2022-23 NBA Trade Deadline Guide
If you’re not watching NBA basketball this year, you’re missing out. But for those who need to be sold: Historic performances on a nightly basis. An overloaded murderers’ row in the East. An insane royal rumble in the West. A once-in-a-lifetime confluence of old-vs-young basketball eras. In so many words, the NBA is more competitive than ever, and this equally exciting and confusing era of parity has thrown a monkey wrench into the upcoming trade market. With more talent distribution than ever and fewer teams tanking than usual, there are fewer sellers and more buyers because everyone’s got a chance at making a run – if they make the right moves.
For the Homers
In the offseason, the Dallas Mavericks made it clear that this would be a transition year for bigger moves down the road. As advertised, the vibes have been uninspired. Hovering around the play-in with a .500 record, the Dallas Mavericks are right in the rut of the royal rumble in the West. Luka Doncic is playing the best basketball of his career, but the team has been mediocre. In so many words, this team is just as stale as it was last season.
But Luka Doncic is not the kind of competitor to kick back and cruise for a year, as shown by his Herculean run in December that kept the Mavs in playoff contention. However, Doncic has since come back down to earth, clearly slowing down while picking up more injuries. Moreso than ever, the front office has come under pressure to get their superstar some help. Enter: Kyrie Irving. Obviously, this is a high-stakes move for Mark Cuban to make. Dorian Finney-Smith’s defensive versatility and three-point shooting will be missed, but Kyrie Irving is an upgrade over Spencer Dinwiddie in every capacity.
All the bullshit and drama aside, Kyrie Irving as a basketball player is as elite as they come. A duo of Doncic and Irving is more promising than any other combination the Mavs ever had a shot of assembling. As far as the fit goes, Irving was at his best playing alongside LeBron James in Cleveland, so he should thrive next to a similarly gifted playmaker like Luka Doncic.
The knee-jerk criticism of their fit comes down to defense, but this kind of lazy analysis is a disservice to how competitive both players really are. Coming into this season, Doncic made it his mission to improve on defense because he knows what it takes to win at the highest level. And Irving has the balls to clamp down any matchup when he has something to prove, which he does. Nonetheless, the offensive chemistry between Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic should be sensational and unstoppable.
San Antonio Spurs
As expected, San Antonio is deep in the tank this year, and Gregg Popovich looks as chill as ever to be second-to-last in the West. For the Spurs, this is a year of development and learning which players will be a part of their future.
Waiting in the wings: Keldon Johnson has quietly become the quintessential 3-D wing. He can rebound above his size, knock down catch-and-shoot threes, and attack closeouts with his strong slashing and sneaky pull-up game. Another 3-D wing who has taken massive leaps as a shot creator, Devin Vassell has become a mid-range assassin, with deadly range and the ability to make plays off the bounce. Next, the enigmatic Jeremy Sochan has lived up to his reputation as an elite defender. But what’s been most surprising is how quickly he’s adapted his elite athleticism, elevated basketball IQ, and supreme confidence to the NBA game and become an offensive weapon.
There are many Ls yet to come in San Antonio. But there’s a 7’4 French phenom waiting in the draft to make it worthwhile.
This was the year that San Antonio fully expected to be at the bottom of the conference. But of everyone in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, the Houston Rockets have held the bittersweet title of “Worst Team in the NBA”. This team has the talent to be much better than they are, but watch one game and it’s clear they have no structure.
Jalen Green is brimming with talent but has a lot of bad habits that are being left unchecked. Jabari Smith is the closest thing this team has to a defensive leader, but he’s a rookie who needs to be learning, not teaching. Alperen Sengun has been a bright spot, but he still has a long way to go before he’s ready to contribute to a winning team.
Maybe it’s time for a coaching change, someone with more experience who can implement a less improvisational system. The roster also needs to be reconfigured because there are too many up-and-coming shot-makers and not enough tried-and-true role-players. To that point, the Rockets should be looking to move Eric Gordon before the trade deadline. Not because he hasn’t been good but because he looks checked out, and this team needs veteran leadership.
Who is Most Likely to Sell?
Two of the only teams likely to be tearing down and tanking this year, the Utah Jazz and Toronto Raptors will be lynchpins for this 2022-23 trade deadline.
To start the season, the Utah Jazz were the league’s must-see, Cinderella team. Against all the odds, this group of misfit toys played so fast and free with nothing to lose, and rode a serendipitous wave of hot shooting to the top of the conference. But the hierarchy of talent has since stratified in the West, and the soaring Utah Jazz have come crashing back to reality, down to the play-in bloc of the standings – where this feisty but futile roster belongs.
On the bright side, the front office also learned some valuable information. HC Will Hardy has already proven himself as one of the brightest minds in the league’s coaching tree. An undisputable all-star and favorite for MIP, Lauri Markkanen is the real deal and will be a cornerstone for their rebuild. And rookie Walker Kessler might be the reincarnation of Rudy Gobert. As far as the rest of the roster, the trade deadline will likely be open season. And what a time it will be for the asset collector known as Danny Ainge.
A professional tough-shot maker, Jordan Clarkson has played a crucial role as the team’s primary shot creator and become a cult hero for the city of Utah. With his trade value as high as ever, parting with Clarkson will be such sweet sorrow. A trigger-happy, movement shooter like Malik Beasley will also be coveted by teams looking for an injection of three-point shooting. The definitive “glue guy” for a winning team, Vanderbilt is a high-motor defender and shot blocker who catches lobs and attacks the glass for second-chance buckets.
At this point in their careers, Kelly Olynyk and Mike Conley are the two quintessential, role-playing vets who could be difference-makers for a team with hopes of a deep playoff run. Olynyk has carved out a solid career as a floor-spacing big who uses his size well and competes on both ends of the floor. And Conley’s steadying leadership as a battle-tested playmaker and shooter is invaluable in bench lineups.
Since undertaking “Vision 6’9”, Toronto has been the headache of the Eastern Conference, suffocating teams with their size and athleticism in a war of attrition. However, the novelty of “Vision 6’9” has faded, and this team has too many cracks in the armor to compete at the highest level.
The most obvious flaw is their lack of shooting and shot creation. The Raptors rank near the bottom of the league in halfcourt offense and three-point shooting. As valuable as it is to turn good defense into easy offense, relying on forced turnovers and transition offense is not a sustainable model for success today. Even so, their defense has been worse than expected. Their limited offense might be better than their defense, which has looked disconnected because of injuries and inconsistent lineups.
The Raptors have held firm that the turnaround is coming. But the situation just keeps getting worse, and this roster looks void of chemistry and depth. The time has come to change directions and look to the future because there’s no sign of a Kawhi Leonard-level player coming to save them like last time.
DPOY candidate OG Anunoby is their most desirable asset because every team and their mother could use a 3-D wing like OG. But the reported price of at least three first-round picks might be too hard of a pill to swallow for the rest of the league. The same goes for Pascal Siakam, who has played at an All-NBA level this year.
The most obvious trade candidates are Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. Both have player options for this upcoming offseason that they’ll likely decline in favor of long-term deals, particularly VanVleet with so many miles at 28. To that point, VanVleet is the most likely to move, considering how many teams could use a veteran point guard of his championship pedigree and steadfast production.
Who is Most Likely to Move?
These are the players who can’t seem to keep their names out of the trade rumor mill, and whose teams would be wise to move to better situations.
After years of endless rumors, this has to be the year John Collins and the Atlanta Hawks finally part ways. The Hawks are a mess and need to pivot in a new direction, and John Collins deserves so much better.
Playing alongside Trae Young just limits everyone else’s freedom on the court, so complementary players like Collins are put in a box. Case in point: Before being traded to the Kings in the offseason, Kevin Heurter was confined to being a spot-up shooter for kick-out threes. Now, within the Kings’ system, he’s one of the most dynamic movement shooters in the league. Similarly, Collins’ role within the Hawks’ system has been restricted to setting screens, rolling to the rim, putting ambitious shot blockers on posters, and spacing the floor with a lowkey jumpshot.
Nevertheless, Collins has been the consummate professional, tuning out the trade noise and elevating his game every season to become a sub-all-star player. However, the vibes in Atlanta this season are too toxic to ignore. More so than ever, Collins is playing with one foot out the door and needs a change of scenery. John Collins’ offensive versatility would be valuable for so many teams in need of athleticism at the forward spot.
In hindsight, Detroit’s off-beat acquisition of Bojan Bogdanovic might be the finesse of the season. Seemingly out of spite for the LA Lakers’ notorious flakiness in negotiations, Utah sold low on Bojan Bogdanovic in a surprise deal with Detroit. The Pistons followed this up with a savvy contract extension, 2-year / 40M with only 2M guaranteed on the back end. Completing the trade trifecta, Bojan Bogdanovic has been their most impressive player, averaging career-highs in scoring and shooting at age 33.
His impact on this young Pistons team cannot be overstated. Leading the team in Win Shares, Bogdanovic is responsible for most of Detroit’s most significant wins. Despite having the second-highest Usage Rate on the team, behind Cade Cunningham, Bogdanovic also ranks second in True Shooting, behind Jalen Duren. So not only is he carrying the offensive load with Cade Cunningham out for the season, but he’s also more efficient than ever.
Every team across the league could use a player like Bojan Bogdanovic: a sharpshooting, two-way wing who walks into any locker room with a veteran’s pedigree and a winner’s reputation. Whether or not Detroit trades Bogdanovic, GM Troy Weaver holds all the leverage. But it would be sick to see Bogdanovic contributing to a team with championship aspirations.
Similar to Bojan Bogdanovic’s offensive role with the Pistons, Poeltl has been a defensive anchor for the Spurs. To be up front, nothing about his game is flashy. The only Jakob Poeltl highlights you’ll find on social media are his lowlights of getting baptized by Ja Morant. But he’s quietly one of the best role-playing bigs in the league and fits seamlessly into any rotation.
First and foremost, Poeltl is an elite drop defender and shot blocker, in the ilk of Brook Lopez. He effectively uses his size at the rim and regularly puts himself in the right place at the right time to clean up mistakes. But his positioning and timing skills also make him valuable on offense. In the same way that the best soccer players create space with movement, Poeltl is smart at drawing help to create easy scoring opportunities.
With the ball, Poeltl is also one of the most efficient post-scorers in the game. But one of the most underrated parts of Poeltl’s game is his playmaking. From the block to the elbow, he is a decisive and perceptive passer. Furthermore, he’s a strong and disruptive screen setter, which makes him effective at freeing up shooters and slashers on the perimeter. Poeltl is still relatively young at 27, but the Spurs are years away from competing. Every team in need of size could do a lot worse than a big as reliable and crafty as Jakon Poeltl.
Header: Getty Images / Ringer Illustration
Dallas Mavericks: AP Images / Ringer Illustration
San Antonio Spurs: Instagram / leaguefits
Houston Rockets: Getty Images / NBA
Toronto Raptors: Getty Images / Ringer Illustration
Utah Jazz: Getty Images / Ringer Illustration
John Collins: Alonzo Adams / USA Today
Bojan Bogdanovic: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images
Jakob Poeltl: Jaime Valdez / USA Today