The NBA trade deadline is officially three weeks away, and the rumor mill is about to ramp up to breakneck speeds.
Although we're not quite sure any big names will be on the move before Feb. 23, the line between buyers and sellers is growing increasingly clear with every passing day.
Here are the five teams that should look to blow it up before the deadline — plus one team that has to avoid the urge to make a move for a second-tier star.
Mike StobeGetty Images
Phoenix Suns (15-34)
The Suns have the ignoble honor of being an awful team that still needs to get even worse.
Phoenix currently boasts the second-worst record in the NBA, so you'd think there's not much left in the cupboard. Of course, that's because you're forgetting about Eric Bledsoe — one of the league's best point guards and a guy overshadowed by the Suns' continued putrid performance.
Bledsoe deserves better than Phoenix; more important for the Suns, moving the 27-year-old point guard should result in a first-round pick in return. At this point in the Suns' cycle, all they should really care about is stockpiling assets.
New York Knicks (22-29)
A complete and total tank job would be in everyone's best interests in the Big Apple.
New York needs to build around Kristaps Porzingis, but as long as Carmelo Anthony is in town, the Knicks are going to be too concerned with trying to make the playoffs. His presence prevents New York from entering into the rebuild this team so desperately needs.
And that's certainly convenient, since Phil Jackson clearly doesn't want Anthony around the Knicks anymore. Ideally, the Zen Master would acquire a first-round pick in exchange for Anthony — but from the sounds of some of the rumors out there, New York's front office is really just concerned with getting Melo out of town.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Chicago Bulls (25-25)
The writing is on the wall in Chicago.
The Bulls' "three alphas" can probably make this work if they really want to; they certainly did on Wednesday night in a 28-point win over the Thunder. But what's the point, really? Dwyane Wade's NBA career is winding down, so he's not looking to participate in a teardown, and Jimmy Butler might or might not be the type of player you build a team around. Rajon Rondo, meanwhile, is a bigger headache than he's worth, if we're being honest.
Every and any option should be on the table for Chicago. Buy out Rondo? Sure, if there's no trade to be made. Move Butler to the Celtics for the Nets' pick? Why not? And while they probably can't trade Wade, the Bulls have to resist any temptation to re-sign him when he exercises his option this summer.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY SportsBrian Spurlock
Atlanta Hawks (28-21)
We know the Hawks have said Paul Millsap isn't going anywhere. We know Atlanta thinks it can quickly turn around in the post-Al Horford era with a team built around Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard.
Unfortunately, they're wrong. Howard is 31 years old with the body of a 50-year-old; it's hard to imagine he'll play at a high level for more than the next year or two. Schroder, meanwhile, is 23. Their timetables just don't line up; the best-case scenario is the two play well together into next season before Schroder has to find a new pick-and-roll partner in a few years.
As for Millsap? Indications around the league are that the Hawks are reluctant to sign the 31-year-old to a big deal this offseason — and is Atlanta really willing to let another big man walk away for nothing just like Horford?
Sadly, it's better to make a few moves and kick the can down the road until LeBron James is in his mid-30s than to get stuck on the "mediocrity treadmill" in the Eastern Conference.
Los Angeles Clippers (31-18)
The most shocking entry on this list, naturally — and perhaps the most necessary implosion of them all.
(We will voice one caveat before we dive too deep into Los Angeles: If the Clippers can acquire Carmelo Anthony for spare parts, then maybe we can continue to let this play out. CP3+Melo+DeAndre+Blake is an intriguing lineup, to be sure.)
If the Clippers really want to keep banging their heads against the Warriors-shaped wall in the Western Conference, then so be it. But if we were the GM in Los Angeles, we'd look to make some big moves before the deadline.
Blowing it up for the Clippers doesn't have to mean going all the way back to square one, to be clear. Option A should be shopping Blake Griffin for wing players who can shoot 3s and defend, building a rotation around Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, and a bunch of interchangeable wings. It worked well enough for Stan Van Gundy in Orlando with Dwight Howard, after all.
Remember: Both Paul and Griffin can become free agents this offseason, and at this point, we imagine one or the other will decide they've had enough of running this same squad out over and over again in Los Angeles.
The other option is trying to restock with draft picks and young players by moving Paul and Griffin before they potentially walk away for free (and probably trading Jordan, too), but let's be honest — there's no way Steve Ballmer would sign off on that after spending more than $2 billion to buy the team.
And while we're talking about Los Angeles, there's one team that needs to avoid trading any significant pieces at the deadline ...
Los Angeles Lakers (17-34)
Consider this an open letter to Lakers management: Whatever you do, DO NOT MAKE A PANIC TRADE INVOLVING YOUR YOUNG (POTENTIAL) STARS.
Sorry for the all caps, L.A., but I can't stress enough how imperative patience is for the Lakers. We understand there are some frustrations with the young guys. D'Angelo Russell doesn't seem to have that killer Kobe mentality, and Brandon Ingram has a long way to go to reach those lofty Kevin Durant comparisons. On the other hand, each of these prospects has shown flashes of the All-Star heights they can reach if given enough time and guidance.
Rushing to move the young guys for a fringe star would simply doom the Lakers to years and years of mediocrity.
If you can find a taker for Luol Deng or Timofey Mozgov, though, we're in business.