Finding Ideal Landing Spots for NBA's Top Trade Deadline Targets
The 2020 NBA trade deadline is quickly approaching, and even if it doesn't put a superstar in a new uniform, it could shift the Association's balance of power.
The trade candidate pool seems shallower than most years. Some of its most recognizable names are attached to colossal contracts that could make them untradable.
And yet, there is no better mechanism for roster improvement between now and season's end than deadline dealing.
So, we've taken the top realistic deadline targets and identified their ideal landing spots by looking at team needs, individual attributes and potential affordability on the open market.
The 'No Place Like Home' Exclusions
While most trade candidates likely can find a superior situation to their current digs, some seem better off staying put. In some cases, it's almost impossible to identify a trade suitor that needs the player, has the money to match salaries and can send back something that said player's current employer should want.
For one reason or another, these potential trade candidates likely aren't budging during swap season.
Steven Adams and Chris Paul, Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder not only have a seat at the playoff table; they're closer to the second seed than the eighth. That probably prevents a total teardown, although B/R's Eric Pincus recently reported OKC was "still interested in hearing what other teams are wiling to offer before the trade deadline."
The Thunder can afford to be choosy, then, and they won't broker a blockbuster simply for the sake of dealing. Considering how costly Chris Paul is, it's hard to imagine anyone offering something valuable enough for OKC to move its leader. As for Steven Adams, he's likely more valuable as an on-court contributor than as a trade chip, and at 26 years old, he's young enough to keep around.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Theoretically, Andre Drummond is an obvious trade candidate. He's a 26-year-old two-time All-Star. He's also trapped on a team going nowhere and is able to reach free agency this summer if he wants.
But he's an inside-the-arc center with limited offensive skills and an inconsistent defensive motor. Oh, and if he does opt for free agency, he'll be looking for an absurd amount of cash considering he can only hit the open market by declining a $28.8 million player option.
Does a market even exist for Drummond? The Athletic's Shams Charania reported talks of a Drummond deal had gone "stagnant," and three potential suitors had abandoned the race (Atlanta, New York and Boston).
Does Toronto consider him an upgrade over Marc Gasol? Would Dallas go all-in for a center when it just added Willie Cauley-Stein and might eventually hand the position over to Kristaps Porzingis? It's just tough to tell which teams want Drummond and would give up something of substance to get him.
Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
Would-be suitors for Kevin Love must be 100 percent sold on him. The 31-year-old raises far too many red flags to ignore, from his declining production and injury history to the three years and $91.5 million remaining on his contract after this season. That might be enough to keep him stranded in Northeast Ohio.
"There just aren't many, if any, teams that see him as the piece that puts them over the top," an East executive told NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh.
The Cavs need someone to take that leap in logic. A deadline divorce feels best for Love and Cleveland, but the stars aren't aligning to make that happen. It feels more likely that clubs will come calling about Tristan Thompson, but even then, it's uncertain whether the Cavs would make a move.
D'Angelo Russell, Golden State Warriors
At some point, Golden State will reach the conclusion that the missing piece of a puzzle featuring Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green isn't another ball-dominant scoring guard. Inject the Dubs' decision-makers with some truth serum now, and they might admit as much.
But that shouldn't force D'Angelo Russell away from the Warriors in the next week-and-a-half. His trade value should be the same this summer as it is now. But at that point, the Warriors could package him with a lottery pick (perhaps even the top overall selection) for something really good. Plus, playing out the campaign should give Golden State another look at the Russell-Curry backcourt in case there's any belief it might work moving forward.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
Sorry to all of the deadline dreamers, but this ain't happening. Only wishful thinking has nudged KAT to the rumor mill. The New York Knicks are "expected to monitor" Towns' situation, per Marc Berman of the New York Post. The Warriors are reportedly "monitoring" the skilled 7-footer as well, per The Athletic's Ethan Strauss.
It's too bad that there's nothing worth monitoring. Not any time soon, at least. Towns is 24 years old. He's signed through 2024. If the season ended today, he'd be the first player ever to average 26 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three triples. The Wolves won't consider a future without him unless he demands it.
Robert Covington: Dallas Mavericks
Robert Covington hasn't quite been himself this season, but contenders still treat him as an elite three-and-D wing. The Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers have all expressed interest in him, per Ben Cohen of the Wall Street Journal, and any team with an inkling of winning now should be added to that list.
He's an easy fit anywhere, especially if you think a change of scenery would bring out his best. Last season, RoCo splashed a career-high 37.8 percent of his triples and ranked 12th overall (and third among non-centers) in defensive real plus-minus, per ESPN.com.
That version of Covington is a difference-maker, and he'd be the perfect supporting piece to complement Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis in Dallas. Covington's shot-making would help keep the offensive end clear, and his all-purpose stopping would nudge the Mavs' 17th-ranked defense closer to the top 10, a mark history holds as a requirement for championship contention.
If Minnesota can't find a team willing to give up a first-rounder for Covington, then Dallas might hold the sweepstakes' trump card with Golden State's upcoming second-rounder. That's a valuable trade chip, but it's a no-brainer if the Mavs see a move that can dramatically improve their outlook.
Since Covington can help this playoff run and remains under contract through 2021-22, Dallas should hold him in that regard.
Danilo Gallinari: Toronto Raptors
Even if the Thunder resist a fire sale, Danilo Gallinari is as logical of a trade candidate as you'll find. The 31-year-old needs a new contract in July, and he doesn't make much sense for OKC to keep around.
For win-now shoppers, though, Gallo is an almost ideal investment.
His smooth shooting and slick handles could perk up any offense. Since the start of last season, he's averaged 19.6 points on a tidy 45.4/42.4/90.6 shooting slash. He can shoot over smaller defenders or dribble past bigger ones, and he never goes too long between visits to the free-throw line (5.5 per game over this stretch).
Anyone with a scoring void likely has an interest, and B/R's Eric Pincus heard the Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors all linked to Gallinari. If Toronto feels it's one scorer away from defending its throne—it has the NBA's second-best defense but ranks only 14th on offense—the Raptors must consider an aggressive move to add arguably the market's best available option.
Moving forward, Toronto could still follow the lead of Pascal Siakam, but Gallinari and Kyle Lowry would play co-starring roles as the primary support pieces. Gallo would work in both offense-heavy quintets meant to overwhelm opposing defenses or extra-long groupings meant to flood the floor with length and limbs. And as an added bonus, his arrival wouldn't even spoil any of the big-budget plans for 2021.
Jrue Holiday: Miami Heat
Getting Jrue Holiday from the Big Easy to South Beach is tricky. The New Orleans Pelicans aren't eager to let him go. The Athletic's Shams Charania recently reported the Pels planned to keep their group together "for a longer period of time" to evaluate the core with 2019 No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson, who made his regular-season debut last Wednesday.
Even if New Orleans would discuss a Holiday deal, it'll be hard for the Miami Heat to reach the front of the line. They can't trade a first-round pick for a long time, and their prospect collection isn't great with Justise Winslow hurt and both Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro both off-limits.
But we aren't here to complete the trades ourselves. We're just analyzing the fit, and the idea of Holiday feasting on all the #Culture he cares to enjoy with Jimmy Butler, Erik Spoelstra and Co. is awesome.
The Heat aren't a defensive juggernaut (14th), but they could reach that level with Holiday. He can lock up players one-on-one, and he can switch perimeter assignments without missing a beat. His anticipation is incredible, his fuel supply is endless and he shaves a whopping 5.2 points off his opponents' field-goal percentage.
If Miami grabbed Holiday, it would have a co-star for Butler and perhaps a ticket out of the East.
Andre Iguodala: Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers have enough to contend for the crown right now. Every time someone wonders what's wrong with this club, it's tempting to answer "nothing."
This is the NBA's fifth-best offense and sixth-best defense. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George comprise one of the league's most explosive tandems. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell should be Sixth Man of the Year finalists again. Head coach Doc Rivers' resume is littered with success and includes a previous title run. The Clippers check all relevant boxes.
But every team could be improved, and the Clippers are no exception. They know it, too, and are reportedly in the market for size and wing depth, per Marc Stein of the New York Times.
Acquiring Andre Iguodala may not address any size concerns, but it would be a massive lift for this wing core and a way to lighten Leonard and George's (already managed) regular-season loads.
Iguodala ranks among the league's all-time great defenders. He has length, agility, strength, smarts, lightning-quick hands—basically everything you'd want in a stopper. He also has an encyclopedic knowledge of the league's top players (starting with LeBron James), and his ability to handle most individual matchups would help Leonard and George conserve energy.
Offensively, Iguodala could be key in the Clippers climbing up from 24th in assist percentage. He isn't a lead guard, but he can run the offense in spurts and won't give the ball away. If his three-ball is falling (career 33.3 percent), he could fill a prominent role in their closing group.
Keeping him away from other contenders (especially the other Staples Center residents) would be almost just as helpful.
Derrick Rose: Los Angeles Lakers
When LeBron James looks at the Lakers' roster, he sees all of the necessary championship components.
"We have enough right now," he said recently, per ESPN's Dave McMenamin.
When everyone else looks at the roster, it's hard not to notice the absence of a second creator.
When James needs a breather, this group struggles to function without him. The Lakers have a plus-10.5 net rating with him but a minus-1.9 mark when he sits. That's too big of a swing not to address at the deadline.
The Lakers have a glaring need for more playmaking, and Derrick Rose could be an excellent source of it. The former MVP is averaging career bests in points (25.4) and assists (8.1) per 36 minutes. He's a better shooter at the rim now than ever (68.3 percent within three feet), so he could thrive in the same drive-and-kick role as James.
Fitting the two together could be a challenge, but Rose would step in and immediately be the team's second-best table-setter and No. 3 scorer. There's enough talent to overcome some of the overlap. Besides, if a deal for Rose involves Kyle Kuzma (a potentially necessary piece to win a bidding war), it could make the roster better balanced by alleviating some of the frontcourt congestion.
Rose will have suitors—the Philadelphia 76ers, for one, should make an aggressive bid—but the Lakers belong at the front of the line. Even if his style of play isn't a perfect fit, he would address two of the biggest concerns (shot creation and support scoring) on the Western Conference's top team.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.