Golden State Warriors (1st in Pacific, 43-8)
The Golden State Warriors are 43-8, have won eight of their last 10 games and have four of the best players in the league in their starting lineup. This is not a team that needs to be particularly active at the trade deadline, but it’s likely that general manager Bob Meyers will look for opportunities to add depth to the roster. Let’s not forget that in order to bring in Kevin Durant, the Warriors did have to part ways with players like Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Leandro Barbosa and Marresse Speights.
Unless a lopsided trade falls into the Warriors’ lap, it’s unlikely we will see any notable players like Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West or Zaza Pachulia being moved. Each is on an expiring contract, so it would be fairly easy to include any of them in a deal to bring in a notable player or two. However, as previously stated, it’s highly unlikely that the Warriors move any of their important role players and it’s a virtual certainty that none of their stars will be moved.
If anything, the Warriors will likely look to be opportunistic in the buyout market.
Los Angeles Clippers (2nd in Pacific, 31-21)
The Los Angeles Clippers are perhaps the most interesting team to keep an eye on as we approach the trade deadline. The Clippers have won just three of their last 10 games, have gone two out of seven since Chris Paul tore a ligament in his left thumb on January 16 and are struggling mightily on defense.
With an aging championship-caliber roster, and with Griffin and Paul able to become unrestricted free agents after this season, there is an extreme sense of urgency surrounding this team. The problem is that, even at their best, the Clippers would have a very difficult time getting through teams like the Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and even Houston Rockets on their road to the Finals.
Considering this, it makes sense that the Clippers are reportedly working to facilitate a deal for New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony. The issue is the Clippers don’t have the players or future assets to put together a compelling package for New York and it’s not clear that Anthony would waive his no-trade clause to join the Clippers.
Unless Doc Rivers finds another worthwhile deal for a forward to shore up the team’s depth at small forward and power forward, it’s unlikely the Clippers make a significant deal for anyone outside of Anthony. Considering that Knicks team president Phil Jackson is looking to undermine Anthony at every possible opportunity, the likelihood is the Clippers hold off on all other deals until it becomes clear that they will not be able to swing a deal for Anthony.
If the Clippers make a trade for Anthony, players like Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford, Wesley Johnson and Alan Anderson will likely be included to facilitate the deal. If the trade does not come together, expect the Clippers to stand pat and look for added depth in the buyout market.
Sacramento Kings (3rd in Pacific, 20-32)
Over the last few seasons, the trade rumors in Sacramento have frequently revolved around DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins is arguably the best overall center in the NBA, can become an unrestricted free agent after next season and would surely look for greener pastures considering the Kings haven’t made the postseason since the 2005-06 season.
However, once the new CBA officially comes into effect, Cousins can sign a maximum Designated Player contract extension with the Kings (likely worth up to roughly $219 million over five seasons), which has increased the likelihood that he will stay in Sacramento long-term. Earlier this week, Kings general manager Vlade Divac told Marc Stein of ESPN that the team will not trade Cousins and are not fielding offers for him, which lines up with the reporting from Basketball Insiders’ Steve Kyler.
With Cousins likely off the table and Rudy Gay recovering from surgery to repair his ruptured Achilles tendon, it’s likely that the Kings won’t be making any blockbuster trades this year, but will still be active. According to Kyler, the Kings have been active in the trade market looking for other deals, and there is a growing sense that the Kings could move guard Darren Collison and possibly big man Kostas Koufos before the deadline.
The Kings are in an interesting position. They could trade off their short-term veteran players for future assets, or bolster their current roster with more veterans in order to become a perennial playoff contender in the Western Conference. Cousins has been in the league for several years, so he may not want to sign a multi-year deal with Sacramento if they go into a full rebuild around him and some of their other young, core players. However, considering the size of Cousins’ potential deal, the likelihood is he stays in Sacramento one way or another.
Los Angeles Lakers (4th in Pacific, 18-36)
With Kobe Brant officially retired, the Los Angeles Lakers are finally all in on their rebuild. Their core pieces include Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram. The Lakers brought in former Laker player Luke Walton as the new head coach, who, despite suffering through some rough patches this season, has shown that he is well-suited for the job.
Of note, owner Jeanie Buss recently hired Magic Johnson as an advisor to her and the team. Soon after, Johnson stated that the Lakers are a “superstar away.” While the merits of that statement can be debated, it should be noted that the Lakers do have the talent and trade assets to swing a deal for a star player like Jimmy Butler, whose long-term future in Chicago is being called into question recently.
The front office could also make calls on other star players whose contracts are close to ending, whose teams are struggling or who are discontent with their current situations. Players like Nerlens Noel and Stanley Johnson are young, talented and are finding inconsistent roles with their respective teams.
The Lakers aren’t likely to move any of their core pieces without getting a substantial return, and GM Mitch Kupchak warned fans that the team wasn’t likely to be active before the upcoming trade deadline. But with Johnson now involved, that may change, based on his recent comments.
The Lakers very likely will hold onto all of their young core talent and assets, while looking to move some of their veterans. Walton recently removed Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov from the starting lineup, so maybe they will see if there is any interest for these two veterans (though they are both owed over $15 million annually through 2019-20, so there likely isn’t much of a market for either player). Jose Calderon is on an expiring contract and may generate some interest from other teams.
The Lakers have options and can be very aggressive in trade discussions over the next two weeks. However, the safer bet is that the Lakers take a long-term approach to building their roster and hold on to their core players – unless a player like Butler becomes a realistic option at a reasonable price.
Phoenix Suns (5th in Pacific, 16-36)
The Phoenix Suns have a good amount of young talent, including players like Alex Len, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren and Tyler Ulis. Additionally, even guys like Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight are still relatively young. With so much young talent and no hope of making the postseason, it’s likely that the Suns resist moving their core players and instead look to cash in on some veterans on short-term deals.
P.J. Tucker is well-regarded around the league and is on the last year of his current deal. His $5.3 million salary is a very good value and his name has already come up in rumored trade discussions, including via Basketball Insiders’ Michael Scotto. However, the Suns are reportedly looking for a nice return for Tucker, so it’s possible that teams ultimately pass and he finishes the season in Phoenix. Phoenix also has Jared Dudley and Tyson Chandler on the roster, but their deals are guaranteed through the 2018-19 season, so teams may pass on any discussions involving them.
The most interesting trade chips for Phoenix are arguably Bledsoe and Knight. Bledsoe is locked up until the 2018-19 season at a very reasonable annual salary of roughly $14.75 million. Bledsoe, age 28, has suffered through several injuries throughout his career but he is playing exceedingly well recently. Considering his age, production and solid contract, it’s unlikely Phoenix will move him, unless they receive a very good offer for him.
Knight is the more interesting trade piece. His role has been reduced this season, he’s younger than Bledsoe and is under contract through the 2019-20 season at a reasonable annual salary that tops out at $15.6 million in the final year. Knight is a talented but flawed player. He can score and make plays off the dribble, but he’s not a true point guard and is not a strong defender. However, if a team is convinced he would thrive in a new setting and wants a guard who is under contract for several seasons, Knight is a decent trade target.
The Suns have had a disappointing season so far, but the future is bright. Booker looks like a future star player and Warren has improved significantly since last season. The team will likely take the long-term approach here and develop internally while adding more young talent, though they would certainly entertain trade discussions if a star player became available.
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