In the days leading up to the February 23 trade deadline, Hoops Rumors will be taking a closer look at each of the NBA’s 30 teams, by division. We’ll be identifying each team as a buyer, seller, or something in between, and discussing which teams and players are most likely to be involved in deals this month. We’ve already covered the Atlantic, Northwest, and Southeast. Today, we’re examining the Pacific.
As the odds-on favorite to win the 2017 NBA championship, the Warriors (47-9) are undoubtedly buyers rather than sellers, but the team may not be overly active within the next few days. Adding another reliable guard or rim protector would provide the roster with a little additional depth as the playoffs approach, but Golden State doesn’t have any glaring holes that need to be filled, and the team isn’t brimming with expendable trade assets. With huge max deals for Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant looming, the Warriors may need to rely on young, inexpensive players like Patrick McCaw, Kevon Looney, and Damian Jones to assume regular rotation roles in future seasons, so it makes sense to hang onto them rather than to dangle them in search of a minor upgrade.
The Clippers (35-21) will likely look a little harder for an upgrade than the Warriors, but like Golden State, their trade assets are limited. A 2021 pick is the earliest first-rounder Los Angeles could move, and as the Carmelo Anthony rumors proved, adding an impact player would probably require giving up one or more rotation players out of a group that includes Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford, and J.J. Redick. If the Clippers were willing to make Blake Griffin available and really reshape their roster, things could get interesting, but there’s no indication that’s on the table at all. If L.A. makes a move, it’s far more likely be a small one.
The Lakers (19-39) have a huge incentive to sell their productive veterans to ensure a bottom-three finish this season, since they’ll give up their 2017 first-rounder to the Sixers if it doesn’t fall in the top three. The outcome for that pick will have further ramifications as well — if the Lakers lose their 2017 first-rounder, they’ll owe their 2019 first-rounder to Orlando. If they keep their 2017 pick, they’ll send a pair of second-round picks to the Magic instead.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, their list of “productive veterans” isn’t long. Lou Williams, the team’s leading scorer, is the most obvious trade candidate on the roster, and Nick Young could draw interest. But newly-signed vets like Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov don’t have much value. The Lakers will also have to figure out how newly-hired advisor Magic Johnson fits into the front office as he continues to talk about wanting to “call the shots” on the club’s roster moves.
Somewhere in between:
Despite being nine games below .500, the Kings (24-33) currently hold the No. 9 spot in the Western Conference, leading the way among the clubs threatening to knock Denver out of the No. 8 seed. Team ownership would love to get into the postseason, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Sacramento try to fortify its roster with a veteran piece or two at the deadline. On the other hand, with Rudy Gay out for the season and DeMarcus Cousins already a good bet to sign an extension with the team (given the money he’d lose by heading elsewhere), it’s possible the Kings won’t be quite as motivated to land short-term pieces as they otherwise might have been.
As for the Suns (18-39), they’re currently dead last in the West, and even though the group of teams competing for the No. 8 seed is weak, that shouldn’t inspire Phoenix to buy. Nonetheless, the team reportedly remains on the lookout for a deal in which it could package a handful of assets for a star player, having contacted the Kings about Cousins earlier in the year. Cousins is unavailable, but if there any other stars land on the trade block, Phoenix is a club to watch — the Suns are eager to make a splash.
Team most likely to make a move:
My vote here is for the Kings. Trailing the Nuggets for a playoff spot by just a game and a half, Sacramento has reason to believe that an extra piece could make the difference. The team currently doesn’t have enough minutes to go around for all of its young players, and likely wouldn’t be opposed to parting with at least one of them in a deal. And if the Kings don’t mind shaking up their rotation a little, veterans like Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo, and Kosta Koufos would make decent trade chips.
Player(s) most likely to be moved:
There’s little reason for the Suns not to take the best offer they can get for P.J. Tucker, who will be a free agent this summer and could help a contender in need of a wing defender. The Lakers and Lou Williams fall into this category as well, though Williams remains under contract for one more year at an affordable salary ($7MM). If the Lakers don’t move him now, they could still do so in the summer, or at next year’s deadline. I’ll give the edge to Tucker as the one more likely to be moved, given Williams’ contract situation and the changes afoot in L.A.’s front office.
Under-the-radar trade candidate(s):
A report in November suggested that the Kings were open to moving Willie Cauley-Stein, but team sources downplayed that idea and his name hasn’t really surfaced in trade rumors since then. Still, even though he has received more consistent minutes lately, Cauley-Stein hasn’t been a regular part of Dave Joerger‘s rotation for much of the year, playing just 13.0 MPG overall (compared to 21.4 MPG in his rookie season). The sixth overall pick still has plenty of promise and should have a fair amount of trade value, so perhaps the Kings will consider moving him in a deal for someone whom Joerger’s coaching staff would view as more reliable.
What do you think is in store for the Pacific teams over the next five days? Which teams are most likely to make a deal? Which players will be on the move?
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.