2023 NBA trade deadline: Five teams, including Clippers and Warriors, facing most pressure to make moves

NBA fans love the smell of trade season mornings, and the smelly emanations are stronger in some cities than others. While teams like the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies can look to their teams with confidence heading into the February 9 trade deadline, others are looking at their roster holes like LeBron James looking at JR Smith.

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Therefore, different levels of urgency are being applied to each NBA front office. We decided to take a look at the five franchises facing the most pressure heading into the 2023 trade deadline.

Bottom line: Underperformance and a lack of continuity due to injuries created a sense of urgency for an admittedly mediocre pre-season title favourite.

“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 — what matters — they are a .500 team with the fourth-worst offense in the NBA. Leonard and George have played just 18 games together, and are 11-7. Not exactly confidence.

The good news is that this roster is built perfectly for a trade, with mid-level salaries that can be used as filler for a bigger deal or traded for a better fit player at a similar cost. Nic Batum, Reggie Jackson, Robert Covington, Luke Kennard, Marcus Morris Sr. and Norman Powell all make between $10-16 million, and Jackson is the only contract expiring at the end of this season. The Clippers also (finally) have a first-round pick to flip in a trade, and given the team’s current state with two aging stars, that 2028 pick could look pretty juicy for a partner potential.

Point guard is the most obvious area ripe for improvement, with Jackson taking a step back this season and the Clippers sporting a minus-6.6 net rating with John Wall on the floor. Wall’s $6.4 million salary could come in handy in a trade, with potential targets like Utah Jazz vet Mike Conley and – bigger swing – Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet.

This team was built for championships, it came extremely close two seasons ago, but right now it feels like something needs to happen, if nothing else than to shake up the malisir. Leonard is starting to play like his old self, and the last thing you want to do is waste a healthy season from him, as we don’t know how long he has left. The urgency is certainly there for the Clippers.

2. Toronto Raptors

Bottom line: By possessing several impact players who are heading towards a deadline that does not have them, the time may be right for the Raptors to sell their pieces and look to the future.

Toronto was listed by our Sam Quinn as one of the potential sellers who can dictate the trade deadline marketas the team possesses an abundance of an otherwise scarce commodity – players who can genuinely impact a contending team’s title chances.

Two-way wing OG Anunoby has reportedly grumbled about his role in the offense, and will command a sizeable extension in the near future. All-Star point guard Fred VanVleet has yet to come to terms on his own extension, and will almost certainly opt out of the final year of his deal to enter free agency this offseason. out if they fail to reach an agreement. Gary Trent Jr., a career 38 percent, high-volume 3-point shooter, will also likely decline his option after this season and enter the free agent market. If you want to think even bigger, All-NBA forward Pascal Siakam — whose contract expires after next season — could also be available if Masai Ujiri and the front office receive an offer that simply they cannot refuse.

The pressure on the Raptors this trade deadline revolves around an important decision: Blow it up, stand pat, or something in between.

With reigning Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes presumably off the table, the organization must decide which, if any, of Anunoby, VanVleet, Trent and Siakam are essential parts of the future. With an average record of around .500 and no money on the books past 2023-24 outside of Chris Boucher, the Raptors are a legitimate tank/rebuild candidate. All those pieces would bring significant assets, and the rest of this season would be dedicated to entering the Victor Wembanyama-Scoot Henderson contest. A core built around Barnes, this year’s draft and any young players they bring in in the trade wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world – look at how the Utah Jazz managed to stay relevant despite trading two All-Star players -NBA.

Conversely, the Raptors could decide that this, in fact, is the core built to win a title, and the first half of this season was simply a fluke that will soon be corrected. Remember that the Boston Celtics were under .500 at this time last year, before they suddenly became unbeatable and raced to no. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and an NBA Finals appearance. Trading one of Toronto’s pieces for a marginal upgrade seems like a half measure, but that’s also an option.

The point is, the Raptors have to make a solid decision, which comes with a lot of pressure.

Bottom line: The Warriors’ problems this season could be remedied through a trade, but they would have to compromise their bridge to the future in the process.

There’s no way around it: The defending champions have struggled this season. A recent report said the Warriors’ front office is not expected to trade any of its three former lottery picks — James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody — before the deadline, but that always comes with the caveat “subject for a change”. Considering that Wiseman would likely have to be in any significant trade Golden State makes, it looks like another quiet deadline is on the horizon.

However, there is always — always — urgency to maximize Steph Curry’s window of greatness. The Warriors went from second in defensive efficiency last season to 14th this year, highlighting the importance of Otto Porter Jr. and Gary Payton II in that league rotation. Of the three youngsters, only Kuminga seems marginally ready to contribute in the playoff environment, and even he has been up and down. Donte DiVincenzo has been an excellent addition, but JaMychal Green — expected to fill in as a mobile, switchable big man — has yet to deliver.

Adding a player like Jakob Poeltl as a backup center with size (something the Wirsemans lack greatly unless Wiseman gets things done quickly) would likely help the defense, but they would have to get rid of Wiseman to match the salary. The same if they went for a big wing like Jalen McDaniels. The Warriors could always wait out the buyout market, but is someone like Rudy Gay taking over?

Keep in mind that Golden State doesn’t want to take on a salary that would add to its massive luxury tax bill either, so whoever trades for him will likely have to be a rental on an expiring deal. Would you get rid of one of your young lottery picks for a few months of win-now help?

Most teams would say no, but the Warriors have an aging league core armed with one of the best players in history at its peak — which makes things a little more difficult to we enter this deadline, to be sure.

Bottom line: Luka Doncic is a one-man show, and it might be time to make a bona fide move to a generational superstar.

Despite Mark Cuban’s insistence that he got “dead wrong” ESPN’s Tim McMahon reported earlier this month that Luka Doncic has “strongly indicated” he wants the Mavericks to update the roster before the trade deadline. When your 23-year-old MVP candidate worries about needing more help, the pressure is pretty strong to oblige. And can you really blame him?

Doncic is performing at historic levels, but the Mavs have hovered around .500 for most of the season in part because he lost his teammate — Jalen Brunson — to the New York Knicks this offseason. Dallas provided no reasonable replacement in the backcourt for Brunson, and the addition of Christian Wood hurt the defense as much as it helped the offense. What’s left is a Mavericks team that can’t win most games unless Doncic goes ballistic — which, luckily for them, happens quite a bit.

The Mavs have the salaries of Wood, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Spencer Dinwiddie to play with, along with many future draft picks available. What brings them, and what they are willing to part with, remains to be seen. Can the front office convince Doncic that keeping their assets for a big swing later is smarter than bringing in marginal help now around the edges? Will the notoriously ultra-competitive Doncic enjoy the notion of essentially punting in a season in which he is, conservatively, one of the top five players in the NBA?

Doncic’s free agency is still a long way off in real life (2026), but in NBA terms it’s getting closer. The last thing you want to do is make a mistake that could eventually help push Doncic to the door, so the Mavericks must handle this situation delicately and wisely.

Bottom line: LeBron James doesn’t want to spend the final days of his career on a mediocre team, but the front office and ownership seem reluctant to utilize future assets to take what could be a futile shot at contention.

LeBron James recently he said about the current situation of his team[u[u: “Y’all know what has to happen lf—.” Unfortunately, there have been several different iterations around Laker land as to what, exactly, lf— should happen. Trade Russell Westbrook? Keep Westbrook but trade Patrick Beverley? Trade Anthony Davis? Trade LeBron himself?

No matter which version you think is more prudent, it’s hard to argue that the Lakers have any chance of winning an NBA title with their current roster, so there needs to be a turnover – whether before the date of trade closure or in free agency this coming offseason. James doesn’t seem ready to wait, but the fact that he signed an extension that will take him at least through the next season relieves some pressure from the front office.

That being said, there is an urgency. The Lakers’ front office showed as much on Monday, complete the first notable deal of the trade season by acquiring forward Rui Hachimura from the Washington Wizards.

James, soon to be the league’s all-time leading scorer, is averaging nearly 30 points per game and shooting nearly 60 percent on 2-pointers. Davis, when he was healthy for a short stretch, looked like the most dominant player in the league. For all the flak he’s gotten for his late-game decision-making (or lack thereof), Westbrook has performed well since going to the bench, posting 16.5 points, 7.9 assists and 6.5 rebounds on 44 percent shooting. firing as a reserve. New head coach Darvin Ham seems to have the Lakers playing hard on both ends. There is something there, no matter how much the candle is being smoked.

Trading Westbrook for Indiana’s duo of Buddy Hield and Myles Turner has seemingly been in the news since the beginning of time, and the Pacers’ recent slump in the absence of Tyrese Haliburton could make that happen the slightly more realistic deal for them. The sticking point in any Westbrook deal has always been the 2027 and/or 2029 first round that the Lakers would have to throw in as compensation. One perspective is that you owe it to James and your fanbase to go all-in while he’s still performing at this level. The flip side is that no deal on the table will truly make the Lakers title contenders this season, so why not hold onto your chips until next summer, when you also have room to the cap due to Westbrook’s contract coming off the books.

You can certainly see both sides, but when the King is public about wanting to make a move, it increases the pressure level for Rob Pelinka and Co.


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