With the NBA Season nearly at the halfway mark and the February 10th Trade Deadline looming closer, teams have difficult personnel decisions to make. Double down on pursuing that elusive playoff berth or pulling the plug on a below expectations season? Looking for that missing piece to make a title push or not rocking the boat on team chemistry?
See below how we expect teams to answer those questions and what they are wishing for 2022.
Charlotte Hornets; Chicago Bulls; Cleveland Cavaliers; Denver Nuggets; Los Angeles Lakers; Minnesota Timberwolves; Philadelphia Sixers; Utah Jazz.
- Hornets: Michael Jordan built one of the most fun teams to watch in the NBA – both for their on-court excitement with LaMelo and Bridges leading the way, as well as for their colorful off-court broadcasting duo of Eric Collins and Dell Curry. These Hornets are also a solid basketball team which needs a starting caliber Center to take the next step. Miles Turner, Domantas Sabonis, Jusuf Nurkic all fit the bill.
- Bulls: after going all in recent trading and free-agency windows with the acquisitions of Vucevic, Ball and DeRozan, the team should keep its aggressiveness in the coming weeks. Currently the 2nd best record in the East, this is a team longing for relevancy, but with a very thin frontcourt. Do not be surprised if you see names like Miles Turner rumored to join the Windy City resurgence.
- Cavs: the feel good Cinderella story of the season, these up and coming Cavs show no signs of slowing down. Sexton and Love are interesting pieces that could bring back a much needed versatile wing to the city which will host the All Star Weekend in February.
- Nuggets: it is rare that a reigning MVP defends his crown with an even better season than the previous victorious one. The Joker is carrying this team like few men could dream of doing. With Porter out for good and Murray’s return still uncertain, the Mile High team needs to bring in more help to their superstar. How they will manage to do that remains a challenge similar to the one Jokic is currently tackling.
- Lakers: who would have thought Westbrook was a bad fit with LeBron and Davis? (maybe everyone who was perplexed by them not going for a much better fit in Buddy Hield…). Anyways, despite the fact James seems to be human after all, he is still one of the league’s top players and the Lakers are still Hollywood’s team. It would be a disservice to the former and uncharacteristic for the latter if they do not pursue a high risk-high reward move to try to salvage what seems to be a lost season. Look for a familiar trade to “repeat” itself (see the Houston Rockets in the Sellers’ section).
- Wolves: the team finally found a running partner for KAT – Anthony Edwards has a superstar swagger Minnesota has not seen in a Guard since Marbury left town. Russell is the odd man out and – if packaged with some 1st round pick sweeteners to the right team – should bring back another solid building block to add to this team’s present and future.
- Sixers: we all know too well the Simmons Saga. In spite of team President Daryl Morey saying he could wait up to 4 years in order to get “a difference maker” or a “top 30” player in return, can he really afford to waste another MVP caliber season from his superstar center? Damian Lillard has always been the target, but a Pascal Siakam, Brandon Ingram type of player could be enough to put the city of brotherly love team at the top of the Eastern Conference by the end of the season.
- Jazz: they could very well be this season’s Bucks, as they could just be a pre-Kawhi Western Conference Raptors. The great regular season with underwhelming Playoff performance label is already Utah’s own to lose. Looking for their version of the Nuggets-Gordon deal from last season is the key for a deep postseason run in Salt Lake City.
Atlanta Hawks; Houston Rockets; Indiana Pacers; New Orleans Pelicans; Portland Trailblazers; Toronto Raptors.
- Hawks: who would have thought the surprise Eastern Conference finalists would fall from the top as quickly as they rose to it. With Team Governor publicly stating it is impossible to keep their core together, summed up with this season’s disappointing performance, it might be the time to shuffle the deck on some of the young talent on the roster.
- Rockets: John Wall is untradable – unless they do a Wall x Westbrook deal again. Thinking of it, Wall and Gordon for Westbrook and salary fillers could be the best move for both teams. The Rockets can save some salary and open up even more playing time to their young backcourt, while the Lakers get a shooter and a potentially less damaging PG fit.
- Pacers: apart from the great rookie season Chris Duarte is having, nothing seems to be going right for the Hoosier State team. It is time to break-up the Turner-Sabonis duo in hopes of building a more cohesive team for next season.
- Pelicans: seems like every starter the Pelicans trade away goes on to have career years with their new teams. It also seems that the relationship between NOLA and Zion has reached a worrisome new low. As crazy as it might seem, the idea of trading the blue-chipper for a Godfather package in return might be the Pelicans’ best hope for the future.
- Blazers: what could go wrong did go wrong in Portland. From Lillard’s subpar performance, to CJ’s collapsed lung all the way to the front-office turmoil, it has been a season like no other. The Lillard-CJ-Nurkic core has already peaked and it is time for a change. Whether that will be an aggressive rebuild by trading the best player in franchise history or a deep retooling around Dame, Rip City needs to try something new.
- Raptors: after hitting the jackpot drafting young defensive stud Scottie Barnes, it is all about the future in the 6. The Raptors sure would not mind adding even more young talent in the upcoming NBA Draft, while giving even more reps to their youngsters. Look for either one of Goran Dragic and Pascal Siakam to be headed stateside soon – if not both of them.
Brooklyn Nets; Golden State Warriors; Miami Heat; Milwaukee Bucks; Phoenix Suns.
- Nets: while the team is a mess with an out of shape Harden and whatever is going on with Kyrie, per sheer greatness from KD having an MVP caliber season, the Nets sit at the top of the East. Add that best record to being in a market like New York, it will not be difficult to attract the best talent in the buyout market, much like they did the previous season.
- Warriors: how quickly they forget… while most thought it would not be until Klay and Wiseman were back that the Warriors could show their true potential, the dynamic duo of Curry and Green had other plans. The Warriors hold the best record in the league by being aggressive on defense, a well tuned machine on offense, having Championship pedigree and new blood hunger for winning. The success of players previously relegated elsewhere, like Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr, should be an extra incentive for other quality ballers looking for a more suitable home.
- Heat: prior to injuries decimating the roster, the Heat looked like a juggernaut on both ends of the court. With a collection of no nonsense veterans and talented young guys, South Beach will be a destination yet again for buyout players who want to bet on a new champ. Instant offense off the bench is the main need.
- Bucks: the reigning Champs have yet to play with their entire core this season, yet they still look solid and poised for another long postseason run. Giannis is playing at his Finals’ MVP level and is as unstoppable as anyone in the NBA. Depending on Lopez’ recovery, the Bucks could be looking to add more depth to their big men rotation. They should be a top destination to any veterans trying to win a ring.
- Suns: the reigning Western Conference Champions seem to have enjoyed playing in June and are on track to challenge anyone in the conference to repeat the feat this season. The sunny weather of the Valley is an extra incentive for any buyout player who wants to be the missing piece. Big men depth is what can put them over the edge.
Boston Celtics; Dallas Mavericks; Detroit Pistons; Los Angeles Clippers; Memphis Grizzlies; New York Knicks; Oklahoma City Thunder; Orlando Magic; Sacramento Kings; San Antonio Spurs; Washington Wizards.
- Celtics, Knicks and Mavs: could all turn into buyers for a great deal, but are likely to ride out the disappointing season they are having and look for roster upgrades next season.
- Magic, Pistons, Spurs and Thunder: youth development will keep being the priority for these teams, which could be more aggressive in pursuing moves in the offseason.
- Clippers, Grizzlies and Wizards: all performing above expectations, but either coming from big offseason changes (Grizzlies and Wizards) or waiting on key players to return from injury (Clippers) make these teams strong candidates to sit out the trade deadline party.
- Kings: who knows with them, but considering a big coaching change early in the season, they are likely to pursue a Playin spot as currently constructed, while evaluating their options for future deals involving Fox and Bagley.