From the Super Bowl to All-Star Weekend, the arrival of February ushers in a whirlwind of events in the professional sports world. While both contests represent the pinnacle of athletic excellence, there is one other happening that shouldn’t be overlooked: the NBA trade deadline. With the cutoff of Feb. 9 fast approaching, the Daily Californian Sports staff offers its opinions.
Who needs to make a move at the deadline this week?
Kyle Ngo: The Atlanta Hawks are much too talented of a team to be sitting with a record of 27-27 at the trade deadline. Trae Young and Dejounte Murray are both averaging 21+ points per game, but something isn’t adding up if that is merely putting Atlanta even in the win/loss column. The major player to move here is John Collins. Collins’ name has been thrown around in trade rumors for ages now, and especially with him putting up the worst stats and shooting splits since his rookie year, he would be the first player to discard. The entire team as a whole has been middle of the pack on both ends of the court, and the introduction of quality shooters, defenders — or both — could be the X-factor for the Hawks to make a playoff push.
Kenzo Fukuda: The Memphis Grizzlies. It’s weird to say that considering they are currently the West’s two seed. And while it’s cool that they’ve been the feel-good, built-from-the-ground-up team the last couple seasons, none of that matters if they don’t make some genuine noise in the playoffs. Memphis has the draft assets and player salaries to go after an OG Anunoby or a Kyle Kuzma type of player. I don’t see how they can stay patient when championship windows don’t stay open for very long, quite the time-honored NBA law. They are going to have to pay Ja Morant his super max and Desmond Bane is going command a massive contract. Yes, this team is ahead of schedule but the West is so weak this year they have to consider pushing their chips in. However, as a Warriors fan, I don’t want them to make a move— I want them to stay content!
Joaquin Ruiz: The Toronto Raptors. Just last season, the team finished as the fifth seed out east and seemed to be trending forward with a core of Pascal Siakam, Fred Van Vleet and Scottie Barnes. Now, just before the Feb. 9 trade deadline, Toronto finds itself in Laker territory as a washed-up title contender sinking below play-in positioning. The current 12th seed has barely strung together 25 wins and trade rumors have been hot. Like many middle-of-the-pack clubs, the Raptors must decide if they want to be sellers or buyers at the deadline. After a stunning trade sent Kyrie Irving from Brooklyn to Dallas for a relatively fair deal, Toronto’s brass should explore moving its expensive pieces for cheaper, younger assets and picks. Not only is a trade of any sort smart because of the deadline, but also because of the possibility of losing players to free agency for virtually nothing.
Realistically, what trade could you see happening?
KN: I could see the Cleveland Cavaliers acquiring Josh Hart from the Portland Trail Blazers. There have been many rumors linking the Blazers’ defensive wing to Cleveland to fill the Cavs’ hole at starting small forward. With all of the offensive prowess in the Cleveland backcourt, Hart, an exceptional rebounding 3-and-D wing, is a perfect fit. For Portland, a likely return of Caris LeVert, who is on an expiring contract and thus would free up cap space for the Blazers, along with a first-round pick would allow the Blazers to move more in the direction of a rebuild. Although they’d still be strapped with Damian Lillard and his massive contract, other expendable players like Jerami Grant, Nassir Little and Justise Winslow would likely be moved shortly after as the front office looks to the future.
KF: I’d really like to see the Sixers acquire more size because aside from Joel Embiid, they are lacking in big man depth. PJ Tucker plays bigger than he is but at the end of the day, he’s still 6’5”. I like the idea of going after Jazz power forward Jarred Vanderbilt, who could be potentially attained for a 1st rounder and some salary filler. Vanderbilt is an elite rebounder and great interior defender; he might even be overqualified to be Embiid’s backup center. Another possible trade is Richaun Holmes from the Kings for Matisse Thybulle. Thybulle’s fallen out of the Sixers rotation because he just isn’t a good fit. Sacramento gets another good wing defender and the Sixers reunite with Holmes, a more-than-capable back-up center.
JR: Albeit slightly boring, I see the Bucks making a play for Jae Crowder. The Suns forward hasn’t played a second all year due to a trade request, and it’s been noted that Milwaukee has an interest in him. Crowder can stand in the corner, knock down a three and get his hands dirty on the other end. The Bucks could probably acquire him for guys like Serge Ibaka and George Hill, who are both aging out of key minutes. Crowder’s physical play style fits in with the Bucks’ defensive-oriented scheme that landed them a title two seasons ago. Plus, his experience with deep playoff runs can fill the void that P.J. Tucker left in 2021. I doubt the Suns will give Crowder up for a bag of chips, but his worth shouldn’t be excessively high at the moment. Though, no one truly knows what the NBA scriptwriters can come up with.
What’s the wildest trade you could come up with?
KN: Following Kyrie Irving’s trade, there is a chance Kevin Durant will also want out of Brooklyn. Any playoff team would be more than willing to obtain the 13-time All-Star, but trading KD likely means entering a rebuilding phase. Thus, the Nets leap at the chance to jumpstart such a rebuild and strike a deal with the New Orleans Pelicans. In my eyes, a price of four or five first-round picks, including the Lakers’ picks, in addition to 2022 eighth pick Dyson Daniels and other young players, makes the deal sweet for the Nets. On the other side, the Pelicans accelerate their contention time and team up one of the best scorers of all-time with Zion, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, and plenty of great role players. With offensive flamethrowers everywhere, they become a true championship contender to be feared by the rest of the league.
KF: OG Anunoby has been the talk of the town during this year’s trade deadline but I’m taking it a step further for the Raptors. Sacramento lights the beam and goes all in by trading for Pascal Siakam. The trade package would have to be centered around Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray, and Davion Mitchell plus some future unprotected first rounders. This season has been all gravy for the Kings. They’ve exceeded all expectations and are poised to break their 17- season playoff drought. So I bet you are wondering: Why fix something that ain’t broke? Why trade a rookie as promising as Murray? And to that I respond: Why be satisfied with just making the playoffs? I can’t emphasize this enough: the West is wide open. The Nuggets, the Grizzlies, the Warriors? None of them (should) scare me if I’m the Kings. Siakam gives the Kings the chance to light the beam in more than one playoff series.
JR: I don’t know what it would look like, but a deal with Chris Paul returning to the Clippers would be chaotic. I say this because the failed trade packages for Kyrie Irving were leaked, and one of them saw the Suns offering up their point guard for the former Net, thus leaving room for awkwardness in Phoenix. Hypothetically, Paul could be hurt by his team’s proposal and have a valid reason for requesting a last-minute trade and the Clippers, who have been enamored with a “traditional point guard” for the past few seasons, could swoop in for a last-minute move. Los Angeles threw its hat in the ring for Irving, offering guards Terance Mann and Luke Kennard, but Brooklyn ultimately declined. If there’s a chance for a reunion with the point god, I would be surprised if the Clippers didn’t at least make some phone calls — especially considering the season-long disasters of Reggie Jackson and John Wall. Nonetheless, keep an eye out for the Suns’ team dynamics.