Today we continue our coverage of each NBA Division as the trade deadline approaches. On Monday, our Cody Taylor thoroughly covered the Southeast Division, which you can read here. Now we take a look at the Northwest Division, which features two teams looking to make a deep postseason run, two teams that may soon offload their veterans to secure young players and other assets, and another team with a young core that is more concerned with the internal player development of its young players and its long-term future than winning games this season.
Listed under each team will be players on expiring deals, potential expiring deals and players that could be shopped.
Portland Trail Blazers:
Expiring deals: LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, Thomas Robinson, Dorell Wright, Victor Claver (Qualifying Offer), Joel Freeland (Qualifying Offer), Allen Crabbe (Non-Guaranteed) and Will Barton (Qualifying Offer).
Potential expiring deals: Chris Kaman (Non-Guaranteed/ $1 million) and Steve Blake (Player Option).
Could be shopped: Dorell Wright, Thomas Robinson, Victor Claver, Allen Crabbe and Will Barton.
The Portland Trail Blazers were one of the surprise teams of the NBA last season as they advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Building off of last season’s success, the Trail Blazers have been one of the best all-around teams this season (second best defense and ninth best offense, per Nyloncalculus.com), and are currently ranked third in the Western Conference standings.
One of the issues last season for the Trail Blazers was their lack of depth. General manager Neil Olshey addressed this issue during the offseason by signing veterans Chris Kaman and Steve Blake. Both players have become important parts of the rotation and thus neither is likely to be moved before the deadline (though Portland would likely pounce at the chance to upgrade at backup point guard if an opportunity to do so presented itself).
There have been some key injuries recently that have sidelined starters Robin Lopez and Nicolas Batum. However, both players are close to returning from injury, so there is no long-term concern for either Lopez or Batum. LaMarcus Aldridge also suffered a significant injury recently (tear in left thumb), which he is playing through rather than undergoing surgery. Assuming Lopez and Batum return 100 percent healthy, and Aldridge is able to play through his injury, Portland will have no need to find a player to join the starting unit and will instead target players to bolster their bench.
Despite having a top 10 offense and defense, Olshey recently said in an interview with Sirius XM Radio that the team is “active” in trade discussions. In the interview, Olshey mentioned adding a player who can shoot the ball, is a willing passer, a team player and capable of playing within Portland’s defensive schemes.
Earlier this month, Zach Lowe of Grantland reported that the Trail Blazers were in discussions with the Denver Nuggets for Wilson Chandler, who is the type of player Olshey described. According to Lowe, the Nuggets insisted on Portland including a first-round draft pick, which seems to have been a deal breaker. But with the arms race in the West heating up, this is something that could be revisited down the road. Also consider that Chandler’s teammate Arron Afflalo can also hit free agency next season, so he could be a potential target for Portland as well.
Dorell Wright, Thomas Robinson, Victor Claver, Joel Freeland, Will Barton and Allen Crabbe are the players most likely to be moved in any deals. Olshey has shown a lot of support and investment in Meyers Leonard and C.J. McCollum, so it is unlikely he will move either of them, unless a great deal presents itself.
Small forward Dorell Wright has played sparingly this season, despite his ability to knock down shots from the perimeter. Wright has recently received more playing time with the injury to Batum, and has played well. Assuming Wright continues to play well and Batum comes back completely healthy before the deadline, Wright could either fill the spot that a trade target like Chandler could fill, or he could be a player on other teams’ radars. A team like the Los Angeles Clippers could certainly use his length and shooting at small forward, however it’s doubtful Portland would send a potential impact player to a Western Conference contender. Similarly, Robinson has played just 12.3 minutes per game this season, and could be an intriguing piece for other teams. Robinson is just 23 years old and a solid rebounder with room for overall improvement.
Again, the Trail Blazers are unlikely to trade any of their major rotation players, so a deal for someone like Chandler or Afflalo is the biggest type of deal Portland will make.
Oklahoma City Thunder:
Expiring deals: Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison, Ish Smith and Reggie Jackson (Qualifying Offer).
Potential expiring deals: None.
Could be shopped: Reggie Jackson and Kendrick Perkins.
The Oklahoma City Thunder got off to a slow start this season with major injuries to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Both players are now healthy, but the Thunder currently have a record of just 23-22, good for 10th place in the Western Conference. Despite their current standing, the Thunder still believe they are a championship contender this season.
Yesterday, our own Alex Kennedy reported that, according to one rival executive, the Thunder consider Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams to be “untouchable,” but everyone else could be moved for the right price.
The Thunder recently traded Lance Thomas and a protected future first-round draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Dion Waiters, which has reduced Reggie Jackson’s playing time. Jackson has stated for some time that he believes he should be a starter, so this recent development, in addition to Jackson’s expiring deal makes him a potential trade candidate. However, Kennedy also reported that the Thunder are currently on the fence in regards to trading Jackson considering how difficult it will be to replace his production at backup point guard and their lingering hope that he can develop chemistry with Waiters. However, if it becomes clear that Jackson is not a long-term fit in Oklahoma City or that he will cost too much as a restricted free agent, he could be shipped out with Perkins for a significant player.
»In Related: Kendrick Perkins discusses trade rumors
The Thunder were recently engaged in trade discussions with the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez, however, that deal was never completed. Lopez would add interior scoring to the Thunder’s offensive arsenal, however, he has struggled with injuries for the past few seasons (he is also a poor rebounder for a center his size). Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is looking to unload his high-priced veterans in anticipation of selling the team, so discussions for Lopez will be ongoing leading up to the trade deadline.
With Durant set to be an unrestricted free agent after next season and Westbrook and Ibaka set to be unrestricted free agents the year after, it is imperative that the Thunder front office does everything it can to win a championship as soon as possible. For this reason, and the fact that the other Western Conference powers are bolstering their rosters, expect the Thunder to aggressively pursue opportunities to upgrade their roster.
Expiring deals: Darrell Arthur and Alonzo Gee.
Potential expiring deals: Arron Afflalo (Player Option), Wilson Chandler (Non-Guaranteed/ $2 million), Randy Foye (Non-Guaranteed), Jameer Nelson (Player Option, Cannot be Traded in a package) and Erick Green (Non-Guaranteed).
Could be shopped: Arron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, J.J. Hickson, Randy Foye, Darrell Arthur and JaVale McGee.
The Denver Nuggets entered this season with hopes of making a deep playoff run. Instead, the team has played inconsistently all season and now there is virtually no hope of qualifying for the playoffs.
With multiple veterans set to be free agents and a young head coach in Brian Shaw, the Nuggets are likely to gut the roster and accumulate assets for a rebuild the way Danny Ainge has done in Boston. The Nuggets already started this process by trading center Timofey Mozgov to the Cleveland Cavaliers for two first-round picks.
The Nuggets have several talented veterans on affordable, expiring deals. Wilson Chandler is set to make $6,757,913 this season, and is only partially guaranteed for next season. Chandler is a long swingman who can stretch the floor, is a solid defender and can play both forward positions. He has struggled with injuries in recent seasons, but he has been healthy for the most part this season. As previously mentioned, the Trail Blazers attempted to make a deal for Chandler recently, but Denver seems intent on acquiring a first-round pick for him.
Similarly, Denver will likely move Arron Afflalo in order to receive assets for him, rather than losing him for nothing next offseason. Despite coming on slowly this season, Afflalo has proven to be one of the best two-way shooting guards in the league over the last few years. Teams looking for a tough defensive wing with the ability to knock down three-pointers will call the Nuggets about Afflalo, but it remains unclear how much it will take to pry him out of Denver.
Chris Mannix of SI.com recently reported that the Nuggets were one of the teams showing the most interest in Brook Lopez and any deal for Lopez would likely require sending JaVale McGee. McGee is expendable at this point considering his recent injury issues, guaranteed salary for next season ($12 million), the recent play of rookie Jusuf Nurkic and McGee’s inability to develop into the dominant interior force the Nuggets had hoped for when they traded for him in 2012.
With a rebuild (or at least a significant overhaul) likely on the horizon, the Nuggets will likely listen to offers for anyone not named Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried or Jusuf Nurkic. With so many veterans on reasonable (and potentially expiring) deals, expect the Nuggets to be one of the most active teams in the league leading up to the trade deadline.
Expiring deals: Enes Kanter (Qualifying Offer), Jeremy Evans, Ian Clark (Qualifying Offer), Joe Ingles (Qualifying Offer), Elliot Williams and Elijah Millsap (Non-Guaranteed).
Potential expiring deals: Trevor Booker (Non-Guaranteed/ $250,000 Guaranteed).
Could be shopped: Enes Kanter.
Over the last few seasons, the Utah Jazz have put together a nice core of young talent. The Jazz are nowhere near ready to compete for a playoff spot, but there is a clear plan moving forward. With young talent at each position, and armed with several draft picks, the Jazz are more concerned with internal development than executing a big trade. However, the Jazz did not agree to an extension with center Enes Kanter last October, so Utah may consider moving him before the trade deadline.
As Alex Kennedy recently explained, center Rudy Gobert has developed a lot quicker than anticipated. As a result of Gobert’s rapid development, Kanter is now more expendable and thus more likely to be included in trade discussions prior to the trade deadline. Kanter has a good offensive skillset and good size, but he is limited on the defensive side of the ball. Nevertheless, there should be a strong market for a 22 year old center that can score in the paint, shoot from the perimeter and has room to continue improving.
The Jazz do have other movable pieces in Jeremy Evans, Ian Clark and Joe Ingles, but there is little reason to expect Utah to move any of these players at this point. However, Trevor Booker is only guaranteed for $250,000 next season, so he could potentially be had in a deal by a team looking to cut costs or bolster their depth at the four spot.
With Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors locked up to long-term deals, and other young players locked into rookie contracts, the Jazz have their central core in place. Kanter is due for a significant pay raise, but with Gobert’s development, and the need for future flexibility for the other young players, Kanter is the most likely played to be included in a trade before the deadline.
Expiring deals: Mo Williams, Miroslav Raduljica, Robbie Hummel (Qualifying Offer) and Glenn Robinson III (Qualifying Offer).
Potential expiring deals: Thaddeus Young (Early Termination Option) and Chase Budinger (Player Option).
Could be shopped: Thaddeus Young, Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, Mo Williams and Chase Budinger.
Timberwolves president and head coach Flip Saunders made some major trades last offseason, including the Kevin Love-Andrew Wiggins deal. But Saunders wanted a shot at making the playoffs, so he traded a first-round pick for Thaddeus Young.
More than halfway through the season, the Timberwolves have the worst record in the NBA and could be ready to trade away their veterans and accumulate assets, similar to the Nuggets.
Mo Williams, Young and Chase Budinger could all potentially be free agents next offseason and each could help a contending team, making them prime trade candidates.
Williams exploded for 52 points recently and provides shooting, and some playmaking as a backup point guard. Teams like the Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets could use a point guard like Williams to add depth, but would likely need to give up more than just an expiring contract to land him (perhaps a second-round draft pick or young prospect).
Young is a solid power forward who could help a contender get over the hump, but at a salary of $9,410,869 for this season, it may be difficult for other teams to put together viable trades for him. Also consider that Young holds an early termination option for next season, so a team trading for him would, understandably, want an indication on whether Young would opt into the final year of his deal, or seek a new long-term deal next offseason before trading for him. Similarly, Budinger has a player option for next season for $5 million, which he is likely to pick up, so teams may hesitate at making a trade for him.
Considering how much young talent the Timberwolves have assembled and their lack of competitiveness, players like Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin could be shopped as well. Both players are guaranteed a lot of money for the next few seasons, so it may be difficult to trade either of them (especially with their recent injuries). However, a team looking for a long-term answer at center, like the New York Knicks, may be interested in trading for Pekovic rather than gambling on landing someone like Marc Gasol or Greg Monroe in free agency.
The Timberwolves will likely listen to offers for anyone not named Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad or Gorgui Dieng. With talented veterans to be had via a trade, expect the Timberwolves to be one of the more active teams as the trade deadline approaches.
We have already seen a significant amount of trades this season and with the ongoing arms race in the West and the trade deadline approaching, more trades are sure to come up soon. Some teams may be more inclined to wait and see which players are bought of their contracts by their respective teams, but the most significant player movement will come through trades between now and the February 19 trade deadline.
Be sure to look out for our continuing trade deadline coverage throughout the week.
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