Power brokers of the NBA trade deadline: Why Bulls, Pacers, Blazers and Thunder will dominate the rumor mill

There has been a great deal of consternation over the impact of championship play on the NBA’s trading deadline. Even if the frontier teams benefit from more robust rebuilds, creating two additional false qualifying points will inevitably motivate the short-sighted to chase victories…and generate millions of dollars from playoff matches back home at the gate. As of this writing, only one Western Conference team (the Houston Rockets) is more than two games out of the No. 10 seed. There are four in the East, but one of them is the Eastern Conference runner-up Atlanta Hawks. No matter what Cam Reddish trades, they don’t sell.

So we’re approaching the February 10 deadline in which sellers have been artificially curtailed, but that doesn’t mean we’re overflowing with buyers either. As we’ve covered, the vast majority of the competing NBA class are constrained in the type of venture capital they can compromise on mid-season improvements. As it stands now, the Memphis Grizzlies are the only team near the top of the rankings that have complete freedom of movement with their picks. Everyone else is at least partially locked to Steppin.

Logically speaking, a season with fewer willing sellers and fewer flexible buyers would generate a somewhat lackluster trading deadline. This is not how the modern NBA works. There will be a lot of movement on the deadline because there is a lot of movement on every deadline. Only a few teams will be required to spur that move this time around because they are uniquely qualified to facilitate the type of moves that will dominate this particular deadline. These four teams stand out as the power brokers in the season trade market.

Jupiter rarely has as much deadline power as the current No. 1 East seed does this season. why? Consider the most important commodity on this deadline: the versatile, cool-forward commodity. Jerami Grant and Harrison Barnes may be available. Robert Covington certainly is. TJ Warren would probably be available at a reasonable price if a competitor wanted to make a big swing. Marcus Morris looms as another option in this usually sparse archetype. Every team wants players like this. Few have enough of them. But see what the contenders can offer.

The Lakers, Jazz, Nets, Mavericks, Nuggets and Heat have a very limited equity offering, and most sellers aren’t particularly interested in first-round picks after five or six years. Phoenix has a little more flexibility when it comes to picks, basically working with being able to tackle the first round in 2024, 2026 and 2028 if she really wants to, but how valuable are the Suns picks, really? If Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton, and Mikal Bridges are long-term, these picks will likely be in their twenties. Arguably, the talent in the most important position in the NBA far exceeds what most buyers of the league can pay for. Except for the bulls.

Chicago had been hoping Patrick Williams, seeded fourth in 2020, would fill his void up front and eventually grow to become a co-star for Zach LaVine. The Bulls’ hopes were dashed in the first when he underwent wrist surgery that toppled him for this season. Their hopes for the latter are very much alive, but it’s worth asking how much Chicago values ​​its future compared to its extraordinarily promising present. Bulls are ranked #1 in the Eastern Conference Immediately. The Nets lost Kevin Durant for 4-6 weeks to a knee injury, and Kyrie Irving is still unable to play home games. The Bucks family has no idea when Brooke Lopez will be healthy. The Bulls may not have a clearer path to the NBA Finals than they do this season. Nikola Vucevic is 31 years old and Demar DeRozan is 32 years old. This window will not open forever.

A significant upgrade to the starting point currently occupied by Javonte Green is their best chance of crawling through that window and claiming the 2022 Championship. Williams is not only their ticket for that upgrade, it’s the only big-ticket item available to all of these vendors. Bulls are in a somewhat unique position as a buyer because they are essentially able to choose their seller. They don’t have to convince the Pistons to trade Grant or the Kings to trade Barnes. It is up to those teams to convince the Bulls that they should trade Williams, because even after surgery at the end of the season, he has shown such a surge last season that no other buyer has a trading chip of nearly the same value.

Bulls may be able to circumvent the traditional seller-buyer mold entirely by using a chip like Williams. It might be worth making a call to the Toronto Raptors, for example, and finding out how scorching heat is available Pascal Siakam? He’s definitely been in trade rumors in the past, and 20-year-old Williams fits more comfortably in the schedule of Raptors primary strikers OG Anunoby and Scottie Barnes than 27-year-old Siakam. Toronto probably isn’t entirely interested in shedding all-star rejuvenation, but it’s a worthwhile call with such a valuable asset as Williams’ offering. Toronto made its way out of racing play by the season. Masai Ujiri always prioritizes the long-term health of his franchise.

The Pistons and Kings don’t move Grant or Barnes until Chicago makes a decision on Williams. Bulls may be justified in asking for additional assets if they send their best young prospect. The rest of the NBA is very hopeful that the Bulls will keep Williams, not only to avoid creating a more dangerous rival in Chicago, but also to keep the price of the available strikers at more reasonable levels.

Quantity may be limited in terms of sellers, but this trade deadline makes up for it in quality. The Indiana Pacers and the Portland Trail Blazers, in between, are likely to shop just about every type of player a winner could want. Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner and Jusuf Nurkic check nearly every square in the middle between the three of them. Covington is the coveted 3D winger, although he really is a backing defender. Warren lottery ticket. Norman Powell is a three-point circumference recorder, Caris LeVert is a two-point circumference recorder. There is even a chance, albeit somewhat limited, that Damian Lillard’s true star will become available between now and the day of the deadline. Buyers have theoretical access to just about anything they might need in the trading market. It only focuses on fewer sellers.

But the fact that there are so few sellers gives the two largest sellers an excessive amount of power over the largest number of sellers. Teams interested in positions, for example, cannot take advantage of teams that hold Turner and Sabonis against each other because one team owns both teams. These two teams are somewhat rare among sellers in that they both have delusions of grandeur…or at least enough. When Orlando handled half of his players last season, he did so exclusively for select and youth players.

There is not much evidence to suggest that these teams prioritize the same things. Portland still seems desperate to put a winner around Lillard even without a permanent GM in place. Indiana simply never did tanks. The Pacers have had the playoffs in all but seven seasons since 1989. That’s a statistic the series can be proud of. It may not result in particularly effective long-term list building, but Indiana likely prefers reordering rather than rebuilding. Portland seems to be in the same boat.

This puts the contenders in a rather interesting position. Are they willing to sacrifice key players for upgrades rather than draft picks? Will these teams even view the players Indiana and Portland have to offer as major upgrades if they have to give up now lucrative assets to get them? These are philosophical questions that each team will answer differently, but they create an unusual deal-making atmosphere. The kind of commercial chips that usually get deals at this time of year may not be what matters in 2022.

Get used to hearing Sam Presti’s name on the trade deadline, because with 17 first-round picks in the next seven drafts, he’ll have the ability to outbid any buyer of any veteran the moment he decides the young Thunder is ready to start winning. That switch is still a year or two away from tipping over, but Oklahoma City has an entirely different kind of power in the 2022 trade deadline. Oklahoma City is essentially a league banker. Keep in mind the following:

  • Oklahoma City has the potential to generate approximately $34 million in cover space.
  • We need to specify that they can create this space instead of actually owning it because the Thunder chose to stay above the max in order to keep the max exceptions. For Deadline purposes, this means that Thunder has two large commercial exceptions (one for $12.8 million and one for $8 million) that they can use without being technically subject to the cap.
  • Regardless of their position as a team that technically operates above the bar, the Thunder are still just under $22 million short of the league’s minimum salary of $101 million. They don’t have to reach that number, as teams can choose to make up the difference by distributing it among the players already on their roster, but it’s significantly cheaper to go over the bottom line on the deadline. When a team acquires a player mid-season, their full-season cap number is important in their books…but they just need to pay the remainder in their contract to a player that their original team didn’t pay. Cheap teams often use this trick to save money, and after years in luxury tax hell, you can bet the Thunder is looking for savings wherever possible.
  • This last year in Oklahoma City will be under cover for a while as Shay Gilgus-Alexander’s maximum contract begins next season. In other words, you can use it or waste time for thunder.
  • Thunder tends not to be stingy when it comes to compromising players in order to make places on the roster. This makes them ideal facilitators in unbalanced deals, as few teams have empty places on the roster in which to accommodate players. Thunder already had one slate spot open.

This financial flexibility essentially gives Thunder the freedom to do whatever he wants on a deadline, no matter how crazy he is. Heck, if they wanted to (and didn’t), they’re the only NBA team in a reasonable position to accommodate Russell Westbrook’s contract.

At a minimum, there are a few teams that are almost certain to come calling before the February 10 bell rings. Boston and Portland would almost certainly try to steer clear of the tax line if possible, for example, and Thunder is their best chance of doing so. Don’t be surprised when Oklahoma City extracts some value in the process. The Lakers are emerging as another potential victim. Their unusual salary structure of having only players (Talinn Horton Tucker and Kendrick Noone) earning more than the minimum but less than the maximum means that they will almost certainly have to include one or two of these minimum salaries if they hope to match the salary on a player the influence. Someone needs to absorb those contracts, and there’s a good chance that’s Thunder.

But Presti is a big hunter, and you can bet he’ll try to make his way into whatever blockbuster movies might come out between now and February. Even if he wasn’t the one going down to star, he’d happily take some poor GM’s unsuspecting pick or two for the privilege of doing it themselves. Oklahoma City already has 17 first-round picks in the next seven drafts. Don’t be surprised if Thunder Land number 18 in the next few weeks.

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