With the riveting 2016 NBA All-Star weekend coming to its glorious end and the extended break now underway, NBA general managers have ample time to prepare for another significant date that is fast approaching: Thursday, Feb. 18 at 12 p.m. PT — better known as the NBA trade deadline.
As is almost always the case, the days leading up to this year’s deadline will likely grow evermore momentous by the hour as the rumor mill churns up until the actual deadline where the hype is often ends in anticlimactic fashion. However, last year was the antithesis to this as we saw a flurry of 37 total trades completed during the deadline’s final minutes. The deadline beholding a similar outcome this year is unlikely, though there are a good amount of teams ready to deal and a fair amount of marquee players who could be on the move as well. We at the Highlander break it all down for you here.
Teams to watch:
- Boston Celtics
- The Celtics have an aggressive GM in Danny Ainge with a bevy of potentially lucrative draft picks at his disposal, an attractive contract in David Lee and a roster that is one star away from being vaulted into contending status. All signs point to third-place Boston making a deal and, in the upside down world of the NBA trade deadline, that likely means they won’t. Though, they are certainly tops among teams to watch in the coming days.
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- The general sense is that the Cavs don’t feel they have enough to beat the Golden State Warriors right now. The truth is, they’re right. For Cleveland to seriously improve their chances of conquering the defending champs, acquiring a savvy, two-way role player at the deadline would be their best bet. Whether they have the pieces to do so is a different discussion.
- Toronto Raptors
- Since surging to just three games behind the conference-leading Cavaliers, the Raptors’ season has newfound life. They have been linked to numerous names (Kenneth Faried, Thaddeus Young and Markieff Morris, to name a few) over the past couple weeks and are probably the more likely of the listed teams to make a significant acquisition come Thursday.
- Phoenix Suns
- Talk about disappointment. After signing Tyson Chandler to a four-year deal this offseason in hopes that he could be the Chandler of old, anchoring them through a potential postseason run, Chandler has proven to be rather, well, old. Currently, the Suns sit just 3.5 games above the West’s last-place Lakers and will likely look to bare down this roster and build around what is still a solid young core.
- Houston Rockets
- Houston doesn’t just have a problem. They have plenty. Their fall from being three wins away from a Finals berth in 2015 to their current standing of being out of the playoffs entirely, is one unlikely to end with a soft landing. Yet they have a few big pieces they can move for assets before starting fresh this offseason and the oft-aggressive GM Daryl Morey should look to do so.
- Los Angeles Lakers
- In a season where attaining draft position inside the top three is chief among all other goals, the Lakers trading for a marquee player at the deadline would be counteractive at this juncture. However, LA does posses a dearth of veteran players on cap-friendly contracts (Brandon Bass and Lou Williams, most notably) that could serve well for a contender.
Players on the move:
Dwight Howard, C, Houston Rockets
- Best landing spots (in order): Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards, Miami Heat
- Over the last year or so, the possibility of Howard moving from Houston has begun to seem inevitable and it all finally came to a head with reports last week that the two sides are working together to find a deal to move him by Thursday. He fits best in Boston where he can be the offensive focal point that he believes he should be, while also fitting seamlessly into the defensive ethics of a surging Boston squad. Quite honestly, though, regardless of fit, a change of scenery is a necessity for both Howard and Houston and if it doesn’t occur at the deadline it will be one of the surest bets of this offseason where Howard can opt-out of his contract and head into unrestricted free agency.
- Likelihood he moves: 60 percent
Al Horford, PF/C, Atlanta Hawks
- Best landing spots: Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat
- With just about their entire starting lineup being brought up in trade rumors the Hawks seem to be considering a potential teardown, impending free agent Al Horford has been at the forefront of these rumors. Once again here, the Celtics would offer the best fit for Horford, but his game is such that it is able to mesh within virtually any system. The interest in Horford is certainly prevalent throughout the league, though it is ultimately a mild one considering his upcoming 2016 free agency and a likely high asking price from Atlanta’s end. I don’t expect movement on this front unless Ainge begins to press.
- Likelihood he moves: 10 percent
Jeff Teague, PG, Atlanta Hawks
- Best landing spots: New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers
- Since the start of this season, there has existed a presiding doubt as to the sustainability of the obviously tense dynamic between Jeff Teague and his backup Dennis Schroder. While the two get along, Schroder has made it no secret that he wants a starting job with or without the Hawks and with Atlanta’s shakeup, he could very well get his wish come Thursday. Quite honestly, a lower-level deal involving Schroder could be more likely than Teague moving, but the Pacers appear serious about their interest in Teague and could have the pieces to execute such a deal.
- Likelihood he moves: 40 percent
Markieff Morris, PF, Phoenix Suns
- Best landing spots: Literally anywhere that isn’t Phoenix
- Since the Suns dealt Markieff Morris’ twin brother, Marcus, to the Pistons this offseason, the former has been quite an unhappy fellow. It seemed the best time to trade Markieff Morris was when he, you know, vehemently demanded he be traded this offseason. Yet the Suns held on and are now not only stuck with a disgruntled player amidst a losing season, but also one whose value has deteriorated as a result. Ultimately, Morris is a replaceable player and the best action at this juncture is to simply cut ties and continue the rebuild. The Raptors, Pistons, Cavs or Celtics would all be great landing spots for Morris but really at this point, so would the Flint Tropics. The man simply needs a change of scenery.
- Likelihood he moves: 80 percent
Ryan Anderson, PF, New Orleans Pelicans
- Best landing spots: Detroit Pistons, Toronto Raptors, Portland Trail Blazers
- There appears to be a theme here. Anderson, like the three players mentioned ahead of him, is on a team in New Orleans that has underwhelmed drastically. What this means for him and his expiring contract is the two could soon part ways and I would not be surprised to see him wearing a new jersey come Thursday. The best fit for Anderson would be in Detroit where his former head coach with the Orlando Magic, Stan Van Gundy, has made no secret about his reverence for the seven year vet. However, the Pistons lack the assets to pull off such a deal and have better to wait and nab Anderson in free agency.
- Likelihood he moves: 50 percent
Kevin Love, PF, Cleveland Cavaliers
- Best landing spots: Boston Celtics, Portland Trail Blazers, Detroit Pistons
- While the offseason could behold a different narrative, it remains unlikely Kevin Love is dealt from Cleveland during this season. Cleveland, though, has surely entertained offers and there should be a plethora of teams lining up to make an offer for the three-time All-Star. Nevertheless, while Cleveland will certainly explore any deals around Love, I expect the trade rumors to settle until the ensuing offseason. There simply aren’t enough teams who will clamor for Love’s skill set at his position.
- Likelihood he moves: 10 percent