Welcome to the fourth edition of the Trade Deadline Preview series! This time around I’ll be covering the Northwest division with thoughts, stashes and fantasy advice for the Nuggets, Wolves, Jazz, Thunder and Blazers. If you missed the first three editions, you can check them out below!
The Nuggets are tied with the Warriors for No. 1 in the West, with both teams trailing only the Bucks in total wins. Nikola Jokic is the only untouchable on the roster, while Jamal Murray is close behind and would only be moved if Denver suddenly decided to enter the Anthony Davis sweepstakes. However, Zach Lowe of ESPN is reporting that “All is quiet in Denver” for now. This is a front office with a history of taking risks, and they do have an exciting blend of young talent they could consolidate for a star if that’s the direction they want to go in. Since none of their players are rumored to be on the block, let’s instead focus on some of their younger talent in case they find themselves with a bigger role after the deadline.
Malik Beasley- This guy is becoming a stud before our eyes. He’s 4% shy at the free throw line of joining the elite 50/40/90 club, hitting 50.6% from the field and 43% from deep. He’s under Denver’s control for the next two seasons on a team-friendly deal, but rival teams will likely be asking about Malik first if the Nuggets want to make a play for a superstar. He’s averaging 17.6 points per 36 minutes compared to 17.8 for Harris, and he’s been getting a ton of burn this year because Barton missed most of the season with a groin injury and Harris can’t stay on the floor with a variety of ailments. I’m holding Beasley in fantasy leagues through the deadline not only because of Harris’ health, but because the 22-year-old wing can become a consistent mid-round fantasy value if moved to a rebuilding team.
Monte Morris- Like Beasley, you could tell the 23-year-old PG was bound to make an impact by watching him at the Summer League. Morris is one of the most efficient players in the NBA with the 8th best turnover percentage, and he ranks 4th in the NBA in offensive rating. Morris has been stepping up for an injured Murray lately, putting up 18.3 points and 8.3 assists over his last three games. Isaiah Thomas (hip) is rumored to be targeting a return in mid-February, but I’m not sure the Nuggets can justify taking Morris out of his role. We haven’t heard Morris’ name at all in the rumor mill, but can you imagine his fantasy value if a PG-needy team like the Magic or Suns came calling? If I’m the Nuggets, I’m holding on tight since he’s on a bargain-bin contract through 2020-21.
Trey Lyles- He’s having a tough season and is probably one of the most expendable players on the roster. Lyles is shooting 25.5% from 3-point range, and the Nuggets have plenty of options to pivot to if they decide to move on. There’s no stash appeal here.
Juancho Hernangomez- He’s been used at both SF and PF this season, but his role has plummeted with Will Barton and Paul Millsap healthy again. He’s on a team-friendly teal through 2020-21, but he’s certainly a name to watch at the deadline because the 23-year-old was a proven mid-round fantasy asset when he was deployed as a starter earlier this season.
Similar to the Nuggets, The Thunder have been very quiet on the trade front. Russell Westbrook isn’t going anywhere with over $122M owed to him in the next three seasons, Paul George is a legitimate MVP candidate and Steven Adams has taken a massive step forward with career-highs in points (15.3), rebounds (9.9), assists (1.8) and steals (1.5). Jerami Grant has been a reliable PF for his ability to run the floor and defend, and he’s hitting 35.7% from deep which is enough to keep opposing defenses honest.
Alex Abrines likely would have been a valuable trade chip, but his stock is way down across the league. There also won’t be a market for Patrick Patterson and Terrance Ferguson has been invisible until the past month.
We also have to keep in mind that the Thunder are way over the cap and have the largest luxury tax bill in the NBA, so if they make a move it will likely be a minor one. For me personally, I’m only keeping an eye on two guys at the deadline for fantasy purposes and that’s Nerlens Noel and even Hamidou Diallo for very deep leagues.
Nerlens Noel- The Thunder gambled on Noel this offseason and are seeing huge dividends, as he’s been a rock behind Steven Adams. He has a player option for $1.9M next season that he will surely decline in pursuit of a larger deal, and while I would be shocked if OKC traded their only reliable bench big, he’s one of their best trade chips right now. Noel is only playing 14 minutes per game as the backup, but his per-minute output is insane with 12.7 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.6 blocks and 2.5 steals per 36 minutes. A move could only help his value.
Hamidou Diallo- He’s still incredibly raw which is to be expected at age 20, but Diallo is a bundle of fun. He’s one of the few trade chips that the Thunder has at their disposal, and his per-36 numbers of 13.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.7 blocks on 45.6% shooting would at least make him interesting if he landed on a rebuilding team. If you’re in a standard 12-team league, he probably shouldn’t be on your radar.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Northwest division is ridiculously strong, as the Blazers are third behind Denver and OKC but are 4th in the entire West with a 32-20 record. Damian Lillard is probably the only untouchable on the roster, and with only two years left on his deal after this season they need to make something happen this year before he pulls a LaMarcus Aldridge and demands to leave — Lillard has had multiple meetings with the front office about the direction of the franchise. As for their two next best players, C.J. McCollum is surely staying put and will make just short of $60M over the next two seasons, while Jusuf Nurkic has been playing at a borderline All-Star level and his playmaking (3.2 assists per game) has raised Portland’s ceiling on the offensive end.
It’s no secret that the Blazers will be buyers, with Zach Lowe of ESPN reporting that their first-round pick is "in play.” Some possible names that he kicked around included Terrence Ross, Otto Porter, Taurean Prince, Evan Fournier and even Aaron Gordon. I've also seen several reports linking Jeremy Lin to the Blazers. The problem? Portland is well over the tax and would need to find a way to shed some salary first.
Evan Turner would be an obvious trade candidate then, as he’s on the books for $17M this season and $18M the following. Portland could easily move him to a rebuilding team, but they would obviously have to attach their first-round pick. Turner is a replacement-level wing and moving off his contract would allow guys like Seth Curry and Jake Layman to play more and it would put the ball back in C.J. McCollum’s hands when Lillard is off the floor. Layman is very underrated and the 24-year-old wing is hitting 52% from the field this season with per 36 averages of 15.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.7 blocks and 1.9 triples. A Turner trade would make Layman very interesting in fantasy, but it depends who the Blazers get back in that scenario.
UPDATE: Just as I wrapped up this portion, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Blazers acquired Rodney Hood in exchange for Nik Stauskas, Wade Baldwin and two second-round picks. That could be really bad news for Layman, but he’s still worth keeping tabs on because the Blazers may not be done making moves. As for Hood, he ranked barely inside the top-150 as a featured part of the Cleveland offense, so no I’m not optimistic about his chances of becoming standard-league relevant in Portland.
The last player I’ll be keeping a close eye on is Zach Collins. He hasn’t developed as quickly as the Blazers would have liked, but he still has a lot of long-term upside and is easily one of Portland’s best trade chips. Bigs with good percentages that can rack up blocks (1.6 per 36) and 3s (1.1 per 36) are gold in fantasy, so keep that in mind in case he’s moved to a better situation.
This is a difficult team to gauge. The Wolves have a new head coach and are still looking for their identity, but they are in that awkward spot where they are not good enough to make noise in the playoffs and they are too good to tank. Karl-Anthony Towns is the franchise and is locked in through 2022-23, and the Wolves will find it impossible to move Andrew Wiggins with about $90M owed to him over the next three seasons. They could be buyers or sellers at the deadline with a 25-27 record, but I’d probably lean towards the latter. With that in mind, here are some names I’m keeping an eye with Feb. 7 less than a week away.
Tyus Jones- He’s rumored to be nearing a return and that makes me excited. The Wolves have a PG problem on their hands, as there aren’t enough minutes to go around for Jones, Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose. Teague is my guess as the PG who will be moved, as he will be 31 in June, he can’t stay healthy and he has a player option for $19M next season. Teague’s fantasy owners should probably be rooting for a trade anyways because he’d have less incentive to rest down the stretch, assuming the Wolves fall out of the playoff hunt. The advanced stats show that the Wolves are a better team with Jones on the floor, and he fared well in his six fill-in starts this season with 9.7 points, 7.3 assists, 2.3 steals and 0.7 triples. He’ll be a solid dimes/assist guy if the Wolves clear up this logjam.
Gorgui Dieng- Remember this guy? Dieng was the 52nd ranked player in 2016-17, the 53rd ranked player in 2015-16 and the 49th ranked player in 2014-15. He’s buried behind Towns right now, but the Wolves have been shopping his contract hard prior to the deadline. Dieng needs just 25 minutes to be a mid-round fantasy player, so just throw him on your watch list and add him if we get wind of a possible trade. I think the Wolves will struggle to find a taker, though.
Dario Saric- He’s still stuck in a timeshare with Taj Gibson, but keep him in mind in case Gibson is moved to a contender because he’s on an expiring contract and I don’t think the Wolves intend to bring him back next season. Saric has been terrible since joining the Wolves, but he was the 80th ranked player just a season ago.
Josh Okogie- The Wolves would need to dump several players for Okogie to be fantasy-relevant, and his 35% shooting is a red flag. He does have 1.5 steals, 0.6 blocks and 1.2 triples per 36 and is a stud defensively, so I do like the idea of buying stock in him for dynasty leagues.
The Jazz have stabilized after a slow start and are 7th in the West with a 30-24 record. All-Star snub Rudy Gobert is playing out of his mind, and Donovan Mitchell is recapturing the form that he closed out his rookie season with. Those guys are the franchise and aren’t going anywhere, but Utah will be buyers at the deadline and here’s how that could affect some of the guys below:
Jae Crowder- The Jazz have been linked to Otto Porter which would give them a big upgrade over Crowder, who is currently in a timeshare with Derrick Favors. Crowder is ranked outside the top-150 anyways, so his fantasy owners won’t miss him if Porter joins the team. He’d still see minutes in the 20s, though.
Derrick Favors- If the Jazz make a move at the deadline, Favors is the most likely to be dealt. He’s owed a non-guaranteed $16.9M next season, so he’s essentially an expiring contract and a lock to hit free agency this summer. He’s only playing 23.1 minutes per game for Utah, and unless he’s traded to a rebuilding team that is more interested in the pick that would be attached to him he could be a potential winner. When Favors gets 25 minutes consistently, he’s a walking double-double with a block or two per game.
Ricky Rubio- He’s known for closing out seasons on a strong note, but that could be in jeopardy — the Jazz’s interest in acquiring Mike Conley is “very real” according to Zach Lowe. Rubio heading to Memphis might seem like a good thing on paper with their lack of talent, but he’d also be a constant threat for DNPs as the Grizzlies try to improve their lottery odds. These are nervous times for Rubio’s owners, so they should be hoping for a quiet deadline unless he’s flipped to a PG-needy team like Detroit or Orlando.
Dante Exum- Lowe mentioned that the Jazz could use Exum as a sweetener for potential deadline deals, so he’ll definitely be on my watch list. He’s currently out through the All-Star break with an ankle issue, but Exum was trending up in a hurry before the injury. Not only is he a difference-maker on defense like when he shadowed James Harden in the postseason, but his offense has grown by leaps and bounds with 16.3 points, 6.0 assists and 1.0 triples per 36. There are four or five teams that Exum could land and be an instant waiver-wire pickup.
Ekpe Udoh- He has an expiring contract and he’s basically a forgotten man in Utah. However, he’s a quality backup and has some upside with 3.3 blocks per 36 both this season and last. Keep an eye on him in very deep leagues if he goes somewhere that he can flirt with 20 minutes. I hear Philly could use a backup center...