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Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press
The 2020 NBA trade deadline is rapidly approaching, and 25 of the league’s 30 teams are either in or within five games of the postseason picture.
That could result in a lot of buyers, making quality players who hit the trade market few and far between.
Plenty of role players may be up for grabs, with names like Robert Covington, Danilo Gallinari, Kyle Kuzma and Tristan Thompson possibly switching area codes before Feb. 6 at 3 p.m. ET.
But with all due respect to those players, none have the capability of swinging a playoff series.
The following five trade candidates, meanwhile, could all make a monumental impact on this year’s title race if they get moved to the right teams.
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The Bucks are the best team in the NBA—just like they were last season before they lost to the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals.
With only two playoff runs left until reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo hits free agency, Milwaukee shouldn’t be satisfied with its roster, even with a 40-6 start to the season.
The Bucks have one obvious weakness in their starting lineup: 33-year-old shooting guard Wesley Matthews. He’s averaging only 7.2 points per game on 40.5 percent shooting, and he has has shot just 39.7 percent since tearing his Achilles in 2015, a span of 326 games.
The Bucks could use an upgrade at the 2.
Bogdanovic is a smart, 6’6″ wing who can play on or both the ball. The 27-year-old has been one of the best sixth men in the league this season for the Sacramento Kings, averaging 14.4 points, 3.5 assists, 2.9 rebounds, 1.0 steals while hitting 37.3 percent of his three-point attempts.
Milwaukee could offer Sacramento the Indiana Pacers’ lottery-protected first-round pick this year or a young guard like Donte DiVincenzo as compensation. With a championship so close last year and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs growing closer by the day, the Bucks need to push all of their chips in.
Adding Bogdanovic would be a crushing blow to other championship-hopeful squads and put a nail in the coffin of every other Eastern Conference playoff team.
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Darren Abate/Associated Press
The Miami Heat have been excellent on both sides of the ball this season, but they still trail the Milwaukee Bucks by 8.5 games in the East standings. If an Eastern Conference Finals comes down to these two teams, Miami may need some more firepower.
That’s where LaMarcus Aldridge could be of service.
According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the San Antonio Spurs view “the Heat as a potential trade partner” if they decide to shop either Aldridge or DeMar DeRozan.
Miami has enough wings with Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn and Justise Winslow, who is recovering from a bone bruise in his back. However, they could use another talented big.
Starting center Bam Adebayo is athletic enough to share a frontcourt with Aldridge, who’s spent 94 percent of his time at center over the past two years. The 34-year-old has shaken off a slow start to the season and is now averaging 19.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.7 blocks while shooting a career-high 42.9 percent from deep on 2.8 attempts per game.
Miami’s starting five is an average of only 25.6 years old and could benefit from Aldridge’s veteran presence and experience of nine prior playoff trips. Jimmy Butler and Meyers Leonard are the only two Heat starters that have tasted the postseason.
Adding Aldridge wouldn’t only help the Heat close the gap with the Bucks, but it would also further separate them from the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers, all of whom are either tied or within two games of Miami right now.
Adding Aldridge wouldn’t affect Miami’s 2021 salary-cap space, either, as the seven-time All-Star’s contract expires after next season.
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At 30-14, the Celtics have survived their lack of size thus far. However, that likely won’t hold true in the playoffs.
If the postseason started today, the No. 4 seed Celtics would face the No. 5 seed Pacers and their twin-tower frontcourt of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. The 76ers have Joel Embiid, Al Horford and Tobias Harris. The Bucks start Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez, while the Raptors can counter with Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.
As good as Boston’s guards and wings are, can the Celtics feel comfortable going to battle inside with only Enes Kanter and Daniel Theis?
Adding Love (17.4 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 37.0 percent from three) would give the Celtics an elite rebounder and scorer from multiple areas with championship experience, something their roster lacks.
Love can play either power forward or center and would help keep the driving lanes open for Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. The 31-year-old has proved he can play the role of star or sidekick, and he should be re-energized by joining a team with title aspirations once again.
A trade for Love’s $28.9 million salary would likely mean moving Gordon Hayward, either directly to Cleveland or elsewhere in a three-team trade. While losing Hayward would hurt, the Celtics might need to send him to the bench come playoff time anyway with so many talented opposing big men to guard.
A starting unit of Walker, Brown, Tatum, Love and Theis would pack plenty of shooting, playmaking, rebounding and now size, which is perhaps Boston’s issue heading into the postseason.
The Celtics have the NBA’s fifth-youngest roster and lack a player that has ever appeared in a Finals before. Love would bring what they need both on and off the court.
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The Raptors, like the Heat, Celtics, Pacers and 76ers, are all looking for separation in what could become an arms race behind the Bucks in the Eastern Conference.
For Toronto, reuniting with DeRozan would make a lot of sense.
While the Raptors are an elite defensive squad (104.5 rating, second in the NBA), their offense is only 14th overall (110.4 rating), just barely behind a Pacers team that’s about to get Victor Oladipo back.
The Raptors boast one of the best starting units in the NBA, but their weakest point is at small forward, which is where DeRozan has spent 76 percent of his time over the past two seasons. OG Anunoby, 22, is a good, young player, but this Raptors team needs to win now with so many key pieces (namely Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka) set to hit free agency this summer.
DeRozan is having another strong year for the San Antonio Spurs (22.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.0 steals, 53.5 percent shooting overall), and his presence would give the Raptors both an on-court and emotional lift.
As good as the old DeRozan- and Kyle Lowry-led teams were, this would be the best version yet with Siakam and VanVleet playing at their current levels. Toronto would have to send back either Gasol or Ibaka to match salaries along with additional compensation for San Antonio to consider such a swap.
But if the Spurs do make DeRozan available, the Raptors should pursue a reunion.
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Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press
Due $41.4 million next year with a $44.2 million player option the year in 2021-22, Chris Paul is almost certainly staying with the Oklahoma City Thunder past the Feb. 6 trade deadline.
But if one team is willing to risk taking him on, the Los Angeles Clippers should be it.
Paul has been brilliant with the Thunder this season, leading them to a 28-19 record, only one game behind his old Houston Rockets squad. The 34-year old is averaging 17.2 points, 6.4 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.6 steals while shooting 48.3 percent overall.
Despite all of their star power, the Clippers are 24th in assist percentage this year (56.6 percent) and 20th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.54). Paul would unlock the offense by finding open shooters and getting the ball to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in their preferred spots.
To make the money work, the Clippers could send back Patrick Beverley, Maurice Harkless, Ivica Zubac and Rodney McGruder. The core four of Leonard, George, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell would all stay put. The Clippers could even ask for additional draft compensation from the Thunder in exchange for the salary relief they would be providing while sending back some usable players.
A five-man unit of Paul, Williams, George, Leonard and Harrell may be the best in the NBA and would likely make the Clippers title favorites. It would also allow Paul to spend more time with his family, as his wife and children currently reside in L.A.
Money would be tight in the years to come, but the Clippers aren’t projected to have cap space this summer regardless, especially if they reward Harrell with a new contract. Clippers owner Steve Ballmer isn’t afraid to take risks, and this would be the ultimate high-risk, high-reward move that puts the Clippers even closer to an NBA championship.
All salary figures courtesy of Spotrac.