What Every NBA Team Would Do if Trade Deadline Was Tomorrow
The NBA trade deadline is still three months away, although every team should already be plotting what moves they'll need to make when the time comes.
Whether it be gearing up for a playoff run, joining the tankathon for Victor Wembanyama, addressing a certain position or finding a return for a player about to his free agency, there's a trade out there for every team to already be thinking about.
Although the 2022-23 NBA season is still young, these are the moves all 30 teams would make if the trade deadline was tomorrow.
Atlanta Hawks: Add More Defensive Help
After finishing just 26th (113.7 rating) in defense a season ago, a trade for Dejounte Murray was supposed to bump the Hawks up to a respectable level.
While Murray has been terrific, more work needs to be done around Trae Young.
The Hawks have moved to just 24th (115.4 rating) so far this year and are still struggling to contain dribble penetration. Atlanta ranks in the 13th percentile in pick-and-roll defense and is giving up more points per game to initiators (24.4) than any team in the NBA.
Getting Murray in a trade from the San Antonio Spurs helps, but the Hawks should still be exploring trades for defensive-minded guards and wings throughout the season.
Boston Celtics: Look for Frontcourt Depth
Hopefully the Celtics have a healthy Robert Williams III back before the actual trade deadline, but regardless if he's ready or not to return following knee surgery, Boston needs some frontcourt help.
With a roster now loaded with guards and wings, a 36-year-old Al Horford still has to play nearly 30 minutes a night as the best big-man option this team possesses. Veterans like Blake Griffin, Noah Vonleh and Luke Kornet should only be emergency options at this point, not regular rotation members on most nights.
Danilo Gallinari's ACL tear severely hurt this team's frontcourt depth, as did the surprising surgery for Williams. It's unfair to assume Williams will look like himself immediately following his return to the court, either.
Finding another power forward or center who can defend and/or hit shots feels like a must.
Brooklyn Nets: Get Anything You Can for Kyrie Irving
Who could have possibly predicted that this Nets season would be a disaster? I mean, besides anyone and everyone who even paid a little bit of attention this summer.
Brooklyn has started just 3-6, head coach Steve Nash is gone after eight games and Kyrie Irving will be suspended for at least three more games for promoting an antisemitic film on his social media accounts and then failing to apologize for several days. Ben Simmons has looked bad in his return to the court from back surgery as well.
While the temptation to tear everything down and start over is there, the Nets don't control any of their first-round picks until 2028. Tanking this season would only benefit the Houston Rockets, who get the right to swap 2023 first-rounders if they'd like.
Instead, the Nets should focus on trading Kyrie Irving before he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
There should be no intention to bring back the veteran guard following a disastrous three-plus seasons in Brooklyn, and teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat could still covet his services.
With Kevin Durant still playing at an MVP level and Simmons' stock at an all-time low, the Nets need to hang on to both while finding a new home for Irving.
Charlotte Hornets: Execute a 1-Year Tank
The Hornets have managed to tread water despite missing LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier for all but two games this season.
Believing this team can still be a playoff contender in the East would be a mistake, however.
The temptation to be buyers is likely there. Michael Jordan wants to win. Veteran head coach Steve Clifford was brought back to win. Keeping Ball happy before he's eligible to sign an extension next summer is important as well.
Still, taking a one year dip would be best for everyone in the long run.
Charlotte loses its first-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs unless it falls in the top-16 selections overall, and the possibility of adding a Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson alongside Ball would put the franchise on a completely new trajectory.
The Hornets should seriously consider trading veterans like Rozier, Gordon Hayward and Mason Plumlee and take a small step back this season, especially with Ball beginning the year on the shelf.
Chicago Bulls: Shop Coby White
White and the Bulls failed to come to terms on an extension before the season, meaning the 22-year-old combo guard will become a restricted free agent next summer.
After spending the 18th overall pick in the draft on Dalen Terry, seeing the rise of Ayo Dosunmu and with Alex Carso and Goran Dragic all on the roster, it's hard to envision White's role growing in Chicago, especially when Lonzo Ball returns from knee surgery.
Rebuilding teams that can offer White a role as a sixth man or spot starter should have an interest in bringing in the 7th overall pick of 2019, seeing what he can do with a bigger share of the offense.
Assuming the Bulls aren't interested in paying him next summer, Chicago should shop White at the deadline.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Be on the Lookout for Low-Cost Wings
A 5-0 record without Darious Garland this season is a nice surprise for the Cavs, a testament to just how well Donovan Mitchell is playing.
There's plenty of talent to go around in the backcourt and in the middle, with players like Caris LeVert, Dean Wade, Cedi Osman and Issac Okoro giving Cleveland good minutes at small forward as well.
There's no major moves that need to be made (which is good since the Cavs are out of tradeable first-round picks), although finding wing defenders who can hit shots is always nice.
Continuing to look for solid role players who can add to the team's depth (Kenrich Williams, Josh Richardson) should be the goal.
Dallas Mavericks: Trade for Another Ball-Handler
As brilliant as Luka Doncic is, the Mavs need to find someone besides him and Spencer Dinwiddie who can dribble a basketball.
Dallas ranks dead last in assists (19.3), assist percentage (47.7 percent) and 27th in points created off assists (54.7) through six games, despite having one of the game's greatest distributors on the roster.
Should Doncic or Dinwiddie have to miss any time, this offense is in real danger of collapsing.
The Mavs don't need to bring in an All-Star-caliber point guard player to share the load, but adding a quality role player (Mike Conley Jr, T.J. McConnell) who can run the offense and get everyone involved is desperately needed.
Denver Nuggets: Acquire a Rim Protector
The Nuggets allowed opponents to shoot an NBA-high 68.9 percent in the restricted area last season. To combat this issue, Denver went out and signed 34-year-old DeAndre Jordan, who hasn't been a reliable rim protector for years.
The results? This figure is now up to 71.5 percent, with the number of attempts growing from 24.8 a game in 2021-22 to 29.4 now.
Denver's defense ranks just 24th overall after finishing 15th a year ago. Jordan is not the answer, nor is there any clear one on the roster.
Adding someone who can challenge shots at the rim behind Nikola Jokic would have a big impact on the team's defense overall.
Detroit Pistons: Shop Nerlens Noel
Acquired from the New York Knicks in a salary-dumping move this past summer, Noel is now part of a crowded center rotation in Detroit.
With Isaiah Stewart serving as the starter and rookie Jalen Duren needing a large role as well, this leaves a limited opportunity for Noel, especially when Marvin Bagley III returns from a sprained knee.
The 28-year-old Noel is good enough to at least be in a contender's rotation, with teams like the Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks and Brooklyn Nets all needing defensive help in the middle.
Detroit would be wise to shop Noel at the deadline and should be able to get a second-round pick back in return.
Golden State Warriors: Take Calls on James Wiseman
Wiseman is 21, was the second overall pick in 2020 and has an athletic 7-foot frame and tons of potential on both ends of the ball.
Unfortunately, none of that is translating to winning basketball for the 3-5 Warriors right now.
This puts Golden State in a difficult position. The team can keep Wiseman in the rotation and hope that more reps eventually leads to him growing into a valuable contributor as the season goes along. For now, however, the Warriors are getting beat by a whopping 29.8 points per 100 possessions with Wiseman on the floor, a number that ranks in the 3rd percentile per Cleaning the Glass.
Golden State shouldn't necessarily shop Wiseman at the deadline, but needs to be open to calls from rebuilding teams who can offer more win-now help.
With Stephen Curry set to turn 35 before the playoffs begin and Draymond Green potentially becoming an unrestricted free agent, the Warriors can only afford to be so patient with Wiseman.
Houston Rockets: Shop Eric Gordon
The Rockets are doing what rebuilding teams are supposed to do; play their young guys big minutes and lose a lot of games in the process.
Keeping some vets around is important to the overall growth of the team, although it feels like Gordon has paid his dues by this point. Moving the 33-year-old wing to a contender while his value is high would be best for both parties.
A starter in all seven of his games this season, Gordon is averaging 12.4 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.0 steals and shooting 35.3 percent from deep. He'd be the perfect sixth man for a team like the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks or Minnesota Timberwolves.
A first-round pick isn't out of the question as a return from Gordon, as the Rockets should still be focused on draft selections and young talent.
Indiana Pacers: Go Full Rebuild
The art of tanking is rarely practiced in Indianapolis, and wasn't the original plan when the team hired Rick Carlisle last year.
Given the amount of vets already shipped off (Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, Caris LeVert, Justin Holiday, etc.), however, the Pacers are only a few players away from stripping this thing down to the studs.
Myles Turner is going to be an unrestricted free agent next summer and the Pacers should be eager to move Buddy Hield and open up more playing time for star rookie Bennedict Mathurin as well.
Whether it be the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Brooklyn Nets or another team in need of shooting and rim protection, Indiana needs to move both Turner and Hield before the deadline. A core of Victor Wembanyama, Tyrese Haliburton and Mathurin would arguably be the best young trio in all of basketball.
Los Angeles Clippers: Find a Pass-First Point Guard
This Clippers offense shouldn't be this bad (29th overall, 103.0 rating) even with Kawhi Leonard playing in just two games to this point. This is the deepest roster in the NBA that shouldn't have this many issues scoring the ball.
One possible solution; adding another ball-handler.
While John Wall and Reggie Jackson are fine, both are more scoring guards than true pass-first options at this stage in their careers.
Adding a veteran like Mike Conley Jr. who doesn't dominate the ball and would be fine serving as a table-setter would be huge for the Clippers, who rank 28th overall in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.29).
Los Angeles Lakers: Dump All the Assets for Win-Now Help
The Lakers shouldn't let moderate success with Russell Westbrook coming off the bench fool them into thinking this team can compete for a championship, which is the only thing that matters with LeBron James set to turn 38 next month.
This roster still needs far more shooting, perimeter defense and a touch of playmaking to even be considered a playoff lock in the West, areas that can only be improved by shipping Westbrook and future first-round picks out.
Teams like the Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs and even the Charlotte Hornets would make ideal trade partners given the veterans available on their rosters and the desire for all (save for maybe Charlotte) to tank this season would make this a mutually beneficial deal.
The Lakers can't wait until the real trade deadline to make moves following a 2-6 start to the season, as just battling for a play-in spot shouldn't be good enough for James, Anthony Davis and company.
Memphis Grizzlies: Move Danny Green's Contract for Defensive Help
The Grizzlies are just 25th in defense to begin the year, an alarming number for a team that should have championship aspirations this season.
Getting Jaren Jackson Jr. back from a foot injury will certainly help, but asking him to take this from one of the worst units in the NBA to one of the best is a tall ask. Losing De'Anthony Melton and Kyle Anderson this past summer truly hurt this team.
Danny Green could return for the playoffs from a torn ACL, but there's no guarantee the 35-year-old will look like his former self, if he can even make it back to the court by that time.
Using his expiring $10 million contract to use as a salary-matcher to go get some more defensive help for this roster is the safe move.
Miami Heat: Find a Starting Power Forward
After losing starting power forward P.J. Tucker in free agency this offseason, the Heat went out and did absolutely nothing to replace him.
It was a bold strategy at the time, one that could help explain a sluggish 4-5 start to the season. Caleb Martin is the current starter, yet Miami has a net rating of minus-4.9 (27th percentile) with him at power forward this season.
An upgrade needs to be made.
Jae Crowder would be a perfect fit in a potential return to the Heat. A veteran like Harrison Barnes or Kenrich Williams would be better options as well.
Miami just isn't as good as other East teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers and others with their roster as-is. Finding a better starting power forward is a must.
Milwaukee Bucks: Nothing
If the trade deadline was tomorrow, the Bucks would be wise to stay put and do nothing to upset the wonderful play and chemistry the team has exhibited thus far.
Milwaukee has easily been the best team in basketball with a 7-0 start, a mark made even more incredible considering that Khris Middleton, Joe Ingles and Pat Connaughton have yet to log a minute this season.
Brook Lopez is still playing at a high level at age 34, Jrue Holiday looks like an All-Star and Giannis Anteotokounmpo is in position to win his third MVP award.
The NBA's only unbeaten team is also the only one who should be fine with doing nothing at the deadline.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Add Some Three-Point Shooting
The Wolves' core isn't going to change this season, both because of the belief in their guys and the inability to trade a first-round pick for the next decade thanks to the Rudy Gobert deal.
A 4-4 start means there may only be some small tinkering needed, especially as these stars learn to complement each other's games.
Shooting could continue to be an issue, however, as the Wolves rank just 25th overall with a 32.6 mark from three as a team. Gobert is a non-shooter, with Taurean Prince and Naz Reid the only current members making better than 36.9 percent of their looks.
Minnesota should look for low-cost snipers to fill in the gaps around Gobert, Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell, taking this offense to the next level.
New Orleans Pelicans: Improve Interior Defense
With Zion Williamson and Jonas Valanciunas, this is one of the most offensively-dominant frontcourts in the NBA.
Where they fall short, however, is the ability to stop others from scoring at the rim.
The Pelicans rank 27th in both opponent shooting in the restricted area (70.6 percent) and 28th in blocks per game (3.6) this season. Trading for a backup center who can protect the rim and bring a defensive presence to the bigs rotation would be a huge addition for New Orleans.
Players like Jakob Poeltl, Mo Bamba and Nerlens Noel could all be targets around the deadline.
New York Knicks: Dump Evan Fournier
New York's starting lineup doomed this team last season. Swapping out Kemba Walker for Jalen Brunson was a huge upgrade, but the Knicks need to do even more.
The next step is getting rid of Fournier.
That's a huge swing for the Knicks, who should look at starting Quentin Grimes or even Cam Reddish in his place instead.
New York isn't going to get anything of value in return for Fournier, but simply removing him from the team could produce positive results immediately.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Shop Kenrich Williams and Mike Muscala
A 4-4 start to the season, including four straight wins, is ruining OKC's plans of tanking for at least one more year. This team is just a little too good, even without Chet Holmgren.
Shopping Williams and Muscala at the deadline would help with these efforts.
Williams would look good on any contender's bench as a three-and-D wing, one who brings constant energy to the floor. Muscala can stretch the floor and does a good job of contesting looks at the rim.
As the Thunder look to add at least one more elite prospect to the mix, trading Williams and Muscala would expedite the process.
Orlando Magic: Explore Trades for Gary Harris, Terrence Ross
Like a number of rebuilding teams on this list racing towards the bottom of the standings, the Magic should look into moving a few of their veterans as well.
Ross is off to a far better start than he had last season, as the veteran wing is hitting 40.5 percent of his threes while averaging 10.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists. He'd be a nice addition to a contender's bench in need of some scoring punch.
Harris is yet to play this year following arthroscopic knee surgery and currently doesn't have a timetable for his return. Assuming he's back before the deadline, however, Harris is a talented 3-and-D wing who averaged 11.1 points and made 38.4 percent of his threes in 2021-22.
Anyone not named Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner, Jalen Suggs, Cole Anthony and Wendell Carter Jr. should be available from Orlando, with Ross and Harris ranking most likely to be moved.
Philadelphia 76ers: Take Calls for Matisse Thybulle
With news that James Harden is expected to miss the next month with a tendon strain in his right foot, the 76ers may be tempted to make a big move if the deadline were tomorrow.
Instead, Philly shouldn't panic, as a core of Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris is good enough to carry the offensive load for a few weeks.
The focus should instead shift to Thybulle, the defensive ace who didn't come to terms on a contract extension in the offseason and will be a free agent next summer. The 25-year-old is averaging a career-low 10.0 minutes a game, scoring just 1.4 points on 33.3 percent shooting.
With Thybulle no longer looking like a focal point in Philadelphia, the Sixers should at least take calls from teams who need perimeter defense, especially if they don't want to pay him next offseason.
Phoenix Suns: Find a New Home for Jae Crowder
The absence of Crowder doesn't seem to have hurt the Suns, who are off to a 6-2 start this season.
Still, trading the veteran forward remains this team's top priority, as the 32-year-old 3-and-D specialist should draw plenty of interest from around the league.
Teams like the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, Brooklyn Nets, Memphis Grizzlies and New York Knicks would all have a need for a player like Crowder, although the Suns would want win-now players back in return.
Phoenix still looks like an elite NBA team. Getting another rotation player back for Crowder will make them even better.
Portland Trail Blazers: Go All-in for a Title Run
A 6-2 start to the season is a pleasant surprise for Portland, a team that didn't project to be one of the top teams in the West entering the year.
Even better, Lillard likes his old self, averaging 31.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists and shooting 39.2 percent from three in his five games.
The Blazers should take advantage of this strong start, even if it means making sacrifices in the future.
No. 7 overall pick Shaedon Sharpe is the perfect trade piece to acquire some win-now help with, adding to a core of Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Jerami Grant, Jusuf Nurkic and Josh Hart. Young players like Nassir Little and Keon Johnson should draft interest from rebuilding teams as well.
Portland may only have a few years of elite Lillard left. Now is the time to go all-in.
Sacramento Kings: Go All-in for the Play-in Tournament
Should the Kings go all-in for just a chance at the play-in tournament? Probably not.
Will they? Probably.
The quest to finally make the playoffs shouldn't be ruled out after a lousy 2-5 start, even if this team has some real defensive issues. The potential is there for these young Kings, especially if rookie Keegan Murray can continue his strong start.
The New Orleans Pelicans showed us last year that teams who look like they have no playoff hope to begin the year can still reach the play-in tournament, especially with a trade for a veteran like CJ McCollum.
These Kings could be last season's Pelicans, zigging when most would zag and surprising all of us with a veteran trade.
San Antonio Spurs: Embrace the Tank
Maybe we should have bet on these Spurs to win the title this year?
San Antonio is off to a 5-4 start despite making no intention this offseason to improve the roster and are getting breakout seasons from Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell and Tre Jones.
Despite this pleasant surprise of a start, the Spurs shouldn't lose sight of the ultimate goal here, which is a 7'4" center from France.
This means stripping the roster of the remaining vets, names that include Doug McDermott, Josh Richardson and Jakob Poeltl. All would look good on a team like the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks or Brooklyn Nets.
San Antonio is just a little too good right now and should finish tearing this thing down.
Toronto Raptors: Look for Guard Depth
The Raptors are stacked with size across the board and can be a nightmare to try to score on with the amount of length and rim protection all over the floor.
One area they still come up short in is the backcourt, where Fred VanVleet has once again been asked to carry a hefty load.
After averaging 37.9 minutes per game last season, VanVleet is up to 38.0 minutes through his first six games. Backcourt mate Gary Trent Jr. is logging 35.6 minutes a year after 35.0 the year before, with no other true guard on the roster averaging more than Dalano Banton's 8.4 minutes a night.
Bringing in a reliable third guard who can handle the ball and give this team 15-20 minutes a game off the bench would help keep players like VanVleet and Trent fresh for the playoffs.
Utah Jazz: Enter Phase 2 of the Rebuild
Phase 1 of Utah's rebuild, trading Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert this summer, couldn't have gone much better.
From acquiring seven first-round picks to picking up key players like Lauri Markkanen and Collin Sexton, the Jazz are off to a shocking 7-3 start to the season and have the draft assets necessary to swing a big deal if they wanted.
As tempting as that may be, it's important for this organization to stick to the plan and enter Phase 2, clearing out the second-tier talent on this roster such as Mike Conley Jr., Jordan Clarkson and Malik Beasley.
Utah is a little too good right now, and like the equally surprising San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, need to do a better job of tanking given the amount of talent waiting in the 2023 draft class.
Washington Wizards: Explore the Point Guard Market
Monte Morris is a good player who should be more than deserving of a spot in a team's rotation.
In an East that features All-Star floor generals like Trae Young, James Harden, Darius Garland, LaMelo Ball, Jrue Holiday, Fred VanVleet and others, however, Morris is going to be an underdog on almost any given night.
Washington should be open to trading for a point guard upgrade at the deadline, letting Morris run the second unit instead.
For an offense that ranks just 22nd to begin the year, finding a better option next to Bradley Beal would help increase the Wizards' scoring attack.