Though it's undeniable that the first couple months of the NBA season were among the most intriguing in recent memory, business is truly about to pick up over the next month and a half.
As of Monday, teams are officially allowed to sign 10-day contracts, and with February's trade deadline creeping up, personnel movement is going to skyrocket. Teams no longer have to "evaluate" roster talent. They know and we know which teams are good, which teams are mediocre and which teams are about five games away from starting the Shabazz Muhammad tank parade.
Truly knowing your team's place in league circles is what it takes spur actual deals. And as that February date draws ever-closer, squads are also going to be far more realistic about what they're looking for in transactions.
Ostensibly, that should lead to some big headlines in the coming weeks.
So what are some of the biggest potential moves being bandied about on the rumor mill? Here's a look at the latest rumblings from across the Association.
It's no secret that the Cleveland Cavaliers will listen if a team comes calling about forward-center Anderson Varejao. They've been open to moving him since last summer and being 8-27 doesn't exactly bode well for the team being competitive while Varejao, 30, is still in his prime.
On the other hand, Cleveland simply isn't going to give him away. Though Varejao's career arc may not match the Cavs', he's still a big man producing a 14-14-3 line this season at a (relatively) minuscule cost.
The Cavs want not only draft picks for the future, but also premium talent in return.
Well, it seems like Kevin Love's injury may have made the Minnesota Timberwolves a perfect suitor. Though nothing is remotely imminent, The Morning Journal's Bob Finnan is reporting that Cleveland and Minnesota have talked about a possible deal:
Sources say the Cavs and Timberwolves have talked about a Varejao trade. Minnesota would probably want the Cavs to take back forward Derrick Williams, which could be a deal-breaker. The Cavs could have interest in center Nikola Pekovic, a bruising 6-11, 290-pounder. Before anyone gets excited, forward Kevin Love is not available.
Obviously, there are some hoops to jump through. It's unlikely that Nikola Pekovic alone would be enough to land Varejao, and it seems that the Cavs have no interest in Derrick Williams.
Actually, that may be the most interesting facet of Finnan's piece. Just 12 months ago, Williams was in the infancy of his NBA career and considered a vital cog in the Timberwolves' future. Now, he's hanging on the fringes of the rotation and teams like Cleveland aren't even interested in bringing him in on a flier.
Speaking of 2011 first-round picks, at least Derrick Williams can take solace in the fact that he's not Portland Trail Blazers point guard Nolan Smith. The former Duke star has played in only 18 games this season, where he's scored 2.5 points per game on 32.7 percent shooting while getting 8.2 minutes of action per appearance.
Even worse, the emergence of Damian Lillard makes it even less likely that Smith will see an increase in play anytime soon.
Smith also fired his agent, Joel Bell, recently. When he did, CSN Northwest's Chris Haynes caught wind that Bell had been working behind the scenes to get Smith traded by the Blazers:
A source close to the situation told CSNNW.com that Bell was pushing to get his client out of Portland this season, but was obviously unsuccessful. Smith acknowledged that Bell did request a trade, but says his inability to get it done wasn't the reason he chose to let go of the only agent he's had as a professional.
Though Haynes did report later in the piece that Smith told him that he never requested a trade, there's probably some smoke to this fire. Smith has always been credited as an extremely competitive guy and, by now, he has to know that he's not in Portland's long-term plans as a starter.
With Smith's career stalled and the Blazers more than content with Lillard running the show, perhaps it's best for both sides to end this arrangement prematurely.
Since reinstating malcontent center DeMarcus Cousins, the Sacramento Kings have denied that they're looking to trade him in just about every way possible short of erecting a billboard. Though it would be easy to say methinks doth protest too much and resume speculating, it's best (at this point) to take the Kings at their word.
After all, Cousins is probably the franchise's most talented player since the Chris Webber era and NBA history is littered with teams that gave up on immature guys far too soon.
Nevertheless, teams are still raring to go with trade packages in the event that Sacramento decides to move Cousins. Most speculation has centered on the Boston Celtics, who have an interesting package of players they could send Sacramento's way.
If the Celtics fail in that quest, though, ESPN's Marc Stein is reporting that the Dallas Mavericks could be interested as well:
Not surprisingly, according to the GM grapevine, Dallas is right there with the Boston Celtics in terms of expressing its willingness to take the DeMarcus Cousins gamble if Sacramento decides to make him available.
While it's highly likely that the Mavericks are interested in Cousins, one has to wonder whether they have any pieces that would interest Sacramento. Rodrigue Beaubois stock has cratered over the past couple seasons and the remainder of the roster is filled with stopgap veterans. Jae Crowder is an intriguing talent, but he isn't even close to being the type of player who could be the centerpiece for a Cousins deal.
In other words, Dallas is far more likely to be a window shopper than an actual buyer if the Kings start shopping their enigmatic center.
If the whole landing DeMarcus Cousins thing doesn't work out, it seems like the Mavericks have a seven-foot backup plan ready to go this summer by the name of Dwight Howard.
The team chased hard after the oft-criticized big man when he requested a trade from the Orlando Magic, and Howard hasn't exactly done anything to squash the Mavs' interests, either. Still, he's under contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, they own his Bird rights and they can offer $25 million more than any other team this summer.
If we've learned anything during our time on the big blue marble, it's that money talks. Howard is far and away more likely to resign with the Lakers than he is to turn down tens of millions of dollars.
However, if Howard does decide to buck history, he's likely to be headed to Dallas, according to ESPN's Marc Stein:
Yet there's no shortage of executives in other cities who believe the Mavs are still at the front of the line for Dwight Howard -- one of their two original main targets, along with Chris Paul, when they dissolved the championship team before both players unexpectedly removed themselves from the 2012 free-agent class -- if the struggling Howard decides at season's end that Lakerland isn't for him.
Howard deciding to cut his time in Los Angeles short after just one season almost solely depends on how the remainder of this season goes. At this point, the Lakers' 2012-13 campaign is still very much in flux, with things threatening to go very wrong at any minute.
It could be that, by July, Howard is simply sick of the hoopla. If that's the case, the struggling Mavericks may find their second banana to play with Dirk Nowitzki.
Anyone remember when the Memphis Grizzlies' 14-3 start had fans dreaming of an NBA Finals appearance? Well, Memphis has played .500 basketball since that trade and now people are wondering what's going wrong.
It seems like the Grizzlies know the answer to that question. According to Grantland's Zach Lowe, the team has made it clear that forward Rudy Gay could be available for a trade:
All of this explains why Memphis, over the last few weeks, has made it known in preliminary talks with other teams that Rudy Gay could be available via trade, according to sources around the league.
This shouldn't come as much of a shock. It's been a popular narrative around NBA circles that Gay doesn't fit with the rest of the Grizzlies' talent and that the only way they'll win a championship is by building around Zach Randolph.
I'm not one for buying that narrative. Gay isn't worth the max contract that he's been given, but he's still an underrated wing defender who could be excellent if he made a true commitment on that end, and he is good for a guaranteed 18-25 points every night. Considering Memphis ranks just 19th in the NBA in offensive efficiency, Gay is the type of player it should be looking to acquire, not shed.
But if the Grizzlies ultimately choose to move Gay, they should have no shortage of takers for that very reason. He's still only 26 years old and may just be a guy who desperately needs a change of scenery.
It just doesn't make sense for Memphis to move Gay unless the team plans on blowing up its core. The Grizzlies have a cabal of talent in the middle and other teams aren't going to be falling over themselves to swap wing players.