Top Landing Spots for NBA's Biggest Trade Deadline Targets
The NBA trade deadline is Thursday, but it's understandable if you'd forgotten that with the NCAA men's basketball tournament in full swing.
For a variety of reasons—ranging from the lack of game-changing targets to the expanded playoff picture incentivizing teams to continue competing to a league-wide reluctance to spend big during a pandemic—it's widely expected to be a quieter week than usual.
However, there are still a few notable players who could switch teams, changing the playoff hierarchy and altering the trajectory of a franchise in the process.
Today, we've assigned some ideal player-team fits. We tried to go with a variety of teams and didn't include players who are more likely to get bought out of their contracts than traded—specifically LaMarcus Aldridge and Andre Drummond.
Harrison Barnes: Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis Grizzlies fans really dig their young team, and adding the 28-year-old Harrison Barnes might seem like a misstep. But if the Sacramento Kings are interested in trading their starting small forward to a direct playoff competitor, this could be a clarifying move for Memphis.
Adding Barnes would simultaneously bring a veteran presence to Memphis and address the team's need for bigger wings. Plus, the Grizzlies would still have one of the strongest under-25 cores in the league with most of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Clarke, Tillman, Justise Winslow, Desmond Bane, De'Anthony Melton and Tyus Jones remaining on the roster in any given trade scenario.
Barnes is averaging career-highs in rebounds (6.2), assists (3.5) and field-goal percentage (49.4) this year in Sacramento. He would contribute now while providing a veteran presence at a position of need.
John Collins: Minnesota Timberwolves
As John Collins and the Atlanta Hawks are still seemingly far apart on an extension, teams are sending in offers for the fourth-year big man. One club that seems particularly interested is the Minnesota Timberwolves, who "want him bad," per The Ringer's Jackie MacMullan.
Offensively, Collins should be a seamless fit on the Wolves. He's a career 37.1 percent three-point shooter and would be a dynamite lob target for D'Angelo Russell. It gets dicey on the other side of the floor, though, where Minnesota really needs help. Collins has never been a great defender, as he's too limited laterally to guard on the perimeter and not long enough to protect the rim.
Nevertheless, Minnesota is 10-31 and just generally needs more talent.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski recently reported that Atlanta is unlikely to move Collins before the deadline, citing the team's inability to get market value on his rookie contract. Woj is obviously well-sourced, but such a prediction assumes that Collins would be the only player that Atlanta is moving.
If a veteran filler contract like that of Tony Snell or Rajon Rondo were attached to Collins in a deal, then the Hawks might be able to gain commensurate value or something close to it. With players like Malik Beasley and Ricky Rubio in that salary range, Minnesota could get a deal done.
Wayne Ellington: Miami Heat
If there's a no-brainer pairing this week, this is it.
Wayne Ellington played the best basketball of his career for the Miami Heat over parts of three seasons. A few seasons later, he is similarly lighting the nets on fire, making 2.7 threes per game while shooting 42.2 percent from range. However, he's 33 years old and doing this for the Detroit Pistons, a poorly constructed team at the beginning of a long rebuild.
For the sake of all involved, let's reunite two distressed parties.
Of course, this wouldn't just be a sentimental return for Ellington. While the Heat are slowly returning to form after a poor start to the season, they still rank 26th in three-point percentage. Noted sharpshooters Duncan Robinson (38.9 percent) and Tyler Herro (33.3 percent) are both languishing from distance by their standards, Goran Dragic (34.4 percent) and Kelly Olynyk (33.3 percent) are slumping too, and Jimmy Butler (22.0 percent) appears to have lost the range almost entirely.
Miami has still been able to grind out victories lately, winning 11 of its last 13 games and racking up notable wins against the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers, but the team's lack of shooting will almost certainly prove fatal at some point.
Ellington, while perhaps positionally redundant with Herro and Avery Bradley, fills this gaping skill-based need.
Aaron Gordon: Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks have long been searching for a second big man to partner with Kristaps Porzingis. And while the Orlando Magic consider Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz "untouchable," per Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix, the injury-ravaged franchise appears to be otherwise open for business.
One player to watch is Aaron Gordon, and he'd be an ideal fit in Dallas. Gordon catching lobs from Luka Doncic is the stuff of dreams. He's also become a passable enough shooter to benefit from the oceans of space that Doncic and the rest of Dallas' snipers would provide and is averaging a career-best 4.1 assists per game this year.
Gordon has also gradually become a respected stopper, effectively guarding some of the NBA's elite over the past several seasons. He could partially cover for Porzingis' rapidly deteriorating defense, with the Latvian's versatility on that end seemingly gone after years of leg injuries.
Thanks to a slow start and disappointing showings from numerous role players, Dallas likely can't seriously contend in the 2021 postseason. But adding Gordon sets the franchise up perfectly for Luka's prime years.
George Hill: Los Angeles Clippers
The most alarming trend with the Los Angeles Clippers this year has been their inability to win close games. They have the worst clutch net rating in the NBA by a wide margin and a league-worst 10.3 assist ratio in clutch situations. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George could rise to the occasion under the bright lights, but the Clippers' front office should still look to make a move.
George Hill has made the postseason 11 times and has played with big-time stars before (Tim Duncan, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo, to name a few). He led the NBA in three-point shooting last year (46 percent), rarely turns the ball over and is a leader on and off the court.
At times, the Clippers look like the best team in the league—in fact, they've won nine games by at least 20 points this year. But when they lose their momentum, it can get worrisome. Adding Hill would provide a stable ball-handling presence and steady personality to balance out this group.
Al Horford: Boston Celtics
There's been a lot of talk about the Boston Celtics landing another swingman, particularly the aforementioned Harrison Barnes. But while the Celtics certainly have their fair share of roster holes, the wing is not one of them, given Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown's All-Star play this year.
Danny Ainge should be looking to the frontcourt.
Because of injuries and various other reasons, Boston's lack of quality bigs has been noticeable this year. To address this concern, the team would be well-served to add a floor-spacing center, and there's a familiar and available name who could fill this need: Al Horford.
After a disappointing season in Philadelphia, the big man has quietly rehabbed his trade value in Oklahoma City, averaging his most points per game (14.3) in five years while recording a 3.03 assist-to-turnover ratio, sixth-best among centers. Horford is 34, but he's still a playoff-caliber contributor.
From the point guard position to an overall lack of bench depth, the Celtics have issues that a Horford reunion wouldn't immediately solve. But he'd address one of their biggest needs, and that could make all the difference in the postseason.
Victor Oladipo: New Orleans Pelicans
Despite rough surroundings in Houston, Victor Oladipo might finally be turning a corner. Over his last eight games, he is averaging 23.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game, looking slightly more like his pre-injury self. It's unclear what this does for his trade value, but considering Oladipo is unlikely to re-sign with the Rockets this offseason, they should try to garner some sort of return for him.
The Miami Heat and New York Knicks have been considered front-runners to land the 28-year-old, but let's look at a below-the-radar destination: New Orleans.
Oladipo would fill the Pelicans' need for a shot-creating guard. Fans might argue against this acquisition, given that Zion Williamson and Steven Adams already cramp New Orleans' spacing and Oladipo is just a career 34.8 percent three-point shooter, but there's usually value to playing with talent on the order of Zion, Brandon Ingram and the new-and-improved Lonzo Ball, and Houston doesn't have anybody of that caliber except Christian Wood.
And besides, we've discussed the Heat's long-range struggles earlier, and a healthy Knicks lineup features at least two subpar shooters in RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson. At least with New Orleans, Oladipo could play with a potentially generation-defining superstar in Zion.
JJ Redick: Philadelphia 76ers
A return to the Northeast seems likely for JJ Redick, who's been marginalized in New Orleans and has explicitly requested to be moved closer to his Brooklyn-based offseason home. The Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics would be superb fits for the historically great sharpshooter, but a return to the Philadelphia Sixers seems almost fated.
Redick has played for five franchises over 15 seasons but never seemed more vital to a team than he did in Philly. During those two years, he averaged 17.6 points per game, shot 40.7 percent from three and assumed a central leadership position for a team that needed his guidance.
Though much has changed for the Sixers since Redick's departure following the 2018-19 season, it's largely been for the better. He has a longstanding relationship with coach Doc Rivers dating back to their time on the Los Angeles Clippers and would still be a key part of the team's attack. The 36-year-old might seem superfluous next to Seth Curry and Danny Green, but Philadelphia will never have enough spacing as long as Ben Simmons continues to ignore jumpers, a fact that new GM Daryl Morey surely understands.
With Kira Lewis Jr. recently leapfrogging him in the Pelicans' rotation, it might not even take much for the Sixers to reacquire Redick. And given how uncertain the top of the East seems, a move like this could be enough to put Philly back in the conference or NBA Finals for the first time in 20 years.