We are in the early stages of the 2018-19 NBA season and every team still has that optimistic outlook on the potential of their team. The reality is that the leaders and true contenders always separate from the pack. This will bring the playoff picture into better focus and the bottom teams in each conference can look ahead to the future.
This is where the trade deadline and the offseason prove to be so valuable. As we have seen over the last couple seasons, impact players do become available and it is best to be prepared when the right players are on the market.
The team most people believe are in the best position for long-term success is the Boston Celtics. Acquiring assets and developing young talent is the model for every rebuilding franchise. For teams that aren't first priority in free agency the only way to make a splash is to go all in and going after the player you want.
The situation in Minnesota is an obvious one that you would think would result in a trade. Winning really does cure all and even a trade request or preferred destination can become fluid. The hot approach among teams is to gamble on convincing a player to stay with your organization even if they may have expressed interest in other teams.
There will be cap space available for a lot of teams in the upcoming free agency and that may result in teams being more aggressive in the trade market before the February deadline. In this list, I shall project 10 players that could be traded this season and 10 players who could be finding new homes in the summer.
20 Deadline: Gordon Hayward
The Boston Celtics have been among the bigger disappointments early in the season. They were the preseason favorites to come out of the east, but now, the Raptors are looking like the best team, while the 76ers may get even better with the recent acquisition of Jimmy Butler. The Celtics went all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last year without Gordon Hayward and with Hayward back in the lineup this year, their chemistry has been lacking. It's possible that the Celtics may deem they don't need Hayward and try to find a replacement via trade.
19 Offseason: Anthony Davis
The New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry was asked about trading Anthony Davis and said he wouldn't trade Davis for even Beyonce'. That's a good joke and all but we know this is the NBA where no one is untouchable and those roster decisions are made by Dell Demps and not Alvin Gentry. The Boston Celtics believe that their championship window is now open. If the Celtics don't make the NBA finals this season, their year will be considered a disappointment. General manager Danny Ainge is not afraid to shake things up and has proven that he is more than willing to make the tough decisions.
18 Deadline: Lonzo Ball
The Los Angeles Lakers are in a transitional year and the Lakers play to win championships. It's easy to say that the Lakers will take their time developing into a contender in August. When LeBron James in his 16th NBA season is still playing at an elite level, those plans get expedited. This is where Lonzo Ball comes to mind. The Lakers roster had a glaring flaw when it was constructed and the belief was that eventually the front office would go out and add more shooting. The Suns need a point guard and Ball would complement Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton well.
17 Offseason: Jaylen Brown
The New Orleans Pelicans previously dealt Anthony Davis to the Celtics in our projected trades. In any deal that would include the Pelicans unloading the face of their franchise, major compensation would have to be included. New Orleans would be looking for a combination of young emerging talent as well as draft compensation and the Celtics have both.
The trade package could be something such as Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and a first round draft pick.
If Boston believes enough in their culture, this a risk that they can afford if one of their lottery picks next season can turn into a replacement for one of their parting young stars.
16 Deadline: Hassan Whiteside
The NBA game is moving away from a player like Hassan Whiteside and his skillset. Over the last couple drafts, a lot of teams drafted big men and there is no obvious landing spot for Whiteside that makes sense for both sides. Over the next two seasons, Whiteside is owed north of $50M, making this deal one of the most untradeable contracts in the league. If Whiteside is dealt than the Miami Heat have to be willing to trade draft picks as well. In this scenario, Whiteside will be making his way to the Atlanta Hawks to give the Trae Young-led Hawks a better interior presence than Alex Len and Dewayne Dedmon.
15 Offseason: Kyle Lowry
The Toronto Raptors have pushed all of their chips to the center of the table and are banking on this season to decide the direction of their immediate future. One of the reasons that the team was so willing to move on from DeMar DeRozan was that they would get from out under that contract. Kawhi Leonard may decide to re-sign in Toronto, but the team must prepare themselves for Kawhi testing free agency. If Kawhi leaves, the team will go into a rebuild and Lowry will be the first player to be moved. The Suns are a team that appears to be a point guard away. Lowry paired with Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker could really work.
14 Deadline: Carmelo Anthony (Signing)
The Houston Rockets were one game and an untimely Chris Paul injury away from reaching the NBA finals a season ago. Now, the landscape of the Western Conference has changed and many people who follow the NBA believe that the Rockets have taken a step backward. Defensively, the Rockets made real strides and losing a defender and floor spacer like Trevor Ariza will hurt.
The Carmelo Anthony experiment didn't work in Houston, as Melo quickly found himself playing fewer and fewer minutes. The chemistry just wasn't there, further hurting Melo's reputation as being more of a problem than a solution at this point. With Melo now free to sign anywhere, after parting ways with Houston, expect the Miami Heat to swoop in, who have been linked to him before, and still have a chance in the Southeast division.
13 Offseason: Andrew Wiggins
The Minnesota Timberwolves are in an awkward position. On the court, their best player is Jimmy Butler, who wants to be traded. The problem is that Butler's contract will be up at the end of the season and the team already paid max salaries to their young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. By the offseason, Butler should be with a new team and Minnesota will have to take a long look in the mirror. One of those observations will be that the team should try to move on from Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins was the major piece in the Kevin Love trade and the team is not ready to walk away from that trade with nothing to show for it. Wiggins could find himself in New York because this is such a Knicks move.
12 Deadline: Lou Williams
Last season, Lou Williams was the best player on the Clippers and Williams was used primarily as a reserve. In result of such a tremendous season individually, the Clippers re-signed Williams for three years and $24M.
The Clippers have parted ways with the best core in their franchise history in Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan. Now the team must look to find a new identity.
Rookie point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been a bright spot and the future of their point guard spot. This can make Williams expendable and his contract is reasonable enough for a team that covets his services. Lou Will may be on the move before the All-Star break and he will likely land in Utah with Donovan Mitchell.
11 Offseason: Kevin Love
The season has just begun and the trade rumors involving Kevin Love are already beginning to circulate. The Cavs already fired Tyronn Lue and it seems the Cavs are quickly re-thinking their situation sans LeBron.The Cavaliers re-signed Kevin Love in the offseason to be the team's number one option as they attempt to make a run at the playoffs. As we know, in the NBA the best way to build a team for a mid-market team is through the draft.
If you ask the team publicly, they would dismiss any ideas of trading their All-Star power forward. If the right team called and offered a first round pick, Love would have to be on the table. The team that makes the call will likely be the Milwaukee Bucks, who need another star next to Giannis if they want to take the next step.
10 Deadline: Damian Lillard
Portland finished last season as the third seed in the Western Conference. In the first round playoff matchup with the Pelicans, the Blazers were swept in a surprising turn of events. The Western Conference is suddenly even more dangerous and the Blazers have not gotten decidedly better than a season ago. If the Blazers do not start off hot this season, then their window may be closing with the roster as currently constructed. Two players will come up in discussions as Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have the most value. The Lakers will be buyers at the deadline and LeBron James will have his Showtime running mate.
9 Offseason: Jabari Parker
Coming out of Duke, Jabari Parker was in the conversation to be selected number one overall in 2014. Parker made statements about preferring to go second to a young Milwaukee Bucks team to be the primary option. Andrew Wiggins was selected first before being traded to Minnesota and Parker was taken one pick before Joel Embiid, the player with by far the better career thus far. Zach LaVine is coming off an injury at an All-Star level up to this point.
Parker is still trying to find his way in the NBA after multiple ACL surgeries.
If Jabari doesn't have an improved season, the Chicago Bulls can trade Parker to in the summer to the Memphis Grizzlies for the second half of his two-year, $20M contract.
8 Deadline: Kemba Walker
The season is very young but so far Kemba Walker is playing the best basketball of his career. A 40-point opening night followed by 26 points in a 32-point win and a game-winning free throw along with 39 points the next night, and suddenly Kemba Walker is a hot name again. The Hornets have tried the Kemba Walker experiment for eight seasons. A team that values a point guard that can generate scoring may give the Hornets a call and if that happens, GM Mitch Kupchak should take a listen. To begin a youth movement in Charlotte, Kupchak could send Walker to New Orleans as the Pels attempt to retain Anthony Davis long-term.
7 Offseason: Bradley Beal
The Washington Wizards, over the past several years, were a team in the Eastern Conference that was expected to be a tough out in the playoffs. For the most part, with John Wall and Bradley Beal in the backcourt, the Wizards have underachieved. Part of this is due to injuries, and the other part is that they're simply two players that like to have the ball in their hands at the end of games and have yet to find a good balance.
The Wizards aren't in the class of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference as of yet. In order to close the gap, the Wizards will decide to make a move this offseason. Bradley Beal could potentially land in a place like Houston.
6 Deadline: Goran Dragic
The Miami Heat have one of the worst salary cap situations in the entire NBA. Still, the Heat are trying to be a playoff team and had a deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves for Jimmy Butler all but finished before the deal fell through at the last minute.
Goran Dragic is still young enough to have a real impact in a contender, but old enough that he may not fit the timeline of some of the younger players on the team.
The Denver Nuggets are a sleeper team in the Western Conference and Dragic fits well with a team that can play uptempo and takes a ton of three-point shots.
5 Offseason: Gary Harris
In the scenario involving Goran Dragic, the Nuggets can acquire the playmaking point guard and that move could allow Jamal Murray to play his more natural position, which is the shooting guard spot. Michael Porter Jr. will be healthy for this team eventually, and if he reaches his potential, then there won't be as many shots around for everyone. This could make Gary Harris expendable and if so, his demands will be in service for a lot of ball clubs.
Harris has four years left on his contract and the Cavs can call and offer the Nuggets Tristan Thompson's last year on his contract and draft compensation. The Nuggets would have salary cap relief and flexibility to surround a core of players that could suddenly be a serious threat.
4 Deadline: Eric Bledsoe
All last season the Bucks were a team that people believed were underachieving with a lights-out superstar in Giannis Antetokounmpo. After having a falling out in Phoenix, the Bucks acquired Eric Bledsoe via trade and expected to be a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference. Turns out they finished as the eighth seed and lost a seven-game series to a Celtics team that went to the conference finals but were playing without Kyrie Irving and, obviously, Gordon Hayward.
Bledsoe was outplayed by Terry Rozier and the loss was mostly blamed on coaching. With a new offensive system, this is Bledsoe's last chance to prove himself with this team. By the deadline, we expect Malcolm Brogdon to take over the starting spot and Bledsoe to be shipped to San Antonio to help patch up the Spurs' injury-riddled backcourt.
3 Offseason: Marc Gasol
The Memphis Grizzlies were almost a lock for the playoffs the past five years or so and then Mike Conley got hurt last season and the Grizzlies finished with one of the worst records in the NBA.
It appears that at 33 years old, Gasol is not the same impact player he was three years ago.
Now, the Grizzlies have to abandon their "Grit and Grind" mantra and catch up with the rest of the NBA and play uptempo. Drafting Jaren Jackson Jr. was the first piece to help them play faster, and parting with Gasol may be the next step. The Indiana Pacers can add Gasol to play along Myles Turner to improve their frontcourt in the Eastern Conference.
2 Deadline: T.J. McConnell
Backup point guards in the NBA are extremely valuable and teams around the league have been keeping a close eye on T.J. McConnell. The Philadelphia 76ers are experimenting with Markelle Fultz as a primary option in the second halves of games. The team lacks perimeter shooting and rookie Landry Shamet is a guard off the bench that may get more playing time due to their need. Kris Dunn recently suffered a sprained MCL injury and will be out until December. The Bulls may look to McConnell as a guard option instead of Cameron Payne, because McConnell won't cost much in a trade.
1 Offseason: Kyle Kuzma
In the offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers will look to rebuild their roster from a playoff contender to a championship contender. This means one of two things; the young Lakers will have to grow and grow fast, or the front office will look to move one of these pieces in a deal that brings them a superstar-level talent. Brandon Ingram appears to be the player that the Lakers feel has the biggest upside and with LeBron James manning a forward spot, Kyle Kuzma may become expendable. The Lakers could send Kuzma to Toronto as they agree to a sign and trade for Kawhi Leonard.