4 NBA Trades That Should Happen by the Deadline

According to the numbers, who fits where? And why?

With the NBA trade deadline looming, the trade chips have begun to fall -- starting with Josh Smith's return to Houston this past week.

Prior to the move, the Smith trade wasn't one to show up on any rumor mills, and it isn't likely to change the landscape of the Western Conference playoff run. It was, however, a trade that, believe it or not, can help the Rockets going forward.

This year's trade deadline could be full of moves just like that -- ones that don't exactly make a team go from pretender to contender but make them just that much better, maybe even improving their playoff seeding after all is said and done.

Deadline deals could include players like Ryan Anderson, Lance Stephenson and Kevin Martin, all of whom have their own specialist roles to contribute. But, while this trio of players could provide individual value to a team, the numbers don't suggest that. Each of them carry a nERD no better than -0.2, which tells us that their contributions, over the course of a season, have actually been hurtful to their respective teams.

What I am looking at are four moves that would bring positive value to a new squad, whether it's a playoff hopeful or a reloading franchise. I have considered: 1) common sense, 2) team need, based on nERD, and 3) player value, based on nERD.

Another Lopez in Portland

This one is not quite like all the others -- and for one big reason: the Blazers aren't a team (at least realistically) competing for a title right now. With the exception of Damian Lillard, the entire starting lineup found work elsewhere this offseason. Real bummer -- season in the tanks right? Not exactly.

The Trail Blazers, at 20-26, sit ninth in the Western Conference and have found Lillard a running mate in C.J. McCollum. They've also added and developed young talent in Ed Davis and Mason Plumlee down low, but neither are that much of a scoring threat offensively. That's where Brook Lopez could come in and contribute right away.

Lopez (the only star player I'll discuss) doesn't fill a giant void or anything in Portland -- as Davis and Plumlee sport nERD ratings of 5.7 and 1.6, respectively -- but bringing him in for the right price really couldn't hurt. Lopez has built up a nERD of 2.4 on an embarrassing Brooklyn squad and is averaging 19.8 points and 8.3 boards per contest in 2016. He would make a great third scorer in Portland.

And it shouldn't take much to get him off Mikhail Prokhorov's hands. Things are hot in Brooklyn's front office, and with a need to rebuild, the Nets would be smart to unload Lopez's massive contract (which the Blazers can afford to take on) and get back a young player and a draft pick or two in return.

A Big Move

This isn't a big move in the sense that it shakes up the entire Western Conference landscape, but rather one that adds some much needed frontcourt depth to a Memphis team that is lacking in that area. Since Brandan Wright underwent successful knee surgery on December 17th, the Grizzlies have relied primarily on the likes of Ryan Hollins and JaMychal Green to relieve Marc Gasol. That won't cut it in the West, so Jordan Hill would make a nice fit with the Grizz.

While Green (-0.4 nERD) is able to produce offensively, as a true power forward, he lacks the size and defensive intensity necessary to compete at the five spot -- and the same can be said for Zach Randolph. As for Hollins, he doesn't pose a threat on the offensive end and really isn't the kind of player to give you extended minutes on a nightly basis.

Enter Hill, who saw just under 14 minutes of action a night ago due to the emergence of rookie Myles Turner (2.9 nERD) and the return of Ian Mahinmi (6.6 nERD). Despite an impressive nERD of 2.4 and averages of 15.4 points and 11.8 rebounds per 36 minutes, Hill is an expendable commodity to Frank Vogel and the Pacers. So, it would be smart for Indiana to turn his positive value into something, and that is a valuable rotation player in Memphis.

Lou to the East

In his first season with the Lakers, Lou Williams hasn't been able to help the Lakers win many games. Prior to this season, the move to sign Williams was a questionable one at best. With a young roster, one could see why -- but, in case it wasn't so obvious at the time it's even more obvious now. The Lakers don't have a shot at the playoffs, Kobe's on his way out the door, and the young guns on the wing -- Jordan Clarkson and D'Angelo Russell -- are showing a lot of promise.

On a team with an eye toward the future, Williams is on the wrong side of 25, as the Lakers have seven players on their roster born after 1990. If that is the organization's focus, they should be looking to move Williams to a playoff team in exchange for more young talent, in the way of a draft pick or undeveloped player. 

Williams' shot creating and scoring off the bench could prove very valuable to a team like the Bulls or Knicks, starving for offensive backup. Behind Jimmy Butler, there's nothing much to speak of with the likes of E'Twaun Moore and Tony Snell. The two of them combine for merely 10.6 points per game and a nERD of -5.3. As for the Knicks, Arron Afflalo hasn't been super efficient but he has been effective enough to score nearly 13.9 points per game. Behind him though is Langston Galloway who, despite a reasonable nERD of 0.5 from his bench role, has scored a measly 7.8 points in over 24 minutes per.

On such a struggling team, it's a surprise that Williams has been able to build up a positive nERD (1.0). Maybe it shouldn't be so much though -- I mean, Williams has been known to produce very efficiently on the offensive end, and this year is no different. He's averaging 15.5 points per contest on a True Shooting Percentage of 57.1% -- and that's with youngsters still learning the game all around him. Imagine what he could do if given the chance to play in a system like Chicago or New York's.

Gun for Hire

Everyone and their brother has been talking about Ryan Anderson as a hot trade chip this season. And with so many teams transitioning to stretch fours and uptempo offenses, he might be. But if that's what is so intriguing to teams, why isn't anyone talking about Mirza Teletovic in the same way?

At 6'9", shooting nearly 42% from three on the season, Teletovic also fits the bill as a stretch four. In fact, he might fit it better as a whole. With nearly identical rebounding totals per 36 minutes, he's shooting over 2% better than Anderson from deep and owns a nERD score of 1.2, compared to the -0.2 Anderson has accumulated to this point.

Who should be interested in the services of the sharpshooting Teletovic? To name a few: the Heat, Mavericks, Clippers and Kings. The Heat could use a player to play the power forward spot off the bench and help take some of the scoring and minutes load off of Chris Bosh, especially if he's slotting minutes at center as well. As for the Mavericks, Clippers and Kings, each of them could use the frontcourt depth and bench scoring that Bosnian provides. 

Behind Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks don't have a lot to speak of in terms of offensive production. The Clippers are now absent Blake Griffin for several more weeks and don't have much -- Paul Pierce -- to backup their superstar forward let alone take his spot in the starting lineup until further notice.

And as for the Kings, if DeMarcus Cousins isn't at the four spot and Rudy Gay isn't slid over to the four spot, there hasn't been much production on either end of the floor from their power forward spot. George Karl and the offensive-minded Kings would be a perfect fit for Teletovic's skillset.