Although trade talk this season has been monopolized by the incessant flip-flopping of the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard, there are actually a slew of impact players on the block this summer. Teams are looking either to get younger, add veteran experience or simply clear cap space and that means that several talented guys have been made available for the right price.
The current free agent frenzy may be a bit disappointing to some fans, but there is plenty of potential action in the trading world, where several quality pieces are up for grabs and All-Stars could be on the move any minute. The NBA is a league where big time trades could happen on any given day and, with the degree of talent teams are willing to deal this offseason, a blockbuster move is not out of the question.
Joe Johnson's move to Brooklyn got the ball rolling, but there are plenty of players who could find themselves calling a new city home when all is said and done.
Without further ado, here are where I think a few of this summer's top players on the trade block will end up when all is said and done.
Predicted Destination: Toronto Raptors
It's no secret that Kyle Lowry isn't happy in Houston. According to ESPN, he is so frustrated by the team's coaching situation that he is pushing for a trade.
The versatile young point guard should receive plenty of interest from around the league, but ultimately I believe the team that will snatch him up is Toronto, who has proven this offseason to be serious about building a quality team north of the border.
Lowry had his breakout season last year, averaging 14.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.6 assists, even garnering some All-Star consideration and talk of MVP votes before a late season slump cost him any major accolades. Still, he proved to be a quality point guard and one that a young team could build around.
Though the Raptors are trying their hardest to woo Steve Nash, I believe he ultimately will decide to play for a title contender. Clearly the team is dissatisfied with the play of Jose Calderon and will be looking to make an upgrade at point guard. They could offer Calderon and a first-rounder for Lowry, an offer Houston would likely take them up on.
Lowry would give Toronto a point guard who can score, facilitate and play solid perimeter defense. Calderon is an elite passer, but he is not much of an offensive threat in his own right and is a poor individual defender.
Lowry could grow with the Raptors' slew of athletic players like DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross and would make a great partner with Andrea Bargnani on pick-and-roll and pick-and-pops. If he plays like he did at the beginning of last season he could vault Toronto into playoff consideration.
For Houston the team would receive Calderon as insurance in case they can't ink free agent Goran Dragic, which seems increasingly likely according to ESPN's Marc Stein.
This move would improve Toronto and clear up some roster drama for Houston and I wouldn't be surprised to see it happen.
Predicted Destination: Sacramento Kings
Admittedly this one's a bit of a hunch, but it makes plenty of sense. Sacramento got by playing Tyreke Evans at small forward, but that is nowhere close to a winning strategy and Philadelphia selecting Maurice "Moe No Mo'" Harkless means that they now have a logjam at the three spot.
The Kings could use veteran experience as well as some semblance of perimeter defense and Iguodala would easily provide both. He is one of the league's elite defenders and could help change the team's culture, which is one of purely scoring.
On offense he would meld with the very athletic Kings who love to get up and down the court. He is a superb athlete who excels in transition and can finish at the rim. He could also be their primary playmaker for stretches; Iguodala averaged 12.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.5 assists last season while proving to be a true multi-tool out on the court.
Perhaps most importantly, Sacramento would get a player who, despite being just 28, is a veteran in the league, a high character individual and is truly team-oriented. He's gained some valuable playoff experience over the past couple seasons in Philly and could bring that to a Kings team with plenty of talent that needs a leader and a player with proven success.
A trade would likely send Tyreke Evans to the Sixers, which would give them a true two-guard in case they cannot resign Louis Williams, as well as a strong scorer and slasher who can get to the rim. It would allow them to slide Evan Turner over to small forward and open up minutes for Harkless behind him.
Philadelphia would clear some cap space to resign players like Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner in the future and Sacramento already has a ton of room to bring in an impact player. Iguodala's been on the block for what seems like an eternity and this move would be a good one for both clubs.
Predicted Destination: Los Angeles Clippers
Despite being a key rotation player and an instrumental part of their regular season success, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that San Antonio's DeJuan Blair is on the trade block this summer. He was underutilized in the postseason and saw his minutes largely absorbed by Brazilian forward Tiago Splitter.
In the regular season, Blair averaged an extremely solid 9.5 points and 5.5 rebounds while playing 21.3 minutes a night, but saw those numbers dip to 3.7 points and 2.3 rebounds in a scant 7.6 minutes of playing time. He only appeared in 10 postseason contests and was little more than an afterthought for Greg Popovich.
Although the Clippers just completed a trade for Lamar Odom, the team recently performed a sign-and-trade that sent rebounding demon Reggie Evans to the Brooklyn Nets, creating an opening for some more frontcourt depth. Odom is far more of a finesse player and they could use another banger in the paint to backup Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Though Blair is undersized at just 6'7" he is an extremely physical big man willing to throw his body around and play aggressively in the paint. He would be able to fill Kenyon Martin's role as a rugged interior presence and give Los Angeles one of the league's best frontcourt rotations.
The Clippers could send San Atnonio young but raw players like Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins in exchange for Blair. The Spurs are excellent at player development and both Leslie and Thompkins have tremendous potential to be valuable players in this league.
DeJuan Blair appears to have simply worn out his welcome in San Antonio and with their need for another big man in the paint, the Clippers would be a very logical location for the former Pittsburgh star.
Predicted Destination: Chicago Bulls
Luol Deng trade rumors swirled around the time of the draft, with the team reportedly enamored with North Carolina small forward Harrison Barnes, but now that the dust has settled Deng will not be going anywhere. With the trying season Chicago will be facing next year, it makes sense to depend on proven players and Deng will undoubtedly thrive receiving more touches with Derrick Rose out.
Last season, Deng averaged 15.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists en route to his first ever All-Star game and this year he should continue to build on that stellar performance. He is excellent at slashing to the hoop and has improved his three-point shooting range so that he is a threat to score from anywhere on the court.
With Rose recuperating, Deng will spend more time with the ball in his hands, even playing a point forward role at times and his passing ability and unselfishness will be huge for the team. He must look to create not just for himself but for others and make winning plays on the offensive end of the court.
Defensively he is undoubtedly one of the league's elite players, capable of guarding two-guard through power forward thanks to his length, strength and quickness. He fits perfectly with Chicago's defensive scheme and is extremely disciplined while playing his man.
Though the Bulls have Jimmy Butler, who is a talented player, they simply need Deng, a true "glue guy" to provide Tom Thibodeau with whatever he needs to win basketball games. With Derrick Rose sidelined for most of the year, Chicago will go as far as Luol Deng takes them and the team will not let him go this summer.
Predicted Destination: New Orleans Hornets
By drafting Kentucky's Terence Jones and Iowa State's Royce White, the Houston Rockets have committed to a youth movement at the power forward spot. With two extremely talented players coming aboard, this means they will likely be moving veteran Luis Scola.
The team is exploring deals, according to ESPN's Marc Stein, and a team like New Orleans would undoubtedly benefit from bringing in a proven player at the power forward spot. The Hornets have plenty of cap space after waiving Rashard Lewis, meaning they could absorb Scola's contract, which is worth over $10 million per year.
Obviously Anthony Davis is the team's franchise player to build around, but it is unclear whether he will be a power forward or center at the next level and even if he plays the four they could use another player to help them win games immediately, The 32-year-old Scola averaged 15.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists last season for Houston and should be able to contribute next season.
He is not extremely athletic, but he is a crafty offensive player who can score in the post, hit jump shots and simply find ways to put the ball in the basket. He should be able to teach Davis some of his scoring techniques, and since Davis has a very raw offensive game this would be hugely beneficial for New Orleans.
The Rockets could look to acquire players like point guard Greivis Vasquez or hard-working small forward Al-Farouq Aminu, the kinds of guys that would go well with the youth movement down in Houston.
With Carl Landry and Chris Kaman likely departing in free agency New Orleans needs to bring in a proven player at the four position, and since Houston is shopping Scola it seems like a match made in heaven. Scola was already traded to the Hornets once in the past year and this time, David Stern won't block the move should it happen again this offseason.
Predicted Destination: Atlanta Hawks
As exciting as the Hawks dealing Josh Smith would be, the trade of Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets solidifies that Smith's future is in Atlanta. New Atlanta general manager Danny Ferry is tired of stewing in mediocrity and he is willing to make the team a little worse in the immediate future if it means becoming a bona-fide contender in the long run.
Though Josh Smith has expressed displeasure with the Hawks in the past, moving Johnson proves that the team is committed to improving. They have finally cleared the cap space to sign Smith to the extension that he deserves. Coming off of a career year in which he averaged a stellar 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 blocks, Smith is clearly a player a team can build around.
A team like the Los Angeles Lakers can offer Pau Gasol for Smith, but he is instrumental to Atlanta's young, athletic three-man core of Smith, All-Star Al Horford and rapidly improving point guard Jeff Teague. The team may not host a playoff series next year, but they have enough cap room to make a run at a Dwight Howard- or Chris Paul-caliber player and if not, they can bring in several impact pieces in the future.
Josh Smith may have been an expendable asset in the Joe Johnson era, but now that Atlanta is rebuilding their roster, he is an essential part of the team and will remain in a Hawks uniform for the 2012-2013 season.
Predicted Destination: Los Angeles Lakers
Though it seems every team in the league is in the running for Pau Gasol, with Minnesota's blatant interest and Houston already trading for him in the aborted Chris Paul-to-the-Lakers deal, the Spanish seven-footer will remain in a Lakers uniform.
The reality is, for as maligned a playoff run as Gasol had (12.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.1 blocks per game) he is still an elite power forward with an incredibly polished game. He is easily one of the league's best passing big men, capable of finding cutters out of the post or open shooters on the perimeter, he can draw opponents out of the paint with his jump shooting ability and he is a crafty back-to-the-basket scorer.
Los Angeles needs someone who understands how to subjugate himself for the good of the team and Gasol, who took just over 14 shots per game in the regular season for his 17.1 points, has proven that he can do that. With a team built around Kobe Bryant there is always a fragile chemistry that can be easily disturbed, and bringing in someone who could potentially disrupt the team's harmony like a Josh Smith or Michael Beasley would be a tremendous mistake.
Sure he may be owed $19 million next season, but Pau Gasol can still produce at an elite level and with Atlanta committing to their youthful core there is not a player they can get back that is worth dealing the extremely talented Gasol. He may not be enough to win a championship with, but he is still a top-five power forward in this league and Los Angeles could do a whole lot worse.
Predicted Destination: Los Angeles Lakers
I know, I know, Dwight Howard will allegedly only sign an extension with one team, but Orlando has to do what is best for the franchise and that is not sending Howard to Brooklyn for a package centered on Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries and first-round draft picks until 2043. They need a player to build around.
According to Yahoo! Sports, the Orlando Magic are extremely interested in acquiring Lakers center Andrew Bynum in exchange for Howard. In his breakout season, Bynum averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game while shooting 55.8 percent from the field and proving he could stay on the floor, both in terms of health and foul trouble.
With all the griping Dwight Howard has done and all the damage to both the franchise and the front office, it is only right that the Magic deal him prior to the start of the season. New Magic GM Rob Hennigan cannot bank on Howard resigning after this season and if they can bring in an All-Star like Bynum, they would be wise to do so.
The Lakers would get their franchise player that can succeed Kobe Bryant, while continuing to contend for championships in the near future. A healthy Dwight Howard is easily the league's best center and a force on both ends of the floor. His game still lacks refinement, but he has an improved ability to score around the rim, is a tenacious rebounder and can swat shots with the best of them.
Obviously Howard has not guaranteed he would resign with Los Angeles if they acquire him, but the team is in position to offer him plenty of media exposure and publicity, as well as the chance to contend for a title immediately alongside Gasol and Bryant. They are in a much better position currently than Orlando and that has to be appealing to Howard.
Many fans believe it will either be the Magic or the Nets for Dwight Howard, but with what the Lakers can offer Orlando as well as the envious situation Dwight would be in, I would not be surprised to see him wearing purple and gold next year.