For the next three days, NBA executives will spend most of their time either texting or talking on the phone. The reason: teams will have until Thursday at 3 p.m. ET to make a deal.
Championship-contending teams want to collect one extra piece that will further their odds of hosting a parade. Lottery-bound teams want to horde more assets to accelerate their rebuild.
Though it always remains unpredictable what will happen, below are the four players most likely to be dealt.
Clint Capela, Houston Rockets center – Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is always aggressive when it comes to making deals. And in this case, shipping Capela is the best move the Rockets can make to keep themselves in the mix for championship contention.
Though Capela has averaged 13.9 points and 13.8 rebounds per game, the Rockets have found his defense to be inconsistent. By dealing Capela, the Rockets could acquire enough assets to land a wing player that would make a defensive impact. As ESPN first reported, the Rockets have considered multi-team deals to increase the odds of dealing Capela.
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Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers forward – The Cavaliers once depended on Thompson’s defensive toughness and rebounding during four consecutive NBA Finals appearances. But with the Cavaliers bound for the NBA draft lottery for the second consecutive season, Cleveland is better off exchanging Thompson for a combination of young players and draft picks.
The Cavaliers had hoped to do the same thing with Kevin Love. But championship-caliber teams would likely find Thompson more enticing because of his more favorable contract. Thompson is in the last year of a five-year, $82 million deal. Love has four years left on a $120 million deal.
Rudy Gay, San Antonio Spurs forward – The Spurs have rarely made any deals before the trade deadline. They often did not need to en route to 22 consecutive NBA playoff appearances. But with the Spurs on pace to miss the postseason for the first time since the 1996-97 season, they might be looking to deal.
It appears unlikely the Spurs would ship off LaMarcus Aldridge or DeMar DeRozan, even if they have not played to their All-Star potential consistently. Yes, the Spurs still have a shot to make the playoffs. But San Antonio could get plenty in return for Rudy Gay, who would be a coveted wing for any playoff team. Gay can both create his own shot and defend other teams’ opposing top scorers.
Robert Covington, Minnesota Timberwolves forward – Expect the Timberwolves to be one of the most active on the trade market. They just experienced their second 11-game losing streak this season. They have plenty of young players and versatile players, too. Consider Covington as an attractive asset because of his perimeter defense and outside shooting.
The Timberwolves might dangle Covington in part of a deal to the Warriors for D’Angelo Russell. The Warriors are more likely to keep Russell so they can field even more offers this summer. But Covington could entice teams to give Minnesota a first-round pick.