- Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus series
- Formerly a consultant with the Indiana Pacers
- Developed WARP rating and SCHOENE system
Which role players could affect the NBA championship race if they’re traded between now and the Feb. 10 deadline?
As the deadline approaches, much of the attention is naturally on the bigger names who might be moved. However, a well-timed acquisition of a role player can ultimately have as much impact on the title chase — if not more.
Consider last season, when the Milwaukee Bucks acquired forward P.J. Tucker from the Houston Rockets a few days before the deadline. Although Tucker played sparingly the remainder of the regular season due to injuries, he moved into the starting lineup for a matchup against Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets and never left, serving as a key contributor as the Bucks won their first championship in 50 years.
Admittedly, Tucker is an extreme example of an under-the-radar deadline acquisition paying off. Still, that won’t stop other teams without the resources to chase All-Stars from trying to repeat Milwaukee’s feat this season.
Let’s take a look at eight players who could make a difference if they’re dealt to contenders before Feb. 10.
Portland Trail Blazers
Given the Blazers gave up two first-round picks for Covington before the 2020 draft, his acquisition hasn’t helped Portland as much as hoped on defense, even though the team has been far better defensively with him on the court. Now that Covington is in the final year of his value contract (he’s making $13 million), the price should be far more reasonable if the Blazers decide to move him.
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