The Houston Rockets' acquisition (via Yahoo!) of guard James Harden has given birth to a fierce debate over whether small-market NBA franchises (such as Oklahoma City) can compete with big-market franchises (like New York or Boston) in the long run.
Harden's refusal (via ProBasketballTalk) to accept anything less than a max contract extension ultimately paved the way for his trade to Houston, where he was greeted (via CBSSports) by a monster extension from Daryl Morey.
Harden's trade raises this question: Which other assets are most tradeable as we move forward with the 2012-13 season?
Here we will examine whether you should buy or sell the possibility of the following players being traded.
Note: All salary figures obtained from HoopsHype.com.
Josh Smith is in the final year of a contract that's paying him a shade over $13 million this season. However, what Smith really desires is what James Harden just received.
Smith is absolutely playing for a max contract next season, and all of the Hawks' moves this offseason point to Danny Ferry and the rest of the front office building around Smith and frontcourt mate Al Horford long term.
Assuming the Hawks don't completely fall apart this season, Smith's current team is the best bet to extend him.
Verdict: Sell (tentatively)
The Brooklyn Nets don't have many trade-friendly contracts (see: Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez), which is why Kris Humphries is the asset that's most realistically tradeable in the short term.
Humphries inked (via CBSSports) a two-year, $24 million deal this offseason. Depending on your view of Humphries this deal was either a bargain or a huge mistake.
While Humphries certainly has more value to some other teams lacking frontcourt depth, the Nets don't have much themselves. For two years Humphries will be serviceable in his role, even if he's getting overpaid.
We all remember the chatter (via ESPN) from this time a year ago. The Boston Celtics were exploring a possible trade with the New Orleans Hornets that would have sent Rajon Rondo to the Big Easy in exchange for Chris Paul.
Ultimately, the talks amounted to nothing, but with Paul an impending free agent in the summer of 2013, one has to wonder if Danny Ainge is exploring the opportunity of adding the Clippers' point guard once again.
However, since the rumors circulated about Rondo's possible departure, his level of play has picked up tremendously and he has established himself as one of the league's elite two-way point guards.
With three years remaining on his deal, Rondo figures to stay put as the Celtics' franchise cornerstone for a while longer.
The Charlotte Bobcats were desperate for a closer, and it became quite evident when they dealt (via ESPN) Corey Maggette for a first-round pick and Ben Gordon, formerly of the Detroit Pistons.
Gordon is the most established scorer on a Bobcats' squad that's devoid of veteran leadership, but he could be a really valuable piece to a contender as the trade deadline approaches.
With the ability to exercise a player option that pays him more than $13 million next season, it's difficult to pinpoint a team that would be willing to pay him that kind of money.
While Tyrus Thomas is often discussed as the most tradeable Bobcats piece, he simply wouldn't bring return value on the market that Gordon could.
After signing a contract extension (via Chicago Sun-Times) just before the league deadline, it's clear that Taj Gibson is the power forward of the future in Chicago.
However, Gibson's contract won't make it any easier for the Bulls to unload Carlos Boozer. Due more than $45 million over the remaining three years of his contract, Boozer seems nearly impossible to deal at this stage in his career.
Now 30 years old, Boozer's play doesn't warrant the massive dollars bestowed upon him by the Bulls' front office, but they're just going to have to live with their decision. It would be incredibly difficult for the Bulls to find a trade partner willing to eat most of Boozer's contract, especially with three years remaining on his deal.
Say what you will about his Sideshow Bob-esque hairdo, but Anderson Varejao can flat-out play.
The 30-year-old Brazilian big man has flashed great footwork and defensive awareness through the early weeks of the season, and his rebounding has been off the charts.
Averaging 14 points and 15 rebounds per game through the season's early stages, it feels like Varejao is finally emerging as one of the league's dominant big men on the glass.
Should the right offer come along, it's reasonable to think that the Cavaliers would be inclined to accept. Varejao is due just over $17 million over the next two seasons, with a team option in 2014-15 that would pay him nearly $10 million.
For a team that's looking to build for the future, Varejao could be a nice bargaining chip.
Shawn Marion may have a hideous jump shot, but his defensive capabilities are where the crux of his value lies.
Marion has long been regarded as one of the league's stingiest wing defenders, and he's in a situation now where he only has two years remaining on his current deal.
With the Mavs trying to free up some cap space to take a run at a big-name free-agent next summer there's always the chance that Dallas could deal Marion for expiring contracts, but it appears he's a valuable piece of their championship blueprint.
Don't count on Marion being dealt anytime soon.
George Karl sure loves his wings. Having recently acquired (via The Denver Post) Andre Iguodala and drafted rookies Quincy Miller and Evan Fournier, the Nuggets have more depth on the perimeter than they know what to do with.
Let's not forget that the Nuggets drafted Texas' forward Jordan Hamilton in 2011 and traded (via New York Post) for Danilo Gallinari not long before. Oh, and let's not overlook Corey Brewer, who's no slouch.
According to Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld, Chandler's salary combined with the Nuggets' influx of depth are primary reasons he could be dealt by the deadline:
Karl likes to get creative with his lineups, but keeping Chandler in a limited role while paying him $26,201,154 over the next four years may not be the best option for the Nuggets. Chandler is a starting-caliber forward who still has high trade value due to his untapped potential and consistent improvement so it wouldn’t be hard for Denver to move him.
With Iguodala, Gallinari, Brewer and the young guns all slated for expanded roles, it's easy to point to Chandler as the odd man out. This one looks like a slam dunk.
Will Tayshaun Prince ever leave Detroit? If he wants to win another title, it would be wise of him to head up to Joe Dumars' office and request a trade before the February deadline.
According to Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld, Prince could be targeted via trade by one of the league's premier clubs:
Don’t be surprised if Prince gets traded at some point during this season, most likely to a winning team that feels they’re one piece away. If the Pistons decide to hold onto Prince, they may try to flip Corey Maggette’s expiring contract prior to the deadline.
Now 32 years old, Prince still has the ability to be a key bench contributor for a contender, and when I think of a team that would be a great fit for the Kentucky product, the San Antonio Spurs come to mind.
Prince is such a fundamentally sound player that it would be an absolute thrill to watch him operate in Gregg Popovich's scheme. Still a matchup nightmare on the wing, Prince could be a huge get for a team down the line.
Since acquiring (via NBA.com) Andrew Bogut last season, Warriors fans have been more concerned with what they have seen (or not seen) out of the Australian big man.
Now, with two years and roughly $27 million left on his current contract, Bogut feels like a risky proposition for the Warriors. Bogut has yet to prove that he's able to stay healthy on a consistent basis, which makes him a long-term risk if they choose to re-sign him.
On the flip side, the Warriors are fairly thin up front, which makes Bogut feel like a valuable piece of the franchise's future. Despite his fragile body, Bogut feels like a safe bet to hang around Golden State for at least another season.
With so many newly signed pieces (Jeremy Lin, James Harden and Omer Asik) and young guns (Royce White, Terrence Jones, Chandler Parsons and Marcus Morris), it's difficult to pinpoint the Rockets' most valuable trade chips.
With a logjam at power forward, Patterson appears like one of the few expendable pieces that the Rockets have.
Patterson has been steady through two seasons, averaging 7.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game for his career, and if the Rockets are looking to relieve themselves of some of their excessive personnel, Patterson could be one of the first pieces to go.
Now that the Indiana Pacers are without Danny Granger for three months due to a knee injury (via ESPN), we'll get an idea of how valuable he truly is to his team.
With Paul George emerging as a young superstar, it will be fascinating to see if the Pacers offense can sustain a level of proficiency with Granger sidelined.
If George proves he can carry the offense with the help of Roy Hibbert, perhaps Granger becomes expendable in the long term.
For now, Granger is still the team's best scorer, and isn't due a new contract for close to two years.
With so many talented faces on the Los Angeles Clippers' bench, there's a question that must be answered. Are there enough minutes to go around?
We've seen Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf, Matt Barnes and Ryan Hollins all log consistent minutes off the bench in the early going, and Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill haven't even touched the floor yet.
Odom used to be one of the most versatile players in the league, but as we've seen over the last year or so, he doesn't appear to be in peak physical condition, or capable of playing up to the high level that fans had become accustomed to.
With a market for his services and a logjam of talent on the Clippers' bench, Odom could become expendable.
The early going in purple and gold hasn't been kind to Chris Duhon. With Steve Nash sidelined (via ESPN.com) due to a minor leg fracture it appeared as if Duhon would need to step up and log some serious minutes at point guard.
Instead, Steve Blake has taken over the starting reins and has performed quite nicely in his few featured opportunities. Darius Morris has surpassed Duhon as the backup point man for now, and it's clear that head coach Mike Brown wasn't impressed with the former Magic guard.
With few teams searching for point guards, much less those of Duhon's quality, it appears as if the Lakers are stuck with their bounty of floor generals for the time being.
One of the NBA's few starts who looks like a viable trade candidate at this juncture, it appears as if Rudy Gay's days with the Memphis Grizzlies may be numbered.
According to Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld, it's no secret that Gay is on the block:
Dealing Gay, who is owed $53,666,790 over the next three years, may be considered. Gay’s name surfaced a lot this summer, and sources say he would be open to a trade. The general consensus around the league is that Memphis would be willing to move Gay if the right offer comes along. If he becomes available, there are plenty of teams that would love to acquire the 26-year-old, who has improved every year he’s been in the league and still has plenty of potential.
Perimeter standouts like Gay are hard to come by, and you'd have to believe that there will be a substantial market for the former UConn star's services.
As the deadline nears, Gay's name is one we should be hearing quite often.
The Miami Heat don't exactly have assets that you would consider tradeable. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are all untouchable, and the majority of the Heat's bench contributors have team-friendly contracts.
Due to the monetary concessions that have to be made by free agents wishing to sign with the Heat, there are few bad contracts or players that the Heat would be open to trading.
Udonis Haslem has approximately $12 million remaining on his current deal, but that's about all the Heat would be getting rid of in a deal. Set with perimeter scorers and defenders, the Heat need all of the interior help they can get.
It's tough to succeed when you're constantly being compared to the man drafted ahead of you. It's especially tough when that man is Cleveland Cavaliers' phenom Kyrie Irving.
Selected No. 2 overall in the 2011 NBA draft, Derrick Williams was supposed to be a key player in the Timberwolves' revitalization, one that was to be centered around himself, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio.
Instead, the team seems to be moving forward with Williams a significantly smaller part of their long-term plans.
According to Hoopsworld, Williams' future with the Timberwolves is very much up in the air:
The Wolves signed Andrei Kirilenko and Dante Cunningham and traded for Chase Budinger so Williams’ role is up in the air once again. During the preseason, he came off of the bench in five of seven games, and he struggled compared to the team’s three new forwards. It feels like just yesterday that the Timberwolves selected Williams with the second overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, but now the sophomore is definitely someone who could be dealt.
Williams could be a valuable building block in another system, but Minnesota just doesn't feel like the right spot for the Arizona product.
Monta Ellis' game can be brilliant at times and highly questionable at others.
Possessing talent that makes him one of the game's quickest, most potent offensive talents, Ellis is a dynamic playmaker whose skills are proving to have real value in Milwaukee.
However, according to Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld, Ellis could be on his way out of Milwaukee less than a year after arriving:
Milwaukee missed the playoffs last year and enters this season as bubble team in the Eastern Conference, so Ellis may be eyeing greener pastures. If the Bucks aren’t confident that they can retain Ellis, they may decide to trade him prior to the deadline. After parting ways with Andrew Bogut to land the 26-year-old guard, they can’t afford to lose him for nothing.
The Bucks will be faced with a difficult decision regarding Ellis' future, but the risk-reward payoff is too great for the Bucks not to explore a deal.
With a nagging knee injury (via ESPN.com) that could prevent him from seeing much action this season, Eric Gordon's future in New Orleans will certainly become a hot topic of conversation.
Since being acquired (via NBA.com) by the Hornets in the Chris Paul blockbuster, Gordon has shown the inability to stay healthy. Gordon suited up in just nine games last season, and it looks like he may be lucky to match that number in 2012-13.
Unfortunately for Tom Benson and Hornets ownership, Gordon's knee troubles and his hefty contract (nearly $60 million remaining) will likely prevent him from becoming a franchise player or valuable trade chip.
Sidelined anywhere from 6-8 weeks (via ESPN.com) due to a knee injury, Amar'e Stoudemire's value is taking a big hit in New York.
Not only has Stoudemire proven that he's injury prone, but the Knicks are thriving with a new-look lineup. With Carmelo Anthony slotted in at the 4, the Knicks have been able to spread the floor more, and in turn, have been absolutely lethal from beyond the arc.
Carmelo can now use his abilities as a stretch 4 to free up looks for Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and J.R. Smith on the perimeter, while preventing double-teams on Tyson Chandler.
When Amar'e does eventually return it will be interesting to see how he's utilized, but for now, it's looking like the Knicks may be just fine without him.
With a large contract (due $60 million over remaining three years) and undeniable talent, there's a chance Stoudemire goes, but you get the sense that there isn't equal compensation that would justify such a move.
Considered one of the NBA's nastier big men, Kendrick Perkins is a key piece that helps hold the Oklahoma City Thunder frontcourt together.
If Serge Ibaka provides the finesse in the frontcourt, Perkins packs the mean, powerful punch. However, with three years and roughly $24 million left on his deal, it feels like Perkins is being overpaid.
On a team that has so much money committed to franchise centerpieces Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Ibaka, is there enough money to go around long term?
Whether the answer is yes or no, the Thunder will likely find a way to make it work for them. Perkins will be an invaluable piece for the Thunder come playoff time, and his veteran leadership is an intangible that can't be ignored.
If the Orlando Magic are truly rebuilding, then there doesn't appear to be a spot for Al Harrington on their roster.
Magic general manager Rob Hennigan has made it clear that he’ll explore his options prior to the trade deadline and may move some of the veterans on the roster. Orlando is clearly in rebuilding mode and Harrington isn’t part of the team’s long-term plan. Moving the 32-year-old would free up minutes for rookie forwards Andrew Nicholson, Maurice Harkless and Kyle O’Quinn.
The Magic did a good job drafting for the future this past summer, and have added some young, exciting pieces (namely Arron Afflalo, Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless) who could have them competing for a low playoff seed in the coming years.
We discussed Derrick Williams' plight in the NBA as a disappointing No. 2 overall pick earlier, and unfortunately for the Philadelphia 76ers, Evan Turner has taken a similar career path.
Turner has proved to be a capable rebounder and defender in his first two years, but his offense has been totally unreliable.
Lacking confidence due to an inconsistent and ugly jump shot, Turner has only been effective on the offensive end when he's able to handle the ball and create opportunities for himself around the basket.
However, despite Turner's lackluster play, there have been no indications to this point that the Sixers are exploring a trade involving the former No. 2 overall pick.
The Sixers recently exercised (via NBA.com) the fourth-year option on Turner's contract, and plan to see if he can take incremental strides over the next two seasons.
Wes Johnson is one of the few Phoenix Suns' players whose deal will be expiring after the 2012-13 season, and that alone qualifies him as their most tradeable asset.
Johnson was dealt (via ESPN.com) to Phoenix this summer, and with a quick decision to make on the former lottery pick's future, the Suns decided to decline (via ProBasketballTalk) his team option for the 2013-14 season.
Selected No. 4 overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2010 NBA draft, Johnson has been a major disappointment after he was projected to be a solid two-way presence for the T'Wolves.
Now, with Phoenix viewing Johnson as an expendable piece, there exists a real possibility that he could be dealt before this season is over.
With one year remaining on his current contract, J.J. Hickson would appear to be one of the Portland Trail Blazers' only real valuable trade chips.
A scrappy, underrated low-post banger, Hickson has established himself as Portland's rebounding leader in the early going this season.
Paired up next to LaMarcus Aldridge in the Blazer frontcourt, Hickson has molded himself into a steady presence, one who is averaging a double-double through the first two weeks of the season.
Hickson's a key piece to the puzzle in Portland, and a trade would only figure to disrupt the Blazers' chemistry.
Whether you think Tyreke Evans is the answer to the Sacramento Kings' problems or not, it's difficult to deny his potential. The guy has a massive ceiling and could hold incredible value for a team where his skills could be harnessed properly.
According to Hoopsworld, it's clear that the Kings are pondering moving Evans:
Trading Evans is also an option for the Kings. Evans’ name started to appear in trade rumors over the offseason and, if the Kings no longer see him as a cornerstone of their franchise, they may decide to move him and build around their other young stars such as DeMarcus Cousins and Thomas Robinson. Evans is still an attractive trade chip because he’s young and his best basketball is likely still ahead of him.
A young nucleus of DeMarcus Cousins, Evans and Thomas Robinson could provide a bright future for the Kings, but if Evans is truly too risky for the Kings in the long term, it may behoove the Maloofs to get the most out of him while he's still a hot commodity.
The shortage of quality big men in today's NBA doesn't seem to be affecting the San Antonio Spurs.
According to Hoopsworld, former second-round standout DeJuan Blair's name has been floating around the rumor mill for some time:
Blair has been on the block for awhile. The Spurs worked the phones in the days leading up to the 2012 NBA Draft, gauging interest in the 23-year-old. They didn’t receive an offer that blew them away so they decided to hold onto Blair, but that doesn’t mean he’s suddenly part of the Spurs’ plan going forward
At 6'7'', 270 pounds, Blair is a load to handle, but he's still vastly undersized for an NBA big. While Blair's stature is a negative, he's an aggressive post presence that many teams would welcome with open arms.
Not to knock Jose Calderon, but Kyle Lowry is a superior talent at this point in their respective careers. Calderon is on the wrong side of 30 and looks to pass first, while Lowry is a young gun playing with a mean streak.
Through two weeks, Lowry leads the Raptors in nearly every key statistical category and has been a dominant force in the Toronto backcourt.
Calderon has one year and just over $10.5 million remaining on his current deal, figures that make him a target for trades across the league. Calderon will be targeted by teams looking not only for cap space, but also for quality veteran guards.
A contender could benefit from Calderon's selfless game, and his high assist-to-turnover ratio is among the most attractive in the game today.
The Utah Jazz have six players in the final year of their contracts in 2012-13. Those six are Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Raja Bell and Earl Watson.
Among those six, Millsap and Jefferson are the team's most valuable assets. Both 27 years old, Millsap appears to have the most untapped potential of the two big men, and will be a sought after name at the deadline.
It will be difficult for the Jazz to shell out money to all of their impending free agents, and as Matt Moore of ProBasketballTalk points out, Millsap could bring them the most in return in a potential deal:
Millsap on the market could draw huge offers. That’s the kind of difference-maker move that near-contenders shop for at the deadline. The Jazz could wind up with a great package of young players and picks if they trade either one, but Millsap in particular will draw the kind of combination that could allow for major changes.
The Jazz will undoubtedly receive calls on both Jefferson and Millsap, but in the end, Millsap should draw the most interest from possible trade partners.
The Washington Wizards don't have many friendly contracts, which means any team inquiring about their assets may need to take on some extra cash in a trade.
Traded from the New Orleans Hornets (via ESPN.com) to the Wizards this summer, Ariza has two years and roughly $14 million left on his contract, with the final year a player option.
Ariza is a talented wing with playoff experience, so he has value out on the market. However, the value Ariza has to a contender may not be the same value he currently has with the Wizards.
In order to unload Ariza and his contract, the Wizards may have to take the short end of a deal, but it could be worth it in the long run.