2020 NBA Trade Deadline: 1 Impact Trade Fix for Playoff Contenders

Jordan Cohn
February 04, 2020 - 3:27 pm
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Last year’s trade deadline was filled with late drama. An early transaction between the Mavericks and the Knicks, which sent Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas, set the stage for the excitement that was to follow. Harrison Barnes found a new home with the Kings. The Wizards officially launched a rebuild by moving Otto Porter to Chicago. And Tobias Harris completed a major step in the "Process" by departing from Los Angeles. All three of these trades occurred on the last day before the deadline.

This year, that date is Thursday, February 6. While “struggling” is a relative term, these five teams could all use a boost and have only a few days left to make something happen as they work out their short- and long-term plans.

Philadelphia 76ers

Acquire Luke Kennard for Zhaire Smith and a Pick

Pistons F Luke Kennard penetrates the lane against the Nuggets.
Photo credit Getty Images

A 31-20 team considered a “struggling contender” may seem a bit harsh, but given the lofty expectations with which the Sixers entered this season, most of the Philly faithful are frustrated with this inconsistent and unpredictable team. That said, Philadelphia is only three games back from the No. 3 seed Boston Celtics and are just one run away from scaling up the standings.

Thus, a big-time deal at the deadline should be a priority for this team that is just one piece away from finalizing a near-flawless roster. Their weakness is glaringly evident: there is not a single player who can be considered a knockdown shooter. For all the buzz around Ben Simmons claiming that he can be at his most successful if he’s surrounded by shooters, his only reliable weapon from past seasons -- JJ Redick -- was taken away in the offseason, and GM Elton Brand didn’t do anything to replace him with a player of a similar mold.

Enter Luke Kennard. Kennard is as consistent as they come, converting at a 40 percent clip from deep this season and throughout his career. Though he’s a starter for Detroit, the Pistons are ready to rebuild and it wouldn’t be hard to envision him coming off the bench for the Sixers as a scoring threat who would take some minutes from Furkan Korkmaz in a SG-SF role. Korkmaz could even be a trade chip, though it appears more likely that Zhaire Smith would be the prominent piece in the equation.

Kennard has been out with knee tendinitis since late December, though, and reports are indicating that he may stay sidelined through All-Star Weekend.

There are also reports that the Phoenix Suns have recently engaged in trade talks centered around Kennard, so the Sixers could have some competition.

Boston Celtics

Trade Enes Kanter/Daniel Theis and First Round Pick for Montrezl Harrell

In all likelihood, it will be difficult for the Clippers to hold on to Harrell past this season. The way he’s played indicates that he’ll be in for a sizable contract come free agency. The Clippers, after completely reloading their roster around Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, don’t have all that much room to spend big on one player unless they want to include him as a central component of that core for years to come.

That said, they could hold on to Harrell if he agrees to stay in LA. Though it would sacrifice some other areas of the roster and likely take the payroll near or above the luxury tax threshold, the team may view his ferocious scoring abilities and elite athleticism as something worth mortgaging their future over. If he opts to go elsewhere in free agency, it will leave the Clippers with some room to shop, but also with an empty feeling of what they could have gotten in return.

Then there is the reported friction between Harrell and head coach Doc Rivers. Per Sam Amick of The Athletic, Rivers recently "ripped into" Harrell after he publicly criticized the team's effort following a loss. Perhaps it is nothing, but if a change of scenery is needed, the Celtics would be an ideal trade partner as a team seeking a big man and could offer good value in return.

The trio of Daniel Theis, Enes Kanter and Robert Williams has been good enough to make Danny Ainge content. But the prospects of adding such an intriguing young talent for the remainder of the season should be enticing, especially in a year where Kevin Durant is sidelined and the East is generally competitive near the top.

Moving Kanter or Theis along with one of three available first round picks -- all potentially in the back half of that first round -- might be sweet enough of a deal for the Clippers to agree to, seeing that if they don’t act now, they may end up with nothing. It depends on whether or not the Clippers view Harrell as a fundamental component to their championship run for this year and beyond.

Houston Rockets

A Three Team Trade Involving Clint Capela, Robert Covington, and D’Angelo Russell

This is a deal full of players who make a lot of sense on different teams. While the Rockets have several different trade partners, perhaps no target fits their system as well as Robert Covington. In order to pull this trade off, though, another piece may be required, as Clint Capela and PJ Tucker likely wouldn’t be big enough assets for Minnesota.

RADIO.COM Sports writer Dan Mennella indicated that a three-team trade may be more enticing, with the Warriors and D’Angelo Russell acting as additional pieces to facilitate the trade. Moving Russell to Minnesota makes this deal much more realistic for the Timberwolves. Capela and PJ Tucker seem to be ideal assets for Golden State. And Houston would then acquire their deadline target in Robert Covington.

Let’s start looking at the pieces with Clint Capela. The Rockets big has long been a part of the trade deadline conversation and the team has shown that they can adapt to his absence with two recent victories over the Mavericks and Pelicans while Capela was sidelined. At the same time, though, he’s a commanding presence inside and would serve any team well that needs a low-post presence. It’s no secret that the Warriors are having a down year, but the core remains intact with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Starting the 2020-21 season with that trio and Clint Capela? Watch out.

D'Angelo Russell stares up at the basket during a Warriors game.
Photo credit Getty Images

Covington’s name has been thrown around more than arguably anyone else’s, with the 76ers additionally named as a frontrunner in the sweepstakes. Ultimately, however, a piece like D’Angelo Russell seems way more enticing than anything the Sixers would be able to offer, and the starting lineup in Philly seems too crowded to allow Covington to naturally find a role. Thus, perhaps with someone like Gorgui Dieng being added to the trade and serving as a replacement for Capela, the Rockets seem to be a natural trade partner with both Minnesota and Golden State as the deadline nears.

The D’Angelo Russell move is obvious. His talent is not being wasted away, per se, but without any inclination as to how he’ll fit into the equation when the whole Warriors roster is healthy, it becomes easier to accept his departure. He probably wouldn’t mind the move either, considering he could play alongside the premier big man in the NBA in Karl-Anthony Towns.

Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies

Trade Andre Iguodala for Courtney Lee

The fact that the Grizzlies are a contender - struggling or not - is a surprise this year. They were tied for the fourth-longest odds to win the title when the season began, according to PointsBet, but have exceeded expectations, largely due to the outstanding play of rookie Ja Morant. The duo of Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. -- not to mention potential stars like Brandon Clarke and Justin Jackson - should make Memphis fans excited for the team’s future.

One guy who certainly doesn’t plan to be a part of this team’s future is veteran Andre Iguodala, and Memphis has stood firmly in opposition to buying out his contract. If a team wants the versatile and experienced wing on their team, they’re going to have to come get him. One of the only teams with a realistic opportunity to pull the trigger on such an expensive deal -- Iguodala’s one-year deal is valued at over $17 million -- is the Dallas Mavericks.

Similarly, Dallas is looking to unload Courtney Lee, as his $12.7 million deal is the third highest on the team and is resulting in a whole lot of nothing in terms of on-court value. By swapping these two, the Mavericks would gain something that all playoff teams could use -- a proven leader with tons of big-game experience -- that they are severely lacking as the roster currently stands. And while Memphis wouldn’t get much out of Courtney Lee, they’d trim a cool $4 million off of their payroll and can either buy out his contract or simply wait until he becomes a free agent next year, with either option presenting a more hopeful vision for the future. Mike Fisher, an insider for RADIO.COM affiliate 105.3 The Fan, pointed to this trade possibility back in July of 2019, additionally mentioning that Dallas is able to “pay $5 million in cash as a sweetener” and continues to present the transaction as a real possibility.

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