The Teams to Look out for at the NBA Trade Deadline
Buyers, sellers, and those in between
The NBA Trade Deadline is officially one month away. In a season where trades have been all talk and little action, that could quickly change as teams figure out their identities and take steps to fulfill them. From contenders looking to add to their arsenal to mediocre teams trying to level up, the 2023 Trade Deadline holds plenty of promise.
That being said, however, there are a few teams to watch for when it comes to moving pieces around. Here are four squads to follow as the deadline approaches.
I recently wrote about the Bulls and how they could blow things up this season. Well, they’re now 19–21 and sit at ninth in the Eastern Conference, and the rumors of internal tension appear to have subsided. Still, though, whether the Bulls want to start from scratch or claw their way into the postseason, it looks like something’s gotta give.
Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale wrote up some bold predictions for the Feb. 9 deadline and said that Chicago would trade “[three] of LaVine, DeRozan, Lonzo & Caruso” — big names who could return significant value if moved. He outlined valid reasons as to why Chicago should consider rebuilding:
“Wax poetic about wins over the Milwaukee Bucks (Dec. 28) and Brooklyn Nets (Jan. 4) if you’re getting paid to propagandize this organization’s obsession with the middle. Chicago has a losing record against sub-.500 opponents, the offense is allergic to taking threes, Lonzo Ball isn’t walking through that door anytime soon, and Zach LaVine, while playing better, ‘privately has questioned’ his role, according to NBC Sports’ K.C. Johnson.”
Whatever expectations Chicago had at the start of the season, they appear to have flown out the window unless changes are made. Having pieces to trade is one thing, but having the guts to move them is another. The Bulls could ride it out with their current core and try to push their way to the Play-in. They could also realize that the experiment failed and take steps to acquire assets that could bring a brighter future to the Windy City. Whichever direction the Bulls go, it’ll certainly paint a clearer picture than what fans have seen so far this season.
Speaking of teams who haven’t met expectations, things are going south for the Atlanta Hawks. After trading for Dejounte Murray and pairing him with Trae Young and John Collins, the Hawks have gone 19–21 this season and are sitting at 10th in the East — a far cry from their playoff aspirations.
Collins has been a mainstay in trade rumors for the last few years, and, as he just told The Athletic, he “[doesn’t] care” about them anymore. The 25-year-old was expected to thrive next to Murray and Young, but in a year where he’s averaging 13.3 points and 8.1 rebounds a game on 50–23–88 splits, fans are left to wonder if his time in “the A” is coming to an end.
At the time of writing, no other Hawks have emerged in trade rumors. Collins and his remaining three-year, $78 million contract could finally be out of Atlanta, or GM Travis Schlenk could surprise us all as the magic date nears.
The Clippers are currently on a six-game losing skid, and it’s clear they have holes to patch before they can return to dominance. The main issue is the team is so loaded on wings that they have left Ivica Zubac to fend for himself as their lone true center*.
*At least, one on a guaranteed contract; 7'2" Moses Brown is on a two-way contract and has had limited opportunities.
The Clips have several avenues to fix that and more to get out of their slump. One name that could arise in rumors is wing Robert Covington, who is averaging 5.6 points per game after having a more significant role the season prior. He has basically become an “in case of emergency, break glass”-type of player with the amount of talent in the team’s rotation. Case in point, when injuries began to dismantle the Clippers back in December, Ty Lue opted to start Amir Coffey over the nine-year vet:
Aside from Covington’s strange status in lineups, it’s also worth noting he has two years and $24 million left on his contract, a valuable asset if team president Lawrence Frank decides to make a move.
Regardless, the Clippers will look to be buyers at the upcoming deadline. It’s all a matter of how their front office works their magic to supply their stars with pieces to win (side note: it must be nice).
Lastly, one of, if not the biggest, team to look for come February is the Toronto Raptors. Three seasons removed from an NBA title, and despite having multiple All-Star-level talents, the Raptors are stuck with a 17–23 record at 12th in the East.
This morning, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps wrote about the Raptors’ plight, calling them “a rarity in the modern NBA: a franchise with options”:
“The Raptors have defied the odds in a way few other teams can — they’ve won an Eastern Conference-best 466 games since the start of the 2013–14 season and have reached the playoffs eight out of nine seasons.
But they are finally showing signs of wear.”
He added, “…while the Raptors have problem areas — a lack of depth and shooting and defensive woes that have plagued Toronto all season — the heart of the Raptors’ issues are the regressions of both Barnes and VanVleet.”
Bontemps’s reporting comes days after it was revealed Toronto’s asking prices for some of their key players were considered “insane” and “astronomical”. Insider Marc Stein notes that Gary Trent Jr. is the only player who has been made “available” in trade talks, and it would take a lot for Pascal Siakam and O.G. Anunoby to be included in the conversation as well. Fred VanVleet, meanwhile, has continued to bet on himself.
The Raptors are currently in purgatory, and Bontemps noted they’ll be waiting until the end of the month to make more concrete decisions on the team’s future. In that time, expect rumors to be flying off the presses up north, as Toronto waits to either make a late-season push or be lottery-bound once again.
Things are shaping up to be an active trade deadline once again. These rumors are only the tip of the iceberg, so fasten your seatbelts and be ready to ride.