NBA Power Rankings: Will Lakers, Clippers Strike at Trade Deadline?

The trade deadline market has been quiet, but the Lakers and Clippers are lurking to make deals.
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The impending trade deadline is largely devoid of superstar talent, though that doesn’t preclude the NBA from a deluge of deals before Feb. 6. The league has a deep pool of playoff contenders this season, and with the title chase relatively wide open, plenty of teams will be in the hunt for marked upgrades. Both Los Angeles teams will look to make a splash. The Eastern Conference contenders behind Milwaukee could be seeking major upgrades. There should be plenty of quantity at the deadline, even if we don’t see a lot of All-Star quality moved around. The next week could get wild.

As we roll toward the trade deadline, let’s dive into The Crossover’s power rankings with notes on all 30 teams.

30. Warriors – I’d remain cautious regarding any D’Angelo Russell trade rumors, if only because of the potential haul the Warriors could receive in June. Russell as a lone asset could net a quality wing. Paired with a top lottery pick, he could be traded for a legitimate All-Star. The Warriors are one trade away from returning to the front of the Finals conversation.

29. Hawks – The Hawks’ interest in Clint Capela or Steven Adams is sensible. Atlanta hemorrhages points inside, and a quality diving big would be critical in helping unlock the floor for Trae Young. John Collins is still young and quite talented. It would be surprising to see him shipped. But recent lottery picks De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish aren’t out of the question in trade talks. Atlanta lurks as a buyer as it seeks a long-term solution up front.

28. Cavaliers – Cleveland could keep its veteran core largely intact despite a season of discontent. Kevin Love’s contract makes a potential deal quite complicated, and Tristan Thompson could still negotiate a deal to stay with the Cavs for the next few years. If an overwhelming offer doesn’t emerge, Cleveland could stand pat.

27. Knicks – Will the Knicks’ forwards splurge land much of anything in the offseason? Taj Gibson’s value is minimal, and its questionable whether Bobby Portis can land a pick or quality young guard. Marcus Morris would have significant trade value, though he could return to New York in the offseason on another expensive one-year deal. The Knicks’ July decision making continues to make little sense.

26. Pistons – The Pistons should be hell-bent on turning the corner as a franchise at the deadline. Derrick Rose can net a draft pick, and receiving slate of young pieces for Andre Drummond is preferable to doubling down on the team’s depressing last decade. A fire sale wouldn’t be great for Blake Griffin, but a shake up feels necessary. Perhaps the next lottery pick will turn the tide.

25. Timberwolves – Minnesota could single-handedly swing the trade deadline based on a pair of decisions. Will it ship Robert Covington to a contender, potentially altering the playoff race? The wing would be a godsend for Houston or Philadelphia. There’s also Minnesota’s current glaring point guard void. The Timberwolves remain fixated on D’Angelo Russell, though it’s unclear how they could swing a potential deal. Perhaps Minnesota can find a third team via Covington, then flip those assets to Golden State. Keep an eye on the Twin Cities over the next week.

24. Hornets – The Hornets are another bad team who is in a good position at the deadline. They have plenty of capable players at manageable contracts, including Malik Monk, Cody Zeller and Willy Hernangomez. With Kemba Walker gone, stacking draft picks is the name of the game in Charlotte.

23. Wizards – Washington pulled off what the Knicks hoped to do, signing Davis Bertans to a deal this offseason before using him as trade bait. Washington is likely to get a first-round pick in a potential Bertans deal, and potentially another piece as well. Shooting like Bertans isn’t available every day.

22. Bulls – Chicago has been decimated by injuries of late, clouding the trade deadline outlook as we approach Feb. 6. Kris Dunn may stick around due to an MCL sprain, and the Bulls are largely devoid of trade chips outside of the Providence product. It’s too early to punt on Chandler Hutchinson. Denzel Valentine’s value in minimal. It may be hard for Chicago to strike a deal.

21. Kings – The Kings are in quite the pickle with Bogdan Bogdanovic, who seems to be racing toward a big payday in July. Sacramento got rebuffed on extension talks in 2019, and it owes big money to Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox and Harrison Barnes in coming seasons. Dealing Bogdanovic is be preferable to coming out with nothing in July if Sacramento isn’t poised to pay the 27-year-old.

20. Pelicans – It’s hard to see New Orleans shipping off assets now that Zion Williamson is back in the lineup. The Pelicans showed legitimate growth in February, and David Griffin is likely inclined to put Williamson is a true position to succeed at the expense of lottery positioning. Jrue Holiday and J.J. Reddick are likely to stay put.

19. Magic – Finding a long-term answer piece in the backcourt could be valuable for Orlando, even if it means sacrificing veteran D.J. Augustine. Perhaps Dennis Smith could revive his career with the Magic, and Alec Burks could be a welcome addition while helping Golden State duck the tax. Orlando is unlikely to make a splashy addition. Building along the margins is still a worthwhile effort.

18. Nets – Brooklyn made its big splash this summer, and its contract structure doesn’t lend itself to an easy deal. The Nets aren’t expected to make any plays for a 2020 playoff push, and they’ll be careful regarding which pieces they bring in next to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant next season. Brooklyn remains mired in an odd NBA purgatory with Durant out of commission.

17. Suns – The Suns could be one of the most active teams at the deadline, and their route before Feb. 6 isn’t exactly clear. Perhaps the Suns can acquire an impact forward in their push to end a nine-year playoff drought. But they may be more inclined to be relative sellers. Aron Baynes could land legitimate young assets, and Dario Saric could be swapped for a pick. Phoenix is slowly growing its young core. The more assets the merrier.

16. Spurs – The Spurs are unlikely to move into a new era until the summer at the earliest. DeMar DeRozan isn’t exactly an expiring deal with a $27 million option in July, and regardless, the postseason is still very much in play. San Antonio’s playoff streak remains meaningful, especially so in the final years of the Popovich era. Marked changes won’t arrive before Jan. 6.

15. Grizzlies – The Andre Iguodala saga could go down to the final hour of the deadline, but Memphis should ultimately be inclined to pull the trigger rather than send the three-time champion to the buyout market. It’s hard to imagine every contender holding off on dealing a first-round pick, especially one in the late 20s. We’ll see it Iggy can turn back the clock in April and May.

14. Trail Blazers – Has Damian Lillard’s hot stretch changed Portland’s deadline thinking? What was previously a lost year has become a furious fight for a playoff spot, and the Blazers still need an upgrade at the four. Kevin Love feels like a pipe dream. Danilo Gallinari would be a terrific fit.

13. Thunder – It would be shocking to see Chris Paul shipped midway through his All-Star campaign. Will any member of the Thunder core be dealt? Gallinari remains a smart bet. He can fetch a hefty haul from a playoff contender, and the Italian forward is unlikely to remain in Oklahoma City after his contract expires after 2019-20. Expect the Thunder to find a motivated suitor sooner than later.

12. Pacers – Indiana’s twin towers pairing of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner is a rarity in 2019-20, but one that is strangely functional. The Pacers are allowing a miniscule 102.9 points per 100 possessions when the two bigs share the floor, and Turner’s shooting stretch makes the pairing palatable. Indiana may not have to face a choice at all between its two bigs.

11. Mavericks – Dallas continues to be tied to Iguodala, and a quality forward would certainly be helpful in the Western Conference playoffs. One out-of-the-box idea: Tristan Thompson. The Willie Cauley-Stein addition doesn’t preclude Dallas from adding a (better) big, and Thompson is one of the league’s most effective rolling centers. He could thrive alongside Luka Doncic, and with an expiring contract, he’d be gone by the time Dwight Powell is back healthy in 2020-21.

10. 76ers – A Robert Covington return would be ideal for the 76ers, though they may aim lower for a cheaper price tag. Perhaps Rose helps anchor the backcourt, and sharpshooter Davis Bertans would be a match made in heaven. The 76ers are a deeply unconventional Finals contender. A quality shooter could help sand over a jagged (albeit talented) roster.

9. Rockets – Nothing like a Super Bowl Woj Bomb to kick off the trade season. Clint Capela is reportedly in trade talks, with Daryl Morey seeking upgrades on the wing and in the frontcourt. Houston’s rotation is dangerously thin. Adding an impact forward and a serviceable defensive center is the Rockets’ best path if Capela is dealt. Perhaps Robert Covington and Alex Len would do the trick.

8. Jazz – Utah acquired a backcourt piece in its trade for Jordan Clarkson. Will it add a frontcourt player before Feb. 6? Either Morris brother would be a welcome addition, or perhaps Suns forward Dario Saric. A stretchy backup big could be a big boost to the Jazz.

8. Heat – Miami’s rotation can go as deep as 12 men, making it hard to find just exactly where its roster falls short. Point guard is the most notable deficiency. Goran Dragic is now a bench player, and Justise Winslow continues to battle injury woes. A Chris Paul deal is highly doubtful. But don’t be surprised if Miami still peruses the point guard market before deadline day.

6. Nuggets – It may not materialize before Feb. 6, but the Nuggets are uniquely positioned to make a splashy move before 2020-21. Gary Harris remains an intriguing asset at a reasonable number. Ditto for Will Barton. Michael Porter Jr. isn’t going anywhere, but Denver could be in the hunt for the next All-Star that emerges on the trade market.

5. Celtics – The Celtics could still use a center upgrade, but pathways to a potential deal are difficult. Boston’s roster is filled with inexpensive contracts, and Danny Ainge is highly unlikely to trade Marcus Smart’s movable contract. The Celtics may stand pat at the deadline. That doesn’t mean they aren’t contenders for the Eastern Conference crown.

4. Raptors – Many entered 2019-20 assuming Masai Ujiri would be quick to hit the eject button on the Raptors’ post-Kawhi core, with Marc Gasol and Kyle Lowry potentially on their way out by the trade deadline. Such a scenario looks increasingly unlikely. Toronto is second in the Eastern Conference, and Lowry continues to thrive in his 14th season. Big changes are unlikely to arrive until June.

3. Clippers – The Clippers are lurking in what has thus far been a quiet trade season. Los Angeles still has its 2020 first rounder, plus a slate of movable contracts. Mo Harkless makes $11 million. JayMychal Green and Rodney McGruder come in just a shade under $5 million. As contenders struggle to match contracts, the Clippers are ready to strike.

2. Lakers – Los Angeles will likely continue to seek backcourt help, or potentially a wing (Iguodala) under the right circumstances. Derrick Rose remains a sensible fit. He can handle lead playmaker duties in non-LeBron minutes, and Los Angeles can hide his defensive deficiencies. Let’s hope the former MVP can find his way to a title contender by Feb. 6.

1. Bucks – Will the Bucks make an impact move at the deadline? I remain skeptical. Key cogs Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe aren’t going anywhere, and it’s hard to see Milwaukee committing to any big money, multi-year contract. Perhaps the Bucks make a wing upgrade, though it’s likely to be more on the margins of the rotation. Jon Horst has built the East’s best team. He’ll be careful not to tinker with a good thing.

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