B/R Staff Predictions for 2019 NBA Trade Deadline
The NBA rarely disappoints from an entertainment standpoint, often blurring the line between your favorite sport and your favorite soap opera. This season has been no different.
What was once supposed to be a quiet trade deadline has since turned into a Unicorn's great escape from New York and a certain Brow's determination to bounce from The Bayou. But while Kristaps Porzingis and Anthony Davis have dominated headlines up to this point, there are plenty of teams that will be of interest to fans across the league come Thursday at 3 p.m. ET.
Bleacher Report has asked a number of NBA writers to make predictions regarding buyers, sellers and, of course, Davis and a certain team in Southern California.
Anthony Davis to Lakers Would Just Be LA's First Move
The Los Angeles Lakers are doing everything they can to try to convince the New Orleans Pelicans to trade Davis before Thursday's deadline instead of waiting until the summer when other suitors may be better able to join the fray.
That could include teams like the Boston Celtics (who can't acquire Davis until Kyrie Irving's current contract expires—unless they trade Irving) or the New York Knicks (whose first-rounder could be No. 1 overall and turn into Duke sensation Zion Williamson).
If L.A. is successful, it'll need to follow up a Davis trade with additional moves to balance the roster, especially if it ends up trading Lonzo Ball, Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson to New Orleans.
While the Lakers are likely to get a handful of players back from the Pelicans, such as point guard Tim Frazier, Los Angeles would need to add depth at the position and may look to try to acquire one such as Derrick Rose, Shabazz Napier, Trey Burke or Tyus Jones.
If they don't get Davis, they may try to add additional shooters like Reggie Bullock, Garrett Temple, Wayne Ellington, Terrence Ross or, if the New York Knicks buy him out, Wesley Matthews.
When the dust settles, look for the Lakers to also add Carmelo Anthony to the roster via free agency.
Cavs Stay Active...but Love Survives Deadline
No team has been as active on the trade market as the Cleveland Cavaliers, and they may not be done yet.
Already gone are Kyle Korver, George Hill, Sam Dekker and Rodney Hood. Could Kevin Love be next?
Love is easily Cleveland's best remnant from its Finals days, but he hasn't played since Oct. 24 and is recovering from toe surgery. While his return is near, the four-year, $120 million extension he signed this past summer may keep bidders away until they see him suit up again.
With Love unlikely to be moved, look for the Cavs to trade Alec Burks next. Playing on an expiring $11.5 million deal, the 27-year-old shooting guard came over from the Utah Jazz in the Korver trade Nov. 29 and has put up 11.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game while hitting 38.1 percent of his threes.
The Cavaliers also have Jordan Clarkson (career-high 16.8 points per game) and Tristan Thompson (11.5 points, 11.1 rebounds per game), who could interest contenders—should they be willing to take on their contracts that run until 2020.
Of course, JR Smith is still available for those looking for a well-rested shooter off the bench. With only $3.8 million of his $15.7 million salary guaranteed for next season, his contract alone carries value for those looking to clear up some summer salary space.
Modernization in Memphis
The Memphis Grizzlies started this season in the thick of the Western Conference playoff hunt at 12-5. Mike Conley appeared primed to finally shed his underappreciated label and earn his first All-Star appearance. But they've flatlined since under Coach J.B. Bickerstaff.
At 21-33, Memphis is 14th in the Western Conference and in need of a serious overhaul. The organization is intent on building around rookie Jaren Jackson Jr., and it's no secret that mainstays Conley and Marc Gasol are available on the trade market. Several teams have shown an interest in both players, with Utah and Sacramento as sensible landing spots for Conley and Gasol, respectively.
Memphis is looking for high draft picks to build around in return, per the New York Times' Marc Stein. Conley and Gasol would be contributing commodities for teams looking to make a late playoff push, even though both carry heavy contracts and are on the back nine of their careers. The Grizzlies are last in points per game in the NBA and No. 25 in three-point attempts. The team needs a modernization.
But if this it for the Grind City version of the Grizzlies, let us never forget Tony Allen's tenacity, Zach Randolph's post-ups with his back to the basket, the steady hand of Conley and the defensive prowess of Gasol.
Kings Target Veterans with Playoffs Still in Sight
The Sacramento Kings are in a unique position. Virtually nobody expected the franchise that hasn't made the playoffs since 2006 to be competitive this year, but Sacramento sits just a half-game game out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference. The Kings also have the most financial flexibility in the league.
Sacramento has around $11 million in cap space, as well as four expiring contracts it could use as trade chips: Randolph's $11.7 million, Iman Shumpert's $11 million, Kosta Koufos' $8.7 million and Ben McLemore's $5.4 million.
There are plenty of directions the Kings could go. They don't have a first-round pick in the 2019 draft (a remnant of the Nik Stauskas trade with Philadelphia), so they could look to add one by taking on long-term salary from another team. They could also make a play for a slightly overpaid but productive veteran such as Dallas' Harrison Barnes ($24 million in 2018-19) or Washington's Otto Porter Jr. ($26 million), effectively taking themselves out of free agency this summer with the latter but adding a good player with team control remaining.
This offseason, the Kings' biggest objective should be to keep themselves competitive without making any bad long-term decisions with all their cap space. Trading for a veteran who fits with their young core and is already under contract would be a way to bridge that gap at the deadline.
Philly Looks to Finally Move on from Fultz
It'd be a lot easier to guess at the Philadelphia 76ers' plans if anyone knew Markelle Fultz's trade value. We can be pretty sure it's low, but how low exactly? Are we talking "significantly diminished" or "buried several miles beneath the surface of the Earth?" For purposes of this prediction, let's assume it's closer to the former.
The Sixers need depth at several positions, but shooting is a must. When you figure to play Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid together in the moments that matter most, spacing is vital. Among several candidates, the New Orleans Pelicans' Nikola Mirotic stands out as an excellent option. He's on an expiring $12.5 million deal and is shooting 36.8 percent on a healthy 7.2 deep attempts per game.
He's exactly the kind of stretch forward opponents would have to honor on the perimeter. And he'd be an instant, significant upgrade over Wilson Chandler and wouldn't tie up long-term money the Sixers may need to retain Jimmy Butler, go after another free agent this summer and, eventually, pay Simmons the max.
The Pelicans are headed for a rebuild one way or the other, so perhaps they'd be amenable to a Fultz flier with a first-rounder attached. The Sixers probably shouldn't budge on the 2021 first-rounder they've got coming from Miami, but their own pick in the 2019 draft will likely fall at the end of the first round.
From New Orleans' perspective, Fultz (who might still become a valuable player with a change of scenery) and a first-rounder is a heck of a return for a veteran who can leave in free agency this summer. If the Pels are stubborn, Philly could toss in one of the numerous extra second-rounders it owns between now and 2023.
Hawks Become Big Sellers with Eyes for Zion
The Atlanta Hawks, owners of the league's No. 24 net rating since the start of 2019, have gotten just a bit too good.
They're not "good" good, to be clear. They're just a bit too good for their own good. As Trae Young figures out how to remain efficient on the offensive end while a healthy John Collins thrives in an attack-the-basket role, they're moving too far toward the middle of the Eastern Conference—unlikely to make the playoffs but also unable to secure top odds in the pursuit of Duke superstar and likely No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson.
How to remedy that? Engage in a fire sale of the veterans who might appeal to contending teams: Kent Bazemore, Dewayne Dedmon and Jeremy Lin.
None are likely to bring back a wealth of assets. Between them, they may not generate a single first-round selection. But even marginal acquisitions are beneficial when the Hawks will simultaneously be hindering their ability to remain competitive in 2018-19, thereby increasing the value of their own top pick. That's the true benefit here, and landing any intriguing prospects such as Fultz (with whom Dedmon has been linked, per ESPN.com's Tim Bontemps) would function as gravy of the most delicious variety.
Perhaps Atlanta doesn't have the firepower to make big splashes at the deadline. It's also set up nicely to function as one of the league's most active sellers.
Magic Lean into Long-Term Rebuild
Nikola Vucevic just delivered the Orlando Magic their first All-Star representative since Dwight Howard (2011-12). If Orlando sits out the trade deadline—or even buys—there might be a chance Vooch could be the key in also snapping the organization’s post-Superman playoff drought (2011-12).
But only a short-sighted chase of instant gratification would have the Magic doing anything other than selling.
This is, objectively speaking, a bad team. It's 25th overall in net efficiency rating and winning at a lower clip than the 2015-16 club, which former coach Scott Skiles abandoned after just one season on the job.
The Magic need more talent. And assets. And a cleaner cap picture. And a floor general of the future.
They could scratch several of these itches by aggressively selling at the deadline. If Davis stays put, Vucevic, a fiery scorer from the paint to the perimeter, might be the best player available. Terrence Ross, a long-range sniper with hops, would appeal to the all the teams looking to strengthen their wings, which is essentially everyone in a positionless league.
Their values have never been higher, and their futures are uncertain with unrestricted free agency awaiting them. Dealing them for forward-focused pieces capable of complementing the 23-and-under trio of Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba should be a no-brainer.
Win-Now Nets Get in on Buyer's Market
The Brooklyn Nets as buyers isn't a revelatory thought. They've given off those vibes since mid-December, according to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst.
Thinking about buying and actually doing it are vastly different things, though. The Nets are about to make the playoffs. It's happening. Accept it. They'll have a ton of cap space this summer. They control all their own first-rounders. They could hold serve, play this season out and still be one of the NBA's top feel-good stories.
But the East is nothing if not opportunistic. The Nets are already on track to grab the No. 6 seed. The Pacers, while eight games ahead in the loss column, lost Victor Oladipo to season-ending knee surgery. The Celtics have played their way into a Kyrie Irving dilemma.
Make the right move, and the Nets position themselves to make noise in the playoffs if they avoid the Bucks and Raptors in the first round.
That doesn't mean they should attach their expiring contracts to their best young players and future picks in an attempt to poach Blake Griffin, gain entry into the Davis sweepstakes or pry Conley from Memphis. But dangling, say, Jared Dudley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and a second-round pick in exchange for Mirotic is the type of win-now move they could, and should, explore.
Brooklyn could also opt to carve out more cap space this summer. Finding a taker for Allen Crabbe's 2019-20 money gives them a line to more than $40 million in wiggle room without renouncing D'Angelo Russell's restricted-free-agent hold. The Nets shouldn't give up their own pick to do it, but Denver's selection or attaching Hollis-Jefferson to a goulash of second-rounders is worth the extra spending power.
Whatever the Nets do, expect it to be a move that deviates from their ground-up rebuild. They have the asset base and direction to buy—not excessively, but meaningfully.
Knicks Sell, Sell, Sell
The New York Knicks front office still has calls to make after it traded Porzingis. Playing for the No. 1 pick, the team has the league's worst record and DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, Noah Vonleh, Mario Hezonja, Emmanuel Mudiay and Enes Kanter on the final year of their deals. It's worth contacting playoff teams that are possibly interested in adding veteran depth heading into the postseason.
None of those players serve a purpose for New York—unless management plans on re-signing any of them.
Vonleh, 23, stands out as the player they'd most likely want to bring back. It still seems more like they'll have to go the buyout route with Matthews, Jordan and/or Kanter. Matthews figures to be a goner either way, particularly given the reported interest around the league, per Stein.
The Knicks presumably would rather part with Kanter than Jordan. Kanter has Knicks fans chanting his name despite coach David Fizdale's reluctance to play him, creating an awkward situation at home games. Jordan could serve as an ideal mentor to Mitchell Robinson. It's also worth establishing a relationship with Jordan, just to keep options open in free agency.
If the Knicks are able to strike any deals, it will likely be for second-rounders and salary fillers.
All salary-cap info courtesy of Basketball Insiders unless otherwise noted.