In this six part series, I will detail every team in advance of February’s trading deadline. I will discuss the team’s current state of affairs, including whether they are buyers or sellers, which players are “untouchable” and what guys could be moved. I will also propose a hypothetical trade for each team.
Current Record: 21-25, 3rd in Northwest Division
Expiring Contracts: Mike Miller
2017 Draft Picks: 1st (Own), 1st (Memphis, top 5 protected), 2nd (Memphis, top 35 protected), 2nd (Oklahoma City, top 35 protected)
Buyers or sellers? Neutral
The Nuggets are playing their best basketball since the George Karl era, so it is tough to say if Denver will be buyers or sellers, or neither. Coach Mike Malone seems to finally be settling down on a regular rotation, and he is running his offense through budding superstar Nikola Jokic. Kenneth Faried seems to have a solid spot in the rotation (for now) with Jokic, Danilo Gallinari, Gary Harris and Emmanuel Mudiay. Jamal Murray, Jameer Nelson and Wilson Chandler will likely hang around as bench players.
Denver is a deep team, but only Jusuf Nurkic looks like a sure fire trade candidate. Nurkic has shown flashes during his Denver tenure, but does not have a path to playing time with Jokic soaking up 35 minutes per game.
With a playoff spot in grasp, several young players and two first round draft picks in the 2017 draft, Denver might decide this is time to go after a real upgrade.
Potential Trade: Nuggets trade Jusuf Nurkic and Darrell Arthur to Pelicans for Jrue Holiday and Dante Cunningham
C – Nikola Jokic, Dante Cunningham
PF – Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler
SF – Danilo Gallinari, Will Barton
SG – Gary Harris, Jamal Murray
PG – Jrue Holiday, Jameer Nelson
This trade would kill Emmanuel Mudiay’s development, but if Denver’s main goal is to make the playoffs, this could get it done. Jrue Holiday is having a very nice season for a Pelicans team that is going no where. Of course, if Holiday performs well and departs as a free agent, Denver basically gave up a young, talented big man for a 3 month rental. Denver has the ammunition to go after a bigger fish such as Jimmy Butler if they feel motivated to move in that direction.
Current Record: 18-29, 5th in Northwest Division
Expiring Contracts: Brandon Rush, Adreian Payne
2017 Draft Picks: Round 1 (own), Round 2 (Pelicans, top 55 protected)
Buyers or sellers? Either
The hiring of Tom Thibideau was supposed to end the longest playoff drought in the NBA, but the Timberwolves have been just as bad as previous seasons. Despite a trio of 20 point per game scorers, the Wolves have a terrible record, thanks in large part to a pathetic collective effort on the defensive side of the ball.
Karl-Anthony Towns has to be considered the only “untouchable” on the roster. Andrew Wiggins can score, but his defensive ability (or perhaps effort) seems to have been drastically overvalued. The back court of Zach LaVine and Ricky Rubio is a sieve defensively. If the Timberwolves want to become competitive sooner rather than later, perhaps Thibideau can approach the Bulls about Jimmy Butler.
Potential Trade: Three team trade. Timberwolves receive Jimmy Butler, Darren Collison, Omri Casspi. Bulls receive Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio, Timberwolves unprotected first round draft pick. Kings receive Kris Dunn.
C – Karl-Anthony Towns, Cole Aldrich
PF – Gorgui Dieng, Jordan Hill
SF – Andrew Wiggins, Omri Casspi
SG – Jimmy Butler, Shabazz Muhammad
PG – Darren Collison, Tyus Jones
I am not sure the Bulls would bite at a Jimmy Butler offer without Andrew Wiggins included, but perhaps a top ten pick in a loaded draft, along with a young talented new back court would get the job done. As far as the Timberwolves, this would be pretty much a no-brainer decision. It would be tough to give up on the potential of Zach LaVine, but Butler is a better scorer and a superior defender, to say the least. How will Butler adapt to playing second fiddle to KAT? Butler has shown on more than one occasion to have a bit of a diva attitude.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Current Record: 28-20, 2nd in Northwest Division
Expiring Contracts: Nick Collison, Anthony Morrow, Joffrey Lauvergne
2017 Draft Picks: 1st round pick (own)
Buyers or sellers? Buyers
I said five years ago that the Thunder would be this decade’s version of the mid 90’s Orlando Magic. Coming off an NBA Finals with a young Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, several other Finals appearances seemed inevitable. Of course, management chose to trade three of those players, and Kevin Durant delivered the death blow when he departed as a free agent. Russell Westbrook will remain for at least the next few seasons, and his triple double game has kept the Thunder afloat.
This new version of the Thunder will be built around Westbrook, and three young players who have been signed to long term extensions; Steven Adams, Victor Oladipo and Enes Kanter. Other than that quartet and perhaps Domantas Sabonis, Oklahoma City does not have many tradable assets. It will take a lot of luck to turn the Thunder back into contenders, even with Westbrook.
Potential Trade: Thunder trade Cameron Payne, Semaj Christon and 2017 first round pick to 76ers for Robert Covington, TJ McConnell, two future 2nd round picks
C – Steven Adams, Enes Kanter
PF – Domantas Sabonis, Darren Collison
SF – Andre Roberson, Robert Covington
SG – Victor Oladipo, Anthony Morrow
PG – Russell Westbrook, TJ McConnell
Cameron Payne has not shown much during his two years at the NBA level, but is still one of the only young players on the Thunder who has trade value. The 76ers could use a young point guard to develop and might be willing to part with a couple of decent veterans for him. Robert Covington would be a nice shooter and scorer at the small forward position. TJ McConnell has been surprisingly effective during his first two years in the NBA and could make a nice long term backup for Russell Westbrook. This trade does not move the needle much, but fills a couple of small needs for Oklahoma City.
Portland Trail Blazers
Current Record: 21-28, 4th in Northwest Division
Expiring Contracts: Pat Connaughton
2017 Draft Picks: 1st round pick (own), 1st round pick (Cavaliers)
Buyers or sellers? Sellers.
Quick, which team has the second highest payroll in the NBA? Well, if you’re reading this blurb, than obviously the answer is the Trail Blazers. Portland shelled out a large fortune for Evan Turner, Allen Crabbe, Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard and Festus Ezeli. While Turner, Crabbe and Harkless have been decent role players, none have made much of a difference. Leonard has been an unmitigated disaster and Ezeli will not play a minute all season.
The Trail Blazers are basically a two man team of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, and a roster full of role players. Portland has the first round picks and enough young players to land a third option on offense if they so choose. Even though several players are overpaid, they are young and with the exploding salary cap could be traded with little issue.
Potential Trade: Trail Blazers trade Meyers Leonard, Ed Davis, Al-Farouq Aminu, Jake Layman, Noah Vonleh, unprotected 2017 first round pick to Nets for Brook Lopez, Luis Scola, Joe Harris.
C – Brook Lopez, Mason Plumlee
PF – Maurice Harkless, Luis Scola
SF – Evan Turner, Joe Harris
SG – CJ McCollum, Allen Crabbe
PG – Damian Lillard, Shabazz Muhammad
This would give the Trail Blazers a much needed front court scorer, but in turn, they would be even worse defensively. Other than perhaps Al-Farouq Aminu, Portland does not give up anyone of significance. Lopez contract runs out after the 2017-2018 season, so it would be a short term commitment that the team could get out of in two years if they choose so, and at the same time they unload Leonard’s bad contract.
Current Record: 30-19, 1st in Northwest Division
Expiring Contracts: George Hill, Shelvin Mack, Joe Ingles,
2017 Draft Picks: 1st round pick (own), 1st round pick (Warriors), 2nd round pick (own)
Buyers or sellers? Buyers
Utah’s long term rebuilding project seems to finally have paid off, as Utah finds itself squarely in the playoff conversation. Gordon Hayward is Utah’s first All Star since Deron Williams, and George Hill and Rudy Gobert have the resumes to join him in the near future. Moving forward, this team will be built around those three (assuming the Jazz resign Hill), as well as Rodney Hood and Trey Lyles.
Not all is perfect in Utah, however. Derrick Favors has taken a huge step back thanks to knee issues and general ineffictiveness. He is only a year removed from a 16 point, 8 rebound season, so Utah may not want to sell low on him. Two players they could look to move as they look to upgrade a 29th ranked offense are Dante Exum and Alec Burks. The duo was supposed to be the back court of the present, and future, but both have struggled badly returning from serious injuries.
Potential Trade: Jazz trade Alec Burks and Dante Exum to Magic for Nikola Vucevic and CJ Wilcox
C – Rudy Gobert, Nikola Vucevic
PF – Derrick Favors, Trey Lyles
SF – Gordon Hayward, Joe Ingles
SG – Rodney Hood, Joe Johnson
PG – George Hill, Shelvin Mack
Nikola Vucevic is a much better fantasy player than actual NBA star, but his offense would be a nice fit next to Gobert and Favors in the Jazz front court. He is a legit back to the basket center who could help open up shooting lanes for Utah’s back court players.