Tuesday, February 16, 2016

NBA Trade Deadline: Look Around The League

Everyone is chasing Golden State, who had 3 representatives at this weekend's ASG (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Here's hoping you’re enjoying the All-Star game hangover, where the entertainment has been consumed and everyone is waiting for things to go back to a normal schedule. There was an exhilarating 3 point contest between (Splash) brothers, and one of the best dunk contests we’ve seen since Toronto had the best dunker in NBA history representing for their franchise. But amidst the jubilation and celebration there are quiet undertones of business transactions being proposed and (perhaps) completed.  Keep in mind that in addition to all the NBA players staying in Toronto this weekend, there were executives up there too.  With the trade deadline looming on February 18th, any moves will need to be made quickly.  And with Golden State completely dominating the league, perhaps even the better teams will be looking to make a splash.  So this Look Around the League is dedicated to trade rumors. It’s like High School gossip, but without the messy lunch period squabble.
Howard could be moving teams...again. Photo:Doug Pensinger Getty Images Sport

Dwight Howard

The biggest name on the block (see what I did there?) is Dwight Howard.  The former defensive player of the year and MVP candidate is averaging his fewest points per game since his rookie season, and has had trouble staying healthy upon returning from injury. He’s still a beast on the boards and has nights where he looks like his athletically dominant self.  He has a player option (meaning he can extend the length of his current contract for what would be $23 million salary for next season), or opt out and hit the free agent market.  With his injuries, it is difficult to say exactly what the most prudent course of action is for the big man.  If he exercises the option, there is a real chance he would be maximizing his pay for that year and would audition for the following year with a better season.  But it is precisely because of his health issues that Howard may want the stability and peace of mind that comes with a long-term deal now, for what will more than likely be the final big contract of his career.

Potential Suitor(s): Miami Heat, Boston Celtics

Al Horford

The Hawks are just a game out of third place and yet there is a consistent buzz that the All-Star could be on the move.  He’s still a versatile scorer and quality defender playing at an awesome level.  His contract is up at the end of the year, so the usual complications with uncertainty about the future will arise for any team looking to add him, but any time a player of this caliber is a legitimate acquisition target, a discussion is merited.

Potential Suitor(s): Boston Celtics

The Wake Forest product, Jeff Teague, could be on the move. Photo: Getty Images

Jeff Teague

Teague is a slick, athletic point guard in a league that nearly demands that a championship team have talent at the position.  Moreover, Teague is better than any point guard that will be available in free agency this summer.  He is locked into making  8 million dollars next year, he’ll be a bargain next season once the increase in TV/internet money increases the salary cap.  His fate may depend on whether the team moves away from Horford. If Horford is moving, the team that won 60 games last year may be signaling a rebuild.
Potential Suitor(s):  Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic

Rudy Gay

He’s quietly averaging 18 and 7 on 50% eFG (2nd highest of his career).  His contract gets more palatable as the salary cap increases. He’s got a stigma of improving a team only after he is dealt, but a seasoned scorer with big time talent could help some ball club go from good, to a contender.  It’s all an arms race with Golden State, anyway.

Selfishly, I don’t want Gay to leave. I LOVE this team. DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo just work on a real, and natural level. Their transition defense is awful and they turn the ball over way too much, but…I mean, come on it’s Rondo, Boogie, and Rudy Gay all under one roof! Of course I’m going to root for these guys, they’re damn near the Major League of the NBA. Please don’t break up this team, Vivek. Please.

Certain teams will be mentioned frequently on either side of trade talk; either because they have assets and want to dramatically improve their team right now, or because they have resigned themselves to the fact that this isn’t their year.  With that in mind, here is a list of teams that could be looking to make a deal come the deadline.

One or both of these guys may be gone by the EOB Thursday Photo: Kim Klement, USA Today Sports

Orlando Magic

There have been reports that Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris are available for the right price.  The right price, in Orlando’s parlance, is probably an established player that can shoot in the backcourt.  While Oladipo and Elfrid Paryton are capable players, the backcourt combo can struggle at times to space the floor . Moreover, the Magic have compiled young talent, but still lack any significant veteran presence. Eventually, this team wasn’t going to be able to take their entire young core with them to prominence, now is as good a time as any with their glutton of forwards to move one or two for the benefit of the franchise.


Dwight Howard has already been discussed, but when a head coach comes out and says that  his team is broken, there is a good chance the squad will look different before and after the trade deadline. This team that was a Western Conference Finals participant last season is now “not on the same page” and would miss the playoffs if they started today. Life came at Houston fast.

Isaiah Thomas will need help if the C's are to improve


A potential suitor comes in the form of the Boston Celtics, with lots of draft picks and David Lee’s salary to trade, they are loaded with attractive assets for any other big talent acquisition the young team would need to improve. Despite its history of excellence in the league, the franchise is having a difficult time with luring free agents to go there.   That realization led management to acquire assets for the possibility of bartering a star-studded future for a realistic attempt at present relevancy.


I didn’t include the Kevin Love rumors because I really have a hard time with the idea of them moving him.  They just gave him a lucrative deal, but with rumors of Horford and perhaps an outside chance of Blake Griffin (not included in-depth here because of the repeated strong, albeit conspicuous denials by Clippers management) being available, a comparable set of talent and skill seems to be at least sort of feasible. Even without a Love blockbuster deal, they have been linked in talks with the Kings’ Ben McLemore.  The  3rd year player is posting career high shooting percentages while posting career low minutes numbers. He is an athletic wing player capable of knocking down the three, a valuable asset for any team that has eyes on beating the Warriors.


It’s amazing that a team that won 60 games last season may be thinking about a rebuild, but here they are.  There are rumors that everyone except Millsap is available.  They may realize that they have maxed out their potential with this roster and desire a completely different look.  Can a team a game out of third place already be giving up? Is this the new NBA where it’s championship or bust for half the league?


The Nuggets have been spinning their wheels for years.  They had a nice run awhile back following the Melo trade, but the pieces have stopped working in concert.  Forwards Kenneth Faried and Danilo Gallinari have been mentioned around the league, but essentially anyone but rookie Emmanuel Mudiay and surprise play-maker Will Barton seem to be available.  Keep an eye on this squad as they look to figure out how not to be an annual “also ran” candidate.

The NBA trade deadline is like second Christmas to basketball fans.  Maybe your team will get the gift of an All-Star under the tree. There is even a website where youcan propose trades to really get yourself into a tizzy. It’s important to keep in mind now that the college basketball season is nearly over and the talent has started to thoroughly be assessed, that the draft picks being floated about as assets are more real in terms of who they may represent.  Before that was a nameless, faceless top 10 pick your team was sheepishly brandying about, now it may be Buddy Hield your team is giving up on. That makes a difference, and makes the potential trades all the more tantalizing.

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