With just five weeks to go before the NBA trade deadline, teams are making inquiries on players, hoping to improve their team for the rest of this season or for the future.
As the process moves further along, bigger stars will likely start to see their names pop up, depending on where their team is at in the standings and how much they are really worth at this point in their respective careers.
Things are still very early for the trade chatter to really pick up steam, but here is the latest news on the hottest names being talked about.
Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies
Gay could end up being the best player moved this winter. He is just 26 years old and leads the 24-11 Memphis Grizzlies in points per game (17.8).
However, there are smart business reasons for the Grizzlies to be shopping him. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the team has engaged multiple teams about their interest in Gay.
In an effort to avoid paying luxury tax in the short term, as well as get off the $17.8 million and $19.3 million owed Gay in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, new Memphis management has aggressively shopped Gay.
It is a sad reality of the sports business model, but one that every team has to deal with. When players get too expensive and revenue isn't great, you have to make hard decisions.
Gay is still a productive player, but given his performance this season, it would be foolish to think the Grizzlies would suffer a significant drop-off without him. He is shooting a career-low 41.4 percent from the field.
Trying to cash in on Gay's value now while it is still relatively high—something the Los Angeles Lakers failed to do with Pau Gasol and could find it difficult to get a good return if they decide to shop him—is the smart move, and a big reason why this franchise is on the right track.
Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors
Despite being on the market basically since his career began, Andrea Bargnani still remains a Toronto Raptor.
Marc Stein of ESPN.com, speaking to sources at the D-League showcase in Reno, posted a list of players whose names were mentioned as available. Sure enough, Bargnani was one of the names listed, though there's not much information beyond that.
Having not played in a game since December 10, Bargnani's health has to be the biggest factor in him still being in Toronto. It also doesn't help that he still has two years and $23 million (via HoopsHype.com) left on his contract.
When you are a center shooting just 39.8 percent from the field, you're going to raise some red flags. Despite being on the trade block, Bargnani has a lot to do in order to prove that he is capable of playing at a level worthy of the salary he is making before a deal should happen.
J.J. Hickson, Portland Trail Blazers
With the Trail Blazers flirting with contention this season, an important decision awaits them: what to do with center J.J. Hickson.
According to John Canzano of The Oregonian, the trade value for a center having a career year and on the verge of becoming a free agent is not very high.
Because even as the Blazers love Hickson, there are a number of league executives who don't believe he has trade-deadline value beyond, maybe, a couple of future second-round draft picks.
General manager Neil Olshey is not actively shopping Hickson right now (per Canzano). But if that time comes, you would like to see a strong return for a player who is averaging 12.0 points and 10.9 rebounds per game.
Considering how much teams value size, not to mention the fact that he is just 24 years old, the Blazers might be better off holding on to Hickson, signing him to a short-term deal and hoping he can repeat his performances thus far.
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