Atlantic Division: Trade Deadline Preview

By: Devin Zanskas

With the March 25th trade deadline looming, it’s interesting to look at the division with the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference. The number two seeded Nets made an earth-shattering trade themselves, receiving James Harden for nearly their entire war chest of draft picks. Although the Nets mortgaged a lot of their flexibility to gain another former MVP and all-time offensive player, their roster turnover may have implications for other Eastern Conference Finals contenders. This would definitely include the top-seeded 76ers, who were involved in the Harden sweepstakes. They opted to retain the young Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Ben Simmons, and all of their future first round draft picks though.  The Atlantic division consists of the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, New York Knickerbockers, Brooklyn Nets, and the Toronto Raptors. The Knicks and Nets have already acquired their former Detroit Piston veterans in Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin, by way of a trade and a contract buyout, respectively. However, the other three Atlantic division teams all have been in rumors of involvement with a number of players, including some on roster with division rivals.

The 76ers have been mentioned as one of Kyle Lowry’s preferred destinations if he were to depart from the Raptors. This would clearly be the Raptors pointing in another direction than the past. After being a high seed in the Eastern Conference, and winning a championship over the Golden State Warriors in 2019, the Raptors would likely be interested in adding pieces for the future. The value that the 76ers could provide would likely be 2020 first round draft pick Tyrese Maxey, draft compensation, and salary filler like Danny Green’s $15,365,853 and Mike Scott’s $5,005,350 expiring contracts to help bridge the gap to Lowry’s $30,500,000 salary. However, according to, the Raptors are telling teams that they don’t plan to move Lowry. Although they’re risking losing him for nothing in the offseason, this isn’t unbelievable considering they’re only three games back from the seventh and eighth seeds, and a game and a half behind a spot in the play-in game. On the contrary, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst is reporting that Norman Powell from Toronto is “a name that was brought up in league personnel talks”. The idea of keeping Lowry to make some noise in the playoffs, but moving on from Powell, may sound questionable. However, with Powell’s $11,615,328 player option, he will likely be a free agent along with Lowry. Powell will also be asking for a raise after averaging almost 20 points per game on nearly 45% shooting from the three-point line. Many have brought up the possibility of Powell being the centerpiece to acquire Cleveland’s Andre Drummond to fill a hole the Raptors have at center. Once Jarrett Allen was routed to Cleveland in the Harden deal, it was clear that Drummond was expendable.

Lastly, the Celtics have eyes on them because they hold the largest trade exception in NBA history from Gordon Hayward’s $28,500,000 salary. The complication with this exception is that the Celtics only have $19,600,000 in space between them and the apron, which they are hard-capped at. Therefore, unless the Celtics trade salaries like Tristan Thompson, Daniel Theis, or someone on a rookie-scale deal, they cannot simply absorb Al Horford’s $27,500,000, or Lamarcus Aldridge’s $24,000,000 contract. Regardless of the exception, the Celtics were rumored to have interest in John Collins. This is a hard to imagine because it would imply that the Celtics plan to provide Collins that near-max contract he would demand, not to mention Marcus Smart and/or a lot of draft compensation that the Hawks would ask for.