Panic Trades for NBA's Fringe Playoff Hopefuls

Greg Swartz@@GregSwartzBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterJanuary 25, 2022

Panic Trades for NBA's Fringe Playoff Hopefuls

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    Panic! At the trade deadline.

    Parity has returned to the NBA, helped in part by the play-in tournament, which should set the stage for a lot of buyers at this year's Feb. 10 deadline. While teams like the New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings and others would have likely punted on the season by now and become sellers, they sit just a few games out of the 10th seed and final play-in spot.

    So, what if all these fringe playoff hopefuls actually become buyers?

    Forget the top-six teams in each conference since they're sitting in guaranteed playoff spots. We're talking about teams that, as of Tuesday morning, are in the play-in area (7-through-10 seeds) and those just below them at 11 and 12 who still have a strong chance of grabbing a top-10 spot.

    Assuming all of these front offices are fighting for their jobs and hell-bent on making the playoffs, these are the deals they should be pursuing.

(7) Hornets Upgrade at Center, (12) Kings Get Help on the Wing

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    Charlotte Hornets Receive:

    • C Richaun Holmes
    • F/C Marvin Bagley III

    Sacramento Kings Receive:

    • F Kelly Oubre Jr.
    • F/C P.J. Washington
    • C Vernon Carey Jr.

    It's no secret the Hornets could use an upgrade at center, and adding a player like Holmes would stabilize the position for the next four years (or more).

    The 28-year-old is averaging 12.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and converting 70.5 percent of his shots from the field, the second-highest number in the NBA behind Rudy Gobert. He's just starting a four-year, $46.5 million deal, which is really good value for a Hornets team that needs to extend Miles Bridges and LaMelo Ball in the near future.

    Charlotte also gets to take a flyer on Bagley, who's putting up 11.5 points and 8.2 rebounds over his past 13 games (all starts). If he fits in well between now and summer, the Hornets have the right to match any offer the restricted free agent may get.

    The Kings are loaded in the backcourt but could use some help on the wing. Oubre (16.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 36.7 percent from three) could immediately take over as the team's starting small forward and is still just 26 years old despite playing in his seventh season.

    Washington can play both power forward and center, eating up some of the minutes left over from Holmes. He's a talented three-point shooter and shot-blocker who probably wouldn't get paid if he stayed in Charlotte because of the emergence of Bridges this season. Carey, 20, gives the Kings some center depth with Holmes gone as well.

(8) Celtics Swap Defense for Shooting with (12) Hawks

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    Boston Celtics Receive:

    • PF John Collins

    Atlanta Hawks Receive:

    • G Marcus Smart
    • G/F Josh Richardson

    The Celtics and Hawks have both underachieved this season, yet they could help each other address weaknesses.

    Boston desperately needs shooting (34.0 percent from three, 22nd overall), while Atlanta (113.4 defensive rating, 27th overall) could use anyone who can get stops.

    A Collins-Smart-based package makes too much sense for both teams.

    Collins would slide into the starting power forward role between Jayson Tatum and Robert Williams III and is eighth overall in three-point shooting (42.6 percent) this season. He's giving the Hawks 17.0 points and 7.9 rebounds per game and is in the first season of a five-year, $125 million deal.

    The Hawks get Smart to put in the backcourt next to Trae Young, giving them a tandem on opposite sides of the defensive spectrum. Smart is still an elite on-ball defender when he wants to be, and his playmaking ability would allow Young to play off ball more and spot up from three.

    Atlanta also acquires Richardson, a good defensive wing who's hitting 39.8 percent of his threes this season. A Hawks starting lineup of Young, Smart, Bogdan Bogdanovic, De'Andre Hunter and Clint Capela suddenly looks pretty good defensively, especially with Richardson coming off the bench.

(9) Raptors Bring Jakob Poeltl Back to Toronto

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    Toronto Raptors Receive:

    • C Jakob Poeltl

    San Antonio Spurs Receive:

    • C Chris Boucher
    • 2022 first-round pick (top-10 protected)

    As good as Toronto is in the backcourt and at the forward positions, finding an upgrade at center should be a deadline goal.

    Poeltl would be a big step up over Boucher, Precious Achiuwa or Khem Birch, giving the Raptors a 26-year-old rim protector who's also having a career-year offensively. After spending his first two seasons with the Raptors before being traded in the Kawhi Leonard deal, Poeltl gets to come home and help boost Toronto into the playoffs once again.

    San Antonio collects Toronto's first-round pick this season, assuming it doesn't fall in the top 10 (currently projected for 14th).

    Boucher can eat up minutes at center for now and is on an expiring $7 million deal, giving the Spurs some extra cap space this summer to go along with a middle-of-the-first-round selection.

(10) Wizards Swap Prospects for Christian Wood

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    Washington Wizards Receive:

    • F/C Christian Wood

    Houston Rockets Receive:

    • PF Rui Hachimura
    • SF Corey Kispert
    • C Thomas Bryant

    The Wizards may be forced to cash in some of their young talent at the deadline for additional star power, especially if they want to hold off the New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks for a play-in spot.

    Wood, a 6'10" big man who can play both power forward and center, gives Washington a pick-and-pop partner for Bradley Beal. He's averaging 17.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.9 blocks and hitting 36.5 percent of his threes for Houston. Additionally, he has two years remaining on his contract.

    Hachimura was a starter his first two years in Washington but has come off the bench this season behind Kyle Kuzma. The 23-year-old gifted scorer would once again be given the chance to earn a starting power forward job in Houston.

    Kispert was the Wizards' first-round pick this past summer and is shooting 43.5 percent from three over his past six games. He's got terrific wing size at 6'7" and would spread the floor for guys like Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr.

    Bryant recently made his return to the court following a torn ACL and is a talented outside shooter and shot-blocker. He also fits Houston's rebuild at age 24 and would get opportunities in the Rockets frontcourt as a result of this deal.

(11) Knicks Add Scoring, Playmaking with Caris LeVert

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    New York Knicks Receive:

    • G/F Caris LeVert

    Indiana Pacers Receive:

    • G/F Evan Fournier
    • 2022 first-round pick (top-10 protected)

    Simply trading for Cam Reddish isn't going to be enough to push the Knicks back into the playoffs. This roster needs another player who can create shots for others.

    Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer lists the Knicks as one of LeVert's "known suitors", as the 27-year-old is a gifted scorer and playmaker with the ball in his hands. He's averaging 18.4 points and 4.1 assists in 30.6 minutes per game this season.

    Fournier hasn't lived up to his contract in New York, so using him as a the salary base in the deal is a bonus for the Knicks as well.

    Indiana could actually use Fournier's floor-spacing abilities given the team's 32.8 percent mark from three this season (26th in the NBA).

    However, they do the deal primarily because of the Knicks' first-rounder—a pick that is currently projected to fall 12th overall.

(7) Minnesota Timberwolves Get Defensive with Myles Turner

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    Minnesota Timberwolves Receive:

    • C Myles Turner

    Indiana Pacers Receive:

    • SG Malik Beasley
    • 2022 first-round pick (top-10 protected)

    A stress reaction in his foot could have Turner out until the middle of February, but that shouldn't stop teams from pursuing the all-world defender at the trade deadline.

    As Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer writes, "While still entrenched in Ben Simmons conversations, the Timberwolves remain in the market for a frontcourt partner for Karl-Anthony Towns, despite his successful pairing with Jarred Vanderbilt. It's believed Minnesota is willing to part with Malik Beasley in such a deal." Fischer also lists Minnesota as one of Turner's potential suitors.

    A frontcourt of Towns and Turner would be a terrific blend of elite scoring and rim protection. Although both are technically centers, the skill sets between the two players are different enough that there should be no problems sharing the floor together.

    Beasley, 25, is putting up 18.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and shooting 35.7 percent from three in his nine games as a starter, a role he could compete for on a full-time basis with the Pacers. Indiana also collects Minnesota's first-rounder this year with a slight protection should Minnesota completely bottom out.

(8) Los Angeles Lakers Finally Add a Piece That Fits

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    Los Angeles Lakers Receive:

    • G/F Eric Gordon
    • 2024 second-round pick
    • 2026 second-round pick

    Houston Rockets Receive:

    • G/F Talen Horton-Tucker
    • PG Kendrick Nunn

    The Lakers need to find some high-level role players who can hit shots, defend and didn't hit their prime over a decade ago. Even if it means giving up their best trade asset in Horton-Tucker, Los Angeles has to upgrade the supporting cast around LeBron James.

    Gordon would be a perfect fit. The 33-year-old is giving Houston 14.8 points and 3.2 assists a night, and his 45.2 percent mark from three is the second-highest in the NBA this season. Giving up Horton-Tucker and Nunn in the deal to make the money work may be a little too much for the Lakers, who should ask for a pair of future second-round picks back in addition to Gordon.

    Houston's goal should be adding young talent above all else and then seeing how all of it fits together. Horton-Tucker gives them yet another young scorer and playmaker with tantalizing potential.

    Nunn, 26, is the easy way to match salaries here, but the Lakers could try to offload two veteran minimum deals instead, thus opening up an extra roster spot for the buyout market. If that's the case, the Rockets would pull one of the second-round picks from the deal.

(9) Los Angeles Clippers Pick Up Some Firepower with Terrence Ross

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    Los Angeles Clippers Receive:

    • SF Terrence Ross
    • PG Michael Carter-Williams

    Orlando Magic Receive:

    • G Eric Bledsoe
    • 2022 second-round pick
    • 2023 second-round pick

    The Clippers are going to need some offensive help to stay in the playoff race, especially with Paul George expected to miss a few more weeks with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

    Los Angeles is just 27th in offense this season (106.4 rating) without Kawhi Leonard and George now missing significant time. Ross could step in immediately as the team's starting small forward or become a microwave scorer off the bench.

    The 30-year-old is averaging 11.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 0.5 steals in just 25.4 minutes for Orlando. He's improved his passing in recent years and is on a reasonable contract ($11.5 million) for next season as well.

    Orlando has no need for Bledsoe, who's included for salary-matching purposes here. The same is true for Carter-Williams, who hasn't played this year because of offseason ankle surgery. Only $3.9 million of Bledsoe's $19.4 million contract for 2022-23 is guaranteed, however, so he's essentially on an expiring deal for the Magic, who make the deal to open up cap space and collect a pair of picks.

(10) Portland Trail Blazers Get Ben Simmons, Keep Lillard and McCollum

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    Portland Trail Blazers Receive:

    • G/F Ben Simmons

    Philadelphia 76ers Receive:

    • G Anfernee Simons
    • SG Norman Powell
    • F Robert Covington

    Even with Damian Lillard currently sidelined by abdominal surgery, this Portland team is still very much alive in the playoff race, especially if it can add an elite defender and playmaker like Simmons.

    The Blazers are 29th in defense this season (113.8 rating) and could use Simmons in a Draymond Green-esque role, creating open looks for their elite backcourt while flying around and disrupting passing lanes on the other end.

    While Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have been the most discussed Portland players going back to Philly in a hypothetical trade for Simmons, the Sixers should have interest in another pair of Portland guards instead.

    Simons is a star in the making. The 22-year-old guard has averaged 21.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 6.4 assists and shot 40.9 percent from three in his 12 starts this season. The Sixers could pair him with Tyrese Maxey in their starting backcourt or use him as an instant-offense sixth man.

    Powell, 28, has been also terrific this season. He's giving the Blazers 18.6 points a night while connecting on 39.9 percent of his threes. Powell is also a solid defender who's in the first season of a reasonable five-year, $90 million deal. Covington returns to Philly to help play a three-and-D role off the bench.

(11) Pelicans Improve Defense, Playmaking with Derrick White

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    New Orleans Pelicans Receive:

    • G Derrick White

    San Antonio Spurs Receive:

    • C Jaxson Hayes
    • G Tomas Satoransky
    • 2024 first-round pick (via Los Angeles Lakers, Spurs have option to delay pick until 2025 if they choose)

    Somehow, some way, the Pelicans have managed to stay alive without Zion Williamson this season, and they should be aggressive at the deadline to build some momentum toward the star power forward's hopeful return from foot surgery.

    White gives the Pelicans a veteran combo guard in the backcourt, one who can run the offense or play off the ball. He's a terrific defender who can guard multiple positions with his 6'4" frame, an important trait for a New Orleans team that ranks just 23rd in defense this season.

    Hayes, 21, is a former University of Texas star who could blossom under Gregg Popovich. He puts pressure on the rim at both ends, either by swatting away shots or finishing lobs off a hard roll.

    Satoransky is on an expiring $10 million deal, and the Spurs collect a future first from the Lakers, one that includes the unique ability to choose (between 2024 or 2025) when they want it to convey.


    All salary numbers provided by Spotrac.