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Best- and Worst-Case 2014 NBA Trade Deadline Scenarios for Every Team

Bryan ToporekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 10, 2014

Best- and Worst-Case 2014 NBA Trade Deadline Scenarios for Every Team

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    In the coming days, NBA general managers will light up their phone lines trying to swing a major deal between now and the Feb. 20 trade deadline.

    It's shaping up to be an "epic" few weeks, per ESPN's Chad Ford, as many tanking teams are willing to part with quality players to get a leg up on their counterparts. They're not eyeing addition by subtraction; they're gunning for weakened rosters that are unable to hold up to the additional stress.

    The "buyers" on the market won't have any trouble finding desirable players who are readily available. It's simply a question of how many future assets they're willing to ship out in return.

    What's the best that can happen for each team in the next few weeks, besides trading a second-round pick for LeBron James? What's the worst? Let's take a look.

     

    Note: All salary information comes from Spotrac.com. Unless otherwise noted, all statistics and records come from Basketball-Reference.com and are current through Sat., Feb. 8.

Atlanta Hawks

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    Best Case: Atlanta adds short-term frontcourt depth.

    Since center Al Horford went down with a season-ending pectoral injury, the Atlanta Hawks have been forced to cobble together a frontcourt. Things only got worse when rookie Pero Antic suffered a stress fracture in his right ankle in mid-January.

    Beyond Paul Millsap, who's been playing at an All-Star-caliber level this season, Atlanta lacks any reliable frontcourt options sans Horford. Trading for a center on an expiring contract (such as Philadelphia's Spencer Hawes) would help the Hawks stay afloat for now while maintaining their long-term flexibility.

     

    Worst Case: The Hawks fail to use their Disabled Player Exception.

    The NBA granted Atlanta a $5.25 million Disabled Player Exception, per Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, due to the season-ending injury of Horford. If the team doesn't use the exception for a trade or free-agent signing by March 10, it expires.

    According to ESPN.com cap expert Larry Coon, teams can only trade for a player in the final year of his contract when using the DPE. Since the Hawks aren't anywhere near the luxury tax, failing to use their exception to relieve a tax-wary team of a mid-level contract (with a future asset attached) would be a major waste.

Boston Celtics

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    Best Case: Boston offloads Gerald Wallace without giving up a first-round pick.

    For the Boston Celtics, one of the biggest drawbacks to their blockbuster draft-night trade with the Brooklyn Nets was absorbing Wallace's brutal contract. Including this season, Wallace had three years and more than $30 million remaining on his deal.

    General manager Danny Ainge is aiming to clear as much cap room as possible, per ESPN.com's Chris Broussard (subscription required), but no team would trade for Wallace without a sweetener. If Boston can avoid giving up a first-round pick in a Wallace trade, that alone would stand as a major coup.

     

    Worst Case: Rajon Rondo threatens to leave in 2015, forces a trade.

    Unless Rondo signs an extension in the next year-and-a-half, he'll become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2015. He already rejected one extension offer from Boston, according to Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe, but given the limits placed on extensions by the collective bargaining agreement, that wasn't unexpected.

    If Rondo begins to signal that he won't re-sign in Boston, a la Dwight Howard in Orlando, it could force the team's hand. The Celtics should be able to score a nice return for the All-Star point guard, but trading him would likely set the team's rebuilding process back further.

Brooklyn Nets

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    Best Case: Brooklyn gets a first-round pick for Bojan Bogdanovic.

    After trading away three future first-round picks for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry, the Brooklyn Nets desperately need to replenish their draft system. Bogdanovic may be the key to that mission in the next few weeks.

    A league source told The Wall Street Journal's Alex Raskin that "20 out of 30 teams have interest" in the 24-year-old Croatian forward, who's currently playing in the Turkish Basketball League. If the Nets could parlay Bogdanovic's perceived value into a future first-round pick, it would help them expedite their inevitable rebuild once Pierce and Garnett retire.

     

    Worst Case: The Nets panic-trade Brook Lopez.

    By racking up an $80 million luxury-tax bill this past offseason, Brooklyn clearly moved into win-now mode. When Lopez suffered a season-ending foot fracture back in December, it ended his ability to aid the Nets in that mission.

    Brooklyn general manager Billy King told Grantland's Zach Lowe that the team isn't shopping Lopez, but "if deals present themselves, we've got to look at them." If King trades Lopez, a potential long-term building block, for a veteran who slightly increases the Nets' chance to compete for a title, it'll be an unmitigated disaster.

Charlotte Bobcats

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    Best Case: Charlotte shores up its frontcourt.

    Since signing a three-year, $41 million deal with the Charlotte Bobcats this past summer, Al Jefferson has been a revelation, averaging 19.9 points and 10.6 rebounds in only 33.9 minutes per game. Beyond Big Al, though, the Bobcats are woefully thin up front.

    Charlotte's frontcourt ranks 28th in the league in efficiency, per HoopsStats.com, and dead last in points scored per game (49.5). The Bobcats are reportedly interested in acquiring Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson, per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, suggesting that they're interested in fixing this particular hole.

     

    Worst Case: The Bobcats can't move Ben Gordon or Ramon Sessions.

    Both Gordon and Sessions will become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Together, they represent more than $18 million in expiring contracts that Charlotte could use as trade assets.

    Given that neither player is likely in the Bobcats' long-term plans, the team is openly shopping both of them, per Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler. With the playoffs a realistic possibility for only the second time in franchise history, failing to move Gordon or Sessions would be a major dagger in their win-now aspirations.

Chicago Bulls

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    Best Case: Chicago manages to trade Carlos Boozer.

    Boozer's time with the Chicago Bulls appears to be coming to an end. According to Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News, the Bulls plan on using their amnesty on him this summer, assuming they can't find a willing trade partner beforehand.

    By amnestying Boozer, Chicago would free up nearly $17 million in cap space, but it would still have to pay his salary. The Bulls' money-conscious ownership would clearly prefer finding a way to offload Boozer to another team before Feb. 20, even if it means absorbing a bad contract or two in return.

     

    Worst Case: Fearing the luxury tax, the Bulls cut bait on Taj Gibson.

    As Mark Deeks of ShamSports.com recently explained, Gibson's improved play this season could prove problematic for Chicago. He would make an extra $250,000 for making the All-Defensive second team or $500,000 for the All-Defensive first team, which could push the Bulls uncomfortable close to the luxury-tax line.

    Gibson's name is "picking up steam" in trade conversations, per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. Trading him could help the Bulls free up max-contract space this summer, but if they can't land LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony or another top-tier free agent, they'd have traded a 28-year-old on the rise for nothing more than to avoid the tax.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Best Case: Cleveland finds a taker for Dion Waiters or Luol Deng.

    For the Cleveland Cavaliers to salvage any value from this miserable season, they'll have to move either Waiters or Deng by the deadline. Teammates have reportedly soured on Waiters' act "off and on all season," per the Akron Beacon Journal's Jason Lloyd, while ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports that there's "little-to-no chance" Deng re-signs with Cleveland in free agency this summer.

    Even if the playoffs are out of reach, there's still value in building toward the future, which is what a Waiters or Deng trade could accomplish. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, to his credit, thinks the team will be "aggressive at the trading deadline," per Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer.

     

    Worst Case: The Cavs make no moves; chemistry problems worsen.

    It didn't take long for Deng to sour on the environment in Cleveland after the Chicago Bulls shipped him there in January. He recently told a friend that "the stuff going on in practice would never be tolerated by the coaching staff or the front office back in Chicago," according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

    If the Cavaliers can't fix the toxic mess that is their locker room, they run the risk of Kyrie Irving turning down a max extension, as suggested by ESPN.com's Bradford Doolittle (subscription required). That would be an unthinkable loss for a franchise still reeling from its last high-profile departure (the one and only LeBron James).

Dallas Mavericks

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    Best Case: Dallas acquires Milwaukee center Larry Sanders.

    The Dallas Mavericks have been one of the 2013-14 season's pleasant surprises. Monta Ellis appears reinvigorated after signing a three-year, $25 million deal with the Mavs in the offseason, giving Dirk Nowitzki a legitimate sidekick for the first time in years.

    Dallas' only glaring weak spot is at the center position, where veteran journeyman Samuel Dalembert has been holding down the fort. If the Mavs can swindle Milwaukee into trading Larry Sanders, he could be the defensive presence that Dallas has sorely lacked since allowing Tyson Chandler to leave in 2011.

     

    Worst Case: The Mavs trade Shawn Marion and a draft pick for Evan Turner.

    With Marion's $9.3 million contract expiring at the end of the season, Dallas has a chance to free up significant cap space so long as it stays the course. However, according to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, "the Mavs feel as if they're a piece away from challenging the likes of the [Oklahoma City] Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and others in the West."

    Per Amico, the Mavericks would gladly trade a draft pick to receive Turner in return. Trading Marion's expiring contract and a pick for him would force the team into making a tough decision once he becomes a restricted free agent in July, however.

Denver Nuggets

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    Best Case: Denver gets something of value in return for Andre Miller.

    When Miller berated Denver Nuggets coach Brian Shaw on Jan. 1, he effectively sealed his fate with the franchise. The Nuggets suspended the veteran point guard for "conduct detrimental to the team," per Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, and he hasn't played a minute since, despite injuries to Nate Robinson and Ty Lawson.

    At the time, the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors were reportedly intrigued with the possibility of acquiring Miller, Wojnarowski reported. While Denver general manager Tim Connolly told Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post that "there's nothing definitive as to what is going to happen to him," the team would clearly like to rid itself of that headache as soon as possible.

     

    Worst Case: The Nuggets sell low on Kenneth Faried.

    Early in the season, the Nuggets reportedly engaged the New York Knicks in discussions about a Faried-for-Iman Shumpert swap, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein. Denver eventually pulled back from those discussions, but it wasn't the first time the team had floated his name to other teams, according to Grantland's Zach Lowe.

    Given that Faried is still on his rookie contract, it's unlikely that the Nuggets could pull off a one-on-one swap with him. He could be used as a sweetener in a Miller trade, but shipping out a young, high-energy big man just to get rid of a veteran headache isn't exactly advisable.

Detroit Pistons

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    Best Case: Detroit manages to trade Josh Smith.

    Heading into last offseason, the Detroit Pistons had a potential frontcourt in the future in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Why they signed Josh Smith to a four-year, $54 million deal is anyone's guess.

    Smith hasn't justified that contract, posting a career-low player efficiency rating of 15.0 while shooting only 41.7 percent from the field and 23.1 percent from three-point range. Trading J-Smoove won't be easy, but if Detroit can find any takers, it should do so without thinking twice.

     

    Worst Case: The Pistons sell Monroe for 50 cents on the dollar.

    Come July 1, Monroe is set to reach restricted free agency. Since Smith is better suited at the 4 and Drummond is the team's long-term answer at the 5, the former Georgetown product appears to be the odd man out.

    Detroit claims that Monroe isn't available, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein, but the odds of him re-signing there this summer aren't great. The Pistons should be shopping him behind the scenes, but selling a potential All-Star big man for 50 cents on the dollar in fear of him leaving wouldn't be wise.

Golden State Warriors

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    Best Case: Harrison Barnes gets hot, boosts his trade value.

    The Golden State Warriors have a problem when it comes to their wing rotation. They just handed Andre Iguodala a four-year, $48 million contract this past summer, which limits their ability to afford both Barnes and Klay Thompson once their rookie contracts expire.

    Barnes "hasn't met the organization's high expectations for him this season," according to Grantland's Zach Lowe, which could open the door for him being traded. He's averaging fewer points and rebounds per 36 minutes than he did as a rookie, per Basketball-Reference, but has come on strong since Jan. 30, averaging 12.0 points and 6.6 rebounds per night over his past five games.

     

    Worst Case: The Warriors can't bolster their bench.

    If Golden State intends on making some legitimate noise in the playoffs, it desperately needs to fortify its bench. The team's reserves ranksdead last in efficiency, per HoopsStats.com, and 29th in points per game (23.4).

    Rival executives believe "that anyone not named Stephen Curry or Andrew Bogut is up for discussion," per USA Today's Sam Amick. If the Warriors can't add some bench depth, however, making a deep run in the Western Conference playoffs will become that much more difficult.

Houston Rockets

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    Best Case: Houston is able to offload Omer Asik.

    The fact Asik remains a member of the Houston Rockets is somewhat surprising. After Houston acquired Dwight Howard in free agency, Asik reportedly asked for a trade, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, and for a while, the team appeared more than happy to oblige.

    The Rockets self-imposed a Dec. 19 deadline to move him, but ultimately decided against doing so at the last minute. Knee and thigh issues kept the big man sidelined for the past two months, but he returned to the court for the first time in two months on Feb. 8…just in time to showcase his trade value before the deadline.  

     

    Worst Case: The Rockets don't trade Asik, leaving their bench woefully thin.

    With Howard, James Harden, Terrence Jones, Chandler Parsons and Patrick Beverley, the Rockets have one of the league's best starting fives. It's their bench that will be their undoing in the playoffs, barring an Asik trade.

    Houston's bench ranks 28th in efficiency, per HoopsStats.com, and 24th in points scored per game. The Rockets need another reliable bench scorer to play alongside Jeremy Lin, but if they can't trade Asik by the deadline, it could prove nearly impossible to add such a player.

Indiana Pacers

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    Best Case: Indiana gets a first-round pick for Danny Granger.

    Danny Granger's long-term future with the Indiana Pacers vanished once Paul George emerged as a legitimate franchise cornerstone. He's been relegated to the bench thanks to George, making him an extremely costly luxury for Indiana.

    With his $14million contract expiring at the end of the season, "the Pacers will trade Granger only if someone blows them away with an offer," according to ESPN.com's Chris Broussard (subscription required). Granger could prove attractive to the Phoenix Suns, who have Emeka Okafor's $14.5 million contract and a bevy of first-round picks to trade away.

     

    Worst Case: Andrew Bynum is a bust, destroys the Pacers' chemistry.

    In all likelihood, the Pacers won't be major players on the trade market. Their biggest move likely came on Feb. 1, when they signed oft-injured center Andrew Bynum for the rest of the season.

    The Bynum signing appears to be a low-risk, high-reward move on the surface, as Indiana only had to invest $1 million in a former All-Star big man. He seemingly became a toxic locker room presence in Cleveland, however, which suggests that the Pacers are playing a dangerous game with him when it comes to their chemistry.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    Best Case: Los Angeles flips Jared Dudley for a backup big man.

    The Los Angeles Clippers are "itchy" to make a deal by the deadline, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein, with Dudley "unexpectedly in play" due to a logjam at the wing spots.

    Dudley isn't too fazed by the trade rumors, telling Dan Woike of the Orange Counter Register that he views them as "a compliment."

    Bleacher Report's Howard Beck believes Los Angeles should target a backup big man at the trade deadline, as the Clippers' frontcourt ranks 20th in the league in efficiency, per HoopsStats.com. Antawn Jamison, Byron Mullens and Ryan Hollins simply haven't provided much value behind Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

     

    Worst Case: The Clips can't land a backup big, which haunts them in the playoffs.

    If Griffin or Jordan get into foul trouble during a playoff game, LA would be in a world of hurt. Hollins, Mullens and Jamison are all posting player efficiency ratings far below the league average of 15, per Basketball-Reference, so they're not ideal candidates to play heavy minutes in the postseason.

    The Clippers will peruse the trade market over the next few weeks in an attempt to reinforce their frontcourt. Failing to do so, however, could prove their death knell once the playoffs roll around.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    Best Case: Los Angeles gets something of value in return for Chris Kaman.

    Los Angeles Lakers center Chris Kaman, who signed a one-year, $3.2 million deal this past offseason, hasn't hid his frustration with his lack of playing time. "I'm just going to take the high road and do the right thing, but it's definitely not what I was told coming here," he told Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times in December.

    He's not exactly sweating the prospect of being traded, per ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin. Getting anything of value in return for the checked-out big man would be a major heist for the Lakers.

     

    Worst Case: Pau Gasol's injury lingers, destroying his trade value.

    Before Gasol suffered a strained right groin muscle, the Phoenix Suns began exploring a potential deal for the Lakers center, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein. Phoenix was even offering a first-round pick for him, according to Bresnahan, as it could hold as many as four first-rounders in June.

    The Suns want to see how Gasol recovers, Stein reports, before taking talks to the next level. Seeing as the Lakers sit 14 games under .500 and 11.5 games out of a playoff spot, they have zero reason to hold onto Gasol past the trade deadline. If his injury thwarts potential suitors, it will be a massive dagger to LA's ongoing rebuild.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    Best Case: Memphis acquires an upgrade at small forward.

    Since center Marc Gasol returned from a sprained MCL in his left knee, the Memphis Grizzlies have played like a legitimate playoff contender. They're still looking to upgrade their small forward position, per USA Today's Sam Amick, as Tayshaun Prince is posting a miserable player efficiency rating of 7.5.

    One team that should be on Memphis' speed dial? The Washington Wizards. Between Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster and rookie Otto Porter Jr., the Wiz have a logjam at the small forward position that's begging to be resolved through a trade.

     

    Worst Case: The Grizzlies blow things up, trade away Zach Randolph.

    Memphis will be one of the more fascinating teams to watch at the trade deadline, as a string of sudden losses could radically alter the team's plans. Some NBA executives thought the team was open to trading Randolph, per ESPN.com's Chris Broussard, but "the Grizzlies' recent surge has quieted that talk."

    Since publishing that scoop, however, Memphis has dropped three of its last five games, falling 2.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the West. With Washington, Orlando and New York on the docket before the deadline, losses in those three games could convince the Grizzlies to conduct a fire sale, starting with Z-Bo.

Miami Heat

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    Best Case: Miami acquires a 3-and-D wing player.

    The Miami Heat already made minor ripples with a roster move in 2014, acquiring guard Toney Douglas for center Joel Anthony in a three-team trade back in January. The team might not be done wheeling and dealing just yet.

    According to NBA.com's David Aldridge, people around the league "think the Heat are still looking to make another deal, for a wing, before the trade deadline." Given the way they've been managing Dwyane Wade's regular-season minutes, adding some depth on the wing would give the team a bit more breathing room.

     

    Worst Case: Greg Oden gets re-injured, depleting the Heat's frontcourt depth.

    Over recent weeks, Oden has been a pleasant surprise for Miami. Since making his season debut against Washington on Jan. 15, Oden has appeared in eight of the Heat's last 11 games, the next step in getting him up to speed for the playoffs.

    If the former Ohio State big man goes down with yet another injury, however, the Heat's frontcourt depth would suddenly look perilously thin. Given that Miami's main rival, the Indiana Pacers, just signed former All-Star center Andrew Bynum for the rest of the season, the Heat can ill afford losing Oden.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    Best Case: Milwaukee does nothing, continues tanking.

    Despite their best efforts in the offseason, the Milwaukee Bucks have the inside track to the league's worst record. Given the massive talent potentially available at the top of the 2014 draft, that unintentional tanking isn't such a bad thing.

    The worst thing the Bucks' front office could do over the next few weeks is decide to make a late playoff push in the battered Eastern Conference. There's little benefit to landing the No. 8 seed (besides playoff-ticket revenue), so the team should stay the course and make no major splashes before the trade deadline.

     

    Worst Case: The Bucks sell low on Larry Sanders.

    Milwaukee appears to have buyer's remorse with Sanders, who signed a four-year, $44 million extension this past summer. Between his early-season nightclub incident and the team's dismal record, however, the Bucks don't think they'll get fair value in return for him, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein.

    There's no rush to trade him, but after his 25-point, 15-rebound performance against Denver on Feb. 5, the Bucks could believe his value to be artificially high. The worst thing Milwaukee could do is sell low on the big man after his struggles this season, particularly if it wasn't getting fair value in return.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Best Case: Minnesota makes a big splash, surges into the playoffs.

    The Minnesota Timberwolves have been besieged by rotten luck at the worst possible time. Kevin Love is able to opt out of his contract following the 2014-15 season, and as he made clear to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, he's not going to re-sign with the Timberwolves if they haven't made significant progress by then.

    Per Sam Amick of USA Today, Minnesota may make a handful of players available, including point guard J.J. Barea, forward Dante Cunningham and guard Alexey Shved. If the T'Wolves intend on keeping Love past next season, they need to land a game-changing talent between now and the trade deadline.

     

    Worst Case: The Timberwolves stay put, miss the playoffs.

    Conversely, Minnesota could decide to rest on its laurels and assume its roster is capable of a late-season playoff push. The team has a plus-3.7 point differential, which is better than two of the West's playoff squads (Phoenix and Dallas).

    If that plan backfires, however, it's only going to expedite Love's departure. Not making a major move by the deadline would represent an awfully large gamble by Minnesota's front office.

New Orleans Pelicans

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    Best Case: New Orleans offloads Eric Gordon for Detroit's Greg Monroe.

    The New Orleans Pelicans expedited their rebuilding process on the night of the 2013 draft, trading Nerlens Noel and a top-five protected 2014 first-round pick for All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday. A wave of injuries this season all but ruined the Pelicans' chances of making the playoffs, but they aren't outright tanking just yet.

    With the playoffs virtually out of reach, New Orleans' best bet might be to find a potential franchise frontcourt mate for Anthony Davis. A trade centered around Gordon and Anderson for Detroit's Greg Monroe, as Bleacher Report's D.J. Foster suggests, could make sense for both sides.

     

    Worst Case: The Pelicans stay put, finish with the NBA's eighth-worst record.

    New Orleans has been "extremely active in trade talks" over the past few week, per Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, after losing center Jason Smith to season-ending knee surgery. They realize that finishing out of the playoffs with a mediocre record is a worst-case scenario, as they'll be shipping a late-lottery pick in a loaded draft to the Philadelphia 76ers.

    Thus, that's their worst-case scenario at the trade deadline. If they can't pull off a trade and continue to languish among the Western Conference's playoff pretenders, sending a top-10 pick to Philadelphia would make that Holiday trade look much worse in retrospect.

New York Knicks

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    Best Case: New York trades for Rajon Rondo.

    The New York Knicks are holding out hope that Rondo can force a trade to the Big Apple, per ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst. Adding the Boston Celtics floor general would theoretically give the team a leg up in re-signing Carmelo Anthony this upcoming summer, the logic goes.

    As noted by USA Today's Sam Amick, the Knicks could offer Amar'e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton and/or Iman Shumpert or Tim Hardaway Jr. while taking future money back (Gerald Wallace and/or Jeff Green). If Celtics general manager Danny Ainge decides that's enough to justify the deal, the Knicks would be the big winners of the trade deadline.

     

    Worst Case: The Knicks give up Shumpert without getting a pick in return.

    Early in the season, New York dangled Shumpert in trade talks, per ESPN New York's Ian Begley, both to Boston and Denver. The Los Angeles Lakers also called the Knicks in December to express their interest in acquiring the third-year shooting guard, according to ESPN.com's Chris Broussard.

    While the chatter surrounding Shumpert has died down as of late, it wouldn't be a total shock to see the Knicks shake things up between now and the Feb. 20 deadline. Trading Shumpert and not getting a draft pick in return would be a grave mistake, however. New York owes five picks over the next three seasons to other teams, per RealGM.com, leaving very little room to build through the draft.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Best Case: Russell Westbrook returns healthy, Kevin Durant continues dominating.

    As Bleacher Report's Howard Beck suggests, the only thing the Oklahoma City Thunder need to trade for is a healthy knee for Westbrook, their star point guard. Since that's a non-option, the Thunder simply need to stay the course, as they've opened a three-game lead over the San Antonio Spurs for the West's best record.

    In Westbrook's absence, Durant has emerged as the clear Most Valuable Player front-runner, recently dropping 30-plus points in 12 straight games. Adding a top-10 player in Westbrook to that equation should help OKC make a legitimate push for the NBA championship this season.

     

    Worst Case: Westbrook's knee takes longer than expected to recover.

    The Thunder have stayed afloat sans their star point guard, but his presence will be key to them making a real run at the title this year. He shocked the NBA world at the beginning of the year by returning from offseason knee surgery a month earlier than anticipated, but suffered a setback in late December.

    Westbrook can't force the issue this time around, as he won't have enough time to re-integrate himself before the playoffs if he suffers another injury. His target return date is after the All-Star break, per Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman, but any further knee troubles could prove detrimental to OKC.

Orlando Magic

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    Best Case: Orlando gets a lottery pick for Arron Afflalo.

    Orlando Magic guard Arron Afflalo is in the midst of a breakout season, averaging 19.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game and shooting nearly 43 percent from deep. The question for Orlando: Does he fit into the team's long-term vision?

    The 27-year-old has two years and $15 million left on his contract after this season, including a $7.5 million player option in 2015-16. That reasonable contract should make him extremely desirable on the trade market. If Orlando can fetch a lottery pick in either 2014 or 2015 for him, it could expedite the team's rebuilding process.

     

    Worst Case: The Magic can't get anything of value for Jameer Nelson or Glen Davis.

    Orlando has little need for overpaid veterans, making both Nelson and Davis entirely expendable. According to Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com, Orlando general manager Rob Hennigan has "been trying to rid himself of Davis' contract for more than a year," as the big man is set to make $6.6 million next season.

    Only $4 million of Nelson's $8.6 million contract for 2014-15 is guaranteed, which should make him potentially attractive for any teams in need of a veteran point guard off the bench. Failing to move Davis and/or Nelson would represent a potentially lost opportunity for Orlando.

Philadelphia 76ers

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    Best Case: Philadelphia gets first-round picks for Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner.

    The Philadelphia 76ers haven't made it a secret: They're planning on being active sellers as the trade deadline. Hawes and Turner are both available to the highest bidder, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein, but the team wants a first-round pick in return.

    The Sixers have reportedly "shifted interest" to acquiring a first-rounder in 2015, reports Liberty Ballers' Jake Fischer, as they will owe their own first-round pick to Boston if they make the 2015 playoffs. If Sam Hinkie can wrangle two first-rounders for Hawes and Turner, Philly fans will replace the "Rocky" statue with one of him.

     

    Worst Case: The Sixers trade no one and win 10 straight games.

    Why is Philadelphia so insistent on shipping out Hawes and Turner before the deadline? Look ahead to July 1, when both players will become unrestricted and restricted free agents, respectively.

    Keeping both wouldn't be the end of the world, as Fischer explains, but both players helping the Sixers rally to win 10 straight games would be. If the team doesn't land a top-five pick this June, all this blatant tanking becomes significantly less digestible.

Phoenix Suns

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    Best Case: Phoenix gets Pau Gasol for Emeka Okafor and Indiana's first-round pick.

    The Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers have kicked the tires on a trade centered on Gasol for Okafor's expiring contract, but the Lakers are balking at Phoenix's offer, per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles wants "a better first-round pick than what the Suns currently offer," Bresnahan reports.

    Phoenix owns Indiana's unprotected first-round pick in June (currently 30th overall), along with its own (23rd overall). If the Lakers get desperate enough to trade their former All-Star for the financial relief of Okafor's contract and Indiana's first-rounder, it would be a heist for the Suns.

     

    Worst Case: The Suns can't find a taker for Okafor.

    Under the current collective bargaining agreement, massive expiring contracts seemingly don't have the immense value they once did. Whereas a $14.5 million expiring deal could once fetch a king's ransom, Okafor's contract could prove to be virtually untradeable for Phoenix this month.

    When the Suns traded Marcin Gortat for Okafor and the Washington Wizards' top-12 protected first-round pick, the appeal was two-fold: It would theoretically weaken the team, improving their own lottery odds, and they could potentially flip their new acquisition by the trade deadline. Since the first part of that never came to fruition, failing to receive something in return for Okafor would be less than ideal.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Best Case: Portland makes no moves, continues its ascent to a top-three seed.

    Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts recently shot down the idea of improving externally by the trade deadline, per Sean Deveney of Sporting News. "I don't anticipate any roster changes," he said. "Our growth is going to have to come from within."

    While the Blazers tout the NBA's most efficient offense—they average 112.4 points per 100 possessions, according to Basketball-Reference—their defense ranks 20th in the league. Trading for Houston's Omer Asik could help improve the latter, but based on Stotts' comments to Deveney, that's a pipe dream at this point.

     

    Worst Case: The Blazers' defense causes them to collapse down the stretch.

    On the surface, Stotts appears unperturbed by Portland's occasional struggles on defense this season. "We have played very good defense in spots," the coach told Deveney, "but we have just not been consistent with it."

    When the Blazers' offense dries up, their inability to prevent opponents from scoring is their Achilles' heel. That's far more likely to happen in the playoffs, when the game slows down and half-court possessions take on far more importance, but a refusal to shake the roster up could prove costly even in the regular season.

Sacramento Kings

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    STEVE YEATER/Associated Press

    Best Case: Sacramento acquires Denver Nuggets point guard Andre Miller.

    The Sacramento Kings are reportedly one of the favorites to land Miller, per Sean Deveney of Sporting News, alongside the Minnesota Timberwolves. According to CBSSports.com's Ken Berger, the Kings offered to package either Marcus Thornton or Jimmer Fredette with a future second-round draft pick for the embattled veteran.

    With Sacramento dead last in the Western Conference, the team should use the rest of this season to assess its potential young building blocks. Miller's tutelage could help Isaiah Thomas with his continued evolution as a starting floor general.

     

    Worst Case: The Kings make a big splash, hurting their lottery position.

    According to ESPN.com's Chad Ford (subscription required), the Kings "are trying to make a late push for the playoffs" despite sitting 13 games behind Golden State for the West's final spot. As such, Sacramento is "looking to buy good players, not sell them," Ford reports.

    Making a playoff push at this point of the season would be the definition of insanity. Sacrificing their draft position for an unlikely run at the postseason would be the ultimate example of short-term thinking winning out over long-term planning.

San Antonio Spurs

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Best Case: San Antonio gets healthy, stays the course.

    The San Antonio Spurs have been besieged by injuries this season, but ironically, most have afflicted the younger players on their roster. Danny Green, Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard missed a combined 37 games this season (10, 17 and 10, respectively) due to a host of ailments, with the latter still sidelined.

    With its young reinforcements depleted, San Antonio has been "unusually aggressive trying to upgrade their roster in the trade market," according to CBSSports.com's Ken Berger. The Spurs don't necessarily need to shake things up; they simply need to get everyone back on the court ASAP.

     

    Worst Case: The Spurs' health problems continue, forcing a tough decision.

    With Leonard and Manu Ginobili already sidelined, San Antonio can ill afford another injury to a major rotation player. If calamity does strike once more, it could force the team's hand when it comes to the trade market.

    As noted by Bleacher Report's Howard Beck, the Spurs thrive on stability, often choosing to stay relatively quiet around the trade deadline. However, the team could be forced to dangle Boris Diaw, who's on the final year of his $4.7 million contract, if injuries continue to cripple its rotation.

Toronto Raptors

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Best Case: Toronto sells high on Kyle Lowry.

    After the Toronto Raptors traded Rudy Gay to Sacramento in December, Lowry appeared to be next on the chopping block, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein. The veteran point guard will become an unrestricted free agent in July, so unless Toronto plans on re-signing him, it's best to trade him now than risk losing him for nothing.

    With Lowry averaging a career-high 16.6 points and 7.4 assists, his trade value has exploded, making him an ideal sell-high candidate. As Basketball Insiders' Moke Hamilton writes, "letting a productive point guard whose best days may be ahead of him go for nothing—that's something only a team like the Knicks would do."

     

    Worst Case: The Raptors keep Lowry, but lose him in free agency.

    Toronto appears to be in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't scenario with Lowry. According to ESPN.com's Chris Broussard (subscription required), the team is "not sold enough" on the veteran floor general "to throw big, long-term money at him."

    However, since trading Gay away, the Raptors have surged to the top of the Atlantic Division in no small part due to Lowry. Per Broussard, Toronto "won't move him for fear of the PR hit" if it keeps winning. Catering to a team's fanbase is rarely a winning strategy, and could prove especially costly if he leaves as a free agent.

Utah Jazz

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    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    Best Case: Utah gets something of value for Richard Jefferson or Marvin Williams.

    Despite sitting at 17-33, the Utah Jazz don't appear to be in any hurry to improve. According to ESPN.com's Chad Ford (subscription required), the Jazz aren't likely to make a major splash at the trade deadline, barring a "great offer" for the expiring contracts of Williams or Jefferson.

    The team is "looking at a lot of cap space next summer" once Williams and Jefferson come off the books, Ford notes. As appetizing as that may sound, landing a valuable future asset for either player would help further the Jazz's rebuilding process.

     

    Worst Case: The Jazz take on long-term money in return for Williams or Jefferson.

    Utah must tread lightly when engaging potential trade partners interested in its slew of expiring contracts. Acquiring a future first-round pick in exchange for Williams or Jefferson would be a boon to the team's rebuild, but the Jazz can't afford to absorb a long-term contract with that pick.

    Gordon Hayward becomes a restricted free agent this summer, and, per Grantland's Bill Simmons, Boston could "make a big play" for him. Seeing as Hayward initially sought a deal in the four-year, $50 million range, according to Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski, Utah needs as much cap space as possible to retain him this summer.

Washington Wizards

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Best Case: Washington acquires Detroit big man Greg Monroe.

    The Washington Wizards appear headed for their first playoff berth since the 2007-08 season, which should have them in full-on "buyer" mode at the trade deadline. Per Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler, the Wiz have emerged as the top suitor for Detroit Pistons forward/center Greg Monroe.

    Between Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster and rookie Otto Porter Jr., Washington has a glut of tradable small forwards, which is Detroit's biggest roster need. The Wizards don't need to mortgage the farm for Monroe, who will be a restricted free agent in July, but nabbing him for Ariza and a future first-round pick would be a heist.

     

    Worst Case: The Wizards get involved in the Evan Turner sweepstakes.

    Given the depth Washington has at the 3, there's no conceivable reason for the team to acquire Turner over the next two weeks. Like Monroe, the Philadelphia 76ers swingman will become a restricted free agent in July, so the Wizards can offer him a bloated contract then if they're that intrigued by him.

    Per Fox Sports Ohio's Sam Amico, however, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Washington engage Philadelphia in trade talks over the next two weeks. If the Wizards sacrifice anything of real value for a potential three-month rental, it would be the definition of shortsighted.

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