We have officially arrived at the week of the 2020-21 NBA trade deadline, one of the most exciting times of every year for the typical NBA fan, filled with constant Twitter scrolling and article-clicking for the latest rumors and news.
This year is no different, either, as with the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers missing both of their top superstars, clubs around the league undoubtedly see an opening to make a move now that could help set them up for a championship push in a few months.
The NBA’s top contenders, in particular, will be especially active over the coming days, as we’re already starting to see rumors swirl about various of the league’s best teams and players in regards to potential trades.
Below, check out what we believe every 2020-21 contender’s biggest needs are heading into the trade deadline.
LA Lakers: Shooting and frontcourt depth
When healthy, the Los Angeles Lakers, led by their league-best defense as well as one LeBron James, are arguably the title favorites heading into the second half of the season.
And assuming they do get healthy over the coming weeks and months prior to the playoffs, there aren’t too many areas they need to improve, though one of them is in their shooting department.
Los Angeles ranks 22nd this season in team three-point percentage as well as in PPP in spot-up shooting possessing, per Synergy Sports, marks that could bite them if they’re not able to improve on it come postseason. Adding another pure marksman could be big for the Lakers, who rank 15th in points scored per 100 possessions in 2020-21.
The Lakers could also potentially use frontcourt help, as 36-year-old Marc Gasol is averaging fewer than five points and five rebounds per contest this year while shooting just 40.3 percent from the floor. His IQ defensively has been huge for the team’s starting lineup, but there’s no doubt there are upgrades out there as far as centers on the trade market for Los Angeles.
Potential trade targets to fill needs: Andre Drummond, JaVale McGee, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nemanja Bjelica, Justin Holiday
For the latest Los Angeles Lakers rumors, click here.
Brooklyn: Defensive-minded big man
The Brooklyn Nets’ biggest need is an obvious one, as the team has been lacking defensively since creating their super trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving.
Brooklyn boasts the league’s sixth-worst defense in points allowed per 100 possessions this season, and though a lot of that could be effort-related, which would make it less of an issue come playoff time, that still leaves concerns for the team going forward.
Picking up a shot-blocker with quick feet on the trade market could help mitigate those concerns, as having a big man down there who could deter foes down low and switch when asked to against pick-and-rolls would be huge for the Nets.
Those types of bigs aren’t the easiest to find, but there are a couple of options on the trade market who might be able to fill that role.
Potential trade targets to fill needs: Andre Drummond, JaVale McGee, Al Horford, Robin Lopez, Kevon Looney
For the latest Brooklyn Nets rumors, click here.
LA Clippers: Playmaking point guard and another wing
If there’s one area the Los Angeles Clippers could use some help at the trade deadline, it’s at point guard where Patrick Beverley has been in and out of the lineup all year due to injury and where Lou Williams is finally starting to show signs of age.
Outside of those two, L.A. has used Reggie Jackson and Terance Mann as their primary point guards a lot of the year with mixed results.
Regardless, Beverley is mostly just a floor-spacer at point guard and not really someone who’s going to set up teammates; Williams is a one-on-one iso scorer; and Mann is mostly a slasher with an improving jumper; that leaves Jackson as the team’s purest point guard, and even he is usually looking to score more than pass.
Finding a playmaking point guard to help set up the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, particularly late in games when the Clippers’ offense tends to stagnate, could be big for the team’s title chances.
Besides point guard, Los Angeles could find another wing useful for their rotation, as behind Leonard and George, the team doesn’t have many other proven wings besides Nicolas Batum, who plays a lot of small-ball 4 for the team, like Marcus Morris.
Potential trade targets to fill needs: Kyle Lowry, Lonzo Ball, George Hill, Ricky Rubio
For the latest Los Angeles Clippers rumors, click here.
Milwaukee: Backup playmaker
While the Milwaukee Bucks’ offense (fifth) is farther ahead than their defense (ninth) to this point in the season, that should change quickly now that they have already traded for PJ Tucker and with Jrue Holiday fully healthy and back in the nightly rotation, so we’re going to go with a backup playmaker as the team’s biggest need heading into the deadline.
Milwaukee’s roster, outside of Holiday and Giannis Antetokounmpo, is mostly made up of guys who need to be fed their scoring chances (outside of Khris Middleton), so adding a player who can make plays for their bench lineups could prove helpful for the club.
Consider the fact that the Bucks’ top reserves are Bryn Forbes (shooter), Pat Connaughton (shooter/defender), Tucker and Bobby Portis (one-on-one scorer/shooter) and you can see why we think they could use a playmaker to add to that bunch.
That’s probably nitpicking, but when your roster is already as loaded as Milwaukee’s, it’s tough to find huge needs, especially now that they’ve already made their big trade of the deadline in picking up Tucker.
Potential trade targets to fill needs: George Hill, Aaron Holiday, Austin Rivers
For the latest Milwaukee Bucks rumors, click here.
Utah: Bench upgrades
Despite some losses recently, the Utah Jazz boast a roster replete with star power (Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert), veteran experience (Mike Conley, Derrick Favors and Ersan Ilyasova), shooting (Joe Ingles and Bojan Bogdanovic), making it tough to surmise where exactly they need help in ahead of the trade deadline.
Utah even has the frontrunner for Sixth Man of the Year in Jordan Clarkson as their top bench piece, so even their depth is among the best in the NBA.
Regardless, if we had to pick nits, perhaps picking up another rotation-level piece for their reserve unit could be wise for Utah, just to avoid a situation where an injury causes for an inexperienced player like Miye Oni or Juwan Morgan to have to play.
Potential trade targets to fill needs: Austin Rivers, Aaron Holiday, Justin Holiday, George Hill
For the latest Utah Jazz rumors, click here.
Philadelphia: Shooting and another playmaker
One could argue the Philadelphia 76ers have the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year frontrunners on their team in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, so what needs do they really have ahead of the trade deadline?
Regardless, there are a couple of areas the Sixers could stand to improve upon, primarily in the shooting and playmaking departments.
Despite the savvy offseason additions of Seth Curry and Danny Green, Philadelphia still ranks a mediocre 13th in team three-point percentage this year at 37.0 percent while their 0.976 points per possession (PPP) on spot-up shot attempts is just 24th league-wide, per Synergy Sports.
More shooting will always be a need for a team with Simmons as the primary ball-handler, and this season is no different.
On top of shooting, the 76ers could also use another playmaker, as outside of the aforementioned Simmons, Philadelphia boasts a lot of guys who either need to be set up for their scoring opportunities (like Curry, Green and Dwight Howard) or prefer to go one-on-one to score (like Embiid, Tobias Harris and Shake Milton), which would explain why the Sixers rank 26th this year in assist rate this year.
Potential trade targets to fill needs: Kyle Lowry, Lonzo Ball, Buddy Hield, Evan Fournier, Austin Rivers, Davis Bertans, Aaron Holiday
For the latest Philadelphia 76ers rumors, click here.
Denver: Frontcourt and wing depth
The Denver Nuggets’ biggest need comes in the frontcourt depth department, as behind Nikola Jokic, the team’s most reliable frontcourt players are the aging Paul Millsap and the floor-spacing JaMychal Green.
One more true big man who can help on the glass could provide the Nuggets with a boost considering they’re a mediocre 16th in rebound rate on the campaign. If the Nuggets could find a versatile one who can defend multiple positions, thus easing the defensive load on Jokic, that would be even better.
There’s also the matter of wing depth, where Denver could also use more depth, especially with Gary Harris missing so much time this year.
Potential trade targets to fill needs: Aaron Gordon, Rudy Gay, Nemanja Bjelica
For the latest Denver Nuggets rumors, click here.
Miami: Frontcourt help and another player who can get their own shot
With Kelly Olynyk’s play only describable as a roller coaster in the consistency department and Meyers Leonard talking his way off the team following a season-ending injury, the Miami Heat really have just Bam Adebayo as their only reliable big man, something they undoubtedly will try to fix over the coming week.
Precious Achiuwa has proven not to be ready for a consistent role on a team with big aspirations and Chris Silva doesn’t provide much besides energy, so Miami really needs to bolster their frontcourt rotation ahead of the playoffs if they’d like a shot at repeating their improbable run from last year, preferably with a big man who can space the floor alongside Adebayo, who still doesn’t feel comfortable as a three-point shooter.
The Heat also desperately need help in the scoring department, as the inconsistency from Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson as outside shooters, and from Goran Dragic, who is finally starting to play like his age would indicate, has absolutely killed Miami this year, especially late in tight games.
Miami’s 95.3 points per 100 possessions in clutch situations this year is the second-worst mark in the league, and will sink them in the playoffs unless Herro and Robinson start to play like their 2019-20 selves or Dragic finds the fountain of youth.
If not, acquiring another player who can create their own shot is of vital importance to the Heat’s chances at another deep playoff run.
Potential trade targets to fill needs: Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Drummond, Rudy Gay
For the latest Miami Heat rumors, click here.
Phoenix: Frontcourt depth and veteran experience
The Phoenix Suns don’t have major needs necessarily heading into the trade deadline, not with the team sitting second in the West with a 27-13 record and boasting the league’s third-best net rating, but there are certainly tweaks they can make to further bolster their title aspirations.
For starters, another big man could work wonders for the Suns.
They do have their starter at center locked in with Deandre Ayton, who, despite the up-and-down nature of his impact to this point in his career, has proven to be, at worst, a solid starting center in the NBA. Regardless, Phoenix would be wise to find a frontcourt addition who can play some center and power forward behind the big Bahamian.
That’s especially true considering Jae Crowder is really more of a small forward playing a lot of small-ball 4 for the club right now, so a big man who could be slotted in to play behind both Ayton and Crowder could be a savvy pickup for Phoenix.
Outside of that, the Suns could also use some more veteran experience on their roster. Though not a major need by any means, a player with playoff experience could be an important addition to the team’s locker room, as Phoenix, outside of Chris Paul and Crowder, really don’t have players with tons of postseason games under their belt quite yet.
Potential trade targets to fill needs: Aaron Gordon, Kelly Olynyk, Rudy Gay Lauri Markkanen, George Hill
For the latest Phoenix Suns rumors, click here.
Boston: Starting-level big man, veteran wing depth
It’s no secret that outside of Robert Williams, the Boston Celtics’ frontcourt rotation has been downright brutal this season.
Their big offseason acquisition, Tristan Thompson, has disappointed since joining the team, averaging just 7.9 points and 8.4 rebounds this season while providing limited rim or perimeter defense, and his frontcourt mate in the starting lineup, Daniel Theis, is far from a game-changer despite being a decent player.
Even Williams might be best-served staying in a bench role for at least the rest of his season, where he can make a big impact in shorter spurts, which is what head coach Brad Stevens has him doing now.
That leaves the Celtics, a mediocre rebounding (Boston is 15th in defensive rebound rate this year) and paint-defending (they’re an even uglier 23rd in opponent shooting percentage near the basket) team clearly lacking a difference-making big man in the starting lineup.
The Celtics could also use another veteran wing in their rotation because so much is being asked of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown at the moment that they could clearly use some help. It’s to their backup backup wing situation that Boston needs to try and find an upgrade, as Grant Williams and Semi Ojeleye, though having some upside, just aren’t consistent enough players right now for a team with title aspirations.
Potential trade targets to fill needs: Andre Drummond, John Collins, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nemanja Bjleica, Harrison Barnes, Davis Bertans
For the latest Boston Celtics rumors, click here.