10 Potential 2016 Trade Deadline Targets Who Could Shape NBA Playoff Picture
Unless you're the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder, you can't be content.
Even the Cleveland Cavaliers have a few flaws they could stand to fix before the NBA's Feb. 18 trade deadline. The Toronto Raptors are right on their heels in the Eastern Conference standings, and even with head coach Tyronn Lue running the show, last year's runners-up are still dropping some games they shouldn't.
As for the rest of the non-elite teams hanging around in—or just outside of—the playoff picture, they could all use a timely boost while gearing up for the stretch run of the season.
Fortunately, options abound.
Whether you're looking for a floor-spacing big man, a versatile wing, a new point guard or a dominant center, there's a player out there who could well be available for the right price.
Team: New Orleans Pelicans
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 17.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks, 17.6 PER
At some point, the New Orleans Pelicans will pull the plug on their ill-fated playoff push. Heading into their Thursday night clash with the Los Angeles Lakers, they were five games shy of the Western Conference's No. 8 seed. But even sneaking into the postseason would just mean an inevitable first-round exit against the Warriors or Spurs.
It makes sense for the Pelicans to shop some of their veteran pieces, and Ryan Anderson is the one who would return the most value. In the right situation, he'd see his defensive flaws mitigated by a rim-protecting presence, which would allow his floor-spacing ways to make the largest possible impact.
Just imagine Anderson's 39.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc on the Detroit Pistons roster. He'd complement Andre Drummond fantastically, fitting in with head coach Stan Van Gundy's four-out, one-in desires.
Plus, as ESPN.com's Marc Stein noted while explaining the Pistons' potential interest in Anderson, the power forward played for Van Gundy when he was working next to Dwight Howard for the Orlando Magic.
Whether Anderson ends up with the Pistons or another team—the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors should both have interest—a trade is "likely to happen just because of the business of the situation," per Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler.
Team: Orlando Magic
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 13.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.3 steals, 14.0 PER
As Tom Ziller noted for SB Nation, Evan Fournier is a restricted free agent who could look appealing as a trade target:
The Magic have Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Mario Hezonja in the backcourt. Fournier might be the most or second-most productive of the crew right now, and he is young. But he would seem to be the odd man out, perhaps because everyone else has a higher ceiling. That said, being productive now should help Orlando get something useful for him should the Magic decide to shop him at the deadline.
Of course, there's no guarantee Orlando moves Fournier.
"We really value Evan," general manager Rob Hennigan recently said, per Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. "We've said that all along, and I'll say about Evan what we said about Tobias, which is it's our intention that he'll be here for many years to come."
But if the right offer comes in, it would be tempting to open up space for Hezonja and the other guards on the roster.
It might, since the ability to treat Fournier as either a short-term rental or a long-term building block should help teams make substantial pushes for him. Given his upcoming status as a restricted free agent, a squad trading for him would be able to match any contract offer he signs this offseason or just ink him to a new deal right away.
Fournier isn't a perfect player, but he's a dynamic offensive threat who can slash to the hoop or drill shots from beyond the arc. A playoff team seeking a scoring boost off the bench could use him, especially if it was able to cover up his defensive shortcomings.
Team: Sacramento Kings
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 18.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.7 blocks, 17.0 PER
When Rudy Gay is put in a situation that allows him to focus on his strengths, he can play like an All-Star. However, that hasn't happened with the Sacramento Kings. The construction of the roster forces him to the perimeter, where he's tempted into lofting up three-pointers instead of establishing himself in the post.
According to NBA.com's SportVU Data, Gay is scoring just 0.89 points per possession in spot-up situations, which leaves him in the 39.2 percentile throughout the league. When he's allowed to post up, he's contributing 1.02 points per possession—good for the 89.4 percentile.
Unfortunately, 19.2 percent of his possessions fall into the former category, while only 10.9 come with his back to the basket. The Kings simply aren't maximizing his talents, which makes him a potential buy-low option for a squad that could.
Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee reports that Gay "has been linked to Chicago and the Los Angeles Clippers." Meanwhile, the Kings have discussed sending their small forward to the Pelicans for Ryan Anderson, per Sheridan Hoops' Michael Scotto.
That last option should be particularly intriguing, since Anderson fits the floor-spacing role the Kings have unsuccessfully tried to pin on Gay.
Team: Atlanta Hawks
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 15.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.5 blocks, 19.7 PER
"I haven't heard anything from the organization," Al Horford told Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the increasingly prevalent trade rumors that involve him leaving the Atlanta Hawks. "For me, my priority is to focus on the team. My task is in front of me."
Losing Horford would be painful to the Hawks. He's been the centerpiece of their schemes on both ends of the court for a while now, and it's rare to find a player who's not only able to fill virtually any role but also willing to do so. Even when Atlanta has slotted him into jobs that require less scoring, he's done so with nary a complaint.
But the 29-year-old is due to become an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of this campaign, and he could well earn a max contract. He certainly deserves one.
If the Hawks are unwilling to pay such a steep price to retain his services, shopping him makes sense. And plenty of teams out there would love to have him—the Boston Celtics, for example.
Due to the malleability of Horford's game, he can seamlessly fit in with virtually any squad. Whether he's asked to protect the rim and score from the post like a traditional center or display more versatility on both ends of the floor, the Florida product can make a positive impact. And that also makes him an option for teams that view him as little more than a half-season rental.
It wouldn't be surprising to see Horford play out the remaining portion of this campaign in Atlanta. But it also wouldn't be shocking to see him wearing a different uniform by the time the trade deadline passes.
Team: Houston Rockets
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 14.4 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.6 blocks, 20.4 PER
Four years ago, Dwight Howard had still played for only one team throughout his entire professional career. But now, there's a possibility he could suit up for his third since leaving the Orlando Magic during the 2012 offseason.
The Boston Celtics have engaged the Houston Rockets in trade discussions about the 30-year-old center, per Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. But as A. Sherrod Blakely clarified for CSNNE.com, those discussions didn't go beyond the preliminary stages. ESPN.com's Calvin Watkins and Marc Stein also confirmed that the Rockets do not currently intend to trade their starting center.
Still, if one discussion has already taken place, more could come later.
Houston hasn't asserted itself as a title contender, sitting a mere one game over .500. At this point, it's only 1.5 games clear of the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz, who remain in a dead heat for the Western Conference's No. 8 seed.
If the Rockets decide this is a lost season and choose to deal Howard before he can opt out this summer, they could still receive a rather significant return. Whether that's coming from the Celtics, who could use a dominant interior presence, or a different organization, there would certainly be offers for this big man.
Team: Houston Rockets
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 9.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.8 blocks, 14.0 PER
Terrence Jones is an even more likely candidate than Howard to find himself on the move before the Feb. 18 trade deadline. He's not viewed as a building block by his current team, he has another year remaining on his contract, and he's still boasting plenty of untapped potential.
Jones hasn't broken out as a star, but he remains a versatile contributor.
Not many power forwards are capable of connecting from the perimeter—look at his 2014-15 three-point percentage, not his work this year—and also protecting the rim. According to NBA.com's SportVU data, Jones is allowing opponents to shoot 51 percent at the hoop this season, but that stands in stark contrast to the 46.3 percent clip he gave up in 2014-15.
This season hasn't done much to boost Jones' stock, but the former Kentucky standout is still only 24 years old and has plenty of time left to realize the full extent of his upside. We've already seen flashes of what he can do on both sides of the court, even if they've been few and far apart this year.
Now, with Josh Smith back in town, Houston can surely afford to part with Jones, giving a contending team a potential buy-low bargain. No verified interest has yet been revealed, but don't be surprised to see the Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors, Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers send out feelers before it's too late.
Team: Milwaukee Bucks
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 16.6 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.9 blocks, 23.1 PER
"From what I'm hearing is they are willing to trade anybody not named [Jabari] Parker, [Giannis] Antetokounmpo or [Khris] Middleton," an anonymous NBA executive told Gery Woelfel of the Journal Times. "I even heard they'd listen [to offers] for Parker and Middleton, but it would have to be some crazy offer. They want to do something; they know they have to do something."
Michael Carter-Williams isn't quite enough of a needle-mover for our purposes, given the total stagnation of his career since winning Rookie of the Year for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2013-14.
But Greg Monroe certainly is. The big man has been a double-double machine during his first season with the Milwaukee Bucks, showing off his offensive skills in the painted area while receiving plenty of defensive attention.
He's not much of a rim-protector and doesn't have the foot speed necessary to guard perimeter-oriented bigs in the modern NBA. Nonetheless, his scoring niche is valuable.
Imagine him teaming up with Paul George and the Indiana Pacers to form an offense-defense rotation with Ian Mahinmi. Think about him suiting up for the Celtics as a go-to offensive option. Consider him returning home and joining Anthony Davis on the Pelicans.
This is all speculation for the time being, but there are some strong fits out there if the Bucks are desperate to make a change less than one year removed from inking Monroe to a max contract.
Team: Phoenix Suns
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 10.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.4 blocks, 10.4 PER
Markieff Morris is mired in a year to forget.
It began during the offseason when the Phoenix Suns traded his twin brother to the Detroit Pistons, and not much has improved since that fateful moment. Even if this 26-year-old power forward is no longer disgruntled—a potentially faulty assumption in and of itself—he's not exactly playing inspired basketball. In fact, he's shooting only 39.8 percent from the field and 28.4 percent from beyond the arc.
But perhaps this would change if Morris suddenly found himself in a new situation. It's amazing what can happen when an environment changes for the better, and there's no denying this former Sixth Man of the Year candidate has the talent necessary to help out a playoff squad.
At this point, the biggest issue is that the Suns have zero leverage.
The rest of the Association knows Morris is stuck in a slump and remains unhappy, and Phoenix has already begun cleaning house by firing former head coach Jeff Hornacek. Trading Morris is the next logical step, and, as a result, it surely won't take much to acquire him.
Precious few rumors have surfaced about teams actually having legitimate interest in the power forward throughout this season, but that should change as the deadline approaches. Don't be surprised when the Toronto Raptors make a significant push, seeking out a stretchy frontcourt player who could complement Jonas Valanciunas.
Team: Atlanta Hawks
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 14.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks, 17.1 PER
As Andy Larsen reported for KSL.com, the Utah Jazz have legitimate interest in acquiring Jeff Teague from the Atlanta Hawks:
It's real. Multiple league sources say that the Utah Jazz are indeed considering trading for Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague before February's trade deadline. While no formal contact has been made between the two sides, the Hawks primary decision maker Mike Budenholzer has a good relationship with both Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey and head coach Quin Snyder from their time together with the Spurs.
The New York Knicks could be another suitor for the point guard, and TNT's Charles Barkley called them a lock to make the playoffs if they acquired the 27-year-old, per Peter Botte of the New York Daily News. Interest is more concrete for the Celtics, as CSNNE.com's Chris Mannix reported the team has asked the Hawks about a potential deal.
Teague may not be playing at the level he was at when he made last year's 2015 All-Star squad. He's not finishing in the painted area quite as confidently, and he's ceding some offensive responsibility to Dennis Schroder—the young floor general who is making the Hawks view the current starter as more of an expendable commodity.
But it's not often a point guard this talented could be available heading into the trade deadline, and he could make a big difference for quite a few fringe playoff contenders.
Team: Los Angeles Lakers
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 15.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.3 blocks, 17.3 PER
If you're looking for a defensive presence at the trade deadline, you should probably avoiding calling the Los Angeles Lakers and asking for Lou Williams. He's been a glaring liability on the point-preventing end this year, just as has been the case throughout his NBA career.
But if you need an offensive spark, it's hard to think of a better cheap option.
Williams is best suited as an off-the-bench threat, one who can enter a contest and quickly put up points in bunches. He can slash through the teeth of a defense, connect from the outside and create shots for himself, which makes him quite the beneficial player when slotted into the proper role.
The Lakers are more than willing to make him available, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein, and that shouldn't be even remotely surprising. They already have plenty of younger options in the backcourt—Jordan Clarkson and D'Angelo Russell chief among them.
So long as the asking price isn't too high, competitive squads looking for that offensive boost should come calling fairly soon. Here's looking at the Utah Jazz, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks and quite a few others.
Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @fromal09.
Unless otherwise indicated, all stats are from Basketball-Reference.com or Adam's own databases and are current heading into games on Feb. 4.