NBA Trade Deadline: 5 Teams Who Need to Save Their Season Before It’s Too Late

With 2022 just around the corner and the NBA season rapidly approaching the halfway mark, the identities of all 30 teams are becoming more closely defined. That also means it’s time for various NBA front offices to start thinking bigger ahead of the trade deadline.

There hasn’t been a ton of action since offseason free-agent signings first became trade-eligible on Dec. 15. However, with just over a month until the deadline, it’s quite likely that the activity is about to heat up.

Here are five teams in need of a shakeup, including the oft-scrutinized Los Angeles Lakers.

Los Angeles Lakers

Whether the Lakers should part ways with Talen Horton-Tucker is up for debate. Regardless, LA must do something to change up the roster and inject some energy.

LeBron James is having another Herculean season. He’s averaging 27.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 6.7 assists on 52% shooting. Even if LBJ really is ageless, the Purple and Gold cannot afford to waste one of his quality seasons, especially with injuries playing a larger role in the past few seasons.

The question is: How will the Lakers choose to act ahead of the trade deadline?

Russell Westbrook has looked downright disengaged on the defensive end this season. But it could prove almost impossible to move his contract and find a sizable upgrade at the point guard spot. The frontcourt might need shoring up in the short-term, though that area is mainly dependent on Anthony Davis’ eventual return.

It probably makes the most sense to pursue wing upgrades. Wayne Ellington and Kent Bazemore have seldom given the Lakers quality minutes. Kendrick Nunn remains out for the foreseeable future. While LA has played THT as a bigger combo guard, maybe he’d be better served coming off the bench.

The Lakers don’t know what they are because they’ve hardly all been healthy at the same time. Still, the Purple and Gold need to, at the very least, add around the fringes.

Washington Wizards

If Washington’s inclusion here seems surprising, it shouldn’t be.

Sure, the Wizards might not have enough to contend for an NBA title this season. But the sheer possibility that Bradley Beal could depart in free agency this summer will likely motivate general manager Tommy Sheppard to act, not to mention the fact that the Wizards are 7-14 in their last 21 games.

Washington ranks 23rd in net rating. Defense has and should continue to be a struggle, but it’s the offensive woes that are more concerning. The Wizards rank near the bottom of the league in 3-point shooting. After ranking first in pace last season, they’re just 25th in that category.

Beal’s early play leaves something to be desired, but Spencer Dinwiddie’s the more concerning player here. He’s averaging just 13.1 points and shooting below 40% from the field. Washington needs more shooting and efficient scoring at the guard spot. Enter Eric Gordon.

The Houston Rockets guard is averaging 14.6 points on close to 50% shooting, including 45.1% from deep. He’s a catch-and-shoot machine who can still get to the cup off the bounce.

Whether the Rockets decide to move Gordon before the NBA trade deadline remains to be seen. But if Washington hopes to limit cost while improving multiple areas of need, they’d probably be wise to see what his market looks like.

Boston Celtics

The Celtics‘ place on this list is actually more predicated on future intentions rather than a desire to win now.

For starters, the C’s are in a terrific place to capitalize on certain assets, most specifically Dennis Schroder. Trading Schroder allows Boston to reposition and accrue some future value. It doesn’t take a whole lot away from the team’s defensive identity, either.

Schroder isn’t the only veteran the Celtics could look to trade. It’s entirely possible that Al Horford and Josh Richardson might be on the move as well. Such trades could free up even more time for Grant Williams, Aaron Nesmith, and Romeo Langford, with the latter two guys really needing minutes in order to develop.

Would dealing multiple vets really “save” the Celtics’ season in terms of immediate contention? Perhaps not, but it would more clearly define their intentions to assemble young talent around Jayson Tatum and a seemingly disgruntled Jaylen Brown. That could be a saving grace in its own right, rather than being doomed to mediocrity.

Portland Trail Blazers

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. That’s the sound of Damian Lillard’s clock approaching midnight.

The Trail Blazers haven’t done enough to build around Lillard. If they don’t take drastic action now, then they might as well try to trade Dame. One way or another, sweeping change is necessary.

Bleacher Report‘s Jake Fischer reported the Blazers are open to moving big man Jusuf Nurkic and Robert Covington. Both guys are on expiring contracts and are assets as tradable salaries.

Is it worth it for Portland to see if it can move some combination of Nurkic and RoCo plus draft capital for Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner? He’d open things up in the paint for Lillard while giving the Blazers a true floor-spacer. Even more importantly, Turner is an elite rim protector who also likely improves Portland’s pick-and-roll defense.

Lillard might hope to add Ben Simmons to the mix, but it’s super dependent on Daryl Morey and the Philadelphia 76ers. In other words, that’s a bit of a wild card. However, Portland can play around with Nurkic, Covington, Larry Nance Jr., and Anfernee Simons in the hopes of acquiring an impact player.

At 13-20, the Blazers have to take action. Otherwise, it could be time to explore trading their franchise player before the NBA trade deadline.

New York Knicks

Last season, the Knicks held court as the belle of the ball. But Tom Thibodeau’s team isn’t taking anyone by surprise anymore.

At 16-18, New York is the No. 10 seed in the Eastern Conference. The defensive aptitude that generated so much success last season is gone, as the Knicks rank 20th in defensive rating. New York ranks 17th in offensive rating despite ranking in the top 10 in 3-point attempts and percentage. What’s the best way to improve the roster before the NBA trade deadline?

Trading for Ben Simmons could help reinvigorate the Knicks’ team defense and give New York — a team that ranks 29th in assists — necessary playmaking. Of course, acquiring Simmons could cost the Knicks a fortune and induce complications, because New York would likely need a 3-team deal.

Myles Turner could give the Knicks similar defensive value to Mitchell Robinson while being a pretty noticeable offensive upgrade. But is he the splashy asset New York covets?

The Knicks finally broke their playoff drought and showed signs of being on the upswing last season. They cannot afford to let this current backslide continue, which is why it’s necessary to be active before the deadline.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.

RELATED: 4 Underrated NBA Christmas Performances You Might Have Missed While Opening Presents