Dallas is poised to be a potential player in this year's market, with a couple of veteran expiring contracts, some young assets, and all of their future picks.
Dallas is poised to be a potential player in this year's market, with a couple of veteran expiring contracts, some young assets, and all of their future picks. That said, the market is shaping up oddly, as the divide between the teams who need just one piece and the teams who could provide value for that piece is wider than usual, without much overlap. I've split the likeliest targets into a more detailed key section, and a shorter quick-hitting section.
Any and All First-Round Picks Available
There are only a few teams who might trade first round picks for Dallas’ expiring assets; Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut. Of those teams, an even smaller number have picks and make sense to trade for one of these players.
The Milwaukee Bucks could have a use for Deron Williams to space the floor around Giannis and provide some offensive punch where Matthew Dellavedova provides the defense. Milwaukee has its first-round picks and could look to move into the top half of the Eastern Conference, where the 4-seed might earn them a trip with the Cleveland Cavaliers. A Milwaukee deal for Williams is one that makes perhaps the most sense for Dallas and a potential trade partner.
Speaking of the Cavaliers, they are the other most sensible destination for Williams. With a hole behind Kyrie Irving and their Big Three playing heavy minutes, the Cavs could use a veteran guard presence to provide some offense and some floor spacing. Williams has the size to take J.R. Smith’s place at the two, though an Irving-Williams-Love trio makes it tough to defend well. The Cavs have traded their 2018 pick to Portland, but have retained all other rights to their future firsts.
The Portland Trailblazers are rumored to have some interest in Bogut, and they could convey this year’s first-rounder to Dallas in exchange. With Festus Ezeli out, it’s possible that Portland would send his salary to match Bogut’s along with the first and relieve themselves of the rest of that contract.
The Utah Jazz could use Deron Will—just kidding. In reality, the Sacramento Kings are the final team that truly makes sense as a landing spot for Williams, but they are strapped for future firsts, so it's unlikely that a deal can be done.
Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
Recently the subject of much strife and few minutes, Noel is in the final season of his rookie deal, making $4.4 million and becoming a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) at the end of the year, with a Qualifying Offer of $5.8 million. He is a defensive big, can protect the rim and fit as a 4-man—similar to Serge Ibaka early in Oklahoma City. He cannot shoot and struggles to finish off cuts and in the pick and roll. That said, he is a 21-year-old Tyson Chandler starter kit, with great athleticism and shot-blocking instincts. If he can be taught to finish lobs and suck the defense in with some aggressive rim runs, he could be a valuable part of a contending team.
Nobody knows what the Colangelos are thinking, but it probably takes a pick of some kind, and a player. For a trade with Dallas, the 76ers should be trying to get back a point guard (perhaps Devin Harris, whom Dallas has always loved but traded away before) and a young wing or draft pick. That means they’ll likely ask for Anderson, Finney-Smith, a first round pick, or a combination of two of those assets. It’s unlikely this deal gets done at that price.
Mario Hezonja, Orlando Magic
At only 20 years old, Hezonja has not developed as one imagines Orlando would have hoped nearly halfway through his second NBA season. He still has one year on his contract, followed by a team option and then the option to make him a Restricted Free Agent at the end of the 2019 season.
Hezonja is a flier that could turn into the type of wing player that NBA teams are starved for, which makes him a valuable asset in spite of his stagnant development thus far. Per Synergy, Hezonja’s offensive efficiency is in the 9th percentile this season. There is a bright spot, however, in his above average shooting off of screens. Hezonja should be watching film from J.J. Redick and J.R. Smith, and perhaps considering a name change to his initials as well. Dallas would likely need to send at least a 2nd rounder along with Deron Williams, and that may not be enough, even with recent rumors about Hezonja’s availability.
Festus Ezeli, Portland Trailblazers
Just signed this offseason, Ezeli has this year and the next on the books at $7.5 million a year. With Portland’s rumored interest in Bogut, one of the highest payrolls in the league, and Ezeli’s recent surgery, it may be possible that the Blazers would swap the two of them just to get out of the second year of that deal.
Tyson Chandler, Phoenix Suns
Chandler has mostly been himself lately, although aging like any other veteran. It’s possible the Suns could send him away for a third trade to Dallas, but one has to wonder how Chandler feels about the Mavericks franchise by now. Additionally, Phoenix seems to value Chandler’s veteran leadership in a locker room full of young players.
Overall, don’t look for a ton of movement in Dallas this deadline. Look instead for Dallas to focus on scouting for the draft and for free agency, where they’ll try to find more undervalued guys like Al-Farouq Aminu or Dorian Finney-Smith.