Predicting NBA Trade Activity from Teams Before Deadline

Business is booming on the NBA trade market.

It started this offseason with landscape-shifting maneuvers like Jrue Holiday joining the Milwaukee Bucks, Chris Paul heading to the Phoenix Suns, and the jersey swap between John Wall and Russell Westbrook.  It roared into the regular season and delivered the four-team blockbuster deal that sent James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets, Victor Oladipo to the Houston Rockets, Caris LeVert to the Indiana Pacers, and Jarrett Allen to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Why would the activity stop now when there are still stranded stars, prospects in need of a change of scenery and draft picks to be collected?  It’s very likely that it won’t.

Instead, expect hyperactive trade seasons for the following clubs prior to the March 25th trade deadline.

Golden State Warriors

Depending on how aggressive the Dubs want to get, they could shake up the trade market by putting two of the league’s top chips in play. Between rookie center James Wiseman and an incoming top-three-protected first-round pick from the Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State might have the trade assets to chase just about anyone.

But can the Warriors afford to prioritize the present over the future to an extreme extent? On the one hand, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson aren’t getting any younger. On the other, if they no longer constitute a championship core, the Dubs have to start thinking about building the next one.

Golden State could be big-spending buyers, but it could also sit out the swap season or only move on the margins.

Orlando Magic

File this under wishful thinking, but maybe this is when the Magic will finally call off their annual chase of the eighth seed. With Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz—the two most important players to the future of this franchise—down for the count due to knee injuries, Orlando has so little to gain it might actually pull the plug on one of basketball’s most depressing pursuits.

If the Magic hold a fire sale, they could perk up the player pool quite a bit. Between the super-skilled Nikola Vucevic, the defensively versatile Aaron Gordon, the consistently productive Evan Fournier, and the ignitable Terrence Ross, Orlando has a wealth of players capable of capturing shoppers’ attention.

But that’s only if the Magic decide to sell, and there’s no evidence of the organization reaching that conclusion.

San Antonio Spurs

The forecast almost always calls for a torpid trade season in San Antonio since the Spurs last made a deadline deal somewhere around the 2013-14 season.  But if the organization is ever going to let loose, the time is now.

The Spurs aren’t contenders, but they have a slew of rental options for teams that are. DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, and Patty Mills are all on those much-coveted expiring contracts, and each could perk up a win-now offense.

If Gregg Popovich could stomach a present step back for several steps forward in the future, San Antonio could suddenly be the talk of the deadline.

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors are two seasons removed from winning the title and one from securing the East’s No. 2 seed. They don’t appear to be likely sellers, and yet they have a worse record than all but five other teams. If Toronto thinks it’s drawing dead for the rest of this season, it would have to consider floating the likes of Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell, and (if anyone’s interested) Aron Bynes in search of roster-building tools.

On the flip side, would it surprise anyone if the Raptors found their form sooner than later, jumped several tiers between now and the deadline, and positioned themselves to be buyers?

Remember, they’ve kept their finances pretty clean. But since Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t making it to 2021 free agency, they could end their budget freeze and chase the offensive star who could take this roster to the next level.

Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets already delivered the biggest trade of the season, but why stop there? So much of this roster looks liquid, and the franchise should act fast to keep adding to its rebuilding kit.

Although rumor had it that Victor Oladipo didn’t want to play in Space City, he seems to be all in now.  They also recently acquired Kevin Porter, Jr. via trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers.  P.J. Tucker wants a new contract, and while he won’t force his way out Harden-style, there’s no secret that he won’t be opposed to a trade should one materialize. He’s a versatile defender with a 36.2 career three-point percentage and 50 playoff games under his belt. There is little doubt that teams are already flooding the Rockets with phone calls about Tucker, so don’t be surprised if a deal is struck sometime before the deadline.

Ben McLemore‘s three-point stroke surely looks appealing to any spacing-deprived shoppers. Daniel House Jr. is easily marketable as a three-and-D swingman. David Nwaba should be on the shopping list for anyone in the market for defense. The same goes for Dante Exum, so long as he returns from a calf strain in time to build up his trade value ahead of the deadline.

Houston doesn’t have to tear everything down the studs—Christian Wood is a no-brainer keeper, and the money owed to John Wall and Eric Gordon might render them untradeable—but it should shop most of the roster for long-term relief.

Washington Wizards

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