Sun. Feb 25th, 2024

Think about the biggest names on the trade market right now. Dejounte Murray. Zach LaVine. DeMar DeRozan. Kyle Kuzma. Alex Caruso. Bruce Brown. Seems like most of the best players out there are coming from the East, aren’t they? Now think about the best teams in the other conference. There’s some degree of asset-feast (the Thunder, Pelicans, Jazz and Spurs), but among the contending class, it’s mostly famine. The Timberwolves, Clippers, Nuggets and Suns have traded the bulk of their assets already. The Lakers and Mavericks are limited as well.

Unsurprisingly, things have been mostly quiet on the western front thus far as a result. Of course, things never actually stay quiet. The West teams with a lot to trade are going to try to trade it. The ones with less will get creative. And the ones at the bottom will squeeze value out of their veterans even if they don’t have quite as many of them as the sellers in the East. So as the deadline approaches, let’s take a look at the deadline from the perspective of these Western Conference teams. What do they have to trade? What can they afford? And what are they trying to accomplish between now and Feb. 8?

Picks to trade: All of them. I detailed Oklahoma City’s pick situation here. Basically, they can do whatever they want. They have more picks than anyone. 

Matching salary: Davis Bertans at $17 million is the big salary here. He has a partial guarantee for next season that adds some value for acquiring teams. Some of Oklahoma City’s lesser youngsters could be thrown into deals to add a bit of salary, but the only other meaningful number is Vasilije Micic’s $7.7 million. He’s not playing much for the Thunder, but his EuroLeague pedigree suggests he has more to offer.

Trade deadline goal: Find some rebounding. It’s this team’s only real flaw. It can come from a true center (which would be helpful in certain matchups) or it can come from somewhere else, but the Thunder have to be able to get a rebound if they want to seriously contend in the postseason.

How can they accomplish that goal: As the Thunder seek out rebounding, their preference would likely be to add a player on a short-term deal. At the very least, any significant addition needs to be off of their books by the 2026-27 season, when new deals for Jalen Williams and Chet Holmgren kick in. So who are some options? Clint Capela is probably the best traditional center on the board, but the Thunder don’t really like to use non-shooters. Nikola Vucevic is probably available and offers a bit of shooting, but do the Thunder want to pay the two remaining guaranteed seasons on his contract? Isaiah Stewart is a player to watch here. He combines bulk and 3-point shooting with a reasonable long-term deal. If the Thunder wanted to get a bit more ambitious in another direction, Gordon Hayward makes a lot of sense here as well. They’d have little competition on the trade front, and he could provide most of Josh Giddey’s ball-handling with far more reliable shooting.

Picks to trade: The Timberwolves can offer first-round pick swaps in 2024 (virtually worthless, but still), 2028 and 2030, but the rest of their picks are owed to Utah through the Rudy Gobert trade. Their next five second-round picks are also headed out, and though they own three second round picks from other teams in the next three years, two of them are the least favorable of multiple picks belonging to different teams. In other words, the Timberwolves have very little to deal.

Matching salary: If we assume Minnesota’s top eight players are off limits, we’re really only looking at Shake Milton ($5 million) and Troy Brown Jr. ($4 million) as meaningful salaries to move. That can get you a $10 million player or so, but there’s not gonna be a very expensive addition. Also keep in mind: The Timberwolves are roughly $12 million above next season’s projected tax line without even accounting for Mike Conley’s free agency (or Kyle Anderson’s for that matter), so taking on long-term salary would be difficult. The Timberwolves only have around $2 million in room below the tax line. They’d probably prefer to avoid it if possible.

Trade deadline goal: Find some way to stabilize the bench offense, ideally with another ball-handler that can shoot without hurting the defense.

How can they accomplish that goal: If Hayward reaches the buyout market, he’d be a perfect addition to Minnesota’s bench (assuming the Timberwolves could recruit him, of course). More likely, they’ll have to make a trade. The obvious guard in their salary range is Dennis Schroder at $12.4 million, though a direct swap for Milton and Brown would take Minnesota over the tax line. He could also fill in as a replacement starter next season if Conley leaves, but his unsteady shooting wouldn’t be ideal here. Still, Toronto’s desire to maximize cap space next season might open them up to the idea of a lesser return. If they want anyone more expensive, Anderson probably has to be in it, and they’d have to hope their remaining pick swaps would appeal to the right team. Malcolm Brogdon is probably too expensive in terms of both dollars and assets. Tyus Jones will net a first-rounder elsewhere. If they want shooting badly enough they could probably pry Gary Trent Jr. out of Toronto, but doing so would mean giving up Anderson, and that’s likely not happening.

Picks to trade: Their next six first-round picks are owed out due to the Paul George and James Harden trades, but the Thunder still have their 2030 first-round pick to trade if they want to. Their next six second-round picks are owed out as well. They have two incoming 2024 second-rounders, but those are going to be relatively low. The asset to watch is that 2030 first-rounder.

Matching salary: P.J. Tucker is out of the rotation and makes $11 million, so he’s the likeliest salary to move, but his player option for next season could be tricky. If absolutely necessary, the Clippers could include Mason Plumlee at $5 million and plan to roll forward with Ivica Zubac and Daniel Theis, but with Zubac currently injured, that plan would be precarious in the regular season.

Trade deadline goal: Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are having excellent defensive seasons, but getting another defensive-minded perimeter player to preserve them for high-leverage moments in the playoffs would be nice. They could also probably stand to improve on the Plumlee/Theis backup center spot, but this isn’t a major priority.

How can they accomplish that goal: The Clippers are one of about a dozen teams who could use Alex Caruso, but they don’t feel like a match here. The Bulls want multiple picks, and they’re too caught up in remaining competitive to seek a 2030 pick as compensation. The trouble here is that it’s hard to find many players below Caruso in terms of talent that would actually command real minutes when the Clippers are at full strength. If Tucker can’t get on the floor, neither would smaller-scale additions like Delon Wright. Schroder commands too many possessions. They should call Memphis about Marcus Smart, but Memphis is in win-now mode and wouldn’t be too excited about a 2030 pick. This looks like a case of the asset available not matching the market. There just aren’t many players that fit what the Clippers are looking for that are worth the potentially extremely valuable 2030 pick they could dangle, and even if there were, the Clippers are so good right now that they could argue that any sub-starter-level player just wouldn’t see the court for them at full strength. They should monitor the market in case anything changes, but for now, it seems unlikely that the Clippers deal that 2030 pick. More likely they send Tucker somewhere that they deem a non-threat to shave their enormous tax bill and call it a day.

Picks to trade: The Nuggets don’t have any tradable first-round picks, but they have tradable swap rights in the next four even-numbered years. They also control their own second-round picks in 2025, 2026, 2029 and 2030. They have an incoming second-round pick in 2024 as well, but it’s from Minnesota, so it won’t be valuable.

Matching salary: Honestly? None. The five Denver starters are the only players making more than $5 million. Reggie Jackson is an essential reserve at $5 million. Zeke Nnaji makes $4.3 million, but he’s poison-pilled and his extension is going to turn teams away. Everyone else is under $3 million. The Nuggets aren’t making a significant trade. If they do something, it’ll be swapping out a minimum or two.

Trade deadline goal: Work the fringes to see if there’s anyone remotely playable making a minimum-ish salary.

How can they accomplish that goal: The sort of trades we’re looking at here are like the Thomas Bryant deal they made last season. See if there’s a minimum-ish guy somewhere that makes sense, but obviously nothing big. Maybe Andre Drummond, but he likely wouldn’t make the playoff rotation (when Aaron Gordon typically plays backup center). Maybe Lonnie Walker IV for a bit more of a scoring punch? While we’re looking at Nets, Dennis Smith Jr. could bring some welcome guard defense. These are broadly the kinds of players available here. If there’s someone the Nuggets believe is better than their circumstances have allowed them to prove, they can take a small swing. More likely, Denver sits out.

Picks to trade: The Kings are out one first-rounder to Atlanta for Kevin Huerter. They owe their 2030 second-rounder to the Pacers but get Portland’s 2025 second-rounder. Neither of those seconds are protected. Otherwise? The Kings own all the rest of their picks without getting any others. The protections on the pick going to Atlanta mean that, for now, the Kings can’t trade a first-rounder until 2028, but since that pick will almost certainly convey this year, the Kings could use “next allowable” language to trade their 2026 pick as well.

Matching salary: Harrison Barnes and Huerter are the two players they’d likely be trying to upgrade on if they made a trade. Together, they make a bit under $33 million. Were they to trade for a forward with those contracts they could easily slide Malik Monk into Huerter’s role and call it a day.

Trade deadline goal: A few months ago it would have been obvious to target a defensive stopper. That’s still a need, but with the reporting on their interest in Bradley Beal and the offense dipping from No. 1 last season to No. 12 as of this writing, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see the Kings try to add another scorer either.

How can they accomplish that goal: Could Sacramento be the LaVine team? They made him a restricted free agent offer sheet all the way back in 2018, though a different front office was running the show back then. The Kings seem interested in a major splash, and the Barnes-Huerter duo would only need a Sasha Vezenkov-sized salary to make it work. Still, with Monk in place and Keegan Murray ascending, trading for an all-offense guard on a max deal probably doesn’t make sense. Kyle Kuzma would be an interesting on-court fit, but it just seems unlikely that the Kings would give up multiple picks to get him now when they could’ve just signed him with cap space over the summer and chose not to. Jerami Grant fits the same logic to an extent, though given what Portland paid him, it’s not clear how available he really was. Add the Kings to the pile of Caruso fits. They likely hoped Davion Mitchell would grow into the type of player Caruso is now. He hasn’t. Bruce Brown for a single first-round pick might be the lower-cost option that makes more sense. He could essentially replace Huerter on Sacramento’s cap sheet, his playing style contrasts nicely with Monk’s which would help the Kings mix and match as needed, and Toronto might even like the idea of adding Huerter’s shooting.

Picks to trade: All of their own picks are gone. Literally all of them, either traded or owed through swap rights. Some of those swap rights have since been swapped a second time. But the Suns quietly accumulated second-rounders over the summer. They have five of them from other teams to trade. Expect them to be active in seeing what those picks can get them.

Matching salary: The stars are obviously untouchable, but Grayson Allen has probably played his way into that status as well. Nassir Little’s $6.25 million is easily movable as part of a deal for a role player, but it’s worth wondering if the Suns would sniff around center upgrades as well if they could find someone to take on the rest of Jusuf Nurkic’s contract (He’s owed another $37.5 million after this season). That’s unlikely, but it’s worth a look.

Trade deadline goal: Defense and size, preferably in the same player. 

How can they accomplish that goal: Phoenix is probably the team that has been linked most often to Miles Bridges. His off-court concerns aside, the fit is seemingly based largely in the combination of talent and price. Bridges is probably the highest-upside player theoretically available to a team as asset-poor as Phoenix, but that doesn’t mean he’s a good fit. He’s never been much of a defender despite his physical tools, and his shooting, which is Phoenix’s superpower, is inconsistent. Delon Wright as a reserve defender that isn’t a total non-shooter would likely be gettable with Little’s salary and a second-rounder, though he’s having a down year and is now 31, so he might simply be declining. The Suns would love Tucker, but the Clippers have no reason to potentially help a playoff rival, so they’d need to swoop in and steal him after another Clippers trade or hope he gets bought out (note: Tucker makes less than the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, so he’s fair game for anyone on the buyout market). These aren’t exciting names, but the Suns have already made their exciting moves.

Picks to trade: The Pelicans owe out every single one of their second-rounder picks, but they have three incoming first-round picks (one from the Lakers in either 2024 or 2025, two from the Bucks) as well as swap rights on two more first-round picks (both from the Bucks). Couple those with all of their own first-rounders and the Pelicans are armed to do almost anything.

Matching salary: This is pretty tricky. The Pelicans have plenty of money to move around, but their only significant expiring salary is Jonas Valanciunas. If they were to move him, they’d need a replacement at center. Larry Nance Jr. is the other obvious salary for something bigger as he’s making around $10.4 million. The more pressing financial concern, though, is what to do with their youngsters. Trey Murphy is extension-eligible this offseason. Jose Alvarado has a cheap team option for next season, but he’ll need a big raise soon as well. CJ McCollum and Zion Williamson are both making big money, and so is Brandon Ingram, who will need even bigger money before he becomes a free agent in 2025. This team will soon be too expensive to justify anything less than championship contention, so the organization is going to have to settle on a course.

Trade deadline goal: Well… it’s hard to say. The Pelicans do have weaknesses they could afford to fortify. They don’t take enough 3’s, but that’s more of a coaching issue than a roster flaw. They could use another reliable backcourt ball-handler, but part of what makes this team work is its size, especially on defense. Until we know what the long-term plan is here, it’s hard to say definitively what the Pelicans want to do at the deadline.

How can they accomplish that goal: First thing’s first: the Pelicans have actually already accomplished their primary goal of the trade deadline. They snuck Kira Lewis Jr. into the Pascal Siakam trade between the Pacers and Raptors, and that allowed them to duck under the luxury tax. As far as moves with basketball motivations, it seems unlikely that the Pelicans would make any short-term focused moves. If they’re giving anything up, it’s for a major addition, and players that make sense for them just don’t seem to be available. They should make their annual call to Indiana for Myles Turner, but the Pacers have no reason to give him up. The Pelicans might make some sense as a Dejounte Murray team. They don’t play a traditional point guard (though that hasn’t hindered their ball-movement), and Murray more cleanly fits their current timeline than McCollum. However, Atlanta would be unlikely to take on the McCollum contract, and the shooting downgrade might render such a deal a downgrade anyway, so don’t expect this. The Pelicans are likelier to re-evaluate their roster and make long-term decisions in the offseason.

Picks to trade: Their own 2026 first-round pick is the asset to watch here. Their second-round picks are all spoken for, though they have future seconds from Toronto and Miami. The Stepien Rule allows them to trade only either their 2026 or 2027 pick, and the return has to be worthwhile to justify such a move because if the Mavericks are patient, they’ll be able to trade three first-round picks (2025, 2027 and 2031) this offseason once their 2024 obligation to the Knicks is met.

Matching salary: Richaun Holmes and his $12 million expiring salary are headed out the door in any meaningful deal. After that, everyone making real money either plays an important role or has in the past. Tim Hardaway Jr. has been way too good as the third scorer to trade. Grant Williams has been up and down and no longer starts. Do the Mavericks view his $12 million as expendable? How about Maxi Kleber? He’s almost never healthy and always has a minutes restriction, but he’s proven on several occasions to be an important playoff player because of his shooting and defensive versatility. Holmes alone gets you a decent rotation player. If you want to do better, it’s going to cost you.

Trade deadline goal: Right now, the Mavericks have plenty of playable but uninspiring forwards and defenders. One really good one would change everything for them.

How can they accomplish that goal: Toss the Mavericks onto the Brown and Caruso piles, but both are probably a tad small for their taste. They can both defend forwards, but this is already a relatively small team, so they’ll likely emphasize height. Neither Kuzma nor Grant defend as well as Brown or Caruso, but both offer other virtues at a size that makes more sense for Dallas. Grant’s shooting and shot-creation would be lethal on a team with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, and Kuzma’s rebounding, transition play and underrated defensive versatility would make up for his inconsistent shooting on a roster that already has plenty of it. Still, this season has gone well enough for Dallas to be patient if it wants to. Like the Pelicans, the Mavericks look more like an offseason team.

Los Angeles Lakers

Picks to trade: Right now, the only tradable first-round pick the Lakers have is in 2029 (unless you count the four presently protected slots on their 2027 pick, which they could theoretically trade again as that pick does not roll over to future years). If they wait until the offseason, the Lakers would have four picks to trade (either their 2024 or 2025 pick depending on whether or not the Pelicans choose to defer the pick they are owed as well as their 2031 pick). They owe four of their next seven second-round picks, but have the next two Clippers’ second-round picks incoming. 

Matching salary: If we assume Austin Reaves is off of the table, the combination of D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura and Gabe Vincent make around $44 million, so that trio could allow the Lakers to match with pretty much any feasible target.

Trade deadline goal: Guard has been the primary area of need for most of the season, but the strong recent play of Russell may compel the Lakers to reconsider. A more reliable two-way wing than the offense-first Taurean Prince and the defense-first Jarred Vanderbilt would be critical. Given their star-hunting ways, the Lakers may want to keep their powder dry for the offseason when they’ll have more picks to deal. At 24-24, this group hasn’t even proven it’s ready to contend, so its performance over the next week or so will be critical in convincing the front office it should invest.

How can they accomplish that goal: If Russell’s recent performance sustains, or at least if the Lakers think it will, Murray is probably the only definite upgrade out there. Reporting has suggested that there’s a framework here involving that 2029 pick, a swap and Russell going to a third team, and with Russell playing as well as he has, there might be more interest in him than there was a few weeks ago. Guard-needy teams like the Knicks and Magic make plenty of sense to absorb that contract if needed. Of course, the Lakers are a .500 team right now. They would be more than justified in not wanting to give that much up for a player they only view as a marginal upgrade. They’re going to spend the pre-deadline period haggling and seeking leverage if this is the deal they want to pursue. If not? Watch the buyout market. With so many contenders unable to add top buyout players by rule, the Lakers offer a very attractive combination of playoff upside, national television exposure, minutes and location. Hayward would probably hear them out. So would Kyle Lowry. If the Lakers are dubious of their playoff prospects, they’ll try to win the buyout market and plan to try to spend their picks in offseason trades.

Picks to trade: Too many to list thanks to their trades with Minnesota and Cleveland, but here’s one thing to keep in mind: the Jazz owe a top-10 protected first-round pick to the Thunder this year that rolls over to 2025 and 2026. Do the Jazz want to get that obligation over with? Or would they rather stay out of the play-in and keep the pick? The answer to that question may inform how they approach the deadline.

Matching salary: Talen Horton-Tucker and Kelly Olynyk both play, but neither are essential components to Utah’s long-term vision or its current rotation. They combine to make around $23 million, so if the Jazz make a big addition, they’d probably be involved. Jordan Clarkson makes $23 million this season, but his salary dips to $14 million in the two seasons that follow. If Utah trades him, it’s likely as a seller, not a buyer, but that’s a valuable contract to the right team, so it’s worth keeping in mind.

Trade deadline goal: Danny Ainge tends not to operate with a single defined goal. If he thinks a deal makes sense regardless of context he makes it. The Jazz took an intentional nosedive last season when they traded Mike Conley, Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley at the deadline. If someone else offers the right value for one of their veterans this year, they’ll consider it. But they also pursued Jrue Holiday over the summer. If the Jazz see a win-now move they like, they’ll strike. This is a “best deal available” team.

How can they accomplish that goal: If the Jazz chased Holiday, would they consider a quiet run at Murray? His long-term contract makes him an interesting target in a market that struggles to recruit and retain top talent. He’s been an elite defender in the past, but he hasn’t been lately. The Jazz have the chips to take this risk if the want to, but things are going well enough right now that they’d have to view Murray as their long-term point guard to justify such a major expenditure. If they choose to go the seller route, Clarkson is an obvious fit for any team seeking guard help. The Knicks should be at the front of that line, especially now that Julius Randle is hurt and they desperately need another scorer. Lauri Markkanen has gone from “probably untradeable” to “definitely untradeable without a historic package” thanks to his remarkable recent stretch. There’s no longer any doubt that Utah has a star to build around. Now it’s just a matter of how they want to support him.

Picks to trade: Houston’s next three first-round picks are earmarked for Oklahoma City either outright or via swap, but Houston has even greater control over Brooklyn’s picks, as the Nets will send will the Rockets their next four picks either outright or through swaps. Essentially, this means that the Rockets have no Stepien Rule complications. In the years their picks go to the Thunder, they get a pick from the Nets, so they can send out one first-round pick every year between now and 2030.

Matching salary: Ethically speaking, the Rockets made the right choice by trading Kevin Porter Jr. before the season. In doing so, though, they cost themselves their biggest tradable salary outside of the roster’s core. For now, Victor Oladipo ($9.5 million) and Jock Landale ($8 million on a very interestingly structured four-year deal that contains no guarantees beyond this season) are the names to watch here. The bulk of their roster is comprised of young players still on rookie deals, so matching money in trades is difficult. 

Trade deadline goal: A backup center is the primary need here. Remember, the Rockets tried to sign Brook Lopez over the summer. They are comfortable paying big money for someone even with Alperen Sengun in place. 

How can they accomplish that goal: Houston is the obvious Clint Capela team if he gets traded. He’s likely used to more minutes than the Rockets could offer, but he’s obviously familiar with the organization and the Rockets could send the Hawks the expiring money they’re likely looking for. And who knows. Sengun is at least trying 3’s now. Maybe a year from now he’s making enough of them to at least give the two of them a few minutes together. 

Picks to trade: The Warriors owe their first-round picks in 2024 and 2030, but they can still send out their picks in 2026 and 2028 if needed. All of their second-round picks until 2028 are owed out, but they have incoming picks from Atlanta in 2026 and 2028 that might hold some value.

Matching salary: Whatever they need. Chris Paul is functionally a $31 million expiring contract. Klay Thompson’s deal expires and counts for $43 million. Andrew Wiggins makes around $24 million this season, though an acquiring team would have to view him as a long-term piece as he has three years left on his deal after this one. For once, the Warriors even have mid-tier salary to move. Kevon Looney makes $7.5 million and is no longer an essential piece. Gary Payton II at $8.7 million fills a more important role, but injuries are a major concern for him. If they needed to move their youngsters, Jonathan Kuminga ($6 million) and Moses Moody ($4 million) are at least making sizable non-minimum numbers.

Trade deadline goal: The 19-24 Warriors may not be in serious championship contention this year, but remember, the second-apron trade restrictions start next season and there is a good chance the Warriors are above that line if Paul and/or Thompson are brought back (even at lower numbers). If the Warriors want to aggregate salaries to make a big trade of any sort in the near future, this might be their last chance to do so, so don’t be surprised if they make a big move with more of an eye on next year than this one. 

How can they accomplish that goal: The trouble Golden State is facing right now is that none of the high-end players out there right now, save the prohibitively asset-expensive Caruso, really fit their playing style. LaVine and DeRozan are the antithesis of Golden State’s motion. Murray is closer to sensible especially if he can revive his defense, but he’s only an average shooter, and that’s critical in a system that calls for Draymond Green to direct so many possessions. Markkanen would’ve been perfect, but he’s probably not available anymore (if he ever was). The sad truth for Golden State right now is that the players that would make the most sense for them right now are 2022 Andrew Wiggins, 2022 Klay Thompson and 2022 Gary Payton II. Unfortunately, they are stuck with their 2024 selves, and there are no clean facsimiles on the market. Pair that reality with a 19-24 record, and it seems as though the Warriors will only be able to make fringe changes.

Picks to trade: The Grizzlies owe out their next six second-round picks, but they control all of their own first-round picks, so they still have the ammo to make a big trade.

Matching salary: It depends what the want to do. Truthfully, there are fair arguments to trade any of the veterans except Ja Morant, Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. That means we can’t rule out Marcus Smart ($18.8 million), Luke Kennard ($14.7 million), Steven Adams ($12.6 million) or Brandon Clarke ($12.5 million)

Trade deadline goal: The Grizzlies won’t make win-now moves, but they’re not in “sell off veterans for assets mode” either. The real goal here is to find a way to make moves that eye the long-term from both a roster and financial perspective. With Bane’s max contract kicking in, the Grizzlies are more than $10 million above next season’s projected luxury-tax line. They can get back beneath it with Kennard’s team options, but look for the Grizzlies to sniff around consolidation trades as well. Say Kennard and Clarke have fallen out of their long-term plans. Could they combine that pair with some draft capital to add someone they prefer for the long haul? Is Adams, who will turn 31 in the offseason, still the starting center of the future? Would they dangle their potentially very high lottery pick in this upcoming draft for someone who can help them next year? Almost anything should be on the table under the right circumstances.

How can they accomplish that goal: The right priority for Memphis would be to pursue a replacement for Adams as their starting center. They’ve gotten just 42 combined games out of him across the past two seasons, and given his age and injuries, they should be trying to go younger. Daniel Gafford would be an interesting, cheaper swing that would allow them to retain some of Adams’ offensive-rebounding while also adjusting their cap sheet to reflect the reality that Jackson is playing enough center now to avoid a heavy center investment elsewhere. If they’re prepared to pay a bit more, it might be worth calling the Pelicans about a potential reunion with Valanciunas. The Grizzlies know he’s a fit, after all, and if the Pelicans don’t want to pay him, it couldn’t hurt to see what he’d net in a trade.

Picks to trade: The Blazers owe out one first-round pick to Chicago, but the protections dictate that it won’t convey until the Blazers reach the playoffs (or, if they haven’t by 2028, it becomes a second-round pick). On the other end of the spectrum, they have future first-rounders from the Warriors, Celtics and Bucks (along with two Bucks swaps), so Portland has a pick surplus to work with. 

Matching salary: Jerami Grant ($27.5 million) and Malcolm Brogdon ($22.5 million) are both desirable veterans that combine to make $50 million, so they could match money in basically any way they’d like.

Trade deadline goal: Turn veterans into assets.

How can they accomplish that goal: Does Brogdon net a first-round pick? It’s likelier than not that he does, though it probably won’t be a great one. That should suit the Blazers just fine, especially since they likely won’t be able to get assets back for Robert Williams III. Grant could probably get a first-round pick even with his enormous contract, but all of the reporting thus far suggests that Portland wants to keep him. That’s a bold approach to take on a 29-year-old with a five-year contract. Things could go south there quickly, and there’s no guarantee his value is ever this high again. A trade here is unlikely, but are we sure Anfernee Simons is off of the table? He’s grown significantly this season… but he also shares a position with Shaedon Sharpe and Scoot Henderson. Realistically, they’re not all going to be long-term Blazers. He’s been the best of the trio easily this year, but if Portland wants to empower Henderson and Sharpe to lead the team next year, sniffing around Simons’ market now and potentially getting a pick haul back might make some sense.

Picks to trade: Pretty much every pick that isn’t owned by the Thunder or Jazz belongs to the Spurs.

Matching salary: The most expensive Spur makes only $20 million, which means that if San Antonio wanted to add anyone making max or close to max money, they’d have to stack several players. Still, Doug McDermott ($13.8 million) and Devonte’ Graham ($12.1 million) get them to the mid-20’s pretty quickly, and they can stack smaller numbers as needed from there.

Trade deadline goal: Do anything in their power to fortify their future around Victor Wembanyama. That can mean adding more future picks, or it could mean adding a player that can help them both short- and long-term. The obvious position of need right now is point guard. The Spurs should look at every one of them on the market.

How can they accomplish that goal: A Murray reunion makes some basketball sense here. The Spurs know what to expect (and possibly how to get the best defense out of him), and they have an advantage over the field in that they can send the Hawks some of their own draft picks back, which matters quite a bit for a team that might need to tank in the next few years. If the Spurs want to go slightly cheaper, why not a Jones family reunion? Tyus Jones could be had for a weak first-rounder and checks the same traditional point guard boxes that his brother Tre does. Together, they could organize the offense around Wembanyama while the Spurs seek out a longer-term, higher-upside floor-general. It seems unlikely that any of the older veterans would net much from contenders, but what about Keldon Johnson? He seems like a possible “Knicks bench scorer” solution, especially since he’s big enough to play forward unlike most of their targets. The Spurs won’t trade Johnson for the sake of trading him, but the fact that he’s fallen out of the starting lineup suggests that he’s at least available for the right price.

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