There is less than 24 hours remaining before tomorrow’s trade deadline, which means league executives are actively working the phones in search of favorable deals. The Denver Nuggets remain the team to keep an eye on as they have several impact veterans that could be had for the right price, such as Wilson Chandler and Arron Afflalo.
Goran Dragic caught the league’s collective attention last night after Sam Amick of USA Today Sports reported that Dragic informed Phoenix Suns executives that he would not re-sign with Phoenix after the season. Dragic is reportedly looking for a team to run on his own (rather than sharing point guard duties), and is interested in joining teams like the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami HEAT or Indiana Pacers. Considering this, the Nuggets and Suns are the two teams that are most likely to make major deals by tomorrow.
Yesterday, our Moke Hamilton wrote about five teams that need to make a trade before the deadline, which you can read here. Now, let’s take a look at five teams that should consider standing pat before tomorrow’s deadline.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
When a team has the best overall record in the league, chances are its roster is not in serious need of bolstering. This is especially true for the Golden State Warriors who play a fun, aesthetically pleasing style of basketball.
Watch the Warriors play and you’ll see a well-oiled machine made up of selfless players who are eager to share the ball and enjoy celebrating each other’s achievements. Stephen Curry will often shimmy after making a three-pointer, but will celebrate emphatically when one of his teammates catches fire. Draymond Green will pass up a wide-open three-pointer if it means Marreese Speights gets an open mid-range jumper. Andre Iguodala will focus solely on locking down an opposing scorer and won’t even think about his own involvement on offense. Everyone seems to put the team’s success ahead of their own individual achievements, which is very valuable for any team hoping to contend for a championship.
This sort of chemistry is rarely achieved and is not something that should be tinkered with carelessly. Sure, the Warriors should look around for deals to move David Lee and his roughly $15 million annual salary. But there is no urgency in making such a deal (especially since Lee’s deal expires just in time for the 2016 free agency bonanza). Green is due for a big payday this offseason and moving Lee could help keep Green in the bay area. But moving Lee can happen after the season, so again, there is no urgency in moving him before the deadline (except for tax relief purposes).
Andrew Bogut is a great rim protector for the Warriors, but is constantly struggling with injuries. Making a move for another defensive anchor at center may be a worthy objective, but acquiring such a player is not so easy (e.g., it took two first-round draft picks to get Timofey Mozgov out of Denver). If anything, the Warriors could look to a free agent center who is bought out or returning from overseas.
With the league’s best starting backcourt, an MVP candidate in Curry, multiple versatile wing-defenders, an effective rim protector and great chemistry, there is little lacking on the Warrior’s roster. If anything, the Warriors can look to add a veteran free agent like Ray Allen, who plays off the ball and could easily integrate into the Warriors’ offense in a reserve role, but don’t expect any big trades.
The Atlanta Hawks are in a very similar situation as the Warriors. They own the league’s second-best record, and the Hawks are flying high and clawing through the Eastern Conference.
Second year head coach Mike Budenholzer has done a great job of implementing his offensive principles and incorporating each of his players to some extent. Everyone from Jeff Teague, to Elton Brand, to Kent Bazemore has a defined role, which is why swinging a big deal now may be risky. Like the Warriors, the Hawks are a well-oiled machine and there is a risk of upsetting the valuable chemistry that currently exists between the players.
However, what is interesting is that the Hawks have one open roster spot and $4.9 million in cap space. This means that the Hawks could sign a free agent outright or absorb salary in a lopsided trade. But like the Warriors, the Hawks may be better served looking for one more potential rotation player in free agency, rather than looking to swing a deal for a major player that will need time to be integrated into the existing system.
With cap space and an open roster spot, this may seem like a conservative approach. However, we have seen with this season’s Charlotte Hornets team what can happen when a player like Lance Stephenson is introduced to a team that seems to be outperforming expectations. Or how about when a respected coach like Mike Malone is removed midseason? Malone wasn’t without flaws, but guys like DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay were upset with the move, and the Kings haven’t been the same team since. That’s not to say that the Hawks shouldn’t keep an eye out for favorable deals, but they shouldn’t be looking to make a move before the deadline just for the sake of making a move.
Adding a role player like Allen is certainly worth considering, but looking for someone to play 25 or more minutes a game would be a risky, and probably unnecessary, move. Again, chemistry is a delicate, but powerful element of a team’s performance and it shouldn’t be tinkered with carelessly.
The Cleveland Cavaliers got off to a rocky start this season. The roster lacked a proven rim protector and things only got worse when Anderson Varejao went down with a torn Achilles in December. The Cavaliers were also struggling on the wing, relying on veterans like Mike Miller and James Jones for scoring and defense.
The Cavaliers executed some risky moves to address these issues. First, Cleveland traded Dion Waiters to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Lou Amundson, Alex Kirk and a 2019 second-round draft pick to the New York Knicks for Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and a protected 2015 first-round draft pick. Then, the Cavaliers traded two first-round draft picks to the Denver Nuggets for Timofey Mozgov and a 2015 second-round draft pick. The trades were risky, but both have worked out better than expected so far for Cleveland.
Mozgov has addressed the Cavaliers’ biggest weakness, which was rim protection. Mozgov is not an elite defensive center, but at 7’0 and with sneaky athleticism, he is able to alter shots around the basket (he is holding opponents to 47.3 percent at the rim) and guard opposing bigs in the post.
Also, the addition of Shumpert and Smith has added much needed athleticism on the wing and improved three-point shooting. In fact, Smith is actually putting up better per night box score numbers than Jeff Green, who was pursued heavily by several teams before landing with the Memphis Grizzlies. Not bad for someone many considered to be a negative asset in the three-team deal. Shumpert is playing less minutes per game than Smith, but is shooting 44.7 percent from beyond-the-arc and is a tough wing-defender.
One lingering concern is the continued struggles of star power forward Kevin Love. Some have reasoned that the Cavaliers should move Love before the deadline considering his diminished role on offense and the fact that he could leave Cleveland in free agency after the season (2015-16 player option). However, the Cavaliers paid a steep price for Love and are all in on winning a championship this season. The Cavaliers would likely not get equal value for Love in any trade and there is a good chance he opts into the final year of his contract considering he stands to make a lot more money the following offseason when the cap is expected to rise significantly because of the league’s new, lucrative television deal.
Winners of eight of their last 10 games, the Cavaliers are getting stronger as the season carries on. Coach David Blatt is off the hot seat and can now focus on getting his players fully acclimated to his offensive and defensive principles before the postseason. Like the Hawks, the Cavaliers have some flexibility to make a deal with Brendan Haywood’s contract that is non-guaranteed next year, but any potential deal should be viewed cautiously since the Cavaliers seem to be coming together and each player’s role is becoming more defined.
LeBron James will certainly keep pushing for Ray Allen to join him in Cleveland, which may or may not end up happening. Whether it does or not, Cleveland took care of their business well before the trade deadline, and has all the talent it needs to push for a championship this season.
Like the Cavaliers, the Chicago Bulls have been up and down this season. Expectations were high for the Bulls entering the season, but recurring injuries to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, along with a collective regression defensively have slowed the Bulls throughout the season.
Since Tom Thibodeau took over as head coach, the Bulls have been among the best defensive teams in the league each season. But with the loss of Luol Deng, the recurring injuries to Noah and the increased focus on scoring from Jimmy Butler, the Bulls have fallen to 12th in defensive rating this season, per Nylon Calculus.
However, the Bulls have improved on the offensive side of the ball this season, and are currently rated eighth in offensive rating, per Nylon Calculus. New additions like Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic have added post scoring and improved three-point shooting, while guys like Rose and Butler continue to be primary scorers that can setup teammates for easy scoring opportunities. Gasol in particular has been a key contributor and is really a great value when you consider the Bulls were trying to acquire Carmelo Anthony (who will likely sit out the rest of the season with a knee injury) on a max free agent contract last offseason.
Teams are and have been calling about power forward Taj Gibson, but with Noah’s injury issues, the Bulls are unlikely to deal Gibson before tomorrow’s deadline. Again, when this team is healthy, it can compete with anyone. The biggest concern for the Bulls will be monitoring lingering health issues moving forward. If anything, the Bulls could look to add an end of the rotation veteran with their 15th roster spot, and as is the case for every contending team, a free agent like Ray Allen could certainly help.
The Memphis Grizzlies are another team that took care of business well before the deadline. Last month, the Grizzlies executed a deal that sent Tayshaun Prince, a protected 2017 first-round draft pick and $1.3 million to the Boston Celtics and Quincy Pondexter and a 2015 second-round draft pick to the New Orleans Pelicans for Jeff Green and Russ Smith. Several teams pursued Green, including the Los Angeles Clippers, but it was Memphis that had the pieces to make a deal with the Celtics. The arms race in the West has been more intense this season than anytime in recent memory, but the Grizzlies got their reinforcements in early.
Acquiring Green fortified the small forward position for Memphis and allows coach Dave Joerger to bring defensive ace Tony Allen off the bench. Green has been solid, though not spectacular, in his short time with Memphis. He is contributing 12.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists in almost 30 minutes per game. However, Green is shooting just 30.8 percent from three-point range, which is well below his 33.9 percent career average. Nevertheless, acquiring Green was a solid move that adds depth on the wing and gives the Grizzlies one of the most formidable starting lineups in the league.
At 39-14 the Grizzlies are currently second in the Western Conference, and amazingly just four games behind the Warriors. This team has been solid all season, but often gets overlooked. But with the second best defensive rating, 11th best offensive rating and seventh best net rating (per Nylon Calculus), these Grizzlies are the real deal and have a real shot of coming out of the West (though as of today they would have to go against the Spurs in the opening round of the playoffs).
There is still a lot of movement that is likely to take place before tomorrow’s 3:00 p.m. (EST) deadline. Teams that are fringe contenders will certainly work diligently to add that missing piece to get them over the hump, while rebuilding teams will look to offload veteran players for future assets. However, these five teams should feel comfortable sitting back and fielding phone calls just in case an advantageous deal is presented to them, rather than aggressively pursuing a deal. Each already has the pieces needed to make a championship run, and any extra help could likely be found in free agency rather than trades.
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