Ranking Teams Most Likely to Make Deals at the NBA Trade Deadline

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2015

Ranking Teams Most Likely to Make Deals at the NBA Trade Deadline

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    USA TODAY Sports

    All over the league, borderline playoff contenders are searching for that last piece to complete their squad. Losing teams, meanwhile, are looking to unload veterans who might hurt their chances at lottery glory.

    Happy trade season, NBA fans.

    The rumors have been rampant this year, and a handful of deals have already gone down. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks have all tried to beef up their rosters. The Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets are already among the sellers.

    As we close in on the Feb. 19 deadline, several more teams could become active in the trade market. Those listed here are the most likely to make a deal based on their positions within their conferences, needs and available assets.

10. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Los Angeles Lakers' path back to competitiveness is pretty clear: keep their top-five-protected pick away from the Phoenix Suns by losing plenty of games this season, use it to draft another stud who can play with Julius Randle and hopefully add a star free agent or two when Kobe Bryant's huge deal comes off the books after next year.

    As Sheridan Hoops' Chris Sheridan explained, the Lakers can expedite step one by unloading anyone who might make the team one or two wins better this season:

    They do not need Carlos Boozer. They do not need Jeremy Lin. What they need is to finish with one of the five worst records in the NBA and then hope for the best on lottery night, because if their picks falls outside of the Top 5, they must send it to the Phoenix Suns as part of the Steve Nash trade. If they can get a second-round pick for either of those players, they’d do it as both are on expiring contracts and both are just good enough to make the difference in the one or two wins/loses that could decide the franchise’s draft fate.

    Given Lin's and Boozer's production, it's not surprising that Sheridan speculated such a low asking price. If a contender thinks it can rehab one of those guys, giving up a second-round pick is almost no risk.

9. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    The Cleveland Cavaliers have already made a couple in-season trades, landing J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert from the New York Knicks as well as Timofey Mozgov from the Denver Nuggets.

    Now, they may be sellers.

    Many have speculated about the team moving Brendan Haywood's expiring contract since Cleveland acquired it last summer. And back in November, the veteran big man spoke with Northeast Ohio Media Group's Chris Haynes about the matter, saying:

    If somebody views my contract as an asset or the team feels they can get something in that can help them or shed salary, they're going to do what they're going to do because that's what they have to do.

    Executives have jobs to do. They get paid to do their job. My contract is what it is.

    The potential cap space Haywood represents is a valuable asset, and the Cavs are shopping him "in their pursuit of a backup point guard or post player to fortify the roster," according to NOMG's Joe Vardon.

    He's only on the books for $2.2 million this season, and the $10.5 million he's owed in 2015-16 is non-guaranteed. Any team looking to shed money this summer should be interested.

8. Houston Rockets

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    Bill Baptist/Getty Images

    Daryl Morey's one of the league's most aggressive general managers, and he may be looking to upgrade the Houston Rockets backcourt.

    According to Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher back in January:

    Daryl Morey, no doubt, is burning up the phones, and the expectation is that he’s going to go hot and heavy after a point guard.

    They love Patrick Beverley, but ideally, he is the third guard in that rotation.

    And to give an indication of just how aggressive they might be, sources around the league are saying don’t count Deron Williams out from the Brooklyn Nets, even though he has that fat contract and right now has a rib injury

    Far more likely is that they go back to a guy that they already know – Goran Dragic, who is in a crowded backcourt with the Phoenix Suns and could be got with that New Orleans No. 1 pick that the Rockets have right now.

    The need for a new point guard in Houston is obvious. James Harden has a massive load of responsibility on the offensive end and could wear down before the postseason starts, especially in Dwight Howard's absence.

    Of Harden's demanding role, Bleacher Report's Kelly Scaletta wrote, "They need to improve at the 'quarterback' position before they can legitimately compete for a banner."

7. Charlotte Hornets

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    Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    The Charlotte Hornets have already been busy on the phones, making a deal to acquire backup point guard Mo Williams on Tuesday, per NBA.com.

    But landing Williams doesn't mean the Hornets are done shopping. 

    After seeing the Utah Jazz match their offer to restricted free agent Gordon Hayward last summer, the Hornets signed a plan B who looked like a massive steal at the time.

    Lance Stephenson had just come off a solid campaign with the Indiana Pacers, in which he helped the team reach the Eastern Conference Finals.

    However, he simply hasn't fit with this roster the way he did with Indiana's. With the exception of assists, his numbers are down across the board:

    SeasonTm FG%3P%FT%TRBASTPTS
    2013-14IND.491.352.7117.24.613.8
    2014-15CHO.371.152.5925.64.99.0
    Career .449.300.6664.63.49.1
    Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
    Generated 2/10/2015.

    So, not even a full season after signing him to a three-year deal, the Hornets are shopping Stephenson.

    According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, they've been engaged in discussions with the Brooklyn Nets about the possibility of a swap primarily involving Joe Johnson.

6. Brooklyn Nets

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    Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and general manager Billy King bet big when they assembled a team of stars with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez. It simply hasn't paid off.

    Pierce has already moved on to a different team, and Garnett's beyond the twilight of his career, leaving the Nets with the massive contracts of a Big Three that isn't producing many wins.

    In December, ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ohm Youngmisuk reported that Williams, Johnson and Lopez were on the trade block, but moving them has proved difficult for Brooklyn.

    As the deadline draws near, even with the team hovering around a playoff spot, both the Nets and any potential trade partners could become more desperate, making a swap more likely.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    The Minnesota Timberwolves are another team in the middle of a race to the bottom, but they may not finish first (or last, depending on how you look at it) if all their veterans are on the roster and healthy.

    Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic have all missed significant time this season with injuries, and the Wolves are actually quite good when they're healthy.

    According to NBA.com, the trio of Rubio, Martin and Pekovic leads Minnesota with a net rating of plus-10.6 (among those who have played at least 100 minutes together).

    That could come down over time, but either way, the presence of those three will surely lead to wins. And right now, that means a longer shot at a top pick in the draft to add to the core of Rubio, Andrew Wiggins and Gorgui Dieng.

    Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix named Martin a "player to keep an eye on before the trade deadline." He added, "Dallas and Washington are among the possibilities."

    Pekovic may be a little more difficult to deal, given that he's under contract until 2018. But we've absolutely seen crazier things in the NBA trade market.

4. Boston Celtics

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    David Sherman/Getty Images

    Like the Lakers, the Boston Celtics are in teardown mode, having already shipped Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks in exchange for Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson and Jae Crowder in late December. They then sent Wright to the Phoenix Suns and Nelson to the Denver Nuggets. And they weren't done there, also facilitating the Los Angeles Clippers' acquisition of Austin Rivers.

    Even with all that activity, more could be on the way. And Tayshaun Prince may be next, according to the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett:

    But it’s fair to assume the club wouldn’t mind weakening its roster and, at the same time, strengthening its future over the next nine days. With the Feb. 19 league trade deadline bearing down, sources say Danny Ainge and his lieutenant, Mike Zarren, have continued to work to find warm and caring homes — and a draft pick — for some of the veterans who are helping them be competitive.

    As it stands, NBA execs are telling us that Tayshaun Prince has the greatest immediate value on the market. He’s on the last year of his contract ($7 million), and, despite a recent hip issue, he’s shown he can still play.

    Bulpett also lists Brandon Bass as a potential trade chip. And it's hard to imagine them turning anyone away who might be interested in Gerald Wallace, though a move involving him is unlikely given his $10.1 million salary in 2015-16.

3. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    With loads of cap space to work with, the Philadelphia 76ers are in position to take on some expiring money from a team looking to unload—especially considering they must meet the NBA's $56.8 salary floor or risk having to distribute the difference among their players. The Sixers currently have $42.45 million in base salary on the books, per Spotrac.

    According to The Philadelphia Inquirer's Keith Pompey, Philly is indeed active in the market:

    Outside of the Boston Celtics, the Sixers have been the most active team when it comes to trade acquisitions since August. And the trade deadline shouldn't be any different.

    With the most salary-cap space in the league and roster flexibility, the Sixers are, once again, in the market to acquire an expiring contract from a team looking to dump a salary. If the price is right, they also will take in unheralded players on opposing teams' rosters who they believe can contribute in their system.

    That doesn't mean some of their bigger-name players like Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel or Joel Embiid will be on the move, though. Pompey writes, "The Sixers' method of gaining compensation won't involve trading their best players."

    If that's the case, Philly may just be the facilitator for a three- or four-team trade, with the organization taking on a salary dump along with future assets.

2. New York Knicks

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    Fire sale! Everything must go!

    After sending J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to the Cavs, the New York Knicks, by all appearances, have made nearly every significant player on their roster available.

    Just take a look at some of the reports that have been floating around the Internet:

    • Pro Basketball Talk's Brett Pollakoff, Report: Knicks looking to trade Pablo Prigioni before Feb. 19
    • New York Post's Fred Kerber, Knicks seek takers for Calderon (OK), Bargnani (anyone, please?)
    • New York Post's Marc Berman, Time for Knicks to say goodbye to class act Amar’e Stoudemire

    With everyone outside of Carmelo Anthony available, it's almost a foregone conclusion that the Knicks, owners of the NBA's worst record, will make another deal before the deadline.

1. Denver Nuggets

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    The Brian Shaw era has gotten off to a terrible start in Denver.

    After going 57-25 in George Karl's final season, the Nuggets are 56-79 in a season-and-a-half under Shaw with roughly the same roster. They are also 8.5 games behind in the playoff race, sitting at 11th in the Western Conference.

    Sure, there have been some injuries, but the biggest problem is that personnel simply isn't meshing with the new philosophy. It's time to start over.

    It's so obvious that media and teams around the league seem to be hovering over the Nuggets' intriguing roster like vultures over a fresh kill.

    Some of the biggest names in the rumor mill are Arron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried.

    The asking price on Afflalo appears to be a first-round pick, according to The Denver Post's Christopher Dempsey. On the Chandler front, Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy has reported that the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers are interested. And finally, there's Faried, who's on the Toronto Raptors' radar, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders.

    With all the smoke surrounding the Nuggets and the quality of the three players mentioned, you can be sure there will be some deadline fire.

    Unless otherwise noted, all stats and salary figures are courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com and are current as of Feb. 11, 2015.

    Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him @AndrewDBailey.

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