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NBA Trade Deadline Countdown – Central Division

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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NBA trade deadline team analysis with a view to roster needs, and whether they should be buyers or sellers.

On the final day of the All-Star break teams prepared to return to the hardcourt to finish the official second half of the season. It’s also a nerve racking 24 hours for players and teams each hour draws us closer to the NBA trade deadline.  Wednesday, (February 17th) there was a marked increase in discussions between teams and several National Media scribes were posting rumors of potential trades to expect prior to the 3:00 PM cut-off today (February 18).

Last year the League witnessed unprecedented activity especially in the final 20 minutes prior to the deadline cut-off.

A look back at 2015

Last year on trade deadline had some specific trends arise:

  • Four of the top five Eastern teams made no trades
  • Five of the top seven Western teams made no trades
  • Only seeded teams in West who were active were Portland, Houston and Phoenix
  • Average number of trades on deadline day is 24, today there were forty trades with thirty-seven NBA players!
  • 14 point guards were traded

What changes in 2016

This season it’s less certain what will occur since the circumstances are so different. First there is little argument regarding the upper echelon of teams who’ll reasonably contend for the title and even those few fall into specific categories:

To wit, if I hand you money right now and tell you to bet on one team to win the title odds are you’ll pick one of two teams: the Golden State Warriors or the San Antonio Spurs.

If I tell you to pick a winner with slightly better odds than the 2 teams above you’ll select either the Oklahoma City Thunder or the Cleveland Cavaliers.  And if I say who has the best odds of upsetting a favorite to get to the finals again you’ll select the Thunder and in the Eastern Conference the Toronto Raptors would get the nod.

Even in selecting those 5 teams my home town Raptors only make the cut because there is so much confusion surrounding the Cavaliers.  Since firing David Blatt the Cavaliers’ defense has been lacking. Furthermore, the sheer number of players, teams and trade talks the Cavs are rumored to be involved in implies there is major concern in Cleveland over their potential of winning a title.

The other 25 teams in the Association are either lottery bound, middling at best or more than one trade away from entering the above upper tier.

Mirror Questions for bottom 25

Again, I’ll reiterate what does this 2 team dominance mean heading into the trade deadline? In seasons past one move could vault a team upward, but given the prowess of the top 2 teams is that move enough this season? The other major factor is next season will see a huge jump in the salary cap as the Television ad revenue gets divvied up and another free agent summer of new contract standards looms.

What this means is entering the trade deadline fewer teams are in need or desire of purchasing albatross contracts like Joe Johnson’s. It also means with the uncertainty of how teams will navigate this period rookies and therefore draft picks become something of a coup as they are the one contract the team can manage with full knowledge of it’s limit.

Sure all teams will have cap to spend initially, but just like the current situation eventually every team will max out their big deals and inevitably someone (or several players) will get paid beyond their worth which will drive up the mid level and subsequently teams will again be scrapping to stay below the tax threshold.

And so the questions each team must ask itself entering Thursday morning is:

  • Do we make a trade knowing it’s unlikely to take us much further than not making one?
  • Do we try to off load ‘now’ talent for ‘prospect’ talent knowing it won’t help until the future?
  • Knowing we might not re-sign a free agent, do we cut that player now to ensure we get value?
  • Is the team as currently constructed have a core we see being intact in 5 years? If not should we blow it up now to grab draft picks or talent we would deem essential for that future core?

And specifically in the East with so many teams jumbled together from seeds 3 through 10 they have an additional group of decisions to make:

Knowing Cleveland is still very much trying to improve and obviously not a cohesive unit there is potential for a rare opportunity to upset them in the Eastern Conference Finals if they don’t get their issues resolved. Further veteran teams like Miami and Chicago have potential injury (Bosh – more blood clots in his leg and Noah gone for season) and chemistry (Rose and Butler) issues. So if you are one of the other teams seeded in that group do you make one or two moves now with the a finals appearance in your sight lines?  It could mean forfeiting your future for a chance now which is something perhaps Indiana or Charlotte may be willing to do.

But for the team sitting with the best shot of upsetting Cleveland (the Raptors) after so many seasons or not making the playoffs and having demonstrated patience building this core they may not be willing to blow up their future. And in fairness it’s almost like they will be adding a trade deadline upgrade since DeMarre Carroll will return sometime in March and he’s been out most of the season. He’s presence will make the team stronger and better on both ends.

So the Raptors have to decide if they want to upgrade the starting power forward via a trade which may hurt their long range plans, cut a player like Anthony Bennett to add Ronald Roberts from the D-League Raptors 905 squad or simply make a shift by starting the ever improving Patrick Patterson and have Luis Scola come off the bench.

That’s the state of where the Association stands with less than 24 hours to the deadline. So, now I’ll give you a bit of a cheat sheet for each team providing you with the current salary and roster, their draft picks, free agents, roster needs and whether (in my opinion) they should be buyers or sellers. Use it to prepare for today’s deadline.

Next up I look at the Central Division:

Next: Trouble in the Windy City?

Feb 6, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago Bulls center Pau Gasol (16) and forward Taj Gibson (22) react during the third quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. The Timberwolves won 112-105. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Draft Picks: As per Real GM here is a complete draft overview.  Of note the Bulls have to be praying the Kings make moves at the deadline and then fall short landing in the 11th spot since they own their first round pick protected 1-10.

Salary:

Bulls Salary
Bulls Salary

Free Agents:  The heart and soul of the franchise will likely walk this summer (Joakim Noah) and he’ll be joined by Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Brooks who’ll also be free agents. Gasol has a player option and the fact the Bulls suddenly were gauging interest from teams on his trade value it begs the question is there concern he won’t resign?

Depth Chart: 

. Some say that fame has gone to J.B.’s head and he doesn’t have his teammates support. Given Noah, Gibson, Hinrich, Dunleavy and Rose were all from the Thibodeau hard nose, hard work regime perhaps these issues aren’t fixable. Given the Bulls are overtly shopping Gibson and now Gasol the question has to be asked whether the Bulls are about to slide down the ladder after years of dominance.

Category: Shockingly the Bulls are SELLERS looking to capture draft picks or specific talent for the likes of Taj Gibson and now possibly for Pau Gasol. Known as a team who don’t like to go over budget perhaps this is a sign the Bulls don’t think they have the components to make a title run and are looking to start their rebuild around Hoiberg’s desired direction this year instead of the future.

Next: Is the King in Panic Mode?

Dec 12, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson (33) reacts after scoring on a three point basket against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Cavaliers 119-114. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Draft Picks: As per Real GM here is a complete draft overview.

Salary:

Cavs Salary
Cavs Salary

Free Agents: Of course LeBron James has become the master of knowing how to deal with getting his top salary by signing 2-year deals with opt outs so each season he can renegotiate which is exactly what he’ll do this summer. Other notable players who may opt out are Mo Williams and J.R. Smith along with free agents Timofey Mozgov, James Jones, Richard Jefferson and Matthew Dellavedova.

Frye remains a significant target for several teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, sources tell @TheVertical.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) February 17, 2016

Depth Chart:

Cavs Depth
Cavs Depth
Bottom line

: So the major activity occurring today with trade talks for numerous players tells us the Cavaliers aren’t confident they can beat the top teams and feel the heat of the Raptors and charging teams like the Celtics who with their bevy of draft picks may well pull off a trade that could make them more than viable competition.  One thing is for sure, Cleveland’s competition in the East may get a boost of their own confidence given they message their rampant activity created leading up to the deadline.

The other notable is Kevin Love’s name had been thrown around leading up to the All-Star break, but hasn’t been in any recent news. It sure feels like the King doesn’t feel that confident with him and Kyrie Irving both on the floor though, so perhaps he’ll reenter the conversation prior to 3PM Thursday, February 18th. Hey stranger things have happened.

Cavs Holding Ryan Anderson Trade Talks With Pelicans: https://t.co/IwiAk8HPQr pic.twitter.com/wUHgDP9Pat

— RealGM (@RealGM) February 17, 2016

Among Cleveland's various trade targets this week, ESPN sources say that the Cavs have pursued Sacramento big man Kosta Koufos

— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 15, 2016

Category:  The Cavaliers are acting very odd given they’ve been considered the undisputed top Eastern squad. With less than 24 hours remaining til the deadline social media was on fire with trade talk involving the Cavaliers more than any other team. Suffice to say the Cavs are BUYERS who seem intent on adding yet another expensive salary to their roster. Are they worried they can’t beat the Warriors or Spurs?

Next: Bad Boy Realignment?

Feb 12, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Eastern Conference center Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons (0) speaks during media day for the 2016 NBA All Star Game at Sheraton Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Draft Picks: As per Real GM here is a complete draft overview.

Salary:

Pistons Salary
Pistons Salary

Free Agents:

Oddly Andre Drummond who the team is building their core around (along with Reggie Jackson) declined his initial offer this past fall, but will surely receive a max contract offer this summer.  Perhaps he was hoping to draw another big star to the team, but SVG better hope he can get what he couldn’t from his previous All-Star centers (Shaq and Dwight Howard): commitment.

Depth Chart:

Pistons Depth
Pistons Depth
Bottom line

: The Pistons are in desperate need of adding a power forward since they only have Anthony Tolliver currently fulfilling that role. The addition of Tobias Harris was a quality pick-up and freed up some space given the contracts of Jennings and Ilyasova sent to Orlando.

Category:   Stan Van is attempting to rebuild his team already. He brought in Ersan Ilyasova to spread the floor thinking it would be an upgrade over Greg Monroe, but either he wasn’t happy with his production or the Magic just weren’t willing to do the deal unless Ilyasova was included. BUYERS

Next: Hosiers Holding Court

Apr 5, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) leads a fast break against the Miami Heat at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Miami 112-89. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 5, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) leads a fast break against the Miami Heat at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Miami 112-89. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 5, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) leads a fast break against the Miami Heat at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Miami 112-89. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Draft Picks: As per Real GM here is a complete draft overview.

Salary:

Pacers Salary
Pacers Salary

Free Agents:  Larry Bird is said to like Chase Budinger, but his name was among those being shopped Wednesday leading up to the deadline. Others who’ll be free agents this summer include both Hills and Ian Mahinmi.

Depth Chart:

Pacers Depth
Pacers Depth
Bottom line

:  The Pacers got off to a great start, but had an easy schedule which began to translate once they hit the road. They have solid pieces in Paul George, Monta Ellis and George Hill with an up and coming prospect in Myles Turner. Still it doesn’t feel like they have enough to get far in the post season.

Category:  Unless the Pacers feel their 3 core pieces aren’t working I’d expect them to be HOLDERS since they probably know it’s time to add depth this summer.

Of note, watching how Paul George would run and stand waiting to shoot 3’s and left Kyle Lowry (on his home court) to run back alone on defense screamed to me of a player who has his own interests first. Let’s not forget this Pacer team is only 2 years removed from being the top dog in the East. Just goes to show you how quickly things can change.

Also, I can’t reiterate it often enough, the true x-factor on the Indiana isn’t Paul George –  – it’s the coach Frank Vogel!

Next: Deer Crossing

Mar 17, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd against the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half of game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 17, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd against the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half of game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 17, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd against the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half of game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Draft Picks: As per Real GM here is a complete draft overview.

Salary:

Bucks Salary
Bucks Salary

Free Agents:  O.J. Mayo, Greivis Vasquez , Miles Plumlee and Chris Copeland will all enter free agency this summer and it’s hard to believe any of them will warrant much desire for retention from the Bucks franchise. The one player who might is Jerryd Bayless who is one of Milwaukee’s few 3-point specialists.

Depth Chart:

Bucks Depth
Bucks Depth
Bottom line

: It’s a wasted season for the Bucks who were last season’s Cinderella team. What’s obvious is the team lost their floor spacers and their veteran front court assist masters. Monroe hasn’t been able to fill the void and now is a very expensive reserve!

Category:   Though they haven’t copped to it the Bucks are SELLERS, They are telling the Michael Carter Williams camp he isn’t on the market, ditto for Greg Monroe. But when your team has fallen so far in one season it’s hard to believe the Bucks and Jason Kidd specifically won’t be doing everything possible to offload the players who changed their team in one short season.

Next: Trade Deadline Countdown- Southwest Div. Analysis

Next: Trade Deadline Countdown-Atlantic Div. Analysis

Next: Trade Deadline Countdown- Southeast Div. Analysis

Next: Trade Deadline Countdown- Northwest Div. Analysis

Next: Trade Deadline Countdown- Pacific Div. Analysis

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