NBA Trade Deadline: Which Teams Should Be Buyers, Sellers?

Teams have until March 25 to wheel and deal


Mar 22, 2021

Most teams have to make an important decision early in the second half of each season: buy or sell at the NBA trade deadline?

For teams in the playoff picture, a move or two at the NBA trade deadline could significantly elevate their chances of reaching the NBA Finals. On the other hand, cellar dwellers or teams unlikely to make noise in the postseason might be best-served to shed some pieces in order to bring in assets.

With the March 25 NBA trade deadline fast approaching, let’s identify a few teams that should be trying to add at the deadline and also pinpoint a handful of franchises that should be taking calls.

Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers find themselves right in the thick of a fascinating Western Conference race. Portland has managed to find success, despite C.J. McCollum missing serious time due to injury, which largely is due to Damian Lillard putting together an MVP-caliber campaign. The Blazers should be able to climb in the standings with the backcourt tandem now back in action, but they cannot afford to be stagnant at the deadline if they want to make a deep playoff run.

Portland could use some size and interior help in order to balance out its roster. Perhaps this need could be addressed in the form of Aaron Gordon, who could be shopped by the lowly Orlando Magic. We’ve seen McCollum and Lillard both take their game to new heights in the spring, but the Blazers only have been able to go so far. With the Utah Jazz looking like the real deal and the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers primed to run it back, it would behoove Portland to be aggressive in order to keep pace.

Miami Heat
Some might argue the Heat shouldn’t be too active at the deadline. After all, Miami is the reigning Eastern Conference champion, so it knows it can reach basketball’s grandest stage as currently constructed. But considering how the Philadelphia 76ers and the new-look Brooklyn Nets have performed for the bulk of the campaign, the Heat might need to make a splash in order to reach the Finals for a second consecutive season.

As far as potential additions for Pat Riley’s team, how about Victor Oladipo? The Houston Rockets would be wise to kickstart their rebuild by selling at the deadline, and Oladipo reportedly has interest in playing in South Beach. The two-time All-Star wouldn’t make the biggest splash, but he’d be a nice complement to Jimmy Butler.

Los Angeles Clippers
Last season proved that even with two of the NBA’s best two-way players — Kawhi Leonard and Paul George — in the fold, the Clips aren’t a lock to play deep into the spring and early summer. LA also has experienced somewhat of a roller-coaster season to date under first-year head coach Tyronn Lue, so the franchise should not rest on the laurels of its high-end talent, as we inch closer to the home stretch of the regular season.

To be clear, the Clippers shouldn’t feel inclined to go for broke at the deadline like some other teams with similar Finals aspirations. But the acquisition of a solid rotational player could be of great benefit to LA. Lonzo Ball seemingly would fit this mold. The Clippers could use the guard depth, and Ball also would provide solid defense while not taking any shots away from Leonard and/or Paul.

Sacramento Kings
Save for De’Aaron Fox and maybe Tyrese Haliburton, the Kings should be listening to offers for any player on their roster. Sacramento is not a full-fledged dumpster fire, but it’s clear major roster retooling will be needed for the franchise to climb out of the basement of the West standings.

The Kings have a number of players who could be of interest to championship contenders. Chief among them is Harrison Barnes, a veteran 3-and-D player who also has Finals experience. You also never can have enough shooting, and Buddy Hield — while not always consistently — can shoot the lights out. Again, Sacramento isn’t going anywhere with its current roster, so might as well try to capitalize on the trade pieces it currently possesses.

Toronto Raptors
The Raptors’ run to the franchise’s first championships feels much, much longer than two years ago. Leonard is lone gone, Toronto is reeling and even qualifying for the playoffs is starting to feel like a stretch for Nick Nurse’s club.

The Raps feature one of the more appealing potential trade chips in all of basketball: Kyle Lowry. If made available, the veteran point guard surely would be in high demand by playoff-bound teams. Maybe the Sixers, who could strike interest in the Philly native. But above all else, Lowry is in the midst of the final year of his deal, so Toronto should try to receive some value for him to avoid watching him walk away for nothing.

Lowry isn’t the only player whom the Raptors should be open to moving, though. While it seemed like a non-starter not terribly long ago, even Pascal Siakam should be discussed if Toronto embraces the seller label.

Cleveland Cavaliers
Much like the Kings, the Cavs should make the majority of their roster available for trade. We already know Cleveland is looking to move Andre Drummond, but the Cavs should follow suit with players like JaVale McGee and Kevin Love. Cleveland effectively has lost its leverage with Drummond and probably wouldn’t fetch much for McGree, but any return beats no return.

At this point, the Cavs should concerned with stockpiling as many future assets as possible. This, of course, can be achieved by selling off players who clearly aren’t part of the big-picture plan.

Thumbnail photo via Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports Images
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