With the start of the new year comes the NBA trade deadline, less than 6 weeks away. Teams are starting to see 2020 on their team’s season. Teams are becoming buyers or sellers to improve their squads for the immediate future by buying players to upgrade now or decide to sell assets in hopes to build an improved future team.
Looking at the East, which has been much more entertaining than everyone predicted, all teams are still chasing the Milwaukee Bucks who are sitting pretty with a 31-5 record. Coach Mike Budenholzer has the luxury of coaching the front runner for MVP with a supporting cast that has bought into their roles. Kris Milddleton, being the second highest paid player on the team, will need to pick up his momentum as the season continues, while Eric Bledsoe will be this team’s X factor, determining how far this team will go in the playoffs. From a buying standpoint, this team needs an upgrade on their second string scoring at the small forward position. It’s hard to see a trade that the Bucks could maneuver, but maybe signing freshly cleared waiver, Jeff Green or making a lowball offer on a trade for JJ Reddick could be a quick fix option.
The Philadelphia 76ers were exposed in their recent game at home against the Miami Heat when the Heat started playing some zone defense. This illustrated that the Sixers need to add shooters to the roster. Ben Simmons has proven during this offseason that he is capable of a 3 ball, but has still failed be a threat for the arc; even though he is 40% from the three point line at the moment, he has only attempted five deep balls. Their unit is definitely missing JJ Reddick from last year’s team. Their best move would be pushing for a player like Bogdan Bogdanovic, who is on his last year of his $8M contract and will be hard to re-sign for the future with De’Aaron Fox being the franchise player with just two years left on his rookie contract, most of the Kings money will go to resigning Fox.
A team that not many have talked about, the Indiana Pacers, are sitting on a 22-13 record without, arguably, their best player, Victor Oladipo, who is now back with the team after a very short stint in the G-league. Oladipo still may not see game time until late January, but this team has managed to stay very relevant while they wait on their star. The Pacers find themselves at a crossroad. They are in 5th place in the East and only one game behind the Toronto Raptors, but their season could easily slip away with a streak of losses before Oladipo comes back. If the Pacers go against the grain, while the rest of the NBA is evolving to the smaller lineups, continuing to play their bigs together and stay in the hunt, they will become buyers. I’d say look for them to try to acquire someone to rotate in as a 3 point threat that can still create their own shot; someone like Bradley Beal who is on a Wizards team looking for ways to sell their assets for draft picks to start over fresh.
Some teams do not have the privilege to be buyers this season. Trying to determine the best moves to make for the future and predicting what players will pan out on their current teams is somewhat impossible, not mentioning trading players who may have too much baggage to get rid of. A good example is the Cleveland Cavilers. They may end up in a tough situation trying to trade Kevin Love. Love is guaranteed $120M over the next four years and at 31 years young what team would want to add that contract to their payroll? Only a team that would be desperately pursuing a finals championship this year, someone like the Portland Trailblazers. Tragically, the Blazers are already spending $147M in salaries before adding Love. If Portland chooses to make this move the Blazers will end up like the 2014-2015 Cavaliers with no depth or bench to help after the newly adopted Big Three with Hassan Whiteside and Carmelo Anthony. But who starts and where? Melo at the three, or will he lead the second string in scoring threat?
As the deadline draws near, the leagues gets even more exciting with teams trying to analyze one another and predict what moves will be made, hoping to end their season with the ultimate goal of winning the NBA finals.
Michael Lawson is a Contributor for the Unwrapped Sports Network website. Follow him @mdlawson00 on Twitter.