The NBA trade deadline is less than a month away, and after a wild NBA summer, this deadline seems like… a snoozer. Teams don’t have the cap space to wheel and deal after lackluster playoff revenue. (You can thank Golden State’s domination for that.) Most teams just acquired or signed new key pieces, so they’re not willing to move them yet. And first-round picks are so valuable in a loaded draft that they’re almost unmovable.
Still, there’s always chatter, and if nothing else, it’s important to examine the needs and situations of teams with their last opportunities for upgrades approaching. Here’s a team-by-team guide to the Eastern Conference trade deadline.
GM Travis Schlenk came in this summer and gutted the place. He didn’t make an aggressive move toward re-signing Paul Millsap, he unloaded Dwight Howard’s contract, and he generally cleared as much space as possible to start over. The result is a team currently under the salary cap by about $1 million with $33.5 million in cap space this summer.
Now, the Hawks are one of the worst teams in the league. So no max free agent is going to come calling. The good news is that means Atlanta can use some of that cap space to take on longer-term contracts in exchange for draft picks should those come available. Don’t be surprised to find Atlanta as a willing third partner for teams trying to make a deal work financially. They won’t limit their long-term flexibility, but they’ll be open to dealing role players to help make bigger deals work.
ESPN reported that teams are targeting Kent Bazemore, which makes a lot of sense. He’s a wing who can shoot and defend, is in his physical prime, and is set to make more than $18 million next summer. One league source noted to The Action Network that Bazemore’s deal is trade-friendly because of his early termination option in the summer of 2019, which means if teams aren’t planning on getting involved in this summer’s hullabaloo, there will be an opportunity to clear space for the following summer while keeping a good player in place.
That same source also noted the number of expiring deals Atlanta has. That could be helpful if teams decide at midseason to get in on the Paul George/LeBron James free agency bonanza this summer. They’ll need those deals, and with a shrinking cap number, Atlanta could be a useful partner.
All of this is to say Atlanta won’t be swinging for the fences, but the Hawks could find themselves in smaller deals if the tempo picks up.