The NBA Trade Deadline is fast approaching. This marks the beginning of the end for teams to make midseason improvements as they push towards the postseason.
With roughly only five teams currently counting themselves out the possibility of making the playoffs, many teams in the league are looking to bolster their roster and bring in extra talent and depth.
For many league veterans, this is when a shuffle onto a new team with playoff ambitions opens an opportunity to show the world what you have left in the tank and how valuable your experience is. Adding proven players who can perform down the stretch of a long season is all but a necessity for teams looking to contend.
Here is a look at some NBA players to keep an eye on as teams seek to make a deal for seasoned players who can contribute.
5. Courtney Lee
It has been a rough season for Courtney Lee. In the third year of his 4 year/$50 million contract with the New York Knicks, playing time has been scarce for the 33-year-old shooting guard.
Despite owner James Dolan’s claims that the team isn’t tanking, they are at the very least placing the development of their young players ahead of immediate success. Unluckily for Lee, this has far removed him from the rotation.
With no minutes leftover as he sits behind guys like Tim Hardaway Jr., Damyean Dotson, Allanzo Trier, and Frank Ntilikina, a trade shipping him out of the Big Apple is likely. In fact, teams could probably acquire him at a value.
As the Knicks focus their sights playing big in free agency this summer, taking Lee’s $12+ million off their books would be doing New York a favor. Anything to the tune of expiring money would be at least enough for consideration from the Knicks’ front office.
Courtney Lee still has game to offer to a contending team, as well. His numbers are down this season, but a change of scenery could return him to previous form. Lee is a career 38.9 percent 3-point shooter and shot above 40 percent in six of his last 10 seasons with the league.
Having a guy who can come in and fire away off the bench, or play heavy minutes when needed, is vital. His shooting and decent defensive ability should have teams picking up the phone.
4. Zach Randolph
Zach Randolph has yet to play a single minute in the 2018-19 season. The Sacramento Kings have found success this season, but the big man rotation headed by Willie Caley-Stein, Marvin Bagley, and Nemanja Bjelica has stifled Randolph’s chances to get on the court.
Sacramento’s front office is willing to deal Randolph. Despite rumors surrounding a trade sending him to the New York Knicks for Enes Kanter, no traction has been made, leaving the 37-year-old big up for grabs for the rest of the league.
In the last year of his 2 year/$24 million contract, he could be perfect for a team looking to add depth down low without taking on long term salary.
Although he hasn’t played at all this season, Z-Bo could still contribute to a contending team. Just last season with the Kings he averaged 14.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 0.7 steals in 25.6 minutes. While he isn’t known for incredible range, he can still put 3’s when needed, shooting 34.7 percent last season. His ability to play minutes at center helps him translate into the modern game as well.
For teams looking for a big to soak up minutes and add some grit to their roster, Randolph could be the perfect vet.
3. Jeremy Lin
The Atlanta Hawks have their sights set toward the future and with a priority on developing their hopeful franchise point guard, Trae Young.
This has left Jeremey Lin, who landed in Atlanta via trade this past summer, expendable. The 30-year-old combo guard has been able to see decent playing time this season, but it is hard to imagine that the Hawks wouldn’t be willing to swap him out for a package of second round picks or the ability to take out flyers on young players other teams are ready to move on from.
Moving him makes even more sense considering he is in the last year of his 3 year/$38.3 million contract.
Any team trading for the combo guard shouldn’t expect a second coming of Linsanity but can plan on receiving a more than capable back up point guard. Through 39 games this season, Lin is averaging 10.8 points, 3.6 assists, 2.4 rebounds, and 0.8 steals in just under 20 minutes. In his one start this season, he nearly notched a double-double, putting up 20 points and 9 assists.
Jeremy Lin can offer reliable bench scoring, evidenced by putting up double-digit points in just about half of the games he has played this season. Combine that with viable playmaking capability and Lin makes sense for teams seeking some extra guard depth.
2. Robin Lopez
With the Chicago Bulls at 10-33 and 13th in the Eastern Conference, few players are in greater need of a new opportunity than Robin Lopez.
Even with Jabari Parker being all but removed from the rotation and Bobby Portis having missed time with injury multiple times this season, Lopez is playing his fewest minutes since 2011-12.
The Bulls have been outspoken regarding their disinterest in buying out Lopez’s contract, but would assuredly be willing to deal him. As they continue to find their identity and build a team for the future, any picks or assets they could acquire would be likely too tempting to pass up for Chicago’s front office.
In the final season of his 4 year/$54 million contract, he could be a great pick up for teams hoping to retain financial flexibility moving forward.
Despite the league evolving, there is always a need for a dependable center, which is exactly what teams would get in the 30-year-old Robin Lopez.
A prototypical under the rim player, Lopez has averaged 8.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks in 22.8 minutes for his career. Bringing him onto a team would provide an immediate boost of toughness and rim protection. His ability to reliably get a bucket down low is very valuable, also, as he shoots 52.6 percent for his career.
Lopez could be the backup center playoff hopeful teams are looking for.
1. J.R. Smith
January 21st will mark two months since the Cleveland Cavaliers’ and J.R. Smith’s mutual parting.
Rumors have swirled regarding Smith being dealt, but nothing has come to fruition. In his 15th season, the 33-year-old swingman could find himself the target of teams looking to make additions around the deadline if he is still available.
With one more year left on his 4 year/$57 million contract after this season, any team trading for him would have to be comfortable swallowing that salary for next year, as well. That said, for teams with little to no flexibility for this coming summer, being able to hold on to him for more than just half of a season may be even more favorable.
A well-known sharpshooter, J.R. Smith is averaging 12.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 2 3’s in 27 minutes for his career. This also includes shooting 37.3 percent from deep.
Trading for Smith would bring an instant boost in shooting and confidence, both essential for any team looking for postseason success. He also has ample experience battling through the playoffs and competing in the finals, having been a part of the Cavs four straight appearances.
Any team in search of a player not afraid to take big shots and comfortable under pressure should look no further.