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Another ranking? ANOTHER RANKING.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
As I described in my “Buy, Sell or Hold?” primer, this is more wishful thinking than rooted in reality:
“Limited matching salary is one problem. Rooster-spot limbo is another. The Thunder Project has one open slot this summer, which they will fill with their own first-round roster or the Clippers’ roster. It is unlikely that they complicate that situation – especially with so many new firsts coming their way after this year.
The Thunder have a $10.2 million trade exception, plenty of second-rounders they don’t need to be attached to, and at least one or two redundant players. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is on his way to All-NBA honors and play-in territory is within reach. This could be a team that complicates the competitive landscape add talent instead of pat.
Now that their hot start has become a lukewarm reality, the Jazz are expected to act like trade deadline sellers, according to NBA reporter Marc Stein.
Counterpoint: What if they don’t?
Indeed, the Jazz can move Mike Conley or Jarred Vanderbilt or Malik Beasley. But what if it’s part of a buy rather than a sell gig? Or what if they just boast a quality player at his nadir like John Collins? They could target reinforcements on the wing in Josh Hart, Cam Reddish or Jae’Sean Tate.
Making ponies for a blockbuster is most likely off the table. But don’t be surprised if Utah buys opportunistically without divesting any of its core players.
2. Indiana Pacers
The absence of Tyrese Haliburton with knee and elbow issues should push the Pacers into seller territory. However, with the exception of last season, they have never been that team. And even amid their 0-for-6 streak without Hali, they remain close enough to the East playoffs to continue Pacers-ing.
Basically, you have to ask yourself what’s more on-brand for them: finally, finally, Myles Turner shipping? Or keep him, possibly renegotiate and renew and leverage a combination of their $27-plus million in cap space, 2023 first-rounders from Boston (top-12 protection) and Cleveland (lottery protection) and maaaybe Chris Duarte in a John Collins, Obi Toppin, PJ Washington, Patrick Williams, Jae’Sean Tate, etc?
1. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors appearing in both the “surprise sellers” and “surprise buyers” sections are a perfect encapsulation of their season, if you really think about it.
Toronto teardowns are discussed wow more often than this alternative. That probably has something to do with the complete absence of sellers bringing in title-tilting talent. But if the Raptors have so many of those players in OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent Jr. and Fred VanVleet, could theoretically buy them.
Quadruple this season would be a gamble and not in the character of team president Masai Ujiri. That’s fine. The current trading market is not conducive to monster moves. But the Raptors all have their own picks and a handful of easy paychecks. They’re stocked enough to amp up their shot creation, functional shooting, and overall depth – and still close enough to the East’s playoff fracas at this point to believe any upgrades could make a world of difference.
Unless otherwise noted, stats are sourced from NBA.com, Basketball Reference, Stathead of Cleaning the Glass and are accurate for Tuesday’s games. Salary information via Spotrac.