I learned this through watching David Griffin’s moves with Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday. At the end of the process, the most desperate team paid the highest price to achieve a championship goal. The Lakers got Davis and a ring. The Bucks got Jrue and Giannis to sign a max contract. They’ll be chasing rings for years to come.
The Oklahoma City Thunder used the leverage of desperation to ransack the LA Clippers for young talent and draft picks. Sam Presti keeps winning trades with desperate teams. Houston not so much, even if John Wall works out to be an All-Star again. Also, Wall will not be an All-Star in the Western Conference and Houston will remain geographically located in Texas. So….with the ticking Harden-championship-clock turned off, they’re resigned to a middling fate for the next few years.
SITTING ON CADE CUNNINGHAM LOTTERY TICKETS
Those lottery teams resigned to another rebuilding season all have parts worth sending to a playoff bench for a draft pick. However, the Clippers, Bucks, Lakers, and Nets are all out of draft picks. They have spent that trade market capital. The Detroit Pistons already sent Blake Griffin packing; the whole organization seems to have packed it in for the year.
The Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers have young pieces that will want second contracts soon, but they haven’t shown it can work on the court. These bottom feeders will want to shuffle the decks behind a core pillar or two, but a full blowup of the rosters is unlikely. The Atlanta Hawks are flirting with a playoff spot, but they came into the season two seasons away from expecting to win a playoff game.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have Karl-Anthony Towns under contract for a few more years. They’ll be under pressure this offseason but not at the deadline. Any move they make could just be another unforced error that keeps that franchise from a winning record.
MIDDLE OF THE ROAD SELLERS
Lottery teams are not desperate. They are literally waiting for that Cade Cunningham ticket to cash in. The middle-of-the-road sellers operate with a bit more urgency. By definition, these are teams not bothering a contender in a playoff series. They are either way too young, but might flirt with a valuable playoff learning experience, or way too old and only in line for one last prideful yet futile battle cry.
The New Orleans Pelicans have fielded offers for JJ Redick and Lonzo Ball. Redick even jokes about how many rumors they’re in on his podcast. Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram will be expected to contend for a top-six seed next season. This year is about finding out who will also be on the team long-term. Ball has improved lately but the team has all the leverage. Redick wants the favor of a playoff run and the team will oblige eventually. The question is which fringe contender will want to add shooting for a draft pick and a young spare part?
The Dallas Mavericks need to find someone to help Luka Doncic, but there does not seem to be a rush until Kristaps Porzeeevergonnabehealthy is back to full fitness. Dallas should make a move to reset behind Luka, but Cuban’s pride might keep him content to wait it out until next season. Luka, KP, and whatever free agents come to Dallas might be enough to win a playoff series next season. Luka has been a pro for close to a decade but is still only 22-years-old.
The Chicago Bulls, Charlotte Hornets, and New York Knicks all fit in this category whether those teams would admit it or not. (Looking at Julius Randle and New York…quick glance at LaVine dropping 40….back at New York. Remembers I forgot about the Sacramento Kings because everyone forgets about the Kings. Put them in this category but #FreeBuddy.)
The Washington Wizards have the biggest prize in Bradley Beal. They don’t feel desperate to move Beal, but they should start getting impatient if offers below the Davis/Jrue/Harden comps come in. Beal probably shouldn’t fetch as much as Davis on the open market, but he should net a similar if not greater return than Jrue. Beal has won just as much as Harden individually, minus an NBA Finals meltdown.
The teams in the 4-8 spots probably are not winning a title as constructed. They still may not compete even if they traded for Bradley Beal. The Golden State Warriors need Klay Thompson back to be taken seriously as a contender and the San Antonio Spurs are functionally sound but will look like playoff half-cadavers if they make it to the second round.
The Indiana Pacers should probably sell the farm instead of swinging for the fences while the Toronto Raptors can leave this lost season in Tampa Bay. They have the right front office and roster to remain patient until the right move is presented. They did so with Kawhi, and they are set up again. No desperation at all.
Don’t doubt the Point God Chris Paul. He might finally have the help he needs in Devin Booker and the rest of the second-place Phoenix Suns. Paul won’t have to beat every good team in the West to get to the NBA Finals, just the last one standing if the Suns get the right playoff matchups and home-court advantage. The Suns have the assets to make a move for a complimentary piece but not another star.
The Boston Celtics as constructed have to prove themselves. They’ve fallen short. They’ve taken steps back. However, there does not seem to be a need to make a drastic move unless it is for Bradley Beal. How much of the future would have to be sold off for a chance to Win Now? Would Beal push this team over the Nets in 7 games? I wouldn’t bet on it and I don’t think the Celtics will either.
The Utah Jazz and Philadelphia 76ers are proving they belong in the championship conversation because they sit in first place at the All-Star Break. Ask the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis what that’s worth in June.
The “Bet on a Finals Appearance Favorites” are the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers. The Nets aren’t so much desperate as they are disinterested in the best record in the league. Kyrie Irving admitted they are using this time to figure out the best way to navigate playoff basketball, not earn some regular-season paper ring. Any desperation to make a move by the Nets was negated on the buyout market. Blake Griffin will finally, at 479-years-old in Blake Griffin basketball years, play meaningful playoff games.
What’s that you say? Lob What? Oh, you thought they had a chance? Please don’t debate Candice Parker because….
Dodson’s Music, Movies, and Hoops Most Desperate 2021 NBA Trade Deadline Team:
The Clippers have to make a move for at least a Redick-caliber player but maybe even gut the entire roster behind Kawhi and PG in a move for Beal, KAT, Jimmy Butler…Sabonis…SOMEBODY!!!!
If not they paid a ransom for a busted Paul George, a fresh off a championship and content Kawhi, and not even two full seasons of ticket revenue to make up for the playoff shortcomings of this LA Clippers team.
The Clippers have got to get an NBA Finals appearance out of Kawhi. You can smell the desperation the more you ponder it. So can other GMs. The Clippers have little to nothing in the way of draft capital and the roster is already top-heavy. How much can this team do to win a championship before Kawhi not only turns 30 but also becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer? Seems they need to do a lot and it still might not be enough to topple the Lakers or Nets.
All those moves and not even a conference finals appearance… So little time and so much still to do. That’s Clippers flavored desperation dripping off Steve Ballmer’s forehead.