NBA Trade Deadline 2018: Southeast Division Preview
Championship odds come courtesy of TopBet and are accurate leading into Thursday, Feb. 8. Please make sure to double-check these lines frequently over the coming days, as they are prone to shifting based off what happens—or, in some cases, doesn’t happen—at the trade deadline.
Every statistical rank and projection is determined by data collected from Basketball-Reference or NBA.com and are accurate leading into games scheduled for Feb. 8. Note that teams are presented in order of increasing winning percentage and not the likelihood they’ll make a splash by the 3 p.m. ET cutoff.
Atlanta Hawks (+200000)
- Offensive Rating Rank: 23
- Defensive Rating Rank: 24
- Net Rating Rank: 25
- Win-Loss Pace: 26-56
- Buyers or Sellers: Sellers
- Biggest Need: Someone to defend bigger wings
Try finding someone on the Atlanta Hawks that isn’t up for grabs. We dare you.
Rookie John Collins is probably off limits. Throw sophomore Taurean Prince in there with him. But everyone else is fair game.
That’s no accident. The Hawks are chasing the best lottery odds in the business, not wins. And while they will enter Thursday night tied with the Dallas Mavericks for the NBA’s worst record, they could use a loss-loaded cushion that only comes with shedding win-now.
It’ll be genuinely surprising if at least one of Marco Belinelli, Ersan Ilyasova and Dewayne Dedmon isn’t shipped out to another team. Heck, we’d hazard at least two of those guys should be moved.
Even if nothing ultimately happens, you can bet rival buyers will be calling the Hawks. They have the ability to absorb unwanted salary and no real incentive not to. They’re not on an expeditious timeline, and they can leverage the five first-round picks they control over the next two drafts—including their own—into more aggressive offers from squads looking to rent out cap space.
Regardless of what happens, your impression of the Hawks shouldn’t change too much. Head coach Mike Budenholzer will ensure they work their butts off no matter who is on the roster. You’ll want to steer clear of the occasional line that has them pegged as a favorite or slight underdog, but otherwise, treat them as you should have already been—as that opportunistic single-game dark hose against large spreads.
Orlando Magic (+200000)
- Offensive Rating Rank: 19
- Defensive Rating Rank: 27
- Net Rating Rank: 26
- Win-Loss Pace: 26-56
- Buyers or Sellers: Sellers
- Biggest Need: Picks and cost-controlled prospects
Pretty much everyone on the Orlando Magic’s roster is available, not unlike the Hawks’ situation. Some will have restricted-free-agent-to-be Aaron Gordon off the table, but with a huge payday looming, the front office would be smart to take calls on his availability.
The dunk master’s most recent hip injury likely guarantees he’ll stay put. Plus, he’s the closest thing they have to a cornerstone. It’d be tough to stomach losing him, even though he was drafted by the previous regime. After him, there’s Jonathan Isaac. It’s too soon to bail on the rookie who has shown promise while laboring through some injuries on his own.
Beyond those two, though, the Magic will be looking to clear the decks. They probably won’t move Terrence Ross or Nikola Vucevic due to their injuries, and Bismack Biyombo’s contract is too huge to lop off, but guys like Elfrid Payton, Jonathon Simmons, Mario Hezonja, Evan Fournier and Marreese Speights could, and should, be on the move.
Orlando needs to do something. Anything. Its lottery odds would give them the third-best chance at landing the No. 1 overall pick if the shindig was held today. That’s not enough. Not given their post-Dwight Howard draft-day history. They’re nothing plays now, and that won’t change after the trade deadline—even though they should make sure their roster does.
Charlotte Hornets (+50000)
- Offensive Rating Rank: 15
- Defensive Rating Rank: 14
- Net Rating Rank: 18
- Win-Loss Pace: 36-46
- Buyers or Sellers: Should-be sellers, but could-be buyers
- Biggest Need: Picks, cost-controlled prospects and cap relief
The Charlotte Hornets are battling against their sellers designation. They have already traded for center Willy Hernangomez from the New York Knicks and continue to show zero inclination to move franchise cornerstone Kemba Walker.
This is, to put it kindly, a massive mistake. The Hornets have no cap flexibility moving forward. They’ll have to worry about paying the luxury tax as early as next season. They’ll definitely need to worry about paying it after re-signing Walker in 2019.
That, of course, presumes he will want to stick around. He might not. The Hornets don’t have a clear path toward substantially upgrading this roster until the summer of 2020 at the absolute earliest. And even if he waits out the next couple years, this franchise has yet to show the capacity to make proactive moves the culminate in them getting over the hump.
Keep a close watch on the Hornets. You’ll want to avoid them at the sportsbooks at all costs if they do nothing. Should they give into moving Walker or, against all odds, nab an impact acquisition, you’ll want to rejigger the scope on single-game wagers.
Miami Heat (+7500)
- Offensive Rating Rank: 24
- Defensive Rating Rank: 8
- Net Rating Rank: 20
- Win-Loss Pace: 43-39
- Buyers or Sellers: Default buyers
- Biggest Need: Playmaking, floor-spacing wing
Ideally, the Miami Heat would be sellers. But they have too many market-level and above-market contracts and not enough sweeteners to stage a roster-wide purge. They’re married to their current core, for better or worse.
That means they’ll need to seek out upgrades in advance of the playoffs. Though they’ll be more active on the buyout market after the deadline, look for them to gauge Justise Winslow’s value. The right team might be willing to accept his rookie-scale deal, which runs through next season, and a form of salary filler while sending back a playmaking wing in return.
If the Heat can strike a deal for someone like Avery Bradley or Tyreke Evans, they’ll instantly become a favorite to land a top-four seed in the East. If they do nothing, though, you’ll want to limit the amount of money you’re investing in their futures and individual games. They’re too streaky to be reliable options on a nightly basis, and their championship odds are hardly lucrative enough to justify the overt risk you’re taking by investing in them.
Washington Wizards (+5000)
- Offensive Rating Rank: 10
- Defensive Rating Rank: 13
- Net Rating Rank: 9
- Win-Loss Pace: 47-35
- Buyers or Sellers: Buyers
- Biggest Need: Playmaking wing and, if possible, luxury-taxt relief
Let’s call it now: There’s nothing the Washington Wizards can feasibly do at the trade deadline to make their championship odds worth your time.
Here they are, one of the longer title shots, and they’re laying a piddling +5000. This line, mind you, comes while John Wall is out for six to eight weeks following a knee debridement.
Should the Wizards broker a trade—say, for DeAndre Jordan or Tyreke Evans—you’ll only see your potential return diminish. That’s not a good spot for a mediocre team to be in. Shoot, they’re technically not even guaranteed a playoff spot. They’ll most likely get in, but their ebbing shot profile and puddle-deep bench doesn’t espouse the same cachet it did last season, when they looked like a possible threat to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ reign.
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