NBA Trade Deadline 2017: The Perfect Addition for Every Team
Imagine an NBA trade deadline without the business restrictions; a place where, come Feb. 24, every team has had a trade wish granted.
That's essentially our scenario here. We're not making trade predictions, but rather uncovering each club's primary need and identifying the ideal player—or asset—to address it.
Some realism is obviously needed, otherwise we'd just have a handful of superstars being deployed across the league. Teams trading for stars here are those with the motivations and resources to do so. Each addition also must be at least conceivably available, and no players are picked twice.
This isn't a crystal ball; it's a peek into an Association where everyone leaves the deadline satisfied.
Atlanta Hawks: Deron Williams
In position to possibly host a first-round series, the Atlanta Hawks are looking for upgrades at the deadline, as a source told Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That means they've already switched strategies in 2017, since ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein reported last month Atlanta was fielding offers for all of their veteran free-agents-to-be.
If nothing else, that shows the Hawks have no business doing anything dramatic. Assuming they are buyers now, we can still comfortably say they should stay away from high-cost blockbusters.
A minor move for Deron Williams—months before he hits the open market—isn't that. It is, however, a two-pronged approach to address Atlanta's roster flaws.
Management should be desperate for point guard depth (backup Malcolm Delaney boasts an 8.4 player efficiency rating) and any conceivable way to boost this anemic attack (20th in scoring, 26th in efficiency).
Williams might be several years removed from his superstar days, but he still provides a steady hand at point. He'd be an effective pick-and-roll partner with Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard (77th percentile as pick-and-roll ball-handler) and a quick study in head coach Mike Budenholzer's collaborative offense.
Not to mention, trading for Williams means keeping him away from the buyout market and thus off the Cleveland Cavaliers' roster.
Boston Celtics: Jimmy Butler
The Boston Celtics are sitting on a gold mine—maybe more than one. Their incoming picks from the Brooklyn Nets are comically valuable—to the point it's easy to forget they also have their own picks, draft debts to collect from others and a pile of prospects in their collection.
But, promising as those picks are, they don't automatically send a star to Boston. However, helping to facilitate the Chicago Bulls' badly needed rebuild would.
"If the dream in Boston is a superstar to build the franchise around, flipping [the Nets pick] for Jimmy Butler gives them an option who fits that criteria immediately, and without much risk," Andrew Sharp wrote for Sports Illustrated.
Butler would cost a lot, but Boston is so loaded, it wouldn't require depleting its resources. The key rotation pieces would mostly stay in place—or, in the case of Jae Crowder, be replaced by Butler—giving the Celtics a pair of go-to scorers and a(nother) lockdown defender on the wing.
With the No. 2 seed currently in hand and the Cleveland Cavaliers slowed by injuries to Kevin Love and J.R. Smith, this is the perfect time for Boston to make a power play.
Brooklyn Nets: Draft Picks
And, welcome to the other side of the spectrum.
While the Celtics are overflowing with roster-building resources, the Brooklyn Nets have next to none. Their best picks belong to Boston, and their rotation runs woefully short on youthful intrigue.
The franchise has shown some signs of life—making smart hires with general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson—but it must give the pair pieces to work with.
The Nets have set the asking price for Brook Lopez at two future first-round picks, a source told Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Veterans Bojan Bogdanovic, Trevor Booker, Randy Foye and Jeremy Lin should all be available for various draft considerations as well.
Brooklyn is in the demolition phase of its remodel. It still needs to gut the existing structure before beginning construction on the next one.
This is going to take a while, but leaving this deadline with multiple picks would speed things up a bit.
Charlotte Hornets: Brandon Knight
Despite the All-Star heroics of Kemba Walker, the Charlotte Hornets offense doesn't have the same buzz as a year ago.
One thing missing from their formula? A dynamic scoring guard off the bench, a role Jeremy Lin filled admirably last season.
With the Hornets light on movable assets—they're not in position to justify trading a future first-rounder—addressing that void won't be easy. So why not try to revive combo guard Brandon Knight, a player ESPN.com's Zach Lowe says "nobody wants."
To be fair, the reported disinterest is warranted. Knight's stats have sagged across the board, and no one has a worse grade on ESPN.com's real plus-minus than he does with a minus-5.34 rating.
But drown yourself in a bottle of optimism, and Knight could appear a great buy-for-nothing candidate. He's only 25 years old and is one season removed from averaging 19.6 points, 5.1 assists and 2.3 triples per contest.
With Charlotte posting a dismal 99.6 offensive rating without Walker, Knight might provide this attack with a needed shot in the arm.
Chicago Bulls: Emmanuel Mudiay
While the Celtics would be wise to pry Butler out of the Windy City, the Bulls should not entertain many offers for their All-Star swingman. Yet, this roster clearly needs work, particularly the kind that doesn't involve draining their shallow asset pool.
Enter Emmanuel Mudiay, who, in one year's time, has gone from being a projected building block to being "quietly" shopped, sources told ESPN.com's Zach Lowe. The Denver Nuggets' crowded backcourt looks ripe for a trade, and the rise of Nikola Jokic might make the Nuggets lose patience with Mudiay's development.
Now, would this deal do anything to help Chicago's severe lack of spacing? Not on the surface, as the sophomore is just a career 31.5 percent shooter from beyond the arc.
But if the Bulls plant snipers around him—either acquiring them in separate trades or giving more minutes to their few in-house marksmen—Mudiay is the type of willing distributor who can spread the ball around.
The Bulls need cost-controlled, high-upside talent to put around Butler. If nothing else, Mudiay fits that bill much better than Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Shelvin Mack
Casual fans may find themselves asking who, exactly, is Shelvin Mack?
Well, he's potentially the "f--king playmaker" LeBron James has publicly pleaded for the Cleveland Cavaliers to find, per ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin.
The Cavs don't need a major splash. (Sorry, Melo.) They've lost both J.R. Smith and Kevin Love to injury, already navigated around one midseason swap, and they still own the East's best record and a top-five attack. But they've had a hole behind Kyrie Irving all season, with rookie second-rounder Kay Felder serving as the only other natural point guard. And they've struggled to generate assists with anyone other than James and Irving.
Mack would, admittedly, be only a minor piece to their puzzle. He's suited up for four teams in six seasons, never averaging more than 8.6 points or 3.7 assists. But the 26-year-old can run an offense and shouldn't cost much given the Utah Jazz's depth at the position.
With Cleveland lacking in trade chips, bargain buys are the only option in lieu of an unnecessarily large transaction.
Dallas Mavericks: Willie Cauley-Stein
The Dallas Mavericks approach the deadline with obvious incentive to sell—not buy. They've given at least five starts to four players on the wrong side of 30, including a pair of players in the final year of their contracts (Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut). They're also well back of the West's No. 8 seed during a shallow season for the conference.
But, as owner Mark Cuban said on 105.3 FM The Fan (via Mavs.com), the club will be "opportunistic." If the right player comes up for grabs—an inexpensive prospect who fills a need—Dallas can pounce.
The Sacramento Kings are crowded up front, and the setup has grated bouncy sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein.
"It's like I took 25 steps forward and 30 steps back," Cauley-Stein said in January, per Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee. "It's like my whole rookie season didn't matter and I'm back at square one. Nothing I did last year is having an effect on my career. It's been very frustrating."
ESPN.com's Marc Stein heard in November the Kings were "open to moving" Cauley-Stein. Maybe the trade of DeMarcus Cousins—per The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski—changes that stance, but then again, they still have Kosta Koufos and 2016 lottery pick Georgios Papagiannis to man the middle.
Assuming Dallas moves Bogut, there's an immediate opening for Cauley-Stein, who could grow alongside Harrison Barnes, Seth Curry and Yogi Ferrell.
Denver Nuggets: Paul George
The rise of super sophomore Nikola Jokic—one of only three players averaging at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in 2017—has delivered the Denver Nuggets their long-awaited star. Now, they must find a second to start climbing the NBA ranks.
And they might have the trade bullets to do it.
"The Nuggets have a ton of young players," HoopsHype's Alex Kennedy wrote. "... They have all of their first-round picks going forward as well as the Memphis Grizzlies' 2017-first-rounder (top-five protected). And if a trade partner is interested in acquiring more experienced players, Denver also has veterans."
Would the Indiana Pacers consider a sizable chunk of those assets in exchange for four-time All-Star Paul George? Probably not, but for what it's worth, the Celtics haven't abandoned their pursuit of George, per the Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.
So maybe Indy senses it doesn't have a championship roster and could try assembling a future around sophomore Myles Turner.
Between George's scoring, Jokic's passing and rookie Jamal Murray's sniping, the Nuggets would have all the ingredients of an elite offense. They also seem likely to have perimeter vacancies, with forwards Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler both potentially on the move. George is young enough to fit Denver's timeline, is under contract beyond this year and would provide a potentially massive lift to Denver's last-ranked defense.
Detroit Pistons: Ricky Rubio
This has been floated before.
Late last month, ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Chris Haynes brought word of a potential swap between the Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves involving point guards Reggie Jackson and Ricky Rubio. Pistons president-coach Stan Van Gundy said he texted Jackson "we're not trading you for Ricky Rubio," per MLive.com's Aaron McMann.
So, why are we still rolling with the idea of Rubio to Motown? For starters, it's always tricky to take an executive's words at face value. Making negotiations public serves no purpose, and in most cases likely diminishes the value of the players involved. Besides, last year Van Gundy denied a Brandon Jennings trade rumor, then shipped him out less than two weeks later.
Beyond that, Rubio would be a relief from the Jackson criticisms. The Spaniard consistently distributes and defends at a high level, neither of which Jackson does regularly. Rubio averages the NBA's fourth-most assists per turnover (3.49, Jackson is 35th at 2.35) and ranks eighth among point guards in ESPN.com's defensive real-plus minus (0.56). Jackson is 81st with a minus-2.54.
Jackson is a superior scorer and shooter, but the Pistons have five other double-digit scorers and the capability to put three-point threats at the 2, 3 and 4 spots.
The talent gap is narrow between Jackson and Rubio, but the latter appears a better roster fit. He would help Detroit find defensive traction and perhaps make better use of high-flying centerpiece Andre Drummond.
Golden State Warriors: No Addition Necessary
Let's not overthink this.
The Golden State Warriors sent four players to the All-Star Game, two of whom claimed the league's last three MVP awards. They have the best offense the sport has ever seen. Their defense is right on the doorstep of the No. 1 spot.
They could be on the way to the Association's first back-to-back 70-win seasons.
Even if minor concern areas can be identified—defensive rebounding, backcourt depth—none is great enough to warrant tinkering with their winning formula. They can neither afford to take on salary, nor shed it by cutting bait with steady veterans.
There isn't a better roster in the business: The Warriors have arguably the league's most gifted scorer, shooter and defender. Their sixth man was a Finals MVP less than two years ago. Their bench boasts the second-highest net rating.
Oh, and they're poised for internal development with a smattering of prospects in their rotation.
No move is the perfect move.
Houston Rockets: Taj Gibson
In the least surprising news of the season, a team led by Mike D'Antoni and featuring James Harden, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson could use help on the defensive end.
But the Houston Rockets are actually tied for 13th in defensive efficiency, so it's not like they're hopeless at that end.
A minor lift could potentially propel them into the top 10, where history says they need to be to have a realistic chance of contending.
Houston especially needs help on the interior, as it ranks just 17th in defensive rebounding percentage and dead last defending shots within five feet. The perpetually available Taj Gibson could assist on both fronts and wouldn't break the bank as an impending free agent.
He's the perfect low-maintenance, high-activity support piece on offense. But he'd make his biggest mark on the other side, providing rebounding and rim protection behind—or, at times, alongside—Clint Capela. Gibson's 50.6 percent shooting against at the rim easily checks in ahead of Anderson's (55.9), Nene's (54.1) and Montrezl Harrell's (52.1).
Indiana Pacers: Will Barton
When the Indiana Pacers are healthy, their starting five can hang with almost anyone's. But even with better bench play of late, their second team still grades out in the cellar—minus-5.1 points per 100 possessions, sixth-worst in the NBA.
If the Pacers are serious about improving this season—they have reportedly made their 2017 first-round pick available, sources told ESPN.com's Chris Haynes—they must find more reliable reserves.
Few players fill the role better than swingman Will Barton, who was fourth in Sixth Man of the Year voting last season and has since improved his assists total (3.4 per game) and true shooting percentage (55.1).
Indy doesn't have a reserve matching Barton's 13.9 points per game or his 4.7 rebounds. It doesn't have a perimeter sub anywhere close to his 15.8 player efficiency rating (sometimes-starter C.J. Miles is nearest at 13.5). It does, however, have a slew of second-teamers collecting more than the clearance-priced Barton, who will get $3.5 million both this season and next.
Barton will be a wanted man at the deadline. And it's unclear if the Nuggets have any intention of moving him. But if an auction takes place, Indy's willingness to move its selection could push this top-heavy group to the front.
Los Angeles Clippers: P.J. Tucker
At some point, the Los Angeles Clippers' revolving door at small forward has to uncover a stable option, right?
You'd think, but it's been an issue for years and remains unsolved.
L.A.'s 3s rank 19th in points (18.0 per game) and assists (2.9), 24th in field-goal percentage (41.5) and dead last in rebounds (5.3), per HoopsStats.com. They've allowed the seventh-most points (20.7) and fourth-highest field-goal percentage (46.7) to opposing small forwards, per RotoWire.com.
Someone needs to stop the bleeding, and the Clippers smartly think P.J. Tucker is the answer. They have offered a future second-rounder to the Phoenix Suns for the three-and-D swingman, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein. Tucker is limited-but-smart on the offensive end and just enough of a three-point threat to draw out defenders.
But he offers defensive versatility few players can match.
"If you go through the NBA and you were to ask every player about P.J. Tucker, I guarantee you everyone would say he's one of the top defenders in the league," Suns coach Earl Watson said, per Bright Side of the Sun's Dave King.
The Clippers can't go into the postseason with a hole at small forward; with Tucker on board, they finally wouldn't have to.
Los Angeles Lakers: Richaun Holmes
The bulk of the Los Angeles Lakers' deadline dealing will take place on the seller's front. They should extract all the assets they can get for Lou Williams and Nick Young, then pray someone gets desperate enough to take Luol Deng or Timofey Mozgov off their hands.
(The latter's not happening, but it's fun to hope, right?)
Under the right circumstances, the Lakers could also be sneaky-good buyers. It would have to be someone young, cheap and capable of addressing multiple needs. Someone like 23-year-old Richaun Holmes, the oft-forgotten face in the Philadelphia 76ers' frontcourt logjam.
The 37th pick of the 2015 draft is all kinds of intriguing. He's an elite athlete at 6'10" and 245 pounds, with an outside chance at harnessing the unicorn combo of sharpshooting and shot blocking. He's averaged 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes over his brief career and connected on eight of his 22 long-range attempts this season (36.4 percent).
Holmes' defensive activity alone should put him on the Lakers' radar. They are the second-least efficient team on that end and obviously can't compete without making significant progress. Add in L.A.'s need for a stretch big, and Philly's fourth center stands as the type of low-cost, high-reward investment the Lakers should be trying to make.
Memphis Grizzlies: Nick Young
Grit, grind and swag?
It doesn't quite have the same ring. But the Memphis Grizzlies, on their perennial search for shooting, might consider tweaking their trademark for a deadeye sniper like Swaggy P.
It's somewhat staggering to think of Nick Young that way, when just last season he appeared to possibly be on his way out of the league. But his scoring average has almost doubled (from 7.3 to 13.8), and he's seen substantial increases in his shooting rates from the field (33.9 to 44.1) and from three (32.5 to 41.3).
"I was like the hand out the grave," Young said of his career resurrection, per ESPN.com's Baxter Holmes. "I'm still here."
Young could be the ideal jolt to a Grizzlies' offense ranked 27th in scoring and 20th in three-point shooting. He has the ninth-highest true shooting percentage of all rotation guards (60.0), and he's one of only six players with at least 140 triples on 40-plus percent shooting.
Since he's no longer a pushover on defense, he's also not in jeopardy of being laughed out of Memphis.
Miami Heat: Wilson Chandler
The Miami Heat enter the trading season sandwiched between the proverbial rock and the hard place. The rock is the team's push toward a fire sale after a dismal 11-30 start. The hard place is the pull to add pieces to a squad less than two weeks removed from the season's longest winning streak.
Heat president Pat Riley has never placed many eggs in the draft basket, so it's not surprising to hear he's leaning toward adding after seriously contemplating subtracting.
"They were willing to listen to whatever anyone wanted to offer," an executive told Sean Deveney of Sporting News. "But those calls have changed, because now they're looking for pieces to help them as they are."
It's a defensible stance—even if short-sighted. The Heat don't have many assets as it is, so they can't exhaust what's left. Thus, their sights shouldn't be set higher than a mid-tier target like Wilson Chandler, who could assume their starting power forward gig and provide even more defensive versatility.
Chandler does a little of everything and all at a reasonable price ($23.2 million combined for this season and next). If Miami is eyeing a fast rebuild around Goran Dragic, perhaps Chandler can help move the project along.
Milwaukee Bucks: Mario Hezonja
NBA fortunes can change in an instant: The Milwaukee Bucks had been leading a charmed existence, witnessing the superstar surge of Giannis Antetokounmpo, a third-year leap from Jabari Parker and a rapid rookie rise by Malcolm Brogdon. The possibilities seemed intoxicating once last season's leading scorer Khris Middleton joined the party.
But Milwaukee's bubble burst in an instant.
On the same night Middleton returned, Parker suffered his second ACL tear in three seasons. The Bucks' present plans were derailed, although the injury created an opportunity: Rather than focus on short-term trade targets, Milwaukee can look further down the line.
The Bucks could have the patience with Mario Hezonja that the Orlando Magic have yet to display. The fifth pick of 2015 saw only the 13th-most minutes of last season's freshmen. This year, he's getting a paltry 11.4 minutes a night—tied for 38th among sophomores—and failing to find his niche in limited action.
Orlando doesn't seem particularly committed to Hezonja's development with Evan Fournier locked into a big-money deal and former Toronto Raptor Terrence Ross coming aboard as part of the recent Serge Ibaka trade.
Hezonja's confidence, athleticism and shot-making have all intrigued scouts. Shouldn't the Bucks try seeing how he'd look alongside their talented, young nucleus?
Minnesota Timberwolves: Nerlens Noel
Even without scoring guard Zach LaVine, the Minnesota Timberwolves have a puncher's chance at the playoffs. It's impossible to know if they can get there, but the plan is to go out swinging.
"We're all of the same mind, to get in, get the experience," Wolves owner Glen Taylor told Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press. "Just the winning of games to try to get there is worth it. ... If we can win enough to get into the playoffs, that in and of itself would be a major step for our young players."
Securing a spot would require a few different things: There'd have to be more consistent excellence from Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. The point guard position—be it Ricky Rubio, Kris Dunn or a deadline pickup—must provide more production.
And something needs to change in a big way regarding the Wolves' 23rd-ranked defense.
Something like Towns and Nerlens Noel forming a ferocious frontcourt defensive tandem. Both can bang on the block and comfortably switch out on the perimeter. Each holds opponents below 50 percent shooting at the rim. They average a combined 3.4 steals and 3.1 blocks per 36 minutes.
Added bonus—Towns' shooting range means Noel's lack thereof wouldn't mess with Minnesota's spacing.
New Orleans Pelicans: Their Work Is Done
Anthony Davis looks and plays like a modern center. But he prefers playing forward, which is why the New Orleans Pelicans have paired him with an All-Star 5.
New Orleans brokered a deal for stat sheet-stuffing big man DeMarcus Cousins on Sunday, as The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported. The Pelicans, who had struggled to build anything of substance around the Brow, now have two of the NBA's four players ranked among the top 15 in both scoring and rebounding.
The statistical output of the newest superstar pairing is mind-boggling. Together, Davis and Cousins hold per-game averages of 55.5 points, 22.7 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 3.8 blocks and 2.7 steals. Each owns a top-10 PER—something no other set of teammates have—shooting range out to the three-point arc and the abilities to generate offense for themselves and the players around them.
Despite Davis' work, New Orleans had been a bottom-feeder in scoring (27th in efficiency) and rebounding (29th). Those concerns are erased at least through next season, when Cousins is slated to hit the open market.
The Pelicans will need to flesh out their roster beyond the twin towers, as they're shipping out Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and their first- and second-round picks. But they managed to keep Jrue Holiday and reportedly added versatile forward Omri Casspi.
New York Knicks: Carmelo Anthony's Trade Value
The subtle-not-subtle needling from New York Knicks president Phil Jackson hasn't worked.
In fact, it's done just the opposite. Rather than nudge Carmelo Anthony toward waiving his no-trade clause, Jackson's pressure "is working to harden Anthony's resolve to remain with the franchise," sources told The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.
That all but guarantees this deadline won't be the perfect one for the Knicks. Because the best thing they could find on the open market is a way out from underneath Anthony. (And, if we're being greedy, similar divorces from Jackson, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.)
Anthony has slipped past his prime, and the Knicks aren't even competitive. He isn't distributing or defending how New York needs him to, and his primary skill—isolation offense—has never been less valued by the league. The only thing that isn't declining is the burdensome contract paying Melo $24.6 million this season and $26.2 million the next.
But this isn't really about Anthony. It's all about Kristaps Porzingis, the new face of New York who's more than 11 years Anthony's junior. Porzingis has been an awkward fit with Anthony, seeing sizable decreases in points per 100 possession (from 30.4 to 24.8) and field-goal percentage (46.9 to 43.7) when playing alongside him.
Porzingis is officially Gotham's new Batman, and he needs a Robin whose timeline and play style better align with his.
Orlando Magic: Reggie Jackson
Orlando Magic backcourt journeymen D.J. Augustin and C.J. Watson have two things in common: They're both shooting below 40 percent, and they've both supplanted former No. 10 pick Elfrid Payton in the starting lineup.
That's the textbook definition of when a point guard problem becomes a catastrophe.
It's also one of the few—only?—scenarios that makes hitching your wagon to Reggie Jackson's seem rational. Are there better ways to spend $51 million over the next three seasons? Plenty, especially if he's unable to regain his explosiveness. But a healthy Jackson sits several tiers above Orlando's current point guard crop. He averaged 18.5 points, 7.0 assists and 3.6 rebounds over his first season-and-a-half in Detroit.
On the other hand, Payton is the Magic's only floor general to post an 18-7-3 line this season, and he's only done it nine times in 58 games. If Orlando doesn't grab Jackson, who knows how long it will be until it finds comparable talent at the position?
The Magic and Pistons have already talked about such a swap, sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein. It isn't difficult to determine Orlando's reasoning.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Danilo Gallinari
Thank goodness Russell Westbrook's individual dominance is so captivating. It's a tremendous distraction from the fact the Oklahoma City Thunder's non-Westbrook offense is atrocious.
The Thunder's second-leading scorer, Victor Oladipo, has a below-average player efficiency rating (14.0). And their second-best distributor, (also Oladipo), is tied for 106th in assists per game (2.5).
If the Thunder snagged Danilo Gallinari, it'd feel like a superstar pickup. The Rooster isn't on that level, but he's a self-sufficient scorer capable of some fiery outbursts (three outings of 25-plus points, half as many as the entire non-Westbrook Thunder). His three-point shooting and playmaking would help add wrinkles to the offensive game plan, and the 6'10" forward would give head coach Billy Donovan more lineup flexibility.
Gallinari hasn't hidden his admiration of Denver, but he'd be leaving a team trapped in a playoff drought for one led by an in-prime MVP candidate. Given OKC's needs and Westbrook's gravitational pull on defenders, it's possible Gallo could maintain his offensive volume and increase his efficiency—right before reaching free agency, no less.
Philadelphia 76ers: Dion Waiters
Joel Embiid has done some incredible things during his long-awaited rookie season. However, single-handedly carrying the Philadelphia 76ers offense to a respectable level isn't one of them.
The Sixers run woefully short on reliable scoring options, and their last-ranked attack is a testament to that. Their most potent perimeter player, Robert Covington, is looking at a third consecutive sub-40-percent shooting season. The 11.0 points per game Jerryd Bayless managed in three games before being shut down by wrist surgery still stands as the backcourt's best mark.
Philly native Dion Waiters would change that.
On the season, he's been good for 15.9 points a night, which would only trail Embiid's 20.2. And Waiters is currently playing the best basketball of his career, averaging 21.0 points on 49.5 percent shooting (46.6 percent outside) and 5.1 assists over his last 13 appearances.
Assuming Ben Simmons actually runs point when he steps on the NBA hardwood, Waiters could be an ideal backcourt mate. He can defend point guards—he's knocking 5.9 points off his matchup's normal field-goal percentage—and serve as a secondary playmaker.
With Waiters likely approaching free agency this summer—he has a $3 million player option for next season—the Heat could cut bait now and get whatever assets they can for him.
Phoenix Suns: Allen Crabbe
The Phoenix Suns' perennial superstar search seems unlikely to end at this deadline. While they're packed to the brim with trade chips, it's hard to identify the elite talent who could wind up in the desert. (Boogie would've been fun, but oh well.)
Plus, the Suns aren't in the market for a singular star. As general manager Ryan McDonough sees it, they're more than one piece away from contention, per Arizona Sports' Adam Green.
But a relatively low-cost deal for a puzzle piece makes sense. Swingman Allen Crabbe would not only fit the timeline of Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker, he'd also help address problem areas in offensive efficiency (tied for 21st) and perimeter shooting (24th in three-point percentage). Crabbe is averaging 13.2 points per 36 minutes and converting long-range looks at a 43.0-percent clip.
Crabbe's costly contract ($37.8 million over the next two seasons) could scare the Portland Trail Blazers into letting him go. But it's not a big concern for the low-payroll Suns, who seem likely to have a perimeter vacancy, given P.J. Tucker's wide-ranging appeal.
Portland Trail Blazers: Financial Relief
Last season, the Portland Trail Blazers received a surprise playoff run. This time around, they were dealt a year-long reality check: The plan Isn't working. The team is stuck.
The Blazers have tried reversing their fortune by valuing tomorrow over today—i.e., moving their starting center for their third 2017 first-rounder. If only that realization had come before they showered millions on the 2016 free-agent crop.
This deadline, then, is about correcting costly missteps.
One general manager told HoopsHype's Alex Kennedy that Portland's strategy is "trying to accumulate draft picks and cut costs." According to the exec, Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner, Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis are among the players Portland is willing to sell.
It's a natural course of action with the Blazers sitting third in payroll (first next season) and 21st in winning percentage.
The Blazers haven't figured out if their Damian Lillard-C.J. McCollum backcourt makes perfect basketball sense. They just know it's going to be expensive, with both players collecting at least $23 million over each of the next four seasons. Portland probably won't break up its star scoring guards, but the franchise must trim the salary fat around it.
Sacramento Kings: Elfrid Payton
The Sacramento Kings are doing something. It's anyone's guess as to what that actually is.
Just last month, they were reportedly mulling a $200 million commitment to DeMarcus Cousins, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein. Now, they've traded away the best player to move at this deadline and brought back only a likely non-lottery pick, a scoring rookie shooting below 40 percent, a second-round flier and a few buyout candidates.
With their road to relevance now lengthened by thousands of miles, they must focus on finding youth. And they shouldn't part with valuable assets to do it. Since their point guard position is far from settled, it's possible Elfrid Payton holds some appeal.
The Magic have discussed dealing the former lottery pick, per Stein, and they've decreased his value by demoting him to the reserve unit. Whenever the Kings assemble whatever they're building, they'll need a crafty floor general to bring it together. For all of Payton's faults—namely, anything scoring-related—he does have a penchant for making plays.
San Antonio Spurs: Ben McLemore
The San Antonio Spurs have a habit of finding value in overlooked sources. Their draft heists include grabbing Manu Ginobili near the end of the second round, Tony Parker late in the first and getting Kawhi Leonard for the good-definitely-not-great George Hill. They got Danny Green off the waiver wire (multiple times), Jonathon Simmons from the D-League and Dewayne Dedmon out of the discount bin.
When the Pistons suspended Stanley Johnson, the Spurs tried to steal him for cheap, according to ESPN.com's Zach Lowe.
Other teams' trash is often treasured in the Alamo City; Bargain-buying Ben McLemore would follow the same logic.
The former No. 7 pick is averaging career lows across the board, including 18.0 minutes and 6.6 points. He's on his way to restricted free agency at season's end. The Kings have used two first-round selections on players at his position (first Nik Stauskas in 2014, then Malachi Richardson last summer) and traded for two others (Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic).
Sacramento couldn't set a high price with a straight face if it tried.
The Spurs could use more scoring and athleticism among their second-team wings. Manu Ginobili has never shot worse from the field (38.2 percent). Jonathon Simmons is inconsistent outside. Kyle Anderson is called "Slow-Mo" for a reason. When McLemore is right—at this point, we should probably assume the Spurs could get him going—he's an ignitable source of perimeter sniping and explosiveness.
Toronto Raptors: Bojan Bogdanovic
The Toronto Raptors are responsible for the second-biggest splash so far, snagging Serge Ibaka away from Orlando. But more waves could be en route, given the Raptors' remaining roster flaws and Cleveland's perceived vulnerability with key contributors ailing.
"I still have a phone," Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri told reporters. "We'll see what happens. As long as we still have a phone, we'll see what goes on."
The Raptors should see about replacing the supplementary scoring and shooting Terrence Ross took with him to Orlando. Bojan Bogdanovic could thrive in that role. His career numbers bear a close resemblance to Ross': He's slightly ahead in scoring (11.2 to 9.5) and field-goal shooting (44.1 to 42.2) and just behind from three (36.6 to 37.6).
The 27-year-old also has the skills and savvy to navigate a midseason swap. He offers positional versatility, which the Raptors need, given the up-and-down play of Norman Powell and Demarre Carroll. And with free agency awaiting Bogdanovic at season's end, his price tag should be reasonable.
Utah Jazz: James Johnson
The ideal frontcourt partner for Rudy Gobert is an amalgam of Utah's other bigs: The player would have the strength of Derrick Favors, the range of Trey Lyles, the playmaking of Boris Diaw and the energetic athleticism of Joel Bolomboy.
The Jazz have two options—find a mad scientist who could create a basketball Frankenstein or trade for James Johnson, a Swiss Army knife possessing all of the above skills.
A Gobert-Johnson frontcourt would be absurd defensively. The former limits players to a meager 43.0 percent shooting at the rim. The latter's matchups manage just a 39.6 percent mark overall, as the 6'9" forward is equally comfortable battling in the post or chasing players around the perimeter.
Offensively, Johnson checks all the necessary boxes for a Jazz power forward: His vision fits with Utah's playmaker-by-committee approach (five players averaging between 4.0 and 2.2 assists). Buoyed by a personal-best 35.3 three-point percentage, he can keep the lane uncluttered for Gobert and the slashers. And Johnson has the handles to attack closeouts and create offense off the bounce.
He's been a revelation for the Heat, but they'd have to consider getting draft assets for him since his contract expires at year's end.
Washington Wizards: Lou Williams
These are both true statements about the Washington Wizards:
- Since Jan. 1, they have the NBA's second-best winning percentage (.783) and third-highest net efficiency rating (plus-7.8).
- Their highest-scoring sub this season is tied for 239th overall at 6.6 points per game—and hasn't been a rotation player in over a month (Marcus Thornton).
The John Wall-Bradley Beal-Otto Porter triumvirate has been incredible, posting a plus-11.0 net rating together (would rank second). Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris have found comfortable support positions.
Sixth Man of the Year candidate Lou Williams would be a dream addition for the District. He's on their radar too, according to the Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, and the Wizards have considered parting with a first-round pick to better balance their roster.
This season hasn't seen a better spark plug than Williams, who's averaging an astounding 27.7 points (and 4.7 assists) per 36 minutes, while shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 38.6 percent outside. With Thornton banished to the bench and youngsters Sheldon McClellan and Tomas Satoransky struggling to score consistently, Williams would be a massive boost to the East's hottest team.
Even better, he's only on the books for $7 million this season and next. He'd be an economic addition and a chance for Washington to make two attempts at claiming Cleveland's conference throne.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @ZachBuckleyNBA.