1 Player Every NBA Team Should Already Be Targeting at the Trade Deadline
Several NBA rosters remain incomplete, which is normal for mid-August. Chances are, much will change—injury, trades, global warming cooking the planet—between now and the trade deadline.
Nonetheless, we're going to take a crack at isolating targets all 30 teams should keep in mind for February.
Even the best clubs have needs, and though we can't know what everyone's priorities will be until the playoff races shape up later in the year, we can guess at some of them now. Spoiler: Just about everyone needs a wing who can hit threes and guard someone.
Whether it's cutting salary, chasing a distressed asset, angling for a superstar or just shoring up a weak spot on the depth chart, everybody in the league needs something.
Atlanta Hawks: Ian Mahinmi
With rookie Trae Young positioned to take his licks as leader of an undermanned team, the Atlanta Hawks are headed for the tank. Based on their transactions since new GM Travis Schlenk took over, they're embracing a deliberate rebuilding process.
That means they should be looking to take on someone else's problematic contract with an asset attached—even if that contract ties up the Hawks' books through the 2019-20 season.
Enter Ian Mahinmi and the two years remaining on his deal with the Washington Wizards.
If the Hawks make Dewayne Dedmon the main piece heading back to Washington, the Wizards would have to consider it. Arguably better than Mahinmi (and generally healthier), Dedmon has a $7.2 million deal that expires after the season. Atlanta would have to include filler to make the money work, but adding Justin Anderson, who's also expiring, gets them within $2 million of where they'd need to be.
Washington hasn't shied away from trading first-rounders in the past; it gave up its 2017 selection for Bojan Bogdanovic. The savings would be significant for a tax-hit Wizards club set to pay John Wall $38 million in 2019-20, and a Dedmon-Anderson package would constitute a talent upgrade.
For the Hawks, another asset they can use to build through the draft...plus Mahinmi, whom they should probably buy out.
Boston Celtics: Anthony Davis
Look, the Boston Celtics don't need anything. They're loaded with young talent on the rise (Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown) established veteran stars (Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford) and unfair depth (the, like, six other rotation-quality bodies on the roster).
So why not dream big?
Boston has the best possible asset package to offer New Orleans if things go south for the Pelicans and Anthony Davis agitates for a trade ahead of his 2020 free agency. The Pels will want to be proactive and move AD sooner than later if they're getting a sense he's unhappy; waiting until the 2019-20 season would cost them leverage and diminish their potential return because Davis might only be a half-year rental for his acquiring team by then. If New Orleans wants to get out ahead of the Davis situation, trading him before this year's deadline could make sense.
If it's at all possible for New Orleans to keep Davis, it should. But AD might not be psyched about losing DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo in the same offseason. And he can't be enthused by the Pelicans' hasty approach to roster building. The Celtics have Sacramento's 2019 first-rounder, which has an excellent chance of being in the top five. Package that with Tatum/Brown and whatever else the Pelicans want, and a deal could get done.
If the Celtics do anything, it has to be splashy. Otherwise, there's no reason to mess with a roster that can already contend. Davis would constitute a splash.
Brooklyn Nets: Stanley Johnson
Why not stay on brand if you're the Brooklyn Nets?
The D'Angelo Russell trade signaled the franchise's willingness to take shots on distressed lottery picks. When Brooklyn also gave Jahlil Okafor a chance last season, it confirmed the trend.
With so many first-rounders lost to that fateful Boston deal in 2014, the Nets have had no choice but to take alternative routes to young talent. That's where Stanley Johnson fits in.
Johnson went eighth to the Detroit Pistons in the 2015 draft and has yet to prove he's a starting-caliber player, let alone a difference-maker. Perhaps a change of scenery would help Johnson harness his physical tools and defensive potential into legitimate production. And if he can hit, say, 32 percent of his threes? Bonus!
We're bagging on Johnson, but he went in the top 10 for a reason. There's talent in there (at a premium wing position no less), and that's generally been a good enough reason for the Nets to pursue players in the past.
If the Nets could figure out how to offload Allen Crabbe and his $18.5 million salary (plus a player option for the same amount in 2019-20) in the deal, GM Sean Marks could sew up Executive of the Year honors early.
Charlotte Hornets: Terry Rozier
Follow me down the rabbit hole, won't you?
Let's say Kyrie Irving is looking like a serious free-agency flight risk as the season wears on and rumors swirl. Maybe his knee's barking again, too, and maybe he's not keen on pushing himself with free agency and the possibility of a max deal with the New York Knicks hanging out there on the market.
Let's also say the Celtics aren't wild about the potential cost of retaining Terry Rozier when he hits restricted free agency in 2019.
What if Boston just swapped Rozier and filler for Kemba Walker? Walker will only make $12 million this season, which isn't so far removed from Rozier's $3 million figure. it won't be hard to bridge the gap and make the deal work under the CBA.
This way, Charlotte gets a young point guard it can keep (for much less than the near-max Walker is likely to get) and build around. Rozier's exceptionally confident, and his playoff showing in 2018 suggests he's not going to be content as a backup in Boston forever. This gives him a chance to shine.
The Celtics get a rental who gives them everything Irving does, they avoid having to deal with Rozier's thorny restricted free-agency scenario and they get the chance to convince Walker to stay on a winner for a discount. Unlikely, but hey, anything's possible.
Charlotte gets a starter four years younger than Walker, and it avoids losing its franchise player in free agency for nothing.
Chicago Bulls: Rodney McGruder
The Chicago Bulls never should have let David Nwaba go. Let's get that out there first.
They did, though, and now they're even shorter on defensive wings.
Because Chicago is early in its rebuilding process, it doesn't make sense to pursue an established defensive ace that'd clog its cap. Of course, wings who can guard are among the hottest commodities in the league, so it'll be difficult to find one that's young and not quite established as a stopper yet.
Injuries limited Rodney McGruder to 19 games last season, dampening enthusiasm after a breakthrough rookie year for the late-bloomer from Kansas State. McGruder now sits well behind Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow on the depth chart, but he'd fill a gaping hole with the Bulls. (He's only making $1.5 million in 2018-19.)
Chicago figures to utilize lineups that include Zach LaVine, Jabari Parker and Lauri Markkanen this season, which means it needs someone like McGruder to fly around and wrangle tough assignments at both wing spots.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Norman Powell
In addition to being a naked attempt to shift the offseason narrative after losing LeBron James, Kevin Love's $120 million extension suggests the Cleveland Cavaliers believe they're good enough to compete for the playoffs right now.
Assuming that changes between now and February, Cleveland should consider moving anything not nailed down—Love included.
The optimal return is tougher to peg. If we're operating from a reasonable perspective, the Cavs should target young players and picks, guys who can grow with Collin Sexton as part of a rebuild. Cleveland's best bet might be targeting a young asset in need of a change of scenery to recapture his mojo.
Norman Powell, anyone?
Powell, 25, has slipped down the depth chart with Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green arriving in Toronto, and though the four years and $42 million left on his deal are hardly cap-crushers, the Raps might be inclined to clear some cash.
Powell's production regressed significantly last year. He averaged just 5.5 points per game (down from 8.4) and saw his three-point percentage dip from 32.4 percent to 28.5 percent. There's risk in assuming a new team will revitalize a struggling player, but Powell might just need more minutes to get comfortable.
The Cavs should give him theirs.
Dallas Mavericks: Channing Frye
There's a good case for the Mavericks adding another wing who can shoot, but that's going to be true for almost everyone. Instead, we're suggesting Dallas seek out a Dirk Nowitzki facsimile for the inevitable nights off and short minutes they'll give the franchise icon in 2018-19.
Channing Frye is strictly a catch-and-shoot option at the 5, but he'd draw as much attention as Nowitzki when spotting up on the perimeter. Maybe there'd be a benefit to having Nowitzki's understudy so closely resemble his role and production. That way, Rick Carlisle's rotations and game plan could remain roughly the same whether Nowitzki was available to play on a given night or not.
If the Mavs wanted to aim a little higher, they could definitely get something done involving Wesley Matthews' expiring contract. That $18.6 million could net a quality return if Dallas is cool with committing to longer-term money in return.
Denver Nuggets: Andre Roberson
The Denver Nuggets will never struggle to score with Nikola Jokic conducting offensive symphonies whenever he touches the ball. Throw in Jamal Murray and Gary Harris as top-end play-finishers, and it's easy to see why the Nugs have finished sixth or better on O in each of the last two seasons.
Defense has been the problem, and now that Will Barton is replacing Wilson Chandler as the starting small forward, there's nobody on the roster who can handle larger wings.
So why not trade from a position of strength to address weakness?
Barton for Oklahoma City Thunder stopper Andre Roberson works as a straight-up deal—or at least it will in January, when Barton is six months removed from signing his new deal.
Roberson suffered a devastating patellar tendon tear last year, which could affect his future status as an elite defender. Perhaps that risk is enough for OKC to punt on its best stopper in exchange for a skilled scorer.
Barton is under contract for four more years at $54 million, so the Thunder would have to be cool with taking on two more years of commitment than they owe Roberson. Oklahoma City might also decide it'd rather have a star defender than another backup scorer to play with Dennis Schroder on second units.
But hey, these are just targets. The Nuggets should have Roberson (or someone like him) in the crosshairs if they're interested in finally making the playoffs.
Detroit Pistons: CJ McCollum
It's difficult to talk sense into an organization that traded for Blake Griffin's albatross of a contract, but at least the Detroit Pistons have shuffled the front office in a way that might make them more amenable to reason.
This is still going to sting: Detroit needs to move Griffin, even if it means taking on someone else's terrible contract.
Like Evan Turner's!
Turner is due $36.5 million over the next two years, a number that pales in comparison to the nearly $144 million Griffin will collect in the next four. But maybe taking on that money is how Detroit flips Griffin into a piece that won't cripple its books for almost a half-decade.
CJ McCollum and Turner for Griffin and Stanley Johnson works under the CBA, and it'd swap Griffin onto a roster that at least needs forwards. McCollum's arrival would signal the departure of Reggie Jackson, which would also be fine.
If I'm the Blazers, I'm laughing for several minutes before hanging up on the Pistons, but this is the kind of move Detroit should be trying to make—especially while Griffin still has some game left.
Golden State Warriors: Nobody...OK, Fine, Kyle Korver
The Warriors might not have spent their mid-level exception if DeMarcus Cousins hadn't fallen into their laps. Tax concerns are real for the Dubs, and that's why they may not trade for someone like Kyle Korver, who'd fill their need for a backup wing.
Korver is under contract for two years at $7.5 million per season (non-guaranteed in 2019-20), and his defensive limitations mean he might not be an option against the wrong matchups. But the Warriors thought Nick Young was worth the mid-level last year, so clearly they've got a tolerance for suspect defenders. And at least Korver's faults are physical; Young just had no idea where to be.
There's a good chance the Warriors are strictly a buyout team. They could wait and see which wings hit that market later in the year, at which point they'll have a better idea about rookie Jacob Evans' fitness for a rotation role. If his hitchy jumper means he's not playable, that's when the Warriors might pluck a wing shooter from the discard pile.
If they want to climb out of 30th place in threes made by reserves, the Warriors will have to find some shooting on the cheap. Otherwise, they'll have to target a pricier option like Korver and face possible tax penalties.
Houston Rockets: Trevor Ariza
But look, if the Rockets let Trevor Ariza walk because they weren't ready to pay him $15 million for a full season, maybe they'd have interest in picking up his prorated salary from February to the end of the postseason.
If Carmelo Anthony flops and simply can't see the floor when the games matter, and if James Ennis III just isn't comfortable taking every open three he sees (he's averaged just two attempts per game for his career), maybe the Rockets will decide they need someone who's delivered for them in the past.
Ariza isn't on the Phoenix Suns because Houston decided he was washed. It was about finances and fit. Both of those variables could change by the time the deadline rolls around, and it might result in the 2018-19 Rockets looking much more like last year's team than expected.
Stranger things have happened.
Indiana Pacers: Luc Mbah a Moute
The Indiana Pacers finished 12th in defensive efficiency last year*, which isn't all that far from the top-10 territory we normally ascribe to serious contenders. Unfortunately, Indy heads into 2018-19 without having bolstered its defensive personnel.
Bojan Bogdanovic is still the starting 3, and he's overmatched against most quality scoring wings. Tyreke Evans' reputation on D is mostly poor, though he performed fine in his career year with the Memphis Grizzlies last year. Overall, the Pacers don't have a guy they can confidently stick on the opponent's best wing weapon, and they'll need one of those to advance deeper into the playoffs.
Luc Mbah a Moute and his $4.3 million salary would make an excellent rental—one capable of slotting in at the 4 if the Pacers want to go smaller and get a little more three-point shooting from the position than Thaddeus Young can provide.
At 6'8", Mbah a Moute spent more of his minutes at the 4 than the 3 last year—something he's done many times throughout his career. Long enough to bother quicker smalls and sturdy enough to hold up against conventional 4s inside, Mbah a Moute could key a switch-everything approach Indy never really employed in 2017-18. The Houston Rockets even toyed with him at center, and we should expect the Los Angeles Clippers to get similarly frisky in deploying him this year.
Indy needs a versatile defensive weapon to reach the next level. Mbah a Moute fits the bill.
*They also finished 12th on offense, but the additions of Evans and Doug McDermott should push that ranking into the top 10.
Los Angeles Clippers: Kyrie Irving
You know the Clippers aren't going to spend several years accumulating assets, signing sensible short-term deals and floating around the league's middle class, right?
That's not how Jerry West does it.
We've seen the whole "get the star here, and we'll convince him to stay" gambit work with Paul George in Oklahoma City, so maybe there's more leaguewide confidence that rentals can become options to buy.
Irving, forever itching to be the leader of his own team, now has to deal with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown emerging in Boston (and also Al Horford being objectively better than him), not to mention the eventuality of the Celtics adding another superstar like Anthony Davis. So let's get him to Los Angeles, where he can build a media empire or just sit around in the sun all year—whatever he prefers.
There's a risk that Irving opts out and leaves in free agency this coming summer, but the Clippers should still gamble.
The Clips are going to take a big swing, so why not try to connect on a 26-year-old five-time All-Star who could lead a team to the Finals if you surround him with enough defensive talent and shooting?
If L.A. doesn't target Irving, it'll only be because West and the front office are aiming even higher.
Los Angeles Lakers: Jeremy Lin
The return isn't as important as the outgoing piece, which is Luol Deng in this case.
If the Lakers can get his $18.8 million off the books for 2019-20, the second-biggest financial obligation for the summer of 2019 (after LeBron James' $37.4 million) is Lonzo Ball's $8.7 million cap hold. That flexibility should diminish if/when the Lakers add Kawhi Leonard in free agency, but more free cap space is better than less.
Jeremy Lin makes $13.8 million in the final year of his deal this season, and a straight-up swap involving him and Deng works because the Hawks have ample room under the cap. L.A. would have to attach an asset, and it might even have to be a first-rounder, which might make less sense than simply buying Deng out. But this is still a deal that could benefit both teams.
L.A. gets more spending power for 2019, the Hawks continue to stink and pile up picks, and everybody's happy.
Memphis Grizzlies: Tyus Jones
It's pretty clear Tyus Jones is never going to get a fair shake with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Despite a 57.2 true shooting percentage and the fourth-highest steal rate in the league last year, he fell to third on the depth chart behind Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose.
With Rose back for another season under Tom Thibodeau, it appears little has changed.
Unless you're a believer in journeyman Shelvin Mack or expect rookie defensive ace Jevon Carter to suddenly figure out the other end of the floor, the Grizzlies have little behind Mike Conley at the point. And Conley, who missed 70 games last year, hasn't been the most durable option.
Memphis had a heck of an offseason, adding Garrett Temple and Kyle Anderson while drafting Jaren Jackson Jr. It'd be a shame if an injury to Conley derailed a season that, right now, looks pretty promising. Jones fills an obvious need, should come cheap and has been criminally underrated for a while.
It's hard to find a better team-player fit than this.
Miami Heat: Ish Smith
Uncluttering the roster of its roughly 58 quality NBA players at market-rate contracts should be the Miami Heat's top priority, but that seems like a tough task to tackle. So instead, we'll try to find them someone who can set up teammates and get his own shot behind Goran Dragic.
Ish Smith isn't the most efficient scorer (50.7 effective field-goal percentage), but he can get into the middle, flip up floaters and find open teammates.
Among players who saw action in at least 45 games last year, Smith ranked seventh in the league with 75.8 percent of his field goals being unassisted. That shows he can get his own looks. Better still, his 28.4 assist percentage was tied with that of Ricky Rubio, who anybody would acknowledge knows a thing or two about facilitating.
Smith is too small to make a difference on D, but we're not trying to find the Heat a starter here. Just someone who can juice the offense with shot creation and passing. Smith can handle that.
Milwaukee Bucks: CJ Miles
It's tempting to suggest a defensive difference-maker to take over for the serviceable but constantly disappearing Tony Snell, but the more exciting avenue for the Bucks involves the pursuit of a quick-trigger three-point shooter.
Nobody has more of a hair trigger than CJ Miles.
Last year with Toronto, Miles shot 36.1 percent from deep—exactly in line with his career mark. That's a fine conversion rate, but it amounts to something better when you fire off treys as readily as Miles, who led the NBA with 16.7 three-point attempts per 100 possessions.
Miles can't guard anybody, and Snell has been above 40 percent on threes in each of the last two years. But this is about putting a guy out there who'll terrify defenses. It's a lot like what Wayne Ellington does: fire immediately on the catch, regardless of defender proximity.
That scares a defense, and it could help clear the middle for the Bucks' attackers.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Avery Bradley
If Tom Thibodeau is involved, you know the target has to be a veteran, preferably one he's coached before and ideally one with a high pain tolerance. Our target has never played for Thibs, but maybe that's not a clear prerequisite.
What's not in dispute is this: The Wolves need a wing behind Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler. Badly.
Minnesota should check in on Avery Bradley, who signed a two-year, $25 million deal with the Clippers. Bradley, entering his age-28 season, is a solid buy-low guy (insofar as guys making $12.5 million per year are allowed in that category) because he struggled to score efficiently in an injury-hit 2017-18. If he's healthy, he'd give the Wolves a terrific individual defender with a history of above-average three-point volume and accuracy.
There are cheaper options out there, but Bradley comes with the added bonus of a non-guarantee on his 2019-20 salary. If things don't work out, or Thibs destroys him with too many minutes, Minnesota can wash its hands of the whole affair.
New Orleans Pelicans: DeMarre Carroll
With Anthony Davis involved, the New Orleans Pelicans will probably be fine if they head down the stretch with a roster of undersized guards trying to occupy the wing spots. But there'll be a ceiling on their season if they venture into the playoffs without someone to bother small forwards on D.
No, Solomon Hill and Darius Miller aren't solving this.
DeMarre Carroll, like so many quality wings from a half-decade ago, is probably best deployed as a power forward now. But he'd put up much more of a fight against, say, Kevin Durant in a postseason series than Hill, Miller, E'Twaun Moore or even Jrue Holiday.
Holiday is a heck of a defender, but no amount of competitiveness and skill causes height and wingspan to increase. Carroll, 6'8", is well-established as a quality team defender. If he has one more decent year in his 32-year-old body, he'd make a fine fit.
New York Knicks: Caris LeVert
How the New York Knicks pry Caris LeVert from the Nets is its own question, and it's a tough one. Fortunately, we don't need to delve into specifics on the transaction itself or explain why the Nets would just move on from a smooth, multi-position wing with point guard skills.
The point is: The Knicks need someone like him.
LeVert can slide from 1 to 3 comfortably, and he'd give New York a half-court weapon who can get to the hoop and score or distribute as necessary.
A wiry 6'7", LeVert averaged 12.1 points 4.2 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 26.3 minutes during his second NBA season in 2017-18. He'd immediately become the Knicks' most capable open-floor ball-handler and creator. And if his three-point shooting inches up from last year's 34.7 percent, look out.
Best of all, he's young enough (entering his age-24 season) to be part of the Knicks' core as they build toward 2019 cap space and Kristaps Porzingis' return.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Reggie Bullock
Anybody else tired of the thing where the Oklahoma City Thunder head into every season needing a shooting guard who can hit a shot and stay on the floor defensively?
Let's put that annoying constant to bed by sending Reggie Bullock to OKC.
Bullock shot a blistering 44.5 percent from deep last year, and while nobody should expect that again, he's at 40.3 percent for his career, which qualifies him as a Class A sniper. If that were all the Thunder needed, Alex Abrines, who shot 38 percent from the arc last year, might be the in-house answer.
But while Abrines is a "gotta hide him" liability on D, Bullock is passable. Sure, the 27-year-old was marginally below par in defensive box plus-minus for the Pistons in 2017-18, but Bullock was average or better in the two years before that. He can survive on defense, and that's all the Thunder need from someone occupying that role in the rotation.
The alternative would be genetically combining Abrines and Andre Roberson, creating a hybrid two-way abomination that'd probably make the All-Star team. Rather than play God, let's encourage OKC to chase Bullock.
Orlando Magic: Delon Wright
Delon Wright is already 26, which might make you think he's a worse age-bracket fit than new Orlando Magic backup point guard Jerian Grant (25). But Grant's going to be 26 before the season starts, which suggests Orlando isn't concerned about grouping its personnel into a condensed range with its recent lottery picks.
Wright is an accomplished defender with excellent size for the position and a decent history of hitting his threes. At 36.2 percent for his career, he's comfortably ahead of Grant's 31.4 percent clip.
The Raptors committed to Fred VanVleet on a two-year deal this summer, and Kyle Lowry has two more seasons on his contract as well. Wright carved out a significant role off the bench last season, but it's hard to argue he's part of the Raps' long-term plans.
That makes him gettable, and the Magic are more desperate for quality play at the point than most. A steady influence like Wright could help the rest of the untested talent develop. He's the rare combination of established and still young enough to get better.
D.J. Augustin is a caretaker for the position, and Grant is a barely adequate backup. Wright would upgrade the position and give the Magic a chance to retain him when he hits restricted free agency in 2019.
Philadelphia 76ers: Royce O'Neale
JJ Redick lives on the brink of getting old in a hurry every day. He was victimized defensively during last year's playoffs, though not as badly as Marco Belinelli, who's gone now. Meanwhile, the Sixers should get an improved/more available version of Markelle Fultz in 2018-19, but it's hard to see him being any less of a playoff target than Redick.
Another wing who can hold his own on D is in order, and yes, you may have noticed by now that everyone needs one of those.
Royce O'Neale is our guy this time.
Though limited offensively, O'Neal piled up a 1.97 DRPM in 69 games for the Utah Jazz last season. That figure ranked in the top 10 among small forwards, right between Thabo Sefolosha and Justise Winslow, two reputed stoppers.
O'Neale is a physically imposing, sturdy 6'6", and he didn't shy away from contact as a rookie playing for one of the league's best defenses. He can hit a corner three, too, as evidenced by his 40 percent conversion rate on those shots last year.
The idea of Ben Simmons, O'Neale and Robert Covington smothering perimeter players while Joel Embiid waits in the lane is terrifying. In a good way.
Nobody is singling out O'Neale as the weak link in a playoff series.
Phoenix Suns: Patrick Beverley
The Phoenix Suns didn't land Fred VanVleet or Marcus Smart in free agency, and the result is a frightening scenario in which Brandon Knight is the projected starter at the point.
If the Suns want to give Devin Booker more playmaking responsibility, that's great. We've seen bigger guards assuming that role more often lately, with James Harden, Donovan Mitchell and Victor Oladipo standing out as examples. Unfortunately, if the Suns play Booker at the point, he'll have to wrangle opposing 1s. That figures to be a tough task for an already suspect defender at shooting guard.
Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley profiles as a perfect fit.
Doggedly competitive on the ball, Beverley's whole makeup is based on fiery pressure and lockdown intensity. He's not an ideal defender at the 2, but he'd still be a better option at either backcourt spot than Booker, who'll need to conserve energy for offense anyway.
Beverley is a health risk, having missed all but 11 games last year before undergoing microfracture and meniscus surgery. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports he's been cleared for basketball activities since June, and by the deadline, Phoenix should have a much better sense of Beverley's fitness.
Portland Trail Blazers: Jimmy Butler
Thin at forward and probably too short on talent to be considered a playoff lock after finishing third in the West last year, the Portland Trail Blazers need to think big.
Jimmy Butler may be unhappy in Minnesota, and although adding him at the deadline creates a risk he'll bounce after opting out of his deal, it's possible Portland is ready to gamble. Ideally, the Blazers could build a package around Evan Turner and a first-round pick, but that'll only work if Butler makes it perfectly clear he's not going to re-sign with the Wolves.
If that's how it plays out, Minnesota's expected return craters, and the allure of a first-rounder might be too hard to resist.
In Butler, the Blazers would get the forward depth they lack; in today's NBA, Butler should be splitting time at the 3 and the 4, sending either Al-Farouq Aminu or Moe Harkless to the pine. Who knows? Maybe the Blazers will mess around with a Lillard-McCollum-Butler-Harkless-Aminu quintet. When you're trying to compete with the like-sized Warriors and Rockets, those sorts of lineups are vital.
If the Wolves insist on Lillard or McCollum, Portland should probably hang up...unless it has a wink-wink assurance Butler will sign a new deal to stay put.
Sacramento Kings: Evan Turner
The Sacramento Kings need a small forward, and Evan Turner would probably represent an upgrade over Justin Jackson at the position. But this is really about the Kings leveraging their remaining cap space to add a pick.
In this scenario, the Blazers are attaching a future first-rounder to Turner in a swap that brings back Kosta Koufos' expiring $8.7 million salary.
Portland gets some tax relief, moves the worst deal on its books and clears a whopping $18.6 million in 2019-20. Meanwhile, the Kings, who have no incentive to tank this year (they don't own their 2019 first-rounder), get veteran production at a position of need and replace the pick they lost.
If the Blazers appear primed for the lottery at the deadline, they'll probably want to hang onto their pick. But if they're in the playoff picture and determine they don't need Turner (which they don't), a cost-cutting move like this makes a little more sense.
San Antonio Spurs: Troy Daniels
No, Troy Daniels isn't flashy. There's even a decent chance you don't know which team he plays for (it's the Suns). But this dude can stripe the three, and actually, that's all he does.
Daniels is a career 40.4 percent shooter from deep, and over the last three years, he's devoted a higher percentage of his field-goal attempts to long bombs than all but Wayne Ellington, Anthony Tolliver and Quincy Acy.
That statistic plainly shows Daniels is a one-dimensional player, but his one dimension is precisely the one San Antonio lacks.
As B/R's Dan Favale noted:
San Antonio's expected starting five (Murray, DeRozan, Gay, LaMarcus Aldridge and Gasol) combined for 205 made threes between them last season. Nine players cleared that marker on their own. Put another way: The Spurs' entire starting lineup brings the three-point volume of Joe Ingles (205 made treys).
Daniels does one thing, and the Spurs need it.
Toronto Raptors: Skal Labissiere
Now that Jakob Poeltl is gone, Toronto needs a second-unit center who can run a little. And the Raps would probably be cool with trimming cash so they get closer to creeping under the tax line.
Sending Norman Powell (now more expendable with Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard aboard) to the Kings for Skal Labissiere would address both concerns.
Labissiere has proved nothing in his short career, other than that he's a little too willowy to do much work inside. But his smooth stroke projects well, and he's shot 35.6 percent from three-point range for his career, admittedly on low volume.
He can get up and down the floor, and it's possible his slow development is more Sacramento's fault than his. Now that the Kings have Marvin Bagley III, Harry Giles, Willie Cauley-Stein, Zach Randolph, Kosta Koufos and Nemanja Bjelica splitting frontcourt minutes, they can afford to move off one of their many young bigs.
Especially if it nets them an athletic wing on a fair deal in Powell, who's owed $42 million over the next four years.
Labissiere isn't a needle-mover, but he's cheap, helps balance the roster and still has potential to grow.
Utah Jazz: Lou Williams
Donovan Mitchell's rookie explosion may not have happened if he hadn't been overburdened with scoring and playmaking responsibilities, so it's still a net positive that the Jazz shoved him into the deep end so quickly.
But, it'd be nice if he didn't have to do quite so much in his second season. The Jazz need a shot-creator, preferably one who can get his own looks and attract significant defensive attention, taking some away from Mitchell.
Lou Williams is a born scorer, and though he'd have to shape up or hide to survive in Utah's defensive culture, he'd definitely take scoring pressure off Mitchell and the second unit. Last year, Utah ranked 15th in scoring efficiency with a 106.2 offensive rating overall. When Mitchell sat, the number dipped to 103.9, which would have ranked 24th in the league.
Williams attempted 7.5 pull-up shots per game last year. Among players who created their own looks that often, the only guys with higher effective field-goal percentages on such shots were stars: Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, James Harden, Kemba Walker, Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant and CJ McCollum.
It's difficult to imagine Williams' ball-dominant game meshing with Utah's egalitarian offensive philosophy, but if adding him got the Jazz's non-Mitchell offense up to break-even levels, you'd think head coach Quin Snyder would make some allowances.
Washington Wizards: Frank Mason III
John Wall is an All-Star when healthy, but he missed 41 games last year and has come into camp overweight more than once. This isn't a great time to mention this because Wall is on the hook for five more years and $190 million, but...I'm not sure he's going to age well.
If his durability is in question (it should be), Washington's fate this year is suddenly tied quite securely to backup Tomas Satoransky.
Satoransky thrived in Wall's absence last season, averaging 10.4 points, 5.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds on 64 percent true shooting during his 30 starts. Nonetheless, the Wizards might want to have a capable third point guard in case another Wall absence affects the depth chart.
Maybe that's Austin Rivers, but what about targeting the man recently relegated to third string in Sacramento?
Frank Mason III profiles as a career backup, but he can hit a three and he's a steady game manager, which is all you need from a reserve. Think Jameer Nelson but, like, a little less of everything.
Adding him would allow Rivers to spend most of his minutes backing up Bradley Beal. He'll be needed there, as Jodie Meeks' history of injury suggests he won't provide reliable support at the 2.