5 NBA Teams Most Likely to Hold Fire Sale Ahead of 2016 Trade Deadline
Right now, the deep ranks of playoff hopefuls could keep the market quiet. With 25 of the league's 30 teams within four games of a postseason spot, there just aren't many sellers to satiate all the potential buyers out there.
But that doesn't mean there aren't teams either ready to talk serious shop or will be shortly. A lot could change in the next few weeks if fringe teams such as the Charlotte Hornets, Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets give up on playing beyond mid-April.
While other pretenders cling to their postseason dreams, these five struggling squads could seriously consider auctioning off their spare parts for picks, prospects and other useful pieces.
The Phoenix Suns have been terrible for two months and an absolute dumpster fire since late December. Over their last 16 games, they've won just once while posting the league's worst net rating (minus-15 points per 100 possessions).
The loss of Eric Bledsoe for the season to yet another knee injury in late December merely bolded the writing that was already scrawled across the walls of Talking Stick Resort Arena: It's time for general manager Ryan McDonough to hit the reset button.
McDonough's makeover might as well begin with Markieff Morris. This past summer, Morris pouted, both publicly and privately, after the Suns traded his twin brother, Marcus Morris, to the Detroit Pistons. As ESPN's Zach Lowe explained:
Morris' dismay stems in large part from the Suns' decision to trade his twin brother Marcus Morris to Detroit in July. The Morris twins agreed to contract extensions in September 2014 at what was widely considered a discount, with the two deals totaling a combined $52 million, in hopes of being able to ensure they would keep playing together.
According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the Suns have already been shopping Morris, with the Cleveland Cavaliers potentially stepping in to facilitate a deal.
Tyson Chandler would be another prime candidate to move, given Alex Len's growth behind him, if not for the former Defensive Player of the Year's age (33), remaining salary (three years, $39 million) and spotty injury history. Phoenix may have an easier time trading P.J. Tucker, who, at 31, has but one non-guaranteed year remaining on his contract.
Whatever the Suns are able to garner for their more veteran pieces, what's most important for them now is to open up opportunities for some of their promising young players, just like the expanded role that rookie Devin Booker has stepped into since Bledsoe went down.
New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans' poor record (15-27) and even poorer roster around Anthony Davis both point to a purge in the Crescent City.
But things aren't so simple for arguably the NBA's most disappointing team. For one, the team is under pressure to win now, what with a 45-win season in the rearview and the Brow's burgeoning superstardom right in front of it.
Injuries play into both New Orleans' struggles and its potential deadline decisions. According to USA Today's Sam Amick, the Pelicans would prefer to trade Eric Gordon, ahead of some of their other pieces, but figure to have trouble doing so with the impending free agent while he's recovering from a fractured finger.
Ryan Anderson, another free-agent-to-be, has been bandied about in trade rumors for most of the season. In today's NBA, teams from coast to coast are clamoring for power forwards who can stretch the floor like Anderson can.
But as Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler revealed, the Pelicans aren't looking to dump Anderson outright:
Pelicans sources admitted that moving Anderson was likely to happen just because of the business of the situation, but cautioned that New Orleans wouldn’t do a bad deal just to make a trade and that unless an offer was meaningful to them, they may stay the course, finish out the season and see what happens in free agency.
If New Orleans can find a good return for Anderson—and, perhaps, offload Omer Asik's onerous deal along the way—the team could be in business by the trade deadline. Otherwise, the Pelicans' playoff expectations under head coach Alvin Gentry may dictate that the organization stand pat, hope for a reprieve from the injury bug and gear up for a late surge through the Western Conference standings.
According to Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler, the Brooklyn Nets aren't actively shopping their own players, despite their abysmal record (11-32) and recent shakeup in their front-office and coaching staffs.
In the near term, the Nets are hamstrung. But there is one card they haven't yet played: cash out. Put Lopez and Young on the market at the trade deadline and see what the market will bear. Squeeze out as many draft picks and prospects as you can get. Replenish that bare cupboard.
Trading Joe Johnson could help with that, too, if there are any takers for a 34-year-old wing whose $24.9 million salary makes putting together a package for him tricky, to say the least.
Beyond those three, the Nets don't have much to offer. Their starting point guard, Jarrett Jack, tore his ACL. Their two most promising rookies, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris McCullough, are both recovering from season-ending injuries. The Nets don't control any of their own first-round picks until 2020 and are out of second-rounders until 2021.
Mikhail Prokhorov and company could keep telling themselves that high-priced free agents will solve all of their problems. But barring Kevin Durant coming to town, there are no quick fixes available to Brooklyn. Better that the Nets cop to that now and move their pricier pieces accordingly rather than drill down through the bedrock at the bottom of the chasm they've dug for themselves.
In reigning Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins and current Rookie of the Year front-runner Karl-Anthony Towns, the Minnesota Timberwolves have the foundations of a bright future. The task at hand for general manager Milt Newton is to find the right players to put around those two rising stars.
Fortunately for him, the T-Wolves are loaded with young talent beyond their potentially brilliant tandem. Newton's first step, then, will be opening up more playing time for the likes of Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammad—perhaps by jettisoning Kevin Martin, as the Associated Press' Jon Krawczynski told Hoops Rumors' Chuck Myron:
The Wolves are definitely motivated to move Martin. They want to open up more playing time for Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammad and Martin clearly would prefer to be on a team that is more competitive at this stage in his career, and one that has an offense that better suits his skill set. So far, the Wolves have not found a willing trade partner. One of the road blocks is that Martin has a player option on his contract next year. The Wolves have been told by several teams that they would like assurances from Martin that he will waive that option and become a free agent next summer.
Nikola Pekovic would be a prime candidate to go, too, now that Towns is entrenched up front. But doing so could be a tall order for the T-Wolves, as ESPN's Kevin Pelton explained:
Pekovic will make $12.1 million next season and $11.6 million in 2017-18. He only recently returned from a debridement of his Achilles last April and has looked less mobile following the surgery, though he remains a dangerous post scorer. Pekovic turned 30 on Jan. 3 and might never again be a starting-caliber center.
And if Minnesota tires of Ricky Rubio's inability to shoot, the team could always test the market for its 25-year-old playmaker.
What the Wolves would want in return for their more productive veterans is tough to tell. Their cupboard is already stocked with youngsters and could be even more crammed come June if Minny's 2016 first-round pick lands in the top 12 of the lottery.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers have spent the 2015-16 season stuck between a rock (Kobe Bryant's retirement tour) and a hard place (developing their young players). Pretty much everyone who doesn't fall into one of those frameworks may well wind up on the trading block.
There's no rush to move Lou Williams given the reasonable remainder of his contract (two years, $14 million) and his ability to score. But Roy Hibbert, Nick Young and Brandon Bass are ripe for the picking should anyone reach out to Mitch Kupchak.
According to Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler, the Lakers' lines are open for callers interested in Hibbert and Young, but they may have an easier time moving Bass:
The Lakers tried Bass on at a low dollar amount hoping he could contribute and be something of a tutor for forward Julius Randle. With the Lakers going nowhere fast, Bass is one of the guys the front office is expected to move by the deadline.
Bass has been nursing a problematic foot, so that is a concern, but the sense is the Lakers will be players at the deadline and Bass could be on his way out.
Either way, L.A.'s young core of D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. figures to remain untouched. Then again, if the Lakers can package a prospect or two along with Hibbert's salary in exchange for a long-term difference-maker, don't be surprised if Kupchak and Jim Buss seriously consider pulling the trigger.
Josh Martin covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.