NBA Teams Who Should Feel Comfortable at the Trade Deadline
Every year, after the holiday feasts settle and the NBA regular season kicks into high gear, fanbases across the league start clamoring for the trade deadline.
And it usually doesn't matter where your team is in the standings. A title contender may be missing that one piece off the bench. A fringe contender could package assets together to get a superstar. Even cellar-dwellers may have interesting vets to offer.
While all 30 teams are likely working the phones to some degree between now and February 8, there are five that legitimately don't need to worry themselves much about what's being dangled on the other end of the line.
Does Tom Thibodeau play his stars too much? Could the Minnesota Timberwolves use another wing off the bench? The answer to both is probably yes, but the Wolves are on a roll and shaking things up may slow it down.
Minnesota has won five straight by an average of 17.8 points. It's 12-3 over its last 15. Since December 4, the Timberwolves have the league's best net rating, outscoring opponents by 8.5 points per 100 possessions, according to the league website.
They already have two top-10 (or borderline top-10) players in Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns and solid role players in Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and Andrew Wiggins.
So, yes, maybe Minnesota could use a little more depth. But who's to say Thibs would play new additions anyway? And what players might generate enough value on the market to get a decent return?
Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has historically been one of the NBA's most active executives, especially around the trade deadline.
Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal laid out his activity during Januaries and Februaries of the past decade:
- 2017: Traded Tyler Ennis to the Los Angeles Lakers for Marcelo Huertas; traded KJ McDaniels to the Brooklyn Nets for cash considerations; traded Corey Brewer and a first-round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for Lou Williams
- 2016: Traded Maarty Leunen to the Los Angeles Clippers for Serge Lishchuk and Josh Smith
- 2015: Traded Alexey Shved and two second-round picks to the New York Knicks for Pablo Prigioni; traded Isaiah Canaan and a second-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for KJ McDaniels
- 2014: Traded Aaron Brooks to the Denver Nuggets for Jordan Hamilton
- 2013: Traded Cole Aldrich, Toney Douglas, Patrick Patterson and cash to the Sacramento Kings for Francisco Garcia, Tyler Honeycutt and Thomas Robinson; traded Marcus Morris to the Phoenix Suns for a second-round pick
- 2012: Traded Jordan Hill to the Los Angeles Lakers for Derek Fisher and a first-round pick; traded Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet and a second-round pick to the Portland Trail Blazers for Marcus Camby
- 2011: Traded Shane Battier and Ish Smith to the Memphis Grizzlies for DeMarre Carroll, Hasheem Thabeet and a first-round pick; traded Aaron Brooks to the Phoenix Suns for Goran Dragic and a first-round pick
- 2010: In a three-team deal with the Sacramento Kings and New York Knicks, traded Joey Dorsey, Carl Landry and Tracy McGrady for Hilton Armstrong, Jordan Hill, Jared Jeffries, Kevin Martin and a first-round pick
- 2009: In a three-team deal with the Orlando Magic and Memphis Grizzlies, traded Rafer Alston for Brian Cook and Kyle Lowry
- 2008: Traded Kirk Snyder and a second-round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Gerald Green; in a three-team deal with the New Orleans Hornets and Memphis Grizzlies, traded Malick Badiane, Mike James and Bonzi Wells for Bobby Jackson, Adam Haluska, Sergei Lishouk and a second-round pick
That's right. Ten straight seasons of trade deadline action from Morey. So, why should 2018 be any different?
For starters, when this current group of Rockets is fully healthy, it turns into an offensive juggernaut. In the 368 minutes Chris Paul and James Harden have shared the floor, Houston is scoring a ridiculous 118.9 points per 100 possessions. The Golden State Warriors' NBA-leading attack scores 113.6 points per 100 possessions.
The problem, of course, is that Houston's top two players have only logged 368 minutes together. Both Harden and Paul have spent plenty of time on the shelf with injuries. They need some time to continue to develop newfound chemistry, especially on the defensive end. Adding another piece to the puzzle could complicate that.
Plus, it certainly doesn't hurt that the Rockets are in second place in the West and boast a 30-12 record.
The Boston Celtics might be able to put together a bunch of intriguing assets to go after a megastar like Anthony Davis. But ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski explained why that's a long shot, at best:
"Davis remains an obsession of several NBA teams full of the necessary trade assets to unfasten him from New Orleans, should the Pelicans ever consider a rebuild --- or should Davis ever request a trade. Boston has remained vigilant on the possibility of acquiring Davis, and Davis knows it. However, the Pelicans have no intention of trading an all-world talent under contract through 2021, no matter the return."
So, unless there's some other big fish lurking for which Boston could justify flipping Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and more, expect the Celtics to continue to embrace organic growth with a young core that had to grow up in a hurry after Gordon Hayward went down.
After starting 0-2, Boston is now in first place in the East at 34-10. It has the league's best defense. The 99.6 points it allows per 100 possessions makes it the only team with a defensive rating under 100.
Continuing on this current path and then adding a healthy Hayward back into the mix for next season is the wisest plan, especially after all the roster turnover that happened over the summer. Boston has enough talent. Now just imagine what Stevens can do with a little continuity.
Say hello to possibly the deepest team in the NBA. According to Basketball Reference, the Toronto Raptors have nine players with at least 500 minutes and a box plus-minus of zero or better. The Warriors and Utah Jazz are tied for second with seven such players.
And if you drop the minutes qualifier to 250, Toronto has 10. This team is loaded. Top to bottom.
Now, one could argue that level of depth actually gives the Raptors the ability to trade two or three of their intriguing young players for another star to add to DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, but Toronto should be eyeing a different path.
In an appearance on Wojnarowski's Woj Pod, DeRozan cited the 2011 Dallas Mavericks as a potential blueprint for a Raptors' title run. Dirk Nowitzki and a team that went nine or 10 players deep were able to knock off one of basketball's most notorious superteams in the Miami Heat that year.
It's not hard to see the similarities between that squad and these Raptors. Though their styles are different, DeRozan is a scoring machine, much like Nowitzki was. And general manager Masai Ujiri has assembled plenty of tough-nose, smart players to complement him.
Sacrificing depth for starpower may be tempting, but this is a team that should stand pat.
Golden State Warriors
When you're arguably the most talented team in the history of basketball, it's tough to justify any moves in the middle of yet another 60-plus-win season.
And Stephen Curry is back (or at least close) to the level of his historic unanimous MVP season.
In 2015-16, Curry averaged 31.7 points and seven assists per 36 minutes, with an all-time record offensive box plus-minus of 12.4 and a true shooting percentage of .669, according to Basketball Reference.
This season, he's at 30.7 points and 7.2 assists per 36 minutes, with a league-leading 10.5 offensive box plus-minus and a .672 true shooting percentage.
Golden State is back in Curry's hands. He leads the NBA in ESPN's real plus-minus, and the Warriors have six other players in the top 50.
Even with the rise of the Timberwolves, Rockets, Celtics and Raptors, as well as the presence of the ever-lurking Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State is the safe bet as the 2018 champion.