Thursday, February 20, 2014

Four Things That Might Happen At The NBA Trade Deadline

NBA GM's will be by the phone Thursday, but will anyone big get moved?
By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin)

The NBA Trade Deadline is TODAY, Thursday, at 3 p.m. Here are a few things that might happen:

1. The Knicks trade Iman Shumpert and Ray Felton for Darren Collison and Reggie Bullock (or Matt Barnes)

This one seems probable, and fair for both sides. The money doesn't work out unless the Clippers agree to fit Shumpert's contract into the trade exception they got out of the Eric Bledsoe trade this summer, otherwise they'd have to throw in Willie Green.

The Knicks would get an upgrade at point guard (really, dumping Ray Felton and Ray Felton's love handles is a good thing in and of itself), and it seems like Iman Shumpert has progressed as far as he can under Mike Woodson, who for whatever reason will never get fired, so it makes sense to flip him for a cost-controlled rookie with potential (although it's questionable whether they'll be able to develop Bullock into something useful when they clearly weren't able to do that with Shumpert). If it's Matt Barnes, though - that's hilarious. There's no reason the Knicks should value Barnes over Bullock at this point. None.

For the Clippers, they upgrade in the short-term from Bullock (who isn't playing much) to Shumpert (who gives them a wing defender they need ASAP), and the only cost is a step down at backup point guard (which will start to matter less as Chris Paul's minutes should increase as the Clippers jostle for playoff position).

(Editor's note: Overnight, it was reported that the trade talks fell apart, and Iman Shumpert suffered a sprained MCL)

2. Boston shops Rajon Rondo

There have been a few rumors bandied about already, including one reported offer (it may have just been "talks," not an official offer) from Sacramento in which Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore, and a first-round pick would go to Boston. There's no way this trade would have worked money-wise, Sacramento would have needed to throw in a mid-range salary - in all likelihood it would have been Marcus Thornton.

However, with Thornton getting dealt today to Brooklyn, it appears Boston partnering with Sacramento is dead.

Another discussion could possibly be happening with Houston, who have reportedly expressed interest in Rondo. Houston's disgruntled and benched center Omer Asik would likely be involved to match up salaries, and Asik still has value for a team prepared to play him starter's minutes. Houston, however, has seemed to have balked at the idea of also including forward Chandler Parsons. Still, Houston has a number of draft picks available to sweeten the deal (that's an inside-NBA term for "add sugar to"), as well as desirable players on cheap contracts - Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, or Patrick Beverley.

My guess is that if Boston insists on receiving Parsons in return, no deal is consummated. But if they back off that request, Houston could swoop in and make a deal happen. I'm confused, however, as to why Houston values Rondo so highly, considering they already have ball-dominant guards in Jeremy Lin and James Harden, and Rondo is a woefully poor shooter from range, which would cause headaches in Houston's pace-and-space offense in which distance shooting is even more of an emphasis. All in all, I wouldn't expect Rondo to move.

3. Snoozefest

As has happened in previous years, I wouldn't be surprised if nobody of note is moved at the deadline. A few other notable trades have already taken place - the Kings, Cavs, and Wizards have already pushed their chips into the pot when they dealt for Rudy Gay, Luol Deng, and Marcin Gortat, respectively, earlier this season. The Knicks gave up what few tradeable assets they had when they received Andrea Bargnani from Toronto. And with the upcoming draft class seemingly loaded with talent, teams are hesitant at near-unprecedented levels to part with No. 1 draft picks, heavily protected or not.

Many of the teams on the playoff bubble looking to make a push simply don't have the assets they'd need to make something happen. A team like Detroit would have trouble making a move unless they opt to part with Greg Monroe (and rumors with him as the subject have been few and far between lately) or there's a team out there dying to take on $17 million worth of expiring contracts in the form of Charlie Villanueva and Rodney Stuckey. Pau Gasol is reportedly on the market, but it would be Suessical for the Pistons to trade for another center with their frontcourt as cluttered as it is. Detroit would be looking for a swingman, but the only high-profile guys that have been on the market either already moved (Rudy Gay) or seem to be in the process of removed from the trade block (Arron Afflalo).

4. Kyle Lowry, Pau Gasol, Kenneth Faried, and Harrison Barnes are shopped

Toronto is firmly in the playoff hunt even though it's unclear whether they want to be or not. Trading Kyle Lowry for forty cents on the dollar seems like a good way to plummet out of the Eastern Conference bracket over the next 30 games. But there aren't many teams jonesing for a point guard, especially if the Knicks make the deal from bullet No. 1. The Bulls might be looking to deal for a guard, but they don't have much by way of future assets, unless they fork over Nikola Mirotic, currently playing in Spain. Here's one possibility (assume Mirotic or a pick is also involved).

The Lakers seem to want to part ways with Gasol. They'd like to dip under the luxury tax if possible, and being squarely out of the playoff race, could look to flip Gasol for a young prospect. The Suns have a number of young bigs that could be moved, and it might be a good time to sell high on Miles Plumlee, who has slowed down after a hot start.

The Nuggets have seemingly been shopping Faried all season. He doesn't fit in with the new regime in Denver, who want big men who can defend the pick-and-roll capably (Faried can't) and would prefer to have big men who can play with their back to the basket (another thing Faried can't do). Cleveland would probably be willing to send Tristan Thompson (folded into Denver's trade exception from the Andre Iguodala deal) and Jarrett Jack in exchange for Faried and Andre Miller (who has fallen out of favor).

Harrison Barnes has been experiencing some growing pains in Golden State. In last year's playoffs, he was a real playmaker, especially at power forward when he was surrounded by two point guards, an excellent defensive big, and shooting everywhere. Now that he's playing more at small forward, he's regressing. The Warriors are in win-now mode, only they aren't winning much, so they might look to flip Barnes for someone more useful in the short-term, preferably someone who can play both forward spots. Phoenix, if they aren't interested in Pau Gasol (or even if they are), might want to buy low on Barnes, who vaguely has star potential down the road. They have a cavalcade of No. 1 picks at their disposal (their own, Indiana's, Washington's, and Minnesota's), and a number of cheap and mid-sized contracts to work with. Something like this (with Phoenix throwing in the least desirable of their No. 1's - Indiana's) could work.

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