The NBA 2021 trading deadline is only two days away, and the teams at the top and bottom of the leaderboard are lining up to make their moves. While there isn’t a superstar out there who will redefine the race for the championship – not after James Harden traded from the Houston Rockets to the Brooklyn Nets back in January – smaller steps could potentially be taken to keep the rivals out empower and help the teams on the sidelines of the play-in race take another big boost.
With that in mind, we’ve asked our experts to answer five key questions going through Thursday’s deadline, including the teams they’re watching most closely, who might be moved, and the bold predictions they’re making.
MORE: Six Underrated Prospects That Might Thrive After A Trade
1. What are you looking at most closely this week?
Tim Bontemps: What happened to Kyle Lowry? In a trading market without a game changer, Lowry has the potential to be a swing player in the title hunt. If he leaves Toronto and lands on either the Philadelphia 76ers or the Miami Heat, he could completely change the landscape of the Eastern Conference. It’s hard to see another player being moved who could have a similar influence.
Kirk Goldsberry: Can the Lakers get shooting assistance? They occupy 27th place in the league in 3-point production and 22nd place in 3-point production. Their current fleet of riflemen is no one to fear, and at a time when there is increasingly widespread attack, the Crimson and Gold require additional perimeter firepower to defend their title.
Tim MacMahon: What will the reconstructed missiles do? First year general manager Rafael Stone added plenty of design capital while handling almost all of last season’s starting grid. Perhaps the missiles can add more draft compensation by flipping over Victor Oladipo, who Houston hopes can be sold to a team that values their bird rights, rather than just a loan. Houston is also aggressively trying to get some of those draft picks for a player who can be a long-term Foundation player, like 25-year-old Orlando Magic striker Aaron Gordon.
Bobby Marks: Lowry and the Raptors, who have lost eight games in a row and are outside the play-in tournament (three games in the losing column behind Chicago). Lowry has an expiring $ 30.5 million contract and can determine whether to pursue a championship with a team like Philadelphia or end the season with the Raptors. Lowry doesn’t have a no-trade clause and Toronto can send him to any of the other 29 teams. However, since he is considered the best player to ever wear a Raptors uniform and led Toronto to a championship in 2019, Lowry is in control of the identity of his next target.
Royce Young: Will fringe teams take steps to plan ahead or hope to make an appearance? The new season structure could have a dramatic impact on the trading deadline as more teams cling to their players. This could lead to a deadline supply and demand problem where quality players are difficult to find.
2. Which title contender needs the most to make a move?
Gold berry: The Sixers need offensive help. While the Doc Rivers / Daryl Morey era is off to a great start, Philly needs to step up his offensive to compete with Brooklyn and Milwaukee, both of which boast top 5 offenses. Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, and Ben Simmons are a great trio, but if Philly could add another potential perimeter threat or two – like Lowry, for example – it would increase his chances of getting out of the east.
MacMahon:: needs May be a bit strong, but the 76ers should definitely be aggressive as they pursue Philadelphia-born Lowry, a proven playoff leader who seems to be a good fit with franchise cornerstones Embiid and Simmons. Daryl Morey’s story with the Rockets certainly shows that the ’76 is going to make a splash before the deadline.
Bontemps: All of them? The interesting thing about this season is that all of these competing teams are flawed. The Lakers and Sixers need insult. The nets need defense. The Clippers need someone who can organize a crime. The bucks need depth. The heat and the Celts need strength to move forward. The nuggets and blazers both feel a bit short. Even in a market that doesn’t have a lot of interesting things to do, everyone should be trying to take steps.
Markings: Since the Celtics are not contenders for the title, I will choose Philadelphia. I know Doc Rivers is on file, that he loves his team, and that getting Embiid back to health should be the main focus. However, this 76ers team checks the boxes when it comes to placing parts for a trade: $ 30 million for expiring contracts, a $ 8.3 million trade exception, two highly respected young players in Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle as well as the ability to trade two first-. round picks. Yes, it takes two to tango when it comes to making a trade, but the 76s shouldn’t be happy when it comes to their deadline list, especially when a player like Lowry becomes available.
Young: I keep the Denver Nuggets in the title contenders category, though it’s a bit dubious because they were in the last four of the NBA last season and still have a top 15 player on the roster. The nuggets clearly lack elements to create consistency and they need shooting and scoring options to complement Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic.
3. Which likely lottery team will need the most to make a move?
MacMahon: It’s time for a reset reset in Orlando, which will likely end with the top 5 lottery odds after squealing into the playoffs for the past two seasons. According to a source, Evan Fournier has made it clear that he has no intention of signing again as a free agent with Magic this summer. So Orlando might as well get something in return for a player who averages 19.1 points per game. Gordon, who still has one season on his contract, is met with great interest.
Markings: I’m not saying Orlando needs to take a step, but the Magic have the trading pieces to retool their roster and start planning for the next season. The Magic has been decimated by injuries this season and goes into the lottery as a result. With his contract expiring, Fournier is more of a short-term rental but could help a playoff team look for additional shots. Now is the time for Orlando to try to maximize its returns on a deal for Gordon that is under contract through 2021-22.
Young: The Oklahoma City Thunder. Sam Presti is in the process of reconfiguring the roster but there are some seasoned players who other teams might appreciate. Al Horford might be tough to move with his remaining salary, but George Hill and Mike Muscala are very available and could be a significant boost to good teams. And no, Presti wouldn’t say he has enough future draft picks already.
Bontemps: The Orlando Magic were usually reluctant to take significant steps. That has to change this year. Fournier has an expiring contract and Gordon plays the same role as injured striker Jonathan Isaac. Both should be traded through Thursday so this team can actually rebuild instead of staying on the treadmill battling for the 8 seeds.
Gold berry: Even after P.J. Tucker, Houston is still sitting on some negotiable contracts that could not only help competitors but also bring back items to help rebuild the missiles. Shipping Oladipo, Danuel House, or even Eric Gordon could help Houston get out of this Harden nightmare.
4. What is a trade (or type of trade) you would most like to see?
Markings: I want Dallas to swing and acquire Andre Drummond. This Mavericks team can beat the best any night, but I’m worried if Kristaps Porzingis can make it through the rest of the season. The time to find help for Luka Doncic is now, not the off-season. The Mavericks could offer Cleveland the expiring contract of James Johnson and Willie Cauley-Stein, but the challenge is to cobble together an extra $ 3 million salary with a player who is not part of the rotation. A combination of Johnson and Dwight Powell works, but Cleveland would inherit the $ 11.1 million Powell owed in 2021-22 and 2022-23. With Jarrett Allen likely on a free hand salary of nearly $ 20 million, it shouldn’t be a novice for the Cavaliers to face Powell without the help of a third team.
Young: Oladipo to Denver. The nuggets would have to match the salary, so it would have to be Gary Harris and a young gamer who incentivized the Rockets like R.J. Hampton or Zeke Nnaji. But the nuggets are in a window with Jokic and Murray and need to maximize the opportunity. They slipped a bit this season after making the western finals, and we all know time is tight in the NBA. A healthy Oladipo could firmly tie the nuggets back into the championship talk.
Bontemps: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Talen Horton-Tucker for Bogdan Bogdanovic. The Hawks need defense and will get that in both KCP and THT (and it was fun writing these abbreviated names in a row). The Lakers, meanwhile, need a different creator and shooter, and Bogdanovic would provide both. Besides, he would be able to start for her long term, something he would like to have. He would also give some cost security to a team facing many tough financial decisions this summer as he is under contract for the next three seasons.
Gold berry: Miami gets another star ahead of the Stretch Run. The Heat turned out to be a defensive powerhouse, but their offense just didn’t click this season. Whether it’s Lowry, Oladipo, or any other player, I’d love to see the Heat import another star that could push this group back into competition and make the East even more fascinating.
MacMahon: The Nuggets are now below competitor status, but maybe that can change if Denver uses one of their fascinating development players to do an instant upgrade. It makes sense that the nuggets should be aggressive, even if it’s just a rental. If you have an MVP level player like Nikola Jokic, you need to be in win-now mode.
5. What is your bold prediction for trade deadlines?
Young: Toronto is blowing it up. It took a long time, but with their aging and expensive core, the Raptors have to focus on what they hope is a shortened rebuild. Lowry is a Raptors legend, but his time will run out and he will move to another Eastern team for a run at another final.
Bontemps: Lowry is traded. After eight straight defeats, it’s hard to argue that Toronto is a realistic contender to make some noise in the east. As a result, the Raptors should move Lowry to a competitor and give themselves a chance to quickly spin around their young core of Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby.
Gold berry: Boston doesn’t make a deal. The Celtics are .500 and especially need help on their forecourt. However, this front office is quickly earning a reputation for the deals it does not close, and the trading deadline is a notoriously difficult time to get significant new pieces at fair prices. The Celtics may try to add pieces, but they won’t be bullied. In return, they will end up empty-handed.
MacMahon: The Celtics, suspicious of paying luxury taxes for a team that stepped into the week at .500, are finding no fit for their massive trading exception. Harrison Barnes would make a lot of sense, but the Kings shouldn’t move him unless they get a significant return.
Markings: Lowry is traded in to Philadelphia for a package from Danny Green, Mike Scott, Vincent Poirier, Thybulle and the unprotected selection of the 76ers 2023 in the first round.