Scott MacHenry
Staff Writer

The annual season of skyrocketing stress levels has reached NBA executives. With the NBA trade deadline here, teams have to decide quickly if they are buyers or sellers. Should contenders mortgage their future for a run at the championship? Should teams on the edge look ahead and sell their assets?

At this point, every team knows their position on the chess board. The Lakers, Bucks, and Celtics are surging, whereas the Sixers are freefalling down the East. Teams like the Heat, Mavericks, and Jazz are surprisingly competitive. Although the playoffs are over two months away, the race to get there is already heating up, as teams attempt to outmaneuver others in formulating playoff-ready rosters.

The Detroit Pistons may hold the keys to the entire trade deadline. With Blake Griffin shelved for the remainder of the season after reaggravating his knee injury, Detroit seems willing to blow up their team and rebuild.

Center Andre Drummond and point guard Derrick Rose are two heavily sought-after players, while secondary players Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard also have worthy trade value. The Pistons have been demanding first-round draft picks in return for Drummond and Rose so far, which may be holding up potential deals.

If the Boston Celtics can find the right trade package, Andre Drummond would be a perfect fit. The Celtics already have terrific perimeter play in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, along with lockdown defense in Marcus Smart, and are a rim protector away from becoming equally dominant as the Eastern Conference leading Bucks. Pairing bench players Carson Edwards and Daniel Theis with some draft stock could be enough to secure a trade for Andre Drummond.

The Houston Rockets center Clint Capela is another rim protector on the trade market. Houston is shopping Capela, hoping to acquire a wing player to fit better into Head Coach Mike D’Antoni’s offensive scheme. Capela, who barely played in the Rockets’ postseason last year, would make a great center for a rebuilding team since he remains under contract for the next three seasons.

The Atlanta Hawks come to mind as a fit for Capela. Atlanta is in the midst of a rebuild and have quality young players to make such a large-scale trade happen. Ideally, the Rockets would target John Collins, but the Hawks might be unwilling to part with such great young talent. A trade that might be more suitable to acquire Clint Capela could include the Hawks’ two first-round picks from the 2019 draft, De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish.

Some other players to watch are Kevin Love and Marcus Morris. Kevin Love is a match made in hell with his current team, the rebuilding Cleveland Cavaliers. His sizable contract is proving to be an issue with teams looking to add a sizzling star player.

The Miami Heat could be a landing spot for Love and form a dynamic big three with all-stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. The New York Knicks, yet again drowning in a miserable season, are poised to get something in return for Marcus Morris. Morris, solid on both sides of the ball, could add a level of grit and toughness to the Dallas Mavericks. Thanks to emerging superstar Luka Doncic, the Mavericks are legitimate contenders and would have to give up little in order to acquire Morris.

Finally, the biggest wild card of the trade deadline is the Philadelphia 76ers. Of all the playoff contenders, it is evident the Sixers need the most help, especially on the outside. The Sixers must find some shooters to aid their deplorable three-point shooting numbers.

It’s only a matter of how drastic the Sixers wish to get. Reggie Jackson from Detroit or the Timberwolves’ Robert Covington, who has played for Philly before, are logical minor tweaks the Sixers could make without giving up too much. Yet a larger, blockbuster move seems inevitable to keep pace with their rivals in the East.

Two big moves the Sixers should consider are Derrick Rose and Jrue Holiday. An acquisition of Rose would likely cost Philadelphia a first-round draft pick plus a back-end player like James Ennis III or Mike Scott. Derrick Rose would balance an offense heavy with big men and alleviate some of the pressure on Tobias Harris and Furkan Korkmaz.

On the other hand, if the Pelicans would be willing to trade Jrue Holiday, the Sixers could speed up their offense. A trade package for Jrue would be larger than for Rose, since the Pelicans are more competitive. The Sixers brass will have to weigh losing a majority of their bench depth if that means higher scoring from their starters.

The thinnest of lines separates a successful trade from a disastrous one. For the front-office decision makers, the trade deadline can put them out of a job or have them raising the Larry O’Brien championship trophy at season’s end.