NBA trade deadline 2023: The trade deadline is quickly approaching. There may be phone calls. There shall be bargains. There will be news to report.
But will any alter the pecking order in either conference, produce a strong championship favourite, involve a major star, or — especially this year given the stakes of the 2023 Draft — secure a good seat in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes?
The league will conduct its annual midseason order of business, during which teams will assess their current standing, engage in forthright discussions about their future, and act accordingly.
Consider that in some instances, teams would prefer to wait until the summer to make deals. Summer is favoured because the Draft order is known at that time (or the Draft is even over by then, depending on the deal). In addition, free agency and the salary cap are better understood, and rosters (and expectations) are being reset.
Dealing at the deadline necessitates bringing players to a new team and hoping they can adapt quickly. There are so many variables at play, but if a team believes that a trade at the deadline will benefit them in some way, consider it completed.
So, what should be expected by this deadline?
Speculation regarding rumoured players and teams will undoubtedly come into play. Will the Atlanta Hawks consider trading for John Collins? How do the Minnesota Timberwolves intend to utilise D’Angelo Russell? Consider the Phoenix Suns with Jae Crowder or the Los Angeles Lakers with Russell Westbrook.
What about the contenders for the championship? Do they try to improve the middle of their rotation to gain an advantage? Given Khris Middleton’s sluggish recovery, the Milwaukee Bucks require an additional shooter as insurance.
The final moments before the deadline will finally solve the mysteries. Until then, while the clock is ticking, here are five teams who can influence what may occur.
Not long after the start of the season, a sense of stagnation descended upon this franchise, and months later, nothing has changed. Toronto is disappointing because the Raptors have no justifiable reason for being so far below.500. They didn’t suffer a major, prolonged injury to any of their best players, but find themselves a lot closer to the lottery than the top five in the East.
This is unfortunate news. The encouraging news is that, despite being underwhelming, the Raptors, who should be sellers, possess a number of players with extremely high market value, which sounds contradictory.
O.G. Anunoby is at the head of the line due to his reasonable salary and ability to integrate his skills into virtually any system. He excels at multiple tasks, does not dominate the ball, and defends. He can play multiple positions and is only 25 years old.
Fred VanVleet, the combination guard with championship composure, is another. And Gary Trent Jr., a respectable scorer. Both players have contract options for the upcoming season, which is a consideration for any interested club.
Then there’s the nuclear option: Pascal Siakam, who was an All-NBA selection last year and could potentially earn that distinction again.
It all depends on the Raptors’ demands and what is feasible. Multiple draught picks and young players should suffice, but at what cost and for whom?
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San Antonio Spurs
A team with the worst defence in the league, no superstar or saviour, and a stiff neck from staring up at almost everyone else in the Western Conference probably needs to reevaluate its priorities. It is now time for the Spurs to end the 2022-23 season and begin preparations for next season. They represent a handful of teams that are realistically in the running for a high draught pick and would be best served by securing one.
If you recognise this, it’s because it is. After David Robinson suffered an injury during the 1996-97 season, the Spurs essentially gave up and free-fell into the lottery. Boston, not San Antonio, had the best odds of drafting Tim Duncan in the 1997 Draft lottery, and we all know how that turned out.
In contrast to the Duncan season, the bottom three teams have equal odds of obtaining the top pick, so the key is to be one of these teams. Currently, the Spurs are in contention.
Their most valuable tradeable assets are centre Jakob Poeltl and swingman Doug McDermott, two competent rotational players who can assist a contender. Poeltl is a solid rebounder (9.0 rpg), while McDermott possesses 3-point shooting range (41.5% on 3-point attempts). Poeltl’s contract expires this summer, whereas McDermott has one more year remaining on his, but his remaining salary is reasonable.
Because they are focused on the future, the Spurs can reduce their payroll enough to acquire players via trades and free agency in the offseason.
Similar to the Spurs, the Charlotte Hornets are facing a lost season. The Hornets can use this opportunity to start over, and none of their supporters will object. They need the Draft, perhaps more than any other team, to select a potential superstar. Since Michael Jordan became owner of the Hornets in 2010, they have not had one.
Who is available on Charlotte’s roster in this obviously sell situation? How about someone other than LaMelo Ball? Indeed, that about sums it up. Most likely, the Hornets would find a decent market for Mason Plumlee, Terry Rozier, Kelly Oubre, and possibly Gordon Hayward (although his injury history and expensive contract would make him a poor trade asset).
Technically, restricted free agent Miles Bridges does not belong to the Hornets, as they have not extended him a contract. Consequently, he is conspicuously absent from their roster. These matters will be resolved this summer, and Bridges, who was charged with three counts of felony domestic violence last summer, will almost certainly be suspended.
The Hornets are in serious contention for the No. 1 pick even if they do not trade away any assets. They could ensure a seat at the table and remain active through the trade deadline.
Should they be purchasers or vendors, or will they act as both? Two years after reaching the NBA Finals, the Suns now find themselves in a peculiar situation.
On one hand, this team should improve upon Devin Booker’s return. Under the right circumstances, a healthy Suns team would be very good in the playoffs and could make a deep postseason run.
On the other hand, their championship window likely closed last season, so now is the time to readjust and sell high.
Other than Crowder, who has sat at home all season waiting to be traded, the Suns could pull off a moderately shocking move by trading Chris Paul. Before the season started, this was inconceivable.
Paul’s lack of consistency has fueled speculation that his decline as a middle-aged athlete is beginning to accelerate. Phoenix could trade him now, assuming a buyer is willing to take on the remaining two years and $60.8 million of his contract, and begin searching for its next point guard. Paul, who resides in Los Angeles, would be ecstatic to reunite with LeBron James (since Paul and Russ were traded for each other previously, have any NBA players been traded for each other twice?).
It would not be surprising if Deandre Ayton and the Suns agreed he should be traded, if not before the trade deadline, then in the summer.
Introducing the Los Angeles group that has the potential to be the largest buyers on the market. Yes, the other Los Angeles team (sorry, Lakers) is best positioned and equipped to make some trades and undergo an upgrade.
The difference in this case is that the Clippers have assets (not draught capital, as the Thunder own roughly all of the Clippers’ picks through 2088 as a result of trading Paul George). The Clippers have a large roster, so they can reshape the team based on the positions they believe will be in demand.
The Clippers can shop Reggie Jackson, John Wall, Robert Covington, Marcus Morris, and/or Luke Kennard in any order. All have contracts that are highly tradable and would be valuable to other teams. If the Clippers like what they hear, they may even consider trading Terance Mann (though, due to his youth and reasonable contract, they may decide it’s best to keep him).
The Clippers hope to possibly acquire a disgruntled/undervalued star regardless of his salary (owner Steve Ballmer can handle it) and move the chips closer to the middle of the table with Kawhi Leonard and George. Due to the fact that both players can become free agents in 2024-25, time is of the essence, especially given their injury histories.
The Clippers could pursue Kyle Lowry, John Collins, Mike Conley, VanVleet, and Gordon Hayward, and they would ideally like to upgrade their centre and point guard positions.
The Clippers could, of course, remain put and take their chances. There may not be a better time and circumstance for a competitor to obtain assistance without sacrificing much. Numerous teams would love to have the cards that the Clippers currently possess.