These are the contenders, pretenders as trade deadline closes in

With the NBA trade due date nearing on Thursday at 3 p.m. ET, there is no scarcity of possibilities for both purchasers and sellers.

Are groups pushed by injuries to Los Angeles Lakers All-Stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis and make transfer to enhance their possibilities of wining a title? Do the Phoenix Suns, who are simply 2 video games behind the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference, believe they’re a function gamer far from making a deep playoff run? Do the Milwaukee Bucks think they can stand pat and still surpass the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Internet in the Eastern Conference? Do the Indiana Pacers, who fired coach Nate McMillan after being swept in the preliminary last season, have what it requires to enter into the postseason?

TRADE TRACKER: Who is moving where previously Thursday’s NBA trade due date?

We have a look at those concerns and more with a panel of NBA professionals. U.S.A. Today’s Matt Eppers moderated a roundtable with U.S.A. Today basketball authors Jeff Zillgitt and Mark Medina, J. Michael Falgoust of the Indianapolis Star, Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Guard and Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic.

With LeBron James joining Anthony Davis on the sidelines for the Los Angeles Lakers, other teams may be enticed to make deals at the NBA trade deadline to strengthen their chances at a title run.

With LeBron James signing up with Anthony Davis on the sidelines for the Los Angeles Lakers, other groups might be lured to make offers at the NBA trade due date to reinforce their possibilities at a title run.

Matt Eppers: Jeff, could you provide us a fast introduction of where things stand approximately two days prior to the due date? It’s been stated consistently there might be more purchasers than sellers. Where does that leave things?

Jeff Zillgitt: Beginning to warm up with more discussions and structures of possible offers, which is an increased speed from recently when most groups were attempting to find out which method they wished to address the trade due date. In speaking with officers, they revealed some uneasiness about making judgments based upon a truly unusual season. Groups like Detroit, Cleveland, Orlando, Minnesota and Houston appear going to offer, Groups like Los Angeles Clippers, Boston, Denver, Miami and Milwaukee are purchasers — seeing possibly seeing an opportunity to a champion or a minimum of a deep playoff run.

Jim Owczarski: Milwaukee remains in an intriguing area there, Jeff, as moving D.J. Augustin’s agreement to Houston and Torrey Craig to Phoenix for money provides a possibility to amuse the buyout market earlier than they would have prior to those offers. They have 2 open lineup areas. A trade appears harder to do without genuine draft possessions, however basic supervisor Jon Horst continuously appears to pull bunnies out of his hat. The Bucks, like a lot of competitors, would like to include another three-point shooter and border protector. If that person can likewise act as a backup point player, all the much better.

Eppers: How is that uneasiness affecting groups’ technique to trade talks? Exists any sense it will temper the marketplace as an entire as more groups possibly choose to simply stand pat?

Mark Medina: I would not anticipate any franchise-changing trades, such as James Harden going from Houston to Brooklyn. As Jeff kept in mind, this is an extraordinary season to assess how excellent or bad of a group is. However you likewise question will this play-in competition impact group habits. By casting that wide net of potential playoff teams, they appear more inclined to see how their chances land as opposed toward punting on the season.

J. Michael Falgoust: The Pacers are in the middle here. They’re listening but not much is happening. They’re not trading Malcolm Brogdon, I was just told definitively by a league source, though his name is out there. When a team underperforms, that chatter is inevitable. I think the play-in part impacts the Pacers big-time because they’re expecting T.J. Warren back and think his addition will give them a better chance to emerge from that despite their struggles now. And this is a franchise hellbent on making the postseason every year, so deconstructing and losing isn’t really an option. Though one could reasonably argue, if there’s a year to do it without a full complement of fans at arenas this might be it.

The Pacers, who are currently the No. 10 seed in the East, could get some trade calls, but they are not expected to move leading scorer Malcolm Brogdon.

The Pacers, who are currently the No. 10 seed in the East, could get some trade calls, but they are not expected to move leading scorer Malcolm Brogdon.

Zillgitt: That’s a good point from Mark on the play-in game scenario. You have to remember that front-office execs answer to ownership. For some teams, making the playoffs, even if it’s a first-round loss, is the objective. See J’s answer on the Pacers.

Duane Rankin: There’s hardly much practice time in an NBA season. This season is even less. So trading for a complementary piece who can blend in makes more sense than going big, but then you have to find that player who fits and consider what you’d have to give up in in return to get him.

Medina: I think the most impactful move will be on whichever team LaMarcus Aldridge or Andre Drummond land. Despite the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers’ hopes, I’m skeptical they can trade those guys because of their respective salaries and what it would take for buyers to give up in return. So I expect them in the buyout market. I could see the Lakers and the Celtics to be the most aggressive. They’re both in the championship contending mix, but they have a lot of roster needs to fill.

Falgoust: For me the Celtics are a fence team. Their roster has blue chip talent but I’m not sure it works. If they strike big at the deadline, I still think they’d be in a better place had they executed the sign-and-trade for Hayward and received Myles Turner, Doug McDermott and a first-round pick. I don’t see them as a contender anymore, but they’re not far away from it.

Zillgitt: Since we’re on the Celtics, yes, they have interest in Orlando’s Aaron Gordon, and the Magic are finally starting to generate offers from Gordon that will allow them to part ways without getting fleeced in a deal. That previously hasn’t been the case. Hearing from those in the know (and confirming reports), the Celtics have made the best offer for Gordon but Denver and Houston have shown interest, too. Whatever you think about the Celtics, they’re just middle of the road right now in the East and need help to move up.

Rankin: In looking at the Suns specifically, they filled their final roster spot by acquiring Torrey Craig in a trade, but didn’t have to give up a player to get him. Head coach Monty Williams and GM James Jones talk daily. Jones has made several moves since becoming the GM with Chris Paul being the biggest one. He’s constantly thinking how to improve the team and while Williams loves this team as they’re second in the West, they’ve likewise been talking about competing for a title. So they aren’t as talented as say a healthy Lakers team, the Clippers, Nets or healthy 76ers. With this being such a weird season as Jeff said, teams that have great chemistry are likely pondering do they shake that up by making a move. Phoenix is one of those teams. They have guys who are pros and not causing issues because they’re not playing. Winning helps and depth is one of Phoenix’s strengths. If they were to lose a player for a long period of time due to injury or be under health and safety protocols, they are confident in the depth. Talent usually wins out in the playoffs, but Phoenix has two All-Star closers in Devin Booker and Chris Paul, shooters, Deandre Ayton inside and great team chemistry. That has proven to win over more talented teams in the past.

The Suns have been talking about competing for an NBA title, and they think players like Chris Paul (3) and Devin Booker can help carry them there.

The Suns have been talking about competing for an NBA title, and they think players like Chris Paul (3) and Devin Booker can help carry them there.

Zillgitt: Should also add the Gordon seeks and has sought a fresh start. He’s had five coaches since Orlando drafted him and a couple of front-office turnovers.

Owczarski: To the larger point of contending teams looking to fit in role players, I think that’s why the Bucks were OK moving Augustin and D.J. Wilson to Houston and Craig to Phoenix. Craig wasn’t playing much, Wilson not at all and they determined Augustin wasn’t a fit as an off-ball option. They were role players. P.J. Tucker is a role player. They believe he will be a significant one in the playoffs, but Milwaukee has found a groove with its chemistry and a shortened rotation.

Falgoust: Orlando has had basically the same roster forever. They’ve sat on those pieces much too long. And it’s crazy because they’ve never been a threat even when they make the postseason. I’m a big fan of selling high early than having your hand forced late. Orlando has always had good pieces (and full of bigs in a league that trends smaller) that don’t quite fit.

Zillgitt: The Magic could get some value back in return for Nikola Vucevic if they went that route, too. Orlando also falls into that category of “teams whose owner wants to make the playoffs.”

Falgoust: Yes, I mean they had Vooch, Biyombo, Ibaka etc. And have kept Fournier, who’d have been a good trade chip to rebuild, like the future of the franchise depends on it. Nothing the Magic do make much sense in that regard. That gets back to your point, Jeff. A lot of front offices make moves (or don’t) based on ownership, but they take the bullets for it publicly.

Medina: On the Warriors front, I’ve been told that they’re more likely to stay pat with what they do than make any moves. They’ll listen to offers, particularly ones with Kelly Oubre. But they’re not going to make any moves that will just help them move up in the West standings. One, they’re optimistic they’ll make the playoffs or at least the play-in competition. Two, they don’t want to compromise next year’s roster, which should have Steph Curry, Draymond Geen, James Wiseman and a healthy Klay Thompson. The tricky thing is, the Warriors know they will be better with Klay returning. But Klay himself admitted recently he’s not entirely sure how long it will take for him to be back to where he was before his ACL injury in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals.

Falgoust: If Warriors have a winning record this season and make the playoffs, that’s a successful season for them.

Medina: I agree with your point, Michael, about the Warriors and what constitutes a successful season this year. I don’t agree with the narrative that the Warriors’ front office is squandering Steph Curry’s prime year. Of course, they don’t like losing. But there hasn’t been any pivot point where the Warriors declined to pursue in making the roster better. After Kevin Durant left, they performed a sign-and-trade with Brooklyn for D’Angelo Russell and later flipped him mid-season to Minnesota for Andrew Wiggins. They dealt Andre Iguodala to Memphis for a $17.5 million trade exception and later used that to get Kelly Oubre. They used the No. 2 pick on James Wiseman. It’s fair to praise or critiquing the drafting of Wiseman or how Steve Kerr has handled rotations. But the Warriors are being as aggressive as they can in giving Steph the best roster possible with the cards they have.

Falgoust: They’re squandering nothing. Well-run teams don’t tear up everything over knee-jerk reactions. Curry isn’t being wasted. I think this year will solidify how they’ll be back in the mix sooner than later.

Eppers: The ownership angle is one that makes me think of the Kings. They have some players that would be targets for contenders (Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield), but Vivek Ranedive has to be desperate to end the league’s longest playoff drought.

Zillgitt: Heck, even Marvin Bagley III is showing up in possible trades.

Falgoust: Glad you mention Barnes. In an ideal world, that would be the kind of player the Pacers have at the 4 instead of two actual 5s starting.

Zillgitt: J., any chance of the Pacers breaking up the two 5s in a trade, one or the other?

Falgoust: I didn’t think highly of Barnes based on his draft position for the first half of his career, but he’s gotten better at a lot of things and is a good defender. You need guys his size who defend wings, some bigger/stronger guys and shoot the 3. And he can go off the bounce and create. Those players are a premium. He’d be perfect for the Pacers with their issues trying to have Sabonis close out the likes of James Harden in space.

Turner isn’t going anywhere, Jeff. Not unless it’s such a no-nonsense deal they can’t refuse.

They gave up 140 to Milwaukee in regulation without him. He cleans up too much. I’ve said sense last season they should sell high on Sabonis. His stock would never be higher. But he’s a fan favorite, is a 2-time All-Star, etc. But that locker room is NOT good right now. At all.

Rankin: Oubre is craving to find a place to have a meaningful run of years. Not two or three. More like five or six. The Warriors are in a tough spot because Thompson is a huge cog, but who is to say he’s going to come back like the Thompson of old. You’d think he would, but there’s no guarantees in that. Then if he does get back, I’m sure Golden State is going to be extra careful with him.

Falgoust: The Pacers will have to make a decision on Aaron Holiday. He’s been displaced by T.J. McConnell. So if they don’t make a move right now by the deadline, they will by the draft. They have to.

Zillgitt: Holiday is a player who could be sought after by one of the contending groups looking for backcourt depth if larger deals don’t materialize.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA trade due date 2021: Breaking down the competitors, pretenders

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.