Even then, there’s going to be a ton more action ahead of Thursday’s deadline. As many as 24 teams still have a legit shot at earning a playoff spot. Of the teams already out of the mix, many are looking to trade veterans as a way to build up draft capital and cap space.
It’s in this that we check in on eight bold predictions ahead of the 2019 NBA Draft. Yes, it starts off with a dandy.
Lakers pull off Anthony Davis trade
When AD requested a trade from the Pelicans last week, most figured that New Orleans would wait until the summer to move the game’s best big man. General manager Dell Demps was not returning calls from Magic Johnson and the Lakers. It seemed Los Angeles would be shut out again. However, something changed recently. The Lakers reportedly upped their offer to the Pelicans for Davis. And now, as the deadline approaches, it appears something could be worked out.
The premise is simple. Team Davis up with LeBron James, and immediate contention would be the name of the game in Hollywood. Sure moving a combination of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma would hurt the Lakers’ depth. But it’s the long game here. Johnson and the Lakers know that full well. That’s why we’re boldly predicting the Lakers will acquire Davis ahead of Thursday’s deadline.
Celtics stand pat
Now that it’s uncertain whether Kyrie Irving will re-sign with Boston this summer, we’re expecting Danny Ainge to continue with his MO of playing the long game. He’s not going to give up future draft pick assets and young players to chase a ring if the window is only going to be open for a few months. Ainge has built the Celtics into a contender from the ground up. That philosophy is not going to change mid-season.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are off the grid in talks surrounding anyone not named Anthony Davis. That was made clear when Boston didn’t even make a play for Kristaps Porzingis. Boston will have as many as two additional first-round picks in the 2019 NBA Draft. If Irving were to re-sign, the team could use that capital and young players to bring in another star. Until then, we’re predicting that the Celtics stand pat and hope for the best back east. After all, they remain top-end contenders.
Suns add Lonzo Ball to the mix
Now that we know Phoenix is one of Ball’s preferred destinations, it would not be a shock to see the Suns get into a three-team deal with the Pelicans and Lakers. Given that Ball would be a central piece in an Anthony Davis trade and doesn’t want to play in New Orleans, this makes perfect sense.
The downtrodden Suns have a nice young core group with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. But they have been in the market for a young point guard over the past several months. Ball would fit that roster to a T — enabling the Suns to create a big three. In turn, maybe Phoenix offers up young forward Josh Jackson to New Orleans to make it work.
Nets make multiple trades
Potentially the most surprising team in the NBA, Brooklyn is currently the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. The team is also getting its best player — Caris LeVert — back from injury. It’s simply remarkable what young general manager Sean Marks has been able to do with a gutted roster since taking over in New York City. Look for him to continue this growth process with a couple trades prior to Thursday’s deadline.
Marks knows full well that building up draft capital has been a necessity. That’s why the Nets will have an additional first-round pick and potentially two more second-round picks in the 2019 NBA Draft. The team could use these assets to add to one of the better front-court groups in the Association. Hassan Whiteside of the Miami Heat comes to mind first. Either way, look for multiple trades from the always-aggressive Marks this week.
Warriors end up with DeAndre Jordan
It seems rather ridiculous on the surface. Golden State has no real way to add anyone of substance prior to the trade deadline. The team’s salary cap and lack of proven young talent makes this obvious. With that said, the Warriors have made it clear they’re going to be big time players in the buyout market. Even with DeMarcus Cousins returning strong, the focus is going to be on adding another center.
There’s a darn good chance the Knicks will buy Jordan out at some point soon if they can’t find a trade partner. He was pretty much a salary filler in the Kristaps Porzingis blockbuster last week. Interestingly enough, Jordan was previously represented by Warriors general manager Bob Myers. He also signed a restricted free agent offer sheet with Golden State years back. The relationship is there. And in reality, teaming Jordan up with Cousins would be a sexy proposition for the Warriors. It’s unlikely. But that’s what makes these bold predictions in the first place.
Sixers add multiple veterans from Hawks
One thing has been made abundantly clear during an up-and-down season in Philadelphia. These Sixers must add depth behind the big three of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler if they want to come out of the east. Even more so than his handling of the rotation, this lack of depth has been a major issue for head coach Brett Brown.
In an attempt to rectify this, we’re predicting that Philadelphia comes out of the trade deadline having added Kent Bazemore and Dewayne Dedmon from the Hawks — fixing these depth issue in the process. In turn, Philly can offer up the expiring contract of Wilson Chandler, a young player and draft capital to the rebuilding Hawks. Remember, this team still has additional picks in each of the next three drafts.
Knicks flip Dennis Smith Jr.
Despite what the narrative might want to tell us, Smith Jr. was not the centerpiece in the trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas. The centerpiece was cap flexibility for the Knicks and president Steve Mills. That’s as clear as day. And while Smith Jr. might have a bright future on Broadway, the Knicks would rather have have future draft capital as a way to entice other teams into blockbuster trades. In addition to going after big-name free agents, it’s one of the underlining aspects of the team’s rebuild.
Still only 21 years old, the 2017-18 All-Rookie performer would net New York at least one first-round pick and another youngster in a trade. Maybe a team like the San Antonio Spurs come calling. They could offer up the additional first-round pick the team acquired from Toronto in the Kawhi Leonard trade.
Mavericks, Kings get together in “blockbuster” trade
We already know that Sacramento is looking to add a scoring wing to its much-improved roster. Harrison Barnes has been bandied about in trade talks. It’s something that the Kings might want to consider moving forward. Sure Barnes has not lived up to his max contract, but he’d be a good third option on a contending team. As it relates to the Mavericks, they’re looking to create more cap flexibility to both re-sign Kristaps Porzingis and add to their young core.
The idea here would be for Sacramento to offer up the expiring deals of Zach Randolph and Iman Shumpert for Barnes. As a way to potentially expand the trade, the Mavs could dangle Dwight Powell while bringing back either Kosta Koufos or Willie Cauley-Stein — both of whom are also on expiring deals.