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 10 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 Southwest Division:
Next: Cuban's Challenge
May 2, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban during the game against the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Spurs 113-111. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Draft Picks: As per Real GM here is a complete draft overview. Of note: as mentioned in the Boston review if the Mavericks don’t finish in the bottom 7 the Celtics will add this first round pick to the unprotected pick they own from Brooklyn.
As is typical for the Mavericks they tend to make one year deals with vets and this year was no exception. Therefore heading to the summer the players who’ll enter free agency all all vets other than Dwight Powell who is a Carlisle favorite and though he won’t win he should be in the discussion for most improved. Vets Zaza Pachulia, Charlie Villanueva, JaVale McGee and Raymond Felton will also be free agents.
: The Mavericks and Blazers have been the feel good teams of the year and while they struggled heading into the break they definitely have a solid starting five (though Pachulia’s over excelling is not to be ignored). Cuban will never roll over and die especially with Dirk nearing the end of his career and an aging group on a whole.
Mavs would have interest in Kevin Martin if he receives buyout, source says. They do not want to trade for him due to $7M owed next season.
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) February 17, 2016
Category: Who are we kidding the Mav’s will be BUYERS and look to somehow do the unthinkable by playing David to one of the Goliath’s in the process. Let’s not forget the Mav’s host arguably the heir apparent to Gregg Popovich in Rick Carlisle (with apologies to his runner-up Brad Stevens).
Next: Misfiring Rockets
Jan 18, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) and forward Terrence Jones (6) battle for a rebound during an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Draft Picks: As per Real GM here is a complete draft overview. First round pick goes to Denver (protected to 14).
Free Agents: As we’ve noted repeatedly the two third year power forwards will both be free agents this summer, hence why Morey is presumed to be looking to trade Jones and ideally retain the more offensively versatile Motiejunas. Adding fuel that fire was James Harden’s comments on the big man at the All-Star break where he all but said D-Mo absence was a big reason the Rockets are losing. In addition, Jason Terry, Josh Smith and Marcus Thornton will all be free agents this summer.
Houston remains ultra-aggressive trying to find a new home for Dwight Howard and, ESPN sources say, hasn't stopped trying to move Ty Lawson
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 17, 2016
Bottom line: If Morey decides to blow it up the only players who are likely untouchable are Harden and Capela though it’s likely a strong argument could be made for Motiejunas (assuming the back is 100%). The other players Morey will likely want to retain are K.J. McDaniels, Montrezl Harrell and Sam Dekker just because of their potential ceiling and low overhead. Ariza should be a priority to retain, but something tells me Morey would move him in a package if it meant getting a star in return.
— RealGM (@RealGM) February 17, 2016
ESPN sources say Rockets, if Ty Lawson trade talks with Utah were to collapse, would strongly consider waiving Lawson if they can't move him
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 18, 2016
Category: Like many trying to climb the ladder the Rockets will look to be both BUYERS and SELLERS with it’s believed Ty Lawson and Dwight Howard the primary priorities to move and Terrence Jones secondary.
Next: Grizzlies Slow Grind
Jan 25, 2014; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley (11) guards Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) during the second quarter at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Draft Picks: As per Real GM here is a complete draft overview. With the recent trade of Courtney Lee the Grizzlies received 4 second round picks (2 each from Charlotte and Miami).
Free Agents: The main player entering free agency this summer is Mike Conley, but the Grizzlies will also need to address Jeff Green and Mario Chalmers.
Bottom line: Sure feels like the Grizzlies have begun their rebuild with Marc Gasol lost for the season. No team will want Randolph unless they have a center who spreads the court as ZBo is now a dying bred … a power forward who plays tough nosed defensive basketball with his prowess being in the paint. It’s time the Grizzlies upgrade to catch up with the league as their style has ended up costing too many injuries and just doesn’t cut it during the year any longer with so many teams utilizing small ball and position-less ball.
Sources: As part of Lee deal, Charlotte sending Brian Roberts, PJ Hairston and two 2nds to Memphis.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) February 16, 2016
Miami will send Chris Andersen to Memphis in deal too, sources tell @TheVertical
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) February 16, 2016
Category: Though they’ve indicated Conley is safe, watch for Memphis to be active SELLERS
Next: Pelicans Fly South
Oct 19, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson (33) drives the ball during the third quarter as Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) defends at Toyota Center. The Rockets defeated the Pelicans 120-100. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Draft Picks: As per Real GM here is a complete draft overview.
Free Agents: The major free agent Ryan Anderson should be gone by 3 PM EST at latest today as the Pelicans look to figure out what direction they are headed.
: Problem with getting a buyer for Anderson is he isn’t guaranteed to return next season so he could be an extremely expensive playoff rental. Still the Pelicans are now without Evans for the rest of the year and likely will try to trade both Anderson and Eric Gordon to either gain talent or draft picks.
Category: They’ve had the worst luck with health, but need to clean house (SELLERS) then reboot by playing spoilers to improve their defense and get a head start on next season.
Next: Masters Stand Pat
Jun 8, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich talks to forward Tim Duncan (21) guard Tony Parker (9) and forward Kawhi Leonard (2) against the Miami Heat in game two of the 2014 NBA Finals at AT&T Center. The Heat won 98-96. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Draft Picks: As per Real GM here is a complete draft overview.
Free Agents: Does it even matter? They’ll tell us they don’t know if they are returning and then somehow miraculously everyone will be back next year and the team will be even better!
Bottom line: Their the model of efficiency, professionalism, class and consistency. What more could you want?
Category: Though I wouldn’t put it past them to add someone no one even knew was available (Ray Allen), expect the Spurs to be HOLDERS.
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