The NBA trade deadline is February 21, which gives teams plenty of time to try to snag some incredible players that will be on the block for various reasons.
Some are on perpetually struggling franchises and could be valuable assets to emerging contenders, while others are simply expendable due to their large salaries. In some instances it's a combination of both.
Here is a breakdown of the most buzz-worthy players, the latest news on their potential whereabouts, and which teams would ultimately serve as their most ideal fits.
Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies
The NBA is probably the hardest major sport to have a roster filled with star players, with constant maneuvering required under a tight salary cap. There is no exception to that in Memphis, with the Grizzlies' strong front line of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, as well as PG Mike Conley.
Gay has a max deal, and Grantland's Zach Lowe reports that over the past few weeks, the Grizzlies have been forthcoming in noting that their star small forward and leading scorer is on the block.
Lowe points to the Atlanta Hawks as a potential fit, and that seems like the most sensible suitor. The Hawks have a cluttered rotation of guards that are getting it done, but not a true go-to scorer. That is something that Gay could provide.
From a defensive standpoint, Gay also brings a lot of versatility to the wing. A starting lineup of Al Horford at center, Josh Smith at power forward, Gay at the 3 and Jeff Teague running the point would be formidable.
Atlanta may be 20-12 at the moment, but the franchise needs a bit of a boost to truly contend for the East. The acquisition of Gay could provide just that, although it will likely require them moving sharpshooter Kyle Korver and Devin Harris. But their contracts are expiring anyway, and would free up plenty of room for the Grizzlies.
Korver would also help Randolph and Gasol operate more effectively in the post, and both are excellent passers from there. It could be a sweet deal for both sides.
Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers
Matt Moore of CBS Sports cites multiple league sources in reporting that the Cavs and Minnesota Timberwolves have recently had brief discussions about a trade involving Varejao. The Cavs have some legitimate building blocks in Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, with rookie first-rounders Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller still trying to find their groove.
The cost of letting Varejao leave Cleveland seems to outweigh the benefits, even though the Cavs seem to be in perpetual rebuilding mode as they're saddled with an 8-27 record.
Every contender should be on general manager Chris Grant's case to try and make a deal, though, because Varejao brings so much to the table even with his NBA-leading 14.4 rebounds aside.
Endless hustle, an underrated and improving offensive game, and plenty of playoff experience would be critical to his prospective new squad. The only problem is that Varejao has been bothered by a bruised right knee recently (h/t ESPN) and has suffered several injuries during his time in Cleveland.
That shouldn't be enough to scare teams away, though. The Cavs severely lack offense, and desperately need a scorer to pair with Irving.
The Timberwolves seem to be the most likely suitor at this point, because there simply aren't many other sensible fits out there for Cleveland to get anything in return. A plethora of perimeter players occupy Minnesota's roster, and the Cavs could easily snag one of them—along with a first-round pick, perhaps—in exchange for Varejao's services.
If the Wolves could somehow hold onto Nikola Pekovic—who may be a piece in a trade—to team with Kevin Love and Varejao, they would instantly be the best rebounding team in the league.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
There are some mixed signals going on with Cousins on the rumor mill. On Sunday night, Gethin Coolbaugh of NBAonNBC.com reported that the Boston Celtics may be closing in on a deal for the Kings' mercurial but immensely talented big man.
However, Sam Amick of the USA Today has heard much different chatter:
DeMarcus Cousins is not going to the Celtics. Teams continue to be told that he's not available. That is all.— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) January 7, 2013
The deadline isn't for another month and a half, which gives plenty of time for an alternative deal to be negotiated.
Plus, the Celtics are really the best fit for Cousins, with a strong organization in place and a steady head coach in Doc Rivers who has done as good of a job of juggling superstar egos as anyone.
As hot-headed as star PG Rajon Rondo has been at times and the ever-present intensity of Kevin Garnett, it's incredible that Boston has held it together. Adding Cousins to the mix is a high-risk, high-reward proposition.
With Garnett and Paul Pierce entering the twilight of their respective careers, it's worth taking a flier on. Cousins is a great long-term investment, and his play would only be helped by the slashing ability of Rondo.
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