5 NBA Trade Deadline Questions: Are Thunder Legit Title Contenders? Are Sixers Cooked?

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Written By Evan Scrimshaw | Last Updated
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The NBA Trade Deadline is Thursday, and the league is unsettled. With expected contenders floundering, upstarts rising, and very few teams selling, there’s a lot of intrigue for bettors around who might cash NBA Finals odds. With just over a week left, what teams do (and don’t do) could be crucial for their chances in June. Here are the five NBA Trade Deadline questions I’m pondering.

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NBA Trade Deadline Questions

Will The Lakers Or Warriors Make A Move?

Two franchises, both alike in mediocrity, face the same challenges. Big expectations, mediocre results, aging stars, and minimal assets have both Golden State and the Lakers in trouble. They’re teams deep with players who probably deserve NBA minutes but are utterly bereft of true quality. They’ve got inconsistent young wings and aging vets with egos above their talents.

The Warriors have been plagued by Draymond Green’s inability to keep his head on straight. Beyond that, Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins are too expensive for their minimal contributions. Wiggins is on a long, expensive contract signed after the 2022 Championship and needs to go, but his contract is an albatross.

The Lakers have tradable contracts, at least, but more glaring issues. They’ve been reported to have interest in Bruce Brown, but with only a first-round pick available to be traded, it’s hard to see them truly punting on any form of medium-term star player trade for a slight upgrade.

With both teams at best looking at winning two games in the play-in to even make the playoffs, whether they get reckless and trade their remaining bullets just to be at best first-round outs will be fascinating to see.

Do The Thunder Think They’re Ready?

Oklahoma City has amassed so many picks in recent years, to the point where they trade current picks for later draft capital most years. The problem, as Danny Ainge found in Boston, is knowing when to cash those picks in. With the Thunder firmly cemented in the West’s Top 4, will they make a move?

If they decide to make a move, there are a lot of options. They could use reinforcements on the wing and at the 5. A deal with the Nets, which has been long mused, could make a lot of sense. Players like Dorion Finney-Smith and Nic Claxton could be hugely valuable and augment the Thunder for a deep run. Gordon Hayward from Charlotte or Daniel Gafford from the Wizards could also make sense if they want to go elsewhere.

The trouble isn’t finding good theoretical fits; it’s knowing whether Sam Presti thinks this team is worth believing in. In a sense, his move is less important than whether he thinks this team is close enough to real contention to put something on the table.

Can A Constrained Top Team Make A Move?

Minnesota, Boston, Denver, and Milwaukee should be the biggest stories at this deadline, but they’re all constrained. The Timberwolves, Nuggets, and Bucks have traded most of their picks already, while Boston’s top-heavy salary structure means they don’t have the flotsam salary traditionally used to make deals.

That said, teams that weren’t supposed to be able to make deals make them all the time. With the help of third teams, dangling pick swaps, or just being in the right place at the right time, deals can sometimes come together. With their constraints, these teams won’t be able to get a flashy name. But whether they can get help could determine the title in June.

How Aggressive Are The Sixers?

The 76ers’ prospects are murkier than ever with the latest Joel Embiid knee injury

Whether the Sixers make a move isn’t the question – Darryl Morey loves trading more than most people love their families. They’ve got expiring contracts from the Harden trade earlier this year and a couple of picks they can move. The question is whether they swing for the fences or merely fortify their current squad.

Given that the Sixers didn’t get in on the Pascal Siakam sweepstakes, the likeliest option is for the Sixers to try to get a wing. Bruce Brown and Dorion Finney-Smith seem like logical options on team-friendly contracts who can plausibly guard Jayson Tatum or Khris Middleton in the playoffs. That said, a week out from the deadline two years ago, nobody expected James Harden to be a Sixer, so we should all keep our eyes out on what Morey might have in mind.

Which Team Starts Tanking?

The theme of this year’s deadline is that there are few sellers and a lot of buyers. The league is probably as deep as it’s ever been with teams that have expectations (whether they’re meeting them or not currently). That depth has created a tier of teams that are good enough to talk themselves into expectations but not good enough to meet them. So, does anyone decide to zag and sell high?

The Raptors exited from this conversation by trading OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam earlier this year. That said, there are still the Hawks, Bulls, Kings, and Jazz. That’s four teams that might make the playoffs (more likely, the play-in) but have no actual chance of doing anything consequential.

You can see why all four might not make drastic moves, but whether these four teams exercise self-awareness about their true talents could determine whether a true gamechanger gets moved this deadline.

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