- The NBA trade deadline is here and several teams face tough decisions. No one will be under more scrutiny than the Cavaliers, who have to decide whether to buy or sell their current roster.
The NBA’s trade deadline is rapidly approaching and we’re all hoping for more fireworks after the surprising Blake Griffin trade. (Or at the very least, more stand-up comedy sets that reveal how a star player really feels about getting traded.) A bunch of names have already been mentioned in various rumors—like Tyreke Evans, DeAndre Jordan or Marcus Smart—and more are sure to pop up right up until the actual deadline.
While (almost) everyone would love their team to swing for the fences and uncork some wild trade that kickstarts a miracle run to the Finals, unfortunately not every organization is in the same boat. With all of this in mind, it’s time for The Crossover to reveal which teams should be BUYERS and which teams should be SELLERS.
San Antonio Spurs: Buyers
Amidst the arms race in the rest of the conference, the Spurs mostly chilled last offseason, adding Rudy Gay and not much else to their talented core. With Kawhi Leonard missing most of this season, Pop still has this team in third place in the West, which is no small feat. But with Kawhi reportedly disgruntled, it would behoove the Spurs to try to swing some sort of move at the deadline. A trade wouldn’t even necessarily be about challenging the Warriors this year, but maybe just to show Leonard that the front office still has some creativity when it comes to acquiring talent. LaMarcus Aldridge was a good get for this organization a couple years ago, but stars haven’t exactly flocked to San Antonio despite the allure of playing for a perennial contender. What can the Spurs do? They don’t have a ton of options, but Tony Parker’s expiring contract could be useful for a team looking to create cap space this summer…
Utah Jazz: Sellers
Is another team willing to see if they can make Ricky Rubio work? Is Derrick Favors part of the long-term plan? Does Iso Joe (Johnson) still make sense here? The Jazz don’t need to start selling off for a complete teardown, but this could be a rebuild-on-the-fly situation. Donovan Mitchell is a stud, and guys like Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles and Alec Burks are worth keeping around. But everyone else here should be expendable.
Maybe some of the vets can fetch a good pick or two. If there’s a team that loves Favors, let them worry about his next contract instead. A one-season tank and a good draft could have the Jazz more comfortably back in the playoffs next season as opposed to clawing for a spot in this one. This franchise has played with pride after losing Gordon Hayward last summer, but they shouldn’t be faulted if they punt on this season if the ceiling is a first-round loss to Golden State.
Indiana Pacers: Buyers
The Pistons made a big move for Griffin, and while it won’t guarantee a playoff spot for Detroit, the trade should make other teams in the East a slight bit more uncomfortable. If I’m the Pacers, I’m not compromising the future with any wild deals, but I would be trying to make a deep playoff run. The Cavs are a mess, Boston’s offense is iffy, and you never know if the Raptors will show up in the playoffs. Would it be completely shocking if the Pacers somehow snuck into the conference finals? Victor Oladipo’s three-point shooting is coming back down to Earth, but adding even the slightest bit of depth here could be extremely useful for the stretch run. Maybe Al Jefferson’s expiring contract has some value for a team trying to offload a pricey vet? Could Joe Johnson wake up here? Let’s get imaginative, Indy.
Denver Nuggets: Just get a point guard
Sorry, I’m interrupting buyers and sellers to talk about one of my favorite teams, the Nuggets. Denver is hanging on without Paul Millsap, and they could be dangerous once he returns. But Mike Malone needs more people he can trust off his bench. Emmanuel Mudiay, whose had some ups and downs, could use a change of scenery. And Denver could really use a steady hand in their backcourt to offset its youth. I want to see this team make a move.
Washington Wizards: Buyers
(Checks Wizards roster for assets that any team would want in a trade.) Which impactful player can Washington acquire in exchange for Markieff Morris?
The No. 3 seed in the West is within grasp, right? The Spurs have been playing well but they aren’t bulletproof. Each of these teams has high aspirations, but they also have holes on the roster that need to be addressed. The Thunder were dealt an unfortunate blow with the Andre Roberson injury, and I’m not sure Sam Presti is ready to trust Terrance Ferguson headed into the playoffs. Is there a 3-and-D guy with more experience available?
The Wolves are still playing their starters too many minutes. And will a Taj Gibson-Karl Towns frontline work come playoff time, when teams tend to play smaller? Minnesota should be on the hunt for a stretch four.
And the Blazers somehow need to find a way to open up the offense around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, who’ve done all the heavy lifting. Portland has a top-10 defense but is struggling to find a rhythm on the other end. There’s no easy fix here, so PDX shouldn’t rule out a major shakeup.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Sellers
Look, Dan Gilbert is the last person I would want in charge of my basketball decision making. But (and I can’t believe I’m saying this for Dan Gilbert but here we are) I don’t blame him for keeping one eye on the future right now! Sure, Gilbert probably made all the wrong decisions helping create the Cavs dysfunctional season, but now, with Cleveland crumbling and LeBron seemingly having no reason to return, why the hell would Gilbert trade the Nets pick and chase a title? Who can the Cavs realistically acquire that puts them in the same stratosphere as the Warriors?
LeBron can only do so much, and despite his (at times inconsistent) efforts this season, the Cavs have a negative net rating with him on the court! This team isn’t winning the Finals, and they probably won’t even make it there. Gilbert should sell on who he can (Isaiah Thomas) and not be afraid to listen to Godfather offers for LeBron. Gilbert may be a large reason why the team is in shambles, the best thing he could do now is stop pretending otherwise.