The NBA trade deadline is just over four weeks away on February 10. Trade season has been slow to pick up since unofficially opening on December 15, when the majority of offseason signings became trade-eligible. Teams battled through COVID-related hardships, resulting in well over 100 callups on 10-day contracts around the league. The need to just put a roster on the floor put a temporary pause on trade talks.
Teams are now coming out of the woods with hardships and trade talks are ramping up. Most around the NBA expect a fairly busy deadline, as there are no clear title favorites and the 2022 free agent class is seen as very weak. That generally gives teams motivation to make deadline deals.
At the trade deadline, teams sort into one of four categories: Buyers, Sellers, Either or Neither. Here’s where each Eastern Conference team stands one month from the deadline:
The Hawks are in a bit of a weird spot. They’ve been underachievers all year, but don’t seem primed for any sort of sell-off. Their core players are too young for that to be considered. Still, general manager Travis Schlenk said he “wouldn’t be doing my job” if he wasn’t looking at moves.
This puts Atlanta in the “Either” category. They aren’t going to blow it up, but if the right move comes along that rebalances the roster and/or cap sheet, they’ll do it. This is the same if the opportunity to make a big upgrade comes their way. Expect the Hawks to be active, as their position basically dictates they must be. Think consolidation trade for Atlanta.
Like the Hawks, the Celtics have underachieved this season. There have been a few signs that things are turning around for Boston, but the same problems of the last couple of years exist. They can’t close games and the offense remains inconsistent.
We also don’t have any deadline track record to work with, as this is Brad Stevens first go-around as the decision-maker. Dennis Schroder is known to be on the block, as the one-year marriage in green has been somewhat clunky. Juancho Hernangomez is a valuable piece of pseudo-expiring salary-matching at $7 million. And Boston has TPEs of $17 million, $9.7 million and $5.1 million to work with too.
Expect Stevens to make moves around the edges of the rotation. Any sort of big overhaul will come this summer vs at the deadline.
The Nets are buyers without a whole lot to buy with. They have a couple of valuable TPEs of $11.5 million and $6.3 million. That’s enough to get a useful player or two. It’s sending out value to get those players that’s the challenge for Sean Marks.
Brooklyn doesn’t have a ton in terms of tradable talent. Their players are all vets with limited trade value, or young players the team would rather keep. Keep an eye on Nic Claxton and Bruce Brown. Both are due for new deals this offseason, and if Brooklyn can flip them for help to compete for the 2022 NBA Finals, they’ll do it. And forget trading draft picks. The Nets stash is basically all committed elsewhere at this point.
Charlotte is positioned to make a run at the playoffs. Their offense is very good, but their defense is terrible. There’s an obvious hole at center, but the team has limited resources to plug that hole.
All of the players with trade value are playing a key rotation role for the Hornets. To upgrade at the five in a meaningful way, Mitch Kupchak would need to move a productive player. Sometimes you need to give something to get something, but it’s more likely Charlotte will just stand pat.
Chicago is having their best season in over a half-decade. Everything has come together better than anyone could have expected. The only real holes on this roster are a forward with size and bench shooting. Expect Arturas Karnisovas to be aggressive in upgrading both spots.
The main trade assets the Bulls can dangle are Patrick Williams and Coby White. Williams is out long-term, but has considerable potential. White has shown he can put up points from either guard spot. Chicago is a little pick-poor after trading for Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan, so they’ll need to find a team looking to move a veteran for rebuilding pieces. Keep an eye on both Jerami Grant and Harrison Barnes for the Bulls. They’d both be major upgrades as swing forwards.
The Cavs are making a real playoff run for the first time since LeBron James left town for a second time. Cleveland’s challenge right now is health and offensive creation. Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio are down for the year and that’s put a lot of pressure on Darius Garland to make everything happen.
The Cavaliers are shopping Rubio’s expiring $17.8 million deal along with draft picks to get help. Caris LeVert is a reported target, and he’d make a lot of sense as an on-ball creator. One way or another, Koby Altman is going to upgrade the wing spot before the deadline passes.
It’s not the “Everything must go!” attitude of the past for the Pistons, but they’re still in asset-collection mode. Jerami Grant is the object of affection for several contenders. If Detroit can return a mix of young players and picks for Grant, look for Troy Weaver to get it done.
Beyond moving Grant, look for smaller “take a flyer” moves from the Pistons, like the recent acquisition of Bol Bol. Weaver has a lot of tradable expiring or pseudo-expiring deals he can send out to bring back a young player that needs a change of scenery.
The Pacers might have borrowed the “Everything must go!” signs from their neighbors to the north. Indiana is known to be openly listening on Myles Turner and Caris LeVert leading up to the deadline. Kevin Pritchard will also take calls on Domantas Sabonis, but you better be prepared to blow him away with an offer for the All-Star big man.
At this point, it would be a surprise to see either Turner or LeVert in an Indiana uniform post-deadline. It’s likely that Sabonis, T.J. Warren (working his way back from injury) and Malcom Brogdon (ineligible to traded until after the deadline) will team with whoever comes in return for Turner and LeVert, as the Pacers do a soft reset of their roster.
The Heat are a little bit like the Nets, in that they’re buyers without a lot to buy with. Miami is also hard capped, with precious little wiggle room under that barrier. It’s likely that what you see is what you get for the Heat.
One player to keep an eye on: Victor Oladipo. Not as a trade piece, but if Oladipo can get back from injury, he’ll serve as an “acquisition” of sorts. Beyond that, it’s likely Pat Riley will go shopping on the buyout market for some bench depth.
Like their brethren contenders in Brooklyn and Miami, Milwaukee would like to buy, but has limited means to do so. They’d have to trade productive rotation players to put together meaningful salary-matching in any deal. That’s unlikely, given the Bucks prize their depth.
Jon Horst has done good work with finding undervalued veterans, like P.J. Tucker last year. Look for something similar, as Milwaukee could use another big for as long as Brook Lopez is sidelined.
New York has slipped back after their unexpected success last season. The Knicks will be involved in trade talks, because they’re the Knicks. But to this point, Leon Rose has ushered in a new era of patience in New York. Don’t expect any splashy moves just to make a move.
Pending the health outlooks for Derrick Rose and Kemba Walker, the Knicks may look to upgrade the point guard depth. But that will probably be a minor move, or may be done on the buyout market. Any major changes to this roster seem more likely to happen in the offseason.
The Magic are positioned to have a busy trade deadline. Armed with new contract extensions, President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman and general manager John Hammond can continue their rebuilding project in Orlando.
Look for the Magic to find a deal for Terrence Ross. He’s going to be in demand, as teams look to upgrade their bench depth and shooting at the deadline. Gary Harris is another player who could be moved, as his $20.5 million expiring deal can be used in a number of ways. Orlando can take on questionable salary in exchange for assets to help a team in the coming years. Some teams may even see Harris as an expiring depth player to aid in a playoff push. The last player to keep an eye on is Robin Lopez. His expiring $5 million deal is very movable and teams are always looking for cheap center help at the deadline. Orlando also has a $17.2 million TPE and is almost $23 million under the luxury tax. That makes them ideal facilitators in three-team deals.
As he has been all season long, Ben Simmons remains the player to watch at the deadline. Daryl Morey has held firm in wanting a major return, despite several teams making a push to acquire Simmons. Philadelphia has all but given up hope he’ll ever play for them again, but their asking price in a Simmons deal remains high. Most expect this dance to continue up to the deadline, when the Sixers will likely come down a little, as offers improve a little on the other side.
Beyond an eventual Simmons deal, expect the 76ers to make some moves around the edges. Morey always tinkers with his roster at the deadline. He’ll likely target wing help and more shooting, as Philadelphia hopes to make a playoff run around Joel Embiid’s MVP-caliber season.
Toronto has played better than most expected this season. It looks like the Raptors will battle for a Play-In spot at the bare minimum. There are no obvious trade candidates on the roster, but you can never count out Masai Ujiri when it comes to making a big move. If he feels there is a major upgrade to be made, Ujiri will take that homerun swing.
Pascal Siakam seems like the most likely trade candidate due to the combination of ability, salary, positional depth and age. If the Raptors can use Siakam’s $33 million salary in a deal to bring in a big or high-scoring wing, they’ll do it. Most likely, Toronto will sit pat and address their forward-heavy roster imbalance this summer.
The Wizards have slipped in the standing after a great start. But the focus still seems like it’s on making a playoff run in D.C. Look for Tommy Sheppard to use some of his forward depth to shore up the wing rotation, even if that means moving on from some high picks from recent drafts.
Rui Hachimura is finally back, but the forward spot is now overflowing with players. Kyle Kuzma isn’t going anywhere and Deni Avdija isn’t either. Same for Corey Kispert, who was just drafted. If there’s a deal to be made for Davis Bertans and the $54-$65 million left on his deal, the Wizards will make it. Hachimura and Bertans seem to be the main carrots Sheppard will dangle. That’s not going to net a huge return, but if Washington can get one more wing, they’ll be in good shape for the playoff push.