By Shawn Dennis
After one of the most disappointing All-Star weekends and, well, day in NBA history, it appears that the Trade Deadline may be more exciting this year. Not only have there been a decent amount of big names being thrown into trade scenarios, but teams that are both in and out of playoff contention are buzzing NBA analysts Twitter feeds.
Whether it be Aaron Gordon, John Collins, Kyle Lowry, Lonzo Ball, or other big names, it’s nearly impossible to tell if they’ll be moved unless they request a trade or Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets about it. In the grand scheme of things, depicting what teams should pursue trading players versus what players should be traded is a bit more realistic of an approach to breakdown, as we’ve already passed the midway point of this shortened season.
As of right now, you can make the argument that 12 of the 15 teams in both conferences have the chance of making the playoffs. Meaning, the play-in spots and the opportunity for teams to either fall off or make a come back are quite high. This is what makes this trade deadline so unique due to the fact that a team like the Miami Heat, who were the fifth seed in last year’s playoffs, could ball out and win a few series. So, teams who are on the fence between beginning a rebuild or acquiring one more role player to try and be the next Miami Heat are difficult to predict.
With that being said, I’ve come up with a list of five teams that I’m convinced have to be on the phone all day long trying to get a deal going for the sake of their team staying afloat in the playoff picture or to clean house.
There’s really not much to assess here. The Rockets flat out can’t play four quarters of basketball together and win a game. They’ve been added to the 20-consecutive game losing streak club, making them the eight team in NBA history to do so. There’s only two assets they need to keep going into next season now that this one is in complete shambles: keep Christian Wood and head coach Stephen Silas. Other than that, everyone and everything should be on the table for a total yard sale as they need to tank harder than ever before to increase their chances at the lottery spot.
For Houston, I think they’re better off not trading for players that are around the 25-30 range, as they don’t fit their current timeline. Anyone that has been drafted in the past two seasons, doesn’t require a max contract, or simply draft picks are what the Rockets have to do to keep the ship from reaching rock bottom. What this losing streak has done for their confidence is honestly depressing to think about and what is even more of a head scratcher now that the dust has settled is the Russell Westbrook for John Wall trade, along with making changes in the James Harden exchange to get Victor Oladipo. I’m positive neither Oladipo nor Wall will be a part of this team, expect a buyout or some sort of sign and trade for Wall next season when free agency comes around.
The Magic need to live up to their name this trade deadline and make some magic happen. The East is becoming stronger with the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, and arguably the Boston Celtics, and the Orlando Magic don’t have the starpower to make a dent in the playoffs against a higher seeded team. They’ve certainly been impressive the last couple of seasons being able to make the playoffs and having an All Star caliber player in Nikola Vucevic, but their time is up. They’re the second to last team in the East at a dismal 14-28 record and are 1-9 in their last 10 games.
Realistically, the Magic should be hearing trade ideas for every player except for Cole Anthony and Jonathon Isaac. However, they can’t let players like Aaron Gordon, Terrence Ross, Nikola Vucevic, and Evan Fournier be traded to contending teams for practically nothing. Ideally, the Magic should be looking for another wing player who’s on an expiring contract to bring on, but that’s obviously much easier said than done as they are a high commodity in today’s league.
I believe Cole Anthony has a high ceiling and between him and Isaac, if they can stay healthy, they can string something together if they had another promising small forward to add on. Either way, the Magic’s playoff streak is now over and it’ll be at least two more seasons before they can maybe grab a lower seed.
This is the most confusing team in the NBA (well, maybe the Celtics too). It was only two seasons ago that the Raptors had Kawhi Leonard and brought the Larry O’Brien trophy to the 6 for Drake and company, but now it’s looking as if this team’s days of winning playoff games are over. Yes, they did lose Marc Gasol, Danny Green, and Serge Ibaka in the offseason, but I don’t think anyone expected the Raptors to be the 11th team in the East and be on a 8-game losing streak a week after the All-Star break. So, what gives?
Kyle Lowry is the most interesting player on this team, considering his contract is for one year and he’s been keen on wanting to retire a Raptor. Lowry is about to turn 35 years old in the matter of days and it’s hard to expect a contending team to give a whole lot up for him or to pay him what Toronto currently is. Even if he stays or goes, the Raptors have to make more moves for their rotation to make more sense.
They gave a bag to Fred VanFleet, who definitely deserved every penny. Pascal Siakam should be averaging more than 20 points a game with the expectations he was given during their Championship run, and Aaron Baynes has been the epitome of a disappointment, trying to fill the enormous holes of Ibaka and Gasol, who are now out in Los Angeles competing for another ring.
I don’t think anyone has the solution to their inability to win games, but they shouldn’t leave their roster as is. This team’s biggest problem is that they aren’t really bad or really good at anything in particular, they are so damn average. This makes Nick Nurse’s job so difficult because there’s no drastic changes that can be made that will make any difference to their team, which is why trades have to be done.
Owner Mark Cuban addressed the Mavericks current status in the trade market on March 11th during his appearance on First Take when Stephen A. Smith asked about the comments of Luka Doncic towards his team needing to improve. Cuban replied “we are not panicking” and “we’ve lost more games to Covid illness than any other team in the NBA.” These answers seem to give the impression that Mark Cuban is content with his current roster and trusts his team to be dangerous in the playoffs. I disagree.
If Luka and Kristaps Porzingis manage to both stay healthy once the playoffs come around, I still don’t think they have enough firepower on the offensive side of the ball to beat a team like the Phoenix Suns or Los Angeles Clippers, who they’ll likely be meeting in the first round given their record. The reason why I included Dallas in this article is to highlight the fact that if they don’t make moves for another star before the deadline, they won’t get any better and they won’t be able to bring on anyone else because of a couple of factors. One, free agents haven’t been known to sign in Dallas come offseason and the Mavericks just don’t have the cap space to sign a big contract, as Cuban himself admitted on First Take.
Tim Hardaway Jr. has been a solid wing player for Luka to dish to, but they need another big that can score for when Porzingis is either out or on the bench. Likewise, Josh Richardson hasn’t proven to me enough that he can be an offensive threat to stay on this team. I think a Harrison Barnes return would do wonders for the Mavericks, a veteran like Al Horford, or a scoring shooting guard that can average more than 20 a contest. If they can package together a few picks with players like James Johnson, Trey Burke, or Maxi Kleber to a non-contending team for a bigger contract veteran, the Mavericks would be more of a threat.
The team you’ve all been waiting for. I can frankly say that the Boston Celtics have been a bit of a laughing stock this season with the expectations that were set for them versus what has come to fruition. Kemba Walker has been either on fire or hot garbage. Brad Stevens has told the media that he’s a true “Mass-Hole” in order to keep fans entertained to the idea that he wants to stay next season, although I’m not sure if they still want that. Danny Ainge, well, you can be on either side of the spectrum in arguing that he needs to be fired or he’s the best GM that the Celtics could have. Argue whatever you want, but I know for a fact that nobody will argue with the statement that the Celtics need to use the trade exception to damper the flames of this 8th seeded star-studded squad.
After every game, Danny Ainge has been kicking himself in the ass for not trading Gordon Hayward to the Indiana Pacers. Marcus Smart is for sure getting sick of hearing his name in trade talks considering he has bled green since he was drafted in 2014. Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson shouldn’t both be starting for the C’s and everyone knows it. There are just so many question marks thrown around this team that should be a top three seed right now, but nobody is questioning the fact that the roster shouldn’t be the same after March 25th.
The only suggestion that I have for the Celtic legend Ainge is that if he wants to continue being a GM for one of the greatest franchises in sports, he needs to put his money where his mouth is and make a trade happen. Boston fans will never be satisfied with who is on the roster, but if trades keep swirling around and none of them become a reality, he will be on the hot seat.
John Collins and Aaron Gordon have to be at the top of their list considering how weak their front court has been for the past however many seasons you want to argue, but a scoring veteran wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
There’s three days remaining before teams aren’t able to trade for the remainder of the season. Keep your Woj notifications on and put out whatever trade scenarios you have now before it’s too late!