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NBA Trade Watch: The Atlantic

Dennis Chambers outlines the prospects for the Atlantic Division teams as the trade deadline fast approaches.

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As the midway point of the NBA season comes and goes, it’s now trade season. With the in-season trade deadline merely a month away, February 9 to be exact, expect rumors to begin swirling at a more rapid rate.

While every year is an exciting time at the trade deadline, the current rumblings indicate that, as of now, the league may not see that big splash deal this time around. Unlike DeMarcus Cousins from a year ago, there don’t appear to be many big fish on the move over the next month. However, that could change any minute.

In the meantime, here at Basketball Insiders, we’ll be doing a division-by-division breakdown of each team and the potential trade chips they may hold, as well as some aspects of their team that could use a bit of an upgrade at the deadline.

Let’s get into the Atlantic Division first.

Boston Celtics (33-10)

What a ride the Celtics have had through the first half of this season.

Just minutes into their first game, newly-signed Gordon Hayward breaks his leg in a gruesome way and is lost for the season. The year Boston was supposed to challenge Cleveland and LeBron James after stealing Kyrie Irving from him to pair along with Hayward seemed lost just six minutes into the new year.

Don’t tell that to Brad Stevens and his players, though. All they’ve done is rattle off a 33-10 record, play some of the best defense in the NBA, and gotten incredible production from their young players. Hayward or not, the Boston Celtics are a threat.

Notable Ending Contracts:

Marcus Smart — $4,538,020

Aron Baynes — $4,328,000

Names Worth Talking About:

The Celtics are pretty set in their roster as a contender, and despite the fans on Twitter continuously clamoring for the likes of Anthony Davis in Bean Town, there’s no reason to believe at this point in time that a move of that magnitude is likely to happen.

Who the Celtics should be focused on the most moving forward is their own, Marcus Smart.

Smart is arguably the most annoying defender in the NBA, in a good way. Along with that quality, he doesn’t back down from the challenge of besting his opponent’s top player. While his ability to shoot and score at a high-level may never come to fruition, Smart is the prototypical defensive dog Stevens needs to make his system work.

If Boston can find the right price for his deal, all of their focus should be on retaining Smart.

Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:

For the Celtics, their biggest need at the current moment is to stay put. Stevens has his current group clicking on all cylinders. They play tough defense and are one of the better shooting teams in the NBA. Barring an opportunity to acquire the likes of Anthony Davis, Stevens and the Celtics should stay put at the deadline and ride into the postseason with the current horses in their stable.

Toronto Raptors (28-10)

Much like the Celtics, the Toronto Raptors are more or less stuck in their ways at this point. An enhanced season from DeMar DeRozan and an all-around defensive effort by the rest of the team has the Raptors as one of the most complete teams in the entire NBA at the halfway point.

Over the course of the offseason, general manager Masai Ujiri retained the likes of Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, while bringing aboard C.J. Miles in hopes of making another push at the Eastern Conference crown that has eluded this Raptors core.

It remains to be seen if the Raptors can break through and truly challenge the Cavaliers for the throne, but their current makeup is more than intriguing at this point.

Notable Ending Contracts:

None.

Names Worth Talking About:

As it currently stands, the Raptors’ core is pretty locked up. With no ending contracts from any key pieces in the rotation, Toronto doesn’t have an expiring deal trade chip to use over the next month. The team’s best bet at this point is the stand pat with what they have, and continue to build on their strong success in the first half of the season.

Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:

Similar to the Celtics, the Raptors biggest need is to stay put. With minimal cap flexibility and a shortage of trade chips, Toronto won’t have many options over the coming weeks to make a major change to their roster. Should they be able to come across some lower level options to help improve their depth and three-point shooting, of course, that is always an option to keep an eye on. But at the moment, there isn’t much the Raptors can, or should, do.

Philadelphia 76ers (19-19)

In the first season of putting “The Process” wheels in motion, the Sixers have resembled a playoff-caliber team at times, and an inexperienced flawed roster at others.

With the second-youngest roster in the league, competing against the second-hardest schedule in the first half of the season, Philadelphia survived to go .500. Missing their first overall pick from June, Markelle Fultz, the Sixers showed their true colors at times when franchise cornerstone Joel Embiid was on the bench. A playmaker and scorer of Fultz’s caliber were brought into Philly for a reason, and the team cannot get him back soon enough as the head into a playoff push.

As the trade deadline approaches, the Sixers could be in a position to be buyers at the right price, and for the right player. For the first time in a long time, they want to go hard after a playoff spot this season.

Notable Ending Contracts:

J.J. Redick — $23,000,000

Amir Johnson — $11,000,000

Trevor Booker — $9,125,000

Names Worth Talking About:

When scanning the trade deadline landscape, an interesting name comes to mind for the Sixers: former Philadelphia draft pick, Lou Williams.

Enjoying a career year, Williams could provide the Sixers with exactly what they’re missing so far this season. Averaging 22 points per game in 31 minutes a night—while connecting 40 percent of his shots from beyond the arc—Williams represents a true scorer from all levels of the court. That’s a component Philadelphia’s roster misses dearly with Fultz on the shelf.

Should Bryan Colangelo and the Sixers find themselves in a position to push for a playoff spot and want to splurge draft assets for Williams and his expiring deal, they could probably make it happen fairly easily.

Depending on his price tag next summer, Williams could also represent a piece the Sixers use some of that cap space on to re-sign and round out their roster.

Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:

Outlined above, simply put, the Sixers need scoring from the wing—not just a spot up shooter like Robert Covington or J.J. Redick, but a player who can put the ball on the floor and make people try to guard him.

Adding someone like Williams, along with the return of Fultz, could change the dynamic of the Sixers’ roster entirely, making them that much more compelling heading into the postseason race.

As the clock winds down on the trade window, this is a name Colangelo should most certainly make a call about.

New York Knicks (19-21)

After jettisoning Carmelo Anthony for what appeared to be peanuts at the time, the New York Knicks turned in a surprising and entertaining first half performance. The emergence of Kristaps Porzingis and the play of Tim Hardaway, Jr. (prior to his injury), Michael Beasley (at times), Frank Ntilikina and others have the Knicks on the cusp of playoff contention.

For that reason, the team is in a precarious position as the deadline approaches.

Over the next month, New York has to make a final decision as to whether they believe they’re in a position to get to the postseason now, or if they could move some pieces for future draft assets and cap space.

Notable Ending Contracts:

Ramon Sessions — $1,471,382

Michael Beasley — $1,471,382

Jarrett Jack — $1,471,382

Names Worth Talking About:

As the deadline nears, the two players on the roster currently for the Knicks to keep an eye on are Kyle O’Quinn and Willy Hernangomez.

Steve Kyler pointed out today that the Knicks have heard interest on both players as the deadline approaches, and both could possibly be on the move.

For Hernangomez, the talented second-year center, losing his spot in the Knicks’ rotation has become increasingly frustrating and he’s beginning to lose his patience.

O’Quinn, on the other hand, could potentially yield a low-level draft asset, but the major problem in dealing him becomes his $4.08 million salary, along with his player-option for $4.2 million next season.

While Hernangomez may be able to fetch the most return for the Knicks at this point, trading a young player with his level of talent would be a questionable move. But as his patience grows thin and his minutes get scarce, the option is at least worth exploring.

Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:

Like many teams around the league, the Knicks could benefit from the addition of quality wing players. As Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported, the Knicks are among the teams currently looking at their options in adding a player that fits that mold.

Rightfully so, with the Knicks being dead last in the NBA in three-point attempts and 20th in three-point percentage, the team is in dire need of some assistance on the perimeter.

With the combination of expiring deals and potential trade pieces outlined above, the Knicks could be in a position to add some help to their roster if they decide that’s the direction they would like to go in.

Brooklyn Nets (15-25)

Although still one of the NBA’s bottom-feeders, the Brooklyn Nets have shown some areas of improvement in their second season under head coach Kenny Atkinson.

While the team has shown life under their head coach, the Nets are still a roster begging for talent. And with their lottery pick headed to Cleveland this offseason, there may not be any high-caliber help on the way.

But as a team in need of talent and assets, the Nets are an interesting team at the trade deadline. With the flexibility to eat contracts for added draft picks, or to help facilitate a larger deal, the Nets could be a hot trading partner over the next month.

Notable Ending Contracts:

Jahlil Okafor — $4,995,120

Nik Stauskas — $3,807,147

Quincy Acy — $1,709,538

Names Worth Talking About:

The biggest name surrounding the Nets right now would be Jahlil Okafor. Brooklyn finally plucked the former No. 3 overall pick from the Sixers roster.

Since coming over to Brooklyn from Philadelphia, Okafor has seen much of the same treatment in terms of playing time. While Atkinson has continued to say that Okafor needs to get into game shape and earn his minutes, it’s not a great start for the center who will be a free agent this summer.

While it’s unlikely the Nets trade Okafor, Brooklyn needs to begin figuring out what they have in their new asset should they want a shot at retaining him this summer.

Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:

Talent.

Brooklyn is in desperate need of talent any way they can get it, which is why they made the move for Okafor in the first place.

As stated before, they have the flexibility to facilitate deals with other teams in order to receive a draft pick in return or potentially a player another team has given up on (a la Okafor or D’Angelo Russell).

With the trade deadline nearing, the questions as to which teams will eventually pull the trigger remains to be seen.

And we’ll be here every step of the way.

Dennis Chambers is an NBA writer in his first season with Basketball Insiders. Based out of Philadelphia he has previously covered NCAA basketball and high school recruiting.

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