On the NBA trade front, there's been a whole lot of smoke without any fire this year. That's likely to change as the trade deadline approaches and the rumors start to turn into real transactions, but we're impatient around here.
So we've come up with five trade scenarios to really shake up the league.
All of our proposed deals work under the salary cap rules and have been vetted by ESPN's omnipotent Trade Machine, so keep in mind that every exchange we're proposing could actually happen. As for the overall plausibility of these deals, there's definitely a defensible reason for all of the hypothetical parties to agree to the terms we've come up with, but know that we're not pussyfooting around.
These are bold moves.
We've got all of the big names attached to the latest rumors, like Rudy Gay, Pau Gasol and Josh Smith. We've also done some digging to find players that haven't hit the news cycle just yet, but are highly likely to be on the move before March rolls around.
Buckle up, because we're going to send shock waves through the NBA with five potential blockbuster deals.
Toronto Raptors Get: Rudy Gay
Memphis Grizzlies Get: Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani
Why Toronto Says Yes
The Raptors are in desperate need of a marquee player who can generate some excitement, and neither Calderon nor Bargnani fit that bill. Gay is just 26 years old, supremely athletic and in need of a change of scenery.
Calderon is in the last year of his deal, so Toronto risks losing him for nothing this summer if it doesn't make a move before the trade deadline. Combining him with Bargnani, who has suffered through injuries and fallen out of favor in Toronto, would be a great way for the Raptors to revamp their team.
A roster featuring Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Ed Davis and Amir Johnson looks stunningly athletic and exciting on paper.
Why Memphis Says Yes
The Grizzlies take on a little extra money this year (both Calderon and Bargnani make about $10 million each), but once Calderon expires, they're left with just two more years of Bargnani's contract.
That's looking forward, though. If we focus on the present, it's clear that this deal gives the Grizzlies the shooting and floor-spacing perimeter pieces they need to move from the fringes of championship contention into the middle of the picture.
Calderon can back up Mike Conley at the point or play alongside him, where his 43 percent stroke from long range would immediately make him the best sniper on the roster.
And Bargnani, who is already shooting as he recovers from an elbow injury, could serve as a nice stretch-4 option off the bench or an intriguing small forward in an ultra-big Memphis front line alongside Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
Gay's a great player, but this move saves Memphis money in the long run and makes it more well rounded right now.
Los Angeles Lakers Get: Josh Smith and Kyle Korver
Atlanta Hawks Get: Pau Gasol
Why L.A. Says Yes
The Lakers are in desperate need of perimeter shooting and athleticism on the wing, and they'd be hard pressed to find a better shooter than Korver or a better athlete than Smith.
It's abundantly clear that Mike D'Antoni hasn't figured out how to maximize Gasol's value, short of bringing him off the bench in relief of Dwight Howard. Well, according to Gasol, that's not going to work for him; he wants to start.
So by shipping Gasol to Atlanta, the Lakers get back Smith, who could be the dynamic slasher the team lacks. In addition, Kyle Korver would give L.A. a perfect outlet for Steve Nash to find when teams overplay him on the pick-and-roll with Howard. As of now, Nash is stuck using Metta World Peace or Kobe Bryant as tertiary options in such situations. Those guys don't have anything close to Korver's stroke from three.
This move puts all the pieces into place for the Lakers to push toward the postseason.
Why Atlanta Says Yes
Well, for starters, Atlanta has got to be fed up with Smith. The club suspended him for conduct detrimental to the team on Jan. 15.
Besides that, the Hawks are in mortal danger of losing Smith as an unrestricted free agent this summer. In the past, it looked as though Atlanta was interested in keeping J-Smoove around, but now that there's clear dissension in the ranks, his return to the Hawks looks less and less likely.
Gasol would fit nicely with Al Horford, who could slide to the power forward position and operate from the elbows. That would allow the Spaniard to return to the low block, where he is still one of the best post-up options in the league.
This way, the Hawks can go into the offseason with a core of Gasol and Horford, plus a ton of money to spend on free agents. Doesn't that sound better than dealing with an obviously discontented Smith?
Boston Celtics Get: DeMarcus Cousins
Sacramento Kings Get: Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo
Why Boston Says Yes
The Celtics would be taking on a pretty significant risk in acquiring Cousins, and yes, we know the Kings are in a holding pattern until they know where they'll be playing next season. But any time you can land a center with talent like Cousins has, you have to take a flier on his potential character risks.
There just aren't more than a handful of guys like him.
Paired with Kevin Garnett up front, the hope would be that DMC would learn to keep his emotions under control and maximize his potential.
A lineup featuring Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Paul Pierce, KG and Cousins could be good enough to make a deep playoff run. And it also gives Boston a potential cornerstone to pair with Rondo as the roster turns over in the next season or so.
Worst case scenario: The Celtics give up on three young players (one that has missed time with injuries and two that are still unproven) for a risky player who may not work out. It's a gamble, but it's worth a shot as Boston's title window is nearly shut.
Why Sacramento Says Yes
As was the case with Josh Smith in Atlanta, there's a history of discord between Cousins and his organization. So as cliched as it sounds, a change of scenery might be the best thing for everyone involved.
The Kings clearly lose out on some talent in the exchange, but they do get three young players with room to improve and the flexibility that comes with guys still on rookie contracts.
Mostly, though, Sacramento needs to start revamping its roster. Hopefully, that process will involve a move away from the talented players with questionable character they've filled out their team with over the last few seasons.
It sounds crazy to give up on a player as gifted as Cousins, but it may just be too late for him to realize his full potential with his current team. There are too many hurt feelings and bad vibes to hope for a turnaround with the Kings. They should try to get value for him while they can.
Utah Jazz Get: Eric Gordon
New Orleans Hornets Get: Al Jefferson
Why Utah Says Yes
Al Jefferson is on borrowed time with the Jazz, thanks to a couple of younger, cheaper frontcourt options in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. The post-up scoring machine figures to command a pretty hefty price in free agency this summer, and the Jazz are almost certain to let him go without a fight.
So why not take a shot on Gordon, who has appeared healthy in his recent return with New Orleans?
Remember, Gordon is still young and isn't far removed from his status as one of the league's up-and-coming stars. There's no question that his max deal is scary, considering his injury history, but the Jazz simply have to find someone to score in the backcourt. Otherwise, their terrific frontcourt depth will continue to go to waste.
If Utah lets its other free agent, Paul Millsap, walk away this summer, the Jazz will have more than enough cap room to take on Gordon's deal.
A risky, dynamic move by the Utah Jazz? Now that's shaking things up.
Why New Orleans Says Yes
The Hornets get two things every young team should want in a trade: a proven veteran and cap flexibility.
Jefferson could fit in very nicely on the block in New Orleans, as it appears the Hornets don't have designs on using Anthony Davis as a back-to-the-basket player. Everyone knows about Jefferson's defensive shortcomings, but paired with the potentially dominant Davis on that end, his weaknesses will be more easily hidden.
Also keep in mind that Gordon has essentially never wanted to be a Hornet, and his big contract prevents New Orleans from splurging on more than one other big-name player.
And hey, if Jefferson doesn't work out, the Hornets can let him walk. That'll open up plenty of cap space for them to pursue other free agents in their ongoing rebuilding process. That's a win-win.
L.A. Lakers Get: Jose Calderon, Terrence Ross, Ed Davis and Andrea Bargnani
Toronto Raptors Get: Steve Nash and Pau Gasol
Why Toronto Says Yes
Let's face it, the Eastern Conference is garbage. Because of that fact (OK, it's an opinion), it's much easier to turn a bad team into a playoff contender there than it is in the West.
Imagine a Toronto starting lineup featuring Steve Nash, DeMar DeRozan, Alan Anderson, Amir Johnson and Pau Gasol. That's a legitimate threat in the East. Plus, Kyle Lowry's still there to come off the bench in relief of Nash or play alongside him on occasion.
Yes, the Raptors take on about another $12 million next year, but they're far enough under the cap that the added money won't put them into the luxury tax. Besides that, they'll probably make a mint by selling Nash jerseys to his beloved fellow Canadians.
Toronto would be loathe to part with the young duo of Davis and Ross, but if they're getting two bona fide All-Stars in return, they'd be crazy not to do it.
Why L.A. Says Yes
As we've discussed, Gasol just isn't going to work in tandem with Dwight Howard. They play the same position and simply don't complement one another very well. So why not ship Pau out in exchange for help at every single area of need on the roster?
L.A. craves perimeter shooting, which they'd get from Calderon and Bargnani. It also needs to get younger and more athletic, which is where Davis and Ross come in.
Post trade, the Lakers' core looks pretty intriguing. Calderon and Kobe Bryant would start in the backcourt; the wing rotation would feature Metta World Peace and Ross; Davis, Bargnani, Jordan Hill, Earl Clark and Antawn Jamison provide frontcourt depth and Dwight Howard gets to man the middle without Gasol cutting into his minutes.
There's no question that losing Nash would hurt. But he's not playing at an MVP level anymore and he's going to move past his 40th birthday before his contract is up.
This year, the Lakers get younger, deeper and more well-rounded. In the future, they save a little money by finishing the 2013-14 season with only Ross and Bargnani under contract.
It's a bold move that could help the Lakers make a push this year. But its real value might be in the flexibility it allows in the very near future.