NBA trade deadline predictions: Top teams, players to watch

Woj: Mavs out of Drummond sweepstakes (1:23)

Adrian Wojnarowski says the Mavericks are most likely out on trading for Andre Drummond after they acquired Willie Cauley-Stein from the Warriors for a second-round pick. (1:23)

What should we expect before the 2020 NBA trade deadline on Feb. 6?

After a long hiatus, trade season has ramped up a bit, with the Golden State Warriors recently moving center Willie Cauley-Stein to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for a second-round draft pick.

Which title contender most needs to make a move? What about the rebuilding squads? What trades should teams pursue?

Our NBA experts answer the big questions about the deadline and make bold predictions.

MORE: NBA trade tracker: grades and details

1. What will you be watching most closely between now and the deadline?

Bobby Marks: Do the Philadelphia 76ers have signer's remorse from last July? They made a financial investment of $290 million in Tobias Harris and Al Horford. Neither is close to a dead-weight contract -- Harris is a borderline All-Star, and Horford has proved his value on and off the court -- but do both fit next to Joel Embiid in a '90s-style frontcourt? The challenge is that if Philadelphia tinkers with its starting five in a trade, the team risks an early playoff exit.

Tim Bontemps: To see who actually gets moved. The one thing that has remained remarkably consistent about this trade season is how few players of consequence are available. Between most of the league still having a chance to make the playoffs, contenders lacking the salary/assets to make moves and franchises having no interest in dipping into 2021 cap space, it's tough to find reasonable matches between buyers and sellers.

Andre Snellings: I'll be watching to see if any teams just outside of contention push their chips into the center of the table to make a run at the title this season. This is the first season in years that the Warriors aren't the de facto mega favorites, which means the lane is open for new teams to contend. I currently consider only three or four teams to be likely to actually win the title, but there are another eight or so teams that could be one trade away. I want to see if any teams in that tier are willing to take a risk to win now, while the opportunity is as good as it has been in an NBA generation.

Tim MacMahon: The Andre Iguodala sweepstakes have been a source of major intrigue since the summer. Memphis Grizzlies sources are quite confident that they will get value by flipping Iguodala, whom they've allowed to train on his own until they determine his next destination. Some executives around the league suspect that Memphis' fallback option is a Mavericks offer of Courtney Lee and the Warriors' surprisingly high second-rounder, though Dallas sources have done their best to refute that.

Kevin Pelton, ESPN: The wing market, which I think is the most interesting common need among this year's top contenders. There is actually a surprising number of quality wings available at a position of scarcity, potentially including Robert Covington, Iguodala and Marcus Morris Sr.

2. Which title contender most needs to make a move?

Bontemps: Can my answer be all of them? The top six teams in each conference have clear weaknesses that can be improved. With things so wide-open, if any team could find a way to make a meaningful upgrade over the next week, it could make a real difference in the playoffs -- like Marc Gasol with the Toronto Raptors last season.

Pelton: Probably the LA Clippers, in that their trade chips are most likely to dissolve after this season. Following this year's draft, the Clippers won't be able to trade a first-round pick until after the 2021 draft, and Maurice Harkless' expiring contract gives them ideal matching salary in a deal for a player making up to $16 million.

Marks: The Denver Nuggets. This roster is deep, and Michael Porter Jr. is certainly a great story, but my concern is that the Nuggets need another closer besides Nikola Jokic. But that's a problem every team outside of Los Angeles is trying to solve.

MacMahon: It's no secret that the Houston Rockets are hunting for a quality 3-and-D wing and are willing to part with their first-round pick. Two major questions: How can Daryl Morey, who has limited assets but is well-known for his creative salary-cap gymnastics, deal for a significant piece without trading away a core player? And how willing is owner Tilman Fertitta to foot the bill if it guarantees the Rockets are a tax team?

Snellings: The 76ers need to make a move. They have as much talent as any team in the NBA, but the fit hasn't translated to elite production on the court. They have the third-best defensive rating in the NBA -- allowing 104.8 points per 100 possessions -- but they've sputtered to an offensive rating of 108.4 points per 100 possessions, which ranks 20th. They have struggled to get the highest efficiency scoring opportunities, ranking in the bottom of the league in both 3-pointers and free throws per game. The addition of dynamic shooters could make the 76ers a legitimate threat to come out of the East.

3. Which rebuilding team most needs to make a move?

MacMahon: The Minnesota Timberwolves have lost 10 straight games -- along with any realistic hope of competing for the West's final playoff spot -- and they have one of the most coveted players on the market in Covington. First-year general manager Gersson Rosas should pounce on the opportunity to get a first-round pick for Covington, a 29-year-old who clearly doesn't fit long-term rebuilding plans.

Snellings: The Timberwolves need to make moves. They have too much talent to have the second-worst record in the West, but their team fit is lacking. Unlike other rebuilding teams, they have a franchise-caliber centerpiece to build around who is entering his prime seasons. Karl-Anthony Towns ranks fourth in the NBA in offensive RPM in his fifth season and is just starting a max contract extension. The Timberwolves don't have a history as a prime free-agent destination, so they can't afford for this losing culture to continue. The team needs a perimeter offensive engine who can create shots for himself and his teammates, which would free Towns to focus more on defense, where he has taken a step back this season.

Marks: The Detroit Pistons would certainly like to shake up their roster. Unfortunately for them, their three highest-paid players -- Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson -- aren't high on teams' lists of trade targets. Even though Drummond is a double-double presence each night, there isn't strong interest in him as an impending free agent. Drummond certainly could be traded, but is it worth moving him for an expiring contract and a second-round pick?

Pelton: The New York Knicks, as their players will become much less valuable in trade after this year's deadline. Although they might be able to make a sign-and-trade deal involving Morris, this is most obviously true in his case because he's on a one-year contract.

Bontemps: The Knicks need to move Morris and should be able to get a first-round pick for him. If the Timberwolves can get real value for Covington, it could be opportune to move him as well. The Warriors will almost certainly try to do with Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III what they did with Cauley-Stein. But in reality, any team out of the playoff picture that has worthwhile contributors should be canvassing the market.

4. What's a trade you would like to see?

Pelton: The Portland Trail Blazers sending this year's first-round pick (with protection in case they miss the playoffs and win a top-four spot in the lottery) to Minnesota for Covington. The Timberwolves are too far from competing right now for Covington's complementary skill set to help them, but his game and contract ($36 million over this season and the next two) would fit perfectly in Portland next to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

Snellings: D'Angelo Russell to the Timberwolves in exchange for Gorgui Dieng, Josh Okogie and the Timberwolves' first-round pick this season. The Warriors are in the midst of a lost season, but eventually their championship core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will return ready to contend. The team lacks quality depth that would be ready to support its quest, and this deal would provide two young veterans who could play legitimate roles on a winning team along with a second pick -- likely a lottery pick -- to potentially barter. Meanwhile, the Timberwolves need a dynamic, scoring lead guard who can be the primary perimeter engine on their team, and Russell would make an excellent one-two punch with Towns.

MacMahon: Morris to the Clippers for a package of Harkless and some assets for the Knicks' massive rebuilding project (perhaps rookie guard Terance Mann and this year's first-rounder). The Clippers could really use a playoff-tested stretch-4, and Morris (career-best 44% on 3s this season) certainly fits that bill.

Bontemps: The Boston Celtics and 76ers both need to add quality depth pieces. If the Los Angeles Lakers can find a way to get Covington, they should. Denver also needs another wing defender. But what I'd like to see more than anything is for one or more of these teams to take advantage of the wide-open nature of this season and make a bold move to get better. It would be fun to see a team take a big swing.

Marks: I am going to circle back to the Nuggets. They have the right mix to get a deal done and not disrupt their chemistry. Would a package of Gary Harris, Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez and a future first-rounder be enough to pry Jrue Holiday from the New Orleans Pelicans? That would give the Nuggets an All-NBA defender to play alongside Jamal Murray and a reliable fourth-quarter presence. It would also put the Nuggets into the luxury tax for the first time since 2009-10.

5. What's your bold trade deadline prediction?

Snellings: Chris Paul has had a wildly successful season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, leading them into playoff contention and proving that he still has the chops to be a huge contributor. Although the Thunder have publicly stated how happy they are to have him performing in this role, my bold prediction is that he will be playing for a legitimate championship contender such as the 76ers, Raptors, Nuggets, Miami Heat or even, dare I say it, the Clippers before the season is out. Paul deserves another chance at a ring, and the Thunder have a young, talented backcourt in Dennis Schroder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander that they could pass the reins to while continuing to build for the future.

MacMahon: Can I buy a little bit more time with my prediction? This will be the last trade deadline that passes with Embiid and Ben Simmons together as teammates. They are immense talents who just don't fit together well enough. I expect the Sixers to decide to build around one or the other this summer. I wonder if that decision will be made based on which one has the better market value.

Marks: That there will be more players bought out of their contracts before March 1 than traded at the deadline. Only five deals have happened since mid-July, a warning that we could be headed to a slow crawl.

Bontemps: Nothing much happens. It's hard to see where the deals will come from this year. I certainly hope that I'm wrong, but it seems like the real fireworks won't begin until at least the draft in June, when a player such as Bradley Beal could be back in play.

Pelton: The only All-Star from the past two years who will be traded is injured center DeMarcus Cousins, as part of the Lakers' matching salary in a deal. That would rule out, among others, Drummond, Russell, Kevin Love and Kyle Lowry.

MORE: NBA trade tracker: grades and details