The NBA is in full swing! With only the Super Bowl remaining from the NFL, we have turned our attention to the second half of the NBA season where teams are preparing to make their respective playoff push. Both conferences feel wide open, where 1 move could potentially be the catalyst for a Finals run. Just last year, the Toronto Raptors acquired Kawhi before the season and Marc Gasol during the season which gave them the interior size, floor spacing and defense needed to make a run. As of today I believe there are 12 teams that should be examining the trade and buyout market for the missing piece to their team. Let’s examine each team and who could be available for each.
Los Angeles Lakers
Currently sitting at 36-9 and atop the West, the Lakers most glaring weakness is a playmaker who can get LeBron off the ball some and score. Iguodala was perceived to be their top target early this season but it now seems to be Derrick Rose. The Pistons asking price could be too high (possibly a player and 1st round pick) so the Lakers may pass. I would suggest looking at veteran Alec Burks on Golden State who’s averaging 16 points and only cost $2 million dollars or Jamal Crawford.
Utah has hit a surge having won 18 of their last 20 games, including 13 of their last 14. They are currently 2nd in the West at 31-13. Acquiring Bogdanovic over the summer, trading Exum for Clarkson earlier in the season, and having Conley back from injury has been huge. But is it enough to get out of the West? Potentially having to face LeBron, Kawhi, Harden or Luka I think the Jazz need some perimeter defense/toughness to slow these big time wings. Trevor Ariza would’ve been great here but with him no longer being available the best option would be Marcus Morris of the Knicks. He would fit small ball lineups as well as be able to play alongside Gobert.
Los Angeles Clippers
Despite the “load management” of Kawhi, Paul George dealing with injury, and not having fully gelled this team is still 31-14 and 3rd in the West. Pretty impressive! Making a trade wouldn’t disrupt the chemistry as it hasn’t rounded into form yet. The best way to sum up their weakness is interior size and wing depth with a little bit of scoring. It sounds like a lot but I think they could hope everyone gets healthy and go after Aron Baynes to fill the size need or they could try to solve it all by going after Markieff Morris. Morris is 6’8 roughly 240 pounds and would provide the necessary wing depth while also not being afraid to get in the trenches. If Memphis wasn’t in playoff contention I could see Jae Crowder being a potential target as well.
I love this team. Denver is the kind of team you buy league pass for because there is so much talent here. Plumlee recently got hurt but should return in a month and Gary Harris just hasn’t taken the leap yet and it could be time to cut bait via trade. Enter Jrue Holiday, he would fit alongside Jamal Murray and provide veteran presence. The Pelicans may be exciting with Zion coming to action but Jrue deserves to be in contention to win and I have no doubt he could help this 30-14 team potentially leap up to the 2 seed in this tight race. Trading for Jrue, favorable seeding and the stellar play of Michael Porter Jr. could land Denver in the Finals.
Luka Doncic has taken one of the more unprecedented 2nd year leaps in NBA history. What he is doing with the triple doubles, being a MVP candidate and having the Mavs 5th in the playoff race in his 2nd year is nothing short of phenomenal but he can’t carry them alone. Losing Dwight Powell to an Achilles injury has hurt their size greatly. The Mavericks made a predictable move by trading for Willie Cauley-Stein from the Warriors to recover from the Powell lost. Now the question is, with different teams best player at the wing position can the Mavs defend it? Maybe trading Courtney Lee, who has an expiring deal, might be on the block to make a move for a defender.
The window could slowly be closing for these guys. The competition around them has increased and they haven’t made a leap forward. With no contracts that can be traded and already not owning some of their picks they will be hoping for a generous buyout market.
The Eastern Conference
Having the best record in the NBA at 39-6 would make anyone say “what else do they need”. The answer could be nothing, only time will tell. The Brogdon departure may not show itself until the postseason if Bledsoe struggles shooting again. The Bucks will probably stand pact unless a small move for more shooting or defense presents itself.
Miami may be the surprise team of the NBA. Adding Jimmy Butler has been a great addition for them but is this team a contender as presently constructed? I don’t think so. They need a 2nd star but the catch is who could they obtain while also staying financially flexible. Demar Derozan and Lamarcus Aldridge fit this description. But would the Spurs be okay taking back Dion Waters and another players salary…I don’t think so. The Heat are young and may have to just enjoy this moment and see what happens come playoff time.
The defending champs are showing last year was not a fluke. They were 17-5 in games Kawhi sat and this year they are 30-14 good enough for 3rd in the conference. Siakam was named a starter for his first All Star appearance and Kyle Lowry has returned to All Star form as well. With 6 players averaging over 10 points Masai could be content to ride this thing out and see what happens but I think they should make a move for Bogdan Bagdonovic. An unselfish team player who brings 15 points a game with him. The dilemma here would be trade for him now or wait until free agency to sign him.
It is so great to see Kemba Walker on a winning team. It’s long overdue for him. But in order to complete the job Kemba and company will need Danny Ainge to get on the phone and try to acquire this team some size. You won’t make it out the East with the likes of Giannis, Embiid, Ben, and Sabonis dominating your team on the inside. You need a presence to combat that. With little financial flexibility the C’s may have to hope for a buyout of someone like Biyombo or go after Joakim Noah.
This team as presently constructed could be a problem come playoff time. Their biggest acquisition will be getting Victor Oladipo back healthy. If Oladipo hits the ground running look out! This is a team I would suggest don’t do anything drastic but if the right low risk high reward proposition presents itself look into it.
Philadelphia was busy over the offseason giving Al Horford a big contract, Tobias Harris max money and extending Ben Simmons. A lot of money has been committed to this core so the trade options are limited. The biggest need here is guard play who can space the floor for Embiid. Derrick Rose is the hot name here again and who wouldn’t want to see that guy on a contender after all he’s gone through career wise. Maybe give JR Smith or Jamal Crawford a call.
The trade deadline is set for February 6th at 3 pm this year, teams should go all in this year because next year the Warriors and Nets are expected to return healthy star players and create another obstacle to overcome in each conference. When you have a window like this year you must capitalize. The countdown is on, so hopefully your team’s GM is working the phones.