So far, teams have been active in talks, but we've heard relatively few sources report actual deals on the table. Talk is cheap, but without any trades on the verge of being consummated, it seems prudent to speculate on which transactions have a chance of occurring before the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
There's been speculation surrounding Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol out in Lakerland, that the Houston Rockets may be looking to make a big splash and other heavily mentioned names and teams throughout the season.
Let's evaluate some of these speculative deals and discern how much weight could be given to each particular scenario.
Remember when Dwight Howard was indisputably the best C in the NBA?
Jarrod Rudolph of Real GM reported that the Brooklyn Nets were prepared to make another run at Dwight Howard. The Nets were heavily in contact with the Orlando Magic last season before a Brook Lopez injury all but killed a potential deal.
The Nets have come out backing Lopez, as a source associated with the Nets told Stefan Bondy the NY Daily News that "It's not the same as it was last year. We don't need Dwight."
Could that be the actual sentiment around the league regarding the three-time Defensive Player of the Year? Or should we even buy into the words the unidentified source told Bondy?
The thing that lends weight to the idea that this could actually occur is Mikhail Prokhorov's big dreams. Prokhorov guaranteed a Nets title by 2015. While Lopez is arguably out-playing Howard this season, the fact remains that until this season, Howard had been unquestionably the best center in the Association.
The Lakers have no assurance Howard will re-sign as a free agent, and Howard just told Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld that the situation will not be addressed until the summer.
Dwight Howard wouldn't talk free agency. "That is my choice at the end of the season, but right now my focus is on tonight." Sound familiar?— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) January 23, 2013
Bad movies usually have sequels, and the "Dwightmare" saga is about to come out with Part II.
Truly, the Lakers will be wise to get something in return for Howard, and though Brook Lopez is on a monster contract, the Lakers have never shown any reluctance to spend big dollars in order to win.
Lopez is averaging 18.5 points per game this year and 7.4 rebounds per night while also blocking a career-high 2.1 shots per game. Comparatively, Howard isn't doing much more with Steve Nash feeding him the rock (17.1 points per game, 12.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks).
The Lakers could actually be upgrading by obtaining Lopez, despite the general sentiment that Howard's play will return to the level it was at in Orlando.
Brooklyn, meanwhile, will obtain the more exciting player, one who will propel the Nets into contender conversations, regardless of whether the move makes them true contenders.
Tired of seeing this, the Rockets want it in their red.
The Houston Rockets were one of the dozen or so teams that expressed interest in Dwight Howard last summer when the Orlando Magic were looking to deal him. In fact, the Rockets may have even offered the Magic a better package than the eventual four-team trade that occurred.
Houston was reported last summer to be offering Kevin Martin, Patrick Patterson, Marcus Morris, Chandler Parsons, Royce White (ugh), Jeremy Lamb and Terrence Jones in exchange for Dwight Howard and several bad contracts (Jason Richardson, Chris Duhon, Glen Davis and Hedo Turkoglu, in whichever combination).
The Rockets still have all of the mentioned players with the exception of Kevin Martin, who was magically transformed into the NBA's fourth leading scorer, as Daryl Morey took advantage of Oklahoma City's desperation to obtain something for a player they couldn't afford to keep.
Now James Harden is seeking a second fiddle, and Dwight Howard would be perfect for that. Howard served as Orlando's No. 1 option, but in Houston, he would be a perfect complement to a true No. 1 talent in Harden.
The Rockets could put together a very favorable package for Howard, and if Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak chose the right pieces, it could strengthen the Lakers considerably.
A similar deal could involve sending Chandler, Cole Aldrich, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik in exchange for Howard. The deal would dismantle the Rockets starting lineup and ultimately zap the team of depth, but long term they could easily fill the roster out this summer as they'll still be far under the league's salary cap.
The Lakers would actually be the true victors of such a deal, obtaining the promising Omer Asik and potential future All-Star Chandler Parsons while also obtaining Jeremy Lin.
Lin could benefit from the tutelage of Steve Nash and would be a good fit in Mike D'Antoni's offensive system. Aldrich is trade filler but would be a good big body off the bench.
The Rockets lineup would look about like this after the trade:
PG- Toney Douglas
SG- James Harden
SF- Carlos Delfino / Royce White (sure...)
PF- Marcus Morris / Terrence Jones
C- Dwight Howard / Greg Smith
This lineup wouldn't be so great, and backing it up would be players that would be borderline unrosterable, but Daryl Morey made a strong push to do that this summer. So, there's no guarantee he might not undo the great work he did by obtaining James Harden a putrid blockbuster like the one concocted above.
Possible? Still, yes.
It would be insane because there's likely a slim chance Howard would stay in Houston, and it's still possible because Morey may not be quite as deft with trades as the James Harden coup would lead people to believe.
Paul Millsap's decent shot blocking would help Utah toughen up.
The Houston Rockets may look to acquire Dwight Howard, but the most reasonable scenario to vastly improve a team with good chemistry without dismantling it would be to obtain Utah's Paul Millsap.
Millsap, like Howard, has an expiring contract, but he's a much more tenable candidate to remain in Houston following the acquisition. Millsap is an undersized power forward at 6'8", but he makes up for his lack of size with tough play, and he'd be excellent in the Rockets transition game.
A deal which would work for both teams under the cap restrictions would be for the Houston Rockets to deal Millsap for Carlos Delfino, Patrick Patterson.
Plugging Millsap in at power forward would make the Rockets near-contenders.
Meanwhile, Utah would obtain a solid backup power forward in Patrick Patterson, and the deal would allow it to promote Derrick Favors into a starting role. Delfino is also a solid role player who would fortify Utah's bench further.
This is a deal that hasn't even been discussed, but the trade deadline is over a month away, and the Rockets should be players in the trade market given their cap flexibility and the desirability of some of their young trade fodder.
Ideally, Morey would seek to make the trade without surrendering Chandler Parsons, who makes less than $1 million per season and is having a breakout year.
Stop the bleeding and trade Pau.
Dan Favale of B/R detailed the merits of a Pau Gasol-for-Josh Smith trade in immense detail on Jan. 17, but the potential trade deserves frequent revisiting due to the high possibility that it could occur.
Gasol expressed extreme displeasure at the prospect of having to come off the bench behind Earl Clark (who is playing fantastic basketball) and doesn't feel he in any way should have to accept being a role player, despite his declining athleticism and deteriorating skill set.
Josh Smith was suspended by the Hawks and has an expiring contract with a lot of value, as Smith's services could radically transform the fate of a number of teams. Smith, remarkably, has never made an All-Star team, but his defensive skills render him one of the more dynamic and unorthodox stretch-4s in the NBA.
Adding Smith's shot-swatting abilities alongside Dwight Howard's could potentially save the Lakers defense.
And in Atlanta, they'd be happy to obtain the seven-foot Spaniard to avoid the prospect of getting nothing at all in the event that Smith walks during the offseason.
Gasol may not serve much of a purpose to a team like Atlanta, which is several pieces away from contending in the Eastern Conference, but the Hawks would save face by not losing Smith as a free agent.
Reunite with John Wall in the Capital? Why not?
The Washington Wizards have been mentioned in speculation surrounding the possibility of DeMarcus Cousins being traded out of Sacramento.
Two sources told Sam Amick of the USA Today (audio) that Cousins would be "ideal" in Washington, as the move would reunite him with former Kentucky teammate and No. 1 overall pick in their draft class John Wall.
Cousins makes just $3.38 million per season, which is ideal for the Wizards, who also have some bargain-basement values on their roster. The Kings may seek to cut ties with Cousins after the struggles they've had with his comportment over the last few seasons.
The Wiz could offer Sacramento some great talent to take the potential All-Star off its hands.
A trade that would make sense for the Kings would be to obtain promising big man Kevin Seraphin and the explosive Jordan Crawford in exchange for Cousins. Kings GM Geoff Petrie would be wise to push for the inclusion of at least a second-round pick to sweeten the deal.
But the fact is that it is a pretty sweet deal already, since Seraphin could easily plug in as a rotation player or starter for the Kings, and Crawford's scoring punch would be valuable either off the bench or in a starting role.
J.J.'s value is high, but will Rob Hennigan deal him?
Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today reports that the Orlando Magic are open to the possibility of trading J.J. Redick. Redick's contract expires this season, and while his market value isn't entirely clear, he'll likely be due for a pay raise.
The question for Magic GM Rob Hennigan is whether it is worth it to use valuable cap space to retain the services of Redick, who is a crowd favorite in Orlando.
The Utah Jazz expressed interest in obtaining J.J. Redick, according to Ric Bucher, and he'd be a great fit in Utah, as they currently have a mediocre backcourt rotation consisting of Jamaal Tinsley, Randy Foye, Gordon Hayward, Raja Bell, Alec Burks, Earl Watson and the injured Mo Williams.
Redick would almost indisputably be the best guard on the Jazz roster if they obtained him.
Utah is owed Golden State's 2013 draft pick, provided it doesn't end up in the top six in some bizarro-world scenario where the Warriors go from Western Conference contenders to horrible in a matter of days.
The Warriors' pick would be ideal compensation for Redick, though the Magic would likely insist on the inclusion of at least one young talent to add to their collection.
Gordon Hayward would likely be too much to ask for, but Hennigan should ask for Hayward and Golden State's pick in exchange for Redick and a second-rounder.
If that's asking too much, just take the pick and the cap flexibility rendered by not having to re-sign Redick.
Gortat would immensely improve the C's interior play.
Back in late November, the Boston Celtics were rumored to have been in the hunt for Marcin Gortat of the Phoenix Suns.
There's no reason why things should be any different now, despite the fact we haven't heard any Gortat-to-Boston rumors in over six weeks.
The Celtics are No. 25 in the NBA in points in the paint, No. 29 in offensive rebounding, No. 28 in shot blocking and No. 28 in rebounding rate.
All of these deficiencies scream the need for a starting center, a move which would allow Kevin Garnett to shift back to power forward while significantly improving the C's interior play.
Yet Danny Ainge told WEEI that he doesn't see the C's making any "radical changes:"
That doesn't make a lot of sense to radically change the team when you're trying to compete to win it all. We have been and will continue to look to upgrade our team, but I think it's always more unlikely that that happens than likely. You have to produce. It's my job to look at the bigger picture. We have to live in the moment and try to win and help our team have success, but at the same time, if it's not happening on the court, than there has to be changes made, absolutely.
Numbers don't lie, and the C's could use Marcin Gortat. Just because things have been quiet doesn't necessarily indicate that they will remain that way.
The trade deadline is still nearly a month away, and a possible deal that could send Gortat to Beantown would be to ship Jeff Green straight up for the Polish Hammer.
C's fans may lament the loss of Green, who has played reasonably well this season since returning from a heart surgery, but Gortat would make the team much tougher on the interior, all while at the cost of not sacrificing a starter.
Phoenix would do the trade because Gortat is unhappy and because Michael Beasley has been a costly failure at small forward.
Green has a four-year contract that would assure the Suns they'd have a talented combo forward while they continue to rebuild their franchise in the wake of losing Steve Nash.