With the playoffs right around the corner, teams are scrambling to get their players in shape and in the zone for going as deep as they can in the postseason. After all, there isn’t a better chance than right now for many teams to surprise everyone and achieve more success in the postseason with the new layout in place following the season suspension.
But for many teams, this postseason might be a make it or break it in terms of their overall lineup and roster. This means that eyes will be set on NBA All-Stars, as many of them might be on different teams next season. If some teams don’t win in the playoffs and simply look like they don’t belong anywhere near the NBA Finals, trades will happen and very good players will be moved.
Here are the players most likely to be traded if their teams don’t win in the playoffs.
Lowry signed a big two-year deal with the Raptors, seemingly a thank-you gift for Lowry for helping out the team win an NBA title the year prior and also to give the franchise some flexibility moving forward.
Lowry is one of the best players in Raptors franchise history, and his bull-dog approach to the game is adored by Raptors fans. Still, other teams might be interested in an experienced point guard who is a champion, and he might be traded if the Raptors fail to make any sort of impact in the playoffs.
Holiday has been mentioned in trade rumors since the start of the season. The Pelicans are investing in their youth, and Holiday isn’t a player who fits in their system or plans right now.
He has basically his ceiling as a player, and will not grow with the rest of the talent on the roster. As such, he might be shipped out if the Pelicans fail to make the playoffs or if they get bounced in the First Round in convincing fashion.
Holiday is a very good defender and a talented guard, so teams should be interested in acquiring him.
Nobody in Los Angeles heard more trade chatted than Kyle Kuzma. Since last year, people have basically written him off as a Los Angeles Laker but here he is today still wearing the purple and gold. It might not last long, though, because if Kuzma doesn’t show up in the playoffs or if the Lakers don’t win it all, he will be the first one out the door.
It isn’t his fault, but the Lakers are win-now and Kuzma is a very attractive trade piece for teams looking to rebuild. The Lakers will move Kuzma for a third All-Star if they don’t win it this year.
Hayward was a bonafide All-Star when healthy, but a horrific injury has thrown his career into a bit of doubt. He is still a good player with flashes of his old self, but the Celtics will most likely move him if they fail to make an impact in the playoffs.
Hayward can be a very good sixth man or even a starter on some teams, so teams will certainly be interested in him if they can absorb his contract. For the Celtics, they need to surround Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker with the right talent to win it all if they don’t get close to the NBA Finals this year.
Gary Harris is a very good starting shooting guard in the NBA, who does everything you would expect from a good player in his position. He defends well, can shoot the three, and is very unselfish. As a result, every team in the league could use his production on the court.
For the Nuggets, their biggest knock has been their lack of a true scorer and player who can create shots in the clutch. If they don’t get close to the NBA Finals, they will move on from Harris and try to add an All-Star like Bradley Beal to compliment Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
Dame and C.J. are extremely fun to watch in Portland, but they have looked a very frustrating pair this season. Dame is playing like a superstar and C.J. can still score with his eyes closed, but they lack defensive resistance and their team can’t have two players with limitations defensively.
Of course, these worries will go away if they manage to upset the first seed in the West and make it to the Western Conference Finals again. Especially with Nurkic healthy, this is not impossible, but C.J. will probably be moved if they get bounced in the First Round or fail to make the playoffs.
Gordon is developing into a very nice player, who can play and defend multiple positions on the floor and is more than just a dunker now. He seems to need to be in a better position to succeed, and Orlando does not seem to be going anywhere at the moment.
They lack true All-Star talent and struggle to score from the perimeter, so Gordon could be moved to address these issues.
If the Magic fail to put up a fight in the First Round it might be best for them to rebuild and start moving on from their very trade-able assets like Aaron Gordon.
DeMar DeRozan has had quite the turbulent run with the San Antonio Spurs. He was basically swapped for Kawhi Leonard and had to watch Kawhi lead the Raptors to the NBA Finals and win it all. DeRozan made it clear he loved the Raptors, the fans, and his partner Kyle Lowry, so this had to hurt him.
Still, DeRozan is a very good shooting guard and an All-Star scorer who could help any team he joins. The Spurs seem to be finally rebuilding, so DeRozan should be moved immediately if they get bounced in the First Round which everyone expects.
In any normal circumstance, the Jazz would never trade Rudy Gobert. He is a 7-foot monster and easily the most impactful player on defense right now, with more room to grow. But the Jazz need to start making noise in the playoffs as they have a budding superstar in Donovan Mitchell and recently acquired Michael Conley who isn’t getting younger.
If they don’t make noise at least in the Second Round or Western Conference Finals, eyebrows will be raised at Gobert before Mitchel.
Not to mention, stories came out about Mitchell’s frustration with Gobert during the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, so that certainly doesn’t help.
Everyone thought the Pacers got the short end of the stick when they made the deal to ship Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Oladipo was nothing more than a defensive specialist and fast-break partner for Russell Westbrook and didn’t look close to being an All-Star.
Yet, Oladipo performed admirably for the Pacers and developed his game tremendously to the point that people felt Indiana won the Paul George trade. Unfortunately for Oladipo, he went down with an injury that halted his progress into becoming a bonafide star. If Indiana doesn’t make any noise in the playoffs, in the Eastern Conference, Oladipo is the biggest bargaining chip that might get them the pieces to rebuild.