With the trade deadline now less than two weeks away, Basketball Insiders is getting you ready for what could be a busy trade season. We’re setting the stage division by division and what we can expect from each team.
The trade deadline provides teams a great opportunity to improve their rosters or to begin laying the foundation for the future. Between all of the rumors generated, the trade deadline is one of the most exciting times of the season for basketball fans.
Today, we focus on the Southeast Division and how things could ultimately shake out between teams in this division. Here’s how we see it playing out over the next few weeks.
Washington Wizards (1st in Southeast, 31-21 record)
The Wizards have been one of the most surprising teams over the past couple of months, recovering from a rough start to sit third in the Eastern Conference. Of course, having John Wall turning in career-highs in points and assists on a nightly basis certainly helps the cause, but the team also has a healthy Bradley Beal back as well. With Wall and Beal playing well, there is an argument to be made that the Wizards have the best backcourt in the conference.
It seems as though the Wizards are finally on their way to being that team that can make some noise in the playoffs. While the Wizards are hitting their stride at the right part of the season, they can still improve in one key area: their bench production. They rank 29th in bench scoring, 25th in three-point percentage, 30th in rebounding and 30th in assists. Given the concerns with their second unit, that’s likely where we’ll see them look to improve.
Names to Watch:
Big man Ian Mahinmi is a player to keep an eye on. It was reported last week by Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype that the Wizards would be open to trading Mahinmi if the right offer was presented. Mahinmi signed a four-year, $64 million deal with the Wizards last summer and has appeared in just two games this season as he battles back from knee surgery. The idea of potentially unloading his rather sizable contract would likely be appealing to the Wizards, but finding a suitor to acquire him coming off of knee surgery may prove to be difficult.
Another name to keep an eye on is Otto Porter. He’s set to become a restricted free agent this summer and could command a contract the Wizards may not be willing to match. The team currently has roughly $97 million on the books for next season, not including Porter. While it still seems highly unlikely the Wizards part ways with one of their top scorers in the middle of a playoff push, it still should be worth keeping an eye on.
Atlanta Hawks (2nd in Southeast, 31-22 record)
The Hawks have been an interesting team this season. They seemed ready to hit the restart button on this roster earlier this season when they were said to be shopping Paul Millsap and when they ultimately traded Kyle Korver. Since trading Korver, though, the team has pumped the brakes on conversations involving Millsap, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try as the trade deadline nears closer.
Trying to predict what this Hawks team does at the deadline seems as a bit tricky. As things stand today, they are fifth in the Eastern Conference, just 5.5 games back of first place. With the team firmly in the playoff race, do they keep the roster together and try to make another deep playoff run or do they opt to trade some pieces off in order to help build the future?
Names to Watch:
Of course, the top name to monitor with this Hawks team is Millsap. Just because they reportedly took him off of the trading block doesn’t mean they won’t continue to listen to offers. Millsap holds a player option for next season that he’s guaranteed to waive in order to become an unrestricted free agent. From there, it’s anyone’s guess as to where he’ll land. Will the Hawks want to pay him the money it’ll take to keep him in Atlanta? Probably not.
While Millsap remains the hot commodity on the Hawks’ roster, there are several other players to keep an eye on as well. The Hawks have five players on expiring contracts this season — Tiago Splitter, Kris Humphries, Thabo Sefolosha, Mike Scott and Mike Muscala. With the exception of Splitter, who has yet to play this season with a calf injury, these players could look attractive to a team looking to clear some cap space.
Charlotte Hornets (3rd in Southeast, 24-29 record)
Charlotte entered this season with high expectations after their run to the playoffs last season. While the Hornets looked pretty good at the beginning of the season, they’ve since slipped out of the playoff picture and have fallen to ninth place. After starting off 14-9, the Hornets have gone just 10-20 since then. It’s safe to say the team will be looking at all options in order to help their playoff run this season. They already made a trade a few weeks ago when they acquired Miles Plumlee for Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes, so there could be more activity to come.
They took a hit in the rotation after guard Ramon Sessions suffered a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee that will sideline him for the next four-to-six weeks. The team signed a couple of players recently to 10-day contracts in Ray McCallum and Mike Tobey, but it remains to be seen if they’ll remain on the roster past the end of those deals. The team could opt to let them walk after their deals end in order to keep a couple of open roster spots ahead of the trade deadline. Teams often like the idea of holding at least one open roster spot so they can potentially take on an extra player in a trade.
Names to Watch:
It appears as though the Hornets are mostly happy with their roster. More than half of the players on the roster are locked into long-term deals and likely won’t be traded unless the Hornets are presented with an offer they can’t refuse. Nicolas Batum, Kemba Walker, Cody Zeller and Marvin Williams are all players that it would take a lot to acquire and won’t be traded.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might be the team’s best trade chip. He hasn’t improved all that much offensively, and this might make it an easier decision to trade him for the right return. After those players, it seems like Jeremy Lamb, Frank Kaminsky and Marco Belinelli are the next best trade chips, and they could be had if it meant adding a backup point guard with Sessions out for another month or so.
Miami HEAT (4th in Southeast, 23-30 record)
If the trade deadline was a month ago, it could have been said that virtually anyone on the HEAT roster could be had. Now, the HEAT have won 12 straight and have seemingly saved their season. They were 11-30 prior to their winning streak, but are now 23-30 sitting just two games back of eighth place.
With the HEAT winning and back in the playoff race, how does that impact their status at the trade deadline? It seems all of those trade rumors surrounding Goran Dragic have died down. It’s true what they say: winning does cure all problems. Now, that the HEAT appear to be contenders, Pat Riley will likely try to work his magic once again to acquire some more help.
Names to Watch:
It was reported yesterday by Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald that Orlando Magic forward Serge Ibaka is on Miami’s radar. With the HEAT on their current win streak, it remains to be seen which players they would potentially want to part ways with. It seems unlikely the team will trade Hassan Whiteside, Dragic, Tyler Johnson or Justise Winslow, which would leave players like Wayne Ellington, Josh McRoberts, Josh Richardson and Willie Reed as potential names the HEAT could offer. It remains unclear what the Magic would seek in return, but it would likely need to include Richardson since he’s still a young player that has shown plenty of potential. Miami’s expiring contracts could look attractive to teams, so those players should be monitored as well.
Orlando Magic (5th in Southeast, 20-35 record)
The Magic have been perhaps one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA this season. After investing over $100 million into the roster, the team is clearly not where they’d hoped to be. After last night’s embarrassing home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Magic are now 13th in the Eastern Conference. Orlando has been said to be among the most active teams in trade discussions to this point, and may look to begin selling off some pieces on the roster.
It was once thought the Magic could use the trade deadline as a means to acquire some additional scoring to help in a potential run to the playoffs, but given their recent struggles, it seems like the Magic should cut their losses on this season and begin to look ahead. In a draft that is said to be among the deepest we’ve seen in recent memory, obtaining a high draft pick should be a priority for the Magic this season.
Names to Watch:
Given how active the Magic have been in talks, there is not one player on the roster that is off limits. The front office will look to improve the best they can given the assets and players they have. However, let’s be clear: it’s going to take a lot to move an Aaron Gordon or an Elfrid Payton. It would take an offer the Magic can’t refuse to move them. They are as close to untradeable as it gets on the Magic.
Players like Serge Ibaka and Nikola Vucevic have surfaced in rumors lately and could be attractive to other teams. Ibaka will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and will command a contract the Magic probably won’t want to give him. He has the highest odds of being moved before the deadline. Jeff Green is another name to watch, as he’s on an expiring deal as well and could look good to a team needing additional scoring for a playoff run. C.J. Watson could be an option for a team like the Hornets that’s looking for a backup point guard.
With the trade deadline now just under two weeks away, trade rumors will only continue to escalate as teams begin to get very aggressive in conversations. These names mentioned above are some of the players to keep an eye on as the trade deadline approaches.
Stay tuned to Basketball Insiders for the very latest in trade rumors and conversations.
Make sure to follow Basketball Insiders on Twitter at @BBallInsiders.