NBA Teams Most Likely to Hold Fire Sale Ahead of 2017 Trade Deadline
Take a good look at current NBA rosters. By the time the Feb. 23 trade deadline has come and gone, many of them could look significantly different.
We're not referring to the contenders that will pick up a single piece to strengthen their rotations, as the Cleveland Cavaliers did with Kyle Korver. Nor are we concerned with the midlevel teams that will buy at the deadline to aid their playoff chances.
Here, we're interested in the franchises most likely to engage in all-out selling sprees.
Not all of these squads will strip their rosters bare, trading all quality assets devoid of long-term upside to contending organizations. But any of the league's 30 teams that should travel down that path are featured here, alphabetically.
Other than Brook Lopez, who on this team could even fetch a mediocre return? In order for a fire sale to occur, an organization must possess multiple parts who are coveted by other franchises, and the Nets lack those assets.
Maybe they could shop Jeremy Lin if he's healthy at the deadline. Perhaps they could see what Sean Kilpatrick would return. But this roster is still too threadbare to qualify, and Lopez's improvements as a shooter may even take the best candidate off the block.
New York Knicks
For a Knicks fire sale to go down, they'd have to move Carmelo Anthony. And that ain't happening.
"I've never even, haven't even thought about that," Anthony said about waiving his no-trade clause, per ESPN.com's Ian Begley. "Like you said, I guess there's people talking about it. I don't know, I haven't thought about it. It's not something that I've thought about so far."
Even if FanRag Sports' Charley Rosen, who has enjoyed a long relationship with New York president Phil Jackson, says Anthony has "outlived his usefulness in New York," the small forward would have to agree to any trade.
Good luck with that.
Even though the Atlanta Hawks have already dealt Kyle Korver to the Cleveland Cavaliers, they're now leaning away from embarking upon a fire sale, according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski:
Atlanta general manager Wes Wilcox started informing teams Monday afternoon that the Hawks were no longer working to unload Millsap, sources said. Millsap can be a free agent this summer, and multiple teams – including Denver, Sacramento and the Los Angeles Lakers – had an interest in making a deal for him, sources said.
Right now, that makes sense: The Hawks are catching fire and moving up the Eastern Conference standings. That, in conjunction with the inability to find a quality offer for the upcoming free agent, does away with any temptation to become sellers.
But there's a lot of time left before the Feb. 23 deadline, and the willingness to trade a rotation member to the defending champions still indicates Atlanta doesn't think it can beat Cleveland in a playoff series.
As Scott Howard-Cooper wrote for NBA.com:
'Taken off the market' is a meaningless phrase. If someone calls with a sweet offer in 10 minutes, he's back on. The Hawks are in no position to lay low with at least two teams already better than them, the Cavaliers and Raptors, and the Celtics waving the Nets' unprotected first-rounder around as a trade chip.
We'll hear Millsap rumors again as soon as the Hawks cool. Plus, they could also look to sell Tim Hardaway Jr. (about whom we've already heard whispers, per ESPN.com's Zach Lowe), Thabo Sefolosha, Mike Scott, Kris Humphries and others in the meantime.
The Dallas Mavericks have won back-to-back games for only the third time in the 2016-17 season, though it's hard to get too excited about victories over the Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Since Dirk Nowitzki returned to the lineup for a Dec. 23 contest against the Los Angeles Clippers, the team has ranked No. 16 and No. 18 in offensive and defensive rating, respectively. Those numbers represent substantial improvement, but it's just not enough.
Even with no team pulling away in the race for the Western Conference's final playoff spot, the Mavericks have a substantial uphill climb. Coming off those consecutive victories, they trail the Portland Trail Blazers by 3.5 games. Worse still, five teams sit between them and Rip City—Dallas still ranks No. 14 out West.
Should the Mavs somehow buck the odds, they'd be nothing more than sacrificial victims in the opening round. Playing for the postseason is pointless, even if head coach Rick Carlisle will never throw in the towel and the organization will strive to get Nowitzki back onto that stage one more time.
But it makes far more sense to unload the veterans.
See if someone will take Andrew Bogut. Shop around Deron Williams, Devin Harris, J.J. Barea and Wesley Matthews, even if you know you won't get sizable returns.
This roster should contain few untouchables, even if someone comes calling about one of the up-and-comers with limited ceilings such as Justin Anderson or Dorian Finney-Smith.
The Miami Heat are not going to turn this season around.
It's undeniably true they've suffered through an inordinate number of injuries—even if you look past the unfortunate medical situation that has prevented Chris Bosh from suiting up. But even at full strength, this team isn't skilled enough to compete for a top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Before the trade deadline, the Heat have to decide on a direction. Can they keep their nucleus in place and add new pieces later? Is it possible to build a contender around Hassan Whiteside, or does he need to serve as a complementary piece so he's not overextended on offense? Is team president Pat Riley willing to blow things up?
They'll have a few intriguing pieces if they opt to sell,.
Goran Dragic is turning back the clock and putting together a stellar offensive season. The 30-year-old point guard might not be in his prime by the time Miami is ready to compete, but he should hold significant appeal to any playoff teams in need of a starting 1-guard or a potential sixth man.
Of course, as ESPN.com's Zach Lowe indicated, the Heat might not need to trade him, even if he's already drawn interest:
Flipping Dragic for future assets was their most obvious path to the bottom, but Miami's injury situation has gotten so ugly, they don't even have to do that! They're 11-29, ahead of only the Nets. Teams will express interest in Dragic ahead of the trade deadline -- a bunch, including the Magic, already did, per league sources -- but Miami can hold out for a hefty return. They gave up a ton for Dragic, and they'd need to save face in any teardown trade.
Should Dragic remain, Josh McRoberts (if his stress fracture heals in time), Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington and James Johnson could be intriguing bench pieces for contenders. Johnson, in particular, is enjoying a fantastic campaign now that head coach Erik Spoelstra has freed him from serving as little more than a cutter on offense.
At what point do the Orlando Magic accept that their offseason efforts aren't paying off?
The collection of assembled talent has only produced a 17-25 record during the season's first half, and it doesn't seem to be underachieving. There are no long-standing injury woes to blame, and the underlying metrics indicate a similar level of success—or worse. For example, pythagorean wins, which focus merely on points scored and allowed, have the team sitting at 14-28.
Thus, the Magic don't work as currently constructed. That type of issue lends itself perfectly to a deadline fire sale.
Orlando shouldn't part with young pieces such as Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton and Mario Hezonja. It will likely retain Serge Ibaka, as he's been a consistent two-way force during his first season away from the Oklahoma City Thunder and cost a pretty penny in trade assets to acquire.
Everyone else should be available.
If a team comes calling about Nikola Vucevic or Bismack Biyombo, general manager Rob Hennigan should be amenable—within reason. If someone wants Jodie Meeks or D.J. Augustin to bolster a backcourt, that should be a request that's received nicely.
And if another organization offers even a second-round pick for Jeff Green, that deal should be filed with the league office before the opposing GM is even finished making the proposal.
The Sacramento Kings probably aren't going to trade DeMarcus Cousins, no matter how much his outbursts and on-court exploits have driven the rumor mill in previous months and years. ESPN.com's Marc Stein has more, and it all hinges on the league's new collective bargaining agreement:
The Kings, as you surely know by now, are openly desperate to bring their 10-season playoff drought to a halt. Those who know Sacramento best continue to say that, as long as the West's No. 8 seed remains within the Kings' sights, they'll be increasingly reluctant to part with their All-Star center.
But sources also say that the Kings, at season's end, want to pitch Cousins on a long-term partnership in the summertime, knowing he's going to be eligible in July for a Designated Player Extension that could make him one of a handful of $200 million players league wide.
But even if the Kings don't sell Cousins, they could engage in a fire sale.
Falling well outside the playoff picture should prompt them to think about moving Rudy Gay, who's having a strong season but beginning to slow down. The forward is already in his 30s, and it may be better to add young talent and/or draft picks than to continue floundering with him on the roster.
Along similar lines, they could shop Garrett Temple, Darren Collison, Matt Barnes, Kosta Koufos and the team's other veterans, handing more minutes to the youngsters already under contract while increasing future assets.
Sacramento may be too stubborn to pull the plug, even as it falls further behind the Portland Trail Blazers in the race for No. 8. But there's a chance it could finally acquiesce and change the structure of the organization.
Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @fromal09.