The NBA trade season opens in earnest on Dec. 15 when free agents who signed deals over the summer can finally be traded. The trade season runs until Feb. 6.
The NBA landscape was re-shaped dramatically this past offseason with all the player movement. These shifts may open the market a little sooner than in years past because there are more legitimate contenders vying for a spot in the NBA Finals.
The Celtics sit at 17-6, currently No. 3 in the Eastern Conference. They trail the Milwaukee Bucks and are percentage points behind the Miami Heat. Boston features one of the most talented and stable wing players in the NBA, but their frontcourt depth is a little thin.
Boston sports several assists that could be used to upgrade their frontcourt, including a couple of first-round picks in 2020. It’s unlikely that they’ll part with the Memphis Grizzlies’ first-rounder, which is top six protected pick this year but is unprotected in 2021. Boston could throw in Daniel Theis and his $5 million deal and perhaps Enes Kanter’s almost $9 million over the next two.
One of the surprises so far, the Mavericks have been led by Luka Doncic’s brilliant play. Doncic has Dallas poised in the second-tier of the Western Conference, ahead of the Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz.
Dallas will look to upgrade the roster for a post-season run, and they have a few assets at their disposal. While they don’t have a first in 2020, the own Golden State’s second-round pick, currently No. 32. They also have Utah’s second-rounder. In addition, they could deal Courtney Lee’s expiring contract, perhaps coupled with young players like Jalen Brunson or Justin Jackson. The Mavericks hold two different trade exceptions to help facilitate any deal.
Philly features one of the most unique lineups in the league. When everyone’s healthy, the starting lineup towers over the opposition. What the 76ers seem to lack, however, is a perimeter playmaker who can create, particularly late in games. Ironically, Jimmy Butler fits that bill perfectly, but his talents are now in South Beach and above them in the standings.
The 76ers need perimeter help and floor-spacing shooters, but they’re tight on assists. They don’t have a first-rounder, but they have several seconds, including New York’s and Atlanta’s. Those picks and perhaps one of the young players like Zhaire Smith, with maybe Mike Scott for contract purposes, might fetch Philly a difference-maker.
At the moment, Portland is on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. But the bottom of the Western Conference playoff standings is far from settled. The Blazers are 1.5 games back of the Phoenix Suns for the No. 8 seed and the Sacramento Kings for the No. 7 seed. Plus, with top-end talent like Damian Lillard, if a deal comes along to upgrade, they’ll probably pull the trigger.
The Blazers already added Carmelo Anthony to the mix, and they might be angling for hometown boy Kevin Love from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Portland can package Hassan Whiteside’s $27 million expiring deal with Kent Bazemore’s expiring $19 million pact, and perhaps a young player or picks, to upgrade and shoot up the standings.
At 5-19 and losers of eight in a row, the Cavaliers need to accelerate their rebuilding efforts around their talented young guards, Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. There’s no secret surrounding the team’s hopes to deal Kevin Love and what’s remaining of the $120 million contract he signed.
Cleveland might also want to test the market to see what Tristan Thompson and Jordan Clarkson might fetch with their expiring deals. What might be most interesting to find out is if the team decides to move on from Sexton, whose skill-set closely mirrors that of the more highly regarded Garland.
New Orleans Pelicans
Thanks to a parade of injuries, this has been a difficult season in the Big Easy (6-19 with 10 losses in a row). The league has yet to see No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson take the court in the regular season. And with a roster than was massaged of a potential playoff push, it’s clear at this point it might be time to sell off the parts.
J.J. Redick could be a sought-after piece in the market, as well as Derrick Favors. But the biggest piece the Pels can put out there is their All-Star guard, Jrue Holiday. While Holiday still has two-years remaining at more than $26 million each season, it’s time for New Orleans to build around Brandon Ingram and Zion in earnest.
The Grizzlies’ rebuild is moving along at a decent clip, especially with the emergence of Ja Morant. At 8-16, the Grizz have little hope for the playoffs, so it’s time to cash in on their Andre Iguodala investment. With his experience and savvy, Iggy will be a prized piece come playoff time.
Memphis will not buy out Iguodala and should be able to get some return on their investment. They have a few other pieces, as well, including Jae Crowder, who might appeal to playoff contenders.
At 11-16, the Hornets are a little ahead of schedule in their rebuild, but that shouldn’t stop the front office from selling during the trade season. The Hornets are currently 1.5 games behind the Orlando Magic for the No. 8 seed in the East, and pushing for the playoffs only to be swept by the Bucks doesn’t seem worth it.
The Hornets have Marvin Williams’s expiring deal, which might land them some future assets. Charlotte could also move Bismack Biyombo and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who are both in the final year of their deals. The Hornets have nice young players in Devonte’ Graham and Miles Bridges, as well as rookie P.J. Washington.
The Miami Heat have surprised many with their 18-6 start. They’re currently the No. 2 seed in the East, but being a buyer might be difficult for them. The team is hard-capped this season and no one is interested in Dion Waiters or James Johnson.
The Phoenix Suns are currently a playoff team out West, which exactly no one saw coming. Their brass may elect to strengthen their roster in an effort to get Devin Booker to the playoffs for the first time in his young career.
Oklahoma City is behind the Suns thanks to a tie-breaker, so the Thunder may want to make a playoff push as well. The team would love to deal Chris Paul, but his onerous contract makes it difficult. They may deal Danilo Gallinari despite the playoff push, just to cash in the asset.
The Orlando Magic are currently the No. 8 seed in the East with an 11-13 record, but they have a jumbled frontcourt roster. With All-Star Nikola Vucevic and the emergence of Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon’s days in Disney might be numbered. So, too, might D.J. Augustin’s.