The NBA trade deadline is one week away and and this point, it should be clear which teams are buying and which teams are selling. However, the NBA is never that simple. Teams who are in the middle of the pack in both conferences often fall into a state of limbo, where long-term plans take precedence over short-term gains.
Here’s a look at which teams are buyers and sellers as the deadline looms. There will be a handful of teams placed in the “staying put” zone, as they either don’t have the necessity to add pieces or the luxury of parting ways with assets in their long-term outlook
We’ve already seen teams like the Knicks, Pacers and Heat make additions so they are likely to stay put at the deadline. Miami is always hunting for game-changing talent though. The Celtics probably feel good about themselves as currently constructed, so they’re probably staying put unless a ridiculous offer comes along.
The Bucks and 76ers are the two contenders in the East who should be aggressive. Milwaukee has made drastic moves already and is almost surely going to have a trade. Philadelphia has a lot of assets but is there a piece worth moving those assets for? The Cavaliers are getting their key players back at the right time, and can likely make a move on the fringes of their rotation.
Out West, the Kings are one of the teams to really watch. They were initially in on Pascal Siakam before talks broke down but Sacramento knows it needs to make an addition to contend. The Lakers are probably going to make a move and they are considered buyers despite hovering around .500. Look for the Pelicans and Rockets to also explore moves, with Houston being a sneaky buyer according to the latest reports.
The sellers won’t sell everything, which is important to note. The Trail Blazers and Nets fall into this category, along with the Hawks. The Wizards and Hornets are clear sellers although they might not have much to deal for contenders. The Pistons do have some big pieces to give away, but they’ve reportedly been hesitant to make a move. The Raptors will continue to explore deals for their remaining key players outside of Scottie Barnes.
The one interesting team here is the Warriors, who are still in the play-in mix and can justify pushing forward with the number of close games they’ve played. A few results here and there go the other way and they’re sitting in the play-in zone. However, there’s conversations about Andrew Wiggins and Chris Paul being moved, and Jonathan Kuminga might still want out despite seeing more playing time. This is the most interesting franchise at the deadline not because of what they can do, but because it seems like any moves they make will be a referendum on their dynasty.
There’s a large contingent in this group which spans the gauntlet of contenders, pretenders and tankers. The Spurs and Grizzlies won’t be doing much. The Bulls and Magic are probably staying put, although an insane offer for Zach LaVine could have Chicago making a deal. The Jazz are in a holding pattern as a team too good to tank but not good enough to contend. The Mavericks are hoping for the postseason but might not have much to deal in terms of assets.
The Suns, Nuggets, Clippers, Thunder and Timberwolves sit at the top of the West ready to rock. Oklahoma City and Minnesota would be the only teams who could explore a move, but I’d bet against either of them actually making one. The Thunder could use a backup big man and that likely won’t cost them much, so there’s a low-risk option for a franchise historically hesitant to make big deadline deals.