With the NBA trade deadline only weeks away, teams have to consider what they need. Some teams barely need to make a move, while this deadline is make-or-break for other teams. I already went through a few potential landing spots for players on the move, but this list is more comprehensive. Here are every Western Conference team’s needs at the trade deadline:
Golden State Warriors: Depth
After DeMarcus Cousin’s return, the Warriors reminded the NBA just how unfair life is sometimes. The Warriors will likely cruise to their third straight NBA championship, but if they felt compelled to make a trade they could use more depth. Currently, the Warriors bench consists of aging veterans such as Andre Iguodala, Jonas Jerebko, and Shaun Livingston. It also includes very young players such as Quinn Cook, Alfonzo McKinnie, Jordan Bell, and Kevon Looney. The veterans are seeing a decline in their stats while the young players are highly unreliable. Still, none of these players are awful and the Warriors will likely win the championship without any move being made. Who’s going to stop Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Demarcus Cousins anyways?
Denver Nuggets: Defensive Veteran
Behind the play of Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets have had an incredible season so far. Although this breakout success is exciting, the Nuggets are extremely young. There core consists of 21-year-old Jamal Murray, 23-year-old Nikola Jokic, and 24-year-old Gary Harris. None of these players have any playoff experience, so expecting them to make a run at the Conference Finals is a stretch. To improve their chances the Nuggets should seek out more defensive-minded veterans. Although Paul Millsap fits the bill as a defensive veteran, one player usually isn’t enough. Trey Lyles could be moved in a trade for a player such as Robin Lopez, Luc Mbah a Moute, or Courtney Lee.
Oklahoma City Thunder: 3-Point Shooting
The Thunder are in the middle of another great regular season, yet improvements still need to be made. If they want to become serious contenders in the West, they need to add shooting depth. This season, the Thunder rank 26th in three-point percentage on over 30 attempts per game. They only have 4 players shooting over league-average from three, and one of them, Abdel Nader, is only taking 1.1 threes a game. With a variety of wings available, including Terrance Ross, Wayne Ellington, Courtney Lee, Rodney Hood, and Kent Bazemore, the Thunder can easily make a move.
Portland Trailblazers: A Back-Up Big
A back-up big may not solve this team’s deeper issues, but it will allow them to maximize their success this season. Meyers Leonard has been awful as the teams back up center. He has a -12.8 on-off rating, the team is 12.8 points better per 100 possessions when he is not playing compared to when he is playing. With Robin Lopez and Dewayne Dedmon both on the market, the Blazers shouldn’t have a hard time finding a deal. As long as they don’t give up more than second round picks, I believe this would be a huge benefit to the team. Long term the Blazers may have to realize Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum won’t win a championship together, but a move that big won’t happen at the deadline.
Houston Rockets: A Second Ball Handler
While watching James Harden score 50+ points on a near nightly basis is fun, it’s unsustainable. If Chris Paul returns and is completely healthy that would relieve Harden of some offensive duties, but Paul’s health is far from guaranteed. To avoid a meltdown similar to the 2017 playoffs, the Rockets need to find a bench player that can create their own shot. If the Rockets could land Tim Hardaway Jr for Brandon Knight and a first round pick, that would be an ideal situation. Hardaway gives the Rockets their sorely needed second scorer and shouldn’t cost too much to pick up.
Utah Jazz: A Second Scoring Threat
Although Utah has fought their way back into the playoff race, their offense has not been good. They currently rank 20th in the NBA and their offensive Star, Donovan Mitchell, is shooting 42% from the field. Luckily, a two-way talent has recently been added to the trade block in Mike Conley. Now that Memphis is shopping Conley, Utah should jump on this offer. Even though he’s getting older and is on an unfavorable contract, Utah isn’t exactly a free agent destination. If they could trade the expiring contracts of Ricky Rubio, Derrick Favors, and a first rounder for him, I say it’s a great deal. Conley would take pressure off Mitchell as another offensive threat, and wouldn’t hurt Utah’s elite defense.
San Antonio Spurs: Help on Defense
To help their ailing defense I suggested the Spurs trade for Marc Gasol in my most recent article. Although it may seem that 3-point shooting is their biggest issue, as they are dead last in attempts and bottom 5 in made threes, their offense is ranked 7th in the NBA while their defense is sitting at 19. They are perfectly content running their offense through their two elite midrange shooters, DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. Since their offense is fine, I believe they should look for a new defensive anchor. Swapping Pau Gasol or Jakob Poeltl for Marc Gasol would be a huge upgrade for the Spurs and would maximize their playoff success.
LA Clippers: Upgrade at Center
Just like the Spurs, the Clippers are in need of a better defense. They rank 21st in defensive rating and are quickly slipping in the standings. The Center has the most effect on the defense, so swapping Marcin Gortat for Marc Gasol would surely bolster their defensive rating. Of course, if they want to dedicate themselves to saving cap space for this offseason, it wouldn’t be worth it to take on Gasol’s contract, if he opts into his player option. They may try to pick up a defensive minded center on an expiring deal, such as Willie Cauley-Stein or reunite themselves with DeAndre Jordan.
LA Lakers: Anthony Davis… or at least some shooting
While the Lakers will need a second star to compete for a championship, and Anthony Davis would be the best star player to get, that likely won’t happen at the deadline. Instead, I hope the Lakers add some shooting. They rank 28th in three-point percentage at 33.4% and 29th in free throw percentage at 68.6%. As mentioned with the Thunder, there are plenty of shooters on the market and plenty of trades are available for the Lakers.
Sacramento Kings: Move Willie Cauley-Stein
Unless they can agree on a reasonable contract extension in the coming weeks, Willie Cauley-Stein and the Kings need to part ways. With Marvin Bagley emerging as their center of the future, WCS has little value to the Kings moving forward. That said, he could still have value to other teams such as the Spurs or Clippers. It’s not worth sacrificing future assets to make a playoff push this year, so the Kings should attempt to collect future assets instead. With WCS being a restricted free agent this offseason, there is a decent chance he gets a contract offer that’s not worth matching. Getting assets back is certainly better than losing him for nothing. Additionally, without Stein on the team, Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles can play more minutes at center and develop properly.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Move Expiring Deals
The Timberwolves currently sit in the precarious position of being an average NBA team. They aren’t quite good enough to make the playoffs, yet they won’t be bad enough to get a top pick in the draft. They badly need to get off of Andrew Wiggins atrocious contract, but I can’t imagine there would be any suitors. Perhaps they could trade Gorgui Dieng‘s slightly worse contract, but that doesn’t make them much better. Another option is to move expiring contracts that likely won’t be returning, including Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose, and Anthony Tolliver. Unless the Timberwolves feel confident there’s a trade available that would allow them to make a playoff push, there is no reason to hold onto so many expiring contracts.
Dallas Mavericks: Future Pieces
Despite their desire to make the playoffs this year, the Mavericks likely won’t reach that goal this year. Given how tough the Western Conference is and the lack of top-tier talent, it would take a miracle for the Mavericks to make the playoffs. Instead of offering more of their future assets to try and make the playoffs this year, the Mavericks should look to build around their 19-year-old rookie sensation, Luka Doncic. If they continue to surround him with pieces that are closer to his age, the Mavs will have more success in the long run. Quite frankly there is no obvious move for the Mavericks to make this year. They already shopped Dennis Smith Jr unsuccessfully, so I doubt he will be moved and no other player seems to be on the block.
New Orleans Pelicans: A Big Move
With questions around Anthony Davis’ future in New Orleans arising, the Pelicans need to trade for another star or trade Davis. Obviously, they tried to do that with Boogie, but he suffered a major injury and is now on the Warriors. Going after a Bradley Beal or a Mike Conley would be a good start if the Pelicans want to keep AD. Julius Randle, Nikola Mirotic, and their first-round pick should all be on the table in a potential trade. The chances of a big free agent signing in New Orleans is next to none, so if they want a second star they’ll have to trade for one. If the Pelicans are going to make a move it has to be now since reports claim Davis is planning to demand a trade this offseason.
Memphis Grizzlies: Draft Assets and Young Players
As the Grit-and-Grind era comes to an end, the Grizzlies need to make moves to jumpstart their rebuild. This obviously starts with moving Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. I already wrote an article exploring potential trades for the Grizzlies (here), so I won’t go into detail right now. Other teams I’ve already mentioned, Jazz, Pelicans, Spurs, Clippers, could all use these aging stars and would be willing to give up draft picks or young pieces. Instead of waiting for a rebuild to be forced upon them, the Grizzlies need to take action now.
Phoenix Suns: A Point Guard
Although they’ve experimented running Devin Booker at point guard, the Suns would be better off adding an established ball-handler to the roster. I’m surprised that they didn’t make a move when Dennis Smith Jr was available, but other options such as Tyus Jones and Jeremy Lin are still on the table. If they don’t make a move at the deadline, they are likely waiting for the offseason to make offers to restricted free agents such as Terry Rozier and D’Angelo Russell.