What was once predicted to be a relatively quiet NBA trade deadline kicked off with a bang on Tuesday night, as the Rockets, Hawks, Timberwolves and Nuggets reportedly pulled off a massive 12-player deal with Robert Covington and Clint Capela as the headliners. It was the biggest trade the league has seen in 20 years, and it likely won't be the last that we see before the Thursday, 3 p.m. ET deadline.

This year's trade season is particularly interesting given the flurry of activity we saw this past offseason -- lots of players signed lucrative deals -- and the fact that the 2020 free-agent class is, shall we say, underwhelming. That means some teams may view a trade as their swiftest mode of acquiring a star player, but they also may be content waiting for much more exciting free agents in the summer of 2021.

There's a relatively clear divide this season in both conferences between contenders and non-contenders, which gives us a pretty good idea of which teams will look to add players and which will look to unload. Surely there will be small trades here and there to shore up rotations, but here's a look at the teams most likely to make a big move, divided into buyers and sellers.

Potential buyers

Biggest need: Scorer/playmaker

Let's get one thing out of the way -- the Lakers are already really, really good. They could let the trade deadline pass maintaining the status quo and still be a top contender, if not the favorite, to win the NBA title in June. That being said, the most glaring issue with their roster is the lack of a consistent scorer and playmaker outside of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who have both dealt with recent injuries. The Lakers have a plus-10.8 net rating when LeBron is on the court with Davis, and that plummets to minus-7.2 when Davis is on and LeBron is off, and that's largely due to a lack of perimeter playmaking while LeBron sits.

The Lakers hoped Kyle Kuzma would be the answer, but so far he's underwhelmed. The Lakers have played 221 minutes this season with Davis and Kuzma on the court together while James is on the bench. During that time, they have a staggering minus-16.4 net rating, and a paltry offensive rating of 98.4, according to NBA.com. The Lakers have a startling lack of assets given their dearth of draft capital (thanks to the Davis trade) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's no-trade clause, so Kuzma is by far their most enticing trade chip.

Possible fits: Bogdan BogdanovicDerrick RoseMarcus Morris (our Brad Botkin broke down more possibilities here)


Biggest need: Perimeter defender, Center

There are reports that the Clippers are extremely likely to pull off a deal before the deadline passes, with their biggest targets on the wing and in the middle. Ivica Zubac is a capable center, but he can get played off the court against certain matchups (the Rockets come to mind) and might not be able to handle Anthony Davis and all of the Lakers' size in a potential Western Conference finals matchup. On the wing, the Clippers would love to upgrade from Maurice Harkless, who is on a very tradable expiring deal. Now that Covington has been traded to the Rockets, Marcus Morris is the name that seems to fit that role best. 

Possible fits: Marcus Morris, Dewayne Dedmon, Tristan Thompson


Biggest need: Shooter

With some unique roster changes that created one of the tallest and longest NBA starting lineups we've ever seen, most pegged the 76ers to be legitimate NBA title contenders entering the season. While they've shown flashes of brilliance with a strong defense, overall something just hasn't clicked. Part of it is their lack of 3-point shooting -- they're 21st in the league in 3-point percentage, and are 24th in 3-point makes per game. With their two best players, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid being largely inside threats, a knock-down shooter would be a tremendous asset for the Sixers offense, and they've reportedly already been poking aroundTobias HarrisJosh Richardson and Al Horford are very good players, but they're not equipped to handle the spot-up shooting role they're being asked to play.

Two seasons ago, Philly picked up Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova in the buyout market, but this year it may look to fill its need through a trade. The Sixers don't have many assets outside of their main pieces that they likely want to keep, but they're going to be active in looking for a way to improve their shooting.

Possible fits: JJ Redick, Marcus Morris, Davis Bertans


Biggest need: Playmaking guard/wing

The Heat have surprised just about everybody and find themselves among the NBA elite, thanks to the acquisition of Jimmy Butler and emergence of first-time All-Star Bam Adebayo, but their reliance on young players like Kendrick NunnDuncan Robinson and Tyler Herro raises some doubts about the team's playoff ceiling. Adding a veteran playmaker to take some of the offensive pressure off of Butler, Nunn and Goran Dragic would make the Heat a more formidable postseason matchup.

The Heat have Dragic's expiring contract, along with Justise Winslow, Dion WaitersKelly Olynyk and James Johnson to use in a potential deal. We'll have to wait and see how enticing any of those names are to potential suitors. If Miami does make a move, it will likely be for a difference-maker, otherwise the Heat will probably be willing to stand pat with the roster and chemistry they've already built.

Possible fits: Chris PaulKyle Lowry, Bogdan Bogdanovic


Biggest need: Wings

Despite their disappointing record, the Blazers have made a strong move toward the playoffs, thanks to a berserk stretch of basketball from Damian Lillard. They have the backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum locked in through 2023, so the focus is on what pieces they can put around those two in order to stay competitive. Injuries to Zach Collins and Rodney Hood have made the offseason decision to trade Moe Harkless and let Al-Farouq Aminu walk look like a mistake, so the most pressing issue is to get some wings around Lillard and McCollum.

Hassan Whiteside has put up monster numbers and has been a net positive for the team, but he's on an expiring contract and could be made redundant if and when Jusuf Nurkic returns healthy. Picking up an asset for Whiteside with a team looking to shed long-term salary could help position the Blazers to be much more competitive in 2020-21 and beyond. Kevin Love is the most popular name mentioned, but offense hasn't been the Blazers problem (they're ninth in the NBA since acquiring Carmelo Anthony at 112.5 points per 100 possessions). They would benefit most from defensive-minded wings who can help improve Portland's bottom-10 defensive rating.

Possible fits: Aaron GordonJae Crowder

Potential sellers

Players who could be moved: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Dewayne DedmonTrevor Ariza

For the moment it seems like Buddy Hield is back to being happy in Sacramento, despite his bench role, but it's a situation worth monitoring. Because of all the money owed to him and De'Aaron Fox, Bogdanovic's future with the team has become tenuous. He can fit into almost any roster because of his size, shooting and ball-handling ability, so he'll have no shortage of suitors. Dedmon just signed with the Kings this summer, but was fined for making a public trade request after falling completely out of the rotation. He's played more recently due to injuries, but still cannot be content with his role moving forward. His ability to make 3s and protect the rim make him attractive for teams in search of big depth.


Players who could be moved: Marcus Morris, Elfrid PaytonWayne Ellington, Dennis Smith Jr., Reggie Bullock

It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Knicks trade anyone not named RJ Barrett or Mitchell Robinson before the trade deadline, but who knows which assets the front office, currently in transition, has deemed untouchable? Morris is the most attractive player for buyers, and the team has reportedly loosened their stance on keeping him. If Morris wants to be in New York long-term, he could always re-sign there this summer even if he is traded, so the Knicks should get what they can now for his expiring $15 million deal. 


Players who could be moved: Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson

The Cavs have had locker room turmoil all season long, and it's no secret that they're trying to find a trade partner for a Love deal. The three years and around $90 million left on his contract, combined with Love's injury history, won't make that easy. They may end up needing to attach an asset in order to move Love, but it might be worth it to rid the franchise of his discontent and free up cap space moving forward. Thompson is having a career year and his $18.5 million contract this season is expiring, so perhaps the Cavs could take on a bad contract with an asset attached for a team interested in a Thompson rental.


Players who could be moved: Andre DrummondReggie Jackson, Derrick Rose, Markieff Morris, Luke Kennard

The Pistons would probably like to get that Blake Griffin contract off the books, but it will be next to impossible to find a taker. Owner Tom Gores has hinted at roster moves on the horizon, and the trade rumors for Drummond have already heated up and cooled down. Finding a deal might largely depend on what the Pistons are looking for and if they're willing to take on bad salary in exchange for assets. After making the playoffs last season, it now appears that Detroit may be on the precipice of a rebuild, so it would behoove the team to see what it can get before the trade deadline.


Players who could be moved: Lauri MarkkanenThaddeus YoungTomas SatoranskyKris Dunn

The Bulls came into the season as presumptive fringe playoff contenders in the East, and conceivably they could still get one of the final two spots, but it's clear changes are in order in Chicago. They have plenty of attractive assets beyond Zach LaVine, whom they have deemed untouchable (publicly, at least). Young seems like an obvious trade candidate who contenders would be interested in, and the Bulls also have a bit of a logjam in the backcourt, so trying to collect assets in a losing season isn't the worst idea in the world.