2023 NBA trade deadline: The five teams facing the most pressure to make moves, including the Clippers and Warriors

NBA fans love the smell of business season in the morning, and some cities tend to have more pungent odorous emissions than others. While teams like the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies can confidently look to fill their teams heading into the Feb. 9 trade deadline, others are looking at their roster holes like LeBron James is looking at JR Smith.

Therefore, varying levels of urgency are being implemented at each NBA front office. We decided to take a look at five franchises facing the most pressure at the 2023 trade deadline.

Ground Level: Underperformance and a lack of consistency due to injuries have created a sense of urgency for a preseason title favorite that has been undeniably mediocre.

“Hey, don’t you know when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are on the court together…” blah, blah, blah. At this point, the championship-contending Clippers exist in a parallel universe with Hot Dog Fingers and Racakoni. In this universe — for all that matters — they are the .500 team with the fourth worst offense in the NBA. Leonard and George have played only 18 games together, and they are 11-7. Not confidence inspiring at all.

The good news is that this roster is perfectly built for a trade, with mid-level salaries that could be used as filler for a bigger deal or as a replacement for a better-fitting player at a similar price. Can be swapped for Nick Batum, Reggie Jackson, Robert Covington, Luke Kennard, Marcus Morris Sr. and Norman Powell all earn between $10-16 million, and Jackson has the only contract that expires at the end of this season. The Clippers also (finally) have a first-round pick to hang on to in a trade, and given the current state of the team with two aging stars, that 2028 pick could look pretty juicy of a potential partner.

Point guard is the most obvious area for improvement, with Jackson taking a step back this season and the Clippers sporting a minus-6.6 net rating with John Wall on the floor. Wall’s $6.4 million salary could be useful in a trade, with potential targets like Utah Jazz vet Mike Conley and — one big swing — Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet.

This team was built for a championship, coming insanely close two seasons ago, but right now it feels like more needs to happen, if for anything else to shake off the malaise. Leonard is starting to play like his old self, and the last thing you want to do is ruin a healthy season from him, because we don’t know how many he’s got left in him. There is definitely a sense of urgency for the Clippers.

2. Toronto Raptors

Ground Level: With several impactful players headed to a deadline that lacks them, it may be the right time for the Raptors to sell their pieces and look to the future.

Toronto was listed by our Sam Quinn as one of the potential Sellers who trade timeframes can dictate the marketBecause the team has an abundance of an otherwise rare commodity – players who can really affect a contending team’s title chances.

Two-Way Wing OG Anunoby has reportedly raved about his role in the crime, and will be ordering a major expansion in the near future. All-Star point guard Fred VanVleet has yet to come to terms with his own extension, and will almost certainly be out of the final year of his deal to enter free agency this offseason if they fail to reach an agreement. Will be out Gary Trent Jr., a career 38 percent, high-volume 3-point shooter, will also decline his option after this season and enter the free-agent market. If you want to think even bigger, All-NBA forward Pascal Siakam — whose contract expires after next season — could also be available if Masai Ujiri and the front office get an offer they can’t easily refuse. Can.

The pressure on the Raptors this trade deadline revolved around one key decision: blow it, pat it, or something in between.

With Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes possibly off the table, the organization needs to decide which, if any, Anunoby, VanVleet, Trent and Siakam are essential parts of the future. With a record of around .500 and no money on the back books for 2023-24 outside of Chris Boucher, the Raptors are a legitimate tank/rebuild candidate. All of those pieces will yield significant wealth, and the rest of this season will be devoted to entering the Victor Vembanyama-Schut Henderson sweepstakes. A core built around Barnes, this year’s draft pick and whatever young players they bring in in trades wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world — see how the Utah Jazz fared despite trading away two All-NBA players has managed to stay relevant.

Conversely, the Raptors could decide that this is, in fact, a core built to win a title, and that the first half of this season was just a fluke that will soon be fixed. Remember the Boston Celtics were under .500 at this time last year before they suddenly turned unbeatable and rocketed to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and the NBA Finals. Trading one of Toronto’s pieces for a minor improvement seems like a half measure, but it’s also an option.

The point is that the Raptors will have to make a firm decision, which comes with a lot of pressure.

Ground Level: The Warriors’ problems this season could be overcome via a trade, but they would have to compromise their bridge to the future in the process.

There’s no way around it: the defending champions have struggled this season. a recent report That said, the Warriors front office doesn’t expect to trade any of its three former lottery picks — James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody — before the deadline, but it always comes with the caveat “subject to change.” Considering Wiseman is likely to be in any significant trade Golden State makes, it would appear to be another quiet deadline on the horizon.

However, there is always – Always — the urgency of maximizing Steph Curry’s window of greatness. The Warriors have moved from second in defensive efficiency last season to 14th this year, underscoring the importance of Otto Porter Jr. and Gary Payton II in that championship rotation. Of the three youngsters, only Kuminga looks marginally ready to contribute in a playoff setting, and even he has been up and down. Donte DiVincenzo has been an excellent addition, but JaMychal Green — expected to fill in as a mobile, switchable big man — hasn’t panned out thus far.

Adding a player like Jakob Poelt as a backup center with size (something the Warriors lack unless Wiseman sorts things out quickly) would likely help the defense, but they would need Wiseman to match the salary. Gotta get rid of it. Ditto if they went for a big wing like Jalen McDaniels. The Warriors could always wait for the market to pat and buy, but is someone like Rudy Gay going to take you over the top?

Keep in mind that Golden State also doesn’t want to take a salary that would add to its massive luxury-tax bill, so whoever they trade for will have to pay rent on the deal that expires. Would you give up one of your youth lotteries for a few months of Win-Now help?

Most teams would say no, but the Warriors have an aging championship corps, armed with one of the best players in history at the helm – which certainly makes things a little more difficult going into this time frame.

Ground Level: Luka Doncic is a one-man show, and it might be time for a generational superstar to step up as a show of good faith.

Despite Mark Cuban’s insistence that they got it “dead wrong” ESPN’s Tim McMahon reported earlier this month that Luka Doncic has “strongly indicated” he wants the Mavericks to upgrade the roster before the trade deadline. When your 23-year-old MVP candidate tests out in need of more assistance, there’s strong pressure to oblige. And can you really blame him?

Doncic has been performing at historic levels, but the Mavs have hovered around .500 for most of the season, partly due to losing their running mate — Jalen Brunson — to the New York Knicks this offseason. Dallas provided no proper backcourt replacement for Brunson, and the addition of Christian Wood has hurt the defense as much as it has helped the offense. What’s left is a Mavericks team unable to win most games unless Doncic goes ballistic – which luckily for them happens often.

The Mavs have the salary cap for Wood, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Spencer Dinwiddie to play, as well as plenty of future draft picks. What they get from this, and what they are willing to give, remains to be seen. Can the front office convince Doncic that holding his assets for a big swing is better than getting marginal help later? Will the notoriously ultra-competitive Doncic necessarily entertain the concept of punting in which he is, conservatively, one of the NBA’s five best players?

Doncic’s free agency is still a long way off in real life (2026), but in NBA terms it’s coming more quickly. The last thing you want to do is make any mistakes that could ultimately help push Doncic toward the door, so the Mavericks will have to handle this situation delicately and wisely.

Ground Level: LeBron James doesn’t want to spend the final days of his career on a mediocre team, but the front office and ownership are hesitant to use the future asset for what could be a wasted shot at contention.

lebron james recently He said about the current situation of his team: “You all know what’s going on.” Unfortunately, there have been many different iterations throughout Laker Land as to exactly what is happening. Trading Russell Westbrook? Keep Westbrook but trade Patrick Beverley? Business Anthony Davis? Trade LeBron himself?

No matter which version you find most prudent, it’s hard to argue that the Lakers have any chance of winning an NBA title with their current roster, hence the need for turnover — whether it’s the trade deadline. be it before or in free agency be it coming after or before the season. James doesn’t appear prepared to wait, but the fact that he signed an extension that carries him through at least next season takes some of the pressure off the front office.

That being said, there is urgency. The Lakers front office showed as much on Monday, Completing first notable deal of trade season by acquiring forward Rui Hachimura from Washington Wizards,

James, soon to become the league’s all-time leading scorer, is averaging nearly 30 points per game and shooting nearly 60 percent on 2-pointers. Davis, when he was healthy for a brief stretch, looked like the most dominant player in the league. For all the flak he’s received for his late-game decision-making (or lack thereof), Westbrook has performed well since going off the bench, putting up 16.5 points, 7.9 assists and 6.5 rebounds on 44 percent shooting as a reserve. . New head coach Darwin Hamm seems to have hit the Lakers hard on both ends. There is something there, no matter how faintly the candle flickers.

Trading Westbrook for the Indiana duo of Buddy Hield and Myles Turner has been rumored since the dawn of time, and the Pacers’ recent decline in the absence of Tyrese Halliburton could make that deal a little more realistic for them. The sticking point in any Westbrook deal has always been the 2027 and/or 2029 first-round players the Lakers would have to give up in compensation. One point of view is that you are grateful to James and his fans for keeping him going as long as he is still performing at this level. The flip side is that none of the deals on the table will actually make the Lakers a title contender this season, so why not put your chips in until next summer when you also have cap space due to Westbrook’s contract expiring.

You can certainly see both sides, but when King is going public about wanting to make a move, it amps up the pressure level for Rob Pelinka & Co.

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