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 Northwest Division:
Oct 28, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari (8) defends the ball from Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) in the second half on opening night at Toyota Center. Denver won 105 to 85. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Draft Picks: As per Real GM here is a complete draft overview. Suffice to say the Nuggets are sitting pretty regardless of their low record this season. They are improving and have begun to pick up the bull dog competitive edge of their coach who happens to be the most entertaining in the Association. Trust me Mike Malone has provided the best sound bites this season and his genuineness stands out in a sea of coaches who either deliver canned lines or bark their responses.
To wit, the Nuggets have the better of their or New York’s pick, the Rockets pick (protected to 14), ditto for Portland’s first rounder and they also have Memphis’ pick via Cleveland with additional protections on it.
ESPN’s Marc Stein reported last week “that the Nuggets are among the teams “most aggressive in looking to acquire a veteran difference-maker.”
is available at a price. Ditto for most of the talent on Denver. While Doc Rivers backed off pretty quickly from the rumored request to trade Blake Griffin others said Doc was the one who called!
Category: While they appear to be asking for the sun and moon for their players there are several available making the Nuggets SELLERS.
Next: Howling at the League
Feb 20, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Kevin Martin (23) celebrates in the fourth quarter against the Phoenix Suns at Target Center. The Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Phoenix Suns 111-109. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Draft Picks: As per Real GM here is a complete draft overview. Like so many teams the Wolves first round pick belongs to Boston, but unlike the Nets they were wise enough to protect it 1-12.
Free Agents: The vets are all heading into free agency (except Kevin Garnett), but now is the time to offload unneeded assets to build the team with specialists and role players to add to the youthful core.
(which is someone I assume many teams will be interested in).
Minnesota has no ongoing trade talks for guard Ricky Rubio now, league sources tell @TheVertical. That may change in the summer, though.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) February 16, 2016
Category: The problem is the Wolves have almost too much young talent which is why they might want to hold off on trading Ricky Rubio. Still they will undoubtedly be SELLERS. Only Klay Thompson and Russell Westbrook take home individual hardware not heading to Minnesota as the triumvirate of youth returns from the All-Star break having won 3 of the 5 individual awards … pretty impressive. Now they need to take that confidence to build the core and get them poised to improve. If the scuttlebutt I’m hearing that Tom Thibodeau may be headed to Minnesota, all I have to say is … watch out!
Next: Thunderbolts and Lightning, Very, VERY Frightening
Dec 12, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) and forward Kevin Durant (35) look on against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. The Thunder defeated the Timberwolves 111-92. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Draft Picks: As per Real GM here is a complete draft overview.
Free Agents: Of course the big name is Kevin Durant who’ll likely resign with fanfare in OKC for 2 years with an opt out in year two. At this point it’s hard to imagine him leaving money and years on the table! The notable free agent other than KD is Dion Waiters who’ll need to demonstrate his fit prior to this summer. He’s shown he has the offensive gifts, but there is also a direct correlation to the squad falling down the ladder defensively with when Roberson got injured and Waiters had to start in his stead.
Of note: If the Thunder trade Steve Novak's $3.7m expiring deal into someone's cap space, it saves them $8,362,500 off their tax bill.
— Royce Young (@royceyoung) February 17, 2016
Bottom line: It’s now or never for the Thunder to make their mark. They still stand the best chance at un-seeding or upsetting in the playoffs one or both of the top two ranked West squads. Offense hasn’t been an issue and at times this season the defense has looked quite strong. Watch for coach Billy Donovan to start imprinting the team with his stamp over the final 2 months of the regular season with a view to building momentum.
Category: HOLDERS Though the Thunder could make a minor trade, odds are they will stand pat other than potentially moving Novak’s contract to save some money off the luxury tax.
Next: The Dame Has Spoken!
Oct 18, 2015; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) celebrates with C.J. McCollum (3) after making a free-throw to cut the Utah Jazz lead to one point during the fourth quarter of the NBA preseason game at Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. The Blazers won 116-111. Mandatory Credit: Godofredo Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Draft Picks: As per Real GM here is a complete draft overview. You know exactly how driven Damian Lillard is to win when you realize the team who has had to fight and scrap their way to the 7th seed will lose their first round pick (and they could truly use it) to Denver if they finish seeded above 14.
Free Agents: Though there are free agents this summer the truth for Portland perhaps more than any other team in the Association is they signed a bunch of unproven young pro’s with a view to seeing whether they could deliver. In the off season they’ll look to retain the pieces that fit with the All-Star worthy backcourt and then go about signing outside free agents.
: Portland will have no problem attracting outside talent (and big talent at that) given what happened this year. Unlike teams like Milwaukee, Washington or Houston who’ve not lived up to expectations Portland has far surpassed theirs. Ultimately that will be a very attractive quality for players who want to win.
Category: Though they shouldn’t make a huge move if the Blazers can find a way to add depth without losing a player they’ve tagged for the future they’ll do it. But, it’s more likely they’ll hold steady or become SELLERS. The Blazers are an organization that understands the value of rebuilding and much like Toronto won’t forfeit their future to get one extra playoff round now.
Next: Making New Music
Feb 9, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) celebrates with forward Trey Lyles (41) and guard Raul Neto (25) after making the game winning shot in overtime to defeat the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Draft Picks: As per Real GM here is a complete draft overview. The Jazz own a bevy of second round picks as well as all their own.
Free Agents: Trevor Booker will be the one free agent of note and the Jazz will want to retain him given his production this season.
: The moral of the story is defense travels! Much like the Pelicans entered this season expecting to climb the ladder they found out quite quickly injuries would cause problems. But more importantly they learned without defense wins would be much harder to come by. Conversely the Jazz stayed within reach despite being without several key players including Rudy Gobert who captains the defense and completely changes the way the team plays when he is on the court, protecting the rim.
Category: This is another of the very exciting up and coming teams with several young quality players. All they lack is a bit more 3-point shooting, a veteran (leadership) presence and a mature point guard. The latter may end up coming via Ty Lawson if the two sides can strike a deal and given how little chance he’s been given this season in Houston I hope wherever he lands he scorches them for the rest of his career. Though they will look to add that veteran guard for the most part Utah will be a HOLDER.
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