NBA Trade Rumors: Malcontents Who Must Be Moved Before Deadline
With the 2012 NBA All-Star game finally out of the way, the league-wide swap meet can finally get going in earnest.
And there's certainly plenty to be earnest about, including attempts by GMs around the Association to reconcile untenable situations with their current players.
You'll hear plenty about stars who'd rather not switch teams—guys like Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Paul Pierce—but whose names will come up in conversation regardless.
But as far as necessary divorces are concerned, these five want-away ballers and their teams would best be served to split ASAP, with the March 15th deadline serving as the perfect date to finally call it quits.
The Orlando Magic don't want to lose Dwight Howard. Team owner Rich DeVos, soon to turn 86, has no interest in slogging through another rebuild.
But, in purely basketball terms, GM Otis Smith has little choice but to get something for his franchise star before this whole fiasco turns into Shaquille O'Neal Part 2.
And Smith gets canned.
Howard has long been rumored to prefer a move to the New Jersey Nets, where he'd pair with Deron Williams as the team prepares for its long-awaited move to Brooklyn.
The Los Angeles Lakers would appear to be the best available trade partner for the Magic, seeing as how they'd be able to offer two top-tier bigs (Andrew Bynum and/or Pau Gasol) for the best pivot man in basketball today.
The Dallas Mavericks, meanwhile, are hoping that Howard hits free agency and entertains a potential move to the Metroplex with D-Will, thereby validating the strategy by Mark Cuban and GM Donnie Nelson to clear cap space for a Big Three in Big D, Dirk Nowitzki included.
All of this being said, the Magic still have a shot to keep Howard for the long haul. He's waffled several times over whether or not he actually wants out, which makes sense considering how well the organization and the city know him and have treated him (for the most part).
Still, the odds of Howard sticking around are slim, as are the options for the cap-strapped Magic to fill the void if he walks. Trading away a superstar is never an easy thing to do, but if there's any team that knows the downside of not pulling the trigger in such a situation, it's the Magic.
If the Nets fail to secure Howard before the deadline, expect GM Billy King to open up the phone lines to field offers for Deron Williams.
D-Will has already talked about this season as being the "toughest" of his career and doesn't seem too keen to wait for the team to move to Brooklyn and hope that help will follow.
Who could blame him? At 27, Williams is just entering the prime of his pro career and would be unwise to waste his best years on a team that's not going to contend for a title any time soon.
And if the Nets don't get him a big-name sidekick like Howard with whom to play, Williams won't wait to jump for a fresh locker and a fat paycheck with his hometown Mavs.
New Jersey, like Orlando, wouldn't want to be left empty-handed this summer, especially after mortgaging so much of their future to snag Williams from the Utah Jazz last season. Hence, don't be surprised if Nets start shopping D-Will to teams around the league (i.e. the Lakers for Pau Gasol) if Superman doesn't make his way to Mikhail Prokhorov's ill-conceived Metropolis.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic Division, the Boston Celtics have a point guard conundrum of their own to sort out over the next two weeks or so.
With his pursuit of Chris Paul in December, GM Danny Ainge signaled that he doesn't believe in Rajon Rondo's viability as the central star in Beantown going forward. Rondo was clearly perturbed by Ainge's willingness (or even eagerness) to send him packing and has shown as much in his play on the court, which has fluctuated rather violently between sheer brilliance and newfangled knuckleheadedness.
Or, shall we say, "Rondo being Rondo."
There's little doubt that Rondo is a tremendous talent and deserves to be considered one of the top point guards in the NBA today. The question remains, though, as to whether a mercurial personality like Rondo's can handle carrying any franchise forward, much less the most storied one in basketball history.
Throw in the uncertainty surrounding Boston's aging Big Three, and it's clear that another sea change may be in store for the C's. Ray Allen may be garnering the most immediate interest from potential contenders, but Rondo is undoubtedly the one who'd command the biggest haul in return.
Ainge knows this all too well and, as such, will do whatever he can to offload Rondo for a quality piece or two before the deadline passes and the situation grows any more toxic between player and organization.
When it comes to Andray Blatche and the Washington Wizards, the question isn't whether or not the latter still wants the former.
Clearly, the Wiz are not too enthralled with Blatche, who's emerged as the poster child of problems in DC thanks to his bad attitude, poor conditioning and clear regression in productivity on the court.
With all of that, getting Blatche out of town figures to be a tougher task than ever for the Wiz. The team failed to find any takers for Blatche last season, when he averaged 16.8 points and 8.3 rebounds, and couldn't quite consummate a swap for Tyrus Thomas with the Charlotte Bobcats last month.
Blatche's calf problems haven't exactly improved his value, especially given the nearly $23 million he's owed after this season.
Then again, if there's anyone who can move an albatross of a contract, it's Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld, who magically relocated Gilbert Arenas to Orlando last season. He won't need Blatche to bring banned items into the locker room to be convinced that the kid's got to go.
Stephen Jackson is far from the first player to butt heads with Scott Skiles, though that doesn't mean the Milwaukee Bucks should overlook Captain Jack's complete lack of a relationship with his head coach amidst what's shaping up to be a full-scale rebuild.
The Bucks are currently stuck in "no man's land"—between a low seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and a spot in the bottom rungs of the draft lottery—a ditch out of which Jackson, in his first year with the Bucks, isn't likely to help them.
Neither is Jackson the sort of player who could bring all that much back in return. He's currently shooting a career-low 35.7 percent from the floor along with his lowest point-per-game average (10.5) since his sophomore season in the league.
What's more, Captain Jack is approaching his 34th birthday and will be owed just over $10 million for next season.
It should come as little surprise, then, that Milwaukee is willing to give Jackson away for peanuts, as Sean Deveney of Sporting News suggests. That way, at least, the Bucks will have something to feed to the elephant in the room, otherwise known as the mediocrity of their future with Andrew Bogut in the middle.