NBA Trade Rumors: Latest Update on Hot Names on the Block

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2012

NBA Trade Rumors: Latest Update on Hot Names on the Block

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    With would-be contenders looking to acquire a difference-maker and an edge going into the postseason, the NBA's March 15th trade deadline will feel a lot like Christmas morning for some fans this year. 

    None of those fans live in Orlando.

    Aside from the anxiety surrounding Dwight Howard's future, several other big names may be moving on from their teams sooner rather than later.

    Here are the latest updates on the NBA's top trade candidates.

Dwight Howard

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    With Orlando's owner Rich DeVos still holding out hope that the Magic can keep Dwight Howard, nothing is certain in this year's superstar sweepstakes.

    Last season, of course, saw the New York Knicks gut their squad to acquire Carmelo Anthony. The New Jersey Nets remain poised to do the same this year should Orlando determine that a package built around the likes of Brook Lopez and rookie MarShon Brooks is its best available option.

    The scenario may be the best-case scenario for Orlando (unless it can convince the Lakers to part with both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum). In order for the Magic to pull off a worthwhile deal, they'll need to acquire young (though established) talent to replace its lineup of aging role players. 

    Howard, however, may prefer to wait and join the Nets as a free agent so that the team could surround him and Deron Williams with a more talented supporting cast.

    The Dallas Mavericks likewise intend to make a run at both Howard and Deron Williams (who's from Dallas) when the two can become free agents this upcoming offseason.

    From Orlando's standpoint, however, the worst possible scenario would be to lose Howard without any compensation, effectively repeating Shaquille O'Neal's painful exit in 1996.

    Given the haul Denver was able to claim from New York last year (and the Nuggets' subsequent strong play), Orlando should look to do the same unless it makes serious headway wooing Howard to stay.

    Aside from the Nets and Lakers, the Chicago Bulls have recently emerged as a trade destination to Howard's liking. With assets like Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson, the Bulls could put together a package that's both attractive and capable of rebuilding Orlando's front line for the foreseeable future. 

    Unlike the Nets and Lakers, though, Chicago is less desperate to make a big slash. Sitting pretty at 23-7, things in the Windy City clearly ain't broke.

Pau Gasol

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    Kobe Bryant's recent speculation that the Lakers will makes changes this season has reignited questions about what will become of Pau Gasol.

    Since it emerged that Gasol was to be included in the Lakers' failed attempt to land Chris Paul, the conventional wisdom is that Gasol's days in Los Angeles are numbered. The continued speculation that he will be packaged with Andrew Bynum in exchange for Dwight Howard hasn't helped matters. 

    For his part, Gasol has continued to play well. While he was not selected to the Western Conference All-Star team, he's averaged almost 17 points this season to go along with 10.5 rebounds. 

    With Bynum coming into his own. Los Angeles can afford to part with some of its size (and chances are it won't be Bynum). At 31, Gasol can still be a productive star in this league, but he's less untouchable than the younger Bynum.

    Desperate for a new dynasty, Los Angeles may very well prevail in its pursuit of Dwight Howard. While the loss of both Gasol and Bynum would ostensibly gut Los Angeles' front-line depth, throw-ins like Jameer Nelson, Glen Davis or Ryan Anderson could fill out the Lakers' starting five. 

    If Gasol doesn't wind up in Orlando, look for the Houston Rockets to revisit negotiations with the Lakers. Houston would have acquired Gasol in the nixed Paul-to-Lakers deal, and some believe he would instantly become the star Houston needs.

    Los Angeles would likely want a package including point guard Kyle Lowry, though, so the Rockets may not bite.

Steve Nash

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    Steve Nash cast doubts on the possibility of a trade in January, but that hasn't stopped onlookers from begging the Suns to make the move. The latest indications are that while Nash and the Suns alike continue to downplay the probability of a breakup, the organization is closer than it's ever been to finally reading the writing on the wall.

    While it might hurt the Suns' ticket sales in the short term, moving Nash is crucial to an inevitable and overdue rebuilding process. 

    It's also an act of mercy that the franchise icon deserves whether he requests it or not. 

    Phoenix, meanwhile, would do well to get a prospect or two and let the wrecking ball fly. The team is unlikely to be a prime free-agent destination any time soon, and it should stockpile young assets at every opportunity.

    Nash may become Otis Smith's next big ploy to keep Dwight Howard with the Magic. With the NBA's model floor general setting up Orlando's spot-up shooters, Howard might finally have a champion-like supporting cast.

    The Los Angeles Lakers are no doubt in the market for a point guard to take the load off of Derek Fisher and Steve Blake. If Jeremy Lin comes down to earth and Baron Davis continues to sit, Mike D'Antoni's Knicks also may to show interest.

    A number of teams might be good fits for Nash, including the Portland Trailblazers, should they pursue an upgrade over Raymond Felton. 

    Phoenix maintains that it will only move Nash if he asks for a trade. Of course, a perceived reluctance to trade the star also increases the organization's leverage in negotiations. 

    While there hasn't been much chatter about a Nash deal, who knows what he and the front office have discussed behind closed doors? If the Suns franchise were half as classy as Nash, it would spare him a public circus. 

    That doesn't mean Steve Nash will still be a Sun after March 15th.

Boston's Big Three

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    The Boston Celtics are undeniably in the twilight of their contending years, if not already past them. You might see some organizations hold on to their aging stars as a matter of principle.

    But not this Boston Celtics team—not with Danny Ainge at the helm. 

    Boston's general manager told the Boston Globe in January: "If we get the opportunity to make a trade that will help our team, we'll do it."

    He went on to explain that he wasn't proactively attempting to trade anyone, but only after a lengthy recount of watching the 1980s Celtics descend into irrelevance rather than trading Larry Bird, Kevin McHale or Robert Parrish in an effort to rebuild. 

    Apparently, Ainge isn't interested in watching history repeat itself. 

    It's hard to imagine Boston parting with point guard Rajon Rondo, the team's youngest star. He could be added to a package that brought back a bona fide star in his prime, but it would have to be quite a return for Ainge to even consider it. 

    Paul Pierce may have the greatest trade value of the Boston's older assets, but moving him could be viewed as a serious injustice by the Celtics' loyal fanbase. 

    Both Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, however, are in the last years of their contracts and would be desirable rentals for teams in the hunt for a championship. 

    Going into next season, the Celtics are poised to have cap room they could use to surround Rondo and Pierce with younger talent. That also means they're unlikely to take on any long-term contracts for Allen or Garnett.

    The Dallas Mavericks might have the assets to make a run at one of the two veterans, and if the Clippers miss out on J.R. Smith, they should still be in the market for a shooting guard to replace the injured Chauncey Billups. 

    With a couple of trade exceptions to even out salaries, Los Angeles might be able to make a run at Allen. But, other than Eric Bledsoe, it has few prospects left to offer after betting the farm on Chris Paul.

Stephen Jackson

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    While he's yet to explicitly request a trade, Stephen Jackson's latest comments suggest he's still not happy in Milwaukee.

    Much like Ray Allen, Stephen Jackson is an ideal acquisition for a contender seeking help at the 2. Unlike Allen, Jackson is under contract next season, so don't expect him to land with a team determined to preserve cap space for runs at Deron Williams and/or Dwight Howard. 

    That rules out the Mavericks, but don't be surprised if a team like the Clippers, Knicks or Magic end up making a run (especially when the J.R. Smith sweepstakes conclude). 

    Whether or not the Bucks decide to actually trade Jackson is another story altogether. 

    There's a good argument for a change of scenery, namely that coach Scott Skiles has sent Jackson to the periphery of his rotation. In his last 10 games, Jackson is averaging around just 25 minutes a contest.

    While he's still contributing on some nights, he's not getting anywhere near the 35 to 40 minutes of play he'd become accustomed to in his last two tours of duty with Golden State and Charlotte. 

    Despite the limited playing time and a sub-.400 shooting percentage, Jackson remains a productive and multi-talented guard with loads of experience. In the right situation, he could certainly put up more than the 12 points he's been averaging this season.

    With Andrew Bogut's fractured ankle keeping him out at least another couple of months, now might be a good time for the Bucks to start thinking about the future. If the franchise can hold on to Brandon Jennings, it might make sense to surround he and Bogut with a couple more prospects.

    Since Jackson's value probably isn't trending upward (he's 33), now may be the best time to unload him and make the best of it. 

    However, there's also a case to be made that Milwaukee should keep Jackson for the rest of the season and see what happens. If the rangy veteran can settle in as a sixth man, Milwaukee might have a roster capable of staying in the playoff hunt.

Eric Gordon

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    Outside of Dwight Howard, Eric Gordon is one of the few trade possibilities whose best years are almost certainly ahead of him.

    The centerpiece of the trade that sent Chris Paul to the Clippers, Gordon flourished while in Los Angeles, averaging over 22 points and four assists in his third year with the team. 

    His future in New Orleans, however, remains uncertain, and perhaps more so given recent news that he'll miss another six weeks after having arthroscopic knee surgery.

    Though Gordon rejected the Hornets offer for a four-year extension in January, general manager Dell Demps remains optimistic the organization can resign him over the summer.

    Other teams (e.g. the Pacers) will likely pursue Gordon, but since he'll be a restricted free agent, New Orleans can match any offers. If Gordon's knee surgery rattles the market for his services, the Hornets might even be able to keep him at a somewhat reasonable price.

    There may be some sense to the idea of exchanging Gordon for a guy like Danny Granger, who will be under contract for two more seasons, but this is speculation at best. More likely, it's wishful thinking for fans hoping Indiana can take the next step and contend in the East.

    Unless Gordon flat out requests a trade, odds are the Hornets will keep him in their backcourt for years to come.

Chris Kaman

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    Chris Kaman proved he can still play with a 27 point, 13 rebound outburst against Utah on Monday night. The only question is who he'll be playing for come March 15th.

    Chances are it won't be the Hornets.

    New Orleans told Kaman to stay home while it attempted to trade him in January, but the team has since taken him off the market (technically, at least). New Orleans' decision could have more to do with creating leverage than anything else—if teams believe the Hornets are content to keep Kaman, they may be more inclined to sweeten their offers.

    Kaman's $14 million contract expires after the season, and the veteran is better suited to playing a complementary role with a playoff-bound team than he is babysitting for the rebuilding Hornets.

    The seven-footer features a capable post game and good rebounding ability. He's an ideal, low-risk rental for teams needing temporary help in the paint.

    At the height of trade discussions, as many as a half-dozen teams had been linked to Kaman, but the Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers were rumored to be the front runners.

    If the Rockets can't swing a deal for Pau Gasol, they may redouble their efforts to acquire Kaman. He would be a welcome consolation prize and a significant upgrade over Samuel Dalembert.

Ramon Sessions

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    Ramon Sessions may not be the biggest name on this list, but he could be the most likely to actually move.

    Sessions is currently stuck behind Rookie of the Year candidate Kyrie Irving, but he's still averaging 10 points and nearly six assists. For teams without a guy like Irving running the point, that kind of production might come in handy.

    The Los Angeles Lakers recently expressed interest in Sessions, and given L.A.'s struggles this season, no one would be surprised to see that deal happen. Sessions would solidify a rotation currently relying on Derek Fisher and Steve Blake to run an offense in need of resuscitation.

    With a player option that will pay him only $4.5 million next season, Sessions is an affordable solution for teams in the market for a point guard. Should the Lakers go in another direction (Gilbert Arenas, perhaps), Sessions is still a good bet to go somewhere.

    With Cleveland undergoing a monumental rebuilding process, it's difficult for the Cavs to pass up any opportunity to acquire prospects and draft picks.

Devin Harris

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    Word on the street is that Utah has made Devin Harris available, which shouldn't be too surprising given that the 28-year-old point guard is only averaging 9.1 points and 4.4 assists in his first full season with the Jazz.

    That's a far cry from the 21.3 points and 6.9 assists he averaged for the Nets in 2008-09.

    Harris' numbers are a bit deceiving, though. He's hitting 44 percent of his shots (the best rate since he was with the Mavericks in 2007), but he's only playing 26 minutes a game. He still has some value, and the Jazz may believe they're a piece or two away from returning to relevance in the Western Conference.

    Harris will make $8.5 million next season in the last year of his current deal, and he might make sense for a team banking on a change of scenery restoring Harris' luster.

    Whether or not the Lakers will be so hopeful remains to be seen, but plenty of teams are bound to be looking for a new look at point guard. If Raymond Felton continues to struggle in Portland, perhaps the Blazers and Jazz will swap their disappointing starters in pursuit of better chemistry.

    It's hard to image Harris won't start playing better, but if Ty Corbin can't make the situation work, this is a move that could be in everyone's best interest.

Andray Blatche

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    Any Wizard not named John Wall could probably make this list without much argument. However, Andray Blatche tops the list of dead weight Washington is looking to shed.

    The dismal Wizards recently attempted to swap Blatche for the Bobcats' Tyrus Thomas in a move that would strengthen Washington's interior defense while giving the Bobcats another scoring option.

    Blatche, however, will be out of service for a couple more weeks with a calf strain, so he may be difficult to move.

    Nevertheless, don't be surprised if Blatche or others on the Wizards roster are shown the door by a Washington franchise desperate for signs of progress. The team's sustained failure has already claimed head coach Flip Saunders' job, and few other jobs are safe until Washington rights its ship.

    Currently sitting at 6-22 (including a number of blowout losses), fans will no doubt remain impatient as the organization attempts to surround John Wall with players displaying a more winning pedigree.

    Whether Blatche really deserves the boot or not, he's scheduled to make nearly $24 million over the next three seasons. With the talent to be more than an expensive scapegoat, Blatche may welcome a new start.