1) Which rotation player is leaving his team, where is he going, and what’s it going to take to get him there (Potentially leaves room for buyout options)?
Jared: I’ll say it’s Kirk Hinrich and he’s heading to the Lakers for a conditional first round pick since his $8.1 million salary fits inside LA’s $8.9 million Lamar Odom trade exception. He’s averaging a career low in minutes per game and he has no future in Atlanta; he’s not going to be their starting point guard (that’s Jeff Teague) and he’s not their starting shooting guard (Joe Johnson). He doesn’t even really appear to be a part of their plans for this season. But he’s a capable 3-point shooter – 37.8% for his career – and is an upgrade on defense over both Derek Fisher and Steve Blake. The Lakers’ point guard play this season has been so abysmal that Hinrich, even in the worst year of his career, constitutes an upgrade. And Atlanta’s owners, famous for their frugality, may just look to shed salary at this point.
Connor: Chris Kaman. Kaman is still a fairly competent center, an asset that many contending teams covet. I’d guess the Rockets will make a decent offer for Kaman, possibly including Jordan Hill, who has improved, and a second-round pick.
Noam: Jamal Crawford and the Blazers should politely and mutually say goodbye. The implosion up in Portland means nobody but LaMarcus Aldridge should be safe, especially struggling 31 year olds who don’t make much sense for teams that aren’t in the running for anything substantial.
The Wolves and the Pacers are two young teams with financial leeway and a need for a bench scorer. The Blazers probably want a first round pick, but I’d assume a serviceable guard such as Luke Ridnour or maybe even A.J. Price should be enough to fill in the empty slot in their suddenly decaying backcourt.
Sean: It’s virtually a lock that Ramon Sessions won’t be a Cavalier after March 15th, right? If I had to guess, I’ll say he ends up on the Lakers. He’s better than Raymond Felton (whom they could probably get for Lamar Odom’s trade exception alone) and won’t cost nearly as much as Kyle Lowry (who has been linked to the Lakers more because of Houston’s interest in Pau Gasol than any indications that KLOE is available). It’s a good fit.
Matt: Jamal Crawford, probably to the Clippers, who don’t mind leveraging assets to fix the hole at 2-guard and have to keep Chris Paul. Won’t take much. Bledsoe, some filler, the pick is nice but not necessary, maybe Williams if they play it right. Portland can sell high but the buyers may drop out as the week goes on.
Conrad: Jamal Crawford. The Trailblazers are a total mess and Jamal Crawford seems like an asset that could help a contending team. No idea what they’ll get in return, but I could see him going to the Clippers or Bulls or something like that.
2) At this trade deadline, who will be known less for their name and more as their name + ” ‘s Expiring Contract?”
Jared: I honestly don’t really see this player out there. Usually, the “X’s Expiring Contract” guy is one who is in the last year of a bloated deal and his salary can be included in a block-buster move where the team trading the better player is looking for salary cap space, young players and picks. Dwight Howard is the marquee piece available at the deadline, but that doesn’t seem to be the kind of package the Magic are looking for. If Boston lets go of Rajon Rondo, LA trades Pau Gasol or Atlanta deals Josh Smith, they likely won’t be looking for that kind of return either.
Connor: I’m tempted to say Boris Diaw. Diaw can be had at an incredibly low price (I’d guess for a second-round pick, or maybe just cash considerations), and still possesses the skills to add something beneficial to a rotation. Perhaps he’ll be motivated once he leaves the cellar-dwelling Bobcats, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Noam: For the first time since forever, I’d venture that nobody. The new financial landscape means teams are very weary of taking on salary, so much so that even the mighty Lakers are looking at a potentially useful trade exception with disgust. The expiring contracts that might be moved are Chris Kaman or Antawn Jamison types â€“ veterans on bad teams who might be picked up by a playoff team in need of a bench contributor.
Sean: I can’t think of anyone on the level of Eddy Curry last year or Zydrunas Ilgauskas the year before. The closest thing would probably be Chris Kaman, but he can definitely still play and could help a contender. It’s fair to say that everyone being floated heavily at this year’s trade deadline can be viewed as a player, not just a trade chip, something that definitely can’t be said of the last several years.
Matt: It’s Antawn, which is sad, because he’s actually a pretty good player still.
Conrad: Antawn Jamison. He’s got a $15 million expiring contract and while they aren’t as valuable this year, it could be an asset that teams like the Atlanta Hawks or New Orleans Hornets are interested in.
3) Which season-long silent team is going to surprise us all with a deadline move, and what will it be?
Jared: The Bulls will make a move for a shooting guard. Chicago has been content to sit tight with their shooting guard trio of Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and Rip Hamilton because they thought Hamilton being available for the playoffs would be enough to put them over the top. But Hamilton just can’t stay healthy. Chicago is really good, but if they get in another series with the Heat and don’t have a perimeter creator outside of Derrick Rose again, they’re just not going to get past them. Who is this magic 2-guard that can help the Bulls get past the flying death machine? That’s a better question. Captain Jack (Stephen Jackson) is readily available, but his enigmatic personality may not be the best fit in Chicago’s locker room.
Connor: The Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks have a plethora of bad contracts and an unhappy Stephen Jackson in tow, and reports of a possible Andrew Bogut trade have been swirling lately. If the Bucks can unload some bad contracts and get decent value in return, a Bogut trade wouldn’t surprise me.
Noam: The Detroit Pistons have to be thinking about something, right? There’s no way things can go on like this. Greg Monroe is a monster in the making who needs two more years before he stops getting killed defensively, Rodney Stuckey has become underrated while working under a blanket of obscurity, Jonas Jerebko has hustled into each and every one of our hearts, and Brandon Knight will become a very good player when he stops being awful.
Other than that, though? Where does this roster begin and end? Why can’t Austin Daye make shots? Why is Damien Wilkins still in the league? Has anybody seen Ben Gordon since 2009? Is Jason Maxiell really the 5th best player on an NBA team? Joe Dumars has had some strong draft picks, but they’ve appeared too scarcely among a series of move too disastrous. This season is a unibrow-hopeful throwaway as is â€“ might as well get started with the cleanup.
Sean: The obvious one here is the Bulls, who need to make a play for more help at shooting guard, since the Rip Hamilton experiment isn’t working out as planned. I’m not sure who that could be, though. Ray Allen would probably be too expensive. Ditto Jamal Crawford, who it seems should be able to be had easily, but current indications are that Portland is asking for a first-round pick for him.
Matt: San Antonio. There’s a window there and they can see it, and they know they don’t need much to make a run. One big is all it takes and they have the depth to make a move.
Conrad: I’m still holding onto hope that the Phoenix Suns come out of nowhere and trade Steve Nash. They’ve said that they won’t but I think they might surprise everybody and move their franchise player.
4) What would it take to send [Coveted Player X] to [Perfect Fit Destination Y]?
Jared: What would it take to send Dwight Howard to the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets? Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks, a first round pick every other year from now until 2055 and Mikhail Prokhrov litch-rally (Rob Lowe voice) holding a gun to Otis Smith’s head.
Connor: The idea of a Dwight Howard “rental” trade is intriguing to me, and it’s something I would like to see the Warriors or Rockets attempt. Howard would immediately make a gigantic difference for both teams, especially on defense. The Rockets could offer a deal including Patrick Patterson (young, good rotational player), Kevin Martin (still capable of scoring very well, but not currently fitting well in Houston), Chase Budinger (consistently decent), and possibly Goran Dragic (one of the best backup point guards in the league; capable of starting) for Howard. That’s not too bad of a haul for the Magic, especially if it becomes clear Howard is likely to leave after the season. As for the Warriors, an acceptable deal might be harder to find, but maybe Otis Smith is enamored with the basketball talents of Monta Ellis.
Noam: What would it take to send Rajon Rondo to the Indiana Pacers? Sadly, a Danny Ainge breakdown. Rondo was probably never as good as
the post-2010 playoff hoopla would have led you to believe, but despite the offensive limitations, he is the league’s premier defensive point guard and an elite floor general who thrives on the big stage and can post numbers the likes of which we haven’t seen.
The Pacers, meanwhile, sport an impressive ensemble lacking in that one elite guy who always knows who he needs to find, where they can be
found, and how they should be found. If Indiana can capitalize on Boston’s bizarre desire to get rid of him for any combination of players on their roster that doesn’t include Paul George, David West or Roy Hibbert, the Pacers become the frontrunner for the Eastern 3 seed.
Sean: To me, the best fit for Dwight Howard basketball-wise is Chicago. The deal itself would look something like Noah/Asik/Deng for Dwight/Hedo, but it would also take Howard deigning to share the spotlight with Derrick Rose, even though it’s widely known that he wants to be “the man.”
Matt: These things are never perfect. Fans always spend time trying to find deals they think work for both teams. Guess what, there’s always a team taht doesn’t recognize the deal is horrible for them. That’s what makes trades fun. There’s one team that inevitably gets screwed, or we think gets screwed and then winds up OK.
Conrad: It would take both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum to get Dwight Howard to the Lakers. Just do it already.
5) Who’s going to have a fire sale that might not need to, and who won’t but should?
Jared: Portland for the first one and Washington for the second. The Blazers don’t look anything like the team that started off the season on fire and they might miss the playoffs. Supposedly, everyone from Ray Felton to Gerald Wallace is available, but that’s really not necessary. If they just play the season out, they should be in good shape even if they miss the playoffs – and they might even be in better shape that if they make it. If Gerald Wallace and Jamal Crawford decline their player options (which they likely will), Portland has just over $26 million in committed salary next season, leaving them with about $32 million plus the room exception in a robust free agent market. If they miss the playoffs, they’ll also have a top-15 – and possibly higher if they strike gold in the lottery – pick in one of the deepest drafts in a while to add to LaMarcus Aldridge, Wes Mathews and whoever they can get with that $32 million.
Washington just needs to get rid of everybody not named John Wall, Chris Singleton and Jan Vesely. Guys like Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and Nick Young have just got to go. Wall is the future and the face of the franchise, it’s time to get the lazy, immature and for lack of a better word, stupid, players out of the same locker room as him. Go young, get another high draft pick and start changing the culture of the franchise. You’re never going to win games with those guys anyway, get something – anything – for them while you still can.
Connor: Portland seems keen on making several significant trades, but I feel only a trade of Ray Felton or Jamal Crawford is truly necessary (or any trade that returns a decent point guard). The Bucks, as I mentioned earlier, make sense in this space. The franchise has been mired in mediocrity and monetary losses during the last couple of years, and needs to focus on developing promising young players like Jon Leuer, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Ersan Ilaysova.. If not the Bucks, the Bobcats will likely try to trade whoever they can (excluding Bismack Biyombo, Kemba Walker, and maybe Gerald Henderson), so a trade of D.J. Augustin, Tyrus Thomas, and/or Boris Diaw seems relatively likely.
Noam: The Celtics look ready to blow things up, but I’m not really sure why. It’s not that I think this roster is going anywhere â€“ if they manage to make a first-round series competitive I’d be surprised â€“ it’s just that no trade out there makes sense. Rondo is too good to just give away, Garnett and Allen are coming off the books anyway, and nobody else is financially noteworthy. Unless you want to stab your collective fan base by denying Paul Pierce the opportunity to retire in Celtic green, the dismantling of the Big Three doesn’t make sense unless it happens in the summer â€“ nothing earlier, nothing later.
The Hawks, meanwhile, are done. Enough is enough. Josh Smith is single-handedly holding this team together but he wants out. Joe Johnson is an unshoppable contract that should be shopped regardless, because there is no alternative. Their entire bench has been taken directly from a fantasy draft in NBA Live 2005. Everybody but the injured Al Horford has to go. Tank, Atlanta. Tank. Forget playoff revenue, we can’t watch you do this anymore.
Sean: There’s a case to be made that Portland fits into both of those categories. On the one hand, they’re shopping virtually their entire roster, if they stay the course with Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford, unless they get their act together on their current seven-game road trip (not likely), they’ll probably miss the playoffs and come out of the season with a lottery pick and a ton of cap space. On the flip side, Paul Allen may not want to commit to a rebuild, which might prevent them from using Crawford, Felton, Gerald Wallace, and Marcus Camby to acquire assets of some kind. Basically, nobody knows what the hell is going on with the Blazers right now.
Matt: Portland. The ship, it has the water, yo. Cleveland always waits too long to liquidate. They move forward, but at the pace of the Catholic Church.
Conrad: I don’t really see anybody having a fire sale, but if someone does it will probably be Portland. You can’t have that nice of a roster and big of a payroll and just tank the season. You’ve got to do something. As for a team that SHOULD have a fire sale but won’t, that’s easy — Boston Celtics. Looking forward, I think their rebuilding process isn’t going to be easy and they’d be wise to shake things up and get as many young assets as they can.
6) What’s the only SHEED-like* move you see possible (Defined as trading for a player that directly contributes to getting a championship that season. Could also include signing SHEED off waivers right now.)?
Jared: I’m discounting Dwight going to LA, Golden State or New Jersey because it doesn’t put any of those teams over the top this year, it’s a move made with an eye toward the future. I see three possible moves that could legitimately swing the championship.
2. Ray Allen to the Clippers (plus a first round pick to Boston) – This wouldn’t solve all of the Clippers’ problems on defense, but it would make them damn near impossible to guard on the other end. They’re already 5th in the league in offensive efficiency and they don’t really have a shooting guard. Allen steps right in and should be even better in that spot than Chauncey Billups was. He picks up some – okay, most – of the outside shooting burden currently being split by Caron Butler, Mo Williams and Randy Foye, improves their defense at the 2 and gives them another legitimate crunch time sniper to go along with Chris Paul. This team that has been wildly unimaginative in clutch situations (check Chris Paul’s usage in the clutch last year compared to this year) and adding Allen gives them another option late.
3. Ray Allen to the Bulls (plus a first round pick to Boston) – Like I said earlier, a shooting guard would do wonders for the Bulls. And I can’t think of a better fit than Allen. He’s a sniper, he’s championship-tested, he can dig in on defense when he needs to and he draws people out of the lane and away from Derrick Rose. He opens up a new dimension in their late-game offense because of the respect you have to show him on the perimeter and he can make Miami pay when they gamble too far with their aggressive trapping of Rose-Noah or Rose-Boozer pick-and-rolls.
Connor: If Chris Kaman is bought out of his contract and signs with Miami, an idea that’s been alluded to in some reports, that might be enough to make the Heat nearly impossible to defeat in a seven-game series.
Noam: While the East is fairly clearly a two-team affair, I think basically every team from San Antonio to Houston in the West is a lucky break or two from possibly knocking off Oklahoma City from the favorite perch. And no break will be luckier than the Rockets finally getting their hands on Pau Gasol, an elite big man who has somehow been marginalized to wallowing in the high post as vampires take shots while triple-teamed around him. if the Lakers are insisting on moving their Spaniard, no team can offer a better return than the Rockets, who have enough expendable pieces to cure even the worst cases of those that lack depth while still surrounding their prize with a playoff-ready roster.
Sean: I’m not sure they have the draft picks to get it done, but if the talk of Ray Allen to the Clippers comes to fruition, that team will be an extremely tough out in the playoffs.
Matt: If Crawford goes to a contender that’s going to mess some people up. You do NOT want to run into him in a dark second-round alley in a close game. Ask Orlando.
Conrad: Directly contributes to getting a championship this season? It’s gotta be Ramon Sessions going to the Lakers. That team is probably a competent point guard away from being a real threat to the Thunder in the Western Conference.