As the first half of the season comes to an end, and the All-Star festivities are in full swing, it is hard not to think about a myriad of unanswered questions around the NBA.
Can the Lakers find their way back to glory? Can Linsanity continue? Will someone pull away in the West?
But more than any of those questions, the questions that impact all of the others are about where certain NBA stars will end up.
If some of the big stars change teams, then anything can happen.
Magic owner Richard DeVos (who incidentally is from my hometown of Holland, Michigan) can claim until he is blue in the face that he doesn't want to trade Howard and is confident he can re-sign him.
But he can't. Howard sees the state of the franchise, and it isn't good. They have way too much money tied up in mediocre talent.
Not including Howard, the Magic have about $45 million committed for next year on a team that is solid at best.
When Howard has the chance to move to a team that can contend, why would he re-up with a team that is at least a few pieces away?
The big names certainly will be involved, but I think it is a long shot that the Lakers will get him. Golden State could be a team that gets in the mix considering the amount of young talent they have, or perhaps one of the middling teams like Memphis or Sacramento will take the plunge even if it seems unlikely that Howard will re-sign.
It all comes down to how the market shapes up. If Orlando isn't offered fair market value for Howard, they will have a hard choice to make. Do they trade him for much less than he is worth, or do they roll the dice and hope he stays?
I think that the Magic will not necessarily get fair market value for him, but they should get a solid package. My dark horse for Howard is Indiana. They are under the cap so they can absorb his salary much more than most teams out there can.
But can they convince him to stay?
As the Lakers turn. This truly has become a soap opera this season.
The Lakers appear to be a team that is dysfunctional to say the least, and management appears nearly clueless.
First they strike out on the Chris Paul deal (which really wasn't their fault). Then, they inexplicably trade Lamar Odom for essentially two bucks and a biscuit.
Now they are bungling the Pau Gasol situation.
It appears that Dr. Buss' kids are not nearly as smart as their old man.
And given the fact that they seem likely to sign Rasheed Wallace, they seem to be poised to make a move.
The Lakers desperately want a point guard.
While Paul is off the table, there are a few options out there. Deron Williams could become an option, although many believe he is headed to Dallas next year. Minnesota has also been rumored as an option as has Houston.
My dark horse, however, is Charlotte. Team president Michael Jordan needs to bring in some talent as well as someone to excite the fans. He also has two very good, talented young point guards in Kemba Walker and D.J. Augustin, meaning one of the two could be an option.
In fact, the entire team should be on the trading block.
This is a team that is floundering in a conference in which there are a handful of teams that are contenders, and they are not one of them.
Rondo is their best trade asset. He is young, talented, and plays the premier position in the sport right now, point guard.
Allen offers some veteran scoring for a potential contender, but he can't be dealt until right at the trade deadline, which minimizes the possibility he gets dealt.
But Garnett is fair game, and his expiring deal could help out some teams that are looking to shed bad contracts.
Of these players, Rondo is the most likely dealt. While the Lakers might kick the tires, I think a team like Atlanta should really look at him. They are a team that lacks a clear leader and direction, and a pass-first point guard like Rondo could help.
Let's be clear, the Raymond Felton experiment has been an unmitigated disaster.
I was actually shocked that this didn't work out. I thought he would be a fan favorite and show off his true point guard nature.
But he showed up out of shape and he has been wildly inconsistent.
In fact, now he has been stripped of his starting point guard duties.
Given the amount of teams that need good point guards, and the fact that Portland probably needs to blow up their current team, this seems like a player likely to get dealt.
It shouldn't take much to pry away Felton. The Blazers need draft picks, and could settle for as little as a second rounder and a mid-level talent.
If the Lakers strike out on another point guard, they could make an offer to Portland, although the Blazers won't want to help out their rival.
Another option might be Dallas, who are dealing with the sudden decline of Jason Kidd.
The Pistons re-signed Tayshaun Prince to act as a steadying influence on a young team, and supply steady offense and strong defense.
But Prince does not fit with the team's up-tempo offense, and his defense is not what it was just a few years ago.
Also, young players Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight are already leaders on this team, and are seemingly wise beyond their years.
The Pistons really don't need Prince anymore, and trading him would allow them to finally see what they have in Austin Daye.
Chris Broussard suggested in January that the Pistons could deal Prince for Michael Beasley, and that would make sense for Detroit.
But the more likely situation would be for Detroit to try to pry DeMarcus Cousins from Sacramento, offering the steadying influence of Prince on their young team.
A dark horse could be San Antonio. Prince is the Spurs type of player, and Richard Jefferson has been hugely disappointing so far.
Top it off, Prince would be the perfect mentor to rookie Kawhi Leonard.