1 Trade Deadline Prediction for Every NBA Team

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 18, 2022

1 Trade Deadline Prediction for Every NBA Team

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    The 2022 NBA trade deadline is less than one month away.

    Do you know what your favorite team will do during this installment of #TradeSZN?

    If not, you're in luck. By consulting our trusty crystal ball, reading all of the available tea leaves and doing a bit of forecasting, we've come up with (at least) one deadline prediction for all 30 clubs.

Atlanta Hawks: Make Consolidation Deal

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    The Hawks have more players than they can play. And pay. Finding the minutes and money to keep everyone happy is tricky, and it's probably not the best way to maximize this roster anyway.

    "Maybe it wasn't such a great idea to bring everybody back; that's on me," Hawks president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk said recently on 92.9 The Game (via Peachtree Hoops). "... It's my responsibility to put a product on the floor that can win. Right now, I'm questioning whether or not I have done that."

    Trading Cam Reddish was only the start. The Hawks will continue reshuffling the roster around Trae Young and Clint Capela—their only untouchables, per B/R's Jake Fischer—perhaps by turning some combination of John Collins, Danilo Gallinari or even De'Andre Hunter into a full-fledged co-star for Young.

Boston Celtics: Duck the Tax with Dennis Schroder Deal

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    Are the Celtics good? The answer seems like it should be obvious, as any team with an All-Star tandem like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown sounds potentially superpowered.

    But Boston is a game under .500 since the start of last season. That's a large enough sample size to wonder whether this really is as good as it will get for this group.

    Either way, the fact that it's hard to say how good the Shamrocks are—or if they're good at all—means that it should be impossible for this franchise to justify taking a luxury-tax hit. The Celtics can duck under the tax by trading Dennis Schroder, who hasn't been the cleanest fit and wouldn't be easy to re-sign this summer. It's one of the most obvious moves on the board.

Brooklyn Nets: Wait for Buyout Market

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    Brooklyn boasts three generational talents in Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. It was colossally costly to bring them together and remains incredibly pricey to keep them.

    The Nets have effectively depleted their asset collection already. Even if they hadn't, additional moves would be thorny with the squad already saddling a ginormous tax bill. As ESPN's Bobby Marks noted, even a modest move for Justin Holiday would rocket that tax hit from $110.4 million to $142.4 million.

    Look for Brooklyn to keep quiet this swap season, both because it may have no other choice and that it knows how valuable the buyout market can be, having plucked LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin from it last season.

Charlotte Hornets: Upgrade at Center

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    Matt Kelley/Associated Press

    The Hornets haven't had a difference-making center since Al Jefferson was lording over the left block. The time to get one is now, because the rest of this roster is ready to rise.

    "I think you're lacking the center position," an agent told Roderick Boone of the Charlotte Observer. "... They've got everything else, so that's what they are missing right now."

    The Hornets need a rim protector behind LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier, plus a big who can make life easier on them on offense, either by spacing the floor, finishing at the rim or both. That player won't come cheaply, but the reward looks worth the risk.

Chicago Bulls: Enter Jerami Grant Sweepstakes

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    The Jerami Grant sweepstakes will be pricey. That shouldn't scare off the Bulls from making a serious push to win it.

    They have a glaring hole on the wing with Patrick Williams, Derrick Jones Jr. and Javonte Green all lost to injury, but even when they were full strength, that was the most obvious area to upgrade. Grant is more or less the player they hope Williams might one day become: long, athletic, versatile at both ends and easy to slot alongside stars Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan.

    Grant, who shares a history with both Bulls coach Billy Donovan and executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas, would likely cost the club Williams, Jones and the lottery-protected first-rounder owed to them by the Portland Trail Blazers, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. That's a steep price, but not if the trade proves to be Chicago's key to escaping the East.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Keep Collin Sexton...and Kevin Love

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    There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Kevin Love and Collin Sexton both ranked among the most logical trade candidates in the league. Love looked miserable languishing in post-LeBron Cleveland, and Sexton seemed to have priced his way out of the franchise's plans.

    It's possible one or both go elsewhere between now and the trade deadline. Cleveland has fast-forwarded its timeline this season, and adding another piece to continue the acceleration might come at the cost of Love's salary or Sexton's upside.

    Still, the Cavs should be careful of pushing too hard too quickly. Their core trio of Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley are all 23 or under, so there is zero rush to win right now. Moreover, there probably isn't a player on the market (or in their price range) who could transform them from a plucky playoff opponent to a legitimate contender to come out of the East.

Dallas Mavericks: Use Trade Exception to Bulk Up Backcourt

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    The Mavs need more layers to their offense. The deadline could add some at a reasonable rate.

    Dallas has a $10.9 million trade exception left over from last summer's Josh Richardson trade. That should be more than enough to absorb a scorer or playmaker from some team trying to cut payroll.

    Dennis Schroder fits the budget and can create offense for himself and his teammates. Tomas Satoransky can set the table and hit open shots. D.J. Augustin shines with sharpshooting and ball control. All would help, and none should require much more than the exception to get.

Denver Nuggets: Stand Pat

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    Nate Billings/Associated Press

    Denver's championship hopes will be determined by the injury bug.

    So far, it's been tough sledding, as Nikola Jokic has lost co-stars Jamal Murray (torn ACL in April) and Michael Porter Jr. (back surgery in December). But hope isn't completely dashed. In fact, the Nuggets have their fingers crossed that both will make it back by the end of this season, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski (via Denver Stiffs' Ryan Blackburn).

    Give Jokic a full supporting cast, and the Nuggets could force their way into the championship race. Saying that, these potential returns are probably all the reinforcements Denver can hope to get. The Nuggets have already pumped plenty of assets into this core, and sacrificing even more might be too risky when it's not clear if Murray or Porter will return and how they'll look if they do.

Detroit Pistons: Flip Jerami Grant for Multiple 1st-Round Picks

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    It's possible that, depending on how the Philadelphia 76ers handle Ben Simmons, the Pistons wind up having the most sought-after player at the deadline in versatile swingman Jerami Grant.

    That possibility alone should seal his fate. Detroit is firmly in the asset accumulation phase of rebuilding around Cade Cunningham, and Grant will give the Pistons access to assets their other trade candidates simply can't.

    Every team with win-now aspirations can use Grant, who can defend forwards of all sizes and styles and work in both featured and complementary roles on offense. That should drive the trade bidding up, and the Pistons should take this down to the wire. Multiple first-round picks might be a reasonable ask in this market, and if Detroit can drum up that type of interest, then Grant is as good as gone.

Golden State Warriors: Scan the Clearance Section for Size

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    The Warriors haven't struggled often this season, but size has given them problems at times. That totally checks out, too, since Kevon Looney and Draymond Green playing bigger than their size doesn't actually make them any bigger.

    In theory, Golden State has a solution to the problem in the form of 2020's No. 2 pick, James Wiseman, a 7-footer with a drool-worthy combination of length, strength and athleticism. But he's only a theoretical fix, since he hasn't played since suffering a torn meniscus in April and had another arthroscopic surgery in December, as The Athletic's Anthony Slater reported.

    Wiseman should've never been expected to completely erase the issue, as he looked slightly less raw than farmer's market produce as a rookie. But any expectations for him have to shrink the longer he remains on the shelf. The Warriors don't seem interested in a huge shake-up to their frontcourt, but even a bargain big man could give them more of a fighting chance against elite centers.

Houston Rockets: Shop Christian Wood, Trade Eric Gordon

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    Still in the bearded shadow of James Harden, the Rockets will spend the first part of this rebuild figuring out who their keepers are.

    Eric Gordon definitely isn't one of them. Christian Wood might not be either, although there's at least an argument for keeping him around.

    Trading Gordon for virtually anything is a good move, both to clear up cap space and free up even more developmental minutes in the backcourt. Wood is a different story, since he's young enough (26) for the franchise to potentially consider him part of the long-term plans. But with free agency awaiting him in 2023, Houston should at least be open to being blown away by a trade offer.

Indiana Pacers: Trade Established Vets For...Other Established Vets

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    The Pacers have logged an exhaustive amount of mileage on the treadmill of mediocrity, and you'd think they'd be ready to heed their roster's call for a reset. Well, think again.

    "I don't want to see (a rebuild)," Pacers governor Herb Simon said, per The Athletic's Bob Kravitz. "If I don't want to see it, the fans don't want to see it. Why would we want to go through a rebuild when we can build on the go?"

    The good news is Indiana probably saw this coming, as the hiring of head coach Rick Carlisle communicated a clear desire to win now. Still, the Pacers turning Myles Turner and Caris LeVert into a funhouse mirror image of themselves probably won't be enough to cure what ails this club.

Los Angeles Clippers: Make a Future-Focused Move

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    There's a universe in which Paul George and Kawhi Leonard make it back from their respective injuries (an elbow ligament tear for George, a torn ACL for Leonard) in time to help the Clippers chase the crown, but it might not be this one.

    Here, the Clippers are reportedly "operating under the possibility that George may not return this season," per B/R's Jake Fischer, who added there is a "healthy dose of skepticism" about Leonard suiting up.

    Without one of the two—let alone both—L.A. has zero chance of contending. The smart move, then, might be shedding some high-salary vets to gain financial relief and, ideally, some roster-building assets. Dumping Serge Ibaka seems like a no-brainer, but if teams want to give up a first-rounder for Marcus Morris Sr., that might be worth pursuing, too.

Los Angeles Lakers: Keep Russell Westbrook, Trade Talen Horton-Tucker

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    As one of the season's biggest disappointments, the Lakers might be open to the idea of a major overhaul at the deadline, but actually facilitating one is far easier said than done.

    They've kicked around the idea of a Russell Westbrook deal, per B/R's Jake Fischer, but his albatross contract might be the league's least tradeable. (The "might be" qualifier is only needed because John Wall's megadeal still exists.) Westbrook's play style alone is a hard enough fit, but when attached to his $44.2 million salary (and $47.1 million player option next season), it's a non-starter even if packaged with all the sweeteners L.A. can offer.

    Unless the Lakers would consider an Anthony Davis blockbuster, they can't dramatically change their team. What they will explore, though, is the best player a package of Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn and a way-off-in-the-distance future first-rounder can deliver.

Memphis Grizzlies: Aim for the Stars

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    The Grizzlies spent this summer making a few calculated, long-term moves, so practicing patience might remain the preferred practice in Memphis. But with this roster looking several beats ahead of schedule—due to a number of factors, not the least of which are the leaps from Ja Morant and Desmond Bane—the Grizzlies could shake up the landscape with a major win-now move.

    They're dealing from a position of strength since they don't have to do anything. But they owe it to themselves to at least scan the market since they could scratch the itch of any seller. From established talent to up-and-comers, draft picks to expiring contracts, they can build a compelling trade package of any variety.

    It's possible the trade market never offers a big enough prize for the Grizzlies to accelerate their timeline, but expect them to be connected to every notable hooper on the rumor mill.

Miami Heat: Sit Out Trade Season

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    Recapping the Heat's campaign is essentially presenting Erik Spoelstra's Coach of the Year credentials. Miami has the second-best winning percentage in the East despite Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry having played just 14 out of 42 contests together.

    Oh yeah, and Victor Oladipo is still waiting in the wings after May quadriceps surgery, which is just another reason to think the Heat haven't played their best ball yet.

    That's all a long-winded way of saying they should feel zero incentive to act at the deadline. Their payroll is a hair below the tax line, meaning they don't need to cut costs and would have almost no room to add any.

Milwaukee Bucks: Search for Stopper, but Probably Stand Pat

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    At full strength, the Bucks have everything they need to compete for the crown, but there's such a thin margin for error at the top that every contender should get greedy during trade season.

    If Milwaukee wanted to explore upgrades, it could search for one more wing stopper or a defensive-minded big to cover up the absence of Brook Lopez, who hasn't suited up since opening night after undergoing back surgery.

    Still, plugging either void might just create another, since the Bucks have nearly extinguished their asset collection. They could dangle Donte DiVincenzo, but is he worth enough in a trade now to sacrifice his future?

Minnesota Timberwolves: Stay in Ben Simmons Sweepstakes, but Don't Win It

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    The Timberwolves are competitive, and that might be reason enough for this perennial lottery participant to pounce on an upgrade. They've been hot on the trail of Ben Simmons forever, and it doesn't sound like that's changing.

    "From what I understand, the Wolves have pretty much offered every asset package they could possibly offer for Ben Simmons, except for Anthony Edwards and Karl Towns," ESPN's Brian Windhorst said on The Scoop with Doogie podcast (via Sixers Wire).

    Simmons could be incredible in the Gopher State, as Minnesota's willingness to run (fifth in pace) and shoot (third in three-point rate) should better position him for offensive success. But the Sixers haven't waited this long to bring back a package of Wolves not named Edwards or Towns. Minnesota might keep reshuffling its offers of the others, but our crystal ball doesn't see a deal getting done.

New Orleans Pelicans: Add Plug-and-Play Piece to Chase Play-In Spot

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    The Pelicans are 10 games under .500 and seemingly nowhere nearer to the return of Zion Williamson. At some point, they have to pull the plug and shift their focus forward, right? Well, apparently not.

    "The Pelicans...happen to be searching for significant upgrades in their quest to rebound into the play-in tournament," B/R's Jake Fischer recently reported.

    The play-in tournament could have a way of keeping hope alive in places it would never previously surface, and we have yet to see its full impact on the trade market. A team like New Orleans, which needs some positive momentum after a frustrating season, could absolutely see the value in improving the roster, closing the campaign on a high note and having something to play for after the 82-game trek is finished.

New York Knicks: Pursue Another Shot-Creator

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    The Knicks have been on the hunt for shot creation ever since the Hawks exposed the flaws of their Julius Randle-or-bust offense in last year's first round. The offseason moves for Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier weren't enough, and neither was the recent trade for Cam Reddish.

    It's possible the offensive hub New York needs isn't available, in which case the franchise should sit on its asset collection and wait for the next disgruntled-star signal to light up the Gotham skies. The Knicks could field an interesting offer for an impact player, but overspending on the wrong addition does nothing good for the bottom line.

    Still, New York should have its ears open in case a star shakes loose and be just as ready to act if a bargain bucket-getter becomes available. At the right price, a microwave scorer or streaky shooter could have sneaky-good value.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Trade Kenrich Williams, Buy Out Derrick Favors

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    If anyone still reads the classifieds, Thunder general manager Sam Presti probably has a "Wanted: Draft Picks" listing out there somewhere.

    This is probably where some of you are pointing out Oklahoma City already owns a metric ton of draft picks. That's fine. Long-term rebuilders like this one can never have too many. The Thunder can keep throwing darts at the board until they feel their roster is sufficiently talented, at which point they can cash in the remaining picks as part of a blockbuster trade.

    OKC hasn't reached that point yet, so the veterans on this roster will once again be available for draft picks. Expect the Thunder to fetch a decent one for versatile forward Kenrich Williams but not have the same luck with veteran big man Derrick Favors, who might be this season's most obvious buyout candidate.

Orlando Magic: Collect Multiple Picks, Including a 1st-Rounder

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    At last year's deadline, the Magic squeezed good mileage out of adopting the seller's mentality. For moving on from Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier, Orlando walked away with three first-round picks (one of which already became Rookie of the Year candidate Franz Wagner), Wendell Carter Jr. and R.J. Hampton.

    Look for the Magic to have another successful—although less fruitful—trade season.

    Between fireballing scorer Terrence Ross, shot-blocking-and-shot-making big man Mo Bamba and three-and-D guard Gary Harris, Orlando has at least three movable players win-now shoppers could covet. There should be enough interest to snag multiple picks and at least one first-rounder.

Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons Goes Nowhere

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    Insert sad face emoji here.

    This isn't the prediction we'd like to make. We're as eager as anyone to see Joel Embiid get a new running mate and Ben Simmons get a fresh start on a roster more tailored to his skills. But external desires for a deal are meaningless. It all matters what's happening in Philadelphia, and...well, not much of anything is brewing over there, despite Simmons' agent, Rich Paul, recently meeting with the Sixers' top decision-makers.

    "The sides remain at a stalemate over the All-Star guard's immediate future," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported. "Simmons is no closer to honoring the team's hopes for a return to the court this season—and the Sixers' steep asking price has brought Simmons no closer to a potential trade."

    Why would this change over the next four weeks? The Sixers have seemingly set their asking price at a level where no other players are currently available. And even if a player like Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal shakes loose at the last minute, there's no evidence that Simmons is a good enough trade chip to go get them.

Phoenix Suns: Trade Jalen Smith for Frontcourt Depth

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    Long before 2020 lottery pick Jalen Smith finally started showing signs of life, the Suns had already decided his fate.

    Almost as soon as his second season started, Phoenix decided it wanted no part of a third and declined his team option for 2022-23. He wasn't getting minutes in the Suns' crowded frontcourt and wasn't impressing on the rare nights when he did. Beyond the egg-on-their-face acknowledgment of their botched selection, there didn't seem to be major issues with the decision.

    However, Smith finally perked up when pressed into duty on Phoenix's thinning front line and improbably reeled off a six-game stretch with 15.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per contest. He has since quieted back down, but his age (21), flash of upside and the lack of financial commitment beyond this season should be enough for someone to make the Suns a trade offer.

Portland Trail Blazers: Trade Multiple Eight-Figure Players

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    That popping sound you just heard? It was Portland's bubble officially bursting.

    With Damian Lillard shelved by potentially season-ending abdominal surgery, the Trail Blazers are toast. Although, if it's any consolation, they were probably cooked before then. They have the Association's fifth-worst net rating, a losing record against losing teams (6-9) and an astonishingly atrocious record away from home (2-14).

    The Blazers, who have a lottery-protected pick to save, should take calls on every veteran not named Lillard. (You could argue they should field offers for Lillard too, but that's a debate for a different day.) If there are decent-or-better draft picks to be found for Jusuf Nurkic, Robert Covington and CJ McCollum, Portland will send a few trades across the transaction log.

Sacramento Kings: Backcourt Stays, Harrison Barnes Goes

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    The Kings haven't booked a playoff trip since 2005-06. They're willing to do just about anything to snap out of this decade-and-then-some funk.

    "While the Kings would prefer to keep building around De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton, their strong appetite to improve means that no player is off the table in terms of potential talks," The Athletic's Sam Amick reported.

    Maybe the trade market will prove this wrong, but it's hard to see Sacramento getting something in return for Fox or Haliburton that's more valuable than the guards themselves. Where the Kings could help themselves, though, is by collecting a prime asset in exchange for the rock-solid Harrison Barnes, who should have nearly universal appeal among win-now shoppers.

San Antonio Spurs: Trade Thaddeus Young

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    We'll let Thaddeus Young explain this one.

    "With this organization and this franchise, we're not in a contending situation," Young told Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes. "... We're in a rebuilding situation. With being in a rebuilding situation, that's not ideal for a guy that just came off a really good season, going into his 15th season to going to another rebuild."

    Young can help a contender. He's a low-maintenance role player who can handle the 4 or 5 spots at both ends of the floor. The 33-year-old has the skills and smarts to attract a frontcourt-needy shopper.

Toronto Raptors: Flip Chris Boucher for Wing Depth

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    The Raptors looked like one of the market's biggest wild cards, but their climb up the Eastern Conference ladder should put them firmly on the buying side.

    They don't have a high enough ceiling now to part with major assets, but moving a non-keeper to help balance the roster feels close to a no-brainer.

    In this case, the non-keeper is Chris Boucher, who is far less consistent than a 29-year-old should be and isn't signed beyond this season. The balance would come from dealing a big, of which the Raptors have plenty, for more help on the wing.

Utah Jazz: Make Aggressive Bid for Jerami Grant

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    The Jazz could choose to sit out trade season since they're already one of basketball's best, but are they 100 percent certain they have everything needed to win it all? One series win in their last three playoff trips combined could spawn some doubt.

    A big-wing stopper remains the missing piece on paper, and given the salary needed to acquire that kind of player, he needs to play offense too since Utah would be losing a key contributor. A mega-move for someone like Jerami Grant could cost the Jazz the quick-strike scoring of Jordan Clarkson, the long-distance sniping of Bojan Bogdanovic or the playmaking of Joe Ingles, plus more.

    Is Grant a rich enough prize to warrant the cost? That's something for the front office to debate over the coming weeks. But if the Jazz decide the deal gets them even an inch closer to championship bliss, they could make an aggressive enough offer to win the bidding war.

Washington Wizards: Spark a Ton of Trade Smoke, but No Fire

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    Should the Wizards be loading up for playoff runs with Bradley Beal or preparing for life without him? Even the 28-year-old impending free agent isn't certain.

    "I've never been in this position," Beal told Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes on the Posted Up podcast. "I'm kinda embracing that, being able to kinda dictate how I want my future to be and where I want it to be. ... Ultimately, you have to be selfish at some point, and for probably the first time in my career, Year 10, I am."

    Because of Beal's uncertainty, it will be tough (if not impossible) for the Wizards to commit to anything. However, that won't keep them from being connected to trade talks of all types since they're stuck in the middle and seemingly need a significant trade to either rise up or bottom out. Unless Beal sends early word of his decision, though, the front office's hands are probably tied.


    Statistics are accurate through Friday's games and courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball Reference, unless otherwise noted.

    Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.