Who should buy or sell at the trade deadline?
Our panel weighs in on which route teams in the middle of the standings should take before Feb. 21.
1. Buyers or Sellers: Brooklyn Nets
Sean Highkin, Hardwood Paroxysm: Sellers. With Avery Johnson's firing, they'll want to take some time to see how their roster works with a new offense, but I wouldn't be surprised if they moved someone. They're so capped-out that I can't really see them taking on any meaningful new players, but Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks are very movable pieces.
David Hopkins, The Two Man Game: Buyers. The Nets spent $330 million on contracts this summer. Let's hope they are happy with the team they've built. However, their problems are a little trickier -- not so much with the roster but the culture of their franchise. With Avery Johnson gone, if they can find the right replacement, it's possible they can compete among the elite teams in the East.
Jeremy Schmidt, Bucksketball: Buyers. The Nets are in no position to be selling any time soon. Saddled with brutal contracts, the expectations have been made clear: Win now. Players such as MarShon Brooks will be used as bait, right or wrong, because they're the only assets Brooklyn has.
Darius Soriano, Forum Blue And Gold: Sellers. The expectations for the Nets probably will lead to them being buyers, but they are in salary cap purgatory with this roster and would be better off strategically selling some of their higher-priced players to build a more well-rounded team for the long term.
Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: Buyers. They're owned by a demanding and impatient billionaire. I hear a lot of people saying they are locked into this current roster, but that simply is not true. Kris Humphries was pretty much signed to be used as a trade asset and he's movable with a large salary number. If they wanted to think bigger, there is a market for Brook Lopez that could open up a lot of possibilities.
2. Buyers or Sellers: Houston Rockets
Highkin: Buyers. Jeremy Lin and James Harden have looked more comfortable playing together lately, and it would be very easy for GM Daryl Morey to package any number of their young prospects -- Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Patterson, Marcus Morris or Chandler Parsons -- for another impact player to propel them into the playoff picture.
Hopkins: Buyers. Houston is 16-12 with the youngest team in the NBA. Jeremy Lin and James Harden still need a little more time to find themselves.
This is not a team you would want to blow up and rebuild. Make a few adjustments here and there, and watch them grow.
Schmidt: Buyers. There's little evidence that indicates the Rockets are going to be either. They seem pretty content letting the youngest team in the NBA continue to play together, learn each other, strengthen its chemistry and develop defensively. But considering their early-season success, if the Rockets will do anything, it's buy.
Soriano: Buyers. With a foundation of talented young players and a star in James Harden, the Rockets are primed to make a playoff push this season with the proper roster adjustments. If the right deal presents itself, they'd be wise to add to their core to continue to build a roster that can make some noise this postseason.
Windhorst: Buyers. The Rockets have been waiting three years to get themselves to this level and they're not stopping now. However, they most likely won't do a big deal. One, they have 12 players who make $3 million or less, making a significant trade tough. Second, they have cap space next summer they may want to save.
3. Buyers or Sellers: Dallas Mavericks
Highkin: Neither. I think the Mavericks will stand pat. Most of their players are on cheap or short-term deals, so there's no incentive for them to clear cap space when they're already set up to have a ton. And none of their movable players (everyone not named Dirk Nowitzki) is attractive enough to land the Mavs anything that will make them contenders this year.
Hopkins: Sellers. There's a reason why so many Mavs are on one-year contracts. Mark Cuban has his finger on the detonation button, and he's ready to push it at any moment. Nowitzki will stay. O.J. Mayo should stay. Darren Collison, for all his scoring potential, hasn't been the floor leader the Mavs need. A trade to acquire Jose Calderon, or a similar caliber point guard, would be very welcome.
Schmidt: Sellers. Yes, Dirk's back, but Dallas is still bad. Bad at offense. Bad at defense. Good at collecting veterans who have outlived their usefulness, though, so there's that. They can keep Dirk and retool over the summer, but the Mavs would be wise to ship out the Vince Carters and Elton Brands of the world for whatever they can get.
Soriano: Neither. The Mavs already have set themselves up to be a playoff team this season while still having the flexibility to make a run at every major free agent this summer. They're better off standing pat, seeing what type of run they can make with this group, and then re-evaluating their team in the summer.
Windhorst: Buyers. The Mavericks have been in the market for a home run acquisition for the past two years. Free agency hasn't worked out. They're loaded with expiring contracts, they are totally constructed to be big-game hunters.
4. Buyers or Sellers: Portland Trail Blazers
Highkin: Sellers, although they don't have a lot to offer. Every indication is that GM Neil Olshey knows the Blazers aren't a playoff team and should be positioning themselves for the draft lottery. I don't think they're quite ready to move LaMarcus Aldridge yet (although I wouldn't completely rule it out), but J.J. Hickson and Wesley Matthews are both very much in play.
Hopkins: Buyers. Can Portland build a team around LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews? Sure, if the NBA played 3-on-3. But Portland's supporting cast needs some work. These are minor tweaks, but every little bit helps to stay relevant in the Western Conference.
Schmidt: Sellers. Portland shouldn't let this season's modest success ruin a good plan. Bring in as much young talent as possible and sort it out later. Damian Lillard's terrific rookie season should serve as a daily reminder of the fruits the high lottery can bring. Portland wouldn't be foolish to sell high on the likes of J.J. Hickson and Wes Matthews.
Soriano: Sellers. It'd be a mistake for the Blazers to try to bolster their roster this year under the illusion that a bottom seed in the playoffs is better than a lottery pick. Even if it means trading Aldridge, they're better off trying to get high draft picks that they can build around to make a run in the next few years.
Windhorst: Sellers. But not big time. The Blazers are on the fringe of the playoffs and I'm sure there will be a temptation to add a piece to help out. But they are developing some young players and have cap flexibility coming up they may not want to sacrifice to sneak into the last playoff spot.
5. Buyers or Sellers: Milwaukee Bucks
Highkin: Buyers. Unless they can find a taker for Monta Ellis, which I doubt. I don't think they'll end up moving Brandon Jennings, either, because they want to gauge his value on the open market this summer. But they have a ton of power forwards that they could parlay into an efficient scoring wing who better fits their roster.
Hopkins: Sellers. The Bucks have a decent team this year. They are currently tied with the Chicago Bulls. However, the difference is that Milwaukee doesn't have Derrick Rose returning to its team. Simply put, the Bucks lack that A-list player who can take them deep into the playoffs. The front office needs to get creative and make the hard trades to bring the team out of its middling doldrums.
Schmidt: Buyers. The goal has been clear since the 2009-10 season ended -- get back to the playoffs. Milwaukee will stop at nothing to return to the postseason, even if they do so as an eight seed. Don't expect Brandon Jennings or Monta Ellis to go anywhere, despite the low ceiling that this team has in its current structure.
Soriano: Sellers. It's time for the Bucks to admit that they're not good enough to make a deep playoff run and sell off players to better position themselves for the future. They need a star player and, as a small-market team, they'll need to get that player in the draft.
Windhorst: Buyers. GM John Hammond has made a lot of big deals in his tenure, he's not afraid to shake things up. The Bucks have an uncertain future with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis possibly becoming free agents, but Milwaukee is also exceeding expectations right now and it has a couple of nice expiring contracts in Beno Udrih and Sam Dalembert they could work with.
ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network
Brian Windhorst is an NBA writer for ESPN.com. Sean Highkin, David Hopkins, Jeremy Schmidt and Darius Soriano contribute to the TrueHoop Network.
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