NBA Teams Desperate for a Deal by 2022 Trade Deadline

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 28, 2022

NBA Teams Desperate for a Deal by 2022 Trade Deadline

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Every NBA team has some motivation to make a move between now and the Feb. 10 trade deadline.

    Whether adding a piece to help with a second-half push or subtracting a present contributor for a future asset, each organization has something it can do during trade season.

    Not every team will take action, of course. For many, the reality might be that the best move is the one it doesn't make.

    The following six squads don't have that option, though. Their situations have become calls to action, and their respective front offices must respond accordingly.

Atlanta Hawks

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    Imaginations ran wild after Atlanta's surprise sprint to last season's Eastern Conference Finals, and given the collective age of this core, it seemed as if the NBA's next dynasty might be rising before our eyes.

    Just as quickly as they soared, though, they suddenly had their wings clipped. This potential conference power isn't even a play-in team at present, and their inability to gain any kind of traction reportedly has them considering major changes.

    "Everyone but Trae Young and Clint Capela are available," an assistant general manager told B/R's Jake Fischer.

    This roster is screaming for a consolidation deal. The Hawks have their centerpiece in Trae Young, but he lacks a legitimate co-star. They could have the trade chips to go find that player.

    Build a package around John Collins, one more significant player (perhaps Bogdan Bogdanovic, De'Andre Hunter or Kevin Huerter) and the first-round pick added during the Cam Reddish trade, and that might be enough to nab the difference-maker they desperately need.

Boston Celtics

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    The Celtics are a game over .500 since the start of last season. Few, if any, teams have left the basketball world wanting more, as the All-Star wing tandem of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown alone is worth more than mediocrity.

    Life in the NBA's midsection is, objectively speaking, a freakin' bummer. Linger there too long and strange, sad things start to happen. Like people debating whether a pair of 25-and-under, versatile, two-way stars can actually fit with one another.

    Seriously considering splitting up the Jays for anything short of a Godfather offer might meet the legal description of roster malpractice. Pair them with a legitimate shot-creator instead of, say, a career combo guard with a sub-40 shooting percentage, and maybe your square pegs are no longer bumping into round holes.

    The Shamrocks should be able to fix this. At the least, it's far too early to say for certain they can't. Their fourth-ranked defense is ready to contend. Their 19th-ranked offense, meanwhile, follows the lead of two 24-plus-point scorers. Put more ball-movers and shot-makers around them, and it's possible everything falls into place overnight.

Indiana Pacers

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    Indiana played its first game on Oct. 20. By Dec. 7, The Athletic's Shams Charania and Bob Kravitz brought word the Pacers were "moving toward a substantial rebuild and are expected to open up trade conversations around some of their veteran stalwarts."

    It's been that kind of campaign for the Pacers and not at all like the one they hoped to engineer when they lured X's and O's whiz Rick Carlisle back to the Circle City.

    Just 10 teams have a worse net rating than Indy's minus-1.0 points per 100 possessions. The Pacers don't look this bad on paper, but injuries and inconsistencies have held this group back since opening night.

    What's the sense in playing this out any longer? They weren't a playoff team last season and served as first-round fodder for the half-decade before that. The jumbo-sized frontcourt combo of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis seems outdated and in need of a refresh. T.J. Warren can't get healthy. Caris LeVert has never looked like the cleanest fit for this offense. Nothing about this group is elite or even seems capable of approaching that tier.

    The Pacers say they're uninterested in a self-demolition. That's fine (even if an overhaul seems the best path forward from this vantage point). They still need to shake things up and change their fortune. Whether that's sending Sabonis to the highest bidder or moving players like Turner or LeVert for players with different skills and styles, something has got to give.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    The West was supposed to be the Lakers' to lose. Instead, they've pushed past the halfway point with the conference's eighth-best record and the Association's ninth-worst net rating.

    Anthony Davis has struggled with injuries. Russell Westbrook has (predictably) struggled to find his fit. The top-heavy roster has lacked reliable depth. Frank Vogel's coaching seat has erupted in flames.

    Injuries have surely exacerbated their issues, but it takes quite the leap in logic to assume all their ills would be erased by good fortune on the health front. The Lakers defense sits outside of the top half and the offense lands in the bottom third.

    They're barely treading water when LeBron James and Westbrook share the floor (plus-0.1 net rating). They're losing the minutes Davis shares with Westbrook (minus-2.8) or James (minus-0.5). They are lottery-level bad when Westbrook, the player they put most of their available resources into acquiring, hits the hardwood (minus-3.0 net rating, would rank 24th).

    The problems are plentiful and easy to spot. The hard part is finding a solution. The Lakers are so strapped for trade chips—their best offer likely involves Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn and a (distant) future first-round pick—that B/R's Eric Pincus mentioned Eric Gordon and Terrence Ross as maybe the best they can afford.

    Still, the front office must do something. The Lakers locked themselves into championship-or-bust territory as soon as James arrived, and they can't abandon that territory with him (somehow) still delivering MVP-caliber numbers in his age-37 campaign.

Philadelphia 76ers

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    You had to know this was coming, right?

    Sixers president Daryl Morey may not agree, but it's time to end the Ben Simmons saga. As incredible as it is to watch Joel Embiid make another loud argument for MVP honors, it's equally frustrating to know his best teammate—a 25-year-old with All-Defensive and All-NBA selections under his belt—is proverbially stuck at the train station awaiting his ticket out of town.

    Philadelphia has (understandably) asked for the world in return for Simmons and reportedly has no intentions of softening that stance.

    "The 76ers are believed to prefer to wait in order to pursue [James] Harden or another superstar in the offseason and thus want to save Simmons for that potential sign-and-trade rathr than take what's available on the current market," The Athletic's Charania and Sam Amick reported.

    Deep sigh.

    I mean, I get it. Sort of. Selling Simmons for 50 cents on the dollar could be catastrophic and prevent this nucleus from ever contending for the crown.

    But Embiid might be the NBA's top two-way talent right now. That alone makes denying him an opportunity to compete for a championship feel like cruel and unusual punishment. But this starts to feel wildly reckless when considering Embiid is a 7'0", 280-pounder with a frightening injury history. Who knows how long he can remain in basketball's top-tier?

Portland Trail Blazers

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    How bad are things for the Blazers? Well, they ranked prominently among this season's biggest disappointments before losing Damian Lillard to abdominal surgery that will cost him at least six-to-eight weeks and could erase the rest of his campaign.

    They fired former coach Terry Stotts because sandwiching four first-round exits around a Western Conference finals trip wasn't good enough. Now, they're clinging to the final play-in berth with a 20-27 record and the Association's sixth-worst net rating (minus-3.9). And remember, this was supposed to be the season in which Portland convinced Lillard he could compete for a championship without leaving.


    The Blazers should be ready to pull the plug on this season.

    Lillard, who said his abdominal issue dates back to 2015, should be given all the rest and recovery time he needs. Impending free agents Robert Covington and Jusuf Nurkic should be heavily shopped. Serious consideration should be given to finally breaking up the Lillard-CJ McCollum backcourt. If the right offer comes along for Larry Nance Jr. or Norman Powell, that might be worth pursuing, too.

    Portland planned on bigger goals for this season—remember when Chauncey Billups was going to fix this defense?—but retaining the lottery-protected pick owed to the Chicago Bulls should now be first priority. Well, that or share a 1A-1B standing with getting Lillard healthy.

    The Blazers should plan on being plenty busy between now and the deadline. They just need to decide whether to target long-term assets or players who can help a (hopefully) healthy Lillard compete next season.


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

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