Remember when very little used to happen at the NBA Trade Deadline? Take 2014 for instance. That winter the biggest moves made involved the likes of aging rotation pieces like Andre Miller, Danny Granger and Jason Terry. I bring this up only to suggest what a lot of insiders have been hinting at the past month: There’s a chance not a lot happens in the next week. The reasons for this are plentiful, but mostly boil down to a couple of key points. One, with the seven and eight seeds up for grabs in both conferences, there aren’t many teams that consider themselves out of the playoff hunt. Two, with an underwhelming free agent class on the horizon, dead salary and expiring contracts aren’t as valuable as they have been in recent years.
Still, that’s not to say we can’t be optimistic. Here’s three teams that should do something on February 6.
Depending on your view, the Heat either have too many players or not enough. It’s a unique problem, but one that we’ve seen before. The formula to winning games in the playoffs is usually simple enough, while having a nice 10-man rotation in the regular season is key to surviving the six-month slog, top-flight talent tends to win out in May and June. Miami has some of that in the form of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo (even Goran Dragic is a quality piece off the bench), but, if the team feels they are a serious contender, the fact that three of its top-five leaders in minutes are rookies is probably a little worrisome. It would make sense for the Heat to package some of their young talent to bring in a more proven commodity and it’s the reason they’ve been connected to names like Kyle Lowry and Jrue Holiday since the summer. However, with few stark improvements actually available on the market, we’ll probably see Miami stand pat and hoard its assets heading into the all-important 2021 season.
The Celtics are one of the more interesting cases in the NBA. Boston is clearly among the non-Milwaukee tier of contenders in the Eastern Conference and they have reason to be optimistic about the season’s second-half, as prolonged injuries to Marcus Smart and Gordon Hayward have kept the team from being at full-strength for most of 2019-20. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the best version of this squad involves both those gentlemen. Hayward, specifically, could be a tantalizing trade chip, though out with an opt out in his contract for next year. The Celtics have been searching for a capable center for some time now and a name like Steven Adams keeps popping up in rumors. With so many ball-dominant players on their roster, would Danny Ainge consider parting with an asset in hopes of filling a need?
While the Rockets do currently find themselves in the middle of the playoff hunt in the Western Conference, something just seems a little off. Though the answer might be as simple as “make sure James Harden is healthy,” Houston needs a shot in the arm as it’s slumped to an underwhelming 7-8 record across it’s past 15 contests. However, the Rockets are the archetype of team that could actually benefit from the type of deadline this year’d edition is shaping up to be. Houston doesn’t need anymore ball-dominant stars, it needs rotation pieces that fit into the squad’s 3-point identity. Davis Bertans is third in the NBA in attempts from beyond the arc per 100 possessions (13.6) and Robert Covington is 34th (10.4). The latter would also give P.J. Tucker some help in hypothetically guarding future opponents like Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James. The Rockets don’t have a ton of draft capital left, but the Russell Westbrook trade has made it clear that Daryl Morey is basically all-in.