We’re reaching the halfway mark of the NBA season, a time where teams can either look back with great fondness over how the first half went, or hope the second half goes better than the first. Also fast approaching is the trade deadline on Feb. 6. As we inch closer to that date more rumors begin to swirl about, building anticipation over which teams will make a move to set them over the edge for the playoffs, and which franchises will sell off pieces after disappointing starts.
There’s a lot at stake at this point of the season, which means there’s plenty to talk about. So let’s look at some of the league’s recent trends and try to figure out what’s real, and what isn’t worth giving a second thought.
Buy or Sell: The Lakers will make a move that will drastically improve their title odds
The trade deadline is just three weeks away, and while every team will try to improve its roster for a better shot at a championship or make moves for long-term success, all eyes will be on what the Lakers do to get better right now. The name that’s been Kyle Kuzma, mainly due to his imperfect role alongside Anthony Davis and LeBron James, which has resulted in a tumultuous season for the third-year forward. The issue, though, is trying to project Kuzma’s trade value.is
In 2018-19, Kuzma had a career season (18.7 points, 5.5 rebounds) on a losing Lakers squad, but since he’s been moved back to the bench he has struggled to contribute consistently in Los Angeles this season. Kuzma didn’t even make the cut in ourat the beginning of the season, and if the rest of the league views him similarly, it will be hard for the Lakers to get a return valuable enough to increase their title odds. It’s not about if Kuzma will get traded, because his contract is easily moveable ($1.9 million). Instead, it’s about what the Lakers can get in return.
Since the start of the new year, though, Kuzma has been proving his worth to the Lakers. He’s averaging 18.5 points, while shooting 45.6 percent from the field, including a 36-point outburst against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday. It’s worth mentioning that Kuzma’s production has been mostly a result of Davis being out the past two games with a sore back, which has thrust him in the starting lineup in A.D.’s place. Whether it’s Kuzma finding his groove or just a result of Davis being out, his recent streak could increase his trade value for teams believing he has some untapped potential that’s worth giving up a scoring wing player that would fit perfectly in Los Angeles. Either way, if Kuzma is the main piece the Lakers are dangling to generate a trade before the deadline, it likely won’t elicit the type of return that’s going to set this team over the edge for a championship.
Buy or Sell: Jerry West is right, Luka Doncic will be better than Dirk Nowitzki
During an interview with the Dallas Morning News, NBA legend Jerry West heaped on perhaps the biggest praise Doncic has gotten to date. While casually calling Doncic a genius, and having the potential to be one of the greatest players to ever play, West said that Doncic would surpass Dirk Nowitzki as the greatest Dallas Mavericks player ever.
“Look at Dallas,” West said. “One player has transformed them into a playoff team. He will be the best player Dallas has ever had. I have great respect for Nowitzki, but Dirk is not him.”
That’s a huge compliment coming from the logo himself, and if you’ve been watching Mavericks basketball this season then you’ve likely seen why West thinks this. Every game it feels like Doncic is breaking records, and in the first half of the season he’s been in the MVP conversation while averaging nearly a triple-double (29.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, 9.0 assists). His play has positioned the Mavericks as a legitimate playoff team in the tough-as-nails Western Conference, and at 20 years old, he looks like he’s only scratching the surface.
For comparison, when Nowitzki was 20, he was a rookie on a bottom-feeding Mavericks team where he averaged just 8.2 points and 3.4 rebounds, and in his second year he took a sizable leap, averaging 17.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. Dirk was a 14-time All-Star but it took four years before his first invite. Doncic, meanwhile, looks like he’ll be attending the festivities in his second season, and could potentially be a captain for one of the teams. It took time for Nowtizki to become one of the best players in the league, while Doncic is arguably one of the top 5-10 players in the league right now. To say that Doncic could dethrone Nowitzki as the greatest player in Mavericks history may seem like a reach, only because he’s still so young. In reality, though, the trajectory that Doncic’s career is on right now might have him become not only the greatest player in Mavs history, but, as West says, one of the greatest players in NBA history.
Buy or Sell: The Cavaliers should wait until the offseason to trade Kevin Love
Despite a Cavaliers reportedly expressed “fresh optimism” about getting a deal for Love done before the deadline.to his team for “childish” behavior, Kevin Love isn’t enjoying how the Cavaliers are playing and the truth remains that Love still wants out of Cleveland. The problem is, Love is in Year One of a four-year, $120 million contract, so any team that takes him on would be forced to pay the remaining $91 million over the next three years. That’s a hard sell for any team, even if it has the trade capital to add him. It’s especially hard to deal that big of a contract in the middle of the season. However, on New Year’s Eve, the
While the Cavaliers might get better deals if they were to wait until the offseason, it would be wise to trade Love as quickly as possible so they can focus on rebuilding for the future. Also, it only makes sense to turn the page sooner than later after all the turmoil that’s been plaguing this team in recent weeks. Plus, the free agency class this summer is projected to be underwhelming so see what you can get now.
Love can still be a valuable asset to contending teams in the league, but it may take a lot of moving parts to pull off a trade to equal the salary he’s getting paid. One major con to waiting to deal him in the summer is if Love were to get injured between now and then it would plummet his trade value. He’s averaging a double-double (16.9 points, 10.3 rebounds) this season and with his lengthy injury history it would be worth it for Cleveland to get what it can in return for him while focusing on the development of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland moving forward.
Buy or Sell: The 76ers will fall short of their goals without a considerable change to the roster
The 76ers are not shy of issues: Ben Simmons‘ offensive holes, Al Horford not being the perfect fit, a lack of shooters and a closer are among the several concerns. And these will only become heightened now that Joel Embiid is sidelined after having . In order for this team to not only maintain its standing in the East with Embiid out, while also improving its chances for the postseason, it needs to get a deal done before the trade deadline.
The Sixers are a middling offensive team without any real shooting threats who can knock down shots when called upon. On paper, this roster looks like it should be nearly unstoppable with its stout defense, but that doesn’t help when you can’t score on the other end. Entering Monday, the Sixers rank 17th in offensive rating (109.1), and Simmons still hasn’t become completely comfortable with shooting the ball from outside the paint. In order for the Sixers to utilize Simmons’ strengths to their advantage, it would be beneficial to trade for shooters to surround him with so that he can kick the ball out to them on the 3-point line. It turns out letting JJ Redick walk over the summer wasn’t such a great idea, because now Philly needs to find someone to fill that role.
Even then, if the Sixers added scorers to surround Simmons with, it still doesn’t address one of their bigger issues of lacking a true closer who can take over games in the closing minutes. If there isn’t anyone on this roster who can take over when the game is on the line, it won’t matter how many shooters are on the floor.
Buy or Sell: It’s time for the Pistons to blow it up and trade Andre Drummond
Nothing has gone right for the Pistons this season, andcertainly doesn’t help. Detroit is 14-26, which is 4 1/2 games out of the No. 8 spot in the East standings. However, another first-round sweep in the playoffs doesn’t help this team going forward in any way. No big-name free agents are going to sign there, and as long as the Pistons keep squeaking into the playoffs as an eighth seed, they won’t improve their team through the draft either.
With likely no more Griffin this season, it’s time that this franchise overhauls its roster in a big way to build a young, competitive team through the draft. That starts with trading Andre Drummond. He may not yield the greatest return, given the fact that there aren’t many teams looking for a traditional center who can’t shoot outside of the paint. However, getting something for him right now is better than him declining his player option this summer and having him walk for nothing. There have been Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors. If you’re Detroit, you have to feel good about the potential assets you could get in return from any one of those teams., ,
Moving Drummond is about building for the future and stockpiling draft picks. In the eight years Drummond has been in Detroit, the Pistons have made the playoffs just twice, and have failed to build anything around their All-Star big man. He’s leading the league in rebounds (15.9) and is putting up 17.6 points a night. This is the perfect time to sell high and go back to the drawing board.