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ALBERTA, CANADA - OCTOBER 2: Lauri Markkanen #23 of the Utah Jazz drives to the basket during the game against the Toronto Raptors on October 2, 2022 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  NOTICE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photograph, the user agrees to the terms of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images)Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images

Another ranking? ANOTHER RANKING.

4. Thunder from Oklahoma City

As I did in my Buy, Sell or Hold? Primer, this is more wishful thinking than reality:

“Limited matching salary is a problem. The limbo of roster spots is another. The Thunder project are said to have an open slot this summer that they will fill with their own first-round pick or the Clippers’ pick. They’re unlikely to complicate the situation — especially with so many more firsts on the way after this year.


The Thunder have a $10.2 million trade exception, plenty of second-round players they don’t need to be tied to, and at least one or two expendable players. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is heading for All-NBA honors and play-in territory is within reach. This could be a team that complicates the competitive landscape by adding talent rather than godfather.

3. Utah Jazz

Now that their hot start has settled into a tepid reality, the Jazz are expected to act like sellers at the close, according to NBA reporter Marc Stein.

Counterpoint: What if they don’t?

In fact, the Jazz could move Mike Conley or Jarred Vanderbilt or Malik Beasley. But what if it’s part of a buying ploy rather than a selling ploy? Or what if they just snagged a high-profile player like John Collins at his rock bottom? They could target reinforcements on the wing in Josh Hart, Cam Reddish or Jae’Sean Tate.

Gearing up for a blockbuster is most likely off the table. But don’t be surprised if Utah buys opportunistically without losing any of its key players.

2. Indiana Pacers

The absence of Tyrese Haliburton with knee and elbow problems should push the Pacers into seller territory. However, with the exception of last season, they were never that team. And even amid their 0-for-6 streak without Hali, they remain close enough to the East’s playoff bracket to continue pacers-ing.

Basically you have to ask yourself what is more brand compliant for them: Finally, finally deliver Myles Turner? Or keep it, potentially renegotiating and extending it, and using a combination of their $27+ million in cap space, 2023 first-rounders from Boston (top 12 protection) and Cleveland (lottery protection), and maybe Chris Duarte into a John Collins, Obi Toppin, PJ Washington, Patrick Williams, Jae’Sean Tate, etc.?

1. Toronto Birds of Prey

The Raptors, appearing in both the surprise seller and surprise buyer sections, are a perfect summary of their season when you really think about it.

Toronto teardowns are discussed far more often than this alternative. That likely has something to do with the total lack of salespeople squatting title-tipping talent. But if the Raptors have that many of these players in OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent Jr. and Fred VanVleet, they could theoretically buy.

A quadrupling this season would be quite a gamble and not in the character of team president Masai Ujiri. It’s good. The current trading market is not conducive to monster movement. But the Raptors all have their own picks and a handful of carefree salaries. They’re stocked enough to improve their shot creation, functional shooting, and overall depth – and are still close enough to playoff turmoil in the east at this point to think upgrades can even make a big difference.

Unless otherwise noted, stats are from, Basketball Reference, Stathead, or Cleaning the Glass and accurate game entry is as of Tuesday. Salary report via Spotrac.

Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale) and subscribe to the Hardwood Knocks Podcast co-hosted by Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes.

Daring Predictions 2 Weeks Before NBA 2023 Trade Deadline – Bleacher Report – S Chronicles

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