NBA fans love the smell of trading season in the morning, and the aromatic emissions are more pungent in some cities than others. While diff like Boston CelticsAnd Denver Nuggets And Memphis Grizzlies They can look on to their teams with confidence heading into the February 9 trade deadline, while others look down their roster holes like LeBron James staring at JR Smith.
Therefore, different levels of urgency are applied to every front office in the NBA. We decided to take a look at the five franchises facing the most pressure ahead of the 2023 trade deadline.
minimum: Poor performances and a lack of continuity due to injuries created a sense of urgency for a pre-season title favorite that was decidedly mediocre.
“Hey, don’t you know that when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are on the court together…” Blah, blah, blah. At this point, the championship-contending Clippers exist in a parallel universe with Hot Dog Fingers and Raccacoonie. In this universe — that matters — they are the . 500 team with the fourth-worst offense in the NBA. Leonard and George have only played 18 games together, and they are 11-7. Not exactly instilling confidence.
The good news is that this roster is perfectly designed for the trade, with mid-level salaries that can be used as filler for a bigger deal or swapped in for a better player at a similar cost. Nick Batum, Reggie Jackson, Robert Covington, Luke Kennard, Marcus Morris Sr. and Norman Powell all make $10-16 million, and Jackson’s contract is the only one that expires at the end of this season. The Clippers also (finally) have a first-round pick to dangle in a trade, and given the team’s current state with two aging stars, the 2028 pick could look very interesting to a potential partner.
Point Guard is the most obvious area ripe for improvement, as Jackson has taken a step back this season and the Clippers have a net rating of -6.6 with John Wall on the floor. Wall’s salary of $6.4 million could prove useful in the trade, with potential targets such as Utah Jazz Mike Connelly’s veterinarian – Bigger swing – wild birds Point guard Fred VanVleet.
This team is built for championships, as we’ve come so close two seasons in, but for the time being it feels like something has to happen, if for nothing else than to shake off the malaise. Leonard is starting to play like his old self, and the last thing you want to do is waste a healthy season out of him, because we don’t know how much is left. The urgency is certainly present in the Clippers.
2. Toronto Raptors
minimum: With so many impact players heading towards a deadline that they lack, it might be a good time for the Raptors to sell their pieces and look to the future.
Toronto is listed by our Sam Quinn as one of the potentialswhere the team has an abundance of rare commodities – players that can really affect the opposing team’s winning chances.
Reportedly, the two-way OG Anunoby grumbled about his role in the crime, and will be ruling a major extension in the near future. All-Star point guard Fred Van Fleet has yet to come to terms on his extension and will almost certainly opt out of the final year of his deal to enter free agency this season if they fail to reach an agreement. Gary Trent Jr. is also likely to refuse. The 38-percent career high-volume 3-point shooter has lost his option after this season and is entering the free agent market. If you want to think bigger, All-NBA forward Pascal Siakam — whose contract expires after next season — might also be available if Masai Ujiri and the front office receive an offer they simply can’t refuse.
The pressure on the Raptors at this trade deadline revolves around an important decision: blow it out, stand it or something in between.
With Scotty Barnes’ Player of the Year honors supposedly off the table, the organization needs to determine which, if any, Anunoby, VanVleet, Trent and Siakam are a key part of the future. 500 and no money in the books past 2023-24 outside of Chris Boucher, the Raptors are a legitimate tank/rebuild candidate. All of these pieces will bring in big assets, and the rest of this season will be dedicated to Victor Wimpanyama’s Scott Henderson sweepstakes entry. A core built around Barnes, this year’s draft and any young players they bring in trades wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world — see how the Utah Jazz managed to stay relevant despite trading two All-NBA players.
Conversely, the Raptors could decide that this is, in fact, the foundation on which they were built to win the title, and the first half of this season was just a fluke that will soon be corrected. Remember, the Boston Celtics were under .500 this time last year, before they were suddenly unbeatable and racing to the second seed in the Eastern Conference and an NBA Finals appearance. Trading a cut of Toronto for marginal improvements sounds like a half measure, but that’s also an option.
The point is, the Raptors have to make a firm decision, which comes with a lot of pressure.
minimum: The Warriors’ problems this season could be addressed with a trade, but they’ll have to concede their bridge to the future in the process.
There’s no way around that: the defending champions have struggled this season. aHe said the Warriors front office is not expected to trade any of their three former lottery picks — James Wiseman, Jonathan Cuminga and Moses Moody — before the deadline, but that always comes with a “subject to change” caveat. Given that Wiseman is likely to be in any significant trade the Golden State makes, another quiet deadline appears to be on the horizon.
However, there is always – Always – The urgency to maximize Steve Curry’s great window. The Warriors moved from second in defensive efficiency last season to 14th this year, underscoring the importance of Otto Porter Jr. and Gary Payton II in the championship rotation. Of the three youngsters, only Kuminga seems marginally willing to contribute to the playoffs preparation, and even he’s been up and down. Donte DiVincenzo was an excellent addition, but JaMychal Green – expected to fill his role as the mobile, convertible big guy – hasn’t quite worked out so far.
Adding a player like Jakob Poeltl as a sized backup center (something the Warriors are sorely lacking unless Wiseman quickly figures things out) would likely help the defense, but they’ll have to get rid of Wiseman to match the salary. Same if they go for a great winger like Jalen McDaniels. The Warriors can always stand by in the acquisition market, but will someone like Rudy Gay take you to the top?
Keep in mind that the Golden State also doesn’t want a salary that would add to a hefty luxury tax bill, so anyone they trade for is likely to be renting an expired deal. Would you knock off one of your picks in the little lottery for a few months of winning now?
Most teams would say no, but the Warriors have the core of an old championship armed with one of the best players in history at his peak – making things a little more difficult before the deadline, for sure.
minimum: Luka Doncic is a one-man show, and it might be time to make a move to show goodwill to a generational star.
Although Mark Cuban insisted on it I misunderstood it. ESPN’s Tim McMahon I reported earlier this month that Luka Doncic had “strongly indicated” that he wanted the Mavericks to upgrade the roster before the trade deadline. When a 23-year-old test MVP candidate feels about needing more help, there’s strong pressure to oblige. And can you really blame him?
Doncic is playing at historic levels, but the Mavs have been hovering around .500 for most of the season due in part to the loss of a running mate – Jalen Brunson – to New York Knicks This is an offseason. Dallas offered no sensible, logical replacement for Brunson, and the addition of Christian Wood hurt the defense as much as it helped the offense. What remains is that the Mavericks are unable to win most games unless Doncic goes ballistic – which, luckily for them, happens frequently.
The Mavs have the salaries of Wood, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Spencer Dinwiddie to play for, along with plenty of future draft picks available. What gets them, and what they’re willing to give up, remains to be seen. Can the front office convince Doncic that holding onto their assets for a big swing later is smarter than getting marginal help now around the periphery? Will the infamous Doncic open with the concept of kicks in a season where he’s, conservatively, one of the five best players in the NBA?
Doncic’s free agency is still a long way off in real life (2026), but from an NBA perspective it’s getting closer fast. The last thing you want to do is make any mistake that could ultimately help drive Doncic towards the door, so the Mavericks have to handle this situation delicately and wisely.
minimum: LeBron James doesn’t want to spend the last days of his career on a mediocre team, but the front office and ownership seem reluctant to use future assets to take what could be a losing shot in contention.
Recently, LeBron James: “You know what should happen.” Unfortunately, there have been many different iterations throughout Laker land as to exactly what should happen. Trade Russell Westbrook? Keep Westbrook but trade Patrick Beverley? Trade Anthony Davis? Trade LeBron himself?
Whichever version you think is the wiser, it’s hard to argue that the Lakers have any chance of winning an NBA title with their current roster, so there has to be a turnover — whether it’s before the trade deadline or in free agency this upcoming season. James doesn’t seem willing to wait, but the fact he’s signed an extension that takes him through next season at least takes some of the pressure off the front office.
However, there is an urgent need. The Lakers front office showed just as much on Monday,.
James, who would soon be the league’s all-time leading scorer, averages nearly 30 points per game and shoots nearly 60 percent on two-pointers. Davis, when briefly healthy, looked like the most dominant player in the league. Despite all the blows taken due to his late-game decision making (or lack of decision making), Westbrook has performed well since being moved to the bench, putting up 16.5 points, 7.9 assists, and 6.5 rebounds on 44 percent shooting. as a backup. New coach Darvin Hamm appears to have the Lakers playing tough on both ends. Something is out there, no matter how weak a candle.
It seems Westbrook has traded for the Indiana duo of Buddy Hield and Myles Turner since the dawn of time, PacersThe recent collapse in the absence of Tyrese Halliburton could make this deal somewhat more realistic for them. The sticking point in any Westbrook deal has always been the 2027 and/or 2029 first round Lakers will have to put up as compensation. One view is that you owe For James and your fan base to do everything while still performing at that level.The flip side is that no deal on the table will really make the Lakers title contenders this season, so why not keep your chips until next summer, when you also have plenty of room due to a contract out Westbrook Books.
You can certainly see both sides, but when the King announces he wants to make a move, it adds to the level of pressure on Rob Pelinka and Co.
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