What Every NBA Team Should Do at 2016 Trade Deadline

Josh Martin@@JoshMartinNBANBA Lead WriterFebruary 18, 2016

What Every NBA Team Should Do at 2016 Trade Deadline

0 of 30

    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    There's no point in predicting what will go down before the NBA's trade deadline passes at 3 p.m. ET on Feb. 18.

    Teams are always talking—and leaking details of those chats to the media. Midseason deals are tricky to pull off as is, let alone against a shot clock. Those competing pressures often create a cooker in which obvious possibilities are crushed and shockingly fragile swaps actually pull through.

    So rather than try to tell the future, let's see if we can suss what should happen on the market before NBA Commissioner Adam Silver rings the closing bell. For the most part, we based scenarios for all 30 teams on believable trade rumors wherever and whenever such conjecture made sense.

Atlanta Hawks: Hang on to Al Horford

1 of 30

    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    The Atlanta Hawks could be the wild card of the trade deadline. They have the goods to fuel another run to the Eastern Conference Finals, but only if they can avoid the Cleveland Cavaliers before then.

    Even so, the Hawks are shy of title contention. They can continue to ride this wave of mid-tier success, though this run of playoff appearances—which should stretch to nine this spring—could be nearing a turning point. Al Horford, the linchpin of Atlanta's pseudo-renaissance, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

    All of which means the Hawks should trade Horford, fresh off his fourth All-Star appearance...right?

    Maybe not. Sure, Atlanta could use Horford to siphon assets from its chief competitors in the East, including the Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics, per various reports

    But the Hawks needn't fret about losing Horford for nothing. As ESPN's Zach Lowe wrote, Atlanta would have a clear leg up on the competition this summer if it kept him:

    People close to Al Horford, another sell-off target about to hit free agency, say he will value that fifth year more than almost every other variable in his free-agency calculus. If teams see a crowded free-agent bidding war for a player they like, they might feel an urgency to acquire him now and use that fifth year to get a leg up in that bidding war.

    Beyond the business of basketball, Horford has been integral to the Hawks' organizational turnaround, per ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz and Brian Windhorst:

    [Mike] Budenholzer regards Horford and [Kyle] Korver as essential to both what the Hawks do on the floor and the professionalism they've cultivated in the locker room. In addition, the Hawks' recent success has resulted in generous bumps in season-ticket sales, sponsorships and local television ratings, growth which would potentially be put at risk were the Hawks to ship out mainstays such as Horford, Korver and [Jeff] Teague.

    If the Hawks want to retool, they can dangle Teague, who has a host of suitors (Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Utah Jazz, per Lowe) after him and a replacement (Dennis Schroder) at the ready. But moving Horford would put at risk all they've done to fortify the franchise since the front-office ignominy of September 2014.

Boston Celtics: Get SOMETHING for All Those Picks

2 of 30

    Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    The Boston Celtics could head into the 2016 NBA draft with as many as three first-round picks and four second-rounders in their holster. That's a ton of rookies for the sad-sack Philadelphia 76ers to carry, let alone a Beantown bunch with its grips on the East's No. 3 seed.

    Frankly, the C's will have a tough time taking that all-important next step in 2016-17 with even half that many newbies on their payroll.

    Danny Ainge, the team's general manager, is well aware. He's been hot after a superstar for some time and did well to snag Isaiah Thomas, now an All-Star, before last year's deadline.

    "Basically, you have to be ready to pull the trigger and you can't get involved in a chase," Ainge told the Boston Globe's Adam Himmelsbach. "Maybe you overpay for that transcendent player, but if you get caught up in bidding against five or six teams, I think that's when mistakes are made.

    "So you've got to sort of make up your mind on what you're willing to do, and if you get a deal in those circumstances, then do it."

    Ainge isn't afraid to push Boston's biggest chips, including Brooklyn's unprotected 2016 pick, into the pot if that's what it takes.

    "We know it's important, but it's not untouchable, either," Ainge continued. "It's important and it has value for us. It's not the most important value. We have some [Celtics] players we value more than we value the Brooklyn pick.

    "We're listening to teams that call and ask us, whatever assets we may have. There are players we would trade the Brooklyn pick for, and many players that we wouldn't."

    If the C's can find a player they deem worthy of that pick, they'd do well to move quickly, both to improve their postseason prospects now and avoid a bidding war later.

Brooklyn Nets: Sit This One Out

3 of 30

    Mikhail Prokhorov
    Mikhail ProkhorovDavid Dow/Getty Images

    A shiny new practice facility is about the only certainty in the Brooklyn Nets' future. The team remains without a general manager, and according to Sporting News' Mitch Lawrence, San Antonio Spurs executive Sean Marks isn't likely to jump on the job.

    Chances are, the Nets won't find Billy King's successor before the deadline. Team owner Mikhail Prokhorov suggested as much himself, per the Bergen Record's Andy Vasquez.

    Even if the Nets were to hire a new GM posthaste, that person won't have much time to scribble out a blueprint for a franchise that could be mired in mediocrity for years to come. 

    That sort of long-term outlook is what Prokhorov wants, as he wrote in an open letter, per The Vertical:

    Instead of being opportunistic, working all the angles and trades, we must have a strategy about the team's identity. Do we want to be choosy and wait for a star player to build around, maybe sacrificing a season to get him? Do we want to focus on the power of the whole by choosing young players with specific talents to work together? Will we choose mettle, commitment and heart over pure stats? Are we offense-based or defense-based? What are the core capabilities we will focus on to win in the long term? These are the questions that must be answered before any other decisions are made, and these are the questions at the top of the agenda for the new management team.

    And these are the questions the Nets won't have time to answer adequately before Thursday's deadline. 

Charlotte Hornets: Don't Do It for Dwight

4 of 30

    Dwight Howard (No. 12) and James Harden
    Dwight Howard (No. 12) and James HardenScott Halleran/Getty Images

    Michael Jordan's obsession with winning is the stuff of legend, so it should come as no surprise that his Charlotte Hornets have been hot after upgrades ahead of the deadline.

    They've already brought in Courtney Lee to replenish their wing depth, now that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is back on the shelf. According to ESPN's Marc SteinDwight Howard could be next.

    It's one thing to rent Lee for two to three months while giving up a wing who fell out of favor (P.J. Hairston), a third-string point guard (Brian Roberts) and two second-round picks. It'll be another to pry Howard from the Houston Rockets' hands.

    Per Stein, the Rockets want "at least" one first-round pick for their big man. That's a fair price, but not one the Hornets should pay for Howard. He can re-enter the market this summer and, at 30 with a history of back issues, may never again be a consistent force whose impact is commensurate with the max salary he'll seek.

    The Hornets would have the right to offer Howard a longer, more lucrative contract in free agency if they trade for him now. But what exactly would Charlotte be getting for an investment well north of $100 million?

    Or, as ESPN's Zach Lowe put it, "If Howard's next contract is dicey, then what do you really gain with the right to pay him more money over more years?"

    For MJ's Hornets, probably not much.

Chicago Bulls: Test the Market for Pau

5 of 30

    Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    Thanks to the Chicago Bulls, we now bring you two staples of the NBA trade deadline in one: conflicting reports and rumors regarding Pau Gasol.

    The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski said the Bulls are "aggressively shopping" the All-Star center. ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst said they aren't.

    Whether Chicago is actively asking teams to take Gasol or simply accepting calls on his behalf, the team would be smart to move him soon.

    The Bulls' hopes to contend in the East have already hit the fritz, what with Joakim Noah done for the year and Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic battling back from long absences. Gasol, for his part, can opt out of his contract and into free agency this summer.

    It would behoove the Bulls to get what they can for Gasol before then. He's not of much use now if they're not in contention and won't be of any later if he walks. As productive as Gasol's been in the Windy City, he was an awkward fit under Tom Thibodeau last season and has proved to be even tougher for Fred Hoiberg to jimmy into his schemes.

    If the Bulls can convince another team to take Gasol and send back a rotation player and a first-round pick—as the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson said is their goal—they shouldn't hesitate to do so.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Keep Kevin Love, Dangle Role Players

6 of 30

    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    If the Cleveland Cavaliers can beef up their roster by offloading some underperforming players—say, Timofey Mozgov and Iman Shumpert—then by all means make a deal. And if the Cavs can use those two to pry Ben McLemore and/or Kosta Koufos from the Sacramento Kings, as ESPN's Marc Stein suggested, even better.

    But let's pump the brakes on Cleveland culling Kevin Love from its ranks.

    The Cavs have struggled to fit Love comfortably into their infrastructure thus far, but that doesn't mean they won't find new solutions under Tyronn Lue this season. Remember: The UCLA product didn't truly hit his stride until the playoffs last season, which lasted all of four games for him before Kelly Olynyk unlimbered Love's arm from his shoulder socket.

    "I don't think Kevin Love has been given a fair shake here," ESPN's Brian Windhorst told ESPN Cleveland. "They don't run plays for him or take advantage of his offense."

    Nor would the Cavs be taking advantage of his full value if they dealt him now. Rather than risk selling low on Love just to beat the clock, why not see what this team can do with a healthy All-Star at power forward this spring and reassess their situation after the season?

    In all likelihood, that line of thinking is running through the mind of Cavs GM David Griffin at some level, and for good reason. LeBron James' championship prospects—and, thus, those of the entire franchise—are, in one way or another, riding on Love.

Dallas Mavericks: Refrain from Wheeling and Dealing

7 of 30

    Deron Williams (No. 8) and Dirk Nowitzki
    Deron Williams (No. 8) and Dirk NowitzkiJim Cowsert/Associated Press/Associated Press

    After yet another summer spent reshuffling the deck, the Dallas Mavericks are finally ready to sit one out, per the Dallas Morning News' Eddie Sefko.

    "This year, things will be a little different," Sefko wrote. "The Mavericks aren't looking for any sort of major moves. They have turned over the roster each of the last three summers, and at some point, they are going to hang on to the key components they have amassed."

    That doesn't mean the Mavs won't be looking to improve on the margins. As Sefko went on to note, Dallas could once again wait and see how the buyout market shapes up. That strategy netted it Deron Williams during the offseason and could yield Kevin Martin or Joe Johnson by March.

    Neither of those players would come close to pushing the Mavericks into the West's top tier. But standing pat now could give Dallas the cap space it needs to be as aggressive as ever in free agency later.

Denver Nuggets: Hang on to the Kids

8 of 30

    Danilo Gallinari (No. 8) and Nikola Jokic
    Danilo Gallinari (No. 8) and Nikola JokicDavid Zalubowski/Associated Press/Associated Press

    The Denver Nuggets, like the Portland Trail Blazers in the Northwest Division, have proved to be surprisingly plucky this season. Danilo Gallinari's return has combined with a promising youth movement under head coach Michael Malone to brighten basketball's present and future in the Mile High City.

    It's no wonder, then, that the Nuggets turned down a deal that would've netted them Blake Griffin and Lance Stephenson in exchange for Gallo, Kenneth Faried, Will Barton and Nikola Jokic, per ESPN's Chris Broussard.

    Gallo's averaging nearly 20 points per game, Barton has blown up as a potential Sixth Man of the Year and Jokic might be the league's most underrated rookie. None of those players can compare to Griffin, but together, they constitute an intriguing core to go along with rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay and second-year stud Jusuf Nurkic.

    As for Faried, he and J.J. Hickson are "both available," per the New York Daily News' Frank Isola. So is Randy Foye, according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.

    Faried and Foye are valuable to Denver's operation, both on and off the floor. But if the Nuggets can parlay those two into more complementary building blocks without giving up their youngsters, they'd have to consider such deals.

Detroit Pistons: Replenish at the Point

9 of 30

    Brandon Jennings
    Brandon JenningsAllen Einstein/Getty Images

    The Detroit Pistons did well to flip Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova to the Orlando Magic for Tobias Harris. In doing so, though, they weakened Reggie Jackson's support at the point.

    Without Jennings, the Pistons would have to lean heavily on the aging Steve Blake and the inexperienced Spencer Dinwiddie.

    That is, if Detroit doesn't find another backup floor general first. According to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Pistons are on the prowl for just that. Per the Detroit Free Press' Vincent Ellis, the team could target D.J. Augustin, Mo Williams and Darren Collison, among others.

    Either way, don't expect Detroit to do anything else drastic before the deadline.

Golden State Warriors: Stay Above the Fray

10 of 30

    Kevin Durant (left) and Stephen Curry
    Kevin Durant (left) and Stephen CurryGeorge Pimentel/Getty Images

    If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

    Well, not yet, anyway.

    The Golden State Warriors are as far from broke as any NBA team has ever been. Their 48-4 record stands as the all-time best heading into the All-Star break. They've got all the confidence in the world coming off last season's championship triumph and have everything they need to not only defend their title but set a new mark for single-season wins along the way.

    So long as the core is intact, with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson shooting the lights out in Oakland, there's no reason for Golden State to shake things up.

    Come summer, though, that could change. As the San Jose Mercury News' Tim Kawakami put it, "You go for everything you can with the current 48-4 juggernaut, and then you get ready to go for broke with Kevin Durant this summer."

Houston Rockets: Say Goodbye to Dwight

11 of 30

    James Harden insisted that he and Dwight Howard get along just fine, even though they've tried to get each other traded in the past, per NBA.com's Fran Blinebury.

    "It's good. Real good," Harden told The Comeback's Shlomo Sprung of his relationship with Howard. "As long as we help each other out on the court, we'll be all right."

    Off the court? Maybe. On the court? Not so much. The Houston Rockets slid into the All-Star break at 27-28, in ninth place out West. That's a far cry from last year's trip to the conference finals and, with Howard about to hit free agency, a clear indication that it's time for the Rockets to retool.

    As Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher noted in the video above, Houston is eager to offload Howard before he gets a chance to walk. Doing so could be difficult for the Rockets, given the big man's back problems and impending return to the market.

    But if the Howard-Harden era has run its course in Houston, the Rockets shouldn't wait to move on. General manager Daryl Morey, always the opportunist, surely won't if he finds a deal that suits his team's needs.

Indiana Pacers: Wait and See What Happens with Lance

12 of 30

    Ron Hoskins/Getty Images

    When it comes to trades, the Indiana Pacers may do no more than find a new home for the scantly used Chase Budinger, per the Indianapolis Star's Candace Buckner.

    The bigger move for Larry Bird and Co. could come after the deadline and involve an old friend. 

    According to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, Lance Stephenson could be up for grabs if the Los Angeles Clippers trade him to Orlando in a deal for Channing Frye. Under those circumstances, the Magic would waive Stephenson, thereby making him a free agent.

    Stephenson has struggled mightily since fleeing Bird's nest in July 2014. So far, the Pacers have proved to be the only team with the chops to not only handle whatever baggage he brings to the table but help him flourish in spite of it.

    As it happens, Indy could use another perimeter playmaker. Rodney Stuckey's absence has left the Pacers short of versatile on-ball threats.

    In Stephenson, the team could add one who led the NBA in triple-doubles during his last season in the Circle City—and on the cheap at that.

Los Angeles Clippers: Don't Trade Blake

13 of 30

    Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

    A few weeks ago, some dude with a keyboard suggested that Blake Griffin might be the most expendable member of the Los Angeles Clippers' core. Be that as it may, the Clippers aren't pushing out their pugilistic power forward before the deadline.

    Don't take my word for it—ask Doc Rivers.

    "We're not trading Blake," the team's coach and president said Tuesday, per the Orange County Register's Dan Woike.

    And if you bug Rivers about inquiries he's received, don't expect a pleasant reply.

    For all his foibles and setbacks, Griffin remains one of the NBA's most coveted commodities: a skilled, versatile, hard-working forward in the prime of his career. The Clippers may never move him, but they certainly won't until they see what he, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick can accomplish in this year's playoffs.

    In the meantime, they'll look to upgrade elsewhere, with Orlando's Channing Frye atop their list, per The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Los Angeles Lakers: Get Something to Get Worse

14 of 30

    Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

    At 11-44, the Los Angeles Lakers are already terrible. How much worse could they be after auctioning off those who aren't either Kobe Bryant or among their young core (i.e. D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.)?

    The Orange County Register's Dan Woike agrees:

    The veterans on the team, sans Bryant, though, could and should be shopped in the upcoming days. Center Roy Hibbert's expiring deal probably isn't as valuable this spring as it would be in years past.

    Brandon Bass could be a nice addition to a team looking for a competent offensive big man, and Lou Williams, who has two years left on his deal after this season, could get a relatively nice return.

    And if you want Nick Young and the remaining years and dollars on his deal, he certainly can be had.

    At this point, the Lakers unloading their most useful players would be a win-win. In doing so, they'd get to replenish their stock of trade chips while weakening the team and, thus, strengthening their odds of retaining their 2016 first-round pick.

Memphis Grizzlies: Keep Mike Conley

15 of 30

    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Marc Gasol's foot injury may be a nightmare for the Memphis Grizzlies, but they can rest easy nonetheless at the trade deadline. 

    According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Grizzlies won't even entertain talks involving Mike Conley, a free agent at season's end. Memphis general manager Chris Wallace reiterated as much during an appearance on the Chris Vernon Show.

    The support for Conley in the River City makes sense. The Ohio State product has become every bit as integral to the Grizzlies' success as Gasol in recent years. For Memphis to keep winning—and attract free agents this summer—it'll need Conley to carry the load until Gasol returns.

Miami Heat: Swing for the Fences

16 of 30

    Chris Bosh
    Chris BoshJerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    The Miami Heat once again find themselves in tricky waters. Chris Bosh's uncertain health only adds more uncertainty to an uncertain situation on South Beach.

    Hassan Whiteside may not be a good fit for the organization personality-wise, and he could be tough to retain in free agency anyway. Goran Dragic's partnership with Dwyane Wade has proved to be shaky, at best.

    Where many might see this kind of chaos as a pit, team president Pat Riley is of the sort to use it as a ladder to bigger and better things. He could go after Atlanta's Al Horford and Jeff Teague or Houston's Dwight Howard, among others, per the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson. With Horford and Howard, the Heat would be able to go over the cap to retain them.

    Not that Miami should panic. As Jackson noted, the Heat have gotten good mileage out of slotting rookie Justise Winslow into Bosh's spot.

    "The lineup of [Luol] Deng, Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside and Winslow has played the second-most minutes of any lineup on the team (115) and has outscored opponents by 20," Jackson wrote. "Conversely, the Heat's starting (and most used lineup) has been outscored by eight."

    Whatever happens, bet on Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra finding a way to strengthen their club for the playoffs.

Milwaukee Bucks: Swap MCW for a Better Shooter

17 of 30

    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    According to USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt, the Milwaukee Bucks won't be trading Greg Monroe just yet. That doesn't mean they won't be active ahead of the deadline.

    Per ESPN's Marc Stein, Michael Carter-Williams is "undeniably gettable," even though the team has told him he's not going anywhere.

    Then again, the Philadelphia 76ers told him the same thing, and he wound up on the move to Milwaukee. For the Bucks, Carter-Williams could be the key to landing a former free-agent favorite in Jeff Teague, per the Racine Journal Times' Gery Woelfel.

    "It's no secret the Bucks' front office has an affinity for Teague," Woelfel wrote. "In fact, the Bucks gave Teague an offer sheet a couple of years ago when he was a restricted free agent and many in the Teague camp thought he was Milwaukee bound, until the Hawks matched the four-year, $32 million offer at the last minute."

    Woelfel proposed a deal that would send MCW and John Henson to Atlanta in exchange for Teague, to which an unnamed NBA veteran responded, "I like that. The Hawks get two good payers and the Bucks get a point guard who can shoot from the outside. He [Teague] would help the Bucks a lot."

    Perhaps more so than Carter-Williams, whose shortcomings as a shooter and ball-handler have led the Bucks' coaching staff to yank him in and out of the starting lineup this season. 

Minnesota Timberwolves: Find Takers for Veterans

18 of 30

    Kevin Martin
    Kevin MartinTroy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    With all the young talent the Minnesota Timberwolves have amassed on the wings and up front, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic, once staples of the team's rotation, have been pushed to the fringes.

    So rather than wait for Sarah McLachlan to get involved, the T-Wolves should find new homes for two of their more useful veterans.

    According to ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon, the Mavericks would take a flier on K-Mart, but only if Minnesota buys out the remainder of his contract, which includes a player option for 2016-17. Pekovic doesn't seem to be drawing even that much interest, what with all his injuries and the $23.7 million remaining on his deal after this season.

    In truth, there's no pressing need for the Wolves to part ways with either of these guys. Neither figures into Minnesota's long-term plans and wouldn't likely bring back much in return.

    On the other hand, they've done their time as professionals and mentors in Minneapolis and, in at least one of their minds, should be rewarded for it.

New Orleans Pelicans: Bolster the Brow's Supporting Cast Wherever Possible

19 of 30

    Ryan Anderson
    Ryan AndersonTony Dejak/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Multiple reports have pegged the Cleveland Cavaliers as strong suitors for Ryan Anderson. And if the New Orleans Pelicans can use Anderson to fleece the Cavs, they owe it to themselves—and Anthony Davis—to do so.

    At this point, the Brow needs all the help he can get. Tyreke Evans is done for the year, Eric Gordon is still on the shelf and the rest of Davis' supporting cast is perilously thin on productionJrue Holiday's second-unit contributions aside.

    Anderson is a terrific shooter and all-around scoring threat, but he'll be a free agent and will likely command a huge chunk of New Orleans' cap if he decided to stay. The Pelicans could do worse than bringing back, say, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov as part of a deal for a player like Anderson, who would amount to a two-month rental for a title contender.

New York Knicks: Pick Up a Point Guard

20 of 30

    Jeff Teague
    Jeff TeagueDavid Goldman/Associated Press/Associated Press

    The New York Knicks could use a point guard and have been poking around accordingly. Jeff Teague is on their radar. So is Ricky Rubio.

    Whether the Knicks have the chips to swing either deal is another story.

    "I have heard zero with the Knicks. And really, what can they do anyway? Their [tradeable] talent level isn't that good," a rival general manager told the New York Post's Fred Kerber.

    Said another executive, "I would think anything they do would probably be more cosmetic than anything. They just don't have the assets."

    What they do have are in-house options: rookie point guard Jerian Grant and reigning D-League All-Star MVP Jimmer Fredette, who plays for the Westchester Knicks. Neither grades out as a great option at the point in New York, but one would help Jose Calderon, the Knicks' incumbent starter, rest easier.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Stay the Course

21 of 30

    Kevin Durant (left) and Russell Westbrook
    Kevin Durant (left) and Russell WestbrookTony Gutierrez/Associated Press/Associated Press

    The Oklahoma City Thunder, at 40-14, are rolling right along. They have two of the NBA's five best players (Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook), a young and talented supporting cast that's improving under head coach Billy Donovan, and as good a shot as anyone of upending the Golden State Warriors come playoff time.

    According to ESPN.com's Royce Young, the Thunder are on the prowl for another wing. Andre Roberson, their starting shooting guard, is on the mend from a sprained knee and doesn't pose much of a threat offensively when he's healthy. Dion Waiters and Anthony Morrow are dangerous scorers, albeit without offering much resistance on the other end.

    Unlike last year, OKC doesn't have much in the way of picks and expiring contracts to offer in trades. And as Young pointed out, it's imperative that the Thunder maintain the integrity of their roster as a lure for Durant this summer:

    With two top-five players, they might be good enough to win it already. If not, their next best recruiting tool is to maintain a roster that is built to contend again. And again. And again.

    So trading a promising prospect like [Cameron] Payne for immediate veteran help might or might not improve their chances this season. One thing it'll certainly do, though, is damage their future roster. When Durant surveys the landscape and the franchises that are built to compete, the Thunder not only will be there—they'll be there with one that's still almost entirely under the age of 28.

    Unless the Thunder can find a way to fill their holes without digging more (i.e. signing buyout candidates like Kevin Martin and Joe Johnson), they're probably better off standing pat, both now and later.

Orlando Magic: Protect the Core

22 of 30

    Fernando Medina/Getty Images

    After swapping Tobias Harris for Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova, the Orlando Magic have but one pressing concern: keeping their young nucleus intact.

    According to the Orlando Sentinel's Josh Robbins, the team won't trade Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton or Mario Hezonja unless "another team swoops in and makes an offer the Magic can't refuse."

    No such Godfather offer will be necessary to pry Channing Frye out of central Florida. According to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, he could cost the Clippers no more than Lance Stephenson (who would then be waived), C.J. Wilcox and a second-round pick.

    Granted, that's a pretty penny to pay for a 32-year-old who plays just over 17 minutes a game. But if you're the Magic, why not cash in Frye now if he can yield that kind of return, especially with Ilyasova at the ready to serve as a stretch 4?

Philadelphia 76ers: Help with Salary Dumps

23 of 30

    Sam Hinkie
    Sam HinkieMitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Don't expect the Philadelphia 76ers to treat this year's trade deadline like they did the previous edition. Despite the uneasy fit between Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel, there have been no indications that Philly will ship out either one like it did Michael Carter-Williams in the past.

    Instead, the Sixers would be smart to spend their energy offering up their gobs of cap space as refuge for other teams' bad contracts. General manager Sam Hinkie has used this tactic time and again to extract draft picks from potential partners.

    According to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Keith Pompey, the Sixers will take a similar approach this time around. Among the possible cap casualties, per the New York Daily News' Frank Isola: Anderson Varejao, whose salaries with the Cavaliers in 2016-17 and 2017-18 aren't guaranteed.

Phoenix Suns: (Finally) Cut Ties with Markieff Morris

24 of 30

    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    How in the world is Markieff Morris still with the Phoenix Suns? It's been months since Morris' public tantrums laid bare his desire to leave Arizona after the team dealt his twin brother Marcus to Detroit.

    Phoenix's asking price probably has plenty to do with that. According to USA Today's Sam Amick, the Suns want a rotation player and a first-round pick in exchange for Morris.

    That's a high bar to clear for a player as mercurial. On the other hand, given Morris' age (26), contract (three more years at $8 million per) and positional versatility, the Suns have every right to ask for the moon—and, in the opinion of Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding, they might have to.

    "He long ago asked to be traded, the Suns know he isn't happy and plenty of teams are interested in him," Ding wrote. "It's a perfectly sided triangle for the trade deadline, except the Suns simply have to hit a home run with this deal."

Portland Trail Blazers: Build Around the Backcourt

25 of 30

    Damian Lillard (No. 0) and C.J. McCollum
    Damian Lillard (No. 0) and C.J. McCollumSam Forencich/Getty Images

    Coming into the 2015-16 season, the Portland Trail Blazers were poised to be sellers at the trade deadline. They'd lost 80 percent of their longtime starting five and retooled with unproven parts around the backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

    But Portland's first-half success may have turned the front office's approach to the deadline on its ear. Do the Blazers buy? Do they sell? And what about all those young guys due for big raises?

    In a perfect world, Portland would do a little bit of everything. As ESPN's Zach Lowe surmised:

    Portland has $20 million in cap room to play with, plus two restricted free agents—Allen Crabbe and Meyers Leonard—due big raises under the skyrocketing cap. Teams queasy about paying their restricted free agents ditched them at least season's deadline, when Brandon Knight, Reggie Jackson and Enes Kanter flew around the league.

    Per Sporting News' Sean Deveney, Gerald Henderson, who's essentially a third-stringer in Rip City, is available as well.

    Whatever means Blazers GM Neil Olshey can find to upgrade the roster around Lillard and McCollum, he'd do well to explore them in the hours to come.

Sacramento Kings: Oblige Those Begging for Ben McLemore, Kosta Koufos

26 of 30

    Ben McLemore
    Ben McLemoreCraig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

    The Sacramento Kings will need a boost to survive the scrum for the last playoff spot out West. Ben McLemore and Kosta Koufos could provide all the fuel they need.

    According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Cavaliers have eyes for those two Kings, with Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov as potential returns. If healthy, both would constitute clear upgrades for Sacramento—especially Shumpert, who's the sort of defensive ace on the wing the Kings need so desperately.

    But as with anything coming out of California's capital, there could be some sticky power dynamics at play. Per USA Today's Sam Amick, the front office likes McLemore, while George Karl, the team's embattled coach, isn't so keen on him.

    The Kings have cause for hanging on to McLemore. They took him seventh overall in 2013, jettisoned another lottery pick (Nik Stauskas) to clear a path and have seen him start to find the range on his jumper (37.2 percent from three).

    Still, all indications out of Sacramento have pointed to the Kings wanting to win now. A deal on par with Shumpert-Mozgov would bring them inches closer to ending their postseason drought.

San Antonio Spurs: Don't Rock the Boat

27 of 30

    Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

    Rarely do the San Antonio Spurs do anything of substance at the trade deadline. Even more rare is the occasion that they actually need to make a move midseason.

    This isn't one of those times. The Spurs, at 45-8, are in the midst of the best regular season in franchise history. Kawhi Leonard has emerged as a bona fide stud, and LaMarcus Aldridge is settling in as Leonard's second-in-command.

    San Antonio's Jan. 25 blowout loss in Oakland tells a different tale, but the Spurs are never ones to panic over one poor showing during a long campaign. This team still has plenty of room for internal improvement, and it will be better equipped to compete with the best come playoff time by virtue of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili healing up.

    In the meantime, Gregg Popovich and Co. should let their squad breathe a bit like one of Pop's fine wines.

Toronto Raptors: Upgrade at Power Forward

28 of 30

    P.J. Tucker
    P.J. TuckerMatt York/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Luis Scola has transformed himself into a stretch 4 (43.2 percent on 1.8 threes per game) at age 35, but the Toronto Raptors have to know his defensive shortcomings will leave them vulnerable to every team's pick-and-roll attacks come playoff time.

    It makes sense, then, that the Raptors are in the market for a power forward. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, Thaddeus Young, Ryan Anderson, Kenneth Faried, Markieff Morris and P.J. Tucker have all been on Toronto's radar.

    For Sportsnet's Michael Grange, the least recognizable of those names might be the one that actually winds up north of the border.

    "Will the addition of a player like the Suns' P.J. Tucker get the fanbase excited? Probably not, but it's far more likely that's the kind of move that gets madea solid veteran role player that meets a needrather than something that would generate headlines around the league and any kind of euphoria among fans," Grange wrote.

    Tucker, for his part, can defend forwards of all stripes, doesn't come equipped with Morris' baggage and won't cost as much on the trade market. It's a modest proposal, albeit one that could tilt the tables ever so gently in the Raptors' favor.

Utah Jazz: Choose Your Point Guard Wisely

29 of 30

    Trey Burke (left) and Ty Lawson
    Trey Burke (left) and Ty LawsonMelissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

    According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Utah Jazz have discussed a deal that would send Trey Burke to Houston in exchange for Ty Lawson.

    At first glance, the logic of such a trade checks out. The Jazz have been weak at point guard all season, with Dante Exum sidelined by an ACL tear. For them to hang on to a playoff spot out West, they'll need to upgrade their corps of floor generals ahead of what figures to be a photo finish.

    And, in some respects, swapping Burke for Lawson might shake the Rockets, who are also competing for one of the Western Conference's final postseason berths.

    But anyone inquiring about Lawson must beware. Off-court problems with substance abuse have undone his once-promising career. His demons remain, and his career-low numbers (6.3 points, 39.2 percent from the field) merely scratch that surface.

    If the Jazz intend to spend their surplus of young talent on a veteran guard, they might be better off springing for a more stable commodity like Atlanta's Jeff Teague.

Washington Wizards: Be Careful About Cap Space

30 of 30

    Bradley Beal (left) and Kevin Durant
    Bradley Beal (left) and Kevin DurantNed Dishman/Getty Images

    If the Washington Wizards fancy themselves suitors for Kevin Durant, they'll tread lightly across the trade deadline.

    As the Washington Post's Jorge Castillo detailed, the Wizards have more than one free agency to navigate this summer.

    "Any Wizards deadline activity will be conducted against the backdrop of their ultimate goal," Castillo wrote. "They've deliberately created the salary-cap space to pursue a top-tier player and retain Beal this summer, when the cap is expected to climb to $92 million—$3 million more than the figure the NBA projected last summer."

    Between Beal and Durant, Washington will have to scrimp and save where it can before July arrives. And now that the roster is finally healing up, with Alan Anderson set to make his season debut soon, the Wizards might not need any additions to crack the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

    Josh Martin covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@JoshMartinNBA) and Facebook.

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.


X