Predicting the Biggest Buyers and Sellers Ahead of the 2019 NBA Trade Deadline: The Buyers
One of the biggest dates on the NBA calendar is rapidly approaching: the trade deadline. Front offices around the Association have until 3pm Eastern Standard on the afternoon of Thursday, February 7th to try and strike a deal and make meaningful changes to their roster. And as that date nears, organizations must take a hard look in the mirror and make some honest assessments about their respective futures.
The trade deadline can be the moment where a team eyeing a deep postseason run brings in that final piece. Likewise, it can be a moment for a team to get a head start on free agency and prepare for next season.
In 2015, trade deadline acquisition Isaiah Thomas powered the Celtics to a playoff berth. A single player can turn the tide for a team on the bubble. Likewise, between Pau Gasol, Rasheed Wallace, and Clyde Drexler, we’ve seen how deadline trades aide a team in reaching or even winning a title.
Here’s a few teams that should make a move ahead of this season’s NBA trade deadline:
Milwaukee Bucks: Buyers
Now, usually a team with the league’s best record has little need to be active at the trade deadline. Why would the Milwaukee rock what has been a very successful boat? There’s two key reasons.
First and foremost, the Bucks are a one-trick pony. A frightening, imposing one-trick pony, but regardless, take Giannis Antetokounmpo out of the equation and Milwaukee is a paper tiger. Trading for George Hill was a good place to start, but the Bucks will need that a well-oiled crop of role players to compete against the likes of the Raptors or Celtics.
Bringing in a player of Beal’s caliber wouldn’t just be a way to get ready for the playoffs. Once Anthony Davis’ situation is resolved, the NBA big market trade sharks will immediately focus their attention of Antetokounmpo. The Bucks have two seasons to prove to the Greek Freak Milwaukee is the right place to be. A proactive approach would be wise.
Orlando Magic: Buyers
The Magic haven’t made the playoffs since 2012, meaning the team owns the third longest playoff drought in the NBA. And while everyone and their mother - myself included - has cooked up trade packages for Nikola Vucevic and others, it seems more likely that Orlando will look to take on talent rather than unload it at the deadline.
For the first time in a while, the Magic are within striking distance of a postseason berth. This is a club with a few too many centers and in desperate need of a point guard. I believe head coach Steve Clifford could help this team get over the hump with a more balanced roster. From Dennis Smith Jr to Terry Rozier, there are ways for the Magic to go out and make a personal upgrade.
At the same time, Orlando has won a few too many games at this point to tank and try for a top draft pick this spring. Stripping the roster down, even for high-level assets, would at this point leave the Magic impossibly uncompetitive for the remainder of the season and the foreseeable future.
Orlando isn’t a free agent destination. It joins a few other teams that should use the trade deadline to build not just for the playoffs but for their own pre-agency. Detroit, Memphis, and Charlotte are all also in a sort of purgatory between postseason contention and tanking. In fact, between these clubs, I would imagine some follow the Magic as buyers at the deadline, while others may indeed look to sell.
Portland Trail Blazers: Buyers
Lost in the chaos that is the Western Conference has been the rather prosperous campaign the Trail Blazers have put together this year. After all, the team is a convincing four-seed at the moment.
The problem is that Portland is simply missing another gear. The team is 9th in offense, 13th in defense, and 11th in net rating. Which is to say the Blazers are definitely good, but probably not great.
The team is especially thin on the wing. We know about their stellar backcourt. And Jusuf Nurkic has been playing extremely well as of late. However between Al-Farouq Aminu, Moe Harkless, and Evan Turner, the Blazers just aren’t getting enough at the small forward position.
Things will be tricky for Portland; they don’t have the easiest contracts to move. I still expect the Blazers to swing for a trade. Otherwise the team is destined for yet another disappointing postseason exit.