The NBA trade deadline is almost upon us. And that generally means chaos.
Contending teams are looking to add pieces that will push them over the edge, players on expiring deals are being shopped around, and as always, anything can happen.
Here are the biggest storylines as the March 26 (AEDT) deadline approaches.
Watch Live coverage every week of the NBA Regular Season with ESPN on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >
Wed, 24 Mar
Wednesday March 24th
TEAMS TO WATCH
Will Boston bite?
Right now, the Boston Celtics aren’t good enough to compete with the Eastern Conference’s best. Now the quesion is: will they do anything with that big ol’ trade exception?
Danny Ainge and the Celtics created a $28.5 million trade war chest when Gordon Hayward landed in Charlotte, and now, they could use a player or two to get them out of the eighth seed hole they find themselves.
According to multiple reports, the Celtics are after Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon, with a framework already in the works.
Per Matt Moore of the Action Network, Boston has offered two first-round picks in a deal centred around Gordon that would also involve Evan Fournier. Moore reports Orlando wants Marcus Smart in return.
“Boston has duly pursued a variety of big men whose teams are resistant to deals: Sacramento’s Harrison Barnes, Atlanta’s John Collins and Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic,” The New York Times’ Marc Stein reported.
“The Celtics now appear focused on Gordon, or perhaps more affordable options like Sacramento’s Nemanja Bjelica or Toronto’s Norman Powell.”
Ranked alongside Boston as one of the two most “desperate” teams at the deadline, according to Stein, the Los Angeles Clippers could look to make a splash.
After last season’s disappointment, and Kawhi Leonard holding a player option for the off-season, the time is now for the Clippers, and they know it.
Los Angeles has been linked with a trade for Lonzo Ball as they look to add some playmaking to a back-court that seriously lacks it. Oklahoma City’s George Hill and Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio are two other names who have been mentioned.
Any trade for Ball would likely require a multi-team structure given their lack of first-round picks to offer for a player who has attracted a fair bit of interest.
Time to panic?
LeBron James is injured. Anthony Davis is still out. And it’s created an interesting dynamic for the Los Angeles Lakers as the deadline approaches.
“This is a time now, the Lakers, who head into Thursday’s (Friday AEDT) trade deadline already looking to address some needs: size, shooting,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said.
“Listen, you’re not replacing LeBron James or AD in a deadline deal — that’s not what they’re trying to do.
“But I think the concern now for the Lakers is … how much ground do they lose in the highly-competitive Western Conference and how does that impact them come playoff time when all of a sudden, if you’re LA, you could be faced with a fairly difficult path back to the NBA Finals based on where you land in the standings here.”
Realistically, a trade looks unlikely for the Lakers, who will be hoping for a quiet deadline day that allows their buyout options to reach the market. According to the Bleacher Report’s Jack Fischer, “you’d be hard-pressed” to find an executive who doesn’t think the Lakers will land Andre Drummond if the big man isn’t traded.
Pacers listening to pitches
The Indiana Pacers are reportedly open to a shake-up with the perennial nearly-men of the East listening to offers for Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis.
That’s according to Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill, who reported the Pacers feel Caris LeVert, who they landed in a trade from the Nets, can run the point if they get a “real deal” for Brogdon.
Maybe more surprisingly is Indiana testing the market for two-time All-Star Sabonis, while largely closing themselves off to the idea of moving Myles Turner.
Averaging 25.8 points a game in March, Victor Oladipo is making a pretty good case as being a guy who can come in and help out a contending team straight away.
After landing in Houston as part of the James Harden mega-trade, the two-time All-Star has looked somewhat uncomfortable on a roster that does very little winning.
Oladipo turned down an extension after joining the Rockets, and will become an unrestricted free agent in the off-season; meaning he represents a short-term rental option in the second half of the campaign.
That makes the asking price a little tricky as teams won’t be willing to part with anything substantial unless they feel they can convince Oladipo to sign a long-term deal.
Nevertheless, the market for Oladipo is there. The Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors have previously been linked, while more recently the New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons have been revealed as potential suitors.
“[The] New York Knicks are going to be involved here,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said. “And sort of a surprise team, the Detroit Pistons are lurking around to try and keep Oladipo long-term.”
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, there is a “strong confidence” in the Houston front office that a trade partner will be found before the deadline.
Wojnarowski reports offers have included young players and first-round pick combinations.
Will Lowry leave?
It’s hard to imagine Kyle Lowry on a team that isn’t the Toronto Raptors, but that reality could come sooner rather than later.
The soon-to-be 35-year-old guard is reportedly a player of interest among a host of contending teams, with the veteran linked with the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers.
Miami is said to be Lowry’s preferred destination if he’s dealt, due to his relationship with Jimmy Butler. Any Heat trade would have to include either Tyler Herro or Duncan Robinson going the other way, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reported, with Goran Dragic or Kelly Olynyk likely to be involved to balance the deal, money-wise.
While Toronto looks out of title contention this season, it’s hard to tell how ready and willing they’ll be to help out their fellow Eastern Conference rivals.
If Philadelphia was to make a move, they’d almost certainly have to include a starter — probably Danny Green — in the deal considering Lowry’s expiring $30.5 million contract.
“The Sixers crave Lowry’s floor leadership and defensive savvy after losing out to the Nets in the Harden sweepstakes,” The New York Times’ Marc Stein wrote.
“The Heat want to team Lowry, who will be a free agent this summer, with his good friend Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo in what would be a rugged three-man core of noted two-way players.”
The Clippers were reportedly eyeing a move for Lowry, but were ultimately “dissuaded by the contract obstacle”, according to The Athletic’s Sam Amick.
Meanwhile, Lowry’s teammate, Norm Powell, is even more likely to move before the deadline with Sportsnet’s Michael Grange labelling a trade “close to inevitable”.
Powell, who is averaging 19.6 points a game and shooting 44.8 percent from three, is likely to turn down his player option in the off-season to cash in on his career year. So, if Toronto want to get something for the 27-year-old, the time is now.
Going after Gordon
It’s hard to believe that Aaron Gordon is only 25-years-old.
But it’s true.
And the Magic forward may finally be on his way out of Orlando as a number of franchises circle ahead of the deadline.
Sitting on an incredibly team-friendly four-year, $80 million deal that expires at the end of next season, Gordon represents the sort of forward option that a number of competing and building rosters are looking to add.
Gordon reportedly asked for a trade last month, and it appears his wish could be granted with a bunch of franchises jockeying for position.
A “last-minute hiccup” killed a deal that would have seen Gordon land in Houston in exchange for Oladipo, while Boston has reportedly emerged as the frontrunner.
Watch for Gordon’s Orlando teammates, Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier, to potentially attract interest at the deadline.
Everybody loves Lonzo
Not that long ago the Pelicans were reported to be testing the market for Lonzo Ball. Now, they’re trying to hold onto him as a number of NBA teams come calling for the elite playmaker and improved scorer.
A purple patch has come at the right time for Ball, who will hit restricted free agency at the end of the season, and likely attract offers larger than what New Orleans will be willing to pay.
The Clippers, Bulls, Hawks, and Nuggets have been linked with the 23-year-old, who is averaging 14.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 5.6 assists on the season.
BIG BUYOUT CANDIDATES
To buy out, or not to buy out? That is the question.
While the Cleveland Cavaliers remain optimistic that they’ll be able to swing a deal for Andre Drummond, there is reportedly growing scepticism around the league.
That’s according to cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor, who reported the Cavaliers front office understands the “return will be low’, if they get anything for the big man who is owed $28.7 million this season, before becoming a free agent.
If Drummond is moved via trade, the difficulty will exist in matching contracts. Most contending teams won’t be willing to include the pieces that can make the deal work, which is why many view a buyout as likely.
“I do think there’s a couple of things on the board possibly maybe in three-way situations where they can get enough salaries moved around,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said.
“Ultimately, all Cleveland’s really going to try to get out of this is what they put into it last year when traded [for] him from Detroit. If they can get a second-round pick for him, and not have to do the buyout and get some value back for him, I think they’ll do it. It’s just going to be hard at his salary. If he decides he wants to go on the buyout market, certainly Lakers, Nets are at the top of the list for him there.”
Whether it be via trade or buyout, LaMarcus Aldridge is on his way out of San Antonio.
And with the Heat high on his shortlist, Aldridge could ultimately pave the way for Miami to go and land Lowry too.
“But the interesting thing here is that if LaMarcus Aldridge can secure a buyout with the San Antonio Spurs, Miami is believed to be high on his list,” Windhorst said on SportsCenter.
“If they can add Aldridge, they can maybe use some of their forward assets to trade for Lowry. Watch for Miami to make a big swing, whether they connect or not, we’ll have to see.”
Others name to watch in the buyout market
JJ Redick (New Orleans Pelicans)
JaVale McGee (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Gorgui Dieng (Memphis Grizzlies)
Hassan Whiteside (Sacramento Kings)
Austin Rivers (New York Knicks)
George Hill (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Otto Porter Jr. (Chicago Bulls)