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NBA trade deadline: Raptors set up to be buyers

As the Feb. 7 NBA trade deadline draws closer and closer, we’re getting to the point where teams need to take an honest look at themselves and determine whether or not to go all-in for a playoff run or focus on the future.

In the Western Conference, all but two teams are still in the hunt for a post-season berth. Over in the East, the top five seems locked in, with a number of teams jostling for positioning.

With less than two weeks remaining until the deadline, here’s a look at five buyers and five sellers across the NBA.

Buyers
Toronto Raptors

The Raptors have the most wins in the NBA, and have spent the entire season in first or second place in the Eastern Conference. Despite the success, there are still concerns, especially with the team cooling considerably after a torrid start.

The biggest issue has been three-point shooting, as the Raptors hoist the ninth-most triples per game league-wide, but only convert on 34.8 per cent of them. While there’s a belief existing roster pieces like C.J. Miles and Kyle Lowry can break out of personal slumps, adding another established shooter looks like a priority for Masai Ujiri and Co.

Toronto could also use a backup power forward to slide in behind Pascal Siakam on the depth chart. With Serge Ibaka moving to a full-time centre role this year, the Raptors are thin up front, especially with Jonas Valanciunas sidelined by a lingering thumb injury. Toronto ranks 24th in the league in defensive rebounding, so bringing in another big man would help shore up the glass

As the Feb. 7 NBA trade deadline draws closer and closer, we’re getting to the point where teams need to take an honest look at themselves and determine whether or not to go all-in for a playoff run or focus on the future.

In the Western Conference, all but two teams are still in the hunt for a post-season berth. Over in the East, the top five seems locked in, with a number of teams jostling for positioning.

With less than two weeks remaining until the deadline, here’s a look at five buyers and five sellers across the NBA.

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Buyers
Toronto Raptors

The Raptors have the most wins in the NBA, and have spent the entire season in first or second place in the Eastern Conference. Despite the success, there are still concerns, especially with the team cooling considerably after a torrid start.

The biggest issue has been three-point shooting, as the Raptors hoist the ninth-most triples per game league-wide, but only convert on 34.8 per cent of them. While there’s a belief existing roster pieces like C.J. Miles and Kyle Lowry can break out of personal slumps, adding another established shooter looks like a priority for Masai Ujiri and Co.

Toronto could also use a backup power forward to slide in behind Pascal Siakam on the depth chart. With Serge Ibaka moving to a full-time centre role this year, the Raptors are thin up front, especially with Jonas Valanciunas sidelined by a lingering thumb injury. Toronto ranks 24th in the league in defensive rebounding, so bringing in another big man would help shore up the glass.

Should Raptors go all in, trade for Pelicans’ Anthony Davis?
Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers already pulled off a blockbuster this season by acquiring Jimmy Butler, but they might have more tricks up their sleeve. The most glaring hole on Philadelphia’s roster is a lack of frontcourt presence alongside Joel Embiid. Amir Johnson is a shadow of his former self these days, and Wilson Chandler, who has been starting at power forward, is likely better-suited to a bench role. If the 76ers can’t find a trade that works for them, they figure to be players in the buyout market, which worked wonders for the club one year ago.

Denver Nuggets

Somewhat surprisingly, the Nuggets find themselves going toe-to-toe with the mighty Golden State Warriors for the top seed in the Western Conference. Nikola Jokic has established himself as a bona fide superstar, and Denver’s supporting cast has been up to the task to this point.

One position the Nuggets could look to improve is small forward. Torrey Craig has started 36 games at the three spot, and GM Artūras Karnišovas could look to upgrade with a more established veteran to help lead the youngest team in the NBA through the playoffs.

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Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City boasts two of the league’s biggest stars in Russell Westbrook and Paul George. The Thunder’s focus needs to be finding an established marksman to improve the team’s three-point shooting percentage that currently ranks 23rd overall. None of the teams below the Thunder in that department hold a playoff position, which highlights the importance of the long ball in today’s NBA.

The Thunder also suffer from a lack of depth, sitting 27th in bench points. Superstars are what ultimately win you games in the playoffs, but secondary scoring is crucial to keep defences honest.

Utah Jazz

After stumbling out of the gate, the Jazz have found their footing and have rocketed up the standings. Donovan Mitchell has built upon his exceptional rookie season, but he’s the club’s only true scorer. Come playoff time, Utah will need another player to step up to help shoulder the offensive load. With that boost unlikely to come from within, the trade market looks like something the Jazz should continue to explore, having already acquired Kyle Korver from the Cleveland Cavaliers a couple of months ago.

Sellers
Memphis Grizzlies

Following a surprisingly hot start, the Grizzlies have crashed back to earth and are now well out of the playoff race in the Western Conference. Memphis has something for everyone and will likely be one of the most active sellers in the market.

Need another star to pair with your existing group? The Grizzlies have two big names up for grabs in Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. If it’s depth you’re after, take a look at JaMychal Green, Garrett Temple, Shelvin Mack or Omri Casspi, who all come off the books this summer. The Grizzlies are looking to begin a new era, and a trade deadline sell-off would only help accelerate that process.

mike-conley-marc-gasol
Gasol and Conley could be in different uniforms after the deadline.
(Brandon Dill/AP)

Phoenix Suns

Still in the dark days of their rebuild, the Suns will reportedly hope to be active in the trade market over the next couple weeks. They’ve already traded Trevor Ariza and bought out Tyson Chandler, so are there really any other notable players on the roster? Jamal Crawford looks like a buyout possibility and Ryan Anderson’s hefty contract makes him a candidate for the stretch provision.

The most interesting player to watch in Phoenix before Feb. 7 will be T.J. Warren, the 14th overall pick from the 2014 draft. Just 25 years old, Warren is averaging 18 points per game and is hitting 42 per cent of his three-pointers. Despite the strong stats, it seems like Warren could be the odd man out in the desert. The Suns traded for Kelly Oubre Jr. earlier this season, and have spent high selections in back-to-back drafts on wing players Josh Jackson (fourth overall in 2017) and Mikal Bridges (10th overall in 2018). Warren, who signed a four-year extension in October, could be a target for a team looking to make a push this year, but also acquire young talent for the future.

Atlanta Hawks

One of the worst teams in the NBA this year, Atlanta will surely be trying to trade anyone who isn’t part of the team’s long-term plans. There’s not too much to choose from here, with Dewayne Dedmon and Jeremy Lin probably the two players drawing the most interest. Both are serviceable backups for squads looking to improve the bench. Kent Bazemore is a decent trade chip, but he’s currently out with an ankle injury and has no timetable for a return. Vince Carter is another possibility, although giving up anything for a 42-year-old is hard to imagine. If Carter can’t be dealt, look for him to be bought out.

What’s the best case scenario for this Magic team? Fighting tooth and nail to grab the seventh or eighth seed? Now seems like the time for Orlando to sell off its assets and fully look to the future. The Magic have a number of pieces that would benefit a contender. Aaron Gordon and Mo Bamba won’t be going anywhere but pretty much everyone else on the roster should be deemed expendable.

Nikola Vucevic is the team’s best trade chip and would be a big boost to anyone seeking frontcourt scoring. The 28-year-old is enjoying the best season of his career and has played himself into the all-star reserve conversation. He’s also a free agent at season’s end, so Orlando would be wise to see what it can get for him at the deadline.

Evan Fournier is another name to watch. His numbers have dipped in 2018-19, but he remains a solid wing scorer, and can opt out of his contract after next season. Fellow swingman Terrence Ross is having a productive season from beyond the arc, converting nearly 38 per cent of his opportunities. With three-point shooting more of a focus than ever before, Ross could easily find himself on the move.

New York Knicks

The Knicks have been a disaster this year without Kristaps Porzingis and are currently mired in a 10-game losing streak. Enes Kanter has already been shopped around to no avail and a feud between the player and the organization has all but certainly sealed his fate as a Knick.

Tim Hardaway Jr. has taken on more of a scoring load with Porzingis sidelined, but his contract is sizeable and he’s only shooting 38 per cent from the field. Noah Vonleh is another possibility to be dealt since the 23-year-old hits free agency after this season.

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