We’ve seen only a slow drip of rumors rather than a deluge thus far with less than a week remaining until the trade deadline on Feb. 6. There are few clear sellers in the current market, with a deep slate of teams pushing for playoff spots in both conferences. There are no superstars forcing their way out. The league’s contenders have financial hurdles to clear before making a major deal. The deadline could be relatively muted compared to prior seasons.
But the current uncertainty doesn’t have to dissuade us from considering some of the market’s more intriguing options as we roll into February. Former champions are dissatisfied and an impressive young point guard could be on the market. There are quality players to be had if a creative GM can conjure up the right package.
With that in mind, we at The Crossover decided to end the week by playing matchmaker, finding new teams for some of the hottest names on the trade market.
Kevin Love – Suns
Kevin Love’s season of discontent has been well documented, and a split would likely be the healthiest option for both parties. Love isn’t a blameless victim in Cleveland. He signed a four-year, $120 million extension with the Cavaliers in 2018, putting faith in the franchise that has shown little competence in anything other than lottery luck without David Griffin. Regardless, the current situation still feels untenable. Love’s frustration with Darius Garland and Collin Sexton is palpable, and incoming lottery picks will only require more shots in future seasons. It’s hard to see Love burning through his 30s without a return to playoff contention. Will his life raft come in 2020?
The market on Love appears cool at the moment. His hefty contract is of concern to 2021 free agency contenders, and there isn’t a clear playoff team that could line up a Love deal. The Rockets are light of tradable assets that could match the money owed to love, as are the Celtics. Portland is the destination du jour, though dedicating such a large share of money to a Love-Lillard-McCollum trio puts a difficult financial stress on the franchise. Let’s briefly look outside the current playoff picture. Phoenix could become a cushy landing spot for Love, one that comes with a budding young star. The Suns still lurk in the eight-seed conversation, and they have a growing crop of legitimate talent. A Love-Deandre Ayton pairing may hemorrhage points defensively, but it would be quite the appealing twin towers duo alongside Devin Booker. Perhaps Kelly Oubre is a wing of interest. Phoenix remains stocked with picks. If the Suns are looking to battle for the playoffs, Love could be an impact midseason addition. Perhaps a better Love deal lurks in the summer, but Phoenix may be inclined to pounce sooner than later.
D’Angelo Russell – Heat
Speaking of deals perhaps better suited for the summer, take caution with any February rumor surrounding D’Angelo Russell. Golden State may be inclined to see the 23-year-old next to Steph Curry for at least a month before deciding to ship him off, and the combination of Russell and an early lottery pick could create a truly enticing package for an All-Star player in June. The Warriors are in no rush as the calendar turns to February. They won’t deal Russell for a subpar package.
Is there anywhere Russell makes sense before the 2020 postseason? Minnesota will continue their hunt for a point guard, though it’s hard to see a simple deal. Robert Covington plus any pick or other asset doesn’t quite move the needle. Andrew Wiggins has seriously regressed to the mean. One sneaky option: Miami.
The Heat firmly belong in next tier behind Milwaukee in the East, earning two All-Stars in 2019-20 with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Russell isn’t as hefty a financial investment as Chris Paul, and he’d be an ideal floor spacer and late game creator in Miami.
Any Russell-to-Miami deal would likely have to involve three-plus teams, and even then it’s unclear whether Miami has the assets to pull it off. But Goran Dragic’s expiring can net a pick, and Justise Winslow remains an intriguing swiss army knife despite his injury history. Golden State’s Russell conundrum remains interesting as no obvious suitor arises.
Derrick Rose – Lakers
Derrick Rose will never return to All-NBA status, though he’s emerged as one of the league’s most effective bench scoring options in the last two seasons. The 2010-11 MVP is averaging 18.9 points per game this season on a career-high 49.8% shooting, and he ranks second on the Pistons in offensive rating. Rose isn’t a perfect player. He’s a shoddy defender and an inconsistent three-point shooter. But as Detroit sinks in the Eastern Conference standings, Rose can be a valuable asset for a contender.
Rose would certainly fit the mold on one Finals contender, and it’s not hard to spot which one. The Lakers exited the offseason to a sea of derision, with many criticizing a roster that had plenty of big names, but few reliable shooters. After molding Dwight Howard into a sturdy role player, the Lakers could take on Rose as a new project. He can be a nice change of pace from Rajon Rondo and Alex Caruso, and there’s always the chance of a 20-point night from Rose swinging a playoff game. Let’s hope Rose can escape Detroit and return to the limelight sooner than later.
Marcus Morris – Clippers
The Clippers will enter the Western Conference playoffs as perhaps the favorite to advance to the Finals, and they have the flexibility to make another addition before the trade deadline. Maurice Harkless is an expiring contract at $11 million, and Los Angeles could use the Rodney McGruder, Jerome Robinson and JaMychal Green contracts to match money. The Clippers can also deal their 2020 first rounder, one of their few draft assets left after surrendering a haul in the Paul George trade. Los Angeles is unlikely to stand pat at the trade deadline.
Marcus Morris could be an attainable upgrade for the Clippers’ front line. They lack depth on the frontline despite a deep collection of wings, and Morris could add some much-needed size in a potential series with the Lakers. The Kansas product remains an effective offensive asset in his ninth season, averaging a career-high 19.2 points per game this season with the lowly Knicks while shooting 43.9% from three. A first rounder could be enough to get New York to sell. Morris’ counting stats will dip with a contender, but don’t be fooled. He could be one of the deadline’s most impactful additions.
Robert Covington – Rockets
The Rockets pathway to a trade remains difficult. Eric Gordon can’t be dealt until the summer. Austin Rivers and Gerald Green have no-trade clauses. Clint Capela is unlikely to go anywhere, as is defensive ace P.J. Tucker. Can Houston thread the needle and land a legitimate addition? Daryl Morey will certainly try.
Houston appears to be dying for depth, likely eyeing wing additions at the deadline. The Rockets have lost seven of their last 11, and James Harden is showing some serious fatigue after a dominant early-season tear. Robert Covington could help lighten the load. He’s a long, switchable defender with a quality jumper, and he could be Mike D’Antoni’s final answer at small forward after weeks of experimentation. Houston is by all accounts willing to part with its 2020 first rounder. Matching money becomes the issues. Perhaps the Rockets can send their first elsewhere, and the recipient can send some point guard help to Minnesota in a three-team deal. Snagging Covington would be a major coup for the sagging Rockets.