With the trading deadline about two weeks away, the teams will have to decide on the remainder of the season. If they’re on the up, they can cash out and push for the NBA finals. Or, if a team doesn’t feel like its odds this postseason, they might just stop – or even sell some parts – and look to the next season.
For some teams, that decision is pretty straightforward. The Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic are out of competition and should try to move at least some of their seasoned talent towards future assets – players and / or draft picks – and salary cuts.
For other teams in the postseason bubble, however, the decision is a little more difficult. Who should join the battle over the trading deadline – and which teams could be better off standing still?
Golden State Warriors
If the season ends today, the Warriors would finish ninth in the Western Conference and secure a spot in the league’s new play-in tournament. Fortunately, they still have a lot of games left to gain further ground in the table. In its current form, Golden State is a flawed basketball team whose rotation is filled with untested players and / or those who are limited in their options on the ground.
Even so, despite their poor record a season ago, they are good at the luxury tax, a sign that the owners are still more than willing to do whatever it takes to win.
With that in mind, the wise decision for the Warriors would be to make money. With Stephen Curry you have a chance against almost any team. And they have some tantalizing perks to play in first-round rookie James Wiseman and the Minnesota Timberwolves pick. Became the right deal to show off, the warriors should skip all of them. Curry, 32, has done his best for years – and so have the Warriors to need to capitalize on it.
Curry is also slated to be a free agent by the end of next season. Could the team’s perceived commitment to him to win games at any cost come into play during the negotiations? It is not outside of the realm of the real possibility.
The Boston Celtics are just two games over .500 and fourth in the Eastern Conference. Aside from her two all-stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the roster is full of question marks and unproven role-players. Kemba Walker has not looked like himself since returning from injury, while the bench is once again one of the worst in the league.
Beyond their own draft capital, Danny Ainge’s war chest is now empty as Kyrie Irving, Al Horford and Gordon Hayward have been free for consecutive off-seasons. Ainge has been known to act reluctantly, but now is the time to take a step.
The Celtics have the largest trading exception in NBA history to work with. Tatum and Brown are almost certainly off the table, but could the team try to move Walker? Beyond him, Marcus Smart could prove to be the team’s best asset on any deal as Ainge has historically been reluctant to postpone draft picks and potentially mortgage his team’s future.
Someone like Harrison Barnes could help add some stability to the lineup. Under contract beyond this season, Barnes wouldn’t be a rental and could represent real, long-term value. Besides him, there are certainly players who could add the Celtics to their bank – and they should be aggressive as this team is the furthest away from an NBA Finals contender.
Stay in place
The nuggets have taken a step back this season. However, you shouldn’t overreact and take a move just to make a move. Nikola Jokic has an MVP season. But beyond him, the team was inconsistent at best. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. have slowly started but better lately. Bol Bol has sky-high potential even if he doesn’t play a lot. And lately the nuggets seem to be gaining momentum.
Denver has some of the best young assets in the NBA – but instead of trading them in, the team should keep developing them. There also doesn’t seem to be anyone available who could change the course of his season significantly at the moment. Bradley Beal doesn’t appear to be in the trading market, and right now someone like Victor Oladipo doesn’t seem like the ceiling the Nuggets would want if they decided to make money.
Staying here is the wise decision to let the time keep working through the preseason fog and get the ship right. In a wild season, Denver may be back in the running if its regulars find a night-to-night consistency.
Runner-up in the Western Conference, the suns seem like the dark horse or Cinderella of this season. Sporty top 10 offensive and Defense, led by two elite closers in Devin Booker and Chris Paul, the team is at least ready to see its first postseason since the 2009-10 season. Mikal Bridges has made a leap in its development and the bank is solid. Still, the upper limit of this team seems to depend on how good Deandre Ayton can be.
With this in mind, the suns should try to stay there. You have something that works – and that works really well. Anything they want to add should be on the sidelines, at the end of the banking options that solidify their rotations for the rest of the season and into the playoffs. Any major trade or signing could ruin what they have, while there doesn’t seem to be any obvious big strides for Phoenix.
Apart from Paul, the core of the suns is quite young. This is a team that will be good for a long time. While Phoenix has a lot going for it, it’s not time to pick up all the chips. The suns should stay with what they have.