Should I stay or should I go?
We are less than a week away from D-Day.
That is, ‘Deadline Day’, as in, the trade deadline in the NBA. The chaos that precedes the dates inching closer to the ‘D-Day’ (March 15th this year) has become an annual NBA tradition, following other such traditions such as the free-agency flurry, the rookie wall, the Wizards tanking for a high draft pick, Kobe taking too many shots, and LeBron choking in the playoffs.
A year ago, the trade deadline featured a list of big and small names that really shook up NBA fans. The Knicks brought in Carmelo Antony from the Nuggets for half their squad and the Nets got Deron Williams from the Jazz. The Celtics gave away Kendrick Perkins and their soul to the Thunder, who sent Jeff Green back their way. The Trailblazers got Gerald Wallace from the Bobcats and the Clippers sent Baron Davis and a first round pick to the Cavs in exchange for Mo Williams: that first round pick later became this year’s #1 pick Kyrie Irving!
With only one and half months to go in the regular season after D-Day, the deadline can be a crucial time for teams taking aim at the NBA championship. So who will be in a different jersey one week from now? Which team will take a bold risk and who will make the foolish mistakes? Here are my top nominees for players most likely to be traded before the trade deadline:
Dwight Howard: There is no name you’ll be more sick of hearing for the rest of this week. Dwight Howard is the best Center in the league which is anemic when it comes to Centers. He is one of the best players in the league. But he is unhappy in Magic, who despite being a top-tier team in the East, show no sign of being legitimate contenders. He may be unhappy in the city of Orlando, too, and may want to move to a bigger market. And now, with his contract expiring at the end of this season, the Magic have some decisions to make about D12. Should they ‘pull a Melo’, as in, trade him now to get good value, or watch him ‘pull a LeBron’, meaning leave them with nothing to sign for a new team at the end of the season? Of course, there is the third option, that they can somehow (maybe through a trade), convince Howard to resign in with the Magic and spend the prime years of his life playing in Orlando.
Unfortunately for Magic fans, I don’t think option #3 looks too likely for them. Howard is going to leave the squad, whether through trade now or through free agency later. This will seem like deja-vu to the Magic fans, who saw another dominating Center leave them 16 years ago, when Shaq bolted for the Lakers. It’s in their best interest to start listening (Orlando GM Otis Smith claims ALL the other 29 teams have inquired about him!) There are too many scenarios to count here, but the Lakers, Warriors, Nets, Clippers, Knicks, and even Thunder have already been mentioned in the rumours. Howard is good enough to completely change whichever franchise he joins, but for the perfect trade, the stipulations will have to be just right: a team will have to give up a major piece (or several minor pieces) to acquire him, but also have enough talent left to surround Howard with so that he signs with them for the long term.
Deron Williams: Ever since his move to the Nets, the bottom-dwellers in the NBA, Deron Williams has gone under-the-radar in the league. Except for his stint in Turkey and his recent 57-point explosion, he has been denied the hype that he deserves as one of the best point guards in the league. Still, he is in a similar situation to Howard, playing for a team that he isn’t happy with and has an expiring contract. But there doesn’t seem to be the same trade fervour around D-Will that is there with Howard. I don’t really expect him to be traded this season, but then again, I didn’t expect him to be traded last season, either! With the Nets moving to Brooklyn, they may have a little more glamour on their side to try and convince Williams to stay beyond this season, but I doubt it. It is no secret that the Dallas Mavericks have cleared cap space to try and sign him before the next season, and Williams, a Dallas native, will be more than happy to return home and play for a contender.
Rajon Rondo: “I think I’ve been playing better since the trade rumours, so keep them coming.” Rajon Rondo of the Celtics dropped this quote soon after he destroyed the Knicks with a masterful 18 points, 17 rebound, 20 assist performance. If you have been noticing, apart from the brief injury lay-off, Rondo has been on an absolute tear this season, the same season where he has also been in the middle of trade rumours that will send him out of Boston. He was strongly connected with a trade for Chris Paul before the season began, and, with the deadline approaching, the Celtic owners have gone back and forth publically with their wishes to keep him or send him away.
While the rumours only seem to make Rondo stronger, a trade away from Boston could be highly detrimental to the franchise. Rondo is a one-of-a-kind talent and will make every team he plays in better. Truly looking to pass first and look for his shot second, he will be wholly missed by Boston’s ‘Big Three’, who, with age catching up with them, will find it more and more difficult to find their offense without him. The Celtics are definitely not getting younger and the current squad doesn’t look championship-ready, so I can understand why they want to make a move. But unless they receive truly fair value for Rondo, they should do their best to keep him.
Pau Gasol: In a perfect, un-tampered-with world, Gasol wouldn’t be on this list, because in that world, Gasol would have already been traded away from the Lakers to the Rockets before the season began. In that world, the Lakers, and not the Clippers, would’ve had Chris Paul. But we are in the real world, the world where the NBA mysteriously blocks that trade and Pau Gasol returns to his Laker jersey to continue playing under the weight of trade rumours and dissatisfaction with his team’s management. The ‘non-trade’ was more harmful for the Lakers than anything, because it left three of their most important players not named Kobe – Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum – in a limbo. The unhappy Odom had to be given to the Mavericks for nothing but a trade exception, and his career has digressed tragically since. Bynum found himself in constant rumours involving Dwight Howard, but improved his play to keep his team satisfied. And Gasol kept drudging through a mediocre season getting lesser opportunities in the team’s offense and offering little inspiration from his own end.
The Lakers are now seemingly listening to offers about the talented seven-footer again, and several teams including the Rockets (again), Timberwolves, and the Bulls seem to be in the fray of the rumours. Despite having two skilled seven-footers, Mike Brown’s offense in LA hasn’t been able to utilise them fully and relies on Kobe way too much at this point. Lakers need a point guard, and if they were to trade Gasol, they would be looking to go small. For Laker fans, I think losing the unique length that Pau offers can be a huge mistake. He can fit in seamlessly with any new squad he is sent to and, if inspired, can make a big difference in the post-season.
Steve Nash: 39 years old and still going strong. The former 2-time MVP is still leading the NBA in assists. Nash has been a joy to watch for NBA fans over the last decade, but now, he is mostly showing the brilliance in a team that is creeping away from relevance, losing more nights than not. The Suns are out of the playoff picture in the West, and without a strong, young roster around Nash, seem to be going nowhere. That is why a lot of Nash fans have been hoping that the franchise will choose to trade him to a contender instead of letting him finish his career without one final sot at the elusive championship ring.
Nash may be old, but is not much slower than he ever was. It is amazing that he is able to get as many assists as he does, especially when his best teammates are Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat, and a 39-year-old Grant Hill. He is still talented enough to electrify any squad he joins. But Nash is too loyal to the franchise to ever demand a trade himself; I will be hoping that the owners will do the decent thing and trade him to a winning team before the deadline. #FreeSteveNash!
Josh Smith: This is a new name in the rumours, but an important one. Apart from brief, early interest by the Magic, Smith has been away from the trade-talk, toiling away another above average season in Atlanta. But he has recently come out of his shell and made a trade demand to the Hawks. Smith is a talented player, but not talented enough to be the best or the second best player in a championship team. He will fit in well with any squad that is able to use him for the things he does brilliantly: defend, rebound, and provide athletic energy on the offense. After seven years in Atlanta, I want to see him traded to another team just to shake things up a little for a team and a player both stuck in limbo. Some believe that Orlando will try to make a move for Smith to team him up with his friend Dwight Howard, and thus convince Howard to stay, too.
… And the rest of the bunch: Monta Ellis, Stephen Jackson, Michael Beasley, and Jamal Crawford may have all heard their names in trade rumours so far. Any team looking for quickfire offense will be interested in Jackson, Beasley, or Crawford. But Ellis is a real talent here who can be a major contributor to another squad. If he’s moved from the Warriors, it’ll be to bring balance to the team and officially hand the keys of the squad over to Stephen Curry.
So who is going to stay and who will go? If you’re favourite players are on this list, I suggest you take one last good look at them again. They may be wearing completely different colours one week from now.