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As the 2019 NBA trade deadline approaches, all 30 teams have immediate goals, long-term hopes and contingency plans mapped out in great detail.
Rather than walking through every organization’s whiteboard, let’s zero in on the top priorities. If each team could lay out an optimal scenario ahead of the Feb. 7 deadline (within reason), what would it look like?
In some cases, we’ll offer a specific trade. In others, it’ll be about re-orienting the franchise toward the best big-picture plans. Either way, we’re trying to manufacture deadline wins for all 30 teams.
Each of our hypothetical scenarios are specific to one team, so when a deal feels lopsided (but not completely ridiculous), that’s kind of the point. A best-case outcome is supposed to be favorable.
And no, not every team’s optimal result is trading for Anthony Davis. Even if it probably should be.
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The rebuilding Hawks can and should look to move Kent Bazemore, Jeremy Lin, Dewayne Dedmon, spare desk chairs and any office supplies lying around in an effort to stockpile draft assets. Third-year forward Taurean Prince is also available, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, and he might net them more than any other player they’d consider trading.
The 24-year-old Prince is a reliable high-volume three-point shooter who’s converted 36.9 percent of his career attempts from deep. He’s a suspect defender, but his 6’8″, 220-pound frame hints at switchability if his fundamentals and focus improve. With one year remaining on his rookie deal, Prince is Atlanta’s best chance to get a first-rounder back.
If the Hawks are lucky, they’ll parlay some combination of Lin, Bazemore and Dedmon into another first-round pick. Few other deadline sellers can match Atlanta’s ability or willingness to take on bad money beyond next season. This early in the rebuilding process, absorbing a few ugly contracts stretching into 2021 shouldn’t be a deterrent.
If the Hawks head into the 2019-20 season with a core of Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, John Collins and two first-rounders in addition to their own (plus the top-five-protected pick they got from Dallas in the Young-Luka Doncic swap), that’s a terrific outcome.
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“As far as trading players, I don’t really see much out there,” Celtics president Danny Ainge said on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich in January (h/t NBC Sports Boston’s Darren Hartwell). “We have a lot of good ones. It’s hard to get better players than we have.”
Ainge isn’t wrong: It’d be hard for the Celtics to improve talent-wise this year. Especially if potential target Bradley Beal is off the market, as The Athletic’s Fred Katz reported. And lest Ainge’s comments sound like misdirection, note Boston hasn’t made a significant move at any of the last three trade deadlines. This team has no problem staying patient when necessary.
The Celtics could try to duck the tax by moving Terry Rozier and a minimum contract, but they’re better off keeping Rozier (and his restricted rights) at least until they’re sure Kyrie Irving is coming back on a new deal this summer. Rozier doesn’t have much of a future with the team if Irving stays, but he’s a good fallback option if something dramatic happens in July.
If Boston wants to widen its scope of options, it could cut ties with Jabari Bird and look to fill his roster spot in the buyout market. But it’s difficult to find a clear upgrade for a team this deep, especially given the Celtics’ incentive to keep their powder dry for an Anthony Davis pursuit in a few months.
And for the 19,000th time: No, the Celtics can’t trade for Davis before the deadline. They have to wait until Irving becomes a free agent this offseason before they can acquire Davis.
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It’d be easy to get caught up in the excitement of an unexpected playoff berth that may be on the horizon, but the Brooklyn Nets can’t let this season’s surprising competence affect their big-picture plans.
The Nets appear likely to make the postseason, but they’re miles behind the East’s elite. That isn’t to say they should sell off assets and tank (even though they finally possess the rights to their own first-rounder), but they should realize they’re going to lose in the first round with or without the likes of DeMarre Carroll, Jared Dudley, Ed Davis or anyone else not clearly established as a future pillar.
Perhaps Carroll would net a quality second-round pick in the top 45. Maybe a contender would surrender something similar for Davis’ elite rebounding off the bench.
Brooklyn has options. It could add a big name and eat into its ample cap space for next year. It could clear even more room to go all out in free agency. It could try to dump Allen Crabbe’s salary.
The best bet is to enjoy this year’s progress, stay in playoff position and maybe trim some veterans to get more ammunition—in the form of young players or picks—for a sustained run in the coming seasons.
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The Hornets and impending free agent Kemba Walker seem fated to stick together, so let’s table any talk of moving him for now.
To improve their chances of keeping Walker, the Hornets should at least try to construct a supporting cast that’ll help him out. Ideally, that’d mean shedding fat deals for underachieving rotation pieces like Nicolas Batum as the first step of a refurbishing plan. There’s no good way to clear money like Batum’s, though, and any deal would have to involve significant draft compensation and a young player as sweeteners.
Maybe there’s a less extreme path.
Charlotte could deal Malik Monk, Jeremy Lamb and a second-round pick to Orlando for Nikola Vucevic, which would fill a hole in the middle. The Hornets likely won’t be able to re-sign Lamb to a market-rate contract in unrestricted free agency, anyway—not with Walker also coming due for a pay bump.
This deal would have to include some unspoken agreement that Vucevic would consider re-signing in Charlotte. Otherwise, giving up Monk for a few months of a Lamb-for-Vooch swap is tough to sell.
Walker and Vucevic would be a formidable pick-and-roll tandem, and Vucevic’s ability to function as the first option on offense would give Walker some badly needed breathers every few times up the floor.
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The Bulls have plenty of young players on their roster, but none of them—Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Kris Dunn et al.—project to be cornerstone-level stars. Chicago needs to embrace the concept of asset accumulation.
That’ll mean accepting the relatively low ceiling on its current talent, understanding the franchise is in the fledgling stages of what ought to be a three- or four-year rebuild and taking on bad, multiyear contracts in exchange for picks.
If the Bulls could get Denver’s top-12-protected 2019 first-rounder, which Brooklyn owns, with Allen Crabbe and his $18.5 million 2019-20 salary attached, that’s a good way to go. If they wanted to get really bold, Nicolas Batum and his albatross deal (owed nearly $52.7 million for 2019-20 and 2020-21) would make some dead-money-eating sense.
Chicago has Robin Lopez’s expiring $14.4 million salary and Jabari Parker’s effectively expiring deal (his $20 million salary for 2019-20 is a team option) to put up for matching purposes.
Whatever form it takes, the Bulls’ best outcome at the deadline must reflect their understanding that the path back to respectability will take serious patience.
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No team is further from relevance or the prospect of sustained winning than the Cleveland Cavaliers. As such, every second Kevin Love spends on the roster is a second wasted—both for his own career and from Cleveland’s asset-management perspective.
Moving the 30-year-old Love, who injured his left foot four games into this season and is set to start his four-year, $120 million extension next year, will be difficult. No suitor can be sure how he’ll perform when healthy, and age-related decline as the extension kicks in seems imminent. That’s a rough combo when Cleveland is trying to sell other teams on Love.
The Cavs are going nowhere, though, and getting any asset of future value for Love must be the priority.
If Cleveland could shift Love to a perpetually mediocre team like Charlotte or a good organization that generally struggles to use its money in free agency like Utah, that’d be a win.
B/R’s Dan Favale concocted a Hornets package that would return a protected first-rounder, Malik Monk and a heap of bad money. Maybe the Jazz would part with Derrick Favors, Dante Exum and a heavily protected first-rounder—the kind that converts to a couple of seconds if not conveyed by, say, 2020.
Utah would be taking on a lot of risk in this hypothetical, but we aren’t so worried about that. This is Cleveland’s best-case scenario.
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According to The Athletic’s Tim Cato: “Dallas has obviously been willing to trade [second-year point guard Dennis Smith Jr.], and Smith was willing to be traded, and nothing about that on either side has changed. Now, we play a two-week waiting game.”
In the wake of Smith’s six-game absence and a swirl of talk he’d be traded, it’s difficult to see the Mavs’ union with last year’s No. 9 overall pick lasting long. But…why rush the breakup?
Smith is long on talent. He’s a dynamite athlete who can hit a catch-and-shoot three, and we often forget how long it takes point guards to acclimate to NBA speed. If the Mavericks are hellbent on trading him so Luka Doncic can orchestrate the next decade without complication, why not wait until Smith plays well enough to rehabilitate his value? Failing that, at least hang on until this summer, when memories of Smith’s dissatisfaction might fade and an interested suitor could sell him as part of an exciting summer overhaul.
In the most (unrealistically) optimistic scenario, Dallas and Smith would reconcile between now and the deadline, and he’d come to appreciate the opportunity he has in front of him: life as a second-side playmaker who gets to attack defenses already scrambled by Doncic’s virtuoso passing. Smith could feast on late closeouts, leak out in transition and leverage his athleticism to wreak havoc as Doncic’s running mate.
Smith’s mind may be made up, but his talent is too good to ditch this soon. It’s worth hanging onto him through the deadline, barring an unlikely offer that’d net the Mavs a top-10 pick.
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After flirting with two-way excellence early in the season, the Nuggets are an all-offense outfit once again. Their defensive efficiency ranks 20th since Dec. 1.
To do real damage in the playoffs, they need to find a way to get stops.
Mavericks swingman Dorian Finney-Smith ticks a lot of the boxes Torrey Craig does (good size, a defensive mindset, switchability), but Finney-Smith has the edge in three-point shooting. At 35.6 percent this season, the Mavs wing has been significantly better than Craig (29.2 percent).
Dallas is losing hope of a playoff spot and might want to snag a pick for Finney-Smith from a team that could better utilize him.
If the Nuggets can’t snag Finney-Smith, any rangy wing with a defensive mindset will help.
This is a small potential move, but it would help Denver preemptively address issues guarding star wings in the postseason.
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Andre Drummond is the worst high-volume low-post option in the NBA. He can’t shoot from anywhere, has two years and almost $56 million left on his contract if he picks up his 2020-21 player option, and his team defends better when he’s off the floor.
That may make Drummond tough to move, but it’d be even tougher for the Pistons to build a winner around him.
Detroit likely would have to take back an undesirable contract for Drummond, but since he’s only 25 and might appear to have upside to the right buyer, the Pistons may be able to snare some draft compensation.
If the Hornets came calling with a deal involving Nicolas Batum, a young player such as Malik Monk or Devonte’ Graham and a pick (probably no better than a second-rounder), the Pistons should pull the trigger. Even if such a swap wouldn’t provide Detroit with salary relief, at least the playmaking-starved roster would get a willing facilitator on the wing while ridding itself of an old-school center who hasn’t contributed to much team success.
Best of all, getting Drummond out of the lane on offense could further leverage Blake Griffin‘s scoring skill.
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When you’re the best team in the league, are short on needs and don’t have any obvious trade candidates on your roster, you likely won’t be active at the trade deadline.
Instead, look for the Warriors to address their issues on the buyout market.
General manager Bob Myers wouldn’t mind one more center on the roster behind DeMarcus Cousins and Kevon Looney. Robin Lopez would fit the bill, but the Bulls seem committed to extracting value for Lopez in a trade. The Warriors don’t have anything they’d willingly swap for RoLo and his $14.4 million expiring salary. If they wind up getting him, it’ll be via the waiver wire.
Every team needs more wings who can shoot and defend, but Golden State won’t be swinging a deal before Feb. 7 to add such a player, either.
The Warriors’ optimal deadline scenario is Cousins performing better and better over long stretches, to the point where he and Looney look like a passable playoff center tandem. Neither of them will finish games, anyway; that’s Draymond Green’s job.
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The Rockets probably can’t get the real Trevor Ariza unless the Washington Wizards reverse their post-John Wall injury momentum and plummet out of the playoff picture. That means Houston needs an Ariza facsimile.
It’ll be tough to find a big wing who hits threes and defends both frontcourt spots, but it shouldn’t be hard to get someone who provides some of what Ariza brought last year.
Brandon Knight’s contract ($14.6 million this year, $15.6 million in 2019-20) is solid trade fodder. A team in need of picks could take that money on with assets attached. The Hawks could flip Kent Bazemore for Knight and a heavily protected first-round pick or a few second-rounders, or the Knicks could send Tim Hardaway Jr. or Courtney Lee to the Rockets in a similar deal. Memphis swingman Garrett Temple would also work.
Either way, Houston can make something happen with that much dead money and a willingness to surrender picks.
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The Pacers have only six players under guaranteed contracts for the 2019-20 season, which could leave them with nearly $50 million in salary-cap space this summer. That’d be great if Indiana had any record of attracting free agents, but it doesn’t.
If Indy wants to make the most of its cap space, its best move is trading for a player already under contract. A team with strong chemistry might be reticent to break things up now, especially as it sits third in the East, but Victor Oladipo’s injury changes the outlook for the rest of the year. Indiana must know that re-signing its impending free agents—Thaddeus Young, Tyreke Evans, Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison, Cory Joseph and Kyle O’Quinn—won’t put it on the same level as the East’s top contenders.
That’s why trading for Mike Conley makes sense.
Indiana would have to destroy its depth to make the money work, trading Collison, Evans, Doug McDermott, O’Quinn and Aaron Holiday in one possible package to match Conley’s $30.5 million salary. The Grizzlies may want a first-round pick, too. A third team might be necessary to get more pieces coming back to the Pacers.
The whole thing would be a hassle, and it’d knock Indiana back a step for the rest of this year.
Here’s the thing, though: Oladipo’s injury means Indiana will be lucky to win a playoff game or two anyway, let alone a series. Doesn’t heading into next season with a core of Oladipo, Conley, Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis and (still) significant cap space sound better than running it back with the same group, many of whom would likely be re-signed to bigger salaries than they’re currently making?
Indiana doesn’t land difference-making free agents. It has to trade for talent, and Conley—an Indianapolis native—would fit right in.
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The Clippers’ top priority at the deadline is taking on no new money for 2019-20. They can’t tie up the cash earmarked for Kawhi Leonard’s max deal (which is 1 million percent happening) and a second star on a massive contract. That second guy might be a re-signed Tobias Harris, but the free-agent market could yield something even better.
Patience is key.
From there, it’s all about heading into the offseason with support players who appeal to stars. The Clips need to keep their dirty-work guys (Montrezl Harrell), secondary scorers (Danilo Gallinari) and promising prospects (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander). If they can move off Milos Teodosic, who’s out of the rotation and is owed a qualifying offer of $7.9 million this summer, all the better.
This is a stopgap year for the Clips, even if they profile as a playoff team. If they get past the deadline with marginally cleaner books and key role-fillers intact, they’ll be set for a summer during which they could make serious noise.
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Anthony Davis wants to be traded, the Celtics can’t get involved until July, and the Lakers have a bunch of young players they could part with to give LeBron James his best running mate ever (with apologies to prime Dwyane Wade).
Pretty simple, right?
It also doesn’t hurt that “multiple league sources expect the agent and star to soon deliver word throughout the league that Davis’ preferred destination is the Lakers,” per Wojnarowski.
The Pelicans should wait until the Celtics can enter the bidding fray in July, but perhaps AD’s transparent desire to play in Los Angeles will diminish Boston’s offer. The Celtics may be confident they can convince Davis to re-sign, but there’s real risk in giving up picks and young players for a possible rental.
The Lakers should offer Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and picks for Davis, both because no one in that trio looks like a cornerstone and because better offers could materialize when the Celtics are free to join the sweepstakes. Not only that, but once the draft lottery occurs, whichever team lands the top pick will also have a major asset to dangle in front of the Pels.
The Lakers should strike immediately.
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The Grizzlies are already Jaren Jackson Jr.’s team. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley just happen to be playing on it.
That’s the mindset Memphis should have at the deadline, anyway.
Small-market teams are often loath to initiate teardown proceedings, but that’s the only way forward for the Grizz. They can’t treat this crucial deadline like an immediate reset. In addition to moving Gasol and Conley for younger talent, the Grizzlies must also realize keeping some of their bad money is worth the trouble.
Don’t trade Chandler Parsons with a pick attached just to get off his deal. Be open to letting it fester on the books at least until the 2020 deadline. Memphis’ first-rounder goes to the Celtics if it’s outside the top eight this year and the top six in 2020. If it hasn’t conveyed by then, it becomes unprotected in 2021. Thus, the Grizzlies should hope to be on the upswing by 2020-21, which would make the pick less valuable.
If the Grizzlies are still awful two years from now, this strategy would be a disaster. Memphis has to get this window right, and it starts by moving Gasol and Conley (and not Parsons) right now.
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Miami did this to itself.
Signing several members of the group that went 30-11 to close the 2016-17 season was a colossal mistake, and it has hamstrung the franchise with above-market deals for middling talent. The key term, though, is talent. The Heat have quality players; they’re just overpaid.
Maybe a contender talks itself into Wayne Ellington and James Johnson. Perhaps someone blacks out for a moment and decides Tyler Johnson or Goran Dragic (still recovering from knee surgery) could make a difference in this season’s playoff push and would be worth $19.2 million next season, which is what both will collect if they pick up their respective player options.
And don’t forget, Dion Waiters is available, too!
There’s likely no way to dump Hassan Whiteside without taking on an equally onerous contract, so we can rule that out until at least this summer. Nonetheless, the Heat must hope desperation drives a team to seek out some of their veterans. It’s the only way for them to create flexibility and dig their way out of mediocrity.
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The Milwaukee Bucks have no glaring needs, which isn’t surprising for a team that has led the league in net rating for several months. They already addressed future flexibility by dumping Matthew Dellavedova and John Henson on the Cavs for George Hill, and they should be reluctant to further disrupt a roster that has played so well together.
Wayne Ellington’s fresh on our minds, and he could help the Bucks improve their 35.0 percent conversion rate from deep. If Milwaukee wants to dream a little bigger, it could package trade-seeking Thon Maker and a larger contract (perhaps Ersan Ilyasova’s $7 million salary) to bring back a burlier reserve center in case Brook Lopez can’t handle Joel Embiid in a playoff series without fouling out in the first quarter.
Maker has shown flashes, particularly in the last two postseasons, and he has enough size and shooting potential to intrigue rebuilding teams who might still see him as a foundational piece.
The Bucks are good enough to be picky, but they can address a couple of small areas of need if they choose to.
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It’ll be tough for the Minnesota Timberwolves to return to the lottery after last year’s taste of playoff action, their first since 2004. But the best way to set up a sustained run of postseason trips is to offload veterans—think Taj Gibson, Jerryd Bayless, Anthony Tolliver or Derrick Rose—to add younger pieces who’d grow alongside Karl-Anthony Towns.
Minnesota can’t realistically hope to find takers for Andrew Wiggins or Gorgui Dieng, but it should put out calls nevertheless.
With Towns, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Josh Okogie and Tyus Jones, the Wolves already have the makings of a decent core. They now need to supplement it, and if that restocking effort comes at the expense of some already unrealistic playoff hopes, so be it.
Towns is locked into a five-year max contract which begins next season, so he isn’t in a position to angle for a trade. He can handle another transitional year if it means a better stockpile of surrounding talent, more assets and a stable, upward trajectory over the next few seasons.
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OK, so Anthony Davis wants out.
The New Orleans Pelicans had to know this was coming long before ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported it Monday. As such, the Pels can’t panic and deal AD now.
It’s in their best interest to wait until this summer, after Kyrie Irving signs an extension with the Celtics. At that point, Boston would be allowed to swing a trade for another Rose Rule-eligible player. Even if New Orleans doesn’t want to send Davis to Boston, it should still wait until the Celtics are in the mix, as their trove of assets will drive up offers from other interested parties.
That’s how you make the best of a bad situation.
For now, the Pelicans should pursue deals to offload Nikola Mirotic, Julius Randle, E’Twaun Moore and even Jrue Holiday. With Davis gone, the only real choice is a fresh start, and moving on from veterans currently under contract should return future assets while also causing losses to pile up and lottery odds to improve.
The Pelicans might be tempted to trade Davis as quickly as possible so they can begin their new era, but that’d be a mistake. Even if it means paying Davis to stay home after his finger injury heals, waiting to trade him is their best course of action ahead of the the trade deadline.
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This would otherwise be a vanilla suggestion about the Knicks trying to shed one or both of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee as they gear up for a free-agency push this summer, but if we’re talking ideal scenarios, Anthony Davis has to be involved.
“The Knicks are intent on making themselves a factor in the Davis Sweepstakes,” Marc Stein of the New York Times reported Tuesday.
New York should offer Kristaps Porzingis, its 2019 first-rounder and whatever salary filler or combination of young players the Pelicans want. Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox should be on the table. Hardaway and Lee ought to be available as well, if only for salary-matching purposes.
The only sticking point might be a top-one protection on this year’s first-rounder. Control over Zion Williamson’s rookie contract might be more valuable than Davis, who will still hit free agency in 2020 unless he signs an extension.
If the Knicks trade for Davis, that may put them in the driver’s seat for signing Kevin Durant this summer. From there, it shouldn’t be hard to fill the gaps with role players and veterans on the cheap.
This would be a massive swing, but it’s one worth taking.
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The Thunder already have the league’s highest luxury-tax bill, so adding meaningful pieces via trade would be complicated and costly. A notch short of serious title contention, OKC can’t justify upping its payroll by much (if at all).
Instead, they’ll have to hope Alex Abrines, Andre Roberson and Patrick Patterson return to the lineup, suffer no further health-related setbacks and sustain recent signs of life, respectively.
Both Abrines and Patterson are career 36.8 percent three-point shooters. If both of those guys can convert at their average rates going forward, the Thunder won’t need to look elsewhere for shooting help. And shooting is a need, as Oklahoma City currently ranks 21st leaguewide from distance.
Meanwhile, whenever Roberson gets back on the floor, one of the league’s best defenses should become even better.
OKC isn’t poised to make a major deal, so it must hope the guys already on the roster can boost their contributions.
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The first part of the one-two punch: Get rid of Nikola Vucevic before you have to pay his next contract.
“Get rid of” is a strong term for a big man having a career-best and All-Star-worthy season, but Vooch is at the peak of his value right now. This is the time to deal him, even if his impending free agency and the lack of leaguewide need for his skills may hurt his trade appeal.
Vucevic blocks all three of Orlando’s young frontcourt pieces. He plays ahead of Mo Bamba, who can only occupy the 5, which is also where Jonathan Isaac should get more burn. Aaron Gordon should be a 4, so the Magic’s positional glut could linger if Vucevic returns on a new (and more expensive deal).
Rather than fixate on an unlikely playoff berth, the Magic should pull the trigger on a Vucevic trade. Besides, even if they do make the playoffs, they wouldn’t gain much from getting smoked in the first round.
The second part: Trade for Dennis Smith Jr.
Smith and the Mavs are projecting harmony, but that’s a tough sell. The Magic desperately need a point guard, particularly one who could grow with their young forwards and centers. Smith has baggage and hasn’t been efficient in his short time as a pro, but he still has the athleticism and attitude to become a star.
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Maybe the Clippers want to get blasted off the floor in a first-round series, in which case they’ll be unlikely to swing a deal like the one we’ve cooked up to boost the Sixers. But from Philadelphia’s perspective, a trade bringing Avery Bradley and Montrezl Harrell aboard (perhaps with a pick attached) for Markelle Fultz and salary filler could cure a lot of ills.
The Sixers lack depth, and they especially need help at backup center and on the wing.
Harrell would provide energy and scoring, and he’s firmly established himself as a destroyer of opposing second units. Bradley remains somewhat overrated as a defender, but he makes more of an on-ball impact than Landry Shamet or JJ Redick. Plus, his salary next season is only partially guaranteed. This deal would improve Philly’s financial flexibility heading into the summer.
Giving up on Fultz stings, and it’s hard to argue this is a good return on paper for a top overall pick. But it feels like it’s time to end this relationship, and Fultz isn’t going to improve his trade value if he isn’t playing. This may be as good as it gets.
If the Sixers wanted to blow out this deal, they could throw in another $6 million in salary and draft compensation to get Lou Williams included. But now we’re getting a little ridiculous.
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With a team as bad as the Phoenix Suns, it’s no surprise there are more deadline questions than answers.
Could the Suns get anything for Josh Jackson? Does anybody want to surrender a pick for TJ Warren? Might a contender light on shooting desire Troy Daniels’ career 40.3 percent shooting from deep?
Long term, does this team need a point guard or a wing alongside Devin Booker?
Phoenix already dealt Trevor Ariza for Kelly Oubre Jr., which feels like a win. From here, we just need to see some clarity of vision and a willingness to cut bait on players who don’t profile as useful pieces going forward. The Suns need to acknowledge how early they are in the rebuilding process and start with the basics.
They have Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges in place, but everyone else should be available. Hopefully, the Suns come out of this deadline with a better sense of what they want to build.
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The common refrain would have you believe the Blazers need to trade CJ McCollum to shake up a stale backcourt that seems to cap the organization’s ceiling at good but never great.
I’d posit freeing up just over $28 million in salary for next season as an alternative.
The Blazers could send Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard to the Kings for the expiring deals of Zach Randolph and Iman Shumpert. The price for cap relief of this magnitude would be a first-rounder going to Sacramento, a team with $11 million in cap space and that should also be willing to take on 2020 money for a draft asset.
If Portland is willing to shed a pick, this deal would have a negligible effect on a 2019 playoff run while creating a bit of flexibility for next season. Shumpert would be an upgrade over Turner, particularly from a spacing perspective. Despite slumping recently, Shump is still shooting 36.1 percent from beyond the arc. Turner’s at a tidy 29.5 percent for his career, and he’s much worse than that this season (16.7).
The homecoming angle for Z-Bo, who spent his first six years in Portland, is a nice little bonus.
Doesn’t that seem better than cutting ties with McCollum?
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Cap space doesn’t go so far in Sacramento, which is why the Kings should try to add a starter via trade.
They’ve got a little over $11 million in space right now and several expiring vets—Iman Shumpert, Zach Randolph, Kosta Koufos, Ben McLemore—to make the money work if another team wants to get off a salary it doesn’t particularly like.
Example: The Hawks might not want to pay Kent Bazemore $19.3 million next year, but the Kings should be open to it. The same logic could apply to Tim Hardaway Jr. or even Otto Porter Jr. if the Wizards decide to increase flexibility rather than chase a first-round elimination.
The Kings have an exciting core in De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles III. Adding an established but moderately overpaid wing could make these guys very interesting for the rest of this season and beyond.
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The Spurs doing nothing at the deadline is as big of a trade season tradition as rampant speculation and agent-leaked “reports” flooding our timelines. They last swung a February deal in 2014. Just keep that in mind when digesting the fact that San Antonio’s ideal scenario involves adding Stanley Johnson.
The Athletic’s Jabari Young offered up the Pistons wing as a possible name to consider: “Spurs assistant GM Brian Wright was with the Pistons back in 2015 when the team drafted Johnson. Around the league, executives mentioned that Wright is still a big supporter of Johnson.”
Johnson, 22, wouldn’t be the first reclamation project to thrive in San Antonio. Perhaps he could follow the paths of Danny Green and Patty Mills, to name two. Those guys lack Johnson’s draft pedigree, but both were nearly out of the league before the Spurs got hold of them. Johnson, who profiles as a defender and playmaker on the wing, could come aboard and magically learn to shoot, which would make him a highly valuable young wing.
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The Raptors aren’t scared off by uncertainty. If they were, Kawhi Leonard, impending free agent and seemingly certain 2019-20 L.A. Clipper, wouldn’t be on the roster.
As such, landing Davis with no assurance he’ll be around for more than a season and change is pretty on-brand for the Raps.
A package involving Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Serge Ibaka or Jonas Valanciunas (with picks attached) could catch the Pelicans’ eye. Even if there might be better offers out there now and this offseason, New Orleans might consider two rising talents and an established center a decent result.
We’re viewing this from Toronto’s perspective, though. Adding Davis to a core of Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry stands out as an enormous potential win—especially as it could reduce Leonard’s chances of leaving this summer from 100 percent to, say, 94.7 percent. Every little bit helps.
More immediately, the Raptors would have to vault ahead of Milwaukee, Boston and Philadelphia in the race to the Finals.
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Close your eyes and imagine Mike Conley, Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles on the same team. Looks pretty good, right?
Let’s make it happen.
The Utah Jazz could ship Dante Exum, Ricky Rubio and a first-rounder to Memphis, which might not seem like enough until you remember Conley is 31, due to make $67 million over the next two full seasons and hasn’t had the cleanest health record. In light of that, and considering Memphis’ lack of leverage, that’s a fine return. If the Grizzlies want Grayson Allen or Royce O’Neale or some other low-cost filler, Utah shouldn’t hesitate.
Conley is the kind of experienced leader Mitchell and Gobert could benefit from. Even better, he, unlike Rubio, actually forces defenders to guard him on the perimeter.
It’s probably a stretch to say Conley moves the Jazz up to contender status this year, but his influence could help Mitchell and Gobert lead the team to that level sooner than later.
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Sorry, but John Wall was basically impossible to trade before season-ending surgery. Now that he’s out for the year (and potentially less explosive going forward), getting him off the books is hopeless.
So that best-case scenario is a nonstarter.
Washington isn’t interested in losing on purpose, but it should be open to some future-focused roster construction. Otto Porter Jr. isn’t a star, but he’s the kind of wing who would fit on virtually any team. The goal, then, should be finding someone willing to accept his star-level salary in exchange for picks, expiring deals and/or young players.
If Wall is going nowhere and Bradley Beal is too good to trade, Porter is the only logical choice. Otherwise, let’s all agree to meet back here next year at this time, when Washington is inconsistent, disappointing and generally the same team it’s been for the last handful of seasons.