With the NBA's February trade deadline rapidly approaching, the rumor mill will undoubtedly emphasize the shuffling of players between teams in the coming weeks.
However, the league's opening up of the 10-day contract period will also light a blazing hot stove for those remaining on the free-agent market. As expected in mid-January, there aren't exactly superstars sitting jobless at the moment.
But that doesn't mean the well has completely run dry on usable names. There are still more than a few veterans looking for jobs, just waiting to hear that call from an NBA team. Additionally, an even more interesting name could be making an NBA comeback after a three-year absence.
With that in mind, let's take a look at all the latest rumors floating around the Association.
Look, no one said running the small-ball attack would be perfect. While everyone is quick to laud the Miami Heat for their seeming shifting of the NBA paradigm by playing Chris Bosh at center and LeBron James at power forward, it hasn't exactly helped their rebounding rate.
Through Sunday night, the Heat are 29th in the NBA in rebounds per game and tied for 23rd in rebounding rate. The latter statistic is overall more important because it makes necessary adjustments for pace that standard stats fail to recognize.
Either way, Miami needs help in the middle. That's likely why the Heat worked out big men last week, including former Denver Nuggets forward Chris Andersen.
Though he's not signed, "Birdman" will reportedly stick around the Miami area to get in shape, The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson reports:
Chris “Birdman” Anderson [sic], who auditioned for the Heat on Tuesday, is staying in South Florida to work on improving his conditioning, with the hope Miami will sign him. But the Heat has [sic] made no decision.
Of the free agents on the market, Andersen undoubtedly offers the best skill set for the Heat's needs. Even at 33 years old last season, he averaged 11.0 rebounds (a career high) and 3.4 blocks per 36 minutes.
He certainly raises some personality red flags, but the Heat need rebounding and interior presence. It's seemed like a pretty logical match since the offseason, and Andersen would definitely be able to take what's left of Joel Anthony's minutes.
Speaking of teams trying to add depth in the middle, the New York Knicks received some unfortunate news regarding Marcus Camby's status last weekend. Per ESPN's Ian Begley, the veteran center will be out two to four weeks with a strained plantar fascia—the same injury which has bothered him for most of the season.
With Rasheed Wallace also out of the lineup, the Knicks' age and lack of depth seems to be coming back to haunt them. They've come back to earth after a scorching start and look like a team desperately in need of a lifeblood injection.
As one might expect, New York doesn't have a ton of tradeable assets. That means just about the only way a new locker-room presence will enter the door is through free agency. The most common name bandied about in the open market for the Knicks has been veteran forward Kenyon Martin, who has been patiently waiting the entire season to hear his phone ring.
Well...don't look for it to ring anytime soon. According to ESPN's Jared Zwerling, New York has made no attempt to contact Martin's representatives:
Hearing any Kenyon Martin discussions have not moved forward. Martin's reps have not been contacted to facilitate contract talk. #Knicks— Jared Zwerling (@JaredZwerling) January 13, 2013
On a purely superficial level, this makes little sense. Martin is quite easily the best possible option on the market; he plays a need position and is an exceedingly tough player.
With the Knicks balking at showing any interest, one has to wonder what's holding them back. Martin played with Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith with the Denver Nuggets, and 'Melo has pushed for Martin in the past.
While he certainly wasn't setting the world on fire shooting the ball, the Minnesota Timberwolves' loss of Kevin Love has been felt instantly. They've fallen in four of their past five games, and their complete lack of depth due to injury has become utterly apparent.
It has become so bad at times that Derrick Williams, a natural power forward, even saw some minutes at guard last week.
In other words, Minnesota needs warm bodies—badly. Though he's nursing an ankle injury, recently released forward Sam Young could be an attractive option.
According to 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson, the Timberwolves have reached out to Young, who was let go by the Indiana Pacers before his contract became guaranteed: "The Wolves have called about free agent forward Sam Young. Currently out with an ankle injury, Young is expected to end up re-signing with Indiana."
Though Wolfson points out Young is likely to return to the Pacers, one has to wonder whether he'd be better off in terms of playing time in Minnesota. Young was getting a mere 16 minutes a game with the Pacers, and that figure will certainly decrease when (or if) Danny Granger returns to the floor.
With the Timberwolves, he would almost get instant playing time. Young doesn't exactly fill their scoring need, but he's a solid defender and plays well above his 6'6" size.
It's now been a full three years since Greg Oden last set foot on an NBA floor. At the time, he was slowly working himself into the stalwart defender so many thought he'd be coming out of Ohio State.
His per-36-minute numbers (16.7 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.4 blocks per game) pointed toward him becoming a semi-star at the very least—someone who could finish around the basket and be a defensive terror around the rim.
But it always came with the same caveat: "If he can stay healthy." By now, we know the answer to that question was no—much to the dismay of the Portland Trail Blazers, who finally parted ways with Oden just last March.
But now, it seems like Oden is gearing up for another attempt at NBA life. He's reportedly looking to make a return toward the end of this season, and it's no shocker that teams across the league are kicking his tires.
The most obvious (and rumored) team is one we've already mentioned in this space: the Miami Heat. However, according to ESPN's Tim MacMahon, the defending champions will have competition in the Dallas Mavericks if Oden indeed does return in 2013:
A source told ESPNDallas.com Friday that the Mavs have been among the teams in contact with Oden's agent, Mike Conley Sr., while the 7-footer rehabs from his third microfracture surgery and takes classes at Ohio State.
At this juncture, I'm not sure any true basketball fan actually cares where Oden winds up. Just that he ends up somewhere, healthy and contributing to an NBA team. Dallas would be an interesting fit, as the team is in desperate need of any type of talent, but simply seeing Oden on the floor would be a welcomed sight.
This last piece of gossip doesn't necessarily pertain to anyone currently on the free-agent market, but it could affect some jobless players' ability to sign with a certain team.
As you all may have noticed this season, the Cleveland Cavaliers are not a good basketball team. They're 9-30 on the season and aren't headed anywhere fast—especially with their second-best player, Anderson Varejao, expected to miss the next two months.
It doesn't exactly take a quantum physicist to see Cleveland is bad by design. The team failed to make any free-agent splashes in each of the past two offseasons, instead hoarding its cap space while building around draft picks.
Sources have posited to the Akron Beacon Journal's Jason Lloyd there's a very good reason the Cavs haven't made any long-term commitments: They want to keep their cap space for the summer of 2014 when LeBron James can opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat.
Executives and agents around the league are convinced the Cavaliers won’t do anything to jeopardize their ability to sign a free agent to a max contract during the summer of 2014, when LeBron James can again become a free agent. As fans in Northeast Ohio continue to howl and remain divided about the possibility of his return, more and more people around the league believe there is a strong possibility James will indeed return to Cleveland after next season.
Can you say "The Decision: Part 2"? I'm obviously kidding, and a ton can change over the next two years, but it's certainly an interesting theory. James himself hasn't ruled out a return to his home-state team, and it's arguable that the Cavs will be in a better long-term situation than the Heat come 2014.
At the very least, it's something that cannot be dismissed. So, yes, Cavs fans, there's a bright side to racking up all these losses, I guess.