NBA Mailbag: What to expect as the trade deadline approaches?

Sixers guard Ben Simmons is likely to be a popular figure heading into the February 10 trade deadline.

Thank goodness unlimited cell plans. As the NBA’s trade deadline nears Thursday, nearly all of the league’s general managers have spent most of their time answering or initiating calls and texts.

In related news, most of the questions from the NBA Mail this week centered around the trade deadline. So I’m going to go directly to those questions without further ado. After all, a trade could take place any time before the 3 p.m. ET Thursday deadline.

For future mailbags, email me your question or Twitter.

Which team will make the most splashes on time? The biggest buyers?

—Gadi Goldbarg

No doubt the Philadelphia 76ers will try to be the biggest seller. After all, Ben Simmons stays in a Sixers uniform with no intention of ever playing there. Therefore, it seems inevitable that it will be a question of if, not when, the Sixers trade Simmons. The only question: What will it take for the Sixers to pull the trigger? They failed to do so all season despite the pressure of not having the most competitive roster possible to fight for an NBA title. But with the Sixers still among the best teams in the Eastern Conference, they proved they had enough with Joel Embiid’s dominance, quality squad depth and Doc Rivers’ coaching.

Kristen Ledlow, Isiah Thomas and Candace Parker discuss the potential of a James Harden swap for Ben Simmons.

Therefore, it seems likely that the Sixers will trade Simmons before the trade deadline only if the deal also involves Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden. But Nets coach Steve Nash told reporters the team isn’t trading Harden. So maybe Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey will be waiting this summer. Then Harden could decline his player option to become a free agent or convince the Nets to execute a signing and trade with Philadelphia.

As with most trade deadlines, it’s hard to predict which teams will make the most noise. But expect the Sacramento Kings to be extremely active. As has become familiar for some time, the Kings are at the bottom of the standings and have plenty of young players who could lead to various trades.

After making the first trade before this week’s deadline, expect the Portland Trail Blazers and LA Clippers to remain active. Portland’s acting general manager Joe Cronin recently told me, “I don’t think we want to destroy everything.” But by doling out Norman Powell and Robert Covington to the Clippers for Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson and the Detroit Pistons’ 2025 second-round pick, it looks like the Trail Blazers are trying to lower their luxury tax bill while opening more doors. opportunities for Anfernee Simons and Johnson to develop. The Trail Blazers also seem open-minded about where they’re headed, including whether they continue to build around Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic. I would also expect the Clippers to find a new destination for veteran forward Serge Ibaka, who has $9.7 million expiring.

Do you think the Lakers will make any moves before the deadline?

— Janet French

For better or for worse, I think the Lakers roster will be the same as this season. Here’s what LeBron James and coach Frank Vogel think of the team heading into the trade deadline. But here’s what I think. I expect the only roster changes will involve what have unfortunately become familiar pitfalls for the Lakers this season: dealing with their star and cast’s overlapping absences due to injury and COVID-19. . I expect Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka to be active on phone calls. After all, the Lakers fielded drastically different rosters during his four-year tenure, in part because of his aggressiveness. But Pelinka faces an inescapable reality.

There is no market to trade Russell Westbrook for two reasons. He earns $44 million in salary, forcing any partner to manage multiple assets just to match contracts. Westbrook’s high-risk, high-reward style of play has created more turbulence than highlights with the Lakers. The Lakers have a 2027 first-round pick they could theoretically use to sweeten such a deal. But that hardly attracts as much cache as more immediate draft picks. The Lakers also seem to want to keep that anyway to retain flexibility for future deals. No surprise the Lakers are pricing interest in Talen-Horton Tucker, given his young upside. But I suspect the Lakers will keep THT because they developed him from day one and remain confident he will flourish even more.

Should the Lakers get Russell Westbrook off the bench?

That doesn’t mean the Lakers don’t have holes in the roster. They have plenty with Westbrook’s shortcomings, too many veterans and not enough defensively oriented players. In practice, however, the Lakers have a much better chance of resolving those issues in the offseason given that eight of their players will become unrestricted free agents this summer.

What do you think is the biggest problem with the Lakers that can be fixed immediately?

— Janet French

The biggest problems are not fixable. The Lakers have a list of veterans susceptible to injury. They also have a dynamic playmaker (Westbrook), who has struggled to find his footing consistently with and without LeBron James and Anthony Davis. But the relatively easier fixable issues mean James and Davis are in cleaner health for the second half of the season. That way, James and Davis can accentuate the Lakers’ strengths and overcome their shortcomings like they did in their 2020 title run. That way, Westbrook can also foster more on-court chemistry with the other two. Lakers stars. If that brings out the best in Westbrook, the Lakers could finally benefit somewhat from their risky deal. Otherwise, they can absorb Westbrook’s marginalization or bench like the Lakers have done in two games recently.

The time has come for Anthony Davis to take the reins as leader of the Lakers.

Do you think the Lakers will make the playoffs or the Play-In tournament?

— @satuitoo_carlos

All scenarios are possible. Because James and Davis will likely be healthier than the first half of the season, I still have optimism that the Lakers will make the playoffs as the sixth seed rather than having to appear in the tournament. play-in as a seventh, eighth, ninth or 10th planter. But even if the Lakers secure the No. 6 spot, their cap is nothing more than the Western Semifinals. Even with a perfectly healthy roster, the Lakers don’t have enough to beat the Golden State Warriors or the Phoenix Suns in a playoff series.

Should the Golden State Warriors act at the trade deadline?

– @RingzSeason22

I do not think so. The Warriors have already become one of the NBA title contenders as they showed similarities to the 2014-15 championship team. They still have Stephen Curry and Draymond Green playing mostly in their prime. They have Klay Thompson looking reasonably well after a 2½ year absence with injuries. They still have veteran Andre Iguodala helping the team nurture their young talents, even in a diminished role. And the Warriors have developed another All-Star (Andrew Wiggins) as well as a few young players (Jordan Poole, Jonathan Kuminga, Kevon Looney).

Have the Warriors become favorites to win it all in 2021-22?

That doesn’t mean the Warriors roster is perfect. They could improve their central depth. Green was sidelined last month with a lower back injury and recently predicted he wouldn’t return until at least the NBA All-Star break. Second-year center James Wiseman hasn’t played this season since undergoing surgery on his injured right knee last April. And the Suns could challenge the Warriors in the playoffs because they have an All-Star center (Deandre Ayton) and a reliable backup (JaVale McGee). Still, it’s not worth it for the Warriors to give up their young wingers just to bolster their size. Looney has been dependable, and the Warriors’ main calling card involves the talent and continuity they’ve fostered with their All-Stars and cast.

I will come!!

Hoops around the world

We all know that the NBA has become a global brand and basketball has become a global game. But what fuels your basketball fandom?

Do you have a good basketball story to tell? Write it down and send it to me. Best tries will be used in this feature throughout the season. We’d also love to see a picture of the hoop you’re playing on, whether it’s at your neighborhood gym or in your driveway yard. Do you have a good picture? So go your way and we will present it.

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NBA Digital Sr. Analyst Mark Medina will answer questions weekly in his NBA Mailbag.

How to participate ? Just email your question to Mark here, or use your Twitter account and ask him your question here.