Eastern Notes: Hornets, Magic, Middleton, Fields, Raptors

The Hornets and Magic are among the seemingly lottery-bound teams who have yet to show much aggressiveness in trade discussions involving veterans, multiple sources tell Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.

“One of the unintended consequences of the play-in tournament is a chilling of the trade market,” one Eastern Conference executive told Pincus. “When almost the whole league can make the (play-in), you just don’t have as many sellers in December or January. End of the month, we’ll see more action leading into February.”

According to Pincus, the fact that virtually no teams are attempting to create cap room for the summer of 2023 could also be a factor in slowing down the in-season trade market.

“Nobody wants cap space this summer,” a Western Conference executive said. “The really bad teams are so bad, they can keep their (quality veterans) too. There aren’t any fire sales like we saw last year with Portland, but (even) that was for the purpose of retooling.”

While it’s true that we haven’t seen much action yet, we still have more than a month until the February 9 trade deadline arrives, so it’s too early to draw too many conclusions about this season’s market — I expect more sellers to emerge in the coming weeks and plenty of trades to be made as the deadline gets closer.

Here’s more from around the East:

  • Khris Middleton will accompany the Bucks on their four-game road trip that begins on Monday in New York, but head coach Mike Budenholzer was noncommittal when asked if the star forward would play at all during the trip, which runs through next Saturday. Asked if there was any concern that Middleton’s right knee soreness might be an issue that requires surgery, Budenholzer simply replied, “No” (Twitter links via Eric Nehm of The Athletic).
  • At age 34, Hawks general manager Landry Fields is one of the youngest heads of basketball operations in the NBA, but his rise through the front office ranks at such a young age became possible only because his playing career ended prematurely, as Howie Kussoy of The New York Post (subscription required) writes in a feature on the former Knicks wing. “I look back and I’m super proud of the fact that I was able to get to the NBA and experience some of that NBA success, Fields said. “… But there’s also this sadness to it. I was really thinking there’d be so much more. I thought there’d be 10-plus years in the NBA.”
  • The player development magic that has helped make the Raptors successful in the past has vanished this season, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. The team doesn’t have enough reliable rotation players to complement its top guys and has had to rely too heavily on its starters, as Koreen and Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca observe.
  • While some of those top Raptors players, such as Fred VanVleet, are seemingly having down years, Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca argues that the Raptors have failed VanVleet more than he has failed the team — the former All-Star point guard has had to carry too substantial a workload due to Toronto’s lack of solid backcourt depth.
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