bound to have some options.

New Orleans Pelicans

Even though it’s been another season of injury turmoil to their regular rotation, the Pelicans have to start the process of re-constructing their team around Anthony Davis as soon as possible, and a trade is anticipated in that regard. Davis and forward Ryan Anderson haven’t been the ideal front court pairing, specifically on the defensive end, and the Pelicans are in need of more playmaking, depth, and versatility.

SB Nation Pelicans writer David Fisher proposed this trade, which involves the team I discussed prior, sending Anderson to the Celtics.

This trade would have the Pelicans send Philadelphia’s 2017 second-round pick and Boston sending Dallas’ 2016 first-round pick.

Another player that I suspect could see trade action for the Pelicans is Eric Gordon, who’s been healthy and productive this season. He could be a popular proposal target and offer the Pelicans a worthy return. Assets like Anderson and Gordon will be sought after and could give the Pelicans an opportunity to start the reconstruction process. Not to mention, making such moves would only increase their chances in the coveted Ben Simmons sweepstakes for this year’s NBA draft.

Indiana Pacers

I expect the Pacers to do some digging. It’s been a tremendous season for Paul George, and Monta Ellis has brought a welcomed scoring punch, but their season has fluctuated. There’s no question that the Pacers can compete, but the star power of George and Ellis isn’t enough to definitively propel them into the Eastern Conference elite. 

Could Ellis be thrown into a trade package? Perhaps. There’s no question of his value as a scorer. Indiana’s best chance to compete now would obviously be to hang onto Ellis and survey options for players like Rodney Stuckey, CJ Miles, Lavoy Allen, and Jordan Hill. That said, the Pacers don’t have any flashy trade assets, but given their shakiness this season I expect them to be in the mix during trade deadline discussions.

Markieff Morris
(Photo: Jennifer Stewart/USA TODAY Sports)

Phoenix Suns

The Suns became the mess of the league over time, and now we’re just waiting for Markieff Morris to be traded. Eric Bledsoe’s season-ending meniscus injury did nothing to help Phoenix’s chances of making a playoff run. They had lost nine straight games before hitting 19 threes and beating Charlotte on Wednesday night. But with Morris’ situation lingering, Bledsoe’s injury, and recently firing two of their assistant coaches, their turmoil is clear.

The Suns still have good young players in Brandon Knight, Devin Booker, TJ Warren, Jon Leuer, and Alex Len. It’s as close to a foregone conclusion that they will look to move Morris. Vince Ellis at the Detroit Free Press said in a live chat a few months ago that the Pistons were monitoring Morris’ situation in Phoenix. That would reunite Morris with his twin brother, who is doing well in his stretch forward role. I could see the Rockets or Wizards as other possible suitors for Morris. He makes the Suns a watchable trade target in the next month.

New York Knicks

Steady progress has been made with the Knicks this season. They’re giving themselves a chance against quality teams by playing unselfish, tough, disciplined basketball. The presence of rookie Kristaps Porzingis has helped big time in the talent and impact department.

Lately, the chatter with the Knicks is a desire to make an upgrade at point guard. Frank Isola of the NY Daily News reported that Pistons point guard Brandon Jennings would be in the Knicks’ sights, among others. The Knicks don’t necessarily have flashy trade assets outside of Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. They may have to look at Arron Afflalo, who just dropped his career-high of 38 points this past Sunday, but at this point, I imagine the Knicks would rather keep him as part of their core. What we do know is the Knicks will be playing the field for an upgrade at lead guard, which is the kind of move needed to more comfortably propel them into playoff contention going into the second half of the season.

Josh Smith and Doc Rivers
(USA TODAY Sports)

LA Clippers

The Clippers have won seven straight including six straight on the road. After a 6-7 start and a bumpy month of November, they’ve hit their stride, and have done so as of late without Blake Griffin who is out with a torn left quad tendon. I still think Doc Rivers will test the field around the deadline to try and shake up his bench. He clearly hasn’t decided to make use of Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith, both playing less than 20 minutes per game, the main offseason acquisitions meant to give the Clippers more playmaking off the bench outside of Jamal Crawford. 

Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports reported that the Clippers tested the trade market for Stephenson and Smith last month, but were unsuccessful. I think Rivers might need to be willing to package Jamal Crawford in a deal if he wants some kind of substantial return. Even if they continue to play well, I expect to see the Clippers in the mix of some potential trade talks.

Honorable Mention: Washington Wizards

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