5 NBA trade deadline teams who desperately need to make a deal

The 2024 NBA trade deadline represents the last chance for teams to reload their rosters ahead of the playoffs, or get an early head start on a rebuild before the offseason. With the deadline quickly approaching on Thursday, Feb. 8, there are a number of teams who should be feeling the pressure to commit to a direction as either buyers or sellers.

Last year’s playoffs showed us how wide open today’s league can be when the No. 8 seed Miami Heat made a run to the NBA Finals, and the No. 7 seed Los Angeles Lakers reached the conference finals. There’s a clear championship picture emerging so far this year, but the lack of an overwhelming favorite should have numerous teams feeling like they can make a run with the right deadline deal.

We’ve been tracking every big trade rumor leading up to Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline. As the gossip continues to swirl, here are five teams who definitely need to make a deal.

Chicago Bulls

Buyers or sellers? Sellers.

Who do they have to trade? DeMar DeRozan, Alex Caruso, Andre Drummond

The Bulls’ commitment to continuity seems like the most baffling plan in the NBA until you realize just how meager their organizational goals are. All this team wants to do is make the playoffs every year even if it translates to a quick exit, and in recent years the team can’t even accomplish that much. The reality is that this era of the Bulls has been cooked ever since Lonzo Ball went down with a knee injury more than two years ago that sidelines him to this day. With an old, capped-out team light on future assets, just about everyone agrees it’s time for the Bulls to start a rebuild … except for the Bulls themselves.

The Bulls are past due for a pivot, but there’s still time to salvage a few assets out of this era. With Zach LaVine officially done for the year after right foot surgery and Patrick Williams also sidelined with a foot injury, Chicago needs to face reality and move some of their coveted veterans for young players and draft picks. Alex Caruso is said to be in demand for contenders around the league, and the Bulls should sell him off to the highest bidder. DeMar DeRozan can help a playoff team, too, and the fact that his contract expires after this season may actually make him more appealing. Andre Drummond remains one of the league’s better backup centers on a minimum contract, and his ability to own the offensive glass makes him a unique matchup in a playoff setting.

The Bulls still owe a 2025 first round draft pick to San Antonio that is protected top-10. This is an ideal time to trade the vets and try to salvage next year’s pick before the Cooper Flagg derby heats up. There’s nothing about this era of the Bulls worth saving.

Los Angeles Lakers

Buyers or sellers? Buyers.

Who do they have to trade? A 2029 first-round draft pick, Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura

The Lakers are remarkably mid when you consider how durable and productive LeBron James and Anthony Davis have been this season. James can’t carry the team every night at age-39, but he’s still capable of elite play for short stretches when he turns it on. Davis is a full-blown two-way terror this season, and gives the Lakers a chance to compete against anyone in a seven-game series. These two superstars need more help, otherwise they risk letting this season end in the play-in tournament.

The Lakers need all the shooting they can get with the team currently ranking No. 28 in percentage of shots taken from three-point range. They could use some point-of-attack defense, too. Names like Dejounte Murray and Bruce Brown have been thrown around, but LA would be wise to try to find a stretch big man, as well. The Lakers could have as many as three first round picks to trade this summer if they save their ammo for another year, but can you really waste another season with James staring down his 40th birthday? The Lakers should be all-in for as long as James is still on the team, and that means getting bold and creative now.

Golden State Warriors

Buyers or sellers? Buyers.

Who do they have to trade? 2026 and 2028 first round draft picks, Andrew Wiggins, Chris Paul, Moses Moody

In the same way the Lakers have a commitment to building the best team possible around LeBron James every year, the Warriors also owe it to Stephen Curry to go all-in while he’s still near the top of his game. Curry remains electric at age-35, but the championship infrastructure around him has been crumbling all season. Klay Thompson is fighting off the “washed” allegations, Draymond Green can’t stay on the court, and Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney have fallen off a cliff. The recent emergence of Jonathan Kuminga gives Golden State a little hope, but they still need more reinforcements just to make the play-in tournament, let alone the playoffs.

The Warriors have the contracts to match large salaries with the expiring deal of the injured Chris Paul. They could also look to offload Wiggins for salary relief. More than anything, the Warriors need defense around Curry with the unit ranking only No. 20 this season. Nets forward Dorian Finney-Smith could be a nice addition for Golden State, as would Caruso from the Bulls. Landing a new big man would also be ideal, but the market looks less promising there at the moment. Curry is still electric enough to carry the Warriors on a deep run with a little extra help. There’s no point in saving their future draft picks if the right deal is on the table.

Milwaukee Bucks

Buyers or sellers? Buyers.

Who do they have to trade? Bobby Portis, Pat Connaughton, 2024 second round pick from Portland, 2027 second round pick

The Bucks went all-in on another championship run when they acquired Damian Lillard just before the season. Milwaukee might have the best superstar duo in the league, but the supporting cast is clearly missing some key ingredients, mainly point of attack defense and a more productive backup big man for Brook Lopez. There’s only one problem: the Bucks are all out of future first round picks to trade, and don’t have many appealing pieces to trade outside of their core. GM Jon Horst is going to have to work a miracle to get the extra help his team needs, but this is the time to be creative.

Does your team have a player who can defend lead guards? If so, they would help the Bucks. Milwaukee’s perimeter defense has looked incredibly shaky since the trade that swapped out Lillard for Jrue Holiday, and it’s only going to look worse in the playoffs as teams target Lillard on every possession in crunch time. A more underplayed storyline this year has been the decline of Bobby Portis, who tries to score in the post way too much, and seems to have lost a step defensively. Whatever the Bucks can cobble together needs to be sent out, because Lillard and Giannis need more help.

Philadelphia 76ers

Buyers or sellers? Buyers.

Who do they have to trade? 2028 Clippers unprotected first-round pick, 2026 Thunder first round pick, tons of expiring contracts, and more future first rounders

Daryl Morey’s trusty “Five Percent Theory” states that any team with even a five percent chance of winning the championship owes it to themselves to go for it. The Sixers still fit the definition even after Joel Embiid’s devastating knee surgery — provided that they believe the superstar center can get back for the playoffs. The Sixers have so much to trade with nearly the entire roster on an expiring contract and a surplus of future first round picks coming from the James Harden deal. This team can make a legitimate bid for anyone they want, but Morey doesn’t make bad trades just for the sake of doing a deal.

The Sixers could use another scorer to take pressure off Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, and they could also use another defensive playmaker. Caruso, DeRozan, and Drummond could each be good fits from Chicago. Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic would provide the extra scoring punch the team needs. Kelly Olynyk from the Jazz could also serve as a backup from Embiid, or someone he could potentially play with.

The Sixers need to decide if they want to chase a title now, or save their cap space for the offseason. With Embiid on the brink of his 30th birthday, it feels like they would be wise to prioritize the present.

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