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What to expect from all 30 NBA teams ahead of the Trade Deadline

What to expect from all 30 NBA teams ahead of the Trade Deadline

The NBA trade deadline is now nine days away, and while we can safely assume that all 30 teams want to get better, we must proceed expecting two teams --the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks -- to play big roles in dictating what the market will look like.

There are lots of big men available, and anybody who tells you that Andre Drummond or Hassan Whiteside or JaVale McGee would not make a difference in an Eastern Conference playoff series has not been paying attention. Or as Gregg Popovich would say: “Living in a phone booth.”

Also, those who assume the Knicks (with $15.7 million in cap space) are not in win-now mode do not understand Tom Thibodeau. The guy is married to a basketball, and he is anxious to do in New York what he was unable to do in Minnesota and, to a lesser degree, in Chicago.

And then we have the Celtics, who are sitting on the largest trade exception ($28.5 million) in NBA history and are worse off that they were a year ago when they made the Eastern Conference Finals. Danny Ainge cannot stand pat and expect to get past the Nets, Sixers, Bucks or Heat.

The rumor mill will be churning between now and March 25, and every contending team in the East will be scheming to make an addition that attacks the weaknesses of Brooklyn and Philadelphia, while every Western team will try to find a way to compete with the three-point shooting of the Utah Jazz and the depth and experience of the Los Angeles Lakers.

So let’s go through the league alphabetically and assess each team’s needs, expectations and expendables.

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ATLANTA HAWKS: Nate McMillan is 5-0 as head coach, and the most active team in the weeks leading up to training camp remains built (if fully healthy) to advance if all of the pieces can fit together with almost zero practice time. John Collins is entering restricted free agency and is not as productive as he was a year ago, but he makes just $4.1 million. Put him in a deal with Tony Snell, though, and those combined salaries equal $16.3 million, which can get you a nice player.

BOSTON CELTICS: What made them special a year ago was the ability to get offensive production from three All-Star caliber starters: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward. But Hayward is gone, Enes Kanter is doing big things in Portland (remember how he was a game-changer for Boston in the postseason a year ago?) and Kemba Walker is shooting 38% in his 10th season. Standing pat is not an option.

BROOKLYN NETS: At some point they will need a third center to join DeAndre Jordan and Nicolas Claxton, but the buyout market or the China market (the CBA season ends before the NBA playoffs) may be the easiest way for Sean Marks to add an extra big body if they cannot get a big man whose contract fits into their $5.7 million disabled player exception. Spencer Dinwiddie is the only superfluous player on the roster, but he is out for the remainder of the season, and the Nets have no future draft picks to throw into a deal. They used them all in the Harden trade.

CHARLOTTE HORNETS: Michael Jordan’s team is 100-1 to win the East despite having the lock for Rookie of the Year, a four-game winning streak and a roster chock full of young and hungry players who, for the most part, lack postseason experience. At a certain point, they have to realize they could have done better than Cody Zeller ($15.4 million) with the fourth pick of the 2013 draft. It might be time to sacrifice a future first-round pick or two to upgrade at center. Malik Monk has been playing well lately, otherwise, we would predict his imminent departure. The Hornets have an open roster spot and $4 million in cap room.

CHICAGO BULLS: It would be delusional of them to think they can advance beyond the first-round of the playoffs, which is why they have to consider getting a good young player from a contender in exchange for Thaddeus Young ($13.5 million), who is the leading candidate to finish a distant second to Jordan Clarkson in Sixth Man of the Year voting.  Tomas Satoransky ($10 million this year and next year) is 29 years old and could be combined with Young to bring in a good young player. Here is an idea:

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: Aside from the inevitable Drummond and McGee moves (best offers arrive at 2:59 p.m. on deadline day), Koby Altman will probably keep quiet after acquiring Jarrett Allen from the Nets and sending Kevin Porter Jr. to the Rockets. Kevin Love is going to be dead money for two more seasons and Cedi Osman is looking like he will be in the same category, though not quite as expensive. It’ll be a long road back.

DALLAS MAVERICKS: They should be better than their record (20-18), but the West is tough. Dwight Powell ($11 million this season and the next two) is not worth what he is being paid and could be packaged with more future No. 1 picks (the Mavs can’t trade their own first-round draft pick until 2025 because they owe the Knicks their 2021 and 2023 picks), if mortgaging the future is something Mark Cuban is cool with. Powell and James Johnson for Drummond works cap-wise.

DENVER NUGGETS: A rumor is out there that the Nuggets have spoken to the Magic about acquiring Aaron Gordon, and the price would include Bol Bol. They currently do not look like they have enough to come out of the West, and JaMychal Green has not been an adequate replacement for Jerami Grant. To a lesser degree than Boston, standing pat does not seem like the most prudent option. They have a $9.6 million trade exception, so expect them to make some sort of acquisition that improves the roster. They are one player away from being one player away.

DETROIT PISTONS: Troy Weaver might have already made his “deadline deal” in getting Hamidou Diallo from the Thunder. Wayne Ellington is superfluous, and one would think teams might like a 14-year veteran who shot 42% from three-point range with a manageable $1.6 million salary… But the Knicks couldn’t find a taker for him a year ago.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: Limbo sucks, but Klay Thompson will be back next season. In the meantime, the best they can do is hope that the Wolves’ pick is not top three and they can get another high lottery pick to put next to James Wiseman for the years ahead. Kelly Oubre Jr., Kent Bazemore, Brad Wanamaker and Marquese Chriss are all on expiring contracts. Their combined salaries total $20.6 million. The Warriors can acquire a player into Thompson’s $9.25 million disabled player exception.

HOUSTON ROCKETS: We are seeing a flurry of Victor Oladipo trade rumors, which is strange because he was the biggest piece they got in the Harden trade. If they are disappointed in him (and his expiring $21 million contract) they must not have been watching Pacers playoffs games the past few seasons. Kevin Porter Jr. was a nice pickup, and Rafael Stone is probably on the hunt for another player who has worn out his welcome for non-basketball reasons. P.J. Tucker is headed somewhere. Dante Exum (expiring $9.6 million contract) didn’t quite work out for a fifth overall pick, eh?

INDIANA PACERS: Acquiring Caris LaVert for Oladipo as part of the Harden trade will go in Kevin Pritchard’s trophy case, so the question now becomes “What next?” aside from waiting for T.J. Warren’s broken foot to heal. They are in 10th place, which wasn’t exactly what they had in mind for this season. Still, Indiana has a nice mix of players in their mid-to-late 20s. Doug McDermott (expiring $7.3 million) and T.J. McConnell (expiring $3.5 million) could be a useful shooter and pest duo for a playoff team willing to give up a draft pick and a matching expiring salary. Indiana is probably better off keeping both and rolling the dice in the play-in postseason.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: They have everything they need except the Lou Williams they had gotten used to over the past three seasons. His scoring average is down almost six points. Serge Ibaka (scoring average down 4.5 points) is showing his age at 31 and has a 15% trade kicker. Both still have plenty of playoff experience, but Jerry West likes to make trades when he can find the right ones. The Clippers are an interesting team to watch at the deadline because they have an open roster spot, but they are also within a $500,000 of the hard cap, which limits their options.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS: They need nothing except for Anthony Davis to be healthy, so the Lakers are the winner of the “Most Unlikely To Make A Trade” award. They are option No. 1 for pretty much everybody getting a buyout after the deadline.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES: More than a year later, we are still trying to figure out the Justise Winslow acquisition. Taylor Jenkins’ rotation goes 10 deep, not including the team’s highest-paid player in Gorgui Dieng -- $17.2 million. They are young and they are not a good team, yet they are still in contention for a play-in spot, so that incentivizes them to get creative.

MIAMI HEAT: The rule of thumb used to be “Pat Riley hates making midseason trades,” but he went out and got Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder last season and built an NBA Finals team. So you would think they would be predisposed to tinker despite their recent run of 11 victories in 12 games. Kelly Olynyk ($12.6 million) and Moe Harkless ($3.6 million) are on expiring deals, and Avery Bradley is gathering dust. They can take on long-term money if the incoming player is worthy of it, but that would likely involve trading a starter (Olynyk). They also have a $7.5 million trade exception but owe Oklahoma City two first-round picks.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS: Veteran Bucks writer Gery Woelful said on my most recent podcast that he fully expects the Bucks to try to find an upgrade from Donte DiVincenzo at shooting guard. The salaries of DiVincenzo and D.J. Wilson add up to $7.5 million, and it is hard to see Jon Horst moving anyone else on this roster. They are not last year’s Bucks, but they theoretically have enough to get to the NBA Finals. They are very close to the hard cap and cannot trade any more picks after using so many in the Jrue Holiday acquisition.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: The team is for sale, so do not expect Gersson Rosas to take on any long-term money. They have already changed coaches, and they have nothing anybody would want except for Karl Anthony-Towns, who isn’t going anywhere. Okay, they have Ed Davis, who may be somebody’s consolation prize as contending teams search for bigs. Nominations for the Dumpster Fire Award are now closed.

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS: Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram are not available. You can safely assume that everyone else is, and David Griffin does not need to hold anybody else up because he already did that to Horst. This was not supposed to be a throwaway season, but it is. The Pelicans would like to get J.J. Redick closer to his family, who live in Brooklyn. Exactly how close? Well, when Redick played for the Sixers, he commuted to Philadelphia. So “close” is a relative term. Boston is drivable from Brooklyn.

NEW YORK KNICKS: As mentioned above, they are the team to watch most closely. They can take on long-term money if the incoming player is someone who can tolerate Thibodeau’s coaching style, and they would bring in a player on an expiring contract if they believed that player’s Bird rights would be of value over the summer. Leon Rose is one year away from having a top-three team in the East if he plays his cards right a week from Thursday.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: Sam Presti likely has George Hill, Trevor Ariza and Mike Muscala available to the highest bidders. Hill was an important piece of the Bucks last season and could help a playoff team needing a bench shooter and veteran voice in the locker room. At a certain point, Presti is going to have to package together some of the 20 extra first and second-round picks he has accumulated through trades, but that point is probably a couple of years away as the rebuild runs its course. Important: If Houston’s pick is in the top four, the Thunder get it. Also, Presti has three trade exceptions; the largest is $27.6 million.

ORLANDO MAGIC:  Aaron Gordon trade rumors are everywhere, which makes sense because the time to cash in on their seven-year investment is now. They need to get younger and acquire assets to build around Markelle Fultz, Nikola Vucevic and Jonathan Isaac. Their ceiling should not be the kind of first-round exits they have been producing the past two seasons, and they have not won a single playoff series since 2009-10. So, it would be shocking to see them keep Gordon, who is only 25 years old and can bring a lot in return. Gordon is a good guy who needs a change of scenery and deserves one. Same goes for Evan Fournier.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: They wanted James Harden and did not get him, and Doc Rivers still somehow kept Ben Simmons committed to the team. That is pretty huge, because players who know they have been shopped usually resent it. They are in first place in the East and have a roster with the proper pieces to match up with Brooklyn. Mike Scott’s expiring $5 million deal and the Knicks’ 2021 second-round pick are Elton Brand’s most movable trade assets, but Scott has been playing well lately. Terrence Ferguson, Vincent Poirier and Tony Bradley are on expiring contracts but would bring little in return.

PHOENIX SUNS: Acquiring Chris Paul checked the “monster trade” box, and the NBA’s most overachieving team will likely abide by the “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” rule. That being said, if an on-the-ball defender capable of defending LeBron James is out there somewhere, you kick the tires on just about anything that does not include Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton and Chris Paul. Ariza would seem to be a fit.

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS: Like Dallas, they should be better than their record… and would be if C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic had not gotten injured. At full strength, they are going to be a tough out in the postseason. Gary Trent Jr. is on an expiring contract and they may fear losing him, so keep that in mind with these guys. They are sleepers.

SACRAMENTO KINGS: What they can get for Whiteside will be interesting to see, because he was killing it for the Blazers last season. Then, Nurkic returned in the bubble. Whiteside does not exactly have the best reputation around the league, which is why he played in Lebanon and China before resurrecting his career. There are also a lot of Harrison Barnes rumors out there, and like the Magic and Gordon, it may be time for the Kings to cash in on the three-year investment they made in Barnes after acquiring him from Dallas. He makes $22.2 million. Does Nemanja Bjelica have any value? Same question has to be asked of Jabari Parker.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS: The LaMarcus Aldridge era is in its final days, and you have to wonder if the Patty Mills era is, too. Derrick White is signed long-term and Dejounte Murray is damn good. The expiring contracts of Aldridge and Mills add up to $37.2 million, and if you include Rudy Gay’s expiring deal that number becomes $51.2 million. They are 20-16, yet, as currently constituted, not good enough to do much in the postseason. R.C. Buford wins the award for the league executive most overdue to make a trade.

TORONTO RAPTORS: The name that is out there now is Kyle Lowry, who has spent nine seasons of his 16-year career playing for the team that now calls Tampa its home. Having lost five in a row and sitting in 11th place in the Leastern Conference, Masai Ujiri must determine whether it is time to turn Lowry’s expiring $30.5 million contract into something of value. At 35 years old, Lowry can still play and, percentage wise, is hitting threes, twos and free throws better than he has over the past four seasons. But this would not be a giveaway, and a sign-and-trade in the offseason is still possible.

UTAH JAZZ: Like Phoenix, the “If It Ain’t Broke , Don’t Dix It” rule applies. They are in first place in the West, are making threes better than anybody and have Rudy Gobert finding new and incredible ways to never, ever be mentioned in the MVP debate. None of their nine rotation players is going anywhere, and no one else on the roster has either a big contract or much trade value. Still, someone on the team could be a giveaway because the Jazz are $1.9 million over the luxury tax line. They have already traded five of their next seven second-round picks (they don’t have one until 2025).

WASHINGTON WIZARDS: You’ve got to feel bad for Tommy Sheppard, one of the best guys and better GMs in the league -- he was able to turn John Wall into Russell Westbrook but then lost Thomas Bryant and had his team put on ice because of COVID issues. They are now playing the busiest second-half schedule of any Eastern Conference team, and they theoretically have a puncher’s chance against practically anyone in the conference if Westbrook keeps triple-doubling (he leads the league with 11). But they have lost four in a row and rank 12th. Robin Lopez and his expiring $7.3 million contract is their best trade asset. If they combined Lopez with Ish Smith’s expiring contract, that totals $13.3 million.

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