Celtics, Lakers, Knicks among teams to watch leading up to NBA trade deadline
Why they will make a move: Manufacturing offense remains a concern for the Bobcats, and it’s far easier to find a source of spot scoring at the deadline than an impact-level defender. Unfortunately, most of the players churning through the rumor mill with the Bobcats attached are less than perfect fits. Evan Turner and Caron Butler? One can see the basic logic behind targeting those offense-first players, though neither really addresses Charlotte’s more specific needs for floor-spacing shooters and efficient secondary creators.
Still, those pesky particulars might not stand in the way of the Bobcats getting some kind of deal done. Charlotte currently holds just a half-game lead over Detroit for the eighth seed in the East, with New York and Cleveland well within striking distance. Whether or not a move would actually help Charlotte’s offense matters less at this point than whether Bobcats brass thinks it might, and players like Turner and Butler have reputations as scorers that apparently offer some intrigue.
Why they won’t: Charlotte isn’t exactly rich in expendable assets. Steve Clifford’s rotation incorporates just about every useful player on the Bobcats’ roster, with Cody Zeller being perhaps the lone exception. Even in his case it seems entirely too early to sell low on a top-five pick from the 2014 draft, especially when he’ll need time to ready his body for NBA competition. There’s not much to like in the way Zeller has played to date, but it’s likely that whatever qualities the Bobcats valued (mobility as a big, theoretical shooting range, passing, etc.) in selecting him fourth overall are still very much present.
Otherwise the Bobcats could test the market on players like Gerald Henderson or Ramon Sessions, though both play important roles that would need to be filled immediately should Charlotte aim to stay in the playoff race. That makes pulling off a potential trade involving either player a much greater challenge; it’s one thing if Henderson, for example, could be flipped for a useful player at another position, but a direct swap for another wing player requires a trade partner with different needs from the same basic position. That’s not impossible to find, but it does narrow the field a bit.
Los Angeles Clippers: The Clips are reportedly looking around for another rotation big, as has been the case all season. The impediment to such a deal remains the same: Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes, Reggie Bullock, and Willie Green just don’t move the needle much for teams around the league.
Denver Nuggets: Andre Miller may be on the clearance rack by Thursday, but he’s far from Denver’s only tradable piece. Calls have been and will be made to inquire about Kenneth Faried, and any other rotation player short of Ty Lawson is likely attainable.
Phoenix Suns: This is a team with the ability to pick its spots. Like the Sixers, the Suns are under the salary cap and could be looking to make use of that cap space. Very much unlike the Sixers, though, these Suns are reportedly considering deals for veterans who can contribute immediately. Phoenix has the young pieces, the expiring contract (courtesy of Emeka Okafor), the picks, and the cap room necessary to get something done if Ryan McDonough opts to make a push, but there’s also no rush; the Suns’ best players are young enough and good enough that no deadline move has to be made, giving Phoenix the luxury of waiting for the right offer over a much longer timeline.
Sacramento Kings: Pete D’Alessandro has already had a pretty bold turn at general manager for the Kings, and has reportedly been making pitches to the Celtics for Rajon Rondo. Even if he can’t swing that particular deal, it frames the caliber of player Sacramento is angling for at the deadline.
Minnesota Timberwolves: In a playoffs-or-bust season, the Wolves are coming dangerously close to falling out of the postseason race entirely. The deadline offers one final chance at a course correction; it’s hard to pinpoint one specific move that could reverse Minnesota’s fortunes, though this particular team’s record is so misleadingly poor that it might not take a dramatic move to at least make a run toward respectability. If the Wolves can make a minor tweak, get healthy, and manage to translate their impressive per-possession performance to the win column more consistently, they could at least close the gap on those other teams on the postseason bubble.
Cleveland Cavaliers: It’s hard to get a feel for a team under new management, but the desperation in Cleveland is palpable. There’s also been an odd amount of rumored activity swirling around the underperforming Jarrett Jack, which either means the Cavs are pursuing a market for the handsomely paid guard through media channels or that other teams are calling acting GM David Griffin with Jack in mind.
Brooklyn Nets: This team never shifts out of buying mode, and has already been linked to both Jack and Lakers big man Jordan Hill. In the case of the latter, Brooklyn would be adding roughly $17 million to its luxury tax bill, per Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski.