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Jim Mone/Associated Press
So much for a sleepy NBA trade deadline.
The Association has been plenty active leading up to Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET cutoff, and given the names still being bandied about—Anthony Davis, Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Kyle Lowry chief among them—there’s no reason to think that will change.
To snag a top-tier star like Davis, you have to offer everything in your asset collection and pray that’s enough. Few teams are in position to do so.
Instead, many buyers are poking around for marginal upgrades at a budget price. The following five players should be firmly on their radars.
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In a league in which everyone needs more two-way wings, you’d think clubs would be tripping over each other to add Kent Bazemore.
The 29-year-old is firmly in his prime, shot a career-best 39.4 percent from deep last year and is on pace to be a positive-impact defender for the fifth straight season. He also appears out of place on an Atlanta Hawks team reforming itself around the 21-and-under trio of John Collins, Trae Young and Kevin Huerter.
But Bazemore been been stuck on the trade block for approximately forever and a day. His $19.3 million player option for 2019-20 deserves the blame for that.
“If he was on a smaller or sooner-expiring contract, Bazemore would be an extremely hot commodity,” CBS Sports’ James Herbert wrote. “As is, the 29-year-old wing would be a sensible addition for any playoff-caliber team, but not necessarily one that would compel a front office to send the Hawks much of value.”
For clubs that can stomach the contract cost, Bazemore has significant bargain potential.
He can defend anywhere along the perimeter, and his combination of length (6’5″ with a 6’11.5″ wingspan) and energy makes him a disruptive presence. On offense, he can cook off the ball (37.4 percent on catch-and-shoot triples) or serve as a secondary playmaker (4.6 assists per 36 minutes last season).
Take salary out of the equation, and he might fetch a first-rounder and then some. But given the likelihood that he picks up his 2019-20 player option, even a late first could be hard to find.
At that price, clubs would only be sacrificing a low-percentage gamble to get a high-floor contributor for the stretch run.
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Kyusung Gong/Associated Press
The Los Angeles Clippers owe their 2019 first-round pick to the Boston Celtics, but it’s lottery-protected. Rather than chase one of the West’s final playoff spots, the Clippers seemingly pulled out of the postseason race Wednesday by trading away top scorer Tobias Harris for a future-focused package.
Patrick Beverley should probably be on the next bus out of town.
The Clippers’ backcourt traffic jam just became more congested with the arrival of rookie Landry Shamet, and their lack of win-now aspirations likely make Beverley—who’s playing on an expiring deal—the odd man out.
While Beverley isn’t a particularly prolific playmaker or scorer, the 30-year-old has made a career out of harassing opposing ball-handlers and staying within himself on offense. He’s a career 37.7 percent shooter from distance and is capable of knocking down both catch-and-shoot (38.7 percent) and pull-up (39.5 percent) triples. He averages only 1.7 turnovers per 36 minutes for his career and is knocking 4.7 percentage points off his opponents’ three-point efficiency.
Altogether, his two-way contributions give him a top-20 positional ranking in ESPN’s real plus-minus (1.31, 18th among point guards).
Any squad giving him a look is thinking more about his floor than his ceiling, which should help keep his price tag affordable. Plus, this is a seller’s market at most positions, but point guard might be an exception. When names like Mike Conley, Jeff Teague, Ricky Rubio, Kris Dunn, Terry Rozier, Reggie Jackson and Markelle Fultz are bouncing around, is it that difficult to imagine Beverley flying under the radar?
Savvy shoppers will hope that’s the case. Whether added as a plug-and-play starter or an uber-energetic reserve, the seasoned vet could outperform his trade cost by a comfortable margin.
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Don’t all modern teams need a three-point flamethrower? Not necessarily.
Take the Phoenix Suns, for instance.
In a vacuum, sure, they need shooting as much as anyone. But not every sniper will work. Troy Daniels is lethal from long range, but he’s also a 27-year-old on an expiring contract who plays for a bottom-feeder with too many guards and scant hopes for the near future.
The Suns haven’t found many reasons to play Daniels this season, even though he’s mostly doing what he always does. But again, seasoned specialists have little to offer rebuilding teams.
Plug him in elsewhere, though, and he might be the key to unclogging an offense. He’s a 40.3 percent career three-point shooter and the eighth-most accurate qualified marksman since he entered the league in 2013-14 (among those with at least 1,000 attempts).
He’s also flawed enough to think most shoppers might scoff at the notion of losing something to add him, hoping instead he’ll hit the buyout market. His best defensive box plus/minus is an anemic minus-2.7. And his 6.0 career assist rate is essentially the same as what Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside is posting this season (5.6).
In 2017, when Daniels was coming off a more productive campaign than his current effort, the Suns added a second-round pick just to wipe his contract off the Memphis Grizzlies’ books. In other words, his going rate now should be the definition of cheap, which could attract a budget-conscious shopper in the market for a perimeter specialist.
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Seth Wenig/Associated Press
The New York Knicks targeted Wesley Matthews in the Kristaps Porzingis/Dennis Smith Jr. deal for two obvious reasons: his $18.6 million expiring contract and the potential to flip Matthews for additional assets.
Rival clubs seem skeptical about the second part. League sources told Marc Stein of the New York Times that several contenders, including the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors, are “hoping Matthews makes it to the buyout market.”
Should Matthews remain on the Knicks beyond Thursday’s deadline, the 32-year-old would be an obvious buyout candidate. But is every wing-needy, win-now shopper willing to take the chance he makes it to that point and chooses them over everyone else?
According to ESPN.com’s Ian Begley, “at least one team” has expressed interest in trading for Matthews. Marc Berman of the New York Post reported the Knicks have received “multiple inquiries” about him. So, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that some team will make a move prior to Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline.
Still, Matthews’ big salary is tricky enough for most win-now suitors to match. If that leaves only a realistic buyer or two in play, there might be major bargain potential here.
As long as the Knicks are seriously considering a buyout if no trade materializes, a second-round pick or even cash could be enough to get something done.
Matthews can comfortably defend multiple positions around the perimeter, and his outside stroke is pure. He’s on pace to average at least 1.9 triples on north of 35.9 percent shooting for the eighth straight season—a distinction only Stephen Curry shares—and he’s drilling his catch-and-shoot three-point looks at a 40.4 percent clip.
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John Raoux/Associated Press
Terrence Ross looks like the ultimate sell-high candidate.
He’s boasting a slew of personal bests this season, including per-game averages of 14.4 points, 2.4 three-pointers, 3.3 rebounds and a 14.7 player efficiency rating. He’s also playing on an expiring deal and probably isn’t a part of the Orlando Magic’s long-term plans.
But for the No. 8 overall pick in 2012 ostensibly having his breakout year, aren’t those numbers somewhat underwhelming? He’s always been a streaky contributor; he’s just raised his highs and lows a tad this season.
To be clear, that’s enough to make him interesting to any wing-needy buyer. He’s a former Slam Dunk Contest champion with an ignitable three ball and the athletic tools to provide defensive value.
Still, if Orlando is hoping to get blown away by offers for Ross, that’s hard to imagine. ESPN’s Zach Lowe wrote “even a heavily-protected first-round pick” might be off the table, and Ross might go for only two second-rounders.
Evaluate his potential at that price, and he becomes a possible heist. When he’s rolling, he packs a powerful enough scoring punch to change the outcome of a game. This season alone, he’s gone off for 20 or more points in 10 games, including four with 25-plus. He’s splashed at least four triples 13 different times.
An instant-offense scorer and spacer, he’s one of the better fireballers available. If he times his hot streaks right and delivers his next club a playoff victory or two, he would be a larcenous addition in hindsight if Lowe has the price point pegged correctly.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @ZachBuckleyNBA.