Which NBA teams should be sellers at the 2022-23 trade deadline? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Time is ticking for certain NBA franchises.
The Feb. 9 trade deadline is less than a month away, and teams now need to decide, based on their position in the standings, if they will attempt a playoff push or kick the can and aim for the draft.
It’s either your team has enough to make a serious playoff push, or it’s best to shed their assets for value while they can and build something fresh.
Which teams specifically should look to be sellers come the deadline? These five surely spring to mind:
Spoiler: The majority of teams here are from the Eastern Conference. Up first is the Bulls, who keep falling under .500 and don’t have much of a positive outlook going forward.
Chicago lacks strong draft capital – it will retain its first-rounder if it misses the playoffs and stays within the top four of the 2023 draft order – and has an underperforming roster. DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine are playing great basketball, but they don’t lift the ceiling of the team. Nikola Vucevic was a solid addition at the time, but the current roster won’t optimize him.
Patrick Williams, albeit a solid role player, has not lived up to the expectations of a No. 4 overall pick and having four non-scoring guards – Ayo Dosunmu, Alex Caruso, Coby White and Goran Dragic – to pair with Lonzo Ball, who has yet to play this season, is not a winning scenario.
The squad peaked last year, and it’s best if they field calls to begin the rebuild process.
The Raptors are also at a crossroads. It’s key to note that they also started slow last season before making serious noise ahead of the start of the playoffs, but landing the Philadelphia 76ers was a nightmare opening series given their lack of centers against Joel Embiid.
However, it’s been another sluggish start for Toronto, and it’ll soon have to make a decision if they believe another late run is possible. The roster is essentially the same as last year, with forward Otto Porter Jr. and rookie big man Christian Koloko being key new faces in the rotation.
The roster undoubtedly has the talent on paper to make the playoffs outright and avoid the play-in tournament, but that hasn’t been the case on the court. Draft picks are not a worry, but the Raptors could add more should they decide to move away from their wing-heavy scheme. Nick Nurse’s future may also come into question.
Unlike the Bulls and Raptors, Washington being subpar is far from surprising. Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma are all having splendid individual campaigns, but that can’t be the top three stars for any serious franchise.
Beal likely won’t be moved, but Porzingis could convince another team in need of a star big man. His contract would be an expiring deal beginning next season, if that helps entice anyone.
Kuzma is the real get, though. He’s only making $13 million, is a legit two-way winger who can make plays off the bounce and is still just 27 years old. He’s an unrestricted free agent in 2024 so a big payday could be coming, but a team in pole position to contend in a playoff spot this year and in need of a star forward should look to get him (teams like the Phoenix Suns come to mind).
A Western Conference team finally breaks the trend. Utah had a wildly impressive start to the season under first-time head coach Will Hardy, but it has since come back down to earth.
After trading away Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, the initial goal from the get-go should’ve been to find themselves in a good draft spot, but guys like Lauri Markkanen, Jordan Clarkson, Malik Beasley and more have stepped up to produce and earn wins.
But the Jazz obviously don’t have a roster built for the long term, and that should be the priority at some point. Who knows if they entertain Markkanen trades as he finally looks to be fulfilling his potential, but guys like Clarkson, Beasley, Collin Sexton, Kelly Olynyk, Mike Conley, Jarred Vanderbilt and Rudy Gay are potential names they might get solid assets for.
Back to the Eastern Conference, the Hornets have not seen much luck go their way on the court under new head coach Steve Clifford and could very well end up last of the bunch.
Terry Rozier and Kelly Oubre Jr. are the headliners having fine individual campaigns and could definitely play a role on a contender, while P.J. Washington and Jalen McDaniels are the under-the-radar targets to watch for. Mason Plumlee could also be a solid backup big for playoff teams desperately lacking one (i.e. Denver Nuggets).
The big name here could be a team calling about Ball. Charlotte had some hope of making the playoffs in each of his first two seasons before being blown out in the play-in tournament in consecutive appearances, but his injury-riddled 2022-23 campaign has been yet another setback.
This isn’t a question of if Charlotte should keep him – it unequivocally should try to. But it wouldn’t be surprising if Ball is the next marquee figure to demand a move to a better situation. A talented young star stuck on a consistently underperforming team that has struggled to build around him? He definitely wouldn’t be short of suitors in this scenario.