Ranking Every NBA Team by Its Trade Asset War Chest

Eric Pincus@@EricPincusLA Lakers Lead WriterMarch 22, 2021

Ranking Every NBA Team by Its Trade Asset War Chest

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    One of the great joys of the NBA season is its annual trade deadline. By Thursday, the league's 30 teams will reshuffle rosters as contenders try to add that final piece, wannabes try to make that leap, and rebuilders shed veteran talent and focus on the future.

    Wouldn't this be the ideal year to tank, given the fans' limited access to games? Will the NBA's play-in tournament keep more buyers in the market than sellers?

    Not every franchise is on an even playing field. Some are flush with draft picks (Oklahoma City!), while others don't have a single first-rounder to trade.

    Unlike the NFL, the NBA has a soft cap—no hard spending limit—but the league has a few triggers that will lock in a spending freeze (or the NBA version of a hard cap) at $138.9 million. Any team that acquired a player via sign-and-trade (like the Atlanta Hawks with Danilo Gallinari), used its full mid-level exception (the Los Angeles Lakers with Montrezl Harrell) or its biannual exception (the Denver Nuggets with Facundo Campazzo) is locked with with hard cap for the 2020-21 season.

    As the offseason played out, more than two-thirds of the NBA is limited by the hard cap, which could play a part in restricting player movement at the deadline.

    Each team's approach will be unique, based on its competitiveness, salaries, draft cache and hard cap. Let's break it down case by case, with teams ranked in ascending order by trade-deadline assets.

30. Los Angeles Clippers

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The Clippers are close to the hard cap, limiting the team's flexibility. Any trades would need to send out equal salary or reduce L.A.'s salary.

    Chemistry was an issue for the team in the bubble last season, and while that seems improved, if the Clippers want to add, they'll need to subtract. Lou Williams had a terrible start to the season but has climbed out of his slump. Patrick Beverley has struggled to stay healthy, and while his contract may be needed for a big trade, the team may prefer to keep him and his leadership in the locker room.

    The Clippers may need to improve on the buyout market.

    Goals: Contender—restricted buyer

    Hard Cap: Yes, within $1 million of the limit

    Huge Decision(s): How can the Clippers improve without adding salary?

    Draft Assets: Poor—the Clippers have limited draft picks because of their obligations to the Thunder for Paul George.

    Trade Exceptions: $3.6 million, $2 million, $1.4 million, $500,000

    Roster Space: 14, one open

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Williams ($8 million expiring), Beverley

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Ivica Zubac, Terance Mann, Mfiondu Kabengele, Daniel Oturu

    Trade Restrictions: George cannot be traded. Patrick Patterson and Reggie Jackson both have the right to block a trade.

    Trade Kickers: Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka (15 percent each)

    Poison Pill: Luke Kennard ($12.3 million)

29. Milwaukee Bucks

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    The Bucks are all about winning a title. They spent most of their assets over the offseason to acquire Jrue Holiday from the New Orleans Pelicans but still found a way to acquire PJ Tucker and Rodions Kurucs from the Houston Rockets. Any further improvements may need to come via the buyout market.

    Goals: Contender—buyer with limited resources

    Hard Cap: Yes, within $4 million of the limit

    Huge Decision(s): The Bucks will get calls for Donte DiVincenzo ahead of the trade deadline as their best young asset, but he’s too valuable a contributor to move.

    Draft Assets: Poor—the Bucks' first-round picks are tied up in obligations to the Rockets and Pelicans.

    Trade Exceptions: $4.9 million, $1.6 million

    Roster Space: Full 15

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Bobby Portis

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: DiVincenzo, Kurucs, Pat Connaughton

    Trade Restrictions: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Axel Toupane cannot be traded.

    Trade Kickers: G. Antetokounmpo (15 percent)

28. Utah Jazz

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The Jazz are all-in on winnin. They have the best record in the NBA and a deep roster. Any trades will be around the margins to improve.

    Goals: Championship—guarded buyer

    Hard Cap: Yes, roughly $5 million from the limit

    Huge Decision(s): Can the Jazz afford Mike Conley next season? That's not today's problem.

    Draft Assets: Weak—the Jazz owe a 2021 first to the Grizzlies for Conley, but it will only convey if it's in the Nos. 8 to 14 range. Given the Jazz are elite, that won't happen this year. The pick has various protections through 2024, but Memphis will probably get it in 2022. Nonetheless, the next first-rounder the Jazz can trade isn't until 2026.

    Trade Exceptions: $5 million, $3.5 million, $340,000

    Roster Space: 14, one open slot

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Derrick Favors

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Miye Oni, Georges Niang, Udoka Azubuike, Juwan Morgan, Elijah Hughes

    Trade Restrictions: Cannot trade Rudy Gobert, Ersan Ilyasova

    Trade Kickers: Donovan Mitchell (15 percent)

27. Detroit Pistons

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    Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press

    The Pistons have new leadership with general manager Troy Weaver, who made significant changes over the offseason and bought out Blake Griffin despite eating his $29.8 million on the cap for the 2021-22 season. Jerami Grant has been tremendous, but the team needs a lot more talent, which will take time.

    Did the Pistons acquire Grant to build him up as a player or as an asset? Several teams would be interested, but it seems like a stretch that Detroit would move its best offseason acquisition.

    Instead, look for Wayne Ellington to land with a contender.

    Goals: Rebuilding—a seller

    Hard Cap: Yes, but well under

    Huge Decision(s): Figuring out its general direction

    Draft Assets: Weak—the Pistons owe a first-rounder to the Rockets (part of the Christian Wood deal that brought in Isiah Stewart) that has protections through 2027. Detroit has no available first-rounders to trade.

    Trade Exceptions: $2 million

    Roster Space: 14, one open

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Mason Plumlee, Rodney McGruder, Grant, Ellington

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Josh Jackson, Sekou Doumbouya, others

    Trade Kickers: Plumlee (10 percent)

26. Dallas Mavericks

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    The Mavericks have improved after a difficult start. Kristaps Porzingis' return to form has helped. Dallas needs him to be a major player because it still owes the two first-round picks to the New York Knicks it took to add the big man.

    The Luka Doncic experience has upped the timeline for the Mavericks, though they don't have the proven supporting cast to compete at the highest level. They need to add to their core but don't have a lot to offer. Dallas has the expiring contracts to make a deal (James Johnson and Tim Hardaway Jr.) but not the draft picks or heralded young players to swing an obvious paradigm-shifting deal.

    Goals: Continued growth with an eye on a championship—a buyer

    Hard Cap: Yes, but under by roughly $12 million

    Huge Decision(s): How can the Mavericks land championship pieces around Doncic? Do they have buyer's remorse on Porzingis, and if so, is there an exit strategy that improves the team?

    Draft Assets: Weak—the Mavericks' picks are tied up with their obligations to the Knicks. Only the 2027 first-rounder can move.

    Cap Space or Trade Exceptions: None

    Roster Space: Full 15

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Dwight Powell, Johnson, Willie Cauley-Stein, Boban Marjanovic, Trey Burke, Maxi Kleber, Porzingis, Hardaway

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Jalen Brunson, Josh Green, Tyrell Terry, Dorian Finney-Smith

    Trade Restrictions: Cauley-Stein has the right to block a trade.

    Trade Kickers: Porzingis (5 percent), Burke (7.5 percent)

25. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The Lakers are very close to the hard cap, limiting the team's flexibility. Any trades would need to send out equal salary or reduce L.A.'s salary. 

    If the team put players like Alex Caruso, Talen Horton-Tucker, Montrezl Harrell or Kyle Kuzma on the block, it’d probably get a decent return, but will it?

    The Lakers could use some shooting, backup size and a big wing defender, but they may choose to improve via the buyout market.

    Goals: Contender—restricted buyer

    Hard Cap: Yes, within $2 million of the limit

    Huge Decision(s): How can the Lakers improve without adding salary?

    Draft Assets: Poor—the Lakers are very limited in draft considerations with their obligations to the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis.

    Trade Exceptions: $674,000

    Roster Space: 13, two open

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Wesley Matthews, Markieff Morris, Jared Dudley, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marc Gasol, Harrell

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Alfonzo McKinnie, Horton-Tucker, Caruso, Kuzma

    Trade Restrictions: Morris and Dudley both have the right to block a trade.

    Trade Kickers: LeBron James, Davis (15 percent each)

    Poison Pill: Kuzma ($10.6 million)

24. Miami Heat

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    There was a point earlier in the season when Miami was just not very good. That's no longer the case as its health has improved. This is a franchise eager to get back to the NBA Finals after falling to the Lakers last year. Its recent move to add Trevor Ariza will help.

    That said, the Heat have almost no draft capital to offer. If they want to improve, it's going to cost them value on the roster.

    Goals: Contender—buyer

    Hard Cap: Yes, but well below the limit

    Huge Decision(s): If the Heat can add a significant piece, what young players are they willing to part with?

    Draft Assets: Poor—the Heat have no first-round picks to offer because they owe a couple to the Oklahoma City Thunder. If Miami can get the Thunder to remove protection on the 2023 obligation by sending another second-round pick, the Heat would be able to send out their 2025 and 2027 firsts.

    Trade Exception: $7.5 million

    Roster Space: Full 15

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Goran Dragic, Andre Iguodala, Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley, Maurice Harkless

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Tyler Herro, Precious Achiuwa, Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson, KZ Okpala, Chris Silva

    Trade Restrictions: Udonis Haslem and Dragic have the right to block a trade. The Heat can get around that by opting Dragic into the final year of his contract, if necessary.

    Trade Kickers: Jimmy Butler (15 percent), Andre Iguodala (7.5 percent), Kelly Olynyk (5 percent)

    Poison Pill: Bam Adebayo ($28 million)

23. Brooklyn Nets

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Brooklyn may be looking to round out its roster via the buyout market, which is how it was able to add Blake Griffin after the Detroit Pistons cut him loose. The Nets have limited draft considerations but do have a few young players to offer.

    Perhaps their best asset is their $5.7 million disabled player exception for Spencer Dinwiddie (knee). They can use it to acquire a player (under contract through the rest of this season) without matching salary. The Nets can also use it to sign a free agent, which could be extremely helpful if a player like Andre Drummond is bought out. 

    If Brooklyn trades Dinwiddie before using the exception, it will expire.

    Goals: Championship—a buyer

    Hard Cap: No, but the Nets are deep into the tax. They can add (and probably will), but it will be expensive.

    Huge Decision(s): What's the best use of their disabled player exception?

    Draft Assets: Weak—the Rockets will get three of the Nets' next seven first-round picks and have the right to swap the other four. Brooklyn has no additional first to send out in a trade.

    Disabled Player Exception: $5.7 million (Dinwiddie)

    Roster Space: 13, two open slots

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Jeff Green, Tyler Johnson, Dinwiddie

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Bruce Brown Jr., Landry Shamet, Nicolas Claxton

    Trade Restrictions: Cannot trade Blake Griffin. Johnson has the right to block a trade.

    Trade Kickers: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving (both 15 percent)

22. Phoenix Suns

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    The Phoenix Suns have a very solid, deep roster and are vying not just for a playoff spot but home-court advantage. While the team can look to make trades, the long-term issues may become financial. Can the team afford to keep Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson when their contracts come up (along with All-Star Devin Booker)?

    The Suns just acquired Torrey Craig from the Bucks, giving up the absolute least a team can to make a trade, just $110,000. Instead of parting with any notable trade assets, look for Phoenix to make moves around the margins (if any at all).

    Goals: Starting to think championship—very cautious buyer

    Hard Cap: Yes, but well below

    Huge Decision(s): Luxury taxes down the road, but that's not today's problem.

    Draft Assets: Weak—the Suns' first-rounders are tied up in an obligation to the Thunder from the Paul trade. The Suns can trade their 2021 and 2023 first-round picks but otherwise are tied up with their 2025 obligation to the Thunder. The only first they can trade is in 2027, unless the Suns are able to convince Oklahoma City to adjust the protections on the 2022 first (perhaps costing a second-rounder).

    Trade Exceptions: $900,000

    Roster Space: Full 15

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Dario Saric, Frank Kaminsky, Langston Galloway, E'Twaun Moore, Jae Crowder

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Jalen Smith, Jevon Carter

21. Portland Trail Blazers

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    Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

    The Trail Blazers have been excellent considering they've had to play through injuries to CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic. At the deadline, the team only owes one first-round pick (to the Rockets for Robert Covington), but protections make all of Portland's first-rounders off limits in a trade.

    If the Blazers really find the need to send out a first, they would need to convince the Rockets to remove that protection (perhaps the price would be a second-round pick, given it's all but a lock Houston will ultimately get the pick in 2021). If so, that would give Portland the ability to send out up to three additional firsts.

    Goals: Championship—buyer

    Hard Cap: Yes, about $7 million under the limit

    Huge Decision(s): Is there a trade to push the Blazers to the elite in the West?

    Draft Assets: Medium weak—the Blazers have no firsts, but it may not take a lot for Portland to convince Houston to change the 2021 protection.

    Trade Exceptions: $2.3 million, $1.7 million, $662,000

    Roster Space: 14, one open slot

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Rodney Hood, Nurkic

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons, Gary Trent Jr., Nassir Little, Harry Giles, CJ Elleby

    Trade Restrictions: Carmelo Anthony has the right to block a trade.

20. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    The 76ers are one of the few teams with championship expectations. Will new president of basketball operations Daryl Morey live up to his aggressive reputation and look to make in-season upgrades to bolster his team's case?

    Expect some tinkering before the trade deadline and after in the buyout market.

    Goals: Championship—buyer

    Hard Cap: No

    Huge Decision(s): What can they get to stave off the Nets?

    Draft Assets: Medium—the Sixers can trade their 2021 and 2023 first-round picks but otherwise are tied up with their 2025 obligation to the Thunder.

    Trade Exceptions: $8.2 million, $1.9 million

    Roster Space: Full 15

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Danny Green, Mike Scott, Seth Curry

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Terrance Ferguson, Tony Bradley, Matisse Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey, Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton

    Trade Kickers: Ben Simmons (15 percent), Tobias Harris (the lower of 5 percent or $5 million)

19. Indiana Pacers

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    The Pacers made the big trade to get value for Victor Oladipo in Caris LeVert, who finally made his debut after a medical issue.

    Indiana is typically not willing to go into the luxury tax (they're about barely under the tax threshold, depending on player incentives). They've struggled with injuries but are looking to finish strong.

    Is there a trade to be made to further that goal? Perhaps, but they may just play through with what they have.

    Goals: Grow as a contender—very cautious buyer

    Hard Cap: No

    Huge Decision(s): The Pacers already answered the pressing question on Oladipo's future.

    Draft Assets: Solid—have all of their first-rounders

    Cap Space or Trade Exceptions: $4.8 million, $2.8 million

    Roster Space: Full 15

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Myles Turner, Jeremy Lamb, Doug McDermott

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Goga Bitadze, Aaron Holiday

    Trade Restrictions: JaKarr Sampson has the right to block a trade.

18. Washington Wizards

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The Wizards have shown signs of life after a brutal start, but injuries have made the 2020-21 campaign a challenge. Teams, fans, media and just about everyone else have eyes on Bradley Beal, but Washington doesn't seem to have any interest in moving him, and Beal isn't pushing for it.

    Goals: Unclear—buyer? Seller?

    Hard Cap: Yes, about $8 million under the limit

    Huge Decision(s): Direction, health

    Draft Assets: Rockets in the Russell Westbrook-John Wall swap, Washington can't trade any other firsts.

    Trade Exceptions: $1 million

    Roster Space: Full 15

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Robin Lopez, Ish Smith, Raul Neto, Beal

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Jerome Robinson, Troy Brown Jr., Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga, but valued players like Rui Hachimura shouldn’t be available.

    Trade Restrictions: Alex Len cannot be traded.

    Trade Kickers: Bradley Beal (15 percent)

17. Denver Nuggets

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The Nuggets have recovered from a slow start, and while they're still an elite contender in the West, the team could use defensive help on the perimeter to replace Jerami Grant. The Nuggets have a decent combination of young players, draft picks and contracts to swing a deal if they're willing.

    Making Michael Porter Jr. available is one possibility, but that appears unlikely.

    Goals: Championship—a buyer

    Hard Cap: Yes, but under by almost $8.5 million

    Huge Decision(s): Finding the final pieces to push the Nuggets to a title

    Draft Assets: Medium—the Nuggets owe a protected first-rounder to the Thunder (for R.J. Hampton) that ties up their picks from 2022 to 2025. They can send out their own picks in 2021 and either 2026 or 2027.

    Trade Exceptions: $9.5 million, $3.3 million, $1.8 million

    Roster Space: Full 15

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Gary Harris, Will Barton, Paul Millsap, JaMychal Green

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Zeke Nnaji, Hampton, Bol Bol, PJ Dozier, Porter

    Trade Restrictions: Millsap has the right to block a trade. Monte Morris cannot be traded.

16. Atlanta Hawks

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    The Hawks have several young prospects that would yield a strong return, though they may want to continue to let that core grow around Trae Young. But John Collins is due a contract after this season, and other teams would love to add the young power forward before he hits restricted free agency. Collins is easily the Hawks' best (potentially available) trade asset.

    Goals: Playoff push, continued growth around star guard Trae Young—a potential buyer

    Huge Decision(s): Do they re-sign John Collins as a restricted free agent this offseason or trade him at the deadline?

    Draft Assets: Strong—the Hawks have all of their first-rounders, plus a protected 2022 from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    Hard Cap: Yes, but well under

    Cap Space or Trade Exceptions: None

    Roster Space: Full 15

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Tony Snell, Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Cam Reddish, Kevin Huerter, De'Andre Hunter, Collins

    Trade Kickers: Bogdan Bogdanovic (15 percent)

15. Houston Rockets

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    The Rockets' have all but pulled the plug on the season, which shiftss the focus to Victor Oladipo. If he doesn't intend on re-signing with Houston, can the team get value back for the former All-Star?

    Goals: Rebuilding—seller

    Hard Cap: Yes, about $8 million under

    Huge Decision(s): Oladipo's future. Is there a trade market for Eric Gordon?

    Draft Assets: Solid but complex—they owe and are owed various first-rounders. Given the team's trajectory, it should be collecting picks, not sending any out.

    Cap Space or Trade Exceptions: $10.7 million, $2.2 million, $1.8 million, $1.6 million, one below $1 million.

    Roster Space: 14, one open

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Dante Exum, Danuel House, Ben McLemore, Oladipo, Gordon

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: David Nwaba, Jae'Sean Tate, Kenyon Martin Jr.

    Trade Restrictions: Anthony Lamb cannot be traded.

14. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    The Timberwolves are in a difficult spot. The team is heavily invested in a core that hasn't produced. Injuries have limited the time that Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell have had on the floor together. Outside of Towns, the team's next most important pieces all play the same guard position (Anthony Edwards, Malik Beasley and Russell), plus the team has Ricky Rubio for another expensive season.

    To boot, Minnesota will either fork over its 2021 or 2022 first-round pick to the Golden State Warriors. In terms of talent, the Timberwolves may have a lot to offer in a trade, but to what end?

    Goals: Rebuilding/growing around existing talent—buyer for long-term pieces

    Hard Cap: No

    Huge Decision(s): Is there a better fit to be had via a Malik Beasley trade?

    Draft Assets: Medium—at the deadline, the Timberwolves cannot trade a first until 2024. The franchise would certainly have suitors if it made picks available, but that's probably not a good idea for the struggling squad.

    Trade Exceptions: $880,000

    Roster Space: 14, one open slot

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Ed Davis, Beasley

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Jarrett Culver, Jaden McDaniels, Jarred Vanderbilt, Naz Reid, Edwards (but the Timberwolves aren't going to trade the No. 1 overall pick from the 2020 draft)

    Trade Kickers: Towns (15 percent)

13. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    The Grizzlies would love to make a playoff push. Ja Morant has quickened their timeline, but the team is still young and Jaren Jackson Jr. (knee) still hasn't played all season.

    Memphis will make a push to improve at the deadline if it doesn't hurt its long-term trajectory. This is a franchise with a talented young nucleus developing; there's no need to rush.

    Goals: Emerging contender—cautious buyer

    Hard Cap: Yes, within $9 million of the limit

    Huge Decision(s): Is there a way to improve in the short term without giving up anything significant?

    Draft Assets: Strong—the Grizzlies have all of their own firsts, plus protected firsts in 2021 (Jazz) and 2024 (Warriors).

    Trade Exceptions: $4.2 million, $1.8 million

    Roster Space: Full 15

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Jonas Valanciunas, Gorgui Dieng

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: De'Anthony Melton, Tyus Jones, Grayson Allen

    Trade Kickers: Kyle Anderson (15 percent)

12. Boston Celtics

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    For years, the Celtics had a massive haul of first-round picks, but that draft cache has run dry. Boston can boast all of its own first-round picks, but what sets the franchise apart is the Gordon Hayward trade exception, the largest in NBA history at $28.5 million. That’s just shy of the number needed to acquire Andre Drummond.

    The advantage of a trade exception is the ability to acquire a player without the need to match salary. Boston does have a hard cap, so if it intends to use the entire exception, it’ll need to find a way to shed some salary (probably Tristan Thompson's $49.3 million).

    The Celtics have several young players, but their value may be greater to Boston than other franchises. Can they make a deal to bolster their championship hopes without giving up any core players?

    Goals: Championship—a buyer

    Huge Decision(s): Use the trade exception at the deadline to bolster a playoff push or wait to use it on what might be a better piece in the offseason?

    Draft Assets: Solid—the Celtics have all their first-rounders.

    Trade Exceptions: $28.5 million, $4.8 million, $2.5 million

    Roster Space: Full 15

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Thompson

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Grant Williams, Robert Williams, Payton Pritchard, Romeo Langford, Aaron Nesmith, Carsen Edwards, Tacko Fall

    Trade Kickers: Kemba Walker, Tatum (both 15 percent)

    Poison Pill: Tatum ($28.8 million)

11. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Cavaliers are actively shopping Andre Drummond, but the center's sizable $28.8 million expiring contract may be difficult to move for value. Cedi Osman, JaVale McGee and Kevin Love (who has struggled to stay healthy this season) are also believed to be available. Several teams have interest in Larry Nance Jr.

    Goals: Rebuilding—a seller

    Hard Cap: No

    Huge Decision(s): Finding a Drummond trade instead of a buyout

    Draft Assets: Solid—have all of their first-rounders

    Trade Exceptions: $1.7 million

    Roster Space: 14, one open spot

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Taurean Prince, Drummond, Love, Nance, Osman, McGee

    Trade Restrictions: Brodric Thomas cannot be traded. Matthew Dellavedova has the right to block a trade.

10. Toronto Raptors

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    Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press

    The Raptors are at a crossroads with Kyle Lowry, who is in the last year of his contract and not in the same age range as Toronto's strong core of Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Chris Boucher. Toronto has a shot at Andre Drummond of the Cavaliers, but a deal would need to be built around Lowry or Norman Powell. Given how well Boucher has played for the Raptors, Drummond may be a luxury.

    Goals: Adding pieces to their core—selective buyer/seller

    Hard Cap: Yes, about $10 million below the limit

    Huge Decision(s): Lowry's fate

    Draft Assets: Solid—the Raptors have all of their own first-rounders.

    Cap Room or Trade Exceptions: None

    Roster Space: 14, one open slot

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Aron Baynes, Patrick McCaw, Stanley Johnson, Lowry, Powell

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Malachi Flynn, Matt Thomas

    Poison Pill: Anunoby ($15.2 million)

9. Charlotte Hornets

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The emergence of rookie LaMelo Ball and resurgence of Terry Rozier could make Devonte' Graham expendable. The Hornets are in a position to re-sign Graham as a restricted free agent, but he may have more value in a trade. Charlotte has drafted well under general manager Mitch Kupchak and is one of many teams vying for a playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.

    The Hornets are slightly below the salary cap, which could be valuable in making trades without necessarily matching salary or taking on another team’s unwanted players along with draft considerations.

    Goals: Continued growth with an eye on the playoffs, but not at the expense of the team's future. A selective buyer.

    Hard Cap: Yes, but well under

    Huge Decision(s): Is there a market for Graham, perhaps packaged with Cody Zeller's expiring $15.4 million contract? Does Malik Monk, who will be restricted this offseason, have value in the trade market?

    Draft Assets: Solid—have all of their first-rounders

    Cap Space: $4.1 million in cap space

    Roster Space: 14, one open slot

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Bismack Biyombo, Zeller

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Graham, Monk

    Trade Restrictions: Biyombo has the right to block a trade.

    Trade Kickers: Gordon Hayward (15 percent)

8. Orlando Magic

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    Reinhold Matay/Associated Press

    The Magic have had a disappointing season, with several injuries (Cole Anthony, Aaron Gordon, Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac, etc.). Nikola Vucevic is an All-Star, but he just hasn't had the healthy support.

    Where they go from here isn't clear. Fournier is in the final year of his deal. Gordon recently returned  from an ankle injury and is rumored to be available.

    Orlando has two disabled player exceptions that can be used to add a player on the last year of his contract.

    Goals: Rebuilding or growing around existing talent—potential seller

    Hard Cap: Yes, within about $6.5 million of the limit

    Huge Decision(s): Fournier's and Gordon's futures

    Draft Assets: Solid—the Magic have all of their own first-rounders.

    Disabled Player Exceptions: $6.1 million, $3.6 million

    Roster Space: Full 15

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): James Ennis III, Gordon, Terrence Ross, Al-Farouq Aminu, Vucevic, Fournier

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Mo Bamba, Khem Birch, Chuma Okeke

    Trade Restrictions: Ennis has the right to block a trade.

    Poison Pill: Fultz ($15.6 million), Isaac ($15.4 million)

7. San Antonio Spurs

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    Darren Abate/Associated Press

    Per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Spurs are looking to trade LaMarcus Aldridge, but he's not the only veteran about to hit unrestricted free agency. The team has to decide if it wants to reinvest in DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Patty Mills and Trey Lyles. The Spurs are low-key rebuilding.

    Goals: Rebuilding—selected seller

    Hard Cap: Yes

    Huge Decision(s): Time to let go of the veterans for a younger Spurs roster?

    Draft Assets: Solid—the Spurs have all of their own firsts but may be looking to add more—rather than trade draft currency.

    Cap Space and Trade Exceptions: None

    Roster Space: 14, one open slot

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Aldridge, DeRozan, Gay, Lyles

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Jakob Poeltl, Dejounte Murray, Devin Vassell, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV

    Poison Pill: White ($14.7 million)

6. Sacramento Kings

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    The Kings have not improved upon last season, and with a new general manager in Monte McNair, the franchise could be looking to make significant changes. The team recently reinvested in De'Aaron Fox. However, outside of Rookie of the Year candidate Tyrese Haliburton, just about anyone else could be expendable.

    Goals: Rebuilding—seller

    Hard Cap: No

    Huge Decision(s): Too many to list

    Draft Assets: Solid—the Kings have all of their own first-rounders. Given the state of the team, Sacramento would probably be wise to hold on to them, barring a massive opportunity to add significant talent.

    Trade Exceptions: $2.7 million

    Roster Space: 14, one open slot

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield, Cory Joseph, Nemanja Bjelica, Jabari Parker, Richaun Holmes, Hassan Whiteside

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Marvin Bagley III

    Trade Restrictions: DaQuan Jeffries has the right to block a trade

    Poison Pill: De'Aaron Fox ($28.5 million)

5. Chicago Bulls

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Top basketball executive Arturas Karnisovas has yet to put his stamp on the Bulls roster. Outside of draft pick Patrick Williams and veteran Garrett Temple, Karnisovas essentially brought back the same team that got his predecessor (Gar Forman) fired. Since then, Zach LaVine has emerged as an All-Star, and the team is trying to stay competitive in the East.

    It's unclear how committed Karnisovas is to anyone on the roster outside of Williams. Will he wait to make those decisions in the offseason or begin retooling before the deadline?

    Goals: Rebuild completely or continue to grow with an eye on the playoffs? Are they a buyer or a seller?

    Hard Cap: No

    Huge Decision(s): Will the Bulls reinvest in Lauri Markkanen, who will be a restricted free agent this offseason? If not, then they should look to make a move. Is there a market for Otto Porter Jr.?

    Draft Assets: Solid—have all of their first-rounders.

    Cap Space or Trade Exceptions: None

    Roster Space: Full 15

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Cristiano Felicio, LaVine, Porter

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Coby White, Wendell Carter Jr., Chandler Hutchison, Markkanen

    Trade Restrictions: Denzel Valentine has the right to block a trade.

4. New York Knicks

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    Elsa/Associated Press

    The Knicks are one of the best stories of the 2020-21 season thus far. They've climbed into playoff contention, have an All-Star in Julius Randle and more cap room than any other team in the league. New York has all of its own first-round picks, plus a couple from the Kristaps Porzingis trade with the Mavericks.

    New York can afford to be patient, as it'll have significant cap space in the offseason if it doesn't want to rush. That said, it can and should use cap room to add talent or draft considerations without taking away from its spending power in the summer.

    Goals: Not quite rebuilding, instead growing around existing talent—buyer for right pieces

    Hard Cap: Yes, but nowhere close to it

    Huge Decision(s): What can they poach in the trade market?

    Draft Assets: Strong—the Knicks will get the Mavericks' 2021 first unprotected. Dallas will also send its 2023 to New York with top-10 protection through 2025 (otherwise it converts to a 2025 second-rounder). Along with all of their own firsts, the Knicks have the means to make a big trade if they find the right return.

    Trade Exceptions: None

    Roster Space: Full 15

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel, Elfrid Payton, Reggie Bullock, Austin Rivers

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Frank Ntilikina, Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox II

    Trade Restrictions: Taj Gibson and Payton both have the right to block a trade.

3. New Orleans Pelicans

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    Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

    The Pelicans are one of the NBA's most intriguing teams. They're hovering below .500 but seem to be improving and are still in the playoff race. The franchise has draft assets, nice young players, a veteran on a friendly expiring contract (JJ Redick) and an emerging superstar in Zion Williamson.

    Goals: Growing around existing talent—buyer for long-term pieces but still with short-term playoff aspirations

    Hard Cap: No

    Huge Decision(s): Will the Pelicans re-sign Lonzo Ball, who will be a restricted free agent this summer? If Ball and the team were too far apart in extension talks before the season, will New Orleans look to move the young guard? If so, it'll find several suitors.

    Draft Assets: Strong—in addition to all of their own first-round picks, the Pelicans have two apiece from the Lakers and Bucks.

    Cap Room and Trade Exceptions: None

    Roster Space: 13, two open slots

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Nicolo Melli, Eric Bledsoe, Redick

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Josh Hart, Jaxson Hayes, Kira Lewis Jr., Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Ball

    Trade Kickers: Brandon Ingram (15 percent), Steven Adams (7.5 percent)

2. Golden State Warriors

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The Warriors' championship aspirations may have stalled before the season began when Klay Thompson suffered an Achilles tear, but the team still has Steph Curry and some trade assets if it wants to make a push back into contention.

    Young center James Wiseman would certainly interest teams, though the Warriors are likely reluctant to part with their No. 2 pick. The Minnesota Timberwolves owe the Warriors a 2021 first-rounder that is top-three protected (unprotected in 2022). Even if Minnesota has the worst record in the league (which it currently does), the odds it gets a top-three pick in the lottery are just over 40 percent. 

    Golden State’s total package may not top the list, but the Minnesota pick alone may be the best individual trade asset in the league.

    Additionally, the Warriors were awarded a $9.3 million disabled player exception for Thompson that can be used in a trade to add a player in the last year of his contract.

    Goals: Championship—but may be a more patient buyer, given Thompson's injury

    Hard Cap: No

    Huge Decision(s): Give up the Timberwolves' first or keep it to draft a player to develop alongside Wiseman?

    Draft Assets: Strong but mixed—the Warriors owe the Thunder their first-rounder in 2021 (top-20 protected) and a 2024 first to the Grizzlies (top-four protected and then top overall protected in 2025 and unprotected in 2026). Currently, the only guaranteed picks Golden State can send out are either the Minnesota first or its own in 2022, but not both.

    Trade Exceptions: Two at $1.9 million, two at $1.6 million

    Disabled Player Exception: $9.3 million

    Roster Space: Full 15

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): Draymond Green, Kelly Oubre Jr., Kevon Looney, Kent Bazemore

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Eric Paschall, Damion Lee, Jordan Poole, Wiseman

    Trade Kickers: Curry, Thompson, Green (15 percent each)

1. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

    The Thunder are the hub of the NBA. If two franchises are struggling to make a deal work, Oklahoma City can work as a facilitator as a third team. While the Thunder can go under the cap, they have more flexibility operating above the cap with multiple large trade exceptions.

    Oklahoma City has a massive haul of draft picks. It has the ammunition to do just about anything but may take its time to strike in future seasons.

    Goals: Rebuilding—seller

    Hard Cap: Yes, but nowhere close to it

    Huge Decision(s): Where do they start?

    Draft Assets: Elite—The Thunder have picks all over the map, including firsts from the Warriors, Clippers, Suns, Nuggets, Heat, Rockets and Sixers.

    Trade Exceptions: $27.5 million, $12.8 million, $10.1 million, $7.4 million, $1.5 million, three below $1 million

    Roster Space: Full 15

    Veterans with some appeal (by contract or talent): George Hill, Darius Miller, Al Horford, Mike Muscala, Meyers Leonard

    Young (potentially attractive) talent: Justin Jackson, Darius Bazley, Ty Jerome, Kenrich Williams, Theo Maledon, Aleksej Pokusevski, Svi Mykhailiuk, etc.