By: Taylor Summers
The 2018 NBA Trade Deadline is upon us, and there are a slew of big names that could be on the move. With Blake Griffin headlining the surprise change of teams last week from the Clippers to the Detroit Pistons, there’s still room for more fireworks. Here’s the five things to keep in mind leading up to the 3PM EST deadline.
What do the Cleveland Cavaliers do?
After a wild, thrilling 140-138 double overtime victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, one where LeBron James knocked his 9th triple double of the season with an incredible buzzer-beater over Jimmy Butler, the Cavs are a team no short of drama. Through all the chaos, tension and turmoil this team has produced this year, this is only a temporary band-aid for a team lacking in both chemistry and the right personnel to reach a 4th straight NBA Finals.The biggest name that’s been floating around is DeAndre Jordan. If it wasn’t obvious from last night’s performance (and the Cavs 29th overall defensive rating, second-to-last in the league only to the Phoenix Suns), Cleveland desperately could use an upgrade at the center position. However, there comes a multitude of hurdles to pull this off.First, the Clippers want no part of the Cavaliers backloaded contracts such as Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith and others that won’t move the needle for them both in the short-term and long-term. In addition, Cleveland is obviously very hesitant on relinquishing their highly coveted Brooklyn Nets pick in any deal due to the well-known fact that LeBron James may leave this summer, so they’ll try to entice teams with their own 1st round pick, which will most likely land in the mid-to-late 20’s range. Lastly, the Clippers have already dealt Blake Griffin and guaranteed the ageless wonder Lou Williams a 3 year extension in the past week, so dealing Jordan for pennies on the dollar doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for them at the moment.Neither of these teams want to get fleeced into making a panic, desperation move. The most likely scenario for the Clippers is to stand pat with Jordan while let his deal expire while trying to negotiate a team-friendly extension later on, whereas the Cavaliers will shift their focus to deals around the edges (i.e. George Hill and Tyreke Evans caliber players) rather than risk mortgaging their future to appease LeBron for a season that is slipping more and more each day.
Does Kemba Walker leave Buzz City?
Last month, the Charlotte Hornets made their young franchise point guard available on the trade market. It was a surprising announcement, given the fact that Walker is the captain of the team, a bonafide and perennial All-Star, and is on a team-friendly deal at $12 million this season. Given the fact that the Hornets have some players on really bad contracts (Nicolas Batum and Dwight Howard are the main culprits here), makes Kemba’s availability even stranger.Nonetheless, the Hornets will listen to offers as does every team this time of year. However, unless they are blown away with an incredible deal (i.e. multiple picks and/or an All-Star or two in return), I believe he stays. But like with DeAndre Jordan, only a handful of players are safe until the deadline passes.
What moves, if any, do the other top tier teams (Houston, Boston, Toronto) make to inch closer to Golden State?
Barring any monumental changes to the Cavaliers, we could see a changing-of-the-guard representing the Eastern Conference this June. The Celtics, equipped with two All-Stars in Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, a solid young nucleus of Tatum, Brown and Rozier, along with several future draft picks at their disposal, are in a prime position to take the mantle away from the Cavs even after losing their prized free agent signing Gordon Hayward on opening night. They are already in a position to sign Greg Monroe off waivers, and are one of the favorites to land Tyreke Evans from the Grizzlies with his expiring, $3 million contract. Marcus Smart, their first round draft pick from 2014, is also rumored to be on the block with the emergence of the younger players. And with the way Danny Ainge operates, there could be more moves in the making.As for the Raptors, they desperately want to take it to the next level. Having lost to the Cavaliers in back-to-back postseasons, the motivation couldn’t be higher. They’ve been pleasantly surprised with a lot of production from many young, unknown and unproven players on their bench, giving them the second best record in the East and a tie in the loss column with Boston after a convincing 20 point victory against them at home last night. However, if they want to shed the regular season label, adding another veteran or two could put them over the top.And in the west, the Rockets look for real. Like the Raptors in the East, they’ve taken down the Warriors convincingly and are tied in the loss column with them as well. Many questioned the James Harden/Chris Paul back court, and they’ve proved everyone wrong. Harden is the clear-cut MVP at the moment and Paul looks like the same maestro as usual. When they both play with the emerging Clint Capela, the Rockets record is a staggering 24-1. It’s safe to say that they harbor few weaknesses this season, but if there is a move out there that can push them closer to Golden State, you better believe they’ll be all-in to make it happen.
Speaking of the Warriors, how active will they be?
The defending champions have been on cruise control for most of the season, while Steve Kerr has admitted that the team is desperately looking forward to the All-Star break. But first, they need to make it through the trade deadline. Their team is a year older, and their bench players don’t exactly scare many teams. Iguodala hasn’t looked the same, and guys like Nick Young and Patrick McCaw have been wildly inconsistent. They are still the prohibited favorites to repeat, but with limited assets with little value don’t give them much wiggle room to make any substantial upgrades. Still, you got to like their chances, and for obvious reasons it’s hard not to.
What about the rest of the league?
The Washington Wizards have been one of the most disappointing teams so far this season, and are rumored to be linked to acquiring DeAndre Jordan as well. The Milwaukee Bucks, only a half game behind the Wizards, could look to add some veteran presence to build around Giannis and their other young players.And what about the middle-of-the-pack teams? Guys like the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers, teams currently sitting only a few games out of the final playoff spot out West, are in precarious positions. Are they buyers or sellers at the trade deadline? With several players on expiring deals (Rodney Hood and Derrick Favors for the Jazz and Brook Lopez plus Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with the Lakers) and both teams currently riding hot streaks, you could argue that they should push for that final playoff spot. But the Lakers well-documented plans for the future are still in place, so breaking up their young core is out of the question.
What do you all think? Do you think more big names will be on the move? One executive recently said that “80-90% of the league is always available”, and with the rash of injuries over the past couple of weeks and several teams underperforming so far, it’s now or never for these teams to make a statement for the second half of the season. And the clock is ticking.
So, what’s it going to be, NBA?