1 Trade Deadline Target for Every NBA Contender with Needs
It's been quiet on the trade front through the first half of the season, but things could ramp up as we approach the February 6 trade deadline.
With both of last year's Finals participants in worse shape, the title race feels more wide-open. The top six seeds in each conference have eyes on a deep postseason run.
However, with parity comes concern. Many would-be challengers have a fatal flaw that could hold them back from the game's ultimate prize.
Here are the players that can alleviate those concerns for each potential contender.
Boston Celtics: Nemanja Bjelica, PF
Following the departures of Aron Baynes, Al Horford and Kyrie Irving, a drop-off in production might have been expected for the Boston Celtics. However, Kemba Walker and Daniel Theis have meshed perfectly, and the Celtics' five-man lineups with Kembar Walker, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Daniel Theis and one of Jaylen Brown or Marcus Smart have thrashed opponents to the tune of plus-14.5 and -13.3 points per 100 possessions.
But the Celtics do have their share of shortcomings, and the Philadelphia 76ers have been happy to exploit them. Winners of all three matchups this season, the 76ers have dominated on the boards by a margin of over 14 boards per game.
The Celtics need some big help behind Theis, and they have little to no wiggle room to swing a big deal. Of the movable pieces, only Enes Kanter has a contract of any significance ($4.8 million). Thus, Danny Ainge will need to skirt the fringes for a difference-maker.
Nemanja Bjelica has the size and versatility to play the 4 and 5 and is one of the best spacers in the NBA. He ranks in the 100th percentile in effective field-goal percentage when playing the 5, 98th in mid-range and 98th in threes. At 43.5 percent, he's the ninth-best three-point shooter in the NBA.
Due to his age (31) and their prior financial commitments, the Kings could send out Bjelica for an asset.
Dallas Mavericks: Evan Fournier, G
Luka Doncic has fast emerged into one of the best and most exciting playmakers in the NBA. The 20-year-old is doing everything for the Mavericks, ranking in the 100th percentile in both usage and assist percentage.
The New York Times' Marc Stein reported that the Mavericks are in the market for a wing—presumably one capable of defending the LeBrons and Kawhis of the West. However, they also need a secondary playmaker to supplement Doncic for spurts.
Evan Fournier of the Orlando Magic can provide that spark.
Fournier is a complicated fix due to his $17.2 million player option for 2020-21, but he gives the Mavericks precisely what they need. He's enjoying his best full season in points (18.8) and efficiency (FG%, eFG). He ranks in the 88th percentile in usage, 85th in assist percentage and 81st in points per shot attempt. His combination of runners, off-ball movement and ability to navigate the pick-and-roll make him the perfect candidate to boost this unit's chances in the playoffs.
Sending out Tim Hardaway Jr. along with a conditional 2025 first may be enough to cement a deal.
Denver Nuggets: Davis Bertans, PF
The cost of three-point shooting in the NBA comes at a premium, but the Denver Nuggets have more than enough expendable pieces to acquire some. Ranking 25th in made threes per game and 20th in percentage, the Nuggets' need for floor spacing is a glaring one.
Davis Bertans should be at the top of Denver's wish list. The 6'10" floor-spacer shoots 42.2 percent on 8.5 attempts, ranking in the 97th percentile in points per 100 shot attempts. The Bertans, Bradley Beal, Isaiah Thomas, Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant lineup has produced an eye-popping 140.6 points per 100 possessions (100th percentile) and an effective field-goal percentage of 65.8 (99th percentile).
Denver has an overabundance of players at every position. Former first-round pick Malik Beasley has struggled to find consistent minutes and has already rejected an offseason extension. Juancho Hernangomez is also up for a lucrative extension this summer. It will be difficult to pry away Bertans due to his skill set, but keeping him means risking losing him for nothing. Bertans is due to become an unrestricted free agent. The Washington Wizards would be wise to take what they can get.
Houston Rockets: Jae Crowder, SF
The Athletic's Shams Charania reported that the Houston Rockets are looking to add a wing before the deadline.
Ben McLemore is part of one of the best five-man lineups in the NBA (plus-24.5 net rating, 93rd percentile), but its success isn't sustainable. The Rockets cannot expect McLemore to contest Kawhi Leonard and Paul George come playoff time, among others.
There are enough assets to make a swing. The Rockets still have control of their 2020 and 2022 firsts. The salary filler is what makes a move difficult. Nene's incentive-laden $10 million deal was ruled only to be trade-eligible at $2.6 million (guaranteed portion). The Rockets can send out that with Danuel House's $3.5 million and one of Thabo Sefolosha or Tyson Chandler to bring back Jae Crowder.
The Memphis Grizzlies might be reluctant to part with him due to their unexpected playoff chase, but bringing back multiple firsts should be too enticing to pass up. With promising pieces in Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke and Dillon Brooks, the goal is the future. Bringing back even more blue-chip talent to develop alongside these blossoming athletes could make them one of the more promising teams in the West.
For the Rockets, it shores up the position of most significant concern.
Los Angeles Clippers: Andre Iguodala, SF
It's now or never for one of the two impulsively assembled teams in Los Angeles. Once the two-year deal was inked by Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers were put on the championship-or-bust clock, and they need to take careful measures to make sure they deliver.
They've already sustained success against their L.A. counterpart in both meetings. But area for improvement still exists, principally at the backup 4 position where Maurice Harkless, Patrick Patterson and JaMychal Green average a substantial amount of playing time. Harkless seems the candidate best served to fill those minutes, but his alarming free-throw percentage (57.1) could cost them in minutes that matter. Dealing his expiring, salary filler and their 2020 first-round pick for an upgrade at the position is a no-brainer should the right player become available. That player should be Andre Iguodala.
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 while playing stifling defense that limited some of the great offensive playmakers in the NBA.
More than anything else, they should acquire him to keep him from defending Leonard and George.
Los Angeles Lakers: Derrick Rose, PG
This group needs a secondary playmaker for when LeBron James is off the floor. James has been notably missed on the offensive end when he rests, as the Lakers drop 7.1 points per 100 possessions.
Luckily for the Lakers, the perfect candidate exists and should be available.
Rose is 13th in the NBA in offensive real plus-minus and one of the most deadly half-court playmakers in the NBA today. Breaking down man-to-man defenses and exposing shallow spots in zones comes all too easily to the 2011 MVP. His 65 percent shooting at the rim puts him in the 84th percentile, while his 45 percent shooting from mid-range ranks him in the 82nd.
Only LeBron James, Luka Doncic and Trae Young score and share better per 36 minutes than Rose (25.4 points, 8.1 assists).
The presence of a floor general with a usage rate and assist percentage ranking in the 93rd and 96th percentile, respectively, would be a considerable upgrade over what they have in Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley.
Adding Rose would unquestionably cost the Lakers Kyle Kuzma (plus Quinn Cook). However, Rob Pelinka can't afford to play it safe with Anthony Davis' free agency approaching. Rose fits better with this roster as currently constructed than Kuzma and could be the difference in getting past the Clippers.
Philadelphia 76ers: JJ Redick, SG
Bring on the offense. Any and all of it.
Ben Simmons truthers may argue for less Embiid and more uptempo full-court basketball. But the truth is the offense was even worse in Embiid's 10-game absence.
The 76ers starting lineup is crushing opponents to the tune of 9.1 points per 100 possessions despite ranking in the 35th percentile offensively.
Why change anything?
Imagine just how destructive this unit would be with one of the most efficient offensive playmakers in the NBA. Imagine it with a player who moves without the ball and creates efficient opportunities every time he touches it.
Like JJ Redick.
In addition to being the NBA's second-best shooter from three (46.5), Redick possesses all kinds of skills the casual fan doesn't recognize.
Making the deal is difficult financially without including Josh Richardson. A third team could be involved or the 76ers could be forced to deplete much of their depth. The Pelicans also don't want to lose his spacing and leadership.
But if the Pelicans have an opportunity to add some young assets to their core, they'd be wise to consider it.
Better off Standing Pat
The Indiana Pacers will inevitably have to answer the Myles Turner-Domantas Sabonis dilemma. But until they see a fully restored Victor Oladipo, it's too early to make that assessment.
Owning the league's best record, the Milwaukee Bucks have little left to add on paper. With the NBA's best defense and second-best offense as well as a potential two-time MVP, they should be considered the front-runner for the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Despite rumors connecting the Miami Heat to All-Stars Jrue Holiday, DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Heat would be wise to refrain from such a swing. Pat Riley can clear about $50 million after the 2021 season, allowing him sign an All-Star-level talent.
While the Heat have plenty of pieces to move in matching salary, they'd likely have to attach Kendrick Nunn or Tyler Herro to acquire anything. They'd be better off being patient.
It's hard to pencil in what the Raptors can or should do as they approach the deadline. On the one hand, they have two movable expiring contracts in Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka and all of their first-round picks—more than enough to add a substantial player. They could acquire Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson to add some girth to their frontcourt. They could send out one of their big men with OG Anunoby and multiple firsts for a run at Jrue Holiday.
Ultimately, they should stand pat and operate with much of the same team that won them a title in 2019. Perhaps if the cards fall their way, they can rediscover the magic with a breakout performance from Pascal Siakam.
There's nothing left to do for a squad that has already unloaded considerable assets to acquire Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson. The Jazz recently won 14 of 15 games and have the best five-man lineup in the NBA by a significant margin (among groups that have played 120 minutes or more).