Though next Thursday’s NBA trade deadline is fast approaching, good luck trying to figure out which teams are buyers and which teams are sellers.
That includes the Washington Wizards.
Only ice storms this week could cool the red-hot Wizards, winners of six straight whose Wednesday game against the Detroit Pistons was nixed because of weather problems. But ahead of the deadline, the Wizards’ recent surge doesn’t mean they’ll be a traditional “buyer” looking to be aggressive in adding talent for a playoff push. And though they’re under .500 at 24-26, they’re also unlikely to sell off assets.
Instead, the Wizards — like a lot of teams — will likely monitor the market to see if there’s a deal that makes sense, even if may not be as splashy. After trading Rui Hachimura to the Los Angeles Lakers last month, Washington has reportedly signaled to other teams that scorer Kyle Kuzma is staying put while the team tries to re-sign the forward in the offseason. But the Wizards have other players — wing Will Barton has a $14.4 million expiring contract — who might be available.
One of the reasons this year’s deadline is harder to predict than usual? The mash-up of teams clumped together in the middle of the standings.
Entering Thursday’s action, 10 teams in the West — starting with the fourth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers (29-25) and ending with the 13th-seeded Los Angeles Lakers (24-28) — are separated by just four games or less. The Eastern Conference is also a picture of parity, with not a lot of difference from seed six (the 29-25 Miami Heat) through 12 (the 23-30 Toronto Raptors).
With so many teams still in the hunt, that presumably means fewer will be interested in parting ways with players.
Take, for example, the 25-26 Portland Trail Blazers. Forward Jerami Grant, who is on an expiring contract, makes sense for a team looking to make a playoff push as he can defend, shoot 3s and handle the ball. But the Blazers not only reportedly want to keep Grant for the long haul, but they are also interested in adding talent. Portland also could be just a five-game winning streak away from being one of the top teams in the West. Grant played for DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Maryland, and is the son of former Wizards/Bullets forward Harvey Grant.
According to multiple reports, the Lakers, Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks have been the teams most commonly linked to being buyers. The Lakers have two first-round picks they can trade and are trying to avoid squandering one of LeBron James’ remaining seasons. The Clippers, meanwhile, reportedly are seeking help at point guard, while the Bucks are interested in veterans like Phoenix’s Jae Crowder.
The list of sellers could include the Raptors, San Antonio Spurs and the Charlotte Hornets — the latter two of whom own two of the worst records in the NBA and have veterans that could entice other teams.
The Raptors have been repeatedly mentioned as one of the league’s most intriguing deadline teams. Point guard Fred VanVleet is set to be a free agent this summer, but Toronto’s asking price reportedly remains high. Three-and-D wing O.G. Anunoby, too, has been the Raptor most floated in trade rumors, though it could take a sizable offer to pry him loose.
Teams like the Chicago Bulls and the Utah Jazz are also at crossroads. The Jazz have a variety of veterans who have been linked in trade talk, including Mike Conley, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt.
And the Bulls have a core that doesn’t look capable of making a serious push, though it’s unclear if management is willing to pull the plug just yet.
As for Washington, trade talk involving star Bradley Beal has finally cooled off after recent years, which makes sense as the three-time All-Star signed a $251 million contract and has a no-trade clause.
Beyond Beal and Kuzma, big man Kristaps Porzingis can technically be a free agent this summer if he declines his $36 million player option. But he has fit well in Washington and his name hasn’t surfaced in many trade rumors.