Fool’s Gold & the Sellers of the West

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Updated: December 6, 2021
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Despite the unforeseen winning streaks of the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs, the bottom of the West is filled with non-contenders; some of which who know their place in the pecking order, and others still blinded by a dream. Before the creation of play-in games, having teams seeded 7-10 to battle to begin the post-season for the final two slots in the playoffs, tanking franchises were more willing to part with the extra fat on their rosters for future assets. Last year, however, the trade deadline was quieter than usual, as bottom feeder teams made a late-season push to get themselves into the play-in.

Another variable tied to this fixation with the 8th seed is the new flattened lottery odds that were meant to discourage tanking and diminish the likelihood of the worse records across the league to steal the #1 pick in the draft. However, the bottom 3 teams in the league still have an overwhelming statical probability to get a top 5 draft pick, and the bottom 5 are guaranteed a top 8 pick in the lottery. Now, if there were no clear-cut monsters at the top of the Western Conference, and there was a possibility that the best teams would find themselves in the middle of the seedings, then maybe sneaking into the 7th or 8th slot would be something worth fighting for.

However, as of now, the 7th and 8th seed are going to match up with one of 3 teams, the Golden State Warriors, the Phoenix Suns, or the Utah Jazz. All three of these teams would have to have a catastrophic series of injuries to lose to the franchises that currently stand between 10-13 in the West. Long term, the taste of the post-season can be a worthwhile fruit to bite into, even if the cost lowers their odds in the lottery. However, with these 3 teams looming at the top, getting waxed in a gentlemen’s sweep is hardly worth ending up with the 12th pick in the draft.

Another variable that has to be considered, is most teams feel they can wait until the last hours of the deadline to unload a contract, but these days most of the true contenders have already trimmed off all their undesirable contracts and parted with most of their capital. The first team to trade their above-average players for picks will probably be the one franchise that gets above market value for their win-now pieces parted for picks and rookies. There is some stalling around the league because of the Ben Simmons trade still frozen on the trade block, but teams need to be realistic about what Morey actually would take and if the players they are holding need to even be held in consideration of such an exchange.

Sellers

#10 Blazers

The proof is in the pudding, and we already have several servings of how this undersized backcourt performs in the playoffs. At least in the previous years, they had the façade of being a good regular season team and the glory of Portland in Dame Dollar $ign. But with the front office firings, a new failing coaching staff, and the constant on and off reports of Lillard wanting out of Portland, the entire league including half of their fan base is begging for a full-blown rebuild.

Instead of trying to move CJ + picks for a win-now wing, the obvious move is to finally sell on Dame and get as many nice young pieces for the future. After this is done, the Blazers have a number of nice vets to slang on the market for assets including: Powell, Covington, Nurkic, Nance Jr., and Zeller. All of these players have the types of contracts that are under 16 million which allows them to be moved much easier than the CJ McCollum’s of the world. Especially if Portland is willing to take on unfavorable contracts, they should be able to get buyers who are willing to attach serious capital for a pair of these players in a playoff push.

#11 King

Currently on a 2-game winning streak in the post-Walton era, but everyone including those in the Sacramento front office knows too well this team is nothing but an appetizer for a top seed’s Finals run if they even make it to the playoffs. If Sac is the first to get their players on the market, they may be able to a sizable package for Harrison Barnes and/or Richaun Holmes.

#12 Spurs

Maybe the team most dependent on timing is San Antonio. Both the Kings and the Blazers have more ideal trade pieces to part with, however, if the Spurs get in first, they may be able to monopolize the market of the few teams who have picks willing to part with. Dejounte Murry would be easy to move but with his favorable contract and only being 25 he would ideally be retained in their rebuild, although could be an interesting piece in a Simmons trade. Outside of the Murray though, they have Derrick White, Thad Young, Doug McDermott, and Jakob Poeltl.

In an ideal situation, they have the backcourt of Murray and Vassell in combination with their newly acquired top 5 pick in the frontcourt. All these players are already too old for a rebuild, yet have favorable contracts that could get picks or rookies from a contender.

#13 Rockets

A team that couldn’t buy a bucket let alone a W for the first 10 games of the season is now on a 6-game winning streak. This is where the art of tanking comes into play as a franchise. It shouldn’t take a tremendous amount of manipulation from a coaching staff but should be built into the systemic progression of a roster. They have been set on selling Eric Gordon on his long and hefty contract, but it is Christian Wood and Daniel Theis that are the pieces they should have on the trade block. 

The players a team trades away in a rebuild shouldn’t be easy, if it were, those pieces would not bring back the necessary assets to begin a successful restart. Theis is a good player that they got for free in free agency and if he can get a 1st and a pair of seconds, it would be a huge win moving forward. As for Wood, it is hard to know the market as there are varying degrees of perceptions of what type of player he really is. However, if a team is willing to part with 3 late firsts, in my opinion, it is a huge overpay and would be great for Houston’s future.

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