The NBA’s trade market has been particularly active during the 2019 offseason, with teams completing a total of 43 deals since the 2018/19 regular season ended. According to Sean Deveney of Heavy.com, executives around the league expect that trend to continue into the 2019/20 season, leading up to the February trade deadline.
“We’ve been getting calls all summer,” a general manager told Deveney. “There are a lot of things we are considering. The dust settles a little, you’re aware of your weaknesses and your holes and so you find ways to address that. I think we’re going to see more of that than usual. I think if you look at the market, there is going to be a very brisk trade market this winter for a few reasons.”
As Deveney explains, one of the reasons why teams expect a “brisk” trade market is the lack of a clear-cut championship favorite. The Lakers, Clippers, Rockets, Jazz, Bucks, Sixers, and a handful of other clubs all have title aspirations, and some of those teams may believe that one or two in-season moves could help push them over the top. Meanwhile, clubs a level or two below that top tier of contenders might feel pressure to make additional moves, especially if they made major changes during the 2019 offseason.
“A lot of teams made big moves and spent a lot of their owners’ money,” a front office executive said to Deveney. “If things don’t start the way they want, you’re under pressure to make some short-term decisions and that should drive a lot of trade talk the whole year.”
A weak 2020 free agent class may also contribute to additional in-season trade activity, Deveney notes. If Anthony Davis opts to re-sign with the Lakers, the top unrestricted free agents on the market next summer will be players like DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond, and Kyle Lowry — and perhaps Mike Conley and Gordon Hayward if they turn down lucrative player options.
Those are good players, but they represent a step down from a 2019 free agent class headlined by the likes of Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, and Kemba Walker. And if teams don’t believe they’ll have a chance to land impact players in free agency, it may be in their best interest to be more aggressive filling their projected 2020 cap space via trades.