Why the play-in tournament is cooling off the NBA trade market

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The play-in tournament was designed to keep more teams in postseason contention deeper into the season. But it’s cooling the NBA trade market.

The amount of action at the NBA Trade Deadline always depends on how the handful of teams in the middle of the standings decide to weigh their short- and long-term futures, pivoting between being buyers or sellers.

We’ve already heard rumors that one team may be the linchpin of a lot of those decisions, with their actions potentially setting off a cascade of trades in different actions. According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, the number of teams still in play for the play-in tournament is holding up a number of other decisions.

“One of the unintended consequences of the play-in tournament is a chilling of the trade market,” one Eastern Conference executive said. “When almost the whole league can make the playoffs [through the play-in], you just don’t have as many sellers in December or January. End of the month, we’ll see more action leading into February.”

Which teams are still making decisions about the NBA trade market?

Before the play-in tournament, you could extend the standings down to maybe the ninth or 10th seed with teams who could talk themselves into making a run for the playoffs. The play-in tournament extends that at least another two spots.

The Hawks, Bulls, Raptors and Wizards sit at seed No. 9 – 12 in the East, the Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, Jazz and Lakers hold those same spots in the West. Coincidentally, several of the teams most frequently mentioned in trade rumors land in those two groups. If they didn’t really feel like they had a chance of making the postseason, the Bulls, Raptors or Jazz might have already pulled the trigger on a trade or number of trades.

The trade deadline is a little less than a month away and there’s still a lot that could change between now and then. It’s possible that the decisions are made for those teams by losing streaks, injuries or some other factor outside their control. But for now, a lot of balls are still up in the air.

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