The 2023-24 NBA trade deadline arrives Thursday at 3 p.m. ET, setting up a wild week where the league’s contenders will look to add game-changing talent for the stretch run while the tankers hope to build up their war chest for future seasons. Before going into a few predictions, here’s a look at the landscape in both conferences and the overall title race.
Five teams in the East have at least 30 wins, although the Celtics and Bucks are a cut above the Cavaliers, Knicks and 76ers. Joel Embiid and Julius Randle being out hurts Philadelphia and New York, while Cleveland is getting some key players back with Darius Garland and Evan Mobley returning from injuries. Six other teams have at least 20 wins, but it feels like only the Nets and Hawks are really in a battle for the final play-in spot at the moment.
The West is a different story. 10 teams have 25 or more wins, with just one game separating the top four teams by record. There are 12 teams in contention for 10 spots if we count the play-in berths. Six of the top 10 teams in DraftKings Sportsbook’s title odds are from the Western Conference.
Here are a few predictions for the trade deadline, along with potential deals and buyout candidates.
The Milwaukee Bucks make a deal for Tyus Jones
The Bucks were in trade rumors for Hawks guard Dejounte Murray, who seems like a surefire candidate to be dealt. However, Milwaukee likely doesn’t have the salary fillers and draft assets to make that kind of move happen. The Bucks could potentially look at a reunion with Malcolm Brogdon as well, but the same issues arise. Jones is on an expiring deal and could be had for a much lower cost. The Wizards point guard would shore up Milwaukee’s defense at the point of attack while also giving Giannis Antetokounmpo another shooter. Moving into a bench role would be an adjustment but the fit is obvious.
Dejounte Murray ends up staying in Atlanta
It feels like the Hawks have been taking two steps back to go one step forward all season. After winning three in a row to get to five games within .500, Atlanta promptly lost four in a row and has now won four in a row going into a tough five-game stretch during deadline week. Murray keeps playing well but the issue now is that he’s on a big contract that has a $31 million player option for the 2027-28 season. That’s a hard commitment to make for a guy who has regressed since his San Antonio days.
The Hawks will shop Murray around but will ultimately end up keeping him. The asking price will be out of the range of most contenders, who will settle for less pricey options.
Dorian Finney-Smith returns to Dallas but Jerami Grant doesn’t go back to Oklahoma City
Finney-Smith fits what Dallas needs, and the Nets know they are on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. There’s probably a desire to bring the combo forward back, especially since he helps the Mavericks defensively while not sacrificing much offensively for them.
On the flip side, Grant coming back to the Thunder doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. Oklahoma City probably does explore the market for a backup big man to take some pressure off Chet Holmgren but a bigger move for Grant doesn’t fit how the franchise traditionally operates.
The Raptors send Jakob Poeltl to New York and Gary Trent Jr. to Los Angeles
Toronto accepted its fate and hit the reset button by sending OG Anunoby to the Knicks and Pascal Siakam to the Pacers. The Raptors continue their teardown by giving New York some more help with Poeltl. Isaiah Hartenstein has filled in well for the injured Mitchell Robinson, but the Knicks do need help down low. Poeltl not only gives them a starting center to push Hartenstein back into his natural bench role, but he brings playoff experience as well.
The Lakers have a big injury issue with Jarred Vanderbilt being out for potentially the season, though Cam Reddish coming back soon should at least provide another reasonable body. The next step is to keep adding shooting around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Trent Jr. can do that, hitting 42.3% of his triples this season. Could Los Angeles send a future pick, Jalen Hood-Schifino and salary filler to make this deal happen? The Lakers won’t want to give up either of D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves, so we’ll see how they operate with those constraints.
Malcolm Brogdon goes to the Pelicans
The Blazers have reportedly been hesitant to deal Brogdon because of the way he’s playing but the reality is there’s no reason for him to be on this team with three guards needing development time. It’s also hard to gauge the guard’s value, largely because he flopped in tremendous fashion during last year’s playoffs. The Pelicans don’t have a true point guard on the roster despite their adamance that Dyson Daniels can make it happen, and they have to take advantage of Zion Williamson being relatively healthy at this stage of the season. Brogdon gives New Orleans a proven point guard who can create for others, shoot the three and play solid defense.
The Pistons don’t deal Bojan Bogdanovic or Alec Burks
This isn’t really that bold of a prediction, even though Bogdanovic would benefit plenty of contenders greatly. Burks hasn’t drawn as much interest, although he’s a nice piece to have on the bench. The reality is Detroit hasn’t really explored making a move with either player despite the Pistons being clearly in the tank zone. Neither player has publicly pushed for a trade either, which is also surprising.
Golden State’s core stays together for the rest of the 2023-24 season
Stephen Curry was never in a position to be dealt. The Warriors signed Draymond Green to an extension in the offseason and have been working with Klay Thompson on a new deal, so it’s hard to see them give up on that. Andrew Wiggins is being included in this “core” group, and he was arguably the second-best player on their 2022 title team. His play has dropped off substantially but the reality is the Warriors are only one game back of the No. 10 spot and should be getting some reinforcements to the rotation with Chris Paul, Moses Moody and Gary Payton II. Wiggins needs to improve his play and the Warriors will give him that chance. Golden State stays put until the summer because Thompson’s free agency will determine what ultimately happens to this dynasty.
Gordon Hayward doesn’t get traded but he does get a buyout
The Hornets aren’t going to find a trade partner for Hayward because of his contract number and current injury. He is far more likely to get a buyout, especially since Charlotte isn’t a contender. Hayward has declined since his days as a fringe All-Star but he’s still a veteran forward who can provide a boost offensively off the bench and has plenty of playoff experience. A contender will pick him up once the Hornets get a buyout done.