As February approaches, with it comes the arrival of the NBA’s silly season. This year, Feb. 8 marks the league’s trade deadline – the final day on which teams are allowed to swap players until the offseason.
Last season’s deadline was an active one, as we saw a blockbuster transaction come to pass during the All-Star Game, when DeMarcus Cousins got shipped off to the New Orleans Pelicans. Apart from that, the Houston Rockets acquired Lou Williams and the Toronto Raptors traded for Serge Ibaka.
Although this year’s deadline is projected to be a bit more calm, daily rumors regarding potential swaps have began to flood everyone’s timeline.
With some teams underachieving and others overachieving, there is still going to be a solid market for potential moves.
We break down the likeliest buyers and sellers heading into the home stretch before the trade deadline.
Prime trade candidate(s): Justin Holiday, Robin Lopez, Nikola Mirotic
Since the return of floor-spacing big man Nikola Mirotic, the Chicago Bulls have been on a tear.
However, even despite their 60.8 percent win rate over their past 22 outings, Chicago still sits six games behind the No. 8 seed Detroit Pistons for a spot in the playoffs, while boasting the league’s third-worst net rating at -6.3.
As of now, the Bulls possess just a 6.1 percent chance of landing a top-three pick in the stacked 2018 NBA Draft; their highest odds, currently, dictate they receive the ninth pick.
That’s all to say: Chicago is trending too far in the wrong direction.
For a rebuilding organization, along with developing young talent, the most important objective is to secure the highest possible draft pick. The Bulls, obviously, aren’t doing that.
One way Chicago could get “back on track” is to be aggressive at the trade deadline in finding suitors for their more veteran players, such as Mirotic, Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday.
Mirotic is the likeliest of the bunch to get moved, as it has been reported he’s more than willing to waive his no-trade clause to find a new team. Reports also state the Utah Jazz, with a hole to fill at the 4-spot, are interested in the stretch power forward.
The fit makes sense, as Mirotic is a career 36.1 percent three-point shooter, and would fit in wonderfully next to the behemoth known as Rudy Gobert.
Finding a suitor for Lopez may prove more difficult, not because of his play, but rather due to the $28.2 million still left on his deal.
With the value of the paint-bound center dwindling in today’s NBA, Lopez’s deal may be too rich for other teams to undertake, even if they were interested in his scoring and rim protection.
Holiday, meanwhile, provides size and athleticism from the 2-guard spot, as well as above-average three-point accuracy. Signed to a modest two-year, $9 million contract, it’s not all that likely Chicago deals him, but it’s not totally out of the question, either.
Los Angeles Lakers
Prime trade candidate(s): Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle
The Los Angeles Lakers have their eyes set squarely on the summer of 2018.
With superstar talents like Cousins, LeBron James and hometown favorite Paul George set to his unrestricted free agency, team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka are looking to make a major splash.
Adding a pair of free agents of that caliber, to go with their solid young core, would quickly bring Los Angeles back to basketball prominence, something the city is starting to get antsy for. And with a bit of creative maneuvering, the Lakers may be able to do just that.
To get to that point, however, the Lakers are going to need to shed some money off their books. Considering Luol Deng‘s albatross of a contract has proven impossible to move, Johnson and Pelinka are going to need to look elsewhere on their roster for salary cap relief.
Enter Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle.
The former, despite tailing off a bit recently, is having one of the better years of his career thanks to improved shooting and play-making.
The latter is enjoying similar success, and has played his way into potentially garnering a large contract offer once he hits restricted free agency this summer.
If Los Angeles doesn’t want to deal with Randle’s impending free agency, especially since they’ll be busy enough trying to lure the aforementioned big-name superstars to join their ranks, they could decide to trade the promising power forward now and avoid having to rescind his qualifying offer ($5.6 million) later.
Reports state Randle’s hometown Dallas Mavericks are interested in bringing the 6-foot-9 power forward back to his city of birth, but it’s more likely they wait until he hits restricted free agency rather than give up an asset to acquire him now.
Unlike Randle, Clarkson is already signed for the long haul. The Mizzou product is owed another two years and $25.9 million after this season, which may not be all that easy to move, unless the Lakers sweeten the deal by adding draft picks to the transaction.
Nevertheless, young, rebuilding teams such as the Orlando Magic could see some value in the young bucket-getter, and help Los Angeles clear cap space by trading for him.
Prime trade candidate(s): James Ennis, Tyreke Evans, Marc Gasol
Despite Memphis Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace’ aversion to blowing his team up and starting over, it’s starting to appear he may not have another choice.
His team boasts the league’s eighth-paltriest net rating (-3.0), they sit 14th out of the 15 teams in the Western Conference playoff race and no one’s really sure when their best player – the vastly underrated Mike Conley – will be returning from injury.
The better plan moving forward for Memphis would be to initiate the tank job and land the highest pick possible in a draft full of franchise-changing talents, especially among the Top 7 selections.
Trading away the likes of James Ennis, Tyreke Evans or even organizational cornerstone Marc Gasol would be one way to do just that.
Ennis is a solid two-way swingman who can knock down shots from beyond the arc (36.6 percent accuracy from deep over the past two years) and who is still just 27 years old. Since his contract is expiring, that could attract contenders lacking depth on the wing to acquire the Long Beach State product.
Evans, meanwhile, is having the best season of his career in terms of efficiency and three-point shooting. His 19.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists per contest make him look like the first-year version of himself, when he won Rookie of the Year and appeared headed for stardom.
It’s been rumored Memphis wants a first-round pick in exchange for their two-guard; whether a rival front office sees that as fair or too bold will be interesting to note as the next few weeks unravel.
Finally, Gasol is the least likely of the trio to move, as the Grizzlies front office still very much believes in their former All-Star center, and consider him part of their long-term plans.
But could a contender lacking a game-changing big man make a late push to acquire him anyway?
Only time will tell.
Prime trade candidate(s): Iman Shumpert, Tristan Thompson, Brooklyn Nets’ No. 1 pick
After their latest defeat at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, anonymous Cleveland Cavaliers players took to the media and voiced concern about the team’s chances to win a title this season (via ESPN):
“Several prominent players, speaking on a condition of anonymity to ESPN, Cleveland.com and The Athletic, expressed doubt that the problems — an aging roster, defensively-challenged personnel and a glut of redundant role players — could simply be worked out through patience and a chance to coalesce when fully healthy.”
Although this may sound like the annual bit of Cavs turmoil when they hit a rough patch, it’s hard to say this doesn’t feel a bit different than prior seasons.
As a way to re-energize the team (and at least try to fix their 28th-ranked defense), general manager Koby Altman could take a gander at the trade market for help.
There have already been rumbles regarding a potential Tristan Thompson-DeAndre Jordan swap, but would trading one offensively limited center for another really change their fortunes?
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Iman Shumpert, who has fallen completely out of Ty Lue’s rotation, dangled in trade talks as well. But in reality, what kind of interest would he – and the approximately $21 million left on his contract – really garner?
The biggest wildcard for the Cavs, which would not only change their trade market but potentially trigger a domino effect of moves around the league, is the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick they have in their back pocket.
Though Brooklyn has fared far better than anyone expected this season (Tankathon has them with the highest odds for the No. 7 pick in June’s draft), they will likely still finish with a mid-lottery selection which any rebuilding team would covet.
Could we see Cleveland shop the uber-valuable asset before the deadline and make a splash move to compete with Golden State?
It’s certainly possible, especially if they don’t turn things around soon.
Prime trade candidate(s): Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison, Thaddeus Young
Despite the fact no one expected much out of the Indiana Pacers after they traded away their best player this past offseason, the play of the two guys they got in return for George has changed their outlook – both in the short- and long-term.
Domantas Sabonis looks like a beastly finisher and the pick-and-roll and a serviceable paint protector, while Victor Oladipo appears to be someone Indiana can legitimately build around.
The Pacers, at 24-20, sit at No. 6 in the East, while actually possessing the NBA’s eighth-mightiest net rating at +2.1.
So although there isn’t much scuttle about them being active on the trade market, who’s to say they don’t make a move to get Oladipo some help, especially with the Eastern Conference as open as it appears to be?
Among players the Pacers could shop around are Darren Collison, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young. All three are on relatively team-friendly deals that end after next season, and all three fill three different niches.
Collison, the above-average floor general, Bogdanovic, the floor-spacing wing and Young, the crafty forward with loads of playoff experience could all entice rival teams with specific needs.
Prime trade candidate(s): Malcolm Brogdon, John Henson
Despite a talented roster with an MVP candidate on it, the Milwaukee Bucks are barely over .500, sit at No. 7 in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt and boast a net rating of 0.0 – which all amount to a decidedly mediocre campaign thus far in 2017-18.
Their troubles can’t be pinned on just one player, and it’s not like they’re getting zero production out of their center position; as a full-time starter, John Henson is averaging a respectable 9.3 points, 7.1 boards and 1.4 blocks per outing.
Nevertheless, according to recent scuttle, the Bucks, much like the Cavs, are quite interested in acquiring the services of Los Angeles’ All-Pro seven-footer.
According to the New York Times’ Marc Stein, on a recent podcast:
“100 percent the Bucks are interested in (DeAndre) Jordan and they are probably as interested in him as anyone.”
Would adding Jordan, who’s basically a souped-up version of Henson, really change the Bucks’ fortunes? Or their 24th-ranked defense?
Probably not. But Milwaukee does place 27th in total rebound rate (48.1 percent), while Jordan ranks second overall in the same metric among qualified players (25.5 percent). If the Bucks simply end more possessions with defensive rebounds, their rating defensively will see a major uptick.
To get the Clippers to even consider such a deal, Milwaukee will need to send them Henson as well as a solid young piece like Malcolm Brogdon in return, on top of another future asset or two.
Their Eric Bledsoe acquisition would help soften the blow of losing Brogdon, and adding Jordan would prove to Giannis Antetokoumpo that the Bucks are serious about winning, so making such a move would be beneficial on multiple fronts.
You can find Frank Urbina on Twitter @frankurbina_.
HoopsHype’s Alberto de Roa contributed to this article.
Business, Business, Top, DeAndre Jordan, John Henson, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Marc Gasol, Nikola Mirotic, Tristan Thompson, Tyreke Evans, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks