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Predicting Where Hottest Names on NBA Trade Block Will Land

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2013

Predicting Where Hottest Names on NBA Trade Block Will Land

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    The NBA hasn't seen anything yet.

    No seriously, it hasn't.

    Despite a slew of inconsistent speculation that has weaved its way in and out of the Association's rumor mill all season long, no major moves have been made. With 2012 in the books, however, that's all about to change.

    As the league continues to usher in 2013 and all it has to offer, we have been treated to a battery of trade rumors.

    Players like DeMarcus Cousins and Anderson Varejão are still meandering their way in and out of the NBA's gossip columns, while others like Rudy Gay have only just made their first legitimate appearance of the season.

    Will any of these players, among others, be suiting up for a different team by the end of the season? What colors will they be donning if they do? Is there a surprise team just waiting to make a splash none of us saw coming?

    At a time when anonymous sources run amuck and baseless logic is portrayed as fact, it can be difficult to find even a shred of truth in the "news" we're being fed. And yet, there are iotas of truth to be found.

    We just have to look hard enough.

     

    *All stats in this article are accurate as of January 7, 2013.

Pau Gasol, PF, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Pau Gasol's case with the Los Angeles Lakers is incredibly complex.

    On the one hand, he doesn't fit the bill of the stretch forward for Mike D'Antoni's offense. On the flipside, the Lakers are ranked fifth in points scored per game (102.9), so offense isn't the problem.

    That said, according to Steve Kyler of HOOPSWORLD, that hasn't prevented the Lakers from gauging the market for the Spaniard—they just haven't been happy with what's out there.

    We know Los Angeles has already declined at least two trade offers for Gasol and we know that the big man has the support of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. We also know that the 32-year-old Gasol won't be requesting a trade because he still "believes."

    Translation?

    Gasol isn't going anywhere right now. Not only has his value never been lower, but he's proven injury-prone and is unlikely to yield a high return. His salary also comes off the books after next season, meaning it's conducive with Los Angeles' future plans and holds more value next season.

    If the Lakers do wind up pulling the trigger on a blockbuster trade, Gasol will be involved. But don't hold your breath for that trigger to be pulled this season.

    Potential Destinations: Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors

    Prediction: Gasol remains in Los Angeles

Anderson Varejão, C, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Anderson Varejão is having an All-Star caliber season, yet with the Cleveland Cavaliers committed to a massive rebuilding project, he has become expendable.

    According to Sports Illustrated, the Cavaliers are discussing a deal that could land Varejão with the Timberwolves.

    With Nikola Peković set to line his pockets in free agency this summer, Minnesota is looking to acquire a big to replace him. Though the team's first choice was Pau Gasol, Varejão would be more than a consolation prize. 

    Remember, though, a straight up trade of Peković for Varejão doesn't work. The latter is owed $8.4 million this season while the former is owed about half that.

    If David Kahn and company can assemble a deal around Peković's expiring contract without asking the Cavs to take on Derrick Williams, then this deal becomes one to keep an eye on. 

    That said, whenever a player of Varejão's size and skill set is available, plenty of teams throw their names into the fire.

    Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman laid out a blueprint to bring the center to the Oklahoma City Thunder. It's common knowledge the Boston Celtics are desperate for help on the inside.

    Now, if only Boston had the assets to backup such desires.

    Potential Destinations: Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz

    Prediction: Varejão gets sent to the Timberwolves.

DeMarcus Cousins, C, Sacramento Kings

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    Everyone and their grandmother wants a piece of DeMarcus Cousins.

    Courtesy of his latest suspension, the budding center was believed to have fallen out of favor with the Sacramento Kings.

    How much so?

    To the point where (via Sam Amick of USA Today) a barrage of teams came calling. Among those teams were the Washington Wizards, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets and (you guessed it) the Celtics. Per Kentucky Sports Radio, the Dallas Mavericks and Orlando Magic were rumored to have interest, as well.

    Surprised?

    You shouldn't be. Cousins—in all his self-destructive glory—is a premier talent, one who can shift the tide of an entire franchise under the right circumstances.

    What you should be surprised by is the NBA on NBC's report that asserted the Celtics were on the cusp of acquiring the oft-troubled big man.

    Why exactly?

    Because it's the embodiment of everything that's wrong with anonymous sources. Not only (via Amick) are the Kings maintaining they have no plans to deal their prized tower, but Boston simply doesn't have the assets to pull off such a coup in the first place.

    As such, if Sacramento changes its tune and opts to deal Cousins, you can be sure he won't find himself in Celtics green.

    Potential Destinations: Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons

    Prediction: Cousins remains in Sacramento.

Derrick Williams, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Derrick Williams' departure from Minnesota seems inevitable.

    Per Steve Kyler over at HOOPSWORLD, the Timberwolves have made the athletic forward readily available. Williams is also the source of controversy (via Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500 in Minnesota) as the team continues to pursue Anderson Varejão.

    It's highly unlikely that the Cavaliers agree to take on Williams in addition to Nikola Peković, leaving Minnesota to go out and find a third team to assume the sophomore's deal while sending something of value back to Cleveland.

    That third team could be the Celtics, whose DeMarcus Cousins-fueled efforts are going to be futile. They could send a cheap option to the Cavaliers, such as Courtney Lee or even Fab Melo, to actualize Minnesota's quest for Varejão.

    Another team to consider here (per Wolfson) would be the Magic. They're not high on Williams per se, but would welcome the opportunity to take him on if he came along with some extra draft picks. 

    Keep your eyes on Boston here, though. The Celtics need rebounding, athleticism and youth in general. Williams might even be able to pick up his offensive production next to Rajon Rondo.

    Trade chips, such as Lee, and picks are hardly valuable in a trade for Cousins, but could prove to be the difference maker—in some capacity—with regard to Williams.

    Potential Destinations: Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Orlando Magic

    Prediction: Williams lands with the Celtics.

Paul Millsap, PF, Utah Jazz

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    This is going to be the season that either Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson will be on his way out of Utah.

    Per ESPN.com's Marc Stein, the Jazz will look to deal at least one of them as the trade deadline approaches.

    With both big men set to explore free agency, and Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors waiting in the background, it makes sense for Utah to ship one out. 

    Which one will that be?

    Bank on Millsap. 

    Jefferson is a borderline All-Star who can serve as a mentor to the younger Kanter and Favors, meaning the Jazz are more likely to keep him this summer. As such, moving on from Millsap—unless Utah wants to lose him for nothing this summer—in favor of some raw talent and draft picks makes sense.

    The ever cash-conscious Jazz aren't going to want to take on any additional salary, so once again, look for franchises with future financial flexibility and a hoard of interchangeable young talent to make plays here.

    Which team fits the bill best?

    Well, that would be the Rockets. Houston has cash to burn, a plethora of young talent and even a few draft picks in its arsenal to offer.

    Toss in the Rockets' need for a proven inside-out presence to play alongside Ömer Aşık, and this is a blockbuster just waiting to happen.

    Potential Destinations: Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets

    Prediction: Jazz deal Millsap to the Rockets

Tyreke Evans, PG, Sacramento Kings

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    Tyreke Evans' reign of ambivalence is nearing its end in Sacramento.

    Though he has disappointed since his rookie season, Evans remains a viable weapon who can play three different positions on the court. 

    Sacramento opted not to extend the listed point guard, which (via Rich Bucher of CSNBayArea.com) all but opened the door for a trade. And as ESPN Grantland's Zach Lowe noted, the Kings continue to make Evans available today.

    The problem?

    Evans' murky health bill. He just returned from yet another injury (knee) and that, coupled with his inconsistent production levels, hinder his value quite a bit.

    That said, teams in need of some versatile scoring are unlikely to shy away from attempting to land the reasonably priced Evans. 

    I doubt the Celtics would balk at the opportunity to land him, and the Timberwolves toiled with the prospect of acquiring him as well.

    Personally, though, I'd watch out for the Grizzlies. Rudy Gay has found himself on the outside looking in and the Kings have some young, affordable talent to offer Memphis in a package built around Evans.

    Potential Destinations: Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Prediction: Kings move Evans to the Grizzlies.

Rudy Gay, SF, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Rudy Gay is finally on the chopping block.

    Speculation regarding the forward's future with the Memphis Grizzlies ran rampant after their impressive 2011 postseason push that saw them tear through the San Antonio Spurs without their franchise star.

    Now, staring down the barrel of a hefty luxury tax bill, Zach Lowe of ESPN's Grantland reported that the Grizzlies were open to moving their leading scorer.

    Lowe analyzes a number of potential destinations that include the Timberwolves, Celtics, Rockets, Jazz, Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks, among a few others he deems "The (Much) Longer Shots."

    Lowe's conjecture turned to fact when Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported the Grizzlies were engaged in trade talks with the Phoenix Suns and a number of other teams about Gay.

    With Memphis simply looking for shooters and salary cap relief, any team could feasibly swoop in and steal Gay. Dark horses such as the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets would definitely be teams to keep our eyes on as this unfolds.

    Don't sleep on the Kings either. Like at all. Since they're unwilling to move DeMarcus Cousins, bringing in a veteran scorer to help keep him check would be more than wise.

    Sacramento doesn't have a bevy of draft picks to relinquish, but it does have some young affordable talent (Tyreke Evans, among others) that could push the Grizzlies below the tax line.

    I never thought I'd say this, but watch out for the Kings.

    Potential Destinations: Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors

    Prediction: Gay winds up with the Kings.

     

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