NBA All-Star weekend is over, and the second half of the season has arrived. And you know what else is on the horizon? The trade deadline.
One of the most frenetic periods of the league’s calendar, the trade deadline is one of the last ways franchises can solidify their squads for a playoff run while other teams can acquire assets while looking to the future.
This year's trade deadline, which is March 25, should have plenty of action with some big-name players on the block. Here are the 10 players we think are most likely to be dealt.
Kyle Lowry can do it all. The 34-year-old point guard is averaging 18 points, 5.5 rebounds and seven assists on 46/40/86 splits. He can handle the ball and run a team or slide to an off-guard position and stretch the defense to its breaking point.
Lowry is a sticky defender, constantly using his hands to disrupt passing lanes, swipe for steals and harass ball handlers. Over the past two seasons, Lowry has ranked second and fifth, respectively, in charges drawn per game, showing a unique ability to perfectly slide in at the right moment and cause turnovers.
This season, he’s virtually unstoppable in isolation, using his brute force and shifty hips to produce 1.20 points per possession, good for the league’s 92nd percentile. His massive contract is going to be difficult to move, but if a team desperately wants him, they’ll make it happen.
It’s shocking that the skyscraping Latvian is even appearing on this list, but that’s what happens when you sit out more games than you play.
The Mavericks are reportedly quietly shopping Kristaps Porzingis due to his decline on the defensive end of the floor. Porzingis does look like he’s walking on stilts as guards whiz by him without a worry in the world, but this is still a 25-year old who has proven he can make a massive impact on both ends of the floor we’re talking about.
Just last season, Porzingis was a huge reason the Mavericks were one of the most efficient offenses in the league thanks to his ability to bomb away from deep without worrying about his shot getting blocked.
If he really is on the move, surely lots of teams would be sniffing around.
It seems as if we’ve been hearing about Victor Oladipo wanting to join the Miami Heat for a long time. It’s well-known that Oladipo trains in South Beach in the offseason, and it's becoming increasingly clear that's where he wants to end up. Oladipo would be a strong fit for plenty of contenders looking for another explosive guard.
Oladipo is averaging 20 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.5 steals this season. While his efficiency has been down compared to previous seasons, it’s easy to slip into bad habits on a team as pitiful as the Rockets. If he goes to a team like the Heat, his shot profile will improve, and his percentages should stabilize.
Nikola Vucevic is an All-Star big man who has a complete offensive package. Sadly for him, Vucevic is surrounded by low-level role players in Orlando. But that hasn't stopped him from being more polished than ever, averaging 24.6 points and 11.6 rebounds.
The Magic have been insistent that Vucevic isn't available, but sometimes the room is too easy to read. Orlando is in for another lottery season, their best young players are injured and Vucevic is in the prime of his career. It’s highly likely that by the time the Magic are able to put together a championship-level roster that Vucevic will not be past his prime.
For teams in dire need of big man reinforcements (looking at you, Celtics), Vooch could be a golden parachute.
It seems as if Lonzo Ball’s trade availability changes every week. Last month, the Pelicans appeared ready to move on from him, but since then he’s entrenched himself as a secondary playmaker. The biggest aspect of Ball’s long-term future is whether he can consistently drain jump shots. We know he’s fast, can occasionally create exciting transition opportunities and make plays for others, but the rest of his offensive arsenal has been a mystery.
But this season, he’s really turned a corner in regards to jumpers. Ball is draining almost 39% of his three-point attempts. And if he keeps that up while developing his offensive game, he could morph into the player people expected him to be.
Ball may never be a superstar, sure, but there’s a 10-year career waiting for him if he dedicates himself as an off-ball creator who spaces the floor and defends well. Many teams would be lucky to have that.
Al Horford’s campaign has been a complete 180 from his awkward season in Philadelphia. Now playing full time at the center position, Horford is in a much better space. He’s able to use his mobility to cover ground in the pick-and-roll, and his 36% clip from deep keeps defenses honest in the pick-and-pop game.
The Thunder may be a bottom-dweller this season, but their preferred starting lineup has miraculously outscored opponents, and a large part of that is thanks to Horford’s defensive acumen and willingness to always make the right play on offense.
The factors that could make a deal tricky are that Horford is 34 and is owed $54 million over the next two seasons. He also has $14.5 million guaranteed in the 2022-23 season. But for teams looking for an instant jolt, the future can be dealt with later.
Harrison Barnes has quietly been having the best season of his career amid another sad season in Sac Town. While he used to be known as a simple standstill shooter who converted threes at an average rate, he’s blossomed into a reliable, multi-faceted veteran wing.
Barnes has done it all this season. The Kings play their best ball when he slides up to power forward, where his quickness on offense is difficult to deal with and his underrated strength makes him hard to exploit on defense.
Barnes has been an iron man consistently playing tons of minutes. This season is no different, as Barnes is averaging over 35 minutes per game, good for 12th in the league. He’s also become very comfortable as a ball-handler, where he ranks in the 91st percentile as the ball handler in a pick-and-roll, producing 1.10 points per possession.
Every team could use what Barnes brings. As the Kings accept another losing season, hopefully, we can see Barnes on a winning team soon.
Larry Nance Jr.
Larry Nance Jr. is one of the most underrated players in the league. The 28-year-old big man has proven he’s willing to do anything to win, and he makes so many positive plays that add up over the course of a game. Contending teams should be foaming at the mouth at the thought of acquiring him.
Nance is tied for the league-lead at 3.9 deflections per game, using his long arms and smart instincts to constantly disrupt opposing gameplans. Nance averages almost two steals per game and hits threes at a respectable 38% clip.
He’s also an underrated playmaker and has shown the versatility to play three frontcourt positions. His one downside is he’s injured a good amount, but if he’s healthy by the playoffs, he can be a real boost for a squad looking to take that leap.
Kevin Love has not played a minute of basketball since the calendar flipped to 2021, and while he’s owed a hefty $90 million over the next three seasons, he brings championship-level experience, plus rebounding, floor spacing and playmaking skills. Love’s body has broken down from various injuries over the years, but he can play a valuable role if he’s not asked to carry a team.
Think of him as a super-sub on virtually any playoff roster who has played on the game’s biggest stage before. It’s also clear that the Cavaliers would willingly let him go for just about anything considering their youth movement, but that contract is a sticking point.
If anyone should get dealt, it’s P.J. Tucker.
The 35-year-old bruising power forward has nothing left to add to the lowly Rockets. He'd be much better served using the end of his basketball playing days on a contender, not a franchise sinking to the bottom.
It’s time to reward Tucker by sending him to a winning team. Even though he rarely shoots anymore, Tucker's still a versatile big man who can play both frontcourt positions, as well as stretch the floor.
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