These Contenders and Veterans Need Each Other at 2020 NBA Trade Deadline
The clock is ticking on NBA title contenders to juice up their rosters before the Feb. 6 trade deadline.
The parity across both conferences could embolden teams to go all-in to win a championship and reassure superstars that the grass isn't always greener.
Some teams don't fall within this category despite their win-loss record. The Utah Jazz have already gone all-in by acquiring Mike Conley Jr., Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson. Their starting five boasts the best net rating (plus-22.5) among groups that have played at least 120 minutes together.
The Denver Nuggets are another possible candidate to consolidate. However, if they wait until the summer, they may have enough to pry away an as-of-yet-unavailable star like Jrue Holiday or Bradley Beal.
But whether looking to the present or the future, several teams are so close to being a legitimate contender right now that one simple move could be all that it takes.
The following additions would improve these title contenders' odds.
Boston Celtics: Joakim Noah
The soon-to-be-35-year-old has yet to play this season, but he has a few more miles left on his gas tank than you might think. With less than 19,000 career minutes under his belt, Noah has played only roughly half as many minutes as Andre Iguodala and Dwight Howard.
Noah's age may be warding off potential suitors, because the 2013-14 Defensive Player of the Year otherwise put up productive numbers last season in Memphis. In his final 15 games, Noah averaged 18.6 points on 60.0 percent shooting, 12.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists per 36 minutes.
But the Celtics don't need Noah to pad stats. They need a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency veteran presence who isn't afraid to step in front of a charging Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid. While Daniel Theis has been steady on defense (12th among power forwards in ESPN.com's defensive real plus-minus), Enes Kanter and Robert Williams have struggled (20th and 48th among centers, respectively).
Noah can step in and give the Celtics 10-15 minutes off the bench when need be, absorbing some of the punishment that the elite bigs in the East might dish out. And he has never been shy about attacking the Greek Freak, too.
Houston Rockets: Andre Iguodala
Andre Iguodala may wind up landing in Los Angeles, but it would be fun to see him in Houston.
Iggy would give the Rockets everything they've been missing since they lost Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute following the 2017-18 season. The NBA's sixth-best defense in 2017-18 plummeted to 17th in 2018-19 and sits at 15th this season.
Adding a versatile three-and-D wing who can hit from the corners and lock down perimeter superstars would change the trajectory of a Rockets team that sits sixth in the West. Iggy would do that and then some.
Last postseason, Iguodala hit 47.1 percent of his corner threes and averaged 9.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks. Defensively, he was as versatile as he was dependable, as he matched up against the likes of Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Pascal Siakam, Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry and Lou Williams.
When P.J. Tucker slides over to small-ball 5, Iguodala could play the 4 in three-guard lineups. That would unlock a potential closing group of Harden, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, Iguodala and Tucker.
Since Eric Gordon can't be traded before the Feb. 6 deadline, a deal with Memphis would likely involve Clint Capela or Tucker. Houston's best bet would be to bypass the deadline and hope for a buyout.
If the Rockets can somehow acquire Iggy, the gap between them and the twin towers in Los Angeles would that much tighter.
Los Angeles Clippers: Nemaja Bjelica
The Sacramento Kings are a sum of too many parts. While Bogdan Bogdanovic may be the first to go, Nemanja Bjelica could just as easily find himself swirling in trade rumors.
The 6'10" Bjelica can give a contender one of the NBA's more efficient floor-spacing bigs. Draining 43.7 percent of his 4.8 three-point attempts per game, Bjelica sits fifth leaguewide among all players averaging at least three long-range attempts.
He isn't just a corner squatter, though. Bjelica has found a variety of ways to score as of late. He has averaged 18 points in his last six games, including 34 in a two-point loss to the Orlando Magic on Jan. 13.
Patrick Patterson, Maurice Harkless and JaMychal Green have combined to average 56.9 minutes per game, yet only Patterson is shooting above league average from three (36.3 percent). Adding a shooter like Bjelica would further widen the floor for Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell's pick-and-rolls and make opponents hesitate to collapse on Kawhi Leonard at the elbow.
If the Clippers can steal Bjelica away from the Kings, their Staples Center co-tenants may struggle to match them offensively.
Los Angeles Lakers: Derrick Rose
The Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers are among the teams to have expressed interest in acquiring Derrick Rose, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
The 31-year-old Rose remains one of the NBA's most devastating playmakers. Only three players—LeBron James, Luka Doncic and Trae Young—are exceeding Rose's per-36-minute averages of 25.4 points and 8.0 assists. His 3.59 offensive real plus-minus is fourth leaguewide among point guards who have played at least 10 games, trailing only Young, Damian Lillard and Kemba Walker.
Defenses are countering the modern-day offense by defending the rim and perimeter, but Rose continues to expose them by shooting 46.3 percent on 6.7 attempts in the paint and the mid-range.
Rose would answer the Lakers' question mark at point guard and would give their second unit the offensive firepower it needs to answer any Lou Williams scoring barrage in a potential Western Conference Finals matchup against the Clippers.
Rose is a liability on defense, but pairing him with Danny Green, LeBron James and Anthony Davis would help the Lakers hide him on that end of the floor.
Milwaukee: Bogdan Bogdanovic
The Milwaukee Bucks' decision to sign-and-trade Malcolm Brogdon to the Indiana Pacers left a hole in their lineup and raises postseason concerns. If Eric Bledsoe repeats his lackluster playoff performance from last year (13.7 points, 23.6 percent shooting from deep on 4.8 attempts per game), the Bucks may need a veteran playmaker to step in and pick up the slack.
Milwaukee still has time to mitigate the loss of Brogdon, and acquiring Bogdan Bogdanovic from Sacramento would reinforce faith in the NBA's top team.
A whopping 55.8 percent of Bogdanovic's shot attempts are coming from behind the arc this season. Although he isn't matching Brogdon's 50/40/90 splits from last year, his 37.6 percent average on 6.9 three-point attempts per game is still above league average.
Bogdanovic's ability to create something out of nothing separates him from a generic sharpshooter, too. He creates 71.8 percent of his two-point shots and 46.4 percent of his overall shot attempts. He's shooting 50.8 percent from the mid-range, which is the seventh-best mark among players attempting two such shots or more per game.
Donte DiVincenzo may ultimately ascend into Brogdon's vacant role and fortify Milwaukee's backcourt. But if the Bucks want to remove any doubt, acquiring Bogdanovic could help bring them an NBA title.
Miami Heat: DeMar DeRozan
The Miami Heat have emerged as a genuine threat to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference. Jimmy Butler and Co. are currently the No. 2 seed at 30-13, but they may need more help to push them over the top.
The Heat have been tied to Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry and Jrue Holiday, but if none of them are made available, they could do worse than adding DeMar DeRozan. The 30-year-old is shooting a career-high 53.4 percent this year while averaging a well-rounded 22.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.
While DeRozan rarely shoots threes (0.6 attempts per game), Miami could surround him with shooters. Six Heat players shoot above league-average from distance, and Kendrick Nunn is only 0.1 percent away.
Butler will draw increased defensive focus once the playoffs roll around, so acquiring a second initiator and driver of the offense could help offset that. And DeRozan's contract perfectly matches the Heat's desired timeline.
If he declined his $27.7 million player option this summer, the Heat could re-sign him using Bird rights or spending their remaining salary-cap space elsewhere. If he picked it up, he would come off their books just in time for them to court Giannis Antetokounmpo in the summer of 2021.
If the Spurs are ready to eject on this current group, the Heat have the salary-matching pieces to complete a DeRozan deal. They could pair Justise Winslow with James Johnson or Goran Dragic to give San Antonio a promising young player and a win-now veteran.
Philadelphia 76ers: Davis Bertans
The Philadelphia 76ers have underwhelmed to date, but they're only two games behind the second-seeded Miami Heat heading into Wednesday. They boast one of the league's stingiest defenses, but they're only 20th in offensive rating.
Their offensive shortcomings are particularly glaring from deep. While they're shooting a respectable 35.2 percent, they're averaging only 10.7 triples per game, 23rd in the NBA.
Enter Davis Bertans.
The Washington Wizards forward is drilling 42.8 percent of his 8.6 threes per game this season. He would be a marked improvement over veteran Mike Scott, who is shooting only 33.8 percent on his 3.3 long-range attempts per game.
The 76ers have as many as nine additional second-round picks to barter, plus Oklahoma City's top-20-protected 2020 first-rounder. They also have all of their own firsts going forward other than this season's.
Bertans is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Unless the Wizards are confident in their ability to re-sign him, trading him now might make more sense than getting into a bidding war for him this summer.
It's time for the Sixers to push all of their chips in and add Bertans.
Toronto Raptors: Darren Collison
According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, veteran point guard Darren Collison is mulling a return to the NBA following a brief retirement.
The Lakers and Clippers have emerged as his "preferred destinations," per Woj, but what about the Toronto Raptors? At 29-14, the Raptors are only one game behind the second-seeded Heat in the East and are surprisingly still in the championship mix despite losing Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green this past summer.
The Raptors can afford to be patient with Collison. Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry would run the first unit while Collison would direct the second. Rookie Terence Davis has been impressive in his rookie season, shooting 39.7 percent from deep on 3.3 attempts per game, but Collison is better.
With the Indiana Pacers in 2018-19, Collison averaged a career-high 6.0 assists while shooting 40.7 percent from three. In 2017-18, Collison shot a league-best 46.8 percent from deep.
Collison isn't an above-average defender, but he was a steady cog in the Pacers' third-ranked defense in 2018-19, holding opponents to 108.4 points per 100 possessions (74th percentile), per Cleaning the Glass.
If the Raptors can convince Collison to travel north of the border, their chances of challenging in the East become that much more realistic.