As I write this, the NBA trade deadline is just about 60 hours away, and with each passing second, we creep closer to that final buzzer. 3 PM Eastern Time on February 20th – that’s when the NBA market shuts down. And with the deadline looming, teams around the league are exploring, contemplating, and imagining. Some are imagining opposing players in their own jerseys, some are imagining hoarding up future draft picks, and some are focused single-mindedly on the accounts chart, hoping to clear up as much cap space as possible. Some wanna get better now, some wanna get better later, and some are clueless.
So what’s going to happen in the next two and half days? Will we see earth-shattering deals that change the picture of entire conferences or will we see a year where someone like JJ Reddick is the biggest name moved? There aren’t too many big names or current All Stars involved in serious trade rumours this season, but here are the top players that could be on the market if their team gets an exciting offer or two:
Pau Gasol (Lakers): The reigning king – and perhaps the All Time leader – of trade rumours, it seems that every off-season and close to every deadline, Pau Gasol’s name gets mentioned in a fake trade or ten. I don’t think anyone in the league has been almost traded as much as Gasol from the Lakers. A few years ago, ‘basketball reasons’ cancelled the trade that would’ve sent Pau to Houston and Chris Paul to the Lakers. Over the next few years came unfinished trades in exchange for Kevin Love to the Timberwolves, Rajon Rondo to the Celtics, Carlos Boozer to the Bulls, and even former teammate Andrew Bynum to the Cavaliers. Near this year’s deadline, Pau has been involved in rumours that will send him to Phoenix who would like an upgrade now in exchange for the expiring contract of Emeka Okafor to the rebuilding Lakers.
Greg Monroe (Pistons): The Pistons are in a logjam. After starting their season off with high expectations for their upgraded squad, they still find themselves just outside the weak Eastern Conference playoff picture. Their biggest issue? Their best player – Josh Smith – plays out of his favoured position of power forward which is currently occupied by the young and talented Greg Monroe. For the Pistons, it might be time to sever ties with Monroe, who has the potential to get them a few solid pieces in return and would free up the space for Smith in the crowded post area. If the right offer comes along, they might push the trigger now to move forward with the Jennings-Smith-Drummond core and hope that the trades can help them break into the playoffs.
Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, and Spencer Hawes (76ers): Attention contending teams: the Philadelphia 76ers are ready to blow things up and start afresh, and they have more than a few interesting pieces that could help you turn that slightly-incomplete team into a champion.
Despite their team’s struggles this season (15-39), Turner, Young, and Hawes have shown that they could be significant NBA contributors in the right system, as long as they have a better core of players around them. All three offer an important skill or two that could plug in the holes for various teams.
Assuming that 76ers want to build around their younger core of Michael Carter-Williams and the injured Nerlens Noel, I expect them to trade at least one (if not more) of their other starters if they are tempted with future draft picks.
Andre Miller, Kenneth Faried (Nuggets): Despite being respected as one of the NBA’s most dependable pros and a solid backup PG, Andre Miller’s argument with Nuggets coach Brian Shaw and the suspension that followed may have sealed his fate with the team. Miller hasn’t played for the Nuggets or been part of team activities since the new year, but obviously still has the talent and leadership qualities to become an important mentor and contributor to any other team.
Meanwhile, Kenneth Faried’s name has been thrown around in trade rumours since the season began, as several teams have been interested in his talents while the Nuggets try to go in a different direction. It might not take much to send Miller away, but only a good enough offer could entice Denver to let go of the energetic and popular Faried over the next two days.
Kyle Lowry (Raptors): After the Raptors traded Rudy Gay, they briefly may have considered rebuilding and starting over, and point guard Kyle Lowry was nearly sent to the Knicks. Instead, Lowry stayed and blossomed into one of the top PGs in the conference, earning him a spot in my list of top All Star snubs. Things are more settled now in Toronto as the Raptors have been playing magnificent basketball atop the Atlantic Division. But could the Raptors still explore a trade for Lowry? The Knicks and a few other teams might still be pursuing him, and his career best numbers (16.7 ppg, 7.6 apg) could make him a game-changer wherever he goes, but my prediction is that the Raptors will stick with the core and look to get better now, rather than later.
Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin (Rockets): Asik’s ‘on again, off again’ relationship with the trading block has been Gasol-esque this season, and perhaps no player is looking forward to the deadline more than him this season. The Rockets are doing great (36-17) without him: Asik has only played 20 games this season, most of them with limited minutes, too. Any team could use a hard-working low-block player like him, but do Houston wish to keep him and try to assimilate, or end the drama before the deadline passes?
Meanwhile, point guard Jeremy Lin is in surprise trade discussions, too. Not because of his talents (he’s enjoying a fantastic season) but because the Rockets might now consider him expendable after the rise of Patrick Beverley. The problem with both Asik and Lin are their unfavourable contracts which very few teams might want to deal with.
Iman Shumpert (Knicks): After finishing second in the East last season, the Knicks have struggled mightily this time around and have been desperate to make moves all season to show Carmelo Anthony that they’re serious to build a contender around him. Unfortunately, there is little that they have or want to offer that other teams might be interested in. This is why Iman Shumpert is in trade rumours every week: he has the talent to thrive under the right conditions, but the Knicks’ management also consider him expendable if they can package him in a deal for a better player. If the Knicks do pull of a trade before the deadline, chances are that Shumpert is the centre-piece heading out of New York.
Rajon Rondo (Celtics): Goodbye Garnett, Pierce, and Coach Doc Rivers. Hello Rebuilding. Rajon Rondo is the only remaining artefact of the 2008 Celtics’ championship squad and, after recovering from his ACL injury, is the team’s sole captain and leader. But Boston has shown no qualms about squeezing the value out of every commodity, and as the league’s reigning assist leader, Rondo is the last good commodity they have left. The question for the Celtics now is: do they rebuild with the young players and future draft picks around Rondo, or do they trade Rondo too to restart with a whole new crew? When healthy, Rondo is the most talented player on this list, and would add immediate superstar value to wherever he ends up.